AN ARGUMENT AGAINST THE RESURRECTION BASED ON HOW EVEN THE NONSENSICAL APPARITIONS OF MEDJUGORJE BEAT IT IN TERMS OF BELIEVABILITY

The likes of Hector Avalos hold that the Medjugorje nonsense shows how the story of the resurrection of Jesus could arise despite being untrue.

 

A critic Campbell however counters: “There are at least four (generally agreed upon) facts from which the inference to the resurrection of Jesus is based; while there are no facts concerning the fate of Mary that scholars in this field of study can agree to” (ACC, p. 296).

 

BUT

 

 “Generally agreed upon” is just a coded description for a consensus among Christian scholars, and it has no more merit than quoting Islamic scholars to prove that “it is generally agreed upon that Muhammad received revelations from Allah.”

 

Avalos says, "Marian scholars, most of whom are Catholic, certainly do share a wide agreement concerning the Assumption of Mary, which DOES concern “the fate of Mary.” ...So, should we accept the Assumption of Mary as her historical fate because of such a wide consensus among Catholic scholars?"  His answer is no.

 

He goes on, "In any case, it is not a FACT that there is an empty tomb, regardless of how many Christian scholars may agree. A FACT is something that we can verify with our five senses and/or logic, and no one today can verify that Jesus’ tomb was empty around the year 30 CE. ... But it is a fact that there is a story of an empty tomb."

 

[It is true that something can be a fact without you being able to sense it.  But fact in the best sense is what you can test with your eyes and ears and hands etc.  Ponder that and don't read it as going too far with asking you to be able to sense stuff.]


HOW LONG AFTER “DEATH”?

 

Campbell inserts a temporal limit in his evaluation of apparitions. If a belief in an apparition arose after a particular amount of time subsequent to the putative death of the person appearing (e.g., 500 years), then he apparently holds the belief to be invalid or less credible. That is not a purely historical judgment.


And if one does believe in supernatural causes, then there is no necessary logical or theological requirement that any post-mortem appearances be within a limited amount of time. Any post-earthly life can be assumed theologically to be eternal, and so it cannot be constrained by the temporal limits that Campbell imposes on Mary.

 

The inconsistency is evident in that Campbell does not place any restrictions on Jesus apparition stories. Yet, similar ones can be made. For example, since Jesus ascended to heaven the same day as his resurrection (Luke 24) or 40 days after his resurrection (Acts 1), then can we say that any reports of seeing Jesus after those 40 days should be historically less credible? If so, that could invalidate Paul’s accounts in Acts 9 and 22.

 

If theologically there is no time limit for Jesus to appear after his death, then why is there one for Mary? If Mary is alive now, she can theoretically appear just as often or just as viably as any angels or saints who presumably have eternal life.

 

The fact that the dead are regarded as the equivalent of angels in terms of eternal life is made clear by Jesus in Luke 20:34-38:

 

“[34] And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; [35] but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, [36] for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. [37] But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. [38] Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”

 

And, indeed, Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and some disciples at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:1ff) hundreds of years after their putative departure from an earthly life (following traditional dates):

"Died" Appeared

 

Moses 15th c. BCE to Jesus in 1st c. CE
Elijah: 9th c. BCE to Jesus in 1st c. CE

The same occurs with angels, who have no chronological limits on appearances to human beings as is indicated in text hundreds of years apart:


Michael: Daniel 10:13 Revelation 12:7
Gabriel: Daniel 9:21 Luke 1:19

 

So, if Mary is just as alive as is Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Michael and Gabriel, then there should be no theological objection to the continued existence of Mary. Period.

 

NO PRIOR RESURRECTION TRADITIONS?

 

In order to dismiss the claims of Medjugorje, Campbell resorts to a well-known argument centering on novelty and prior expectations. According to this rationale, an unexpected and novel event is presumed to have more credibility than an event for which there is a prior tradition or expectation.

 

As Campbell phrases it: “Indeed, these children were raised in a context in which these kinds of things are expected. In contrast, the original disciples had no prior traditions anticipating a resurrection from the dead of one man in the middle of human history; and this fact alone suggests that the appearances of Jesus to his disciples gave rise to their belief that he had risen”(ACC, p. 297).

