9 Aftermath in:

Steuart Campbell

The Rise and Fall of Jesus, page 193 - 218

A Complete Explanation for the Life of Jesus and the Origin of Christianity

3. Edition 2019, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4346-2, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-7327-8,

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
Aftermath Burial All the Gospels (e.g. Mark 15:43) tell us that the body of Jesus was obtained by Joseph of Arimathea, a mysterious figure who leaps briefly across the stage of this drama. It appears that he was a rich Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. He was also a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:38). This may mean that he was also a Nazarene. We already know that Jesus had a rich and powerful friend in Jerusalem. Perhaps it was Joseph’s Upper Room that was used for the Last Supper. Joyce maintained that Arimathea is equivalent to ‘areimeh’ near Capernaum and that Joseph was Jesus’ uncle and the Joseph of the Birth Narrative. Perhaps Joseph was Jesus’ real father and perhaps, as Messiah, he really was ‘ben-Joseph’ (son of Joseph). Harrison portrayed Joseph as a wealthy banker and the father of John the Baptist. Winter claimed that Joseph was a historical person, a member of the lower Beth Din, whose duty it was to ensure that the bodies of executed persons were decently buried before nightfall. However, Craveri thought him an invention to show that Jesus was removed to avoid the curse of God. It may well have been Joseph’s official responsibility to bury Jesus, but he may also have been a Nazarene and party to the plan. Indeed, if he had such a responsibility, it would have made excellent ‘cover’ for his interest in the operation. Jesus needed someone to ensure that he was removed from the cross to a place of security. What could be more secure than a tomb? Mark tells us that Joseph approached Pilate to ask for the body and that the latter was amazed to hear of Jesus’ premature death. He had to ask the centurion for confirmation (Mark 15:44). John tells us that the priests approached Pilate to ensure that the victims were killed and removed before nightfall (John 19:31). Now if Pilate had been approached by the priests before Joseph’s request, he would not have been surprised that Jesus was dead. But if the surprise was genuine, 9 193 then at the time of Joseph’s request the priests had not yet arrived. But in that event, the crurifragium had not taken place and Jesus’ ‘death’ had not been discovered. How then did Joseph know that Jesus was ‘dead’? Wells considered these two accounts ‘irreconcilable’, but without explaining how a myth can contain contradictions. Surely we have to conclude that both Joseph and the centurion knew of Jesus’ death before either Pilate or the priests. This leads to the conclusion that the Nazarene who administered the opium to Jesus waited until he saw that it had taken effect and then hurried to tell Joseph. How else would Joseph know of the death before it was reported to Pilate by the execution squad? But Joseph cannot have obtained the body before the crurifragium or before the priests approached Pilate. Perhaps Joseph went with the priests and asked for the body while they were asking for the victims to be executed. Perhaps, after being informed or after seeing that Jesus had taken the opium, Joseph asked the squad commander for the body and, after he found that he could not obtain it without Pilate’s permission, made the commander go with him to the praetorium. Hence it was that the centurion was in the praetorium when Joseph made his request. Gruber thought that the centurion was a follower of Jesus and that he was responsible for preventing the crurifragium (Kersten & Gruber 1994:248). Later perhaps, the priests arrived to demand execution and removal of the bodies; they had no reason to know of Jesus’ early demise. Joseph may have had to wait until after the crurifragium before he could obtain the body. Whatever the sequence of events, it seems clear that Joseph was ready and waiting for the body and that he attempted to obtain it as quickly as possible. Joseph was an essential rung in Jesus’ ladder to the throne of Israel. It must have been known that a tomb would be available. Gruber suggested that Joseph purchased the garden and built the tomb especially for Jesus’ recovery. He asked why Joseph, who came from Arimathea near the Samarian border, would want to be buried in Jerusalem (Kersten & Gruber 1994:251). Whether or not the tomb was Joseph’s matters less than the fact that it was there and that Jesus, like Lazarus, was entombed. Jesus needed a tomb as a ‘recovery room’. As Gruber observed, what better place for recovery was there than the tomb of a person believed dead (ibid.:243)? It is possible that the 9 Aftermath 194 choice of burial in the prepared tomb of a rich man was arranged by Jesus as deliberate fulfilment of the prophecy ‘they made his grave … with a rich man in death’ (Isa. 53:9). The tomb was in a garden beside the site of the Crucifixion (John 19:41). In fact the ‘skull hill’ site does contain tombs. One such, ‘the Garden Tomb’, was found there about 25 years before General Gordon’s discovery. Graves and Podro claim that it was found in 1849 by one Thenius. Parrot claims that it was discovered in 1867 and Lane Fox (1991:248) says that it was ‘picked out’ by Claude Conder of the Palestine Exploration Fund. It cannot be said that The Garden Tomb is that in which Jesus lay, although it is old enough. There were probably several such tombs. Originally the tomb was partly below ground level, requiring one to stoop to look through the window just as Peter did (John 20:5). It consists of a small antechamber divided from the inner chamber by a low wall, with one loculus complete, a second half-finished and possibly a third. The finished loculus even has a separate place carved out for the corpse’s head (see John 20:7) (Adam). Joseph was assisted in the burial by another Pharisee and Council member, Nicodemus. He had already met Jesus ‘by night’ (John 3:1–2) and had defended him (John 7:50–51). One may suspect that he too was part of the Nazarene network. He and Joseph brought a large quantity of mixed spices, aloes and myrrh.* Joyce suggested that they also brought medicaments and clothes for Jesus, but see below. The Gospels claim that Jesus was wrapped in linen or, according to John, ‘in sheets with the spices, as is the custom with the Jews ….’ (John 19:40). It is true that such spices were traditionally placed in grave-clothes as a form of embalming and to act as a deodorant and disinfectant. However Gruber (1994) pointed out that it was the custom to wash and oil the corpse, cut its hair and tidy and dress it, covering the face with a cloth. In particular, washing was vital and could be done on the sabbath. He pointed out that there is mention of neither washing nor oiling and that John describes a burial that openly contravenes the custom. He observed that ointments and tinctures of aloe (aloe vera) and myrrh were commonly used for the treatment of injuries and concluded that this is why they were brought. If Jesus was * The 100 pounds quoted by John is merely symbolic. Burial 195 still alive, his wounds needed treatment and washing would only have made them bleed. Joseph and Nicodemus were intent on reviving Jesus, not burying him (Kersten & Gruber 1994:237). Primrose thought that the body was not washed because of shortage of time and that the herbs and bandages were not applied. Instead, the shroud was spread with an ointment or paste of aloes and myrrh to ‘cleanse’ the material. This suggestion was evidently devised to offer an explanation for the Shroud of Turin, which Primrose thought genuine. Gruber, also intent on justifying belief in the Shroud, thought that the spices rubbed off Jesus’ body onto the linen. Because the place where Jesus had been laid was visible from the tomb door (John 20:5), Gruber argued that the burial