For some reason I have never been able to wrap my perhaps overly rationalist mind around the whole business of The Resurrection. Somehow the whole “dying for the sins of Mankind” has always struck me as unnecessary, if not a religious subterfuge to offer forgiveness and redemption for transgressions people when really should pay for those sins. Of course, if you believe the biblical account that all mankind was redeemed by Christ’s death then you have to come up with something that is sufficiently momentous, or in the case of the crucifixion, appropriately horrific (thank you Mr.Gibson).
Believers will, of course, put my skepticism down to a lack of faith, and perhaps pray for me because I risk missing out on the Rapture, at which time I will not be able to go to heaven and hang out for eternity with the likes of Tim LaHay, Billy Graham, Pope John-Paul II, George W. Boosh, etc. According to them it won’t matter that I think that the Rabbi Yeshua Bar Yusef (or Jesus Christ) was a righteous man who had some darn good things to say about how we should behave toward one another, most of which has been ignored in favor of a load of bullshit that has been heaped upon his story. That he got a little too big for his sandals as far as the Romans and the high mucky-mucks in the Temple were concerned took some “big ones” as we might say today. How dare he preach non-violence, tolerance, and love thy neighbor. If he and his disciples knew a little bit about “shock and awe” he might not have had to go through that nail-up on the cross.
But then he had to, didn’t he– “die” and “rise from the dead,” that is. That’s how you beat the Romans. When you think about it, it was quite a risk to take, but it was the only way to beat the Romans: create the myth of the resurrected leader, what some have come to call the “death victory.” And in about another 280 years it worked: Constantine converted and Christianity conquered the Roman Empire. And, as they say, the rest is history, a lot of it really ugly history.
But I digress from my theme: Easter, the “resurrection.” Not only do I think that Yeshua did not die on the cross for our sins, because we really are a bunch of jerks and don’t deserve that, but I don’t think he died on the cross, period, but survived (others, according to Josephus, had survived Roman crucifixion—Shonfield, The Passover Plot, 1966, P.155, not Matthew 28:5-6). I rather think that lived out his days with his fellow Essenes, and might even have finally perished at Masada.
Huh? Well why not. It’s plausible; there was no autopsy, not death certificate, and his friends and family did spend a good deal of time working on him in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. And, of course, non habeas corpus.
It’s OK if you prefer the story with the angel rolling back the stone on the tomb and announcing that “he is risen.” But I prefer to believe that Yeshua was whisked away by his friends, rested up, and went into the witness protection program. Mission accomplished.
But I still like Easter. It fits the season, one of rebirth and renewal. And if I don’t hold to the “personal savior” thing, I do hold to biting off the ears of my “personal chocolate Easter bunny” and inviting over Hans Blix to break anise-flavored Easter bread and join in some hunting for Easter eggs and weapons of mass destruction. Now that’s a Rapture I prefer not to miss.
© 2004, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 4.12.2009)