Archive for the 'Postmodernism' Category

Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Simon Dewey, He Lives, painting

(Simon Dewey, ‘He Lives’, copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher)

Easter has come and gone! As expected, there were articles in the popular press about the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, it’s also the time when junk about Jesus passion-resurrection is dished up. I do not use the term ‘junk’ to disparage any person. I am using ‘junk’ to refer to the content of the writing, based on one of the Oxford dictionary’s definitions: ‘Worthless writing, talk, or ideas: I can’t write this kind of junk’ (Oxford dictionaries 1.1, 2016. s v junk, emphasis in original).

1. Can you doubt the resurrection and be Christian?

Kimberly Winston (2014) wrote a provocative and sceptical article about the resurrection of Jesus for the National Catholic Reporter (‘Can you question the Resurrection and still be Christian?’). Here are a few points Winston makes in the article:

  1. From the Nicene Creed, the words, ‘On the third day he rose again’, is ‘the foundational statement of Christian belief’. It gives a ‘glimmer’ of eternal life promised to believers and is ‘the heart of the Easter story’ in 7 words.
  2. Interpretation of the 7-word statement has caused ‘deepest rifts in Christianity’ and ‘a stumbling block’ for some Christians and sceptics.
  3. Was Jesus’ resurrection literal and bodily, according to traditionalist and conservative Christians? Or was the rising symbolic, indicating ‘a restoration of his spirit of love and compassion to the world’? This latter view is that promoted by ‘some more liberal brands of Christianity?
  4. Many Christians struggle with the literal versus metaphorical understanding of the resurrection. ‘How literally must one take the Gospel story of Jesus’ triumph to be called a Christian?’ Is it possible to understand the resurrection as metaphor (or perhaps reject that it happened at all) and still claim to follow Christ?
  5. He quoted the Barna research from 2010 in which it found that ‘only 42 percent of Americans said the meaning of Easter was Jesus’ resurrection; just 2 percent identified it as the most important holiday of their faith’.
  6. Fr. James Martin, in his book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage [2014. HarperOne, New York Times bestseller], stated, ‘But believing in the Resurrection is essential. It shows that nothing is impossible with God. In fact, Easter without the Resurrection is utterly meaningless. And the Christian faith without Easter is no faith at all’.
  7. For an opposite view, Winston obtained a comment from Professor Scott Korb of New York University, aged 37 at the time, a non-practicing Catholic, who moved from a literal to a symbolic resurrection. His concept of the resurrection is, ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’. For Korb, this change from literal to metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’. For him the metaphorical view allows people to return to the story year after year and find new meaning in it.
  8. By contrast, Reg Rivett, aged 37, and a youth minister in an evangelical house church, Edmonton, Canada, said that he believed Jesus literally rose from the dead and this is central to Christian identity. But he has conflicting feelings about how the resurrection is used in some circles, especially when it is tacked on the end of Christian events and turns the sacred into the very common. This saturation makes it ordinary. Instead, Rivett believes the church should ‘build’ towards the resurrection event throughout the year in the biblical storyline (which he called saga).
  9. Winston turned to retired Episcopal, unorthodox, liberal bishop, John Shelby Spong and his ‘famously liberal interpretation of Christianity in his 1995 book, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? that ‘caused a dust-up’ with his question, ‘Does Christianity fall unless a supernatural miracle can be established?’ Spong’s answer is, ‘No’ when he rejected the physical resuscitation interpretation in favour of, ‘I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence’ (not his physical body) was manifested to certain witnesses’.
  10. He agrees with Rivett that the resurrection needs to be placed in context to be understood. In Spong’s Bible studies that included 300 people, he ‘tried to help people get out of that literalism’ through laying the groundwork, people asking questions, and building on this framework.
  11. Spong said. ‘They [the people at his Bible studies] could not believe the superstitious stuff and they were brainwashed to believe that if they could not believe it literally they could not be a Christian’.
  12. So, according to Spong, a Christian ‘is one who accepts the reality of God without the requirement of a literal belief in miracles’. The resurrection says ‘Jesus breaks every human limit, including the limit of death, and by walking in his path you can catch a glimpse of that’. For Spong, ‘I think that’s a pretty good message’.

2. Issues with Winston’s article

Now to some of the main points of critique, based on the above 12 points:

2.1 The one-sided agenda of this journalist.

It seemed to be balanced because Winston cited two people supporting each of the two sides: (a) In support of the literal and bodily resurrection of Jesus was Father James Martin, an author, and youth pastor of a house church, Reg Rivett; (b) To promote the symbolic/metaphorical resurrection there were two scholars in the field, Professor Scott Korb and controversial retired Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong.

From this article, it is evident Winston (2014) was pushing an anti-literal resurrection agenda. How do I know? He dealt with the content of the metaphorical or symbolic resurrection by two scholars in the field, Professor Scott Korb and John Shelby Spong, retired bishop. He mentioned 2 supporters of a literal and bodily resurrection, Fr James Martin and a house church youth pastor, but an exposition of the main points by anyone supporting a bodily resurrection was not given. What Reg Rivett said was reasonable, but it did not contain statements of why the literal, bodily resurrection is the interpretation given in the four NT Gospels.

There was not one scholar interviewed or reference made to their publications in support of a literal, bodily resurrection. I’m thinking of George Eldon Ladd (1975), Gary Habermas & Antony Flew (Miethe 1987), Wolfhart Pannenberg (1996), Davis et al (1997), Norman Geisler (1989), and the massive volume of 817 pages on the resurrection of the Son of God by N T Wright (2003). We’ll get to some issues surrounding this perspective below. Some of these scholars are no longer alive (e.g. Ladd, Flew, Pannenberg) but their publications are available. Others mentioned are alive and able to be interviewed (Habermas, Geisler, Davis et al, and Wright). Instead, what was given? There was an interview with Korb and consultation made with Spong’s publication. These are two prominent liberals who support a symbolic metaphorical resurrection and reject Jesus’ miraculous resuscitation after his death (Korb and Spong).

2.2 Resurrection details are invented

What was Korb’s interpretation of the resurrection? ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. What has this change from literal to metaphorical understanding done? It has ‘given the story more power’, says Korb.

Where does this meaning of resurrection related to the low parts of our lives and finding a way out come from? Howe do we know Easter is expressed in community and in compassion to others? Who determines that this metaphorical meaning gives the story more power?

According to Spong, the resurrection says ‘Jesus breaks every human limit, including the limit of death, and by walking in his path you can catch a glimpse of that’ (Winston 2014).

I have read the Gospel stories over and over, including the passion-resurrection of Jesus for about 50 years. Not once have I read these details in the Gospel accounts in Matthew 27 and 28; Mark 15 and 16; Luke 23 and 24, and John 19 and 20. Not a word is found in these chapters, along with the resurrection chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 to provide anything that looks like Korb’s and Spong’s interpretations of the resurrection. I’ll examine biblical details below.

2.3 Out of a postmodern mind

From where have Korb’s and Spong’s interpretations come? They are inventions out of postmodern minds and creative, free play interpretations. The postmodernists often use the term reader-response as the means of determining the meaning of a text. Thus, the writer of the text does not provide the meaning, according to this view. Instead, as Lois Tyson explains,

Reader-response theorists share two beliefs: 1) that the role of the reader cannot be omitted from our understanding of literature and 2) that readers do not passively consume the meaning presented to them by an objective literary text; rather they actively make the meaning they find in literature (Tyson 2015:162).

What is a postmodernist interpretation? It’s a slippery term and the mere task of defining postmodernism violates its own principles. This is my brief definition: Postmodernism is an outlook or perspective that is sceptical about society’s metanarratives and, therefore, attempts to deconstruct them. A metanarrative is an overall, broad view that attempts to explain the meaning of individual or local narratives. A metanarrative or grand narrative (a term used by postmodern developer, Jean-Francois Lyotard), meant an overarching theory that tried ‘to give a totalizing, comprehensive account to various historical events, experiences, and social, cultural phenomena based upon the appeal to universal truth or universal values’ (New World Encyclopedia 2014. s v metanarrative).

