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How much resurrection testimony in the NT is actually first-hand?

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  • How much resurrection testimony in the NT is actually first-hand?

    Fundamentalist apologists continuously insist that the resurrection of Jesus is supported by multiple first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses.

    So I'd like to know, what testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus, as contained in the NT, are sourced in nothing more than the eyewitness's own recollection?

    I can't think of any beyond Paul in 1st Corinthians 15.

    Whether Matthew is first-hand relies on the credibility of Papias and Eusebius, which has forever divided scholars and is unlikely to admit of solutions that swing the pendulum one way or the other.

    In John 21:24, there is a "we" associated with the authorship of that gospel, raising the question of whether this anonymous group were responsible for any portion of the resurrection narrative in John.

    Since scholars and the textual evidence appear evenly divided on whether Mark 16:8 was the last canonical verse of Mark, there is no way to decide whether the long ending that contains the resurrection witnesses was written by Mark or somebody else, but either way, if Papias is correct that Mark wrote down Peter's preaching, then even if the long ending of Mark is canonical, it would still be hearsay.

    No resurrection testimony in Acts is first hand since Luke is the author of that book and was not an eyewitness but rather he alleges having received reports from them (Luke 1:2).

    If you find any NT statements that constitute a clear assertion of having seen the resurrected Jesus, which you believe was authored by none other than the claimant, let me know. I'll grant the case of Paul, but that only makes matters worse, since he characterizes his Damascus road experience of the risen Christ as a "vision" in Acts 26:19 using the same Greek word that he uses in 2nd Corinthians 12:1-3 to characterize experiences that leave him guessing whether they occurred while he was outside his own body. If your witness cannot confidently affirm he was in his body when he experienced the thing he testifies to....well, you get the point. Apologists will say Acts 9 says other men near Paul noticed something going on, so it surely cannot have been limited to Paul's own mind, but alas, we only have Luke's version of what these men allegedly saw or heard, so it is only hearsay.

    and I still cannot find anything around this text composition box that will allow me to italicize or bold, and there is no "advanced" in this window except "advanced search"...maybe new members don't get font-emphasis privileges until after they post so many times? the only options I have are smilies, icons and tags.
    Last edited by B&H; 08-12-2014, 09:42 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by B&H View Post
    Fundamentalist apologists continuously insist that the resurrection of Jesus is supported by multiple first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses.

    So I'd like to know, what testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus, as contained in the NT, are sourced in nothing more than the eyewitness's own recollection?

    I can't think of any beyond Paul in 1st Corinthians 15.

    Whether Matthew is first-hand relies on the credibility of Papias and Eusebius, which has forever divided scholars and is unlikely to admit of solutions that swing the pendulum one way or the other.
    You're not being consistent in your arguments here, AFAICS. None of the gospels identify the author within the text. However, the recorded authorship for all 4 is consistent from the beginning. This argument is only raised AFAICS because the internal argument is lacking.
    In John 21:24, there is a "we" associated with the authorship of that gospel, raising the question of whether this anonymous group were responsible for any portion of the resurrection narrative in John.
    The "we" language is also present in 1:14, and that cannot have been the much later hypothetical anonymous disciples of John. It's referring to the testimony of Jesus Himself, probably on two levels (both the immediate context and the book overall).
    Since scholars and the textual evidence appear evenly divided on whether Mark 16:8 was the last canonical verse of Mark, there is no way to decide whether the long ending that contains the resurrection witnesses was written by Mark or somebody else, but either way, if Papias is correct that Mark wrote down Peter's preaching, then even if the long ending of Mark is canonical, it would still be hearsay.
    I would not say that the evidence concerning the ending of Mark is evenly divided, though there are people who argue at length that vv. 9-20 are original. As you say, however, the point is moot.
    No resurrection testimony in Acts is first hand since Luke is the author of that book and was not an eyewitness but rather he alleges having received reports from them (Luke 1:2).
    Sure.
    If you find any NT statements that constitute a clear assertion of having seen the resurrected Jesus, which you believe was authored by none other than the claimant, let me know. I'll grant the case of Paul, but that only makes matters worse, since he characterizes his Damascus road experience of the risen Christ as a "vision" in Acts 26:19 using the same Greek word that he uses in 2nd Corinthians 12:1-3 to characterize experiences that leave him guessing whether they occurred while he was outside his own body. If your witness cannot confidently affirm he was in his body when he experienced the thing he testifies to....well, you get the point. Apologists will say Acts 9 says other men near Paul noticed something going on, so it surely cannot have been limited to Paul's own mind, but alas, we only have Luke's version of what these men allegedly saw or heard, so it is only hearsay.
    Now that you've gone to all that trouble, why would only having second-hand evidence be devastating? Even if you had ironclad evidence that first-hand witnesses reported it, what of Luke 16:31?
    and I still cannot find anything around this text composition box that will allow me to italicize or bold, and there is no "advanced" in this window except "advanced search"...maybe new members don't get font-emphasis privileges until after they post so many times? the only options I have are smilies, icons and tags.
    Italics and bold text are done using tags. If you "reply with quote" to my text, you should be able to see the respective tags I used.
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

