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The story of the resurrection of Christ Jesus is related by the four Gospel narrators, and is to the effect that, after being crucified, his body was wrapped in a linen cloth, laid in a tomb, and a "great stone" rolled to the door. The sepulchre was then made sure by "sealing the stone" and "setting a watch."
On the first day of the week some of Jesus' followers came to see the sepulchre, when they found that, in spite of the "sealing" and the "watch," the angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, had rolled back the stone from the door, and that "Jesus had risen from the dead."
The story of his ascension is told by the Mark narrator, who says "he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God;" by Luke, who says "he was carried up into heaven;" and by the writer of the Acts, who says "he was taken up (to heaven) and a cloud received him out of sight."
We will find, in stripping Christianity of its robes of Paganism, that these miraculous events must be put on the same level with those we have already examined.
Crishna, the crucified Hindoo Saviour, rose from the dead, and ascended bodily into heaven. At that time a great light enveloped the earth and illuminated the whole expanse of heaven. Attended by celestial spirits, and luminous as on that night when he was born in the house of Vasudeva, Crishna pursued, by his own light, the journey between earth and heaven, to the bright paradise from whence he had descended. All men saw him, and exclaimed, "Lo, Crishna's soul ascends its native skies!"
Samuel Johnson, in his "Oriental Religions," tells us that Râma—an incarnation of Vishnu—after his manifestations on earth, "at last ascended to heaven," "resuming his divine essence."
"By the blessings of Râma's name, and through previous faith in him, all sins are remitted, and every one who shall at death pronounce his name with sincere worship shall be forgiven."
The mythological account of Buddha, the son of the Virgin Maya, who, as the God of Love, is named Cam-deo, Cam, and Cama, is of the same character as that of other virgin-born gods. When he died there were tears and lamentations. Heaven and earth are said equally to have lamented the loss of "Divine Love," insomuch that Maha-deo (the supreme god) was moved to pity, and exclaimed, "Rise, holy love!" on which Cama was restored and the lamentations changed into the most enthusiastic joy. The heavens are said to have echoed back the exulting sound; then the deity, supposed to be lost (dead), was restored, "hell's great dread and heaven's eternal admiration."
The coverings of the body unrolled themselves, and the lid of his coffin was opened by supernatural powers.
Buddha also ascended bodily to the celestial regions when his mission on earth was fulfilled, and marks on the rocks of a high mountain are shown, and believed to be the last impression of his footsteps on this earth. By prayers in his name his followers expect to receive the rewards of paradise, and finally to become one with him, as he became one with the Source of Life.
Lao-Kiun, the virgin-born, he who had existed from all eternity, when his mission of benevolence was completed on earth, ascended bodily into the paradise above. Since this time he has been worshiped as a god, and splendid temples erected to his memory.
Zoroaster, the founder of the religion of the ancient Persians, who was considered "a divine messenger sent to redeem men from their evil ways," ascended to heaven at the end of his earthly career. To this day his followers mention him with the greatest reverence, calling him "The Immortal Zoroaster," "The Blessed Zoroaster," "The Living Star," &c.
Æsculapius, the Son of God, the Saviour, after being put to death, rose from the dead. His history is portrayed in the following lines of Ovid's, which are prophecies foretelling his life and actions:
"Once, as the sacred infant she surveyed,
The god was kindled in the raving maid;
And thus she uttered her prophetic tale:
Hail, great Physician of the world! all hail!
Hail, mighty infant, who in years to come
Shalt heal the nations, and defraud the tomb!
Swift be thy growth, thy triumphs unconfined,
Make kingdoms thicker, and increase mankind.
Thy daring art shall animate the dead,
And draw the thunder on thy guilty head;
Then shalt thou die, but from the dark abode
Shalt rise victorious, and be twice a god."
The Saviour Adonis or Tammuz, after being put to death, rose from the dead. The following is an account given of the rites of Tammuz or of Adonis by Julius Firmicius (who lived during the reign of Constantine):
"On a certain night (while the ceremony of the Adonia, or religious rites in honor of Adonis, lasted), an image was laid upon a bed (or bier) and bewailed in doleful ditties. After they had satiated themselves with fictitious lamentations, light was brought in: then the mouths of all the mourners were anointed by the priests (with oil), upon which he, with a gentle murmur, whispered:
'Trust, ye Saints, your God restored.
