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The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus (Part I)

July 25th, 2009

The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus

(An Excerpt from Chapter VI of How to Live Forever)

Part I

…Having established the genuineness of the four canonical Gospel Accounts; having researched their origins and pedigrees; having looked at every witness, Greek, Roman, Jew, and Christian whose testimony could bear on the subject; and realizing that there exists no contradictory testimony; we may proceed to examine the resurrection accounts of the eyewitnesses. We are not denying the existence of other Gnostic and Apocryphal literature; we are merely recognizing that none of this corpus can produce a respectable pedigree. The literature which cannot be confirmed to be from actual witnesses cannot contribute to this discussion of resurrection as a scientific fact. We will leave the investigation of unsubstantiated legend to others. In our search for evidence of resurrection, we have discovered every source of legitimate testimony concerning Christ’s ministry on earth, and we will now use the confirmed testimony of his witnesses to continue the investigation.

The Raising Of Jairus' Daughter - Ilya Yefimovich Repin

The Raising Of Jairus' Daughter - Ilya Yefimovich Repin

6. The Resurrection of the Daughter of Jairus

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each preserve a resurrection account involving the daughter of one Jairus, ruler of a local Synagogue. This is the first time that we have encountered testimony from multiple eyewitnesses of the same resurrection event. Before we delve into in-depth analysis of these observations, it is fitting that we should address a modern bias which frequently masquerades as “science”.

(i.) The Synoptic Problem:

With three records based upon eyewitness testimony of the same events, there are likely to be many incidences of overlapping material. These similarities may extend to distinctive nuances in the deeds performed, or striking turns of phrase by the participants. Also, based upon the unanimous testimony of the earliest students of the Gospels, we know that it was quite conceivable that Mark could have possessed a Hebrew version of Matthew when he composed the Gospel of Mark. Luke claimed in his introduction to know of a plurality of previous Gospel accounts, and there is no evidence for any belief that these were other than Matthew and Mark. And whoever translated Matthew into Greek could be expected to have had access to all three records of apostolic testimony. So similarities between the various accounts are to be expected.

In addition, there are many differences between the various Gospel accounts. Luke was the only one to preserve the resurrection of the widow’s son at Nain. Mark doesn’t even begin his narrative until the ministry of John the Baptist. And episodes preserved by more than one Gospel are frequently presented from noticeably different perspectives, with one account greatly expanding upon material that is largely glossed over in another. If Matthew indeed wrote to Hebrew converts, and Mark to the Romans, and Luke to a Greek target audience, as our contemporaneous evidence explicitly avers, then such differences in presentation are also to be expected.

The reconciliation of the differences and similarities of these first three Gospel accounts is known as the Synoptic Problem[1]. This problem is a legitimate scientific pursuit. The testimony of three truthful witnesses, as anyone in law enforcement will agree, will yield a more complete picture of what actually happened when integrated into one harmonious sequence of events. This can be difficult to achieve even when approached with dispassion and objectivity. But sometimes, in a courtroom setting, someone with a vested interest contrary to the truth may interrogate the witnesses. Such a person, perhaps an attorney who must discredit the testimony damning to his own client, or an investigator who must close a case for the advancement of his own career, may see the testimony as an obstacle in his path. Depending upon the personal integrity of such an interrogator, this bias may take the form of asking “leading” questions, or construing differences in detail as “proof” of false testimony, or, (in the absence of integrity,) even casting aspersion upon the witnesses themselves.

(ii.) The Pseudo-Scientific Approach:

With this analogy in mind, I would like to arm the reader against certain aspersions which have been cast upon the Gospel accounts. There are two basic schools of anti-Gospel rhetoric. Depending upon which school is speaking, either the differences between the Gospel accounts are irreconcilable, thus “proving” them untrustworthy. Or the similarities between the Synoptic Gospels are so great that they must all be mere embellishment of a common account. (So the Gospel accounts are either too different…or too much alike …we can’t determine which?)

The “difference” school claims to have compared the various Gospel accounts and to have found discrepancies which they say are irreconcilable. Having tried their very hardest to resolve these problems without success, they have determined that the Gospel accounts are “full of contradictions,” (sometimes extrapolating this result to the entire Christian Bible.) They therefore conclude that the four Gospels of Canon are unreliable, relegating them to the status of legend or myth.

