The Real Resurrection,
And Verifiable Immortality
“Woodbridge Goodman,” Ph. D.
[CONTENT NOTES to Oct. 2011 edition: the following, like all our books, is an Author’s Rough Draft; this part of our volume revised by the author, Oct. 12, 2011 to END p. 234. Containing: Ch. 1 Lazarus; Ch. 2 Jesus; Ch. 3 Ezekiel’s Bones Vs. “Name” and “Seed”; Ch. 4 DNA; Ch. 5 Name; Ch. 6 Plato’s Heaven; Ch 7 Persephone, Vegetative Rebirth; Ch. 8 The Book; Literary Immortality to END p. 197? Addenda: On Copies, Heaven, Paul, to END p. 235]
A Simple Resurrection
[Last edited by author to p. 21, Oct. 7, 2011]
Is there a real, scientifically-verifiable immortality? What are the immortality and resurrection promised by Christianity, really like? Are they just like what we heard in church: dead bodies rising out of the grave one day? Can we simply trust the old, simple accounts of an afterlife, that we heard in church?
Our holy men, religious pictures, seemed to picture resurrection, as dead bodies rising from graves. But earlier, as it turns out, we found many quotes in the Bible that warned us that our holy men are not necessarily, that reliable. Today, many ordinary people are beginning to see sins, even in our holy men and angels, and in our churches; as we see for instance that Roman Catholic priests for example, were molesting children. And see all our bishops lied to cover that up, or “whitewash” it. And this is an incredibly difficult moment; indeed, as we see these sins in our holiest men, our childhood confidence in the church, even in Heaven itself, begins to collapse. But we will have seen in earlier books, that if we suddenly see sins in all our holiest men and angels, if our Heaven itself seems to be “dissolving” … then after all, all this is all to the good. Because this “day” was foretold, authorized, by the Bible itself. And soon, we can come to see another, second, better vision of God and good, to be sure; we will see a Second Coming of God to earth.
And indeed God, Good, we suggest, are coming to earth again, in part even now. As foretold. But to be sure, the Second Coming, the second appearance of God, is not quite what our priests and ministers thought. God, Christ, to be sure, do appear again here on earth. But they do not advocate such strong “faith” any more; but rather, believing in material science and material evidence. In fact we will have found, God tells us that our religion is not supposed to be based on “faith,” as much as based on Science; Christianity is supposed to be based on a Science of God.
But how does the Science of God work? What do its results look like? In earlier times, whenever scholars and others applied Science to Christianity, it seemed to come up with mostly negative results; it seemed to find almost everything in religion – especially promises of miracles – to be false. But the fact is, we find that the fuller Science of God does prove some old things in religion, some old readings of the Bible and of God, were false; but amazingly, we find here that the Science of God can suddenly show that the Bible itself was essentially, true, to real life. As it turns out, the Science of God can look at the Bible’s accounts of various “miracles” like resurrections … and show us how those accounts were not quite what preachers thought; but also that those accounts after all, amazingly, can be read as being accounts of things that Science can now … affirm and clarify.
Many preachers’ accounts of the Bible, and its “miracles,” were not reliable. Indeed, preachers at their best, were “humble,” and admitted that their own “knowledge” of God was imperfect. So that preachers should be open to seeing a new, second appearance to the Bible, and a second “appearance” to God; especially one that somehow “comes down to earth.” While indeed, when our Science begins to look at the Bible more closely – at its promises of immortality and resurrection – we begin to see a second appearance to resurrection; we begin to see something real in the biblical accounts, that corresponds to things that Reason and Science can confirm.
The Bible in fact, told us that there were always many bad and “false” things, even in Religion; even in “Christ”ian things, people crying “Lord, Lord.” But we will have found earlier that God gave us a way, to use science; and thus God gives us a kind of critical ability, a kind of “judgement.” That allows us to at last separate the good things from the false, the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the straw, in our religion.
Or indeed finally, the Science of God helps us to at last see exactly how Christ can be “resurrected” from “heaven,” to earth.
Indeed, among other things, many scholars have previously used science, to show that there is a real resurrection and immortality; one that science can now describe.
And when we see that? We begin to see a new appearance of Christ. One that finds Christ not hovering immanent, in a spiritual “Heaven”; but that sees him here, in and among the things of this physical world again.
Introduction to Immortality,
So what is immortality, really like? Immortality as it turns out, is rather complicated. And it was too complicated for our many preachers. Who gave us sketchy, surreal, magical accounts of it only.
For centuries, priests pointed to parts of the Bible, that seemed to promise us that if we were good, if we followed our priests “faith”fully, then we would get some form of afterlife, immortality, resurrection; in “heaven,” or in the “world to come,” etc.. Yet our holy men were seldom entirely clear on the details of how immortality, resurrection, worked.
What is immortality really like? At times, from sermons and rumors, it seemed 1) totally, simply, crudely physical: people who are physically dead, could rise from the graves, physically; like Lazarus. And yet we don’t see that very often in real life. So? Other times, 2) people, preachers suggested that it would be wholly spiritual; we would go up to “heaven” somehow, after death. While similarly, 3) others like Paul hinted vaguely that at the end of our lives, or the end of time, we are taken up into the “clouds” somehow, etc.. In fact, exactly what resurrection was, was very unclear and cloudy. While 4) eventually many preachers came to take all these hints of a life after death, as a sort of metaphor for spiritual rebirth; for the moment that that we put aside – or die to – our primal passions, lusts, and are “born again” into a new, ascetic, Christian life. But this means that there are many conflicting ideas of immortality then. (And then too, in any case – 5 – even if there is some kind of immortality in heaven say, preachers were often not very clear about which of us will go up into heaven, after all.)
There are many different ideas of immortality and resurrection; but all these ideas seem to conflict, we will see, and to cancel each other out. So is there something better? Is there 5) a real, scientifically or rationally-verifiable, afterlife? Or were all the old promises just false; or at best, metaphorical? As it turns out here, there is a rational/scientific reality to resurrection, that scholars are coming to describe today.
In ancient times, there were many rumors of wonderful, amazing things in life; things that were not however well understood at the time; things that were seen as supernatural miracles or wonders. For example? There were legends of people being taken up bodily into heaven, to live forever (cf. space travel). And there were rumors of dead bodies, rising up from the grave, to live again. Yet, as many believers look around themselves today, it seems as if we don’t see many of these supernatural miracles much today. And it even seems that our old heaven of “faith” in supernatural “miracles,” is being intellectually attacked, and is crumbling, even now; it seems that our old heaven of miracles, faith, is in fact collapsing, “dissolving.” But? As it turns out, if we use Science to look at the old accounts, at the Bible itself? Amazingly, we can find … a rational armature, to it all: some ideas from Plato; and from Greek mythology, that can finally be found to match … some things that Science can now confirm.
To be sure, many people have come to doubt the existence of supernatural “miracles”; and yet however, for some time, serious people, scholars, scientists, have been proposing various natural or naturalistic explanations, for what once seemed to be supernatural miracles. For some time, scientists have been suggesting for example, that ancient tales of “fire from the heavens,” for example, might have been an ancient metaphor for, say, meteors. Or the idea of “fire from heaven” might have been an old way of talking about burning oil, poured on enemies from the heights of castles, etc.. Though such naturalistic explanations are at first, disappointing to some, though they are not quite as grandiose as the claims and dreams of many preachers, finally we will have fund that many of those grandiose promises were not kept; and so now it is time to be more modest, humble, in what we claim. We need to limit our promises, more to what we can “prov”ably produce, that can be verified by empirical science. And though such naturalistic explanations are at first disappointing to some, they suggest that however, that in effect, there is something real behind the old promises. In effect? Naturalistic explanations do not “disprove” the Bible say; indeed, the are proving the bible to be true; scientifically true. Even as? They conceptually bring formerly disembodied, surreal ideas … down to earth. At first, such things seem disillusioning. But ultimately? The result is the realization of the dreams of the Bible: a God that comes down to this physical, material earth again; and creates verifiable, great, physical works.
For some time in fact, scientists and rational people have been finding real things in nature and technology, that would correspond to ancient accounts of miracles. And more specifically, for some time many scholars have suggested that if we read our Bibles more closely, with reason and science in mind, we find that we can see things in biblical accounts of immortality … that correspond to things that we can confirm, in science, in nature, and in technology. Amazingly in fact? We can confirm … immortality and resurrection, themselves. Here and now.
Many religious thinkers have earlier objected to scientific, naturalistic explanations of religious things. And in part, some of those objections were partially valid. The fact is that until recently, Science was a bit too crude itself, to really, fully do justice to many things in religion. But? In recent years, Science and Reason have themselves developed a bit; to include not only Physics and Biology, but whole new sciences, like Anthropology/Archeology, and emerging sciences like Sociology, and Psychology. And as it turns out? When we combine all these various sciences, to look at the Bible again? We can suddenly at last, make out the outline of … a scientifically-verifiable resurrection; a real, rationally-, or scientifically-verifiable, immortality.
To be sure, we must find that the apparent, simple phsycial resurrection of dead bodies from the grave – as in horror movies, and the tales of Lazarus – is not ultimately, the real resurrection or afterlife at all; that view of the afterlife is not even fully endorsed, even by the Bible itself, we will find. But to be sure, we need to look closely at the Lazarus tale; and show how the Bible itself does not fully accept it; so that we can get a clearer idea of what the real resurrection is not. So that we can move past this common but false idea of an afterlife; to something that is more true to what we actually see, in real life.
As it turns out, the Bible itself, does not fully support or back, the common idea of resurrection: dead bodies rising from graves. But if the Bible itself rejected this, that is also a hopeful sign, in one way; the rejection of this, suggests that maybe the Bible itself, after all, is looking for a view of life, compatible with science; for a scientifically-verifiable immortality. And in fact we will find here that 1) not only does the Bible itself question the simple “miraculous” resurrection of Lazarus; it went on to deliver better, alternative ideas of resurrection. First, the Bible itself began entertaining 2) the idea that resurrection, is just a metaphor or figure of speech, for feeling revived, or “renewed” in your spirit. But then finally, 3) the Bible itself went on to the most supportable, rational idea of immortality, from Plato; to the idea that our selves live on after death, in the sense that our a) “memory,” or cultural “name,” and our b) genes or “seed,” live on, or are carried on, in our children. Many of our ideas and our genes, are carried on in the people, the culture, that live on after our death. Which means that there is a real immortality; immortality is not a supernatural miracle at all; but is in effect a metaphor or slightly garbled description of some things that science can now confirm, in nature and in culture.
And if at first, this form of afterlife or resurrection or immortality, seems disappointing? Then consider that after all, we are now finding something verifiably real, in legends of an afterlife. And furthermore, in fact, we are now finding that even a sort of resurrection or rebirth of even Christ, for example, is possible; in this life. In a way that can be confirmed by science.
On the one hand, people are disappointed, disillusioned, when they discover that what we thought were supernatural miracles – like immortality – were, even according to the Bible itself, a sort of metaphorical summing up of some rather natural – even some might say mundane – aspects of life. But on the other hand, if the glass now appears half empty, it is also half full. Since the fact is, if resurrection and immortality are less spectacular than we thought – dead bodies rising from graves – on the other hand, what we do have, is scientifically verifiable and solidly real. As we will show here. And then, furthermore, once we have a clearer vision of the scientifically-verifiable side of Christianity, we can begin next, perhaps, begin to even … improve on the immortality that we have.
And amazingly, in any case, as we link the old religious ideas, with scientific and rational facts, today, we will be able to see here, in effect, a major Biblical prophesy coming true: we will begin to “see” Religion – or God, Jesus, spirit – in effect, returning to this material earth.
