Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Resurrection Whodunnit

I love a good mystery. I grew up on Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner. So I would like to look at one of the greatest mysteries of all time: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let us start by looking at the suspects. The first suspect is Jesus of Nazareth Himself; maybe He rigged His own death. Or there were his disciples; perhaps they stole the body. Or perhaps they had hallucinations or mystical experiences which caused them to believe in the resurrection even though the body had not been moved. Or perhaps the authorities themselves hid the body to prevent it from being stolen. Or there could have been some accident, some confusion of tombs or the mistaken involvement of some other party. Or maybe the culprits were later Christians who made up the story to bolster their faith. Let us compare the suspects with the facts.

Jesus was crucified. That He would undergo this, thinking He could somehow survive, is incredible. Even if He had a drug that allowed Him to fake death, the crucifixion and burial would have killed Him. What was His motive for doing this? But if His death was not intentional, why should the disciples stage an elaborate hoax rather than dismissing Jesus as one more failed messiah? What was their motive? If this was all invented after the fact, why? Why give your Messiah a shameful criminal’s death if it never happened? Why did no one check out the facts and expose the fraud?

They claimed the tomb was empty. How did Jesus or the disciples manage to pull this off? Why would they? What did they get out of it? If the tomb was not empty or there was no tomb, how did they convince people? The authorities had a vested interest in opposing this new faction. If the tomb was not empty or they knew there was no tomb, if there was some mistake or even if they themselves had hidden the body, they should have produced or explained the missing body and corrected the error. Hallucinations or mystical experiences might have convinced a few close followers, but without the empty tomb, would anyone else have taken them seriously? As for this being an idea that grew up later, then why did Christianity even exist without it, and why did no one notice they had changed their story?

People were dying for this belief. Nero was putting Christians to death within about thirty years of the resurrection. It is reported that most of the early Christian leaders died for their faith. This meant that by then Christianity was considered something worth dying for. It would not have been attractive for a swindler or charlatan.

But we come back to our first suspect. Could Jesus have chosen to undergo crucifixion, knowing full well that His message was true and He would in fact rise from the dead? And could it be He accomplished this? I conclude that this is the best solution to the mystery.

No comments:

Post a Comment