|Why didn't the disciples understand that Jesus would be resurrected?|
The operative claim examined for this article is that the texts indicate that the apostles "had not expected [Jesus'] resurrection," or had a "skepticism of a resurrection" in spite of being told by Jesus that it would happen.
On the surface this seems like rather an odd objection from a Skeptic -- by their usual accounting, the apostles should have been skeptical of a resurrection; Skeptics usually reserve their greatest admiration for Thomas, the most skeptical of the set, who didn't believe until he had tangible proof. Why should it then be a problem that the apostles were skeptical, if indeed they were? Why is this unbelievable?
Even so, let's have a look at some of the claims. The first passage to consider is John 20:9:
Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Aside from the issue that the OT didn't predict the resurrection at all -- for that matter we presently refer the reader here -- were the disciples indeed so dense?
Probably not. First let's understand exactly what is in John here.
The words are "rise again from the dead" -- "rise again" is a word derived from the Greek anistemi. In fact this we will see is the key to the whole issue; the word is commonly used for anyone just getting up from their place. (Matthew 9:9 And he arose, and followed him.) But more on that shortly. Now let's look at the next example of supposed skepticism:
Luke also indicated that the disciples of Jesus had not expected his resurrection, for Luke said that after Peter looked inside at the linen cloths, "he went home, wondering at that which had come to pass" (24:12). Numerous references to the apostles' skepticism of a resurrection appear elsewhere in the New Testament (Lk. 24:11,38; Jn. 20:24-25; Matt. 28:17).
Luke 24:12 doesn't mean skepticism -- the word is thaumazo, and it means to wonder at in the sense of marvelling or admiring. It's the same word used to describe Jesus' positive reaction to the centurion's faith (Matthew 8:10). Peter was amazed at something, indeed a miracle; but what was it? We'll get to that shortly. On the other hand, some of the other passages seem a bit stronger...in English:
Luke 24:11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
Luke 24:37-8 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
There's also the doubting Thomas incident, of course, and the some doubting even before the resurrected Jesus himself (Matthew 28:17). But now let's switch gears, to places where we are told Jesus clearly gave his people the straight news about him being about to rise from the dead:
From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and the third day be raised up (Matt. 16:21).
The word used this time is egeiro -- and this means be roused, or woken up, whether from bed, from death, or from obscurity. This is not as clearly implying a resurrection as you might think it is -- why? Same reason as the other word -- it, too, has a broad meaning, though it is usually used of people who have been sick. (Matthew 8:15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.) Mark, though, substitutes anistemi on the parallel passage, while Luke follows Matthew, using the same word only once.
It is worth pointing out here that all of these writers are writing in hindsight having already seen the resurrected Jesus and touched him, and having preached the gospel for a while -- when Jesus said these words (in Aramaic), they were probably as ambiguous, if not more so. Next up:
And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men; and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised up. And they were exceeding(ly) sorry (Matt. 17:22-23).
Matthew uses egeiro here; but he uses anistemi in Matthew 20:18-19, which is also found in Mark 9:31 and Luke 18 (twice). Now our Skeptic admits that in the latter case, the texts say that the disciples didn't get the point, but dismisses this as a discrepancy, because "Matthew clearly indicated that they did understand him." How? Thusly:
The first time they were told, for example, Peter took Jesus aside, rebuked him, and said, "God forbid it Lord! This must never happen to you" (Matt. 16:22). The second time Jesus told them, Matthew said that they were "exceedingly sorry," but how could they have been exceedingly sorry about something they didn't even understand?
How indeed? Let us not forget that most of those predictions were pretty grim -- being executed, notably. That's plenty to be sorry about and to forbid.
"But," it is replied, "They still knew he would be resurrected, so why be sorry?" Indeed, why be sorry when any person dies? None of us seems to preserve a view of eternity long enough to stop mourning at funerals, even those of us who anticipate a resurrection.
Besides, considering the general acceptance of the phenomenon of resurrection in those times (Mk. 6:14-16), what was there to misunderstand when a man said he would "rise again" after he had been killed?