So that, as simple and worldly or “fleshly” as this resurrection appears at first … finally, in the end, this is the fulfillment of in fact, ancient Biblical prophesy. Of “spirit” poured on material “flesh”; of God, good, coming back down to this material earth, again, at last.
So, hard as it might be for the believer to “face” our more rational explorations into resurrection and immortality, finally, the believer should at last be prepared to accept and face and “bear” the findings of Reason and Science at last; on being told that after all, amazingly, these findings are consistent with, even commanded by, the Bible itself. It should be possible for believers to at last face and accept the findings of reason and science at last, on being shown that after all, our old Bibles and our old religion, the old “prophesies” of Christianity, are not being refuted or “debunked”; but are being … confirmed; “fulfilled.” As foretold, God, good, are returning; to be found in and among the things of this material earth, at last.
And so, after this message of hope for believers, let us now begin to look at the Bible itself; looking at it in fact, far more closely than our preachers did. Because, once we get past all the false preacherly “interpretations,” all the common illusions and delusions and false dreams … we will come at last to the scientific basis of it all; we are rewarded after all, with a real immortality. We are rewarded at last, with an at-first humble, but finally, real resurrection.
Is Resurrection a
Simple Physical Resurrection From the Grave?
What is resurrection, actually? Here we will come to a rationally-defensible understanding of it. But to get there is not entirely easy; the reader will need a fair amount of sophisticated knowledge, to get there. But one way to get to that point, is to start a long, slow review, of the oldest or simplest ideas of an afterlife. Especially, we might look at parts of the Bible, that seemed to picture a very simple, even crudely physical resurrection: dead bodies, rising physically from the grave. As in the Biblical account, it has seemed, of Lazarus.
Countless Sunday School illustrations have been presented to children and adults, and pictured in religious paintings, that picture resurrection as being a conceptually simple, if miraculous, affair. Jesus is traditionally pictured, as walking up to the tomb of the physically dead Lazarus, and simply calling him back to physical life. As indeed, isolated parts of the Bible seemed to suggest at first:
“Your brother will rise again” (John 11.23).
“He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth” (John 11.43).
Traditionally, from parts of the Bible like this, resurrection it has often been pictured as a purely simply physical – if rather supernatural – miracle: simply, dead bodies rising out of the grave, literally, physically. Like it seemed, the raising of Lazarus. Yet that idea of resurrection, cannot be supported by science. While as for the apparent physical raising of Lazarus? Is a dead body rising from a grave, actually what the Bible itself described? Let’s look closer at what the Bible itself actually said. As it turns out, ultimately, even the Bible itself was not entirely sure about the truthfulness and accuracy of accounts of dead bodies, rising alive, from the grave. So, we will have to examine – and then, with the Bible itself, finally strongly question, even reject – the first, simple idea or hypothesis about resurrection: the idea of physically dead bodies, rising to physical life again, whole and entire, in their original bodies, from the grave. As it turns out, the Bible itself for instance, looks at that idea of resurrection, immortality, in the story of Lazarus especially. But then finally, even the Bible itself finaly, ultimately, does not fully endorse or accept, the alleged resurrection of Lazarus, as genuine. Though “part”s of the Bible seem to suggest that kind of afterlife, other parts finally deliver a very different, more complete understanding.
The Bible Itself, Notes Nuances in the Account of Lazarus
The Bible itself, as it turns out, examined many, many possible kinds, many rumors, of an afterlife. Merely the most simple form, seems to picture literally, physically dead persons, dead bodies, simply rising from their graves, to walk and talk again. And yet however, as it turns out, though the Bible briefly presents and examines this picture of resurrection, in the tale of “Lazarus,” finally, in the end, the Bible itself qualifies this idea of immortality. And even seems to reject it. In fact? The Bible itself, qualifies and questions, the simplist Lazarus account.
The “Raising of Lazarus” can therefore serve as a first, typical – but too-simple – picture of a rebirth, an immortality: physically dead people rising from the grave. But we will find that finally, even the Bible itself is not certain about whether Lazarus was even really, physically dead, in the first place.
Let’s look at what the Bible actually says about this. It’s from the New Testament. There it was said – or as it turns out, it was hinted, by some – that Jesus’ friend Lazarus, had recently, physically, died. While then – it was thought by many people – it appears that Jesus says a few magic/miraculous words … and Lazarus rises up alive, they say; to walk and talk and live again.
This is indeed, what millions of preachers allowed the people to think: that the story of Lazarus is a good simple account and promise of resurrection: a promise that if we are good, and follow our Lord, then we can expect that one day or another, like Lazarus, our physically dead body, will being raised up alive again, out of the grave. By some kind of supernatural miracle. However, let’s look at the text itself, very carefully. As you read the story of the “raising of Lazarus,” below, you should very carefully note this: that all during the description of this alleged simple miraculous resurrection, there are actually dozens of questions, in the Bible itself, about this resurrection. Especially in fact, the Bible itself questions, especially, whether Lazarus was really, actually, physically dead, at all.
Here’s the text. Read it very closely. Noting especially the questions it raised in the fine print, about whether Lazarus was really, actually, physically dead and rotting (and stinking), or not:
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary…. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death…. After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to awaken him.’
Here for a moment, the text considers the possibility that Lazarus was merely “asleep,” or unconscious.
To be sure, the text is quite complicated and convoluted. And next? After raising the possibility that Lazarus was merely unconscious, the text itself, begins to interpret Jesus. And its interpretation seems to try to firmly reject that simple, natural possibility. Declaring that Jesus meant Lazarus was really dead. “Sleeping” with our ancestors apparently being read here, as a mere metaphor for … being dead. And in one reading, the text of John has John reading Jesus as in effect, speaking metaphorically, and/or somehow, in a very simple and “plain” sense:
“The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been talking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead…. But let us go to him.’ Thomas , who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
But then, what does the larger account of this incident, say? Suppose we look at it. When we do, we find that this incident is not quite what mere parts of the Bible seemed to be about to conclude.
The larger story? Includes many diverse understandings of what resurrection is; and whether it might even be somehow, a metaphor. For some kind of spiritual resurrection, perhaps. When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days…. And Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord….” Yet to be sure, other parts of the Bible seem to speak of living on in God and Jesus, to be not so simply physical.
And in fact, the biblical text itself does not clearly produce evidence that Lazarus was in fact even really, physically, dead. Though to a superficial reading, it appears to do that at first. For example? Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is [“Will be”? Making this a supposition, rather than a statement of fact; 11.39 RSV] a stench because he had been dead four days.'”
Here, the text might seem to suggest that Lazarus was definitely not sleeping; that his body was long dead, rotting; as evidenced by it stinking. But? Note that, curiously, Martha was merely issuing a hypothetical: she did not say the body was actually stinking, but merely that if Lazarus was dead several days, then his body would have a “stench.” Martha, in at least this part of the Bible, did not firmly say that Lazarus was dead, in effect. Or did not issue real evidence that he was dead.
And so? The raising of Lazarus is a good first example, of what many people have thought an afterlife was like. And this text – of the “Raising of Lazarus” as it is often called – has often been presented to us by preachers, in their sermons, as an example of a straightforward, solid miracle. And as a promise of afterlife for the rest of us as well. As a promise from God, that if we follow our preachers, or their idea of God and Good, even unto death, then we, like Lazarus, will one day be brought back to physical, walking and talking life.
Our long-dead bodies, they taught, would rise up out of our graves one day. In a simple, literal way. As it seemed, in the “first” simple reading of Lazarus. But now let’s take a closer look, at the fine print in the Bible itself; at the caveats, the qualifications, on that apparently simple promise.
Always read the finer print, in your Bibles; in this case, let’s look at what the text of the Bible really says, about this resurrection, this raising from the dead, a little closer. As it turns out, the Bible itself introduced many hesitations about the reliability of this account of a resurrection. Among other hesitations that the Bible itself had, we will note, this: a) first of all, actually, the Bible itself explores many hesitations, about whether Lazarus is really, physically dead. Indeed, the text, Jesus himself, considers the possibility that Laz was just simply “asleep.” And b) furthermore? Though Jesus also says Lazarus is “dead,” and though the apostles interpret that to “plain”ly mean that he is physically dead? Actually, we might note in passing, that this may be a mere supposition or speculation, by the apostles. Apostles who often, after all, were im “perfect” (as Paul confessed of himself, for example; see our volume on bad things in holy men, False Priests).
Was Lazarus Really, Physically, Dead,
In the First Place?
To many millions of people and priests, the picture of Lazarus does seem, at first, to offer us a simple physical miracle at first: a physically dead person, seems to rise from the grave, physically alive again. However, Science says today that truly dead bodies, bodies of persons long dead and rotting, do not come to life again today. And with this in mind, suppose we look at the Bible passage a little more closely. As it turns out, the Bible is not clear and unambiguous. And it is not ever clear, that the Bible itself, in the end, is entirely firm that this indeed, is the resurrection promised. It is time to note that in the Bible itself, there are a dozen suggestions that this resurrection is not quite what it seems. That maybe, Lazarus was not ever really, actually, fully, physically, dead.
The fact is, the Bible itself constantly questions whether Lazarus was really physically dead, in the first place. First, note that a) some of the witnesses here are unreliable, according to Biblical values. First aa) women are involved as major witnesses in this account. But women were not highly regarded, in many ancient cultures. And when women told stories in paternalistic Biblical times, it was often code for “doubtful witnesses.” Old women’s tales.
Then too for that matter? The witnesses here are doubly unreliable, according even to Biblical values; because not only are they mere women, but bb) also note, some of their apparent statements, witnesses, are not statements of facts at all, but are only hypotheticals. The women for example, do not firmly say in all translations, that there material evidence that Lazarus is dead and rotting; in that there is a stench in the air from Laz’s rotting body. Rather, they supposed, hypothetically, that if Laz was dead, then there would be a stench:
“Surely there will be a stench” (John 11.39 NAB).
“Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor'” (11.39 RSV).
[Cf: “Lord, already there is a stench because he had been dead four days.’ ” vs. “Will be.” Making this a supposition, rather than a statement of fact; 11.39 RSV]
Therefore, the Bible itself noted unreliable aspects of this report of a resurrection; both as to the unreliability of witnesses; but also what witnesses said.
While furthermore? Jesus himself is often found issuing things like hypotheticals. In the following account, Jesus himself does not firmly say there is a resurrection of this kind; but merely asks others whether they believe that there is some sort of resurrection (John 11.25-27).
Finally, because of many conflicting statements on this, even by Jesus himself; Jesus himself noting uncertainty here, in effect. Next for example, notice that b) Jesus himself makes a statement, that says, in one common reading, that the (type of?) illness that Lazarus had, is not fatal (11.4):
“But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death….”
Here, Jesus himself can easily be read as saying that the illness Laz had, was not fatal. Therefore, the implication was that … Lazarus was not actually dead. Was Jesus wrong, or was Jesus right, when he noted this? Maybe Lazarus indeed, just had a normal, non-fatal disease. And was just in a coma, “asleep,” as many have speculated.
Was Lazarus even really, literally, simply, physically dead, therefore? Or was he just in a coma, “asleep”? Many preachers have not hesitated to proudly assert that they know the truth: Laz was really, actually, dead. Yet actually? We find here that the text of the Bible vacillates time after time; producing lots of different speculations within itself, as to whether Lazarus is really even dead or not. Indeed this – Jesus’ first statement that the disease Lazarus had is not fatal – is not the last word on Lazarus in this account. As it turns out, as we look at this – and then one after another pictures of a possible afterlife and ressurrection in the Bible – we will find that the Bible itself, in the fine print, expressed reservations and hesitations and qualifications, about such miracles. Specifically, regarding the alleged raising of the physically dead Lazarus, in the Bible itself, there is expressed over and over, some doubt , as to whether Lazarus was really, actually, literally, physically dead, in the first place. From the first, note, Jesus himself indicated that the disease that Lazarus had was not normally fatal.
c) Then too, we will note, Jesus himself does not say, clearly, for some time, that Lazarus is actually dead; Jesus indeed often says instead, that Lazarus is “asleep” (11.11). Suggesting Laz was just in a coma.
