Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Where's the Body?
OK, so if Jesus wasn't resurrected, why didn't all his detractors produce the body?
How many times have we all run across this little gem? It's an argument that apologists like William Lane Craig like to use, because they think it's a good argument. But, it only works if you make certain assumptions that can't be supported (i.e. begging the question). But, let's tackle it anyway, shall we?
There's a fatal flaw in this question in that it assumes that what is recounted in the Bible is really what happened - that Jesus lived, preached, died on the cross, that there was a real, dead body, that later people came and moved the boulder away, and found Jesus was alive and healthy. If you assume all this to be true, then it makes sense that people seeking to discredit Jesus would produce his corpse and say, "Here it is." I mean, c'mon, if groups of people are running around proclaiming that the guy you just killed came back to life, and you had his corpse, you'd show them, wouldn't you?
Except, we have no assurance that any of that actually happened! We know that the gospels are all written well after the events that they supposedly tell about, by people who weren't there. After 50 years or so, it's not at all surprising to think that the legend of Jesus could have taken on numerous stories about the things he did (turning water into wine, coming back from the dead, healing lepers, etc). Look at the cult worship that people have for Elvis and you get a sense of what urban legend can become for people who have sincerely held beliefs.
And, that's what is most likely in this case, that the gospel stories are urban legend. Jesus could be a made-up figure, or simply a traveling preacher that taught his brand of Judaism. It's likely that he was never crucified or even if he was that his body wasn't tossed into an unmarked grave and forgotten about, only to have later stories claim that he was resurrected and later Xians claim that the soldiers should have presented his body at the time. Yet, it's absurd to require the soldiers to present the body of a person who died before that person was written into the part of a god. It's just another bad example of apologetics that don't work.