Signs and wonders

Resurrection of the Lord?

Not in this universe!

Jesus Never Existed –  Christianity's Fabrication Factory


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Kenneth Humphreys


17.11.11

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Discuss the world's favourite imaginary friend on the JNE YouTube channel

 

 

 

 

He who has ears
Let him hear!

The 'unempty' empty tomb!

Jesus and the Spice Girls!

5-minute enlightenment
for those in a hurry

 

 

 

 

 

Logic takes a holiday

risen jesus

Comatose guards "reported all that happened."

Eh?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Hopeless chronicle" admits Archbishop

"A chronicle of Easter Day would be a hopeless enterprise, and the conflict of traditions has still to be sorted out...

As matters stand we have no apparition stories that do not bear the mark of extremely sophisticated literary editing."

– Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Resurrection – Interpreting the Easter Gospel, p89, 98.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soft centre

"Best attested event in history" – or the hole in the Christian doughnut?

Defenders of Christianity sometimes assert that a "resurrection-sized hole" is to be found within the diverse and contradictory gospel testimonies.

The contradictions are said to have "the ring of truth", like conflicting testimonies to a car crash.

But the truth is simpler than that – beneath the confusion and obfuscation is nothing but a poorly thought out fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No, it's an unresolved theological conundrum!

JC's resurrected "physical yet spiritual" body retains the wounds of his old earthly body.

So are they real wounds or spiritual wounds?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Jesus story is "Nothing new" admits Church Father Justin


"We say the Word, the first birth of God, was produced without sexual union. We say that He, Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified, died, rose again and ascended into heaven.

We are propounding nothing different from what you believe regarding those that you esteem to be sons of Jupiter."

– Justin Martyr, First Apology, circa 150 AD.


The sons of Jupiter included Mercury (bringer of the word), Asclepius (who healed the sick) and Hercules (born to a virgin) – all of whom became gods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark's weak ending

And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Codex Sinaiticus (British Library) ends Mark at 16:8.

There are many manuscripts with a longer ending – but none earlier than this 'best' 4th century copy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting better all the time

A 5th century scribe gave Jesus extra dialogue including:

"“The term of years of Satan’s
power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near
."

Codex Washingtonianus – 'Freer Logion', added to Mark after verse 16.14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where DID they get their ideas?

The Resurrection of Adonis

"They beat their breasts and wail every year, and perform their secret ritual amid signs of mourning through the whole countryside.

When they have finished their mourning and wailing, they sacrifice in the first place to Adonis, as to one who has departed this life: after this they allege that he is alive again, and exhibit his effigy to the sky.

They proceed to shave their heads, too, like the Egyptians on the loss of their Apis."

– Lucian, De dea Syria, 6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

A fishy story

The Brick Testament says it all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-resurrection miracle becomes Post-resurrection apparition

FROM LUKE

"He stood by the lake of Gennesaret,  ... He entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. ...

He said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said to him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.

And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake ... When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees ... And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him."

– Luke 5.1-11.


TO JOHN

" After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias ... There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, I go a fishing ... That night they caught nothing.

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus ...

He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship ... They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes ...

Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat to him, (for he was naked,) and cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land ... "

– John 21.1-13.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

happymeal

It takes 611 words to describe the delights of a Happy Meal

^

 

 

 

 

It is not the peripatetic "ministry" of Jesus, with all its supposed healings, wise teachings and astounding miracles, that is the bedrock of the Christian religion. Rather, it is the extraordinary melodrama of his death and resurrection, sometimes expressed as the "promise of the cross" or in the pithy aphorism, "No Resurrection, No Christianity."

