Friday, July 26, 2013

Seeing Is Not Believing

Before sunrise on the second morning since Jesus' burial, some women discovered that Jesus' tomb was empty. An angel commanded the women to tell the Disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee. Afterward, either while she was still at the tomb alone or while she was going back to the Disciples, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.

Then, Jesus appeared in a different form to two disciples, who failed to recognize Him until He broke bread with them. As soon as they recognized Him, He disappeared. It seems that Jesus did not want a close, personal relationship with them.

Seeing Is Not Believing
Seeing is believing. If I had been there when Jesus walked on water... If I had witnessed it Jesus healing the sick... If I could have seen Jesus die, and then see Him resurrected... then I could believe. Yet statements like that are not as true as they should be. Even the Disciples had their doubts about Jesus, as we will see in this study.

Note that, in the following, capitalized "Disciple" refers to those students of Jesus who were included as part of the inner circle of Twelve, who were now Eleven in number since Judas had committed treachery and suicide, and that lower case "disciple" refers to any other student/follower of Jesus.

Matthew 28:16-20
Mark 16:14-18
Luke 24:36-49
John 20:19-29
(A prior resurrected-Jesus encounter only with Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.) (Prior resurrected-Jesus encounter with Mary Magdalene, and a different meeting with two other disciples.) (A prior resurrected-Jesus encounter with Simon/Peter and a different meeting with two other disciples.) (A prior resurrected-Jesus encounter only with Mary Magdalene.)
Jesus appeared to the Eleven Disciples in Galilee, on a particular mountain, per His earlier instructions (Matthew 26:32, Matthew 28:7, Matthew 28:10). Jesus appeared to the Eleven Disciples, implicitly in Galilee, in an unnamed location, per His earlier instruction (Mark 14:28, Mark 16:7). Jesus appeared to the Eleven Disciples in Jerusalem, where they were assembled (Luke 24:33). Jesus appeared to most of the Eleven Disciples, implicitly in Jerusalem, in a house (John 20:10*).
The Disciples had gathered specifically to meet with Jesus. The Disciples had gathered for a meal. The Disciples were gathered, speaking with two other disciples who had recently seen Jesus. The Disciples were gathered in a locked house out of fear of the Jews.
(No specifics on what Jesus said initially.) Jesus rebuked them for lacking faith and for not believing those who had reported seeing Jesus in a resurrected status. Jesus wished them peace, eased their fright by inviting them to look at His hands and feet, and touch His body to prove it was Him in the flesh, not a ghost. Jesus wished them peace, and showed them His hands and side.
(No specifics on what Jesus did.) (No specifics on what Jesus did.) Jesus ate some broiled fish. Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit by breathing on them.
They worshiped Jesus. (No mention of worshiping Jesus.) (No mention of worshiping Jesus.) (No mention of worshiping Jesus.)
Some doubted it was Jesus. (No mention of doubting it was Jesus.) Some were in disbelief "because of joy and amazement". Thomas had missed the first group appearance, and claimed that he would not believe until he touched Jesus' wounds. A week later, Jesus appeared to the Disciples again with Thomas present, and Jesus blessed people who believed without seeing.
(No mention of Jesus opening their minds.) (No mention of Jesus opening their minds.) Jesus opened their minds so they could understand all of the Scriptural prophesies. (No mention of Jesus opening their minds.)
Jesus commanded them to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Jesus commanded them to "preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Jesus said that they were witnesses such that "repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (There is no Great Commission commanded by Jesus.)
Jesus told them that He would be with them until the end. Jesus said that believers "will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." Jesus commanded them to stay in the city until they received the Holy Spirit ("until you have been clothed with power from on high", Acts 2:1-4). (There were no extra recorded instructions or comments from Jesus at that time.)

OK, so there are lots of differences, but let us concentrate on the biggest issues, starting with one of the five fundamental reporting questions: Where?

