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Standing on Your Head in the Water

A Response to A Bee-Bop-Balloo
James Patrick Holding

Link once above removed until respondent respects request to remove my real name and use my writing name.

As noted elsewhere, Skeptic X was apparently seeking at all costs to avoid engaging us on the issue of preterism and the Olivet Discourse and decided to try to keep us busy with some distractions. This time, a reply to our reply to his article, "Why Didn't They Know?" Usual disclaimer: Since we didn't agree to debate this one, we will not follow Skeptic X's obsessive stricture that we quote EVERYTHING he writes, though we will provide a link to his material (above) just for the amusement of our readers. As we have shown both here and now here, and will also show here, such complaints as these about quoting EVERYTHING are a smokescreen or else an attempt by Skeptic X to cover his lack of real argumentation.

And that is not the only smokescreen. Let us begin with this note, much as we began another essay. We find it of no surprise that Skeptic X should select this item to respond to as well -- first of all, because it buys him time to avoid dealing with our more detailed articles. Second, Skeptic X undoubtedly whooped loud enough for the drycleaners in Hong Kong to hear when he discovered that there was a repeated "error" in my essay -- but it's one not attributable to my own error, but to that of my reference source. Here's an explanation -- and it will be followed upon now by something special for Skeptic X fans. Let's see if your master admits his gaffe the way I am willing to admit my own.

I make use of a typical Bible software program from Quickverse that allows parallel versions to be posted on the screen simultaneously. One version is a Strong's Concordance that shows the Hebrew/Greek version of passages. Now allow me a demonstration based on John 1:51 which will illustrate exactly what happened:

And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Now here is how that verse appears in the Strong's version of Quickverse, in parallel:

lego:G3004 . . amen:G281 amen:G281 . lego:G3004 . . arti:G737 . . optanomai:G3700 ouranos:G3772 anoigo:G455 . . aggelos:G32 . theos:G2316 anabaino:G305 . katabaino:G2597 . . huios:G5207 . anthropos:G444

Note that only "main" words are shown; prepositions are left out. This is one of the shortcomings of thie software. Of primary concern, note that John 1:51 has two "verilies" -- and the Strong's version has two "amens". Now compare on Matthew 20:19:

And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
. . paradidomi:G3860 . . . ethnos:G1484 . empaizo:G1702 . . mastigoo:G3146 . . stauroo:G4717 . . . tritos:G5154 hemera:G2250 . . anistemi:G450 anistemi:G450

Now here's what X will make a fuss about. In about half a dozen places I report that some Greek word translated "rise again" is repeated twice in the Greek -- and based on the above, you can see why I reported this: Quickverse's concordance reports it in a way consistent with that, within its own method of reporting actually duplicated words (as in John 1:51). In actuality, these words appear only once in the Greek, and Quickverse is therefore misleading on this point, and I have now amended my original essay to reflect the actual content of the Greek text.

The results of this: Quickverse is now "fired" as my primary source for the Greek text, and I neither make bones nor take blame for the misunderstanding. This is a typical "indexing" error that is found in reference sources, both online and in print. And let us make the point as well that despite what fuss X will make, and the snide remarks about alleged claims by me to have expertise in Greek (which I have still never made), not one point of the essay relies on the idea that a word was used twice rather than once -- and I would rather err in this sort of thing than in the areas where Skeptic X makes his blunders, and would also like to see if Skeptic X has the guts to admit when he makes such blatant errors. As it happens, he doesn't. Let's take a very pertinent, recent example.

One of our readers recently participated in discussion on Skeptic X's "errancy" list and posed an extended question, of which, we need only post part to get the idea. The subject was the passage in Acts where Judas commits suicide:

I'll probably regret raising this, but I'm interested in this too. Looking at the Greek, I struggle to see why we get the translation we do. I'm no great expert, so perhaps someone can explain this to me. There seem to me to be three issues.
1) "PRHNHS GENOMENOS" - "falling headlong"?
"PRHNHS GENOMENOS" tends to get translated as "falling headlong". "GENOMENOS", though, doesn't come from the verb "PIPTW", "I fall", but the verb "GINOMAI", "I become". "PRHNHS", means something like "prone". The Greek, then, would be more literally translated "becoming prone". Apparently, a similar phrase in 3 Maccabees 5:50 is translated "prostrating themselves", though I haven't been able to check this. Is there anything in the Greek to indicate that Judas' becoming prone was violent rather than voluntary?

