Friday, April 11, 2014

Something had to happen...?

I've just been listening to last week's Unbelievable podcast, featuring a debate between Bart Ehrman and Simon Gathercole on the subject of "How God became Jesus". I don't have much to say about the debate as a whole, but there was one claim made at about 55 min into podcast which I found to be interesting. While talking about the resurrection and the start of Christianity, the host Justin Brierley said: 
" need something to explain why suddenly these very radical views about Jesus were coming from"
To which the guest Simon Gathercole responded:
"I think... everyone thinks that you have to have some kind of 'big bang', because if there wasn't something, then Christianity... the Jesus movement would have fizzled out, just like the Theudas movement fizzled out, just like the Judas the Galilean movement fizzled out, to cite two other sort of messianic, or semi-messianic movements. So yes, certainly something had to happen which kept the movement alive."
Really? Something had to happen or the religion would never have kept going? And everyone thinks it? By that token, Joseph Smith really had to have had a visitation from the angel Moroni, or Mohammed really had to have had revelations from the angel Gabriel, and so on. 

Not all religions start with an actual supernatural event. Indeed, almost by definition, all religions (except possibly the 'one true religion') must have started without any supernatural event. Why should Christianity be the exception to that? Why did Christianity need an actual resurrection to get going while the Mithras religion didn't, or the Zoroastrian religion didn't, etc.? Are the claims of Christianity so much more unbelievable than the claims of other religions that it couldn't possibly get going without some grounding in reality, but the others could, because they are somehow more believable? I doubt it.


Ricky Carvel said...

Actually, I've just listened to a talk by NT Wright online which more or less claims the same thing - the first generation of believers could never have come to believe in the resurrection of Jesus unless it had actually happened.

Surely the fact that countless generations of believers since then have come to believe it without access to the same 'evidence' that the first generation must have had should give us pause for thought. If people today can come to believe something without such evidence, surely people back then could have too?

Scott said...

Hi Ricky,

Just wanted you know that I really enjoy your writing. Your questions and your book list resemble mine, so I'm always looking forward to what you'll write about next. Thanks for your effort, it is appreciated!

Ricky Carvel said...

Thanks Scott!