It’s funny, if I were to hear two witnesses with conflicting testimony, (going back to our courtroom analogy,) I might think that one of them was not telling the truth. But I would not conclude that ALL of the witnesses were lying. How do you determine that both witnesses are lying just by comparison of their statements? There is no logical reason to discount BOTH statements unless their content disagrees with other known facts. So it seems that, maybe, there is another criteria upon which the witnesses are being judged? As I write this passage, I have on my desk a volume entitled “Jesus Christ: The Greatest Life”, by Johnston M. Cheney and Stanley Ellison Th.D.  This book is a harmony of the Gospel accounts, which in it own words accomplishes:

The subject was Jesus Christ, and the authors were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Arising from the different eyewitness accounts of His life, each of their biographies has a distinct flavor and a unique story line. In spite of their uniqueness, however, it is possible to weave all four of them together completely and without contradiction – adding nothing, deleting nothing – using only the data provided by the authors.

-From the Foreword, Jesus Christ: The Greatest Life, by Johnston M. Cheney and Stanley Ellison Th.D.

The first known attempt to create such a harmony was Tatian’s Diatessaron which was created in the latter half of the second century. The Syrian church used Tatian’s harmony for hundreds of years. I honestly don’t know how many other harmonies have been compiled over the last 2000 years. But it is apparent that some people believe that they can reconcile all four Gospels. So who to believe? In my youth, I studied quite a bit of math and physics. I do recall students saying that they had encountered a problem which could not be solved. I generally gravitated toward those who believed they had solved the problem, rather than those who bemoaned their impossible dilemma.

The last thing that I’ve noticed about the “difference” school is that, having discovered the irreconcilable “contradictions” in the Gospels, and the Bible as a whole, they frequently argue against the authenticity of all other early testimony which bears on the origins of the Gospel accounts. Thus, Suetonius’ “Chrestus” was some slave otherwise unknown to history. The execution of Tacitus’ “great multitudes” of Christians is a Christian forgery, part of a great conspiracy. Josephus’ Testimonium Flavianum is yet another forgery, (See Appendix I.) The letters of Ignatius are all forgeries. And all testimony from other church fathers is untrustworthy because of their Christian bias. These men were either fanatics blinded by zeal or dark conspirators in a great cover-up.

So, one by one, the “difference” school finds an excuse to throw out each piece of evidence. Even though the evidence, as our investigation has shown, presents a compelling and self-consistent explanation of how the Gospels came to be. But the root of their issue with the testimony isn’t with the character of the witnesses. The root of their issue is with the content of the testimony, which they believe contradicts scientific truth. After all, if we believe that the Gospel accounts are eyewitness testimony we must consider the possibility that prophecies and resurrections have occurred. And these things are not scientific, are they? This is the bias that we must address.

The bias that we have uncovered is really an ideology which is masquerading as science. This belief system, which we will call Pseudo-Science, rests upon faith in the tenet that things not yet proven by science have somehow been disproved by science. But make no mistake; Pseudo-science is a religion, jealously competing with Christianity for converts. And even though it sounds cooler in Academic circles to say prophecy and resurrection are scientifically impossible, sounding scientific does not make something scientific. Science doesn’t care whether prophecy sounds scientific or not. If the evidence supports the occurrence of prophecy, then science believes in prophecy. If no evidence for prophecy exists, then prophecy is not scientific until such evidence is discovered and examined. But prophecy has by no means been disproved by lack of evidence. And science does not allow anyone to throw out observations and evidence which do not agree with current dogma. Not by casting aspersions on the witnesses; and not by nit-picking procedures and methods until the observations are discredited. Throwing out the evidence is a tool of the religious faithful to quell ideas which threaten their beliefs.

Consider for a moment this hypothetical case: We live in a world in which Newtonian physics is the accepted scientific model. We have now advanced to the point that some of our observations begin to exhibit relativistic effects. Either we are dealing with great masses, or great speeds, but either way our measurements are diverging from Newtonian predictions. Now we must face a hard choice: Either reexamine the Newtonian model that has guided us for hundreds of years, open to the possibility that the model may need revision or replacement; or throw out the evidence which dares to disagree with scientific “fact”. If we recalibrate our instruments so that they only measure Newtonian results, we have fallen into the worship of Pseudo-Science. Science has no pride of ownership. No scientific theory is ever a “fact”. Science requires that we ruthlessly adjust every existing model to best fit the existing data, no matter how attached we become to an existing theory. And the fact that science only deals with what it can measure does not preclude the possibility that phenomena exist which science has yet to measure.

