Friday, April 14, 2017

Cruci-Fiction?


"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?... And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves (after his resurrection,) and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
 (Matthew 27:45-53)
All these things happened at the same time and at the ninth hour in context. Never mind that no one ever mentions this event again. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writing during the second half of the first century AD, produced two major works: History of the Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews. He says nothing about this most extraordinary occurrence. This one missed his attention big time so he reports nothing of this, and does not interview any of the "many" who must have been around for years after just itching to be asked about how it felt to be back.
Peter never mentions it in all his attempts to convince the masses that Jesus did rise, in fact, from the dead. Paul never mentions this event as proof of Jesus resurrection either and of course had died before any such tales were told. The early church seems to have overlooked it as well.  The fact that these risen saints must still be alive and now members in good standing of the early Church never seems to come up. You'd think they at least would get to be deacons and elders! I would hope they did not rise then die again real fast when they were no longer needed as a type of the general resurrection of the saints! One death is scary enough and the few who were not part of the many resurrected might be the lucky ones after all.
Everything in the Bible is so dramatic! The sun goes out for three hours and the earth shakes, renting rocks. And if the rocks rent, why did not most of Jerusalem, including the Temple fall down? High roof, pillars, big basins--all good candidates for renting and falling over. But, of this, no one records a thing, save for this one observation by Matthew. But back to the account.

"And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
 (Matthew 27:45-53)
So here we have Jesus on the cross, still alive and distressed that God has forsaken him. At this time it appears, or perhaps by implication, at the moment of his death, the graves of many of the "saints" open and they rise from the dead. Well not quite yet because it appears someone spotted a problem with this verse and added just a bit to make it doctrinally acceptable for future reads.
But first, what's with these people being "saints?" Aren't saints members in good standing of the Church and converted Christians? Jesus is not even dead yet, or just died! There is no church and certainly no saints unless just following Jesus around as a curious follower the past one or three years depending on which Gospel you read qualified one as a "saint." It is something you would ad to the story when the church was up and running decades later.

Some believe these may have been Old Testament "Saints" such as Adam and Eve, Moses, Isaiah, Abraham and other notables listed in Hebrews 11.  You'd at least think this would be noted and having these folk back might qualify them for some positions of leadership in the early church.  This reasoning merely reflects the fact that this story stretched the imaginations of even the early church fathers who also found this tale fantastical.
Secondly, it says that it was a resurrection of "many bodies of the saints." Many? What happened to "all." There could not have been too many to leave some behind! Can you imagine the conversations that must have followed in the weeks following this event?

