And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Happy Easter to all our Christian readers, as it is being celebrated by over 2 billion people today, April 20th, 2014, as the calendars of the Western and the Eastern churches coincide this year.
May you all have a peaceful and a blessed day.
We have covered many of the celebrations of Easter in the Muslim Times, in different parts of the world including Jerusalem and a post describing, 7 things Pope Francis wants you to know about Jesus’ Ascension.
Another post describes, how a restaurant owner in Toronto, wants to give away a thousand meals, free to the needy, on the day of Easter.
Another gift that we want to offer, if you will reciprocate the indulgence that we are offering to all humans of different race, religion and nationality, a free, open and friendly dialogue in our Global Village, on issues of common concern, is some food for thought:
My dear Christians, OK, you have been long indoctrinated in the Christian dogma for generations, so you do not immediately understand the swoon hypothesis, the theory that Jesus went into a swoon on the cross and may have been just resuscitated and not resurrected.
But consider this, if he was resurrected, was he given a physical body or a spiritual body? This should not be difficult to answer, after a life time of professing belief in resurrection!
If Jesus was given a spiritual body then how could Thomas poke it and feel Jesus’ wounds, why did his fingers not go through the phantom of a spiritual body?
If it was a spiritual body why did it eat, as mentioned in the New Testament? Additionally, if it was a spiritual body, why was Jesus trying to hide and be secretive. All right you understand the issue now; it must have been a physical body. Not so fast!
If it were a physical body, how would we explain that it walked through walls? Also remember what St. Paul was trying to weave, a story of a spiritual body, to build his theology of vicarious atonement? Additionally, if it was a spiritual resurrection, what happened to Jesus’ corpse?
So, you see my point that even on such a fundamental issue, we do not have a clear answer, whether it was a physical resurrection or a spiritual one.
Is it possible that there is no resurrection, the whole story is made up and that is why it is contradictory?
Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
Let me now build the details of St. Paul’s preachings about a spiritual body.
Prof. Mark W. Muesse is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. A native of Waco, Texas, he completed his graduate work at Harvard University, where he received a Masters of Theological Studies from the Divinity School and the A.M. and Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He writes about Paul’s understanding of Jesus resurrection, may peace be on him:
The apostle Paul, writing before the gospels were written, called the resurrected form a ‘spiritual body’ and distinguished it from a ‘flesh-and-blood’ body. The idea of a spiritual body is almost oxymoronic, and it is not immediately evident what Paul intended by it. But it is clear that this concept was distinct from the traditional Greek view of the immortality of the soul. The early Christians believed that resurrection entailed a raised body, but body that had been transformed in some substantial manner. It was no longer the identical body that belonged to the individual prior to death.
However, we might understand what ‘really’ happened on Easter Sunday, it is significant that Jesus’ followers referred to the event as a ‘resurrection.’ Whether or not there was such a reality as resurrection was a matter of considerable debate during Jesus’ time. The Pharisees and Sadducees argued about it. The issue at stake was whether human beings collectively would be raised from the dead at the end of time. Neither the Pharisees nor the Sadducees seemed to think that ‘resurrection’ was an individual person brought back to life during the normal routine of history. The general resurrection of humanity at Judgment Day would have been the predominant understanding of the concept in Jesus’ time. The fact that the early Christians used the term resurrection suggests that they considered what happened to Jesus as an eschatological event, that is to say, as an occurrence associated with the end of days. The apostle Paul seems to have construed Jesus’ post-Easter appearances in just this manner. He called the resurrection of Jesus the ‘first fruits of those who have died,’ indicating that god’s raising of Jesus was the inauguration of events that would culminate in the resurrection of all the dead and the final establishment of the kingdom of god. Paul’s view was consistent with the early Christian belief that Jesus would return from heaven shortly and that god’s reign would bring an end to all suffering and want and destroy humanity’s ultimate enemy, death itself. As Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians:
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die [before the kingdom comes], but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the alleged spiritual resurrection of Jesus, St. Paul is seeing spiritual resurrection of the whole of humanity, all of us.
Most of the paintings on this subject, suggest a spiritual resurrection and link it to the empty tomb, with a flash or flashes of light:
Let me include two additional pictures or paintings here. The contrast of the picture with Thomas and other apostles and those of empty tomb, give away the open secret that accounts of resurrection are contradictory!
However, the above picture including Thomas, stresses physical resurrection. Only reasonable way to resolve this conflict is to agree that it was not a case of resurrection but of resuscitation:
The pictures by helping us focus on the issue make it easy to see the contradiction, which may not be easily apparent to those who have spent a life time obsessing over the person of Jesus, may peace be on him. Our mind does play strange tricks on us and makes us think that familiar is true and correct. Even the best minds find it hard to rise above this limitation easily. But, the hope is that a collection of pictures, videos and other proofs will help my Christian readers to objectively examine the issue.