Or then, d) finally, we might add, when Jesus finally seems to say Lazarus is “dead,” note “dead” was often used in the Bible as a metaphor. A metaphor for being “dead to” or insensible of, insensitive to, good things. As we will see later, looking at say, the tale of the Prodigal Son.
So finally, what is resurrection? Did the Bible itself, unambiguously, even in the story of Lazarus, firmly, unequivocally tell us, that with Lazarus, a physically dead body, rose from the grave, to live again physically? His original physical body, dead and rotting … just got up and walked around? Actually, we find here in our first look at biblical resurrection, that if you read the fine print in the Bible, it is not really sure that the Bible itself, is actually offering that. That it is promising dead bodies rising from graves. As we begin to read the Bible more closely, we find that, for instance, the Bible itself is not even clearly, unambiguously saying that Lazarus was really, physically, dead. In the first place.
So that? Surprisingly, there is no firm promise here, in the story of Lazarus, that dead bodies will rise from graves. Not at all. Even even according to the Bible itself.
And? All those many millions of preachers, and their billions of sermons, that suggested that this promised a physical resurrection to us? They were substantially, stupid, or false. ‘
Is this possible? Remember that the Bible warned that one “day,” God would show us that essentially all our holiest men and angels, often sinned, and were specifically, “false” (Rev. 13; Isa. 34.4). “All have sinned,” the Bible itself told us, “no one is good but God” himself. So that finally one day, even “all the host of heaven,” and Heaven itself, are to be “dissolved” (Isa. 34.4 ff; 2 Peter 3.7-12; Rev. 21; etc.. See our volume on the Destruction of Heaven).
What is It?
Paul Calls it a “Mystery”;
We Discover Much Complexity
In the story of Lazarus, there are already many hints of hesitation about the subject; and many different readings offered. And finally we will find? Even this at-first very simple text, does not really, so firmly settle on a simple account, as many around Jesus supposed.
But if so, then what finally, will resurrection? What is the Bible really offering? If the story of Lazarus is not really definitely promising or describing a dead body rising from the grave, then what is the Bible really offering, in the way of immortality and afterlife? Finally, we will find, the Bible itself never firmly or obviously says, or reveals, an absolutely solid picture, or a full description, of immortality; to the point that St. Paul himself, finally called it a “mystery.” A mystery that even our (over time) millions of preachers, have never fully understood, or explained to us.
And yet however, finally we will see, using a little science, we can at last begin to see the historical roots and true nature of what the Bible was thinking of. And using this kind of study, we can at last walk the public, the people, through this mystery; and to reveal the secret of immortality, and resurrection, at last. To reveal the only scientifically-verifiable immortality and resurrection that would have been available in the time of Jesus; the only one that seems to come true, in real life. The only kind of ressurection that can presently be confirmed by the science of God. A resurrection which is both consistent with every word of the Bible itself, and with science as well.
Yet to find out what the Bible really offered, we need to read many biblical examples, in some considerable detail.
Briefly? First, 1) the Bible allows itself to appear superficially to offer – and many sermons and religious paintings have offered – an apparently simple, physical resurrection: our original dead bodies, rising from the grave, to live again. As it seemed to many, with Lazarus. But then, next, we find that in the fine print, even in the account of Lazarus, the Bible seems to question whether dead bodies come to life at all. Then St. Paul called it a “mystery.” While 2) next, the Bible shifts to suggesting that … resurrection, is a mere metaphor; a figure of speech. A symbols for, specifically, having our mind changed, or “renewed.” Or feeling reborn.
In fact, the New Testament at times offers what have often been presented as promises of big physical resurrections. But then in the fine print, you find out that the Bible itself questioned the reality or physicality, of those resurrections. While next we find that in fact, the New Testament turns things around, and begins to suggest that such promises were just metaphors or figures of speech, for something spiritual. Specifically, it suggested, when you have been bad and immoral, you are “lost,” and even “dead” to good. But then, when you have your mind educated, or turned around and made better, more moral in some way, when you are “saved” from sins and errors; and then, it is suggested, it is as if our mind was “dead,” but has come back to “life.”
In this way, the old physical accounts, were often metaphoricalized, spiritualized. As is typical in the New Testament, a promise of a literal physical wonder, it is suggested in the New Testament, is really just a “figure” of speech, or a metaphor, or a “parable.” For something happening just in our mind or spirit. In this case, what most people took to be a promise that our physically dead selves will rise to live again somehow, the New Testament began to write as if, this was just a metaphor for people whose minds or spirits were “dead” to morality and goodness … but who decide in their minds to became good. And who are therefore, converted to good at last. Saved. Which is, the Bible says, like a person being dead, coming back to life.
But is this really, finally, all the Bible was really promising, in fact? Were all those promises of immortality, resurrection, just metaphors, then? The fact is, that many people will feel justly, that they have been cheated, when a) preachers at first promised big physical wonders … b) but then suddenly turn around, and tell us to read the fine print: that all their big promises were just metaphors for spiritual things. So that finally? Though we need to read the fine print closely, c) we finally need to read it closer still; to find if we can after all, find another, real physical reality in it. Perhaps not our original bodies, rising from the grave. But some more subtle physical things.
And In fact? What we will find here is that, when we use a little of the science of God, to look at our Bibles even more closely – more closely than our preachers read it (or admit to having read it) – we will discover here many things about the mystery of immortality, resurrection, that our preachers did not know much about. We will find out that first of all, a) the old promises really were rather more metaphorical than many preachers thought. b) But then in our next chapter, we will discover that behind the metaphors – of our minds or “spirits” being renewed – is something scientifically, provably real: the transmission of ideas, minds, through DNA and Culture. Indeed, we will demonstrate the physical reality of the spirit; and its bodily re-appearance, too.
What we will find here is that in the end, there is a real, physical resurrection; even a resurrection of God, Jesus, here on this material earth. But to learn to see it, first we need to pass through [/intellectually “burn”], disprove, several all-too-simple, priestly, “child”hood visions of immortality and resurrection. Including first of all, 1) the idea that a simple bodily resurrection, is found in the story Lazarus. But then? Also 2) we need to see past the idea that the New Testament presented the idea that resurrection is just a metaphor; that “rebirth” is just a metaphor for things happening in our mind or spirit, while we are alive.
The fact is, we will eventually show that our minds or spirits are materially real; as real as computer software. And furthermore, we will show that the ideas – much of the mind or spirit – of many ancient people from the past, have lived on, through culture and DNA, holy books and so forth. Lived on … so that a) they are often partially revived, in modern believers. While b) one “day” we can really expect to see a really “full”er, far more complete, “second” appearance, rebirth, of God or Jesus.
Some of us in fact, may come to see much of the Second Coming, the second and better appearance of Christ – beginning in part, even, here and now. As you read this very book, you will come to see many things, in your mind’s eye. And then? You will see God and immortality… in the physical reality around you. God, in and on this physical world.
To see this though is not easy; we have to submit one traditional religious idea after another, to critical fire; to see if it really holds up, to a) what the Bible itself really said; and b) to the Science that the Bible itself told us to honor. (As we noted in our many volumes on the Science of God).
Was It All Just Metaphors?
“Death” and “Rebirth,”
In the Bible;
The Prodigal Son
Here we will have examined a) the first simple idea of resurrection that most people have as children or un-knowledgeable adults: physically dead bodies, rising from the grave. But our finding here in this chapter, is that the Bible itself highly qualified all such apparent pictures of physical immortality, resurrection. Eventually in fact, all promises of physical resurrection were all but, apparently, subtly withdrawn, by the Bible itself. This becomes apparent if you looked for example, first, at the wording even of the raising of Lazarus, above. While next, let’s look at b) the way the Bible began to develop a more “spiritual,” or metaphorical idea, of resurrection. An idea of resurrection which took it to be merely a metaphor, for some spiritual process. Especially, biblical promises of a resurrection and rebirth, can be read as being just symbols for the way you are “dead” to good morality, when you were bad; but then, when you become Christian, you come to “life,” or become reborn – or resurrected – as a new and better person. To be sure, these metaphorical, spiritual ideas, will in themselves, not be enough. But
we need to examine them, and pass through them. Before seeing the fuller truth.
Could Christian promises of a resurrection have been just symbolic, metaphors? Remember that Jesus himself told us that he often spoke in “figures” of speech; meaning metaphors (as we noted in our chapter on Metaphors). Or in related “parables.” While in fact we will find here and elsewhere, St. Paul often clearly used the terms “life” and “death” metaphorically; before Paul in fact finally told us, when talking specifically about resurrection, that he was speaking in spiritual metaphors; not literally.
For now, let’s especially note Jesus himself, clearly using the idea of being “dead,” and coming to “life” again, metaphorically; in the tale of the Prodigal Son. There, a son had been bad, and had been away from the good home of his father; and the son was therefore said to be “dead”; but when the son becomes good, and returns to his father – he was therefore said to be “alive” again. So that, in the tale of the Prodigal son, “life” and “death,” and coming back to life, are clearly being used metaphorically, in at least this part of, this voice in, the Bible.
Here’s the famous story:
“The younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living….. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you…’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him…. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother
was dead, and is alive... (Luke 15.12-32; italics, mine).
Note that it is clear in this story, that the son, though he was bad, was not ever really, literally, physically dead. There is no account of the son literally, physically dying. Instead it seems clear, the son was merely “dead to” his good father; dead to morality and an honest life. “Dead,” say as far as his father was concerned; missing from the father’s good life. And perhaps, dead in that he had become dead to good things. But the son was never physically dead. (Similar to the story of Lazarus; where it was never certain Laz was physically dead). And so here, if the son (cf. Jesus, the “son” of God) is said to be “dead” and come to “life,” all that should not be taken literally. It is all metaphorical.
Therefore, the whole idea of a resurrection, the Bible deliberately hints here, might have been just a metaphor, all along. In the case of the Prodigal Son, the son here did not really, literally, physically die, and then come back to life. When the father says, “your brother was dead, and is alive,” then, he clearly means that metaphorically. The father means, it was as if the brother was dead, and come to life.
And so, if the Bible ever promised immortality or resurrection, what then did it actually promise? What then, is resurrection from the dead, so far as the Bible is concerned? Here, in this part of the Bible, it is nothing much more or less, than a … mere, metaphorical rebirth. It is just telling us that you can we “dead” to good men, but can come back to them – and to a new “life” – when you decide to be good.
This spiritualized resurrection might be good in some ways. But to be sure note, in this case, it is not true that you can physically die, or be long dead and rotting, but can then come back to physical, material life.
Is biblical resurrection and immorality then, just a metaphor? In fact, remember, the Bible began to hint 1) in the raising of Lazarus, that those persons that we thought were physically dead, and then raised, might not have been. But then 2) we found that the whole idea of life and death and rebirth, were often used metaphorically in the Bible. For example, a) the Prodigal son story, by Jesus himself, clearly used “life” and coming back from “death,” as a metaphor for a mere spiritual process.
(While we found earlier, in our chapters on Metaphors and Nature, that indeed, the New Testament in particular, often attempted to convert all physical miracles, in general, to metaphors.)
b) In fact, there are many parts of the Bible that seem to allow taking the old promises of resurrection for example, as just metaphors for spiritual things. Like this passage:
“He who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; and does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life” (John 5. 24).