What indeed? This is exactly the answer, because there was something to misunderstand, and our initial John passage holds the clue. As for the above, one wonders how Herod's bewildered exclamations amount to a "general acceptance of the phenomenon of resurrection". One man counts as "general acceptance"? The man on the street didn't seem to have that idea (6:15) at any rate -- and we have no idea what process Herod saw behind John's supposed revival.
I'll tie this knot shortly, but:
On the way to Jerusalem, [Jesus] took them aside, told them that he would be (1) delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, (2) condemned to death, (3) delivered to the Gentiles to be mocked, (4) scoured, (5) crucified, and (6) raised on the third day. After their arrival in Jerusalem, the apostles saw Jesus (1) delivered up to the chief priests and scribes, (2) condemned to death, (3) delivered to the Gentiles and mocked, (4) scoured, and (5) crucified, yet somehow, after personally witnessing these five specific fulfillments of Jesus's statement, they didn't expect him to be resurrected. Why? One would think that if Jesus had really told them to expect all of these things, after witnessing the precise fulfillment of the first five of his predictions, they would have surely expected at least a possibility of the sixth.
Items 1-5 happened to a lot of Jews in those days; there were plenty of poor folk being bothered, and all kinds of bandits harrassing people. So, then, where's the skepticism? If I tell you that I will 1) be arrested 2) go to jail 3) go to trial 4) be found guilty 5) be put in handcuffs 6) be broken out of jail by a flying green quetzalcoatl, does the fulfillment of 1-5 really impress you that #6 is sure to happen?
Actually I'm being facetious -- we need to address one more set of points before we emerge with the answer. In this set, the objection is made that some other folks did apparently get the point, and it seems strange that they did while the disciples didn't. First up:
[The apostles] had to be sought out and told, and even then they considered the news the women brought to them to be only "idle talk" (Luke 24:11). The women were telling them exactly what Jesus had said would happen, and they thought their words were just idle talk!
Indeed! Once again, where's the skepticism? Let's remember that women were regarded as untrustworthy witnesses in this time; who would have put it past them to be imagining things, especially those two angels? That's why Peter did indeed make the trip in the very next verse. Luke 24:7 uses that anistemi again, and our Skeptic thinks, hey, the women could recall it, but of course they did have an angel reminding them. But it really is moot. Let's move to the next set:
In the conversation that Jesus had with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on resurrection day, Cleopas, after summarizing the events surrounding the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, clearly indicated that he understood a resurrection was supposed to happen the third day:
But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things came to pass (Luke 24:21).
How does this indicate that Cleopas "understood a resurrection was supposed to happen"? There isn't an anistemi or an egeiro in sight.
One more passage before we let out the answer:
Even the enemies of Jesus understood that he had predicted his resurrection. After Jesus had been put into the tomb, they came to Pilate to ask that precautions be taken to prevent a staged fulfillment of the prediction:
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, 'He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first" (Matt. 28:62-64, NRSV).
So the women remembered that Jesus had predicted his resurrection, the disciples at Emmaus remembered it, and the enemies of Jesus remembered it. Everyone apparently remembered it except Jesus's own handpicked apostles.
Our Skeptic wants to know: why weren't the apostles, at least one of them, "on the scene themselves that third-day morning at least waiting to see if Jesus would come forth"?
For good reason! They weren't expecting a resurrection, all right, but they were expecting something else -- something that would remove the body, but it wouldn't be a resurrection, and there'd be nothing worth sitting and waiting for at the door of the tomb.
Jewish belief of this period had an expectation of resurrection, yes -- but not until the final judgment. The idea of a single person being resurrected before that (and maybe some with him, like Matt's saints) wasn't part of the package.
We have noted that the two words used to describe resurrection in the Gospels, especially anistemi, have more mundane meanings attached to them. When describing the physical resurrection, Paul almost universally uses egeiro (1 Cor. 15) -- he does use anistemi in Rom 14:9, but adds the word anazao, meaning "live again". In Eph. 5:14 he uses anistemi, but pairs it with nekros ("rise from the dead"). In his earliest letter, 1 Thessalonians, he uses anistemi (4:14). But his overall word to refer to resurrection is egeiro -- which is used mainly in the Gospels for people getting up from beds and seats.
