Rumors of First-Century Mark and the Resurrection

Rumors of First-Century Mark and the Resurrection June 17, 2018

Daniel Wallace, Craig Evans, and others have done significant harm not only to Christian apologetics but to conservative Christian claims about the resurrection. What do I mean? As commenter Beau Quilter has pointed out, the legend/rumor of a first century fragment of the Gospel of Mark makes abundantly clear how stories can circulate and grow, and be repeated with confidence even by sources that should be credible, and yet turn out to be completely unsubstantiated. This is something that I blogged about once before. Conservative Evangelicals and fundamentalists are notorious for circulating rumors and misinformation, even after it has been debunked. Darwin’s deathbed conversion. Human and dinosaur footprints side by side. Satanic rituals. President Obama a Muslim. Ironically, these things are done precisely in an effort to defend and promote their beliefs. But a willingness to accept something as true without adequate evidence and without ever inquiring as to the reliability of the information thoroughly undermines that effort in the eyes of critical thinkers.

The same can be said of the alleged first-century fragment of the Gospel of Mark. The aim was presumably to “prove” that the Gospel is reliable. That’s even more ironic, because no one seriously doubts that the Gospel of Mark was written in the first century, and whether it was or not is independent of questions about the historicity of information in it. In the very act of pursuing a doubly dubious way of demonstrating that the Gospel of Mark is reliable, they show that in the time between the events and the writing, rumors might well have spread, and misinformation circulated – assuming, of course, that the Christians of the first century were as credulous as the conservative Christians of the 21st century.

Here are some links to updates on the papyrus fragment:

“First Century” Mark and “Second Century” Romans and “Second Century” Hebrews and “Second Century” 1 Corinthians

Still more on P.Oxy. 83.5345

‘First-Century’ Mark Fragment: Second Update

The Green Collection 1 Samuel Papyrus and Mummy Cartonnage

See also the updates on several papyri from Brent Nongbri and Elijah Hixson.

For those who are trying to remember what had preciously been said about this and how it came into the public eye, Beau kindly provided this video with the parts of the debate in which Daniel Wallace first made the claim in conversation with Bart Ehrman.

 

Of related interest, in a recent issue of Skeptic magazine, an article appeared on conspiracy theories and their impact, focusing in particular on JFK. Here is an excerpt:

From 9-11 to Sandy Hook, the paranoid and divisive view of the world that conspiracy theories promote has been gaining in popularity since the first false “facts” about President Kennedy’s death became widely accepted. Perhaps if we can educate people about what actually happened to JFK and how conspiracy theorists have deliberately lied about it, we can also get the general public to better see the lies (aka “fake news”) of today. That may be overly optimistic but one thing I know for certain is that no society has ever been made great by abandoning truth.

Those who imagine that there is a conspiracy among academics to hide facts supporting Christianity then turn to non-credible sources that weave an alternative narrative that in fact abandons the pursuit of truth, purportedly in the interest of promoting “the Truth.”

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  • Thanks for posting this, James.

    This commitment to a “First Century Mark” has been communicated with great assurances since 2012 repeatedly by apologists like Wallace, Craig Evans, Josh McDowell, Gary Habermus, and Scott Carroll (some scholars, some not). The fact that they could commit for so long to a such false information completely negates their own popular apologetic arguments for the resurrection of Jesus, which depend, of course, on the presumption that the NT resurrection stories are reliable information.

  • Of greater significance than the damage done to Christian apologetics and resurrection claims, has been the damage done to ancient Egyptian mummy masks that apologists like Scott Carroll have been destroying to suggest at conferences and Christian Universities that New Testament manuscripts are obtainable inside. These are priceless funerary masks created to honor the dead in ancient Egypt. They are part of the cultural heritage of that part of the world. As Roberta Mazza and other papyrologists and related scholars have pointed out:

    a) it is no longer necessary (indeed, it is considered unethical by many scholars) to destroy mummy cartonnage in order to see the text of the interior papyri. Light scanning methodologies have been available since the 1980’s that can reveal these texts, albeit in a less dramatic, slightly more time consuming process.

    https://www.ucl.ac.uk/dh/projects/deepimaging/technologies

    b) to date, and despite the wild claims of these apologists, no New Testament manuscripts have been obtained from mummy cartonnage. In fact, the findings so far seem to indicate that the practice of using papyrus for mummy cartonnage ended in the Augustan period (prior to the Christian era), when linen became the favored material for such masks.

