Forget the 40 days then!!! I've already told Kcrady that if this is going to be a stumbling block, then forget that entire specific description which he had concerns with about the 40 days. Isn't that simple?
Fran, it's not the "40 days" that's the stumbling block. If it's a historical fact that the vast majority of historians accept, then provide citations. If you can cite one mainstream secular or other-religion (Jewish, Hindu, etc.) scholar/historian who accepts as a historical fact that Jesus lived with his disciples, abruptly appearing and disappearing (teleportation) eating, letting them explore his wounds with their hands, fishing, ascending into the sky, etc., then I will accept that any proposed naturalistic explanation needs to incorporate an explanation for Jesus' post-mortem tangible presence, ability to teleport and/or phase through solid matter
etc.. If you can't--if your consensus of historians does not
accept these events as historical facts, then I do not think a naturalistic explanation needs to explain such accounts beyond counting them as examples of the progressive growth of legend.
I do not think the skeptic is required to explain how Jesus could appear physically to his disciples, let them touch him, etc. if your "consensus of historians" does not even accept such things as historical fact.
Here's where the stumbling block is:Statement #1:
The bottom line is that they saw something which CONVINCED them that they saw the real Jesus after his death. That's the bottom line and that is what Fact #3 says.Statement #2:
They were also willing to throw out and leave behind they're MOST CHERSIHED beliefs and rituals and cultural IDENTITY as Jews to accept that Jesus was literally resurrected and had appeared before them... and ate with them... and walked with them... and fished with them... and talked with them... and spent 40 days with them.
They got to CLOSELY EXAMINE the evidence before them. As I did in here about what you wrote to me.
They had that very hard evidence and 40 days of living with Jesus after His Resurrection to know the difference between bad memory and good memory. Between perception and hard evidence. Between wishful thinking and reality. They saw something spectacular... spectacular evidence that they were willing to lose everything and be tortured and killed rather than back down.
Can you not see the enormous
gulf between the two statements?
Statement #1 could easily refer to ecstatic visions like Paul's, or various sorts of hallucinations, or disciples identifying other people (like the person they met on the road to Emmaus) as "Jesus" in retrospect, motivated by a passionate desire to believe that their beloved Master had been raised from the dead and that their dedication of their lives to him and his mission had not been in vain. Or (to be fair) actual apparitions of an exalted spiritual Christ comparable to Marian apparitions in Catholicism, the Christ/Logos manifesting through other people (the guy on the road to Emmaus), etc. Or the actual nature of whatever appearances or apparitions of Christ convinced his followers could be unknown--all that's known is that the early Christians believed in a resurrected Christ on the basis of some (unspecified) sort of manifestations some of them believed they experienced.
Statement #1 is the sort of thing I think a majority of Bible scholars and historians could probably accept as a historical fact, i.e., that Jesus' followers had experiences of some sort (quite possibly subjective, ecstatic visions or hallucinations) that convinced them that he had risen from the dead.
Statement #2 requires a whole other order of explanation. I very much doubt that scholars who are not Evangelical Christians accept as a fact that Jesus appeared in tangible form to his disciples for 40 days after his death, teleporting around, changing his appearance to look like other people, etc.. I'm willing to be corrected on that score though. If it's true that most historians/Bible scholars (regardless of their religious positions) do
accept these accounts as accurate history, then I'm sure you will be able to cite an example or two.
If you can't, then you don't get to invoke Statement #2 as if it were equivalent to Statement #1. That's goalpost moving.
Analogy: Statement #1:
Travis Walton was missing for five days, and claims to have spent that time aboard a flying saucer. His friends claimed to have seen the saucer strike him with a beam of light before they fled and returned to discover that he was missing.Statement #2:
Travis Walton lived aboard a flying saucer for five days. He sat in its command chair, handled the vessel's controls, encountered and spoke with aliens and humans, and underwent a medical examination.
As far as I know, there are no UFO researchers, skeptic or believer, who would not accept Statement #1 as a fact. That does not
mean that all UFO researchers accept Statement #2 as a fact. It's much easier for a UFO skeptic to explain Statement #1 ("Travis Walton and his friends are lying") than to explain Statement #2 ("Um...the CIA built a spaceship set, drugged Walton and put him in it, then used actors and animatronics to represent the humans and aliens respectively?").
This is why I'm asking you to stipulate exactly
what Four (or however many) Facts your consensus of historians (including non-Christians) actually accepts. If they accept that the disciples lived with post-mortem Jesus for 40 days physically examining his wounds, etc., then fine. Just show that they do, and give some kind of summary of their basis for doing so. If you can, that would be part of Fact #3 and a skeptic like me would need to explain it naturally in order to show that no paranormal explanation (divine miracle, aliens, Satan trying to trick people into abandoning Judaism, etc.) is necessary.
If they don't
accept the Doubting Thomas story etc. as historical fact (opting for Statement #1), then a natural explanation doesn't have to incorporate tangible appearances of Jesus alive after his death. Your tactic so far has been to assert that the scholars accept Statement #1 (which may well be true), but then treat Statement #2 as if it were equivalent to and/or incorporated within Statement #1, when the consensus of scholars may not (and AFAIK, do not) accept Statement #2 as historical fact or equivalent to their actual consensus.