Jesus maintained His physical human body. He did not go back to Heaven and become spirit....He did rise from the dead His soul would have returned to His corpse and made it live again
Now your contradicting yourself. Jesus's body apparently physically disappeared. In the bible, it says that Jesus was resurrected.
But Jesus was not immortal He was Human and capable of suffering and death.
He was also apparently a 'spirit'! a soul! and part of God!
There is not enough evidence to believe in the so called 'ressurection'. And here is why:
It actually begins with a different tale. In 520 A.D. an anonymous monk recorded the life of Saint Genevieve, who had died only ten years before that. In his account of her life, he describes how, when she ordered a cursed tree cut down, monsters sprang from it and breathed a fatal stench on many men for two hours; while she was sailing, eleven ships capsized, but at her prayers they were righted again spontaneously; she cast out demons, calmed storms, miraculously created water and oil from nothing before astonished crowds, healed the blind and lame, and several people who stole things from her actually went blind instead. No one wrote anything to contradict or challenge these claims, and they were written very near the time the events supposedly happened--by a religious man whom we suppose regarded lying to be a sin. Yet do we believe any of it? Not really. And we shouldn't.
As David Hume once said, why do such things not happen now? Is it a coincidence that the very time when these things no longer happen is the same time that we have the means and methods to check them in the light of science and careful investigation? I've never seen monsters spring from a tree, and I don't know anyone who has, and there are no women touring the country transmuting matter or levitating ships. These events look like tall tales, sound like tall tales, and smell like tall tales. Odds are, they're tall tales.
But we should try to be more specific in our reasons, and not rely solely on common sense impressions. And there are specific reasons to disbelieve the story of Genevieve, and they are the same reasons we have to doubt the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus. For the parallel is clear: the Gospels were written no sooner to the death of their main character--and more likely many decades later--than was the case for the account of Genevieve; and like that account, the Gospels were also originally anonymous--the names now attached to them were added by speculation and oral tradition half a century after they were actually written. Both contain fabulous miracles supposedly witnessed by numerous people. Both belong to the same genre of literature: what we call a "hagiography," a sacred account of a holy person regarded as representing a moral and divine ideal. Such a genre had as its principal aim the glorification of the religion itself and of the example set by the perfect holy person represented as its central focus. Such literature was also a tool of propaganda, used to promote certain moral or religious views, and to oppose different points of view. The life of Genevieve, for example, was written to combat Arianism. The canonical Gospels, on the other hand, appear to combat various forms of proto-Gnosticism. So being skeptical of what they say is sensible from the start.
It is certainly reasonable to doubt the resurrection of Jesus in the flesh, an event placed some time between 26 and 36 A.D. For this we have only a few written sources near the event, all of it sacred writing, and entirely pro-Christian. Pliny the Younger was the first non-Christian to even mention the religion, in 110 A.D., but he doesn't mention the resurrection. No non-Christian mentions the resurrection until many decades later--Lucian, a critic of superstition, was the first, writing in the mid-2nd century, and likely getting his information from Christian sources. So the evidence is not what any historian would consider good.
Nevertheless, Christian apologist Douglas Geivett has declared that the evidence for the physical resurrection of Jesus meets, and I quote, "the highest standards of historical inquiry" and "if one takes the historian's own criteria for assessing the historicity of ancient events, the resurrection passes muster as a historically well-attested event of the ancient world," as well-attested, he says, as Julius Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon in 49 B.C. Well, it is common in Christian apologetics, throughout history, to make absurdly exaggerated claims, and this is no exception. Let's look at Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon for a minute:
First of all, we have Caesar's own word on the subject. Indeed, The Civil War has been a Latin classic for two thousand years, written by Caesar himself and by one of his generals and closest of friends. In contrast, we do not have anything written by Jesus, and we do not know for certain the name of any author of any of the accounts of his earthly resurrection.
Second, we have many of Caesar's enemies, including Cicero, a contemporary of the event, reporting the crossing of the Rubicon, whereas we have no hostile or even neutral records of the resurrection until over a hundred years after the event, which is fifty years after the Christians' own claims had been widely spread around.
Third, we have a number of inscriptions and coins produced soon after the Republican Civil War related to the Rubicon crossing, including mentions of battles and conscriptions and judgments, which provide evidence for Caesar's march. On the other hand, we have absolutely no physical evidence of any kind in the case of the resurrection.
Fourth, we have the story of the "Rubicon Crossing" in almost every historian of the period, including the most prominent scholars of the age: Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch. Moreover, these scholars have a measure of proven reliability, since a great many of their reports on other matters have been confirmed in material evidence and in other sources. In addition, they often quote and name many different sources, showing a wide reading of the witnesses and documents, and they show a desire to critically examine claims for which there is any dispute. If that wasn't enough, all of them cite or quote sources written by witnesses, hostile and friendly, of the Rubicon crossing and its repercussions.
Compare this with the resurrection: we have not even a single established historian mentioning the event until the 3rd and 4th centuries, and then only by Christian historians. And of those few others who do mention it within a century of the event, none of them show any wide reading, never cite any other sources, show no sign of a skilled or critical examination of conflicting claims, have no other literature or scholarship to their credit that we can test for their skill and accuracy, are completely unknown, and have an overtly declared bias towards persuasion and conversion.
Fifth, the history of Rome could not have proceeded as it did had Caesar not physically moved an army into Italy. Even if Caesar could have somehow cultivated the mere belief that he had done this, he could not have captured Rome or conscripted Italian men against Pompey's forces in Greece. On the other hand, all that is needed to explain the rise of Christianity is a belief--a belief that the resurrection happened. There is nothing that an actual resurrection would have caused that could not have been caused by a mere belief in that resurrection. Thus, an actual resurrection is not necessary to explain all subsequent history, unlike Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon.
It should be clear that we have many reasons to believe that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, all of which are lacking in the case of the resurrection. In fact, when we compare all five points, we see that in four of the five proofs of an event's historicity, the resurrection has no evidence at all, and in the one proof that it does have, it has not the best, but the very worst kind of evidence--a handful of biased, uncritical, unscholarly, unknown, second-hand witnesses. Indeed, you really have to look hard to find another event that is in a worse condition than this as far as evidence goes. So Geivett is guilty of a rather extreme exaggeration. This is not a historically well-attested event, and it does not meet the highest standards of evidence.
