Jesus of Nazareth has been crucified. His body is left to rot on the cross for days, as was the Roman custom, as a warning to other trouble-makers. After a few days, what was left of his body was tossed into an unmarked hole in the ground with the bodies of other executed criminals, as was the Roman custom. Jesus’ disciples were devastated. He had told them he was the Messiah. They had made plans, even telling family and friends, that they were going to rule on thrones with Jesus in the New Kingdom. But now he is dead. All their hopes and dreams are dashed to smithereens.
They return to Galilee to take up fishing again.
Then, several weeks or months or years later, a group of female disciples are walking down a road and see a man in the distance standing on a hill. He looks familiar. “It’s JESUS!” they shout with joy. “He DID rise again!” But before they reach the man, he has disappeared behind the hill and can’t be found. The women return to the Eleven and tell them that they have seen Jesus. They doubt at first, but soon the disciples and others, desperate to believe that there is still hope in Jesus’ claims, are “seeing” Jesus…and the legend of the resurrected Jesus begins.
At the beginning, what were the central “facts” of this story:
1. Jesus has been seen alive after his death, first, by women disciples.
2. The women rushed back to tell the male disciples who at first did not believe…but so wanted to believe it was true.
3. The male disciples start “seeing” Jesus in false sightings and in visions.
4. The belief in the resurrected Jesus so changes the disciples and Jesus’ family that they begin to boldly preach his resurrection as fact.
Fast forward 20-25 years to Paul. All Paul says in I Corinthians 15 is that Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day. He then gives a list of witnesses, not in order, and not with any details. This is perfectly consistent with my counter-scenario to the Resurrection story as told in the Bible. And, my naturalistic counter-scenario is much, much more probable to be the explanation of the early Resurrection belief than is the claim that an ancient middle-eastern god reanimated a dead, first century, Jewish prophet in a never-heard-of-before and never-heard-of-since supernatural act.
Fast forward to circa 70 AD. We are now FORTY years after the crucifixion of Jesus. The average life span in first century Palestine has been estimated by experts to have been forty years. So how many of the witnesses would still be alive just calculating normal life span? Now take into account the persecution that Christians had faced in Palestine by Saul and the high priest. How many more eyewitnesses were killed prior to circa 70 AD? Then we have the Roman-Jewish wars in the mid 60’s. How many more witnesses were killed during these wars? Then, in 70 AD, the Romans destroy Jerusalem and kill tens of thousands of more people.
So when “Mark” writes his first gospel talking about an empty tomb, writing his gospel in Antioch or Rome as most scholars believe, NOT in Palestine, how soon does a copy of this gospel, containing claims of an empty tomb, make it to Palestine, where any possible surviving witness could refute the gospel’s claims??
|Is that you, Jesus?|