The following two articles are from, respectively, _The Skeptical Review_, vol. 3, no. 1

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The following two articles are from, respectively, _The Skeptical Review_, vol. 3, no. 1 (Winter 1992) and vol. 3, no. 3 (Summer 1992). These articles may be freely redistributed. Copies of the text of all articles published in _The Skeptical Review_ may be obtained by sending $1 and either one high-density diskette or two double-density diskettes to _The Skeptical Review_, P.O. Box 617, Canton, IL 61520-0617. Specify WordPerfect or WordStar format. (Free one-year subscriptions are available from the same address.) WHAT HAPPENED TO THE RESURRECTED SAINTS? Ed Babinski Two short verses in Matthew raise perhaps the most serious questions that can be put to a literal interpretation of the resurrection stories. Matthew said that at the moment of Jesus' death "the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many" (27:52-53). This is an account of a miracle unsurpassed anywhere else in the gospels. It makes the post-resurrection appearing of Jesus "to above five hundred brethren at once" (1 Cor. 15:6) appear tame in comparison. In this case, many saints were raised and appeared to many. Unlike the accounts of Jesus raising Lazarus or the synagogue ruler's daughter or Jesus himself being raised, this depicts saints dead for way over "three days" being raised. And, from the phrase, "they entered the holy city and appeared to many," it is possible to infer that these many raised saints showed themselves to many who were not believers! Yet Josephus, who wrote a history of Jerusalem both prior to and after her fall, i.e., forty years after the death of Jesus, knew of Jesus but nothing of this raising of many and appearing to many. Of this greatest of all miracles, not a rumor appears in the works of Josephus or of any other ancient author. Surely at least one of the many raised out of those many emptied tombs was still alive just prior to Josephus's time, amazing many. Or at least many who had seen those many saints were still repeating the tale. Although people may have doubted that Jesus raised a few people while he was still alive and although "some doubted" Jesus' own resurrection (Matt. 28:17), who could fail to have been impressed by many risen saints appearing to many? How also could Peter have neglected to mention them in his Jerusalem speech a mere fifty days after they "appeared to many in the holy city"? Surely their appearance must have been foremost on everyone's mind. So why didn't Paul mention such a thing in his letters, our earliest sources? Why did the women who visited the "empty tomb" on Sunday morning not take notice that many other tombs were likewise open? Why didn't the visitors to Jesus' tomb mention that they had met or seen many raised saints in that vicinity, meeting them on the way to Jesus' tomb or on the way back to town? Why did the apostles disbelieve the first reports of Jesus' resurrection when a mass exit from the tombs had accompanied his resurrection? Why didn't Matthew know how many raised saints there were? Why couldn't he name a single one or a single person to whom they had appeared? How did Matthew know that these saints had come out of their tombs? That would be more than anyone had seen in the case of Jesus' resurrection. Let's look at the implications of some of these questions. According to the literal Greek in Matthew 27:50-53, the tombs were opened and the saints were "raised" at the instant of Jesus' death, but they entered the city over a day later! Apparently, neither Joseph of Arimathea nor Nicodemus, while burying Jesus (Jn. 19:38-40), chanced to marvel at all the opened graves and the raised saints in them waiting patiently for Sunday morning. The women in Matthew's account were likewise oblivious to the many graves lying opened by the earthquake and the saints supposedly just beginning to leave the cemetery for town the same morning the women were arriving. And the other gospels were silent on this major miracle involving many! Paul was silent on this matter in 1 Corinthians 15, where he discussed the resurrection at great length! Peter was silent on the matter in his speech recorded in Acts 2, delivered a mere 50 days after the many saints entered the city and appeared to many! Surely the "gift of tongues" would pale in miraculous significance compared to the "raising of the many who appeared to many." Yet Peter said nothing about the latter. We are not talking about just the apostles, like Peter, being witnesses to just the resurrection of Jesus; we are talking about many people who had witnessed many saints being raised, and some of these "many" witnesses were surely present in the audience Peter preached to that morning. So why would he have had to speak at length to convince them that the resurrection of one man had happened? Having witnessed the resurrection of many, they would have readily accepted the claim that one man had been resurrected. And what about the raised saints themselves? Wouldn't they have made terrific evangelists? But we don't read anything about that; instead, we have silence. We admit that to argue from silence is not equivalent to disproof; however, it is not the silence of extrabiblical sources that makes us doubt this account of multiple resurrections. It is the silence of other biblical authors that is generating our doubt. A few extrabiblical sources did expand Matthew's tale of the many raised saints. These expansions were composed over one hundred years after Matthew's gospel was written. Remarkably, they even mentioned the names of some of the "many saints" raised, like Simeon and his sons, Adam and Eve, the patriarchs and prophets, etc., names that Matthew neglected to include. Of course, these expansions of the two extraordinary verses in Matthew and the list of names are found only in apocryphal gospels, which are full of all sorts of marvelous miracles that even surpass the ones attributed to Jesus in the four gospels that the church now endorses (like the story of the talking cross that followed Jesus out of his tomb in the Gospel of