Trust ye, in your risen Lord;
For the pains which he endured
Our salvation have procured.'
"Literally, 'Trust, ye communicants: the God having been saved, there shall be to us out of pain, Salvation.'"
Upon which their sorrow was turned into joy.
Godwyn renders it:
"Trust ye in God, for out of pains,
Salvation is come unto us."
Dr. Prichard, in his "Egyptian Mythology," tells us that the Syrians celebrated, in the early spring, this ceremony in honor of the resurrection of Adonis. After lamentations, his restoration was commemorated with joy and festivity.
Mons. Dupuis says:
"The obsequies of Adonis were celebrated at Alexandria (in Egypt) with the utmost display. His image was carried with great solemnity to a tomb, which served the purpose of rendering him the last honors. Before singing his return to life, there were mournful rites celebrated in honor of his suffering and his death. The large wound he had received was shown, just as the wound was shown which was made to Christ by the thrust of the spear. The feast of his resurrection was fixed at the 25th of March."
In Calmet's "Fragments," the resurrection of Adonis is referred to as follows:
"In these mysteries, after the attendants had for a long time bewailed the death of this just person, he was at length understood to be restored to life, to have experienced a resurrection; signified by the re-admission of light. On this the priest addressed the company, saying, 'Comfort yourselves, all ye who have been partakers of the mysteries of the deity, thus preserved: for we shall now enjoy some respite from our labors:' to which were added these words: 'I have scaped a sad calamity, and my lot is greatly mended.' The people answered by the invocation: 'Hail to the Dove! the Restorer of Light!'"
Alexander Murray tells us that the ancient Greeks also celebrated this festival in honor of the resurrection of Adonis, in the course of which a figure of him was produced, and the ceremony of burial, with weeping and songs of wailing, gone through. After these a joyful shout was raised: "Adonis lives and is risen again."
Plutarch, in his life of Alcibiades and of Nicias, tells us that it was at the time of the celebration of the death of Adonis that the Athenian fleet set sail for its unlucky expedition to Sicily; that nothing but images of dead Adonises were to be met with in the streets, and that they were carried to the sepulchre in the midst of an immense train of women, crying and beating their breasts, and imitating in every particular the lugubrious pomp of interments. Sinister omens were drawn from it, which were only too much realized by subsequent events.
It was in an oration or address delivered to the Emperors Constans and Constantius that Julius Firmicius wrote concerning the rites celebrated by the heathens in commemoration of the resurrection of Adonis. In his tide of eloquence he breaks away into indignant objurgation of the priest who officiated in those heathen mysteries, which, he admitted, resembled the Christian sacrament in honor of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, so closely that there was really no difference between them, except that no sufficient proof had been given to the world of the resurrection of Adonis, and no divine oracle had borne witness to his resurrection, nor had he shown himself alive after his death to those who were concerned to have assurance of the fact that they might believe.
The divine oracle, be it observed, which Julius Firmicius says had borne testimony to Christ Jesus' resurrection, was none other than the answer of the god Apollo, whom the Pagans worshiped at Delphos, which this writer derived from Porphyry's books "On the Philosophy of Oracles."
Eusebius, the celebrated ecclesiastical historian, has also condescended to quote this claimed testimony from a Pagan oracle, as furnishing one of the most convincing proofs that could be adduced in favor of the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
"But thou at least (says he to the Pagans), listen to thine own gods, to thy oracular deities themselves, who have borne witness, and ascribed to our Saviour (Jesus Christ) not imposture, but piety and wisdom, and ascent into heaven."
This was vastly obliging and liberal of the god Apollo, but, it happens awkwardly enough, that the whole work (consisting of several books) ascribed to Porphyry, in which this and other admissions equally honorable to the evidences of the Christian religion are made, was not written by Porphyry, but is altogether the pious fraud of Christian hands, who have kindly fathered the great philosopher with admissions, which, as he would certainly never have made himself, they have very charitably made for him.