could not have been completed. A fully prepared body would have been pushed into a recess (kôk) at the rear of the tomb and invisible from the door. He took this as further evidence that there was no intention to bury Jesus (ibid.:231–2). In fact the body may have been left on a ledge awaiting final preparation for burial. The Gospels show evidence that Joseph and Nicodemus believed that Jesus was not dead, indeed that they did not expect him to be dead and that they were intent on helping him to survive. However, if Jesus had been speared, the wound could have been discovered during treatment and the danger that Jesus was in, if he was not already dead, might have been realized. Perhaps Joseph and Nicodemus thought that they could save Jesus if he were to be treated immediately. But they could hardly remove a ‘corpse’ for emergency treatment. They had to leave him in the tomb. Worse, the approach of the sabbath meant that they could not return for twenty-four hours. They may have departed in despair; Jesus lay dying or already dead in a tomb from which he was supposed to emerge alive. Mark and Luke both report that Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mother later brought spices to the tomb and Mark claims that they intended to anoint the body, implying that they also brought oil (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1). Although both Gospels report that the women observed the burial, the report suggests that they were ignorant of the actions of Joseph and Nicodemus. 9 Aftermath 196 The empty tomb Jesus was convinced that, in order to fulfil prophecy, he must remain entombed for exactly three days and three nights. He believed that this was what Scripture foretold and he arranged for Lazarus to be buried for this period of time. Consequently it must have been essential to his programme that he would emerge from the tomb, revived or ‘resurrected’, sometime on the morning of the second day of the week (Monday). Woolston (1727–30) noted that the ‘third day’ was Monday. Jesus would have been entombed for the nights of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We may imagine that the Nazarenes would have gathered at the tomb and opened it with much publicity. They would have unwrapped Jesus and brought him out, proclaiming him as the Messiah-ben-- David, the new ruler of Israel and the world. The ancient prophecies and also his own would have been fulfilled and he would have shown that God could perform miracles to accomplish his will. Even death could be conquered and he would have given hope to all his followers that they too would be resurrected in a similar fashion to live again in the kingdom. However we are told plainly that the tomb was found to be empty by the morning of the first day of the week (Sunday). Moreover, tradition has perpetuated celebration of this day as the day on which Jesus was ‘resurrected’. Jesus can have been in the tomb for only two nights at the most. This discrepancy was first noted by Pearce (1729). Annet wittily observed that ‘two nights and one day can never be three nights and three days, nor can any man make them so, though he preach three days and three nights about it’. Reimarus was also sure that the full period of entombment had not elapsed by the Sunday morning. Annet asked if, as Jesus stated (Matt. 12:39), this sign was the only one that the wicked generation around him would be given before the judgement, what becomes of Jesus’ claims and authority when the sign did not appear? Some have argued that because of a figure of speech (synecdoche) that allows part to be put for the whole, Sunday was ‘the third day’ (Leland; Bullinger 1898). Thiering (1992) claimed that ‘the third day’ meant the third day of the week, i.e. Tuesday. Sherlock used this The empty tomb 197 specious argument. Since Jesus was buried just before dusk on the Friday, a very little of that day may be counted and since he could not have been removed before the end of the sabbath (Saturday), he could have remained entombed for a short period on the Sunday. But, except where he also spoke of three nights, Jesus never forecast that he would be buried ‘for three days’. Elsewhere he spoke of ‘the third day’, quite a different matter. Powell thought the verse an interpolation but he failed to explain why an interpolator would write about three nights when there was a general belief that Jesus was entombed for only two nights at the most. Synecdoche cannot be employed ordinally; it must be used cardinally. The original text of Esther 4:16–5:1 explains that the ‘third day’ of verse 5:1 is after three days, ‘night and day’ (4:16), not ‘night or day’ as in the AV. In I Samuel, one may find ‘three days ago’ (30:13) explained as ‘three days and three nights’ (30:12). Thus ‘after three days’ must also mean ‘after three nights’ and the third day must follow the third night. The Jewish ‘day’, which begins at sunset, includes a night. Sunday has been taken to be ‘the third day’ only because it was believed that Jesus was resurrected on that day and that he ‘rose’ in accordance with his prophecy. Bullinger later changed his mind. In his Companion Bible (undated: Appendix 144), he stated that ‘when the number of “nights” is stated as well as the number of “days”, then the expression ceases to be an idiom, and becomes a literal statement of fact’. Those who maintain that the Sunday was ‘the third day’, still have to explain a prophecy (Matt. 12:40) that mentions three nights. They are forced to conclude that this latter phrase is unhistorical (Strauss). Nevertheless, some cannot believe that the Church would have made such a mistake (Borsch). Strauss observed that it is scarcely a tenable argument that Jesus cannot have spoken of three days and three nights because he lay in the grave one day and two nights. Goguel (1953) thought that Matthew 12:40 is the true primitive gospel. Helms (1989:132) concluded that Matthew imputed the quotation from Jonah, even though it was in conflict with his own resurrection narrative. That these words are in direct conflict with the evidence indicates that they are indeed original, that they were really spoken by Jesus. Believ- 9 Aftermath 198 ing this, neither the evangelists nor later redactors were prepared to omit them. However they only make sense if Jesus was removed from the tomb earlier than expected. Matthew tells us that, on the sabbath, the priests asked Pilate to guard the tomb in case the disciples stole the body and pretended that Jesus really had risen from the dead. Pilate refused to let them have Roman guards, but suggested that they use the city’s Jewish guards. Matthew claimed that these guards were later petrified by the Resurrection, which they witnessed, on the Sunday morning. Later the guards were bribed to say that the disciples had stolen Jesus while they slept. They were told not to worry if the matter came to Pilate’s attention, implying that there would be no punishment for their imaginary crime (Matt. 27:62–66; 28:4,11–15). As the evangelist noted, Jews have, since that time, claimed that the disciples stole the body. Guignebert (1935) concluded that the story was an invention to counter this accusation. Reimarus held the same view, suggesting that, if it was true, the apostles would have used it as evidence. He thought it contradictory that the priests were supposed to know anything about the forecast of resurrection and that they would hardly defile themselves during the feast. He also noted that the women appear to have been ignorant of the guard. However Strauss pointed out that, if the story was invented by the Jews (priests), it was not well thought out. Such a guard would have prevented theft. He concluded that, while Jews had claimed that the disciples had stolen the body, the Church had invented the story of the guards as a counter-argument. Klausner (1925) believed that the account ‘must be early’. It is unlikely that Caiaphas was ignorant of Jesus’ forecast of resurrection; it