    c) Scott Carroll and the amateurs helping him destroy mummy masks fail to follow the protocols of provenance, procedure, consultation, and documentation followed by most legitimate papyrologists.

    https://facesandvoices.wordpress.com/2015/01/21/mummy-masks-papyri-and-the-gospel-of-mark/

  • John MacDonald

    I think apologists generally understand that legendary development plays into the picture. For instance, one of the largest apologetics sites on the internet, CARM, points to the creedal/poetic appearances claims of the risen Jesus in 1 Cor. 15:3-5 to be reasonably trustworthy. See: https://carm.org/1-cor-153-4-demonstrates-creed-too-early-legend-corrupt

    Paula Fredriksen points out these appearance claims were ‘visual’ in nature. She writes “Paul, mid-first century, is our earliest source for this tradition, and he implies that these experiences were visual: Christ ‘was seen’ (ophthe), he says, first by Peter (Cephas), then by ‘the twelve (the inner group of Jesus’ followers). Then he ‘was seen’ (same verb again, ophthe) by almost 500 followers; thereafter by James (Jesus’ brother); and then finally ‘by all the apostles’ (1 Cor 15.5-7). ‘Last of all,’ Paul concludes this passage, Christ appeared to him (ophthe again, v.8; cf 9.1 ‘have I not SEEN Jesus our Lord?’) (Fredriksen, Paul, The Pagan’s Apostle, pg.4, 2017).”

    So it seems the first Christians were reporting experiencing a visual encounter of the risen Jesus. We can of course make psychologizing theological or secular guesses/speculations as to what lay behind these appearance claims, but I think it is historical bedrock that the first Christians were making these claims.

    • Kind of like the historical bedrock that a “First Century” manuscript was discovered in a mummy mask. After all we heard this from at least five independent witnesses, Daniel Wallace, Scott Carroll, Craig Evans, Josh McDowell, and Gary Habermus. Must be true.

      And Daniel Wallace was shown this manuscript in 2011. That’s way “too early for legend to corrupt”, according to your apologists.

      Except that the truth was corrupted almost immediately, by a trusted scholar who should have known better.

      • John MacDonald

        I think it’s pretty conclusive that Cephas, Paul, and the twelve were at least reporting that they had visionary experiences, especially since Paul knew Cephas and could have exchanged ideas about this beyond what is laid out in the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed. As Dr. McGrath said in his “Resurrection, Rumors, and Romania” blog post today, “Paul had such faith based on visionary and other experiences.”

        • I think it’s pretty conclusive that Dirk Obbink, Daniela Colomo, and the Egypt Exploration Society were reporting they found a first-century manuscript of Mark in a mummy mask, especially since Daniel Wallace and Craig Evans knew these scholars and could have exchanged ideas beyond what is laid out in their reports via email or telephone or other 20th century communication technologies.

          As Daniel Wallace said in his initial announcement, “my source is a papyrologist who worked on this manuscript, a man whose reputation is unimpeachable. Many consider him to be the best papyrologist on the planet. His reputation is on the line with this dating, and he knows it; but he is certain that this manuscript was from the first century”.

          Except of course that we now know that none of this was true.

          • John MacDonald

            I think you’re overextending your analogy. If we follow your train of thought, what is stopping us from doubting and impeaching any and all historical eyewitness testimony (which is what we have with Paul: “Have I not seen the Lord?”)

          • Sure, Paul claimed to have a visionary experience, that sounds a bit like a drug high and looks nothing like the post-resurrection visits described in the gospels.

            But that isn’t even close to “conclusive” evidence of what anybody other than Paul experienced.

            My analogy isn’t overextended at all.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m not talking about the gospels. I am perfectly willing to “bracket” the gospel accounts as potentially legendary.

            You said: “But that isn’t even close to ‘conclusive’ evidence of what anybody other than Paul experienced.”

            So, you don’t think Cephas and the twelve had a visionary (ophthe) experiences similar to Paul, even though this is what Paul reports of them, and Paul could have fact-checked this important point when he met Cephas? Wouldn’t it have been a natural thing for Cephas and Paul to compare notes about their “risen Jesus” experiences (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours, lol)?

