Was Jesus Resurrected in Jerusalem?

Mythicists like Richard Carrier argue that Jesus probably never even existed. I don’t subscribe to this minority view for two reasons. One, there are now much easier ways to explain what did or didn’t happen in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, and two, Occam’s razor suggests the best explanation is invariably the simplest explanation.

Most biblical scholars, including many who are not Christian apologists, now accept that the following facts are almost certainly true:

C 30 AD                  Jesus crucified in Jerusalem

C 33 AD                  Paul converted on the road to Damascus

C 36 AD                  Paul learns of the resurrection in Jerusalem

C 50 AD                  Paul meets Peter in Jerusalem for the second time

C 54 AD                  Paul writes 1-Corinthians

C 70-90 AD            Gospel authors write gospels

The current Christian argument supporting Christian claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem is presented very succinctly by Gary Habermas in a U-Tube video called The Resurrection Evidence that Changed Current Scholarship. In this fairly long video, which is just one of many similar videos, Gary Habermas argues that the resurrection accounts found in the gospels, all of which appeared within 40-60 years of the actual resurrection, can truly be trusted, because they are all based on very reliable eye witness evidence that was relayed to the gospel authors by a very reliable intermediary.

It is claimed that the resurrection accounts in the gospels are reliable because they are all based on information provided by Paul in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9. It is further claimed that this information in 1-Corinthians is itself reliable, because it is based on what Paul was told c 36 AD, when he first met Peter in Jerusalem. In other words, the resurrection accounts in the gospels are all based on eye witness accounts provided by Peter at that first meeting. You could even say the gospel authors just immortalised Peter’s claims in their gospels.

On the surface, this Christian argument appears very powerful, but it does have a very small, but very significant flaw. This flaw is the subject of this short blog.

We know this first meeting in Jerusalem took place c 36 AD, because in Galatians 1: 18, Paul tells us that this meeting occurred about three years after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. We can also infer with some confidence, that this meeting was when Paul first learned of the resurrection in Jerusalem. However, because there’s no independent evidence to verify the veracity of what Paul was told, we cannot know for certain, that Paul was told the truth about the Jerusalem resurrection. In the above Christian argument, it is just tacitly assumed that Paul was told the truth about the Jerusalem resurrection. Now although this seems to be a perfectly rational thing to do, albeit unconsciously, I can think of at least one very plausible scenario that could have resulted in Paul being told a cock & bull story about a resurrection that never happened, but you’ll have see The Christianity Myth for more details.

This ignored uncertainty about the veracity of what Paul was told at that first meeting c 36 AD raises an interesting dilemma for Christians. If Paul was lied to about the resurrection in Jerusalem, Paul would not know he had been lied to. He would simply propagate the lies unknowingly, and the gospel authors would then immortalise these lies unknowingly. The final outcome would still be exactly the same, but there would now be two possibilities to consider. If Paul was told the truth at this first meeting, the gospels would portray a resurrection that did actually happen, but if Paul was not told the truth, then the gospels would actually portray a resurrection that never happened. How do we differentiate between these two possibilities? Quite simply, we don’t, because we can’t. Those who actually knew the truth about this Jerusalem resurrection are long dead, and there is now no way we can verify the veracity of the resurrection claims made at that first meeting in Jerusalem. You either make a tacit assumption to believe Paul was told the truth, or you simply accept there’s no absolute proof this resurrection ever happened.

So was Jesus resurrected in Jerusalem as Christians claim? Paul obviously thought so, and so did the gospel authors, but was their belief based on fact, or was it based on bogus allegations? We’ll never know because even today, the resurrection allegations made at that first meeting in Jerusalem remain both unverified and unverifiable. Therefore, we can never say with any certainty that Jesus was in fact resurrected in Jerusalem. However, looking on the bright side, we can now use this uncertainty to topple the last remaining bastion of Christian support for this Jerusalem resurrection. We can now deny this resurrection ever happened and still explain the existence of the gospels, a feat thought impossible until now.

So, the Christian belief that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem is indeed a simple matter of faith. A faith based entirely on a simple tacit assumption that Paul was told the truth at that first meeting in Jerusalem. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now. This simple tacit assumption is Christianity’s unspoken and unacknowledged Achilles heel and all fellow atheists should strive to point this out to Christians whenever the opportunity arises.

