Once more into the breach dear friends!
And so we come to the first post of the new year. A little late into January, tis true, but I'm a busy man and there is much that demands my attention.
Today I have chosen a highly controversial topic: 'The so-called Ressurection of a devout first-century Jew called Jesus. Jesus was undoubtedly an illiterate, but sharply intelligent individual, steeped and immersed in the Judaic beliefs, of his time. It is important to emphasise that Jesus was very much a product of his Jewish culture and history. His erroneous portrayal as a modern 'Western Man' is widely considered as true and sacrosanct, his Jewishness is completely overlain by later accretions of Western Christology. Consider the bible belt of America: here we see a blue-eyed, fair-skinned and fair-haired Jesus portrayed as the 'All American Boy'. This depiction is clearly ridiculous given Jesus' background and culture as a first century, law observant, Jew.
Jesus' supposed 'resurrection', as we understand it, from gospel sources is bedeviled with complexities, contradictions, and inconsistencies. Therefore, by necessity, it is necessary to wade through a certain amount of introductory material to provide contextual, historic, and theological context. Tis inevitable, if the subject is to receive the justice it deserves. Consequently, I make no apologies for stretching this topic over a series of interlocking posts. I hope my readers find my scribblings both informative and interesting, although perhaps not in equal measure.
Before I dive headfirst into this veritable nest of ferrets, it is important to state the usual caveats and provisos: I am not a biblical scholar; I have not trained as a historian. In fact, I have none of the necessary qualifications required to pontificate in a scholarly way about subjects historical and theological. Much of what I have to say is unfettered by acadaemic rigour or relevant scholarship. However, that said, I do have a deep interest in the matters in question and have read multiple books on the history of Christianity and its influence with regards to the shaping of subsequent Western, and hence world, history. Therefore, my effort should be viewed as that of an 'enthusiastic amateur' and nothing more. If you decide to read more into my writings, than is warranted, tis on your own head, not mine.
As previously mentioned, in this series of posts I'm going to tackle a highly controversial series of questions: Did Jesus die by crucifixion, was he 'buried for three days and then resurrected'? Every Christian, if they wish to remain within the faith, must answer these questions, with a clear affirmative. As the Apostle Paul makes clear in his famous declaration in his epistle to the Corinthians (1:15:17): “If Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain”. Belief in the resurrection is a testament to faith. As an atheist, I do not subscribe to this article of faith and therefore my focus and interest are whether this fundamental question can be tackled from a rationalist, historic perspective. There are those who would state that the resurrection cannot be interrogated according to rational rigour but lies firmly, securely, and solely within the province of religious doctrine. I would disagree. If we accept that Jesus existed, in history, as I do, then we should be asking historical questions. The problem faced by the budding historian is that the information available is based solely on Christian sources and is therefore biased. But this is the only data we have, and so it behooves the curious to work with and extract as much as we can from this intriguing set of books.
The resurrection is described in the books of the New Testament, Acts, and letters written by the Apostle, Paul. These texts are not concerned with history in any modern sense. The modern concept of 'writing history' is an attempt to provide an unbiased account (as far as it is possible and within the bounds of human fallibility) after scrutinising, and critically analysing the available data, from multiple sources and disciplines. The gospels fail in this respect. The accounts we have of the life of an itinerant Jewish preacher, are mainly concerned with projecting a theological agenda, all else is secondary to the Christian narrative. The authors of the four gospels are unknown, irrespective of the names assigned by later Christian zealots. The writings we have are not first-hand accounts. The earliest account is the letters of Paul written some 30 years after the crucifixion. The earliest gospel, Mark, according to rigorous scholarship was written circ. 70 AD, while the gospel of John, was likely written 80 years after Jesus' demise. The gospels were originally written in Greek, by native Greek speakers and were composed outside of Palestine. This accounts for the geographic and historic errors present. Fundamentalist Christians like to think that the New Testament is the inerrant word of God. But a cursory examination of the written material quickly reveals numerous errors of fact. Mayhap God was suffering from amnesia during the composition process. Anyway, the gospels are impossible to defend from the stance of being, error-free.
Before entering the foray and engaging the 'meat and potatoes' of the subject I need to mention an important point that is often ignored in most treatises concerning the resurrection and written work concerning ancient cultures in general. When dealing with the 'ancients' it is a good idea to keep in mind the intellectual background of the culture in question. We are dealing with pre-scientific people. Their mindset and mode of thinking are completely alien to the way we think today, at least amongst educated people. Also, like all ancient cultures, the Jewish population circ.100 AD, was essentially illiterate. Perhaps, at most, 10% of the population were literate, and I'm being rather generous in my assessment. The ability to read and write over and above basic ability was confined to the ruling elites and their associates. Thus a great swathe of the population was 'unsophisticated' with reference to their rational analytical skills. Primitive, supernatural beliefs were rampant. As an example disease was a reflection of demon possession or particular disfavour of the ONE true living God, Jehovah. To be fair, even literate folk shared such pre-scientific beliefs. The mindset therefore of Jewish society, at that time, would have been very strange and even outlandish to our modern mind shaped by the intellectual and technical wonders of the last four centuries.
Now I'm ready to delve deep into this profound and exceptionally intriguing subject. As always, I will base my analysis according to my atheistic and rational viewpoint. This series of posts will not be placed back to back but will be interlarded with posts unrelated to the theme presented here. Otherwise, myself and the readership will be rendered quite insane Please hold onto your hats, tis going to be a bumpy ride.
I would be interested in any committed Christian's opinion on the topic on hand- please don't hold back, I relish a good debate.