Here, the old promises were re-translated in such a way that indeed, all the old promises of real physical results from Religion, could be secretly whisked away with some semantic sleight-of-hand; and re-presented, re-read, as being just metaphors. Just fictional stories, about spiritual or mental things. In this case, the rather vivid promises that preachers and their God would raise really, physically dead people back to life, are suddenly topspun, twisted, and presented as metaphors, in the Bible, itself. Which interprets coming to “life,” as a mental or spiritual process; one that can happen “now,” as they say, in this lifetime. As being really just a metaphor. Those who have heard the word of Jesus and believe in his Father, has already passed from death, to life, it is said.
c) Were all promises of life after death then, just metaphors? The New Testament especially, seems partially dedicated to metaphoricalizing all the old physical promises of God; to assuring us that God never really promised anything simply physical at all; that all those apparent promises were just (read the fine print), metaphors for mental or spiritual things that preachers can give us; like “faith” and “hope.” Now, more specifically, we might note that the Apostle/St. Paul in particular, also often used “life” and “death” in a very loose, metaphorical way. For example, St. Paul, like Jesus, said that many people who are still physically alive, but who are immoral or living in lust and “pleasure,” are said to be “dead” in some way:
“But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Tim. 5.6).
“You were dead though the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world…. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God who is rich in mercy … even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us….” (Eph. 2.1-7. See also Prodigal Son, Luke 15.32: “this your brother was dead, and is alive”).
The metaphoricalization and spiritualization, of “life” and “death” and being born again – and of resurrection in effect – is therefore found in many places in the Bible. (While in addition, even in the John 5 passage on Lazarus, which seemed to promise a very real, physical resurrection, that promise is taken away – metaphoricalized; “dissolved” – in the fine print. Cf. the destruction of our first heaven).
Yet finally? If all the old physical promises are “twist”ed semantically into mere metaphors, many people are justified in feeling cheated, tricked. Since we find in real life (and in previous books here), that the physical side of life is important; and we need a religion that takes care of it responsibly. A religion that does not leave us physically starving to death. (As James warned, James 2.14-26; see our book on the literally, physically fatal side of Over-Spirituality).
Other Apparent Physical Resurrections?
All Could Be Metaphors
We will need a religion, a Christianity, that takes care of the physical side of life. But to be sure, the first physicalistic accounts of resurrection in the Bible to be sure, do not seem to be totally reliable or final. Though the Bible itself continually tries to come up with more and more subtle and yet also physical accounts of things. Like unconsciousness; and then beyond.
To be sure, many physical accounts are at first, unsatisfactory; dead bodies rising from graves, seems contradicted by empirical experience. And finally, it is questioned in the Bible itself. Which considers unconsciousness, “sleeping” and then rising, as one hypothesis. And if the account of Lazarus seems to consider that and then reject it? As it turns out, this debate or discussion goes on and on. Gradually producing an account of resurrection, that is neither very simply physical; nor too simply spiritual either.
Clearly, the Bible itself at first, offered at least one alternative to simple physicality: a simple spirituality. So if, in the Bible and in preachers’ sermons and religious paintings, we at first hear a first, simple voice, attracting us with big promises of big, dramatic, physical miracles – and a physical resurrection? It is “wise” no doubt, to read the fine print here, to start. To be sure, until about 1969 or so, preachers often promised to us, in millions of religious sermons and writings and paintings, that the physically dead, will physically rise, one day. (Or in some cases have already risen.) But eventually the New Testament especially, offered passages that allowed that any and all such promises, could be metaphoricalized, spiritualized; could be taken as mere metaphors. Ultimately, even these “spiritual” accounts will prove to be unsatisfactory, themselves. But we need to understand them, and then assimilate them into a better overall understanding.
c) Indeed, we need to keep looking at many various parts of the Bible, first of all. And to be sure, there are many that seemed, at first, to promise resurrections, say, of a simple physicality; out of the grave. Such images are repeated in many parts of the Bible; not just in the surface of the raising of Lazarus, but also in passages like the following:
“The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear
the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgement. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge” (John 5.25, 38-29, 30. Note the language incidentally, of “is coming” and “now is,” of the kingdom?).
However, remember that the Bible’s advocacy of metaphors, symbolism, finally was so great, that we can never be sure that anything whatsoever in it, is more than just metaphorical. (See our writing on what the Bible said about “figures,” “allegory,” “parables,” etc.). While for that matter? Elsewhere we established that the dead authors of the Bible, if they had heard themselves, would have heard – and now hear? – a more subtle view of resurrection. One that is somewhere between physical, and spiritual; one involving a real spirit you might say. As we will find in this book, in the end.
In the meantime? Let’s continue to look at evidence against a too simple physical resurrection. Including not only the argument that resurrections are spiritual; but also looking at the Bible itself, questioning the apparent physical details, of crudely physical accounts.
More Evidence Against Physical Resurrections
There is more evidence against a simple physical resurrection, from the grave.
3) Especially, those of us who have read a little more widely on religion, will also know that in the Bible itself, God told us to honor “Science.” And to take seriously, what we see actually, physically coming to pass, in this life around us. (As we noted in our writings on the Science of God). And in real life, note, most of us don’t see many physical resurrections. a) When indeed was the last time you yourself went to a funeral … and instead of just delivering kind words, the preacher raised the dead person out of the grave, to walking, talking, physical life?
The fact is, God told us to honor what we see “come to pass” in real life (Deut. 18.20 ff). And today, in real life, we don’t see many dead persons rising from graves, as they do in horror movies. So that, in point of fact, many educated people now think that such promises – of big physical miracles, like physical resurrection – are just flatly false. Or metaphorical at best.
b) Now and then, to be sure, we might see persons temporarily declared medically dead … whose brains however are kept alive; and who later revive. But such persons are not long dead and buried and rotting.
4) In fact, we might as well add here, many people questioned the existence of such amazing “miracles” in general, even in the Bible itself. And as we will find in our writings on “faith,” a) though some doubters were apparent condemned, in turn, as greedy “cravers,” or doubters, b) eventually, some canonical, accepted holy men, began to note that there had been problems, sins and errors and inadequacies, in some prophets, and their promises of miracles. Like, we would note here, resurrections.
Though Paul allowed that there might be “miracle-workers” on a church staff, he also asked, “do all work miracles?” And while Paul did not want to explicitly or entirely cut his Gentile-influenced Judaism, Christianity, off from the old Jewish promises of physical wonders, and from “prophesy,” Paul told us finally, merely not to “despise prophesy”; while at the same time, Paul told us to be aware that there were many “false prophets,” as Jesus had warned. And indeed, even Paul told us finally that we should “test everything” in religion (1 Thess. 5.21). To find out if it was true or not.
So that finally, even in Paul, we are told to use science to determine the truth of alleged miracles; like resurrection. We should, as it turns out, “test everything”; test promises of miracles, physical resurrections, to see if they are true. And historically, when we did that, when science tested such promises – and looked for say, preachers who really, actually, literally raised physically long-dead and rotting bodies from graves – finally, we note here, it didn’t find anyone who could actually do that.
But? Problems in Spirituality Too
By the time of Roman civilization, and its understanding of natural history – the time of Philo, Jesus, and Paul – it was no doubt becoming evident, to at least some educated people, that few if any people really had many magical or miraculous powers; that there were few if any physical resurrections from the dead, for example. And in fact, the New Testament seems to have begun to systematically suggest that any and all Old Testament promised of material wonders, miracles – like physical resurrections – might have been, or could be taken to be, just metaphors for spiritual things. As stories like Jesus’ tale of the Prodigal Son began to suggest, specifically, for tales of “dead” people coming to “life.”
To be sure, at first even the New Testament seems to promise real physical, material things. Jesus was pictured in the gospels in part, as uneducated or uncivilized people saw him: as working huge wonderful physical miracles. But we find now, that in the finer print, those promises were effectively, subtly, all but totally withdrawn. First, the accounts in the Bible that seemed to offer big physical miracles – like the raising of Lazarus – were translated, edited, with tricky, interpretative phrases, or glosses, interpolated. Phrases that questioned whether “dead” people like Lazarus, were really even dead at all. While especially then there were many suggestions that all such promises might just be spiritual metaphors.
So that finally, the Bible as it comes to us today, has many caveats, and qualifications, and studied polysemic, semantic ambiguities. The Bible comes to us today, with lots of fine print and questionings in it. So that in fact, first of all, Jesus himself spent a great deal of time raising the question whether or how, Lazarus was really dead. While with the infinite “subtlety” worthy of a snake (q.v.), that apostles were urged to have, other parts of the Bible were offered, which in effect offered metaphorical, spiritual equivalents of the old promises. And which could even be read as suggesting that all the old physical promises themselves, were just spiritual metaphors. Thus effectively dissolving our old heaven … of big physical miracles. Including specifically, promises of physical resurrection.
And indeed, for many years – centuries, millennia – the spiritual interpretation of things, was in fact regarded in many educated priestly circles, as the higher, better, smarter interpretation of the holy books. And it was often thought that the great advance that the New Testament and Christianity made over the Old Testament and Judaism, was learning to emphasize “spirit,” and not physical things; and learning to metaphoricalize the old physical promises of God.
To be sure though, we will be finding here, or in our own writings, that there are ethical and practical sins and errors, in spiritualization. Briefly: a) it is dishonest, for any document to allow itself to appear to promise big physical things – like resurrections – and then, slyly take away those promises in the fine print. While b) then too? We will note many fatal sins in the simple spirituality of preachers finally. We will show that man is not just a spiritual being; if he does not live by physical “bread alone,” he does live by physical bread in part. And any religion that does not take care of the physical side of life therefore, is highly irresponsible; and often literally leaves us physically starving to death (James 2.14-26; see our writings on the fatal over-spirituality of priests).
So that? Ultimately, neither the too-simple physical explanation of things, nor the “higher” and “loftier” spiritual one of priests, will be satisfactory. We will need something a bit more complicated … and then however, make it simple, “plain” enough for an everyday person to understand. With a simple phrase like this: “we live on in our children,” say.
If the Bible Secretly Turns or Twists,
From Literal, to Metaphorical –
Then Is the Bible, or Christianity, Honest
And Straightforward? Or
Is the Bible “Double-Tongued”?
Today, many people – and even most preachers, secretly – suspect that simple miracles, like really, thoroughly dead, rotting bodies rising from graves – are not very common, or reliable. But what is the alternative? Most of our preachers wrongly seem to think that spiritualizing, metaphoricalizing, is the answer to all our problems in religion. And indeed, the Bible itself for some time considered this possibility. But ultimately, even the Bible rejected the extreme spiritualizations of most preachers.
Today, 5a) even some ministers, more or less secretly sense that there are few if any big physical miracles – like physical resurrections – today. 5b) But preachers rationalize this, by way of many different sermons. (As noted in our chapter on Sermons as Excuses). Most preachers in particular, and nearly all Christians, have apparently accepted the idea especially, that even if we are not getting physical miracles, “riches” and “possessions” and “miracles” today, still, such things are not important. Whereas, the more important thing are “spiritual” results; not physical, material “riches” and “possessions.” At most, most preachers seem to feel, religion should meet our physical “needs,” only; not all our desires; not “all” we “ask.” While the major concern of religion, is furnishing us mental, spiritual things; like “faith” and “hope” and “love.”
So did you think that the Bible and a million sermons, clearly promised you a physical resurrection? Then think again. The surface of the Bible, and/or of the many sermons about it, seemed, superficially, to promise that. But Biblical text, and sermons, are typically extremely deceptive. There is in fact, a consistent confusing pattern, found over and over in the Bible itself; indeed, clearly the Bible has been systematically re-written to 1) appear at first to promise big physical miracles – in this case, a physical resurrection – on the surface. But 2) then the text slyly inserts qualifying phrases and fine print. Phrases that could be used to all but take that promise away, in the fine print, or in other parts of the Bible. Phrases that suggest that technically, in the fine print, God and the Bible never really promised big miracles at all. All apparent promises of big miracles, were just metaphors for spiritual, mental things. Things that happen in our mind, only.
