"Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
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06-10-2015, 01:59 PM
"Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
The earliest Resurrection “encounters” were based on “visions” of Jesus instead of actually seeing him in the flesh.

In the earliest reference (c. 50 CE) to the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.3-8, we read:

“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Paul includes himself in his list of those to whom the risen Jesus “appeared”. He makes no distinction, but in fact, equates the appearance of Jesus to him and the appearances to the others. The Greek verb Paul uses for all these appearances he mentions is the same one – ὤφθη (Greek – ōphthē) meaning “appeared, was seen” – in each case.

“The choice of this word is significant because it does not necessarily imply the actual appearance of a person, but may only indicate an unusual phenomena…the use of the word ὤφθη in enumerating other visions in the Pauline lists…excludes such details as prolonged conversations, meals and resumption of ordinary life, on which the gospels dwell.” – Charles Guignebert, “Jesus” pg. 523

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. 5, p. 358) points out that in this type of context the word is a technical term for being “in the presence of revelation as such, without reference to the nature of its perception.” In other words, the “seeing” may not refer to actual sensory or mental perception. “The dominant thought is that the appearances are revelations, an encounter with the risen Lord who reveals himself…they experienced his presence.”

There are many instances where it’s used of spiritual “visions”. For example: Acts 16:9-10 “And a vision appeared (ōphthē) to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia…And after he had seen the vision (horama), immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia” Is there anyone who thinks the Macedonian man’s physical body was actually standing in front of Paul when he “appeared” to him?

Same thing in Mark 9:4/Matthew 17:1-3, Moses and Elijah “appeared” (ōphthē) to Peter. Matthew 17:9 calls the experience a “vision”. Did their physical bodies actually appear?

The word is used in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT) to describe how the Lord God appeared to the patriarchs (e.g., to Jacob in a dream, in Gen 31:13). In the LXX stories that use this word, the emphasis is more on the presence of God and on its power to reveal than on the “reality” of the experience.

“When Paul classifies the Damascus appearance with the others in 1 Cor 15:5 this is not merely because he regards it as equivalent….It is also because he regards this appearance similar in kind. In all the appearances the presence of the risen Lord is a presence in transfigured corporeality, 1 Cor 15:42. It is the presence of the exalted Lord from heaven. This presence is in non-visionary reality; no category of human seeing is wholly adequate for it. On this ground, the appearances are to be described in the sense of revelation rather than making visible.“ – Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 5 pg. 359

===================================

We know from the book of Acts, Paul’s description of his encounter on the Damascus road makes it clear that this was a vision – a light from heaven and a disembodied voice – not an encounter with a physically-revived former corpse returned to life.

Acts 9:3-8
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him….”

Acts 22:6-11
“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me….”

Acts 26:13-18
“About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions….”

Acts 26:19
“So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.”

===================================

We also know that the companions of Paul did not see or hear the vision/voice properly. This indicates that the experience was, at least in some sense, subjective to Paul. If an actual flesh and blood body were present then it would have been seen by the companions.

Acts 9:7
“The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.”

Acts 22:9
“My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.”

As far as the appearances go Paul makes no distinction, but in fact, equates the appearance of Jesus to him and the appearances to others in 1 Cor 15. So if we’re to take the accounts in Acts 9:3-8, 22:6-11, 26:13-19 as historical then the appearances mentioned in 1 Cor 15 were originally understood to be “visionary” in nature. This comes as no surprise considering Paul himself admits to having “visions” and “revelations” of the Lord (2 Cor 12:1; Gal 1:12, 1:16). By Paul’s own admission, he was “seeing things.” Paul indicates no knowledge of an empty tomb nor does he refer to any of the physical/bodily details that end up in the later gospel accounts.

Acts also records Peter as having “visions” in Acts 10.10-16. At the beginning, Luke says that ‘a trance came upon him’, and afterwards that he was perplexed at ‘what the vision which he had seen might be’ (Acts 10.17). Later, Peter begins to explain it, saying ‘I saw a vision in a trance’ (Acts 11.5). This makes Peter a particularly suitable candidate for ‘he [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve’ (1 Cor. 15.5).

So we have evidence that two of the eyewitnesses mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:5-8 were susceptible to having “visions”.

In the earliest manuscripts of Mark (c. 70 CE) there are no resurrection appearances. In Matthew (c. 80 CE), only Jesus’ feet are mentioned and he appears on a mountaintop but “some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). The exact "nature" of the appearances in Matthew is questionable. In Luke 24:39-43 (c. 85 CE) we find the first explicit reference to Jesus' physically resurrected body and John (90-120 CE) gives us the Doubting Thomas story. Also in John, the deity of Jesus is stressed which is nowhere mentioned in the synoptics. How could they have failed to mention the obviously important detail that Jesus was God? This seems to be clear evidence of a legend growing in the telling with the earliest beliefs being that of “visions” then to bodily encounters all the way up to Jesus being God in the flesh in John. If this story were true we would expect a lot more consistency than we actually get from the documents.
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06-10-2015, 02:14 PM
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
Living up to your name?