Both words are verbs, and they carry a broad meaning -- and they are not term-specific to resurrection. The only word that is term-specific to resurrection, if anything is, is the noun form of anistemi -- and that is anastasis. It is used in the Gospels only with reference to the final resurrection (e.g., Matt. 22:23, "The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection...") The others are general-movement words. And now this leads back to our first verse, which is the key to the whole thing:
Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
How could John have believed, yet also not understood about the resurrection? Because he, and the other apostles, and everyone else (including the chief priests and co.) were not expecting a resurrection -- they were expecting (or for the priests, expecting a claim of) a "taking up" of the body after the manner of Elijah, Moses (in the apocryphal works) or Enoch. This would have been a sign that Jesus' life was brought to an orderly conclusion and that he had been vindicated by God.
And now we see how it is that the disciples misunderstood and were surprised, and how the enemies still wanted the tomb guarded, and why the apostles were still sorry to see Jesus go, and why Jesus had to tell Mary, "I have not yet ascended to the Father", and why the disciples thought they were seeing a spirit -- all parties knew that Jesus predicted the body would be missing; what they didn't get the point on was the mechanism, because there was no room in their belief system for a specific resurrection prior to the general one. They knew he was going, but not that he was coming back so soon.
Answers to Objections
Matthew's report that many saints come out of their graves after Jesus was resurrected should have contributed to an expectation that Jesus would be resurrected.
By then, one might suggest, it was a little too late; and there is no indication that any of the saints appeared specifically to the disciples of Jesus and showed themselves off. Indeed Matthew specifies that they came out of their tombs after the resurrection (27:53) -- a way of giving Jesus the honor of being the first to emerge from his own tomb.
The disciples knew that Jesus would be resurrected on the third day (Mark 8:31; Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 18:31-33).
All three of these use anistemi, a word we have discussed above. Indeed Luke even says, "And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken." Matthew's account is a parallel without the condemnation, and Mark has Jesus rebuking Peter for refusing to accept what Jesus had said. Rather than providing evidence that the disciples understood that Jesus was to be resurrected three days subsequent to his death in a bodily manner, the verses cited establish quite the opposite: The disciples were taught, but did not comprehend the teaching at the time, even to the point (with Peter) of vehemently protesting it.
What about the raising of Jairus' daughter and the raising of Lazarus? That would have given them some idea what would have happened.
These were not "resurrections" as the word is properly defined in a Jewish context.
EIn John 20:2-15, Mary thinks that Jesus' body had been moved, and so she was not apparently expecting an ascension.
This is rather ironic as an aobjection, since as I note, this section contains two of the stronges passages suggesting an ascension was expected by the disciples; beyond that it might be noted that we have no indication that Mary Magdelene was ever present for any of Jesus' teachings on the subject. She is seen to travel with Jesus on one trip (Luke 8:2), but otherwise, never makes an appearance until the tomb visir. If Jesus operated in a typical teacher-disciple paradigm for the ancient world, then a woman would not have usually joined in the teaching sesssions; beyond that, ancient teachers typically kept certain teachings only for an inner circle of disciples. Mary's lack of knowledge, and for that matter the perplexity of the other women in Luke 24:4 (though the word refers more to a state of mind of, "Well, great, now what do we do?" -- and does not specify the reason for the perplexity -- did they think they had come to the wrong place, for example?), doesn't mean a whole lot once the broader context of the ancient world is allowed into the picture.
What about all of Jesus' prior miracles? Wouldn't that warn the disciples that a resurrection would occur?
I completely agree that the previous miracles of Jesus would have been a sign to the disciples that something miraculous could indeed have been in the works after Jesus' death. But their expectations, as noted, would have governed what they expected that "something" to be.
Where in the OT is it predicted that Jesus would rise on the third day?
The usual cite of a "third day" prophecy is Hosea 6:2, "After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." Now of course Skeptics since Paine have claimed that this is no prophecy, it predicts nothing. In their view a prophecy is not a prophecy unless it says, "At 11:05 AM on Thursday Peter will slip on a banana peel."
