Is this the True Origin of the Early Christian Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus?

Many conservative Christians assert that there is only one explanation for the “evidence” regarding the early Christian belief that Jesus was seen alive again after his crucifixion:  a miraculous resurrection of his dead body by the power of Yahweh, the Hebrew/Christian God.

I disagree.  I believe that there are numerous, much more probable, naturalistic explanations for the rise of the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection.

Here is one alternative, naturalistic explanation.  I believe that it answers all the “evidence” and I challenge any Christian to prove that this explanation, or any detail therein, is “impossible”:

Jesus lived in first century Palestine. He got on the wrong side of the Jewish authorities; they asked the Romans to crucify him, which the Romans did.

Jesus body was left on the cross for days as a warning to other potential troublemakers, as was the Roman custom. At some point in time, the remains of his body were taken down and thrown into an unmarked, common dirt grave along with the remains of other executed criminals, as was the Roman custom. The site of the grave was known only to a few soldiers who quickly forgot about it.

Jesus’ small band of disciples were emotionally and psychologically devastated. They had expected to reign with Jesus in the New Kingdom after Jesus had driven out the hated Romans. Instead, their leader and friend was dead. All hope was lost. They returned to Galilee to take up their former jobs.

Days, weeks, or months later, a few of the female disciples of Jesus are sitting in a garden talking, they look up and see a man at the edge of the garden. “It’s Jesus!” they cry out. But the man quickly disappears into a crowd and they can not catch up to him. The man the women saw looked remarkably similar to Jesus. Was it Jesus or just someone who looked like Jesus? The women were sure it was Jesus, and run to tell the male disciples.

The male disciples at first do not believe, but when ALL the women swear it was Jesus, and describe the man’s physical appearance, they are overcome with joy. “He is risen!” Hope is restored in the small band of early Christians.

Days later Peter reports to the others that Jesus appeared to him (in a vision). Soon other disciples, and James the brother of Jesus, are having visions of Jesus or sightings of Jesus. The group is gripped with near hysteria. “The New Kingdom is near! We will soon reign on thrones with Jesus, as he promised!”

The once timid and spineless disciples are now courageous believers in the “Resurrected Jesus”, and begin preaching his message far and wide. The small band begins to grow as other (mostly) poor, hopeless, down-trodden peasants are told of the coming kingdom and of an afterlife living in mansions on streets lined with gold and rewarded for their faithfulness in this life with crowns studded with jewels. Christianity promises nothing but persecution and pain for a short time, but in the New Kingdom, and in the afterlife, which could come at any minute, they will be rich and forever happy!

A Jewish rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, also has a vision. In his vision, the Jesus whose followers he is persecuting, designates him as the most important of all Jesus’ apostles, and orders him to carry his message to all the world. Saul/Paul believes his vision is from God, and therefore obeys.

For a little over two centuries, Christianity grows, how much we cannot say for sure, but within a short time, there are Christian churches in almost every major city in the Roman world. Then, in circa 300 AD, the emperor of the Empire has his own vision of Jesus, and converts to the new faith. If he had had a vision of Mithras the world might be predominantly Mithrian today, but his vision was Christian…and the rest is history.

P.S.  And just in case you believe that the empty tomb must be included in this story as indisputable evidence, as many conservative Christians claim, then you can make the following change to the above story and it will not alter the conclusion whatsoever:

The gospels’ account that Jesus was buried in the rock tomb of Jospeh of Aramathea did occur, but, the body was either moved or stolen, by someone, sometime before the women arrived Sunday morning…finding an empty tomb without any explanation.  Then, the women see a man at the edge of the garden.  “It’s Jesus!” …and the story above continues.

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42 thoughts on “Is this the True Origin of the Early Christian Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus?

  1. So Joseph asked for the body and was given the body therefore Pilate and the Jews knew someone had the body and that was why the Jews asked Pilate for a guard to be place outside an empty tomb and he gave them a guard to be placed outside an empty tomb? Not to mention Nicodemus who helped prepare his body for burial.

    For this theory of yours to work you would have to have a collusion of the followers of Christ, the Jews, Pilate and those who performed the crucifixion along with the guard outside the tomb. Sounds reasonable to me. Never-mind the fact that Pilate, the Jews and the Roman guards all could have put a stop to this new religion by saying “Oh, by the way he was buried in a ditch”…

    What about Thomas placing his finger into the side of Jesus? You are asking us to believe everyone of these people are either liars, delusional, crazy, idiots and or conspirators. It's easier to just assume you are the crazy one Gary.

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  2. I take it you want to include the empty tomb in the story. Ok. That is fine.