Personally, I’d like my world view to be based on something a little more substantial than unverified allegations made 2000 years ago in Jerusalem.



Why the Deafening Silence?

How did Christianity really start? Was in the result of a virgin birth in Bethlehem, a supernatural resurrection in Jerusalem and a divine revelation on the road to Damascus? Or is Christianity just the logical end product that was produced when a simple hallucination on the road to Damascus was reinforced with a simple lie told in Jerusalem?

A few weeks ago, I posted what I thought was a very provocative 3-part series suggesting how I think Christianity actually started. I fully expected it to stir up a bit of a hornet’s nest. Instead, I’m now deafened by the silence. Not a single comment from the Jesus is a myth fraternity and, even more surprising, no reaction whatsoever from Christians. Why this deafening silence? I’m basically claiming that all you really need to explain Christianity and the New Testament is a simple hallucination on the road to Damascus and a simple lie told in Jerusalem. Put these two simple ideas together, and voila, Christianity without any need for a resurrection in Jerusalem.

I fully accept that I can’t prove Paul hallucinated on the road to Damascus. Likewise, I accept that I can’t prove Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection. But then again, Christians have to accept that they can’t prove Paul didn’t hallucinate on the road to Damascus and they also have to accept that they can’t prove Peter didn’t lie to Paul.

We, therefore, now have two explanations of how Christianity started. One is the 2000 year old orthodox explanation, with all the super naturalistic explanations you would expect from an ancient pantheistic culture. The other is a simpler, more pragmatic, 21st century reinterpretation of the same basic facts. If my version of first century events seems far too simple, just remember Occam’s razor which states:“When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.”

You can find out why Paul hallucinated on the road to Damascus by clicking here, but you’ll have to read The Christianity Myth if you want to know why Peter lied to Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection, and why Peter’s lies were later immortalized in the Gospels .

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But Where’s The Proof?

Four people called Matthew, Mark, Luke & John turn up at a police station claiming some guy called Jesus had been murdered. They were all interviewed in separate rooms. Each was asked if they actually witnessed the murder. Each said “Well no, not exactly. A guy called Paul told me about it, but don’t worry Paul is a trustworthy guy. He wouldn’t lie about a thing like that”.

So Paul was taken in for questioning. He was also interviewed in a separate room, and when asked if he actually witnessed the murder he said “Well no, not exactly. A guy called Peter told me all about it. But don’t worry, I trust Peter implicitly. He wouldn’t lie about something as serious as this”.

So Peter was taken in for questioning. He was also interviewed in a separate room, and when asked if he actually witnessed the murder he said “Yes, of course I witnessed the murder. I was there and saw it all happen. So did a lot of others. Ask my mate Paul. I told him all about it when we last met.”

“OK” said the interviewer, “you claim a guy called Jesus was murdered, and you say you saw it all happen. Fine, but I can’t just take your word for it. I need evidence that this Jesus guy was murdered. So if there’s been a murder, where’s your proof?”

“Well that’s the awkward bit” said Peter. “We all saw Jesus murdered, but unfortunately, just after the murder, his body disappeared without trace. I’m guessing Paul has already told you the names of the others who  witnessed this murder. Anyway, don’t worry, the guy who lives in the Vatican will vouch for my integrity, as will 2 billion other Christians  out there”.

If the penny hasn’t already dropped, try reading this piece again, substituting the word resurrection for the word murder.

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Part 2: Is Christianity Just a Simple Misunderstanding?

A central tenet of Christianity is the Christian claim that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. The only evidence supporting this claim is the evidence found in the New Testament itself. Many people have questioned the veracity of this evidence, and from time to time, various theories have been forwarded by disbelievers attempting to offer more rational explanations. At the very least, any credible alternative explanation had to account for the existence of four independent Gospels, each of which proclaimed Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. It also had to account for the Gospel claims that various people then saw this resurrected Jesus.

In 1950, Professor Sir Norman Andersen published “The Evidence for the Resurrection”. Even today this book is still one of the most definitive books ever published in defense of the Jerusalem resurrection. Andersen systematically examines each of the alternative theories offer by disbelievers and, after pointing out their various weaknesses, he systematically rejects them, leaving the orthodox Christian version of events as the one and only legitimate explanation. Andersen also states in this book that “Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Its message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax”. But Anderson’s book fails to consider a third far more plausible alternative, namely that everything stems from an honest to goodness mistake, made 2000 years ago by a man on the road to Damascus.