But to be sure, c) if the Bible does this, then many people might well – justly – feel cheated. After all, many of our preachers and their Bible illustrations, constantly promised us big physical miracles. If suddenly we should find all those promises, dissolved, disappeared, by fine print, by metaphoricalization … shouldn’t, couldn’t many people feel they were taken? Cheated? Tricked? By a double-tongued, duplicitous religion? Which allowed itself to appear to offer one thing – aa) big physical miracles. While actually bb) once you signed on, and gave the preachers much of your money – or even everything you own (Acts 4-5; Mat. 19.22; Luke 12.23?) – then suddenly, after you have signed on … suddenly, the preacher changes the rules; and/or reads the fine print. Telling you that actually, you will not be getting what was originally promised.
Its exactly the same, as the Publisher’s Clearinghouse, Reader’s Digest scams, from the 1980’s or so, through 2000 AD or so: Ed McMahon appears in your mail, with official-looking documents, promising that you have just won a BMW car, a diamond ring, and/or several millions dollars; but only if you just fill in some forms to verify that – and sign up for a magazine subscription. However, as it turns out, in those ads, somewhere in the fine print it tells you that you didn’t really necessarily win any of these things; the forms just “confirm” that you know there is a potential for such prizes; or just make you “eligible for” such things.
Clearly, it is possible to deceive people with tricky language; it is called “playing word games” and playing “semantics” with people. This is possible – and in fact, common. We see this kind of thing, all the time, in advertising and politics. And unfortunately, this same, apparently duplicitous pattern, some would say, exists in the Bible itself. After allowing itself to appear to be making huge promises or gigantic miracles, the text next in the fine print, manages to subtly suggest that in effect, these – and all promises of miracles – are really, just metaphors. Or symbols. For, most have thought, spiritual things. So that suddenly, the promises that enticed you into religion … are dissolved; stolen away.
So finally, it becomes possible to ask this question: was our traditional Christian religion, wholly honest?
It seems that our religion is talking out of both sides of its mouth; and playing games with tricky language. So what should we say? Is our own religion, dishonest?
Ministers rationalize this to themselves, by any number of excuses. By claiming that aa) even if the text seems duplicitous, it is not; but rather just multi-layered. Or poetic. Or that bb) even if Religion never delivers miracles, it does deliver spiritual solace; which is more important. Though cc) as we have found elsewhere, none of these and dozens of arguments actually hold up, to a close examination of their morality and ethics. First, there are sins and errors, in both promises of miracles and spirituality. While even the Bible itself, for instance, tells us not to be “double-tongued”; and not to accept “empty” words, or “empty consolations”; especially not in place of real, material goods: “fruits,” “works,” “signs,” “deeds,” “proof”s; as proven by “science” and “tests.” (See Miracles, and Sermons as Excuses).
And we will have shown elsewhere, when you promise people physical things, then you should deliver them; simple honesty requires this.
Further when you promise things and do not deliver them, then you are guilty of breach of contract; and often damage them severely too. Since people are counting on things, that you do not deliver. Which can be fatal. Like the airplane that flies to the center of the ocean, without enough fuel … confident that the re-fueling plane will be there, as promised; but when it is not, then the plane falls to the ground; and everyone perishes. In the same way, the population of the world, has been encouraged to all but give up practical education and jobs – as “worldly knowledge” and mere useless “works.” And to rely totally for their food and needs, on faith and prayer and so forth. But what happened when people attempted to at least compromise with the priestly hate for life in this world, and tried as much as they could, to give up everything, all practical knowledge and science and work? To the extent that they did, they fell into ignorance, dysfunctionality, and then poverty and death and disease. Killed by the very thing that presented itself to them, as the very essence of all that is sacred and good and holy. As we found (in a chapter on this).
While related to this, St. James began to acknowledge that those religious leaders that offer primarily sermons only, or “spiritual” things, but no material sustenance, leave us physically staving to death. (James 2.14-26; amplified in our chapter on Over-Spirituality).
There is no doubt that parts of the Bible played around with the possibility that all the physical promises of God – including specifically promises of resurrection, immortality – might be taken as mere spiritual metaphors. And yet however, we will have seen that there are sins in such over-spirituality, too.
Since many churches spiritualize such things, there are in fact huge sins, in our churches; in both their false promises of miracles, and in their ostensibly better spirituality too. In fact, there is a massive amount of heretofore-inadequately noted damage that has been done to all of humanity, because of this. And those sins persist today. In much of the New Testament itself perhaps, and certainly in most churches, believers seem to accept the idea that even if our religion does not give us the material things it prophesied, and promised, that does not matter. Because it is not the job of religion to give us material prosperity; but only mental or spiritual things. And yet however, our preachers still continue to speak as if – and never explicitly renounce promises that – religion will give us “all” we “need”; even all and “whatever” we “ask.” While they encourage us to give up everything, all that we own at times, to follow this way of life. Even though it this way of life was followed by everyone, civilization would collapse. For lack of practical farmers and millers and truck drivers, to deliver our food. For lack of homebuilders, to give us shelter. For lack of medical doctors, to cure our diseases.
While in fact, today anthropologists and others, are beginning to document such damage. While we can better note them on our own, just by looking around. Many of the poorest people, are the most religious. The most religious nation on earth – India – is also the poorest. And because of lack of attention to physical, material things … many millions, billions, died unnecessarily. In India … and hundreds of other countries, over the last two thousand years, probably billions of people have been killed … by the over-spirituality of preachers.
So what should we say about spiritual resurrections? Perhaps it is time to say that God in fact warned us that there are even bad things in “spirits” and spirituality: “false spirits” for example. Indeed, the Bible often warned us Satan comes to us disguised as the very angel of light; evil comes to us especially in the heart of the very things we thought were absolutely good and holy. So that even “spirit” can be bad. Even if the Holy Spirit itself is good, we can never be sure whether the spirit or idea or mental sensation we are getting, really is the authentic Holy Spirit … or a false spirit, posing as the Holy Spirit.
To take all the promises of physical things – like physical resurrections – therefore, as being just “spirit”ual, leaves us with an unsatisfactory, duplicitous Bible, in fact. So indeed, we will need to move on. To find out whether there is a truth to the Bible, and to resurrections, beyond too simple visions of dead bodies rising from graves; and the metaphoricalization, spiritualization of all that, too.
Dead Bodies Rise From Graves …
In Earthquakes (Gospel of John)?
6) Did the Bible itself, promise real material miracles – like a physically dead Lazarus, rising up physically – or not? Or was it all just spiritual? The fact is, neither of these possibilities is clearly, finally, definitely indicated in the Bible itself. There are definite hints of a popular tradition in the Bible, that had God promising dead bodies rising from the grave. But then, as we are finding out here, the Bible itself as we have it today, particularly the New Testament, has clearly been overrwritten by a lawyer and a poet; so that it is today, a radically ambiguous, polysemic, equivocal document. One that perhaps a) suffers from the ancient “confusion of tongues”; but b) then has also been obviously deliberately re-written or edited, to be deliberately ambiguous; in a way that it can never be pinned down on many issues.
The Bible as we have it today had been equivocal. Though overall, our position is that ultimately, any human credo or religion, that is to be adequate and not fatally narrow, has to be able to deal with and manage with great efficiency, both the physical and spiritual sides of life. And must be clear and unambiguous, if it wants us to follow its directions exactly. Whereas, the Religion that we have now, today, doesn’t do either.
Equivocation, Ambiguity, in John 5 –
Resolving into the Natural
The Bible is quite shifting, about many promises, and it often offers duplicitous or double messages. It often has two voices, two opposed meanings, on many subjects. In the case of resurrections, it offers two very different promises: first a very physical raising of dead bodies; versus a mere spiritual or metaphorical feeling as if you had been “reborn” in this lifetime.
The Bible equivocates between both of these two views. Read the following passage, from the Gospel of John, for example. a) First John seems to say that promises of an afterlife, “resurrection,” are metaphorical, and refer merely to the moment when one’s spirit is revived, by becoming Christian. b) But then John seems to picture real physical bodies, coming out of “tombs”:
“He who hears my word and believed him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life” (John 5.24). “The dead will hear … and … live” (5.26). “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth … to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgement” (5.29. Cf. incident after Jesus where tombs opened and saints spilled out, Mat. 27.52; vs. Acts 16.26, etc.).
So which is it? Is our rebirth, a physical, material thing? Or just a metaphorical spiritual transformation – that can happen while we are still alive? The fact is, the Bible seems to have been written to systematically, simultaneously entertain at least two possibilities on many key questions. And among the key questions on which it systematically equivocates, is the matter of the meaning of “rebirth” and “resurrection.” Over and over, on the one hand, in one voice, it strongly implies that we are really, literally, raised from the dead, physically, after we are dead. On the other hand in another voice, it offers language that would allow us to take is all as a mere metaphor; for passing from being a bad person, to a good one, in this life.
The equivocation in the Bible is consistent and overwhelming. You can often see two different opinions, even in a single passage; like that from St. John, above.
c) Similar conflicts, apparent double messages, are found throughout the New Testament. So that no one can ever be sure, it seems what the Bible is really offering. While anyone can quote one side, or another; presenting the resurrection as a literal miracle, or spiritual metaphor, at will. Depending on audience, or inclination.
This conflict extends throughout the New Testament. Parts of the New Testament tell us that a wonder like resurrection, is just a metaphor for a change in our head, while we are still alive. While other parts, seen to insist on the literal, physical reality of resurrection.
7) Finally though, perhaps we can come to a better, natural understanding of resurrections than what our preachers offered in church; one that manages to harmonize or agree, but together, all these apparent contradictory descriptions. One that finds such things both physical, and spiritual; and real. But in a way that our preachers have not, until now, understood. Indeed, we will be showing eventually that such things are true, but in a subtle physical way that our preachers have not understood.
Passages at times to be sure, appear firmly, and simply physical. To offer dead bodies rising up alive from the grave. But as in the case of Lazarus, above, let us now read such accounts far more closely. Like say, this one:
“And the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filed with awe and said, ‘Truly this was a son of God'” (Mat. 27.51-54).
This passage would seem at first, to depict the promised resurrection – and as a very, very, simple physical event: dead bodies rise out of the graves, and are seen around town. Yet note though, now … that this is often depicted in a naturalistic way; as a) being caused explicitly and by name, in part, by an “earthquake.” So that in fact, this passage might be about something rather normal and natural.
The passage in John, seems to have been written to prove that some Apocalyptic prophesies might have been fulfilled right after Jesus’ death; specifically, that aa) the world or “earth” as we know it, was being destroyed; and bb) the dead raised up. Even right after Jesus died. But in any case, if it is, it is happening in a naturalistic way: an earthquake. cc) And furthermore, we might begin to suggest that, just as in the cases of Lazarus and then more metaphorical resurrections, this account does not necessarily recount a fully successful resurrection, either.
Perhaps that was a useful passage; indeed we might say on the basis of this and dozens of other passages, that the Bible itself suggested the “world” or “earth” has been destroyed several times. (Leaving only the Destruction of Heaven, to complete the Apocalypse). But in any case, what concerns us here, now, is that this event, as is typical, was written again, in such a way that it might seem on the surface, to be a physical miracle; and then as a metaphor for a spiritual event or resurrection too. But in addition to that, we should now begin noting that it is also written in such a way, that it could be taken as a very natural event; as an earthquake that exposed old graves. While, as for the bodies of dead saints being seen around town? The text does not say they were alive at that time; it may be merely that their dead bodies were exposed, and seen around town.