    Here is one explanation of what happened: Aramathea was NOT a disciple of Jesus as one or some of the gospel authors allege. (This is a later embellishment to the story.) Aramathea was a devout Jew and as a member of the Sanhedrin had joined the rest of the Sanhedrin and voted to execute Jesus the night before. However, he did not want a dead Jewish body above ground on the Sabbath Passover, so he put the dead body of Jesus in his newly hewn tomb which was located nearby, prior to sunset Friday evening.

    When the Sabbath/Passover ended at sunset Saturday evening, he went to the tomb, in the dark of night, unbeknownst to anyone, removed the body, and buried it in an unmarked hole in the ground nearby.

    Sunday morning, the women arrive to an empty tomb, see a man in the distance that looks like Jesus, and…

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  3. Gary everything you just presented above is absolutely 100% pure speculation within the kingdom of your fertile imagination. The way you argue your points are that you create a story which you think explains stuff then demand or dare people to prove you wrong.

    Once they do you rework your story and dare them again, again they prove you wrong and you rework it again and again and again and on and on and on. You're willing to accept anything other than the actual accounts for which there is actual evidence from actual people. It would be so much more intellectually honest if you'd just come out and say you don't want to believe because you don't want it to be true.

    I can't believe Nick took as much time as he did to actually argue each of your creative writing endeavors.

    Leave out the empty tomb all together, leave out Joey A. Why would the Jews ask Pilate for a guard when both Pilate and the Jews knew there was no body to guard? It wouldn't matter if he rose from a tomb or a ditch. It's the rising from the dead part that counts.

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  4. You are missing the point, Frank. I'm NOT trying to explain what happened. I am demonstrating that there are multiple alternative, much more probable explanations for the little evidence that we do have. Here is the evidence I believe that even most (non-mythicist) skeptics would agree to regarding the life, death, and resurrection claims regarding Jesus:

    1. Jesus existed.
    2. Jesus' teachings and behavior upset Jewish authorities.
    3. The Jewish authorities asked the Romans to execute Jesus, which they did.
    4. Shortly after Jesus' death, his followers soon came to believe that he had been resurrected.

    5. I am willing to add to this list an empty tomb, although I personally believe there is no real evidence for this “fact”.

    Now, you can say that you believe that there are more facts. You can say that every detail mentioned in the Gospels is fact, but even most Christian apologists will be unwilling to make that statement. I believe that these are the same “minimal facts” that Christian apologist Gary Habermas uses to argue for the resurrection. I will copy and paste his minimum facts below for comparison.

    The whole point of the disagreement between skeptics such as myself and Christians is that skeptics do not believe that ALL the claims in the Gospel accounts are historical facts. You may not like that, but that is our position. And, if my my position was based simply on a desire NOT TO BELIEVE, as you allege, I would deny everything. The reality is, I do not deny everything. I only deny what I believe to be claims that lack good evidence.

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  5. Here are the Minimal Facts that Christian apologist Gary Habermas uses to argue for the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus:

    the foundation for the minimal facts argument. They are as follows…

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion
    2. The disciples of Jesus were sincerely convinced that he rose from the dead and appeared to them
    3. Paul (aka Saul of Tarsus), who was a persecutor of the Christians, suddenly changed his beliefs towards Christianity
    4. James (brother of Jesus), who was a skeptic of the Christian faith, suddenly changed his beliefs towards Christianity
    5. The Tomb of Jesus was found empty three days after the crucifixion of Jesus (Habermas and Licona 2004, 48-76)

    Gary: I am willing to accept all five of Habermas' points as “facts” for the sake of my argument above.

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  6. Frank asked: “Why would the Jews ask Pilate for a guard when both Pilate and the Jews knew there was no body to guard? It wouldn't matter if he rose from a tomb or a ditch. It's the rising from the dead part that counts.

    I don't really understand your question. For the sake of your argument, I am assuming that Aramathea really did put the body of Jesus in his tomb. I am also assuming that Pilate did send guards and that the guards, Pilate, and the Jews assumed the body of Jesus was still inside the tomb when the took up guard some time after Aramathea had rolled the stone in front of the door (but not sealed it).

    According to the author of the Gospel of Matthew, the ONLY author in the Bible who alleges that there were guards at the tomb, the Jews asked for guards at the tomb so that the disciples would not be able to take the body and then claim a resurrection had occurred. So if the story of the guards is historical, several possibilities could explain the missing body on Sunday morning:

    1. Someone took the body between the time that Aramathea placed the body in his tomb and rolled the stone in front, but did not seal the tomb, and the arrival of the guards. If you read Matthew's account, there is a gap. The tomb of Jesus was without guards for at least some period of time. Who would do this?

    -Jesus family, to bury him somewhere else.
    -Grave robbers, to sell the remains of a famous messiah pretender.
    -someone else for who knows what reason.
    -the disciples did just what the Jews feared they would do.