          • So you don’t think Dirk Obbink, Daniela Colomo, and their coworkers in the Egypt Exploration Society found a first-century manuscript of Mark in a mummy mask? Even though this is what Wallace, Carroll, Evans, McDowell, and Habermus reports of them? and any one these men could have fact-checked this important point – and they wouldn’t even have to walk to Jerusalem – they could email or call! Wouldn’t it be a natural thing for them to compare notes about their experiences with the “first-century Mark manuscript”?

            Apparently not.

          • John MacDonald

            Again, I think you are trying to extend your analogy to cover more than it actually can. I am interested as to what Dr. McGrath thinks of you attempt. James, is it, or is it not, reasonable to conclude Cephas and the twelve had (or at least were reporting) visionary (ophthe) experiences of what they thought was the risen Jesus? I would think that if Cephas disagreed with the portrayal of him in the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed, he was certainly in a position to change it:

            That Christ died for our sins
            in accordance with the scriptures.
            and that he was buried;

            That he was raised on the third day
            in accordance with the scriptures,
            and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

            (edited)

          • Again, I think my analogy is perfectly applicable and you have failed to show how it is not. We only have Paul’s word for what the apostle’s were claiming and it would have been more difficult for him to verify than modern scholars with email and telephones.

            As James McGrath has said, “My point is simply that it seems impossible to ever be certain, using the tools of historical study, that something like this scenario (misunderstanding leading to rumor) did not occur. “

          • I think that we have good reason to think that early Christians saw things that they interpreted as seeing Jesus. Dreams, glimpses in a crowd or on the shore while out fishing, other things – that it is hard to say.

            And soon, people repeated things that they heard about what others had seen, and told stories that included narration of details that had not been part of it.

            It could be very instructive to try to trace the development of the first century Mark legend. It may well be that two separate stories were conflated – an exciting find in a Mummy mask and an exciting find among the Oxyrhynchus papyri. It may be that someone lied. It may be a combination. Trying to figure that out would itself be a really useful undertaking. I might put feelers out among academics about whether there is interest in collaborating to pursue that investigation, much as was done in the case of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.

          • John MacDonald

            Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question so promptly!

          • Obbink and the Egypt Exploration Society saw something, of course.

            But what they saw was not what others reported that they saw.

          • Realist1234

            ‘I think that we have good reason to think that early Christians saw things that they interpreted as seeing Jesus.’

            – or perhaps they just saw Him!

          • Bob Jase

            Was he? He may have died before Paul’s letters started circulating or that may have been added afterwards or they may not have been a Cephas.

          • Good point!

            To me Paul’s letters, if anything, show a competitive relationship between Peter and Paul, one in which Paul has to insist on his own apostleship, insist that he “received” the gospel long before ever meeting Peter, and one in which he talks about openly criticizing Peter at Antioch.

            Far from being the “pal” that John MacDonald sometimes describes, happy to chat with Paul about shared experiences, they sound like religious rivals … and rivals would be far more reticent to compare or share experiences. Paul might use what was rumored about Peter to support his own agenda, but it’s doubtful that they would “share notes”.

          • Bob Jase

            People who had actually in person met the living god should agree on what he said & did yet from day one Christians have been splintering.

          • We’re not discussing here that matter of interest for those who engage in religious apologetics or anti-religious counter-apologetics. Of course, even from a historical perspective there is reason to conclude that the earliest Christians didn’t think that they had “met the living God in person” when encountering Jesus. The question we are interested in here is a historical one, of how information and misinformation circulates and undergoes transformation in the process.

          • Nick G

            But surely everyone knows that nothing about the ancient world is of the slightest interest unless it can be used to argue either for or against the truth of Christianity?

            s (just in case)

          • John MacDonald

            Paul butted heads with the establishment a bit about what the message was, but ultimately he wanted everyone to be successful at spreading the good news of Jesus. Paul’s offering to the Jerusalem church from the Gentile churches he established suggests this.

          • Paul wanted everyone to be successful at spreading his particular version of the “good news of Jesus”; he had harsh words for those who spread a version of which he did not approve.

        • Bob Jase

          Visionary experiences have zero value as the testimony of the varies girls in Salem against the accused witches should prove.

