When I was a child,
I spoke as a child,
I understood as child,
I thought as a child;
but when I became a man,
I put away childish things.
(I Corinthians 13:11).
The quotes below are from The Holy Bible, The New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition for India, where Matthew says: “After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake: for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightening and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women “Do not be afraid: I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.Come see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples. ‘He has been raised from the dead’ and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee: there you will see him. This is my message for you. So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said “Greetings!”. And they came to him, took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid: go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, there they will see me”.
The later interpolated Mark says: “When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome brought spices so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.They had been saying to one another “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the to the tomb? When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white rob, sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed: you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they had laid him. But go, and tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you”. So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid.”
This is what Luke says: “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and on the third day rise again’. Then they remembered the his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in,he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed, at what had happened.”
The version of John: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw the stone had been removed from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter, and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb . He saw the linen wrappings there and the cloth that had been on Jesu’s head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.”
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, as she wept she bent over to look into the tomb, she saw two angels in white where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her,”Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she said this, she turned and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her “ Woman, why are you weeping? whom are you looking for?”. Supposing him to be the gardner, she said to him “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, I will take him away”. Jesus said to her,”Mary”. She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbonni” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me” because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, my God and your God". Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
What stand out about the resurrection story are the oddities and dichotomies in the accounts, the variations in the number of women visiting the tomb, the earthquake in one instance, other-worldly apparitions/ young man in dazzling/flaming apparels which make selective impact – the soldiers falling dead while Mary Magdalene and the other women remained untouched, the heavy stone being rolled back by extraterrestrial beings in the presence of the women/the same already found removed, Mary Magdalene not recognising the risen Jesus, the person closest to her; the revelation of resurrection made exclusively to woman/women and all that. Luke doesn’t say who all went to the to the tomb. The net effect, the whole episode is like the happenings in “Alice in Wonderland”; everything becoming more curious than the comprehension of sane persons.
If for nothing else, the importance of Mary Magdalene, the closest companion of Jesus stands out in the story of the “empty tomb”. Uta Ranke-Heinmann, the first woman professor of Catholic theology who taught in the theology faculty at the University of Essen says: “One of the loveliest stories in the New Testament is the scene that takes place at the empty tomb. It is the story of Mary Magdalen, who goes to the sepulchre of Jesus on Easter morning. She goes there alone, and it’s still dark, but her fear of the lonely darkness doesn’t hold her back. John, the Evangelist doesn’t say why she went. But then what man could tell a woman’s reasons for going alone at night to a tomb? She went there to cry. It is still dark when she arrives at the tomb. But as she stretches out her hand to touch the heavy stone door, she gets a terrible shock. The stone has been rolled aside, and nobody else is there……The empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning is a legend.”
The resurrected Christ is the bedrock on which the Pauline Christianity is built. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). The New Testament was written after Paul’s Christianity smothered the Jesus movement head-quartered in Jerusalem under James, brother of Jesus. The letters and epistles of Paul predate the four gospels written after the 70’s. By this time Paul had installed himself as an apostleof Christ unilaterally and his religion had taken strong foothold in the Roman Empire. There could be some merits of the opinion of Bible pundits that the New Testament was written backwards in order to converge with Paul’s credo including his resurrection story. It may be noted that the gospels were written by unknown authors who were not privy to what had happened decades back. The reported quotes lack authenticity.
The Acts, where Paul is the star says:“ Now he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The Lord said to Ananias “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.”
There is an alternate view which says that Jesus outlived the hanging and he was removed from the tree or stake in a state of near death by his powerful friends like Joseph of Arimathea and frisked away with the help of fellow Galilean freedom fighters, restored to health with aid of various healing spices; he then vanished from the Roman Empire. Some believe he escaped to India and lived. Mary Magdalene went to France, with the help of the same Joseph of Arimathea.
The resurrection story of Jesus has parallels in the Sumerian, Egyptian and Greek myths: gods dying and visiting Hades and regions deep down the ocean after death and re-surfacing later. The contents of the Bible seem to have been lifted from many early mythologies. That is the reason the book show contradictions and statements of dichotomies.
One thing is evident, the body of Jesus disappeared on the very night of his burial. The claim of his resurrection on the third day of his burial is not supported even by the gospel accounts.
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