Easter rolls round again. The spring festival, which in English is named after a pagan fertility Goddess (hence the eggs and bunnies), was usurped by the church in the second century as a celebration of a dead man rising.
Sometime in the first century, a few desperate men had visions of a Yeshua – his name meaning ‘to deliver’ – shortly after his death (if indeed he existed). The visions, which were entirely in their heads, were so vivid, it seemed to these men that Yeshua was alive again. They began looking for his (re)appearance in the sky when they thought he would establish God’s Kingdom on Earth. It was a preposterous idea, but in preparation for his appearance, the men encouraged others to adhere to Jewish law so that they would find a place in the New Age.
A short while after, a different fanatic had his own vision. Saoul, who transitioned into Paûlos, thought he heard Yeshua speaking to him. Yeshua told him the conditions that needed to be met in order to secure a place in the new order: all anyone had to do was believe and they would live forever. This was all entirely within Paûlos’ head of course but nevertheless enough people took notice of his preposterous idea and decided to worship Yeshua.
Later still, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, which was the centre for those who’d come up with the original version of the preposterous idea. Almost all of them were eliminated. Not because of their preposterous idea but because the Romans were indiscriminate in slaughtering those they regarded as rebellious Jews. Their elimination cleared the way for Paûlos’ preposterous idea to flourish unopposed.
Around this time, a literate acolyte of Paûlos’ idea, who later became known as Mark, set about creating a back story for Yeshua. He based it on Paûlos’ teaching and on stories from Jewish scripture that he thought predicated Yeshua, though in fact they didn’t.
Two other cultists liked this idea but didn’t think Mark had done a very good job of it. They set about rewriting his story, adding even more preposterous elements. Finally, about 60 or 70 years after the whole thing had begun, a fourth chap, later called John, reimagined the Yeshua story. His version bore little relationship to Mark’s tale but this didn’t really matter as all the versions of Yeshua’s life story were made up. In any case, no-one would notice the discrepancies provided the four stories were never collected together.
And so Christianity was born, created from visions and false hopes, reinventions and fanciful fictions. The preposterous idea in its different forms appealed to people, now as then, because of its false promise of eternal life and as the means of avoiding an imagined God’s wrath.
This is the idea the church is celebrating, preposterously, this weekend.
As for me, my days of fertility are long gone, but I might, nevertheless, indulge in a little bit of chocolate egg.