Galilee or Jerusalem?
Matthew explicitly, and Mark implicitly, hold this meeting between Jesus and the Disciples in Galilee. The meeting is in Galilee because that is where Jesus had commanded them to meet Him after His resurrection multiple times (Matthew 26:32, Matthew 28:7, Matthew 28:10, Mark 14:28, Mark 16:7).

Luke explicitly, and John implicitly, hold this meeting between Jesus and the Disciples in Jerusalem. John is usually a bit unique, so that contradiction is no surprise. However, John's departure from using Galilee may be indicative of just how early John's version of the Gospel became isolated from the core original story, thus helping to explain why his Gospel is so different.

What about Luke? Luke was actively trying to fulfill a prophesy, probably Isaiah 2:3 in particular. His interpretation/use of that prophesy required the spread of Christianity to start in Jerusalem. In doing so, he created an irreconcilable contradiction with Matthew and Mark. Luke had Jesus command the Disciples not to leave Jerusalem until after they had received the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49), which happened after Jesus had ascended to Heaven (Acts 2:1-4), making it impossible for Jesus to have met with the Disciples in Galilee.

When Did They Get the Holy Spirit?
While we are on the subject of the Holy Spirit, as noted above, Luke/Acts records that the Disciples received the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended to Heaven. However, John 20:22-23 recorded the resurrected Jesus personally giving the Holy Spirit to the Disciples.

Critical Difference in the Accounts of Jesus' Examined Wounds
Next we come to touching Jesus. It appears as though Luke and John may both be telling different version of the same original story regarding the Disciples touching Jesus' wounds, but that appearance vaporizes with scrutiny.

Luke 24:37 explicitly tells us his reason for the touchy-feely session; the Disciples were afraid, thinking that they had seen a ghost. So this was to prove that Jesus was flesh, not a ghost. In Luke 24:39, Jesus invited them to touch Him and to look at His hands and feet, presumably because they had the indications from the crucifixion. Luke 24:42-43 goes the extra mile to "prove" that this is Jesus in the flesh by having Him eat something.

In John, there is no mentioned suspicion that this was a ghost, and the Disciples were not frightened by Jesus' appearance. Instead, He showed them His wounds, and they were overjoyed to see Him (John 20:20). When Thomas doubted, he wanted to put His fingers in the nail holes and in the gash in Jesus' side (John 20:25). The implication behind Thomas' words is not one of proving that Jesus was flesh, but rather positively identifying Jesus as Jesus. Since Jesus had no tattoos, His crucifixion wounds were the next best thing to do that. ;-)

John Struggling for Credibility
Note that the gash in Jesus' side is mentioned three times in this anecdote, but only by John. If you remember from a previous study, the account of the soldier stabbing Jesus' side (also recorded only by John) was highly dubious, in no small part due to the liar's tell used when relaying that story. John is obviously trying to build up more credibility for that stabbing here.

Resurrected with Flaws Intact
What is really remarkable in light of both Luke and John is the implication that you will be resurrected in that bodily status that you had upon your death! According to these accounts, Jesus was resurrected with gaping bodily wounds! This is not so good for those who died in extremely disfiguring accidents. ;-)

Matthew's Open-Ended Doubt
Back to doubting Thomas, let us take a look at how the Disciples doubted. Mark did not record any doubts at all here. As we saw above, Luke wrote to dismiss doubts of Jesus being a mere ghost, and ends with some Disciples doubting only because they were still in shock about Jesus' return. John wrote with the intent of dismissing doubts that Jesus was, in fact Jesus, and all doubt had vanished after the show-and-tell session. What about Matthew? Matthew 28:17 states:
When they saw [Jesus], they worshiped Him; but some doubted. NIV
They saw Jesus. Some worshiped Him. Some doubted it was Him. Matthew offered no reconciliation for these skeptics. Implicitly, the doubters persisted in their doubts. Something about this "Jesus" did not seem right to them. It is difficult to say for sure, given the track record of error, story manipulation, and blatant fiction found Gospels, but, due to the inherently damaging nature of this verse, it may just be one of the most accurate in the New Testament. But why would Matthew include this potentially detrimental fact?

