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.

6 comments:

Robert Madewell said...

The ressurection story has a lot of elements that just don't add up.

For one, the romans left crucified bodies hanging until they rotted off, as an example to others. They wouldn't have given anyone the body. The Joseph of Aramathea story seems to be totally made up. It's not even in all the gospels.

GCT said...

And, if you read Ehrman's book, "Misquoting Jesus" he points out that the gospel stories of Jesus are competing tales trying to one up each other and contending to show the writer's version of god, not attempts to collaborate and tell one cohesive story. So we've got different and disparate accounts of what happened, which makes the problem even worse for the apologist.

Libby said...

One of my many Jesus theories is that the resurrection story was originally a metaphorical way to explain their emotional and spiritual feelings of rebirth. In my morality class at school (the school requires it, sadly), the teacher is always going on about how "something happened that caused a change in the early Christians" and comparing Jesus' resurrection to Paul's transformation. The story just started as a metaphor and was repeated so often that people actually started to believe it.

GCT said...

Interesting idea Libby. Do you have any links or cites for people who want to explore this further?

Anonymous said...

"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."

How it is fatal? Only atheists deny that a man name Jesus lived in Palestine 2000 years ago... because they have to...

GCT said...

"How it is fatal?"

It's called begging the question. You are assuming the conclusion that you are trying to show.

"Only atheists deny that a man name Jesus lived in Palestine 2000 years ago..."

I don't deny it, I simply don't know if Jesus existed (which is a position that some scholars do that and should take due to the lack of historical record on Jesus). It's possible that someone named Jesus did. You're moving the goal posts though. Not only would Jesus have had to exist, but he would also have had to do all the things attributed to him, like die and rise up from the dead. There's no evidence for any of that. That's the point that you aren't getting.

"...because they have to..."

I don't have to do anything. Xians are the ones that define their beliefs in ways that create "have to" statements. I choose to rely on evidence whereas the Xian (you) have to rely on logical fallacy and substanceless faith.