Empty-Tomb

It is so important to check the whole story before you commit yourself to what is tabled as accurate, truthful and actionable intelligence. Too often the facts presented are incomplete, to the detriment of the biblical believer and the undecided. While critics and skeptics claim the high road, with no ideology flavoring their presentations, you can be sure that this is the exception not the rule.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”

There is a large well known website by the name of Patheos, that claims: “Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion.”

Lets look at one of its “credible and balanced” articles.

In a post titled, “Just One More Dying and Rising Savior”, the author Bob Seidensticker argues that Jesus is just one of many Greek gods who have died and come back to life, so Jesus is no different. In his post he addresses some of the “but” statements Christians make in defense of the Jesus resurrection narrative. But before we look at those, lets critique his credible statements about a couple gods that predate Jesus.

  • Tammuz; “was the Sumerian god of food and vegetation and dates from c. 2000 BCE. His death was celebrated every spring.”

Seidensticker’s argument here is that long before anyone claimed Jesus had risen, there were many others making the same claim about Tammuz. This may or may not be correct, but it is also misleading. The earliest writings known about this god dates to the 11th century AD. Yet he asserts the dating and accuracy of the story as if historians had the original writings, when in fact, they are thousands of years removed from the myth. Conversely, the Jesus resurrection narrative in the gospels can be dated back to the event itself. Paul’s epistle evidence in the form of papyrus 46, dates back to about 175 AD.

The Greek god Tammuz is mentioned in the book of Ezekiel Chapter 8, but the earliest known references to Tammuz outside the bible isn’t until the 11 century AD.¹ Yet, Seidensticker seems to give more weight to writings three thousands years removed from the event than ones 150 or so years removed. Jesus died in about 30 AD.²

Seidensticker goes on to cite Dionysus and Adonis as two more gods who died and rose again like Jesus. Only again, important details are left out. If you promote an idea without data to back it up, your just promoting a myth yourself. According to professor Habermas, a leading biblical scholar, historians have no evidence of any resurrection myths taking place prior to the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD. In fact, Habermas states that out of 1,200 research publications by skeptical biblical scholars he has looked at, only a handful argue that Jesus resurrection story was taken from Greek god mythology.

Seidensticker may think the mocking tone lends weight to his seemingly poorly researched article, but it does not. As happens all too often, skeptics adopt an “everyone knows” posture while leaving out pertinent data contrary to their position. When they are finally called to task to produce the data, the insufficiency of their argument is apparent, as we will see in the short video below.

In a seven minute segment from Lee Strobel’s Faith Under Fire series, the subject of the origins of the resurrection narrative is debated. Professor Gary Habermas, a leading biblical scholar debates Tim Callahan, religious editor from Skeptic magazine who authored the book, “The Secret Origins of the Bible”. (full debate here)

It is interesting to note how biblical skeptics are far more willing to accept far less evidence when it comes to the opposing contrary viewpoint, but demand extraordinary evidence for the affirmative viewpoint. In the video clip Callahan seems to give great weight to a piece of pottery while the eye witness detailed testimonies in the biblical record are suspect. Seidensticker, like Callahan, leaves out important and relevant information for a “credible and balanced” presentation of the subject.

Seidensticker goes on in his article to answer his critics. Though, I am suspicious that he is answering his own questions. One of his reproofs was to the critique that Many of the gods he lists actually came after Christ. Here was his answer;

“That’s why the list above only includes dying-and-rising gods who are well known to have preceded Jesus. There are many more such gods—Mithras, Horus, Krishna, Persephone, and others—that don’t seem to fit as well. In fact, Wikipedia lists life-death-rebirth deities from twenty religions worldwide, but I’ve tried to list above the six most relevant examples.”

What is being left out here is that again, according to Gary Habermas, a biblical authority, not wikipedia, there is no evidence suggesting any Greek god resurrection story until hundreds of years after Jesus death.

Another pertinent point that was left out is that as far back as the book of Job, Jewish religious tradition has been hoping for a resurrection of their bodies at the last day. From Job, arguably the oldest book of the bible and all through the Old Testament, the hope of a bodily resurrection has been written about.

The earliest written mention of Seidensticker’s first example of Tammuz, is in the biblical book of Ezekiel. Which in itself is an interesting piece of information attesting to the historical accuracy of the bible, but you won’t hear any of that from a skeptic like Callahan or Seidensticker.

Ezekiel 8:14; “He brought me to the north gate of the LORD’s Temple, and some women were sitting there, weeping for the god Tammuz.”

Where else in the bible is there talk of a bodily resurrection?

Job 19:25,26; “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!”

Isaiah 26:19; “But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again!

Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy!”

Daniel 12:2; “Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace.”

John 11:23,24; “Jesus told her, Your brother will rise again.” “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day”

Acts 23:6-8; “Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!”

This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees— for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these.”

This is not new to the Jews, or the disciples of Jesus. Resurrection has always been part of the Jewish religious fabric, so to argue that the resurrection narrative is somehow a conflation with ancient Greek gods is just not supported, if you are “credible and balanced” that is.

Below is Dr. Gary Habermas, the world leading authority on the empty tomb controversy. He has written many book and had many debates on the subject with skeptical scholars. Gary lays out a case for the resurrection beyond the bible and gives us the up to date skeptical biblical scholarship. If you ever wondered about the resurrection of Jesus beyond the rhetoric, professor Habermas has the answers.

 

If the resurrection of Jesus did not occur, then Christianity cannot stand. But if the resurrection is more plausible than not, then Christianity deserves a closer look at the other evidence of faith.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20; “But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

 

HOW CAN I BE SAVED? 

 

References:

  1. Fuller, 1864, pp. 200-201
  2. Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (1995), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. vol. K-P. p. 929.

 

Robert J.

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