Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If Jesus didn't rise from the dead...

....then what happened instead?

We Christians believe in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, after he underwent a literal, bodily death.

Obviously, non-Christians don't believe this.

So, my question is aimed at any readers who do not believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

What happened to Jesus if he didn't rise? What happened to his body (assuming he really died on that cross)? Why did his disciples insist that they saw him risen?

Give me your best answers, and then in future posts we can talk about those options and debate their merits.

Thanks!

82 comments:

  1. We show a DVD series to the teens in our Church (Teen Timeline, Ascension Press) and in it the narrator (Mark Hart) discusses this. He says to think about the possiblity that the Apostles decided to 'make up' this little secret and go and steal the body. Later on, when they died because of their beliefs, they whispered to each other.....Shhhh, don't let tell the secret... Would you die for a made-up secret? He does a much better job of this, with a few chuckles in between.
    Andie

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  2. My friend's dad doesn't really believe in the Resurrection (but is a Catholic and recieves Holy Communion :( ), and he said he thinks that Jesus DIDN'T die on the cross. He thinks it's too suspicious that Jesus died after only a few hours on the cross and that He was taken down so quickly because "The Romans would leave them up there for days!". He says that they just put Jesus in a tomb, "that one of His disciples just HAPPENS to have" and smuggled Him out after a few days somehow.

    I've tried to explain everything to him, but it never works. :(

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  3. I'm very interested to see the answers! Deodate, that is a great point. If they made it all up, why would they be willing to die for a lie...

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  4. Isn't this what Muslims believe? That someone took Jesus's place and He didn't really die, and thus rise?

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  5. When I went through a period of time where I doubted God's existence and sought to prove to myself that He does exist, this was an issue for me. I worried about what some could argue were alternatives to the story, like that He wasn't dead, didn't rise, etc. The martyr thing was one of the main things that helped me to believe. Why would someone be willing to die a horrible death simply to perpetuate a scam? Especially if the "lie" was that Jesus didn't really rise! If you personally knew that wasn't true, there'd be no reason to be martyred!

    I also vaguely remember being in an adult-ed class put on by my diocese (not my current one) where this topic came up and the sister teaching the class asked us if we'd still believe if Jesus' bones were found today. I'm pretty sure she made the argument that it wouldn't change anything. But is that theologically sound? Not that Christ's bones could and would ever be found so it's entirely hypothetical, but I just wonder how that would change things.

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  6. AYWH, the sister was mistaken. This is what St. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians:

    12 Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

    If Christ was not raised, Christianity is a lie.

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  7. I am curious to hear answers from those who really don't believe. This is a really interesting topic. We have a local Shroud of Turin center and expert here... it's really interesting (and traumatic) to study Roman crucifixion methods... it leaves little doubt that if Jesus was crucified, He most certainly died.

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  8. It is quite possible that, for any number of reasons, Jesus was only pretending to be dead. Without correct medical care, it would have been difficult to tell whether he was actually alive or dead.

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  9. Sally- Peter Kreeft notes several pieces of evidence that refute the swoon theory:

    1) He could not have survived the crucifixion due to Roman procedures. These people studied death. It was their subject of expertise!

    2) The Roman soldier would have broken the legs of Jesus if he wasn't positively sure Jesus was dead.

    3) John swears he saw water adn blood come from Christ's pierced heart- a sign of dying from asphyxiation.

    4) The body was completely encased in winding sheets and entombed.

    5) The apostles- even Doubting Thomas- were so amazed at the power of Jesus to rise from the DEAD- not a swoon- that they went to their deaths proclaiming it.

    6) The fit and trim Roman guards could not have been overpowered by a post-swooning Jesus.

    7) A half-dead man could not have moved the huge stone that guarded the entry to the tomb.

    8) If Jesus wasn't really dead- what happened to his body? There are no accounts of this- Biblically or historically. Josephus who notes historical Jesus and His huge following of disciples would have covered this.

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  10. Sally, thanks! You are the first non-believer to pipe in!

    I like Lauren's points, and I will do a post on this very subject soon, but first let me ask you if you don't mind: Do you know of any other cases where a man who was crucified by the Romans was able to pretend to be dead?

    I am not a historian, so you might know this better than I. I haven't looked into it, but your point made me wonder about that and how likely that would be (or how common).