"Hey, Shlomo is back! So, where is your Benjamin? Oh, really? Not one of the many huh? Sorry." Or...
"Hey Mary, my Sol, who you remember, died last year, says hi. So wasn't your husband one of the blind that Jesus healed, and died about the same time. What's he up to today?"
Anyway, it seems that only the many but not the all got raised. 
Next we have the problem of the graves being opened, but no one being allowed to come out of them until after Jesus personal resurrection. This is where being doctrinally correct comes in. Not correcting this would cause the same problem some have with Matthew's story of Herod killing all the babies endeavoring to get to the newborn Jesus.  It would seem that all those babies had to die for Jesus before he died for them, some reason.  
Matthew, or the editor who spotted this problem, could not have Jesus being preceded in resurrection, by any, much less, many of the "saints." This would be putting the cart before the horse. Jesus could not be the "first born of many brethren," if many of the brethren had already been up and running around from the dead while Jesus was either on the cross wondering why God had forsaken him, or newly dead and not yet resurrected himself. So the phrase, "after his resurrection" was inserted to make this a doctrinally correct event. Had that phrase, "after his resurrection," not been added, the story would be an unending source of doctrinal problems, as if it isn't now.
So here we have these graves opened, but the bodies just lying there, open to view,  bones mostly, not bodies anymore, even though it said bodies. If it was decaying bodies, then Zombies. Then, after Jesus rose, the bodies stood up and went home to see the family and friends. You'd think someone would have mentioned this later, but it didn't make much of an impression on anyone but Matthew it seems.
One other way this might have been was that the saints were brought back to life right when the graves opened, (how do they open I wonder?), but had to just lie there for three days and three nights until Jesus was back. Talk about boring and scary if you didn't know what was going on! You'd think, in either event, that the disciples, Joseph of Arimethea-- who buried Jesus, the women who brought spices to the tomb and everyone would have noticed all the opened graves and not of Jews or Romans, but of Saints!  Evidently no Romans noticed anything strange or at least did't record it. 
If the graves were opened for three days, would not word get out and the town get about the business of filling them in again? If they were fresh bodies, what a stink and if they were alive fresh bodies laying low for now, what a scare! I can imagine, as a kid of course, a small crowd around each open grave chatting with the saint, and the saint saying, "Help me, I can't move. Not knowing he had to lay there until Jesus was resurrected first. I can also imagine a small crowd hearing this plea, dispersing rather speedily.
Well, it's a great story that no one but Matthew seems to be aware of or use to further the Gospel. Knowing the writer of Matthew, it never happened. Matthew was great at over reaching and searching the scriptures to make a point about Jesus. Matthew could make an Old Testament story mean what it was never meant to mean. All of Matthew's "and thus it was fulfilled" accounts in the birth narratives of Jesus, where he goes back into the Old Testament to prove everything from Jesus virgin birth to it being predicted that he would be from Nazareth or return out of Egypt after Herod dies, are examples of this over reaching. No one else quite had this way of proving Jesus down pat as well as Matthew, whoever Matthew really was and may not be who you think. It would be a bit like me using portions of Lord of the Rings to show how Tolkien prophecied the rise of Donald Trump. .

So off to visit friends in Jerusalem these saints went. But we have no names and no further accounts. We have no stories of happy reunions of the dead with the living. No one seems to write about this in any public records and no one ever after uses this event to further the proof of Jesus resurrection or the power of God. Actually, it never happened, and only the most uncritical thinker and die hard (pun intended :) literalist would dig this gravely strange story  as a real event in space and time (pun intended again:)

27 comments:

Byker Bob said...

Call it whatever you want if it makes you feel better.

Some of us find deep significance in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

BB

Black Ops Mikey said...

"It would be a bit like me using portions of Lord of the Rings to show how Tolkien prophecied the rise of Donald Trump"

Yes, could you do that please?

It would make an excellent entry for Worst Science Fiction Ever.

Although, these days, it just may make the big screen and make hundreds of millions of dollars from people who believe social media instead of the facts.

And it would be a nice parody of Herbert Armstrong prophecies.

Although, as I think about it, you may want to pull a Showtime Homeland and make the prophesied president female... Yay, Tolkien, prophet extraordinaire!

Does anyone at all take Armstrongism seriously any more?

Anonymous said...

And some find deep significance in Mohamed flying off to heaven on a horse with wings. And Santa coming down the chimney is a big deal. And you gotta love the Easter bunny too.

Anonymous said...

I once wondered if the passage was an allusion to Ezekiel 37.

Anonymous said...

Ah, BB, you just can't let go of the nonsense, can you? Guess I helped start you on that path. My apologies, but I was pretty damn dumb back then.

Allen C. Dexter

Michael said...

Was searching for the "Like" button to click for this post, then remembered...:)

Excellent post

nck said...

Of course Tolkien predicted the rise of Donald.

Tolkien weaved current affairs through ancient lore. Current Affairs being the rise of Industrialisation, the destruction of the British countryside by the rise of the cities.

Mass production and the overall moral detoriation accompanying mass consumption.

If you take that one step further into the fifties to an outsider it may look that the effect of the ongoing trend in Britain was strenthened by the rise of the American empire. Which in todays language may translate into the coming collapse of Britain through the misguided nationalist decision to leave the EU, which is part of a broader feeling in the Anglo Saxon world translated in America in the slogan America First.

