Sunday, April 8, 2007

On Resurection

Just listened to a sermon including the claim that the idea of a person raising from the dead was so alien to the Jesus' followers that they would ignore the Jesus' repeated claims that he do just that - raise from the dead. The problem with this argument is that there are well-known cases in both the Jewish scriptures and Jesus' ministry of people coming back to life. In fact, in at least one case, the chief Apostles accompany Jesus when the miracle occurs. A quick search on reveals five cases of the dead raising prior to Easter.

1 Kings 17:19-23 Elijah raises the son of a widow at Zarephath
19 "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!"

22 The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!"
2 Kings 4:32-35 Elisha raises the son of the Shunammite woman
When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
2 Kings 13:21 A corpse comes to life upon touching Elisha's bones
21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
Luke 7:12-15 Jesus raises a widows only son
12As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."

14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Luke 8:49-55 Jesus raises Jairus' daughter
51When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. 52Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep."

53They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" 55Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
John 11:38-44 Jesus raises Lazarus.
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39"Take away the stone," he said.
"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

40Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Even if none of Jesus' disciples were familiar with the Jewish scriptures (as if!) they would have witnessed Jesus raising at least three individuals from the dead. If you take these stories at face value, then the possibility of resurrection, especially when Jesus was involved, would have been very immediate and real.

There was further claim in this sermon that the Marys' and Apostles' assumption that Jesus' body would be found in the tomb was good evidence that the Resurrection was historical. A better interpretation is that it is actually evidence for the later addition to the story once Jesus return in Glory to overthrow the Roman occupation failed to occur. You see, the disciples more likely were very much expecting Jesus to be Resurrected and return to bring about a Messianic reign. When it did not occur, that was when they became disappointed. Some sort of appearances later (I'm betting on a series of visions, like Paul's) rekindled the ministry with a new purpose and direction and the empty tomb and Resurrection stories were added to the Passion narrative. Can't prove this but it demonstrates this bit of purported evidence can be explained with an equally (if not more) plausible series of events.

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