But reasons to be skeptical do not stop there. We must consider the setting--the place and time in which these stories spread. This was an age of fables and wonder. Magic and miracles and ghosts were everywhere, and almost never doubted. I'll give one example that illustrates this: we have several accounts of what the common people thought about lunar eclipses. They apparently had no doubt that this horrible event was the result of witches calling the moon down with diabolical spells. So when an eclipse occurred, everyone would frantically start banging pots and blowing brass horns furiously, to confuse the witches' spells. So tremendous was this din that many better-educated authors complain of how the racket filled entire cities and countrysides. This was a superstitious people.
Only a small class of elite well-educated men adopted more skeptical points of view, and because they belonged to the upper class, both them and their arrogant skepticism were scorned by the common people, rather than respected. Plutarch laments how doctors were willing to attend to the sick among the poor for little or no fee, but they were usually sent away, in preference for the local wizard. By modern standards, almost no one had any sort of education at all, and there were no mass media disseminating scientific facts in any form. By the estimates of William Harris, author of Ancient Literacy , only 20% of the population could read anything at all, fewer than 10% could read well, and far fewer still had any access to books. He found that in comparative terms, even a single page of blank papyrus cost the equivalent of thirty dollars--ink, and the labor to hand copy every word, cost many times more. We find that books could run to the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Consequently, only the rich had books, and only elite scholars had access to libraries, of which there were few. The result was that the masses had no understanding of science or critical thought. They were neither equipped nor skilled, nor even interested, in challenging an inspiring story, especially a story like that of the Gospels: utopian, wonderful, critical of upper class society--even more a story that, if believed, secured eternal life. Who wouldn't have bought a ticket to that lottery? Opposition arose mainly from prior commitments to other dogmas, not reason or evidence.
The differences between society then and now cannot be stressed enough. There didn't exist such things as coroners, reporters, cameras, newspapers, forensic science, or even police detectives. All the technology, all the people we have pursuing the truth of various claims now, did not exist then. In those days, few would even be able to check the details of a story if they wanted to--and few wanted to. Instead, people based their judgment on the display of sincerity by the storyteller, by his ability to impress them with a show or simply to persuade and "sell" his story, and by the potential rewards his story had to offer. At the same time, doubters didn't care to waste the time or money debunking yet another crazy cult, of which there were hundreds then. And so it should not surprise us that we have no writings by anyone hostile to Christianity until a century after it began--not even slanders or lies. Clearly, no doubter cared to check or even challenge the story in print until it was too late to investigate the facts.
These are just some of the reasons why we cannot trust extraordinary reports from that time without excellent evidence, which we do not have in the case of the physical resurrection of Jesus. For on the same quality of evidence we have reports of talking dogs, flying wizards, magical statues, and monsters springing from trees. Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well--no. What about alien bodies recovered from a crashed flying saucer in Roswell, New Mexico? Many people sincerely believe that legend today, yet this is the modern age, with ample evidence against it in print that is easily accessible to anyone, and this legend began only thirty years after the event.
Even so, it is often said in objection that we can trust the Gospels more than we normally would because they were based on the reports of eye-witnesses of the event who were willing to die for their belief in the physical resurrection, for surely no one would die for a lie. To quote a Christian website: "the first disciples were willing to suffer and die for their faith...for their claims to have seen Jesus...risen bodily from the dead." Of course, the Gospel of Matthew 28:17 actually claims that some eye-witnesses didn't believe what they saw and might not have become Christians, which suggests the experience was not so convincing after all. But there are two other key reasons why this argument sounds great in sermons but doesn't hold water under rational scrutiny.
First, it is based on nothing in the New Testament itself, or on any reliable evidence of any kind. None of the Gospels or Epistles mention anyone dying for their belief in the "physical" resurrection of Jesus. The only martyrdoms recorded in the New Testament are, first, the stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts. But Stephen was not a witness. He was a later convert. So if he died for anything, he died for hearsay alone. But even in Acts the story has it that he was not killed for what he believed, but for some trumped up false charge, and by a mob, whom he could not have escaped even if he had recanted. So his death does not prove anything in that respect. Moreover, in his last breaths, we are told, he says nothing about dying for any belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus, but mentions only his belief that Jesus was the messiah, and was at that moment in heaven. And then he sees Jesus--yet no one else does, so this was clearly a vision, not a physical appearance, and there is no good reason to believe earlier appearances were any different.
The second and only other "martyr" recorded in Acts is the execution of the Apostle James, but we are not told anything about why he was killed or whether recanting would have saved him, or what he thought he died for. In fact, we have one independent account in the Jewish history of Josephus, of the stoning of a certain "James the brother of Jesus" in 62 A.D., possibly but not necessarily the very same James, and in that account he is stoned for breaking the Jewish law, which recanting would not escape, and in the account of the late 2nd century Christian hagiographer Hegesippus, as reported by Eusebius, he dies not for his belief in a physical resurrection, but, just like Stephen, solely for proclaiming Jesus the messiah, who was at that moment in heaven.
Yet that is the last record of any martyrdom we have until the 2nd century. Then we start to hear about some unnamed Christians burned for arson by Nero in 64 A.D., but we do not know if any eye-witnesses were included in that group--and even if we did it would not matter, for they were killed on a false charge of arson, not for refusing to deny belief in a physical resurrection. So even if they had recanted, it would not have saved them, and therefore their deaths also do not prove anything, especially since such persecution was so rare and unpredictable in that century. We also do not even know what it was they believed--after all, Stephen and James did not appear to regard the physical resurrection as an essential component of their belief. It is not what they died for.