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is portrayed in the New Testament as a divine revelation which leaves Paul believing he had met with the resurrected Jesus. Paul’s interpretation of his experience is not surprising, because 2000 years ago, Paul lived in a pantheistic pagan world, and miracles and super-naturalism were part and parcel of his everyday life. It was therefore perfectly natural for Paul to rationalize his experience on the road to Damascus as best he could, in terms that were then culturally acceptable.

But Paul’s world was oblivious of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy or TLE for short. In more recent years, many have pointed out that Paul’s symptoms, as described in the New Testament, are very similar to the symptoms of TLE, and some have even suggested that Paul may have just hallucinated on the road to Damascus following an attack of TLE. This fairly common form of epilepsy is caused by localised seizures in the temporal lobe region of the brain, and today’s scientific literature contains many reports of experiences similar to Paul experience on the road to Damascus. Even today, those experiencing these temporal lobe aberrations are always totally convinced that their hallucinations are real.

This hallucination idea therefore offers us a very plausible, alternative explanation of what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus, but expecting Christians to educate themselves about TLE is a bit like expecting turkeys to vote for Christmas. The scientific evidence, however, is pretty conclusive, and in my opinion, it suggests that Christianity is just a simple by-product that was produced because Paul misinterpreted a simple hallucination as a divine revelation. If a simple TLE induced hallucination hadn’t converted Paul on the road to Damascus, then he would never have visited Peter in Jerusalem and Christianity would never have seen the light of day.

After dismissing all existing alternative theories as non-viable, Andersen outlined the requirements needed for any alternative theory to be both plausible and viable. He conceded that “when trying to refute this resurrection, the only rationalistic interpretations of any weight, are those that admit the sincerity of the records, but try to explain them without recourse to the miraculous”. This is precisely what The Christianity Myth now does. It refutes the resurrection and it offers a more rational interpretation of events that admits the sincerity of the records and explains the records in a very sympathetic manner without recourse to the miraculous. And, for the first time ever, The Christianity Myth explains why we have four Gospels proclaiming a Jerusalem resurrection that never actually happened.

517IsBb0cZL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_If you want to know more you’ll have to read my book.

Click here to read book free of charge

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Was Jesus Resurrected in Jerusalem?

Photo credit: Andrew Senay / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Andrew Senay / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Ask Christians why they believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem and they will tell you because it says so in the Bible. Ask them why it says so in the Bible and they will tell you because Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. This circular argument doesn’t bother Christians because they believe the Gospels are historically accurate, eye witness accounts written shortly after the crucifixion. This message is constantly drummed home by the Christian establishment and constantly reinforced by Christian apologist authors all of which have personal emotional agendas that cloud their judgement and personal emotional baggage that corrupts their objectivity.

A typical example of corrupted objectivity can be found on page 165 of Jim Wallace’s book Cold Case Christianity. To prove that Luke’s Gospel is a very early eye witness account Wallace compares two almost identical accounts of the Eucharist [Lord’s Supper] one in Luke’s Gospel the other in 1-Corinthians and then claims that Paul copied an earlier Luke. Wallace totally ignores mainstream secular opinion that Paul was dead when Luke was written, and therefore, it was Luke who copied Paul. Apologist authors get away with this sort of thing all the time, because their readers don’t know enough about early Christianity to realise when they are being duped. Religion and politics have always been fertile stomping grounds when it comes to applying the theory of misinformation.

But if the Gospels are historically accurate as claimed, where is the independent evidence corroborating what was allegedly the greatest single event in the history of mankind? Jesus was supposedly resurrected at the beginning of the Jewish Passover in the middle of a Jerusalem teeming with Jews. News of that spectacular event should have gone viral and it should have been noted by both Jewish and Roman authorities. But there are no reliable independent records of any sort. For centuries the Jewish historian Josephus appeared to offer independent proof that the resurrection really happened but these days most scholars now accept that the relevant passage in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews was altered by the early Christian church to rectify the embarrassing absence of independent evidence.

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