Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bad Arguments Against the Resurrection, Part 3

Bad argument #3: Arguments based on phantom documents and redacting.

This one is actually not exclusive to the Resurrection. There are plenty of bad arguments out there that are based on the presumption these sorts of presumptions. For example:

The phantom document “Q”. The postulation of this document unnecessary and lacking in hard evidence. (See series below.) That’s bad enough, but then there are theorists who pile phantom on top of phantom by adding a social history to the document that goes something like this: The Resurrection isn’t mentioned in Q; therefore, the Resurrection was not part of the earliest Christian dogma. But apart from being based on a phantom document, it assumes that the purpose of Q was to relate the basics of Christian doctrine. Since most information of the time was transmitted orally, not in writing, Q, if it existed in a form without the Resurrection, would be recognizable as a handbook of Jesus’ sayings, like the book of Proverbs.

Assuming that the Resurrection MUST have made its way into every Christian document ignores the fact that many documents are written for specific purposes. If the purpose was to record Jesus’ sayings, then it is absurd to think the Resurrection, or any miracle of Jesus, or even his death would be mentioned too.

Additions to the text. There’s little doubt that the NT was added to for various reasons. Mark 16:9-20 is a good example. But not all are, and it has to be argued, not merely assumed, that an addition was not made authoritatively. A good case can be made for Mark 16:9-20 not being authentic based on style and textual criticism. On the other hand, a case can also be made for John 8 as an authentic story (though authored by Luke) and John 21 as added by John himself. Critics too often step immediately from “redaction” to a judgment of inauthenticity or forgery; in reality that doesn’t even get the argument started.

There are other arguments of similar nature, having to do with the authenticity and authorship of the NT, that are not specifically related to the Resurrection itself but are often used to argue against the Resurrection. However, critics should never be given a free pass to simply assume that the authenticity of the NT is already settled for their side. They need to either argue for that separately, or else argue from the later stage of debate that assumes authenticity.


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