As far as we can tell, apart from perhaps James, no one knew what the fate was of any of the original eye-witnesses. People were even unclear about who the original eye-witnesses were. There were a variety of legends circulating centuries later about their travels and deaths, but it is clear from our earliest sources that no one knew for certain. There was only one notable exception: the martyrdom of Peter. This we do not hear about until two or three generations after the event, and it is told in only one place: the Gnostic Acts of Peter, which was rejected as a false document by many Christians of the day. But even if this account is true, it claims that Peter was executed for political meddling and not for his beliefs. Even more important, it states that Peter believed Jesus was resurrected as a spirit, not in the flesh...
Which brings us to the second point: it seems distinctly possible, if not definite, that the original Christians did not in fact believe in a physical resurrection (meaning a resurrection of his corpse), but that Jesus was taken up to heaven and given a new body--a more perfect, spiritual body--and then "the risen Jesus" was seen in visions and dreams, just like the vision Stephen has before he dies, and which Paul has on the road to Damascus. Visions of gods were not at all unusual, a cultural commonplace in those days, well documented by Robin Lane Fox in his excellent book Pagans and Christians. But whatever their cause, if this is how Christianity actually started, it means that the resurrection story told in the Gospels, of a Jesus risen in the flesh, does not represent what the original disciples believed, but was made up generations later. So even if they did die for their beliefs, they did not die for the belief that Jesus was physically resurrected from the grave.
That the original Christians believed in a spiritual resurrection is hinted at in many strange features of the Gospel accounts of the appearances of Jesus after death, which may be survivals of an original mystical tradition later corrupted by the growing legend of a bodily resurrection, such as a Jesus that they do not recognize, or who vanishes into thin air. But more importantly, it is also suggested by the letters of Paul, our earliest source of information on any of the details of the original Christian beliefs. For Paul never mentions or quotes any of the Gospels, so it seems clear that they were not written in his lifetime. This is supported by internal evidence that suggests all the Gospels were written around or after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., well after Paul's last surviving letter, which was written around the year 58.
Yet Paul never mentions Jesus having been resurrected in the flesh. He never mentions empty tombs, physical appearances, or the ascension of Jesus into heaven afterward (i.e. when Paul mentions the ascension, he never ties it to appearances in this way, and never distinguishes it from the resurrection event itself). In Galatians 1 he tells us that he first met Jesus in a "revelation" on the road to Damascus, not in the flesh, and the Book of Acts gives several embellished accounts of this event that all clearly reflect not any tradition of a physical encounter, but a startling vision (a light and a voice, nothing more). Then in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul reports that all the original eye-witnesses--Peter, James, the Twelve Disciples, and hundreds of others--saw Jesus in essentially the same way Paul did. The only difference, he says, was that they saw it before him. He then goes on to build an elaborate description of how the body that dies is not the body that rises, that the flesh cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and how the resurrected body is a new, spiritual body. All this seems good evidence that Paul did not believe in the resurrection of a corpse, but something fundamentally different.
Finally, when we examine the Gospel record closely, it becomes apparent that the physical nature of the resurrection was a growing legend, becoming more and more fabulous over time, a good sign that it wasn't the original story. Now, we don't actually know when any of the Gospels were written, but we can infer their chronological order. Luke and Matthew both copy whole phrases from Mark and arrange them in an identical order as found in Mark, so it is clear that Mark came first among those three. Scholars dispute whether Luke preceded Matthew or the other way around, but it seems to me that, since they show no apparent awareness of each other, they were written around the same time, though scholars generally hold that Luke perhaps wrote later than Matthew. John presents the most theologically elaborate of the accounts, suggesting a late development, and even earliest Christian tradition held that this Gospel was the last to be written, and scholars generally agree on this.
So we start with Mark. It is little known among the laity, but in fact the ending of Mark, everything after verse 16:8, does not actually exist in the earliest versions of that Gospel that survive. It was added some time late in the 2nd century or even later. Before that, as far as we can tell, Mark ended at verse 16:8. But that means his Gospel ended only with an empty tomb, and a pronouncement by a mysterious young man  that Jesus would be seen in Galilee--nothing is said of how he would be seen. This was clearly unsatisfactory for the growing powerful arm of the Church a century later, which had staked its claim on a physical resurrection, against competing segments of the Church usually collectively referred to as the Gnostics (though not always accurately). So an ending was added that quickly pinned some physical appearances of Jesus onto the story, and for good measure put in the mouth of Christ rabid condemnations of those who didn't believe it. But when we consider the original story, it supports the notion that the original belief was of a spiritual rather than a physical event. The empty tomb for Mark was likely meant to be a symbol, not a historical reality, but even if he was repeating what was told him as true, it was not unusual in the ancient world for the bodies of heroes who became gods to vanish from this world: being deified entailed being taken up into heaven, as happened to men as diverse as Hercules and Apollonius of Tyana, and Mark's story of an empty tomb would simply represent that expectation.
A decade or two passes, and then Matthew appears. As this Gospel tells it, there was a vast earthquake, and instead of a mere boy standing around beside an already-opened tomb, an angel--blazing like lightning--descended from the sky and paralyzed two guards that happened to be there, rolled away the stone single handedly before several witnesses--and then announced that Jesus will appear in Galilee. Obviously we are seeing a clear case of legendary embellishment of the otherwise simple story in Mark. Then in Matthew a report is given (similar to what was later added to Mark), where, contrary to the angel's announcement, Jesus immediately meets the women that attended to his grave and repeats what the angel said. Matthew is careful to add a hint that this was a physical Jesus, having the women grovel and grab his feet as he speaks.
Then, maybe a little later still, Luke appears, and suddenly what was a vague and perhaps symbolic allusion to an ascension in Mark has now become a bodily appearance, complete with a dramatic reenactment of Peter rushing to the tomb and seeing the empty death shroud for himself.[32a] As happened in Matthew, other details have grown. The one young man of Mark, which became a flying angel in Matthew, in this account has suddenly become two men, this time not merely in white, but in dazzling raiment. And to make the new story even more suspicious as a doctrinal invention, Jesus goes out of his way to say he is not a vision, and proves it by asking the Disciples to touch him, and then by eating a fish. And though both Mark and Matthew said the visions would happen in Galilee, Luke changes the story, and places this particular experience in the more populous and prestigious Jerusalem.