    2. The body was still in the tomb when the guards arrived at the tomb and sealed the stone.

    Subsequent to the sealing of the stone, Pilate could have changed his mind about allowing a man executed for high treason against Rome have a respectable and potentially venerated burial site. In the middle of the night, Pilate ordered the guards to open the tomb, take the body, and dump it into an unmarked hole in the ground.

    Aramethea moved the body Saturday night, after sunset, after the Sabbath, and tossed Jesus' body in an unmarked hole in the ground.

    But wouldn't the Roman guards check inside the tomb before sealing it? Answer: You would think so, but even the best of soldiers have been known to make mistakes.

    2.

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  7. I already knew of the Minimal Facts argument, I'm not going to debate what you've already debated with Nick since it would stupid because I'm not as smart as either of you. I will offer this though. Skip over the entire story of the tomb and how His body was treated after He died. It's the resurrection that needs to be shown true or false not how it was done or where it was done.

    You could have put His body in an open tomb with no guards and have people coming and going as they choose. You could even have people picking up His body and dancing with it as far as that goes if you want to. I don't care if He walked out of a tomb or if He walked out of a filthy ditch. The point is (in their minds) He was dead and now He is alive.

    I can skip over reading the tomb accounts all together, you can leave His burial out entirely. Throw Him in a ditch and burn Him if you want to. That is not what matters, it's that He was alive again after He was dead. He was made dead by people who knew how to make you dead really well. His followers knew He was dead and were bummed out. Then something drastic happened and they all changed, it's that which you need to prove true or false.

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  8. As a side note, These auto-play flash ads you have on here are from the pit of hell. They load then automatically scroll my screen all the way down forcing me to view them. I can't scroll back up to where I was reading or typing. What more proof do you need that hell is real? These flash ads are from hell. Use your magic powers of science, logic and reason to vanquish them and cast them to the outer regions of the netherworld.

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  9. “That is not what matters, it's that He was alive again after He was dead.

    …His followers knew He was dead and were bummed out. Then something drastic happened and they all changed, it's that which you need to prove true or false.”

    That is the whole point of my debate with Nick, Fred/Frank. Nick believes that there is sufficient evidence to confirm that the reason early Christians believed that a bodily resurrection had happened is because IT REALLY HAD HAPPENED.

    I assert, that based on the weak evidence available to use regarding this event, and due to known probabilities based on collective human experience, the reason for the belief in a bodily resurrection by early Christians was due to other much more probable, more naturalistic explanations, such as what I have given above.

    I do NOT question that early Christians believed that Jesus had been resurrected, I just question WHY they came to believe this.

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  10. I never click on them. They just load and boom my screen scrolls down to where they are and they're playing. I try to scroll back up and it won't let me.

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  11. Gary: “I do NOT question that early Christians believed that Jesus had been resurrected, I just question WHY they came to believe this.”

    Me: That's where faith comes in I guess, it doesn't matter what Nicks proves or what you prove. You either have faith or you do not, to be fair though the bible and Christ Himself make this perfectly clear, it requires faith. God gives faith but you can let it shrivel and die or you can just pull it out by the roots. You can't be fair and act surprised that this requires faith, the bible makes it perfectly clear it does. You seem to demand a belief without any faith, you want to be teleported back there to see it first-hand.

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  12. Nick and all those people over there already answered that question. Why ask an idiot like me to try and answer it any better?

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  13. No, Nick was using the argument that there is only one explanation for the “very strong” evidence: a resurrection.

    You are telling me that the evidence isn't that strong and that I need to believe it by faith.

    Which is it?

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  14. You put words in my mouth, I never said the evidence is not strong. YOU are saying it's all one way or not at all. It's either all evidence and no faith or all faith and no evidence. I am saying it is a combination of the two. You do not want faith, you want 100% absolute hard evidence in the form seeing it with your own eyeballs and touching it with your own finger. I doubt even then you'd believe it, you could still explain it away as a magicians trick which would be far more likely than actually raising from the dead. In my mind from what I have seen from you I conclude you simply do not want to believe.

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  15. I cannot be 100% certain of the historicity of ANY event in ancient history. I must believe ALL of them with some amount of faith as I was not present nor are there any photographs or videos of the event. I must take the word of experts on the historicity of these ancient events.

    However, there are some alleged events in ancient history that I do not believe, despite the fact that there are large numbers of people who believe in their historicity, because the evidence for these claims is so poor that it would take a massive leap of faith to believe them:

    1. The Buddha caused a water buffalo to speak in human language.
    2. Mohammad flew on a winged horse to heaven.
    3. The three-day dead-body of a first century Jewish prophet was reanimated back to life, to visit with his buddies, eat broiled fish, and then levitate into outer space.

