Category Archives: RESURRECTION OF JESUS

The resurrection of Jesus is said to be the fulfillment of the prophecy of David.Together with other Old Testament prophecies the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation on which Christianity was built and its importance cannot be understated.

The Confrontation of James and Paul

Jesus Returns to Jerusalem              

The sojourn in Ephesus helped Jesus regain a little of his health. But that was not to be for long. No sooner had Jesus left Jerusalem for Turkey, the squabbling between some of the senior disciples for leadership of the movement began.

Soon after the crucifixion of Jesus and his appearance to some of his disciples, there were several claims as to who Jesus first appeared. These claims were being made merely to establish leadership of the movement. Three significant characters in Jesus’ life – James, Peter and Mary Magdalene – claimed either directly or indirectly that they were the first to see the post crucifixion Jesus. Even Paul who had never seen Jesus during his lifetime nor heard any of his sermons claimed to have seen the post crucifixion Jesus. According to Acts (of the Apostles) Jesus appears to Paul on the road to Damascus.

According to one of Paul’s own letters in the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus made an after-crucifixion appearance to him as a vision after which he was momentarily blinded. After this incident Paul proclaimed himself as a servant of Jesus and an apostle who was set apart for the gospel of God. Paul’s claim that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him was to support his assertion that he received the Gospel not from any man but from Jesus himself. He also claimed that his apostleship was by divine appointment. He used these claims to grant himself independence from the movement in Jerusalem. He also claims that on reaching Damascus he was cured of his blindness.

Paul strongly opposed Jewish claims of lineal and theological superiority. He also maintained an authoritative style of writing even while addressing the “super apostles” in spite of the fact that all of them had known Jesus during his lifetime and had stronger claims to apostleship than Paul.

The basis for the difference between Paul and the super-apostles was the conviction of the early followers of Jesus that they should fulfill their Jewish inheritance. Although they followed practices that were typical to their new belief, they lived as Jews, took part in Jewish worship and observed ancient Jewish laws handed down from the time of Moses. As such circumcision and the laws of Moses were inviolable (1).

Some scholars were convinced that the conflict between Paul and Peter was long drawn out and it was deep seated because of their divergent doctrinal views. Paul even publicly rebuked the apostles because of their use of the Old Testament in a manner that was never intended (2). Paul was not in agreement with the ancient concepts of ritual purity (3).

James and Paul were theological adversaries. The conflict was basically between the form of Jewish Christianity that was represented by James and the Gentile or Hellenistic Christians represented by Paul. Robert Eisenman posits that James and the Christian Jews that followed him were sidelined by Paul and the Gentile Christians who were his followers. Both Eisenman and Ferdinand Christian Baur speculated that there was a split between Paul and the Peter-James led Jewish Church (4).

While the movement of Paul began to grow, the movement in Jerusalem under the leadership of James began to decline and even suffered persecution (5). It is possible that Jesus did not stay in Ephesus for long. Perhaps two factors were responsible for his return to the Jerusalem area. One must have been his failing health. Although Jesus may not have died on the cross, it is apparent that he suffered extensive physical injuries that did not fully heal and his health began to slowly fail and if anyone could give him the care and medical attention that he needed it would be the Essenes at Qumran. And if he was going to die, Jesus would most certainly have desired to die in Jerusalem where his roots were. Besides this, he was getting disturbing news from Jerusalem about the infighting among his apostles and about Paul trying to usurp the leadership of the movement and even openly challenging his closest disciples.

In spite of his failing health Jesus returned Jerusalem, with Mary Magdalene and young Juda to cast his lot with his brother James.

References:

(1) Monet, Fr. Jacques, S.J. Great Moments in Catholic History, http://home.golden.net/~wts/words/greatmoments/GM01.html

(2) Deffinbaugh, Bob. (1995 – 2012). Peter’s Capitulation and Paul’s Correction (Galatians 2:11-21). Retrieved 2012, from http://bible.org/seriespage/peter%E2%80%99s-capitulation-and-paul%E2%80%99s-correction-galatians-211-21

(3) Why did Peter and Paul disagree? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.tektonics.org/lp/petevspaul.html

(4) Baigent, Michael. (2000.). The Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.cornerstonesociety.com/Insight/Articles/essenes.pdf

(5) Council of Jerusalem. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Jerusalem

 

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Resurrection Concept Not Unique To Christianity

Different People Understood Resurrection Differently

Resurrection was not a concept that was unique to Christianity. In fact it predated Christianity. And the understanding of different cultures about the concept was different.

