WINC: Alleged Resurrection – Paul

Next up in Why I’m Not a Christian: Paul is not persuasive of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.

(This post won’t be very in-depth, vs. my last one in this series. When I was doing the research that led to my deconversion, I looked into this topic in more detail than I will represent here, but I thought it best to include this for completeness. Also, it was a while ago, I forget a lot of the details, and I’m not planning on digging into that minutiae again just for this post, so if I make any mistakes, feel free to point them out.)

As far as biblical evidence for the supposed resurrection of a divine Jesus, besides the gospels, the writings of and about the apostle Paul are also cited by Christian apologists. They refer to his Damascus road conversion experience, and his claims of witnesses of the resurrected Jesus.

In short, my rejoinder is that most rational people disbelieve that other people’s religious visions are of supernatural or spiritual origin – at least when the claims don’t align with our own already-held beliefs. To do otherwise would be special pleading. Perhaps we could be persuaded, if the experience were more common – if we could make sense of some mechanism besides hallucination to explain it, and why a god would be communicating in that way.

In Acts 9, we have hearsay (since Paul isn’t the author), saying that Paul had a vision and heard a voice from Jesus. The men with him didn’t have the vision. Supposedly they “heard the voice”, but did the hear the same words? This…is supposed to convince me of the Christian truth claims?

In I Cor 15, Paul claims Jesus appeared to others (Cephas, the disciples, the unnamed 500, and himself). More hearsay about all but himself. Apologists claim that if he were lying or mistaken, that someone would (necessarily?) have written a rebuttal, which we would know about today. Just like we do today with every religious nutjob, which is why there’s only one true religion in the world, and all the false ones never got off the ground. Err…oops.

I stumbled upon some relevant commentary from DagoodS in a debate review:

Christian apologists…stay away from Paul’s conversion. It does not help you.

People convert for a variety of reasons to a variety of bizarre beliefs. People go from Protestant to Catholic. Christian to Jew. Atheist to Buddhist. And in looking at the beliefs throughout history, there are some very off-beat beliefs that somehow manage to obtain followers. Heaven’s gate, anyone? If 50 years ago someone explained Scientology would be taken seriously, we would have laughed. Yet here we are. The “why” Paul converted is unknown. The “how” is problematic.

First, Paul had the minimal facts. And they did not convince him. He knew Jesus was crucified and buried. Heck, he is closer to the evidence than we are—he could see the empty tomb! He could talk to the soldiers who were guarding it, who felt the earthquake, who were bribed to say they fell asleep. He could talk to people who saw the resurrected saints. He could talk to the priests from the trials; see where the temple veil was repaired. He knew the disciples were proclaiming they had seen Jesus. He knew they were willing to be persecuted for it. He knew every single minimal fact plus a great deal more.

And Paul was not convinced by them. If Paul—who was far more intimately familiar with the evidence than we could ever hope to be—was not convinced…why should we be convinced today? The only way to convince Paul was for him to receive direct revelation (in Paul’s words) or a vision (in Luke’s words.) But this was a vision—NOT an encounter with a physically resurrected Jesus.

As those who argue with the “wouldn’t die for a lie” approach know—people are willing to die for belief all the time. The strength in the argument is to claim the persons encountered a physically resurrected Jesus. That does not include Paul—he saw Jesus in a vision. While Paul is much closer in time than many Christian martyrs, he is no different in encountering a physically resurrected Jesus than anyone today. Whether Paul saw Jesus in a vision 2 months after Jesus died, or Mary down the street saw Jesus in a vision 1,980 years after he died—BOTH have the same evidentiary value!

Further, we often hear that naturalistic presupposition hinders our weighing the evidence. No problem with Paul—he was a theist, immersed in a culture readily believing God interacted through miracles.

Paul’s conversion and willingness to suffer persecution has no more evidentiary value than a person converted today and equally willing. Worse, Paul had all the minimal facts (plus more) and was not convinced by the evidence. I do not see how Paul’s conversion helps the Christian apologist.

No appearance for you. If Jesus is alive and interested in having people believe it, he’s got a funny way of (not) showing it.

Some people probably had some religious experiences 2000 years ago, which they credited to a particular god. During my research, this just didn’t add much to the case for resurrection. And at this point, it’s hard for me to meet these claims with more than a shrug.


15 thoughts on “WINC: Alleged Resurrection – Paul

  1. Professor Taboo

    This is very well done ratamacue. Just my two-cents…

    Saul, or Paul, is a much bigger influence on modern Christian theology than most of its followers realize, and yet, he spent NO TIME face-to-face with Jesus/Yeshua, no time walking with him during his 3-year ministry, AND comes from a very Greco-Roman style theology/divinity/emperorship which side by side with the Synoptic Gospels is noticeably different. Scholars are in general agreement that Paul’s epistles — written before the gospels — caused several/many edits and modifications in the later gospels in order to make the Canonical New Testament have some degree of consistency. Of course under modern scientific, linguistic, and paleolexiconist scrutiny the NT does not hold up at all.

    Now, paranormal or ‘divine revelations’ today can easily fall into psychological and neurological conditions thanks to modern medical advances and discoveries on the human brain, which increasingly show how imaginative, creative, and bizarre the organ is! This doesn’t necessarily rule out temporarily unexplainable phenomenon in Quantum Physics around people, BUT it certainly proves beyond reasonable doubt that monism is simply fallacious and leans toward neurological psychological issues rather than a universal “exclusive club.” The diversity of this world, its vast 3-30 million species (maybe 100-million), and its Cosmos this pale blue-dot moves within, is more than enough evidence today to trash old useless paradigms.