          • John MacDonald

            I’m secular. I don’t believe in ghosts. My point was that Paul, Cephas, and the twelve reported that they saw something they thought was Jesus. If you don’t believe they saw anything, you have to admit they were at least claiming that they did. That’s my position.

          • Bob Jase

            My point is that Paul claims they saw something – I don’t see any writings from them saying they saw anything. Hallucinations recorded by someone prone to hallucinations would not be surprising. I’ve delt with folks with delusional parasitosis and no matter how many bugs they claim to see that aren’t there you cannot convince them that they are hallucinating.

          • We don’t know what they claimed. We only know what Paul claimed they claimed.

          • John MacDonald

            Historical analogies are better at showing that something reasonably could have happened (since they are not simply idiosyncratic), rather than showing something probably did happen. So, for instance, my article that you refer to ( http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2018/03/examining-easter-peering-behind-veil-of.html ) provides a number of historical examples where religious deception was used. For instance:

            (1) Joseph Smith and his golden plates from heaven and the witnesses that went along with them.
            (2) Plato and his noble lies.
            (3)Regarding Numa Pompilius, Livy wrote:

            “And fearing lest relief from anxiety on the score of foreign perils might lead men who had hitherto been held back by fear of their enemies and by military discipline into extravagance and idleness, he (Numa) thought the very first thing to do, as being the most efficacious with a populace which was ignorant and, in those early days, uncivilized, was to imbue them with the fear of Heaven. As he could not instil this into their hearts without inventing some marvellous story, he PRETENDED to have nocturnal meetings with the goddess Egeria, and that hers was the advice which guided him in the establishment of rites most approved by the gods, and in the appointment of special priests for the service of each.” (Livy 1 19). Plutarch also suggests that Numa played on superstition to give himself an aura of awe and divine allure, in order to cultivate more gentle behaviours among the warlike early Romans, such as honoring the gods, abiding by law, behaving humanely to enemies, and living proper, respectable lives. The reference to Plutarch is Plutarch, “The parallel lives, Numa Pompilius, §VIII”
            (4) The noble Lies in the Judeo Christian Tradition.
            (5) …

            So, none of this establishes Paul was probably lying, just that there is historical analogy that it would not be out of the question that he could have been.

          • Oh God, I apparently gave you another excuse to reference your own blog again, for the thousandth time.

            So here’s two possibilities. Misinformation/rumor or your pet theory of “noble lies”. Either possibility demonstrates that we don’t know what Peter claimed; we only know what Paul claimed he claimed.

          • John MacDonald

            No, Paul didn’t write the Pre Pauline Corinthian creed. As Paul says, he was passing on what was handed down to him. As Ehrman breaks it down,

            That Christ died for our sins
            in accordance with the scriptures.
            and that he was buried;

            That he was raised on the third day
            in accordance with the scriptures,
            and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

            The first line of each part states the important salvific fact: Christ died, Christ was raised. The second line of each indicates that he did so in fulfillment of the (Jewish) Scriptures. And the third line of each provides the tangible proof of the statement (his death is proven by his burial; his resurrection is proven by his appearances). This is a very carefully and intentionally crafted statement.

            It is widely thought that it may have been some kind of creed that was recited in the Christian churches, or possibly a statement of faith that was to be recited by recent converts at their baptism, a creed that is being quoted by Paul here (not composed by him when writing the letter). It is often thought to have been crafted by someone other than Paul. It was a tradition floating around in the church that encapsulated the Christian faith, putting it all in a nutshell. Paul inherited this creed, just as he inherited the theology it embodies. He didn’t invent the idea that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought salvation. That was the view of Christians before him.

            Analogies don’t, on their own, establish positive probability. For example, the mythicist Price, in his discussion of the apparent Caliphate of James, points to a Chinese Ruler who was called “The little brother of Jesus.” Price doesn’t mean to say his analogy establishes the probability of his mythicist interpretation, just that the historicist reading of the James passage in Galatians doesn’t readily falsify mythicism. But as you can see with this case, just because an analogy seems appropriate for one person doesn’t mean it’s going to seem appropriate to another. Ehrman outright rejected Price’s analogy.