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    • #3
      http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/pr...do=editoptions

      Scroll down to:

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      • #4
        Whether Matthew is first-hand relies on the credibility of Papias and Eusebius, which has forever divided scholars and is unlikely to admit of solutions that swing the pendulum one way or the other.
        I think most scholars would say that Matthew was originally written in Greek, while Papias and Eusebius talk of a text written in Hebrew. Further, it is generally agreed that Mark was written first, which poses the question, why would an eye-witness base his account on someone else's second-hand account.
        In John 21:24, there is a "we" associated with the authorship of that gospel, raising the question of whether this anonymous group were responsible for any portion of the resurrection narrative in John.
        There is plenty of evidence John had multiple authors, but it is possible one was an eye witness.
        Since scholars and the textual evidence appear evenly divided on whether Mark 16:8 was the last canonical verse of Mark, there is no way to decide whether the long ending that contains the resurrection witnesses was written by Mark or somebody else, but either way, if Papias is correct that Mark wrote down Peter's preaching, then even if the long ending of Mark is canonical, it would still be hearsay.
        As I understand, most scholars do reject the ending of Mark.
        No resurrection testimony in Acts is first hand since Luke is the author of that book and was not an eyewitness but rather he alleges having received reports from them (Luke 1:2).
        But not necessarily directly from them.
        My Blog: http://oncreationism.blogspot.co.uk/

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        • #5
          I don't understand the significance of "firsthand" eyewitness accounts as opposed to secondhand or even thirdhand. A firsthand witness can lie just as much as a secondhand witness can. In fact, a secondhand witness would presumably be more accurate and less likely to lie since they are basing their report on an event they had no part of and thus can't gauge whether their lie would conflict with the actual event.
          "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

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          • #6
            Originally posted by B&H View Post
            and I still cannot find anything around this text composition box that will allow me to italicize or bold, and there is no "advanced" in this window except "advanced search"...maybe new members don't get font-emphasis privileges until after they post so many times? the only options I have are smilies, icons and tags.
            http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/misc.php?do=bbcode

            That's where all of the BB code lives to spice up your posts.
            That's what
            - She

            Without a clear-cut definition of sin, morality becomes a mere argument over the best way to train animals
            - Manya the Holy Szin (The Quintara Marathon)

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            Stephen R. Donaldson

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            • #7
              Originally posted by seanD View Post
              I don't understand the significance of "firsthand" eyewitness accounts as opposed to secondhand or even thirdhand. A firsthand witness can lie just as much as a secondhand witness can.
              I'll be sure to remember that, if I'm ever inclined to accuse any gospel author of lying. If I don't believe what someone writes, I normally assume that they made a mistake, not that they lied.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                I'll be sure to remember that, if I'm ever inclined to accuse any gospel author of lying. If I don't believe what someone writes, I normally assume that they made a mistake, not that they lied.
                Firsthand account is something I hear from every skeptic I've ever encountered, so I have to assume they feel this is a critcal aspect of their argument. No one ever places (including the same skeptics) this type of importance on any other written historical event. Very little historical accounts are ever recorded by firsthand eyewitnesses. Even if we assume all four writers were secondhand witnesses, the fact that an ancient event is even recorded by a secondhand witness is pretty extraordinary.
                Last edited by seanD; 08-15-2014, 01:37 AM.
                "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

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                • #9
                  I hope, seanD,
                  That you're not trying to sabotage me, but have just forgotten me from the old TWeb where I developed at length my Thesis that there are seven written sources eyewitness to Jesus in our four canonical gospels. Robrecht, Doug Shaver, The Pixie, you, and I discussed this at length. I never liked to advertise that those seven might have been lying, but here you are a Christian and leading with your chin!

