The Logic of Jesus and Paul is Flawed

Look at how Jesus argued on behalf of the resurrection: “And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spoke unto him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:26-27)

How this argument of Jesus’ is suppose to lead to the belief that the dead do in fact arise, is convoluted to say the least. This OT text, taken in its original context, is merely identifying the God that was speaking to Moses from out of the so-called burning bush. No one today, using our own contextual understandings, would ever conclude that God was proclaiming anything about a resurrection from the dead, even if Jesus and his contemporaries may have thought so.

Look at how Paul argued on behalf of the general resurrection of the dead:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. Christ has been raised. Therefore, there is a resurrection of the dead. (I Cor. 15:13).

Why does it follow merely from the fact that Christ arose that there shall be a general resurrection of the dead? There seems to be nothing in the belief that Jesus arose that would lead me to think that there is a general resurrection. It just might be the case that Jesus arose because he’s special and that’s it.

The answer for Paul is that Christ is the head of those who believe, just like Adam is the head of humanity (vs. 21-22). And what is true of the head will likewise be true of his followers. But this kind of inferential argument makes no sense in today’s world, no matter what Christian scholars say people believed in the past. Paul’s logic is flawed here. It could equally be argued by this same logic that since Jesus ascended into heaven, so also will all believers, since what is true of the head will likewise be true of his followers. But of course that logic doesn’t work because even in Paul’s day some Christians had already died and didn’t ascend into heaven as Jesus purportedly did from Mt. Olivet.

My position is that these ancient standards of reasoning are laughable in comparison to today's standards. So to continue believing what they tell us, when we know this about their standards, is utter foolishness. Furthermore, if we can determine from logic that the doctrines that result from their inadequate reasoning are incoherent, completely far-fetched, or even inconsistent, then their historical conclusions should be rejected.

Now here’s the rub. If I misapplied an OT text, or misquoted it to make a point, or if I used pesher, midrash, typological or allegorical methods today to understand the OT, or the Bible as a whole, Christians today would be the first ones to jump down my throat based upon the grammatical historical method.

Christians would say I do not have the authority to do what they did. Jesus could do it because he was God incarnate, and Matthew and Paul could do it because Jesus authorized them to do so. But I cannot, and neither can any other Christian today.

I simply argue that if the logic of NT people is so flawed, then we should not believe them when they go on to claim Jesus was an incarnate God who arose from the dead. If one is flawed, then so is the other. Both stem from a faulty and inadequate way of understanding the world and of assessing the evidence for or against any historical claim, much less a miraculous one.

To my argument here, James Patrick Holding, a self-proclaimed internet apologist, said: “What happened is that they knew from fact and history that Jesus was born of a virgin, etc, and then, to normalize it for those who respected the OT as Scripture, they sought out passages that could be read typologically to verify that such events were kosher. Events called out the texts, not vice versa.”

But this is the very question I’m asking; that is, how do we know “events called out the texts, not vice versa?” Based on the reasoning skills of these early founders of Christianity, and the whole lack of a historical consciousness, it is much more likely that OT texts called out the events that were to be told, not vice versa.

The NT writers made Jesus' life fit the details of their flawed understanding of the OT, and they arbitrarily used the OT to argue for their superstitious beliefs about Jesus.


GeneMBridges said...

But this is the very question I’m asking; that is, how do we know “events called out the texts, not vice versa?” Based on the reasoning skills of these early founders of Christianity, and the whole lack of a historical consciousness, it is much more likely that OT texts called out the events that were to be told, not vice versa.

To asssert otherwise, you have to credit Mark with a very subtle typological scheme and theological

Yet Marcan priority is also a cornerstone of the epistemological and dating schemes used by critics of Christianity. But one of the
arguments for Marcan priority is that he is theologically primitive compared to the more advance doctrine and methodology of Matthew, Luke, and John.
So evidence of Marcan sophistication would count as evidence against Marcan

B. So you have to abandon Markan priority to argue your thesis.

C. If Mark began with a given prooftext, and then invented a
story about the life of Christ to illustrate the prooftext, why be so oblique? We aren't told. Where is the textual reason to assume that Mark fabricated the story to fit an OT text? How do you know this? Your argument is an assertion without supporting argument. Only if Mark is beginning, not with an OT text, but a historical event, does
his procedure make sense. The facts are drive the story.

D. If the early Christians fabricated these events, then where is Jesus addressing the issues closest to the time the gospels were written? You'd also expect that, yet they aren't there. Where does Jesus argue against, say, the necessity circumcision?

E. You are also assuming, without benefit of argument, that our exegetical methods and way of thinking today are more valid. Yet the text is a first century document. This simply begs the question in your favor.

a. The GHM takes this into account. It isn't just a matter of Jesus identity or Apostolic authority. The GHM itself takes these other methods into account and assumes they are valid within the time frame the texts were composed. So, you explanation of the Christian response is facile, to say the least.

b. If one of this methods Hillel used was a valid method and original recipients viewed it as valid, then the use of the OT is, in fact, a valid use, because it amounts to Jesus answering his audience on their own terms. Why would a first century Jewish rabbi discuss exegetical theology using the modern GHM and not a method that was familar to his audience, themselves another set of rabbis sitting in the Temple courts?