Revival of a decaying body after three days
The scenario of Jesus’ revival from the dead presents many problems. Some of them have already been discussed in the previous chapter. Now we turn to other elements and complexities.What we have in view is the nature of the ‘mind’ of Jesus, prior to the Crucifixion and after his revival from the dead. His mind was brought to life again, after a loss of function for three days and nights. The question is, what actually happens to the brain at the time of death? On one point at least there is a consensus among both the Christian and the non-Christian medical experts: if the brain remains dead for more than a few minutes, it is dead and gone forever. As soon as the blood supply ceases, it begins to disintegrate.If Jesus died during the Crucifixion it can only mean that his heart ceased functioning and stopped supplying blood to his brain, and that his brain died soon after. So his entire life support system must have stopped to operate or he could not have been declared dead. That being so we are faced with a very intriguing problem in relation to the understanding of the life and death of Jesus Christ.The death of Jesus Christ, as has been demonstrated, would mean a final departure of his astral body, or soul as we may call it, from the physical cage of his human body. If so, his revival would have to mean the return of the same astral body to the same physical body that it had left behind three days earlier. Such a return of the soul would restart the clock of physical life and set it ticking once again. For such a thing to happen, the disintegrated and dead brain cells would have come to life suddenly and the chemical processes of rapid decay would have been reversed entirely. This involves an enormous problem and will ever remain a challenge for the Christian biochemists to resolve. Describing the reversal of the entire chemical processes of decay within the central nervous system is beyond the reach of the farthest stretches of scientist’s imagination. If it ever happened it would be a miracle indeed, defying science and making a mockery of the laws made by God Himself, but a miracle that would still fail to solve the problem at hand.Such a revival would mean not just the revival of the cells of the central nervous system, but actually their synthesis. Even if the same cells were reconstructed and brought to life exactly as they were before, they would, in fact, be a new set of cells devoid of any previous memory. They would have to be re-manufactured, complete with all the data relevant to the life of Jesus that was wiped out of his brain after the death of his mind.Life, as we know it, comprises of a consciousness that is filled with information held by billions of neurons within the brain. That information is then subdivided into far more complicated and interrelated bits of computerized information received from each of the five senses. If that data is wiped out, life itself would be wiped out. Therefore, the revival of the brain of Jesus would mean the construction and the manufacture of a new brain computer with a completely new set of software. This complexity also relates to the chemistry of the rest of the body of Jesus Christ. To revive the body, a colossal chemical reconstruction process will have to be put into operation after retrieving all the material lost in the process of decay. With such a great miracle having taken place the question would arise as to who is revived and with what effect? Is it the man in Jesus or is it the god in him? This is why we are emphasizing the importance of understanding the person of Jesus.
St. Paul at odds with the writers of the Gospels
Whereas, St Paul talks about spiritual resurrection in his letters as that is what he experienced on the road to Damascus, the gospels talk about a physical body of Jesus, after crucifixion, with flesh and bones that the disciples could touch. How did this contradiction arise, between St. Paul and writers of the gospels? As Paul did not read any gospels, those had not been written yet, he only had oral traditions and he was talking from his visionary experience, which was intangible.
His letters reveal that he had very little knowledge about the living Jesus, he merely reveals an obsession with the dead Jesus, to satisfy his theory of vicarious atonement.