Resurection of the dead

Resurrection of the dead

As far as the Pharisees were concerned, it involved the exoneration of the true people of God and their deliverance from exile. They considered being under Roman/ pagan rule as still being in exile. As far as they were concerned resurrection was nothing short of the end of exile. Therefore resurrection was not just a new life after death for the pious, it also meant the return from exile, the forgiveness of sins, the “re-establishment of Israel as the true humanity of the covenant God, and the renewal of all creation.” (1)

As regards the Pharisees, resurrection meant the overthrow of the present government together with the overthrow of the “Temple regime” and the salvation of the chosen people of God. This is what the Pharisees were waiting for and the Sadducees were against, being part of the Temple regime. As far as the Essenes were concerned, resurrection meant receiving God’s “future eschatological (end of days) benefits” and being established as the true Israel. (2)

The Common Understanding Of Eschatology

It was commonly understood that the term “eschatology” is indicative of the doctrine relating to “the last things.” The word “last” was understood either wholly as referring to the final destiny of mankind in general or of each individual. It was also understood as referring to “the end of a certain period in the history of mankind or of a nation that is followed by another, entirely different, historical period.” To ordinary people it meant the time when God would bring them total victory over their enemies and lead them to lasting peace and prosperity. (3)

1 Corinthians 15:42-44 state as follows: “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (4)

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “”No doctrine of the Christian Faith”, says St. Augustine, “is so vehemently and so obstinately opposed as the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh”… This opposition had begun long before the days of St. Augustine.”

Resurrection According To The Catholic Church

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the body after resurrection is changed into a spiritual, imperishable body. How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”. But he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body.”

The Qumranites also believed that before the end there will be a “great eschatological war waged against the powers of evil and all wicked men and that the remnant of Israel – meaning themselves – would receive the peace and prosperity (everlasting bliss) that God had promised his chosen people. (5)

But for him to be able to do this Jesus would have to be God.

 References:
(1) Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees, and why did the latter not believe in resurrection (contra the former)? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.angelfire.com/journal/althehare/pse.html

(2) Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees, and why did the latter not believe in resurrection (contra the former)? (n.d.). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.angelfire.com/journal/althehare/pse.html

(3) Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0006_0_06075.html

(4) Resurrection of the dead. (2012). retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection_of_the_dead

(5) Encyclopaedia Judaica. (2008). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0006_0_06075.html

Picture Credits: 1) Resurrection of the dead            https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=637&q=Resurrection+of+the+dead&oq=Resurrection+of+the+dead&gs_l=img.12..0j0i30l4j0i24l5.2210.2210.0.4102.1.1.0.0.0.0.133.133.0j1.1.0….0…1ac.2.64.img..0.1.132.GH3lo_oxoIw#imgrc=i2iqc1T5N8JDIM%3A

 

Did Jesus Really Resurrect From The Dead?

Did Everyone Believe In The Resurrection Of Jesus???

The exact day on which Jesus was crucified may be a matter of dispute. But it would appear that within a few days Jesus had recouped sufficiently to walk to the vicinity of the tomb in which he was supposed to have been buried. He knew that even if no one else came to visit the tomb, Mary Magdalene would with the intention of anointing his body with oil. This confidence may have stemmed because of a special relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, whom he, by many accounts loved especially.

Doubting Thomas

My own pencil drawing of Doubting Thomas

According to the Gospel of John (John 20:1-18) Mary Magdalene went to the tomb shortly before dawn. When she saw the tomb open, she thought that someone had moved the body of Jesus and ran to tell Peter and an unidentified disciple what she had seen. Peter and the unnamed disciple went back with Mary Magdalene and when they found the tomb empty, they left. But Mary Magdalene sat nearby and wept. She hoped that someone would come along who had information about the body of Jesus.