Finally along comes John, perhaps after another decade or more. Now the legend has grown full flower, and instead of one boy, or two men, or one angel, now we have two angels at the empty tomb. And outdoing Luke in style, John has Jesus prove he is solid by showing his wounds, and breathing on people, and even obliging the Doubting Thomas by letting him put his fingers into the very wounds themselves. Like Luke, the most grandiose appearances to the Disciples happen in Jerusalem, not Galilee as Mark originally claimed. In all, John devotes more space and detail than either Luke or Matthew to demonstrations of the physicality of the resurrection, details nowhere present or even implied in Mark. It is obvious that John is trying very hard to create proof that the resurrection was the physical raising of a corpse, and at the end of a steady growth of fable, he takes license to make up a lot of details.
We have no primary sources on what was going on in the forty years of the Church between Paul in the year 58 and Clement of Rome in the year 95, and Paul tells us almost nothing about what happened in the beginning. We only conjecture that the Gospels were written between Paul and Clement, though they may have been written even ten or twenty years later still. But what I suspect happened is something like this: Jesus died, was buried, and then in a vision or dream appeared to one or more of his Disciples, convincing them he had ascended to heaven, marking the beginning of the fast-approaching End Times as the first to be raised, and then what began in the simple story of Mark as a symbolic allusion to an ascended Christ soon to reveal himself in visions from heaven, in time led some Christians to believe that the resurrection was a physical rising of a corpse. Then they heard or came up with increasingly elaborate stories proving themselves right. Overzealous people often add details and color to a story they've been told without even thinking about it, and as the story passed from each to the next more detail and elaboration was added, securing the notion of a physical resurrection in popular imagination and belief.
It would have been a natural mistake to make at the time, since gods were expected to be able to raise people bodily from the dead, and physical resurrections were actually in vogue in the very 1st century when Christianity began. Consider the god Asclepius. Doctors associated themselves with this god, and many legends were circulating of doctors becoming famous by restoring the dead to life, as recounted by Pliny the Elder, Apuleius and others. Asclepius was also called SOTER, "The Savior," as many gods were in that day. He was especially so-named for being able to cure the sick and bring back the dead, and since "Jesus" (properly, Joshua) means "The Savior" in Hebrew it may have been expected that his resurrection would be physical in nature, too. After all, so was that of Lazarus, or of the boy raised by Elijah in 1 Kings--a prophet with whom Jesus was often equated. Jesus' association with many healing miracles may also have implied a deliberate rivalry with Asclepius, and indeed, Jesus was actually called SOTER, and still is today: we see the Christian fishes on the backs of cars now, containing the Greek word ICHTHUS, the last letter of which stands for: SOTER. Not standing to be outdone by a pagan god, Christians may have simply expected that their god could raise himself physically from the grave.
Then there is Herodotus, who was always a popular author and had been for centuries. He told of a Thracian religion that began with the physical resurrection of a man called Zalmoxis, who then started a cult in which it was taught that believers went to heaven when they died. We also know that circulating in the Middle East were very ancient legends regarding the resurrection of the goddess Inanna (also known as Ishtar), who was crucified in the underworld, then rescued and raised back to earth by her divine attendant, a tale recounted in a four thousand year old clay tablet from Sumeria. Finally, Plutarch writes in the latter half of the 1st century how "Romeo-and-Juliet-style" returns from the dead were a popular theme in contemporary theatre, and we know from surviving summaries and fragments that they were also a feature in romance novels of that day. This trend is discussed at some length in G. W. Bowersock's book Fiction as History.
So the idea of "physical resurrection" was popular, and circulating everywhere. Associating Jesus with this trend would have been a very easy mistake to make. Since religious trust was won in those days by the charisma of speakers and the audience's subjective estimation of their sincerity, it would not be long before a charismatic man, who heard the embellished accounts, came into a position of power, inspiring complete faith from his congregation, who then sought to defend the story, and so began the transformation of the Christian idea of the resurrection from a spiritual concept to a physical one--naturally, calling themselves the "true church" and attacking all rivals, as has sadly so often happened in history.
Lending plausibility to this chain of events was the Jewish War between 66 and 70 A.D., which ended with the complete destruction of the original Christian Church in Jerusalem, and much of the entire city, after all Judaea itself was ravaged by war. It is likely that many if not all of the original believers still living were killed in this war, or in Nero's persecution of 64, and with the loss of the central source of Christian authority and tradition, legends were ripe for the growing. This would explain why later Christians were so in the dark about the history of their own Church between 58 and 95. It was a kind of mini-dark age for them, a time of confusion and uncertainty. But what exactly happened we may never know. However it came to change, it seems more than likely that the first Christians, among them Paul, believed in a spiritual resurrection, and not the resurrection story told in the Gospels.
So this is where we end up. We have no trustworthy evidence of a physical resurrection, no reliable witnesses. It is among the most poorly attested of historical events. The earliest evidence, from the letters of Paul, does not appear to be of a physical resurrection, but a spiritual one. And we have at least one plausible reason available to us as to why and how the legend grew into something else. Finally, the original accounts of a resurrection of a flesh-and-blood corpse show obvious signs of legendary embellishment over time, and were written in an age of little education and even less science, a time overflowing with superstition and credulity. And, ultimately, the Gospels match perfectly the same genre of hagiography as that life of Genevieve with which I began. There the legends quickly arose, undoubted and unchallenged, of treeborn monsters and righted ships and blinded thieves. In the Gospels, we get angels and earthquakes and a resurrection of the flesh. So we have to admit that neither is any more believable than the other.
It should not be lost on us that Thomas was depicted as no less righteous for refusing to believe so wild a claim without physical proof. We have as much right, and ought to follow his example. He got to see and feel the wounds before believing, and so should we. I haven't, so I can't be expected to believe it. And this leads me to one final reason why I don't buy the resurrection story. No wise or compassionate God would demand this from us. Such a god would not leave us so poorly informed about something so important. If we have a message for someone that is urgently vital for their survival, and we have any compassion, that compassion will compel us to communicate that message clearly and with every necessary proof--not ambiguously, not through unreliable mediaries presenting no real evidence. Conversely, if we see something incredible, we do not attack or punish audiences who don't believe us, we don't even expect them to believe--unless and until we can present decisive proof.