    Thanks!

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  11. I would say that for those who don't believe in the resurrection of Christ, there could be three explanations:
    1. He merely acted as if he was death and disappeared from the grave to get himself to safety. Maybe with the help of friends or maybe he bribed the guards. Later he could come back out of hiding to see his friends and disappear again.
    2. Jesus died and stayed death, but his body was moved for some reason. Maybe Joseph decided he wanted his tomb back, or his family wanted to burry Him closer to home.
    3. It's one big made up story someone told one day after too many pints and somehow it became very popular.
    None of those has a lot of credibility to me, but His resurrection doesn't have a lot of credibility to non-believers. So ...

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  12. Sally - your comment is interesting. In a recent Anatomy and Phys class I took, the prof (an MD) taught us that "back in the day," doctors were actually better at identifying diseases, death, health etc than they were today. They were like expert detectives. The reason being: They didn't lean so heavily on modern forms of medical practice and technology. In fact, the auto-immune disease I have (Celiacs) was better-known among ancient Romans and Greeks than here in modern America, where it is often misdiagnosed. So I would argue that if Jesus existed and was crucified, the Romans were very capable of determining whether or not he died. Especially since they were in charge of killing him.

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  13. Sorry, that didn't make sense... they *couldn't* lean so heavily on modern medical technologies, so they had to sharpen their other methods of observation.

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  15. Paul, do you think that when Christ was transfigured on the mountain (in view of Peter, James and John) he was still in his physical body?

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  17. Paul, if Jesus had a "new body," why did it bear the wounds of crucifixion?

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  18. Paul, do you believe that God cannot transcend or suspend the laws of nature that He created?

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  20. What do you mean by "continuity"?

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  23. ...or it was His actual (albeit glorified) body.

    Sometimes the simplest explanation works the best. I'm not sure why all the mental gymnastics are really necessary, Paul. Jesus rose from the dead. He retained his physical human body but in a glorified form (i.e., the same type we'll have one day, after His return). He retained the marks of crucifixion as proof that he had died and risen.

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  25. Paul, are you saying that you would have to understand the physics of a glorified, physical body in order to believe that Jesus bodily rose from the dead?

    If this is the case, how is it possible for you to believe that Jesus rose from the dead at all? Wouldn't you have to understand the physics of that process, as well?

    If I'm misunderstanding you, I apologize.

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  27. Paul, I am just as confused as JoAnna is. I am having a hard time understanding why you think God cannot act over and above the very matter he created. Not inelegant at all, but glorious and miraculous, transcendent. He is God and we are not; our finite minds cannot understand how He works. He is the Creator, not us.

    Do you discount all the biblical miracles, or just the Resurrection?

    I feel this sinking feeling that you have "thought" your way right out of Christianity. But I don't have any idea why.

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  28. Paul, are you saying you can't believe anything regarding the physical world unless you understand it scientifically?

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  31. Paul, God doesn't violate physical laws, because he is their Creator. There's a difference between violating and transcending. It's difficult to come up with a proper analogy, but it's like if you tell your kids that they can't have any ice cream, and then you go ahead and enjoy a big ol' pint of Ben & Jerry's. You're not violating your own rule because you are the Creator of that rule, and you decide to whom, how, and when it applies.

    You might find this article by Peter Kreeft worth reading; it addresses some of what we've talked about.

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  34. I think that's an interesting analogy. I strongly believe God never does that. God never says: "Law of gravity, stop working for a moment." He could, but he never does.

    Why not?

    This is what I would ask Kreeft.

    I wish I could help you with that (I would love to meet Dr. Kreeft)!

    My husband is reading over my shoulder and he offers the comment, "If God existed before time and space, and created time and space, why is it so difficult to believe that he could transcend them at his whim?"

    He also recommends reading Miracles by C.S. Lewis, if you haven't already.

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  35. Oh, also:

    But if I imagine a god that lets the Israelites get to the edge of the sea and says "Oh, now how am I going to get them out of this one? Oh, I'll suspend the rules I made..." I'm far less impressed.

    It's interesting you see it this way. I see it more as God showing His awesome power and might to Pharaoh as well as the Israelites.

