Friday, 16 December 2016

The Death of Christ - part 3

There are a couple more details I'd like to set straight. When I first saw Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion, I thought that he had overdone the bloody whipping scene, which is horrendous. Flesh literally flies off Jesus' back. As it turns out, Jesus may really have suffered like this. Think for a moment - why would Jesus die so quickly on the cross? Sometimes it took people days to die once crucified, for Jesus, it only took a few hours - even Pilate was surprised. Notice how in the whipping scene there are a gruesome variety of whips that the Roman soldiers could use. It was their job to mess up the convict, but absolutely not to kill the person. Doing that removes all the benefits for the Roman regime (and in this case, the Jewish opponents as well) of the humiliating death and body disposal that awaited Jesus.

Remember as well how the evangelists were keen to point out how the soldiers were keen to grab and keep his clothes, which could be traced back prophetically in the Jewish Scriptures. This implies that Jesus was probably doing ok physically up until this point. He had clothes that were worth inheriting - so this also is a confirmation of just how brutal Jesus' beating before the cross would probably have been, placing fresh emphasis on the fact that he not only died for his people, but suffered and died.

This is not always immediately apparent. If we were to only remember the event according to Luke or John, we might think that Jesus went pretty calmly to the cross, maintaining some sense of transcendental peace and divine authority throughout (see my point about Luke 22:43-44 and the bloody sweat). Mark especially, however, does not spare us the desperateness of Jesus' situation.

Let's return to the issue of Jesus' dead body. Here is Luke 23:55:
The women who had accompanied Jesus from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it.

And Mark 15:47:
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

And Matthew 27:61
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

And John 19:42
Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they [Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus] laid Jesus there.

I have two major gripes with Bart Ehrman. The biggest one is about the inconsistent way in which he describes John's gospel's Jesus. I have tried to question him over this, although as yet to no avail. However, a close second gripe with his historical reasoning is quite how he sees Crossan's proposal for a criminal treatment of Jesus' body. Somehow, he has managed to come around to the common historical view that the women and the disciples did indeed find an empty tomb, the same empty tomb in which they knew Jesus to have been laid - without giving up his former view. I simply cannot see how he can hold on to both these views. All four evangelists demonstrate continuity of the body's location, some of them even to the point of saying that Joseph of Arimathea actually took the body down, although I have no idea how he would have done that.

For there to truly be an empty tomb, one that certainly set the scene for Jesus apparition visions, how are we to believe that Jesus' closest followers (making up a testimony of multiple witnesses) to have made it up, when they are supposedly so convinced his body had been laid there?  The tomb has a central role to play in this event and it is very difficult for me to see how it could possibly be a sheer fabrication. Christianity developed on the foundation of God raising Jesus back to life. The empty tomb does not directly bear witness to that, skeptics are indeed correct to point this out, however, it does directly set the scene for the witnessed encounters with the resurrected Christ because of the continuity of location of Christ's body from cross to tomb.

I'm quite enjoying this rare moment of apologetics, so I may continue on to do a part 4!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for your feedback, really appreciate the interaction.