There is a heroic legend in the technology community about the man who invented elevator safety brakes. He claimed that any elevator fitted with his brakes, even if all the cables broke, would be safely and swiftly stopped by his new invention. No one trusted it. Did he get angry or indignant? No. He simply put himself in an elevator, ordered the cables cut, and proved to the world, by risking his own life, that his brakes worked. This is the very principle that has delivered us from superstition to science. Any claim can be made about a drug, but people are rightly wary of swallowing anything that hasn't been thoroughly tested and re-tested and tested again. Since I have no such proofs regarding the resurrection story, I'm not going to swallow it, and it would be cruel, even for a god, to expect otherwise of me. So I can reason rightly that a god of all humankind would not appear in one tiny backwater of the Earth, in a backward time, revealing himself to a tiny unknown few, and then expect the billions of the rest of us to take their word for it, and not even their word, but the word of some unknown person many times removed.
Yet, if one returns to what was probably Paul's conception of a Christ risen into a new, spiritual body, then the resurrection becomes no longer a historical proof of the truth of Christianity, but an article of faith, an affirmation that is supposed to follow nothing other than a personal revelation of Christ--not to be believed on hearsay, but experienced for oneself. Though I do not believe this is a reliable way to come to a true understanding of the world, as internal experience only tells us about ourselves and not the truth of the world outside of us, I leave it to the Christians here to consider a spiritual resurrection as a different way to understand their faith. But I don't see any reason to buy the resurrection story found in the Gospels. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/lect
Formulating a case against the resurrection entails a different format than does the case for the resurrection. Scholars and skeptics who do not believe in the resurrection often have quite different reasons for this belief. Therefore, the case that I will lay out will not have the systematic, progressive appearance of the preceding section. The objective, however, is for the separate arguments to form a cumulative effect in denying the historicity of the resurrection.
This section may also be slightly shorter than the previous one. This is not to indicate a preference for either onethe simple fact of the matter is that much more has been written in defense of the resurrection than there has been against it. For instance, Bertrand Russell's famous essay, Why I Am Not a Christian does not even mention the resurrection once. Only recently have skeptics sought to provide a powerful case against the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Paul believed in a "spiritual" appearance
Dan Barker, a former evangelical preacher, is an avowed atheist and author of the popular Losing Faith in Faith. During a debate at the University of Northern Iowa, on April 2, 1996, he presented a hypothesis that he felt dealt with all of the historical "evidence." The view has been summarized by Farrell Till, the editor of The Skeptical Review. The following is the summarization:
"He focused our attention on the word buried, raised, and appeared in Paul's text [1 Corinthians 15:1-8] and analyzed each as they were used in the Greek text of the New Testament. The word thapto (bury) meant to inter or bury and carried no necessary connotations of entombment, so this would be entirely consistent with the known practice of taking the bodies of crucifixion victims and burying them in a common grave. The word translated rose or raised in English translations of this passage was egeiro, which meant to "arouse" or "awaken." Barker noted that this word that Paul used in referring to the resurrection in such passages as 2 Corinthians 5:15 and that it was the word used in Ephesians 5:14 where Paul said, "Awake (egeiro), thou that sleepest and arise (anistemi) from the dead." The latter word, which meant "arise" or "raise up," is the word used in reference to resurrection, but egerio (awake) is the word that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15:4, 12 in speaking of Christ's arising.
Egeiro (awake) was used by Paul eleven other times in 1 Corinthians 15:15-52, as he spoke about the apostles being false witnesses if the dead are not raised, faith being dead if the dead are not raised, and seed and bodies being sown in corruption but raised in incorruption, etc. . . .Paul believed in a spiritual resurrection of Jesus. . .
. . .Part of Dan Barkers argument in the debate was an analysis of the word "appear" to show that Paul and other New Testament writers had used it in visionary senses. In Matthew 17:3, Moses and Elijah "appeared" at the time of the transfiguration, and the Greek word here is the same one that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 in listing the appearances that Jesus made to Cephas, to the twelve, to the 500 brethren, to James, and finally to Paul himself. There is nothing in the text of Matthew that even remotely hints that Moses and Elijah had been bodily resurrected in their appearances at the transfiguration. In Acts 16:9, "a vision appeared [same word as in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8] to Paul in the night in which a man from Macedonia stood praying for Paul to come there to help them. Since the same word for "appear" was used in 1 Corinthians 15:8, where Peter said, "And last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also," Barker argued that there is sufficient reason to assume that the other appearances were like the appearance to Paul. Barker then showed that the only records that exist of the appearances of Jesus to Paul show clearly that this was just a vision that Paul had and that he had actually not seen Jesus in the vision. . . .So if this was the way that Paul "saw" Jesus, and since the same word for see or appear (depending on translation) was used for all of the appearances that Paul mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, why should we believe that Paul considered these appearances any more than just the same kind of visionary appearance that he had experienced on the road to Damascus?"
This amply illustrates the hypothesis argued by Barker in the debate. He referred to this as "the evolution of a legend. The evolution of a myth." There is strong agreement between the skeptic and the apologist that the early creedal formula in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 is the earliest recording mention of the resurrection. If, however, Paul meant a "spiritual" vision and resurrection that this means that the gospel accounts of the bodily resurrection and tangibility of the evidence were later fabrications, therefore destroying the reliability of the most sophisticated descriptions. This form of "evolution," as Barker calls it, can also be seen in the argument against the empty tomb.