Our reader gave two more examples and asked for input. But before anyone else replied, Skeptic X himself stepped in with one foot while putting the other in his mouth:

xxx, you certainly did show that you are no expert in Greek. I'm not either, but I am familiar enough with the language to transliterate Greek words. You obviously aren't. There are too many transliteration mistakes in your text to comment on them all, but the most obvious one is using the English letter "w" to transliterate the Greek "omega," which has a long "o" sound and should be represented with the letter "o." You used "x" to represent the "zeta," and you used "q" for "theta." These are very fundamental mistakes that even a first-year student of Greek would know not to make.

Ha ha! Very fundamental mistakes, are they? Fortunately for Skeptic X, someone stepped in to save his bacon before he got further into the mire:

Is that true? Isn't the transliteration xxx is using the standard "B-Greek" (Biblical Greek)? Readers can't [sic] check the academic site, Kata Markon, to confirm this. It's at http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/index.html. Readers will see for themselves that the English letter W is used for omega, and the letter Q is used for theta, just as xxx said.

Yep, check it. This B-Greek list is dedicated to the discussion of the translation of the NT, and is packed full of experts. Maybe Skeptic X should go over to the B-Greek list to explain to the experts there how they're making "fundamental mistakes that even a first-year student of Greek would know not to make." What this goes to show is that Skeptic X is willing to mouth off without any idea what he is talking about, and can't be trusted to be reliable just because he mouths off. I have seen this B-Greek used before; rather than assume it was some sort of error, though, I merely assumed (rightly, as it turns out) that it was some sort of acceptable variation for representing Greek. Skeptic X, had he any humility or conscience, would either do the same, or else would have privately asked our reader what the "problem" was. But no! That's not how Skeptic X operates, and he is far more concerned with trying to achieve smears than with getting to the bottom of things. And unlike me, Skeptic X has never acknowledged his error, and did not apologize to our reader for this misapprehension and implied insult. He only threw out this excuse: "Okay. In Greek classes that I took at the Bible college we attended, we were taught to represent the Greek alphabetic characters with the closest equivalent in the English alphabet." No admission of error. No taking back what he said about "first year students in Greek" being the only ones to make such a mistake. On that note, let me quote one of Skeptic X's own, with some modifications: "I wonder if X's fans are changing their mind [about him] now? I doubt it, but this is good stuff, folks. Really good."

So to the topic at hand, for the nonce. Our subject again is, "Why did the disciples not properly expect the resurrection?" Here is the answer we gave laid out in points:

  • "Resurrection" properly refers to the specific process believed in by Judaism of a dead body being raised to life in a glorified, imperishable form.
  • The words used in the NT to describe resurrection are not specific to this process, but carry a broader meaning.
  • The disciples thought (because of various contextual factors in Judaism) that when Jesus said he would "rise from the dead" he did not mean that he would undergo the specific process above, but that his body would "rise" and ascend to heaven.

We will see Skeptic X try to counter this by:

  • Fudging and confusing the term "resurrection" to mean any reversal of death (though he also says something that as much as admits that the term properly refers only to a specific process!).
  • Admitting that the words used in the NT are indeed not specific to the process; yet,
  • Arguing that the context of "risen from the dead" does suggest the specific process, but not ascension. Through most of his reply Skeptic X pre-empts the argument by saying again and again that the context does suggest the process, but does not reply to my point about it meaning an ascension until much later.

We began with a general point that even if a resurrection (more on that term later) was in view, by the canons of skeptical reasoning, the disciples should actually have been commended for being skeptical about the resurrection. Note that I affirm this is in spite of Jesus' previous miracles. Skeptics tell us that we should always be on the lookout for flim-flams, especially by deluded religionists, so I found it quite inconsistent and ironic for a skeptic here to say that the disciples should have accepted the idea of the resurrection based on previous miracles. Actually -- and this is where Skeptic X first puts his foot in his mouth by putting an argument in my own mouth -- 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. There is more to the matter that has to do with the shamefulness of crucifixion in the ancient world, and with the ancient conception of defeat as irreversible; but for the present context, my sole point was that Skeptic X is inconsistent with his usual skeptical premises when he thinks that the disciples should have been on the spot for accepting that a resurrection would take place. And he remains inconsistent on this point.

Now we come to a place where Skeptic X accuses me of selective editing -- but it's the usual smokescreen. It has to do with quoting John 20:9. Skeptic X accuses me of snipping the part not in brackets below:

Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. [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.]