 

First, Campbell flatly disregards, or is unaware of, the reported testimony of at least one of the Medjugorje visionaries, Mirjana Dragicevic (Mirjana's Testimony):

Mirjana Dragicevic

 

“I didn't know Marian apparitions existed. I never heard about Lourdes or Fatima. The first day Ivanka had the vision of Our Lady, she was full of enthusiasm and wanted me to look too. I thought: "This can't be real!" But, Our Lady gave us strength to accept Her as a Mother. I've changed a lot. I realize how empty my heart was.”

 

There is no evidence that Mirjana knew much about the doctrine of the Assumption or its theological implications, as she was a teenager at the time of her first reported experience.

 

Similarly, René Laurentin interviewed the visionaries and explicitly asked them: “Did you ever want to see Our Lady?” Their replies are recorded as follows (Is The Virgin Mary Appearing?, p. 44):

 

“1. It never crossed my mind
2. No.
3. Never!
4. Never!
5. It never even crossed my mind. I didn’t think that such a think could ever happen.
6. I never thought of such a possibility.”

 

Indeed, there is no logical correlation between belief in the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, and the belief that any one individual should receive such an extraordinary vision.

 

So, even if the visionaries believe in the Assumption of Mary, why would that mean that Mary SHOULD APPEAR TO THEM? After all, a lot of people who believe in the Assumption don’t believe that they have experienced apparition events.

 

Moreover, the first appearance of any miraculous event in ancient literature would, by Campbell’s standard, be regarded as more historical than a lot of things that Jesus did.

 

For example, there were already many traditions where great men were thought to be born of the union of divine father and a human mother. Thus, Alexander the Great was said to have been born of the union between Olympias and Hercules or Zeus. But would Campbell argue that since there was such an expectation that great men would have such an ancestry, then the story of Jesus’ divine origin is also less credible?

 

Second, we don’t know what any disciples had as traditions prior to the written resurrection stories. Just because any prior traditions are not in writing does not mean that they could not have circulated and discussed orally.

 

Even John 20:30 states: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book.” So, how do we know that some of those signs did not result in at least some of them anticipating a resurrection?

 

Third, it is not quite true that there were no explicit resurrection traditions prior to the resurrection of Jesus. In John 2:19-21, it is said: “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he spoke of the temple of his body.”

 

Elijah was also supposed to return. According to Matthew 11:13-14, even Jesus suggested that John the Baptist was a “reincarnated” Elijah: “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli'jah who is to come.”

 

The saints were supposed to resurrect at the end of time, and many would argue that the NT was written by authors who thought they were living in the end of time (see Matthew 24, 27:52-53), and not, as Campbell supposes, “in the middle of human history.”

 

In fact, expectations of the resurrections of prophets were common enough that even Herod thought that John the Baptist might come back not long after being killed in Mark 6:14-16:

 

“[14] King Herod heard of it; for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.’[15] But others said, ‘It is Eli'jah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ [16] But when Herod heard of it he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’”

 

So, if Herod expected John the Baptist to resurrect soon after being killed, and if some Jews expected Elijah and other prophets to resurrect, then why does Campbell deny that there might have been a pre-existing tradition that prophets, including Jesus, could resurrect? Jesus was regarded as a prophet in Luke 24:19: “...Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.”

 

And if Campbell is willing to dismiss the Marian apparitions because they occurred after the establishment of some related creed, then we could dismiss any apparitions of Jesus that supposedly happened after the years 35-40 CE for similar reasons.

 

If, by Campbell’s own reckoning, a creed that Jesus resurrected was established by 35-40 CE, then can we say that any vision of Jesus after that is only as credible as the resurrection that happened before that?

 

We could also argue that the belief in Jesus’ apparitions was tied to the belief that he was the son of God or to any other doctrine that we might identify as a necessary precedent. For example, we could just as well affirm that “Any piece of evidence supporting the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus can only be as strong as the evidence supporting the historical claim that he was the Son of God.”

 

Otherwise, Campbell’s demand is circular. By his own account, Campbell’s main evidence that Jesus resurrected is based on claimed sightings of Jesus after his death. So, if sightings of Jesus establish the creed that he appeared after his death, then why can’t sightings of Mary at Medjugorje establish the creed that she appeared at Medjugorje after her death?

 

Indeed, it is inconsistent to use the reported post-resurrection appearances of Jesus as evidence that Jesus resurrected, but dismiss the reported post-death appearances of Mary as evidence that Mary is alive. If Mary is appearing, then that would prove that she is alive regardless of what dogmas existed in prior years. Period.

 

 

NO RADICAL PERSONAL CLAIMS?

 

According to Campbell: “Contrary to Jesus, Mary made no radical personal claims” (ACC, p. 297).

