Work of Fiction

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Easter

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought 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. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:1–8)

Was the whole thing made up? Is Christianity just a work of fiction? Maybe, seeing as today is April Fool’s Day, it was some sort of hoax? Perhaps Jesus never existed at all? Here is another set of popular beliefs seeking to disprove the resurrection.

The first thing to note is that within ninety years of the founding of Christianity, three non-Christian authors make mention of the faith: Cornelius Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Flavius Josephus. The first two were hostile to Christianity, but neither speak of it as being made up. The very fact that so early on these authors write of the faith is testament to how quickly it spread, and how far. Even earlier than this are the citizens of Jerusalem and beyond who believed the account of the resurrection. All this happened in the first decades after the Crucifixion, and in a sceptical climate. Would a fiction catch on this quickly, when witnesses would still have been alive?

And then there is the behaviour of the Apostles, who not only sacrificed much in preaching the faith but also were executed for doing so. Why undergo such persecution for a work of fiction? The theory raises questions about the gospel accounts too - why do they portray the disciples at ignorant, rash and unbelieving at times? Rather unflattering! Why do we have multiple versions, and not a single account as you would expect from a work of fiction? And why would an author making all this up have women as the early witness to the resurrection, given that in those days they were not seen as reliable witnesses?

The early spread of Christianity amongst those who witnessed the events, and were willing to be martyred for their faith, undermines the fiction theory.

The Legend of Jesus

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive (1 Corinthains 15:6) - A popular theory about Christianity is that the whole thing is rather a mistake! Yes, Jesus was a great teacher but he was no messiah, let alone God. The truth is that we have very early written evidence for the claims of Christianity, evidence backed up by the names of eyewitnesses. The claim that this is all a later legend simply does not hold water.

Biased Sources

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30–31) - As with some of the other theories, the objection that we should not believe in the resurrection as the authors of the New Testament were biased fails to deal adequately with the fact that they were willing to die for this ‘bias’. It doesn’t account for the empty tomb. No, this ‘bias’ is no reason not to listen. We are all, in the end, biased.

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