It is therefore, perhaps, quite shocking that the biblical statements that purport to support the reversal of the most certain of laws – that the dead stay dead – amounts, in toto, to less than 600 words. The "conquest of death", it would seem, rests upon the evidence of rather fewer words than the text of a McDonald's Happy Meal menu! *

Sad to relate, but there are NO independent, corroborated, disinterested or contemporary accounts of the "resurrection" of Jesus Christ, although that claim is often made. The truth is that ALL that passes for testimony for the Risen Lord comes from the same storybook and a handful of unsubstantiated characters. Whilst it is almost certainly the case that in their original format the gospels circulated as distinct writings, they are in no sense independent testimonies. This is particularly the case with the passion and resurrection narratives, a motley collection of terse, hearsay reports derived from a common source and built into a common, confused and confusing, tradition.

The rational mind is aghast at the limitations, flaws and contradictions of the biblical sound-bites. Yet this is the bedrock of the Christian faith. For all the deficiency of the incredulous claims, those who want to believe will believe. It's called "faith."

 

Mark – A Star witness?

"Faith rests on the historical testimony of those who saw and gave witness."


The post-mortem appearances to be found in Matthew, Luke and John, though each adding flourishes of their own, are all built on a core story accredited to a shadowy figure called "Mark".

Whoever "Mark" was, he was certainly no eye-witness to either the life or death of Jesus. Church tradition maintains that "Mark" – said to have been the erstwhile travelling companion of Paul – went to Rome and wrote down the testimony of Peter. But, on Mark's own evidence, Peter himself was NOT a witness to many of the events described in his own gospel, including the baptism of Jesus, the temptation of Jesus, the healing of the Phoenician woman's daughter, JC's prayers in the garden of Gethsemane (all possible witnesses were asleep!) and even the crucifixion itself:

"They all forsook him and fled." – Mark 14:50.


Even supposing Peter was hanging around Golgotha, how could Peter know, for example, what the centurion said at the cross or Pilate's reaction to Joseph of Arimathea? We have to create multiple, unknown testimonies to keep Peter informed. As for the resurrection appearances, Peter could only rely on information from Mary Magdalen, or perhaps the other Mary or Salome. And yet the women themselves relied on the testimony of an angel – and said nothing!

Matthew, Luke and John copied from Mark, who heard from Peter, who heard from Mary, who heard from an angel.

How's THAT for "eye-witness" testimony?!


"Look – an empty tomb!"

"Every known Gospel of early times, alike in the great Church and in heretical circles, used St Mark as the leading authority for the history of the life of Jesus."

– C. Turner, "The Gospel of Mark", A New Commentary on Holy Scripture, III. p46.


Mark's resurrection story begins with a rolled stone and an empty tomb (but even that idea wasn't original*). Early Christians were unhappy with the abrupt and enigmatic ending of Mark and set to work on improving the text.

"At least nine versions of the ending of Mark can be found among the 1,700 surviving ancient Greek manuscripts and early translations of the gospel."

– Michael W. Holmes, Easter: Exploring the Resurrection of Jesus, (BAR, 2010)

 

 

*Where DID they get their ideas from?

World's "first historical novel" has empty tomb!


“Chaereas was guarding and toward dawn, he approached the tomb. When he came close, however, he found the stones moved away and the entrance open.

He looked in and was shocked, seized by a great perplexity at what had happened. Rumour made an immediate report to the Syracusans about the miracle. All then ran to the tomb; no one dared to enter until Hermocrates ordered it. One was sent in, and he reported everything accurately.

It seemed incredible – the dead girl was not there. Searching the tomb he was able to find nothing. Many came in after him, disbelieving. Amazement seized everyone, and some said as they stood there:

The shroud has been stripped off, this is the work of grave robbers; but where is the body?”

– Chariton of Aphrodisias, Chaereas and Callirhoe, 3.3., 1st c. AD.

 

WHY move the stone at all?

The "Rolled Stone" – a theatrical flourish

"On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." – John 20.19.


Although the gospels tell us that the resurrected Jesus appeared and disappeared at will, popping up and vanishing "in the midst of them", it was still necessary to "move the stone" for him to exit the tomb.

But why?

Why didn't JC teleport out of the tomb leaving the stone in place? Now that would have been even more impressive!