                  No, the reason the skeptics make such fuss about no eyewitnesses is because they believe they know that there were no eyewitnesses. They just piggy-back on orthodox claims that Matthew wrote that gospel and ignore (as do you) that Matthew might have written a source that underlies Mark. Indeed in the time since I wrote here three years ago, a most solid case has been made by Dennis Ronald MacDonald that Q (that you probably hate) definitely is a source underneath Mark, just as I was saying back then. The description in Mark (2:13-14) about Levi can thus be regarded as from a different source within Mark than the (presumably) larger part that came from Peter. We can attribute Mark quite easily to two eyewitnesses, both supported by the external testimony from Papias. Scholars have also recently come to agreement that the Greek work for Logia does not mean "sayings", but such oracles as are more like what we know as a gospel. (Meantime let me note that I now add in John Mark himself as an eyewitness writer for the Passion Narrative part of the four gospels.

                  So yes, I'll be saying more about the seven written eyewitness sources here on the new forum, but first I'll respond to some of the other posters here.
                  Last edited by Adam; 08-15-2014, 09:46 PM.
                  Near the Peoples' Republic of Davis, south of the State of Jefferson (Suspended between Left and Right)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by seanD View Post
                    Firsthand account is something I hear from every skeptic I've ever encountered, so I have to assume they feel this is a critcal aspect of their argument. No one ever places (including the same skeptics) this type of importance on any other written historical event. Very little historical accounts are ever recorded by firsthand eyewitnesses. Even if we assume all four writers were secondhand witnesses, the fact that an ancient event is even recorded by a secondhand witness is pretty extraordinary.
                    I think it's a reaction to Christians claiming that accounts of the miracles of Jesus are their primary evidences. There's a huge difference between believing a minor historical event probably happened because of seemingly reliable second-hand accounts and claiming to know the secrets of the universe and what everyone ought to do because of the second-hand accounts of individuals with a conflict of interest.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by seanD View Post
                      Firsthand account is something I hear from every skeptic I've ever encountered, so I have to assume they feel this is a critcal aspect of their argument.
                      I can't begin to speak for every skeptic you have encountered, but I do know that we don't all think alike.

                      The importance, for me, of a firsthand account is that I can presume, absent evidence to the contrary, that the writer is telling us something he saw himself. That establishes a certain level of prima facie credibility, all else being equal. Even if he was mistaken about what he saw (and I cannot assume that he couldn't have been), I can assume that he must have seen something.

                      For a secondhand or any other account, the writer, by definition, did not see what he is reporting. He is reporting what someone told him, or something he read in some document. That is to say, he is relying on a source. To know whether I should believe him, I must first determine who his source was, then I must judge whether his source was credible, and then I must make some judgment as to whether he is accurately reporting what his source said. And if I cannot determine who his source was, then I cannot make either of those judgments.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                        I can't begin to speak for every skeptic you have encountered, but I do know that we don't all think alike.

                        The importance, for me, of a firsthand account is that I can presume, absent evidence to the contrary, that the writer is telling us something he saw himself. That establishes a certain level of prima facie credibility, all else being equal. Even if he was mistaken about what he saw (and I cannot assume that he couldn't have been), I can assume that he must have seen something.

                        For a secondhand or any other account, the writer, by definition, did not see what he is reporting. He is reporting what someone told him, or something he read in some document. That is to say, he is relying on a source. To know whether I should believe him, I must first determine who his source was, then I must judge whether his source was credible, and then I must make some judgment as to whether he is accurately reporting what his source said. And if I cannot determine who his source was, then I cannot make either of those judgments.
                        Well put. My sister has told me some amazing stories about seeing UFOs. Because she's my sister, she has my rapt attention. I believe she saw something, though not necessarily aliens. If she told me that a friend of a friend had the same experience, I wouldn't be that interested for the reasons you mentioned.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                          I can't begin to speak for every skeptic you have encountered, but I do know that we don't all think alike.

                          The importance, for me, of a firsthand account is that I can presume, absent evidence to the contrary, that the writer is telling us something he saw himself. That establishes a certain level of prima facie credibility, all else being equal. Even if he was mistaken about what he saw (and I cannot assume that he couldn't have been), I can assume that he must have seen something.

