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[XTalk] Re: Re; refuting bad apologetics

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  • Robert Griffin
    Gordon, The point I m addressing is the context of the current thread on Crosstalk, where among other things we are looking at Paul s claim (in 1 Corinthians)
    Message 1 of 15 , Feb 8, 2007
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      Gordon,

      The point I'm addressing is the context of the current thread on
      Crosstalk, where among other things we are looking at Paul's claim
      (in 1 Corinthians) to have seen the Jesus after the resurrection (and
      ascension).
      As far as I'm aware, humans have been making ethical changes since
      before the beginning of written history. This is not unusual, and
      does give some hope for our future. However, it is completely
      irrelevent to Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians and to the
      discussion of the resurrection of Jesus (what was it? did it really
      occur? what did folks mean when they wrote about it?...)
      The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring to a
      re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or wrote
      about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me. They don't
      appear to be claiming what anyone could claim of Socrates, Diogenes,
      or Isaiah or Moses. I would compare and contrast the statements of
      the early Christians with the statements in the Letter of Mara bar
      Serapion to Serapion bar Mara (whether that be an actual letter or
      merely an exercise in rhetoric is not relevent).
      I have a great deal of admiration for Mar Binyamin Shim'un, which I
      believe I share with most members of the Church of the East. However
      I am not aware of anyone claiming that he rose from the dead.
      Likewise with Hrant Dink.
      In some ways, the Christian claims of Jesus' resurrection parallel
      claims that Buddha achieved Paranirvana. I don't see the Buddhists
      denying that other teachers (Mahavira for instance) were influential
      or important, or denying that they had an influence or importance
      undiminished by their death. They are claiming something more than
      that for the Buddha. So also with the early Christians. Claims the
      Jesus overcame death did not negate claims of the importance of
      Isaiah, Moses, or Plato.
      My apologies for my wordiness.

      Be Well,
      Bob Griffin


      > Robert, Leon, Mike
      >
      > If one will bracket the later story telling and just look at the
      > original testimony of Paul in the 50's... so, a decade and a half
      or
      > so after "the event"... the language in the most common parlance
      is
      > simply a change of mind language:
      >
      > Galatians 1:11-12 "For I want you to know brothers and
      sisters....
      > but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." and 15-
      16
      > "But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called
      me
      > through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me..."(NRSV)
      > and
      > I Corinthians 15:3 ff "For I handed on to you as of first
      importance
      > what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins
      according
      > to scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on
      the
      > 3rd days in accordance with scriptures and that he appeared to
      > Cephas.... Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also
      to
      > me."
      >
      > Such language as "revelations" and "appearances," of course, occur
      > all over the TANAK. Just setting aside metaphysical wonderings,
      such
      > is the sort of language that just ordinarily gets used when people
      > have significant changes of mind (or poetically put, changes of
      > heart). Such is shown in modern cartoons when the proverbial
      light
      > bulb goes on over a characters head. Significant changes such as
      > these happened to such as Malcolm X after he went to Mecca, such
      as
      > Anwar Sadat, etc. etc. In Christian remembrance Slave Ship Captain
      > John Newton had such a change of mind and wrote "Amazing Grace."
      The
      > language Paul uses for this is thoroughly good Hebraic
      theological/
      > Scriptural language. One need not at all try to figure out either
      > metaphysics nor try to read a persons psychology across two
      thousand
      > years to understand the use of these rather ordinary ways of
      talking
      > about someone having a significant change of mind. Of course,
      such
      > metaphysical and psychological speculations will know no end as
      there
      > is so much fascination with such, but whatever that, the
      significant
      > thing and what is rather important and even very good news (<g>)
      is
      > that humans can make significant ethical changes. Malcolm X's
      and
      > Sadat's are just two noteworthy examples. One would hope for a
      > little more of this these days, eh!
      >
      > Anyway, I simply want to point out to the valuation change and
      > however one wants to attribute it... God, human psychological
      nature,
      > "events," whatever.... the core of the matter is thankfully a down
      to
      > earth event.
      >
      > Gordon Raynal
      > Inman, SC
      >
    • león
      ... I think it is relevant to the discussion in the sense that, since Saul s description of his conversion and his discourse in 1Cor. is the only
      Message 2 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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        --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Robert Griffin"
        <muggleorsquib@...> wrote:
        >
        > As far as I'm aware, humans have been making ethical changes since
        > before the beginning of written history. This is not unusual, and
        > does give some hope for our future. However, it is completely
        > irrelevent to Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians and to the
        > discussion of the resurrection of Jesus (what was it? did it really
        > occur? what did folks mean when they wrote about it?...)
        > The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring to a
        > re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or wrote
        > about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me. They don't
        > appear to be claiming what anyone could claim of Socrates, Diogenes,
        > or Isaiah or Moses. . . .
        >