The festival in honor of the resurrection of Adonis was observed in Alexandria in Egypt—the cradle of Christianity—in the time of St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (A. D. 412), and at Antioch—the ancient capital of the Greek Kings of Syria—even as late as the time of the Emperor Julian (A. D. 361-363), whose arrival there, during the solemnity of the festival, was taken as an ill omen.
It is most curious that the arrival of the Emperor Julian at Antioch—where the followers of Christ Jesus, it is said, were first called Christians—at that time, should be considered an ill omen. Why should it have been so? He was not a Christian, but a known apostate from the Christian religion, and a zealous patron of Paganism. The evidence is very conclusive; the celebration in honor of the resurrection of Adonis had become to be known as a Christian festival, which has not been abolished even unto this day. The ceremonies held in Roman Catholic countries on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday, are nothing more than the festival of the death and resurrection of Adonis, as we shall presently see.
Even as late as the year A. D. 386, the resurrection of Adonis was celebrated in Judea. St. Jerome says:
"Over Bethlehem (in the year 386 after Christ) the grove of Tammuz, that is, of Adonis, was casting its shadow! And in the grotto where formerly the infant Anointed (i. e., Christ Jesus) cried, the lover of Venus was being mourned."
In the idolatrous worship practiced by the children of Israel was that of the worship of Adonis.
Under the designation of Tammuz, this god was worshiped, and had his altar even in the Temple of the Lord which was at Jerusalem. Several of the Psalms of David were parts of the liturgical service employed in his worship; the 110th, in particular, is an account of a friendly alliance between the two gods, Jehovah and Adonis, in which Jehovah adorns Adonis for his priest, as sitting at his right hand, and promises to fight for him against his enemies. This god was worshiped at Byblis in Phœnicia with precisely the same ceremonies: the same articles of faith as to his mystical incarnation, his precious death and burial, and his glorious resurrection and ascension, and even in the very same words of religious adoration and homage which are now, with the slightest degree of variation that could well be conceived, addressed to the Christ of the Gospel.
The prophet Ezekiel, when an exile, painted once more the scene he had so often witnessed of the Israelitish women in the Temple court bewailing the death of Tammuz.
Dr. Parkhurst says, in his "Hebrew Lexicon":
"I find myself obliged to refer Tammuz, as well as the Greek and Roman Hercules, to that class of idols which were originally designed to represent the promised Saviour (Christ Jesus), the desire of all nations. His other name, Adonis, is almost the very Hebrew word 'Our Lord,' a well-known title of Christ."
So it seems that the ingenious and most learned orthodox Dr. Parkhurst was obliged to consider Adonis a type of "the promised Saviour (Christ Jesus), the desire of all nations." This is a very favorite way for Christian divines to express themselves, when pushed thereto, by the striking resemblance between the Pagan, virgin-born, crucified, and resurrected gods and Christ Jesus.
If the reader is satisfied that all these things are types or symbols of what the "real Saviour" was to do and suffer, he is welcome to such food. The doctrine of Dr. Parkhurst and others comes with but an ill grace, however, from Roman Catholic priests, who have never ceased to suppress information when possible, and when it was impossible for them to do so, they claimed these things to be the work of the devil, in imitation of their predecessors, the Christian Fathers.
Julius Firmicius has said: "The devil has his Christs," and does not deny that Adonis was one. Tertullian and St. Justin explain all the conformity which exists between Christianity and Paganism, by asserting "that a long time before there were Christians in existence, the devil had taken pleasure to have their future mysteries and ceremonies copied by his worshipers."
Osiris, the Egyptian Saviour, after being put to death, rose from the dead, and bore the title of "The Resurrected One."
Prof. Mahaffy, lecturer on ancient history in the University of Dublin, observes that:
"The Resurrection and reign over an eternal kingdom, by an incarnate mediating deity born of a virgin, was a theological conception which pervaded the oldest religion of Egypt."