was his business to know everything about trouble-makers. Moreover Jesus had spoken openly of rising after three days (Mark 8:31–32). As for defilement, the priests avoided this by asking Pilate to meet them outside the praetorium (John 18:28). Since the women lived in Bethany, it is likely that they were ignorant of the guard, if there was one. If the story is contemporary, one may ask how the priests expected anyone to believe that the disciples had stolen the body if the guards had to claim that they were asleep at the time. How could they be sure what happened to the body? The priests’ explanation is clearly prepos- The empty tomb 199 terous; they could not have invented such a tale. If the priests could not have invented it, how could the evangelist have done so? However, it is certain that the evangelist did invent the tale in which guards witnessed a miraculous resurrection. Who would believe that Jewish guards who had witnessed such a supernatural event could be bribed to say that the disciples had stolen the body? Although the priests’ explanation is not credible, there may be some truth in it. If guards were instructed to watch the tomb, who were they and where were they posted? Pilate referred to the guards that were posted at the city’s gates; guard rooms were built into and over the deep, arched entrances through the massive walls (Daniel- Rops). The guards at the Damascus Gate may have been instructed to keep a watch on the tomb, which was about 250 yards (230 metres) away. Surely they did not leave their post at the gate to stand by the tomb all night. During the night, the city gates were closed, with the guards inside, although perhaps able to look out from their rooms. Unless it was cloudy, the tomb may have been visible by moonlight.* Since the guards changed three times during the night, there might have been a failure to pass instructions or perhaps the guards did fall asleep. Surely the latter is credible. Alternatively, since both Joseph and Nicodemus were Councillors, they could have arranged for the guards to be distracted for the brief period necessary to open the tomb and remove Jesus. Whatever happened, it is clear that the tomb was opened and the body removed. It is also clear that the guards had not witnessed the removal. Now the priests’ worst fears were confirmed and it was necessary to counter rumours that the Nazarene had been resurrected as he promised. Indeed, they would need to bribe the guards to say that the disciples had stolen the body and to compensate them for the loss of reputation in pretending or admitting that they had been asleep at the time. It was a lame story, but the best one available. It cannot be determined whether or not a seal was set on the stone door of the tomb (Matt. 27:66). Sometimes tombs were secured in this way. However, if such a seal were broken, it was not significant in itself. Those who removed Jesus made no attempt to roll the door back into * There was a full moon that night. 9 Aftermath 200 position. Why should they? If there was a seal, it was already broken. Again, if there was no seal, what purpose was served by closing the door? If there was a need for haste in removing the body, it is understandable that no one bothered to close the door. Haste is indicated by the abandoned grave-clothes (John 20:5–7). Woolston (1721) supposed that there was a pact between the chief priests and the disciples that the seal on the stone should not be broken for three days and that breach of the pact was proof of imposture. Pearce also suspected imposture. Helms noted that Mark merely told of the discovery that the tomb was open, perhaps because he believed in a resuscitated corpse, for whom the door had to be open. But Matthew told how an angel opened the tomb to show that it was empty, implying that Jesus had some kind of spiritual body for which a closed door was no obstacle (Helms 1989:137). There is no doubt that Matthew elaborated and developed a primitive gospel, but it does not follow that the primitive gospel itself is an invention. It seems clear that Jesus, alive or dead, was removed from the tomb sometime between dusk on the Saturday, when the sabbath ended, and dawn on the Sunday. Darkness was necessary for such an operation. Guignebert (1935) noted six possible explanations for the empty tomb: removal by the Jews (Renan and Reville); removal by Joseph of Arimathea (Holtzmann); removal by another disciple (Renan); removal by the women; removal by the owner of the tomb; and revival of Jesus. He thought that Jesus was buried in a common pit and that there never was an empty tomb. Both he and Goguel thought it futile to attempt to explain the empty tomb, although the latter noted that the fact that the body had been stripped argued against theft (Goguel 1953). Annet, Woolston and Reimarus all thought that the disciples were responsible and that they tried to make it appear that Jesus had risen as prophesied. Both Muggeridge and Whitaker believed that common thieves stole the body, although neither explained why the body itself should be thought valuable. Klausner (1925) assumed that Joseph removed the body because he thought it unfitting that one who had been crucified should remain in his ancestral tomb. Thorne had Joseph hide the body in another secret tomb behind the first one and The empty tomb 201 then plaster up the entrance.* Read told of a hoax that pretended that the Romans (sic) smuggled Jesus’ body out of the tomb hidden in a storage jar and that they built it into a cistern beneath the Temple. Wilson thought that the body was removed and buried elsewhere by Jesus’ own family. Voysey, disagreeing with Reimarus whom he edited, proposed that Jesus revived in the tomb and escaped disguised as a gardener (Reimarus 1879). Both Moore and Lawrence had a similar idea and Thiering (1992) was convinced that Jesus survived into his sixties. Baigent thought Jesus, after recovering from crucifixion, was still alive in 45 and travelled first to Egypt and then to Narbonne, France (2006). Morison, who took unnecessary pains to prove that the tomb was empty, thought that, as a respected member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph would not need to have removed the body secretly and that Jesus could not have been carried far in the dark. Moore had Joseph carry Jesus half a mile (1 km). Moorcock used the idea that some doctors (sic) stole the body in the belief that it might have special properties. Martin suggested that the rescuers expected Jesus to be alive and that they unwrapped him to assist him to walk again. Indeed, why would they unwrap him? If they were in haste, why waste time unwrapping the body? If Jesus was still comatose, he could not walk. Does it indicate that he could walk? In the opinion of Helms (1989:135f), Matthew concluded that the story of the empty tomb was structured on Daniel’s story of the lion’s den. Consequently, Matthew elaborated on Mark by borrowing more from Daniel. But if the evangelist could see a parallel and use it, then so could Jesus and the account could be accurate. Clearly Jesus could not have opened the door by himself; it took two people and then only from the outside. Nor can Jesus have been conscious. Primrose thought that the cool tomb could have chilled Jesus, producing early signs of recovery like rigor or a shivering fit. He suggested that, if Joseph had seen this, he would have known that Jesus was not dead. He was sure that Jesus could not have survived a night in the tomb and for recovery must have been removed within an hour. Although the opium and the cool tomb are likely to have caused chilling, shivering would have been preceded by other signs of life such as breathing and movements. Rigors are caused by fever, while shivering * The 2000 film The Body is based on this idea. 9 Aftermath 202 is caused by a drop in ambient temperature. Thiering (1992) claimed that Jesus recovered from the effects of poison and was helped to escape by friends. It