The empty tomb is legendary and contradictory
The apostle Paul, in the book of 1 Corinthians, tries to argue as persuasively as possible that Jesus rose from the dead. He does not, however, make so much as a reference to the empty tomb. Uta Ranke-Heinemann, author of the book, Putting Away Childish Things: The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Don't Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith, spells out the issue clearly. Her objection is similar to the one espoused below by Dan Barker. She writes, "Paul, the great preacher of the resurrection, bases his faith on something other than the empty tomb." She cites 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 as evidence that Paul's belief was in a "spiritual" resurrection, not a bodily one in which Jesus left the grave:
But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?" You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. . . . So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. . . . It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. . . . I tell you this, brethren, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Reinke-Heinemann calls this "proof that Jesus' empty tomb has no significance for belief in the resurrection."
Another interesting fact is that the book of Mark carries no story of the resurrection appearances. The New International Version admit after Mark 16:8 that, "The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 26:9-20. Therefore, we can lay aside the most important aspect of the apologist's circumstantial case." Therefore, it is of great importance what the final thing that Mark recorded, for his is the earliest account. His ending is surprising: "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid" (Mk 16:8). This suggests that the earliest tradition, which Mark is recording, mentions the empty tomb, but is mum on the issue of the appearances.
In conclusion to this section, therefore, we see that the two earliest recorded apologists, Mark and Paul, both fail to make the same case for the resurrection! Mark leaves out all of the appearances, Paul says nothing about the empty tomb. Surely this is cause for great suspicion.
The resurrection stories are conflicting and contradictory
Mark 16:1-8, Matthew 28, Luke 24, and John 20 give us the accounts of the women's visit to the tomb, in which it is reported that it was discovered empty. The problem, however, is that these four stories contradict each other and conflict. Bishop John Shelby Spong asks his readers: "Does it bother the literal believer that the details in the gospels are as contradictory about what happened after Jesus' death as they are about what happened at the time of his birth?"
This certainly would cast doubt on the historical reliability of these reports. Father Raymond E. Brown, one of the most highly respected New Testament scholars of our day, has written a book entitled The Virginal Conception & Bodily Resurrection of Jesus. In his book, he provides a chart entitled "The Variant Gospel Narratives of the Visit of the Women to the Tomb." The following is a summarization of the chart:
Mark 16:1-8 Matt 28 Lk 24 Jn 20
Sabbath was past Late on the Sabbath Very early Early
Time First day of week First day of week First day of week First day of week
Sun risen Growing light At first dawn Still dark
Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene Mary Magdalene
Women Mary, mother of James Other Mary Mary, Mother of James (note "we" in vs. 2) Salome Johanna
Others Bought aromatic oils Had aromatic oils from
Came to anoint Came to see tomb Took aromatic oils along
continued on next page Earthquake Angel descended
Visual Stone already rolled He rolled back the Stone already rolled Stone already
moved Phenomena back stone back away Youth sitting He sat on stone Two men standing (Later) two angels
inside on right (outside) (inside) sitting inside Youth said: Angel said: Men asked: (Later) angels asked: Not to fear Not to fear Why seek living Why do you weep? among dead?
Jesus not hear Jesus not here Jesus not here
Conversation He is raised He is raised He is raised (Later) Mary answered:
Tell disciples that he Tell disciples that he As he told you while (Later Jesus gives is going to Galilee is going to Galilee still in Galilee Mary a message for
There you will see him There you will see him for disciples) Women fled Women went away quickly Women left Mary ran to Peter Reaction trembling; astonished with fear, great joy & to Beloved Disciple Told no one To tell disciples Told Eleven & rest Told them that body
had been taken
Little commentary is needed on the above. If there a outright contradictions in all four versions, then how can we know for certain that this really happened? This is especially so, if (as Evangelical Christians claim) that Bible was written by an omniscient and omnipotent God. Dan Barker (see above and Appendix A) quotes Thomas Paine, who wrote in his Age of Reason that,
"I lay it down as a position which cannot be controverted. First, that the agreement of all the parts of a story does not prove that story to be true, because the parts may agree and the whole may be false; secondly, that the disagreement of the parts of a story proves that the whole cannot be true."
The purposes of the gospel writers
Bishop Spong, in his book Resurrection: Myth or Reality? uses what he terms the "the method called midrash" to show that the resurrection of Jesus need not be taken as a literalistic event. He goes into his argument in great detail in his book, but I will attempt to summarize the areas most relevant for our discussion.
First of all, Spong explains that the midrash is "the Jewish way of saying that everything to be venerated in the present must somehow be connected with a sacred moment in the past." The Jewish Encyclopedia describes it as "the attempt to penetrate into the spirit of the text, to examine the text from all sides, to derive interpretations not immediately obvious, to illumine the future by appealing to the past." Spong sees obvious parallels between the story of Jesus and the stories of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament. For example, Exodus records the parting of the Red Sea, signifying that the prophet (Moses) was to be validated. Jesus, on the other hand, parted the heavens, when he walked into the Jordan River to be baptized, thus indicating his calling by God. Jesus and his family fleeing to Egypt was simply a summarization of Israel's history. Zechariah and Elizabeth, being childless in their old age, was simply a way of looking back to Abraham and Sarah. Who cannot see the parallels between Zechariah speaking to Gabriel in the temple and Daniel doing the same? Jesus feeding the five thousand looks just like God providing the bread for Israel as they wandered confused in the wilderness.
Spong argues that Westerners have the wrong question in mind when they ask, "What really happened?" The Jewish mind, and the Midrashic tradition, provides the answer for the question, "Why was it written?" The above is just an introduction into Spong's reasoning, but he is not alone in this line of thought. The great New Testament critic Norman Perrin wrote,
For far too long we modern readers of the gospels have allowed our attention to be diverted from the true intention of the gospel narrative by constantly asking the question, "What actually happened?" instead of asking the evangelical question, "What is it that the gospel writer is challenging us to accept or deny by mean of this [narrative]?" . . .None of the gospel writers is concerned to give us what we would call historical information, they are evangelists, not historians.
Professor of philosophy Michael Martin of Boston University is another scholar who espouses a similar view. He, in fact, carries this one step further in his book The Case Against Christianity. Martin places much emphasis on the fact that the gospel writers were had a theological bent, and that they were writing with a specific purpose in mind. For him, this requires the burden of proof to be raised for the defender of the resurrection and for the document itself, to overcome the suspicion that this raises.
