Well, this may seem to you like a long, drawn-out event, but I guarantee that to us we’re thinking more time, I need more time. I want to use my outline as my outline for what we’re going to do here.
I said I’m going to make two main points: there are good reasons to affirm the Resurrection and I said that the writings are too early to be legendary. Mr. Till has responded that we have examples, Sabbatai Sevi, for example. The problem with that example is that it took place not in the same geographical location. What Professor Sherwin-White’s study tells us is that it takes more than two generations for legend to replace historical fact in the same generation, one of the reasons being because the eyewitnesses are still around. But in the Sabbatai Sevi example we have its … the legends developed far off from where the events took place and so you don’t have the eyewitnesses around.
He says Matthew is a, the angels coming down is an example of legend. But that’s not an example necessarily of legend, that’s an example of the anti-supernatural bias that we have here tonight. Mr. Till has not provided any good reasons why one should not accept the evidence for a resurrection. He just asserts. And of course remember his dictum: he who asserts must prove. He just asserts that events that are fantastic or extraordinary just cannot be accepted, and I don’t see any reason why we should accept that assertion. Again, I tried to point out any event requires good evidence; extraordinary evidence is a nonsensical idea. And events that do not have great import, we suspend that. Events that do have great import, we do not suspend that criteria, and we look for good evidence. So he’s holding, again, the Resurrection to a higher standard.
I said that the tomb was empty, and he has not challenged that fact at all. The tomb was empty.
I said Jesus physically appeared to many witnesses. He’s basically challenging this and the empty tomb by saying that, again, I am just assuming that what the New Testament says is true. This is critical. That is not the approach I’m taking, and it is very important for Mr. Till to understand that, okay?, because the charge comes right back on him; it’s a double-edged sword. I gave reasons why these accounts are not legendary; I just didn’t begin by assuming that they were reliable, okay? I gave reasons and arguments. But he assumes that just because they contain fantastic claims about extraordinary events that, therefore, they are not reliable, and has offered no proof for we should accept that.
He hasn’t really challenged the specific evidence for the appearances, the independent verification that comes from five independent sources in the New Testament and the reasons why those should not be taken as legendary. He continues to camp on the pagan sources as being a possible source of the idea of the Resurrection. And it, in one sense it does come down to my scholars versus his scholars, but there’s a very important difference. When I quote, or when I appeal to a consensus of scholarship tonight, I am only doing so when there is a consensus of both liberal and conservative scholarship. Anyone who understands New Testament criticism these days realizes that you’ve got widely divergent camps, so it doesn’t do any good to appeal to most of the scholars when all you’re appealing to is all the liberals. And that’s, that’s what Mr. Till does.
I’m appealing to a general consensus; I’m appealing to the times when the liberals and the conservatives agree. Now when they agree, that is powerful evidence because they don’t agree very often. And when they do agree, and they do agree definitely that the idea of pagan myths influencing first century Palestine, something that was popular at the beginning of this century, but has just been, has been thrown out by reputable scholars since then.
Ronald Nash in his analysis of this, this issue, for example, gives seven arguments against the Christian dependence on mysteries. He says it illustrates the logical fallacy of false cause; just because whenever someone reasons that two things exist side by side that one must have caused the other, that doesn’t follow, it’s a fallacy. He also said many alleged similarities are exaggerated or fabricated because the people writing about them, the scholars, deliberately use Christian terminology like Mr. Till has, like calling them Savior-God, calling them Redeemer, and they’re imposing these Christian words back onto something that was very, very different. The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources about pagan religions were very late.
Paul would have never consciously borrowed from pagan religions; he placed very great emphasis on strict training and a strict form of Judaism. He warned the Colossians against that kind of Christian snycretism. Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith; the mystery cults were non-exclusive. This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversies.
Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history, or at least he appealed to that, that they did. But the mystery cults weren’t even appealing to things that were real, just non-historical events, and what few parallels may remain may reflect a Christian influence on the pagan systems, because these writings come from sources that are later than, than Paul. It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge; what better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? So, the general consensus of scholarship is that that point just doesn’t fly.
I said the Resurrection’s the best explanation of the data. Mr. Till has given us a possible hypothesis that he’s appealing to now, cognitive dissonance, and I look for him to give us some evidence that this hypothesis is true. The resurrection hypothesis explains all the data without distorting the facts. His position ultimately comes down to an anti-supernatural bias against miracles, and he hasn’t given us any good reasons why we should accept that.
The significance of the Resurrection is that if Jesus rose from the grave, it shows that he is Lord as he claimed to be — that Christianity is true and we are truly forgiven, and that life does not end at the grave. There is hope for eternal life. The evidence that we’ve heard tonight so far supports the resurrection hypothesis. We’ve heard pot-shots taken at it but I don’t think [they] have refuted it, and we have heard very little in the way of evidence for an alternative hypothesis.