is possible that Joseph and Nicodemus, ignoring the prohibitions of the sabbath, did remove Jesus during the Friday night, but only if the open tomb door was not visible to the public and the guards during daylight on the Saturday. That the tomb was found to be empty on the Sunday morning, does not preclude the possibility that it had been empty since the Friday evening. Few people would have been out and about on the sabbath. Jesus was most probably removed from the tomb by those who put him into it, by those who knew that he was supposed to recover. But they may have faced a cruel dilemma. To fulfil the Scriptures, they should leave Jesus in the tomb until Monday morning. But if they had seen the wound, they knew that he could be dead by that day, if he was not dead already. A dead Messiah was no use to them. They could not ceremoniously produce a corpse. But if they rescued him in order to save his life, they would ruin the great plan and break the prophecy, the ‘only sign’. Clearly they decided on rescue. Perhaps they could treat the wound and save their master. But dead or alive, Jesus’ mission was finished; the Scripture was broken. Resurrection? Jesus’ body cannot have been taken into the city until dawn when the gates were opened. If he was taken into the city, he was probably taken to the house with the Upper Room, which may have been that of Joseph of Arimathea. Did Jesus survive that long? Did he survive at all? Do any of the accounts in the Gospels record genuine encounters with the revived Jesus? Sanders (1993:278) could not see how to ‘get behind’ the resurrection stories. Others have had less difficulty. Klausner (1925) thought all the accounts were visions. Guignebert (1935) suggested that, after an illusory experience in Galilee, the disciples imagined that they saw Jesus in Jerusalem, but that somehow the latter came to precede the former in the Gospels. Wilson suggested that the person mistaken for Je- Resurrection? 203 sus was his brother James or another brother. The reports of Jesus being seen near the tomb may be explained, as Morison did, by suggesting that Mary Magdalene (alone according to John) saw the young man who fled ‘naked’ from Gethsemane. Perhaps a Nazarene remained at the tomb to explain to Mary what had happened to Jesus and to encourage the belief that he had been resurrected. Strauss repeated a suggestion that the women had, in the dim morning light, mistaken the white grave clothes for angels. Jesus himself could have been in no condition to walk about Jerusalem, certainly not to Emmaus. Wells claimed that major discrepancies stamp all the resurrection narratives as legends (Hoffmann & Larue 1986:31); of course they are all legends, but some might be based on fact. He argued that the stories, instead of forming the basis of resurrection faith, all resulted from it (ibid.). On the story of the ascension, Smith noted that it fitted a belief that all the admired Roman emperors ascended de rigueur to heaven after their deaths; he claimed that Augustus’ ascension was attested to the Senate by the sworn witness of a praetorian guardsman (ibid.:50). In fact, Suetonius reported the man as having seen the image (effigies) of Augustus rising from the funeral pyre and this was almost certainly interpreted as a sign that his soul was joining the gods. The Romans did not routinely expect bodily ascension without death at this period, not even for emperors. According to John, the disciples were assembled indoors on the Sunday evening ‘for fear of the Jews’ (John 20:19). Evidently they feared arrest by the priests. According to Mark, they gathered for a meal (Mark 16:14) and Luke tells us that this gathering was in Jerusalem (Luke 24:33). Suddenly Jesus came and stood among them. While it could be argued that Jesus walked into the room from another part of the house (there were probably no internal doors), there are many reasons to reject the account. John’s version has Jesus speak of The Holy Spirit, demonstrating that it is an invention of the Early Church. Moreover, from John 20:29, it is evident that the purpose of the passage was to encourage belief among those who had not seen Jesus. Then Luke (24:37) speaks of the disciples thinking that they had seen a ‘spirit’, when the Jews did not believe in spirits. If Jesus had appeared, even just from another room, the disciples could have had no other thought than that it was Jesus himself. If fact it is Luke who re- 9 Aftermath 204 veals another prime purpose of this passage. According to him, Jesus goes to some trouble to show that he was not ‘a spirit’; he was ‘flesh and bones’ (the Jewish equivalent of ‘flesh and blood’). He even ate some broiled fish (the honeycomb does not appear in the Nestlé text). It is clear that these demonstrations of Jesus’ humanity were made to counter Docetism, the belief that Jesus was a spirit being who only seemed human. To us it is obvious that, if Jesus could pretend to be human, he could also pretend to have wounds and eat. However, the Church must have thought that its resurrection accounts were adequate to counter the heresy. Apart from telling us that it was written in the second-century, this passage shows that the incident is a fiction. Jesus did not appear alive to his disciples in a room in Jerusalem. Even if he had so appeared, it is unlikely that he delivered the encouraging speech recorded by Mark. This commission to preach the gospel of the kingdom, with its immunity to snake bites, is reminiscent of the commission to the Seventy (Luke 10:1–20) and that to the Twelve (Matt. 10:1–23), of which it may be an echo. However these commissions are of doubtful authenticity. If Jesus had twelve disciples or even seventy it is possible that at some point he sent them out to preach that he was the Messiah and that the kingdom was imminent. However, since he had previously tried to avoid any impression that he could heal the sick, it seems strange that, before his Passion, he would dispatch disciples to do that very thing. Furthermore, their immunity to deadly stings would have been a considerable miracle, inconsistent with his statement that the only sign would be his Resurrection. Since such immunity was expected in the kingdom (Isa. 11:8), an evangelist probably thought that this ought to have happened. Nor, before the Crucifixion, could Jesus have asked the disciples to endure persecution in his name; he would not even have allowed them to broadcast his name. Clearly the commissions owe much, if not everything, to the later need of the Church to have Jesus’ own endorsement of its activities. Schweitzer suggested that, earlier in his programme, Jesus dispatched his disciples to preach throughout Israel, believing that this would cause the kingdom to appear. When this plan failed, Jesus concluded that only the death of the Messiah (himself) could be the trigger that would release eternity. Whether or not this is a correct analysis, it may be concluded that some phrases in the commission are genuine Resurrection? 