Ahmad Deedat, a legendary, Islam versus Christianity debator, explains how St Paul got in this trap and eventual contradictions with the description in gospel, in this debate with Prof. Floyd E Clark, on the topic, Was Jesus Crucified, between 1.15 and 1.50 hour, by describing the story of the Prophet Jonah and more:
Subsequent Ascension of Jesus
Does this painting of ascension of Jesus represent a historical fact or fiction? Did he ascend with his physical body or leave it behind? As is usually the case the four canonical gospels are at odds with each other on this subject also and the issue of ascension just like all the other details about the final days of Jesus, may peace be on him, raises more questions than it answers. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad explains in his book Christianity a Journey from Fact to Fiction:
The subject of the Ascension of Jesus Christ is untouched by St. Matthew and St. John in their Gospels. The lack of mention of such an important event leaves one wondering as to why.The only two synoptic Gospels which mention the Ascension are Mark and Luke. However, recent scientific and scholarly investigations have proved that the accounts contained in both these Gospels are later interpolations. These verses were non-existent in the original texts.Codex Siniaticus dates from the 4th century and remains the oldest near complete text of the Old and New Testament. It stands witness to the fact that the said verses in both Mark and Luke were not included in the authentic original versions but were certainly added by some scribe on his own initiative much later. In the Codex Siniaticus the Gospel of Mark ends at chapter 16 verse 8. This fact is now acknowledged in some modern Bible editions as well. Also, the Gospel of Luke (24:15) in Codex Siniaticus, does not contain the words ‘Carried up to heaven.’According to the textual critic C.S.C. Williams, if these omissions in the Codex Siniaticus are correct, there is no reference at all, to the Ascension in the original text of the Gospels.Even Jehovah’s Witnesses who are some of the most vehement proponents of Jesus’ ‘Sonship’ and his ascent to God the Father, had to admit ultimately that the verses in Mark and Luke are additions without a foundation in the original texts.What Happened to Jesus’ Body?A closer critical examination from the point of view of common sense and logic reveals further absurdities inherent in the episodes of the Crucifixion and Ascension as presented by the Christians of today. As far as the question of Jesus’ return to his human body is concerned, enough has been said. We only want to add to the issue of what might have happened to that body when Jesus finally ascended, if he ever did.When confronted by the question as to what happened to the body of Jesus Christ, it is suggested by some Christians that as he ascended to his heavenly Father his carnal body disintegrated and disappeared in a glow. This raises a fundamental question. If the departure of Jesus from the human body was to result in such an explosive event, why did it not happen at the instant of his first reported death? The only reference we have in the Bible to Jesus’ death is when he was still hanging on the cross and in the words of St. Matthew ‘he gave up the ghost’. Apparently nothing else happened other than a smooth departure of the soul from the body. Are we to assume that he did not die upon the cross after all, because if he had left the body, it should have exploded in a similar fashion even then? Why did it only happen the second time Jesus left his body? Under the circumstances only two avenues are open to proceed further. That the person of Jesus did not remain eternally confined to the human body after his soul returned to it and that during his ascent he cast away his human body and ascended purely as a spirit of God.This is neither supported by facts nor is it conceivable because that would lead into a blind alley of believing that Jesus died twice. The first time on the cross and the second time on Ascension.That he remained confined within the human shell eternally.This cannot be accepted because it is utterly repulsive and inconsistent with the dignity and majesty of the image of God.On the other hand, we have a point of view of common sense; ‘It would be a mistake to understand Jesus’ ascension as a sort of ancient space trip, and heaven as a place beyond the sun, moon and the galaxies.’ The truth is neither here nor there. The concoction of such a bizarre story, therefore, could only have been motivated by the insoluble dilemma that the Christians faced during the nascent period of Christianity. When Jesus disappeared from view, naturally the question would have been raised as to what happened to him. The early Christians could not have resolved the quandary by openly professing that as he had never died so there was no question of a body being left behind and that his body had in fact gone along with him during the course of his migration. In this way the problem of the disappearance of the body could have been easily resolved. But this confession was impossible to make. Those who would have dared to admit that Jesus was seen alive and gradually moving away from Judea faced the peril of being condemned by the Roman Law as an accessory to the crime of escape from justice.To seek refuge in the concoction of a story like the ascent of Jesus to heaven offered a safer option, however bizarre the idea. Yet of course it would involve indulgence in falsehood. We must pay our tribute to the integrity of the early disciples who despite this predicament did not seek refuge in a false statement. All writers of the Gospels chose to remain silent on this issue rather than take refuge behind a smoke screen of misstatements. No doubt they must have suffered the jeering of their adversaries but they chose to suffer in silence. Mysterious silence on the part of those who knew the inside story must have been largely responsible for sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of Christians of later generations. They must have wondered: why, after the soul of Jesus Christ had departed, was there no mention of his body being left behind? Where had it gone and what had happened to it? Why did the soul of Christ return to the same body if it ever did? These vital but unanswered questions could have given birth to other questions. If revival meant returning to the same body, what must have happened to Jesus Christ after the second term of his imprisonment in the carnal human frame? Did he eternally remain locked up in that body, never to be released again?
For the rest of the story about ascension go to: Christianity a Journey from Fact to Fiction.
When you are ready to understand what really happened to Jesus after a few hours of being on the cross, go to our other posts in the Muslim Times:
And what does ascension imply in scientific terms, if you believe in Einstein and E = mc2, read another of my articles, William Lane Craig makes false claims about swoon hypothesis!
The Trinitarians are preceded by the Jews and the Unitarian Christians and followed by the Muslims. With these three groups jealously guarding pure and unadulterated Monotheism, the Trinitarianism does not stand a chance!
We should still celebrate and enjoy Easter, but, it may be a story of resuscitation rather than resurrection.
- Prof. Mark W Muesse. Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. The Great Courses transcript book, 2010. Page 325-327.