Thus if Judaism, Christianity or Islam attempts to offer a “grand” narrative of God’s dealings with the world which provides a frame of reference for understanding “local” (e.g. personal or community) stories of guilt, suffering, redemption, love, joy, folly or whatever, this falls under suspicion as an imperializing instrument for power that is in actuality no less “local” but purports to be the story of the world, an ontology[1] or an epistemology (Thiselton 2002:234).

Postmodernism, a movement since the 1960s-70s, developed amongst challenges to beliefs systems and structures in art, literature, science and other disciplines. It is antagonistic to any fixed interpretation and so promotes freedom which it defines as ‘the freedom to create one’s own values set against submission to an absolute truth, the autonomy of human beings set against obedience to a transcendent God, and the free play of interpretation set against belief in any final, authoritative meaning’ (Ingraffia 1995:6).

Postmodernism deals with stretching the boundaries on interpretations, as seen with the examples by Korb and Spong. A postmodern view is that ‘since interpretation can never be more than my interpretation or our interpretation, no purely objective stance is possible. Granted this conviction about the nature of the interpretive enterprise, philosophical pluralism infers that objective truth in most realms is impossible, and that therefore the only proper stance is that which disallows all claims to objective truth’ (Carson 1996:57).

John Dominic Crossan, a postmodern, historical Jesus scholar associated with the Jesus Seminar, defines postmodernism as an interactive approach: ‘The past and the present must interact with one another, each changing and challenging the other, and the ideal is an absolutely fair and equal reaction between one another’ (Crossan 1998:42). How does that work when applied to Jesus? Crossan’s interpretation of Jesus’ resurrection is parallel with that of Korb and Spong: ‘Bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in this world. That life continued, as it always had, to form communities of like lives’ (Crossan 1998:xxxi).

Korb and Spong could not have said it better than Crossan’s metaphorical-symbolic view of the resurrection.

2.4 It is deconstructing the biblical text

Korb, Spong and Crossan have deconstructed the biblical text to make it say what it does not say, but what they want it to mean. They have engaged in a core aspect of postmodernism – deconstruction – in which the reader determines the meaning and the writer does not establish the meaning of a text. The intent of the writer’s meaning is not affirmed. Crossan uses the term ‘reconstruction’ for deconstruction, by which he means that ‘something must be done over and over again in different times and different places, by different groups and different communities, and by ever generation again and again and again. The reason, of course, is that historical reconstruction is always interactive of present and past. Even our best theories and methods are still our best ones. They are all dated and doomed not just when they are wrong but especially when they are right’ (Crossan 1999:5, emphasis in original).

So Korb’s statement that Jesus’ resurrection means that ‘we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again – that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me’ is none other than postmodern junk created by Korb himself and it has no relationship to the biblical text. He has invented it out of his own mind. It is a postmodern deconstruction, as is his statement that the Resurrection ‘is expressed in community, and at its best through the compassion of others’. His addition, that the metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’ is a Korb creative, free play that is in no way related to what is stated in the Gospel texts.

The same applies to Spong’s statements, ‘I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence’ (not his physical body) was manifested to certain witnesses’. The key to Spong’s postmodern reconstruction perspective is in the statement, ‘I think it means….’ Of course he thinks that. It is his postmodern reconstruction and he did not get that meaning from the text of the NT Gospels.

I will be accused of being a literalist in my understanding, but that is what I am. I am a literalist in reading Scripture because that is the only way to obtain meaning for any document read. Imagine reading this statement from the Brisbane Times of 28 March 2016 in a postmodern, reader-response way. The story online states:

A light aircraft has crashed off the runway at Redcliffe Airport at Rothwell.

Emergency services were called at about 12.30pm to reports the two-seater plane had gone off into a ditch off the runway.

A plane lies to the side of a runway at Redcliffe Airport at Rothwell.

Police, fire and ambulance all attended the scene to find everyone had safely gotten out of the aircraft.

It is believed there were only two people on board and that neither passenger received any serious injuries (Brisbane Times 2016).

This means that in spite of apparent affliction, there is hope beyond the difficulties. The salvation received is designed to encourage all who are depressed and feeling down at this Easter time. Rescue the perishing is the theme and meaning of this crash.

If I gave that meaning to this story of a plane crash, only about 10km from where I live, you should take me to the nearest mental health facility for an assessment. However, that’s the type of interpretation that postmodernists like Korb, Spong, Crossan and others do with the biblical text. They deconstruct the metanarrative (failures of mechanical devices) and make them mean whatever they want in a reader-response free play. For Korb and others to interpret the biblical narratives metaphorically as they have, invites other readers like me to deconstruct Korb’s, Spong’s and Crossan’s words in the same way. To do this makes nonsense out of what a person writes. Imagine doing it to Shakespeare’s writings!


3. The resurrection in the New Testament refutes postmodernism

How do we know that the metaphorical/symbolical resurrection of Jesus is the incorrect one? We go to the Gospel texts and find in his post-resurrection appearances, Jesus:

  • Jesus met his disciples in Galilee with ‘Greetings’ (Matt 28:9);
  • They ‘took hold of his feet’ and Jesus spoke to them (Matt 28:10);
  • ‘They saw him’ and ‘worshiped him’ (Matt 28:17);
  • Two people going to the village of Emmaus urged Jesus to stay with them. ‘He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them’ and their eyes were opened concerning who he was (Luke 24:28-35).
  • Jesus stood among his disciples and said, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39).
  • ‘He showed them [the disciples] his hands and his feet’. While they still disbelieved, Jesus asked: “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them’ (Luke 24: 42-43).
  • Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ and told them that ‘you are witnesses of these things’ – Jesus suffering and rising from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:45-48).
  • Jesus said to Mary [Magdalene], ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (John 20:17);
  • Jesus’ stood among his disciples (the doors were locked) and said to them, ‘”Peace be with you.” When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord’ (John 20:19-20) and then Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
  • Doubting Thomas was told by the other disciples that ‘we have seen the Lord’ but he said, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe’ (John 20:25). Eight days later, Thomas was with the disciples again and Jesus stood among them and said to Thomas, ‘”Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”’ (John 20:27-29).

This string of references from the Gospels (and we haven’t included the plethora of information in 1 Corinthians 15) demonstrates that in Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he demonstrated to his disciples that ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39). There is an abundance of witness here that Jesus’ resurrection was that of a bodily resurrection. His post-resurrection was a body was one that spoke, ate food and could be touched. It was a resuscitated physical body and not some metaphorical/symbolic event.

What Korb and Spong promote is a postmodern, reader-response free play invention, according to the creative imaginations of Korb and Spong. It does not relate to the truth of what is stated in the Gospels of the New Testament.

4. My postmodern reconstruction of Korb & Spong

Since both Korb and Spong rewrite the resurrection of Jesus to replace the bodily resurrection with a metaphorical perspective, what would happen if I read Korb and Spong as they read the resurrection accounts?

Let’s try my free play deconstruction of Korb. According to Winston, Korb said of Jesus’ resurrection, ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’ but this metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’.

What he means is that when people reach the end of the drought declared outback field, they are about to receive cash from the government as a handout to relieve this sheep-rearing family from the death throws of drought. The resurrection is into new hope for the family and the community of that outback town in Queensland. At Easter, the compassion from the government has reached that community and family. This metaphorical, postmodern, deconstructed story of what Korb said is powerful in giving that town hope for a resurrected future.

That is the meaning of what Easter means to me, as told by Scott Korb. Why should my reconstruction not be acceptable as Korb’s? Mine is my reader-response to Korb’s statement as much as his was of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.

My reader-response is destructive to Korb’s intent in what he said. The truth is that what Korb stated needs to be accepted literally as from him and not distorted like I made his statements. Using the same standards, Korb’s deconstruction of the Gospel resurrection accounts destroys literal meaning. He and I would not read the local newspaper or any book that way. Neither should we approach the Gospel accounts of the resurrection in such a fashion.

Therefore, the biblical evidence confirms that Jesus’ resurrection involved the resuscitation of a dead physical body to a revived physical body.