205 echoes of Jesus’ words. The forecasts, that those who remained to the end (of the age) would be saved (to live in the kingdom) and that the Son of Man would appear before the disciples had gone over all the cities of Israel (Matt. 10:23), seem to have more in common with Jesus’ programme than that of the Church. Likewise, a promise, probably intended to be understood in a physical sense, that Jesus would be with the disciples ‘all the days’ until the completion of the age (Matt. 28:20) and the disciples’ question as to whether or not he would, at that time, ‘restore the kingdom to Israel’ (Acts 1:6) seem to be genuine fragments. However, none of this gives any cause to believe that Jesus was ever seen alive again after the Crucifixion. That the disciples never saw him in Jerusalem can be deduced from their reaction to the person they met at a lakeside in Galilee (discussed below). They questioned him as if they had never seen him (resurrected) before. Another reason for believing that Jesus did not survive the Crucifixion, even though that was his intention, is the fact that he lay in the tomb for only two nights. Had he survived, he could not have continued with his mission after the discovery that a major prophecy had been broken. Not only would the prophecy have been broken; he would have been broken. Fate, which he thought required human help to accomplish and fulfil prophecy, would have shown itself indifferent to his cause. He would have had to abandon his mission. Luke describes how Jesus was seen on the road to Emmaus, on the ‘third day since these things happened’. Since the account of ‘these things’ terminates with the Crucifixion, it may be supposed that the day was Monday 17 Nisan, the day Jesus intended to rise again. It appears that the person seen by the disciples was a Nazarene, for he knew that the Messiah had to suffer and the Scriptures that supported this belief (Luke 24:25–27). The disciples did not recognize this stranger (Luke 24:16) and only thought that it was Jesus when he had gone. Clearly this was a case of mistaken identity by devoted disciples who wanted to see their master again. Did the disciples remain in Jerusalem or did they go to Galilee? Matthew believed that they departed into Galilee, where they saw Jesus on a mountain, ‘but some doubted’ (Matt. 28:16–17). Mark believed that they went ‘preaching everywhere’ (Mark 16:29) and does not men- 9 Aftermath 206 tion sight of Jesus again. Luke recorded that Jesus walked out to Bethany, where he vanished into heaven (Luke 24:50–51), leaving the disciples to return to Jerusalem, where they worshipped in the Temple (Luke 24:53). Later, in Acts, Luke declared that the disciples saw Jesus for forty days (Acts 1:3). John, after closing his Gospel at the end of chapter 20, added an account of a meeting in Galilee. His twenty-first chapter is an after-thought, but not necessarily unhistorical on that account. Schofield speculated that the chapter was added by the elders of the Church at Ephesus after John’s death. Jesus had previously intimated his intention of returning to Galilee. In Gethsemane he had said ‘but after I am risen I will go before you to Galilee’ (Mark 14:28). He meant that he would go there and wait for them to return from their mission of witness, although it is possible that this statement is an interpolation. The young man in the tomb also seemed concerned to make the disciples aware that Jesus was going to wait for them in Galilee (Mark 16:7) and that they would see him there (Matt. 28:7). According to Matthew, Jesus himself said that his ‘brethren’ should go to Galilee, where they would see him (Matt. 28:10), although the account may be confused. Strauss realized that the directions to go to Galilee might be a later interpolation to justify the disciples’ presence in that region when they ‘saw’ him there. However, it seems likely that Jesus did intend to go to Galilee, to wait for the kingdom. Where else would he go? He could not wait in Jerusalem where such terrible events were expected. In Capernaum he could wait in relative safety for the return of the disciples from their tour of Israel. But did he get there? According to Luke, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem, using the Upper Room (Acts 1:13) and preaching in the Temple (Acts 2:46). Peter in particular was bold enough to begin the mission given them all by Jesus, proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah and that Israel should repent before the kingdom came. This brought him to the attention of Caiaphas and the priests (Acts 4:6), who interrogated him and only released him after it was clear that no charge would stick. Peter was told to keep silent about Jesus (Acts 4:16–18), but his refusal landed him again in detention (Acts 5:18). This time he was only released after discussion in the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:34–40), to the effect that if God was behind the disciples then it was foolish to resist them. But resist they Resurrection? 207 did; the priests continued to harass the disciples and their followers, even commissioning special investigators such as Saul (Acts 8:3). Sooner or later the disciples must have remembered that Jesus was supposed to be waiting for them in Galilee. It would not be surprising therefore that some of them went back there. Luke does not record such a visit, although he does tell us that Peter and John went to Samaria (Acts 8:14) and that Peter went everywhere (Acts 9:32). Their homes were in Capernaum or nearby and they must have gone to Galilee at least once. It is reported that they decided to go fishing. They fished by night, but were unlucky. Near morning, in the half-light, they saw a figure of a man on the shore. This man called out, ‘children’ (a word Jesus never used for the disciples) ‘have you any fish?' When the man heard that they had caught nothing, he told them to try the right side of the boat. After following his suggestion, they found a great many fish in the net, although the number is surely exaggerated. The similarity of this incident to that described by Luke (Luke 5:4–6) suggests some confusion; perhaps Luke’s account was plundered to enrich the story. John then thought that the great catch was a miracle and that it must be Jesus who stood on the shore. After all, they were expecting such an appearance. His spoken thoughts sent Peter over the side in haste to reach the shore, while the others brought the boat ashore. They found a fire burning, with bread and a fish, and they were invited to bring some fish and eat. Despite the dawning light and the light of the fire, the disciples still could not recognize their master (John 21:12). Why should they need to ask who he was? Did they not see the face of their own familiar Jesus? While they were convinced that this person must be Jesus, nevertheless they could not recognize him and wanted him to identify himself. But the stranger never revealed his identity and the disciples never dared to ask him outright if he was Jesus. Guignebert (1935) thought that, of all the ‘appearances’ in the Gospels, that in John 21 is most likely to correspond to a remembered historical fact, but he had no interest in the episode and questioned the identity of the figure by the shore. Strauss, commenting on claims that the phrase ‘you will stretch out your hands’ (v. 18) is a reference to crucifixion, pointed out that such an interpretation is impossible. It comes 9 Aftermath 208 before instead of after the girding (binding?) and leading away against the will. He concluded that the words contain nothing more than the commonplace of the helplessness of age contrasted with the activity of youth. Reimarus saw grave discrepancies in the lakeside appearance and nicely pointed out that Jesus himself had warned the disciples not to believe all reports of his reappearance. Goguel (1953) considered the account an amalgam of two separate occasions, one when Jesus ordered a lucky catch followed by a meal, and another when he revealed his nature to the disciples while breaking bread. Lehmann suggested that the evangelist transferred the story to the lake from Qumran, where it was an embarrassment. Van Daalen asked why, if Jesus had appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem and sent them to proclaim the gospel, they were fishing in Galilee. Schonfield (1965) thought that this person was the man charged with delivering Jesus’ message and that he had followed the disciples to Galilee. After the disciples have eaten a meal with this stranger, he and Peter engage in a strange conversation during which the former says: ‘feed my lambs’, ‘shepherd my little lambs’ and ‘feed my little sheep’. The traditional interpretation of these words is that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, instructing Peter, in line with the commission of Matt. 16:18, to take care of the young Church as a shepherd takes care of his sheep. However there is a simpler explanation. If the mysterious man was not Jesus then he cannot have been talking about the Church, which in any case Jesus did not intend to found. Even though Jesus is occasionally reported to have spoken of people as sheep, a common metaphor, a man talking about sheep unmetaphorically is much more likely to have been a shepherd. He might simply have been taking a break from tending sheep, whose welfare still concerned him. It appears that he had left the sheep a little way off in the hills around the lake and that he was looking for someone to help him care for them. He singled out Peter and asked him if he loved him more than the rest (did). Later, he instructed Peter to follow him, back to the sheep. That the question was thrice repeated and the way Peter reacted only convinces us that here was no Jesus. As Peter pointed out, Jesus already knew the feelings of the disciples and would not have needed to ask such questions. The observation that old age brings incapacity (John 21:18) suggests that the shepherd was elderly and wanted Peter’s help Resurrection? 