In one translation, to be sure, it is said the deceased saints “went” into the city; a translation which might suggest to some that they went by their own power, walking: and resurrection. Yet aa) there is no absolutely clear connotation here; while bb) the slightest shift in still quite legitimate translation here, could shift the meaning to something clearly more compatible with … their dead bodies being carried, or rolled around, in the city.
Even some existing translations in fact, are somewhat more compatible with this natural view of things; “bodies” were “raised,” and they “entered” the city, in the New American Bible (Mat. 27.53).
Why should we eventually prefer a more natural kind of translation? Remember that the Bible warned us that there are always many false things in religion, gospels; and it told us that we should therefore, “test” things with “science,” to determine which things are true, and which are false. And in this case, science and experience tell us that dead people do not often come up live from graves, to walk and talk. Therefore, any such accounts are either simply false … or misunderstood, garbled by the “confusion of tongues,” mistranslated. And, hoping to continue to honor the Bible itself, therefore, rather than calling such biblical accounts simply, flatly, false, we might suggest that this account be simply, re-translated. Re-translated in such a way as to be more compatible with the science of God.
To be sure though, while we thus seek to honor every word of the Bible here, finally, we might note to that finally, if parts of the Bible do no reconcile with what science says is possible, finally we will find the Bible allows that parts of the Bible itself might indeed, be simply, false. Yet, hoping to avoid such a flat conflict between the Bible or religion and science, word and world, we take advantage of the fact that the Bible itself allowed that much in it is metaphorical … to suggest say, that stories of dead saints come out of graves to appear in the city, can be taken as metaphors. But not as metaphors for spiritual things; but metaphors in effect, for … natural things. In this case, for dead bodies being exposed by an earthquake; and then being seen, shown, carried, taken, conveyed, around town. To be seen by many.
Thus we have an account here, that is consistent with science. And one which too, by the way, once again at the very least, notes possible qualifications, ambiguities in the text, regarding whether a simple physical resurrection took place here, for example.
With just a very slight shift in translation, and no change at all to the original Greek text perhaps, this whole episode could mean nothing much more or less, than this: that there was an earthquake, which exposed many bodies in graves; which either “went” – or were taken about – so that they “appeared to many.”
Some will still like to say it was a supernatural miracle; and that this is finally a real picture of a simple physical resurrection. But perhaps the Bible itself does not really say that, even here.
While in any case, such a picture is clearly qualified, by other parts of the Bible; which allow after all, that such things might be entirely metaphorical. Thus giving us much latitude in translation and understanding.
By the way, if this had been a real, physical resurrection, then this would pose historical problems for believers. Some might like to present this episode, as the miraculous fulfillment of the ancient promise, of the Apocalypse and the “day of the Lord,” etc.; of God coming, and destroying the “earth”; then resurrecting the dead by miracle. But further evidence for the superiority of the more natural explanation, note that if this had been a totally supernatural event, then it is strange that these saints did not stay, and rule the city “eternally”; as promised in the ancient prophesies. If you try to interpret this tale as an account of a physical miracle, then no doubt, the resurrected saints or someone, should have set up a real material and “eternal” “kingdom” too; yet history records that Jerusalem, in which this happened, was in fact burned in 70 AD. Indeed, it ceased to be the capital of any effective Jewish kingdom at all, until 1946 or so. Indeed, most religious people rightly regard the resurrection of the dead, not as completed in the past. So that popular opinion here might be right for once.
Those still want to try to take this “earth shook” episode as supernatural and physical miracle, as miraculous fulfillment of ancient prophesy, run not only into all kinds of contrary physical and factual evidence, but also historical difficulties. Whereas, if you take it all as an earthquake, then everything fits much better. One might even say that an earthquake destroyed the “earth,” and exposed some of the dead to “life” or living eyes, if you want. And were “transported” around town, say. All that is all that seems realistically allowed.
So that even this incident, the most apparently clear and dramatically real and physical resurrection in the Bible – where the bodies of the saints are disinterred, and are seen about town – is not absolutely, without question, a story of a physical, material resurrection. Not even taken by itself. While furthermore, we will see, even if it was taken as such, then it will have been in conflict with the dozens of other parts of the Bible; which offered a more nuanced, qualified, and different account of such things.
To avoid such conflicts, a simple re-translation is perhaps advised here. We might ask biblical scholars and language experts what can be done here. In order to more fully reconcile this account, with the rest of the Bible’s vision of resurrection.
“Like” Dead Men
8) Indeed, as a better account of all this, consider a passage that comes right after the above; right after Mat. 27, above. It is often the case in the Bible, that on controversial issues, if one rather extreme or contentious position is presented, then an alternative view, is presented within a fairly short space. In order to achieve balance. (As in a debate; a common method of teaching in Israel, among rabbis, and so forth). In this case, the extreme idea, is the hint above, that resurrection is a physical miracle; dead bodies rising from the grave. But this idea is modified, or given an alternative interpretation, in just the next chapter or.
So right after Mat. 27.51-54, which seems to present resurrection firmly as a physical miracle, consider by way of balance, what comes next, in Mat. 28.3. There we see many more indications that what is being talked about in the Bible, is metaphorical. But by the way, not just a metaphor for “spiritual” things , but for a spiritual state, that effects one’s body; for the fear which paralyzes. Consider indeed therefore, Mat. 28.3. Where first of all a) the episode – and death – is explicitly not to be taken literally; where it is a simile, or a sort of metaphor: where the guards see Jesus … and became “like” “dead men”:
“For an angel came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it…. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men” (Mat. 28.2,4).
Here we are given again, a kind of “death” that is not quite literal, but spiritual in part; the guards are paralyzed with fear, and become “like” dead men. They are not really, literally dead. (And probably they also come back to life later? Thus this passage written, to fulfill yet another prophesy? Bringing the dead back to life?). They merely become “like” dead men; a phrase that specifies it is an analogy, or a simile, or a sort of metaphor.
b) And so once again, after having presented us with a kind of apparent physical rising from the grave, that account is now balanced out, by presenting talk of death, as a kind of spiritual death. Being paralyzed with fear, no doubt; a “freezing” instinct one sees in many animals.
c) But interestingly, we might also add, this “spiritual” event, can be confirmed and better understood, as a real mental event; so we find “spirit” here is real: it is about our mind, too.
d) And furthermore, this spiritual/mental death, is one that be confirmed by science. This event, this “death,” is about … paralysis from fear. Something that psychologists can confirm. What happens is than many animals – including man – at times, “freeze” or experience automatic paralysis from fear. This response is well known; it is thought to be from ancient instinct, that had our bodies freeze and cease to move, when spotted by a dangerous animal; in the hope that they would not see us. Since animals notice things that move or are in motion, more easily. So in this case, the guards might have just become paralyized from fear. (While many suggest that “angel” just means “messenger”; and so even they were not supernatural either; though primitive and superstitious guards might have seen strange if rather normal messengers, and become paralyized from fear).
And so by now, perhaps we are ready to reach the fuller, better interpretation of tales of “dead” people, and them coming to “life” in the Bible. At first, a) the Bible seems to allow one simple interpretation: that they are about physically dead bodies, rising from their graves. But b) then the Bible suggests this is all metaphorical, analogical. While c) then next we are beginning to note here, we can now come up with a position that borrows a bit of both; that finds them to be naturalistically true. That finds all this to be about, in this case, a mental process that is confirm-able by a science, like Psychology.
What is happening with the guards, is a kind of “death” that is in fact, somewhat real. A sort of event which is to be sure a) first a strange or wonderful event (cf. “miracle”); but which is also b) in part spiritual; and also c) natural. Capable of being explained by rational, scientific means. (See remarks on paralysis from fear, on our writing on Medusa too).
In any case though, by now any reader should begin to see that the Bible is not simple; and there are many things we need to consider, before we can begin to say more definitely, what death and resurrection are, according just to the Bible itself.
What we will be coming to here eventually, is a fuller, more complete picture of many wonders of the Bible; especially resurrection. Finding it to be rather complex; as being 1) partially a physical wonder; partially 2) spiritual; but 3) finding even spiritual death and resurrection to be also, finally, a scientifically verifiable, natural, event.
So that all the many levels of the Bible are coming together, to form the “full”er picture of Resurrection. While indeed, many things are coming together here; as our a) material earthly understanding of things as being about physical events, joins to b) a “spiritual” or “heaven”ly reading; to form at last a union in effect, of heaven and earth. As foretold (Rev. 21).
Can our priests understand and accept this? When “spirit” is poured onto “flesh”? In any case, all this can be seen as the beginning of fulfillment of at least one prophesy; the merger of heaven and earth; the pouring of “spirit” on material “flesh.”
(Cf. also, earlier account of resurrection, as metaphor taken literally).
[Or in addition to all that, consider external evidence about resurrection. Archeology tells us in fact, is that many people in Jesus’ time were “raised from the dead,” in that it was normal custom in Jerusalem, c. 30 BC to A.D. 70, to bury bodies in a stone box for a while, until the flesh was eaten off, and then “Exactly a year after burial, the bones would be dug up, placed in an ossuary” or bone box, and returned to a family burial cave (Karin Laub, “A burial box’s ancient mystery,” Assoc. Press, Austin American Statesman, Nov. 7, 2002, A21 & A23; citing Oct. 2002 issue of Shank’s Biblical Archaeological Review, regarding box alleged to have been that of James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus. Cf. story of Jonah, in Bible).
In many primitive tribal societies, people kept the bones of their deceased relatives around. Sometimes dug-up bones were spoken of – and sometimes to – as if they were a live person. (See Bible; where Moses tells us he brought the bones of a prophet with him, in the desert; Ex. 13.19). Rather as some people speak to gravestones or old photographs of deceased persons, o this day. Sometimes, they did this in the hope the bones would come to life again. Or that the bones might still be partially alive in some way (like the Halloween vision of dancing skeletons). This in turn, suggests where many stories of dead persons rising again, or coming up out of the grave, might have come from. (See “bones” in Ezekiel, etc. Our Chapter on Immortality).]
In every case, note, we are finding something half real in immortality; but something not quite what our preachers thought it was. In general though, finally, though the Bible at first seemed to promise a seemingly Lazarus-like, physical resurrection – dead bodies rising from the grave – finally, the New Testament metaphoricalized all that; to the point that it could be said that all the Bible ever really promised, was a mental or spiritual rebirth: passing from fated or “dead” ideas, to the ideas, spirit, “life,” of a good person or Christian. Indeed, the New Testament often suggested, hinted, that this was the real nature and interpretation of resurrection, and rebirth to a new “life.” In phrases like this one:
“He who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will heard the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5.24-25).
Here, the Bible began to hint even that all that is being talked about, when the Bible speaks of resurrection, is just a change in your state of mind or spirit – while you are still alive. An “hour” which is not just in the future, but which can happen now, in your own lifetime; an hour which “now is.”
To be sure, there should be many people who object to the lack of ethics and morality of such a religion, that at first seems to promise another, real, physical life after physical death … but which then in the fine print, takes all that away; that suggests that what it really offered was only a metaphor for a spiritual change, in this lifetime. Yet to be sure, arguably, this is what Christianity has done.
Some More Ethical Considerations
On Biblical Ambiguity
We are finding here that the Bible itself reviews many possibilities, many different possible pictures of both “death,” and resurrection; and we are finding to understand the Bible and what it promises, we need to review all the many aspects of what it says on death and resurrection for example, very carefully. But to be sure, when we do that, finally, it is at first, seemingly impossible to say whether the Bible itself ever really offered any physical miracles at all. Since every time we have looked at an ostensible physical miracle here (including dozens of other ones than resurrection) we find that the Bible itself, puts in plenty of qualifiers, hedge words. Qualifiers that suggest that “death” for example, and resurrection from “death,” might have been only some kind of metaphor; for just some kind of spiritual change that takes place in our first lifetime.