The anomaly betrays the fabricated nature of the post-mortem appearances of the Christian godman. A god would not have needed to move the stone but the storyteller did! With the stone still in place who would have known something miraculous had happened?

A god that materializes in a closed room in Jerusalem, on the shore of Lake Tiberias, or on a mountain in Galilee, most certainly needed no stone moved to allow him to leave a tomb. But the narrator of a sacred play needed the "moved stone" as a theatrical flourish, in order that female visitors to the tomb (and the audience) could see "the body ... gone!"

We are talking theatre, not history.

 

The "empty tomb"  – that wasn't empty!

Testimony of an angel – Vacuous Nonsense

The earliest extant gospel manuscripts – whether Greek, Latin, Syriac, Coptic, or Armenian – make it embarrassingly obvious that the original version of Mark (upon which the other three evangelists built their own stories) finished at verse 16.8, that is, before the resurrection addendum of verses 9-20.

Mark's original Jesus tale ended with nothing more impressive than an "empty tomb" – except that the tomb wasn't empty at all!

"And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted." – Mark 16.5


The visitors – and again the audience – receive an explanation from the conveniently waiting angel (a "man in white") – "It was a resurrection!"

This "young man" verbalizes the sacred message; JC is not here, but is risen, and will be seen again in Galilee. Thus the first "witness" to the resurrection is neither man nor woman but angel. The bewildered women flee the tomb, having received the angel's assurance that a resurrection has occurred – one absurdity vouching for another.

Presumably, the women remembered the angel's injunction to tell the disciples, but, "afraid", they tell no one. And yet, if the women told no one, how could Mark be telling his story?!

The naivety – and brevity – of this foundational "event" is breathtaking. As it stands, Mark's testimony to the resurrection is about as convincing as the assurance of a fortune cookie.

The later gospels will improve upon this "eye-witness testimony" and provide responses to the obvious objections.

 

The story gets better (and worse)

Jesus himself puts in an appearance

"Initially Christians would simply have believed that Christ was risen; later, various stories about his appearances entered the tradition as attempts to substantiate this claim."

G. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus, p44.


The author of Matthew adds drama to the minimalistic yarn inherited from Mark, notably a "first appearance" of the resurrected Jesus.

Matthew begins by introducing tomb guards – unknown to Mark, or anyone else for that matter. The guards, in fact, will get more attention than the resurrection itself!

Matthew introduces a "dramatic touch" – one that he has also used in his description of the crucifixion – an earthquake:

"There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it." – Matthew 28.2.


Notice that Matthew solves one riddle left by Mark by having the angel move the stone. In Matthew's draft the female visitors are still "frightened yet filled with joy", so now they are able to tell the disciples the good news (28.8). Matthew thus removes the anomaly left by Mark of how the story could be known.

Matthew wants something more compelling than the testimony of an angel, so he intrudes an appearance of Jesus himself into the path of the running women. But Matthew has no new dialogue; his Jesus merely repeats words already spoken by the angel in Mark. The women say nothing but "clasp the feet" of the risen saviour:

"Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him."


Now that Jesus gives "evidence" of his own resurrection, and the same instruction to "go to Galilee", the role of the angel has become redundant and the text reads oddly!

While these dramatic events are in progress the enigmatic guards, more seriously frightened than the women (!) "shake and become like dead men." Matthew turns his attention back to these traumatized wimps, using them as a ploy to start a so-called "rumour" that Christian's have found useful ever since – the "stolen body" straw man:

"While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day." – Matthew 28.11-15.


This entire episode is directed at the objection that if the body wasn't in the tomb then an obvious explanation would be that somebody had removed it. The guards and the "sealing of the sepulchre" are intended to silence this objection.

Why did the guards have to be made "as dead men"? Surely extra witnesses to the momentous event would have been useful? Precisely because the story is a fabrication. If it had really happened the testimony of a squad of temple guards, not followers of Jesus, would have started a chain of events that just did not happen.