This is all in the Ring. Written against both the background of the ravages of WWI and II and symbolised by the quest to destroy the power wielding ring, the power of centralisation through the collaboration of the common people leading to a feeble Utopia.

Nck

DennisCDiehl said...

Byker Bob said...
Call it whatever you want if it makes you feel better.

Some of us find deep significance in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

BB

I am not questioning that BB. I simply was pointing to the fact that this particular tale is puzzling and questionable to many theologians and no one repeats it ever again anywhere at anytime making it suspect. The Gospel accounts are designed to help believers find deep significance in the life, death and resurrection stories of Jesus. But the contradictions in all four gospels do attest to the fact that they are not necessarily to be taken literally .

The Sun does not go dark for three hours and not get noticed worldwide, unless we are merely claiming it to be cloudy weather for a time. It was no eclipse because, first of all they last minutes and secondly during Passover time the moon is full meaning it on the opposite of the earth from the sun and can't pass in front of it as it does in a solar eclipse.

I think the tale merely is meant to say that since Jesus is the light of the world, the sun isn't in this story. Just as the curtain in the temple gets torn apart, how we have no clue and if by earthquake then down goes the temple too. It is drama to make a point about access to the Holy of Holies etc, but not literally true. One could have just easily taught the New Covenant and then asked the curtain be taken down. The dramatic story tells us God, not man did it.

DennisCDiehl said...

With Paul writing all his version of Jesus well before the Gospels and making it clear his Cosmic Christ was crucified, not on earth, but in the heavens and not by Romans but by demons and "principalities", the Gospel stories bring it all down to earth later in literal form. That is easier to understand for the average person than Paul's rather Gnostic views of Christ.

"Earl Doherty has argued that the New Testament epistles, unlike the Gospels, portray Jesus as heavenly being who was crucified by demons in heavenly places, and that it was this event that was revealed to early Christian apostles such as Paul by visionary or mystical spiritual experiences or insights into their readings of Jewish scriptures. They described the gospel that they preached as a “mystery” that had been revealed to them by the Spirit of God in what they believed were “the last days”. The crucifixion of Jesus was not an earthly event enacted by a human agencies. The New Testament books and other extra canonical writings give ample evidence for their being a wide variety of “Christianities” in the two or three centuries, but the canonical Gospel narratives and the book of Acts have so completely dominated our understanding of Christian origins that we have failed to see just how “riotously diverse” Christianity was before and even after the Gospels were written. Our canonical gospels — the orthodox narrative of Jesus — and the book of Acts were not widely known among Christian communities until the mid to later half of the second century. We know this from the testimonies of various ancient texts.

Doherty’s arguments are extensive and founded on a wide spectrum of evidence both within the New Testament writings and beyond. But there is one ancient document that appears to describe the very scenario that Doherty believes is found in writings such as the epistles of Paul and other New Testament letter-writers, in particular the Epistle to the Hebrews. This apocryphal text is The Ascension of Isaiah, which in its present form is a relatively late second century Christian document. I will discuss some details of the dating of this document in a future post, but can make it clear now that scholarly introductions to translations of this text generally acknowledge that the current complete text was made up by stitching together at least two originally separate texts, and that along the way various Christian copyists or editors have added their own Christian messages into the original."

http://vridar.org/2011/02/02/jesus-crucified-by-demons-not-on-earth-the-ascension-of-isaiah-in-brief/

DennisCDiehl said...

Good summary of the evolution of the two schools of thought. Cosmic Christ/Gospel Jesus.
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/jesus/earldoherty.html

"Earl Doherty holds that Christianity began with a mythical Christ. Earl Doherty argues that the diffuse undercurrent of religious thought called early Christianity can be shown to be a plausible descendant or cousin of Jewish mystical speculation on the scriptures (found in such writings as the Odes of Solomon, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Philo of Alexandria) and was probably well-received by those converts to early Christianity who were influenced by Platonism and Hellenistic soteriological ideas of the day.