See my articles that affirm Jesus’ bodily resurrection:

clip_image005 Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Bodily Resurrection?

clip_image005[1] Can we prove and defend Jesus’ resurrection?

clip_image005[2]Christ’s resurrection: Latter-day wishful thinking

clip_image005[3] The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: The Comeback to Beat Them All

clip_image005[4] Jesus’ resurrection appearances only to believers


5. Is belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus necessary for salvation?



(Jesus’ bodily resurrection best explains the data: )

Since I have demonstrated from the Gospels that Jesus’ resurrection appearances involved a bodily resurrection, we know this because,

5.1 People touched him with their hands.

5.2 Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

5.3 Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for ‘food’).

5.4 Take a look at the wounds in his body.

5.5 Jesus could be seen and heard.

There are three added factors that reinforce Jesus’ bodily resurrection. They are:

5.6 The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body (Geisler 1999:668).

In that magnificent passage of I Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999:668).

5.7 Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12). That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, ‘from the dead’. Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus being raised ‘from (ek) the dead’ (John 12:1). In this case there is no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried. Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999:668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

5.8 He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ ‘appeared’ to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul ‘as to one abnormally born’.

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an ‘appearance or was it actually ‘seeing’ his physical being? These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh; he died in the flesh; he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a form of ‘spiritual’ existence. Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987:728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’ (Acts 1:3).

6. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection, the bodily resurrection, of Jesus.  Paul told the Corinthians: ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised , our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia, just published by Oxford University Press, says that by midcentury there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world´s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion or whoop it up in a carefree way of eating, drinking and being merry.

British evangelist and apologist, Michael Green (b. 1930), summarised the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection…. [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter.  If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light.  If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.  In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990:184).

7. The bodily resurrection is absolutely essential for these reasons:

7.1 Belief in the resurrection of Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation

Romans 10:9 states: ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ. You are saved from hell.

Your new birth, regeneration is guaranteed by the resurrection. First Peter 1:3 states that ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’.

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection. Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection; he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Romans 4:25 states that Jesus ‘was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’.

Your salvation, being born again, justification, having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do. Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom. It was a real, physical body. If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.


7.2 Christ’s resurrection proves that he is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign. According to John 2:19-21, ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”… But the temple he had spoken of was his body’.  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body – of the man Jesus – destroyed and three days later, he would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; and Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

7.3 Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, ‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live’. If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

Another piece of evidence to support the resurrection as a central part of Christianity is:

7.4 Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that    believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection. First Cor. 6:14 states, ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’.

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the Christian’s own bodily resurrection, Paul states that Christ is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Cor. 15:20).  What are ‘firstfruits’? It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like. The New Living Translation provides this translation of 1 Cor. 15:20 to explain it in down to earth terms, ‘But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died’.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection?

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection. Among those is Dr Albert Mohler who provides a summary of the essential need for Jesus’ resurrection:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion–whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14]. Furthermore, “You are still in your sins!” [v. 17b]. Paul could not have chosen stronger language. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” [v. 19].

Yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been under persistent attacks since the Apostolic age. Why? Because it is the central confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God, and the ultimate sign of Christ’s completed work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Those who oppose Christ, whether first century religious leaders or twentieth century secularists, recognize the Resurrection as the vindication of Christ against His enemies (Mohler 2016).

See my article: What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

8. Junk from the laity online

About the resurrection, one fellow on a Christian forum wrote:

Personally I believe there needs to be some Biblical criteria and guidelines on this subject before it can be discussed intelligently,… otherwise it is all just personal opinions and we all know in the Greek the word for opinion is heresy.
Before we can discuss resurrection, life needs to be addressed, when we understand the Biblical signification of life and how God intended us to understand it, then the meaning of resurrection can be understood, without the correct understanding of life and its principles resurrection will never be understood.[2]

My response was: ‘Why don’t you start us off with some of the biblical criteria and guidelines that you had in mind? You stated: ‘we all know in the Greek the word for opinion is heresy’. How is it that ‘we all know’? I read and have taught NT Greek and that’s not my understanding of ‘heresy’.[3] This was his reply:

The reason I say, from my rudiment (sic) understanding of Greek, the signification (sic) of heresy is opinion is taken from what Paul says to the Corinthians,
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1 Cor 11:18, 19
Thayer gives the definition of heresy as, choosing, choice, that which is chosen, a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party) dissensions arising from diversity of opinions and aims
Doesn’t that mean heresy can mean, is (sic) an opinion?
Who do we find in the NT that were sects or parties with their different opinions, was it not the Pharisees and the Sadducees?
Is not Paul saying these heresies cause divisions in the Body of Christ?
Since he says there will be heresies, how will we know which to believe, heresy or Truth, how will we know what the Truth is if we don’t examine it under the Light of the Word? Isa 8:20
Since I have tried to explain where I’m coming from in my bumbling way, may I please ask you what is your understanding of heresy?[4]

The ESV translation of 1 Cor 11:18-19 is, ‘For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions [schismata] among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions [haeresis] among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized’. The ESV rightly translates the word ‘heresies’ (KJV) as ‘factions’, which is consistent with the usage given by the Greek lexicons and the context of what was happening in the Corinthian church.

This was my understanding of this issue and I stated it this way:[5] The most authoritative NT Greek lexicon is Arndt & Gingrich and its definition of hairesis (heresy) is ‘sect, party, school (of philosophy)’; it refers to that of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17); later of an ‘heretical sect’; ‘dissension, a faction’ (1 Cor 11:19; Gal 5:20); ‘opinion, dogma, destructive opinions (2 Pt 2:1)’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:23). Therefore, heresies in the NT refer to sects that promote doctrines and dissension attacking foundational faith of the Christian community, along with destructive opinions. General opinions by human beings in normal conversation are not regarded as heresies. The Greek word, haeresis, is referring to destructive opinions that lead to dissension, with teachings that are contrary to biblical orthodoxy.

A heresy is a teaching that attacks one of the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Harold O J Brown (1984) in his extensive study on Heresies assessed that

“heresy” came to be used to mean a separation or split resulting from a false faith (1 Cor. 11:19; Gal. 5:20). It designated either a doctrine or the party holding the doctrine, a doctrine that was sufficiently intolerable to destroy the unity of the Christian church. In the early church, heresy did not refer to simply any doctrinal disagreement, but to something that seemed to undercut the very basis for Christian existence. Practically speaking, heresy involved the doctrine of God and the doctrine of Christ – later called “special theology” and “Christology” (Brown 1984:2-3).

So some kind of skirmish or division (schismata), whether that be over baptism, the nature of the Lord’s supper, eschatological differences, or women in ministry would not be regarded as heresy in the early church.

9. Resurrection heresies

Which heresies of the resurrection have been taught historically and on the contemporary scene? Here are a few:

9.1 The Sadducees’ heresy was that this group did not believe in any resurrection (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18-27; Acts 23:8);
9.2 David Strauss (1808-1874), a German, liberal Protestant theologian, wrote: ‘We may summarily reject all miracles, prophecies, narratives of angels and demons, and the like, as simply impossible and irreconcilable with the known and universal laws which govern the course of events’ (1848, Introduction to The Life of Jesus Critically Examined). Thus, according to Strauss, Jesus’ resurrection would be considered an impossible miracle which could not be harmonised with universal laws.

9.3 Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976), German liberal Lutheran scholar, claimed the resurrection ‘is not an event of past history…. An historical fact which involves a resurrection from the dead is utterly inconceivable’ (Bultmann, et al:1961,1.8, 39). His anti-supernatural presuppositions prevent his accepting the miraculous bodily resurrection of Jesus.

9.4 It is certain that people in the first century believed in the resurrection, but ‘we can no longer take the statements about the resurrection of Jesus literally…. The tomb of Jesus was not empty, but full, and his body did not disappear, but rotted away’. These authors called this an ‘inevitable conclusion’ because of ‘the revolution in the scientific view of the world’. Thus, all statements about Jesus’ resurrection ‘have lost their literal meaning’ (Lüdemann & ?zen 1995:134-135, emphasis in original). Who said so? This is Lüdemann & ?zen’s imposition of their naturalistic, scientific worldview on the text. It does not relate to what the texts themselves state when interpreted according to normal principles of hermeneutics for reading any document.

