Tuesday, April 23, 2013

There are no inventions without inventors

In my readings preparing for my series on the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection, explanations of the claims that Jesus rose from the dead only fall into two groups.

Group One: Yes, he did.

Group Two: No, he didn't.

It is important to note that there are several facts of history that must be accounted for either to affirm or deny that Jesus rose from the dead. I identify five such facts; some scholars identify four and other six or more. (I did not include that Jesus really lived, for example, since pretty much no one today argues that he didn't.)

I explained the five facts here: Five Confounding Facts About Jesus' Resurrection

In "Reasons to disbelieve Jesus rose from the dead," I explained a number of alternative theories offered to account for why the Church began to proclaim Jesus risen.

One alternative theory I did not address is that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but that over the several decades after his execution a legend grew up around him so that by 40-50 years after his crucifixion, the Gospels began to be written describing Jesus as a risen Savior. 

But if you think about it, this explanation does not explain at all. The Church has always held that it was Jesus' resurrection that explains why the Church began to exist. The skeptics promoting the "later legend" theory say that the claim Jesus was resurrected is a much-later invention. 

But there are no inventions without inventors. So the later legend theorists should be able to explain why, absent the resurrection to begin with, the Church even started. But I have not seen any such explanation except, perhaps, his disciples tried gamely to carry on with Jesus' ethical and religious work but soon found that there was some extra "oomph" needed to keep it going. 

But as I explained in my first post,
Jesus broke no new ground there. Jesus simply expressed God’s previously-revealed truths in an especially-compelling manner. So a religious movement based just on Jesus’s ethical and moral teachings would be definitively Jewish, insignificantly different from the Judaism of his time, and certainly nothing to motivate twelve men to give their lives evangelizing the whole world in Jesus’s name. I mean, why bother? 
I was talking to a US Marine Corps veteran early this week and we briefly discussed the story of the founding of the Marine Corps. Marine lore has it that the Corps was founded in a bar, Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, to be exact. It was there that the first Marine Corps recruitment drive was held. 

Now here is the question: If the USMC was not actually founded at Tun Tavern, why would they later make it up? To what point? The Corps already would have existed if it had been founded elsewhere, elsewhen. What is gained by suppressing the true founding and inventing Tun Tavern? 

The same question applies to the stories about the resurrection of Jesus. Later-legend theorists can't just present us with their own counter claim that the resurrection is a later invention. They need to provide what the suppressed reasons were for the founding of the Church, why they were suppressed and why this particular legend was substituted. 

But they don't.