According to Doherty, religious thinking of the time saw the heavens as multi-layered and would understand the descent of a heavenly Christ to be sacrificed in the lower spheres of the heavens before being raised to the right hand of the Father. This is called the "Jerusalem Tradition," and it is exemplified by the epistles of Paul, seven of which are accepted as authentic.

As the other tributary to early Christianity, we have the "Galilean Tradition," a separate Kingdom of God preaching movement located in Syro-Palestine. ..... Doherty sees the author of the Gospel of Mark as one who had been brought up in the "Galilean Tradition" and devised a brilliant bit of religious syncretism in identifying the fictional Q founder with the exalted Pauline Christ in fashioning the passion story whole cloth. Mark's narrative (c. 85-90 CE) was the sole basis upon which the later evangelists retold the story: Matthew (c. 100 CE), Luke (c. 125 CE), and John (c. 125 CE) all depended upon Mark. The book of Acts is a catholicizing fiction of the mid second century. Although certain second century apologists continued to espouse a purely divine Christ, the Gospel myth eventually came to dominate Christian thought.

Questeruk said...

Dennis,

Earl Doherty has a whole lot of speculation, which is accepted by very few other authors.

For example, Bart Ehrman, of whom you have often quoted, and who is an acknowledged expert, refers to Earl’s book “Jesus: Neither God nor Man” (originally published as “The Jesus Puzzle”) as :-

“filled with so many unguarded and undocumented statements and claims, and so many misstatements of fact, that it would take a 2,400-page book to deal with all the problems... Not a single early Christian source supports Doherty's claim that Paul and those before him thought of Jesus as a spiritual, not a human being, who was executed in the spiritual, not the earthly realm."

Of course that is just Bart Ehrman’s opinion – which is clearly not yours.

Anonymous said...

Byker Bob, thank you for your comments ... I really appreciate it .. I often visit this site but I saw the title and didn't even read what they had to say due to the title due to blasphemy and I could not believe anyone would ever come up with a title like that, due to our precious Savior and soon coming King of Kings ... I wasn't sure I could ever come on this site again until I saw Byker Bob's comments ..... not sure why the blog owner even allowed this to come on the site, but I am so very thankful for Jesus Christ, who gave his precious life for whoever put the title up on this blog ... shameful ...

Anonymous said...

These photos remind me of Christ calling the Pharisees vipers. So here Dennis spits not verbal poison, but visual poison at Christianity.

Anonymous said...

And anyway, HOW DARE YOU EVEN PUBLISH A TITLE LIKE THIS??????????

Anonymous said...

You have upset me ..... does that mean anything to you?????? Fiction??????

DennisCDiehl said...

"Cruci-Fiction" refers to the probability that the authenticity of this particular story, known or made up only by Matthew is challenged by most theologians because of its bizarre nature and never being referred to it again ever anywhere at anytime.

Perhaps those of you so offended might actually defend the authenticity or reality of the story as you understand it. Answer it. Write your own article defending its historicity. Or is it just a miracle and since it is in the Bible it is really true and really happened? Does questioning the fantastic threaten you?

DennisCDiehl said...

Of course that is just Bart Ehrman’s opinion – which is clearly not yours.

Not on that perhaps as the Jesus of Paul is clearly not the Jesus of the Gospels or Revelation for that matter. That is a common view of many good theologians and historians. I agree with Ehrman on the forgery he so well documents in the NT. He's come a long way from Evangelical Fundamentalist to hated by them. It's the price one pays for pursuing the questions knowing the text and the background of them raises.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
These photos remind me of Christ calling the Pharisees vipers. So here Dennis spits not verbal poison, but visual poison at Christianity.

