In this final section Carrier seeks primarily to argue that the NT offers a picture of a "spiritual" resurrection rather than a physical one. Much of what is offered is refuted sufficiently in our item here, but much else beside remains.

1 Cor. 9:19-23 is misinterpreted; see here -- Carrier hypothesizes a "just so" story in which evangelists change allegiances from "spiritual" to "physical" at the drop of a hat, but apparently this misuse of 1 Cor. 9 is all that constitutes the evidence, beyond the demand-expectation that epistle writers should have anticipated his questions about the empty tomb, or detailed how the opposition went to the tomb and found it empty. The testimony of two witnesses was enough for a Jew; they had many more on their side already, and lack of dispute in the epistles over whether the tomb was empty is not to be expected as all of these were written to Christians well beyond the missionary stage, when that question would already have been discussed and settled.

Finally, as shown here, there is every reason to suppose that such claims would have been investigated. (I have answered Carrier's critique of that item also.)

The next appeal is to syncretism. Carrier produces a list of cites (but no quotes) supposedly showing that "traditions of physical resurrection already existed," but as the first example is that of Zalmoxis, and as some date later than Christianity (Apollonius), and others from the OT are not resurrections expect by a broad "anyone returning from death is resurrected" definition, we are content to dismiss the cites as irrelevant and not of true resurrections unless proven otherwise.

Moreover, the only evidence Christians offer for this "anathema" theory is Acts 17:30-32, but that passage actually proves that many Greeks were receptive to the idea. The passage tells us that "some of [the Greeks] sneered, but others said 'we want to hear you again on this subject'...[and] a few became followers of Paul and believed." Does this look like the idea was "anathema" to the Greek mind? Hardly.

It shows that it was indeed "anathema" -- and could only be overcome by sufficient evidence. The sneering is undoubtedly equivalent. The "we want to hear more" may be interest, or it may (more likely) be polite dismissal. ("Don't call us, we'll call you." -- anathematization did not require rudeness.)

But this is, despite Carrier, far from "the only evidence" and we again refer to the link above.

From here we are treated to a series of "just so" re-interpratations of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances. The accounts of Paul in Acts are dismissed for first being contradictory; see here, and as well are dismissed as due to medical disorder, for which there is given no evidence save speculation.

It is said:

But the fact that no one, not even Paul, saw Jesus in the flesh makes the point well enough. Most importantly, Paul never says in his letters that he ever saw Jesus in the flesh (he even denies it in Galatians 1).

One wonders where this is to be found in Galatians 1, but beyond that we have a curiosity. Typical disbelieving scholarship has tended to regard Acts as fabricated, and Paul's letters as reliable. As noted in the link above, Paul's 1 Cor. 15 report can only be reckoned in terms of him being witness to a physical, resurrected body. So the argument is between a rock and a hard place.

For our part, we may note that the consensus that Acts certainly compresses Paul's speeches and experiences is enough to answer this point. Just in case, though, we are given: "...the story could be embellished or fabricated at leisure, for whatever reason."

It could also have been trimmed or toned down, "for whatever reason." One faith-punt is as good as another if we choose to beg the question.

Further assumption is based on the premise of Markan priority (see our series here). The next move is to ascribe motives to Paul for preaching the resurrection. Aside from acting as Paul's personal psychologist and positing hidden guilt -- a method that will not work, for in this time, guilt was an unknown force -- we have this:

Paul may have seen the clouds gathering on the horizon--the coming Jewish War. The Judaism of Jesus--Jesus was not a heretic, after all, but a proper Jew, and taught a reform of Judaism--offered an ideal solution to what any intelligent man would have seen to be the impending doom of his people and his faith. Violence was certain to bring about the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome...And the Jewish desire for a savior was becoming militarized. Josephus records the rising violent messianism rising from the twenties all the way to the war in the sixties.

This "just so" account fails on a few points. For one thing, Jesus clearly predicted the coming destruction of Jerusalem and gave it no quarter, which hardly comports with recognizing his way as the right one to do "non-violent submission".