            And, just because an analogy/counter-analogy or example/counterexample seems reasonable, doesn’t mean it lends weight to an interpretation. For instance, one of the ancient arguments in favor of the flat earth hypothesis was the example that rain doesn’t fall up – which seems like a reasonable illustration of the consequences of the ancient flat earth hypothesis (even though we now know the flat earth hypothesis is false – and even in ancient time they could demonstrate the curvature of the earth).

            Beau said, “Either possibility demonstrates that we don’t know what Peter claimed; we only know what Paul claimed he claimed.”

            – Actually no, since Cephas could have been involved in creating the creed, and, as I said before, if the creed ran counter to what Cephas and the twelve experienced (or at least said happened), they certainly could have updated it with the right information – especially since the creed apparently served the function in the early church of a creed that was recited (it is poetic in its construction), or even a statement of faith.

          • Good Lord, was a two paragraph copy/paste from a Bart Ehrman text (from your blog post again – yawn) necessary to say that Paul didn’t write the creed?

            I know Paul didn’t write the creed. In point of fact, no one knows who wrote the creed.

            But if you’re fond of Bart Ehrman, you’ll know that he wouldn’t give Peter the credit. According to Ehrman, a Galilean fisherman wouldn’t be able to read or write, much less read or write in Greek.

          • What leads you to conclude that this creed was from the outset a written text, much less one written in Greek? The other creeds we know of began as words to be recited, only subsequently written down.

          • Well you’re right that it needn’t have been “written”, though it does have signs of being “composed”, even if verbally. Perhaps I should have said no one knows who composed the creed. You’re right that it wouldn’t matter if a composer could read or write.

            Still, the idea that Peter may have composed it or later edited it is a huge speculative leap from what the text can actually reveal.

            Is there evidence that it is a translation?

          • Thank you, James – this is a very helpful reference:

            p. 231
            There has been a long-running debate regarding the 1 Cor. 15.3b formula on whether an Aramaic version can be discerned under the Greek formulation – the key issues being the lack of a Semitic equivalent to ‘according to the Scriptures’, and whether anarthrous Christos could be a translation from Aramaic. Although we should not forget that an Aramaic form could be rendered faithfully in Greek without being a literal translation of the Aramaic, we might expect a creedal formula to be more rigid.

            p. 217
            With ‘Messiah/Christ’ soon losing its titular significance, the most important title for Jesus which emerged was ‘Lord.’ It certainly has that significance for Paul, but it must have become established well before Paul. Most noticeable is the continued use of the Aramaic form mar in 1 Cor. 16.22, which presumably indicates that the title became quickly fixed in the Aramaic-speaking communities of Palestine. In fact there are strong indications that it was Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation which were seen as establishing Jesus as Lord.

            p. 237
            It would appear, then, that the understanding of Jesus’ death as sacrifice for sins may have emerged initially not with the first Aramaic-speaking disciples but more likely with the Greek-speaking Hellenists, from whom Paul learned his 1 Corinthians 15 catechism and to whom 24 will be devoted.

            Beginning from Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making
            By James D.G. Dunn

          • John, I’m going to apologize for my snarky, but incorrect comment that Peter couldn’t have written the creed. James wisely pointed out that it’s possible it could have been an Aramaic verbal creed later translated to Greek.

            I still think it’s unlikely, but the snark was not warranted on my part!

            :^)

          • John MacDonald

            No worries. I regard the people I chat with here as friends, even though I sometimes get sarcastic (if you can’t get sarcastic with your friends, …), lol. I include you as a fellow traveler here, as another secular person making sense of religion. I definitely count you as a friend here! And you have raised a very interesting question: So, Beau’s skeptical challenge is as to whether we can infer the claims/experiences for Cephas and the twelve as having some sort of visual (ophthe) experiences that were interpreted as being the risen Jesus; or, as Beau says, are the sighting events attributed to Cephas and the twelve recorded in the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed just rumors? Although it may take someone much more competent than me in this subject, I think we should be able to reverse-engineer the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed so as to be able to retrodict an interpretive framework on it. For instance, 1 Corinthians 9:1 seems to suggest one of the necessary (not sufficient) conditions of being an apostle was that one has seen the risen Jesus (which would mean Cephas and the twelve must have had some sort of visual experience, as per the creed). And, some of the original Christians before Paul must have seen what they thought was Jesus in his new resurrection body (1 Cor 15:44, 50) for them to be claiming the resurrected Christ was the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:23) of the general harvest of resurrected souls at the end of the age (which had now begun). It wasn’t simply the report of a ghost sighting. What do others think?