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  38. Paul, you know I love you. But sometimes you make me crazy. Here's the thing.... I am trying to figure out what it is about what you are saying that makes me shake my head and think, "Either I am too dumb or he is too smart." I have a hard time understanding your thought process. It could totally be me, for sure. You are a smart man.

    However, I keep wanting to say things like, "No, Paul, you cannot invent your own Christianity!" or "Paul, it's very beautiful that God transcends His own creation, including space, time and matter, and our finite little minds cannot begin to comprehend His ways!" and "Paul, you are proving to me why personal interpretation and Protestantism are unworkable!"

    And you are looking at our position and saying that would mean that God mucked things up, or forgot some things and had to fix them, or that He made some mistakes. But we don't view it that way at all! He didn't muck anything up. He didn't forget a thing. He didn't make any mistakes. What you imply are his attempts to "fix His mistakes" are to us beautiful, transcendent gifts of grace and displays of His infinite glory! I wish I could say it better. But it's late.

    Anyway, it finally hit me: Your objections, it seems to me, stem from a mindset that puts God at the service of science, rather than science at the service of God.

    It's the only thing that makes sense to me in what you are saying. If I am wrong, show me how. How are you not making science bigger than God? When one puts the Creator at the service of creation, all sorts of bad theology comes forth.

    Set me straight.

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  39. PS: I have met Kreeft once and attended talks of his three times. My biggest regret is never taking one of his classes when I was a student at Boston College. Of course, at that time I could not have cared less about theology or philosophy! Silly girl!

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  40. Okay, Paul, thank you for your further comments. I think I'm starting to understand the issue here. You see miracles as God's way of repairing a deficiency in His creation, but I see them as God's way of displaying his majesty and power by controlling that which He has created in an extraordinary manner.

    I don't understand why you think that God acting in an extraordinary manner means that His original work was lacking in some way. God created nature to work in a certain way. When He works a miracle, he isn't working against what he created but rather showing us how it would have worked in world that had not fallen (i.e., if original sin hadn't entered the world).

    St. Thomas Aquinas actually addressed this concern in his Summa Theologica. (If you haven't read that before, it's in a Q&A format, with St. Thomas positing objections and then answering them.) I recommend reading the entire section that pertains to this question, but in sum, he says as follows:

    From each cause there results a certain order to its effects, since every cause is a principle; and so, according to the multiplicity of causes, there results a multiplicity of orders, subjected one to the other, as cause is subjected to cause. Wherefore a higher cause is not subjected to a cause of a lower order; but conversely. An example of this may be seen in human affairs. On the father of a family depends the order of the household; which order is contained in the order of the city; which order again depends on the ruler of the city; while this last order depends on that of the king, by whom the whole kingdom is ordered.

    If therefore we consider the order of things depending on the first cause, God cannot do anything against this order; for, if He did so, He would act against His foreknowledge, or His will, or His goodness. But if we consider the order of things depending on any secondary cause, thus God can do something outside such order; for He is not subject to the order of secondary causes; but, on the contrary, this order is subject to Him, as proceeding from Him, not by a natural necessity, but by the choice of His own will; for He could have created another order of things. Wherefore God can do something outside this order created by Him, when He chooses, for instance by producing the effects of secondary causes without them, or by producing certain effects to which secondary causes do not extend. So Augustine says (Contra Faust. xxvi, 3): "God acts against the wonted course of nature, but by no means does He act against the supreme law; because He does not act against Himself."

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  42. Paul, I would say that many, many, many of the men advocating heresy over the centuries were extremely intelligent men. But, brilliant men are wrong about any number of things. As are stupid men. That's all as true as it is irrelevant.

    I guess I have an overarching question: Do you think God protected his truth or revelation in any way so that all people could find it? Or are we sort of on our own? And what sources, then, do we use to find the truth, since it can't really be the Bible or the Catholic Church which do not contain reliable truth (from what I hear you saying)?

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  44. I think God, in creating nature, also humbled himself, and would never change, even for a second, the rules he set up.

    1. But in order to humble Himself, God had to change those rules, otherwise He could never have become man.

    2. Why do you believe God "humbles" himself when he transcends His own laws (laws that He is not subject to)? That is what I don't understand about your viewpoint.

