“Jesus came to give us moral guidance and, to prove he meant business, he let himself be killed and seen after death, so we would listen up and be good.” Not being raised in any particular religion myself, it wasn’t until later that I discovered this view of Jesus’ death and Resurrection (which I heard from my grandmother) had more in common with The Day the Earth Stood Still than it did with the historic faith of Christianity. But this view of Jesus-as-Klaatu, impressing the yokels with spiritualist stunts to wow us into listening to his preachments, is but one of many “alternative” views of the Resurrection of Christ. In this view, it isn’t particularly important whether Jesus was raised bodily, just so long as his disciples knew he was “really alive”–more likely as a particularly impressive ghost.
To others, it isn’t important whether Jesus is alive even as a ghost so long as he “lives in the hearts of his countrymen”. This is more or less the position of alleged “Christian theologians” like John Dominic Crossan, who cheerfully relates this happy news inJesus: A Revolutionary Biography:
What actually and historically happened to the body of Jesus can best be judged from watching how later Christian accounts slowly but steadily increased the reverential dignity of their burial accounts. But what was there at the beginning that necessitated such an intensive volume of apologetic insistence? If the Romans did not observe the Deuteronomic decree, Jesus’ body would have been left on the cross for the wild beasts. And his followers, who had fled, would know that. If the Romans did observe the decree, the soldiers would have made certain Jesus was dead and then buried him themselves as part of their job. In either case, his body left on the cross or in a shallow grave barely covered with dirt and stones, the dogs were waiting. And his followers, who had fled, would know that too. Watch, then, how the horror of that brutal truth is sublimated through hope and imagination into its opposite.
This, in English, means Jesus’ corpse was dog food long ago, but since the idiot savant apostles were particularly adept at religious psychosis and making lemonade out of lemons, then we can say the Resurrection is full of “hope” in a sense intelligible only to Extremely Advanced Theologians like Crossan.
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