Second, there is no logical connection between preaching a physical resurrection and the prevention of violence -- it would have been just as well, if not much easier, to preach that Jesus' body was translated like Moses' or Elijah's; or else even easier to recognize Jesus as a true prophet. No previous Jewish prophet needed to be resurrected to be recognized. The prophet test was not "Was he resurrected?" but, "Did what he said come to pass?" (as prescribed in Deuteronomy).

Third, again, the Jews already believed in "a displacement of present complaints by promissing an accounting after death," they did not need Jesus to tell them this.

Fourth, the suggestion of Paul seeing a benefit in "the expansion of the faith beyond racial limits" ignores the prevelant association of race and religion in the ancient Mediterranean, and the innovative exclusivism of the Christian faith; this is not to be compared to the syncretistic Asian cults, with which there was a Roman fascination -- the attempt to turn Paul into a tolerance advocate is completely counter to all conceptions of ancient personality and thinking. One did not appease the Romans with a religion that still violated all of their perceptions (more of them), still regarded their virtues as misguided, still demanded exclusive worship of a God they disdained while rejecting the other deities, overturned their preferred social order, and converted their people to accomplish its ends.

Finally, the idea that there was some idea of removing focus from the Temple as a "hotbed of violence" stumbles upon the response that ideology and attitude, not geography, was at the core of the violence; lacking a Temple did not prevent the revolt under Bar Kochba; violence occurred in other precints than the Temple; and Jerusalem Christians, and Paul, still met at the Temple and considered it a worthwhile place to worship.

On Acts vs. Galatians on Paul's conversion, see here.


Next among what is unique, we embark upon the matter of the Gospels' reportage. Mark, to begin:

Without the late addition to Mark, all Mark says is that there was the expectation of an appearance. He does not record an actual appearance. Why would that be? The Christian must explain this. It is not enough to say some ending was lost and then added or replaced, since the manuscripts of Mark are among the earliest we have, and these lack any ending at all. Why would an ending be lost so quickly? And if it was, what did it say?

It is quite enough to say the ending was lost, and we need no more special "explanation" for this than we do for the loss of pieces of Tacitus' Histories or of entire books of history. Many ancient documents are damaged; almost all are now lost.

Quickly? By any account it took about 150 years to lose Mark's ending; what does Carrier suppose is the minimum time needed for such a thing to happen? What did it say? Why ask other than to imply that it is a problem? It could just as easily more to help our case.

We are told: "I am inclined to think that Mark ended it there because appearances were not actually important to the original faith (as Stephen's speech suggests)."

Stephen's speech suggests no such thing, as we have already noted, and in any event if Carrier accepts the standard dating, Paul's creedal statement in 1 Cor. 15 far predates Mark -- and it probably predates it anyway. Of course at this point we expect the standard hypothesis stacked on hypothesis: Mark represents one stream of tradition, Paul another.

The meaning of the resurrection could also have originally been part of a secret doctrine of initiation. Peter's use of the terminology of a mystery religion suggests this possibility, and John's description of the Thomas episode behind closed doors also looks like such a ceremony (more on this below), and the obvious confusion in all the gospels as to what actually happened after his death could easily be the result of a once-secret doctrine now being corrupted as bits of it enter public knowledge, or as speculation generates its own answers.

We will indeed look at "more below" but in the meantime, what of this note of Peter using "mystery religion" terminology? We will see a specific below -- it is found under the same premise that others find a Gnostic Paul: by taking general terminology as exclusive.

The Markan passages are consistent with the possibility that a spiritual resurrection was meant, and the wording even suggests that a physical appearance might not have been meant. The most basic meaning of both passages in Greek is "I will escort you {plural} into Galilee" (proaxô hymas eis tên Galilaian, 14.28) and "he escorts you {plural} into Galilee" (proagei hymas eis tên Galilaian, 16.7).
The verb proagô means "to lead foreward, or to lead before"...When an accusative object appears (and in both passages it does: the pronoun "you" (plural), hymas), it must be transitive, and that means it must mean in some sense lead. Why would Jesus (or Mark) choose this verb, instead of a dozen others that actually mean "go before"?...The phrase may have simply meant that his spirit would be upon them and lead them, inspire them, to go to Galilee--where, for instance, there would be a vision concerning him, a concept present throughout Acts and the epistles. Indeed, I must say that this is the most likely interpretation.