Paine and Skeptics since are thinking time out of mind. Hebrews also viewed prophecy as thematic in nature. In other words, if there was a story of Samuel slipping on a banana peel in the Temple and breaking his nose (1 Samuel 2:76), then if Peter slips on a banana peel, he would be seen as "fulfilling" 1 Samuel 2:76, even if he did it in the market square and broke something else. Or, let us say that in Psalm 153, David lamented the dangers of slipping on banana peels. Again, Peter "fulfilled" Ps. 153 by slipping on a banana peel himself. Thus by rising on the third day, Jesus would be regarded as having "fulfilled" Hos. 6:2, for he enacted the theme stated in Hos. 6:2.
This is where Miller's material here comes into play. The NT writers were doing no more or less than their contemporaries:
The short answer here is that the early Jewish Christians were altogether unoriginal and "uncreative" (almost boring) in their exegesis and use of scripture! Other groups within pre-Christian and even early post-NT Judaism were MUCH more creative with the OT: the Rabbi's with their midrash, the Qumran-ites with their 'near' eschatology, the Hellenistic Jews (e.g. Philo) with their allegorizing, and the various authors of the Pseudepigraphical works with their pseudonymity...
Miller asks the question, "Did the early Jewish believers radically depart from 'acceptable' practices of OT exegesis, argument, and usage? In other words, do their practices as evidenced in the NT documents find material parallels in the various writings of the time? To what extent are their arguments, texts, exegetical practices mirrored in the literature of the day?" The core question beyond this, relevant to Hos. 6:2: "Do they use similar interpretive approaches to the text? In other words, do the other Jews of the period use the same kinds of exegetical rules (e.g., pesher midrash, typological)?" Here we will report Miller's material in detail, commenting as needed:
The second category is a fascinating one: Did the early Jewish Christians use the same exegetical methods as 1st century Jewry (even given the wide variety within this Jewry)?
Now, how could we approach this question?
There are a couple of items to consider here:
1. We could first look at the various interpretive approaches scholars have identified and see how the NT exegesis compares.
2. We could look at accepted rabbinical exegetical rules of the day (e.g. Hillel) and see if they were used.
3. We might try to reality-check the level of 'innovation/creativity' in the various strands of Judaism of the day and see if NT exegesis was 'conservative' or 'wildly creative' by comparison.
First, let's examine the interpretive approaches in the period.
There were four approaches at the time: literalist, midrash, pesher, allegorical. This extended description from Longenecker [BEALE:380ff] will set the stage, as well as summarize some of the data of the period:
"Jewish exegesis of the first century can generally be classified under four headings: literalist, midrashic, pesher, and allegorical. Admittedly, such a fourfold classification highlights distinctions of which the early Jewish exegetes themselves may not have always been conscious. In dealing with a system of thought that thinks more holistically, functionally, and practically than analytically--one that stresses precedent over logic in defense of its ways--any attempt at classification must necessarily go beyond that system's explicit statements as to its own principles. Nevertheless, we still maintain, Jewish interpretations of Scripture fall quite naturally into one or other of these four categories.
After a summary of literalist methods, this is described:
"The central concept in rabbinic exegesis, and presumably that of earlier Pharisees as well, was "midrash." The word comes from the verb darash (to resort to, seek; figuratively, to read repeatedly, study, interpret), and strictly denotes an interpretive exposition however derived and irrespective of the type of material under consideration. In the Mishnah, the Palestinian Gemaras, and the earlier Midrashim the verb peshat and derash are used in roughly synonymous fashion, for the earlier rabbis (the Tannaim) did not see any difference between their literal interpretations and their more elaborate exegetical treatment. Only among the Amoraite rabbis, sometime in the fourth century C.E were literalist exegesis and midrash exegesis consciously differentiated. But while not recognized as such until later, midrashic exegesis can be seen in retrospect to have differed from literalist exegesis among the Pharisaic teachers of the New Testament period.