        I think it is relevant to the discussion in the sense that, since
        Saul's description of his conversion and his discourse in 1Cor. is the
        only near-contemporary attestation that we have (wouldn't it be great
        if we had letters of Barnabbas or of Apollos to compare and contrast
        Paul's developing christology to? - lacking these, what "other
        disciples" were saying this?), then saying that people were
        claiming Jesus had risen bodily at that time is a projection back into
        Paul's day of a position which didn't really surface in any texts
        until the author of Mark and the subsequent gospels spoke of such a
        thing (very probably a couple of decades later).

        That is, if Paul was *not* talking about a physical re-animation of
        Jesus' body (a tenable position, and one which I admit to leaning
        toward), then placing such claims to his physical rising so early is
        really "just-so" anachronistic speculation, unsupported by historical
        evidence.

        I've been up late working on a website and I need to sleep, but I
        wanted to say a few words on this.

        peace

        Ã"

        r. leon santiago
        heathen at large
        Tempe, AZ
      • Gordon Raynal
        Hi Robert, ... And that is what I addressed in terms of the language used... in Galatians a revelation from God and in I Corinthians the affirmation that
        Message 3 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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          Hi Robert,
          On Feb 8, 2007, at 3:31 PM, Robert Griffin wrote:

          > Gordon,
          >
          > The point I'm addressing is the context of the current thread on
          > Crosstalk, where among other things we are looking at Paul's claim
          > (in 1 Corinthians) to have seen the Jesus after the resurrection (and
          > ascension).

          And that is what I addressed in terms of the language used... in
          Galatians "a revelation from God" and in I Corinthians the
          affirmation that Jesus "was raised... according to scripture... and
          ***appeared*** to Peter, the 12, James, 500... Paul." Revelation?
          Appearance? What is such language indicating? The answers that have
          been given are:
          1. these words point to what is told in the later written story
          telling of the gospels as being historical remembrances where in
          Jesus shows up for conversations, dining, disappearing, rising up
          into the sky as "seen with the eyes/ heard with the ears" encounters
          akin to seeing a friend and having a chat. (Mind you the very same
          story language also talks about Jesus "descending into the lower
          parts of the earth" Eph. 4:9 and "sat down at the right hand of the
          Majesty on high" Heb. 1:3) About the former "encounters" people of
          this interpretive stance suggest the stories (or some of them) are
          biographical/ historical remembrances and make some extended
          arguments about "eyewitness testimony" and the faithful carrying of
          that in oral tradition until the decades later when the Gospels were
          written down. I've never seen such about the descent into the earth
          or the sitting on the big throne in heaven, although these are very
          much at the heart of the matter as to the significance of Jesus'
          resurrection.
          2. This language refers to "visionary experience" and those of a
          mystical theology/ philosophical bent define this in terms of
          metaphysical "encounter," while those of a purely psychological
          understanding focus upon this as something entirely mundane... either
          as suggesting some kind of illusory/ delusional brain activity or as
          normal emotional operations.
          3. This language is metaphorical/ poetical theological language.
          This sort of language, as I noted, can be understood in quite
          ordinary ways wherein one does not have to either venture into
          metaphysical or psychological examinations. And in light of this one
          can understand the theological usage of such language as "seeings/
          appearances" and "revelations" in terms of that ordinary use in
          discourse.
          >
          > As far as I'm aware, humans have been making ethical changes since
          > before the beginning of written history. This is not unusual, and
          > does give some hope for our future. However, it is completely
          > irrelevent to Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians and to the
          > discussion of the resurrection of Jesus (what was it? did it really
          > occur? what did folks mean when they wrote about it?...)

