Board index Faith and Knowledge

How do we know what we know, and what is faith all about

Re: The meaning of faith

Postby 1.62 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 8:02 pm

> When I speak of the historical evidence, I am referring to facts that any reasonable person would also admit. There are thousands of elements of the Bible that have been confirmed by archaeology and historiography, geography and cultural studies.

This is not being contested and lends nothing to the discussion. Sure there was an Egypt, a Cyrus the Great and there are other facts that are mentioned in the bible. There are always facts included in fictional writing.

The heart of the problem is the unbelievable claims made in the bible such as this gem found in Matthew. The anonymous writer says an earthquake ripped open tombs and graves, then many saints were awoken from death. Now, these "many" saints can't go anywhere for two days because they have to wait on Jesus to stop being dead. What do you think all those saints were doing while they were waiting for Jesus to wake up? Since the graves were "opened" anyone could look inside the graves. What would a passerby see? Naked, dirty and rotted animated corpses? When and where did they get clothes? What about that first meal they had after being revived? What about legal issues concerning their return? Were they able to repossess their property and what kind of legalistic earthquake would that have set off with the Jewish leaders? Really, If this really happened it is remarkable that there is no surviving record of this anywhere, not even from the other supposed witnesses. Paul never mentions it either.

I'm going to toss out a couple other examples, not for you to specifically respond to, but for you to see what seems ridiculous to me. You have a donkey giving advice to its rider; an ax head that floats; a man that swallows a whale, no wait, I got that backwards, but it would have been a better miracle than a great fish that swallows a man, particularly if you want a "sign"; 5,000 Jews instantly converting to Christianity in a single day; 3 hours of darkness throughout the entire world during the crucifiction story; the unreconcilable testimony of the empty tomb story from the anonymous authors of the gospels. These are the things that are too fantastic to believe and require the "faith" that the OP was referring to.

My counter claim is simply this: If you have evidence then demonstrate that evidence and quit using the word faith altogether. If you mean "trust" or "confidence" then use trust and confidence.

Do you think your confidence and trust is justifiable? If your evidence is factually trustworthy and justifiable then it will need no testimonial from you or anyone else, just like facts and truth it will stand on it's own and speak for itself.
1.62
 

Re: The meaning of faith

Postby jimwalton » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:01 pm

> this gem found in Matthew

Why is it so incredible that at the moment of a resurrection there would be the possibilities of other resurrections? If Jesus's resurrection proves to be true, these other resurrections could have numerous meanings, but certainly they fall into the category of possible as well, if we can verify Jesus's resurrection as true.

My case would be this:

- Matthew seems to be strongly under the impression he is writing historiography (Mt. 27.45ff.). He speaks of darkness for 3 hours (that the others there could verify), words Jesus spoke that everyone standing around could hear, what the eyewitnesses said to each other, one offering Jesus a sponge of wine vinegar, etc. Given Matthew's careful attention to structure elsewhere in his Gospel, the structure and grammar here would indicate that Matthew is writing as historical narrative, not poetry, fiction, or symbolism.
- Jerusalem lies near a fault line, so earthquakes are quite possible (27.51). There is no extrabiblical evidence of the temple curtain tearing, but we can't argue from silence either for or against All I'm saying is that a ground tremor is easily within the range of historically possible. The mention has spectacular symbolism, but there's no verifiable way to prove or disprove its historicity. Nor does the text specify which temple veil was torn (there were at least 2). Nor can we examine archaeologically for such things. The temple mount now in existence and visible in Jerusalem was built in about the 1300s.

Now, the symbolism of vv. 52-53 is both powerful and meaningful, so we have to debate its historicity. The alternatives, however, don't make sense.

- If Matthew is just speaking apocalyptically (he invented the story for theological purposes), it doesn't make sense. There was no Judaistic or pre-Christian tradition saying that the death of the messiah would precipitate a general resurrection.
- It doesn't make sense that he got this story from the apocryphal Gospel of Peter. First, it hadn't yet been written, and second, the possibility that Matthew would have known about it is remote at best.
- Matthew invented the story as a fulfillment to Ezekiel 37, Isaiah 26, Zech. 14 and Daniel 12. This is unlikely also, because it would be strange for him to claim that the national restoration of Israel had happened.

We're left with historicity as possibly the best choice. Aside from many points of obvious powerful symbolism, what's the purpose behind this? I think it gives evidence that Jesus's resurrection has the power to raise all his saints, as he promised, that He is the firstfruits of those who are "asleep," and it's true that people who died in the Lord will be raised to new life. This was just a tiny glimpse of all that was promised, even to verify that it was all true.

> Since the graves were "opened" anyone could look inside the graves. What would a passerby see? Naked, dirty and rotted animated corpses?

No, resurrection bodies, like Jesus's.

> the talking donkey

We should think of this as God talking through the donkey rather than a miracle giving the donkey human speech.

> floating axehead

Yeah, the only reasonable biblical explanation is a miracle here.

> the big fish and Jonah

Not a whale, for sure. A whale shark has the gullet size to get a man in his mouth, but they are not usually founding the Mediterranean. The "3 days and 3 nights" could be symbolic imagery—figurative—and not literal. The fish got him, couldn't do anything with him, and barfed him up pretty quickly. Sometimes, even, "3 days and 3 nights" is an expression of distance, not time.

> 5,000 Jews instantly converting to Christianity in a single day

It's possible. The population of Jerusalem at the time was about 60,000. 3,000 added to the church (Acts 2.41) represents about 5% of the population).

> 3 hours of darkness throughout the entire world during the crucifiction story

Goodness, no. Not throughout the whole world. Just in the area.

> My counter claim is simply this: If you have evidence then demonstrate that evidence and quit using the word faith altogether. If you mean "trust" or "confidence" then use trust and confidence.

As I said, the way the Bible uses "faith" is the things we know but they haven't happened yet. I know the grocery store is still around the corner, but I can't prove it until I go there and verify it. But I know it's there. I would see the smoke it it had burned or heard the explosion if it had blown up. Faith is just a different kind of knowledge than our knowledge of past events.


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