Turning to the Lord, the Veil is Removed

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

2 Corinthians 3:16

Paul, the First Century Hebrew of Hebrews, wrote the statement above. He knew what he was talking about. Before a personal encounter with the living, risen Jesus Christ, Paul was aggressively opposed to Jesus and his followers.

He experienced life with a veil over his eyes, but he didn’t know it. That is the nature of a veil: what’s behind it is hidden. You don’t know what you don’t know until the veil is removed. When the veil is removed, a person see what was once hidden from view.

For Paul, the veil was removed suddenly and in dramatic fashion. Complete with a flash of light, a voice from heaven and blindness that was removed when the truth of Paul’s encounter was revealed (Acts 9), Paul’s experience was a bit unusual.

These words, though, are a common description for many people, regardless of the drama, or lack thereof: when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. They resonate deeply with me.

The words, though, resonate deeply within me. The truth of Christ was veiled to me for many years. I became a searcher of truth, looking in all the suspect places, until “one day” the veil was removed when I turned to the Lord.

It wasn’t a sudden thing leading up to that point. It was a process. There were markers along the way that I followed, and some gates I went through. In the end, as it seemed the pointers were directing me toward Jesus, I turned to him; and, indeed, the veil was removed.

Looking back, we might say, I was blind, but now I see.” During the process, it doesn’t seem quite like that at all.

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The Resurrection: 2nd Century Legend? or 1st Century Factual Claim?

Easter is just around the corner so thinking about the Christian claim that a man from Nazareth in 1st Century Palestine died and rose from the dead three days later is a timely consideration. The accounts of this event don’t read like mere story or legend. They have all the characteristics of Greek biographies capturing historical accounts.

Many modern scholars accept the Gospels as part of the Greco-Roman biography genre (focusing on the similarities), while others find them uniquely Jewish (focusing on the differences). Central to this ongoing debate is the apparent intention of the authors to assert a factual, historical narrative.[1]

The difficulty modern scholars have with the text, which reads like biographical and historical accounts, is the inclusion of fantastical claims of miracles, the resurrection of Jesus and theological statements, many of which are penned as statements made by Jesus.

From the early to mid-19th Century, much of the biblical scholarship has leaned in a skeptical direction, and that inertia continued robustly into the 20th Century. That scholarly trend produced a skeptical consensus weighted toward a view for instance, that the Gospels, were written long after the events they describe, probably in the 2nd Century, making the resurrection and appearance of Jesus to his followers something akin to legend.

This thread of scholarship suggested that early formulations of the message of Jesus did not include his resurrection or appearances. These things were believed to have been added many decades and two or more generations after the events took place.

The 20th Century view began with skepticism and ended with a skeptical conclusion explaining the resurrection claim by the kind of embellishment that comes with the passage of time. This was the consensus view when I studied religion in the late 1970’s.

But one man, wrestling with his own doubts, took the facts the skeptics would give him and pieced together an analysis that does not square with the view that the resurrection claim is a later embellishment of what the first followers of Jesus believed. These “minimal facts” have changed the views of most 21st Century Scholars, even skeptical ones.

The Scholarly consensus has now changed on when the Gospels were written and on what the early message of the first followers of Jesus was. For instance, the scholarly consensus now agrees that all the Gospels were written in the First Century. Even skeptical scholars date the Gospels between 70 AD and about 95 AD. The scholarly consensus also agrees that the message included the death and resurrection of Jesus from very early on.

Continue reading “The Resurrection: 2nd Century Legend? or 1st Century Factual Claim?”