Stephen R. Kingsley's The Easter Answer, Is No Answer At All.

I have recently read Stephen R. Kingsley's booklet, The Easter Answer, and my conclusion is that it not only contains a great deal of ignorance about how the gospels were written in the first place (see Luke 1:1-4; he even quotes from the discredited longer ending of Mark), but also that the scenario he presents is quite flawed in several places. It's no answer at all to harmonizing the Gospel accounts of the resurrection stories of Jesus.

Kingsley is attempting to answer Dan Barker’s Easter Challenge offered in his book, Losing Faith in Faith. It’s a challenge that a skeptic named Ralph Nielsen offered $1,000 if anyone could meet it. Basically the challenge asks the believer to “go to your Bible and put together the various resurrection stories into one consistent narrative. Read Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20 & 21. Read also Acts 1:3-12 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. List all the events from the resurrection to the ascension of Jesus without omitting any detail. If you can do this with no contradictions I will pay you a $1000 reward.”

Kingsley’s answer fails miserably, I think.

Take for example Matthew 28:1-7:
1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
Kingsley disagrees with the majority of today's translators on verse 1 and instead goes with the 1971 New American Standard Bible where it begins "Now late on the Sabbath..." So Kingsley claims verse 1 describes events that took place, not after the Sabbath day was over, but instead late on the Sabbath day, at say, 5:45 PM. Then Kingsley claims verses 2-4, the angel's rolling away of the stone, took place several hours later between 12 midnight and 3:00 AM. And finally he claims verses 5-7 describes the events that took place at 6:30 AM when women first discover the tomb was empty.

The problems are inherent just in these short verses, for when reading Matthew they are meant to describe a flow to the events he narrates. These events in Matthew's Gospel are supposed to be taken in order right after each other. It requires Kingsley to rewrite the Gospel to produce one of his own, which as it stands disagrees with all four of them individually. As Bart Ehrman argues, what happened that morning depends on which Gospel we read!

Kingsley has Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb four times, telling the disciples on three separate occasions about it, and having Peter run to discover the empty tomb not once, but twice. On Mary’s third visit to the empty tomb she encounters Jesus himself and touches him (John 20:10-17). But on her fourth visit to the empty tomb (Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1-2) Mary Magdalene goes with other women to anoint the dead body of Jesus and unbelievably keeps silent that she already knew Jesus had arisen and the tomb was empty! Kingsley suggests Mary kept silent presumably because Peter and the other disciples told her to (without any Biblical support), or that Jesus ONLY told her to tell the “brethren” and did not require her to tell women, or because the other women might have been jealous and accused her of a delusion, even though she was emphatically NOT afraid of telling men who would’ve been more skeptical of her testimony as a woman!

Kingsley also tries to harmonize the five appearances of Jesus to his disciples in the four Gospels with Paul's completely different chronological list of six appearances in I Corinthians 15. To do this Kingsley merely combines them together to make eleven appearances, ignoring the fact that Paul intends to provide not just a list of appearances but a chronology of appearances. And Paul's chronology does not accord with Kingsley's chronology either, when we consider that Paul never mentions any appearances to women at all (Kingsley claims Paul didn't recount them because of their social status, but then why did the Gospel writers do so?). Furthermore, the four Gospels never make mention of the 500 hundred people whom Paul boasted in I Corinthians as having seen the resurrected Jesus at one time, even though this fact would’ve been an astounding confirmation of the Gospel writer's claims.

I think Kingsley should take heed of what several Christian scholars said about attempting such a project, as quoted by him on page 20: Dr. Daniel Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary said: “No plausible solution has presented itself.” Dr. J. Lyle Story, of Regent University said, “I do know that it’s next to impossible to provide the sequence of events in the post-Resurrections…there’s no way that they can all be harmonized.” Dr. Donald Hagner of Fuller Theological Seminary said the problem is a “notorious” one.

Kingsley has emphatically not harmonized the accounts by far. His attempted harmonization is far fetched and as such no answer at all. He does not deserve the $1,000 dollars from Ralph Nielsen.

I will say though, that it was very interesting for me to see the extent a believer will go to prove his faith true. I think it's high time such an attempt is abandoned entirely. It's time that evangelical believers look at the phenomena of the Bible and then only afterward construct a theory about inspiration, rather than continuing to allow their preconceived inerrant theory about the Bible to force the phenomena of the Bible into a Procrustean Bed. Let the Bible do it's own talking. Stop forcing it to fit your preconceived inerrant theory due to ignorant assumptions picked up in Sunday School when you were kids. Grow up. Learn. Question. That's what adults do in most every other area, except unfortunately, when it comes to religion.

2 comments:

Glenn said...

As the rigorously honest skeptic, I am pleased that you do not use belief in inerrancy and efforts like this man's effort as a way of characterising Christian views of the written Gospels.

I'm sure you accept that the fact that the Gospel accounts do not match perfectly is no reason to doubt the resurrection took place. (No doubt you have other reasons for that, but this, of course, cannot be one of them.)

KnightEnder said...

Common sense?