9.5 The rejection of Jesus’ bodily resurrection continues to the present. John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar claims that Jesus’ resurrection ‘has nothing to do with a resuscitated body coming out of the tomb’. It was not human flesh that was resuscitated, but ‘bodily resurrection means that the embodied life and death of the historical Jesus continues to be experienced, by believers, as powerfully efficacious and salvifically present in this world’. ‘That life continues, as it has done for two millennia, to form communities of like lives’ (Crossan 1999:46; 1998:xxxi). Thus, there is no physical resurrection in the flesh, but it is a metaphorical understanding of

(a) the presence of salvation in the world that
(b) is powerfully effective, in and through
(c) the community of Christian believers.

There’s plenty of controversy/heresy there to keep us discussing, debating and proclaiming our differences until kingdom come.

9.6 At Easter (25-27 March) 2016, we got this junk from journalist, Nathaneal Cooper of the Brisbane Times: ‘Churches around the region were filled to capacity as the pious mourned the death of Jesus Christ before, according to popular belief, he got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’ (Cooper 2016).

I call it junk, not to ridicule the person of the journalist, but because it is biased reporting relating to Cooper’s statement, ‘according to popular belief, he [Jesus] got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’. This is junky theology because,

  • when we compare it with the record of what actually happened according to the record in the Gospels;
  • it amounts to Cooper imposing his presuppositional bias against the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection in his writing for the Brisbane Times;
  • This is not an objective journalist reporting what happened in churches on Good Friday 2016 in Brisbane, Qld., Australia.

10. Is it true that Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb?

Let’s examine the Gospel evidence to consider whether Cooper is accurate in his statement that Jesus ‘got up and walked out of his tomb a few days later’ than his death. Do the Gospels support his claim?

flamin-arrow ‘Now after the Sabbath, towards the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it’ (Matt 28:1-2 ESV). Here the evidence is that of a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord rolling back the stone. It was a supernatural action that removed the stone to Jesus’ tomb.

flamin-arrow This supernatural event was of such trouble to the guard of soldiers and elders in Jerusalem that they invented this story:

‘And when they [some of the guard of soldiers] had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day (Matt 28:12-15 ESV).

flamin-arrow When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to Jesus’ tomb when the Sabbath had finished (after Christ’s crucifixion), they found the large stone at the entrance of the tomb had been rolled away (Mark 16:1-4). On entering the tomb, a young man dressed in a white robe was sitting in the tomb. His message to the women was, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him’ (Mark 16:5-6). Information from Mark 16:9-20 is not used here as it is not considered to be part of the earliest manuscripts of the NT.[6]

flamin-arrow Luke 24 contains a similar emphasis where the women went to the tomb on the Sunday morning (the day after the Sabbath) and they didn’t find the body of Jesus.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest (Luke 24:5-9 ESV).

Here is evidence that supernatural events were happening at the time of Jesus’ resurrection, but a journalist dares to state that ‘he [Jesus] got up and walked out of his tomb’. Was this some natural event of Jesus, the dead one, ‘getting up and walking out of the tomb’? Was he not dead? What was really happening on that Easter Sunday in the first century? Acts 1:3 (ESV) records that Jesus ‘presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God’. The infallible proofs included Jesus’ bodily post-resurrection appearances recorded at the end of each of the 4 Gospels.

10.1 Who raised Jesus from the dead?

In the resurrection accounts at the end of each of the four Gospels, this is not stated clearly. However, there is evidence in other portions of Scripture that provide this information.

10.1.1 Remember what Jesus said when he was on earth concerning his own body? According to John 2:19 (NIV), ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”’. So Jesus was prophesying that he would raise his own body. So Cooper is correct in attributing Jesus’ resurrection to Jesus himself, but Cooper left out further information.

10.1.2 Then there is evidence that God raised Jesus’ body. See Romans 10:9 (NIV), ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. This is further confirmed in 1 Peter 1:21 (NIV), ‘Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God’. So here we have God (often understood as the Trinitarian God) raising Jesus from the dead.

10.1.3 There is evidence that God, the Father, resurrected Jesus. Galatians 1:1 (NIV) states, ‘Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead’. See also Ephesians 1:17-20 (NIV) where Paul speaks of God the Father who had incomparably great power for those who believe, the power ‘he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’.

10.1.4 The third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead according to Rom 8:11 (NIV), ‘And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you’.

Therefore, the Trinitarian God raised Jesus from the dead. All three members of the Trinity were involved. Huston (n d) rightly states that ‘the act of raising Jesus from the dead was not the operation merely of one person within the Trinity but was a cooperative act done by the power of the divine substance. The fact that the Bible teaches that God raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus raised Himself is yet another testament to Christ’s divinity’.[7]

11. Cooper continues his blunders

Cooper continued his inaccuracies by quoting Catholic Archbishop Coleridge, ‘All the tears of the world are gathered up on Cavalry (sic) and then when Jesus is raised form (sic) the dead we are saying there is something more. That is the genuine hope that satisfies the human heart, not the cosmetic hope that is a dime a dozen.’ (Cooper 2016).

The correct spelling for the hill on which Jesus died is Calvary and NOT Cavalry. A cavalry is ‘the part of an army that in the past had soldiers who rode horses and that now has soldiers who ride in vehicles or helicopters’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary. S v cavalry).

This misspelling is a demonstration of a journalist’s ignorance of the Christian information about Jesus’ death on the most important day of the Christian calendar. Or, it is careless spell checking and a typographical error was included. The latter is a definite possibility as the journalist also wrongly spelled ‘from’ in the statement, ‘… raised form (sic) the dead’.

Cooper’s blunders demonstrate his wanting to rewrite the content of the Gospel narratives on Jesus’ resurrection. He seeks out others like Archbishop Coleridge to confirm his inaccuracies concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Yes, an Archbishop has diverted attention away from the real meaning of the resurrection with his saying that ‘when Jesus is raised form (sic) the dead we are saying there is something more. That is the genuine hope that satisfies the human heart, not the cosmetic hope that is a dime a dozen.’ (Cooper 2016).

12. Genuine hope

What is the ‘genuine hope’ of Jesus’ resurrection? Nothing could be clearer than what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 (NLT), ‘If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins’. The hope that relates to Christ’s resurrection was not expressed by Archbishop Coleridge in what was cited by Cooper, ‘genuine hope that satisfies the human heart’ and not the cheap cosmetic hope. The latter was not defined. Was it a hope so? The fact is that if there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is futile, worthless or useless and all human beings are still in their sins. This means there is no forgiveness and cleansing for sins and so no hope of eternal life with God. It is serious business to deny or reconstruct the resurrection. It is redefining Christianity to make it something that it is not.

First Corinthians 15 (NLT) gives at least 8 reasons why Jesus’ bodily resurrection is more than that expressed in Cooper’s (2016) article:

a. Christ’s resurrection is tied to the resurrection of believers who have died (15:12);

b. If Christ has not been raised, preaching is useless (15:14);

c. If no resurrection, faith is useless (15:14);

d. If Jesus was not resurrected, those who have preached the resurrection are lying about God and the resurrection (15:15);

e. No resurrection of Jesus means faith in Jesus is useless and all unbelievers are still guilty in their sins (meaning there is no forgiveness for sins) (15:17).

f. If Jesus was not raised, those who have already died are lost/have perished and there is no future resurrection for them (15:18).

g. If we have hope in this life only with no hope of future resurrection, Christians are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (15:19).

h. BUT, the truth is that Christ has been raised from the dead (not metaphorically, but bodily), and He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died (15:20).

13. Golgotha or Calvary


(courtesy, public domain)

The New Testament uses the term Golgotha (see Matt 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17) for the place where Jesus died. Golgotha is the Greek, golgotha, and is based on the Aramaic, gulgata (see Num. 1:2; 1 Chr. 23:3, 24; 2 Kings 9:35), ‘which implies a bald, round, skull-like mound or hillock’.

