By the "transfigured Resurrection" I mean that Jesus in his new postmortem state had become transfigured, such that He could travel through walls, appear and disappear, be unrecognized by His followers, and Ascend. This is not to simply refer to the possibility that He died and was resuscitated.
By the "most direct evidence", I mean that I am more interested in direct observations about the gospel story than in unnecessary connections - like whether other religions include stories of virgin births - or in broad philosophical principles - like whether God could undergo a sacrifice in human form to remove others' sins. However, you could of course include those more circumstantial arguments if they are your most direct. Below are those I found, in order of strength, along with their counterarguments.
- Matthew records about Jesus' fourth collective appearance to the apostles, on the mount in Galilee, that "when they saw him, they(or ‘some’) worshiped him, but they (or ‘some of them’) doubted."(Matt 28:17, "προσεκύνησαν, οἱ δὲ ἐδίστασαν.") This would have occurred after Jesus convinced them in Jerusalem that he had arisen, after both He and the apostles would have convinced Thomas of His resurrection, and shown himself up close at the sea of Tiberias to five apostles. Could they really have doubted His resurrection if they had already been convinced up close physically (eg. when He ate with them) on two to three prior occasions? The doubters aren’t other disciples besides the eleven mentioned, because “Matthew always uses the hoi de + verbal construction to refer to a previously mentioned group of people” (Keith Reeves, "They Worshipped Him, and They Doubted", The Bible Translator, 49(3): 344-49.). Nor are the doubters non-/anti-Christian Jews mentioned earlier in v.15, because “doubt”(ἐδίστασαν) in v.17 means two-mindedness (from δί-: “two”), like the father showed in Mark 9:24 (“I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”)
Counterarguments: A) Two mindedness is not full disbelief. B) The divine appearance of a resurrected person could be so unusual and paranormal that it could make a viewer doubt what he was witnessing. C) Matthew could mean that only “some” of the eleven doubted, particularly Peter, because: i. Matthew seems to use the same Greek sentence construction (plural verb, οἱ δὲ plural verb) to refer to only some of an assembled group. (eg. Matt. 26:67: “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands.”) ii. Matthew 26:67 is Matthew’s only other verse with this structure and it is followed by Peter’s denial of Jesus; Matthew’s only other use of “two mindedness” (διστάζω) describes Peter’s doubt when Jesus walked on water and the apostles thought Jesus was a spirit (Matt. 14:26,31).Ben C. Smith wrote: ↑Tue May 24, 2016 3:49 am[In numerous other cases where it's used] οἱ δὲ also refers to a completely different subject than what came immediately before, taking advantage of the usual force of the δὲ.
Those who try to grant the δὲ its usual force will say that the doubters have to be miscellaneous others besides the Eleven.
- If the angels at the tomb were real, like the one that scared away the guards and rolled away the tomb, and like the angel the women saw inside the tomb, why didn't Peter and John see them when they looked inside the tomb? Luke 24 says that the women saw a "vision" of angels. Why didn't the men see Jesus near the tomb, and why didn't the women at the tomb or the travelers going to Emmaus recognize Jesus initially? Paul speaks as if Jesus appeared to him too, but from Paul's accounts it sounds as if Jesus' apparitions to Paul, eg. in the Temple, lacked material form. And Thomas wanted to touch Jesus' wounds, but when Jesus appeared and showed his wounds to Thomas, Thomas believed and didn't touch the wounds. So can it be said that the resurrected Jesus - despite allegedly eating food - was only immaterial, and if so could He have been a delusion or fabrication?
Counterargument: The angels and Jesus could choose whom they revealed themselves to.
- Were the Corinthians' "tongues" nonsensical babbling? Paul never says that they spoke real national languages in their glossolalia, but that no one but God understood them. He said that if bystanders saw the Corinthians talking simultaneously, they would think they were "maniacs". So did the Corinthians have a delusional mental inclination, and was this representative at all of the early Church?
