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The Acts of the Holy Spirit

Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby Blues notes » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:19 pm

Acts 1.9-11: Jesus rising up into the sky demonstrates the bible is unreliable

In Acts 1:9 - 11 we have a great example of the so-called reliable eyewitness testimony in the bible.

Let's quote:

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

This is by the author of the Gospel of Luke, I will remind you. Since we know that Heaven is not "up in the clouds" either this is a lie - claimed to be from eyewitnesses, no less, or Jesus was putting on a show to fool the rubes on the ground before he entered his Stargate in the clouds or something.

This can't be a mistake. Somebody made this up, obviously. And whether it was Luke or a previous author it proves lies made it into the Bible. Why should I believe any other "eyewitness" claims in the bible then?
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Re: Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby jimwalton » Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:30 pm

So let's talk.

> Since we know that Heaven is not "up in the clouds"

The text doesn't claim heaven is in the clouds. What it says is that ἐπήρθη: He was taken up, lifted up. We can assume he ascended off the surface of the earth, and that he returned to the Father (Jn. 1.1-4 and others).

Then it says "a cloud hid him from their sight." Clouds were often a symbol of God's presence and glory. A cloud overshadowed Jesus at the Transfiguration (Lk. 9.34). What the text means is that the disciples were granted a theophany: Jesus was enveloped in the cloud of the divine presence.

So you're mistaken to think the text claims that heaven is in the clouds. Therefore the eyewitnesses could have been telling the truth about what they saw, and therefore the text could be reliable. No lie, not a show for idiotic rubes, no Stargate. Not necessarily fiction, either. Your case doesn't hold any water.
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Re: Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby Blues notes » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:31 pm

This is why atheists don't have any respect for theists. Verse 11 Which you ignore ties it up all together. Heaven is up.
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Re: Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:39 pm

Ha. That's not why atheists don't have respect for theists. Instead, atheists don't respect theists because they're not convinced there's enough evidence to affirm the existence of God.

As to biblical studies and interpretation, atheists usually haven't studied nearly as deeply as Christians. Let's take Acts 1.11 for instance. I didn't ignore it; you'll notice that I didn't give a full commentary on the text. But let's talk about Acts 1.11. The first thing you need to realize is that most of the time when the NT talks about heaven, it's talking about the sky, not about the abode of God. You'll notice explicitly in v. 11 that "the sky" is equated with "heaven": “ ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ ” Jesus had been taken up into the sky, and the men were looking up into the sky, and the angels said Jesus would return via the sky. You'll notice that it's the same Greek word used in both instances. The men were not looking into "heaven"—the abode of God; they were looking into the SKY. Jesus had just ascended into the SKY also.

The text never claims that heaven is in the sky, and therefore the case of the OP is undermined by that misunderstanding. It's not true that Jesus raising demonstrates the Bible is unreliable.
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Re: Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby Pay No Attention » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:43 pm

> He was taken up, lifted up. We can assume he ascended off the surface of the earth, and that he returned to the Father

Ok. Please explain how witnesses saw him levitating to such an distance that he disappeared into the clouds. Are we suspending physics or should we assume some artistic license with this passage?
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Re: Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby jimwalton » Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:01 pm

> Ok. Please explain how witnesses saw him levitating to such an distance that he disappeared into the clouds

Sure. Read the text carefully. He didn't "disappear into the clouds." It says "a cloud hid him from their sight." Singular: a cloud. He was not so high he was lost in the clouds. As I mentioned in my post, "Clouds were often a symbol of God's presence and glory. A cloud overshadowed Jesus at the Transfiguration (Lk. 9.34). What the text means is that the disciples were granted a theophany: Jesus was enveloped in the cloud of the divine presence." It's indicating that Jesus returned to the Father, not that he was so high they couldn't see him anymore because of the clouds.

Jews would well understand the reference. God often manifests himself as a cloud. Jesus rose up until a cloud hid him from their sight. For all we know he was only 100 yards up. Who knows. Jews would understand this as a return to the Father, not a return to a spatial place "somewhere up there" that we call "heaven."

> Are we suspending physics or should we assume some artistic license with this passage?