Why would such photos offend you. How on earth would you picture dead bodies, rotting or just bones coming out of the grave? Or is a sanitized version of white robes , healthy, happy and knowing exactly what just happened your image of such an event? The text says "and many bodies of the saints...." I suppose at some time, in this fiction, they would have to transform from dead bodies to really nice looking and smelling folk so I am sure there are pictures of that somewhere for next time.

DennisCDiehl said...

Here is the United Church of God's best answer. Shallow as it is.
https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=226103369043606765&postID=2071110903925655235&page=1&token=1492219808479

Matthew 27:51-53 tells us what happened right after Jesus Christ died: “Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”

This resurrection of several believers was one of the phenomena accompanying the resurrection of Jesus Christ to underscore that monumental event. These saints came back to physical life. (In the Bible, the word saints means those who are sanctified or set apart as holy, meaning all of God's true followers.) We know from such scriptures as 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 that God has resurrected no one to eternal life as an immortal spirit yet—except Christ.

For example, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 says: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

These references teach us that God will change the righteous dead along with living Christians to immortal beings when Jesus Christ returns.

After God brought the people mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 back to life, they undoubtedly went back to their homes, where many acquaintances saw them. It's hard to imagine how utterly startling such an experience would be for their relatives and friends!

The Bible says nothing further about these people God resurrected at Christ's death, leaving us to conclude that they eventually died (again) and their families buried them (again). Along with all other saints who died, they await in their graves their resurrection to spirit life."

At least they admit nothing of this tale ever was spoken of again anywhere....

DennisCDiehl said...

The stories had meaning to both writer and audience but they may not have been meant to take literally. The sun going dark from the third to the ninth hour is also not generally take to be literally true for both astronomical and historical reasons. It was a symbol to the readers who knew what was meant.

Concerning the darkness, at least now most understand it could not possibly have been a short lived eclipse for any number of reasons. There is no good explanation physically or historical documentation outside the text for this event either. It had meaning but it was not meant as history.

Literary creation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness

A common view in modern scholarship is that the account in the synoptic gospels is a literary creation of the gospel writers, intended to heighten the importance of what they saw as a theologically significant event. Burton Mack describes it as a fabrication by the author of the Gospel of Mark,[44] while G. B. Caird and Joseph Fitzmyer conclude that the author did not intend the description to be taken literally.[45][46] W. D. Davies and Dale Allison similarly conclude "It is probable that, without any factual basis, darkness was added in order to wrap the cross in a rich symbol and/or assimilate Jesus to other worthies".[47]

The image of darkness over the land would have been understood by ancient readers as a cosmic sign, a typical element in the description of the death of kings and other major figures by writers such as Philo, Dio Cassius, Virgil, Plutarch and Josephus.[48] G├ęza Vermes describes the darkness account as "part of the Jewish eschatological imagery of the day of the Lord. It is to be treated as a literary rather than historical phenomenon notwithstanding naive scientists and over-eager television documentary makers, tempted to interpret the account as a datable eclipse of the sun. They would be barking up the wrong tree".[49]

Anonymous said...

QuesterUK said:

"Earl Doherty has a whole lot of speculation, which is accepted by very few other authors. For example, Bart Ehrman ... : '...Not a single early Christian source supports Doherty's claim that Paul and those before him thought of Jesus as a spiritual, not a human being, who was executed in the spiritual, not the earthly realm...' Of course that is just Bart Ehrman’s opinion – which is clearly not yours."

You can take on Doherty, and that's fine, there are many others you could take on as well. That doesn't mean there isn't still a good case for mythicism to be made. Nobody said Doherty made the best possible case for it anyway. So attacking Doherty doesn't really get you anywhere worth going. Moreover, the case for historicism isn't particularly strong either, evidenced by the fact the Jesus Seminar's quest for the historical Jesus has failed 3 times already.

Second, this is an argument from authority that doesn't really stand up. Just like Minimalism wasn't an accepted school—until it was. In 30 years Minimalism might have spread to be the consensus view on the historicity of Jesus as well. Citing Ehrman in this regard might be the equivalent to citing Kenneth Kitchen in regard to Minimalism: many might have done this in 1987, but nobody would try to do it in 2017.