The counterargument is that two Church fathers claimed that the Corinthians spoke real national tongues in their outpourings. Indeed, Acts gives multiple instances of Paul or the apostles speaking miraculously in foreign national languages. Theologians debate whether the Corinthians spoke national languages in their glossolalia, but they seem to think that this was still some kind of "gift" of the Corinthians. (But if it was nonsense, it does not feel realistically like a "gift" to me.)
- In Mark 16:8, after hearing the young man's/angel's instructions to tell the apostles about Jesus going to Galilee, "they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid." And here Mark's original version of his gospel ends. This leads the reader to the impression that they kept quiet at least for a long period of time. The verses from 9 onwards, added to a later version of Mark, mention two travelers knowing about the women's vision of angels, but not about them knowing of Jesus' appearance there or about disciples at the tomb. However, in the three other gospels, the women immediately went to tell the apostles about the angel, and the disciples came back and looked at the tomb. Also in the other three gospels, the women saw Jesus. So why does Mark tend to rule out the disciples' visit to the tomb?
Counterargument: The women's silence after meeting the angel in Mark 16:8 could have just been temporary, meaning that they did not tell anyone there around the tomb.
- In Matthew and Mark, Jesus or the angel at the tomb has the myrrhbearers tell the apostles to meet Him in Galilee, where Matthew says they do meet the resurrected Jesus. Luke changes the reference to Galilee to one where Jesus simply told them in Galilee about the resurrection. It looks like Luke is intentionally editing out the Galilean meeting. Instead, Luke has Jesus show up on Day 1 of the Resurrection to the apostles in Jerusalem, at which point he tells them to stay in Jerusalem until Pentecost. This would bar them from meeting Jesus on the mountain in Galilee as Matthew described and from meeting Jesus at the sea like John 21 described.
Counterargument: Luke 24 might not have been clear in its chronology: It says Jesus appeared on Day 1 and spoke to them. But the part about staying in Jerusalem could have referred to instructions He gave at a later appearance to the apostles, since the speech in verses 46-49 begins with the words "And he said", implying that this all might not have been one long monologue on the same day. Alternately, Jesus could have been giving general instructions to stay in Jerusalem that did not bar brief side trips to Galilee.
In the theologian Lopuhin's commentary on Luke 24, when Jesus appeared to the disciples and told them to stay in Jerusalem, Lopuhin writes that Luke's account of this appearance conflates what John's account gives as Jesus' first and second appearances. In John, the first and second appearances are 1. Jesus appearing without Thomas, and then 2. "after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them".
Commenting on Jesus' instructions to stay in Jerusalem, Lopuhin writes:
In the beginning of Acts, 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus is about to ascend and gives instructions to them not to depart from Jerusalem. So in Luke 24, Luke can be referring to the same speech when he quotes Jesus as saying to stay in Jerusalem and then has Jesus ascend. This issue relates to how you interpret Luke 24's story of the Ascension where they went as far as Bethany, ie. whether it refers to an ascension or the Ascension on day 40 of the Resurrection. It apparently means the latter Ascension, because Luke 1 begins:Since in this case the appearances of Christ would be totally excluded, being in GAlilee, about which the evangelists Matthew and John speak, therefore some commentators saw here the beginning of the description of the last appearance of Christ to the disciples, being in the day of Ascension. In this way, between the 48th and 49th verses they suppose a difference of 40 days. In light of there not being found a different way of agreeing the evangelistic gospels, other reconciliations are not worth trusting, what remains is to accept namely this proposition, that from the 49th verse begins the description of the last appearance of Christ to the apostles. It means that the evangelist Luke in his Gospel describes only two appearances of Christ to the apostles: the first on the day of resurrection (verses 36-48), and the last - on the day of the Ascension (verses 49-51).
I guess that even with the prologue of Luke saying that Luke's Gospel lasts until the Ascension, one could still imagine that in Luke 24, Luke gave the Ascension as occurring soon after the resurrection since he doesn't mention the 40 days' time, and you could imagine that he then in Acts 1 gave it as occurring 40 days later.Acts of the Apostles 1:1-2
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach, Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom he had chosen, he was taken up.
- Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:5 that after Jesus' resurrection, He showed Himself to "the twelve". Luke says that on Day 1 of the resurrection, Jesus appeared to "the eleven". Did Paul not know about Judas' betrayal? Based on John 20, Thomas wouldn't have been there either, so Jesus would have only showed Himself to 10 people that time. If Luke and Paul were just talking in generalities about "the twelve" or "the eleven" collectively with an estimation, perhaps there were even fewer disciples present at that first appearance?
Counterargument: Matthias had become one of the twelve by the time Paul was writing, even if he wasn't selected as one at the moment of the appearance. So perhaps Matthias was at that initial group appearance and Paul listed him among "the twelve".
- Jesus says in Mark 16:17-18, "these signs shall follow them that believe; ...They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them". This brings to mind Jesus' previous instructions to the disciples in Luke 10:19: 'Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you." But is it true that nothing would hurt the apostles and that a miraculous sign following believers is drinking anything deadly without harm? This does not sound realistic. Some apostles were flogged and James and Peter were eventually killed.
Counterargument: Perhaps the promised protection only applied to a limited period following Jesus' commission to them? As for drinking position, I suppose some Christians' strong belief could give them special fortitude and thus a better chance of survival. But this biological advantage over nonbelievers seems very rare.
- Why in Matthew 28 did some of the alleged guards, paralyzed by an angel, spread rumors that the disciples took the body instead of believing? If they were so scared of the angel that they were paralyzed and ran away, it would show them the role of the supernatural or divine in Christianity. Why would they risk spreading rumors about something they were so scared of and why not become believers?
Counterargument: Human psychology is unpredictable. They could have been chosen as guards in the first place because of their brutish nature, and even being frightened by a fierce angel might not change their psychology into such honest people that they would disobey their paid instructions to lie.
- In John 21, "Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord."
Why were they afraid to ask if it were Jesus if the thought came into their heard to ask? Maybe this was not actually Jesus but an imposter, a vision, or someone they mistakenly imagined to be Jesus?
Counterargument: Maybe they were simply in a frightened mood because they were in the presence of a resurrected person, and so they did not want to get into probing questions.
- In Mark 14 and Matthew 26, Jesus tells the Sanhedrin: "And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God's right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven." As in Stephen's vision of Jesus in the clouds, this appears to me to to refer to Jesus being seen by the Sanhedrin members in the clouds. But the canonical gospels don't record them seeing this. So is this a failed prediction of the Second Coming for the apostolic age?
Counterargument: The Sanhedrin members could have seen it later, but regarded it as a delusion. Or this could be a prediction about them seeing Jesus in the clouds in the afterlife.
- The Church tradition portrays things as if miracles, visions, gifts, and healings were common among the Apostolic community, but became lost in the 2nd century. But if the Spirit produces the works, and the Spirit is still around, shouldn't the gifts be also? Could it be that the gifts never really were so common, and the institutional Church in later, less "gifted" centuries was less gullible about individual acts of miracles because the church had brought in more "mainstream" people over that time?
The counterargument is that the gifts subsided because they were no longer needed to establish the Church community's faith, and it is better if people believe based in the divine based on faith and trust than on signs forcing their acceptance. Another counterargument is that the gifts are still around, especially in cases of stress, but that they received more attention in the early Church.
- Typically, a community's literature reflects the thinking and mindset of a community. Outside of the 4 Biblical Gospels, 2 of which are expansions on a third, Acts Chapter 1, and Revelations, the Church traditionally has not generally accept any of the other - perhaps dozens of - detailed accounts of Jesus or extreme miracle narratives from the 1st-2nd centuries AD. The Shepherd of Hermas was an exception as it met with some approval. But generally those other "gospels" and apocryphal writings are considered spurious and invented or delusional fabrications, often because of gnostic or otherwise heretical elements. Doesn't this imply that the Christian community in general was inclined to fanciful miracle stories, including about Jesus?
The Counterargument is that the Church was able to distinguish the spurious books, so it knew which ones were fanciful and which ones weren't. And besides, the Bible warned believers that false teachings would appear.