                          For a secondhand or any other account, the writer, by definition, did not see what he is reporting. He is reporting what someone told him, or something he read in some document. That is to say, he is relying on a source. To know whether I should believe him, I must first determine who his source was, then I must judge whether his source was credible, and then I must make some judgment as to whether he is accurately reporting what his source said. And if I cannot determine who his source was, then I cannot make either of those judgments.
                          As I pointed out earlier (the part you snipped), not all ancient historical information (most likely the majority of ancient historical information) comes from firsthand sources (of course, we're assuming hypothetically here that none of the gospels are firsthand accounts), and not all historical information is backed by physical evidence. Therefore, you would presumably follow the same set of criteria when analyzing the validity of the gospels as for all historical written sources.
                          "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole, it was like... we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment." - Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State (source).

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by B&H View Post
                            Fundamentalist apologists continuously insist that the resurrection of Jesus is supported by multiple first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses.
                            So I'd like to know, what testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus, as contained in the NT, are sourced in nothing more than the eyewitness's own recollection?
                            I can't think of any beyond Paul in 1st Corinthians 15.
                            I don't think I Corinthians 15 really counts, as Paul summarizes other people then tells his own story that may be a vision rather than a resurrected Jesus. Matthew 28 is not relevant, either, unless that chapter came only from the eyewitness Matthew. I agree with those who say no eyewitness wrote any part of Matthew 28, nor any of Matthew that is not paralleled elsewhere. Matthew 28:1-10 does seem like what someone wrote down what he heard from the women (or more specifically Mary the mother of James and Joses), but my Thesis applies to what a person himself wrote down that got included in the final write-up. The last ten verses of Matthew 28 lack the details of eyewitnesses. No name occurs except Jesus.

                            In contrast the Gospel of John has lots of names and eyewitness detail. The core seems based on what Mary Magdalene said, which no one says she wrote, but the rest of John 20 looks like from an eyewitness (or two), as does John 21. Here Christian tradition just obscures the possibility that most of the Passion Narrative comes from a source who was an eyewitness (John Mark himself in my opinion) and most of the rest comes from another eyewitness. (Though John is never named in the gospel bearing his name, he seems a likely candidate for the main role in collecting together and editing all of the Gospel of John. That would make him an eyewitness for much of both John 20 and 21.)

                            The Gospel of Luke has the odd circumstance of the author disclaiming himself as an eyewitness, but testifying to using eyewitness accounts. This would presumably include all of Luke 24, which would include the same eyewitness source as for John 20 (John Mark by my account), but also a large middle section unique to Luke, the Walk to Emmaus. As with most of Special Luke, the text is full of Semitisms, suggesting the writer was not a gentile. (I'm not saying the author of Luke was a Jew, though many scholars now suggest that that may be the case.) This writer may have been an eyewitness who told directly Luke 24:13-34 in what he himself wrote. This person with Cleopas most likely was his son Simon, the best choice as the "Simon" of Luke 24:34. That makes all of Luke 24:13-onwards from eyewitnesses (Simon and John Mark) and most of John 20 and 21 from eyewitnesses John and John Mark.

                            I don't regard Mark 16:9-20 as early and Mark 16:1-8 was not written by the woman (same as for Matthew 28:1-8) who saw it.
                            Whether Matthew is first-hand relies on the credibility of Papias and Eusebius, which has forever divided scholars and is unlikely to admit of solutions that swing the pendulum one way or the other.
                            This is what got me confused about the eyewitness status of all the four gospels being the issue here. As I have stated above, I don't count the portions of Matthew unique to Matthew as from an eyewitness. Matthew 28 is the only Resurrection chapter, and I don't see any case for an eyewitness writing any of it. I even have a theory that what is now John 21 (vv. 1-17) was originally placed where Mark 16:9-20 is, and when that Galilee account in John 21 was gone it was later replaced in one instance by Matthew 28:9-20 and later by Mark 16:9-20 that omitted Galilee and Peter altogether! (There seems to have been some competition between Jerusalem and Galilee factions of earliest Christianity.)
                            In John 21:24, there is a "we" associated with the authorship of that gospel, raising the question of whether this anonymous group were responsible for any portion of the resurrection narrative in John.
                            Yes, I regard John 21:18-25 as having come from someone (or someones) else.
                            Since scholars and the textual evidence appear evenly divided on whether Mark 16:8 was the last canonical verse of Mark, there is no way to decide whether the long ending that contains the resurrection witnesses was written by Mark or somebody else, but either way, if Papias is correct that Mark wrote down Peter's preaching, then even if the long ending of Mark is canonical, it would still be hearsay.
                            Yes, and hearsay that may have been deliberately different in emphasis from the opposite John 21 version. But as for the scholars being divided, the main controversy remaining is that many believe that Mark 16:8 was the intended end (a quite ridiculous opinion in my view).
                            No resurrection testimony in Acts is first hand since Luke is the author of that book and was not an eyewitness but rather he alleges having received reports from them (Luke 1:2).
                            Yes, there are unique textual problems regarding the ending of Luke and the first dozen verses of Acts. The various summaries would not be so hard to reconcile if the original account had been written by an eyewitness.
                            Near the Peoples' Republic of Davis, south of the State of Jefferson (Suspended between Left and Right)

