Monday, December 09, 2013

" If you’re trying to start a religion, this is a crap way to do it"

On gospel accounts of Jesus' resurrection:

..If you read the accounts back to back, there’s a lot of running and excitement and general mayhem. Setting aside the issue of whether a man actually rose from the dead (For the record, I’m a believer-the sheer poetry alone is so crazy good…), the four accounts of Jesus rising from the dead contain a number of jumbled details that render that narrative fairly jumbled, to say the least. 
There are several responses to these differences:
Some ignore them. They simply repeat again and again that this God’s word and so we take it in faith, we shouldn’t question its truth, etc.
Others take these differences as clear and tangible proof of its susceptibility. See? It’s all myth, fable, miracle, fantasy, etc, borrowed from the tales of the day.
I find both perspectives boring.Before I explain, though, a few thoughts about propaganda.
To summarize, this is the worst propaganda. Ever. If you’re trying to start a religion, this is a crap way to do it. How are you going to inspire confidence if you can’t even report the details accurately with one voice?
Not to mention the women, which we will mention because the gospel writers all mention the women. In these accounts, the writers all affirm that it’s the women who first realized (say it with me now)
Dude is alive!
Women didn’t have much in the way of respect as we think of it in the first century, so much so that their word meant next to nothing in court. Why, in a culture that had such little regard for the witness of women, would you tell a story that hinges to a large degree on the witness of women?
Second, Matthew writes that Jesus met up with his crew (posse?) on a mountain in Galilee and 
when they saw him some worshipped him; but some doubted. 
Wha…? They doubted?Why would Matthew include this?If the point of your book is that Jesus is the Messiah, the King, the long awaited Savior of the World, the one everybody has been waiting for, why would you reach the crescendo of the story and then include a line about some of his followers doubting? Doesn’t that ruin the moment? Doesn’t this undermine everything you’ve been saying in your story?
(Picture Jesus standing there on the mountain: You’re doubting? Seriously, peoples!!? I died and came back, I got nothing more impressive than that! If that doesn’t do it for you what more can I do?)
And while we’re at it, I have to mention what Jesus says when he rises from the dead. You know, right? You are familiar with his classic line, the profound saying, the brilliant truth he utters when he shows up after, oh yes, conquering death:
Do you have anything here to eat?
and in another account
Do you guys have some fish?
Because, as we all know, you can work up quite an appetite resurrecting…
That said, a question for you: If something extraordinary did happen, how would it be remembered?
Which leads to another question:If someone did rise from the dead, how would that story be told? In a calm and collected and polished manner or in a slightly haphazard way that buzzed and hummed and rattled with the electricity that comes from experiencing something unexpected and extraordinary that you don’t really have categories for?
Which leads to another:Is the haphazard humanity of it all reason to dismiss it or signs that it’s an authentic record of what happened?
Which leads to another question:When Matthew tells us that some his followers doubted, does this undermine the story or is the exact kind of honesty that reflects how people actually are?
When each of the gospel writers include the part about the women being witnesses, why risk it? What a strange thing to include knowing it would discredit their story, unless women actually were the first witnesses.
How open minded are you?What’s possible?Is there a new creation bursting within this one?Did something happen that changes everything?Is the tomb empty?What happens if you actually live like it’s true?What does this story do to your heart?
Is the dude alive?
-Rob Bell, What is the Bible 

Part 18: Our Dude is Alive!

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