How did the term, Calvary, come to be identified with Golgotha? Calvary is the Latin name, Calvarius, for Golgotha and it translates the Greek word, kranion (only found in Luke 23:33). Kranion is used to interpret the Hebrew, gulgoleth, ‘the place of a skull’. The Latin name of Calvary, based on the Latin Vulgate translation, which means ‘bald skull’ enters the picture in Luke 23:33. Modern Bible versions use the translation, ‘the Skull’ (ESV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NLT, NAB, NJB, HCSB, NET, ISV, CEB, Darby, WEB). The Wycliffe, Tyndale, King James, and Douay-Rheims versions used ‘Calvary’. However, Golgotha and Calvary refer to the same place. There are two main explanations for the identification of the place of the Skull where Jesus was crucified:

(a) It was a place where regular executions took place and there were many skulls to be seen;

(b) It was a place that looked like a skull and could be viewed from the city (Dingman1967:317).

Where was Golgotha located? The post-apostolic tradition does not agree with the information in the Gospels. Matt 27:33 and Mark 15:22 locate it not far from the city as it required Simon of Cyrene to take the cross (he was compelled) to the place of the Skull, suggesting it was close to the city of Jerusalem. John 19:20 confirms it was close to the city. Dingman stated that it was located outside the city ‘on the public highway, which was the type of location usually chosen by the Romans for executions. Tradition locates it within the present city’ of Jerusalem (Dingman 1967:317). Hebrews 13:11-13 confirms that Jesus died ‘outside the camp’, indicating outside Jerusalem.

The exact site of Calvary is a matter of dispute. Two sites contend for acceptance, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is within the walls of the modern city; and the Green Hill, or Gordon’s Calvary, in which is Jeremiah’s Grotto, a few hundred feet NE of the Damascus Gate. The first is supported by ancient tradition, while the second was suggested for the first time in 1849, although much is to be said in its favor (Tenney, ‘Calvary’, 1967:142).


(Gordon’s Calvary & the garden tomb, courtesy Patheos)

If one is to accept the authority of the Scripture, as I do, then the first suggestion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the hill of Calgary is rejected because it is within the present city. However, is the present city of Jerusalem located on the same site as that of ancient Jerusalem? The evidence is that this city is

different from most cities that have witnessed great historical events over many successive centuries, Jerusalem has always remained on the same site. Specifically it is located at 31º 46’ 45” N lat., and 35º 13’ 25” long. E of Greenwich. It is situated 33 miles E. of the Mediterranean, and 14 miles W of the Dead Sea, at an elevation of 2,550 feet above sea level (Smith 1967:418).

Therefore, the biblical evidence points to a hill location outside of the city of Jerusalem, known as the Skull (Golgotha, Calvary), as the location of Jesus’ crucifixion near Jerusalem.

Golgotha and Calvary are used as synonymous terms for ‘the place of the skull’, the hill on which Jesus was crucified.

14. Evidence is compelling for Jesus’ supernatural resurrection

Andrina Hanson has summarised the evidence:

The claim by Christian apologists that belief in Jesus’ resurrection is a rational belief can be summed up as follows:

  • There is good reason to believe God exists (source);
  • If God exists, then God could have supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead;
  • The following seven (7) lines of historical evidence demonstrate to a reasonable degree that God did, in fact, raise Jesus from the dead:

I4.1 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of Jesus being seen alive in a resurrected body on at least twelve (12) separate occasions by more than 500 witnesses, including at least two skeptics (James the Just and Paul fka Saul) (source)

14.2 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of Jesus’ tomb being found empty (source)

I4.3 The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of the transformation in the lives of Jesus’ disciples from fearful fleers to faithful followers who endured great persecution and became martyrs for their faith (source)

I4.4 The resurrection best explains why even Jewish leaders and skeptics converted to Christianity after Jesus was crucified, even though Christianity was foundationally centered on Jesus’ resurrection

I4.5 The resurrection best explains why there is no evidence any site was ever venerated as Jesus’ burial site even though it was common practice in that day to venerate the burial sites of religious and political leaders

I4.6 The resurrection best explains why the early Church centered its teachings and practices around a supernatural event like the resurrection instead of something less controversial like Jesus’ moral teachings

I4.7 The resurrection best explains the sudden rise and expansion of Christianity so soon after Jesus death even though Jesus had been crucified by the Romans as a political traitor and declared a religious heretic by the Jewish religious leaders

Over the last 2,000 years, skeptics have proffered various alternative theories to attempt to explain away the historical evidence of Jesus’ supernatural resurrection. However, as discussed in the above-linked articles, Christian apologists maintain none of the proposed naturalistic theories adequately explain the totality of the historical evidence and none of the theories are rationally compelling. Since there is a rational basis for believing God exists (source) and since Jesus’ supernatural resurrection is the one explanation that adequately explains the totality of the historical evidence, Christian apologists maintain there is a reasonable basis for believing God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead as reported by multiple independent sources in the New Testament (Hanson 2014).

15. Conclusion

In §5, §6 and §7 above, the bodily resurrection of Jesus was defended, in opposition to the metaphorical/symbolic view. Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus defended in Scripture is his bodily resurrection. Any other view is an invention – a heresy.

Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? There have been those (as pointed out in this article) who have redefined (deconstructed) the resurrection to make it metaphorical or symbolic. Korb, Spong, Coleridge and Crossan have done that as Christian representatives. Thus they have doubted and denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Their reconstructions have caused them to engage in a reader-response invention of their own making. They have invented what the resurrection means. It is a meaning out of their own minds and worldview. It is not a perspective based on a historical, grammatical, cultural interpretation of Scripture.

Reasons have been given in this article to demonstrate that a person must believe in the bodily resurrection to receive eternal life. Otherwise faith and preaching are useless; people do not have their sins forgiven, and hope is hopeless (see §7 and §12).

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God…  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Cor. 15:13-15, 17, 19).

The conclusion is that if Jesus has not been bodily resurrected, faith is faithlessness because it is a useless faith. Now to answer the question of this article: Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? No! Your faith is useless or vain if you doubt or reconstruct the bodily resurrection. You may not like my conclusion, but I’ve provided the evidence above that leads to that biblical conclusion.

See my articles on the heresies promoted by retired USA Episcopalian bishop, John Shelby Spong:

clip_image013 Spong promotes salvation viruses called ‘offensive’ and ‘anathema’

clip_image013[1] Spong’s deadly Christianity

clip_image013[2]John Shelby Spong and the Churches of Christ (Victoria, Australia)

clip_image013[3] The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong [1]

clip_image013[4] Spong’s swan song — at last! [1]

Bishop John Shelby Spong portrait 2006.png

(John Shelby Spong, photograph courtesy Wikipedia)

16. Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Brisbane Times 2016. Two-seater aircraft crashes off the runway at Redcliffe (online), 28 March. Available at: (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Brown, H O J 1984. Heresies: The image of Christ in the mirror of heresy and orthodoxy from the apostles to the present. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Bultmann, R and five critics 1961. Kerygma and myth. New York: Harper & Row.

Carson, D A 1996. The gagging of God: Christianity confronts pluralism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Cooper, N 2016. Brisbane churches packed for Good Friday services. Brisbane Times (online), 25 March. Available at: (Accessed 25 March 2016).

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Davis, S; Kendall D; & O’Collins, G (eds) 1997. The resurrection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dingman, B P 1967. Golgotha. In M C Tenney, gen ed, The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 317. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Fee, G. D. 1987, The first epistle to the Corinthians (gen. ed. F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Geisler, N L 1989. The battle for the resurrection. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Geisler, N. L. 1999. Resurrection, Evidence for, in N L Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Green, M. 1990. Evangelism through the local Church. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Hanson, A 2014. Is Belief in Jesus’ Supernatural Resurrection Rational? Introduction & Summary of the Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. Facts & Faith: The Blog (online), February 27. Available at: (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Huson, B n d. Did Jesus raise Himself from the grave or did God do it? CARM (online). Available at: (Accessed 5 February 2017).

Ingraffia, B D 1996. Postmodern theory and biblical theology: Vanquishing God’s shadow. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ladd, G E 1975. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lüdemann, G & ?zen, A 1995. What really happened to Jesus? A historical approach to the resurrection. Tr by J Bowden. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

Miethe, T L (ed) 1987. Did Jesus rise from the dead? The resurrection debate: Gary R Habermas & Antony G N Flew. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Mohler, A 2016. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the reality of the Gospel (online), March 25. Available at: (Accessed 28 March 2016).

