Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter and the empty tomb ...

Today is Easter Day, the day the women visiting the tomb of Jesus to finish the burial preparations, in other words, the proper embalming of the body hastily wrapped and laid out in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on the eve of the Sabbath or Passover. To their horror, the body was gone, so were the guards the Sanhedrin had posted to ensure no one took and hid the body in order to claim exactly what they feared - that Christ had indeed 'risen from the dead'. But the curious thing here is that the 'thieves' had apparently unwrapped the body - though they left them in a position which suggested it had simply been 'extracted' from the wrappings, leaving them empty. The single item not where it had originally been placed, was a 'napkin' (KJV translation) that had been used to cover the head and face.

That had been carefully folded and placed in a place apart. That is, in itself interesting, since it was, and is,  a signal given by the head of the household at a Jewish meal, that the food may be cleared - the meal is finished.

Why is this 'curious'? It suggests that, if it was the work of 'grave robbers' they were extremely well prepared, and had no fear of being disturbed. Since the Sanhedrin had taken the precaution of posting guards - veterans unlikely to be frightened off by a handful of grave robbers - something else must have occurred to do so. Interestingly there are independent accounts in existence that say the Sanhedrin later paid the guards to say they were attacked and the body stolen, a story picked up in recent years every time an ossary is found bearing the name 'Yeshua' and touted as 'possible' proof that the Sanhedrin story is true. Since 'Yeshua' (Jesus in Hellenised form) was a very common name at the time of the crucifixion, these 'discoveries' actually prove nothing.

It is often also claimed that the resurrection chapters of the gospel accounts were added two or more centuries later. That claim falls when the author style is examined for Matthew, Luke and John. Those books display the same 'author style' throughout, and all three were written in the form we have them today by 80AD. How do we know this? Quite simply because papyrus fragments exist which show that later copies were accurate. The exception is the Gospel of Mark - probably the earliest of the four, and probably based on the memories of Peter himself, and filled in by the observations of Mark, the 'youth who ran away naked' from the Garden of Gethsemane, in whose parents house the Last Supper took place. The final chapter of that is different, and was added later. Why? Largely because the scroll from which the present version was copied had been damaged, quite possibly in a fire, and the ending destroyed. Legend has it that the original was damaged in the fire at the time of Nero. It is that 'reconstruction' which has become, courtesy of the Internet, 'proof' that all the resurrection stories are false.

What do I believe? I believe that Jesus of Nazareth did leave the tomb. What remained were the grave clothes, the pain, the wounds and the blood. What came forth was a new being, the forerunner of what we are all to become. His friends didn't recognise him, and we are not able to judge why on the evidence available. Though the way the story is written we can draw the conclusion that there was no sign of his wounds or suffering (remember he'd been flogged and then crucified - the flogging alone would have left some serious wounds on his body, even without the wound inflicted by the soldiers spear, or the nails going through his hands and feet), and that something else about him had changed dramatically.  The fact he 'appeared' to several people who knew him well and wasn't recognised is strongly suggestive of this, but one thing had not - the way he 'broke the bread' he shared with them.

I believe, therefore, in the Resurrection. I believe that in Christ, we see what is to be. This is why I have no hesitation in saying with Christians everywhere - Christ is Risen. Hallelujah! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.


  1. Slim Jim says:

    'I believe, therefore, in the Resurrection. I believe that in Christ, we see what is to be. This is why I have no hesitation in saying with Christians everywhere - Christ is Risen. Hallelujah! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.'

    Hear, hear, O Monk; Amen to that. Happy Easter!

  2. I do not share but so enjoy your enthusiasm for your faith .Happy Easter