The ancient Egyptians celebrated annually, in early spring, about the time known in Christian countries as Easter, the resurrection and ascension of Osiris. During these mysteries the misfortunes and tragical death of the "Saviour" were celebrated in a species of drama, in which all the particulars were exhibited, accompanied with loud lamentations and every mark of sorrow. At this time his image was carried in a procession, covered—as were those in the temples—with black veils. On the 25th of March his resurrection from the dead was celebrated with great festivity and rejoicings.
Alexander Murray says:
"The worship of Osiris was universal throughout Egypt, where he was gratefully regarded as the great exemplar of self-sacrifice—in giving his life for others—as the manifestor of good, as the opener of truth, and as being full of goodness and truth. After being dead, he was restored to life."
Mons. Dupuis says on this subject:
"The Fathers of the Church, and the writers of the Christian sect, speak frequently of these feasts, celebrated in honor of Osiris, who died and arose from the dead, and they draw a parallel with the adventurers of their Christ. Athanasius, Augustin, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Minucius Felix, Lactantius, Firmicius, as also the ancient authors who have spoken of Osiris . . . all agree in the description of the universal mourning of the Egyptians at the festival, when the commemoration of that death took place. They describe the ceremonies which were practiced at his sepulchre, the tears, which were there shed during several days, and the festivities and rejoicings, which followed after that mourning, at the moment when his resurrection was announced."
Mr. Bonwick remarks, in his "Egyptian Belief," that:
"It is astonishing to find that, at least, five thousand years ago, men trusted an Osiris as the 'Risen Saviour,' and confidently hoped to rise, as he arose, from the grave."
Again he says:
"Osiris was, unquestionably, the popular god of Egypt. . . . Osiris was dear to the hearts of the people. He was pre-eminently 'good.' He was in life and death their friend. His birth, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, embraced the leading points of Egyptian theology." "In his efforts to do good, he encounters evil. In struggling with that, he is overcome. He is killed. The story, entered into in the account of the Osiris myth, is a circumstantial one. Osiris is buried. His tomb was the object of pilgrimage for thousands of years. But he did not rest in his grave. At the end of three days, or forty, he arose again, and ascended to heaven. This is the story of his humanity." "As the invictus Osiris, his tomb was illuminated, as is the holy sepulchre of Jerusalem now. The mourning song, whose plaintive tones were noted by Herodotus, and has been compared to the 'miserere' of Rome, was followed, in three days, by the language of triumph."
Herodotus, who had been initiated into the Egyptian and Grecian "Mysteries," speaks thus of them:
"At Sais (in Egypt), in the sacred precinct of Minerva; behind the chapel and joining the wall, is the tomb of one whose name I consider it impious to divulge on such an occasion; and in the inclosure stand large stone obelisks, and there is a lake near, ornamented with a stone margin, formed in a circle, and in size, as appeared to me, much the same as that in Delos, which is called the circular. In this lake they perform by night the representation of that person's adventures, which they call mysteries. On these matters, however, though accurately acquainted with the particulars of them, I must observe a discreet silence; and respecting the sacred rites of Ceres, which the Greeks call Thesmyphoria, although I am acquainted with them, I must observe silence except so far as is lawful for me to speak of them."
Buy: The Jesus Mysteries: Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? by Timothy Freke
Horus, son of the virgin Isis, experienced similar misfortunes. The principal features of this sacred romance are to be found in the writings of the Christian Fathers. They give us a description of the grief which was manifested at his death, and of the rejoicings at his resurrection, which are similar to those spoken of above.
Atys, the Phrygian Saviour, was put to death, and rose again from the dead. Various histories were given of him in various places, but all accounts terminated in the usual manner. He was one of the "Slain Ones" who rose to life again on the 25th of March, or the "Hilaria" or primitive Easter.
Mithras, the Persian Saviour, and mediator between God and man, was believed by the inhabitants of Persia, Asia Minor and Armenia, to have been put to death, and to have risen again from the dead. In their mysteries, the body of a young man, apparently dead, was exhibited, which was feigned to be restored to life. By his sufferings he was believed to have worked their salvation, and on this account he was called their "Saviour." His priests watched his tomb to the midnight of the veil of the 25th of March, with loud cries, and in darkness; when all at once the lights burst forth from all parts, and the priest cried:
"Rejoice, Oh sacred Initiated, your god is risen. His death, his pains, his sufferings, have worked our salvation."