Pannenberg, W 1996. History and the reality of the resurrection. In G D’Costa (ed), Resurrection reconsidered, 62-72. Oxford, England: Oneworld Publications.

Smith, W S 1967. Jerusalem. In M C G Tenney (gen ed), The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 417-427. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Tenney, M C (gen ed) 1967. Calvary. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 142. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Thiselton, A C 2002. A concise encyclopedia of the philosophy of religion. Oxford: Oneworld.

Tyson, L 2015. Critical theory today: A user-friendly guide, 3rd ed. Abingdon, Oxford/New York, NY: Routledge.

Winston, K 2014. Can you question the resurrection and still be a Christian? National Catholic Reporter (from Religion News Service), April 17. Available at: (Accessed 26 March 2016).

Wright, N T 2003. The resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Zenit 2001. World Christianity on the rise in 21st century (online. Available at: Accessed 29 March 2016.)

17. Notes

[1] ‘Ontology denotes the study of being, or of what is’. It is the study of things that exist. So, it appears alongside epistemology which ‘embraces a variety of theories of knowledge…. It includes issues concerning the sources, limits and nature of knowledge, and modes of knowing’ (Thiselton 2002:217-218, 76).

[2] Christian 2015. ‘What do we believe about the resurrection?’ Karl#18. Available at: (Accessed 19 February 2015). Please excuse the way this poster expressed his views online. Grammar and manner of expression are somewhat informal and idiosyncratic.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[4] Ibid., Karl#22.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#26.

[6] After Mark 16:8, the English Standard Version states, ‘Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20’. Most modern Bible versions contain a similar statement.

[7] These four points are based on the Scriptures provided in a brief article by Brad Huston (n d).

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’, 4th rev and aug ed, 1952 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).


Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 February 2017.



Crossan’s buddies are his scholarly support

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

11 08 6972 John Dominic Crossan.jpg

(John Dominic Crossan, courtesy

By Spencer D Gear

John Dominic Crossan, eminent historical Jesus scholar, has a one-eyed view of calling on those who principally are his ‘intellectual debt’.

Crossan is clear (at least to me) about his view of which scholars he should call on for support and critique of his views. It is important to note Crossan’s perspective regarding those who offer a contrary opinion: In quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv; emphasis in original). Why would he want to preserve his opinion and scholarship and retain it in-house? Is there a possible presuppositional bias coming through??[1]

However, he breaks with his scholarly ideal by citing the ‘secondary literature’ of people such as N T Wright (Crossan 1998:44, 49, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 104, 258), Luke Johnson (Crossan 1998:30-31, 103, 114) and Dorothy Sayers (Crossan 1998:91, 92, 93, 98, 99). He doesn’t practise what he preaches on this principle he advocates in his writing.

Is this being unfair to Crossan?

One responded:

I think this is unfair. He’s explaining why he includes the references he does. There are several approaches to references. The ones I see in scholarly work are (1) acknowledging the source of information and arguments that appear in the text, and (2) citing everyone relevant. The second tends to lead to extensive footnotes, because if citations go beyond the views shown in the text, many authors feel the need to talk about what’s in those sources. After all, a long list of references isn’t that useful unless you give the reader an idea of what the position of each is.
I don’t think it’s showing bias to use the shorter approach, where you show only the sources actually used in the text. If a viewpoint is important enough that you really have to engage with it, presumably it will be discussed in the text, in which case there will be appropriate footnotes.[2]

My reply[3] was that that was a false assertion and one of my PhD examiners agreed with my assessment of Crossan’s bias towards his own ilk. In fact, this examiner considered that I was somewhat gentle in exposing Crossan’s biased approach to sources. My examiner is one with an international reputation in historical Jesus’ studies.
When one favours only those of his own persuasion and does not want to get into discussion of secondary sources that disagree with him, one can see he is going uphill with scholarship. This is especially so when he cannot consistently maintain his position. N T Wright gave him a fair run for his money and he dared to violate his own persuasion of referring only to those who are his intellectual debt.
I asked: Are you a supporter of J D Crossan’s postmodern interpretation of Jesus?

Is this being semi-popular?

This fellow’s comeback was:

No. I’m closer to Wright.[4] But my problem with him isn’t his footnoting policy, with which I’m sympathetic. I’d rather see people engage with other scholars in the text, rather than putting half the book in footnotes. So for me, the issue is what appears in the text. Partly because he doesn’t really review a very full range of scholarship, I think of “The Historical Jesus” (the work you’re citing) as a semi-popular synthesis of his position, not a real scholarly work like Wright’s Christian Origins series. A similar work, Wright’s “How God Became King,” has virtually no footnotes, with a very selective bibliography. I haven’t read much of Crossan, so I don’t know whether he has written something more scholarly or not.[5]

[6]I would not regard Crossan’s, The Historical Jesus (1991), as ‘a semi-popular synthesis of his position’. This is what Crossan states in the book:

I knew, therefore, before starting this book that it could not be another set of conclusions jostling for place among the numerous scholarly images of the historical Jesus currently available. Such could, no matter how good it was, but add to the impression of acute scholarly subjectivity in historical Jesus research. This book had to raise most seriously the problem of methodology and then follow most stringently whatever theoretical method was chosen (Crossan 1991:xxviii).?

That is hardly a ‘semi-popular’ approach to the historical Jesus. I’ve spent 5 years analysing Crossan in my PhD dissertation-only research (503pp, 1.15 spacing) and his 1991 publication is not meant for the popular level. For the general populace, you’ll need to go to Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Crossan 1994), which is a popularised, abridged edition of Crossan (1991).

After this kind of challenge to him, at least he acknowledged that he had not fully re-read Crossan (1991) ‘to see where I might have gotten the impression that it was a summary presentation’. Then he adds: ‘When Crossan begin to build his picture of Jesus, he uses lots of historical background, but I don’t see him seriously considering alternative pictures and showing how his methodology leads to his conclusion. (This is close to your own objection, except that my concern is with the text, not the footnotes.) In some cases his arguments are obviously missing necessary detail.’ Then he spun off on a tangent of Crossan’s view of the ‘kingdom of God. [7]

Crossan is ‘almost entirely wrong’

NTWright071220.jpg(N T Wright, courtesy Wikipedia)


How would another eminent historical Jesus’ scholar evaluate Crossan’s contribution to historical Jesus’ studies? N T Wright’s assessment of Crossan (1991) was:

John Dominic Crossan is one of the most brilliant, engaging, learned and quick-witted New Testament scholars alive today. He has been described by one recent friendly critic as a “rather skeptical New Testament professor with the soul of a leprechaun”. He seems incapable, in his recent work at least, of thinking a boring thought or writing a dull paragraph….

It is all the more frustrating, therefore, to have to conclude that the book [Crossan 1991] is almost entirely wrong (Wright 1996:44, emphasis added).?

‘Almost entirely wrong’ is a stunning assessment by an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar (Wright), with which I have to agree, as Crossan’s presuppositional postmodernism causes him to engage in question begging fallacies where his conclusion agrees with his starting premises.

Since you [Hedrick] admit you haven’t read much of Crossan, I suggest that you take a read of larger chunks of Crossan (1991; 1998) to realise that these two publications are meant to be serious scholarly works. I consider that Wright (1992; 1996; 2003) has annihilated Crossan’s postmodern interpretation of the historical Jesus.
Crossan’s, The Birth of Christianity (1998), is a 651 page examination of ‘what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus’ (sub-title of book) but it lacks substantive historical precision when his postmodern presuppositions so dominate his premises and conclusions.

Crossan’s definition of history fails

This is Crossan’s definition of history and he repeats it in several of his publications: ‘This, then, is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse’ (Crossan 1998:20; 1999:3 emphasis in original). However, he doesn’t consistently apply this definition throughout his publications. He mixes it with a traditional approach to history like that described by Wright: ‘History, I shall argue, is neither “bare facts” nor “subjective interpretations”, but is rather the meaningful narrative of events and intentions‘ (Wright 1992:82, emphasis in original). Wright admits that this involves a point of view by historians (they cannot be ahistorical observers), ‘a massive programme of selection’, and ‘such a process inevitably involves a major element of interpretation. We are trying to make sense of the world in which we live‘ (Wright 1992:82-83, emphasis in original).

