Ken makes the point in the comment section here that if you’re wondering whether or not the disciples believed that Jesus was raised physically from the dead, you might as well just accept the statements to that effect in the gospels. Why not?
The problem with this approach is that we have learned through analysis of the gospels that it is clear that these writers have an agenda, and the facts sometimes suffer in the face of that agenda.
A very interesting example of this is in Mark 7. To understand the issue a little background is necessary.
Mark is of course written in Greek to a Greek speaking audience. But Jesus likely spoke Aramaic. Certainly as Jesus argued with the Pharisees he was speaking Aramaic, and the Pharisees would have been using their Hebrew Scriptures, not the Greek Septuagint. In Mark 7 Jesus is debating the Pharisees, yet Mark places in his mouth quotations of the Old Testament Scriptures that are right out of the Septuagint.
This in itself is not a problem. We understand that Mark is translating what it is that Jesus is supposed to have said. So we don’t expect Mark to be telling us the precise wording Jesus used. When Mark refers to Jesus quoting the OT, of course he’s just going to grab a copy of the Septuagint and give us the standard Greek reading.
Normally this isn’t a problem for a fundamentalist Christian. But in Mark 7 things are a little different. In this case Jesus bases his very argument on a mistranslation found in the Septuagint. Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees about their hand washing practices (this also is another anachronism, because it was only after the destruction of the Temple that the Pharisees adopted this practice, because having been expelled from Jerusalem they were forced to live among Gentiles, but that is another matter). He quotes Is 29:13. Here is the text from Mark 7 in the NIV:
5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?"
6 And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
7 BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'
8 "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."
Here is what Is 29:13 says in the Septuagint:
They worship me in vain; / their teachings are but rules taught by men
And here is the Hebrew:
Because this people draw near with their mouthand honor me with their lips,while their hearts are far from me,and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote;
Jesus’ argument is established on the basis of the Septuagint translation, but in the actual Hebrew the point is a little different. There it is talking about how fear of God is pure charade, i.e. an act of going through the motions, not genuine worship.
We can see that for Mark Jesus is a ventriloquist dummy. He will put words in Jesus’ mouth simply to tell a story as he wants it to be told, not as it actually would have occurred had it really happened.
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