In conclusion to this section, therefore, we have seen the arguments that it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate the historicity of an event when the writers of it were "evangelists." Also, has Spong has argued, the Western approach to the entire subject has begun on the wrong foot, asking "What?" instead of "Why?".
Legendary development is common
Dr. Robert M. Price, a former fundamentalist, written a persuasive book entitled, Beyond Born Again: Toward Evangelical Maturity. He cogently argues that Christian apologists have ignored the fact that legendary embellishment often characterize the stories of religious figures. He then proceeds to give examples of this occurring.
Of interest is Sabbatai Sevi, who has been studied extensively by researcher Gershom Scholem. Sabbatai Sevi was a Mediterranean Jew who excited messianic thoughts in his follower in the 1660s. According to Scholem, with days or weeks of his appearances, there were "sudden and almost explosive surge[s] or miracle stories" concerning this "messiah." Often, these stories were told by word of mouth throughout the public. Price notes that a number of the miracle stories in the gospel accounts are the result of "popular reportage (cf. Luke 1:65-66; 2:18, 38, 47; 4:14, 37; 5:15,26; 6:17-18; 7:17,22; 8:34-39,47; 9:43; 12:1; 18:43; 19:7, 37, 48)."
Price also cites the cases of Jehudah the Hasid, Simon Kimbangu, and William Marrion Baranham as examples of other religious figures who's lives were characterized by legendary development, which grew rather quickly. Jehudah the Hasid lived in the 1200s, and was said to be a magician, although he strongly opposed such things! African martyr Kimbangu also was given the status of miracle worker, and "God of the blacks" although he disavowed the title. Baranham was called by his followers the returned Jesus Christ, or God incarnated, although his protests to the contrary.
The above examples go to demonstrate that legends can, and do, develop around religious leaders with strong followers. This could certainly be the case with regards to Jesus of Nazareth. The very earliest date that any Christian apologist would apply to the gospel narratives is that of fifteen years after the crucifixion, with more moderate advocates suggesting upwards of forty years. Surely if a legend can develop within weeks or months of Savi's death, and within Baranham's own lifetime, then surely a period of 15-40 years would be sufficient! Therefore, we have strong historical parallels to suggest that the story, like the others after it, are legendary.
The problem of miracles The objection to the resurrection that has the longest historic roots deals with the subject of miracles. The uniqueness of this objection is that it does not deal specifically with the resurrection itself, but rules out the resurrection by its worldview. Three of the strongest objectors to the supernaturalistic worldview are Benedict De Spinoza, David Hume, and more recently, Antony Flew.
Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), a Jewish philosopher, argued in the seventeenth century that "a miracle, whether in contravention to, or beyond, nature, is a mere absurdity." His views, while complex, can be broken down into the following premises: 1) Miracles violate natural laws, 2) Natural laws are unchangeable and immutable, 3) Immutable laws cannot be violated, 4) Therefore, miracles are, by a rule, impossible. Spinoza also felt that all of the laws of nature flowed from the perfection and necessity of God. Therefore, if a true miracle were to occur, then nature would contradict the will of God, implicating that God was in conflict with his own nature. For Spinoza, therefore, miracles were simply impossible. The resurrection would be a miracle; thus, it cannot be believed.
David Hume (1711-1776) felt that he discovered the "final" argument against the miraculous, that would be "useful as long as the world endures." His essay "Of Miracles" is still very popular today. Hume wrote that, "(1) A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature, and as a (2) firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, (3) a proof against miracles, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined." There may be evidence for the miracle, but there is the universally recognized observation that natural laws are immutabletherefore, both sides practically cancel each other out. For Hume, any natural hypothesis is more likely than saying that a miracle occurred.
Hume also believed that no "miraculous" events have been supported by honest and educated men. Further, many of these "miraculous" events that have been attested to have been among barbarous people who are prone to believe anything. Therefore, "The Christian Religion. . .cannot be believed by any reasonable person. . . . It's not that scientific laws are necessarily universal, but they are uniform, with no credible exception.
Antony G. N. Flew (1923- ) is the most persuasive advocate of the position today. His article "Miracles" in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy is one of his brightest. He contrasts natural events and miracles, and uses this to show that miracles are scientifically impossible. He writes that (1) natural events and laws are repeatable and general by nature, whereas (2) miracles are unrepeatable and particular by nature. Since, (3) for all practical purposes, the evidence for natural events is always greater than that for the unrepeatable, then (4) the evidence will always be greater that a natural event occurred than it is for a miracle.
The implications for the above are obvious. If a miracle is impossible by definition (Spinoza), if they are improbable (Hume), or scientifically unbelievable (Flew) than Jesus could not have risen from the dead.
Crossan and the Jesus Seminar
When the average laymen reads in Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, or her local newspaper about historical research on Jesus' life and resurrection, she is most likely reading about the Jesus Seminar, a body of seventy-four scholars. This group votes annually on the sayings of Jesus (see The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say?). They are also said to have a book in the works concerning the deeds of Jesus. This group has brought much controversy to the field, and their findings are worth investigating.
John Dominic Crossan, who just recently retired from DePaul University, is the co-founder of the Jesus Seminar. Crossan is perhaps the best known author writing on the subject today; his clarity and persuasiveness have brought his books to prominence on the popular as well as the scholastic level. I will briefly summarize some of the major findings in his The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant and his similar book on the popular level, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography.
Much of his work involves the hypothesis that the "historic Jesus was a peasant Jewish cynic" (emphasis in original).Crossan insists the a methodological study must be down in hopes of discovering the historic Jesus. Before we look at how Crossan views the resurrection, it is important to understand the way in which he approaches his study. He sees three independent vectors that intersect: 1) cross-cultural anthropologydrawing upon the work of scholars studying the ancient Mediterranean, 2) Greco-Roman and Jewish history in the beginning of the first century, focusing on the situation of the Jewish people, using Josephus as his primary source, and 3) Literary textual analysis. Crossan breaks this final category down with conclusions about the texts used: a) There are gospels in and outside of the NT, b) the four gospels are not total collections or random samplingsthey are deliberate arrangements, with i) retention of original materials, ii) development of that material, and iii) creation of new material; c) the differences are due to deliberate theological interpretations of Jesus, and d) the "continuing presence of the risen Jesus or the abiding empowerment of the Spirit" gave the writers an unprecedented creative freedom.