9) While hopes that our spirit in turn, might live on in “heaven” say, seem uncertain. (Given the destruction of heaven particularly; in 2 Peter 3, Rev. 21, Isa. 34.4 ff, Mark 13.31, etc.).
So is there a real, substantial resurrection? Was Lazarus really physically dead … and then physically revived?
The fact is, we cannot even be sure that Lazarus was really actually physically dead, in the first place. The Bible itself constantly questions the status of Lazarus. And it never really even clearly says, overall, given all the hesitations and various remarks, that Lazarus is even really, literally, physically dead; Jesus himself at times hinting that Lazarus did not have a fatal disease, and is only “sleeping”; while other times, to “sleep” is taken as a metaphor for being physically dead. Though still other times, if Jesus said finally Laz was “dead,” elsewhere Jesus used being “dead” as a metaphor, for merely being dead to, insensitive to, good spirits.
So that finally, in the Bible, there is no very clear, firm promise; of a real, physical resurrection, say. (cf. Judgement). Finally, the wording of the Bible is extremely tricky. All we can really be sure of, is that the account of Lazarus and Jesus’ words, reflects the knowledge of someone who seems to know something about the 1) ambiguities of both physical nature, and 2) the ambiguities of language too. Someone who knows probably, that 3) though many priests and others believe in physical miracles, it is rare for long -dead persons to come to life. The Bible was edited by someone who knew that 4) many such ancient tales, might therefore be best changed, so that they might be taken as literal truth; but also as poetic or “literary” metaphors, for things that happen in our mind or spirit, while we are still alive on this earth.
5) Given all the ambiguities and shifting changes here, in the language of the Bible, it seems that some ancient writers probably knew about ancient promises of resurrections, and were reporting them to us in our holy books; but many of these writers doubted the existence of miracles. And rather simply conclude that their religions were at least partially false, they made sure, that the language in the Bibles that we have today, reflects the ambiguities or uncertainties of what was promised in ancient texts. Finally, the Bible was written, edited, redacted, to such a state of ambiguity, that it is never entirely clear what the Bible did promise.
Today we have a radically ambiguous Bible, that is so complex, that only “fool”s declare it has a simple, clear meaning: that it simply promises dead bodies rising from graves for example. If anything at all is clear about the Bible, it is that it is an exceedingly difficult, qualified, evasive document. It is clear that the tale of raising of Lazarus from the “dead,” was written, or edited, by someone who had heard popular rumors of resurrections; but who say, knew a lot about the ambiguities of nature and medicine; about how hard it is, sometimes, to tell if someone is sleeping, or in a coma, or dead. (Something often surprisingly hard to determine, before modern tests, testing for the constriction of pupils, and so forth). And given all this, finally the writer and/or editors and translators of the account of Lazarus, cognizant that there were problems with old promises of miracles, and many interpretation of them … carefully crafted the text on this subject, to be open to many interpretations; including the interpretation, that no physical miracle had taken place at all.
6) So that, even if it should be proven some day, that there are no such physical miracles, no physical resurrections, still, religion, the Bible, cannot be definitely disproved; since the fine print always allowed that these “miracles” might not have been physical miracles after all. First because – as in the case of Lazarus – the account of such things is extremely a) ambiguous as to whether Lazarus was even really physically dead, in the first place (or just “sleep”ing, in a coma). Or b) whether it was all just a spiritual metaphor; Laz was “dead” to Jesus, etc..).
In fact finally, the Bible’s language is so complex, so tricky, that no critic or believer either, can really even firmly say, what the Bible itself described or promised, in the first place. In the way of say, Resurrection for example.
7) Yet to be sure, the Bible was written in such a way that there is no doubt that the surface of the text gives at least the superficial impression of offering huge material wonders. And 8) based on that, millions of preachers’ sermons did not hesitate to offer all the world wonderful, incredible physical miracles to us.
So that the 9) biblical text actually, has two levels in it; it has its cake and eats it too: it is a) open to being presented as promising huge physical miracles; yet, b) if it is discovered that such miracles don’t happen, it can then point to the fine print, and say it never promised a physical, material miracle at all. But only mental or spiritual things.
The 10) Bible therefore, is an extremely clever document; as “subtle” as the “serpents” or snakes, that Jesus advised his followers to be (Mat. 10.16: “Be wise as serpents”; cf. Rev. 9.19, 12.9, Mat. 23.33, Mark 16.18, 2 Corin. 11.3). But finally, is being thus “wise” – or “sly” – and as semantically twisting as a “snake,” really so good and honest? Such an ambiguous document, is given to all sorts of demonic mis-use. Our preachers for example, often use the surface of the text – promises of physical miracles – to tell us dogmatically, enticingly, that if we follow them, we will get physical miracles. And yet, after enticing us to join them on the basis of such promises- and even after having given them all our money (Acts 4.32-5.11) – then our preachers, shift, change their promises around; and begin to suggest it was all just a metaphor for spiritual things.
11) The “God” we see here, seems – as often – to be speaking ambivalently; with two tongues; with forked tongues; “double-tongued”; almost, duplicitously; out of both sides of his mouth. With “twist”ing phrases. So that perhaps at last we need the power to “tread upon serpents” (Luke 10.19), and to straighten out twisting “tongues.” To find out what is really being promised here; and what is true.
In the meantime, though, our Bible, which is so twisting, serpentine, might be objected to, by many good moral persons. Such an ambiguous Bible, presents some extremely serious ethical questions. Indeed, such a twisting document suggests that what we are hearing here – either in the Bible itself, and/or in the sermonic interpretations of it – is not really from God; but from a forked-tongue devil. A devil, pretending to be God, or the angel of “light.” A false or antichrist.
12) Was there any moral justification for such a document? There are those who a) defend the Bible as a “white” lie; as helping to subdue crude people, with apparent promises of big physical rewards, immortality, in their own lifetime. While b) simultaneously guiding them to a more philosophical, “spiritual” message, too.
13) But as it turns out, if the physical promises of the Bible were often bad, the “spiritual” promises were also often bad, in many respects. As we will see. (From James 2.14-26, etc.).
14) So finally, the split, two-leveled Bible that we have today – of the split understanding we have of it – is not good enough. It is bad to have a Bible that appears to promise something on the surface, that it takes away in the fine print. Or that is at very best ambiguous to the point that it cannot ever be realistically understood or followed. Or whose simple interpretations are found largely false.
15) No doubt indeed, we now need readers, who can straight these twisting phrases out; who have the power to tread on such “snakes.”
“Authority to tread upon serpents” (Luke 10.19).
And so indeed, let us keep working to straighten out all these twisting phrases and promises, here and now. Perhaps indeed, the Bible itself … contains a bad and simplistic voice or two; but with luck, it offered too a higher voice, a fuller reality.
Does the Bible send double, conflicting messages? Could there be something wrong with the Bible itself? Some might excuse that, with various arguments; a) the Bible itself, is written in part, by scribes, and other human beings; and they, out of human weakness, appear to have written a document, with no absolutely clear, definite, single meaning. Or b) some literary critics might celebrate their “ambiguity.” Yet there are many times, when ambiguity is not a virtue. When you are deadly ill, and ask for a guide, a map to the hospital, you don’t want poetic ambiguity; you want “clear, unambiguous prose.” And likewise, when you are being offered a life or death contract or covenant – you do not want the contracting party to try to wriggle out of their obligations, by playing semantic games with the contract.
Unfortunately, not only is the Bible, as written today, ambiguous and left millions confused; worse, many preachers have at times accidentally, at times slyly, systematically, used that ambiguity; to play deceptive semantic games. To appear at times to be promising wonderful things – miracles – up front; but then, after you have signed on, and have given your money and life to the church, they point to the fine print, the semantic undertow … and jerk those promises away. So that our preachers all deceived us, with false promises, and lures or big miracles. While they justify this to themselves – saying they are giving us spiritual things, which are better than physical miracles – in fact, we have found, that radical over- “spiritual” result, is even worse.
So what should we now say? “What is truth,” asked Pilate (John 18.38) … walking away from Jesus and his apparently many evasive ambiguities. Pilate and others had asked Jesus many times, to tell us clearly, whether he was the promised Christ for example; but most often, overwhelmingly, Jesus did not answer plainly, but answered with more questions and ambiguities: “who do you say I am?” he most often asked. Or he said others called him that: “You have said so” (Mat. 27.11). Ultimately though, Jesus made no defense of himself to his accusers it was said at times (Mat. 27.12-14; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18-19); even to the local lord on his judgement seat (Mat. 27.19). And so, Pilate was content finally, to see Jesus executed, as a false Christ; just another false leader, playing twisting word games with us; Jesus was executed as at best, an evasive, snaky, Satanic, semantic trickster. Probably a heretic and insurrectionist. No doubt, many came to the conclusion that this first Christ, Jesus himself, was actually … the foretold “antichrist”; just another false or failed pretender to the throne of Jerusalem and David; just another false Messiah. Indeed, Jesus himself had told us to “hate” our brother … while St. John told us that anyone who hates his brother is not good (q.v.); hinting that even the Jesus pictured in parts of the gospels, might be false and bad.
That would seem to be a reasonable conclusion at this point. However, though many might quite reasonably come to that conclusion, that is a decision that is too hard for many to face or bear. So let’s note that, in spite of a) a deceptive appearance – and b) even deeper down in the fine print and semantic undertones and its larger messages – c) the Bible itself, quite rightly warned that many, nearly “all,” would misunderstand its message. And that there might be a higher, better truth. Better than simple promises of physical miracles, and the simple spirituality of priests, both.
It may be that those who promised miracles, simply misunderstood the Bible; the blame might be laid not on the Bible itself, but (as St. Paul generously tried to lay it) with the perceiver, the reader, the ordinary person. While in any case, we ourselves might now finally, straighten out some of these snaky passages and tongues. To come up with say, a unified, whole, full, satisfactory account of say, resurrection. One which ties all the strands of the Bible together at last. To be sure, our final vision of resurrection, will not satisfy everyone; nevertheless, we suggest, it is finally, the best that can be made out of all this; the best statement or vision that can be described, that is consistent with both, the entire Bible itself, and with science and experience too.
To be sure, finally, the Bible is so radically ambiguous, and is so easy to read as promising material miracles, that if it is not in fact offering them deep down, then the Bible as presently translated, is at least misleading. (See Scripture chapter and notes*). And there is no doubt too, that whatever the Bible itself said, many preachers used it to promise miracles … that perhaps it did not offer, and that in any case that did not arrive as regularly and reliably as promised; so that many millions of preachers have been deceived, or even bad and evil. Millions of preachers (until about 1969 or so?) issued false promises to us.
The text of the Bible, was used by preachers, to issue many false promises. To entice the people into a faith that, finally, we will have found elsewhere, does not fully deliver what was promised. That promised dead bodies rising alive from graves … only to offer really, in the fine print, a mental or “spiritual” revival.
But now finally, having seen where the Bible itself supported this, it is time to go on next, to see if deeper down, there is reality to say resurrection, that would at least partially satisfy everyone; that would unify all the parts, levels of the Bible … and reconcile them to science and experience too. To show us, give us, a real immortality or resurrection.
Finally, this has been done before by previous scholars in the twentieth century; but the whole earth ignored it. Finally though, let us re-present the best answer we have today; the best composite picture of an afterlife, of a biblical resurrection. Of a resurrection that is both physical, and spiritual.
