Jesus And The Resurrection Metaphor

While choosing Jesus quotes to use in an earlier post, it struck me how the risen Jesus never declares his resurrected status. He doesn’t say, ‘I am risen’ or indeed anything similar. Instead it’s left to others to claim, ‘He is Risen!’ That’s because the resurrection is a declaration of those others’ visionary experiences and their subsequent faith in those visions. Rather than have him declare himself risen, the Jesus in the (much later) gospels goes about ‘proving’ his reappearance is ‘in accordance’ with scripture (Luke 24:25-27; Acts 1:3 etc).

For those who insist Jesus resurrected physically, this is a bizarre turn of events: Jesus having to ‘prove’ he’s alive again by referencing bits of scripture? In fact, this is the biggest clue we’re dealing with a made-up story. ‘Proving convincingly’ over forty days that he’s risen because it somehow fits with a few unrelated quotes from scripture is an attempt by the gospel writers to ‘prove’ to those in the early Jesus cult that the visions of its founders were completely kosher: ‘visions they might have been, but they really were Jesus, honest: scripture says so!’ If Jesus had really risen in his physical body, he would have had no reason to ‘prove’, convincingly or otherwise, he had resurrected. Eye-witnesses would have seen him in the miraculous flesh. All the ‘proof’ needed, surely.

In fact, the gospel authors knew Jesus’ resurrection was nothing more than inner-visions experienced by a few fanatics. We know this was the case for Paul and John of Patmos. The risen Jesus’ real world appearances were invented by Matthew, Luke and John (Mark of course doesn’t even attempt it) and retain the visionary nature of those original spiritual ‘encounters’. In the stories they created for him, risen Jesus is frequently unrecognisable, even by those who supposedly knew him in life, appears as if by magic in locked rooms, vanishes at will and levitates into the sky.

The gospel authors were well aware they were fleshing out, literarily, the visions of those with overactive imaginations. Nonetheless, despite having him eat fish and inviting others to poke his wounds, they stop short of making Jesus declare explicitly he had returned in the flesh. They knew he had not. The point of the resurrection appearances was to bring to life those visions and to connect them with Old Testament ‘prophecies’. It was not to recount an actual event.

The resurrection is a literary trope, a metaphor intended to illustrate supposed Old Testament prophecies; literature begetting literature. Except in people’s heads, nothing else happened.

21 thoughts on “Jesus And The Resurrection Metaphor

  1. Inviting Thomas to touch him is not proving that he had risen in the flesh? Allowing the women to touch him is not proof that her was risen in the flesh? Eating with them is not proof he was risen in the flesh?

    According to the scripture.

    Luke 24: 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

    Ther point was he was connecting them to the prophesies. He wanted them to know not that he had risen from the dead – they could see that – but that his resurrection fit what was foretold regarding the Messiah.

    Once again you quote a tiny piece to make a point that the whole pericope contradicts.

    I think you are stretching.

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    • You mean just like how Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkhaban verifies events in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone? Not to mention J. K. Rowling’s comments in interviews where she talks about her characters as if they’re real?

      You do know that events in one story don’t actually make those in a different story true, don’t you, Don?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I highly recommend Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story by Robert Conner. He compares the resurrection stories to ghost stores of the same era. Worth a read.

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    • I think you are probably wrong. The soldiers at the tomb witnessed it. But there were witnesses of Jesus’ death, and there were witnesses of the risen Lord after his resurrection. I do not think that actually witnessing the resurrection is significant.

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      • What an admission! You’re right though, it doesn’t matter there were no eye-witnesses to the resurrection. All anyone had to do was imagine Jesus in their head, like Paul did and you do, and that was enough to convince them he’d risen from the dead.

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      • “Probably wrong”? Not at all. They were only witnesses to “empty tomb”, NOT an actual resurrection. NO ONE actually saw Jesus walk out of the tomb. My theory: because he was never in a tomb. He rotted on the cross like all crucifixtion victims!

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      • RaPaR — your comment made me wonder about something. Did anyone (besides the supposed individuals involved?) SEE Jesus laid to rest in the borrowed tomb? IOW, were they any outside witnesses to his “burial”? I don’t think so. Scripture speaks primarily of Joseph of Arimathea, but in John (only), Nicodemus is mentioned. No others.

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      • Interesting question Nan. Not that I can recall but I will go back and research it and see what I find. Remember most of the “Apostles” got out of Dodge once Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane and the gospels do not mention anyone hanging around for his trial. Of course, Joseph of Arimathea is a complete fictional character, ie., a writing device used to get Jesus into a tomb, ostensibly so that he can be resurrected. IMO Jesus was never taken down off of the cross since it would have been counter to anything we know about the cruelty and impunity with which Pilate oversaw such executions and the ultimate point of crucifixion itself.

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  3. There were the women who followed the men who buried Jesus. They saw him dead on the cross. They knew where the tomb was and returned on the day after the Sabbath.

    So, Joseph and Nicodemus were fictional characters? But wait. Don’t you think they all are fictional? In any event, what gives you that impression? Nicodemus has a part in John’s account earlier in chapter 3 and is mentioned as a member of the council in chapter 7. I think you are clutching at straws to discredit the narrative when there is certainly adequate reference, detail and enough connection to the over-all narrative to accept it as accurate.

    What do you look for in determining when a person and even is fictional or historical?

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    • I very nearly didn’t publish this, Don, as it doesn’t appear to address anything anyone else has written. Are you trying to shift the agenda to one of your own choosing?

      As has been pointed out to you on numerous occasions just because there are quasi-historical details in the gospels doesn’t mean that they themselves are historical. Just because Kings Cross station exists doesn’t mean Harry Potter catches his train there. Just because Leonardo Da Vinci was real doesn’t mean everything else in Dan Brown’s novel actually happened.

