I mentioned in my last post that I believe that the story of the Raising of Lazarus from the Dead, in my opinion Jesus’ greatest (alleged) miracle, is a later embellishment to the Jesus Story. It is a blatant fabrication. It never happened. It was added to the many stories of Jesus at the end of the first or the beginning of the second century by a non-eyewitness for theological purposes. It is not historical.
What was Jesus second greatest miracle? Well, it’s hard to beat raising a stinking, four-day-dead-corpse from the dead, but I would say that Jesus next greatest (alleged) miracle was his Ascension into Heaven. (Walking on water is a close third, but there are at least some, albeit very improbable, natural explanations for Jesus’ disciples thinking he was walking on water. But in a day and age long before the Age of Flight, how can you fake an ascension into the clouds?)
Unlike the story of Lazarus, the story of the Ascension is at least mentioned in TWO books of the Bible: the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. However…both books were written by the same author! No other author in the entire New Testament records this event happening. Christians don’t seen to be bothered by this fact. Their response is the usual: “This event did not fit with the literary intent of the other authors. Just because no other Bible author mentions the Ascension, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen”.
True. But…I still find it very, very odd…and telling.
And here is something else: Paul never mentions the Ascension. If Paul knew about the Ascension, he could have told the Jews the following: “My fellow Jews. The eleven disciples of Jesus and possibly others watched as Jesus levitated off of the ground and disappeared into the clouds on his intergalactic trip to heaven. What more evidence do you need to believe that he is the Messiah, the Son of God?”
But nope. Paul never mentions an Ascension witnessed by multiple people from a mountain near Bethany…or from a mountain in Galilee…or from wherever it allegedly happened.
Paul does talk about Jesus ascending to the right hand of the Father, but gives no specifics. He never mentions any eyewitnesses to this great miracle. Why? Here is why I believe that Paul never mentions the details of the Ascension: First, because Paul had never heard of this story. Second, Paul believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead in a spiritual body, not a physical/human body. Does Paul anywhere in Acts or in his epistles ever mention that the bones and flesh of dead believers will be reconstituted on the Day of Resurrection? No. Paul believed that Jesus was the first to be resurrected, therefore the resurrection of dead believers would be in the same manner as the resurrection of Jesus—the raising of a spiritual body, not the original, dead physical body.
Christian apologists will twist themselves into pretzels trying to convince you that Paul taught the same concept of resurrection that Christians today teach: that the body of the believer—his very flesh, blood, and bones will be resurrected, reassembled, taken to heaven, and then converted into a new, incorruptible body, but I don’t think that is what Paul believed. Read his writings. True, Paul believed in a bodily resurrection but it was a spiritual body that is resurrected in Paul’s theology. It is NOT the same body that died. That body stays in the grave! A spiritual body arises out of the physical body and exits the grave, but the physical body stays behind in the grave.
That is why Paul (and most likely the overwhelming majority of his contemporary fellow early Christians) had no need of mentioning a tomb, let alone an empty tomb! Jesus resurrection was spiritual, not physical. In Paul’s theology, Jesus tomb still had Jesus’ dead, decomposing body in it! The proof of Jesus (spiritual) bodily resurrection was NOT an empty tomb but his post-death appearances to his disciples and to Paul on the Damascus Road (most likely in visions, similar to Paul’s). There is no mention of an empty tomb in the writings of Paul for the simple reason that Christians during the early decades after Jesus death did not believe in a literal bodily resurrection and therefore they were very comfortable with believing that Jesus’ physical body was still in the ground decomposing. However, by the time we get to the decades when the Gospels were written, Jesus resurrection was no longer simply a resurrection of a “spiritual” body but of the literal dead body itself.
So now that the Resurrection story had changed from what was believed in Paul’s time, Christians needed to come up with an explanation of what happened to Jesus’ physical body. And voila! The empty tomb and the Ascension stories emerge in the last half of the first century, stories that most probably would have caused Paul to roll over in his grave!