So then, if we have uncovered eyewitness testimony of prophecy, resurrection, or other uncommon phenomena in the historical record, these are the observations upon which we base our model. We have every right to examine the testimony for accuracy and reliability. We must be certain that the testimony derives from actual, historically verifiable eyewitnesses. And we have the responsibility to investigate the witnesses’ character and motives. But we may not throw out the evidence due to disagreement with preconceived beliefs.

Additional support for this analysis is provided by the observation that those who study the Gospels the most; those who delve into the literature to discover the precepts that they will use for personal guidance – do not find the differences to be irreconcilable. Wouldn’t it make sense that the “contradictions” would be most noticeable to those trying to base their lives on the Gospel teachings? But usually those who find irreconcilability are those who start with the bias that the contents of the Gospel accounts preclude their authenticity; in other words, those who commence their investigation having already concluded the impossibility of the narratives. Having considered the difference school of anti-Gospel rhetoric, we now move on to the similarity school.

According to the similarity school, the Gospel accounts exhibit literary dependence. Since Luke’s introduction asserts his knowledge of previous accounts; Since our investigation points to widespread early proliferation of Christian literature; And since several actual eyewitnesses might be expected to remember a distinctive turn of phrase, (consider Churchill’s “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat”, or “This was their Finest Hour”); the basic premise of literary dependence is to be expected. The unexpected and curious response lies within the proposed explanations for the dependence.

Somehow, we are told, this dependence reveals that none of the Gospel accounts are eyewitness testimony at all. Rather, they are all mere embellishments of the original eyewitness account(s), corrupted to project later, unhistorical dogma onto the true and pristine message of Christ. This original document, frequently called “Q”, (from the German “quelle” or “source,”) was a collection of all Jesus’ sayings as well as key incidents in Jesus’ life written by the actual witnesses, which predated and was of far greater authority than the four Canonical Gospels. Modern scholars are amazingly able to predict, with micrometric precision, that the Q document was written by people who had no concept that Jesus was Divine. Q did not believe in miracles. Q saw the “historical” Jesus, a poor ignorant Jewish boy caught up in social and political issues that were beyond his understanding, and finally executed by the Romans for political dissidence.

Yes, Q is the Gospel that agrees with the ideology of its discoverers.

The only problem with this Utopian view, of course, is that no evidence whatsoever exists for Q other than the inferences which our dedicated (and incidentally naturalistic) scholars “see” in the Canonical Gospels. No ancient writer has ever quoted from or referred to Q, and no manuscript has ever been found. In fact no hint of Q exists in any literature before the nineteenth century. But we are told that those who believe in the authenticity of the Canonical Gospels are naïve, while those who understand the nature of Q, inferred from the discredited Canonical Gospels, have achieved enlightenment. The astute reader will have no difficulty discerning the presence of Pseudo-Science, once again.

It is embarrassing to have to address the issues of Pseudo-Science. And I apologize to the reader for the distraction. But the use of Academic authority to perpetrate ideologically “correct” views, or to promote distorted historical interpretations for profit, requires a response. I have great confidence that each reader is capable of discerning the truth for themselves, provided that they hold every proposed theory to the same, truly scientific standard. Gather all the evidence, weigh the evidence, base all theories on the evidence, and require adherence to valid logical argument forms. Let the data suggest the answer. The privilege to choose your own beliefs carries with it the responsibility to understand the basis for those choices. What a shame to let someone else decide what you believe.

(To be continued)

[1] Contemporaneous testimony indicates that the Gospel of John was specifically written to address topics not covered in the earlier three Gospel accounts. With Cerinthus and others misconstruing the gospel message, this Gospel was written in order that the testimony of Jesus’ beloved Apostle might set the record straight. The first three Gospels are generally grouped together as the “Synoptic” Gospels, while John falls into a category of its own.

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