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  16. So what's the point of all of this? Why did you waste time debating and why continue to convince yourself of something you are already convinced of? If you use the “fear of hell” line I'm not buying it, you can't fear that which you know is not real so there must be some other reason. If you still fear hell then that means you are not convinced it is not real. You cannot fear that which you know to be a lie or fake. I don't fear the Easter Bunny, I haven't feared him since I was 27 and learned he is not real. I do fear Carrot Top though.

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  17. I am a life-long, recently deconverted, ex-member, of an ancient cult which uses the threat of severe, unending torture to control its members.

    I am deprogramming.

    If you study the stories of ex-cult members, it usually takes years until they are able to feel completely free of their former brainwashing, and many are never completely free of the fears deeply ingrained into their psyche by the cult. This is especially true for anyone who was raised in the cult since childhood.

    In addition, I am attempting to expose this cult for the superstitious nonsense that it really is. My hope is that one day, no child will be taught that he or she must love an invisible, two-thousand-years dead god/man, or that dead god/man will torture him or her for all eternity for rejecting him.

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  18. Like science and logic and reason? Look where that truth has led Planned Parenthood. If that is “truth” and science then count me out.

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  19. So you would rather follow superstitions?

    The search for truth is ongoing. My hope is that one day science will demonstrate/confirm that fetuses that are twelve weeks old or younger can feel pain, and convince the public that killing a fetus at this age is no different than killing a one year old baby, a child, or an innocent adult.

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  20. You'd have to prove the resurrection to be a superstition before that claim can be “truth”. Wouldn't it be better to err on the side of “they do feel pain”? No, science has a truth to live by and their truth is money for funding and to fill their pockets. With people doing stuff like they do to children how can you want there not to be a hell? Feeling pain does not make one valuable or worthless, if it did then we could just kill off all the paralyzed people or those in a coma. Don't think for a minute “science” would not be all for that in the name of progress.

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  21. You're not being honest here Gary. You're taking a case from the bible where you have no idea what the case was and speaking about it as if you examined the person and knew it was something other than a demon. There are also cases in the bible NOT attributed to demons or spirits. The woman with the issue of blood, the blind, the deaf, the crippled etc.

    Do you want to get into the stuff your religion of science has done and taught down thru time? Want to start with Josef Mengele and work our way up to Planned Parenthood? Do you want to talk about the “simple cell” which was just a blob of gel?

    Your religion STILL to this very day butchers and slaughters the most innocent among us and sifts thru their bloody parts in a casserole dish to sell them for $100 – $250. You have absolutely NO room to condemn a single religion when your cultist belief system is among the most vile and evil in practice today.

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  22. No, only the ones that the evidence strongly indicates that they are guilty of.

    Blaming abortions on atheists, agnostics, and scientists is ridiculous. I would bet that most of the abortionists in this country are Christians, just maybe not members of your particular flavor of Christianity.

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  23. Gary said: ” I would bet that most of the abortionists in this country are Christians”

    Me: That's how you operate isn't it? You make up something completely within your own head and throw it out there as a fact or actual statistic. You then require others to prove your imagination wrong. You can “bet” all you want and guess all you want as to how many of the people claim to be Christians.

    The one thing you can NOT bet on and that I CAN state as absolute fact is that every one of them are members of your profession and everyone of them claim science is on their side. Just like you Gary, so like it or not they are absolutely members of your fundamentalist cult. You can only “bet” or “hope” you may find one or two of them who are stupid enough to think they can claim to be Christians as well.

    Roman Catholics? Maybe but Christians? Not likely at all. Would each of them claim to be medical professionals and followers of science, log and reason like you? ABSOLUTELY 100% unquestionably.

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  24. “log” should read “LOGIC”, it is impossible to type on here with these ads scrolling my screen and making me try to fight them just to scroll back up to where I type. It's just not worth the effort of fighting them.

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  25. Powell down below sounds like he may be. Personally I think it's just something put here for me, to get rid of me. Me your one loyal reader and commenter! For shame Gary, foooor shaaaaaaaaaame!

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  26. Sure there is! You can say “Go away Frank!” or “Get lost!” “Stop commenting!” and I will disappear quicker than your faith after reading a Bart Errorman book!

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  27. Very funny.

    I don't mind critical comments. I do prefer that they are criticisms of my positions and not just personal attacks…but you have never been guilty of that, have you Freddie?

    🙂

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  28. You don't attack Christians by calling them ignorant, stupid, superstitious, etc? I DO criticize your positions, I like to believe I criticize pretty much everything you say and do. I try to spread it around and keep an even coating applied. For instance, your position is atheism, science, logic and reason. I have criticized all of those. I can see you are not satisfied with the service you are receiving though, I will promise to try harder to be more critical. Ok?

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