          How one chooses to understand that language has everything to do with
          the questions you raise. And it is also entirely relevant to Paul's
          understanding of resurrection no matter which of the above options
          (or permutations thereof) one chooses. Paul's whole point of the
          significance of Jesus Christ's resurrection is about ethical
          transformation (read again I Cor. 15:56-58) The TANAK testifies that
          both Enoch (Gen. 1:24) and Elijah ( II Kings 2:1ff) were taken by God
          into God's presence. Matthew tells the story (contra Paul's way of
          talking about it) that "many bodies of the saints who had fallen
          asleep (aka died) were raised" (Matthew 27:52) at Jesus' death and
          they showed up out of those tombs after Jesus was later raised "on
          the 3rd day." (Most interesting to try to visualize this as a
          historical remembrance, to say the least:)! Let's just say that that
          Abraham and Sarah were among those that were resurrected after some
          1800 to 2000 years and per the story have to hang out in those tombs
          from Friday afternoon til Sunday morning. That would surely be an
          interesting experience;)!). Jesus' birth, life, ministry, suffering,
          death, resurrection, descent, ascent, enthronement, rule and coming,
          again in any understanding, is about ethical proclamation to the
          core. Put plainly, others get to heaven, Jesus is "King of Kings and
          Lord of Lords" there and in that he accomplished and is accomplishing
          a complete ethical makeover of the whole creation.

          And as for "did it really occur?" All three of the above options
          allow for a yes answer. Spelling out those yeses obviously points to
          some fundamental disagreements, but then should the conversation turn
          to theology/ ethics (not the purpose of this list), then it is quite
          possible to find lots of agreements no matter the above choice chosen.

          > The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring to a
          > re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or wrote
          > about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me.

          I, of course, accept that this is your evaluation. I quite
          disagree. I would argue that the whole of the TANAK heritage
          capitalizes in the use of creative theological writing to give
          expression to theo-ethical convictions. Moses, for example, wanted
          to see God, and so there's that marvelous of him having to hide
          behind the rock, God passes quickly by and only allowing for Moses to
          see his hind parts:)! That's an "appearance" story and one filled
          with "revelation:)!" If one will, for arguments sake, think through
          the 3rd option above, then one will find it none to surprising that a
          crowd of Hebraic/ Jewish folk utilized this metaphorically rich,
          theological/ ethical story telling tradition and framed their
          understanding of Jesus in terms of precisely this kind of creative
          theological communication. And my point is, this can be understood
          as intellectual work... very careful and thoughtful intellectual
          work, whether one is religiously drawn to it or not.

          Back to Paul. The language of Galatians is revelation language about
          what God did. In I Corinthians the 15th chapter explicitly begins
          with Jesus' death and resurrection as being "in accord with
          scriptures." This is theological writing that utilizes a theological
          heritage of communication. It "appears" to me, that it is most
          "revealing" to think through the 3rd option as central and essential
          to understanding what resurrection means even if one wants to make a
          case for either metaphysical or emotional understandings:)!

          Gordon Raynal
          Inman, SC
        • Bob MacDonald
          ... What was it about this sect of Jews that circa 32-36 C.E. made Saul so violently opposed to it? Saul/Paul objected to denial of Torah by the sect and the
          Message 4 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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            --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, león <taino_leon@...> wrote:
            What was it about this sect of Jews that circa 32-36 C.E. made Saul so
            violently opposed to it?

            Saul/Paul objected to denial of Torah by the sect and the acceptance
            of Gentiles into Israel without circumcision - the very thing he
            defended with such force later.

            The problem with the negative approach to a psychological 'crisis'
            which is where this conversation seems to have been over the past day
            or so, is that it fails to take in the positive aspects of the
            covenant dialogue, the issue of Paul's experience of his relationship
            with his God, the God of Israel, through love of Torah and in its
            fuller revelation for Paul, love of God through his Lord, Jesus Christ.