As a "real event" the passage is beset with problems. How on earth did the comatose guards know "everything that had happened"? How could they admit to being asleep yet be certain that the disciples had stolen the body? Even more difficult to explain is how the author of Matthew could himself possibly know of the dastardly plan hatched by the chief priests and elders, which he anticipates as early as 27.64 with a meeting between priests, Pharisees and Pilate! So unrealistic is that suggestion that Matthew had to use the circumlocution "The day after the day of Preparation" rather than admit such a meeting would have disgraced the Sabbath!

But they are the least of the difficulties. Was it a case that the Jewish priests understood clearly Jesus' prediction of his resurrection in three days but the disciples remained clueless? Are we to suppose that the Jewish leaders actually believed the "angel/resurrection" story told to them by the guards but chose to cover it up – and offered large sums of money to do so?!

Matthew closes his tale with the eleven on a mountain in Galilee and the promised appearance of Jesus. Even now some doubt but he commissions them anyway to "go make disciples of all nations".

 

Reliable testimony?

HOW many women at the tomb?

Four + ?

Luke 24.10:

"It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles."

Three ?

Mark 16.1:

"And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him."

Two ?

Matthew 28.1:

"In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."

 

One ?

John 20.1:

"The first day of the week came Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, to the sepulchre, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre."

 

None !

1 Corinthians 15.4,8:

"He rose again the third day according to the scriptures. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me."

 

 

Luke has his own stab at beefing up the Resurrection

Rambling with the Lord

Luke, also working from Mark's original yarn, has nothing to say about "guards" or an "earthquake" but makes a simple enough enhancement to the opening scene: the single angel becomes "two men in shining garments". He clarifies that they are, in fact, angels by having them materialize in the presence of the "perplexed" women.

The angels' message (spoken in unison?) is "He is not here, but is risen!" – identical to that used by Mark – but now the angels remind the women of JC's prophetic words about crucifixion and third-day rising (just imagine, they had forgotten!)

The obedient women go tell "the eleven and all the rest" but are not believed and Luke doesn't mention the women again. However, rising star Peter is sufficiently stirred by their report that he rushes off to the tomb himself where he finds the discarded burial clothes and "marvels".

Luke now intrudes his own major contribution into the "resurrection tradition" – the Emmaus encounter. This is the "most detailed" of all the resurrection reports – a whole twenty verses!

Oddly enough, for what is arguably the most important country walk in history, the two witnesses are otherwise unknown and only one is even named! The one thing we can be sure of is they were NOT disciples – the "eleven" appear later in the same story. The yarn almost certainly post-dates what follows and has been patched into an earlier point in the tale.

Luke reports that a man named "Cleopas" and an unnamed individual were on their way to Emmaus (a town so poorly attested that nine sites contend for the honour!) when the resurrected Jesus joined them but was unrecognized. Luke's Jesus lectures the "foolish" men on their failure to believe the prophets:

O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! ... And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself."


This stress on scriptural prophecy – rather than the sheer marvel of resurrection – betrays the didactic purpose of the passage. 

Confronted with a risen corpse who would need a scriptural endorsement to believe?!

The whole purpose is to demand belief from scripture without evidence. The episode finishes with a gesture towards the Eucharist. At dinner, Jesus becomes "known to them in the breaking of bread." Immediately our hero "vanishes from their sight."

 

 JC "appears in the midst of them" but is NO mere apparition!

Although both Mark and Matthew made declarations that Jesus was "going ahead" and would appear to the disciples in Galilee, Luke decides that an appearance in Jerusalem is more appropriate. A primary concern of Luke is to establish that the risen Jesus is real "flesh and blood" and not merely a spirit.

As the "Emmaus two" are about to relate their experience to the others, they are stalled by a group affirmation,

"The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"

This is testimony given without a word of supportive detail and arguably the most pathetic of all the post-mortem appearances.

The two return to their own story, only to be stalled a second time by "Jesus himself standing in the midst of them." Now in the presence of a substantial crowd ("the eleven and those who were with them", three of whom have already seen the Risen Lord!) – Jesus wants to settle their doubts – though haven't they in a chorus just proclaimed he is risen? Their doubts can't be that great!:

"Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have."


