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8/03/2017 10:50 am  #11


Re: Okay, the resurrection is probably historical...

RomanJoe wrote:

After reading through NT Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, William Lane Craig's writings on the resurrection, and Michael Licona's The Resurrection: A New Historiographical Approach, I think Jesus' resurrection is probably historical. Here's my issue: this still doesn't get me to Christianity, let alone Catholicism. How can one get to the belief that Jesus is God, that he established and gave authority to a Church, that this Church has endured to today?

I hope my contribution here can still be of some use, even though this thread has been inactive for two months. On this post I will focus on the belief that Jesus is God.

A straightforward basis for that belief is believing that the text of John's Gospel and/or the book of Revelations is divinely inspired. Readers of this post at this point will probably be thinking of the first verse of John's Gospel, and surely it is important, but there is a passage that may be an even stronger affirmation of Jesus' divinity, not from a conceptual viewpoint but from a faithful-behavioural one (i.e. the faithful's willed-by-God behaviour):

The Evangelist John wrote:

"The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him."  (Jn 5:22-23)

IMV, this passage makes it amazing that there could be anyone at all, let alone as many as the Arians of the IV-VI centuries, that, at the same time, held John's Gospel to be divinely inspired and denied the consubstantiality of God the Father and his Son. Because if the Son were not "homoousios" with the Father, then Jn 5:23 would be stating that God's will is that all commit idolatry, because God is honored by worship, and idolatry is just worship of an entity that is not God. Accordingly, the cosmic worship in Rev 5:13 is addressed to the Father and the Son equally.

But even if someone would adopt a freethinker position regarding Christian Revelation and posit that John's Gospel is a later elaboration which does not contain Jesus' actual words, there are passages in the synoptic Gospels which are unequivocal affirmations of Jesus' divinity, this time from a Jesus-behavioural viewpoint. One such passage is when Jesus forgives the sins of a paralytic in Capernaum and then heals him:

The Evangelist Mark wrote:

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mk 2:5-7; also Mt 9:2-3 and Lk 5:20-21).

Another such passage is the part of the Sermon of the Mount where Jesus fulfills the Law of Moses, specifically the six passages of the form:

The Evangelist Matthew wrote:

"You have heard that it was said to the ancients [OT commandment] But I say to you that [Jesus' new commandment]". (Mt 5:17-48, six times with some variations)

To understand the significance of these passages, we must take into account that the OT commandments in question, such as ‘You shall not murder’ or ‘‘You shall not commit adultery’, had been said to the ancients not by Moses but by God Himself. Now, it is perfectly conceivable that God Himself could upgrade his own commandments, such as when a fitness trainer increases the demand placed on his trainees as they become more fit, or as when a teacher increases the level of difficulty in the exercises he gives to his students as they become more proficient in the subject. Thus, if Jesus had said "But the Lord says to you that [...]", he would have acted just like a prophet speaking in the name of God. But Jesus' actual statements (i.e. if you hold the veracity of this passage of Matthew's Gospel) were "But I say to you that [...]". He was giving his new commandments, and thus upgrading God's old commandments, on his own authority, therefore inequivocally placing Himself at the level of God.

To note, the charge of blasphemy that the Gospels record was raised against Jesus, both during his ministry and in his trial, does not refer to the specific and technical definition of blasphemy, which according to tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter VII, Mishna VI, requires the blasphemer to have mentioned the Name, i.e. the Tetragrammaton, which Jesus never did.  Rather, the charge of blasphemy refers to Jesus' claim of divinity.

Also to note, the Sanhedrin's charge against Jesus is more precisely stated from a Jewish legal standpoint in the Talmudic retelling of Jesus' trial, as "instigation to perform idolatry", which is the logical consecuence of the substance of the charge against Jesus in the Gospels, namely his claim of divinity, if the Rabbis writing the Gemara thought, as they obviously did, that Jesus was not God. (In case someone is interested, I wrote an article on the subject of the trial of Jesus some years ago.)
 

Last edited by Johannes (8/03/2017 11:16 am)

 

8/03/2017 12:14 pm  #12


Re: Okay, the resurrection is probably historical...

RomanJoe wrote:

After reading through NT Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, William Lane Craig's writings on the resurrection, and Michael Licona's The Resurrection: A New Historiographical Approach, I think Jesus' resurrection is probably historical. Here's my issue: this still doesn't get me to Christianity, let alone Catholicism. How can one get to the belief that Jesus is God, that he established and gave authority to a Church, that this Church has endured to today?

On this post I will focus on the belief that Jesus established and gave authority to a Church, and that this Church has endured to today.

A straightforward basis for that belief is the belief in the divine inspiration of Mt 16:17-19, which I quote below with the 1st half of Mt 16:18 literally translated from the (non-preserved but obvious) original Aramaic into English. (In the Aramaic words spoken by Jesus, both instances of "rock" in Mt 16:18 were "kepha", a masculine name suitable for a man's name. When the text was translated to Greek, by Matthew or the final author, as the Greek word "petra" for a rock is feminine, the 1st Kepha was changed to "Petros", i.e. masculine ending, to make it suitable for a man's name.)

The Evangelist Matthew wrote:

And Jesus answering, said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Rock, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:17-19)

Thus, Jesus said that He intended to build a church and promised that "the gates of Hades will not prevail against it". Now, we can ask ourselves two questions about that promise:

1. What is the time span of validity of the promise? For as long as Peter was alive, i.e. until 64 or 68 AD? For as long as any of the Apostles was alive, i.e. until around 100 AD? Or rather the time span of validity must be inferred from the ending of Matthew's Gospel?

The Evangelist Matthew wrote:

“And behold, I am with you all the days, until the completion of the age." (Mt 28:20b)

2. What is the scope of the promise? I.e., what does it mean that "the gates of Hades will not prevail against" the Church? The answer is in the passage where Jesus teaches the Jews what the Hades' dweller desires to do:

The Evangelist John wrote:

“You are of your father the devil, and you desire to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he might speak falsehood, he speaks from the own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (Jn 8:44)

Therefore, if "the gates of Hades will not prevail against" the Church, specifically against a Church that was built on the rock of Peter, that Church will always teach the truth revealed by God without any mix of falsehood. Which is in line with this passage of the Apostle Paul:

The Apostle Paul wrote:

but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Tim 3:15)

 

Last edited by Johannes (8/03/2017 12:17 pm)

 

8/04/2017 12:42 pm  #13


Re: Okay, the resurrection is probably historical...

One would presumably first want to know whether the Gospels are generally historically reliable or not. I think you can make that case, at least in substance if not detail.

Then, if taken to be reliable, you'd want to know what exactly the Synoptic Gospels have to say about Jesus's claims to divinity. For example, you'd need to understand what Jesus's references to the Son of Man and the Kingdom of Heaven have to do with the prophecies in Daniel to know what type of Messiah he's portrayed as (e.g. was it merely political or something more?). Then you'd want to look at specific accounts of miracles and what those accounts are being used to illustrate, e.g. Jesus use of the well-known "I AM" of YHWH in the Old Testament to refer to himself when he is walking on water.

You'd need to look at potential aspects of self-revelation as well, e.g. his forgiving of sins when healing the paralytic and his discussion of the Messiah not merely being a descendant of David but also his Lord. Finally we might consider reasons why Jesus was convicted of blasphemy; it certainly wasn't because he claimed to be the Messiah, so what was it? And so on. 

I can go into a bit more depth on any of this if you'd like but I just thought I'd give a general summary. I've picked up most of this stuff from Catholic NT scholar Brant Pitre. His book The Case for Jesus is a nice read.

 

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