Well, it's all bollux, as the saying goes. As usual Skeptic X thinks hs every word is precious nectar, but as our argument is indeed that Peter and the others were indeed expecting something consistent with what Peter found (but not a resurrection), this is all mulluguthering and distraction by Skeptic X. Omitting the part about the wrappings in no way injured Skeptic X's case, for we agree that in what was expected, the wrappings would be left, and this is what we mean when we say that all of these charges of selective editing are a smokescreen -- or else, a sign that Skeptic X doesn't think critically.

Next up we had a litte point on the OT not predicting the Resurrection. I gave the reader a link to Glenn Miller's item on NT use of the OT to "show just how few hermeneutical hints X has." Skeptic X mumbles that he "looked through it but found nothing that Miller offered to prove that the Old Testament did predict the resurrection of the 'Messiah,'" and in turn provides his own link to an item on, "What Third-Day Prophecy?" Well and well. Since Skeptic X isn't able to make an application, we'll provide a general answer using Miller's material as a template.

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 bellowed 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, which Skeptic X sees no application for, 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 [1960]: 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. Yet in saying this Crossan does not err in the way Skeptic X does. It is absurd to write as though there was no "third-day prophecy" simply because it does not take the format a literalist interpreter like Skeptic X thinks it should, based on his hermeneutic learned in backwards, fundamentalist Bible colleges and in the Church of Christ:

"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.

These are the applications Skeptic X cannot grasp, and cannot see his way to apply to passages like Hos. 6:2. Now let's get to the point of the original essay. I will note first that Skeptic X says that in John 20:9 the word is anasthenai, a derivation of anistemi, not anistemi. The derivation is found in other cites as well. He admits the meaning is the same, so there is no issue of this affecting my argument, but here again I followed the Quickverse Strong's which said the word was anistemi. Obviously this is conceptually correct but technically misreported. In any event it does not alter or affect my thesis, since I have said that John 20:9 reflects that the disciple did not understand that there would be a resurrection, but thought there would be an ascension. Skeptic X acknowledges without issue my point that the word was used of commonplace "getting up" as well as of resurrection, and therefore only affirms my point that there was no specific reason for the apostles to be expecting a resurrection (which again, more on that word below; Skeptic X plays a "boo game" of bait and switch with the word as we progress).

First on Luke 24:12, I quoted Skeptic X:

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).

Skeptic X "boos up" his readers again by reminding them that I skipped some of his material (which I showed to be of no relevance, as usual) and then allows my point:

Luke 24:12, sorry folks, 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?

Skeptic X replies by asking, "Where did I indicate that I thought 'wondering' in Luke 24:12 meant to 'ask oneself about' or 'to be in a state of perplexity.' The Greek word did mean to marvel, but the text is still an example of inexplicable skepticism on the part of men who should have known immediately what the things they were seeing at the tomb meant." Actually, no it isn't, as we plainly showed: The word itself does not indicate skepticism, and Skeptic X does nothing here to extricate himself from the embarrassing error (much more embarrassing than any he accuses me of) of using this passage to show that there was skepticism. I maintain that there was no skepticism, but amazement, albeit misunderstanding: Peter was amazed because he thought the body had ascended to heaven.

Now I next said:

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 dope about him being about to rise from the dead:

Skeptic X relates, "I don't blame [Holding] for wanting to 'switch gears' here, because the doubts of the apostles expressed in the presence of the resurrected Jesus aren't exactly "user friendly" to the position he is struggling to defend." Not in the least; Skeptic X is wrapping himself in a victory flag full of holes again. We explain Luke 24:37-8 further on -- this fits in precisely with our explanation that the disciples were expecting an ascension, not a resurrection; they believed this was a ghost of Jesus, or perhaps, in line with the Jewish understanding of guardian angels who looked like their charges, thought this to be an angel. Luke 24:11 we explain in more depth: Keep in mind the women related not just of a missing body, but of encounters with angels. The disciples were being the "good skeptics" Skeptic X would think they should be when they regarded all of that together as a case of idle taling. It does not by itself suggest skepticism that something would happen to the body of Jesus. (This also has to do with the Jewish view of women as unstable witnesses, which we touch on further below.)