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Adam View Post
                              I don't think I Corinthians 15 really counts, as Paul summarizes other people then tells his own story that may be a vision rather than a resurrected Jesus. Matthew 28 is not relevant, either, unless that chapter came only from the eyewitness Matthew. I agree with those who say no eyewitness wrote any part of Matthew 28, nor any of Matthew that is not paralleled elsewhere. Matthew 28:1-10 does seem like what someone wrote down what he heard from the women (or more specifically Mary the mother of James and Joses), but my Thesis applies to what a person himself wrote down that got included in the final write-up. The last ten verses of Matthew 28 lack the details of eyewitnesses. No name occurs except Jesus.

                              In contrast the Gospel of John has lots of names and eyewitness detail. The core seems based on what Mary Magdalene said, which no one says she wrote, but the rest of John 20 looks like from an eyewitness (or two), as does John 21. Here Christian tradition just obscures the possibility that most of the Passion Narrative comes from a source who was an eyewitness (John Mark himself in my opinion) and most of the rest comes from another eyewitness. (Though John is never named in the gospel bearing his name, he seems a likely candidate for the main role in collecting together and editing all of the Gospel of John. That would make him an eyewitness for much of both John 20 and 21.)

                              The Gospel of Luke has the odd circumstance of the author disclaiming himself as an eyewitness, but testifying to using eyewitness accounts. This would presumably include all of Luke 24, which would include the same eyewitness source as for John 20 (John Mark by my account), but also a large middle section unique to Luke, the Walk to Emmaus. As with most of Special Luke, the text is full of Semitisms, suggesting the writer was not a gentile. (I'm not saying the author of Luke was a Jew, though many scholars now suggest that that may be the case.) This writer may have been an eyewitness who told directly Luke 24:13-34 in what he himself wrote. This person with Cleopas most likely was his son Simon, the best choice as the "Simon" of Luke 24:34. That makes all of Luke 24:13-onwards from eyewitnesses (Simon and John Mark) and most of John 20 and 21 from eyewitnesses John and John Mark.

                              I don't regard Mark 16:9-20 as early and Mark 16:1-8 was not written by the woman (same as for Matthew 28:1-8) who saw it.

                              This is what got me confused about the eyewitness status of all the four gospels being the issue here. As I have stated above, I don't count the portions of Matthew unique to Matthew as from an eyewitness. Matthew 28 is the only Resurrection chapter, and I don't see any case for an eyewitness writing any of it. I even have a theory that what is now John 21 (vv. 1-17) was originally placed where Mark 16:9-20 is, and when that Galilee account in John 21 was gone it was later replaced in one instance by Matthew 28:9-20 and later by Mark 16:9-20 that omitted Galilee and Peter altogether! (There seems to have been some competition between Jerusalem and Galilee factions of earliest Christianity.)
                              Yes, I regard John 21:18-25 as having come from someone (or someones) else.Yes, and hearsay that may have been deliberately different in emphasis from the opposite John 21 version. But as for the scholars being divided, the main controversy remaining is that many believe that Mark 16:8 was the intended end (a quite ridiculous opinion in my view).
                              Yes, there are unique textual problems regarding the ending of Luke and the first dozen verses of Acts. The various summaries would not be so hard to reconcile if the original account had been written by an eyewitness.
                              Pretty good assessment of the text concerning the Resurrection.
                              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                              go with the flow the river knows . . .

                              Frank

                              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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