A Resurrection at Nain
(An Excerpt from Chapter V)
Part III of III
…So our argument really reduces to the question of whether Luke’s witnesses were telling the truth, or premise (2):
(2) Nether Luke, nor his eyewitnesses, are embellishing the account, (i.e. lying,) for some unknown motive.
Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, discredited as a common criminal. But his
disciples continued his message. Within months of his crucifixion, Jesus’ Apostles were threatened and beaten by the prevailing Jewish Authorities, and yet they would not cease preaching in public:
15So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
27Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
Although the ruling Jews made it clear that adherence to this outlawed creed was forbidden, and that the persecution would end when this threat to the existing order was renounced, Jesus’ followers committed ever more to their cause. These men have left us their own explanations for their actions: Read more…
A Resurrection at Nain
(An Excerpt from Chapter V)
Part II of III
With this understanding, let us proceed to premise (1):
(1) a. Luke either personally witnessed the event or;
b. Luke personally and exhaustively interviewed all available eyewitnesses and accurately reported a compilation of their testimony, or;
c. both a. and b. above.
We have established Luke and Paul as trustworthy witnesses, but we are pretty certain that neither was present at Nain. So who were Luke’s witnesses for this particular resurrection? Luke, who was sincere, respected as an authority by his peers, and accurate as to factual details, assures us that he interviewed sufficient eyewitnesses to establish his narrative as completely dependable:
1 SINCE [as is well known] many have undertaken to put in order and draw up a [thorough] narrative of the surely established deeds which have been accomplished and fulfilled in and among us,
2 Exactly as they were handed down to us by those who from the [official] beginning [of Jesus’ ministry] were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word [that is, of the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God],
3 It seemed good and desirable to me, [and so I have determined] also after having searched out diligently and followed all things closely and traced accurately the course from the highest to the minutest detail from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4 [My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been orally instructed.
-Luke 1:1-4 (Amplified) Read more…
A Resurrection at Nain
(An Excerpt from Chapter V)
Part I of III
This excerpt contains the first full treatment of a resurrection account from the book, How to Live Forever. The authorship and reliability of source texts have been examined and verified in the first four chapters. For purposes of this essay, assume that Paul’s companion, Luke, authored the third gospel in the late 50’s AD based upon interviews with eyewitnesses indigenous to Judea; and particularly those residing in Jerusalem, the center of the earliest church. The occasion for this opportunity was provided by Luke’s role as intermediary between the elders of the Jerusalem church and the apostle Paul, during the latter’s two year incarceration at Caesarea Maritima. This essay will be provided in three parts, each demonstrating a necessary facet of authenticity. Beginning with part I:
And to any thoughtful person would anything appear more incredible, than, if we were not in the body, and some one were to say that it was possible that from a small drop of human seed bones and sinews and flesh be formed into a shape such as we see? For let this now be said hypothetically: if you yourselves were not such as you now are, and born of such parents [and causes], and one were to show you human seed and a picture of a man, and were to say with confidence that from such a substance such a being could be produced, would you believe before you saw the actual production? No one will dare to deny [that such a statement would surpass belief]. In the same way, then, you are now incredulous because you have never seen a dead man rise again. But as at first you would not have believed it possible that such persons could be produced from the small drop, and yet now you see them thus produced, so also judge ye that it is not impossible that the bodies of men, after they have been dissolved, and like seeds resolved into earth, should in God’s appointed time rise again and put on incorruption. -Justin’s First Apology to the Romans, xix
Chronology for the Passion of the Christ
1. The Jewish Calendar
The festivals of Judaism at the time of Christ were celebrated in accordance with the Jewish lunar calendar. This lunar calendar consisted of twelve lunar months, each containing twenty-nine or thirty days[a], and each commencing and ending with the phase of “new” moon. Our modern calendar, based upon the Roman model, requires that twelve months contain 365 days. A year based upon the Jewish calendar averaged 354 days. In order to account for the time difference between twelve lunar cycles and a year containing 365 days, an additional month was added to the Jewish calendar roughly seven times every nineteen years. This way each month and festival would continue to occur in the appropriate season, (i.e. spring, summer, harvest, planting, etc). Any attempt to reconcile a chronology of events dating to the time of Christ must account for differences between the various calendars.
2. The Jewish Day
The Jewish day begins at sunset rather than midnight, in accordance with the principle:
5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day. - Genesis 1:5
So, to a Jew of Jesus’ day, Saturday would begin at roughly 7:00 P.M. (sunset) on what we call Friday night. All that evening and night would be the early part of Saturday, and the daylight portion of Saturday would continue until sunset on Saturday night. As soon as the sun sets on Saturday night, Sunday would begin. Read more…
An Excerpt From Chapter VII of How to Live Forever
…Based on this analysis, Tacitus provides an independent Roman witness to the death of Christ. So, in addition to the four written narratives depicting the crucifixion which were drawn from witnesses sympathetic to Christ, Josephus strongly infers concurrence among the Jewish opposition, and Tacitus confirms the official Roman agreement. Three separate societies with conflicting objectives, yet all three substantiate the fact of Christ’s death by order of the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. Having established this material fact, let us examine the four Gospel narratives, each based upon eyewitness testimony, for the details.
