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The resurrection of Christ is the fulcrum of everything we believe, and a turning point in history, no matter what you believe. If it's real, the implications are immense. If it didn't happen, the implications are immense. Let's talk.

The difference between the resurrection and other miracles

Postby Piney » Tue Jul 03, 2018 3:54 pm

What the difference between the evidence of the resurrection and other miracles?

I want to know the difference in historical evidence of the ressurrection and other miracles, since the ressurrection is the fundament of our faith.

Example: The reformed author Warfield said, in the book counterfeit miracles:

Take another example which brings us closer to our present theme. Augustine tells us13 that in the neighboring town of Tullium there dwelt a countryman named Curma, who lay unconscious for some days, sick unto death, and in this state saw into the other world, as in a dream. When he came to himself, the first thing he did was to say: "Let some one go to the house of Curma the smith, and see how it is with him." Curma the smith was found to have died at the very moment in which Curma the farmer "had returned to his senses and almost been resuscitated from death." He then told that he had heard in that place whence he had just returned that it was not Curma the farmer but Curma the smith who had been ordered to be brought to the place of the dead. Augustine, now, tells us that he knew this man, and at the next Easter baptized him. It was not until two years later, however, that he learned of his vision; but then he sent for him and had him bring witnesses with him. He had his story from his own lips and verified all the circumstantial facts carefully by the testimony of others who had first-hand knowledge of them—Curma's sickness, his recovery, his narrative of what had befallen him, and the timely death of the other Curma. He not only himself believes it all, but clearly expects his readers to believe it on the ground of his testimony.

This, however, is only the beginning. Gregory the Great tells the same story14—not, however, on the authority of Augustine as having happened to Curma of Tullium, but as having happened within his own knowledge to an acquaintance of his own—"the illustrious Stephen," he calls him, a man well known (and that means favorably known), he says, to Peter, the friend to whom he is writing. Stephen, he says, had related to him frequently his wonderful experience. He had gone to Constantinople on business, and, falling sick, had died there. The embalmers being a little difficult to get at, the body was fortunately left overnight unburied. Meanwhile the soul was conducted to the lower regions and brought before the judge. The judge, however, repelled it, saying: "It was not this one, but Stephen the smith that I ordered to be brought." The soul was immediately returned to the body, and Stephen the smith, who lived near by, died at that very hour. Thus it was proved that "the illustrious Stephen" had really heard the words of the judge; the death of Stephen the smith demonstrated it. Are we bound, on the credit of Augustine and Gregory, both of whom relate it as having happened within their own knowledge to acquaintances of their own, to believe that this thing really did happen, happened twice, and in both cases through one of the same name being mistaken for a smith?

We are not yet, however, at the end of the matter. The same story is related by the heathen satirist Lucian,15 writing as far back as the third quarter of the second century—two hundred and fifty years before Augustine, and three hundred and fifty years before Gregory.

We are not yet, however, at the end of the matter. The same story is related by the heathen satirist Lucian,15 writing as far back as the third quarter of the second century—two hundred and fifty years before Augustine, and three hundred and fifty years before Gregory. Only, Lucian has this advantage over his Christian successors in his way of telling it, that he does not tell it as having really happened, but in a rollicking mood, laughing at the superstitions of his time. He brings before us a chance gathering of men, who, in their conversation, fall to vying with one another in "romancing" of their supernatural experiences. One of them, a Peripatetic, named Cleodemus, makes this contribution to the conversation. "I had become ill, and Antigonus here was attending me. The fever had been on me for seven days, and was now aggravated by the excessive heat. All my attendants were outside, having closed the door and left me to myself; those were your orders, you know, Antigonus; I was to get some sleep if I could. Well, I woke up to find a handsome young man standing by my side, in a white cloak. He raised me up from the bed, and conducted me through a sort of a chasm into Hades; I knew where I was at once, because I saw Tantalus and Tityus and Sisyphus, Not to go into details, I came to the judgment-hall, and there were Æacus and Charon, and the Fates and the Furies. One person of a majestic appearance—Pluto, I suppose it was—sat reading out the names of those who were due to die, their term of life having lapsed. The young man took me and set me before him, but Pluto flew into a rage: 'Away with him,' he said to my conductor; 'his thread is not yet out; go and fetch Demylus the smith; he has had his spindleful and more!' I ran off home, nothing loath. My fever had now disappeared, and I told everybody that Demylus was as good as dead. He lived close by, and was said to have some illness, and it was not long before we heard the voices of mourners in his house."

