Easter: The Reason for the Season according to St Paul

Easter: The Reason for the Season according to St Paul

studdard-james
James Studdard is an attorney who firmly believes that Jesus was born, died, and resurrected for some reason. If you have an intelligent comment, he may be reached at studlaw2000@yahoo.com.

Some of you may have read my two previous Easter pieces and so I give you, as promised, the final portion of the trilogy: The Resurrection. As a segue to the piece, let me assume that the majority of my readers recognize that without a belief that Jesus was raised from the dead, His (Jesus’) religious movement would have most likely died with Him. Consequently, there would be no such thing as Christianity. It is beyond doubt that traditional Christianity has taught that it was the death of Jesus that brought about salvation, but it took a resurrection to solidify the Jesus (Christian) movement.
Of course if one adheres to the resurrection story, then the concomitant belief is that Jesus will return, even soon, as St Paul believed and Jesus taught. Some 25 years after Jesus’ death, Paul was still preaching the imminent return of Jesus, and for good reason. Paul understood the implications of sustaining the resurrection story and to make it the essence of Christianity and without it Christianity was void of all meaning and there could be no salvation, and no eventual reward. Paul also knew that the resurrecting of Jesus was crucial to Christian theology and also realized that belief in the resurrection was an article of faith based on unsubstantiated evidence, ergo, would require some scriptural tweaking. The Gospel accounts of the resurrection are not the result of objective observations by eyewitnesses as there were none. There were no witnesses who saw Jesus rise from the dead and the mere disappearance of the body does not mean a resurrection took place.
Jews, who Paul had converted to Christians, were skeptical of Jesus’ Messiah claim after His death. For the Jew, the Messiah would be the one to return and free the people from Roman oppression and restore the temple’s Jewish grandeur. Jesus, they finally concluded, was everything that a Messiah was not supposed to be; a lowly, powerless, crucified criminal. These sentiments added to Paul’s frustration in establishing his new covenant. Here are but a few of the problems Paul faced when teaching about the resurrection:
Version conflicts. Let’s begin with Luke’s version of the resurrection. Luke 24:11 posits that the women who went to the tomb found that Jesus ‘body was not there. Two angels appeared telling them that Jesus was raised from the dead. The women ran off to tell the disciples but the disciples did not believe them. The Gospel of John says that Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb on the third day and finds the tomb empty, but rather than reporting to the disciples, she runs to tell Simon Peter. Now, what did St Paul have to say about the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5)? Paul says that Christ first appeared to Cephas (Peter) and then to the twelve. The Gospel of Mark has the most striking account of the resurrection. Mark said when the women go to the tomb, they find a young man dressed in a white robe, but no Jesus. The man says Jesus has been raised from the dead. Then the young man at the tomb instructs the women to go tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter to go to Galilee and He will meet them there. (Mark, 16:7)  What is really odd about Mark’s version given near the end of the Gospel was that the women don’t tell Peter and the disciples anything and that the women fled from the tomb out of fear and astonishment. They said nothing to anyone. (Mark, 16: 8) In contrast to Mark’s Gospel, in Matthew the women do tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee and they go as a group and meet him there with no mention of an appearance of Peter.
In conclusion, Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John all knew that a dead Jesus who remained dead could not meet the criteria of Messiah. With Jesus dead the disciples needed
an alternative and viable resurrection version. That meant having to spread the belief that the crucified Jesus was raised from the dead, but in their excitement and haste to tie up the loose ends of the resurrection, they created even more confusion. And do remember that at the time of Jesus’ death there was no New Testament, only Jewish scripture, so it was necessary for St Paul and his followers in the proto-Christian community to mold what they heard and accepted, or rejected whatever suited their purposes and produced scripture to mirror their interpretations of the Resurrection.
If you are a scriptural literalist, please trash this article. If you are interested in historical investigation rather than doctrinal evolution, I urge you to read the synoptic Gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John (with an open mind) and see if you can notice any self-serving scriptural gerrymandering.