Luke is pressing home the point. Here is a physical presence (not just any old spiritual presence – that sort of thing happens all the time!). His Jesus not only invites touches, he wants something to eat. The groupies serve up a curious mix of broiled fish and (in some later manuscripts) honeycomb. Fish is clearly symbolic: Jerusalem is a long way from the sea or any large river! Honeycomb was added to the text after the Church itself adopted the practice of giving honeycomb to neophytes at their first Eucharist.

Luke's Jesus now makes the crucial didactic point that "all things must be fulfilled" that were written about him in "the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms." And thus the understanding of the disciples is opened to the "true meaning" of scripture and they are commissioned to preach in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

There is no suggestion from Luke of traipsing across to a mountain in Galilee – in fact, he stresses they are to "tarry in Jerusalem" until they receive "power from on high.” No other evangelist makes this stipulation. Perhaps Luke has already drafted his sequel and has a great idea for the first Pentecost?

Luke's tale ends in the nearby village of Bethany with JC's unembellished "ascension" to heaven (passing flying pigs on the way.)

 

John's "race" to the tomb

Believing without evidence

John picks up from Mark that it was early on the "first day of the week" when Mary M. came calling at the tomb and he follows Mark by having the stone rolled away before Mary arrives. However, John omits the other women and has decided it is "still dark" rather than "just after sunrise" and this time Mary is not a spice girl.

Oddly, John doesn't have Mary inspect the open tomb but has her run off anyway, telling Simon Peter, "They have taken the Lord."

Where Luke has Peter alone running back to the tomb, John favours a curious race between Peter and an unnamed "other disciple". The "other disciple" is an enigma, a phrase unique to John's gospel and used several times, most famously at 20.2, "the other disciple, the one Jesus loved." The "one Jesus loved" is clarified at 20.20 as "the one who had leaned against Jesus" at the last supper and the conventional assumption has always been that this is the apostle John, brother of James. But then why not name himself? "Beloved of Jesus" is hardly a moniker of modest restraint.

And yet this identification is ludicrous, not least because not one of the events in the other gospels that involves and names John (around twenty of them) is to be found in this "fourth" gospel. Those events include such spectaculars as the transfiguration on a mountain top and the raising of Jairus’ daughter. If they had ever occurred, and if John had written the gospel named for him, there is no way he could not have mentioned them.

The "other disciple" wins the race but holds back and lets Peter enter the tomb first. Peter notices the discarded linen burial clothes (reconcile that with the one-piece Turin shroud! One might also wonder, is Jesus now naked?). The "other disciple" then enters.

Significantly, as yet there has been no appearance of Jesus but nonetheless, the other disciple "saw and believed." In contrast, "they" (the eleven?) "did not yet understand the scripture", and this, despite repeated instruction from JC himself that his every move and word was foretold.

Could it be that the "other disciple" who so readily believes from the empty tomb is a cipher for everyman, the reader or audience, beloved of Jesus for his simple faith?

 

Comings and goings

Rush hour at the tomb of riddles

Having seen the emptiness, Peter and "the other disciple" go home but Mary M. has followed on behind them and arrives a second time at the tomb. Weeping and peering in from the entrance, she sees not one but two seated angels.

Why, one wonders, could the angels not have appeared a few moments earlier and been seen by Peter and co.? Would it perhaps have spoiled the theatrical comings and goings in this extremely naive drama?

As it is, Mary is neither surprised by nor afraid of the divine visitors (contra the other three gospels!) and in response to their question, tells the angels that she "doesn't know where they have laid" her Lord.

Despite the open tomb, the presence of angels, the folded burial cloths, Jesus's own prophecy and "scripture," the silly girl still hasn't realized that Jesus has risen. How much evidence does she need for chrissake?!