"Midrashic exegesis ostensibly takes its point of departure from the biblical text itself (though psychologically it may have been motivated by other factors) and seeks to explicate the hidden meanings contained therein by means of agreed-upon hermeneutical rules (e.g., Rabbi Hillel's seven Middoth; Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha's later set of thirteen; Rabbi Eliezer ben Jose ha-Galili's thirty-two). The purpose of midrash exegesis is to contemporize the revelation of God given earlier for the people of God living later in a different situation. What results may be characterized by the maxim: "That has relevance for This"--that is, what is written in Scripture has relevance for our present situation. In so doing, early Judaism developed what George Foote Moore once aptly defined as "an atomistic exegesis, which interprets sentences, clauses, phrases, and even single words, independently of the context or the historical occasion, as divine oracles; combines them with other similar detached utterances; and makes large use of analogy of expression often by purely verbal association" (Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, 1.248).
"The expositions in the texts from Qumran are usually introduced by the term "pesher," which stems from the Aramaic word pishar meaning "solution" or "interpretation." There are also instances where "midrash" appears in the texts (e.g., lQS 6.24; 8.15, 26; CD 20.6; 4QFlor 1, 14), though in these cases the word is used in a non-technical sense to mean only "interpretation" generally. The Dead Sea sectarians considered themselves to be the elect community of the final generation of the present age, living in the last days of "messianic travail" before the eschatological consummation. Theirs was the task of preparing for the coming of the messianic age. And so to them applied certain prophecies in Scripture that were considered to speak of their present situation."
"While the rabbis sought to contemporize Holy Writ so as to make God's Torah relevant to their circumstances, the Dead Sea covenanters looked upon Scripture from what they accepted was a revelatory perspective (based on the interpretations of the Teacher of Righteousness) and emphasized imminent, catastrophic fulfillment. Their maxim seems to have been: "This is That"--that is, our present situation is depicted in what is written in Scripture. Qumran's pesher interpretation of the Old Testament, therefore, is neither principally "commentary" nor "midrashic exegesis," though it uses the forms of both. As Cecil Roth pointed out: "It does not attempt to elucidate the Biblical text, but to determine the application of Biblical prophecy or, rather, of certain Biblical prophecies; and the application of these Biblical prophecies in precise terms to current and even contemporary events" ("The Subject Matter of Qumran Exegesis," Vetus Testamentum 10 : 51-52).
By this description Hos. 6:2 is read in a midrashic fashion: "That [Hos. 6:2] has relevance for this [Jesus rising on the third day]" -- interpreting the phrase about the third day "independently of the context or the historical occasion," as a divine oracle, making large use of analogy of expression by purely verbal association.
"The Jewish roots of Christianity make it a priori likely that the exegetical procedures of the New Testament would resemble to some extent those of then contemporary Judaism. This has long been established with regard to the hermeneutics of Paul vis-a-vis the Talmud, and it is becoming increasingly clear with respect to the Qumran texts as well. Indeed, there is little indication in the New Testament itself that the canonical writers were conscious of varieties of exegetical genre or of following particular modes of interpretation. At least they seem to make no sharp distinctions between what we would call historico-grammatical exegesis, midrash, pesher, allegory, or interpretations based on "corporate solidarity" or "typological correspondences in history." All of these are used in their writings in something of a blended and interwoven fashion. Yet there are discernible patterns and individual emphases among the various New Testament authors.
"In almost all of the New Testament authors one can find some literalist, straightforward exegesis of biblical texts. Occasionally some allegorical interpretation is also present. The pesher method, however dominates a certain class of material, namely that representative of Jesus' early disciples: principally Peter's preaching recorded in the early chapters of Acts, the Gospels of Matthew and John, and 1 Peter. Here these authors seem to be taking Jesus' own method of using Scripture as their pattern. By revelation they had come to know that "this" manifest in the work and person of Jesus "is that" of which the Old Testament speaks. Yet other New Testament writers, notably Paul and the author of Hebrews, can be characterized by a midrashic type of biblical interpretation (except where Paul uses a pesher approach in describing his own apostolic calling). Midrashic interpretation in the hands of these authors starts with Scripture and seeks to demonstrate christological relevance by means of a controlled atomistic exegesis.