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  47. Paul, you call miracles "cosmic parlor tricks." But parlor tricks by definition are acts that seem to work against natural laws and/or upon supernatural principles, but don't. Miracles are acts that truly are transcendent of natural law and of divine origin.

    You say that God could (and does) easily show His majesty while working with and through His natural laws. I agree with you. But then, if this is the case, why are there unbelievers? If His majesty is so evident without miracles then there should be no such thing as atheists or pagans.

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  48. that should be, *are of divine origin

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  50. 1. God becoming man does not require anything physical. All it involves is some special spiritual unity between God and man in the person of Jesus Christ.

    You don't believe that the Incarnation required anything physical? Or the Virgin birth? The Incarnation required God to transcend the natural law of sexual reproduction. No sperm combined with Mary's egg to create Jesus; rather, the Holy Spirit combined with Mary's egg to create Jesus. In the same vein, Mary giving birth but remaining a virgin both before and afterward definitely requires some divine assistance!

    2. You don't understand, I suspect, because you keep using your own conceptions and vocabulary trying to understand. What is so hard about that God can break physical laws but never does? What do you not understand?

    I don't understand why God "breaking" (I prefer to say "transcending") physical laws is such an abhorrent concept to you. That's what I don't understand. I'm not bound by the rules that I expect my children to abide by, because I am the creator of those rules and can transcend them if necessary.

    Paul, by any chance have you (or do you) play Dungeons and Dragons?

    Do you think God has no free will, and has to break the physical laws he made? Or do you think he could have made the choice never to break a single one?

    Does God have free will? Yes, in the sense that we have free will and we are made in His image and likeness. Does He HAVE TO transcend the laws he made? No. Does He have the ability to do so if and when he chooses? Yes.

    Re: the purpose of miracles -- it's true that there are still unbelievers, but I would argue there are more believers because of miracles than there otherwise would be without them. You're right, faith is still required.

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  52. For me, this is a matter of faith that God would never do this.

    This is the element of your logic that I don't understand. I don't understand why God choosing to transcend His own laws is a bad thing.

    Also, do you believe that God needed to transcend His laws in order for the Incarnation to occur?

    Re: D&D, I thought so! (I do too, by the way! My husband and I are tentatively planning a trip to GenCon for our tenth wedding anniversary.)

    It seems to me that you see God as The Great Dungeon Master. He established this game (the world) with set mechanics and rules (natural and physical laws). Of course, any self-respecting DM would never dream of flagrantly violating the game mechanics for any purpose.

    However, God's not the DM, he's Gary Gygax (in an allegorical sense). Even that's not a perfect analogy because I'm sure Gary wouldn't violate in-game rules either. :) But He is outside of the system and not bound by its rules; when He does choose to transcend them, it's for the ultimate benefit of the players even if they can't see it that way.

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  55. Paul, I think I have reached a point of clarity on this issue. Here's what I see you saying:

    You don't believe in the Virgin Birth
    You don't believe in a literal, bodily resurrection of Christ
    You don't believe in the theological inerrancy of the Bible
    You don't believe in hell.

    And yet you also describe yourself as a Christian. Even though you reject the very basic tenets of Christianity.

    I don't know how to have this conversation, and I mean that honestly. I think you've thought your way out of Christianity.

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  56. Imagine if God actually did design a Role-Playing Game. Would the rules ever need to be revised? Would God have to come out with a second edition, or an errata? Or change the rules to fit the circumstances?

    Paul, this helps me understand. Thank you. To answer: God created the perfect game, with perfect rules. However, the players chose to mess with the rules themselves (the Fall, which introduced original sin), and this are playing in a different, less perfect game that God intended us to play. Because the game we chose to play for ourselves is wrought with unfair rules, God sometimes works miracles which transcend those rules to show His glory, benefit us, and remind us there there is a perfect game waiting for us in Heaven, where the rules are always fair and the dice rolls are always natural 20s. :)

    To quote the Catholic Encyclopedia: "A miracle is a factor in the Providence of God over men. Hence the glory of God and the good of men are the primary or supreme ends of every miracle." This is where the D&D analogy breaks down.

    Regarding the Incarnation: In sexual reproduction, a human sperm from a male must fertilize the human ovum of a female. This did not happen with Mary -- no human male sperm ever entered her fallopian tubes -- yet her ovum was fertilized and she conceived and bore a child. How is this not transcending of the laws of biology?