209 because he realized that he would not be able to carry on with the work much longer. He was offering Peter the job, but wanted to be sure that Peter’s heart was in it. Peter was just about to follow the stranger away to the flock, when he turned and noticed John beginning to follow. ‘What about him?' he asked the person he thought was Jesus. ‘If I wish him to remain here until I come [back], what is that to you?' replied the shepherd. He intended to return to the fireside after he had shown Peter the sheep. Two parties, the old shepherd and the young disciples, spoke without either understanding the other. They were entirely at cross purposes and one misunderstanding followed another without any of the participants realizing the confusion that existed. The confusion can have been magnified because of Jesus’ habit of employing the sheep metaphor; encountering a shepherd misled the disciples into believing that this really was Jesus. Whoever he was, the author of this chapter did admit that there had been a misunderstanding; Jesus had not promised that John would never die, only that he must wait until Jesus returned (at the kingdom?). Schofield suggested that the Ephesian elders added this story and these words in particular to show that John’s death did not break a promise made by Jesus that John would never die, apparently a common belief at the time. However, according to Schofield, the anonymous author did not know the true meaning of the words. Even if the story was not written by John, it may have been told by him and remembered by his disciples after his death. Clearly John understood the words to mean that he would live to see the coming of the kingdom and the return of his master. But his death threw the Ephesian Church into confusion. One of Jesus’ major promises appeared to have been broken. The Church had to calm its members by adding the wellknown story to the apostle’s Gospel, with an interpretation that Jesus had not promised that John would never die. However, since John had not remained until the ‘second Coming’, the Church’s explanation is unconvincing. But one misunderstanding has been replaced by another. Understanding of events can be conditioned completely by the attitude in which they are approached. To the disciples, this was Jesus and everything the old man said made sense to them as the words of their mas- 9 Aftermath 210 ter. It shows how obedient they had been and how unquestioningly they had obeyed; they never doubted that their master knew what he was doing. The shepherd had unwittingly stepped into shoes so huge that they hid him completely. The disciples saw only Jesus; they wanted to see only Jesus. The shepherd surely considered that the way the disciples addressed him was rather odd. But he might have attributed this to the reverence for age. In fact it may have been their reverence that prompted the conversation about sheep. The disciples surely asked what they were to do, what service they could perform for their master now that he had returned to them. The shepherd may then have taken this as an offer of help; impressed by their enthusiasm and devotion, he took the opportunity to retire. We can only imagine with what difficulty Peter finally extricated himself from the duties of a shepherd. It does seem likely that, although Jesus himself had nothing to do with it, John’s account of the Galilean incident is historical. Evidently the Galilean incident was the only occasion on which the disciples thought they saw Jesus alive after the Crucifixion. Consequently it may have been the basis for the other accounts. On this silly encounter is based the Church’s conviction that Jesus rose from the dead. Indeed, we now see that the disciples cannot have gone around Jerusalem just after the Crucifixion preaching Jesus’ resurrection. Only after the encounter with the shepherd can they have become convinced that Jesus was alive and only after that can they have returned to Jerusalem to preach. Mission impossible The disciples now thought that Jesus had, as he promised, seen them in Galilee. They did not know that Jesus’ intention had been to be with them permanently in Galilee and to wait for the manifestation of the kingdom about 40. They must have thought that Jesus was hiding himself and that the brief encounter by the lake had been for encouragement. They returned to their mission convinced that Jesus was in control and that the kingdom would come before they finished their task. They had been trained to preach the coming kingdom in the name of Messiah Jesus. This they did. The momentum that Jesus generated be- Mission impossible 211 fore his death was such that the disciples continued with the impossible mission. They continued on the course that Jesus had set even though it was the wrong course and the pilot was dead. He had not intended to die. He had intended to survive the ordeal of crucifixion, to lead the way to the new world, the kingdom of heaven. But he kept the disciples so ignorant of the plan that they could not tell that anything had gone wrong. Furthermore, he was always so confident in his predictions and always so careful to see that his predictions came true, that it cannot have occurred to the disciples that anything could go wrong. They were sure that, puzzling as Jesus’ disappearance was, it must have been intended. All they needed to do was to continue with their preaching and they would see their master in a few years at most. But time went by and nothing happened. Always they would have expected the imminent change that would vindicate their patience. Paul, who regarded himself as being as much an apostle as those whom Jesus appointed, spoke of the day in which God was about to judge the Earth (Acts 17:31) and thought that he would still be alive when Jesus returned (I Thess. 