Peter). Perhaps Matthew, like the authors of the apocryphal gospels, collected tales he had heard from other believers and/or composed gospel fictions. Perhaps when he composed those two short verses, he was only giving mythical form to the belief that "the resuscitation of the righteous was assigned to the first appearance of the Messiah, in accordance with the Jewish ideas" (D. F. Strauss, The Life of Jesus Critically Examined). He was also indulging in miracle enhancement: multiplying signs and wonders said to accompany Jesus' death and resurrection, i.e., Matthew's unique account of two earthquakes, one that opened the tombs of the many saints (at Jesus' death) and one that moved the stone to open Jesus' tomb (Easter morning). The other gospel writers remarkably neglected to mention that even one earthquake took place. That leaves Matthew's account on doubly shaky ground. Neither did Matthew use the most precise words to depict this wonder, because the verses state, literally, that the saints were raised at the time of Jesus' death and then lay around in their tombs for a day and a half before entering the city! That absurdity arises from what appears to be a sloppy interpolation of the phrase "after his resurrection": And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep were raised: and coming forth out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many (27:50-53). The verses make more sense without that phrase than with it. Without it, they would simply state that the raised saints immediately entered the city upon Jesus' death. But some Christian copyist, or perhaps the gospel's chief editor, felt obligated to add the phrase "after his resurrection" to ensure the priority of Jesus' resurrection, regardless of the literal consequences. People who believe that many tombs were opened and that many saints appeared to many will of course have little trouble also believing that Jesus was resurrected. However, those of us who doubt the story of the many raised saints see in it a reflection of the kind of blind faith that made the story of Jesus' resurrection catch on in the first place. (Ed Babinski's address is 109 Burwood Drive, Simpsonville, SC 29681-8768.) MORE ABOUT THE RESURRECTED SAINTS Farrell Till The attention it has received indicates that Ed Babinski's article about the resurrected saints (TSR, Winter 1992, pp. 14- 15) touched a sensitive spot in the thick skin of Bible inerrancy. A reader in Georgia wrote a "response" to it as did also Tom Fishbeck in his newsletter The Bible Answers, which he presents as a bulletin published to express the views of SIG, a special interest group of MENSA, on biblical issues. A reader receiving a free subscription to TSR at the request of a friend called to ask that his name be removed from our mailing list. When asked if he would mind telling us his specific objections to the paper, he cited the "stupid nonsense" in articles like "the one about the resurrected saints" as the reason why he preferred not to have TSR "polluting his mail box." It is one thing to hurl insults at ideas embarrassing to one's personal beliefs; it is another to refute the ideas with logical arguments. I read Fishbeck's "rebuttal" of Ed Babinski's article and found it weak as water. He suggested four possible explanations he is "willing to believe" about the problem of these mysterious, unnamed saints who were resurrected from their tombs at the moment Jesus died on the cross: (1) Matthew was accurate, (2) Matthew was accurately reporting the occurrence of false testimony of others without knowing it was false, (3) the original gospel of Matthew asserted at least one error, or (4) a change was made to one of the earliest copies of the gospel of Matthew (The Bible Answers, Nov. 1991, p. 4). The first of these explanations is no explanation at all, because the whole thrust of Babinski's article was that such an event as this would have been so extraordinary that news of it would surely have reached contemporary historians and thus been passed down to us in secular records or, if not that, the other gospel writers would have considered the event to be such convincing evidence of the divinity of Jesus that they too would have included it in their accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection. To say, then, that a possible explanation of this problem is that Matthew was accurate explains absolutely nothing. The mystery of the exclusion of this stupendous miracle from the other gospels still begs for a sensible explanation. Fishbeck's second and third explanations are even worse solutions, because they totally destroy the Bible inerrancy doctrine. How could Matthew have been inerrantly guided in what he was writing if he reported as truth "the occurrence of false testimony of others"? That he may have unknowingly done this is beside the point, because the whole purpose of divine inspiration would have been to protect the inspired writers from error. So if Matthew were in fact verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit in what he wrote, he wouldn't have made mistakes unknowingly. Furthermore, this Matthew was presumably one of the apostles who were present in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, so if such an event as this really happened, wouldn't he have had personal knowledge of it? Unless he was incredibly dense, he couldn't possibly have been duped by false testimony about a miracle that he would have known from his own personal experience had not happened. Also, if "the original gospel of Matthew asserted at least one error," as Fishbeck said he was "willing to believe," then the gospel of Matthew was not inerrant, and if the gospel of Matthew was not inerrant, how can we believe that any of the gospels and other allegedly inspired books were inerrant? Fishbeck, who has often bent over backwards in his newsletter to defend the Bible against error, seemed not to be thinking too clearly when he offered the possibility of an error as a defense of inerrancy. His fourth and final explanation was almost as damaging, for if "a change was made to one of the earliest copies of the gospel of Matthew," that