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Jesus never said in the Gospels: “I was dead and now I am alive!”


Cross
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD
A comment by a devoted Christian in the Muslim Times gave me the title of my article or column for today.
I have known it before as well that Jesus never said in the Gospels: “I was dead and now I am alive!”
However, today, I took on a careful reading of all the canonical Gospels from where he is put on the cross to the ending of each Gospel.  It is called Horizontal Reading of Gospels.  So, I read the account horizontally with a special purpose in mind. Did Jesus describe his death and his resurrection, in so many words?
What is Horizontal Reading and what do we learn by this simple tool, about this issue, at hand? We will also consider if the followers of Jesus, have been putting words in his mouth?
Horizontal Reading is a method of textual analysis used to compare multiple accounts of a similar event – such as the two creation stories found in Genesis, or the accounts of the life of Jesus found in the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament. This cross-referencing is useful for finding Biblical contradictions.
Another example of horizontal reading would be the practice of reading various newspaper accounts of a single incident. Given a story of a banking scandal, The Economist may attribute the incident to lax regulation, while The Sun, a newspaper so low-brow it’s practically a beard, would be more likely to blame “fat cats” and immigrants.
The primary advantage of horizontal reading is that it allows a comparison between multiple accounts of an event. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and author of several books examining the history of Christianity and the Biblical Canon, advocates horizontal reading in his book Jesus, Interrupted.[1] He advises readers to read a gospel account, taking notes while doing so, and then repeat the process for the account of the same event found in another gospel. This leads readers to find hitherto unnoticed discrepancies and contradictions.
Prof. Bart Ehrman describes horizontal reading of the Gospels in this short video clip:
So, I went to Bible Gateway and read the New International Version, as I find that most readable.  Most scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was the first to be written, some 30 years after crucifixion and so I started reading that first.  I did not find any mention of Jesus saying, “I was dead and now I am alive!”

But, I did find something very interesting that inquisitive minds should like to know, the New International Version states, “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20.”  So, if we are to believe that those 12 verses were later insertion, then according to the writer of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ last words were: “And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (Mark 15:34)
Next, I went to the Gospel of Matthew, which was probably written a decade after the Gospel of Mark.  What does Jesus say in Gospel of Matthew?  Let us read in chapter 28 of the Gospel:
 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28: 5-10)
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus then meets his disciples in Galilee, does not say, “I was dead and now I am alive!” and his last words are captured as below:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)
Next I started reading Gospel of Luke, which was written around the same time as the Gospel of Matthew. The last words that we read in Luke:
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24: -45-47)
He talks about suffering Messiah but does not say that he died and does not link salvation to his death or resurrection, in other words no mention of vicarious atonement, rather he emphasizes ‘repentance’ by saying, “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
Do you want to hear all the details of my study of Gospel of John as well or is it not obvious that a whole religion is based on Jesus dying for our sins and Jesus does not even say that he died and then came around, in the four canonical Gospels! Is there any, more ambiguous, foundation of any religion?  Could this fact that no medical doctor declared Jesus to be dead and he does not even himself claim to have been dead, be the last straw that broke the camel’s back and pave the way to a more rational theology of pure Unitarianism, of Judaism or Islam.
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Comments