          • Bob Jase

            “I think we should be able to reverse-engineer the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed”

            See, that assumes that there was a pre-Pauline creed and I don’t think that is justified. I gar-own-tee Stan Lee had not attended an actual meeting of Hydra before he wrote their loyalty oath.

            “are the sighting events attributed to Cephas and the twelve recorded in the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed just rumors? ”

            Unless you can find documention by those who were at the event then yes, they are just rumors.

            Call me totally cynical about religion but my belief bubble completely burst a long time ago.

          • John MacDonald

            You don’t have to believe in a religion to try to outline historical information about it. In the same way, you don’t need to be a Platonist to appreciate and interpret Plato.

          • Bob Jase

            True you don’t have to believe but there is zero evidence that such a creed existed before Paul’s letter. Or is that Sau’ls letter? See, that’s the sort of thing that doesn’t help – these folks couldn’t even keep their own names straight.

          • It is mockery of this sort, which illustrates that you as a modern reader are simply unfamiliar with things like naming conventions in the polyglot context of the eastern Roman world in the first century, that make it seem that you are interested in merely substituting anti-religious apologetics for religious apologetics, rather than engaging in the kind of historical investigation that we’re striving for here.

          • Bob Jase

            You are all for historical investigation as long as your presumptions are considered correct – apparently anyone who doesn’t agree need not participate. So show me the evidence that will convince me that all of ‘Paul’s’ supposed writings are by Paul and please document his claims using unbiased contemporary sources.

            Can’t do it?

            Maybe you should wonder why.

          • This comment is bizarre. It is a commonplace of mainstream scholarship that a number of the writings attribute to Paul are not by him. Why would you ask a New Testament scholar to provide you evidence to the contrary?!

          • Bob Jase

            Because if you have evidence you should show it. If you don’t have evidence you should admit it.

            Its called being honest. BTW, you seem to be ignoring the lack of contemporary unbiased coroboration – why?

          • What on earth are you talking about? Are you a troll? There is evidence that Paul was not the author of a number of the letters attributed to him. How am I being dishonest by not giving you evidence against the stance that mainstream academics like myself hold?!

          • Hey Bob, you’ve got James all wrong. I’m an atheist and he let’s me get away with all sorts of snark and anti-apologetic argumentation on this blog.

            But he’s also a legitimate NT historian, and when I get a bit of history wrong, he’ll correct me. As he should. He doesn’t mind us arguing from an atheistic standpoint; he just prefers that we do it legitimately, not with pseudo-scholarship.

          • Bob Jase

            Not…used…to…civil…persons…on…line…

          • I know! Unnerving isn’t it?! Sometimes on this blog I land a fantastically sarcastic zinger, only to have it ruined by a completely polite and civil reply.

          • John MacDonald

            Paul says, regarding the creed, “For what I received I passed on to you (1 Cor 15:3).

          • Bob Jase

            So you are a Mormon?

            Because Joseph Smith said a for-real angel gave him golden plates on which was written the BOM which he passed on.

            Why believe one claim over the other?

          • I will let John speak on his own behalf, but you seem to be mistaking John’s argument for the earliest Christians having believed certain things, for an argument John would never make that these early Christian beliefs were correct.

          • John MacDonald

            I think a perfectly reasonable position is that Peter and the twelve started having visions in a powerful emotional state at the loss of their beloved master. This “brackets” the question of whether such visions were “merely physiological,”:or actually an “encounter with their risen master,” and just tries to describe the phenomena.

          • John MacDonald

            Joseph Smith was lying, as perhaps were his witnesses. Paul could have been lying, but a simple explanation could have been that Paul was simply passing on a statement of faith for early Christianity – “We believe because Cephas and the twelve saw the risen lord!” Of course, then you could ask “How do you know Peter and the twelve weren’t lying?” And it goes on endlessly this way, lol.

          • John MacDonald

            Since I wrote the above post, Beau clarified that he agrees with Dr. McGrath’s characterization that:

            “I think that we have good reason to think that early Christians saw things that they interpreted as seeing Jesus. Dreams, glimpses in a crowd or on the shore while out fishing, other things – that it is hard to say.”