Mary Magdalene Mistook The Resurrected Jesus For The Gardener

When she suddenly turned she saw a man, who she thought was the gardener. According to John 20:14-16, this man asked Mary Magdalene “Woman why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Mary Magdalene responded, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” It wasn’t until Jesus called her by name and when she did she cried out to him “Rabboni” (teacher in Aramaic). The important factor to note is that someone so dear to Jesus was not able to recognize him and mistook him for the gardener. The reason for this is probably because this was not a resurrected Jesus but a resuscitated Jesus. His face, body and demeanor showed evidence of the ordeals of crucifixion. According to resurrection narratives if the angels could have appeared in radiant white garments, there is no reason why Jesus should have appeared in the garments of a gardener.

Doubting Thomas

It was not just Mary Magdalene that did not recognize the post-crucifixion Jesus. Jesus is said to have appeared to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus. They too did not recognize Jesus initially.  It is said that at first “their eyes were holden” Luke 24:16. It is not certain if the other disciples to whom he appeared also had difficulty recognizing him. This probably gave rise to the moniker “doubting Thomas”.

In spite of six resurrection predictions the women who went the tomb with their spices that morning were expecting to find the remains of Jesus. They went there for the sole purpose of anointing the decaying body of Jesus (1). Resurrection was the last thing they had expected to witness. This is the case even with the apostles who went there later to investigate the empty tomb.

Besides if Jesus had indeed resurrected why would he appear to Mary Magdalene disguised as a gardener? And why would he ask the eleven disciples to meet him atop a mountain in Galilee and not meet him somewhere in Jerusalem itself? If he had indeed resurrected he may have had the flesh and bones of a human being, but he would have nevertheless been divine. He would then have had nothing to fear from the Jewish elders or the Romans who were responsible for his crucifixion.

Inconsistencies Regarding The Resurrection Narratives

The inconsistencies regarding the resurrection narratives are itself an indication that the resurrection was a later day concoction to match Old Testament prophecies retrospectively.  The reason why Jesus asked his disciples to meet him atop a mountain in Galilee may have been to avoid being detected by the Jewish elders. But did he indeed ask for something so unreasonable?  Depending on where this mountain is in Galilee we are talking about a distance of 60-100 miles. This message about the meeting was delivered by the angel to Mary Magdalene after the sun had risen. And she would have had to convey this instruction to the disciples either in person or through Peter to the disciples who it is rational to assume were hiding in different places. And even if this information was successfully passed on, would it have been possible for 11 not so young men to walk or even run that distance to reach their destination that same day?

According to Mark (16:7) the messenger of God told the women “But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he (Jesus) goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.” According to Matt (28:7-10), the message was a little different. It was “And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he (Jesus) goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him.” According to Matthew the meeting with the disciples in Galilee must have been the first. “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted”. (Matt 28:16-17). If the disciples had seen Jesus earlier there was no question of any doubt. Mark agrees with the first meeting narration of Matthew.

However Luke and John have different versions of Jesus’ first appearance other than the one to the women. Luke says that the first appearance was on the road to Emmaus and then in a room in Jerusalem. According to John the first appearance was in the evening in a room where Thomas was not present. These are not the only discrepancies regarding the resurrection. There is no consensus between the Gospels regarding the time the women visited the tomb, who these women were, what the messengers of God said, to who Jesus first appeared after the crucifixion and where this first appearance took place.

Different Narrations As Regards The Guards At The Tomb

There are different narrations even as regards the guards at the tomb. When it was found that the tomb of Jesus was empty, according to Matthew, the guards report the incident to Pilate. This would make the guards Roman. But according to Peter, the guards report the empty tomb to the chief priest. This would mean that the guards Jewish. If in fact the guards were Roman, they would have been executed for dereliction of duty. And as there is no report of such an eventuality, it would appear that the guards were Jewish (2).

According to (Matthew 28:1–4) an angel rolled away the stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus. And according to (Matthew 28:11–15) the chief priests bribed the soldiers to say that the apostles had stolen the body of Jesus. According to some scholars that it was specially decreed by that “graves and tombs lie undisturbed forever” and that tomb robbers be “executed for tomb robbery” in reaction to the Christian claim that Jesus had resurrected (3).