            His writing about his experience of love resulted in the disputes and
            evolution of 'Christian' sectarian theology through how we read Paul's
            letters. Explanation of theology or psychology should not be mistaken
            for the reality of the love or his original intent.

            Is there evidence that what people see as unique to Paul (Gentiles not
            requiring circumcision etc), precedes his conversion? The 'evidence'
            is provided by Acts in the Peter-Cornelius episode. Post hoc reasoning
            would say that Paul would never have been commissioned to go to the
            Gentiles with this message if such a radical break with the covenant
            sign had only occurred to him.

            Bob MacDonald
            Victoria BC
            http://drmacdonald.blogspot.com
          • Robert Griffin
            Hi Gordon, From what I ve read, I believe most such metaphorical usages are intended to be read as straightforward narrative. Some examples from the far
            Message 5 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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              Hi Gordon,
              From what I've read, I believe most such 'metaphorical' usages are
              intended to be read as straightforward narrative. Some examples from
              the far fringes:
              My favorite: When Yogananda claims that his parents saw the man who
              was to become his guru several hundred miles away from where that man
              actually was, Yogananda appears contextually to be claiming that
              something extremely unusual happened.

              When the Ahmadiyya (Qadiyani) Muslims claim that Jesus survived the
              crucifixion, fled through Galilee, Nisibis, and Afghanistan to settle
              and die in Kashmir, they go to a lot of trouble to treat this as non-
              metaphorical history.

              The various claims that Jesus visited India, Kashmir, or Ladakh (or
              Tibet) are handled by their propagators as non-metaphoric fact.

              All of the above can be neatly and nicely treated as metaphor, but
              the literary context makes it clear that this is not the authors'
              intent. I understand you probably disagree with me on this. I'd be
              interested in a demonstration with regards to any of the above.

              A somewhat similar modern American phenomenon is UFO material. We
              can get a lot of inspiration from treating it all as metaphorical,
              but is that an appropriate approach to the literature?

              Be Well,
              Bob Griffin


              > > The claim the Paul (and the other disciples) were only referring
              to a
              > > re-evaluation of the impact of Jesus' life when they spoke or
              wrote
              > > about the resurrection seems extremely farfetched to me.
              >
              > I, of course, accept that this is your evaluation. I quite
              > disagree. I would argue that the whole of the TANAK heritage
              > capitalizes in the use of creative theological writing to give
              > expression to theo-ethical convictions. Moses, for example,
              wanted
              > to see God, and so there's that marvelous of him having to hide
              > behind the rock, God passes quickly by and only allowing for Moses
              to
              > see his hind parts:)! That's an "appearance" story and one filled
              > with "revelation:)!" If one will, for arguments sake, think
              through
              > the 3rd option above, then one will find it none to surprising that
              a
              > crowd of Hebraic/ Jewish folk utilized this metaphorically rich,
              > theological/ ethical story telling tradition and framed their
              > understanding of Jesus in terms of precisely this kind of creative
              > theological communication. And my point is, this can be
              understood
              > as intellectual work... very careful and thoughtful intellectual
              > work, whether one is religiously drawn to it or not.
              >
              > Back to Paul. The language of Galatians is revelation language
              about
              > what God did. In I Corinthians the 15th chapter explicitly begins
              > with Jesus' death and resurrection as being "in accord with
              > scriptures." This is theological writing that utilizes a
              theological
              > heritage of communication. It "appears" to me, that it is most
              > "revealing" to think through the 3rd option as central and
              essential
              > to understanding what resurrection means even if one wants to make
              a
              > case for either metaphysical or emotional understandings:)!
              >
              > Gordon Raynal
              > Inman, SC
              >
            • Gordon Raynal
              Hi Bob, ... I m not exactly sure what you mean by this statement, but, of course, most all stories, save surreal ones, are told with narrative realism. Said
              Message 6 of 15 , Feb 9, 2007
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                Hi Bob,

                On Feb 9, 2007, at 3:36 PM, Robert Griffin wrote:

                > Hi Gordon,
                > From what I've read, I believe most such 'metaphorical' usages are
                > intended to be read as straightforward narrative.