 

This is a most puzzling argument. First, why does Campbell not count Mary claiming to be the virgin mother of Christ as a “radical personal claim”? If being impregnated by the Holy Spirit is not a “radical personal claim,” then what is?

 

According to Luke 1:26-35, the angel Gabriel revealed the cause of her impregnation directly to Mary, and so it would have been Mary who subsequently made such a radical claim about her impregnation to others.

 

Second, why should making “radical personal claims” be the mark of historicity at all? If I said that I was the son of God, would that make anything else I said more “historical”? Again, making radical personal claims is irrelevant to whether an event related to the person making those claims happened or not.

 

FOLLOW-UP VERSUS NO FOLLOW-UP

 

The biased nature of Protestant critiques of Medjugorje can be detected in that much of the data for dismissing the experiences of the visionaries comes from follow-up interviews or field work. Thus, Samples had the luxury of empirically verifying that he could not see what a visionary claimed to see.

 

The problem with using such field work to cast doubt on Medjugorje is that such Protestant apologists do not demand field work or follow-up to accept the stories in the New Testament.

 

Thus, in the case of the New Testament, Protestant apologists automatically assign credibility to reports where witnesses were not further scrutinized or their stories were never empirically verified by outside observers.

 

But the same apologist will not automatically assign credibility to Marian reports PRIOR to any scrutinization or field work. We can simplify this bias here:

 

Jesus: Believers’ reports ACCEPTED without any further empirical verification or interrogation of witnesses.

 

Mary: Believers' reports NOT ACCEPTED without any further empirical verification or interrogation of witnesses.

 

If Samples wanted to be consistent, he would accept the first reports of Medjugorje, and not inquire any further because that is exactly analogous to what he wants us to do with the New Testament reports.

 

Note also that ALL reports about Jesus come from believers, while at Medjugorje reports about Marian experiences also come from non-believers such as Samples. Alternatively expressed:

 

Jesus: All reports of alleged post-resurrection experiences come from believers.

 

Mary: All reports of alleged post-resurrection experiences DO NOT COME from believers.

 

Even when the NT authors report on any contrary claims, those contrary claims are reported through those NT authors, and we are not directly reading from the contrary sources ourselves. However, in the case of Medjugorje, we are often reading the contrary reports directly from its opponents such as Samples. Overall, it seems irrational for Protestant apologists to believe in New Testament "witnesses" who are either anonymous or have a biography unverifiable to us today, and yet dismiss the testimony of millions of "witnesses" who are alive today, and who say that they experienced something supernatural at Medjugorje.

 

BACK TO MCCULLAGH

 

Once we carefully examine the objections to the Marian apparitions launched by Campbell, we can see that the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje DO SATISFY McCullagh’s criteria, at least in a form analogous to those used by W. L. Craig to establish the historicity of the ressurection of Jesus.

 

1. It has great explanatory scope. It explains why Mary’s tomb has never been found, why people all over the world see postmortem appearances of Mary, and why faith in Marian apparitions came into being.

 

2. It has great explanatory power. It explains why Mary’s body has never been found, and why people repeatedly see Mary alive despite her earlier presumed death and burial (or disappearance).

 

3. It is plausible. Given the historical context of Mary’s own unparalleled life and claims, the resurrection or continued existence of Mary serves as a direct confirmation of those radical claims.

 

4. It is not ad hoc or contrived. It requires only one additional hypothesis—that God exists. And even that need not be an additional hypothesis if you already believe in God’s existence.

 

5. It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis “God raised Mary from the dead or keeps her alive” does not in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don’t rise naturally from the dead. The Marianist Christian accepts that belief wholeheartedly as he or she accepts the hypothesis that God raised Mary from the dead (or kept her from ever dying).

 

6. It far outstrips any rival theories in meeting conditions 1 through 5. Down through history various rival explanations have been offered. Such hypotheses have been almost universally rejected by contemporary Marian scholarship. No naturalistic hypothesis has attracted a great number of Marian scholars. The scientific team led by Dr. Joyeux concluded: “No scientific discipline seems able to describe these phenomena” (Scientific and Medical Studies, p. 75).

 

SOURCES
 
Jesus’ Resurrection and Marian Apparitions: Medjugorje as a Living Laboratory By Dr. Hector Avalos at 4/29/2013
 
http://www.truthinmydays.com/do-apparitions-of-mary-undermine-the-case-for-jesus-resurrection/