Third, for Ehrman to say that early christian sources don't support the idea that Paul and those before him thought of Jesus as not an earthly human being isn't a particularly defensible thing to say, when the writings of authentic Paul themselves support that idea, and other christian sources are writing so much later that they haven't got any way of knowing one way or the other what Paul might have thought.

If you want to make an argument, you're better off making the actual argument, instead of substituting an appeal.

Byker Bob said...

I'm not the only one who loves Jesus, 4:59. There are others like me lingering around these parts! Lots of them!

BB

Minimalist said...

"..in particular the Epistle to the Hebrews. This apocryphal text is The Ascension of Isaiah, which in its present form is a relatively late second century Christian document."

So remember the part in Hebrews where the lives of the saints are listed and it was stated some were "sawn asunder"? Where did the author of this epistle get that data? From the apocryphal Ascension of Isaiah: Another example of canonical books drawing on non-canonical sources.

Anonymous said...

Right on, BB! There are indeed others lingering around here; probably lots of us, as you say.
We just don't always feel the need to comment.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you have to read headlines you dont like. Must be very hard for you.

John G said...

FWIIW, I will share some thoughts, regarding Matthew 27:53-54, that come to mind at this time.

But first, in Acts 10 Peter was speaking and said the following:

Acts 10:39 And WE ARE WITNESSES of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
:40 Him GOD RAISED UP the third day, and SHEWED him OPENLY;
:41 Not to all the people, but unto WITNESSES CHOSEN before OF GOD, even to us, who did eat and drink with him AFTER he rose from the dead.

We do not understand all of God's works (Acts 15:18; Psalm 111:4) b/c His thoughts and ways are far above ours. You may not believe that; I do.

God will eventually accomplish the following: "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, NOT IMPUTING their TRESPASSES unto them..." 2 Corinthians 5:19

God, not us, will do that and every human being from Adam and Eve onward who lives and dies will live again. All of these human beings from one generation to the next will become God's witnesses to what has happened during their lifetime. That is God's choice.

Verse 41 above, I believe, is a reference to those individuals who were physically resurrected out of their graves after Christ was resurrected by God. Those people are part of God's witnesses and they just returned to where they once lived and appeared to many (friends, relatives, etc.) for awhile and eventually died. They were just witnesses of all that happened around that time of Christ’s death/resurrection. That's God's choice.

The centurion and soldiers who finally admitted that Jesus was "the Son of God" will again live as witnesses of that truth. We are all going to live again: either as a result of the 1st or the 2nd resurrection (no need for a 3rd!): believe it or not!

Imagine all of us being alive, for example 50,000 years from today, and then we read the following verse at that time:

"I have declared, and HAVE SAVED, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore YE ARE MY WITNESSES, saith the LORD, that I am God." Isaiah 43:12

God predicted that! We will have been saved by that time, or God, that one God mentioned in Isaiah 43 is a liar. I believe God did not lie to us there. You will even be able to speak to those witnesses involved with Isaiah 43 if you desire...perhaps even break bread with some of them.

But time will tell...

John

Minimalist said...


You have to read a long (boring) way into The Ascension of Isaiah
till you get to the part where he is sawed in half.
Colorful Jewish literary speculation.

Minimalist said...


I have already mentioned how the canonical epistle of HEBREWS uses a questionable incident from the Ascension of Isaiah.

Analyzing the NT by seeking its sources can be most profitable: For instance in her book, A Shift in Time, Lena Einhorn mentions the story of Stephen in ACTS. It appears this story is a revaluation of a very different historical character in Josephus!

Einhorn also points out that crucifixions of Jews didn't pick up tempo until mid 1st century, explaining the 'black hole' for data on the 'historical Jesus' in the 30s but seeing such a character being based on Josephus's description of 'the Egyptian' (mid century)