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[HJMatMeth] Re: Psychological Origins Of The Resurrection Myth

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  • jdcrosn@mindspring.com
    I have two general points to make, Jack, about what we usually call the apparitions or visions of the resurrected Jesus. First, as far as I can tell,
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 27, 2000
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      I have two general points to make, Jack, about what we usually call the "apparitions" or "visions" of the resurrected Jesus. First, as far as I can tell, accepting Luke's account of Paul's Damascus experience in its most general terms (and only in its most general terms), and Paul's own autobiographical statements, we are dealing, in that case, with an ecstatic or trance-like experience. You may then explain it however you wish to do so psychologically, but I myself do not consider a vision to be any more or less pathological than a dream. What you experience in either and what you do with it thereafter is another question. Second, I have never simply said that the narratives which conclude our gospels "were all fictioin" as you have stated. That is much too general a term for what I have written (it's as right and wrong as saying that Jesus's parables "were all fiction"--yes, and so what?). I would prefer to call those stories parables because they are fictional stories with !
      a functional punch. For example, in John 20 the beloved disciple is deliberately exalted (successively) over against Peter, MaryM, and Thomas, all of whom must have been leaders of important communities seen as unfortunate alternatives to the community of the beloved disciple. I do not read them as visions at all, but as parables of competing authority. This is even clearer in the story of Emmaus. I would be very surprised, by the way, if many of Jesus' companions did not have visionary experiences since such experiences are common in dealing with one's beloved dead, especially when the death has been sudden, tragic, or horrible. My overall point is very simple: The stories in the final chapters of our gospels were never intended to be the account of visions, but were intended to be the assertions of authority.

      ----Original Message-----
      >From: "Rev. Jack A. Kent" <jackkent@...>
      >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@...
      >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Psychological Origins Of The Resurrection Myth
      >Reply-To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
      >Date: Friday, February 25, 2000 3:05 PM
      >
      >In John Dominic's Book JESUS A REVOLUTIONARY BIOGRAPHY he argues that
      >at no time in the hisory of the human race has any person who was dead
      >ever been resurrected from the dead. I agree with him.
      >
      >He then argues that Paul believed that Jesus was resurrected because he
      >fell into a trance on the road to Damascus. In this dissociative
      >experience he thought that he saw the resurrected Christ. Such a
      >dissociative experience is a mental disorder according to DSM 3 and 4.
      >Again I basically agree with Crossan but I argue that Paul had an
      >episode of conversion disorder. This is a well know psychologicl
      >syndrome. When Paul explained this in terms of 1st century knowledge
      >you end up with Pauline Christianity.
      >
      >Crossan then argues that since Mary Magdalene and the disciples did not
      >fall into a trance then the appearances of Jesus were all fiction. I
      >disagree with Crossan on this point. I think that every post
      >crucifiction appearance to Mary Magdalene and the disciples can be
      >easily explained by what happens to people in serious grief. Mary
      >Magdalene and the disciples had very normal grief.
      >
      >I explain this in my book THE PSYCHOLOGICL ORIGINS OF THE RESURRECTION
      >MYTH.
      >
      >I think that Crossan should read my small book and it will change his
      >ideas about Mary Magdalene and the disciples.
      >
      >Rev. Jack A. Kent, Retired Unitarian Minister
      >
      >
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    • Jack Kilmon
      ... fall into a trance then the appearances of Jesus were all fiction. I disagree with Crossan on this point. I think that every post crucifiction appearance
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 28, 2000
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        "Rev. Jack A. Kent" wrote:

         
        Crossan then argues that since Mary Magdalene and the disciples did not
        fall into a trance then the appearances of Jesus were all fiction. I
        disagree with Crossan on this point. I think that every post
        crucifiction appearance to Mary Magdalene and the disciples can be
        easily explained by what happens to people in serious grief. Mary
        Magdalene and the disciples had very normal grief.


        In preparation for this forum I went back and re-read the works of Strauss and others from the
        "first quest" period of the 19th century in order to get an idea of how far we had come or what
        was new about the current quest for which, I think it accurate to say, Dom is the "point man."

        One area that appears to be new is the willingness to give some historical credence to some
        of the miracle stories.  This had previously been a problem with me in HJ research since,
        even as a youngster, I reasoned that if a pitchman like Oral Roberts could pull it off, certainly
        Jesus could have.