Of course Carrier "must" say this, but it is in error. What if it does mean, "lead" in this sense? Then the idea of "there would be a vision concerning him" is merely tacked on with no justification. It is just as well said, "there would be a physical appearance by him" or "there will be a juggling contest starring him."

Whether it is proverbial or unique is beside the point and proves nothing in this context. In any event, one can just as well see Carrier arguing, even if wrong (as indicated by Witherington, Mark commentary, 377), that Jesus "went ahead" in the form of a spirit and did not have a resurrection body to speak of.


The next step is to dismiss Paul's 500 witnesses. Again we would note that within the contexts described here that 500 witnesses are a plausible and necessary corollary of the spread of Christianity. Other than once again dismissing Paul's testimony of himself as above, and trying to blunt the force of "appeared" by noting that it is often used to say "appeared in a vision" (which makes no difference, since the key function of the word is the appearing itself, not the mode; to say "I have seen the accident" is not invalidated because someone else says, "I have seen a purple rhinoceros"), and once again misusing 1 Cor. 9 and Acts 9/22/26 vs Galatians (see links above), and positing visionary experiences not justified by the language of 1 Cor. 15 (see link at top), we have this against the 1 Cor. 15 creed:


Testimony of Peter's letters (and Jude and James, etc) are dismissed on the same grounds as before (i.e., unreasonable expectations for a modern readers' doubts; wanting mention of an empty tomb, et al where the context offers no reason to do so), but we do return to a point previously made: it is said that Peter "argues that he was an eyewitness" using the word epoptê, "literally an initiate in the highest rank of a mystery religion, but also meaning spectator..." (2 Pet. 1:16)

And thus we presume are we to believe that Peter's vision of Jesus was that of a mystic vision, but Carrier has covered himself properly here. It also means "spectator" -- yes, and thus, there is no inherent meaning that demands a member of the mystery school.

Beyond that: This passage does mean the Transfiguration, yes; but it is far from evident that it may be taken thereby that "it shows that the Resurrection appearances were not considered the most important evidence of divinity." As noted in the Synoptics, the Transfiguration was intimately tied to the coming of Jesus in power; it was seen as a prefigurement. Peter isn't fighting here an idea that Jesus was not resurrected; he is countering claims concerning the supposed falsity of Jesus' parousia ("coming" in v. 16, and 2 Peter 3:4).

The matter is not "evidence of divinity" that appeal to a resurrection appearance could solve; the matter is refuting the contention that Jesus made a prophecy that was false. (And on that matter, see here.


Carrier's next attempt to blot out a physical resurrection turns upon a re-reading of Philippians 3:

...this entire chapter is couched within a spurn-the-flesh and glorify-the-spirit theme. Paul has no confidence in the flesh anymore (3:3), and he equates confidence in the flesh with living as a Pharisee (3:4-5) when he was a persecutor (3:6) and not a Christian, and he rejected that law (and thus Pharisaism by implication from 3:5) when he took to Christ (3:9). Thus, Paul is emphasizing that he is not a Pharisee, but a Christian, and has rejected Pharisaic obsessions with the law and with the flesh.

But here again, as in 1 Cor. 15, Carrier fails to recognize "flesh" as a metaphor for human weakness. (See again link atop.) The premise that Paul could have abandoned a Pharasaic view of resurrection as he did their view on the law is not only contradicted by Acts 23:6, but is a false analogy: It was Christ's very atoning work that led Paul to reject the Pharasaic take on the law, and there is no corresponding supersedence to cite at all for abandoning the view of resurrection, unless we assume first that Jesus was not resurrected after a physical fashion. Moreover, did Paul abandon every Pharasaic doctrine?

On the matter of Zoroaster, see here. Carrier's polemical accusation that William Lane Craig "sidesteps the fact that no one saw Jesus rise from the dead" fails to report that no one has ever used witness to the actual resurrection as an argument. We are also offered insurance arguments:

-JPH