This extended quote should demonstrate that the NT disciples were in fact not innovative or unusual in their approaches to exegesis.
Now obviously the use of the text in this way assumes two things that would have been assumed by the NT writers: 1) that the OT texts were inspired, 2) that, as Miller puts it, "their personal experience of God's in-breaking in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth" allowed them to define and interpret the texts. Obviously Skeptics would raise doubts on both of these points, and interpreters like Crossan say that the raising of Jesus on the third day was a fiction inspired by passages like Hos. 6:2.
Thus it is absurd to write as though there was no "third-day prophecy" simply because it does not take the format a literalist interpreter thinks it should.
"Foremost among the distinctive elements of early Christianity was its sense of history. Other Jews might locate the decisive acts of God in the distant past of sacred history, or, with the apocalyptists and the men of Qumran, in the imminent future; but for the Christians the decisive work of God was in Jesus the Messiah, whose recent life, death and resurrection many of them had witnessed, and whose deeds and words were the basis of their faith and the subject of those writings they called 'gospels'. So while other Jews looked to the scriptures to discover and interpret the distant past, or to understand their present situation with a view to discerning what God was about to do, the Christians turned to those same scriptures as the pattern and promise which had already and recently been fulfilled. Their interest, then, was not in the Old Testament in itself, but in the Old Testament as it is fulfilled in Jesus.
And this was not a function of their being particularly 'clever' or 'creative' at all! Indeed, the picture we get in the NT is very uncomplimentary of those early followers. But they watched Jesus, and His approaches to Scripture and His approaches to matters of interpretation, and His approach to matters of practice, and they learned and passed this on to others. It was, accordingly, not THEIR action or approaches that created this difference--it was Jesus'. So, Ellis [OTEC:101]:
"It has been argued above that, in terms of method, the early Christian use of the Old Testament was thoroughly Jewish and had much in common with other Jewish groups. Much more significant than method, however, was the interpretation of Scripture offered by Jesus and his followers. In some respects this also agrees with previous Jewish interpretation, but in others it displays an innovative and unique departure. Sometimes the New Testament writers (to whom we shall limit this survey), and Jesus as he is represented by them, set forth their distinctive views in a biblical exegesis; sometimes they appear, at least to us, simply to presuppose a 'Christian' exegetical conclusion. They apparently derive their particular understanding of Scripture both from Jesus' teaching and from implications drawn from his resurrection from the dead.
Longenecker points to both this continuity and this starting point of Jesus [BEALE:384]: "[T]he early Christians used many of the same exegetical procedures as were common within the various branches of then contemporary Judaism, and that they did so quite naturally and unconsciously...that they seem to have looked to Jesus' own use of Scripture as the source and initial paradigm for their own use It was Jesus who pointed His hearers and followers to the inspired text, and who explained that HE was the hermeneutical center of this awesome revelation: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5.39)...
Ellis draws much of this together in OTEC:121, and his words bear repeating: "Biblical interpretation in the New Testament church shows in a remarkable way the Jewishness of earliest Christianity. It followed exegetical methods common to Judaism and drew its perspective and presuppositions from Jewish backgrounds. However, in one fundamental respect the early Christian hermeneutic differed from that of other religious parties and theologies in Judaism, that is, in the christological exposition of the Scripture totally focused upon Jesus as the Messiah. This different focus decisively influences both the perspective from which they expound the Old Testament and the way in which their presuppositions are brought to bear upon the specific biblical texts. Their perspective and presuppositions provide, in turn, the theological framework for the development of their exegetical themes and for the whole of New Testament theology.
"First-century Judaism was a highly diverse phenomenon, as becomes apparent from a comparison of the writings of Philo, Josephus, Qumran, the (traditions of the) rabbis and the early Christians. The New Testament, which as far as I can see was written altogether by Jews, is a part of that diversity but also a part of that Judaism. Its writers were Jews, but Jews who differed from the majority of the nation and who in time found the greater number of their company of faith not among their own people but among the Gentiles. And still today, apart from a continuing Judeo-Christian minority, the church remains a community of Gentiles, but Gentiles with a difference. For as long as Gentile Christians give attention to their charter documents, they can never forget that as those who are joined to a Jewish Messiah they are in a manner of speaking 'adopted Jews' or, in Paul's imagery, branches engrafted into the ancient tree of Israel and a people who have their hope in the promise given to Abraham. The centrality of the Old Testament in the message of Jesus and his apostles and prophets underscores that fact.