Mons. Dupuis, speaking of the resurrection of this god, says:
"It is chiefly in the religion of Mithras. . . . that we find mostly these features of analogy with the death and resurrection of Christ, and with the mysteries of the Christians. Mithras, who was also born on the 25th of December, like Christ, died as he did; and he had his sepulchre, over which his disciples came to shed tears. During the night, the priests carried his image to a tomb, expressly prepared for him; he was laid out on a litter, like the Phœnician Adonis.
"These funeral ceremonies, like those on Good Friday (in Roman Catholic churches), were accompanied with funeral dirges and groans of the priests; after having spent some time with these expressions of feigned grief; after having lighted the sacred flambeau, or their paschal candle, and anointed the image with chrism or perfumes, one of them came forward and pronounced with the gravest mien these words: 'Be of good cheer, sacred band of Initiates, your god has risen from the dead. His pains and his sufferings shall be your salvation.'"
In King's "Gnostics and their Remains" (Plate XI.), may be seen the representation of a bronze medal, or rather disk, engraved [Pg 224]in the coarsest manner, on which is to be seen a female figure, standing in the attitude of adoration, the object of which is expressed by the inscription—ORTVS SALVAT, "The Rising of the Saviour"—i. e., of Mithras.
"This medal" (says Mr. King), "doubtless had accompanied the interment of some individual initiated into the Mithraic mysteries; and is certainly the most curious relic of that faith that has come under my notice."
Bacchus, the Saviour, son of the virgin Semele, after being put to death, also arose from the dead. During the commemoration of the ceremonies of this event the dead body of a young man was exhibited with great lamentations, in the same manner as the cases cited above, and at dawn on the 25th of March his resurrection from the dead was celebrated with great rejoicings. After having brought solace to the misfortunes of mankind, he, after his resurrection, ascended into heaven.
Hercules, the Saviour, the son of Zeus by a mortal mother, was put to death, but arose from the funeral pile, and ascended into heaven in a cloud, 'mid peals of thunder. His followers manifested gratitude to his memory by erecting an altar on the spot from whence be ascended.
Memnon is put to death, but rises again to life and immortality. His mother Eos weeps tears at the death of her son—as Mary does for Christ Jesus—but her prayers avail to bring him back, like Adonis or Tammuz, and Jesus, from the shadowy region, to dwell always in Olympus.
The ancient Greeks also believed that Amphiaraus—one of their most celebrated prophets and demi-gods—rose from the dead. They even pointed to the place of his resurrection.
Baldur, the Scandinavian Lord and Saviour, is put to death, but does not rest in his grave. He too rises again to life and immortality.
When "Baldur the Good," the beneficent god, descended into hell, Hela (Death) said to Hermod (who mourned for Baldur): "If all things in the world, both living and lifeless, weep for him, then shall he return to the Æsir (the gods)." Upon hearing this, messengers were dispatched throughout the world to beg everything to weep in order that Baldur might be delivered from hell. All things everywhere willingly complied with this request, both men and every other living being, so that wailing was heard in all quarters.
Thus we see the same myth among the northern nations. As Bunsen says:
"The tragedy of the murdered and risen god is familiar to us from the days of ancient Egypt: must it not be of equally primeval origin here?" [In Teutonic tradition.]
The ancient Scandinavians also worshiped a god called Frey, who was put to death, and rose again from the dead.
The ancient Druids celebrated, in the British Isles, in heathen times, the rites of the resurrected Bacchus, and other ceremonies, similar to the Greeks and Romans.
Quetzalcoatle, the Mexican crucified Saviour, after being put to death, rose from the dead. His resurrection was represented in Mexican hieroglyphics, and may be seen in the Codex Borgianus.
The Jews in Palestine celebrated their Passover on the same day that the Pagans celebrated the resurrection of their gods.