2. A Difference of Perspective
Ancient testimony agrees that Matthew wrote the first Gospel account in the Hebrew language. This premise strongly infers that Matthew’s Gospel was written when the church was still primarily comprised of converted Jews, before the first major missionary works were begun among the gentiles. So Matthew was written by an Hebrew to a Jewish audience. The same testimony indicates that Mark was written by Peter’s interpreter to an audience that Peter could not address directly. The most likely scenario is that Mark translated Peter’s oral message into Latin during Peter’s stay in Rome, but wrote the Gospel of Mark in Greek with the idea that most literate Romans were also fluent in Greek. Mark, then, was written by an Hebrew for a Roman audience. Paul’s companion Luke was a gentile physician, considered a part of Greek culture before his conversion. Since he accompanied Paul on missionary journeys through Greece and proconsular Asia, we must assume that Luke wrote his works to the Greek world at large. Read more…
I am in the midst of relocation, attending to the requirements of vocation. So I apologise for the lack of activity in late March and early April; but I should be back on track soon!
I chanced upon Bart D. Ehrman’s book, Jesus, Interrupted, in the bookstore this week. Dr. Ehrman promises, in his opening statements, to dispel the notion that the Bible is in any way a reliable document. He assures us that the majority of ‘serious’ academic opinion shares his opinion that the books were written later than traditionally claimed, by authors other than traditionally claimed. We are also told that ‘scholars’ have ‘known’ of these discrepancies for two hundred years, but that the good doctor will finally “let the cat out of the bag”. Read more…
Note on the Testimonium Flavianum
Joseph, son of Matthias, was born a few years after the crucifixion of Christ, during the first year of the reign of Caius Caesar (Caligula)[I], or 37 AD. Through his mother he derived from the Hasmonaean bloodline, a sacerdotal lineage which had included high-priests who were also kings. As evidence of Josephus’ rank within Jewish Society, he was selected in his twenty-sixth year[II] as a delegate to appear before Caesar in Rome in 63 AD. There he became friends with Nero’s wife, Poppea, through whose patronage he was able to accomplish his mission. Joseph returned to Judea in the midst of the Jewish uprising against Rome.
Joseph eventually found himself in command of the Jewish armies for the region of Galilee, where he fought Roman Legions under the command of Titus Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian). Captured alive at Jotapata, Joseph gave a prophecy to this Roman Commander that both Vespasian and his son Titus would reign as Caesar[III]. In his various writings, Joseph repeatedly claimed to have experienced such prophetic dreams and visions[IV]. When the prophecy was fulfilled and Vespasian was indeed elevated to the rank of Caesar, he rewarded Joseph with an apartment in the new Emperor’s own house, as well as Roman citizenship and an annual pension[V]. It was at this time that Joseph adopted his benefactor’s family name and became known as Flavius Josephus.
What’s New for March, 2009
First, I am adding the epistles of the younger Pliny to this site, as a resource for others. I have benefited so much from the ancient authors who have already been published online, that it seems only right that I give something back. I believe that the Hardy and Melmoth translations are both public domain, and they are both currently available as Google books in a ‘pdf’ format. But it might be worthwhile to have these translations available as searchable text, thus providing a more usable resource for research. If anyone has thoughts on this, I would appreciate the feedback. These epistles may be found under the tab ‘Lagniappe’. Just use the dropdown to go to ‘Pliny II’.
Also, I have collected most of the research material for the new essay treating the use of written materials by the early church. The research is not yet complete, but I am working on it as I may. As we discussed in January, we are trying a different approach with this essay:
(Excerpt from Chapter VI of How to Live Forever)
…It turns out that Christians were still being tortured to deny Christ through the first decade of the fourth century. Then in 313 AD, Constantinus Augustus (Constantine) and his brother-in-law, Licinius Augustus, issued
the Edict of Milan. With this decree, for the first time in its nearly three-hundred year existence, Christianity was formally recognized as a legal religion within the Roman Empire.
We have previously shown that cessation of testimony was sufficient to save a Christian from the Jewish persecution. Now it appears that simple repentance granted immunity from Roman capital punishment as well. It is logical to conclude that the many Christians slaughtered during the church’s first three-hundred years believed their message was worth dying for.
2. The Witnesses to the Witnesses
In reference to the stated goals of this book, we are very fortunate to possess the written transcripts of these earliest Christians’ message today. The pages of these documents contain the most graphic eyewitness accounts of resurrection ever recorded. All of these writers risked their personal safety, and many sacrificed their lives rather than renounce their beliefs, thus providing compelling evidence of their sincerity. Read more…
The Use of Material Deriving from the Synoptic Gospels
In the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians
(Also known as I Clement)
A.) The Apostolic Fathers
There remain extant today a relatively few documents authored by those who were personally acquainted with Jesus’ disciples. These works fill a vital role in demonstrating the transition from a faith based upon the personal experience of the believer into a faith based upon documents written and endorsed by eyewitnesses. The disciples of Jesus’ disciples are commonly known as “The Apostolic Fathers”. Pre-eminent among their writings are:
1.) A letter by Clement of Rome (a disciple of Peter and Paul) to the church
at Corinth (Achaia).
2.) Seven letters by Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of Peter, Paul, and possibly John). Six letters are addressed to the churches of various cities throughout the Roman Empire; the seventh to an individual, Polycarp of Smyrna.
3.) A letter by Polycarp of Smyrna (a close disciple of John) to the church at Philippi (Macedonia).
4.) Excerpts from a work in five books authored by Papias of Hierapolis, (a “hearer” of Jesus’ disciple John). These excerpts were preserved as citations by later writers, who found Papias’ subject matter useful for their own discussions. It is difficult to form generalizations concerning the writing style of Papias due to the fragmentary nature of material thus preserved. Read more…