Myth #7: Jesus never really rose from the dead
John Dominic Crossan: “Was Jesus even buried at all? … I feel terribly sympathetic toward the followers of Jesus because I hear hope there and not history.”
In his book, The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan is clear about the agenda behind his attack on the truth of the resurrection. Remember that in Crossan’s mind, the resurrection is not plausible and the Gospel accounts are not reliable. Therefore, he uses historical reconstructions based upon what he believes might have happened. Again, there are no written historical records to back up his claims. Instead, he writes:
If you cannot believe in something produced by reconstruction, you may have nothing left to believe in (John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 426).
Crossan’s attack on the truth of the resurrection, in the big picture, is really an attack on the nature of truth itself. According to Crossan, truth fluctuates from generation to generation. He writes:
It is not … that we find once and for all who the historical Jesus was way back then. It is that each generation and century must redo that historical work and establish its best reconstruction … it is that Jesus reconstructed in the dialogues, debates, controversies, and the conclusions of contemporary scholarship that challenges faith to see and say how that is for now the Christ, the Lord, the Son of God (John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 217).
In Crossan’s reconstructed version of the story, Jesus’ death was accidental — the type of execution that the oppressive and arbitrary justice of the Romans might carry out on any given day. In the days following the crucifixion, one or more of the Apostles may have invented a story about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in order to give themselves some credibility. And then some followers of the Apostles, who just happened to be scribes, may have recorded the event as though it were history — another unfortunate accident — according to Crossan.
But Crossan fails to answer some obvious questions: If the resurrection were a hoax, why would there be a Christian movement in the years after Jesus’ death? If Christ’s death were an accident, why would there even be a scribe who would want to record a distorted record of Jesus’ death?
Lacking answers to these questions as well any real evidence for their claims, the scholars of the Jesus Seminar speculate endlessly as to how and why the resurrection story came about.
Jennings: “Some scholars think that the resurrection stories were borrowed from eastern pagan cults called mystery religions.”
Jennings: “The mystery cults had an influence because the people who wrote the Jesus story took an earlier story and passed it on via Jesus.”
The writers of the New Testament also mention the “mystery religions” that Peter Jennings refers to here — most notably, the Apostles Peter, John and Paul. What is being described here is Gnosticism — an eastern cult that had followers the world over at the time of the Roman Empire. At the time of Jesus, even Judaism had succumbed to the effects of the ancient mystery religions.
But do similarities among stories told among cults and mystery religions disprove the resurrection of Jesus? Let’s look at some evidence:
According to the Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, there were over 500 eyewitnesses, including the Apostles, who saw Jesus after the resurrection. Many preached the Gospel and a few of them wrote books and testimonies.
There is also the testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the blood of the martyrs in the first century. Many of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection died as martyrs for their faith. It would be hard to imagine people dying for what they knew was a fraudulent claim.
[J.P HOLDING INTERVIEWS: “What are the evidences for the resurrection?”]
In contrast to this strong evidence, Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar states:
If we don’t understand why he could be executed, then we miss the political passion that animated his mission … When we turn Jesus’ death instead into the eternal sacrifice for sin that makes our forgiveness possible, then we really set aside that which mattered so much to Him …
The epitome of liberalism is the false dichotomy between the social Gospel and eternal salvation. Of course, there is no contradiction between the two.
Christ lived a perfect life, not only as an example for us, but actually according to scripture to be the “second Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) to fulfill the covenant of righteousness so that His righteousness may be imputed to us.
In Christ’s death we find forgiveness for our sins, not only because he died as a martyr for the truth, but also because He became sin on our behalf. His eternal sacrifice through his death for sin does not in any way obscure the message of His perfect life.