Part of the GHM is to apply the appropriate distance between ourselves and the text and attempt to understand what it meant to them. This historical and cultural distance is not present in the original text. If you have a Th.M, you should know this.

Yes, we see pesher, literalism, midrash, and allegory all used by the NT authors. So what, how does this constitute evidence against the veracity of the narratives themselves? Why would a letter addressed to a partially or predominantly Jewish audience employ a method unfamiliar to the original audience and be expected to be understood and believed?

If you wish to argue against the validity of the these other methods, then it would be helpful for you to argue in another manner other than question-begging assertions that assume that your modern way of thinking and exegetical methodology is superior to theirs, especially when we are 1900 plus years removed from the date of writing and the parent culture. On a post-modern thesis, which, from what I have gathered you support in my short perusal of your blog, you have no logical reason to argue that your method is any more superior to midrash, literalist, pesher, or Middle-Platonic allegory.

Anonymous said...

I cannot respond to everything you write here. We'd just have to look at specific cases.

Here's a relatively minor one:

Notice that Matthew 21:2 has Jesus requesting both a donkey and also a colt to ride into Jerusalem on, based upon a misunderstanding of Zechariah 9:9, which reads: “Rejoice…your king comes to you…gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah’s prophecy is an example of Hebraic parallelism in which the second line retells the point of the first line. There is only one animal in Zechariah, but Matthew thinks he means there is a donkey and also a colt, so he wrote his story based upon this misunderstanding in order to fit prophecy! [Mark (11:1) and Luke (19:30) both say it was a “colt.” John (12:14-15) says it was a “donkey”, and then quoted Zechariah: “your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”

FYI, I don't specifically describe myself as a postmodern.

Thanks for your post.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I think you've misunderstood what Jesus and Paul were doing. They were both addressing particular audiences, and their arguments began with the opponents' assumptions to show that they should believe in the resurrection on the basis of those assumptions.

Jesus was talking to people who do this sort of midrashic thinking, saying that by their own standards you can derive the resurrection of the dead. He deliberately chose a Torah statement because he was talking to the Saducees. If all he wanted to show is that the Hebrew Bible refers to a resurrection, he could easily have chosen something from Isaiah, Daniel, the Psalms, or perhaps Job. If he were addressing Pharisees, he could have done that, not that they needed convincing of a resurrection. But the Saduccees didn't accept those books. Jesus wanted to show that they should still accept the resurrection based on the sorts of ways they interpreted the Torah.

As for Paul, that's much more straightforward that it surprises me how completely you have missed his point. He's addressing people who consider themselves followers of Christ, who believe that Christ was resurrected, but who are denying that there will be a resurrection on the grounds that such things don't happen. Paul is simply pointing out that they themselves already believe that it happened with Christ. So why do they think it couldn't happen with his followers?

There's been a lot of pretty awful scholarship trying to find as ridiculous interpretations of Matthew's use of prophecy as possible, and you seem to be endorsing one of the most uncharitable of all. It's absolutely astounding that someone who could have put together the magisterial gospel of Matthew could be so unfathomably stupid as to have taken the Zechariah passage the way you're asserting he did. I've addressed Matthew's use of scripture elsewhere, but I'll say one thing here, excerpted from that post:

There's no reason to think Matthew's use of 'them' means Jesus was riding both animals at the same time somehow, which is ridiculous, and Matthew would have known as much. The nearest Greek antecedent of 'them', always the most natural option, is the term for the cloaks placed on the animals. Jesus was riding on the colt (or the quotation would have made no sense), who was still young enough to be with his mother (Mark and Luke mention that it had never been ridden, and most scholars think Matthew had access to Mark), and when they put the coats on the colt and its mother (as was the custom in Palestine), Jesus sat on them, i.e. on the coats that were placed on the colt. That's the most natural reading of the passage in the Greek.

I argue in the post that Matthew actually understood the meaning of the Zechariah passage far more thoroughly than the modern scholars who pretend he didn't get it at all, but I don't want to repeat my whole argument in this comment space.

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david said...

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. Christ has been raised. Therefore, there is a resurrection of the dead. (I Cor. 15:13).

I am just curious where this translation was taken from? I can’t find any variants that include the last two sentences. Are you quoting like a rabbi!? :)

I think Paul is showing his audience the implications of denying resurrection. He argues in classic form to show that the conclusions of their view are absurd (at least for one who claims to be a Christian).

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. ( v13)

Essentially this is the old, all men are mortal syllogism right?
No man is resurrected from the dead
Christ is a man
Therefore, Christ is not resurrected from the dead.