would merely underscore a problem sensible Bible readers have long recognized: the original autographs of the Bible have been so corrupted by redactions and copyist errors that no rational-thinking person can have an iota of confidence in the integrity of the present text. God verbally inspired the original manuscripts of the Bible, we are told, but then left the transmission of them to error-prone scribes and translators. That makes about as much sense as belief in astrology and crystal balls. In a letter to Fishbeck, Ed Babinski pointed out an interesting bit of information that was not included in his original article or in a written exchange on the same subject that he had earlier made with Gary Habermas of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University: "Both Mark and Luke contain in sequence the passages which immediately precede and follow the Matthean 'raising of the many'" (personal correspondence, April 17, 1992). Perhaps the best way to emphasize the force of Babinski's point would be to juxtapose Matthew's account with Mark's: Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, "This man is calling for Elijah!" Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The others said, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; _and_the_earth_quaked,_and_the_rocks_were split,_and_the_graves_were_opened;_and_many_bodies_of_the saints_who_had_fallen_asleep_were_raised;_and_coming_out_of their_graves_after_His_resurrection,_they_went_into_the_holy city_and_appeared_to_many._ So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake, and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, "Truly this was the Son of God!" And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee's sons (Matt. 27:45-56, NKJV). If one would just omit the underlined part, for all intents and purposes, he would have Mark's version of the same events, but to make this point as emphatic as possible, I will show the entire parallel passage from Mark: Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is translated, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, "Look, He is calling for Elijah!" Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to him to drink, saying, "Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down." And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God." There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, who also followed Him and ministered to Him when he was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem (Mark 15: 33-41, NKJV). I could have started the quotations several verses earlier and extended them several more, and the results would have been the same. The two accounts are alike detail for detail, except for Matthew's statement about the earthquake that opened the graves of the resurrected saints. This startling fact requires bibliolaters to believe that the Holy Spirit in his omniscient wisdom guided Mark to record such trivial details as the casting of lots for Jesus's garments (mentioned earlier in both accounts) and the offering of sour wine (vinegar) to Jesus, just as Matthew reported, but for some reason chose not to have Mark tell about the resurrection of many saints who later went into the holy city and appeared to many! Only the gullibly naive could possibly believe that. Some inerrantists will no doubt argue that the details just mentioned were far from trivial in that they fulfilled OT prophecies. However, that these alleged prophecy fulfillments were more imaginative than factual can easily be seen by examining the whole contexts of the OT scriptures that they referred to (Ps. 22:18; 69:21). On this issue, Babinski scored another important point in his letter to Fishbeck through several quotations that underscored the absurdity of believing that a miracle of this magnitude would have been omitted not just from the other gospel accounts but also from alleged prophecies of the crucifixion. A particularly significant one was from Christianity's old nemesis Thomas Paine: Matthew concludes his book by saying that when Jesus expired on the cross, the rocks rent the graves open, and the bodies of many of the saints arose; and Mark says, there was darkness over the land from the sixth hour until the ninth. They produce no prophecy for this; but had these things been facts, they would have been a proper subject for prophecy, because none but an almighty power could have inspired a foreknowledge of them, and afterwards fulfilled them. Since then there is no such prophecy, but a pretended prophecy of an old coat ["They parted my garments among them..."], the proper deduction is, there were no such things... (An Examination of the Passages in the New Testament... Called Prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, pam., 1807). Bible believers boast that Thomas Paine's best known work, The Age of Reason, has been repeatedly and soundly refuted, but in reality his arguments against belief in divine inspiration of the Bible have never been satisfactorily rebutted. In 1776, he wrote a political tract that he entitled Common Sense. Bibliolaters would do well to apply that title to the matters referred to in Paine's pamphlet just quoted. The omniscient Yahweh had his prophets predict such piddling crucifixion events as casting lots for the Messiah's garments and giving him vinegar on a sponge but didn't have the prophets predict an earthquake that would resurrect many dead saints! Who can believe it? Inerrantists may cry argument from silence as loudly as they wish, but in all that he has said about these resurrected saints, Babinski has addressed some very serious problems in the inerrancy doctrine. They deserve a response, not flippant dismissal. (Readers wishing to contact Tom Fishbeck about this subject or his newsletter may do so at P. O. Box 105, Pasadena, MD 21122. Ed Babinski's address is 109 Burwood Drive, Simpsonville, SC 29681-8768.) Jim Lippard Lippard@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU Dept. of Philosophy Lippard@ARIZVMS.BITNET University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721

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