4:14). The author of Revelation, a Jewish Christian called John, but not John the apostle, who wrote in the reign of either Nero or Domitian, was also convinced that the kingdom was imminent. Some modern Christians maintain the same hope of imminent deliverance and have devised some ingenious explanations for the inordinate delay. Bullinger (undated), accepting that Jesus was killed at the end of the sixty-ninth ‘week’ of Daniel’s prophecy, believed that the final ‘week’ is suspended and still awaits its fulfilment. It was thought that we are living in a parenthetical period called ‘the Times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24), in which Jerusalem is under Gentile control. These ‘times’ could be dated from about 587 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem. The 70 ‘weeks’ of Daniel’s vision then cover a period of Gentile domination, the final seven years being suspended for some reason. But such a belief has been impossible since Jerusalem fell to Israeli troops in the 1967 war. The ‘times’ have ended, but the kingdom did not come. As Reimarus wrote two centuries earlier, ‘the openly appointed time for the second coming of Jesus has long passed by, and … consequently, one of the mainstays of Christianity is shown to be utterly worthless …’. However Christians will continue to devise ex- 9 Aftermath 212 cuses for the delay and to believe that Jesus is still alive, even though such a belief makes nonsense of his prophecies and purpose. At first the disciples and their converts must have been called Nazarenes after their ‘dead’ leader. But gradually they came to be known as ‘christians’, first in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Followers of a notable person were usually designated by the addition of the suffix -iani to the name: thus Herodiani, Caesariani. Gradually the term stuck until it was gloried in by Christians themselves and a totally new sect had developed. The Christian Church arose like a phoenix from the ashes of Jesus’ abortive attempt to rule the world. He had no intention of founding such an organization. PENTECOSTAL PHENOMENA As the disciples were gathered in a house (the Upper Room again?) for the Feast of Pentecost, seven weeks after Passover, there was a noise in the sky like a rushing wind and tongues of fire appeared to spring from people in the room. Moreover, they all began to speak in unknown languages (Acts 2:1–4). Who would invent such an account? On the other hand, how can it be explained? The noise, which indeed could have been the sound of wind, and the flames could be connected if an electrical storm occurred, although only if the people had been in the open. Perhaps there was a whirlwind that was associated with intense electrical activity. It has been suggested that textual confusion has arisen between ‘tongues of fire’ and ‘other tongues’ (see Jas. 3:6), although this seems unlikely. ‘speaking in tongues’, glossolalia, is not unknown in the modern world and is the product of intense religious emotion. The ‘tongues’ are always completely incomprehensible and nonsensical. Luke tells us that all the visitors to Jerusalem, Jews from various part of the Levant, heard the disciples speaking in the language of their own country, although this implies that the disciples, still babbling, left the room and toured the city. It seems more likely that, while the ‘languages’ were not understood, they were thought to be those of other visitors. Thus everyone thought they were understood by someone else, while in fact they were not understood by anyone (I Cor. 14:2). Other instances of glossolalia are recorded (Acts 10:46; 19:6). Some claimed to be able to interpret these strange languages (I Cor. 12:10) and it may have been thought that they were the languages of angels (I Cor. 13:1). It is ironic that, in attempting to fulfil a (false) prophecy of Daniel that the Messiah would be killed, Jesus really did fulfil the prophecy. Unintentionally he fulfilled a prophecy that he would die when all the time he had been trying to avoid it. Fate, which he thought so co-operative, seems to have rejected him. There was no resurrection from his real death and no kingdom. For not only did he fail in his self-appointed mission, but he was mistaken regarding both the divine plan and the existence of God. It was all make-believe, a figment of the Jewish imag- Mission impossible 213 ination. A victim of his nation’s religious delusions, he had attempted to turn a myth into reality, fiction into fact. Even if he had survived, he would only have hastened the inevitable and fatal collision with Roman power. Renan thought that if Jesus had succeeded, he would have effected the ruin of the Jewish people. Jesus certainly would have died in such a conflict. If Jesus died soon after the Crucifixion, why was this fact not made public by the Nazarenes? Further, why was no hint of the plan, which involved many other persons, released to the disciples? It seems likely that very few people knew of Jesus’ real death; perhaps only Joseph and Nicodemus knew. They must have known that the plan had misfired and that Jesus could not be who he thought he was. But what were they to do with this information? They would not want to tell the chief priests, who would have used it to discredit the disciples. But why would they not tell the disciples? How could they explain the use of opium and the intricate web that Jesus had woven? The disciples would not have believed the truth and would have thought that Joseph and Nicodemus were insane. If Joseph and Nicodemus were convinced that Jesus was in fact a false Messiah, they could not have convinced the disciples of this, at least not without Jesus’ body. Well, where was the body? It seems possible that Jesus died in Joseph’s house in Jerusalem, perhaps while the disciples were still meeting there and preparing to commence their mission. Would Joseph have been heartless enough to show the disciples their master’s body just after he had, apparently, conquered death and sent them on their great commission? Surely not. It would have been an admission that he too had been deceived and the disciples might have thought that he had murdered Jesus. Better to keep quiet and dispose of the body secretly. Secrecy must have come naturally to a Nazarene, if that is what he was. Perhaps Joseph and his associates thought that, with Jesus dead, the disciples would abandon their work or that they would be deterred by failure or imprisonment. Surely the impetus would fail and there would be no need to worry that there had been a colossal mistake. How were they to know that the disciples had been so well brainwashed that they would convert thousands in Judaea and later millions throughout the world? How were they to know that the world’s most successful religion was just about to 9 Aftermath 214 flourish? By the time they saw the success that the disciples enjoyed and realized how many now waited for Jesus to return, it was too late. By Pentecost at least, the body would not have been recognizable and could not have been used to prove their case. Reimarus thought that the disciples deliberately waited until Pentecost for this reason before launching their campaign. By the time that the disciples, in a chance encounter with a Galilean shepherd, received reinforcement for the view that Jesus was still alive, it was certainly too late to produce the body. Nothing could have been done to halt the spread of the superstition. No one need have thought that there had been a hoax. Lazarus and anyone else who knew of the use of opium may have believed, like Jesus, that it did indeed produce death. They would have known that Jesus had taken it and that he had planned to ‘die’ and revive afterwards. If they thought that he had survived the Crucifixion, they must have thought it impossible for him to die a second time. Apart from Joseph and Nicodemus, who knew that anything was amiss? The enduring belief that Jesus is still alive has been perpetuated by the ignorance of his followers. They were ignorant of the extent to which Jesus had to struggle to construct fulfilment of prophecy and of the fragility of that construction. Mainly they were ignorant of the resurrection drug and the fact that it did not cause death. They were also ignorant of the fact that Jesus really did die. Most of all they were ignorant of Jesus’ self-deception. It could be argued that Joseph and Nicodemus used Jesus for their own purposes. While they were both Pharisees and may have been associated with the Nazarene sect, they were both members of a political body, the Sanhedrin. Was there then a political motive behind their interest? That rich and powerful men should have backed an obscure Galilean teacher is food for thought. Rabbinical tradition has it that Nicodemus was one of the three richest men in Jerusalem and yet he came to see Jesus ‘at night’. The rich do not spend their money to no purpose. They cannot have hoped for financial gain, at least not directly. But for all their money, they did not have control of