I suspect that man playing the part of the resurrected Jesus was a fraud in some way, shape, or form. There was some ugly truth about this man that became clear when he presented himself as being resurrected, and that caused some of the prominent disciples to lose their faith in him, possibly even becoming vocal opponents of the faith.

Or, if instead the post-resurrection appearances were completely fictional and so without an imposter present, maybe there were some disciples who just would not believe the story of Jesus returning without seeing for themselves, and thus rejected the direction this new faith was headed based on a lack of evidence.

Yet, regardless of what the "real" story was behind the post-resurrection appearances, Matthew's derivation of doubting disciples may not have even been related to it.

If Matthew was pastoring a flock for any significant length of time, he would have had to deal with apostates; those who had accepted the new faith, but eventually walked away. By including doubting disciples who had actually witnessed the resurrected Jesus, it may be that Matthew hoped to thwart contagious skepticism, because he could point to the doubts of these "eyewitnesses" to prove that some people will not believe the "truth" despite the evidence.

Jesus' Opening of Minds Versus Free Will
The next nugget of news to touch upon comes from Luke 24:45:
Then [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. NIV
If you have been following through Luke's Gospel, you know that, according to him, God has been actively preventing the Disciples from understanding Jesus' fate. Now we find Jesus opening their minds so that they could fully understand Jesus' fate and the Scriptures.

We make decisions based on our understanding. Having God manipulate understanding, means that God manipulated free will. If that is the case, how can anyone truly claim that they have free will? There will always be a question of whether or not God is controlling your mind by controlling your understanding.

Interesting Differences in the Great Commission
Finally, we end with the Great Commission; Jesus' final command for the Disciples to spread the Gospel to the world. As you can see in the table above, none of the language matches from Gospel to Gospel, and John does not even include this commission. The language is similar in meaning enough to make calling it a contradiction a weak stance except from the strict verbatim aspect. However, there are some key differences.

Matthew included a phrase to enforce obedience to Jesus' commands, which also included fully obeying God's Law.

Luke dropped baptism... partially. It was, after all, a "baptism of repentance". Luke's Gospel focused more strongly on repentance than any of the others, so finding this change is not surprising. Luke did not do so at the cost of baptism, though. His book of Acts brings baptism to the forefront. Baptism was important to link with John the Baptist, who was critical due to the prophesy of a forerunner. And, as noted above, Luke required Christianity to begin in Jerusalem.

So now you see. You see people doubted after seeing this "Jesus". You see the discrepancies and irreconcilable contradictions in the accounts. You see God manipulating human understanding. You see the blatant bastardization of the story to achieve the authors' objectives, such as disproving a ghost and fulfilling prophesy. You see all of this. It seems that seeing is not believing.

* Most renderings of John 20:10 state that the Disciples returned to their homes, which may get you thinking that they went back to Galilee. However, that is really a poor translation of the transliterated Greek word "hautou", which is primarily used to indicate "himself" or "themselves", making verse intend to say that the Disciples left the grave site and went back to whatever they were doing before. Where they were before was close enough that Mary could run to see them, so we are talking about Jerusalem here (John 20:2).


  1. Hi TWF, interesting run through.

    What I find interesting is the phrase "but some doubted" (Matthew 28:17).

    If we grant that Paul's resurrection account has any historical merit, than after Jesus have been resurrected, he appeared in the following order (1 Cor 15:5-6):
    1) he appeared to Cephas
    2) then to the twelve (obviously Judas too, because as you know they selected Matthias only after Jesus ascended in heaven Acts 1:26 therefore he was technically not part of the inner circle).
    3) Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time

    Now if this appearance to more than a five hundred people at one time is true at all, it certainly took place near Jerusalem, because all of the appearances in the gospel are placed near or in Jeruslaem.

