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Monday, March 26, 2012

More on "Is it Reasonable to Believe in the Resurrection?" (Part 2)

Since I'm fascinated by this subject, I'm planning to post twice a week for a total of probably six posts. It's going to be my work for Lent!

The New Testament offers mixed information about the risen Jesus: He was unrecognizable, he walked through closed doors, yet he could eat food. Do these contradictory descriptions mean that nothing actually happened except for different forms of delusion? I don't think so. I believe that what happened was real and powerful, but hard to describe. Those who don't believe in miracles explain these contradictions stating that the apostles simply underwent a life changing spiritual experience and that the evangelists translated it into symbolic images. Those who believe in miracles think that everything that is said in the resurrection narratives is true and that the properties described are peculiar to the "glorified body" mentioned by St. Paul.

In my opinion, the less likely explanation for the Easter apparitions is that nothing happened except for a spiritual experience, I have noticed that the scholars who hold on to this theory (at least those I happened to read) mention only in passing Paul's Corinthians 1,15, or they don't report it in its entirety. Paul wrote that Jesus appeared to Peter and then to the twelve apostles. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of them, Paul says, still living. Later he appeared to James and finally to Paul himself. This claim is so vast and precise, one has only two choices: Either Paul was lying or he was describing what he experienced and what the apostles told him. Corinthian 1,15 is no subject for interpretation and it was written no more than twenty years after Jesus' death. Paul was a great mind, respected as a man of culture. He was persecuting Christians before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus and he died for his faith. I chose to believe him.

However, we don't know to how many Christian brothers Paul actually spoke. From his letters to the Galatians we learn that he met Kephas (Peter) and James (Jesus' brother) three years after his conversion, and then he went to Syria and came back to Jerusalem after fourteen years. In Jerusalem he might have met some of the people who saw the risen Jesus. Where they all gathered together when they saw him? To find an answer to this question was important to me because my son insisted that they had suffered from a phenomenon of mass hysteria, so I spoke to a priest at my parish. He told me that Jesus appeared to each disciple individually.
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Theology teaches that it's a property of the glorified body to be in several places at the same time", he answered.
According with Hinduism, after we die we can be everywhere at once because infinity and eternity stretch in all directions. I strongly believe that Jesus' resurrection in a glorified body is not an oddity, if one looks at Christ as a being who has transcended time and space.

My son says I believe because I consciously made this choice, since there is no rational argument to sustain a belief in the divinity of Jesus. I can understand his point of view; I thought just the same only a few years ago. Then I started wondering if I wasn't rejecting religion because I was afraid to be tricked by my psychological needs. I needed strength, comfort, atonement and hope, but I refused to look for them where I felt I could find them. My son thinks that I'm forcing rationality where it doesn't belong. Or does it? In spite of his reasoning I feel that my faith in Jesus is based on logic. It is rooted in my belief that there is no better explanation for the birth of Christianity than his resurrection.
Here is how Garry Wills describes the apostle's sudden change that took place three days after his death:
"These Christians were not expecting the Resurrection. They did not believe it, even when the women first announced it to them. They had, remember, all scattered and hidden as Jesus was condemned and executed…Yet this band of cowards was suddenly changed into an energetic body of effective evangels, spreading their faith, firmly offering the claim that Jesus lives".

As the risen Son of God, Jesus confronted Caesar and the emperors that followed him until, more than 325 years later, Constantine surrendered to reality: Christianity had won.


Manny said...

Your debates with your son are very humorous! You two must have an interesting relationship.

Antonella said...

My son and I do have a fine relationship! (He's the one with short hair in the wedding picture).
The link is: http;//

Manny said...

Hi Antonella

I read through most of that blog. Wow, I'm amazed that people spend their whole lives trying to figure out whether the Shroud is real. Don't they have something better to do? LOL

As to the scientific language. I see three places you might be referring to: (1) carbon dating, (2) quantum physics, and (3) aragonite residue found in the shroud.

As to carbon dating, if you've never heard of it before, that's a method of determining the date of carbon based materials. That's when a carbon element in organic material starts to degrade. And by measuring how far it's degraded they can calobrate when it started to degrade. So the carbon dating originally done on the shroud estimated that the material (which i assume is some form of cotton) was formed around the middle ages, and therefore could not be from Jesus's time. Someone in that discussion said that the carbon dating method that was done was flawed. So who knows.

As to the quantum physics, I had a whole class in quantum physics in college but that was thirty years ago! I don't remember anything from it. Apparently their is some form of radiation (photons being given off) that that quantum physics explains that could have been the source for the image on the shroud. I admit I don't know too much about that.

As to the aragonite, apparently that's some rock crystal which someone in that discussion claims to be from the middle east, and therefore locates the shroud near Jesus's area, providing some substantiation to the claim the image is Jesus. When I did a search of Aragonite, the wikipedia entry says nothing about the middle east but mentions Spain and Slovakia. This other web site mentions Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, Morocco, and Spain. So I have no idea what to make of that conversation.

If there are any other questions, just ask. I must say they were kind of rude to you at the beginning. I didn't like that.

Manny said...

Your son looks like a handsome young man. By the way, I have a son too, though a lot younger than yours. My wife and I couldn't have children, so with both of us nearing fifty, we adopted a little boy. So my son is a lot younger than yours. :)

You can find pictures at the site I blog. I share a blog with two others. It's political blog, but besides the politics I post a little on my life, especially my life as a new father. If you go to my blog and click the "Manny's Life" tag, you can read my personal blogs. If you go back far enough you can read about our adoption adventure. Here's the link to Manny's Life tag at my blog:

Antonella said...

Manny, I just left a comment on your blog. Your son is so cute! Thanks for looking at the shroud blog. I knew something about carbon dating and radiations, in fact those people attacked me precisely about the latter (don't worry about it, I gently put them in their place!). I had never heard of aragonite. I must admit that the shroud mystery fascinates me!