          • 1 Corinthians 9:1 only suggests that PAUL thinks seeing Jesus partly qualifies HIM as an apostle. And of course he thinks that. While all the other apostles had been following Jesus long before his death, and (according to tradition at least) had been chosen by him, Paul is the only one who never met Jesus, was never chosen by him in person, and claims apostleship based on seeing Jesus up in Heaven. No other apostles have to make that argument.

            The remainder of 1 Cor. 15 only tells us what Paul’s resurrection theology consists of. Doesn’t tell us anything else.

            Now you could be right. You’re laying out what might be plausible scenario. But saying that a scenario is plausible or possible is not the same thing as saying that it is conclusive.

            The experiences of any of the apostles other than Paul is clearly just a matter of speculation. Belief of course is a different matter. People don’t always require specific evidence for their beliefs.

            Do yo believe that Jesus rose from the dead in a resurrection body as the first fruits of the general harvest?

          • John MacDonald

            Beau said: “Do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead in a resurrection body as the first fruits of the general harvest?”

            You know I don’t. As a secular person, I would require extraordinary evidence to believe such an extravagant claim – far more than can be gleaned from the letters of a superstitious person in a superstitious time.

          • Are you sure you’re a secular person? I’ve never heard any other secular person make the apologetic arguments you make. This is what you sound like to me: “Oh, if only I didn’t believe in the supernatural, all the evidence, from 1 Cor 15 to the existence of objective morality would convince me.”

            Maybe I should put it another way. Is the secular “John MacDonald” a fiction? Is the person who made up “John MacDonald” and writes his blog comments secular? Or does that person believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

          • John MacDonald

            So you’re asking me if I’m a schizophrenic, lol? Yes, I am 100% theoretical agnostic and pragmatic atheist. Theoretically, I say we can’t know if the supernatural exists or not, and pragmatically I live my life “as though” the supernatural does not exist. I think supernatural claims about Yahweh are equivalent to claims about Zeus or fairies. On the other hand, there are more nuanced and interesting approaches to God, such as Dr. McGrath’s.

          • Yes, you’re confirming it for me. You sound just like that particular sort of apologist who claims that all the evidence clearly indicates that Jesus rose from the dead and only the anti-supernatural bias of the secular keeps them from believing it.

            You’ve just taken it a step further with the persona of “John MacDonald” – the secular man who’ll back up all the apologist’s claims to conclusive evidence while admitting his own bias.

            Incidentally, I agree that James’ Christianity is a far more nuanced and interesting version.

          • John MacDonald

            Well, no. I have mentioned on this blog before that in the past, out of desperation, I have begged God to come into my life because I felt so empty. But nothing happened. I simply had no feeling that God existed, let alone was listening or cared. My attempts at faith went unanswered. So, I’m secular. I don’t believe in God. You can’t force yourself to believe. It’s like falling in love. You can’t force it to happen. At this point in my life (I’ll be 42 in August), even if I had some experience of the numinous, I would probably chalk it up to being a purely natural physiological/psychological phenomenon.

          • Hmmm, since I’ve also heard you suggest in other comments that your handle “John MacDonald” might be based on a Canadian Prime Minister, perhaps I’m still talking to the fictional John MacDonald.

            It wouldn’t require schizophrenia; just an apologist trying to prove that anti-supernatural bias is the only reason secularists don’t believe. You demonstrate it by inventing just the person you imagine secularists to be.

            This last comment sounds like another common apologist argument: that secularists are just people who feel they’ve been hurt by God – their stance is emotional, not rational.

          • John MacDonald

            What question could I answer that would persuade you I’m secular?

          • How could answering a question persuade? Part of the reason I question your actual stance is that you’ve mentioned in comments that your handle may be fake and that you sometimes lie. You could have been joking in both instances, but how can one tell?