  1. The Christian perspective is incredibly incoherent, from evangelical apologetic websites, it appears the Christian position is that Jesus "died" in the same body that he resurrected in, ascended in and will return in. Amazingly, Christians have no problem asserting that Jesus's body survived space, 2000 years of age and the second coming war (presumably nuclear weapons will be used in this ultimate war) in the SAME body. Yet, when pointed to the situation of the cross, the same body "dies" quicker than most. Obviously, the position mentioned above is incredibly incoherent. Additionally, when the devil was tempting him to fall from a large distance that would surely kill him, Jesus said not to tempt God because he knew God would save him from such a definite, instantaneous death such as falling off a large temple. Interestingly enough, crucifixion is not a guaranteed death, are we supposed to believe Jesus's trust has been compromised from a situation with guaranteed death (falling off a temple) to crucifixion (not guaranteed death). Obviously, there is a deep incoherence with the amount of suffering that Jesus’s body can handle before death, and the trust that Jesus had in God in relation to the Christians position. There are many different cases of near death experiences and survival situations that are incredible, using the logical tool of induction one can easily come to the conclusion that if someone was crucified, as was seen a few days later, alive, bearing the wounds of his crucifixion, eating and drinking and moving towards galilee in a disguise, a place where the person was safe, one would immediately say “oh, I guess he wasn’t really dead” or “I guess they didn’t kill him”. If I described the parallel situation in a different place, with different names, and a different time, no one would doubt that the person mentioned above survived, yet when the names and placed are changed to their biblical counterparts, one can see how everyone views this completely differently. Also, the New Testament states that Jesus’s body didn’t decay like normal bodies after it “died”, and Barnes commentary reiterates this notion, we know from medical sciences that when a body dies, the brain immediately begins to decay, yet in Jesus’s case this did not happen, wouldn’t it be more rational to just believe that the body was alive, and that’s why it wasn’t decaying, rather than in some supernatural state.
    Thus, by applying induction consistently, and avoiding an incoherent position, it is very rational to believe that Jesus had survived his ordeal. Of course, there is much more to be said on this subject, for instance, Jesus told his disciples to pray earnestly and sincerely and God would answer them, yet are we to believe that the advice didn’t apply to the teacher himself? What was the point of Pilates wife’s dream? When Jesus’s life was endangered in Egypt Joseph had a dream, and he was a person in a position to do something about his life, similarly, Pilate’s wife was in a position to help Jesus’s life, and she had a dream.

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  2. The Christian perspective is incredibly incoherent, from evangelical apologetic websites, it appears the Christian position is that Jesus "died" in the same body that he resurrected in, ascended in and will return in. Amazingly, Christians have no problem asserting that Jesus's body survived space, 2000 years of age and the second coming war (presumably nuclear weapons will be used in this ultimate war) in the SAME body. Yet, when pointed to the situation of the cross, the same body "dies" quicker than most. Obviously, the position mentioned above is incredibly incoherent. Additionally, when the devil was tempting him to fall from a large distance that would surely kill him, Jesus said not to tempt God because he knew God would save him from such a definite, instantaneous death such as falling off a large temple. Interestingly enough, crucifixion is not a guaranteed death, are we supposed to believe Jesus's trust has been compromised from a situation with guaranteed death (falling off a temple) to crucifixion (not guaranteed death). Obviously, there is a deep incoherence with the amount of suffering that Jesus’s body can handle before death, and the trust that Jesus had in God in relation to the Christians position. There are many different cases of near death experiences and survival situations that are incredible, using the logical tool of induction one can easily come to the conclusion that if someone was crucified, as was seen a few days later, alive, bearing the wounds of his crucifixion, eating and drinking and moving towards galilee in a disguise, a place where the person was safe, one would immediately say “oh, I guess he wasn’t really dead” or “I guess they didn’t kill him”. If I described the parallel situation in a different place, with different names, and a different time, no one would doubt that the person mentioned above survived, yet when the names and placed are changed to their biblical counterparts, one can see how everyone views this completely differently. Also, the New Testament states that Jesus’s body didn’t decay like normal bodies after it “died”, and Barnes commentary reiterates this notion, we know from medical sciences that when a body dies, the brain immediately begins to decay, yet in Jesus’s case this did not happen, wouldn’t it be more rational to just believe that the body was alive, and that’s why it wasn’t decaying, rather than in some supernatural state.
    Thus, by applying induction consistently, and avoiding an incoherent position, it is very rational to believe that Jesus had survived his ordeal. Of course, there is much more to be said on this subject, for instance, Jesus told his disciples to pray earnestly and sincerely and God would answer them, yet are we to believe that the advice didn’t apply to the teacher himself? What was the point of Pilates wife’s dream? When Jesus’s life was endangered in Egypt Joseph had a dream, and he was a person in a position to do something about his life, similarly, Pilate’s wife was in a position to help Jesus’s life, and she had a dream.

    ReplyDelete

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