We are not suspending physics as much as we are witnessing deity, not enslaved to physical laws. He rose off the surface of the earth as if levitating. In Greek stories, various heroes ascended to heaven, usually by dying and becoming gods. This was not the case with Jesus. He was alive and rose up from the surface of the ground. It suggests his divinity as a living deity, not as an honored-in-death one.

Any Roman reader of the time would also recognize an immediate counter-imperial message (such things were common in Luke's writings). By this era, the custom was well-established that emperors were declared divine after death, and there were always a few "witnesses" who would claim they glimpsed his soul ascending towards heaven, at which time said deceased emperor would be hailed as "son of god," on the basis that his father had also been deified. This story is not like it but runs counter to it: Jesus rose as a living Lord, sovereign over nature. Jesus was Lord, Caesar was not. There was inescapable political significance.

We don't assume any "artistic license," but instead the eyewitness account of those observing an actual historical event.
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Re: Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby Pay No Attention » Thu Jan 10, 2019 5:31 pm

> Sure. Read the text carefully. He didn't "disappear into the clouds." It says "a cloud hid him from their sight." Singular: a cloud. He was not so high he was lost in the clouds. As I mentioned in my post, "Clouds were often a symbol of God's presence and glory. A cloud overshadowed Jesus at the Transfiguration

I understand clouds can have importance throughout the Bible. However, just because there is a cloud, I don't know how you apply this significance to it. Is every mention of a cloud a secret metaphor or symbol? Furthermore, this still shows that Jesus was up in the air, levitating at the height of a cloud, against the laws of physics.

> Jews would well understand the reference. God often manifests himself as a cloud. Jesus rose up until a cloud hid him from their sight. For all we know he was only 100 yards up. Who knows. Jews would understand this as a return to the Father, not a return to a spatial place "somewhere up there" that we call "heaven."

100 feet in the air is pretty impressive. I am not sure why you dispute the height. Why can Jesus rise 100 feet above the Earth (believable), but not 10,000 feet above the Earth (unbelievable).

> We are not suspending physics as much as we are witnessing deity, not enslaved to physical laws. He rose off the surface of the earth as if levitating. In Greek stories, various heroes ascended to heaven, usually by dying and becoming gods. This was not the case with Jesus. He was alive and rose up from the surface of the ground. It suggests his divinity as a living deity, not as an honored-in-death one.

This is a very nice way of saying, "Physics does not apply to Jesus." You can say that. You also keep getting into the metaphorical realm, which I thought you were staying clear.
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Re: Jesus rising demonstrates the bible is unreliable

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:06 pm

> I understand clouds can have importance throughout the Bible. However, just because there is a cloud, I don't know how you apply this significance to it.

I apply this significance to it for several reasons. (1) It doesn't say "clouds," but cloud (singular). That's an important indicator. (2) This event is critical to NT theology: the death, resurrection, and ascension are a set. We would expect a theophany. (3) Jesus was explicit that he would be returning "to the Father" (Jn. 13.1; 14.2, 12, 28; 16.10; 17.11). He came from the Father (Jn. 1.14; 5.37; 6.57; 8.16; 12.49; 14.24), and would return to him (Jn. 13.3; 16.28). This is not just water vapor that he is ascending into. We have every reason to assume this is a theophanic cloud (Jn. 20.17).

> Is every mention of a cloud a secret metaphor or symbol?

Not every mention. We have to be smart about interpretation.

> 100 feet in the air is pretty impressive. I am not sure why you dispute the height. Why can Jesus rise 100 feet above the Earth (believable), but not 10,000 feet above the Earth (unbelievable).

I only mentioned that the height was uncertain because you seemed to think it unreasonable that he would be "levitating to such an (sic) distance."

> Furthermore, this still shows that Jesus was up in the air, levitating at the height of a cloud, against the laws of physics.

Against the laws of physics? Maybe not. Magnetic fields allow things to suspend or "levitate." It's possible he was working within the realm of some laws of physics.

> This is a very nice way of saying, "Physics does not apply to Jesus."

They don't, really, but we have no idea if he was defying the laws of physics or using them in certain ways (electromagnetic fields, for instance).

> You also keep getting into the metaphorical realm, which I thought you were staying clear.

I don't think I've said or implied anything was metaphorical. It really happened.


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