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  4. My comment had to do with Nan’s question about who saw Jesus buried. The answer in all four gospels is that the women who were at the crucifixion saw him buried and thus knew where to go when they returned after the Sabbath to anoint his body according to Jewish burial practice.

    It is fairly common to think that the twelve disciples were the only disciples. The fact is there were many others, including a number of women. Luke mentions two men to whom Jesus appear after his resurrection (See Mark 16 and Luke 24). Luke in Acts implies that the 120 who met together before the day of Pentecost saw the risen Jesus, or at least some did because that was a condition of being an Apostle and two men of the 120 qualified. These must have been among the 500 Paul mentions who saw the risen Jesus.

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      • Actually, Paul saw the risen Jesus more than once. (If you are going to accept that the Acts account is true in this instance, you’ll need to accept the other appearance accounts.) And what Paul said is that those appearances were like the appearances the other Apostles and those the five hundred experienced. You all seize upon the word “vision” in Acts 26:19 and overlook the words anastasis used in the same chapter. (Anastasis means rise from the dead.)

        Anastasis does not mean rise as a vision or a ghost. Any reading of the Gospels certainly indicates that the Apostles and the women and other disciples saw a physical Jesus. In John, Jesus specifically makes sure that Thomas know that he was not a ghost. Jesus was also touched by Mary and he ate fish with the disciples. Sorry, ghosts do not do that. In First John, John describes hearing, seeing, and touching the risen Jesus. No vision there.

        So, either you discount all this and consider them hallucinations, or you take them as a whole and accept them as actual appearances. I don’t think you can pick and choose.

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      • No cherry picking here, Don. That’s your province. I was not referring to Acts, which is a fiction, but to Paul’s own references to his visions. From these limited remarks we know Paul did not see Jesus himself, risen or otherwise, but experienced what he calls in 1 Corinthians 15.45 a ‘life giving spirit’. In Galatians 1:12-15 he says he saw this spirit ‘within’ his own head. He then implies, in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, that others experienced this same spirit, whom he always refers to as ‘the Christ’, in precisely the same way.

        Later, the gospel writers, beginning with Matthew (not Mark who does not include any sightings of the risen Jesus) fleshed out these innervisions to give us the stories you think prove Jesus rose physically from the grave. The details – people touching him, eating with him – are irrelevant; they’re invented parts of stories.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Now Don, that is simply not true. None of the four gospels tell the story the same way; “Matthew” tell us Mary Magdalen was there with the “other” Mary (Mt 27:59-61) “Mark” says it was Mary Magdalen and “Mary the Mother of Joseph” (Mk 15:46-47) “Luke” says “The women from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the entombment (Lk 23:53-56) and, finally, “John” ever the embellisher, says it was “Nicodemus and Joseph” that wrapped the body and placed it in a tomb, “at a garden near where Jesus was crucified” (Jn 19:39-42)

      So – as usual – we have four different versions of one supposed event. The real issue however is just because some adherents wrote down the stories 40, 50, 60 years after the “fact” doesn’t make any of them historical or even true. Obviously it was essential that Jesus go into a tomb, dead, so that he can be raised from the dead back into his physical form. Ergo, the making up of “Joseph of Arimathea” a blatantly obvious writing device about a fictitious person from a fictitious place putting Jesus in a tomb.

      Even a superficial review of Pilate’s historical biography tells us this would never happen. Would Pilate, as cruel and sadistic as any Roman ever was, during the Passover festival where sedition, rioting, and lawlessness was right at the point of occurring, actually allow a seditionist like Jesus off of the cross? The whole story is patently absurd.

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      • RaPaR: we have four different versions of one supposed event.

        And what would you expect from four different observers? If they all agreed in every detail, you would be saying they spoke in collusion with one another. As it is, however, they differ in the details they report but agree in the larger picture. And the fact is that all the different versions, as you call them, could be accurate.

        BTW the gospel writers were not writing for you or me 2000 years in the future. They were writing for the church of the first century, people in many cases who were acquainted with the names and sometimes with the people named. These people were legends in their own time for having been at the tomb and have taken part in the burial. They had told their stories many times to those who were fascinated by these things. They were not cardboard cut-outs.

        RaPaR: Would Pilate, as cruel and sadistic as any Roman ever was, during the Passover festival where sedition, rioting, and lawlessness was right at the point of occurring, actually allow a seditionist like Jesus off of the cross?

        Of course not. He would not have let anyone off the cross. And in all the history we have, no one was. But all were eventually buried, or their bodies disposed of. The Gospels all tell how that happened in Jesus’ case. After he was certified as dead by the Romans who crucified him, men who were professionals at this grim art, he was removed from the cross according to the wishes of the Jewish leaders who were concerned about the seemliness of this at Passover. Pilate, who though cruel was yet a politician. wanting to satisfy the Jews whom he had to get along with agreed since Jesus was dead after all, certified so by his own executioners. It was not the disciples who requested Jesus’ removal from the cross.

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      • They were writing for the church of the first century … EXACTLY!!

        Now think about that statement. They were NOT writing for you or Neil or RaPaR or me … or the plethora of pastors/preachers/priests that live today … TWO THOUSAND PLUS years later. They were writing for the believers of the FIRST CENTURY!

        So WHY do so many try to assimilate these ancient writings into the world today???

        Liked by 1 person

      • Its easy, Nan: when it suits Don and his ilk, the NT was written for and by the early cult. However, when you point out that none of its predictions, promises or prophecies came about when they were supposed to, then it was written for us in the far flung future. Simple, see?

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