Besides the resurrected gods mentioned in this chapter, who were believed in for centuries before the time assigned for the birth of Christ Jesus, many others might be named, as we shall see in our chapter on "Explanation." In the words of Dunbar T. Heath:
"We find men taught everywhere, from Southern Arabia to Greece, by hundreds of symbolisms, the birth, death, and resurrection of deities, and a resurrection too, apparently after the second day, i. e., on the third."
And now, to conclude all, another god is said to have been born on the same day as these Pagan deities; he is crucified and buried, and on the same day rises again from the dead. Christians of Europe and America celebrate annually the resurrection of their Saviour in almost the identical manner in which the Pagans celebrated the resurrection of their Saviours, centuries before the God of the Christians is said to have been born. In Roman Catholic churches, in Catholic countries, the body of a young man is laid on a bier, and placed before the altar; the wound in his side is to be seen, and his death is bewailed in mournful dirges, and the verse, Gloria Patri, is discontinued in the mass. All the images in the churches and the altar are covered with black, and the priest and attendants are robed in black; nearly all lights are put out, and the windows are darkened. This is the "Agonie," the "Miserere," the "Good Friday" mass. On Easter Sunday all the drapery has disappeared; the church is illuminated, and rejoicing, in place of sorrow, is manifest. The Easter hymns partake of the following expression:
"Rejoice, Oh sacred Initiated, your God is risen. His death, his pains, his sufferings, have worked our salvation."
Cedrenus (a celebrated Byzantine writer), speaking of the 25th of March, says:
"The first day of the first month, is the first of the month Nisan; it corresponds to the 25th of March of the Romans, and the Phamenot of the Egyptians. On that day Gabriel saluted Mary, in order to make her conceive the Saviour. I observe that it is the same month, Phamenot, that Osiris gave fecundity to Isis, according to the Egyptian theology. On the very same day, our God Saviour (Christ Jesus), after the termination of his career, arose from the dead; that is, what our forefathers called the Pass-over, or the passage of the Lord. It is also on the same day, that our ancient theologians have fixed his return, or his second advent."
We have seen, then, that a festival celebrating the resurrection of their several gods was annually held among the Pagans, before the time of Christ Jesus, and that it was almost universal. That it dates to a period of great antiquity is very certain. The adventures of these incarnate gods, exposed in their infancy, put to death, and rising again from the grave to life and immortality, were acted on the Deisuls and in the sacred theatres of the ancient Pagans, just as the "Passion Play" is acted to-day.
Eusebius relates a tale to the effect that, at one time, the Christians were about to celebrate "the solemn vigils of Easter," when, to their dismay, they found that oil was wanted. Narcissus, Bishop of Jerusalem, who was among the number, "commanded that such as had charge of the lights, speedily to bring unto him water, drawn up out of the next well." This water Narcissus, "by the wonderful power of God," changed into oil, and the celebration was continued.
This tells the whole story. Here we see the oil—which the Pagans had in their ceremonies, and with which the priests anointed the lips of the Initiates—and the lights, which were suddenly lighted when the god was feigned to have risen from the dead.
With her usual policy, the Christian Church endeavored to give a Christian significance to the rites borrowed from Paganism, and in this case, as in many others, the conversion was particularly easy.
In the earliest times, the Christians did not celebrate the resurrection of their Lord from the grave. They made the Jewish Passover their chief festival, celebrating it on the same day as the Jews, the 14th of Nisan, no matter in what part of the week that day might fall. Believing, according to the tradition, that Jesus on the eve of his death had eaten the Passover with his disciples, they regarded such a solemnity as a commemoration of the Supper and not as a memorial of the Resurrection. But in proportion as Christianity more and more separated itself from Judaism and imbibed paganism, this way of looking at the matter became less easy. A new tradition gained currency among the Roman Christians to the effect that Jesus before his death had not eaten the Passover, but had died on the very day of the Passover, thus substituting himself for the Paschal Lamb. The great Christian festival was then made the Resurrection of Jesus, and was celebrated on the first pagan holiday—Sun-day—after the Passover.
This Easter celebration was observed in China, and called a "Festival of Gratitude to Tien." From there it extended over the then known world to the extreme West.