At this point the story takes on even more elements of farce. Jesus asks why she weeps. Doesn't he know? Didn't he just hear her answer to the same question from the angels? It's now Mary's turn to play dumb. She thinks he's the gardener, and perhaps has chosen to lay the corpse somewhere else (the compost heap?) She offers to take the body away (what a strong girl!).

The spell is now broken by Jesus calling her name but warning that he's not to be touched – an odd instruction, quite contrary to Matthew's "clasping of feet" and Luke's invitation to "handle me". The instruction "not to touch" is particularly bizarre because the following verses of John deal with "doubting Thomas" who is specifically invited by the "risen Christ" to touch the wounds!

It seems that the reason for JC's "hands off" instruction is that he had not yet "ascended to the Father". And yet if he had ascended to the Father, Mary wouldn't be able to touch him anyway, so the comment is rather dumb! In any event, Mary follows the instruction to go tell the brothers that he is "ascending to the Father".

The story might have (and probably did) end there in an early draft. But now the story continues with a crib from Luke's "appearing in the midst of them". But hasn't JC just said that he's "ascending to the Father"? He was obviously just kidding!

"Peace to you," says Jesus, showing off his wounds, with "side" here replaces "feet" used in the synoptic gospels; John is the only gospeller to tell the yarn about the soldier and his spear. John's risen Jesus doesn't prattle on about scriptural fulfillment but gets on with breathing Holy Spirit into his disciples.

There's no delay for a fiery ghost at Pentecost for this guy!

As in Matthew and Luke, the Lord sends the apostles off on their mission, this time, "to forgive sin, or not," as they see fit.

 

Absent Tom wants proof

Believing without seeing

Seemingly another ending but no. It turns out the "eleven" were really only "ten", Thomas having had a pressing engagement elsewhere. He is scripted in to be the avatar of every doubter who will ever live.

No doubt the yarn was meeting a headwind from skeptics who still stubbornly refused to believe their local Christian story teller.

Thomas, not unreasonably, demands to see with his own eyes:

"Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."


Obligingly, Jesus returns to the locked room eight days later. He obviously overheard or "knew" of Tom's doubts.  He invites the skeptic to touch the wounds – curiously still present on the "new" (or is it renewed?) body, blithely disregarding his insistence not to be touched only ten verses earlier!

But what kind of body is this? A "real physical body" that walks, talks and eats yet a body that appears and disappears at will? A new "spiritual body" (but not a spirit) that retains old bodily wounds? It makes no sense, of course, because it is simply a fantasy of unresolved theological conundrums.

Jesus then completes the lesson with the punch line:

"Be not faithless, but believing ... blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."


In other words credulity is rewarded with a "blessing". Nice.

 


"Gone fishing" – Yet Another Ending?

The John tradition has its own conundrum, finishing originally at John 20.30, before the supplementary "fishy story" of the third (or is it the fourth?) apparition in Galilee.

The 21st chapter of John may in fact be a missing ending of Mark. "Authentic" Mark ends with an anticipated reunion of the risen Jesus with his disciples in Galilee; John 21 begins with precisely that reunion:

"But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' " Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid." – Mark 16.7-8.

" After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus." – John 21.1-4.


Not only does the story now run more smoothly, but the silence of the women helps to explain the failure of the disciples to recognize their hero. There are also linguistic and thematic pointers that suggest this concatenation of Mark/John 21 may be correct (references to fishing, nets and "follow me"). Certainly, the tale makes better sense as a "first" appearance in Mark rather than a "third" appearance in John.

Another indication that this passage may have spent part of its early life as a more satisfying ending to Mark is a close correlation between the prodigious fish catches in both Luke's pre-resurrection miracle (5.1-11) and John 21's post-resurrection apparition. Not only does each tale have the same story elements, but only in this pericope does Luke use the double name "Simon Peter" which John uses habitually (sixteen times, in fact). In this original "Markan" phase, the tale – developed from Mark's own report of the calling of the first apostles – was copied by Luke as a pre- rather than a post-crucifixion marvel. Purloined at a later stage for use in John it was re-purposed as post-death encounter.

