Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Christ or charismatic?

This post is nothing to do with the charismatic movement! It is rather to do with a fairly ill-informed pontification I got sight of today.

The writer was saying that the resurrection was based on legendary development because the Gospels were written decades later. His opinion of Jesus was that He was a charismatic teacher who "probably" was crucified, and there is no evidence of the empty tomb.

Just to tip you off, when you get someone saying Jesus "probably" was crucified and there is "no evidence" of the empty tomb, you are listening to a lot of bluster from a bluffer who does not know what he's talking about.

The death of Jesus on the cross is one of the most solid facts of history. It ticks every box and meets every criterion historians use to assess the historicity of events in the past. It is attested in multiple, independent accounts (in the Gospels, Acts, epistles, the pre-Pauline creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Roman and Jewish historians and the writings of early church fathers), there is early testimony for it (the Gospels are early, and evidently based on even earlier sources and eye witness accounts), it meets the criterion of embarrassment (you don't invent a story of a crucified Messiah if you want to be believed in the Jewish world and Roman empire), there is enemy testimony to it (from Jews and Gentiles), etc. etc. This led the highly sceptical, extremely liberal "Jesus Seminar" scholar, John Dominic Crossan, to say, "That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be" (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography).

The empty tomb is likewise historically solid. The burial of the Lord Jesus in Joseph's tomb is not likely to be a Christian invention because the account makes the disciples out to be cowardly men who failed to have the decency to provide their Master the dignity of a burial, instead making a member of the hated and hostile Sanhedrin the hero of the story. Given He was buried, it is impossible that the message of the resurrection could have got off the ground if His tomb was still occupied. Furthermore, if you wanted to invent a story to persuade people that the tomb of Christ was empty you would not have had women as the discoverers of the empty tomb. Their testimony carried no weight in a Jewish patriarchal society. The empty tomb is implied in the very early creedal formula of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 by the words, "and that He was buried, and that He was raised the third day..." No one could take the statement of being buried and raised as meaning anything other than that the tomb was empty. And also, why the reference to "the third day"? It could only be because that was the day in which the tomb was found empty.

So, this talk of there being no evidence is disingenuous dogmatism, and needs to be exposed as such.

Now, another thing, there have been plenty of charismatic Jews throughout history. Ask yourself this question, how many of these charismatic Jewish leaders were then exalted by their disciples to the status of equality with God, proclaimed to be risen from the dead, the fulfilment of all the sacrifices of the Levitical system, and the only way to salvation? The answer is a big fat 0. None! No Jew would ever have thought that having some charisma meant you were actually on the Creator side of the Creator-creation divide. There must have been overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the risen Son of God, or these Jews would never have believed, proclaimed and died for that belief, because if the belief is false, it is utterly blasphemous.

Jesus of Nazareth certainly was a charismatic teacher, however, that wasn't something that would have caused any Jew either to execute or worship Him.