Pages 10-12: autumn 1991
WHY DIDN'T THEY KNOW?
John's account of the resurrection has Peter and another disciple running
to the empty tomb after hearing from Mary Magdalene that the body of Jesus
was gone. The unnamed disciple, outrunning Peter, arrived at the tomb first
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the
tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth
that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings
but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who
reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must
rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes
Luke also indicated that the disciples of Jesus had not expected his resurrec-
tion, for Luke said that after Peter looked inside at the linen cloths, "he
went home, wondering at that which had come to pass" (24:12). Numerous
references to the apostles' skepticism of a resurrection appear elsewhere in
the New Testament (Lk. 24: 11,38; Jn. 20:24-25; Matt. 28:17).
From one perspective, that the disciples did not yet understand the scrip-
ture that Jesus must rise from the dead, as John alleged, is not at all sur-
prising, for the simple reason that there were no scriptures that said he
would rise from the dead. Luke had Jesus telling his disciples the night of
the resurrection that "it is written that the Christ should suffer, and rise
again from the dead the third day" (24:46). The Apostle Paul also alleged
that the scriptures said that Christ would be raised on the third day (1 Cor.
15:4). That is the claim, but the claim and the reality are two different
things. One could search the OT scriptures until doom's day, and he would
find nothing written about a Messiah who would rise from the dead on the
One will find nothing in the OT scriptures about a risen Messiah, period!
Bibliolaters like to point to Psalm 16, which Luke claimed that both Peter and
Paul quoted as proof of Jesus's resurrection (Acts 2:25-31; 13:35-37), but
the context of the whole psalm does not support the application that the
apostles gave to the verses they quoted. In my booklet, Prophecies: Imagi-
nary and Unfulfilled, I have analyzed in detail this psalm and Peter's and
Paul's application of it, so I won't repeat myself here except to say that
anyone who reads the apostles' quotation in context will see a dubious connec-
tion at best between it and the alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Despite the often repeated New Testament claim, there just are no prophecies
of a resurrected Messiah in the OT scriptures.
From another perspective, however, if the resurrection really did catch
the apostles by surprise, one has to wonder why. Certainly they had been
told enough that it would happen. In the context of the famous passage
where Jesus promised Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, it was clearly
said that Jesus told his disciples that he would be killed and then resurrect-
From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples that he
must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and
chief priests and scribes and be killed, and the third day be
raised up (Matt. 16:21).
Parallels to this passage are found in Mark 8:31 and Luke 9:22. Jesus even
repeated the statement to his apostles at least twice:
And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The
Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men; and they
shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised up. And
they were exceeding(ly) sorry (Matt. 17:22-23).
And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve
disciples apart, and on the way he said unto them, Behold, we go
up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the
chief priests and scribes; and they shall condemn him to death,
and shall deliver him unto the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge,
and to crucify: and the third day he shall be raised up (Matt.
Some parallel accounts of these passages (Mk. 9:31; Luke 18:32-34) say that
the disciples didn't understand what Jesus was saying, but this is just anoth-
er case of textual discrepancies in the Bible, because Matthew clearly indicat-
ed that they did understand him. The first time they were told, for exam-
ple, Peter took Jesus aside, rebuked him, and said, "God forbid it Lord!
This must never happen to you" (Matt. 16:22). The second time Jesus told
them, Matthew said that they were "exceedingly sorry," but how could they
have been exceedingly sorry about something they didn't even understand?
Besides, considering the general acceptance of the phenomenon of resurrec-
tion in those times (Mk. 6:14-16), what was there to misunderstand when a
man said he would "rise again" after he had been killed?
In view of what Jesus said in the last passage cited above, the postcruci-
fixion conduct of the apostles is almost impossible to understand. On the way
to Jerusalem, he took them aside, told them that he would be (1) delivered
up to the chief priests and scribes, (2) condemned to death, (3) delivered to
the Gentiles to be mocked, (4) scoured, (5) crucified, and (6) raised on the
third day. After their arrival in Jerusalem, the apostles saw Jesus (1) deliv-
ered up to the chief priests and scribes, (2) condemned to death, (3) deliv-
ered to the Gentiles and mocked, (4) scoured, and (5) crucified, yet some-
how, after personally witnessing these five specific fulfillments of Jesus's
statement, they didn't expect him to be resurrected. Why? One would think
that if Jesus had really told them to expect all of these things, after witness-
ing the precise fulfillment of the first five of his predictions, they would
have surely expected at least a possibility of the sixth. So rather than the
women's having to run to tell the apostles about the empty tomb they had
found, one would think that the apostles would have been on the scene
themselves that third-day morning at least waiting to see if Jesus would come
But they weren't there (according to the story). They had to be sought
out and told, and even then they considered the news the women brought to
them to be only "idle talk" (Luke 24:11). The women were telling them exact-
ly what Jesus had said would happen, and they thought their words were just
idle talk! At the tomb, the angels said to the women, "(R)emember how he
spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must
be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third
day rise again" (Luke 24:7). The next verse says that "they remembered his
words." So the women were able to remember that Jesus had said this, but
the apostles whom Jesus had taken aside on the way to Jerusalem expressly
for the purpose of telling them to expect his death and resurrection apparent-
ly couldn't remember that he had said it. They just looked into the tomb and
went home, "for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must
rise from the dead." Is that what we are supposed to believe?