He also tries to examine what he calls the earliest stratum of tradition, which he dates from 30 to 60 C.E. He believes the Gospel of Peter to contain within it the most primitive, or earliest, of all traditions, giving us the original version of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. This is labeled the "Cross Gospel," which is quite different from the gospel versions that we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (Crossan has written entire works on this facet of his research alone; see endnote 76.)
Crossan agrees with the traditionalists that Jesus was indeed crucified under Pontius Pilate. In fact, he says, it is taken "absolutely for granted" based on the unlikelihood of this being an invention, and of "two early and independent non-Christian witnesses" to it: Josephus and Tacitus. He believes, however, that Jesus' first followers knew almost nothing about the details of the crucifixion, death, or burial. Crossan's investigation differs radically with tradition, however, when he concludes that Jesus was probably eaten by wild dogs. He lists at least two reasons: 1) there has only been one tomb victim that has been foundif everyone was buried in a tomb, then surely there would be more found by now, 2) the writings of Martin Hengel have also persuade Crossan to reach this conclusion. Hengel's work catalogs the writers of the Roman-Greco era dealing with this subject.
Crossan sees three developments of the Passion. We first have the historical passion, that is, what really happened. He insists that "with regards to the body of Jesus, by Easter morning, those who cared did not know where it was laid, and those who knew did not care." Crossan does not believe that the authorities gave his followers permission to bury him, for how could they both be against Jesus and for him at the same time?
Secondly, we have the prophetic passion, where scribes searched the scriptures after his death. Crossan believes that scribes searched the scriptures following Jesus' death in hopes of finding passages dealing with death being described as a victory rather than defeat and as a beginning rather than an end. He analyzes various biblical passages which lead him to conclude that the scribes noticed parallelism that they could employ. For example, the Old Testament spoke of goats being used as atonement; the exchanging of filthy clothes for a crown and a robe; and for experiencing piercing and being spat at while suffering.
Finally, we have the narrative passion, which involved the placing of prophecy fulfillments into the sequential, historical narratives that we find today. As for the burial by Joseph of Arimathea, he was simply a made-up person, who satisfied two essential characteristics in the story: he was a friend of Jesus' (the powerless) and a friend of the authorities (the powerful).
As for the stories of Jesus coming back to life, they were the continued expression of the Kingdom of God being among them. They appearances and narratives also served as "visualizations of authority." For example, Paul, in his creedal statement of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (see "The Post-resurrection appearances" above) is an attempt to assert that he was an apostle, too. By equating his "appearance" with that of the other "Twelve" he was trying to insist on his equality. Crossan also see this "visualization of authority" in the case of the "beloved disciple," who arrives at the tomb before Peter and is the first to believe. In fact, he's even above Mary Magdalene, who has to see Jesus first, only then does she believe. Her faith does not compare to the "beloved disciple's." Of course, the main emphasis is that Jesus is the principle authority. The biblical passages continually demonstrate, both before and after his death, that the disciples felt that they everyday tasks such as fishing and sailing could not be done without Jesus. This was simply a symbolic way of driving this point home. For Crossan, "Easter is not about the start of a new faith, but the continuation of an old one."
While this has only been a general look at some of Crossan's findings, it should still be sufficient to show that there are historical grounds for rejecting the resurrection. His writings have caused quite a stir in the scholarly community, and he remains popular among the public, too. His is an excellent case to use in conclusion, since many he uses some of the previous arguments as well as posing new ones. http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/8449/ress.html
The only sources mentioning the resurrection are pro-Christian sources which were written decades after the supposed events for the purpose of promoting certain moral or religious views (see hagiography). Of course, many ancient texts held in much higher regard by the same skeptics were not written until hundreds of years after their events took place.
The Gospel accounts of the resurrection differ, and there appears to be evidence of a progressive supernaturalization involving the appearance of angels at the Empty tomb.
Stories of the bodily disappearance of divine heroes are common: Gesar, the Savior of Tibet, The Gurus of Sikhism, the ascension of Muhammad (even though he has a tomb), the vanishing of Elijah into the sky, God buries Moses in secret.
Most people outside Christianity were not particularly aware of the claims of its early proponents (such as those of an empty tomb), so would not have bothered to try to refute them (illiteracy and superstitious beliefs were a common phenomenon, many of such stories existed). By the time Christianity became better known, no evidence remained to refute.
Had a resurrection occurred, the corpse would be missing, and the executioner-soldiers would have been themselves killed for permitting it to be stolen. We have no record of their executions, nor do we have (which would have been infinitely more worthy of note) a record from Roman authorities exonerating the soldiers of corpse-theft on the grounds that the deceased had resumed living. Thus, whatever the faith of early Christian sources, disinterested parties did not even note anything out of the ordinary requiring explanation, let alone a historically unique bodily resurrection.
The Gospels state that Jesus was not recognized at first by those who allegedly met him after the resurrection, even though the contact was sometimes prolonged and intimate. This makes it less clear that the resurrection was a literal rather than psychological phenomenon or a piece of religious symbolism. On the other hand, they also state that the reason they could not recognize him was because he "closed their eyes" until he wanted to be recognized.
According to all four gospels, on those occasions on which he allegedly appeared after his death, even Jesus' apostles and closest friends doubted that they were in the presence of Jesus – even after seeing him and hearing him speak. Some say this is evidence that the resurrection did not occur, while others claim that it would be a normal reaction to seeing someone presumed dead.
According to the Bible, of the about 500 said to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus, some "fell asleep." While this is generally taken to be a euphemism for death, and is in fact a phrase used that way elsewhere in the New Testament, some skeptics have taken it to mean "fell away," i.e., they no longer claimed to have seen a resurrected Jesus. This, however, is quite a larger stretch of language than using it to mean death.