Saturday, December 9, 2006

Empty Tomb (Bucks Cty Courier Times, 6/8/06)

On February 10th, Terry Mattingly asked: “Are Reporters Prepared to Write About Religion?” As per Mattingly, “Anyone who talks to people in pulpits and pews knows that many _ especially in conservative sanctuaries _ believe they know the answer. They believe that most journalists are biased against religious people. [Richard John] Neuhaus, however, is convinced the problem is even more basic than that. Journalists work hard, he said, but they are ‘not always the sharpest knives in the drawer.’” Anti-religious bias seems perceived as a new phenomenon. Yet, the most important event in history went underreported, in its time, and continues to be denied, misunderstood, unappreciated, and underreported - 2000 years later.

Reasonable people, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist, do not deny that Jesus Christ was a great moralist and moral figure, who lived in the Middle East of two thousand years ago. Dan Brown’s efforts to profit off recycled gnostic myths aside (i.e., “The Da Vinci Code”), this Jesus made the audacious claim to be God incarnate! What sort of moralist and moral figure makes such a claim? To claim to be God, when one is not God, clearly disqualifies one from being a moral teacher or being called moral! One making such a false claim would be the worst charlatan or simply delusional. In “Evidence Which Demands a Verdict,” Josh McDowell summed this up – If Jesus wasn’t the Lord, he must have been a lunatic or a liar! Logic leaves no fourth choice. Yet, Jesus did claim to be God and offered evidence! Most astounding of this concerns predictions of His own resurrection.

Viewed by Roman authorities as a nuisance worth killing, the last thing the world’s foremost empire wanted was for Jesus’ followers to claim He accomplished His resurrection. There should have been little concern. The most “rough and ready” of Jesus’ associates were nowhere to be found. Their leader even denied knowing Jesus - three times! Yet, the Romans still fortified the tomb and stationed an armed guard. Somehow, it was empty on that first Easter morning.

The absence of Jesus’ body was in no way similar to the sad case of Natalie Holloway. In advance, the Roman Empire planned cautiously against the disappearance of Jesus’ body. When the tomb was found empty, they wanted a quick end to the incident and a return of the body. To posit that Jesus’ sheepish intimates could have snatched and forever hidden the body defies logic. It was after encountering the risen Christ that these “scaredy cats” were transformed into powerful witnesses; most suffered martyrdom.

Boston College professor Peter Kreeft notes “escape hatches” to the foregoing argument, to which some “Christian” leaders have sadly been susceptible. Like Dan Brown, they question the historicity of the Gospels and suggest Jesus never claimed to be God: “Perhaps all the embarrassing passages were inventions of the early Church." Kreeft satirically counters, "Here is what they got out of their hoax. Their friends and families scorned them. Their social standing, possessions, and political privileges were stolen….They were persecuted, imprisoned, whipped, tortured, exiled, crucified, eaten by lions, and cut to pieces by gladiators. So some silly Jews invented the whole elaborate, incredible lie...for absolutely no reason, and millions of Gentiles believed it, devoted their lives to it, and died for it - for no reason....a fantastic practical joke, a hoax." The second “escape hatch” is of a New Age variety. Maybe, Jesus talked about being God, in the same way you and I are God! Maybe, Jesus simply “realized his own inner divinity just as a typical Hindu mystic.” Kreeft reminds us that this is unhistorical: “Jesus was not a Hindu but a Jew!....He said he was God but not that everyone was."

Two years ago, the media greeted a movie premiere with dire prophecies. As per Rabbi David G. Dalin, “While liberal critics feared that The Passion of the Christ would create an anti-Semitic frenzy, the only frenzy, in fact, was their own hysteria.” While the media hasn’t acknowledged its inaccuracies in these regards, culpability pales in comparison to inaccurate reporting about the original Passion and Resurrection.


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