You Don’t Concoct Resurrection to Continue a Movement

Jason Micheli —  April 25, 2016 — 3 Comments

995790_828275210634911_6003199688436457051_nSee: The Antiquities of the Jews Book 20, Chapter 9


Why is it that the burden of proof is always on the believer to prove resurrection?

Why shouldn’t the doubter have to come up with a more plausible explanation?

Now a standard, skeptical explanation for the Disciples’ Resurrection Witness goes like this:

The disciples, being ancient 1st century people, were superstitious people who didn’t understand biology etc like we do today and believed in supernatural occurrences like resurrections. 

They had believed Jesus was the Messiah when he was alive, and after he was dead they concocted what became the Resurrection Myth either to continue Jesus’ movement  themselves or to further their own agenda. 

That’s the standard, skeptical explanation, and I’ve heard it from many of you.

The problem with the standard, skeptical explanation- other than it’s complete ignorance of first century culture. And history. Not to mention Judaism. And Greek philosophy- is that it ignores the indisputable facts of history.

For one-

If the disciples had wanted to continue Jesus’ messianic movement, they wouldn’t have concocted a Resurrection.

They would have passed Jesus’ messianic mantle to his brother, James, the next eldest and the next in line.

Just as followers had done with all the would-be Messiahs before Jesus.

But no one ever proclaimed James as the Messiah.

Because James proclaimed the Resurrection.

The biggest problem with the standard, skeptical explanation is that it ignores that, no matter what you believe about the Resurrection, the first Christians really did live as though they believed Christ’s Resurrection had begun God’s future Kingdom in the here and now.

They really did live as though the Resurrection had made them first fruits- signs- in this world of the world to come. These weren’t give an hour a week and drop a few bucks in the offering plate people.

They really did live as though if the Resurrection is true, if God vindicated Jesus’ life, then everything Jesus said and did matters more than anything else. So they shared all their money and possessions with each other. They opened their homes and their dinner tables and their worship to outsiders. They cared for widows and the poor, and they rescued newborns Romans left in fields to die. They forgave their enemies and turned the other cheek and faced down emperors without picking up the sword. And they proclaimed the Resurrection of Christ even as it led them to crosses of their own.

If the Resurrection is not true, how is it that they lived the Resurrection?

Don’t forget,

Peter, he was crucified upside-down.

Andrew, he was also crucified.

James, son of Zebedee, executed by a sword.

John, he was lucky enough to grow old and die of natural causes, so far as we know.

But Philip, he was tortured and then crucified upside-down.

Just like Bartholomew and Thomas and Matthew and Thaddeus and Simon.

Just how many people are willing to die for a lie?

And don’t forget James.

James, who did not believe in his brother until after his brother died and then one day, because of living like his brother and confessing faith in his brother, James was condemned by the very same people who had condemned his Jesus.

James died just like his brother.

If you disbelieve resurrection, how do you account for the fact that Jesus’ own brother died for his belief in it?

What would it take to convince you that your brother was the Messiah?

Probably something like a Resurrection?


Jason Micheli


3 responses to You Don’t Concoct Resurrection to Continue a Movement

  1. Very similar to Norman Perrin’s approach, which scandalized the academy in the ’70’s

  2. Jonathan Meythaler April 25, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    Though I am a believer and believe firmly in the bodily Resurrection of Jesus (and in our bodily resurrection, eventually) nevertheless I find this sort of apologetic very misguided because history is littered with the corpses of folk who died believing in something that was entirely untrue. Most recently, the US went to war against Iraq under the false pretense of WMDs. Even after that was proved to be false, nevertheless Americans (and many of the Iraqi people, both soldiers and civilians alike) continued dying. It seems to me that not only will people die for a well known lie, they will actually kill in the name of that which they know is a lie because nationalistic ideology necessitates it. The philosophical undercurrent to this lie of reasoning is a bit bogus too because it hinges on people’s certainty about something or other, which is quite close to saying, “Since they were sincere and their sincerity is proved by the fact that they died for what they were sure of, thus what they were sure of is true.” You don’t have to look far in history for sincerely wrong, misguided folk who often died or killed in the name of that which they knew was false. Ideology can accomplish this odd feat of acting by way of such sophistry.

    Tangentially, and maybe more generously, the apologetic (and I dislike the whole adventure of apologetics…. too much Barth maybe) that matters is a Witness. And, if I can massage your point for you, it is the Church as a Living Witness to the Resurrection that mounts a more existential than intellectual case for the fact that Jesus lives in us and amongst us. It is thus the theological experience of the believer that is evidence that this Jesus Whom we have do with must be intimately involved else such a community could not graciously exist in a world full of lies and killing.

    Glad you’re back J.


  3. When I posted this article (well, a few paragraphs & a link) on a Facebook forum, I got this in response:

    Based purely on the evidence, the man today known as Jesus never existed at all. The person who is said to have existed is most likely the combined grouping of socio political views, real historical figures, and fictional characters. Jesus is an amalgamation of historical and fictional characters culminating in what we view today as the ‘Christ’. The fact is, there is no historic record of anyone who healed the masses, fed over 4,000 people, calmed storms, exorcised demons, raised people from the dead, walked on water, and rose from the dead himself. Why do people believe that this person was the messiah spoken of in the Jewish tradition? They are ignorant of the criteria found in the tradition itself.

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