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Old 10-26-2001, 11:43 PM   #1
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Post Jesus: Urban Legend?

The question I hear a lot is "The tomb was empty, what's the best explanation?" They explain that the sleeping guards/disciples stealing scenarios aren't likely, and therefore, the resurrection is the only option left. I counter that to disbelieve in the resurrection, it is not necessary to come up with an alternative explanation. The sheer implausibility of such a claim, in conjunction with the lack of truly extraordinary evidence is quite sufficient to justify rational disbelief.

What do I personally believe happened? I like the "urban legend" theory. Seeing Jesus killed destroyed the apostle's faith in Jesus. The true Messiah would never be killed before he fulfilled the prophecies. And since Jesus didn't throw off the Roman yoke, establish Yahweh's kingdom, usher in a time of universal peace, make the lions sleep with the lambs, etc, he wasn't who he said he was. Everyone abandons Jesus but his most loyal followers, and even they sulk and go back to fishing.

Time passes, and enter our friend Paul: he saw Jesus in a vision, so Jesus didn't die after all! He gets together with the original apostles and revises the story of Jesus. Jesus did throw off a yoke, but that yoke was not Rome, but our sin. The kingdom he established was in heaven, not Jerusalem. His death, instead of a loss, was a gain: he died for us and he is now in heaven (I know, I saw the vision!) and we can all join him. All those other unfulfilled prophesies? Don't worry, he'll do all the rest when he returns!

Remember, those gospels and Acts were written nearly 50 years after Jesus died (and after most of Paul's letters). So there was plenty of time to enter in a virgin birth, healings, miracles, and, of course, a resurrection (facets of many concurrent pagan religions). Go to, and I'll bet you could find a dozen urban legends you swore were true 5-10 years ago. Now, give an especially superstitious people 50 years, and viola!

But Iím told the Jews and/or Romans could've produced the body to quiet down those pesky Christians. Well, in the beginning, there weren't a lot of Christians to quiet down. The gospels list maybe a few dozen people who saw Jesus return. What happened to the rest, like the multitudes who were fed 5000 loaves and fish, listened to his sermons, and cheered the Triumphal Entry? Once Jesus died, it was the end of the story for most of Jesus' followers. It was hardly worth the Jews' or Romans' trouble to investigate the supernatural claims of so few. By the time Paul got the movement in full swing, there wouldn't be much left of Jesus' corpse to conclude anything.

Sometimes I get the "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" tri-lemma. Jesus said he was Lord. Either he was wrong and knew it, which makes him a liar. Or he was wrong and didn't know it, which makes him a lunatic. Since our lord and savior isn't evil or a loony, he must be telling the truth. But the "urban legend" covers that, too: he was misquoted in the Bible, and did not claim to be Lord. Or the stories about him were made up, or embroidered with fictitious material by the early (or later) Christians.

Then I get told that the apostles were martyred and never recanted. No one would willingly be tortured and die to protect a lie. Only two people are martyred in the book of Acts: Stephen and James, but they were killed for blasphemy, not for believing Jesus rose from the dead. Since the Jews took blasphemy seriously, I doubt an 11th-hour recanting about Jesus would've saved them. The Christians who were persecuted by the Romans (thrown to the lions, etc), were not eyewitnesses, but later converts who believed the story (hmm, like an urban legend?). Other than that, there is zero historical evidence any other apostles (the only eye-witnesses of Jesus' resurrection) were martyred. A popular story has Peter being crucified upside-down, but that is from a non-canonical (read: rejected by Christians) "Gnostic Gospel of Peter".
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Old 10-27-2001, 01:58 AM   #2
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Another possibility copied vertbatim from my response to another thread...

Speaking from memory...

The Essene movement was either founded by or greatly influenced by someone they referred to as "Teacher of Righteousness". The is some suggestion that this person was a Joshua or Jesus ben Pantera or Panthera, who apparently gained sufficient political influence that he was declared a heretic, stoned and then hung from a tree on the eve of Passover in 88 B.C.E. Shortly after his execution, I understand that miracle stories began to arise around him. There are, apparently, first century Christian references to him, and I think Origen mentions him in Contra Celsum.

Some theorize that it was this man who is the origin of the Jesus myth.
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Old 10-27-2001, 02:42 AM   #3
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Conveniently Jesus didn't hang around on Earth for long after he rose - and he only appeared to the true believers.
If I wrote the story, I would have had Jesus living another couple of decades or even centuries (like his ancestors in Genesis). He would have appeared before thousands of people again, and visit impartial scribes from all over the world to get them to record his story.
Maybe some of the disciples had some hallucinations of seeing Jesus, and later they agreed that they had actually been visited by Jesus who had risen from the dead, and then ascended into Heaven.
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Old 10-27-2001, 09:43 PM   #4
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I'm reminded of this line from a disaster movie:

"How is it that miracles only happen in the Bible?"

Why aren't there any REALLY big miracles, like Jesus Christ making himself grow to a height of 900 feet, then walking all over the world?

He would have been a sight to see

Instead, we have lots of hidden-away miracles, which remind me of Aristotle's comments about Plato's Atlantis story:

The one who invented it was the one who made it go away

[quoting from memory]
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Old 10-29-2001, 08:55 PM   #5
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Can anyone comment on this site: Nazarenus?

It attempts to recreate an alleged lost play about Jesus written by the Stoic author Seneca, which it is argued forms the basis for parts of the four Gospels. Has anyone heard of this theory? Any credibility here?

(The first three links in the table of contents don't work, but all the rest do.)
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Old 10-30-2001, 03:43 PM   #6
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'Resurrections were common long ago in the Holy Land. Look at all the empty tombs over there.'

Graham Kendall
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