    Thanks for this excellent post ratamacue. Enjoyed it! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Peter

    Good to see you back posting. I had missed your posts. Yours was the first blog I had posited on when my faith crumbled in February last year.

    One of the factors that I have come to appreciate over the last year is the need to look at the Bible books on their own merits. What I mean is to avoid the Christian tradition of seeking to merge contradictions from different authors to try to develop a homogenous Christian theology.

    It takes a long time to change a way of thinking that has been part of ones life for decades. But I now start to see that Paul preached a gospel that was totally at odds with what is in Matthews Gospel, Paul preached a Jesus who is quite different from what is in Mark’s Gospel.

    It is a good point you make in your post. Paul was there on the ground and found the evidence for the Resurrection underwhelming, it took a supposed vision to persuade him. So the question is why should we be persuaded without a vision.

    Why is it that Thomas was supposedly granted a special appearance but we are not. Thomas was not persuaded without seeing.

    So if the Resurrection really happened and tow of the apostles refused to believe without a direct appearance/vision then why should we be criticized for being similarly sceptical?

    I suppose if there is a god then that god can set the rules. But to me it seem most unfair. In this way it just makes me more certain that the god of the Bible does not exist.

    Why should I be held to account for not believing when the great apostle would have not believed either without a direct vision?

    It is not as though I was unwilling to believe. Quite the contrary. Rather eventually all the contrary evidence overwhelmed the positive evidence.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the warm welcome back. I’d like to try to keep going – at least to get out the rest of my journey series, and some other stuff that’s been trying to bust out of my head. 😉

      I remember fondly your early comments. I’m honored to have played some role in your journey.

      Good points. Thanks for your input here, and your other comment today (re CCT). You’ve got more subject matter expertise than me on the OT historical stuff, and it seemed directly applicable to what he was saying.

      Why should I be held to account for not believing when the great apostle would have not believed either without a direct vision?

      Agreed, but…I think it gets worse.

      It’s a fair question that some of us sometimes ask believers, “what (evidence) could change your mind?” As we think and talk through how to evaluate the claims and evidence, it is a check on whether we’re actually searching for truth, and willing to be honest with ourselves and each other.

      So I’ve done my own investigation, and drawn my conclusions on these questions, and now I have this background knowledge. But I try to be honest and fair and doxastically open, so I wonder to myself, “what evidence could change my mind?”

      As any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, it would also be indistinguishable from miracles / the work of gods. So even if Jesus existed and was crucified and was resurrected from the dead into a powerful superhuman body, how could we determine whether the god he proclaims exists, and whether he is his son, etc.? Would we be epistemically justified in drawing that conclusion? As opposed to say a deceitful time traveler from the future, or an egotistical alien?

      Presumably a supremely intelligent god could figure out how to convince us. (Not sure where to go from here…)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Peter

        Hi ratamacue0 for a long time I concluded the Bible must be true even though there was so much contrary evidence. It took me a long time to be prepared to even consider the possibility that it might not be true. But the very second I was prepared to consider that alternative the dam broke and all that cognitive dissonance that I had been storing up in my mind caused a breach too wide to repair.

        Since that time in February 2015 at times I have reconsidered, not based on evidence, but based on emotion, but no matter what I could never accept the Bible is inerrant. I have found hundreds of issues any one of which is sufficient to prove the Bible is not inerrant.

        I am convinced that belief is based on emotion not on evidence. It is interesting to observe how apologists use the most ridiculous arguments to explain away these errors in the Bible. They will never accept an error or contradiction because emotionally it would cause their faith to crumble. Thus they persuade themselves that black is white rather than accept the plain fact that there are errors in the Bible.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. BroadBlogs

    What do you think of the fact that you get resurrection stories in many mythologies, worldwide? Probably none of them are true (wink wink) but do they have a soul message? When Easter comes around I always like to think of the possibilities of transformation and new beginnings


    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Thanks for chiming in. Sorry for my delayed response. BTW, should I call you “BroadBlogs”?

      What do you think of the fact that you get resurrection stories in many mythologies, worldwide?

      Barring evidence to the contrary, or some more persuasive argument… I guess my thought is that they come with so much in the way of (obviously and/or demonstrably) false claims that I don’t see any reason to think they’re legit. I suppose it reflects our survival instincts, and ghost-in-the-machine type thinking.

      Probably none of them are true (wink wink) but do they have a soul message?

      I feel like I’m missing something about the wink here…

      And I’m not sure what you mean by “soul message”. Do you mean that maybe there is some kernel of truth behind them, and that humans have “souls”, and we can/should expect some sort of afterlife?


      1. BroadBlogs

        BroadBlogs or Georgia is fine.

        I asked because I don’t take any mythology (and by that I mean any religious scripture whether it’s Christian, Muslim, greco-Roman, Norse, Celtic,Hindu…) literally.

        But some people who study mythology think the stories might be told and retold because there is something that is good for the soul– the attraction of sharing the stories. Or alternatively, the stories can’t be shared in an attempt to control.

        So take the Adam and Eve story from either perspective. It can be used as a story that promotes a domination mindset: men over women, humans over the earth… And when you get in the habit of domination mentality it’s easier for the leaders to control everyone.

        Or you could look at the story very differently. You could see the story as giving advice on how to live a fuller life. Eve disobeys in search of knowledge and “Having the wisdom of the gods.” In the same way children disobey parents around the “terrible twos.” But imagine a person who never disobeyed. That person would have neither knowledge nor wisdom. That person would be a roboton. Even the fact that they leave a paradise that takes care of everything has a positive side. How does one grow when everything is easy and all of your needs are taken care of? Muscles grow by facing resistance, And our minds and souls do too. So what he did was a good thing. It can be good to disobey any think for yourself — as you certainly do in this blog. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person


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