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  59. Paul: how does the Incarnation not transcend the laws of biology? (Note that the Virgin Birth is different than the Incarnation.)

    Leila: perhaps that's an idea for a future blog post - what does it mean to be Christian?

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  61. Paul:

    You don't believe in the Virgin Birth
    You don't believe in a literal, bodily resurrection of Christ
    You don't believe in the theological inerrancy of the Bible
    You don't believe in hell

    Now you also tell us that you don't believe in the Incarnation.

    Paul, it's not Christianity.

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  63. I'm awestruck, just looking at all the amazingly intelligent people who comment here! I am not exactly an expert on religion, so I am truly sorry if I get any of the facts wrong.
    I don't know very much about that point in history, so no, I have never heard of such a case. I know the chances of the "swoon theory" being correct are slim, but I can't possibly wrap my head around the fact that someone could physically rise from the dead. Does the Bible elaborate at all on that, or does it just state that he was resurrected?

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  64. Paul, saying Jesus was born of a man and a woman contradicts not only the the Bible but the early Church fathers. Jesus' paternity was hotly disputed by early anti-Christians, and it was a heresy the Church battled against. It is in both the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit -- not a man. Moreover, if Jesus was only a man, worshiping him would be idolatry.

    Your assertion that Jesus' divinity was only spiritual contradicts the Bible, the Apostles, and the early Church fathers. How is it possible that those sources are all wrong and you are right? Even statistically it's pretty unlikely.

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  66. Paul, you can have all the opinions you want, and many of them are very interesting, but Christianity is a revealed religion, so you cannot define Christianity for yourself.

    It really is just that simple.

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  67. Sally, I truly hope to have a post about the swoon theory just as soon as I can. I can tell you that the Bible is very clear about the bodily resurrection. In fact, the scene with the Apostle Thomas speaks to this specifically. Thomas ("doubting Thomas") thinks he is seeing a ghost, and Jesus tells Thomas to put his hands into His wounds, to give proof that He is risen, and that He is real -- in a real body.

    Also, St. Paul says that if Christ did not truly rise, we Christians are to be the most pitied of all men and our faith is in vain.

    And, the ancient Creeds are specific in our belief in "the resurrection of the body". Not the resurrection of the spirit only, but "the body" -- Christ's and ours.

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  69. Paul, of course I understand and respect the fact that you call yourself a Christian. I don't deny you the right to identify yourself any way you want.

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  70. Hi Paul, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond; I ended up having a pretty hectic weekend and didn't get a chance to sit at my computer for more than a few minutes!

    By "statistically," I meant that the odds of some random guy in A.D. 2010, 1,970ish years removed from the Apostles, being right on this subject, vs. the teachings of actual Apostles and their students being wrong is pretty unlikely. Based on historical church documents we KNOW that the apostles fought against this heresy. It seems to me, Paul, that you could identify with the Christian Gnostics, and St. Irenaeus wrote his work "Against Heresies" as a repudiation of the idea that Jesus was wholly spirit.

    For example, Paul, let's say that you, as a brillian physicist, make a groundbreaking new discovery about, say, the law of gravity. Your lab assistant, who has worked with you for years, writes a paper detailing the various experiments that led to this new discovery. 2,000 years later some random physics student on Jupiter Moon Base IV decides that you didn't actually mean what you said about the law of gravity, but rather you meant something completely different. Who would probably have the better idea of what you really did mean -- your lab assistant, or Random Student? Me, I'd go with the lab assistant.

    Regarding the Virgin Birth, yes, it was tremendously necessary because of the prophecies in the Old Testament. The prophets said that the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, would be born of a virgin. Thus, the Jews would not accept anyone who was not born of a virgin to be the Messiah. That is why many anti-Christians in the first and second centuries (and after) worked so hard to promulgate the idea that Jesus was the natural son of Joseph, or the bastard son of Mary and a Roman soldier. To prove that Jesus had not been born of a virgin would be to prove that he could not be the Christ, and that Christianity was false and the Messiah had yet to appear.
    Not to mention that the Bible is explicitly clear that Jesus was born of a virgin, so if the dogma of the Virgin birth is wrong then you can't trust anything the Bible says, and Christianity falls apart there, too. That's why Leila and I find it difficult to see how someone who identifies as Christian could deny the virgin birth.

