Friday, 5 June 2015

Markers of authenticity in the resurrection accounts

There are several features in the gospels that speak to authenticity. By this I mean there are events that would seem unlikely to include in a forgery. While events in history may happen as expected, thus a record of such would occur in authentic and inauthentic documents, less convincing events would seem less likely to be recorded by a forger trying to convince others of his story. We judge convincing events by what the readers and culture would consider persuasive, not us.

A feature mentioned frequently by apologists is the first witnesses being women. In a culture that valued the testimony of men higher than women it would be less likely that a false story about Jesus' resurrection would have females as the first witnesses.

Another interesting feature of the gospels is the lack of seeing Jesus by several of the first witnesses. The empty tomb is the earliest feature. Why not have witnesses see Jesus coming out of the tomb? Rather we have an empty tomb with Mary Magdalene assuming others had taken Jesus' body (Joh 20:2).

Next, the inclusion of irrelevant features. The location of the grave clothes, who got to the tomb first.

Further, the disciples did not immediately believe the women. Though this may be consistent with the lesser status of women as witnesses in that culture, it would seem less likely that a forger would invent this response. Latter even Thomas was noted to disbelieve the testimony of several of his friends.

Lastly, when Jesus was seen he was not immediately recognised by his followers. Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener (Joh 20:15). The disciples walking to Emmaus were prevented from perceiving his identity (Luk 24:16). Why write this into a fictional story attempting to convince others about Jesus' resurrection?

If the resurrection did not happen then the gospels are fraudulent. Yet several episodes are mentioned which would seem to be unusual for a false witness to include, a false witness seeking to convince others of the resurrection.

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