The ancient Pagan inhabitants of Europe celebrated annually this same feast, which is yet continued over all the Christian world. This festival began with a week's indulgence in all kinds of sports, called the carne-vale, or the taking a farewell to animal food, because it was followed by a fast of forty days. This was in honor of the Saxon goddess Ostrt or Eostre of the Germans, whence our Easter.
The most characteristic Easter rite, and the one most widely diffused, is the use of Easter eggs. They are usually stained of various colors with dye-woods or herbs, and people mutually make presents of them; sometimes they are kept as amulets, sometimes eaten. Now, "dyed eggs were sacred Easter offerings in Egypt;" the ancient Persians, "when they kept the festival of the solar new year (in March), mutually presented each other with colored eggs;" "the Jews used eggs in the feast of the Passover;" and the custom prevailed in Western countries.
The stories of the resurrection written by the Gospel narrators are altogether different. This is owing to the fact that the story, as related by one, was written to correct the mistakes and to endeavor to reconcile with common sense the absurdities of the other. For instance, the "Matthew" narrator says: "And when they saw him (after he had risen from the dead) they worshiped him; but some doubted."
To leave the question where this writer leaves it would be fatal. In such a case there must be no doubt. Therefore, the "Mark" narrator makes Jesus appear three times, under such circumstances as to render a mistake next to impossible, and to silence the most obstinate skepticism. He is first made to appear to Mary Magdalene, who was convinced that it was Jesus, because she went and told the disciples that he had risen, and that she had seen him. They—notwithstanding that Jesus had foretold them of his resurrection—disbelieved, nor could they be convinced until he appeared to them. They in turn told it to the other disciples, who were also skeptical; and, that they might be convinced, Jesus also appeared to them as they sat at meat, when he upbraided them for their unbelief.
This story is much improved in the hands of the "Mark" narrator, but, in the anxiety to make a clear case, it is overdone, as often happens when the object is to remedy or correct an oversight or mistake previously made. In relating that the disciples doubted the words of Mary Magdalene, he had probably forgotten Jesus had promised them that he should rise, for, if he had told them this, why did they doubt?
Neither the "Matthew" nor the "Mark" narrator says in what way Jesus made his appearance—whether it was in the body or only in the spirit. If in the latter, it would be fatal to the whole theory [Pg 229]of the resurrection, as it is a material resurrection that Christianity taught—just like their neighbors the Persians—and not a spiritual.
To put this disputed question in its true light, and to silence the objections which must naturally have arisen against it, was the object which the "Luke" narrator had in view. He says that when Jesus appeared and spoke to the disciples they were afraid: "But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit." Jesus then—to show that he was not a spirit—showed the wounds in his hands and feet. "And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of a honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them." After this, who is there that can doubt? but, if the fish and honeycomb story was true, why did the "Matthew" and "Mark" narrators fail to mention it?
The "Luke" narrator, like his predecessors, had also overdone the matter, and instead of convincing the skeptical, he only excited their ridicule.
The "John" narrator now comes, and endeavors to set matters right. He does not omit entirely the story of Jesus eating fish, for that would not do, after there had been so much said about it. He might leave it to be inferred that the "Luke" narrator made a mistake, so he modifies the story and omits the ridiculous part. The scene is laid on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. Under the direction of Jesus, Peter drew his net to land, full of fish. "Jesus said unto them: Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise."
It does not appear from this account that Jesus ate the fish at all. He took the fish and gave to the disciples; the inference is that they were the ones that ate. In the "Luke" narrator's account the statement is reversed; the disciples gave the fish to Jesus, and he ate. The "John" narrator has taken out of the story that which was absurd, but he leaves us to infer that the "Luke" narrator was careless in stating the account of what took place. If we leave out of the "Luke" narrator's account the part that relates to the fish and honeycomb, he fails to prove what it really was which appeared to the disciples, as it seems from this that the disciples could not be convinced that Jesus was not a spirit until he had actually eaten something.
Now, if the eating part is struck out—which the "John" narrator does, and which, no doubt, the ridicule cast upon it drove him to do—the "Luke" narrator leaves the question just where he found it. It was the business of the "John" narrator to attempt to leave it clean, and put an end to all cavil.