    At the same time Luke, the alleged companion of Paul makes Peter preaching to a group of people after the ascension of Jesus after returning to Jerusalem (Acts 1:12).

    Behold now, this group was about one hundred twenty persons (Acts 1:15).

    Now do the math:

    500 +
    380 +

    This is almost one fourth, if not more, that have doubted his appearance .... and this were obviously disciples of Jesus who were following him around during his life time, otherwise he would not appeared to them to say fair well.

    What does that say to you?

    Seeing is not believing.... and in that light constant exhortation not to fall from the faith makes much more sense, wouldn't you agree?

    Now that you are at the end of the gospels, what is your plan?

    Kind regards

  2. Resurrected with Flaws Intact

    Interesting observation. I never really thought about that before, but if God had the wounds for doubting thomas to examine, it could be bad for accident victims when it is time for them to be resurrected.

  3. @agema-makedonin
    Wow, that 500 versus 120 is an interesting catch there! Excellent eye!

    It is really difficult problem to accurately assess the "historical merit" of any of the Scriptures, and we, on the side of disbelief, run the same risk of cherry-picking the "facts" within to suit our visions of Jesus just as much as Christians do (or at least the liberal Christians who just pick out the "good" stuff).

    However, even with that said, given the portrayal of doubt in several Gospels and the constant exhortation not to lose faith that you mentioned (which would seem unnecessary if this was a real faith based on credible eyewitnesses to miracles, and especially if everyone was having a personal relationship with Jesus!), it makes it clear that doubt was a large problem in the early church.

    If there was an imposter playing a resurrected Jesus, or if (less likely by my guess) Jesus went away and then came back claiming to have been crucified and resurrected, the scenario you have pieced together from the versus actually reflects what we would expect to happen with such blatant fraud. Some people will believe just because they want to believe, but the majority will face facts.

    Speaking of which, we should not forget that another source of doubt was simply time passing. One of the key points of this new faith was that the end would come soon. Decades passed after Jesus before anything really significant happened. Then the fall of the Temple would have seemed like the final sign of the end, and subsequent restoration, but time passed after that too. Too much time. So some of that admonishment not to lose faith may just be due to time.

    What is next? I have got a couple more posts (thanks to John) to finish up, the rest of the chapter-by-chapter summaries (from Acts on), and then??? Probably less stuff here than on my other blog. This blog will probably end as far as regular posts, but I have been thinking of some overall summaries and prophesy explorations, so, I am not sure.

    Kind regards to you as well! And keep up the great work!

    It could easily be argued that it was just a special case with Jesus, but, yeah! Not a good rebirth for those with GSW's or worse disfigurements! :-)

  4. cool layout -- a bit busy, I will return perhaps next week. Love the dialogue here!

    One comment:
    "You see the blatant bastardization of the story to achieve the authors' objectives"

    Hmmm, "bastardization" -- a bit pugilistic, not to mention harsh on single-moms!
    Myths in those days did this all the time. Was their intention to deceive, or did the listeners not care? I'm guessing it was to convince more than deceive. But just thinking out loud.

    BTW, when you put together other forms of this blog (book, youtube ...) I think it will be important to visualize clearly your audience -- who are YOU trying to persuade or convince.
    (a) atheists/agnostics -- nah, they are convinced, so you'd just be giving them rah, rah tools. Not a bad goal, though.
    (b) doubting almost-out-the-door Christians? -- well, pugilistic language may be what they need -- or not -- depends
    (c) fairly identified Christians -- they may react to the terms
    (d) committed Christians with Bible knowledge (a smaller group but larger on the web) -- then more careful wording may sway a bit.

    Not every style fits everyone, but deciding on your audience is important for finished works. On blogs, we have the joy of going with our feisty moods ! ;-)

  5. BTW, did you see this app:
    It is on Agema's blog (he should shorten his avatar name).
    It might save you time and clean up all the linkage.