        This brings us to the ultimate "miracle" that is the underpinning of Christianity and without which
        we would not be studying the HJ at all....the "resurrection."

        Like everyone else I have heard every explanation for why the post-passion family, friends
        and associates of Jesus may have had spiritual "hallucinations" of him following his death.

        I wonder, therefore, if the next step may be (ruling out the absurdities of funny mushrooms
        and alien intervention) to consider reasonable explanations for the HJ to have survived the
        crucifixion and that he did actually make appearances afterward...but not immediately
        afterward.  Is there some serious school of thought in that direction?

        Jack

        --
        ______________________________________________

        taybutheh d'maran yeshua masheecha am kulkon

        Jack Kilmon
        jkilmon@...

        http://www.historian.net

        sharing a meal for free.
        http://www.thehungersite.com/
         
         
         

      • John Dominic Crossan
        That was a short post, Jack, with a very big question and my reply will have to be rather lengthy. For clarity, I will outline by points. But, lest we get lost
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 29, 2000
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          Re: [HJMatMeth] Re: Psychological Origins Of The Resurrection Myth That was a short post, Jack, with a very big question and my reply will have to be rather lengthy. For clarity, I will outline by points. But, lest we get lost in here, those questions posed in  (5) below are where the cutting-edge is for me at the moment.
          1.  I myself distinguish between visions/apparitions and hallucinations. I think of visions/apparitions and dreams as altered states of consciousness, as absolutely natural and normal, as hard-wired possibilities within our brain. I distinguish visions/apparitions or dreams from hallucinations as follows: It is a question of whether you are aware or not afterwards about what you have experienced. If I have an awful dream in which a giant creature attacks me and I wake up screaming, that is a dream. If I call 911 and insist to the officers that such a creature was in the house, and if the next day I sue ADT for inadequate security systems, etc., etc., that is an hallucination. Similarly, with a vision. If I know afterwards that I have had a vision, that is normal. If I insist, for example, that my beloved dead person is roving the streets disguised as other people, I am moving into hallucination.
          2.  If all the gospels ended with the crucifixion and there were nothing that could be read as visions/apparitions, I would still presume that many of Jesus' closest followers would have had visions/apparitions of that beloved person who had died suddenly, tragically, and brutally.
          3.  My point has always been that those stories in the last chapters of our canonical gospels are not, and never were, descriptions of visions/apparitions (I leave Paul aside as a separate case). The Emmaus story, for example, was never, ever, intended to recount a vision/apparition. It was intended to say, in a superbly brief parable, that all the scripture study in the world will not make Jesus present, it will only warm your heart (which is not nothing, by the way). Jesus only becomes present if and when you invite the stranger in to share a meal which belongs to God. In that story, for example, the invitation is crucial.
          4.  To get to the heart of the matter. Even if everything in our present gospels were taken literally and all of those events were considered visions/apparitions, they would not necessarily indicate "resurrection" in 1st century terms. That brings me to the questions we now have to ask.
          5.  These are the core historical questions which should be answerable by any competent 1st century historian, by Jewish or Christian ones alike, and by areligious historians as long as they are actually neutral. First, as the major or dominant question, this:  What did the term "resurrection" mean as used by 1st century Jews (whether they affirmed or denied it is a secondary question)? What, in other words, would "resurrection" have meant if the historical Jesus and earliest Christianity had never existed? Second, as the subordinate or derivative question, this: How did those earliest Christian Jews specify that general understanding in applying it to Jesus? (By specify, I mean this, for example: there was a general and very diffused messianic expectation among 1st century Jews; the Essene Jews specified it as the single coming of a double messiah, the Christian Jews specified it as the double coming of a single messiah. Those specifications were equally valid for some, equally invalid for others, and equally possible for historians.)  
