By Virginia S. Saunders
CHRISTIANITY without the Resurrection would not be Christianity. Resurrection is the basis of this faith, and without Jesus resurrecting, the profound theme of His dying to redeem mankind from their sins would have no credible foundation. Even deeper than His birth, although Christians rejoice over this delightful story, is the significance of His death. Jesus is the only baby born to die. By His death we were ransomed. By His resurrection He crowned His divinity and His mission on earth.
His resurrection is mentioned in all four gospels, prophesied in Isaiah and Jeremiah, written in beautiful prose and verses that depicted his burial, and the shock that came over the women who visited Him the day after His interment. In Matthew 28 and in Luke 24, Mary Magdalene and two other women were dismayed to find only the burial cloths inside the tomb. Where was the body? The Scripture said that an angel told the women:
“Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples. He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.” Matthew 28:5-7
In a culture that is steep in male domination, where women are sometimes considered even lower than camels, the appearance of angels using women to transmit the message and resurrection of Christ, is both suspect and yet unique. Where were the disciples? They were in hiding, in fear for their lives.
There are twelve instances in the Bible accounting the times Jesus immediately and physically appeared after His resurrection. He appeared to the women, His mother, Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to Timothy, to all the apostles and disciples, to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and in 1 Corinthians 15:6, He appeared to 500 men before He was taken up to heaven. Surely, their accounts are not all unbelievable.
But we have scholars who study the Bible for years to whom personal revelations are never given, and they end up discrediting the validity or historicity of the Resurrection, while validating whatever notion they started with.
I came upon a blog by a “professional historian” named Richard Carrier, “Why I Don’t Buy The Resurrection Story”, written for The Secular Web (A Drop Of Reason In A Pool Of Confusion), who prefaced his argument by pointing out that his was a half-hour lecture given at the request of “Yale College Humanists and Secularists”.
He wrote: “What I suspect happened is something like this: Jesus died, was buried, and then in a vision or dream appeared to one or more of his disciples, convincing them he had ascended to heaven, marking the beginning of the fast-approaching End Times as the first to be raised, and then what began in the simple story of Mark as a symbolic allusion to an ascended Christ soon to reveal himself in visions from heaven, in time led some Christians to believe that the resurrection was a physical rising of a corpse.”
He continued: “Then they heard or came up with increasingly elaborate stories proving themselves right. Overzealous people often add details and color to a story they’ve been told without even thinking about it, and as the story passed from each to the next, more detail and elaboration was added, securing the notion of a physical resurrection in popular imagination and belief. It would have been a natural mistake to make at the time, since gods were expected to be able to raise people bodily from the dead, and physical resurrections were actually in vogue in the very first century when Christianity began.”
But what if Jesus did not resurrect?
If He did not, our religions would be entirely different from Christianity. Half of the world would still be observing the Old Testament, the way the Jews and the Moslems do, ascribing to the tenets of the Ten Commandments, and the myriad laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and believing about a God who would punish everyone for every infraction. The Old Testament warns that even if you followed the law and you died with one transgression, every good thing you did to obey God’s laws will be considered null and void. This was one belief that Jesus came to correct, and for this, He was villified.
If He did not resurrect, we would probably not have a migration from Europe to United States, the migrations caused by Christian pilgrims who were fleeing religious persecutions of Christians in England, Germany, France, Scotland, and the Netherlands.
If He did not resurrect, Spain and Portugal would not have divided the earth between them to find a direct route for the sources of spices, and claiming each country they discovered on behalf of their monarchies and their religion.
If Jesus did not resurrect, Jerusalem would be under Roman territory, and there would not be a Vatican. In addition, there would not be a Renaissance period in Europe, nor any artistic or religious depiction in paintings that we so admire today. There would not be a Bach, or Mozart, or Beethhoven whose music were originally in praise of a Christian God. There would also not have been the Guttenberg printing press, originally designed to help print multiple Bibles.
Because Christianity is credited for the emancipation of women, think of what their status would be if Christ did not resurrect. They would still be wearing veils as in the Old Testament, or classified as chattels or even lower than camels. In fact, that is what they are in many Moslem countries.
In Asia, the Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and animists would have continued to proliferate, practicing religions that are entirely dependent on human obedience to a higher order, depicted as elephants, eagles, monkeys, turtles, or snakes.
In Latin America, human sacrifices inside temples would still be the standard operating procedure, to appease the gods who live in volcanoes, forests, or mountains.
There is no other religion on earth that places salvation of the human race on the death of one man. Only in Christianity can we find this. That “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” This is the essence of Jesus’ mission on earth, as written in John 3:16-17. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
What a profound concept! Yet scholars and philosophers, atheists, agnostics, and liberal leftwingers, continue to scrutinize the Bible to find what is wrong or unbelievable about the Resurrection, and missing the answer by a mile and a lifetime.
What a waste. For Christians, it hurts to watch them go through their self-imposed tragedy. But that is their pitiful choice.
By Virginia S Saunders
First posted at http://virginiasaunders.authorsxpress.com/2015/04/02/jesus-resurrected-what-if-he-didnt/