Part 2: A Case for the Non-Historicity of the Resurrection

This is the second opening statement in a formal written debate between Stuart McEwing and Malcolm Trevena. The question of the debate is “Is the resurrection of Jesus fact or fiction?” Trevena makes his case for the resurrection being fictitious.

Thanks to Stuart McEwing for the chance to respond to the premise on the truth or lack thereof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Why would I state that I don’t think Jesus was resurrected?  Is this a question that should even be debated in the first place?  Am I the Devil himself for even entertaining the thought?

There is a truth out there in the universe.  Either Jesus was or was not resurrected.  Mr. McEwing is either 100% correct or 100% wrong.  There is no middle ground here.

I happen to value truth very highly and think it is worth pursuing.   Nothing should be off the table.  If someone says “Muhammad ascended to heaven on a winged horse, and that is that. There shall be no further debate”, then they have automatically disqualified themselves from any sensible debate and it is best if they quietly remove themselves from the room.

Let me be clear about what we are not debating. Let’s say that Mr. McEwing is 100% correct and Jesus had a literal resurrection.  What would this mean?  It would not mean that his paternity was divine, it would not prove that his moral teachings were true, or that he was born of a virgin.  I could grant Mr. McEwing all the miracles of the Bible, and it would not be true that Christianity is the One True Faith™ and that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Mr. McEwing’s entire proof of the resurrection of Jesus is entirely based on the assumption that the Bible is a true and accurate account of events that occurred in a largely illiterate part of an underdeveloped part of the Middle East.  One wonders why God would choose such a place.  Surely the highly literate parts of China would be a better choice.  Or even in modern times where news of his resurrection would be tweeted around the planet in a heartbeat.  Israel in 4BC had no mass communication, as Judas so accurately sums up in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

Can we take the Bible as an accurate account of the time as recorded by a few literate people some 30 years after the events themselves?  Any fair minded individual would surely say no.

Let’s have a look at several examples.

The Genealogy of Jesus.
The gospels of Luke and Mathew both record Jesus’s genealogy.  These lists are identical between Abraham and David, but they differ radically from that point onward.  What are we to make of this?  Are Luke and Mathew sloppy historians?  Or did they make stuff up?  Which one is correct? Is either one correct?
One wonders why God would allow such errors in his divine book, especially when they record his own son’s genealogy.

Jesus’ Death
Luke 23:46 states: “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”

John 19:30 states: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”

So which was it? What did he say? This event is critical to the Christian belief system.  Without Jesus’ death, there is no resurrection, without the resurrection there is no salvation.  If the historians cannot accurately record Jesus’ final dramatic words, what faith can we place in the accuracy of their recordings of other things he said?

One wonders why God would allow such errors in his divine book, especially when they record his own son’s death.

The Resurrection of Jesus
According to the gospel of Mark, three women (Mary the mother of James, and Salome) were present at the tomb of Jesus, were surprised at the tomb being empty, and were even more surprised when Jesus was hanging out inside.

According to the gospel of Mathew, two women (Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary) came to look at the tomb.  Accompanied by an earthquake, an angel comes down from Heaven and rolls the rock aside from the tomb.  Jesus reveals himself

According to gospel of Luke, a number of women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others) come to anoint Jesus’ body. The stone is rolled aside and two men are inside.  The men tell them that Jesus is risen.

According to the gospel of John, only Mary Magdalene visits the tomb and finds the stone rolled away.  Mary sees two angels and then Jesus, whom she does not recognize

What are we to make of these wildly different accounts?  They can’t all be true.

One wonders why God would allow such errors in his divine book, especially when they record his own son’s resurrection.
There are even factually inaccurate statements in the bible.  Lev 11:6 states “And the hare, because he cheweth the cud…”.  Hare’s do no chew their cud.

I could go on about the inaccuracies in the Bible, but I shan’t as it gets tedious after a while.

So any argument based on quoting scripture does not convince me, especially when there is no consistent narrative about the very key stones of the Christian faith.

But let’s grant Mr. McEwing his implied statement that the Bible is a true and accurate account of history.
If the bible is true, then the events recorded within are of an earth shattering consequence.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 27:50-53:

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.   At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Whoa…  That’s trippy.

Dead people rose from the tomb and – in a dramatic break with tradition – did not eat people’s brains, but merely appeared to many people.

The largely illiterate people of the Middle East managed to record the teachings, birth, and resurrection of Christ, surely there’ll be extensive accounts of these zombie sightings outside of the Bible.

I’d love to read these texts, but – alas – none exist.

For Mr. McEwing to convince me to the validity of Christ’s resurrection, he would need to convince me that:

  • The Bible is a true and accurate record of the time.
  • Explain why God would allow his holy book to contain such glaring contradictions
  • Explain why the remarkable event of dead-men-walking is not recorded in any other historic book of the time.