The Christian claim that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem is one of the central tenets of Christianity. If you ask a Christian why they believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem they will usually tell you because it says so in the Bible. Ask them why it says so in the Bible, and they will usually tell you because he was resurrected in Jerusalem. Most Christians fail to see the fallacy of this simple circular argument. They also fail to appreciate that the only evidence supporting this Christian claim is that found in the New Testament itself. This New Testament evidence consists of four independent Gospels, all of which claim Jesus was resurrected after his crucifixion in Jerusalem.
But who wrote these Gospels, and when, and why is this momentous event portrayed in these Gospels as a near invisible event noticed only by a handful of Jews? In short, was Jesus really resurrected in Jerusalem? Can these Gospel accounts be believed? Christian scholars claim these Gospels can be believed, because they are historically accurate eye witness accounts. But are they really eye witness accounts that can be trusted? There is still great uncertainty around this issue, because scholars still contest both the authorship of the Gospels and the actual dating of these Gospels. Mark, the earliest of the four Gospels is generally thought to be dated c 65-75 AD, Matthew & Luke c 75-85 AD and John is thought to be dated c 90-95 AD. Many scholars therefore suggest the Gospels are second-hand hearsay accounts written by unknown authors well after the death of all concerned.
Obviously, nobody can be absolutely certain about any of this, including the dating of these Gospels, and Christian apologists often exploit this uncertainty. A classic example can be found on page 165 of Jim Wallace’s book Cold Case Christianity. Here, Wallace tries to prove that Luke’s Gospel is a very early eye witness account. He does so by first comparing two almost identical accounts of the Eucharist [Lord’s Supper], one in Luke’s Gospel, the other in 1-Corinthians, and then he claims that Paul must have copied an earlier Luke, thus implying that Luke was written quite soon after the crucifixion. Wallace totally ignores mainstream opinion that Paul had died well before Luke was written, and thus Luke must have copied Paul. Apologists get away with this sort of thing all the time because their readers don’t recognize when they are being duped.
The consensus view of the Gospel’s dates suggests the Gospel accounts of the resurrection in Jerusalem are second-hand hearsay accounts rather than first-hand eye witness accounts. We thus need to ascertain the origin of these resurrection accounts. This is not as difficult as it may seem. The Gospel authors obviously learned about the Jerusalem resurrection from Paul [1-Corinthians 15: 3-9] and Paul in turn obviously learned about the Jerusalem resurrection from Peter, when they first met in Jerusalem some three years after Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. Thus Peter simply told Paul all about the resurrection when they first met in Jerusalem. Paul then simply passed on this good news to his early Christian communities, and hence to the Gospel authors. The Gospel authors then immortalized in their Gospels what Peter had told Paul about the resurrection .
This chain of events implies the resurrection accounts found in the Gospel are second-hand hearsay accounts, rather than first-hand eye witness accounts. “So what?” I hear Christians say. “Peter actually witnessed the resurrection, and both his and Paul’s credentials are impeccable. So effectively, the Gospel accounts of the Jerusalem resurrection are as close to being eye witness accounts as makes no difference”.
This is essentially the argument used by Habermas, a noted Christian scholar & apologist. In the video below, Habermas claims that we can believe the resurrection claims in the gospels because they are based on claims made by a very reliable eye witness [Peter] that are then relayed to the gospel authors via a very reliable intermediary [Paul].
Given the actual dating of the gospels, the chain of events suggested by Habermas is probably true, but what Habermas never addresses is the veracity of Peter’s original claims. Because he believes the resurrection happened, Habermas tacitly assumes Peter told the truth. He has no choice because there is no other independent evidence available to verify the veracity of Peter’s claims. Peter’s claims are in fact both unsubstantiated claims & unverifiable claims.
So what if the resurrection never happened? What if Peter simply lied to Paul about this Jerusalem resurrection? All Christian claims that the Gospels really are eye witness accounts, are thus based entirely on two tacit assumptions, the tacit assumption that the resurrection actually happened, and the tacit assumption that Peter told Paul the truth. These tacit assumptions are Christianity’s unacknowledged Achilles heel. If there was no Jerusalem resurrection, and Peter simply lied to Paul when they first met, then Paul would never know Peter lied. Paul would, unknowingly, simply propagate Peter’s lies, and the Gospel authors would then,unknowingly, simply immortalize Peter’s lies in the ensuing Gospels.
So, simply by making two reasonable assumptions, one that the Gospels were written after the death of all concerned , and the other that Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection, it is possible to deny the resurrection and still explain the Gospel claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. All the other basic facts remain unchanged. Paul is still converted on the road to Damascus. Paul still visits Peter three years after this experience. Paul still leaves Jerusalem believing that Jesus is the son of God, and with his belief now turbo-charged by Peter’s news that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. Paul still passes on the good news to his early Christian communities. The unknown Gospel authors still propagate the good news in the ensuing Gospels and we still end up with Christianity and a New Testament. However,in this scenario, there is no need for any resurrection in Jerusalem.
Of course this is all pure speculation on my part, because we can never know for certain if Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection. However, this scenario does better explain the known facts, and it does so without affecting the final outcome. My scenario not only explains the total lack of independent corroboration of this resurrection. It also explains the need to forge an entry in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. It also explains what Christians always fail to explain, namely why the alleged resurrection is portrayed in the Gospels as a near invisible event noticed only by a handful of Jews, despite the fact the resurrection allegedly occurred in a Jerusalem teeming with Jews. This is because the Gospel authors could only propagate in the Gospels what Paul told them when he established his early Christian communities. Paul summarizes this in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9.
Thus, the proper answer to the second question posed at the beginning of this post is
“Because Peter said Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem”
Christians tacitly assume Peter told the truth about the Jerusalem resurrection, but in The Christianity Myth, I assume Peter lied . If you want to know why Peter lied, you’ll have to read the book.