In Acts and the Gospel of Luke we are told that the disciples were commanded to stay in Jerusalem. We are also told that this is where they met Jesus (see Acts 1:4 and Luke 24:33, 47, 49). In Matthew 28:10 and Mark 16:6-7, we learn that the disciples are asked to go to Galilee, and in Matthew 28:16-18, we are told they meet Jesus there, not in or near Jerusalem.

Jesus appears to the disciples

(Fig 2) The resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples

Based on what Mark, Matthew, and John say we can assume that Jesus’ first post-crucifixion appearance was to Mary Magdalene. However for the next several days Jesus began to meet with his disciples. In spite of the fact that these meetings were clandestine it began to add credence to the suspicion of the Jewish elders that Jesus did not die on the cross. These appearances were probably against the advice of Joseph of Arimathea. It is likely that with the exception Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, young Juda and a handful of Essenes, no one else was aware that Jesus did not die on the cross. When Joseph of Arimathea began to feel that it was no longer safe for Jesus to stay at his house he asked the Essenes to take Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Juda to Ephesus, where Mary his mother and John the beloved disciple were already relocated.

References:

(1) The Resurrection of Jesus. (n.d.). Retrieved 2012, from http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Resurrection-Jesus

(2) Craig, Dr. Willaim Lane. (2012). Retrieved 2012 from  http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?60412-Peter-Kirby-will-speak-in-Los-Angeles/page2

(3) Hinckley, Gordon B. “The Son of God,” Ensign, December 1992, Retrieved 2013 from  http://rsc.byu.edu/easterconference/2007/roundtable

Picture Credits:

(Fig 2)  https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=637&q=resurrected+jesus+appears+to+the+apostles&oq=resurrected+jesus+appears+to+the+apostles&gs_l=img.3…2903.14627.0.15069.41.16.0.25.25.0.180.1695.8j8.16.0….0…1ac.1.64.img..0.29.1753.YUilnNq1H1Y#imgrc=5o2_HSKVPhREEM%3A

Different Accounts Of Resurrection Appearances Of Jesus

Resurrected Jesus First Appears To Mary Magdalene

According to Mark 16:9 and John 20:16–18 the resurrected Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene. And according to John 20:17 Jesus is supposed to have told Mary Magdalene “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father” The Greek verb that was translated in the King James Version as “touch me not” could also be translated as “stop touching me”. From this it could be understood that Mary Magdalene is hugging Jesus from the sheer joy of seeing him alive again.

Mary Magdalene Was Considered The Next Most Important Teacher Only To Jesus

The fact that three gospels state that it was Mary Magdalene that Jesus appeared to first, is considered to be significant for several reasons. While she was considered a principle figure in Gnosticism, she was also considered to be the next most important teacher only to Jesus.

Mary Magdalene is not the only one who fails to recognize the resurrected Jesus, according to Luke two other disciples also fail to recognize him immediately. Many reasons have been put forward to explain this. One is that her tear soaked eyes impaired her vision, two, that her preoccupation with finding the body of Jesus prevented her from recognizing something that was right there before her eyes and three, that the physical appearance of Jesus was different, either because of the “resurrection process itself, or due to the ordeal of crucifixion”.

According to some claims “Peter was the first to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection.” However others claim that it was “James, not Peter (and certainly not Mary Magdalene) was the “first witness of the resurrection.””

Some Scholars Reject the Resurrection Claim

Some scholars have questioned the very concept of the resurrection. They say that the resurrection stories were all written much later than the purported occurrences and based on narratives by people who reported what eyewitnesses were supposed to have seen. As a consequence the narratives are contradictory and sometimes puzzling (1).

Some Christian accounts claim that the risen Jesus was seen as an actual human being. According to Luke the disciples, astonished and terrified at the appearance of Jesus in their midst, thought that they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus reprimanded them “Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” However as the disciples continued to be baffled Jesus asked for something to eat and ate the piece of broiled fish that was offered to him. This prompted Peter to later exclaim: “[We] ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Jesus eating fish

The resurrected Jesus eating with the apostles

However some Christians rejected the literal interpretation. Christians who rejected the literal resurrection were labeled as heretics. These heretics interpreted the resurrection experiences as “encounters on a spiritual level.” They claimed that such spiritual encounters occurred “occur in dreams, in ecstatic trance, in visions, or in moments of spiritual illumination.”