Skeptic X goes on to suggest that passage using the words egeiro and anistemi, or forms thereof, suggest in context a resurrection. We reply that because of the generalizing use of these words for things like getting up from a seat or bed, the word just as well matches with an expectation of an ascension. An ascended person also "rises" from the dead. Since this is our point, Skeptic X's many quotations of places where the words are inarguably used for a resurrection as properly defined (especially in the Pauline epistles) are of no relevance. The key is indeed whether an ascension can be understood from these words, and Skeptic X comes to addressing that only later on.

One noteworthy piece of naivete: Skeptic X writes, "The gospel records contain many passages that purport to be the very words that Jesus said on different occasions. Is [Holding] 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 Skeptic X is (as usual) still locked in that fundamentalist, Church of Christ 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. By such ridiculous paradigms do we get others proposing to answer the question, "Did Jesus say, 'Blessed are the poor' or 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'? with the reply that he said both, on the same occasion! Perhaps someday Skeptic X will finally "get it" and realize that his understanding of inerrancy is in error from the get-go. But we'll let him flounder with the definition he has in the meantime. ;-)

We're still not quite to the main arguments yet. In response to my note that we are still sorry when any person dies, even if we anticipate a resurrection, Skeptic X fumes back, "Ah, yes, 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 Skeptic X 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. Skeptic X is still not to the point of addressing this argument.

On Mark 6:15 I said, ...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. Skeptic X thinks I am hiding something, and quotes back the passage:

And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show forth themselves in him. Others said, "He is Elijah." And still others claimed, "He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago." But when Herod heard this, he said, "John, the man I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!"

Skeptic X says, "Some of [Holding]'s 'man on the street' were indeed saying that John the Baptist had been raised from the dead, so this wasn't just an opinion that Herod alone had." Beg pardon? Skeptic X gets this by saying, "Others [men on the street] were saying that Jesus was Elijah, so these would have been people who believed that Elijah and not John the Baptist had been resurrected." That's a textual twister for the sake of rescuing an embarrassing argument. The "others" are "others" compared to Herod -- not "others" compared to other people who agreed with Herod. Skeptic X goes on to quote 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," and thinks this verifies his view, and perhaps it does (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. Skeptic X wanted to twist all of this into a "general acceptance" of resurrection, but the texts tell us zero 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 zero about the percentage of people who held each opinion. (Gallup Poll: "20% believe it is John raised from the dead; 40% say it is Elias; 38% say it is one of the prophets of old, and 2% say they prefer Parkay over butter.") In other words it is Skeptic X making an argument out of non-information yet again.

Skeptic X takes the time to deliver another accusation of a snipped sentence, but it's yet another one I addressed in concept below when I argued that an ascension was in view. There was no reason for the disciples to be at the tomb; there would be nothing to see, even if there were no guards and no danger of being arrested by the powers that were.

In the next part Skeptic X once again doesn't "get it" about him not being consistent with his skepticism. He says in defense of his six points, "This would be somewhat as if a modern day 'prophet' told his disciples that he would be killed in a car wreck but would rise again on the third day. Although a 'lot' of people are killed in car wrecks, if after making such a prediction, the 'prophet' was killed in a car accident, you can bet your sweet bippy that his followers would be expecting to see him resurrected in fulfillment of the rest of the prophecy." We enjoy the charm of such phrases as "sweet bippy" but note again that Skeptic X is still being inconsistent in his application of skepticism. By his view the disciples should have been praised out of their bippies for being skeptical in spite of points 1-5 coming true. That Skeptic X designates such people religious fanatics is, in context, beside the point. We know that is how he viewed the disciples, and we know he would expect them to be gullible and think 1-5 being fulfilled meant 6 would be, too. It remains that it is odd for a skeptic to criticize people for being, as he supposes, skeptical and questioning when they would only be doing exactly what he would think they should! It is a repeated mantra that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" -- so if indeed the disciples were following this rubric, what has Skeptic X to complain about and be consistent? (Note for Skeptic X: the reference to bandits is meant to show that there were lots of people undergoing 1-5 -- get it?)

Skeptic X offers up another "snipped quote" accusation, but does not explain how any of the snips altered his case, especially with reference to my own. By our argument the women understood that the body was gone, but still did not have a "clue in" on the process whereby it would be gone. That they remembered Jesus' words is moot in context and does not change or affect our argument, and the apostles looked in the tomb and went home precisely because they believed the body had ascended, and nothing more was to be expected. Thus our "snipping" was of no effect and merely spared the reader from Skeptic X's irrelevant bombast.

