Saturday, April 11, 2009

Resurrection: A History of Myths

"As fantastic as the world's resurrection stories are, they can't hold a candle to the legend of a friendly rabbit who dispenses colored chicken eggs to children once a year." That, the closing line of the story on Resurrection: A history of Myths.

Author Benjamin Rathford begins, "Ancient accounts tell of an important figure whose birth would be heralded by a star in the heavens, a god who would later judge the dead. He would be murdered in a betrayal by one close to him, his body hidden away — though not for long, as he would return in a miraculous resurrection to begin an eternal reign in heaven."

He speaks of the Egyptian god, Orisis, "only one of many pagan gods worshipped thousands of years before the birth of Jesus. Indeed, though Jesus is currently the best-known example of a resurrected figure, he is far from the only one."

Today, the day-between, Christians all around the globe 'await' tomorrow's resurrection event, convinced that in fact, Jesus did somehow beat death to rise and scare the dickens out of the disciples.

The earliest writer of the Gospels, Mark, whose stories were used by Matthew and Luke for the basis of their expanded versions of the story, ends his writing with the words in 16:8 "And they went out, and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them: and they said nothing to any one; for they were afraid."

Biblical scholars suspect that 16:9 - 16:20 were added on sometime in the early Christian era. Thus, Mark, the first writer, does not know what to make of the 'empty tomb' and thus ends his narrative with the women trembling and saying nothing to any one.

Surely these women could not have remained silent otherwise Mark would not have known about the 'empty' tomb. Of course, the 'data' that Mark gives in 14:35-42, regarding the sleeping disciples and Jesus's prayers, is quite suspect because the 'witnesses' are all asleep. Perhaps there was a tape recorder?

Nonetheless, we now have the 'updated' versions of the empty tomb scenario from the other 3 gospels. And there begins the myth, the add-ons, the embellishment of the hero, the martyr, the chosen one. One wise adage warns that the beloved not be embellished more in death than he was in life.

Yet I think that the story of the life of Jesus was clearly more glorious than that specious after-life story. The 'resurrection' that people should witness to is that of the life and teachings of Jesus- summarized in essence in, 'Love one another as I have loved you.' What a great line to repeat at a funeral service.

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