Thursday, September 29, 2005

One Criteria for All? Word and Resurrection under the microscope

One of the points James and Rafael are discussing (as an example for a larger question I think) is whether the resurrection should be judged on the same grounds as the teachings ascribed to Jesus. I, with Rafael (see his posts), would maintain a distinction between the resurrection and sayings of Jesus in terms of assessing probable historicity. I hope I can add some clarity to the issue (although I doubt it) if any is needed.

Both Jesus' words and his resurrectionare come to us in written traditions concerned with actual happenings in Jesus life, and in this regard they are on the same level. But they do concern different happenings, and it is the possibility of these happenings which has the first say concerning historicity. Only then does probability come into play concerning whether they actually happened in a given instance.

Thus, although we are dealing with two written testimonies, this 'written' factor is put to one side for the initial judgement. This judgment works as an assumption for the discerning of probability. So, in one tradition it is claimed that Jesus speaks, in the other, that God raises Jesus to new life following his death. Most would have no trouble assuming that Jesus could speak. Many, however, would have trouble assuming that God could raise Jesus from the dead, primarily because they dont think that there is a God to do so (and if they did, some would still deny that he could "intervene" in the world like this).

Having made this initial assumption (usually sub-consciously), one would then go on to determine the probability of Jesus speaking and whether the particular tradition reflects what he actually said (the degree would range from exact replication to fiction). This stage is where one engages with the actuall text. For the second tradition, if one works with the assumption that there is a God, then one then goes about determining whether he probably did raise Jesus from the dead or not working with the evidence found in the written tradition.[1] If one assumes there is not, then one still needs to deal with the written tradition, but deems it inaccurate from the start, with no amount of argument to the contrary (concerning the written tradition) able to pursuade otherwise.

[1] Is it a reliable testimony? Given what we can establish about 'God', is it likely that he would raise Jesus? What reasons would he have for doing so?

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