          I think those are the core questions we must now face, and we must bracket, until after we have answered them, whether we believe or do not believe in any answers we give to them. In other words, even if you do not agree with my answers, I would ask you to consider what are your own answers (as an historian) to those historical questions. I am not, I repeat, for the moment, asking for a theological answer to a question of faith. Here are my own answers to those questions. That is, here is where I am at the moment. Three negative and a positive.
          6.  Resurrection did not mean resuscitation. It was, as I mentioned in BofC 549, very easy until modern times for somebody to be considered dead only later to be resuscitated (the term "resurrected" might be used in such a case, but it is not the correct term). The insistence in early Christian texts of "after three days" or "on the third day" intends to deny resuscitation by insisting that Jesus was actually, factually, dead (recall the wait in the Lazarus story).
          7.  Resurrection is not apparition. The ancient world knew all about visions and apparitions and even about such events as revelations from God, but they would not have used the precise term resurrection for such events.
          8.  Resurrection is not exaltation. It was utterly possible to imagine Jesus, because of his unique relationship with God (however that is understood) to have been taken up to God like Elijah. In fact, that pre-Pauline hymn in Phil. 2:6-11 was probably about exaltation and not resurrection (in its pre-Pauline usage).
          9.  Turning from those three negatives to the positive. In terms of 1st century Jews, resurrection was part and parcel of apocalyptic consummation whereby the justice of God was publicly and cosmically vindicated before the world. Resurrection was important in the establishment of such a divine Eutopia (allow my word) because the just who had been oppressed and the martyrs who had been tortured and killed must be openly vindicated in their bodies on this transformed earth. Resurrection, in other words, was about the justice of God and not the survival of me. Put another way, resurrection stands or falls within apocalyptic consummation and the evidence that those early Christians who insisted on the resurrection of Jesus never withdrew that claim or softened it in any way can only mean that those same Christians considered the apocalyptic consummation to have been established. If we think not, that may be our problem and indicate our misunderstanding of what they were saying.
          10.  As we move more closely into the Christian specifications of that general apocalyptic and/or resurrection expectation, there are two rather startling differences. One stream of tradition claims that Jesus descended into Sheol/Hades/Hell and broke out at the head of "them that sleep," that is the just and especially the martyrs of Jewish tradition. You will find that magnificently proclaimed in the Odes of Solomon, graphically portrayed in the Gospel of Peter, tritely and residually present in Matt 27:52-53, and forgetfully present in the Christian  creedal declaration, "he descended into hell. That is an intensely Jewish stream of tradition that insists on a corporate resurrection or, better, that the only type of resurrection which confirms the justice of God is not just one for Jesus alone, but one for him and all those other Jews who died for God before him.
          11.  The other stream of tradition is the one we know so well from Paul and I would like to underline that it is different from that former one (I said different, not wrong). It claims that Jesus is "the first fruits of them that sleep," (we still have that technical terms: the sleepers), that Jesus alone arose from the dead as the beginning of the general resurrection, and that the rest of the general resurrection (the ending of an apocalyptic consummation already begun) is imminent. That is quite different from the former specification of general Jewish resurrection/apocalyptic expectation, but it is, in itself, no more right nor wrong than it. I admit, however, that I get very nervous when I read I Thess and find Paul talking about the rest who will arise later as being Christians. Does Paul consider that the oppressed just and martyred saints, who died before Jesus, have risen with Jesus or what? Where are they in Paul's imagination?
          12. That seems a good number to end on. In order to hold together those answers to my two historical questions AND the history of earliest Christianity which, despite what we might consider to be the failure of apocalyptic expectation, kept insisting that it was present and kept especially insisting on the resurrection of Jesus being valid and basic to faith, I can only make the following conclusion. What they experienced was more and more pagans, that is followers of Caesar, becoming converts to a Jesus who had been crucified by Caesar. It was in that experience that they found the justice of God being vindicated not on the side of the crucifiers, but on the side of the crucified.
          ----------
          From: Jack Kilmon <jkilmon@...>
          To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@...
          Subject: [HJMatMeth] Re: Psychological Origins Of The Resurrection Myth
          Date: Mon, Feb 28, 2000, 11:25 AM


