National Catholic Register has posted an article, titled “Six Things People Get Wrong About the Resurrection”, that I wrote based on my book Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? Here is a bit, from the top:
When the apostle Paul told the Corinthians that the message of Christ crucified is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23), he surely recognized the same was equally true of the message of Christ risen from the dead. Later in the same epistle, after all, he declares, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” and explains that if “Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (15:14, 17).
In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, in his second book on Jesus of Nazareth: “The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead.”
Put simply, the Resurrection of the Christ is an event that divides. It is also a belief that challenges, confuses and confounds. And so it is hardly surprising to find that some people — some of them skeptics, but some of them Christians — get some things wrong about the Resurrection. Here are six such errors.
“We really cannot know if Jesus even existed, never mind rose from the dead.”
Have you ever met a “flat earther”? I haven’t, but apparently there is a Flat Earth Society. Have you met someone who believes that Jesus never existed? I have, and you probably have as well. But believing that Jesus never existed and believing the earth is flat are quite comparable.
So why does belief in the former continue to hold on, especially in certain corners of the internet? There are several reasons, including a good deal of chronological snobbery and a heaping helping of anti-Christian polemics from popular atheist hucksters such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens.
But you’ll be hard-pressed to find any reputable historian of the ancient world — that is, a scholar who reads and studies ancient texts such as those in the New Testament — who will deny Jesus existed.
Bart Ehrman, a professor at the University of North Carolina and author of more than two dozen books (both academic and popular) about the Bible and Jesus, has written books arguing many of the narratives in the Gospels are substantially revised or corrupted. A former fundamentalist Protestant, he now says he is an agnostic. Yet in Did Jesus Exist? he strongly criticizes “mythicists” — those who deny that Jesus was a real, historical figure.
Ehrman, hardly an ally of orthodox Christianity, points out that few mythicists have any training “in ancient history, religion, biblical studies or any cognate field,” or teach early Christianity at “any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world.” Why? Because belief that Jesus didn’t exist is simply “so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99% of the real experts” that they don’t qualify for such academic posts.
As Ehrman concludes: “Whether we like it or not, Jesus certainly existed.”
Read the entire article at NCRegister.com.
My original draft, which needed to be shortenered a bit, included this introductory paragraph:
The Apostle Paul’s visit to Athens in the early A.D. 50s is often cited as an example of an early Christian seeking to find common ground with his audience in presenting the Gospel in a culture skeptical of foreign beliefs. Paul’s Areopagus sermon (Acts 17:22-34) appealed first to the religious nature of his listeners—who even worship “an unknown god”—and then moved on to discuss God as Creator and Lord of all, transcendent and completely Other. Things went smoothly until Paul, having mentioned a future day of judgment, stated that God has “given assurance to all men by raising him”—that is, Jesus Christ—“from the dead.” The Evangelist Luke recounts: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, ‘We will hear you again about this.’” (Acts 17:31-32). “The Athenians’ attentive hearing of Paul’s argument,” notes Fr. William S. Kurz, S.J., in his commentary on Acts of the Apostles (Baker Academic, 2013), “comes to a halt” at that point, as the notion of a physical resurrection “was considered both absurd and repugnant” to the ancient Greeks.
While teaching a study of Acts of the Apostles a couple of years ago I was struck again by how the Apostle Paul, for all of his incredible successes, was no stranger to an abundance of disappointments, frustrations, and often tense clashes with Greeks and Jews alike. In our time there is such an unremittingly insistence and focus on “dialogue” that we often seem unwilling to recognize just how absurd and repugnant are many Christian beliefs and teachings to a wide range of non-Christians.
Further, there is often a sense that if those beliefs and teachings somehow offend or disturb others, we need to back off, change course, and soothe their hurt feelings. Of course, we need not and should not needlessly antagonize; but we also shouldn’t needlessly capitulate to a culture of infantile emotivism and shallow sentimentality. The fact is, if we aren’t being mocked in some way and to some noticeable degree about the content of what we share and give witness to, we probably aren’t sharing or witnessing to much of anything. Belief in the Resurrection is an all-or-nothing proposition; there isn’t any room for a hazy, half-hearted acceptance, even though I think some people—even far too many self-described Christians—try to squeeze into that strange and irrational place. As I write near the end of my book:
Secular humanism simply does not satisfy hungry souls and searching hearts because it shrinks reality in a way that is unsettling for those who suspect that there really is much more to life than efficient economies, fast food, and faster wi‐fi. So, secularism has some explaining to do. And this book has, I think, shown how secularist premises and perspectives have not offered sufficient or compelling explanations for what happened to Jesus of Nazareth, what the Resurrection involved (or didn’t involve), and how to account for the radical change in the first Christians and the growth and existence of the Church. To be fair, as we’ve seen, some scholars with skeptical leanings have spent entire careers trying to offer answers, even if those answers are not always clear or convincing. But some popular atheist writers are, to put it bluntly, either lazy or disingenuous—or both.