    As for the virgin birth being an "impossible thing," why? Is it so difficult to believe that the same God who created the world and everything in it out of nothing couldn't also create the cell necessary to fertilize a woman's ovum, and also preserve that same woman's virginity before and after she gave birth? It seems as though you're placing limits on the power of an omnipotent God -- again, a viewpoint that does not make sense to me.

    Your last paragraph is partially right. The Catholic Church believes in the hypostatic union (the revealed truth that in Christ, one person subsists in two natures, the Divine and the human). Your belief, however, is akin to the early church heresy known as Nestorianism, which denies the hypostatic union and claims that Mary was only mother to the human nature of Christ (and not His divine nature).

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  71. Hi Paul, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond; I ended up having a pretty hectic weekend and didn't get a chance to sit at my computer for more than a few minutes!

    By "statistically," I meant that the odds of some random guy in A.D. 2010, 1,970ish years removed from the Apostles, being right on this subject, vs. the teachings of actual Apostles and their students being wrong is pretty unlikely. Based on historical church documents we KNOW that the apostles fought against this heresy. It seems to me, Paul, that you could identify with the Christian Gnostics, and St. Irenaeus wrote his work "Against Heresies" as a repudiation of the idea that Jesus was wholly spirit.

    For example, Paul, let's say that you, as a brillian physicist, make a groundbreaking new discovery about, say, the law of gravity. Your lab assistant, who has worked with you for years, writes a paper detailing the various experiments that led to this new discovery. 2,000 years later some random physics student on Jupiter Moon Base IV decides that you didn't actually mean what you said about the law of gravity, but rather you meant something completely different. Who would probably have the better idea of what you really did mean -- your lab assistant, or Random Student? Me, I'd go with the lab assistant.

    Regarding the Virgin Birth, yes, it was tremendously necessary because of the prophecies in the Old Testament. The prophets said that the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, would be born of a virgin. Thus, the Jews would not accept anyone who was not born of a virgin to be the Messiah. That is why many anti-Christians in the first and second centuries (and after) worked so hard to promulgate the idea that Jesus was the natural son of Joseph, or the bastard son of Mary and a Roman soldier. To prove that Jesus had not been born of a virgin would be to prove that he could not be the Christ, and that Christianity was false and the Messiah had yet to appear.
    Not to mention that the Bible is explicitly clear that Jesus was born of a virgin, so if the dogma of the Virgin birth is wrong then you can't trust anything the Bible says, and Christianity falls apart there, too. That's why Leila and I find it difficult to see how someone who identifies as Christian could deny the virgin birth.

    (to be continued...)

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  73. (continued from above)

    As for the virgin birth being an "impossible thing," why? Is it so difficult to believe that the same God who created the world and everything in it out of nothing couldn't also create the cell necessary to fertilize a woman's ovum, and also preserve that same woman's virginity before and after she gave birth? It seems as though you're placing limits on the power of an omnipotent God -- again, a viewpoint that does not make sense to me.

    Your last paragraph is partially right. The Catholic Church believes in the hypostatic union (the revealed truth that in Christ, one person subsists in two natures, the Divine and the human). Your belief, however, is akin to the early church heresy known as Nestorianism, which denies the hypostatic union and claims that Mary was only mother to the human nature of Christ (and not His divine nature).

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  75. Let's say the Jews at Jesus' time understood that prophesy to be talking about the Virgin Birth, and they're convinced both that Jesus really is the Messiah and that the Prophets didn't make mistakes. So they'd make up that Jesus was born a virgin. Really, who would be able to disprove it? And they'd believe he was, because he's the messiah, and so he must have been born of a virgin. The added details (wise men and shepherds) make it sound much more believable (maybe because the event might have happened something like that).

    Paul, I will let JoAnna hash this all out with you, but I was struck by the paragraph above. You are saying, in essence, that Jesus and the Blessed Virgin were liars. Otherwise, no "Jews of the time" could hope to get away with such a lie about the Virgin Birth. Because GOD (Jesus) and God's Mother (Mary) and Mary's husband (Saint Joseph) were all complicit! And liars! And on top of that, the Gospel writers were liars. And even though the Jews knew the Law (no lying!), they were so in love with God and the Messiah that they LIED in order to give Him honor!