The gospel records contain many passages that purport to be the very words that Jesus said on different occasions. Are you arguing that because they were writing from hindsight, the gospel authors didn't report what Jesus had really said?
Obviously they did not, in a very real sense, report what Jesus said, since Jesus likely did not speak Greek, certainly not as an everyday language. Moreover, this objection is derived from a fundamentalist mindset which supposes that inerrancy means that the Gospels must report all of Jesus' words, exactly as he said them, and exactly when he said them. On this matter, see here.
You say we are still sorry when any person dies, even if we anticipate a resurrection, But at funerals, the mourners know that their friends and relatives are permanently dead as far as this life--which is the only life anyone has any guarantee of--is concerned, but Jesus was telling his disciples that he would be killed but would rise again the third day.
That's a difference with no difference, and misses the point I make, which is that the even mourners with a belief in resurrection, who "know" their loved ones are saved, do not cease to be sorry even as they believe that another life is coming. In other words, this is a non-argument. But as I go on to show anyway, if the disciples believed an ascension was at hand, they would still be "sorry" because third day or no third day, it meant they would be without Jesus and it would be as bad as losing him as we lose a relative.
In Mark 6:15, some of the people were indeed saying that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead, so this wasn't just an opinion that Herod alone had. Others were saying that Jesus was Elijah, so these would have been people who believed that Elijah and not John the Baptist had been resurrected.
The "others" are "others" compared to Herod -- not "others" compared to other people who agreed with Herod.
What about Luke's parallel, "Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead"?
We have no idea who "some" were, whether they were men on the street, or Herod's retainers, or what have you, but it really makes no difference. This cannot be made into into a "general acceptance" of resurrection, for the texts tell us nothing about the actual putative process of the raising of John (by the specific process of a glorified body, or raised as one returning to a "normal" body?) and nothing about the percentage of people who held each opinion.
The New Testament gospels were written in Greek, and if you only understood the Greek mind a little better, you would know that women were not at all held in the low regard that they were in Hebrew culture.
I guess these Hebrew men and women were supposed to be anticipating that their story would be written in Greek at some point, and therefore should have started behaving like Greeks and not Hebrews?
The reference of Cleopas to the third day makes no sense unless it is interpreted as a reference to Jesus's promise to rise on the third day.
There are still no grounds for assuming what exactly Cleopas was expecting -- not so much as a descriptive word to base the matter on, meaning that this verse should be left out of consideration of what was expected. As it is, Cleopas' reaction fits just fine with our paradigm, that the disciples were expecting an ascension, and that that was what he thought had happened.
If the members of a cult had really believed that the body of their dead leader would be taken away in the night by some mysterious means, they themselves would have set up a watch to prevent it from happening.
By "some mysterious means"?? I.e., by God? These "cult members" would think they could do something to stop God from taking up the body? I can't be sure what the objection is on about here. Anguish or no anguish, I doubt if anyone has the nerve to suggest that these disciples thought they could stop God from taking the body into heaven.
The idea of resurrection didn't find its way into Jewish literature until the postexilic era after the Jews in captivity had encountered the idea in Persian religious thought and brought it back with them.
I will report on this in more detail in a 2010 book, Defending the Resurrection, but here is a summation. There is no direct evidence that the Jews borrowed from the Persians, or the Persians borrowed from the Jews, or anyone borrowed from anyone. As I know from doing a "pagan copycat" piece on Zoroaster, Zoroastrian scholars offer no consensus on the subject; some say the Jews borrowed, others say there is no way to tell who borrowed, and others who say that the borrowing was the other way. But none of this has anything to do with that the Jews of the first century had no belief in resurrections happening prior to the final judgment.