Why did orthodox Christian literally interpret the resurrection of Jesus? Some scholars believe that the resurrection accounts not only had a religious connotation but also political undertones. Individuals who claimed to have seen the bodily resurrected Jesus had more authority “to exercise exclusive leadership over the church”. Probably it is for this reason that there are contradicting claims as to who the resurrected Jesus first appeared: Mary Magdalene or Peter? It is probably for the same reason that Paul also claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.

Others question the day of Jesus’ resurrection. They say that the claim that Jesus resurrected on Sunday is untenable. According to Talmudic tradition a spirit does not depart from a body until after the third day. This led to the practice of embalmment after three days. And this seems to be the reason why the resurrection is said to have occurred after the completion of three days. This was a precaution against claims that Jesus may have just been in a trance or that he had been resuscitated.

Therefore, first century Jews would not accept that an individual was truly dead unless three days had passed. As a consequence they had interpreted Jesus’ statement that “After three days I will rise again,” as a claim that he would resurrect after the completion of three days. This is the argument they put forth to Pilate when they asked him for permission to seal the tomb (Matt. 27:63). Jesus also told the Jews (John 2:19) that the sign he would show them is to “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. John explains that by Temple Jesus was referring to his body.

Some scholars claim that “A Friday crucifixion and Sunday morning resurrection do not allow for three days and three nights in the tomb”.
Matthew 27:57 states “And evening having come, a rich man from Arimathea coming up to Pilate, requests the body of Yeshua”. Mark 15:42 says “Now evening occurring, since it was a preparation which is toward a sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea…came with daring to Pilate and requests the body of Yeshua”. Elsewhere in the bible the similar phrase “Now evening occurring” (Mark 15:42 and Matthew 27:57) has been interpreted as when the sunsets. To avoid upsetting the “Pharisees and leaders of the synagogue” who considered even the miracle of healing as work on a Sabbath, people waited till after sundown before they brought the sick to Jesus to be healed.

Jesus Resurrected On The Second Day

Another argument that Jesus’ body was interred only after sunset is that washing the body of Jesus and then wrapping it with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloe could only have been done elsewhere outside the tomb and would have taken some time. This suggests that Jesus could only have been entombed after sunset. Based on this some scholars argue that to maintain that Jesus resurrected on Sunday would mean a second day resurrection and not a third day (2). Mark does not report any resurrection appearances (16: 1-8). (3)

In Matthew (Mt 28: 2) he reports how an angel of the lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone covering the tomb’s entrance.

Luke reports the appearance of two men in dazzling clothes in the tomb to the women (Lk 24:1-7). Luke (Lk 24: 13-35) also states that the resurrected Jesus first appears to Cleopas and a companion on the road to Emmaus. However the two do not recognize Jesus until the evening. In (Lk 24: 30-51) Jesus appears as a ghost and then disappears only to reappear and is then finally carried up to heaven. This he says happened the day after the disciples discover the empty tomb.

John (Jn 20:2-9) talks about the mysterious “other disciple” who Jesus loved accompanying Peter in search of Jesus at the empty tomb. According to the book of acts Jesus appears to his believers for forty days and is then lifted up to heaven (Acts 1: 3-10).

There are other instances in the Gospels to show that Jesus resurrected bodily. After his appearance to Mary Magdalene Jesus appeared to a group of women who were returning home from the empty tomb. The women “held him by the feet, and worshipped him” (Matthew 28:9). After this incident Jesus appeared to ten of the Apostles (Luke 24:36–42; John 20:19–23). Since the disciples thought that Jesus was just a spirit, Jesus told them “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).

Proof That Jesus Resurrected Bodily

As further proof that Jesus resurrected bodily we can cite the example of the many ossuaries that were excavated near the Mount of Olives’ Dominus Flevit, Jerusalem. Inscriptions on some of these ossuaries state “Jesus, have mercy,” and “Jesus, remember me in the resurrection”. This shows that even from an early date, there were people in Jerusalem who believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus (4).