          • John MacDonald

            Well, let me try to address that. My name is John A MacDonald. Similarly, the first Prime Minister of Canada was also named John A Macdonald. Being Canadian, I was teased mercilessly because of this, lol. But there are differences. My middle name is Andrew, while his was Alexander. We also spell our last names differently. I spell mine with an upper case ‘D,’ while he spelled his with a lower case ‘d.’ The similarities are pure coincidence. My dad didn’t know who the first Prime Minister was, and simply named me after his father (John) and uncle (Andrew). MacDonald is a very common name, especially in eastern Canada. As to other stuff about me, I mentioned before I was a teacher for ten years, and a reviewer of education books. Here is a sample of one of my reviews (“Getting Beyond I Like The Book” http://professionallyspeaking.oct.ca/june_2004/reviews.asp ).” I’ve also mentioned I have a Master’s Degree focusing on Heidegger and The Greeks. Here is my Master’s Thesis: https://dr.library.brocku.ca/handle/10464/2352 . I’m pretty much “what you see is what you get,” lol.

          • Nice try. It’s very clear to me that we’re texting with John Alexander MacDonald. Your comments are unmistakeable evidence that the Old Conservative has risen from the dead.

          • John MacDonald

            lol

  • John Thomas

    More I hear about this, more I am becoming skeptical of this entire project. Considering the amount of focus that came upon the provenance of “Gospel of Jesus’ wife” papyrus fragment and the fallout following that, similar focus seems to be warranted here too about the provenance of these fragments. Just because these are fragments of authentic NT documents does not mean that they should be exempted from such scrutiny. It is high time that Greens Scholar Initiative and Museum of the Bible come forward with the extensive documentation and paper trail of the acquisition of the entire series of papyri to the scholarly community for verification.

    • The papyrus in question, a small piece of a codex of Mark now dated to the late 2nd or early 3rd century, isn’t owned or even examined by the Greens Scholar Initiative. And it wasn’t found in a mummy mask.

      But you are right that the Greens Scholar Initiative has purchased a number of ancient Egyptian mummy masks with questionable provenance that are being destroyed, usually in demonstration settings, with the false implication that NT texts are being found inside. In fact, no fragments of NT documents have ever been found inside mummy masks.

      • John Thomas

        I understand that. But it seems that Greens Scholar Initiative was in the process of acquiring that fragment too at some point. Otherwise, the testimony of Dr. Daniel Wallace that Dr. Jerry Pattengale (Director of Greens Scholar Initiative) asking him to sign a NDA to view the fragment wouldn’t make sense. For some reason, it seems that deal didn’t go through. But that story doesn’t add up either because both Dr. Obbink or Egyptian Exploration Society denies asking to sign NDA from anyone. The only way the story would add up is whether Dr. Pattengale made up that story (that seller is demanding a NDA) for some reason. But as you said, if the said papyrus is part of Oxyrhynchus papyrus collection, all the previous stories about recovering it from mummy masks doesn’t make sense at all because these papyri were recovered long ago as far as I understand and supposedly catalogued. Somebody has to explain what is going on here.

        • Agreed. Whether or not this manuscript was ever for sale is tied in with all the misinformation we’ve been fed by apologists.

  • Robert Conner
  • Jake Cohan

    My uncle is a staunch YEC, and always tries show me science evidence for a young earth at family gatherings (I think just because I started the argument with him once). He is full of what he calls data and authority, but all comes from the same source. He really wants it to be true! And he loves to place himself alongside YEC authorities, by talking about what “we” now know, or what “we” have found.

    I think that’s what happened to all those conservative christians who announced the FCM; they wanted it to be true so badly, they jumped the gun. The way Josh McDowell and Craig Evans reported the FCM, talking about what “we” have been doing with mummy masks, you would think they’d discovered the fragment themselves.

  • Gary M

    This entire episode demonstrates how human beings who want to believe something will usually find evidence to support that desired belief. So why should anyone doubt that this is exactly what happened in the first century? The followers of Jesus wanted (desperately) for Jesus to still be alive…so that found “evidence” to make sure that he was! The resurrection belief was born!

    Almost every conservative Christian argument for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus begins with a big assumption: that the Gospels are primary source documents written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses. The problem for conservative Christians is that the majority of Bible scholars say that this assumption is FALSE. Here is a link to a list of scholars, including conservative Christian scholar Richard Bauckham, confirming this majority consensus position:

    https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/majority-of-scholars-agree-the-gospels-were-not-written-by-eyewitnesses/

    Without confirmed eyewitness testimony, the alleged detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are nothing more than unconfirmed hearsay. And without confirmed eyewitness testimony, Christians are left with only the Empty Tomb…and there are many natural explanations for an empty grave. The strength of the evidence for this supernatural event is indeed very, very weak.