Jesus appeared to the disciples when they assembled at Jerusalem. "And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side." They were satisfied, and no doubts were expressed. But Thomas was not present, and when he was told by the brethren that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe; nor would he, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now, if Thomas could be convinced, with all his doubts, it would be foolish after that to deny that Jesus was not in the body when he appeared to his disciples.
After eight days Jesus again appears, for no other purpose—as it would seem—but to convince the doubting disciple Thomas. Then said he to Thomas: "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing." This convinced Thomas, and he exclaimed: "My Lord and my God." After this evidence, if there were still unbelievers, they were even more skeptical than Thomas himself. We should be at a loss to understand why the writers of the first three Gospels entirely omitted the story of Thomas, if we were not aware that when the "John" narrator wrote the state of the public mind was such that proof of the most unquestionable character was demanded that Christ Jesus had risen in the body. The "John" narrator selected a person who claimed he was hard to convince, and if the evidence was such as to satisfy him, it ought to satisfy the balance of the world.
The first that we knew of the fourth Gospel—attributed to John—is from the writings of Irenæus (A. D. 177-202), and the evidence is that he is the author of it. That controversies were rife in his day concerning the resurrection of Jesus, is very evident from other sources. We find that at this time the resurrection of the dead (according to the accounts of the Christian forgers) was very far from being esteemed an uncommon event; that the miracle was frequently performed on necessary occasions by great fasting and the joint supplication of the church of the place, and that the persons thus restored by their prayers had lived afterwards among them many years. At such a period, when faith could boast of so many wonderful victories over death, it seems difficult to account for the skepticism of those philosophers, who still rejected and derided the doctrine of the resurrection. A noble Grecian had rested on this important ground the whole controversy, and promised Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, that if he could be gratified by the sight of a single person who had been actually raised from the dead, he would immediately embrace the Christian religion.
"It is somewhat remarkable," says Gibbon, the historian, from whom we take the above, "that the prelate of the first Eastern Church, however anxious for the conversion of his friend, thought proper to decline this fair and reasonable challenge."
This Christian saint, Irenæus, had invented many stories of others being raised from the dead, for the purpose of attempting to strengthen the belief in the resurrection of Jesus. In the words of the Rev. Jeremiah Jones:
"Such pious frauds were very common among Christians even in the first three centuries; and a forgery of this nature, with the view above-mentioned, seems natural and probable."
One of these "pious frauds" is the "Gospel of Nicodemus the Disciple, concerning the Sufferings and Resurrection of our Master and Saviour Jesus Christ." Although attributed to Nicodemus, a disciple of Jesus, it has been shown to be a forgery, written towards the close of the second century—during the time of Irenæus, the well-known pious forger. In this book we find the following:
"And now hear me a little. We all know the blessed Simeon, the high-priest, who took Jesus when an infant into his arms in the temple. This same Simeon had two sons of his own, and we were all present at their death and funeral. Go therefore and see their tombs, for these are open, and they are risen; and behold, they are in the city of Arimathæa, spending their time together in offices of devotion."
The purpose of this story is very evident. Some "zealous believer," observing the appeals for proof of the resurrection, wishing to make it appear that resurrections from the dead were common occurrences, invented this story towards the close of the second century, and fathered it upon Nicodemus.
We shall speak, anon, more fully on the subject of the frauds of the early Christians, the "lying and deceiving for the cause of Christ," which is carried on even to the present day.
As President Cheney of Bates College has lately remarked, "The resurrection is the doctrine of Christianity and the foundation of the entire system," but outside of the four spurious gospels this greatest of all recorded miracles is hardly mentioned. "We have epistles from Peter, James, John, and Jude—all of whom are said by the evangelists to have seen Jesus after he rose from the dead, in none of which epistles is the fact of the resurrection even stated, much less that Jesus was seen by the writer after his resurrection."
Many of the early Christian sects denied the resurrection of Christ Jesus, but taught that he will rise, when there shall be a general resurrection.
No actual representation of the resurrection of the Christian's Saviour has yet been found among the monuments of early Christianity. The earliest representation of this event that has been found is an ivory carving, and belongs to the fifth or sixth century.
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