    Sorry... that is just nuts. Not at all believable.

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  77. "They probably never asked Jesus or Mary about the virgin birth."

    This is where you so totally lose me. So, Mary was a simp who never spoke to anyone, and Jesus walked around with his friends for three years but never really talked to them about something this big, all the while the Apostles were making something up that they had no evidence of and were too scared (?) to ask Jesus or Mary about. The Apostles and Gospel writers saw their job as making up legends, and not to witness to the truth, even though they state quite the opposite.

    Urban legends don't come about by those who are living with the person. For example, I don't make up urban legends (or "lies") about my husband and then work tirelessly spreading them, especially if I am a devoutly religious person and lying is a sin (especially if one is lying about someone one believes to be GOD!).

    Sorry Paul, that is so out of line with human nature and human experience that now I think you are just making stuff up to fit your presuppositions. And the idea that masses of people would go along with this lie when Jesus never said it, Mary never confirmed it (she lived a long life) and the Apostles merely concocted it to fit an ancient (mis)translation... well, it's not even plausible.

    By the way, you do realize that those Jews who did not accept Christ as the Messiah used the argument you mentioned about "young woman" to discredit the new sect which was Christianity? And here you are using the same argument as they.

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  80. Well, Paul, the Virgin Birth poses no problem to me whatsoever. I am totally comfortable with it. Of course, it wouldn't matter even if I weren't, since it's what Christianity teaches as revealed by God.

    Now, as to urban legends. Tales can become taller, but they don't become something supernatural. Saying that "God became Incarnate and was born of a virgin" would not be something that would just sort of come out of being with a great man or woman and it just happened to get out of control and then thousand and millions and billions of people just believed it.

    That's just not compatible with what we know about human nature.

    It just wouldn't happen that I live with a great man (my husband), talk about him glowingly and then one day it "just got out of hand" and I start telling the tall tale that he sprouted wings and started to fly around the backyard. That would be absurd. And no one would believe something like that. Unless it were true.

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  82. Paul,

    Regarding the Virgin Birth, I encourage to read the entry for it in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Scroll down to the section that starts with "The Virgin Birth in modern theology." Here's the first paragraph:

    "Modern theology adhering to the principle of historical development, and denying the possibility of any miraculous intervention in the course of history, cannot consistently admit the historical actuality of the virgin birth. According to modern views, Jesus was really the son of Joseph and Mary and was endowed by an admiring posterity with the halo of Divinity; the story of his virgin birth was in keeping with the myths concerning the extraordinary births of the heroes of other nations [16]; the original text of the Gospels knew nothing of the virgin birth [17]. Without insisting on the arbitrariness of the philosophical assumptions implied in the position of modern theology, we shall briefly review its critical attitude towards the text of the Gospels and its attempts to account for the early Christian tradition concerning the virgin birth of Christ."

    I think it pretty much addresses everything you've mentioned re: the virgin birth so far.

    As to your other comments...

    "The Church Fathers, for example, would understand Jesus' real message more accurately than we would, all things considered."

    I agree; if you read the Church Fathers, the Catholic Church is the one that's closest theologically. Jimmy Akin just came out with a book called "The Fathers Know Best" (it's on my Christmas list!) so I'm looking forward to studying this subject more in depth once I get my hands on a copy. :)

    "Miracles take faith. Probability won't cut it."

    Yes, indeed. I have faith in God that He can and does work miracles.

    "In the astronomically unlikely event someone will remember my name in 2000 years, that person would likely have a much worse understanding of what I meant, but a much better understanding about whether I was right. We today, I'd argue, have a much worse understanding about what Jesus really meant, but a much better understanding about whether what he said makes sense (insofar as it deals with the physical world)."

    And here's where we disagree. This is the exact reason that Jesus established a Church -- so we would have a living, eternal interpreter of his Word. We don't have to wonder what He meant because He has giving the Church the gift of that knowledge (although revealed gradually over time), and he has protected the Church from teaching error.

    Re: your last paragraph, I'm glad you're not a Nestorian. :) I can agree that Jesus' divinity is spiritual in nature (until after the Resurrection when He has His glorified body).

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