Jerusalem or their country. They were in the hands of their rivals the Sadducees, who dominated the Sanhedrin and encouraged Roman rule. Spiritually and politically they were frustrated. Mission impossible 215 Then came Jesus. Not only did he tell them that the great revolution, the kingdom of God, was about to come, but he confided privately that he was the man who would rule in that kingdom. Nicodemus, at least, seems to have been convinced that Jesus was on a divine mission (John 3:2). Perhaps these masters of Israel were also convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and that he could prove it. He could and did fulfil the prophecies concerning the Messiah and he could even raise the dead. Perhaps they believed all he said and that it would be wise to co-operate with the future world ruler. Since they were rich, their prospects of power in the kingdom were poor or poverty. But if they helped this Jesus, perhaps he would reward them. Surely there would be money in the new kingdom? Better to help him in case they lost all their money and land. Jesus must have promised them something in return for the services they provided. Perhaps they thought that whether or not he was the Messiah, he could help them rout the Sadducees. If Jesus could be produced alive from his tomb after he had so spectacularly been ‘killed’ by the Romans, then they could confound the Sadducees. Not only would Jesus have shown that not even the mighty power of Rome could put him down, but he would have demonstrated that the Sadducees’ claim that there was no resurrection was false. Sadducean influence would fail and the Pharisaic party could seize control. Joseph and his Pharisaic friends might have hoped that, ultimately, they would control Israel, if not the Sanhedrin. With a popular movement behind Jesus, it did not matter what the Sanhedrin did. Jesus could be proclaimed king and be protected by a Zealot army raised in Galilee. Reimarus suggested that, had the people of Jerusalem followed Jesus and joined in proclaiming him king, he would have had all Judaea on his side; the High Court of Justice would have been overthrown and Jesus, together with his seventy chosen disciples, would have been placed in the Sanhedrin instead of the Pharisees (sic) and the learned scribes. It seems doubtful that Jesus really did appoint or send seventy messengers (Luke 10:1–17), but the correspondence to the total number of the Sanhedrin may be significant. Jesus would not have objected to such a scenario. He expected to be king. Nor was he opposed to the civil war that would ensue. ‘Do not suppose’, he said, ‘that I came to bring peace on the land [of Israel]; I came not to bring peace but a sword.' (see I Enoch 91:12). He came to divide families 9 Aftermath 216 (Matt. 10:34–36). He expected a great conflict, Israel’s time of trouble, before the kingdom came. It would be a conflict between those who stood for him and the kingdom and those who refused to recognize his claims. Among the latter would be the Sadducees and their supporters. He thought that he would bring division and fire to Israel (Luke 12:49, 51). Jesus rose to fame at a time when it was expected that the Messiah would rise. He rose because he had prepared himself for service to God or because he was prepared by others and because he was in the right place at the right time. He rose because he was, accidentally or deliberately, chosen by John the Baptist and because this convinced him that he was the Chosen One. He thought that the divine lottery had selected him. He rose because he worked hard to make a real Messiah out of the Scriptures. The concept of the Messiah was a pious hope, a ridiculous myth built of centuries of frustration and submission to ‘heathen’ powers. But Jesus nearly made it work. Israel wanted a Messiah and he tried to give it one. No other pretender to this title, if there were any others, came near to convincing the nation that he was indeed the Son of Man. Jesus did his best to achieve the impossible, although he did not know that it was impossible. He was a false Messiah who did not know that he was false. Jesus fell because he failed. Not only was he not who he thought he was, he was not the person the modern world knows. He was not born in 4 BC, nor in the reign of Herod the Great. He was not born in Bethlehem, nor visited by the Magi. His birth was not heralded by astronomical phenomena. He was not born, nor did he live, in Nazareth and he was not a carpenter. He did not walk on water, did not feed five thousand, did no healing, did not turn water into wine and was not transfigured. He did not raise the dead, nor was he himself so raised. Truly the Christ of the Church is a mythical figure, one that Jesus himself would not recognize. But if Christ is a myth, Jesus is not. Jesus the Nazarene really lived and really died. But where the Church believes him to have been dead (on the cross) he was still alive and where the Church believes that he was alive again (after the Crucifixion), he was dead. Most of what Christians believe about Jesus is a myth and their Jesus is a myth. They do not recognize the real Jesus. Of course Christians are entitled to be- Mission impossible 217 lieve what they like to believe but they are not entitled to claim that all their beliefs are founded in history. We have seen that sense can be made of a real Jesus, a man who dared to play at God or at least to play at being God’s viceroy. Not only did Jesus have a motive, but he had a method and an opportunity. His motive was to be found in the Scriptures, which told him what ought to happen, and in John who pointed the finger of fate at him. His motive was his duty to God. His method lay in the critical use of opium; he found a substance that appeared as if it had been created for just this operation. His opportunity was given by the Roman presence in Judaea and their habit of punishment by crucifixion. According to Luke, when the infant Jesus was presented in the Temple, Simeon declared that he (Jesus) was destined to cause the fall and rising again of many in Israel (Luke 2:34). In fact Jesus has caused many all over the world to fall into superstitious beliefs and to rise up, sometimes using force, against those who do not share those beliefs. Indeed it can be argued that Christianity has been and still is a disaster, causing widespread misery and suffering. Whatever good it has done is far outweighed by the harm it has caused. Without Jesus there could have been no Christian Church. Consequently Jesus himself is ultimately responsible for the evil done in his name; he expected to condemn many at the judgement. He rose and fell. Today many are still falling and rising in his name. 9 Aftermath 218

Chapter Preview



What really happened to Jesus? Did he rise from the dead, and if not why do Christians believe that he did? Did he have a plan and, if so, what was it? Did he accomplish his purpose or did the plan fail? If it failed, what were the consequences?

Steuart Campbell, once a Christian, takes a rationalist look at the problem of Christian origins and shows that no previous writer has completely solved the riddle of Jesus. Here he shows us a new hypothesis, one that explains Jesus‘ curious behaviour.

Here is Jesus in historical context, the leader of an obscure Jewish sect which believed that it was fulfilling a divine plan revealed in the Scriptures. This plan required the Messiah to die and rise again to become the king of Israel, throwing the Romans out of Judaea and even replacing the Emperor as ruler of the known world. Read how Jesus expected to accomplish this.

The author displays immense knowledge of the Bible and the history of the Jews and he explains many mysteries. He builds on the work of many other authors and constructs what is surely the true explanation for the origin of Christianity. This should be the last word on the historical Jesus. It is certainly an excellent review of the many attempts to solve the mystery.