  6. Hi TWF,

    you said: "run the same risk of cherry-picking the "facts""
    1) I, probably you, as well as other sceptics, do not claim absolute certainty. Any claim is expressed in some probability. We all have our own back ground assumptions. Mine is that ancient people despite their cultural differences are basically same as those of today, prone to error, malice, emotionally driven, non consistent, non logical, they don't come back from the grave etc. All this can be only my unwarranted assumption, it can be wrong, yet I see it as attested over and over again, therefore it is all I have to work with.
    2) The fact that anyone can so easy cherry-pick the "facts" out of the text testify agains its coherence.
    3) In the light of the embarrassment criteria of the historical method, this verses have definitely some historical weight, although the almost round number Paul gives is somewhat suspicious, yet it is some estimate number as it appears, so it can get the pass with some eyebrow up.
    Unfortunately, this texts are far from accurate, and leave many loop holes, thus it is hard to say what is the historical truth.

    Who knows, it may be, it may be not.

    There are some speculations that Jesus as well John the Baptist were members of Essenes or some splinter group, because of the many alleged similarities to the dead sea scrolls, thus after his crucifixion he just got replaced or so, which would than fit to the pattern of the doubt that plagued the early church, and this 500 v.s. 120 verses.

    But your second take on why the doubt and constant exhortation are present is also very likely scenario, scenario that even today is attested in many churches. It just works...

    Prophecy exploration seem to be fun, would certainly like to read your take on them :))

    Thank you for the interesting blog, I have made an offline copy of it, just for the case :))

    Kind regards, and all the best.

  7. @Sabio

    what is your suggestion for my avatar name :))

    I can certainly recommend the reference tagger, it shortens time copying links to the bible gateway.

    It is javascript based, and can be customised very easily.

  8. @ Agema,
    It all depends on WHY you use a avatar name.
    As for me, I like names that are:
    (a) easy to remember -- yours is impossible
    (b) unique -- In other words, "John" or such doesn't work
    (c) easy to type -- not too long. I shouldn't have to scroll back at the name a few times to type it.
    (d) meaningful in a non-obscure way
    (e) not snobby, not pretentious, not self-grandizing, not derogatory ...

    Yours', I'm guessing, is something about Macedonia or something. Too long, too obscure, hard to type and too long.

    So maybe "Agema" is good. But as long as it follows a-e, I wouldn't say anything -- not that my opinion matters. Just a pain to type long avatar names. TWF used to use a long one too "The Wise Fool". Pain to type, so now "TWF".

    Also, I find all the colors on your blog weird and hard to read, I also don't like clear scrolling background.

    See how picky I am.

    Just design issues -- maybe you aren't a design guy but more analytic with the other aspect of your brain a bit damaged to allow analytic genius. :-)
    I always find that "Genius" comes with hits (deficits) -- we did not evolve to be brilliance. Brilliance is usually a defect.

  9. @Sabio

    Yeah the avatar has ancestral touch. As for the blog design, I would even give you right, but it was never intended to be read for any particular audience. It is something like side notes for me. I would even look to change the design, if I find some time at disposal.

    If I am defected, I certainly won't be in position to know that, wouldn't you agree :)) and I certainly have no use for something like brilliance ;))

    Take care ...

  10. @Sabio
    "...a bit busy..."
    The downside of those subtitles, especially for concise yet important points. ;-)

    "..."bastardization" -- a bit pugilistic..."
    Yes, but (hopefully) with purpose. In my opinion, posts littered such terms are an immediate turn off for anyone on the "other" side, but I think using them sparingly to make a point can be effective, and in this case it was at the very end. If a reader got that far, my guess is that it would simply be winced at, especially given the playful alliteration of "blatant bastardization". :-) Hopefully, that little jab would lead to provocation to do something with this knowledge. Certainly no slight was intended for single moms! I think the vernacular usage is changing on "bastard", or at least it seems to be in my circles, kind of like "rule of thumb".