                I'm not exactly sure what you mean by this statement, but, of course,
                most all stories, save surreal ones, are told with narrative
                realism. Said realism gives us absolutely no indication that said
                story is a historical or biographical account.

                > Some examples from
                > the far fringes:
                > My favorite: When Yogananda claims that his parents saw the man who
                > was to become his guru several hundred miles away from where that man
                > actually was, Yogananda appears contextually to be claiming that
                > something extremely unusual happened.
                >
                > When the Ahmadiyya (Qadiyani) Muslims claim that Jesus survived the
                > crucifixion, fled through Galilee, Nisibis, and Afghanistan to settle
                > and die in Kashmir, they go to a lot of trouble to treat this as non-
                > metaphorical history.
                >
                > The various claims that Jesus visited India, Kashmir, or Ladakh (or
                > Tibet) are handled by their propagators as non-metaphoric fact.

                Many traditional stories, once generations removed, are regarded by
                those later as factual remembrance or essentially factual. But the
                ancients just like the moderns knew how to spin myths, legends,
                parables. And the creators and hearers/ readers knew what they were
                doing in such literary creations. That later readers/ generations
                historicize such stories, of course, doesn't turn creative fictions
                into facts.
                >
                > All of the above can be neatly and nicely treated as metaphor, but
                > the literary context makes it clear that this is not the authors'
                > intent. I understand you probably disagree with me on this. I'd be
                > interested in a demonstration with regards to any of the above.

                Yes, we quite disagree. I'm not quite sure what would count as "a
                demonstration" for you. If you want a list of Bible stories that I
                think are creative theological fiction, well... let's start at
                Genesis 1, proceed on to the 2nd chapter... and go right on down to
                through the Gospels. This is not to say that I believe there are no
                instances of historical reference... remembrance of some actual
                persons, some deeds, some words ... some underlying accounts of
                events that did occur. But I don't at all think the vast majority of
                the Bible stories are historical/ biographical materials, but rather
                as a whole are better understood in terms of the poetics and creative
                narratives of explicitly theo-ethical communication. It has only
                been in very modern times that the questions of scientific
                historiography have been asked of these and such stories as you
                sight. And to this day most all people in all cultures don't study
                much history and for the most part could care less about it. To say
                the least the theological/ ethical and communal value for all
                societies is not based in "the historicity" of narratives. I don't
                for a minute think, for example, that the powerful story of Jonah has
                any thing to do with the accounting of some guy named Jonah who was
                swallowed by a big old fish and later vomited out. Neither do I
                think the author of said story thought he was crafting a story to
                remember such a set of events. But that in no way at all suggests
                any diminished value to the story. Quite the opposite, actually. To
                understand a story in terms of genre is absolutely important in terms
                of understanding the very nature of the communication. And so with
                that judgment about Jonah, it remains theologically and ethically
                one of the most profound stories. That the majority of church folks
                in SC think it is a remembrance doesn't exactly work to push me to
                think they're on to something;)! But at the same time it is not hard
                at all to engage such persons in conversations about the theological,
                ethical... and human meanings is such story telling. To do so one
                precisely points to the matters of thought and poetry in such a story.

                Should you want to entertain this alternative to your position, I'd
                suggest you read Thomas Thompson's, "The Mythic Past." Thomas, has
                now and again, actually written a few notes on this list. And then
                again, if you have not, read such as Crossan, Mack and the Five
                Gospels by the Jesus Seminar, they will provide other resources for
                thinking about this alternative.
                >
                > A somewhat similar modern American phenomenon is UFO material. We
                > can get a lot of inspiration from treating it all as metaphorical,
                > but is that an appropriate approach to the literature?

                Pardon, but I don't at all get your point about this. I don't at all
                think the production of cultural/ communal theological and ethical
                craftsmanship... speech and writings that connect persons across
                generations in terms of theology, ethics, communal and personal
                praxis... is at all on par with UFO stories. And who is going to get
                what sort of inspiration??? Unless you are meaning this as a joke
                that I'm just missing, what is the relevance of this to the crafting
                of the the TANAK, the Christian Scriptures, the Koran, the Gita,
                etc? So, you'll have to clarify the point here.

                Gordon Raynal
                Inman, SC
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