The late James Payne, the novelist, used whimsically to contend that fiction did not imitate life as was commonly supposed, but, on the contrary, life imitated fiction; a romancer could not invent a motive, he said, however bizarre, but a lot of people would soon be found staging copies of it in real life. Perhaps on some such theory we might defend the reality of the occurrences related by Augustine and Gregory as having happened within their own knowledge. Scarcely on any other. That the source of Augustine's and Gregory's stories lies in Lucian's is too obvious to require arguing; even the doomed smith is common to all three, and the strong heathen coloring of the story is not obscured, in Gregory's version at least, which clearly is independent of Augustine's.

The author narrates a lot of other probable counterfeit miracles.

So, both Gregory and Augustine were pious, intelligent men, but apparently reported a false thing. Even Augustine saying that he investigated the matter etc.

I think that, in some sense, the narration of Augustine (if wasn't our knowledge of the narration of Gregory and Lucian) could have more historical weight than the resurrection narration, because:

1- Augustine text isn't anonymous; 2) we know for sure because that wasn't anonymous, the qualities of the author, that Augustine was an intelligent, not superstitious man, who had nothing to gain with an invention like that; 3) Augustine maybe wrote few years after the event; 4) Augustine said that investigated the matter, found testimonies.

About the gospels:

We don't know for sure how many independent sources we have. The works are anonymous. We don't know if were written by ocular testimonies. They were written some decades after the event, and in some cases, even in other continents, by persons possibly far removed from the events, and:

Paul in Corinthians. But Paul did not distinguish his mystical experience and the traditionally understood bodily experiences of other apostles. How can we know that the 500 apparition wasn't an ecstatic event? Also: if Augustine, a pious and intelligent man committed a mistake narrating a miracle, why Paul, an intelligent and pious man could not commit?
Piney
 

Re: The difference between the resurrection and other miracl

Postby jimwalton » Wed Aug 01, 2018 7:27 am

The Bible makes no bones about God not being the only entity who can do miracles. The most prominent is the Beast (antichrist) in Rev. 13.13. Another text is Mt. 7.21-23. Other people will do miracles as well (1 Cor. 12.28). And, as your quotes suggest, there are people, both Christians and pagans, through history who have done miracles. Even Pharaoh's magicians replicated some of God's miracles through Moses (Ex. 7.22).

Actually, the Gospels generally use the term "signs." They were signs (not proofs) of Jesus's identity.

The resurrection is different because it left behind material evidence to be investigated. When Jesus walked on the water, it's not like anyone could look for footprints on the lake. When he changed water into wine, there wasn't any way to check what had happened. In the resurrection, the tomb was empty, and people came and saw it. People saw Jesus's resurrection body, and talked to him (he could have just zoomed straight to heaven and asked people to have "faith," but he didn't. He stood among them and let them see him and touch him for evidence).

The resurrection is also different because it actually is proof of what he was claiming: He has power over life and death, and death is defeated.

About the Gospels, I think the case is reasonably strong, having investigated it deeply, that the authors are Mt, Mk, Lk, and Jn, and therefore by people close to the events, even eyewitnesses. That they were written several decades after Jesus is no big deal. It's still easy to write reliably about, say Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, even though that was 22 years ago. We can even write reliably about Ronald Reagan, even though that was close to 40 years ago. There are still plenty of people around and a lot of information in our own lifetimes.

There is no evidence that the Gospels were written on other continents.

> But Paul did not distinguish his mystical experience and the traditionally understood bodily experiences of other apostles.

He most certainly did. In 1 Cor. 15.8 he suggests that Christ's appearance to him was physical, but in a qualitatively different way than it had been to the disciples. He can't possibly have been talking about a mystical experience, because he implies that he was the last person to have received such an experience. People have been having mystical visions of Christ even up to the present. Paul's experience was very much like the disciples' experiences, but also different. In other words, Paul saw Christ in the flesh, but not in the 40 days after the resurrection. It wasn't just mystical.

> How can we know that the 500 apparition wasn't an ecstatic event?

Because group hallucinations are impossible. Ecstatic events are always individual.

> if Augustine, a pious and intelligent man committed a mistake narrating a miracle, why Paul, an intelligent and pious man could not commit?

Because Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.


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