    "...when you put together other forms..."
    Great advice! And, like most great advice, it will be promptly ignored! ;-) Joking, of course. I definitely get your point. This blog has been experimental in developing my skills, and I have written posts across the spectrum of excessively pugilistic to gentle and welcomed as a soft summer rain. Moods had a lot to do with that. :-)

    Too bad I did not know about RefTagger from the beginning!

    The "cherry picking" picking comment was as much for me as it was for you! :-) It just immediately came to my mind the objection of "oh, so you believe Peter was speaking to 120 believers, but you do not believe what was written just a handful of verses prior about seeing Jesus ascend to Heaven." But, believe me ;-), I understand your argument well and feel it has some weight to it, even though there is uncertainty. I also believe that the ancient people were essentially just like us.

    One point we (may) differ on a little is that I do not hold much support of the "embarrassment criteria". That is not to say I find it dismissible. However, one point Sabio often brings up is that the literature at the time is full of flawed people and deities, full of embarrassing accounts. People back then were story tellers, just like we are today, and we know that weaknesses and flaws add richness to the narrative.

    However, this line of thought does not work against your 1 Cor 15:5-6/Acts 1:15, given that this came from two separate authors. That kind of embarrassing discrepancy certainly holds more weight!

    I had heard of the Essene link, but I am not sure what you mean by "thus after his crucifixion he just got replaced or so". Would you mind taking a moment to expand that? I think I know what you mean, but I am not sure.

    By the way, I did not realize that you started a Bible blog. I do not remember seeing it the first time I check your profile. Looks like you have a lot of great material there. Sabio definitely has good advice. I do not listen to all of it, but it is definitely worth considering. I do not mind the clear scroll myself, but I did find that your background photo, while beautiful, did make it a little more difficult to read.

    Thanks, and best wishes to you too! I will be stopping by your blog from time to time.

  11. @TWF,
    Nah, I mean "I am a bit busy" and even should be studying now. I LIKE the layout.

    BTW, I think Aggy's other blog is here:

    Locked up for safe readers -- maybe he will let you in. Maybe it is all proprietary code OR the beginnings of a new religion. :-)

    @ Aggggh
    If you won't change your handle, I will! :-)

    No, I disagree: I think we certainly can know our own defect -- this is the beginning of a special sort of wisdom, no?

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. @ Aggy,
      even if you delete comments, as you have above, I get them in my email. So I see you cleaned up your blog a bit. I couldn't comment on it because you have it locked out to only club members.

      much nicer though -- I imagine all the colors have a key to them somewhere. I won't be searching for your other blogs, btw -- why the privacy?

      I suggest further:
      (1) an "About" page - tell us your religious background and training and your present and past positions.
      (2) allow your blog to show more than one post at a time so I don't have to keep clicking "Older Posts".

    3. @Sabio
      "even if you delete comments, as you have above, I get them in my email."

      If that's so, you now know that I did that to merge them and to add some more content :)) you certainly are a quick one

  13. @TWF

    I have read that long time ago, the source does not come to mind. What I meant was that the author of this article meant that someone else from the Essene community presented him as Jesus, the risen one. I don't really hold much of this, although it could be possible. Who knows, I don't.

    The religious blog is from older times. I still have some topic in work that can be posted. But the damn time …. you know what I mean.


    I just threw all the design around, it was time for a change, so I did it on a vim.

    I have + 2 other blogs, I wonder if you can find them :))

    What if the very defect prevents you to notice you have defect :))

  14. @agema-makedonin
    OK, thanks for the clarification.

    I definitely know what you mean about the time! My "free" time is running short, so I am ready to retire this blog. No plans to remove it, though. I will polish it up a little more, and keep it alive, even if not very active. :-)