While the majority of the apostles were not witnesses to the resurrection, it was Paul who wanted to give Jesus the status of divinity, makes bodily resurrection the foundation of Christianity. Peter adds his bit to this concept. However as for most of the other apostles, they were told different resurrection stories at different times. At the other extreme are stories suggesting that the apostles hid in the tomb and robbed the body of Jesus. This seems a rather flippant theory considering that the apostles were so afraid for their own lives that they went into hiding.

Again as regards Jesus’ post resurrection appearances, there are quite a few claims, but the evangelists agree that it was Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus first appeared. However based on the counter claims it would appear that those jostling for the leadership of Jesus’ movement tried to downplay the significance of Mary Magdalene. It would appear that the then leaders of the nascent church claimed that Jesus appeared to them wanting to create the impression that Jesus revealed something special only to them and to lend credibility to what they taught. And probably Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene is more significant than the church acknowledges.

It’s settled then; Jesus most likely appeared to Mary Magdalene first. But did he appear in the flesh and blood or as a spirit?

That’s a debate that will probably have no conclusion. According to Mary Magdalene, she held the resurrected Jesus. Therefore this must have been a bodily appearance. On the other hand, according to Paul he appeared as a spirit. And then later when he appeared to the apostles, he is said to have walked through a wall. These appearances may have been as a spirit.

References:

(1) Resurrection appearances of Jesus. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection_appearances_of_Jesus#The_appearance_to_Mary_Magdalene
(2) Derstine, Todd. (n.d.). Timing of the Savior’s Death and Resurrection. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.todd-derstine.com/americaspropheticdestiny/the-timing-of-the-saviors-death-and-resurrection/
(3) http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_did_Mark_not_include_post-resurrection_appearances
(4) Steve Keohane (n.d.). Documentary Claim – tomb of Jesus and the entire (postulated) Holy Family found in Jerusalem cave. Retrieved 2012, from http://www.bibleprobe.com/jesustomb.htm
Picture Credits:

(Fig 1) Jesus eating fish https://www.google.co.in/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1024&bih=635&q=resurrected+jesus+with+the+apostles&oq=resurrected+jesus+with+the+apostles&gs_l=img.3…4120.15342.0.16419.37.11.1.25.26.0.154.1076.6j4.10.0….0…1ac.1.64.img..20.17.1126.wER1r15jBCM#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=resurrected+jesus+eating+with+the+apostles&imgrc=mLdoNnie_S10MM%3A

If Christ Is Not Risen, Then Our Preaching Is Empty

Importance of the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is said to be a fulfillment of the prophecy of David. When coupled with other Old Testament prophecies the resurrection was purported to be irrefutable proof that Jesus is a messiah and the son of God. Therefore its importance to Christianity cannot be understated.

Paul glorifies the importance of the resurrection of Jesus in (I Cor. 15:13-19) when he says “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable”. This in itself shows that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the foundation on which Christianity stands. It is little wonder that nothing other than this will even be considered.

Resurrected Christ

Paul states further that Jesus is “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). He emphasizes the importance of the physical resurrection by stating. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preach to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (I Cor. 15:1-5).

In Acts 2:22-33 Peter preaches to the men of Israel that God had raised him who was put to death by godless men. In his sermon he quotes psalm 16. He explains to his listeners that in the psalm David was referring to a messiah and not to himself. As proof of David’s intention he goes on to say that even to that day the tomb of David was to be found in Jerusalem and if opened it would reveal the bones of David, proving that David was not the one meant to resurrect bodily. This was Peter’s way of claiming that it was Jesus and not David who was the Messiah.

The Resurrection of Jesus does not find Universal Acceptance

Not everyone agrees that Jesus in fact resurrected. For instance Pellegrino suggests that the apostles hid in the burial tomb and stole the body of Jesus before the soldiers were posted. However Pellegrino does not seem to have taken into account the factor that the apostles were so scared for their own lives that they went into hiding. Their fear is borne out by the fact that when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the apostles on the evening of the resurrection, they were hiding behind closed doors for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). It was only after the Holy Spirit descended on them, on the Day of Pentecost, that they regained any semblance of courage. Therefore the question of their being brave enough to have robbed the body of Jesus from the tomb does not arise. Besides, if the apostles had indeed robbed the body of Jesus, why would they fabricate a resurrection story and be prepared to die rather than deviate from their faith? (1)

It must be remembered that none of the disciples were witnesses to the resurrection. They were only told the story of the resurrection by a few. It is possible that this majority was victim to a “massive deception”. They were told a resurrection story that could not be verified. Jesus was a charismatic figure and such stories that were told immediately after his crucifixion were readily believable. These stories were retold numerous times, with versions being changed to suit a variety of circumstances till finally some versions found their way into the Gospels as we know them today.

When Pellegrino wrote to Fr. Mervyn Fernando in Sri Lanka and asked him a hypothetical question. “What if archaeologists actually found, say bones and DNA of Jesus? Would a discovery such as this necessarily contradict what Christians believe about the Resurrection story?” Fr. Fernando drew Pellegrino’s attention to First Corinthians 15:35 from which it would appear that Paul’s understanding of the resurrection “is, the risen body of Christ …………. is a spiritual one, not the material / physical one he had in this life. That physical body would have perished, and if any part of it (bones) are recovered/ identified, it would in no way affect the reality of His resurrection”. In fact verses 44 and 46 refer to a spiritual body. According to these verses believers will “get a spiritual body, one that will be raised in incorruption, glory and power (15:42-44).” Besides this explanation a point against physical resurrection is the fact that all the Gospels state that the disciples and family members of Jesus were surprised on seeing the empty tomb. (2)

Other Reasons as To Why the Tomb Was Empty

There are several theories as to how the tomb became empty. The earliest source regarding this is from Mark who states that on the Sunday following the crucifixion a young man waiting for Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome told them that Jesus had been taken up and that he would meet the apostles in Galilee. (3)

Another reason for the tomb being empty is that the tomb that was provided hurriedly was only temporary and that Joseph of Arimathea reburied the body of Jesus in a permanent tomb as soon as Jewish law permitted it. This may have been with or without the knowledge of the family. The visit to the tomb on that Sunday morning and the view that Jesus was raised bodily into heaven (Luke and John) a later apologetic position. Historians would reach the conclusion that the tomb was empty because the one originally provided near the site of the crucifixion in haste was temporary until a permanent one could be found. (4)

Biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan refers to the period between the death of Jesus in 30 CE and the records of Paul in 50 CE of what the followers of Jesus under the leadership of James taught or learned about the death of Jesus. For hundreds of years many writers have tried to fill in those twenty years based on the accounts of Luke-Acts and the sharply polemical account of Paul in his letter to the Galatians. (5)

Another reason cited for the tomb of Jesus being empty is as suggested by Pellegrino: the disciples hid in the tomb of Jesus during the Sabbath and stole the body after sunset but before the soldiers were posted. (6).

According to I Corinthians 15: 6-7, the first account of the resurrection of Jesus is by Paul, where there are five hundred witnesses. James is also said to have been there. This account is not supported by any of the Gospels. There is no account of the resurrection in Mark. In Matthew 28:2 we are told that an earthquake announces the arrival of an angel from heaven who rolls away the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb of Jesus. In Luke (Lk 24:1-7) we are told that the women who went to the tomb see two men in dazzling clothes inside the tomb. Luke also states (Lk 24: 13-35) that the resurrected Jesus first appears to Cleopas and a companion on the road to Emmaus. However, they do not recognize Jesus until the evening. (7)

It was not only Cleopas and his companion that did not recognize the resurrected Jesus. Most of the people who saw the resurrected Jesus did not recognize him. Mary Magdalene does not recognize him. In fact she mistakes him for the gardener (Jn 20:15). Luke (Lk 24: 30-51) tells us that Jesus appears as a spirit, vanishes and then reappears and is finally lifted into heaven. This is said to have happened on the day his followers discovered the empty tomb. However as per (Acts 1: 3-10) Jesus appears to the believers for forty days and is then lifted to heaven. (8)

According to (Matthew 27:62–66) a guard of Jewish soldiers was posted outside the tomb of Jesus to prevent the apostles from robbing his body. According to (Matthew 28:1–4) an angel rolled away the stone that sealed the tomb of Jesus. And according to (Matthew 28:11–15) the chief priests bribed the soldiers to say that the apostles had stolen the body of Jesus. Some say that a decree by Claudius sometime between 41-54 CE states “It is my will that graves and tombs lie undisturbed forever. . . . I require that he be executed for tomb robbery,” in reaction to the Christian claim that Jesus had resurrected. (9)

Matthew describes the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene and another Mary near the empty tomb. Matthew states that appearance occurred when Mary Magdalene and another Mary were going back to tell the disciples about the empty tomb. It also reports the appearance of Jesus to his eleven apostles to tell them to “baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to make disciples of all people.”

Mary Magdalene and Christ

According to Luke, Jesus appears to his disciples and shows that he is flesh and blood. During this appearance he tells them to wait in Jerusalem to begin their mission to the world. In Luke 24:13-32, Cleopas relates how Jesus makes himself known to him and his companion by breaking bread. This incident is said to have Eucharistic implications. According to Acts said to have been written by the same author as Luke, Jesus appears to his disciples and stays with them for 40 days before his ascension to heaven. The Acts also describe the appearance of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus.

According to John, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene when she is alone outside the empty tomb. John explains that Mary did not immediately recognize Jesus mistaking him to be the gardener. But John’s report of this appearance differs from the Synoptic Gospels in that Jesus appears to her when she visited the tomb the second time and remained there grieving after everyone else had left. He also reports a conversation having taken place between Mary and two angels that were inside the empty tomb. John’s narration of this encounter is the most descriptive as it details the conversation between Jesus and her (John 20:15).

John reports that Jesus later appears to his disciples – with the exception of Thomas – on the same day. A week later he again appeared to the disciples. It was during this appearance that he asks Thomas to touch his wounds to show the disciples that he is flesh and blood. He again appears to Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons and two other of his disciples near Lake Tiberias. The miraculous catch of 153 fish is said to be a consequence of this appearance.

Mark merely gives a brief of the appearances of Jesus reported by the other evangelists. While Mark also mentions the appearance of Jesus to Mary, he does not mention when this took place. While it is apparent that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first, Mark does not mention whether she was alone or if there was someone else with her. Scholars are in agreement that the reports of Mark vary significantly from other ancient manuscripts and that his report is probably a later addition. The Gospel of John gives the most detailed description of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene. In fact John actually details the conversation between the two during this meeting (John 20:14-16).

The Gospel of the Hebrews describes the appearance of Jesus to his brother James. While Paul reports several resurrection appearances, he does not describe them. (10)

References:

(1) Stolen body hypothesis. (2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolen_body_hypothesis

(2) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb.Retrieved 2011, from http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2007/04/04/so-called-jesus-tomb

(3) Ben-David, Yirm?yahu . (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(4) Ben-David, Yirm?yahu . (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(5) Ben-David, Yirm?yahu . (2008). Burning Issues: Talpiot Tomb Complex. Retrieved 2011, from http://www.netzarim.co.il/Museum/Sukkah03/Burning%20Issues%20Talpiot%20Tomb.htm

(6) Franz, Gordon. (2007). The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb ‘Rediscovered’ in Jerusalem. Retrieved 2022, from http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/03/the-so-called-jesus-family-tomb-rediscovered-in-jerusalem.aspx

(7) Where did Jesus appear first to His disciples after the resurrection? (2012). Retrieved 2012, from
http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_did_Jesus_appear_first_to_His_disciples_after_the_Resurrection

(8) Talpiot Dethroned. (2000-2012). Retrieved 2011, from http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/talpiot357921.shtml

(9) Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel., Chadwick, Jeffrey R., Judd Jr., Frank F. & Wayment, Thomas A . (2007). Roundtable Discussion. Retrieved 2011, from http://rsc.byu.edu/easterconference/2007/roundtable.

(10) Resurrection Appearances of Jesus. (2012). Retrieved 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurrection_appearances_of_Jesus#The_appearance_to_Mary_Magdalene

Picture Credits: 1) The Resurrected Christ https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5027/5671120531_ef8293397c_o_d.jpg

2) Mary Magdalene and the resurrected Christ https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/IVANOV_YAV_HRISTA_MARI1.jpg