The bible isn't really evidence of anything, except someone had somewhat an imagination


But as if to knock me down, reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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06-10-2015, 02:15 PM
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
(06-10-2015 02:14 PM)Momsurroundedbyboys Wrote:  Living up to your name?

The bible isn't really evidence of anything, except someone had somewhat an imagination

I agree. The whole point of the post is that it pretty much debunks the later empty tomb and "bodily" resurrection of Jesus found in the later gospels.
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06-10-2015, 02:34 PM
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
Earl Doherty covers this as well with laser precision detail in The Jesus Puzzle. Between that book and Richard Carrier's - On the Historicty of Jesus, any inclination i had about the existence of a historical Jesus evaporated.

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06-10-2015, 02:34 PM
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
Visions, dreams, casting lots, animals being born with certain characteristics, etc. etc. were all ways in which people in biblical times thought God was "communicating" to them. As to whether Jesus was a real person or not, I am still on the fence on that, but have read fairly extensively on both sides of the debate. If he did exist as a person, I don't believe he was a demigod in any way, shape, or form.
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06-10-2015, 02:44 PM
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
Gotissues,
What would be the word that Paul should have used had Jesus indeed manifested himself in the flesh to his disciples?

Doc
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06-10-2015, 03:51 PM
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
(06-10-2015 02:44 PM)docskeptic Wrote:  Gotissues,
What would be the word that Paul should have used had Jesus indeed manifested himself in the flesh to his disciples?

Doc

There are other Greek verbs that could have been used such as θεάομαι theaomai
or θεωρέω theoreo

To be fair, he could have used ōphthē as it can be used for actually seeing something but the problem is, throughout the entire Pauline corpus, he gives us no reason to assume these "appearances" were any more "physical" than a vision or spiritual revelation.

That the word ōphthē was commonly used for appearances of a more "spiritual" nature and Paul gives us no evidence to indicate otherwise, it's quite clear what is meant from the earliest Christian sources. The later Gospel authors obviously thought the resurrection was more "physical" than Paul and the earliest Christians did.
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06-10-2015, 05:24 PM
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
The resurrection is quite the fairy tale isn't it?

"Belief is so often the death of reason" - Qyburn, Game of Thrones

"The Christian community continues to exist because the conclusions of the critical study of the Bible are largely withheld from them." -Hans Conzelmann (1915-1989)
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06-10-2015, 05:46 PM (This post was last modified: 06-10-2015 06:41 PM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
Actually they were not "visions". When the Greek is examined, and correctly translated, it means that Jesus was "exalted" (as the other Jewish apocalyptic heroes), and that (belief), "was made manifest" to believers.

http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...other-look

Paul "described" nothing in Acts. Acts was written many many years later, and whoever assembled it, combined tales about at least two people named "Paul/Saul", if not more. It's simply made up. Acts has very developed theological concepts that took hundreds of years to develop.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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06-10-2015, 07:09 PM (This post was last modified: 06-10-2015 07:19 PM by GotIssues.)
RE: "Visions" of Jesus in the earliest sources
(06-10-2015 05:46 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Actually they were not "visions". When the Greek is examined, and correctly translated, it means that Jesus was "exalted" (as the other Jewish apocalyptic heroes), and that (belief), "was made manifest" to believers.

http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/forum/...other-look

Paul "described" nothing in Acts. Acts was written many many years later, and whoever assembled it, combined tales about at least two people named "Paul/Saul", if not more. It's simply made up. Acts has very developed theological concepts that took hundreds of years to develop.

I agree that Acts is secondary but this argument is counter apologetics and would come in handy when debating the resurrection against a Christian. Apologists have to accept the Risen Christ's appearance to Paul was a vision because that's what Acts describes. They can't have it both ways by accepting the Acts vision report then claiming that the other appearances in 1 Cor 15 were any more "physical" than that.

Moreover, Paul admits to having "visions" and "revelations" of the Lord in 2 Cor 12:1. Both 2 Cor 12:1 and Acts 26:19 use the same word for vision optasia. I suppose we could agree that these were subjective experiences that probably had no basis in reality. Second Temple Judaism was a visionary culture. People claimed to see things all the time. The New Testament isn't reliable history in the first place but when you point out that the earliest texts were based on "visions" "revelations" more or less subjective experiences, then it's credibility is damaged even further.

I also agree that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was exalted immediately to heaven instead of rising to earth for 40 days then flying to heaven as in Luke's ascension episode.
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