My proposal is that, applying basic historical methodology (which is a fancy term for common sense) to the relevant texts (canonical and non) we can gleam quite a bit about Jesus and the movement which followed his death.
NOte that I am not interested at all in defending the resurrection here; but I do think we need to be responsible in assessing the data. Even if you think ANY explanation is better than a MIRACULOUS one, still, surely you think some natural explanations are better than others, and that some are just plain silly?! It is my hope that the majority of members here have the intellectual honesty (and curiosity!) to weed out the more ridiculous ones.
(I should add, I have met only one member on this forum who proves the exception. He said, quite explicitly, that he did not care whether the explanation was good or bad, so long as there was even one; that was some time ago. If you fall into this class, then we are immediately at an impasse).
I quote, as a guiding principle for history, E.P. Sanders (an agnostic, and one of my favorite, if not my favorite, historians of the period) "One should begin with what is relatively secure and work out to more uncertain points."
I give what amounts to a consensus among scholars by quoting the eminent skeptic Bart Ehrman; I can give other names upon request. I then provide what theories these positions exclude.
This means that, according to Ehrman and others, arguments against the historicity of Jesus are off the table.â€œOne of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.â€�
So then, according to Ehrman, Paul is 1) a historical person, 2) is not fabricating the entire list in 1 Cor. 15; perhaps he was tricked by some, but he was honest.â€œI donâ€™t doubt at all that some disciples claimed (to have seen the risen Jesus). We donâ€™t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about 25 years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I donâ€™t think he is making it up. And he knew at least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (i.e. the crucifixion)â€�
You see that Ehrman grants that Paul had visited the Jerusalem church, and met with at least Peter. I think we can infer with a very high degree of probability that something like that list in 1 Cor. 15 therefore goes back to 36 AD. It is highly doubtful that when Paul visited Peter, the two played craps. The term Paul uses in Galatians 1:18 ("Then, three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days" NAS) is á¼±ÏƒÏ„Î¿Ï�á½³Ï‰ pronounced historeo, from which is derived our term "History". It has the connotation of "inquire, investigate, search".
This means that Paul was not a fraud. Delusional, perhaps, but not a liar. It should also be noticed that Paul believed he saw Jesus' "glorified" body. Some on this forum talk of the resurrection as if it were mere revivification. This is not true. What the disciples preached was that what all Jews (well, the majority) believed their god would do at the end of times, he did for Jesus in the middle. The Jewish resurrection was into a new mode of bodily life.â€œThere is no doubt that Paul believed that he saw Jesusâ€™ real but glorified body raised from the dead.â€�
I give a list of historians who concede an empty tomb, but do not believe in the resurrection: Dale Allison, Bostock, Carnely, Ehrman, Fisher Grant and Vermes. I am familiar with Vermes, Ehrman and Allison. The three others I have not read, but have found them cited in scholarly works.
So then, two questions:
Which of these conclusions do you agree/disagree with and why?
What else do you think we can infer from the data (and please back it up)?