Well, why waste a good yarn!

 

Back to Mark – Harmonizing fantasy

The writers of Matthew, Luke and John all developed Mark's original skimpy narrative of an "empty tomb". In the interests of harmonization, a later scribe tacked summary versions of their additional resurrection material on to the end of Mark. We even have a good idea who that scribe was. Eusebius, in his Church History (3.39.) notes the role that a presbyter named Aristion had in the transmission of Mark's gospel. As it happens, "A 10th century Armenian MS ascribes the passage to Aristion, the presbyter mentioned by Papias." (Peake's Commentary, p818).

To resolve the conundrum of the women telling no one, an "extended version" of Mark (verses 9-10) returns to "very early in the morning" (already used at verse 2), re-introduces Mary Magdalene (mentioned only ten verses earlier) and gives her the first vision of the risen Christ, uncluttered by a shred of detail, and this time she does tell the others.

"Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept."


This is followed by a précis of Luke's Emmaus yarn (verses 12.13) and "the eleven at meat" (verse 14), a crib also drawn from Luke, with a hint of the "doubts of Thomas" from John.

"Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen."


An alternative to the handiwork of Aristion is the so-called "shorter ending" (found, for example, in Codex Bobiensis):

"But all the things that had been enjoined on them they announced briefly to Peter and his companions. And afterwards Jesus himself too appeared and sent forth through them from the east right to the west the holy and uncorrupt preaching of eternal salvation. Amen."


Before the final ascension that closes this tall tale, verses 17 and 18 have Jesus enjoining believers to cast out devils, speak in tongues, handle serpents, drink poison, and cure the sick. Many evangelicals are vociferous in their defence of the "authenticity" of this nonsense, though rather prudently choose not to "test the Lord"!

Casting out demons was standard fare in an age ignorant of the causes of sickness. The "snake handling" bit is most probably an oblique reference to Paul's escapade in Malta.

A reference to the penultimate verse by Irenaeus in Against Heresies (3.10.5) is evidence that the "ascension" at least had been attached to Mark by the late 2nd century.

 

What part of "fabricated nonsense" do you NOT understand?

What is inescapable from all this is the haphazard and agenda-driven manner in which God's holy writ got itself written.

In the primitive Christian communities "faith" alone had been sufficient to sustain the belief that the saviour had been raised from death and had ascended to heaven. The first sustenance to feed that faith was a simple (and borrowed!) story of an empty tomb. No physical sepulchre was actually required, indeed, initially the tomb was to be understood as an allegory for death.

But wavering conviction among converts and a blurring of the distinction between allegoric "truth" and real-world truth, encouraged the embellishment of the original, "sacrificial" story with visions and testimonies, first from angels and then from the Saviour himself. Reports of what "eye-witnesses" saw were designed to meet the objections from skeptics. Incidental detail, such as folded grave clothes, gave added "authenticity." Pronouncements "from the risen Lord" rehearsed the response of the faithful to those who doubted.


Today's biblical apologists retreat into vulgar sophistry to buttress the claim for the "literal truth" of the gospels. But the deceit should fool only the casual enquirer and the feeble minded. The entire edifice of the "Resurrection" hangs by the most tenuous of threads. A merest puff of rationality and the glorious nonsense falls into the dust.

 

 

Sources:
Robert Price, Jeffery Jay Lowder, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Prometheus 2005)
Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP, 2008)
Gary Habermas, M. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004)
Rowan Williams, Resurrection, Interpreting the Easter Gospel (Darton Longman Todd, 2003)
Daniel Clark, Dead or Alive? (IVP, 2007)
John Wenham, Easter Enigma (Wipf & Stock, 2005)
Frank Morrison, Who Moved the Stone? (Faber & Faber, 1975)
N. Anderson, Jesus Christ, The Witness of History (IVP, 1985)
John Austin Baker, Evidence for the Resurrection (Christian Evidence Society,1988)
John Young, David Wilkinson, The Case Against Christ (Hodder & Stoughton, 2006)

 

 

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