Thursday, November 15, 2007

Paul's Beliefs about the Resurrection

Habermas and Licona present a smattering of arguments in support of their claim that the disciples believed that a dead and buried Jesus had arisen and appeared to them. I want to look at their major arguments.

The focus starts on page 51 with Paul and his claim that he had seen the resurrected Jesus. This is contained within I Cor at chapter 15.

Something that provides continuous irritation throughout The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (CRJ) is that the authors often don't provide basic and important common rebuttals from skeptics. This would be a case in point.

The evidence from Paul comes primarily from 1 Cor 15:3-11. Here we're told that Paul is passing on the gospel which he had received from others, which is presented in the form of a creed. The apologists tell us that he probably received it from such men as Peter and James.

If this is true, why is it that Paul's testimony in Galatians is exactly the opposite? In Gal 1:12 Paul says that he did not receive the gospel from any man, but got it directly by revelation.

Now, let's suppose that the gospel of Paul and the gospel of James/Peter represent rival gospels, one representing a Gentile version, free of the works of the Torah and the other representing a more Judaizing version where things like circumcision are necessary for salvation. This is a view held by many critical scholars. Let's further suppose that later Catholicizing of the church lead to an effort to merge these rival conceptions of the gospel. Wouldn't this conception of Paul as being good buddy's with the Jerusalem apostles and receiving the gospel from them and being in agreement with them fit nicely? I think so, which is one reason why others do suggest that there are post Pauline interpolations within I Cor 15 (not to mention claims of some scholars that I Cor itself is not an authentically Pauline text). Given the obvious conflict between Gal 1 and I Cor 15, it must be granted that it isn't obvious the author of I Cor 15:3-11 is the same person as the author of Gal 1:12.

The apologist will tell you that Paul isn't claiming that he got the gospel from the Jerusalem apostles, only that he already knew the gospel (as in Galatians 1) but later learned this cool formulaic expression of it, and he's passing that on. This is just blatant harmonization from the apologist which is nowhere expressed in the text itself, but is only presented because the apologist basically needs these things to be consistent. This doesn't make the apologist necessarily wrong, but why assume this? The bottom line is we just can't be certain Paul said this. That doesn't bother me. The apologist however needs high confidence. The fact is we can't have it.

But what if he did say it? Even still, uncertainties remain. He merely says that Jesus appeared to him. But in what sense? Could it have been like the appearances to so many of my Pentecostal acquaintances? It certainly could have been. Paul says nothing that requires otherwise.

Habermas and Licona are trying to smuggle in the concept of appearances that are entirely like modern evangelical conceptions of what appearances should have been. They can't be Docetic. They can't be Gnostic. They have to be just like what a Southern Baptist thinks they are. But where is the argument?

No comments: