Monday, May 2, 2011

The case against

I was hoping to post this earlier, but I had (and continue to have) problems with blogging that appear to be related to Firefox 4. I finally broke down and used another browser to try to catch the end of the Easter octave. So here goes...

In my last post "Who Cares?" I made the case for the Resurrection as a historic fact. Since this is sort of a courtroom dialogue, and having "accused" Christ of the Resurrection, I will now give the "defense" a chance to refute the arguments. These arguments have been proposed over the years to explain away the Resurrection, as described in the Catholic Encyclopedia and other places. Here they are:

The Wrong Tomb theory
This theory posits that the Disciples all forgot where Jesus was buried and went to the wrong tomb on Easter morning. The guards were still standing outside the tomb where Jesus lay, still dead.

While it must have been a stressful day for the Disciples, they can't have been that stupid. Nor does this theory explain the appearance of Jesus for the next 40 days, nor why the officials didn't immediately call them out and point them to the right tomb and the body of Christ.
I declare this theory

The Swoon theory
This theory, proposed by Paulus in 1842, supposes that Christ did not die, but only fainted on the cross, and woke up in the tomb on Easter morning. This supposes that the Gospels' description of the treatment of Jesus (scourging, crown of thorns, etc.) are wrong, since according to medical experts even without the crucifixion those torments would have eventually killed, or at least permanently crippled Jesus. Then we have the piercing of His side and the testimony of the Roman executioners, who no doubt had seen people faint before. Added to that is that nobody, even Jesus' enemies, attempted to deny that Jesus had died. Finally, when Jesus does appear, after three days of laying in a tomb, He is not described as a barely living cripple.
There are far too many contradictions in this theory, and so I declare it

The Imposition theory
Matthew 28:11-15 tells us.
While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had happened.
They assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.'
And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy (him) and keep you out of trouble."
According to this theory the disciples really did steal Jesus' body. At first glance this sounds plausible. By some accounts the disciples themselves thought Jesus had been taken (John 20:1-2):
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him."
However, as I said in part one of this discussion, what is their motive? To spend the rest of their days traveling in poverty? To end their lives in torture and death? This theory also doesn't explain how Jesus appeared, to over 500 people, as St. Paul describes in 1 Corinthians, 15:6
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
We' have to add to the disciples' trickery a doppleganger who could teach and perform miracles for 40 days, then disappear as mysteriously as he appeared.
Nope, this one is

The Vision theory
This theory claims that the whole thing was just a vision by deluded people who desperately wanted someone to be resurrected. There are a number of problems with this theory.
  • The disciples were not looking for Christ to rise. They are reportedly amazed by it. Thomas doesn't even believe it at all, requiring Jesus Himself to appear to him personally.
  • Jesus does not appear as what would have been expected from a resurrection. He is neither the "same old Jesus" as they would have seen in the case of Lazarus and the little girl, not is He coming in heavenly glory as they would have expected in the resurrection at the end of the world. He is something totally unexpected.
  • It does not agree with the actions of the disciples following Easter. They are not running around spreading the good news (that happens after Pentecost, when Jesus has already ascended). Instead they are trying to understand what's going on and deliberating what to do about it.
  • Apparitions are typically a one time thing, or else permanent (insanity). Lasting 40 days is not consistent with any psychological phenomenon.
  • Likewise, the "vision" appeared in unusual places. One would expect them to happen in or around the tomb itself (ala a "ghost") or in Galilee (where Jesus was from).
  • The "vision" appeared to many people simultaneously. Despite the popularity of the term "mass hysteria" there is no such phenomenon as mass visions.
Because of these contradictions, this theory does not seem possible.

The Modernist view
This theory states that the Resurrection is a supernatural event, and can therefore not be known historically and nothing can be said about it. The accounts of the Resurrection were made up little by little over the centuries as a representation of the disciples' belief that Jesus was with God.

This view disagrees with what we know. Although the Resurrection is a supernatural event, we can and do know things about it historically. Although science cannot explain the cause of supernatural events, they can in fact be measured, and do take place at a particular place and time, historically. We know that Jesus was crucified and buried, and that the tomb was empty. We know this through the testimony of historians other than the Gospel authors. Furthermore, the disciples preached Jesus' Resurrection from that very first Easter morning. This was not an idea that came later.
So, I declare this also is

So, the best that can be done to deny the Resurrection is to ignore historical documents and evidence, and simply call on "blind faith" that it did not happen. In other words it is not irrational to believe in the Resurrection. It is, in fact, irrational not to believe in the Resurrection.


I also wonder why anyone would accept the testimony of sleeping guards. If they were asleep, how did they know the disciples came and took Jesus' body?

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