1. Crossan’s use of a logical fallacy

How does one respond to a person who claims that Crossan uses ‘lots of historical background’ and ‘in some cases his arguments are obviously missing necessary detail’?[8]

This writer’s lack of exposure to Crossan, in my view, has led to this selective and imbalanced perspective.[9]

When Crossan starts with this definition of history: ‘This is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse…. History as argued public reconstruction is necessary to reconstruct our past in order to project our future’ (Crossan 1998:20; emphasis in original), and then concludes with his reader-response, interactive content of history, this is a begging the question logical fallacy in its historiography, especially in light of the consensus of historians that I examined in my PhD dissertation. Crossan’s statement points to a worldview of postmodern deconstruction that imposes another perspective on the historical data that so skews the data to accommodate Crossan’s reader-response philosophy.

Crossan wrote that ‘by historical study I mean an analysis whose theories and methods, evidence and arguments, results and conclusions are open, in principle and practice, to any human observer, any disciplined investigator, any self-conscious and self-critical student…. The historical Jesus is always an interpretive construct of its own time and place but open to all of that time and place’ (Crossan 1994:199, emphasis in original). He was pointed in his challenge that historians should say, ‘This, in my best professional reconstruction, is what happened; that did not’ (Crossan 1995:37).

So, his postmodern interpretation of history as the past recreated interactively has these ramifications. How this works for Crossan is that the description of the historical Jesus will vary with each generation as ‘an interpretive construct’. The view of Jesus is open to all that that time and place provides. In other words, we create our view of the historical Jesus, based on what is happening in our time, city, country and world. This is nonsense historically.

Could you imagine the history of George Washington, the pilgrim fathers, Captain James Cook and Captain Arthur Phillip being based on Hedrick or my ‘interpretive construct’ in the USA or Australia in the 21st century? Did George Washington and James Cook say and do what is recorded or is that open to your or my interactive, deconstruction? That’s what we are dealing with in examining Crossan’s approach to history. Imagine doing that with the ‘facts’ contained in Crossan’s autobiography (Crossan 2000)? Did he grow up in Ireland or is that only a metaphor to be deconstructed by me in the 21st century – deconstructed with inventions I want to make?
Imagine reading Crossan’s other books with that view. Surely he wants me to read his books so that I understand the content of what he means with English grammar and syntax, rather than imposing 21st century Brisbane environment and my reader-response on his texts. If I read the Brisbane Times (BT) like that and passed on my postmodern, reader-response, interactive, contemporary interpretation of today’s BT stories to the people in my church on Sunday, they would think I was going over the edge mentally.

Since Hedrick provided no references to which parts of Crossan’s works he referred, regarding the “Kingdom of God”, I have no way of checking if what you are saying is correct or not.

However, he did admit he had not read much of Crossan.

2. Crossan teams up with an archaeologist

To overcome some of this historical imbalance (in my view), Crossan teamed up with archaeologist, Jonathan L Reed, in writing (1) Excavating Jesus (Crossan & Reed 2001), and (2) In Search of Paul (Crossan & Reed 2004). However, both authors have a presuppositional bias towards postmodernism in their interpretations.

This proves nothing more than a postmodern deconstructionist can be found also among a historical Jesus scholar and an archaeologist. This is how this postmodern philosophy overwhelms their interpretations with these kinds of explanations:

  • Resurrection is not equivalent to resuscitation, apparition or exaltation.
  • Rather, ‘to say that God raised Jesus from the dead was to assert that the general resurrection had thereby begun. Only for such an assertion was “resurrection” or “raised from the dead” the proper terminology. That is very clear from a reading of 1 Corinthians 15, a commentary by Paul on an earlier and presumably second or traditional layer of text’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:259-260, emphasis in original).

Crossan & Reed push the lack of uniqueness about Jesus’ resurrection with emphasising two directions in 1 Corinthians 15, ‘If there is no Jesus resurrection, there is no general resurrection; if there is no general resurrection, there is no Jesus resurrection’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:260). There authors are correct in showing the connection between Jesus’ resurrection and the general resurrection, but this is where the damage enters with this kind of assumption, ‘The resurrection of Jesus is the start of the general resurrection, that is to say, with Jesus’ resurrection the general resurrection has begun’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:260, emphasis in original). They claim that this ‘proclamation is stunningly creative and profoundly original’ on at least four counts which involve a choice among alternatives. One of those differences is that ‘it is profoundly original in its distinction between the general resurrection as instantive moment or durative process in apocalyptic consummation’ (Crossan & Reed 2001:161).

a. Let’s check the evidence from 1 Corinthians 15

Does 1 Corinthians 15 teach that Jesus’ resurrection is the start of the general resurrection and there is a distinction between instant moment versus durative process (the Crossan & Reed view)? Paul was dealing with a particular objection in Corinth: ‘Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?’ (1 Cor 15:12 ESV). To that question his response was: ‘But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain’ (1 Cor 15:13-14 ESV).

Note that 1 Cor 15:12-14 does not teach what Crossan & Reed state that the resurrection of Jesus is the start of the general resurrection. What these verses do teach is that there will be a resurrection of dead people because Christ has been raised from the dead. Yes, ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Cor 15:20). When will this resurrection of the dead take please? It is in the future as indicated by this language: ‘So also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end….’ (1 Cor 15:22-23).

The evidence is convincing from 1 Cor 15 and it is not in agreement with Crossan & Reed. There will be a general resurrection of the dead at ‘the end’, at the Parousia when ‘the last enemy to be destroyed is death’ (1 Cor 15:26). So, Crossan & Reed have imposed their own postmodern interpretation on 1 Cor 15 to make it fit with their agenda.

b. Postmodern performance by Crossan & Reed

The essence of resurrection, according to N T Wright, is: ‘What the creator god did for Jesus is both the model and the means of what he will do for all Jesus’ people’ (Wright 2003:216; emphasis in original). Crossan & Reed’s emphasis on I Corinthians 15:12-13, 15b-16 is that ‘the argument is very clear: no Jesus resurrection, no general resurrection; no general resurrection, no Jesus resurrection’. They continue with interpretation of I Corinthians 15:20, ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died’ (NRSV) as meaning, ‘Jesus’s resurrection is to the general resurrection as first fruits are to the rest of the harvest. There is no possibility of Christ’s resurrection as a special, unique, peculiar privilege accorded to him alone’ (Crossan & Reed 2004:342-343).

It is true that this passage teaches that Jesus’ resurrection and the general resurrection are connected, ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised…. If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised’ (1 Cor 15:13, 16). However, Crossan & Reed’s statement that ‘there is no possibility of Christ’s resurrection as a special, unique, peculiar privilege accorded to him alone’ needs challenging because of these facts:

(1) Preaching is vain and faith is futile ‘if Christ has not been raised’ (1 Cor 15:14). This verse does not say, ‘If Christ has not been raised and there is no general resurrection, your preaching is without content and ineffective and your faith is pointless’.[10] Christ’s resurrection is unique in order to provide content and foundation to preaching and faith. This is related to another unique necessity of Jesus’ resurrection,

(2) ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins’ (1 Cor 15:17). This is explained further in Romans 4:25, ‘He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification’. The unique, peculiar, and special mission of Jesus’ resurrection was to provide justification for sins so that people are no longer in their sins. They are declared righteous (justified) before God. Of this verse, Thomas Aquinas wrote: ‘In order to complete the work of our salvation: because, just as for this reason did He endure evil things in dying that He might deliver us from evil, so was He glorified in rising again in order to advance us towards good things’ according to Romans 4:25 (Aquinas 1947:3.53.1). The death of Jesus ‘for us’, as articulated in Romans 4:25 and 5:10 includes both justification and sanctification and ‘they are inextricably bound together with his resurrection’ (Fee 1987:743-744). For Crossan to denigrate this unique role of the resurrected Son in salvation is to deny an essential Christian doctrine. The uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be detached from eternal salvation itself. Crossan’s reconstruction of Jesus’ resurrection to exclude its uniqueness is tantamount to a denial of Christian existence for the sake of a postmodern view of human beings and reconstruction of the meaning of the resurrection.