If the apostles didn't yet understand that Jesus had been destined to rise
from the dead, they were a pretty exclusive club, because just about every-
body else knew what to expect. As we just noticed, the women remembered
immediately that Jesus had said that he would rise from the dead, and they
weren't the only disciples (disciples, not apostles) who understood this. In
the conversation that Jesus had with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus
on resurrection day, Cleopas, after summarizing the events surrounding the
trial and crucifixion of Jesus, clearly indicated that he understood a resur-
rection was supposed to happen the third day:
But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea
and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things
came to pass (Luke 24:21).
It seems, then, that just about everyone who had been associated with Jesus
knew that he was supposed to be resurrected except the apostles. Jesus had
apparently entrusted the furtherance of his important cause to a bunch of
dimwits who couldn't understand plain language.
Even the enemies of Jesus understood that he had predicted his resurrec-
tion. After Jesus had been put into the tomb, they came to Pilate to ask
that precautions be taken to prevent a staged fulfillment of the prediction:
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief
priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir,
we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive,
'After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb
to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may
go and steal him away, and tell the people, 'He has been raised
from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the
first" (Matt. 28:62-64, NRSV).
So the women remembered that Jesus had predicted his resurrection, the
disciples at Emmaus remembered it, and the enemies of Jesus remembered it.
Everyone apparently remembered it except Jesus's own handpicked apostles.
That's a little hard to believe.
Bibliolaters preach that the Bible is an inerrant work of unity and harmo-
ny so perfect that it can be explained only by the doctrine of verbal inspira-
tion. It makes great sermon fodder to feed to gullible pulpit audiences, but
this discrepancy in what the apostles didn't know but should have known
about an impending resurrection of their leader is a glitch in the Bible that
must be explained before rational people can accept the inerrancy theory.
THE TILL-McDONALD DEBATE
The Till-McDonald Debate on the issue of Bible morality was held in
Sullivan, Missouri, on July 29-30 and August 1-2. It was poorly attended,
with a low of 12, besides participants and moderators, and a high of 19.
The audience was obviously comprised of confirmed fundamentalists, who had
come to see an agnostic take a good shellacking, for during the nightly ques-
tion-answer period following the speeches, all questions from the audience
were addressed to Till. None were directed to McDonald, although he had
taken some absurdly ridiculous positions.
As fundamentalists always do in debates on this issue, McDonald defended
the massacres of the Midianites, Canaanites, and Amalekites as acts ordered
by an infinite God who can do no moral wrong. In answer to a question Till
directed to him, McDonald even said that if he had lived in biblical times, he
would have willingly participated in these massacres by "personally killing old
women, pregnant women, mothers, children, and infants." Apparently without
seeing the absurd inconsistency in it, he later criticized Till for refusing to
take a public stand against abortion.
The position McDonald took in the debate was based entirely on an as-
sumption of the existence of objective morality, "which emanates from the
nature of God." Till emphasized that proof of this position would require
McDonald to prove (1) that God exists, (2) that his nature is infinitely good,
and (3) that this infinitely good god was Yahweh, who had commanded the
Israelites to commit the massacres under consideration. Till repeatedly chal-
lenged McDonald, who claims that the Bible is his only guide in religious
matters, even to cite a single scripture that says that "morality emanates from
the nature of God." He was never able to do it.
Like all Church-of-Christ preachers, McDonald piled assumption onto
assumption throughout the debate and considered mere assertions to constitute
proof. Several times he flashed a chart on the screen that listed 10 elements
in his proposition that he had "proven": (1) God does exist, (2) objective
morality does exist, (3) the Bible is of divine origin, (4) God is good, (5)
God is merciful, (6) God is holy, (7) God has the attribute of wrath, (8) God
hates sin and is sinless, (9) God is love, and (10) God is omniscient. Just
to list the elements is enough to show the absurdity of McDonald's claim,
because, with the possible exception of number seven, one would have to
spend days and write volumes even to come close to presenting a reasonable
defense of any one of the other nine and especially the first three. His
"proof," of course, consisted primarily of scripture quotations that said the
very thing he was trying to prove, and to the fundamentalist mind this is
Although we were promised audio tapes after each session, we received
them only after the first one, and they were not of good quality. The speak-
ers were often interrupted to allow operators of recording equipment to cor-
rect problems and change tapes that ran out midway in a speech. As we
prepare for press, we have received no word on availability or cost of tapes.
Inquiries should be sent to Jerry McDonald, 97 Florence Street, Sullivan, MO
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