04 December 2016

The Case Of The Missing Body

Contemporary scholars (secular and religious) have reached near-absolute consensus regarding the death and burial of Jesus of Nazareth.

The few who have yet to acquiesce to the acknowledgement that Jesus died do so perhaps out of religious / irreligious bias and to avoid a possible identity crisis.

It is very difficult to argue against a factual historical event when both biased and unbiased sources agree to Jesus' death having actually occurred.

From the Christian perspective, Jesus' death is one of the pillars of the Gospel's testimony.

This is why I don't think it necessary to reference the many Gospel, Church Letters, or Christian-centered historical sources in this article aside from the one included at the end of the article.

Tacitus was a 1st century Roman historian who mentioned Jesus having “...suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of...Pontius Pilatus...

Other secular 1st century reports exist, but for the sake of simplicity, I include Tacitus while the others can be further researched.

Ancient Jewish accounts also attest to Jesus having been killed.

In a teaching from prior to end of the 2nd century, an excerpt from the Babylonian Talmud reads “...on the eve of Passover they hanged Jesus the Nazarene...”

Three distinct and separate groups agreed to the event; Romans, Jews and Christians.

Not that consensus of all parties concludes a truism or a fact, but we the three in agreement and not raising doubt or highlighting any reason to doubt the event.

Motivation should be considered when something is accepted, believed, disbelieved or denied.

The Christian sources have their obvious motivation, but what of 1st century Rome when the church was nothing more than a scattered and non-influential group?

What would be the motivation for the Roman state to further Jesus' death, or deny it?

What would be the Jewish motivation in the 1st and 2nd centuries?

The importance of the topic of Jesus' factual death (and burial) is of utmost importance for our fellow brothers and sisters around the world who have been raised believing a misinterpretation of this testimony; namely the fellow citizens of planet earth who currently identify as Muslims AND do not understand the full testimony of Jesus.

I use the word 'misinterpretation' because even certain notable Islamic scholars, while still identify as Muslim, have also realized the historicity and factualness of Jesus' death.

Muslim scholar Mahmoud M. Ayoub writes:
“The Quran, as we have already argued, does not deny the death of Christ. Rather, it challenges human beings who in their folly have deluded themselves into believing that they would vanquish the divine Word, Jesus Christ the Messenger of God. The death of Jesus is asserted several times and in various contexts.” (3.55; 5.117; 19.33.)
Reading the first cited Quranic verse by Mr. Ayoub:
Recall what time Allah said: O 'Isa! [Jesus] verily I shall make thee die, and am lifting thee to Myself and am purifying thee from those who disbelieve, and shall place those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection; thereafter unto Me shall be the return of you all, then I shall judge between you of that wherein ye were wont to differ. - al-Imran 55 (Daryabadi translation)
According to context and its form, isn't al-Imran 55 mentioning when Jesus was on earth and about what will happen, namely death and then Jesus returning to / into God's presence?

The second part then speaks of the return of all people at the judgment, correct? (keyword “thereafter”)

We see two different points and times being expressed; present when Jesus walked the earth (which includes death and returning to God), and “thereafter” when humanity returns to God and is judged.

The Quranic verse which (again according to misinterpretation) 'seems to' contend against the crucifixion / death of Jesus is:
And for their saying: verily We have slain the Messiah 'Isa [Jesus] son of Maryam, an apostle of Allah, whereas they slew him not, nor they crucified him but it was made dubious unto them. And verily those who differ therein are in doubt thereof, they have no knowledge thereof; they but follow an opinion; and surely they slew him not. - an-Nisa 157 (Daryabadi translation)
According to context and its form, isn't an-Nisa 157 mentioning the boasting of men who thought they accomplished killing Jesus?

What is quite remarkable is that this verse 157 is quoting the Jewish community, which is in agreement with the Jewish and Roman citations in this article (and of course the Christian testimony).

What else can be gleaned from verse 157?

The proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus!

The verse isn't disputing Jesus' death, but confirming Jesus' resurrection!

Consider this; verse 157 mentions the opinion of men having killed Jesus completely, while also testifying that their opinion was wrong.

In Islam, Jesus is called the “Spirit of God” and also the “Word of God”.

Is it possible for men to kill the Spirit of God or the Word of God?

If not, then isn't it possible that only the vessel / body containing the Word and Spirit of God was killed and 'died' on the cross?

Much how a body is lifeless without a spirit, when the Spirit of God departed the body of Jesus, the body was left dead... confirming both al-Imran 55 and an-Nisa 157.

So is it possible that Jesus both died AND also went into heaven after the vessel / body was resurrected?

Both Islam and Christianity proclaims Jesus to be alive Today and residing in heaven.

The Christian testimony claims Jesus died... and then rose to life.

The Roman historical record testifies to Jesus dying... not mentioning resurrection.

The Jewish testimony also states Jesus dying... and speaks of other things.

The contention between the faithful and the doubters is that Jesus did NOT rise again.

The the fact that Jesus died is actually not the issue... yet this has become a conjecture and divisive issue after the fact.

The issue of his death did not come into contention until legend circulated among fringe heretical communities (groups who didn't last long), and people who doubted the testimony and instead followed opinions.

One example of a possible source of such heretical premises being Docetism, among other misunderstandings derived from other long extinct groups.

Is it then so difficult to believe someone would die and then come back to life?

The miracles of Jesus having resurrected the vessels / bodies of a little girl and a friend named Lazarus are attested to in both Christianity and Islam, while similar miracles are also mentioned in the Jewish texts following from the common era.

For the believer in a God who can do as he pleases, nothing is too difficult for God to do.

The further explanations and details of Jesus not personally dying on the cross are actually not found in the Quran.

These ideas are found in the extracurricular writings by men who seem to have interpreted and suggested as to 'how' things happened or didn't happen.

For a list of historical events secular scholars have found consensus with regarding Jesus, see this link.

For an exhaustive explanation of how the death of Jesus is understood in Islam, and the contending views since Muhammad's time from within the Muslim community, see this link.

As with anything found on the internet, whether open-sourced or officially published, proper citations should be noted, motivation considered, and attention to biased perceptions taken into account.
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Yeshua Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Yeshua’s sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Yeshua, so that the life of Yeshua may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Yeshua’s sake, so that His life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the One who raised the Lord Yeshua from the dead will also raise us with Yeshua and present us with you to Himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 
- 2 Corinthians 4

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