On women as untrustworthy witnesses in this time, Skeptic X offers this oddity: "The New Testament gospels were written in Greek, and if [Holding] only understood the Greek mind a little better, he would know that women were not at all held in the low regard that they were in Hebrew culture." Well, that sure fits the bill. 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 Mystery of the Day is, how Skeptic X thinks this amounts to a refutation.

Skeptic X next bores the reader with an extended non-reply to my point about Cleopas. He tells us, "In the context in which he used it, 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." We know all of this. The point was that Skeptic X has 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, and this, Skeptic X still hasn't gotten to; instead he wastes time with an exposition of the word "but/moreover," which has nothing to do with what we wrote.

But now Skeptic X can't avoid the music anymore, because we are at last to the point where I offer my counter of an expectation of an ascension. He begins by jumping on the ramp with some spin-commentary on my introductory words that there would be, "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." Not even pausing to see what I mean by this, Skeptic X burbles forth:

Say what? [Holding] can't be serious. This passage clearly teaches that the chief priests and Pharisees didn't believe that there would be a resurrection, as Jesus had promised, but they were afraid that his disciples might come in the night to steal the body so that they could later claim that he had been resurrected.

Skeptic X seems to be mixing memories here. I say nothing here about priests and Pharisees, and I agree that they did not believe that there would be a resurrection; as I go on to specify, they were expecting a claim of something on the third day, and that claim was that the body had ascended. Of course they expected the disciples to steal the body and claim such a thing -- such a claim and effort meant that they would guard the tomb anyway!

From here Skeptic X sets out some peculiar reasoning: "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? So Skeptic X thinks these wild-eyed cult members would think they could do something to stop God from taking up the body? I can't be sure what Skeptic X is on about here. Anguish or no anguish, I doubt if he has the nerve to suggest that these disciples thought they could stop God from taking the body into heaven. Or is Skeptic X suggesting some other "mysterious means" available in this context? Who and what? The transporters from the Enterprise?

And now we get to where Skeptic X fudges over the definition of "resurrection". Where I say, "Jewish belief of this period had an expectation of resurrection, yes -- but not until the final judgment," Skeptic X replies as he sticks a pinch between cheek and gum, "Well, that's an overstatement that I'd like to see [Holding] prove. 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." Let's take this one part at a time. 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 had no belief in resurrections happening prior to the final judgment. If Skeptic X wants to refute this point he needs to provide evidence that Jews believed that people could be or were resurrected before the final eschatological judgment. As it is, he is doing the old game of solving a problem in his budget by washing his socks.

After wasting more time with a diversion about Sadducees and Pharisees, none of which controverts or relates to anything we write here and is clearly intended to make the skeptical readers think something is actually going on (as well as some false information that there was dispute over "whether the resurrection would be physical or spiritual or even an angelic transformation" -- Skeptic X is way off the beam on this one, and if he wants to debate the "spiritual resurrection" canard, I have a link, and advice for him that the weight of scholarship has long abandoned that ridiculous idea, beyond skeptics with an axe to grind) and then pulls this shebang we last saw from Dennis McKinsey:

I suppose that is why the people were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead or Elijah or one of the prophets of old returned from the dead, and, of course, the apostles, who had seen Jesus resurrect Jairus's daughter (Matt. 9:18ff), the widow of Nain's son (Luke 7:11ff), and Lazarus (John 11:17ff), wouldn't have thought that the resurrection of a single person was "part of the package."

We're going to ask Skeptic X to make himself more clear here, because he's really running on icicles. Again: Resurrection is a very specific idea of a dead person returning in a glorified body. There is no other type of "resurrection" if we use the term properly. What Skeptic X is doing here is one of two things: He is less likely to be taking the McKinsey route of claiming that maybe Lazarus, et al. were resurrected in glorified bodies and that these were all "resurrections." Based on his work on Osiris, however, it is more likely that Skeptic X is here (contrary to the Zoroastrian implication) defining "resurrection" in terms of any kind of reversal of death, not just the specific "glorified body" process we are talking about. This is perhaps suitable in popular writing, but it is technically erroneous. Osiris was not "resurrected" by the Jewish understanding -- the Egyptian gods had bodies that were naturally imperishable and indestructible; Osiris' body did not and would not rot, and thus he could be pieced together again like a Lego set, and we have stories of Egyptian gods swapping body parts like a garage sale. No mechanism is specified for how people thought John came back; Elijah didn't die, and so would not resurrect; and the remainder, including those raised when Jesus sent the disciples out to raise them (unless Skeptic X wants to take the "McKinsey option") did not have glorified bodies. Skeptic X had best get his terms straight if he wants to offer a coherent argument.