           

          "Rev. Jack A. Kent" wrote:
           
          Crossan then argues that since Mary Magdalene and the disciples did not
          fall into a trance then the appearances of Jesus were all fiction. I
          disagree with Crossan on this point. I think that every post
          crucifiction appearance to Mary Magdalene and the disciples can be
          easily explained by what happens to people in serious grief. Mary
          Magdalene and the disciples had very normal grief.






          In preparation for this forum I went back and re-read the works of Strauss and others from the
          "first quest" period of the 19th century in order to get an idea of how far we had come or what
          was new about the current quest for which, I think it accurate to say, Dom is the "point man."

          One area that appears to be new is the willingness to give some historical credence to some
          of the miracle stories.  This had previously been a problem with me in HJ research since,
          even as a youngster, I reasoned that if a pitchman like Oral Roberts could pull it off, certainly
          Jesus could have.

          This brings us to the ultimate "miracle" that is the underpinning of Christianity and without which
          we would not be studying the HJ at all....the "resurrection."

          Like everyone else I have heard every explanation for why the post-passion family, friends
          and associates of Jesus may have had spiritual "hallucinations" of him following his death.

          I wonder, therefore, if the next step may be (ruling out the absurdities of funny mushrooms
          and alien intervention) to consider reasonable explanations for the HJ to have survived the
          crucifixion and that he did actually make appearances afterward...but not immediately
          afterward.  Is there some serious school of thought in that direction?

          Jack

          --
          ______________________________________________

          taybutheh d'maran yeshua masheecha am kulkon

          Jack Kilmon
          jkilmon@...

          http://www.historian.net

          sharing a meal for free.
          http://www.thehungersite.com/
           
           
           





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        • joseph baxter
          Professor Crossan, Dom, it warms the heart to experience you live. The Emmanus story could be a beautiful parable, which you put powerfully. And Jesus
          Message 4 of 5 , Mar 1, 2000
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            Professor Crossan,

            Dom, it "warms the heart" to experience you "live."

            The Emmanus story could be a beautiful parable, which you put
            powerfully. And Jesus could have appeared in apparitions.
            But that doesn't explain the emphatic claim that Jesus vindicated the
            justice of God. That's stronger whiskey than an apparition. Jack is
            suggesting that maybe the truth is somewhere in between ( which is actually
            suggested as a possibility by your comments, viz: "Even if everything in
            our present gospels were taken literally and all of those events were
            considered visions/apparitions, they would not necessarily indicate
            "resurrection" in 1st century terms."), and that maybe this idea of
            vindicating the justice of God arose circumstantially, a culturally
            necessary gloss on a set of events that were probably not well
            understood. According to reports, Jesus appeared dead when he was taken
            down. That doesn't make him dead. There is reliable evidence that a
            significant percentage of people (some studies suggest 2%) have actually
            buried alive, until fairly recently . Since the medical facts were not
            really being monitored, many of the apostles may have gone to their graves
            believing that what they had witnessed (indeed, reportedly,they didn't
            really witness it) was a "resurrection."

            Pilate moreover, was reportedly surprised by the report of his quick
            death. Survival is a reasonable explanation of the resurrection story. It
            best accords with nature as we know it. We could very well see Jesus, in
            Thomas, as Lao Tse. Someone who reached the wilderness and figured it out
            better than his biographers.

            There are also problems with apparition view. It is fiercely at odds with
            the staunchness of belief that it was more than an apparition. As you put
            it yourself, "The ancient world knew all about visions and apparitions and
            even about such events as revelations from God, but they would not have
            used the precise term resurrection for such events." So a question is
            raised whether this staunchness is more easily explained as a first century
            exegesis of what was regarded as a superhuman live re-appearance, or a
            first century exegesis of apparitions. Survival could be the corn, rye,
            and barley that goes into that whiskey. Distill those apparitions and you
            only get ghosts.

            Ultimately, there is a real psychological question about how Christianity
            arose out of defeat. Even without further extant reporting, we know there
            was a forceful effect of the idea that Yeshu had been alive. I personally
            find it hard to believe that Yeshu would have had such a stunning effect on
            his disciples if he simply died. Something very powerful fired his
            demoralized disciples into the resolute belief which inspired the radical
            itinerancy you write about so well in the Birth of Christianity. How
            Christianity lost that defining moment ( and re-styled it as a vindication
            of God) is a question for the ages.


