Like all his columns, and all the clarifications of these columns in the Letters page, on this subject, Loftus refuses to as much as mention -- despite it being cited against him by David Goodhind, who wrote this weekend's letter about it -- the Gospels' emphasis on how Christ's risen body could be touched, and how Christ ate in order to show them He was not a ghost. If Loftus wanted to do so, it would be so easy for him to say - 'Of course I don't deny that Christ had a body which could be touched, and which could eat, after the Resurrection; of course this was a glorified form of the body which had been nailed to the Cross, and which still bore the marks of those nails, whatever special properties it might now have'. But he never says this.
This is what he does say, in full.
I am grateful for this opportunity to expand a little on the article to which your correspondent refers.
If we take first the instance of Peter, in a very few days he progressed from denial of reports of the resurrection, to doubt about it, then to belief, and finally to giving witness of it. So there was in Peter’s mind a ‘development’ of ‘working out’ of what had happened. And this applied to all who herd about and then witnessed to the risen Christ. This ‘working out’ is also illustrated by the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They walked with the Risen Jesus without recognising him, realised who it was only when he ‘broke bread’, and believed in him as the Risen Lord only when he had disappeared from their sight.
Then, because the first Gospels contained accounts only of Christ’s passion and death, it took much longer for the early Christians to write down in a definitive form the impressions given to the disciples by the Risen Christ during his appearances to them. As a consequence of this the Gospels recount not just the all-important conclusion reached by the disciples, but also various and something conflicting accounts of the steps which led to the these conclusions. So the differing ‘guises’ in which Christ appeared can sometimes seem to outweigh in importance the conclusion they led to, and the witness they underpinned—‘Christ is Risen from the Dead’. But it is this conclusion and the witness it led to, which is the ‘core’ of God’s revelation.
As some stage the disciples also realised that those ‘appearances’ of the Risen Lord had stopped, and that Christ would not be seen by them again until he returns in glory at the end of time/ It is this which is the core truth of the Ascension. Whether this occurred, as Luke says in his Gospel, on the same day as the resurrection, or on the 40th day after the resurrection, as he says in the Acts of the Apostles, is, like the more graphic accounts of a ‘Cape Canaveral’-type ‘blast off’ for Christ on his way to the Kingdom, all to do with literary style and artistic licence.
In the post I did about three of Loftus' treatments of the Resurrection of Our Lord, I pointed out that in 2010 and again in 2011 he denied that it was an historical event: or, at least, that we know about it as an historical event. In 2012 he wrote:
Christ did not return to life through his Resurrection, any more than we shall return to life when we share in that Resurrection. Rather, Christ entered into a new life, just as we too shall be transformed and enter into a new life.
In the article last week, he reaffirmed this, adding that all the details about the physical nature of the Risen Lord amount to 'wrapping paper', wrapping up the core message of the Resurrection (whatever that might turn out to mean), and in which we should have no interest. Now he clarifies his metaphor by explaining that these details are a matter of 'literary style and artistic license.'
|Cape Canaveral: spot the difference.|
I think it is evident from all this, amounting to four full-length treatments plus 'clarifications', that Mgr Basil Loftus does not believe in the historical reality of Christ's physical resurrection. For him, talk of the physical side of it in the Gospels is just flummery, 'wrapping paper', 'artistic licence', presumably intended to get across in a vivid way the 'core message', but actually, according to Loftus, getting in the way of our understanding that core message.
I'd be delighted if he denied this, but it seems pretty clear that he has no intention of doing so. In another post I will say something about the kind of motivation people like Loftus commonly have for adopting this kind of position.