But Skeptic X is apparently fairly desperate, and may even take the "McKinsey option" if cornered: "These apostles, who were presumably witnesses to the events on the day Jesus was crucified, would surely have been among the 'many' to whom the 'many' resurrected saints appeared after Jesus had been resurrected (Matt. 27:53)..." Uh huh, stop it right there. This is Desperation in a Can. Skeptic X has no grounds for saying how "many" people there were, who they were, or who they appeared to (at a time when the festival population was in the hundreds of thousands, at least), and why they would "surely" appear to the Apostles. Skeptic X, who quibbles endlessly about "how it could have been" scenarios proposed by fundamentalists, apparently has no problem posing his own such scenarios when he needs them to bolster a sagging beam.

After more fluff about the NT teaching a "spiritual resurrection" (again, see here), more claiming that "raised from the dead" obviously meant only resurrection (whatever Skeptic X defines that as this week), and a few non-points that don't even address my point (i.e., that there is nothing at all suggesting that the disciples were expecting a physical resurrection, as opposed to an ascension), we get to John 20:9 again: "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." I explain this by way of an ascension being expected; Skeptic X cuts off at the pass while riding in on his dead horse, however, and says he has a better answer, which we will dutifully interrupt (**) after his own tactical methodology: "Living in a time when resurrection from the dead was a common belief (as I have shown) [**actually, as he hasn't shown, except by making every recovery from CPR a "resurrection"] and having actually seen Jesus raise the dead and having raised the dead himself [** once again, only by defining the word into anything he wants]...upon seeing the empty tomb and the burial garments, John believed that Jesus had risen from the dead [**but it says, he did not understand this yet, so what was he "believing" in?] After all, when people heard about the works of Jesus, they jumped to the conclusion that he was John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the old prophets who had come back from the dead, so why wouldn't an apostle who had seen dead people resurrected and had heard Jesus say that he would be killed and rise again the third day have believed that Jesus had been resurrected, if on the third day after Jesus's death, he had seen what John was allegedly seeing in the tomb? [**Yo, chop! It says, "he did not yet understand, so what was John "believing" in? We're still waiting for an answer!] Notice, however, that the verse says only that John believed, so this would be a reference to believing that he had seen the evidence that Jesus's promise to rise again had been fulfilled. [** Gak! So what's this mean? So this is saying John believed he had seen the stuff, but how does this explain, he didn't understand that Jesus would rise from the dead??] The next verse did not say that they (Peter and John) did not yet believe but that they did not understand the scripture that he (Jesus) must rise from the dead, so this verse was not talking about belief but understanding. John believed that Jesus had risen, but he didn't yet understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead." [**Precisely our point! John believed that Jesus had risen, in the form of an ascension, and thus did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead in the glorified body of a resurrection. I suppose Skeptic X thinks if he blows enough wind, no one will catch on that there isn't an answer here yet!]

And we finally do get to where I say, "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." Skeptic X first shows himself an inattentive reader by asking, "Oh, the chief priests and company believed this too? I suppose that was why they said to Pilate... Matthew 27:63 'Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.'" (Read it carefully: The expected a claim of this -- a claim of an ascension that was actually a case of body snatching! The "evidence" for a "glorified body" resurrection and an ascension would be initially the same: an empty tomb. It's clear that Skeptic X does not get this point, because he asks, "And so the enemies wanted the tomb guarded because they didn't want the body to be 'taken up' after the manner of Elijah or Enoch?" No!!!! They didn't want the disciples to steal the body and claim it had been taken up after the manner of Elijah, Enoch, or Moses! This drift is a mile wide and 200 feet high, and Skeptic X still can't catch it!)

Skeptic X closes this shame-fest of misapprehension with a challenge to debate me on harmonizing the resurrection narratives (I suggest he look under my encyclopedia at what is under "Harmonization" before he gets too happy -- he will have to address all of it), a repeat of the "resurrection is what I think it is" definition, and a few cheers for the skeptical crowd. Well, as a whole, we're starting to feel sorry for our old friend X. I really expected a much more difficult time from him, but every time I think his arguments can't get any more contrived, he surprises me with another drop down the staircase. Pass him the Band-Aids.