            Joe Baxter





            joe
          • John Dominic Crossan
            I do not think, Joe, that we have adequately faced the two questions of my earlier post, namely: what did pre-Christian Jews mean when they used the term
            Message 5 of 5 , Mar 2, 2000
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              I do not think, Joe, that we have adequately faced the two questions of my
              earlier post, namely: what did pre-Christian Jews mean when they used the
              term "resurrection" and what did Christian Jews mean when they said that God
              had "raised" Jesus from the dead? I find those to be questions that should
              be answered first before we consider psychological explanations for what
              happened on Easter Sunday. It is those first century persons who used the
              term "resurrection," and what we think it means, or whether we believe it or
              not, must be subsequent to answering those questions. You are quite right
              that until modern times (wherever modern times are present!), it was quite
              likely that people who were considered dead were resuscitated (or, worse
              still, were buried and later found to have been buried alive by, say, the
              scratch marks on the roof of the coffin).
              Even apart from what "resurrection" meant in its first century milieu, those
              who invoked it, went to some trouble to insist they were not talking about
              resuscitation. They did that by emphasizing, as I said in an earlier post,
              "after three days" or "on the third day". That was their way of signaling
              that Jesus was really, really dead. Whatever they were talking about, it was
              not resuscitation. Also, however, we are to understand a young girl on a
              bed, a young man on a bier, or Lazarus in a tomb (getting better each time),
              what happened to Jesus was not reported on the same level.
              I still think, in other words, that we should get back to the first century
              and ask: what did resurrection meant at that time and place.
              You are quite right that vindicating the justice of God is "stronger whiskey
              than an apparition." So let's get back to ask what resurrection meant and
              bracket until we are finished on that point with any decision about whether
              WE believe in it or not.
              Finally, for me, the crucial point which made the future possible (but not,
              of course, inevitable) was when Jesus told his companions to go out and do
              the same thing that he was doing. At that point, Jesus' program, unlike
              John's, could not be stopped by executing its leader. I do not think, in
              other words, that there was any massive loss of faith at the death of Jesus
              among his followers. Those who ran, lost their nerve, but not their faith.
              And, there must have been many who did not even know for weeks or months
              that Jesus had been executed. Yet, the Kingdom of God had not been turned
              off at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon. My plea, once more, is that we get out of
              the 19th century, get back into the 1st century, and try and see things with
              1st century eyes.

              ----------
              >From: joseph baxter <joseph@...>
              >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
              >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Re: Psychological Origins Of The Resurrection Myth
              >Date: Wed, Mar 1, 2000, 3:24 PM
              >

              > Professor Crossan,
              >
              > Dom, it "warms the heart" to experience you "live."
              >
              > The Emmanus story could be a beautiful parable, which you put
              > powerfully. And Jesus could have appeared in apparitions.
              > But that doesn't explain the emphatic claim that Jesus vindicated the
              > justice of God. That's stronger whiskey than an apparition. Jack is
              > suggesting that maybe the truth is somewhere in between ( which is actually
              > suggested as a possibility by your comments, viz: "Even if everything in
              > our present gospels were taken literally and all of those events were
              > considered visions/apparitions, they would not necessarily indicate
              > "resurrection" in 1st century terms."), and that maybe this idea of
              > vindicating the justice of God arose circumstantially, a culturally
              > necessary gloss on a set of events that were probably not well
              > understood. According to reports, Jesus appeared dead when he was taken
              > down. That doesn't make him dead. There is reliable evidence that a
              > significant percentage of people (some studies suggest 2%) have actually
              > buried alive, until fairly recently . Since the medical facts were not
              > really being monitored, many of the apostles may have gone to their graves
              > believing that what they had witnessed (indeed, reportedly,they didn't
              > really witness it) was a "resurrection."
              >
              > Pilate moreover, was reportedly surprised by the report of his quick
              > death. Survival is a reasonable explanation of the resurrection story. It
              > best accords with nature as we know it. We could very well see Jesus, in
              > Thomas, as Lao Tse. Someone who reached the wilderness and figured it out
              > better than his biographers.
              >
              > There are also problems with apparition view. It is fiercely at odds with
              > the staunchness of belief that it was more than an apparition. As you put
              > it yourself, "The ancient world knew all about visions and apparitions and
              > even about such events as revelations from God, but they would not have
              > used the precise term resurrection for such events." So a question is
              > raised whether this staunchness is more easily explained as a first century
              > exegesis of what was regarded as a superhuman live re-appearance, or a
              > first century exegesis of apparitions. Survival could be the corn, rye,
              > and barley that goes into that whiskey. Distill those apparitions and you
              > only get ghosts.
              >
              > Ultimately, there is a real psychological question about how Christianity
              > arose out of defeat. Even without further extant reporting, we know there
              > was a forceful effect of the idea that Yeshu had been alive. I personally
              > find it hard to believe that Yeshu would have had such a stunning effect on
              > his disciples if he simply died. Something very powerful fired his
              > demoralized disciples into the resolute belief which inspired the radical
              > itinerancy you write about so well in the Birth of Christianity. How
              > Christianity lost that defining moment ( and re-styled it as a vindication
              > of God) is a question for the ages.
              >
              >
              > Joe Baxter
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > joe
              >
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