Crossan & Reed continue with their metaphorical imposition on the text in pursuit of a postmodern agenda:

Recall the discussion of Jewish and of Christian-Jewish “resurrection…. Those who claimed Jesus had begun the terminal moment of apocalyptic climax would have to present some public evidence of a world transformed from injustice and evil to justice and peace. It would not and could not suffice to claim one or many empty tombs and one or many risen apparitions. That might all be well and good, but where was the evidence, any evidence, of a transformed world? For that they had only their own communal lives as evidence. This is how we live with God and on this basis we seek to persuade others to do likewise. This is our new creation, our transformed world. We in God, God in us, and both together here below upon this earth.

Paul claimed in 1 Corinthians that, “if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” 15:14). As stated, that comment is true for Christianity, but so also is its reverse. If Christian faith has been in vain, that is, has not acted to transform itself and this world toward the justice of God, and if Christian proclamation has been in vain, that is, has not insisted that such is the church’s vocation, then Christ was not raised. Christianity could certainly still claim that Jesus was exalted and had ascended to the right hand of God. But resurrection [the argument of this chapter] presumes the start of cosmic transformation, not just the promise of it, not just the hope of it, not just talk about it, and not just theology about it. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher can be easily seen in all its marbled past and disputed present within today’s Jerusalem. But the Church of the Blessed Resurrection can only be seen in a world under transformation by Christian cooperation with divine justice and by Christian participation in divine justice (Crossan & Reed 2001:270).

This is a Crossan & Reed metaphorical deconstruction of Christ’s resurrection to make it mean what they want in the 20th century – resurrection meaning a world transformed from injustice and evil to justice and peace, a Christian participation in divine justice.

The biblical evidence is that Jesus’ death and resurrection make justification by faith possible for all who believe in Jesus for salvation. This is affirmed by Romans 4:25, ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’ (NIV). For a further explanation, see R C Sproul on ‘Resurrection and justification’.

This unique resurrection was the firstfruits, guaranteeing that there will be a resurrection of the dead at Christ’s second coming. There is no postmodern deconstructionist agenda in that view. It is based on the plain meaning of the biblical text.

If history does not involve postmodern deconstruction by deconstructionists like J D Crossan and Jonathan Reed, what then is it?

3. What is history?

By contrast, eminent Yale University professor of missions and oriental history, Kenneth Scott Latorette, defined Christian history this way:

The distinctively Christian understanding of history centers upon historical occurrences. It has at its heart not a set of ideas but a person. By a widespread convention historians reckon history as b.c. and a.d. They are aware of many other methods of recording dates and know that this particular chronology has acquired extensive currency because of the growing dominance during the past few centuries of a civilization in which Christian influences have been potent. To the Christian, however, this reckoning of time is much more than a convention. It is inherent in history. In Jesus of Nazareth, so the Christian holds, God once for all disclosed Himself and acted decisively. The vast majority of Christians believe that Jesus was God incarnate (Latourette 1948).

(Kenneth Scott Latourette, courtesy Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity)


This definition is parallel with that of N T Wright, a scholar of the historical Jesus and early Christian origins in the 20th and 21st centuries, whose understanding was that ‘history is neither “bare facts” nor “subjective interpretation”, but is rather the meaningful narrative of events and intentions’. Wright stresses that ‘for statements to be made about the past, human beings have to engage in a massive programme of selection’ along with ‘a major element of interpretation’ (Wright 1992:82-83 emphasis in original).

By way of methodology, Wright is of the view that the ‘historical method is just like all other methods of inquiry. It proceeds by means of “hypotheses”, which stand in need of “verification”. A good hypothesis in any field must,

(a) ‘Include the data’;

(b) ‘Construct a basically simple and coherent overall picture’, and

(c) Mean that the proposed explanatory story proves to be fruitful in other related areas (Wright 1992:98-100).

Crossan adopts Wright’s view of history in his autobiography, A long way from Tipperary (Crossan 2000), in which Crossan adopts Wright’s definition of history – the meaningful narrative of events in the life of J D Crossan in Ireland, along with interpretations and his intentions. One example can be seen in Crossan’s own words, ‘“I am curious,” the doctor said. “How can you as a Catholic theologian undergo a vasectomy?” “Because,” I replied, “I am a bad Catholic, but a good theologian, and that makes a vast difference”’ (Crossan 2000:79). What about this evaluation, ‘I maintain that the mode of authority, the style of leadership, the primacy of obedience demanded by the Roman Catholic hierarchy is a crime, if not against humanity, then at least against divinity’ (Crossan 2000 199)?

Is that meant to be a literal or metaphorical statement? Does it contain facts that Crossan considers to be true and his intentions to expose his theological understanding of Roman Catholicism? It sure doesn’t sound like his definition of history: ‘This, then, is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse’ (Crossan 1998:20; 1999:3 emphasis in original).


A scholar who only wishes to include the views of his intellectual buddies (mates is the Aussie language) is engaging in a biased view of history – but all in the name of scholarship.

This investigation has found that it doesn’t matter whether Crossan is writing alone or in conjunction with an archaeologist, Jonathan Reed, he imposes a postmodern understanding on the text. This is in harmony with his presuppositional bias of a postmodern approach to history. When he concludes with his premise – a postmodern explanation of history – he is using a question begging logical fallacy.

History that doesn’t deal with the facts of the past is not history. However, these facts need interpretation, not with a presuppositional, postmodern imposition on the text, but with consideration of the cultural and other issues taking place in that society. That’s exactly what Crossan did in his autobiography. It was not a postmodern exposition of his life but an account the involved facts, intentions and interpretations from his earlier life.

So Wright’s view that history involves ‘the meaningful narrative of events and intentions’ of the past is realistic and does not come with Crossan’s presuppositional understanding of imposing a postmodern interpretation on the facts.

Works consulted

Aquinas, T 1947. Summa theologica (online). Tr by the fathers of the English Dominican Province. Available at Sacred Texts: (Accessed 1 February 2013).

Brown, C 1975. kenos, in Brown, C (ed) The new international dictionary of New Testament theology, vol 3, 546-549. Exeter: The Paternoster Press.

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish peasant. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A revolutionary biography. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Crossan, J D 2000. A long way from Tipperary: A memoir. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D & Reed, J L 2001. Excavating Jesus: Beneath the stones, behind the texts. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D & Reed, J L 2004. In search of Paul: How Jesus’s apostle opposed Rome’s empire with God’s kingdom. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Fee, G D 1987. The first epistle to the Corinthians (The new international commentary on the New Testament, F F Bruce gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Latourette, K S 1948. The Christian understanding of history. American Historical Association (online). Available at: (Accessed 23 October 2015).

Oepke, A 1965. kenos, in Kittel, G (ed) Theological dictionary of the New Testament, vol 3, 659-660. Tr and ed by G W Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Wright, N T 1992. The New Testament and the people of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 1).

Wright, N T 1996. Jesus and the victory of God. London: SPCK / Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 2).

Wright, N T 2003. The resurrection of the son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. (Series in Christian origins and the question of God, vol 3).


[1] I included this in Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, Do I have a ‘Flawed’ library of study material? September 20, 2015. OzSpen#6, available at: (Accessed 23 October 2015).

[2] Ibid., Hedrick#24.

[3] Ibid., OzSpen#25.

[4] He’s speaking of N T Wright, the British historical Jesus’ scholar.

[5] Christian Forums, Hedrick#26.

[6] This is my response at ibid., OzSpen#27.

[7] Ibid., Hedrick#28.

[8] Ibid., Hedrick#28.

[9] The following is my response to him in ibid., OzSpen#29.

[10] The Greek is kenos, for which Arndt & Gingrich provide the meaning, ‘without content, without any basis, without truth, without power’ of preaching and faith for 1 Cor 15:14a (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:429). Albrecht Oepke’s study concluded that it meant ‘”empty”, “futile”’, that is, ‘without content and also ineffective’ (Oepke 1965:659-660). Colin Brown’s understanding was that ‘under certain circumstances certain things would be pointless, fruitless, or in vain’ and that applies to preaching and faith in I Corinthians 15:14 (Brown 1975:547).


Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 October 2015.