- John's Book of Revelation narrates how Jesus appeared to John and dictated 7 well written letters, after which John was spiritually taken to heaven and foresaw thee the apocalypse. If the account was delusional or invented, it raises the question of whether previous visions of the resurrected Jesus could have been delusional or invented too. The account sounds fictional and reads like apocalyptic literature that John could have intentionally thought up.It begs the question of whether he had a pen handy during the dictation, he miraculously memorized the 22 chapters of detailed letters and visions, or he had a stenographer handy named Procleus to whom he dictated his own visions while they happened.
The counterargument is that any of those three alternatives could have logically occurred for the vision to be real. Further, miraculous visions could theoretically be real, so how can you disprove them?
- When Jesus appears to all the disciples in Mark to give them their mission, He says: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." That sounds categorical and would lead some people to think that everything depends on belief alone. But first, it doesn't appear that the Bible actually teaches that judgment is only based on belief. James' Epistle says that faith without works is dead, suggesting that even if a person believes, the belief might not bring salvation if the person lacks works. And second, it seems wrong to categorically and morally condemn all nonbelievers. Couldn't a good, moral person find the gospels inspiring, but due to a psychology of strong mental skepticism about the world and society fail to achieve an affirmative belief that the event happened at a certain time and place? In the New Testament, apostles like Thomas themselves disbelieved until Jesus appeared to them. Why should other disbelievers be morally condemned for the same failure in mental reasoning?
Counterargument: Jesus is just laying out a major criteria for salvation, not giving a categorical, because elsewhere He and others like James give other criteria like obedience and good works. An explanation for the verse on salvation by faith is that it's a general principle that if you believe in Jesus then you will recognize God, believe in God and His moral code, and be saved.
- In Luke 24, Jesus appears on Day 1, has some monologues, takes the disciples as far as to Bethany (which looks on the map like it is probably beyond the Mount of Olives), and ascends. In Acts 1, Jesus appears to the apostles over the course of 40 days, at the end of which he ascends from the Mount of Olives.
Counterargument: As stated before: Luke 24 might not have been clear in its chronology: It says Jesus appeared on Day 1 and spoke to them. But the part about ascending could have referred to a later appearance to the apostles, even though the chronology is not distinguished. Maybe Bethany counts as on the Mount of Olives, or else it isn't clear that Jesus led them onto that spot, as opposed to just going on the road.
- Why did Jesus order Mary Magdalene not to grasp on Him in John, yet He let the disciples touch Him in Luke and John and the two Marys held His feet in Matthew? Was Jesus really an ephemeral apparition that could not really be grasped?
*Counterargument: First, the two Marys did hold onto his feet, but them He told Mary not to grasp Him. With the would "grasp", He meant that she shouldn't hold onto Him, but that instead she should go tell the disciples, or else that He didn't want to be held back by Mary because He had to go on with his goals.
- In Luke 24, the 11 apostles announce to the 2 travelers from Emmaus, "The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon", whereupon Jesus appears to those gathered. (It is indeed the apostles who say to the travelers that Simon saw Jesus, because the word for the "speaking" of the announcement, "legontas", is in the accusative. See the discussion here: http://www.monachos.net/conversation/to ... e-to-peter)
But in Mark 16, it says that after appearing to the travelers, "he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen."
Counterargument: Jesus was upbraiding them for disbelieving the two Emmaus travelers and Mary Magdalene, not for disbelieving every account of his resurrection (eg. Simon's testimony). St. Augustine's answer was that some believed Jesus had risen, while others of the eleven did not, and that Jesus was addressing the second category.
- In Matthew 5:22, Jesus says "That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca [empty-headed], shall be liable to the judgment: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool ["moron"], shall be liable to the hell of fire."
But in Luke 24:25, the stranger, who is Jesus, says to the two travelers: "O fools,["anoētoi" or "thoughtless ones"] and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken".
It's almost as if Jesus broke His own rule.
Counterargument: Jesus uses different words for what we translate as "fool", so theoretically He did not break His own rule. Calling someone "thoughtless" does not have the same power as a "moron".