Let us continue looking for a while. First, we have looked at 1) the ostensible simple physical resurrection of Lazarus. And then 2) the metaphorical/spiritual revival, in the prodigal son, and in 3) St. John’s saints coming out of “tombs.” Let us go on next to look at say, the 4) the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, on the first Easter. Along with 5) some notion of our living on, in our name and seed; as related to 6) Plato’s ideas about immortality. As it turns out, all of these things can be taken to be just spiritual metaphors; and the Bible itself allows us to do this (as noted in our chapter on Metaphors). Then 7) we will go on to look back at a few more simple images: the Old Testament account by Ezekiel, of dry dead “bones” coming together, to form living bodies. Before 8) we come at last to a real, defensible immortality; a real resurrection. Something both spiritual, and physical.
The Easter Resurrection of Jesus,
First and Second Coming
The Easter Resurrection of Jesus;
Is This Resurrection Real?
Is there a real, indubitable, scientifically-provable, real, physical (and spiritual?) resurrection, here on this material, observable earth? It seems impossible at first. But in fact, we will eventually show, there is a real immortality; a real resurrection. One that is not a “strange new doctrine,” but that has long since been demonstrated, from science and reason. One known at least from the days of Socrates and Plato, c. 350 BC. An immortality, a resurrection that, just as many scholars have always suspected, is the real root and meaning, of Christian resurrection. Briefly, Plato outlined it first: speaking of parts of our selves, living on in our cultural reputation, memory, or “name”; and our memory – and perhaps bits of our biological selves, our DNA – living on in our “children.” Or, as these things were known in Judeo-Christian tradition, we live on to some extent, in Biblical language, in our “name” and “seed.” And/or in our bio-cultural “neighbors,” and “children.”
As it turns out, this is both the most 1) rationally, scientifically defensible vision of immortality and rebirth; and 2) it is in fact, far more clearly consistent with, loyal to, the Bible, than the hopelessly vague – or even unbiblical – ideas of resurrection and immortality given to us by priests to date. Priests have often posed resurrection or immortality, “in heaven”; even though the Bible says that heaven is to be destroyed. Or priests pictured resurrection as rising from the grave; even though we will have begun to see here, though the Bible itself at times alluded to that, it did not really, finally, endorse that view. Indeed we will gradually see, even the Bible’s accounts of the first resurrection of Jesus, which at first seems to be a rising from the grave of a physically real Jesus, is not what it appears to be at first. Indeed, the only form of immortality, resurrection, that can really be defended rationally, scientifically, and Biblically … is to say that resurrection is not physically dead bodies rising from the grave; but the passing on of the ideas, mind, spirit, memory, reputation of someone like Jesus, to others after him; his spirit or ideas being “reborn” in them. So that spirits, ideas, are passed on from one body to another. Thus outliving the dead of any single individual. Through the cultural transmission of ideas, especially. (And also, to a lesser extent, through the biological transmission of basic brain structure, through DNA).
The germ of this idea, we will show, have been fairly well known for a while; arguably, since the days of Plato in fact, c. 350 BC. Who knew about a form of immortality, in the survival of our “name” or our memory, through our descendants. And so, having been written down centuries before Jesus, these specific ideas would have long since been available, to an educated Jewish man of Jesus’ time (like Paul, especially; who is said to have probably written in Greek; while many of our earliest New Testaments are written in Greek). And therefore, it is historically possible for persons like Jesus, to have had the earlier expression of such an idea, in mind; from knowledge of Plato. Indeed, furthermore, regarding the evolution of this idea from Plato (who may have refined earlier Jewish forms of the idea in turn?), we will show that the Apostle Paul for example, often in fact used the key vocabulary terms and concepts, from Plato’s famous Theory of Forms. Paul speaking of things, people here on earth, as “imperfect,” “perish”able “copies” of ideal forms or “patterns” in “heaven.”
Christian borrowing from Greek culture, or the refining of its own ideas by way of Greek, Platonic concepts, was historically quite possible, and Biblically defensible; indeed, Paul often confessed he owned much not only to Jews, but also Gentiles, and Greeks. Therefore, the historicality of this, is adequately founded.
And since, furthermore, the picture that Plato had of immortality, in turn, was – like most of Plato’s thought – quite rational, then we will have to say that surprisingly, legends of immortality, resurrection, have long historically had, a very, very rational basis. And furthermore, building on this rational basis, and expanding it with material from science, we can also now add further details from the sciences of Biology and Anthropology; and begin to at last offer an understanding, a vision of immortality, that can be confirmed, at last, with real science. Giving us a scientifically-verifiable vision of resurrection.
So that amazingly, we will be showing here that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic, “Abrahamic” vision of God and good, even its “resurrections” and life in “heaven,” can be shown to have had a rational, scientific foundation; dating from at least the time and writings of Plato, c. 350 BC. And then, furthermore, specifically we will now add, we will show that 1) the first resurrection of Jesus, was written, cast in language that is rigorously consistent with – and in fact finally demanding – our vision of resurrection.
And then too, 2) even more startlingly, we will show here, this is how a Second Coming can happen too; indeed, is perhaps already happening. As we show that in fact, God, Jesus, can be – and perhaps to some extent already is – returning to earth, in effect, by another resurrection. (from surviving ideas, spirits; from “heaven,” or more exactly, from the heaven-and-earth mind of God, or the memory of his Universe or Nature).
So amazingly, many of us can indeed, already begin to see the first glimmerings of the Second Coming of Christ. As of this writing, this is something that can be shown to really happen, even now. Even in a way that science and reason can now demonstrate; in a way that many of us will even here and now, learn to at last see, with our own eyes; even “face-to-face.”
And so there is an amazing revelation here. But to be sure, we will find, while resurrection and immortality, are real, they are coming true, to be sure, in a way that our priests and holy men have not, until now, understood. Or in ways that our preachers have not been able – have been not humble enough – to fully “face” or “bear.” Indeed, it is hard for priests to learn to accept things that science says; and for priests to learn to be humble enough to let go, some of their most cherished, traditional misconceptions of immortality and resurrection. But if so, then we have come to “refine” our priests a bit here and now. And though such refinement will involve even shattering moments of dis”illusion”ment and “pain,” finally, only those who learn to face and bear this pain, will really see, the second and better vision, the second and better coming, of Christ.
And indeed, those priests who resist such ideas, need to remember that God to be sure, warned even his highest apostles, that he was not fully revealing things, in ancient times, in the time of Jesus’ first coming, because many could not “bear” them:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” (John 16.12-13).
God warned that many could not “bear” the truth in his own time. And if he gave us a “spirit” to guide us to all truth, God warned that there would still be great sins and errors even in priests, even in their allegedly inspired doctrines … even in spite of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Until finally, the … final “Day.” The “Day of the Lord,” “Judgement Day.”
Even some priests might become humble enough, to agree that even their own ideas of God, might not be already perfect; and that their views might even be inferior to, even less godly than, in some ways, science. Or many might agree that the Bible itself said that most people would not be able to really “bear” to see, the real, the terrible face of God, “face-to-face” … until perhaps, the “Day” of the End; and/or of the Second Coming. And yet perhaps after all, that day is dawning even now. And many might be able to bear this at last … on discovering here, that after all, what we are saying here is not a contradiction to the Bible; but is absolutely consistent with it; every word (so far as we now know. Though some clarifications and defences will have to be added to specific objections later, of course).
In fact, amazingly, the Bible is true; even its promises of resurrection. Even in a way that can at last be verified with science. So let us move on now, with that vision, at last. So that all the world can come to see Christ, God, on earth again, at last.
The best way to start to see how the Second Coming might work, (after looking at Lazarus, then metaphorical resurrections) … is to carefully examine the most important resurrection in the Bible: the first resurrection of Jesus; the resurrection of Jesus as recounted in the Bible.
What, actually, is the Bible offering us, in general, in the way of an afterlife? If anything? First, if you have been one of those people who thought that the Bible promised 1) physically dead bodies rising from graves, then 2) you need to know about the “spiritual” side of resurrection, first. Before we can move on to the 3) better, unified, scientific vision of a real, spiritual and bodily resurrection. But we already did that in earlier writings. So let’s just look straight at Jesus himself for a while.
There are many different accounts of the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus has already been revived, in several different ways, already, in the past, according to the Bible. First, 1) it was written that Jesus came back from the dead, arrived in a “second” coming, on the first Easter. Easter, three days after his death; around the Spring or “Vernal” Equinox celebrations. This vision of resurrection, return, as pictured in the Bible, offers a first, simple vision of an afterlife: apparently a dead body, coming to life, walking and talking. And it is said that this Jesus, was seen by many different people, for about forty – 40 – days; before this Jesus disappeared up into heaven (as noted in the beginning of Acts).
There are many biblical accounts of this first, apparently bodily resurrection of Jesus in fact. But as we begin to look at these a little more closely, we will discover that, just as in the case of the alleged physical resurrection of Lazarus, 2) these appearances are not quite as simply physical, as a dead body rising from the grave; actually, even within these accounts, we see another sort of spiritual “rebirth” or “resurrection” of Jesus, actually pictured. Finally it is actually said, even here, that Jesus was more with us metaphorically; in that his “spirit” lives on in, at least partially guides, various living individuals who came after Jesus. Indeed, many people consciously try to take on the thoughts and ideas of Jesus; and to even try to – as far as they are able – become Jesus. (Read the Imitation of Christ). And indeed we will find, Jesus is partially “reborn” once again, in those who come after him; who try to relive, re-embody, his thoughts, his spirit, in themselves; in their own brains and bodies. Indeed, it was long said that at least the churches – if not specific individuals in them – are the new “body” of Christ. While finally, beyond churches – and their occasional sins and imperfections – we could say that in this way, the spirit of God, of Christ, is with many of us, in fact. While it is possible that one “day” in fact, nearly the whole spirit of Jesus might be reproduced, in another individual. To the extent that we could say that Christ had been “reborn.” Indeed, billions of Christians try to be “reborn” to the spirit of Christ; and perhaps one “day” after all, one of them succeeds.
So let us look specifically at the resurrection of Jesus. From there, we begin to see once again, confirmation of a rational, scientifically-defensible vision of God. And we will also begin to see how a Second Coming can take place, too. By way of a real resurrection.
The Resurrection of Jesus
At first, the resurrection of Jesus looks like a simple, physical affair: Jesus physically dies, but then his dead body comes to life, and walks around town preaching. Rather like the resurrection of Lazarus appeared at first.
This is the dramatic picture that the Bible – according to most preachers – very adamantly insisted upon. Generations of preachers (and churches?) insisted that Jesus of course, was a real, physical person, and that he was crucified, killed. But three days after his death, he was raised to life again – really, actually, literally, physically – around Easter Sunday. To be sure, many versions of the gospel of Mark do not mention this resurrection; but other gospels include sections at the end, where the body of the dead Jesus, on or about Easter Sunday, disappeared from his tomb; where some then said “he is risen”; and then many people saw him alive and well and walking around.
Indeed, outside of the Gospel of Mark, the Bible itself has many pages of texts, in which the resurrected Jesus apparently stands, talks, and asks for food, etc..
“Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into thy hand I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last….” (Luke 23.44).
“This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb…” (Luke 23.52-3).
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb…. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body…. ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you … that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise'” (24.1-7).
“As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.’
And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them” (Luke 24.36-43).
“Now Thomas, one of the twelve … said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finer in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing'” (John 20.24-27).
This all looks like a simple physical miracle at first; the simple if supernatural, physical raising up of a dead body. Jesus, his original body was – as it seems to many, from the above – physically resurrected from the dead, bodily. As these parts of the Bible seem to insist, firmly. The texts above even goe out of their way to picture Jesus bodily, with full, graphic physical details, thus apparently insisting that he is fully, physically, bodily, resurrected. By 1) showing the crucifixion wounds on his hands and feet, the text emphasizes the physical, material nature of Jesus. And by 2) showing Jesus asking for food, as a physical person would; taking care of physical necessities. And then the text seems to emphasize the physical body of Jesus, by 3) having Jesus himself insisting explicitly that he is not a “spirit,” but the real, actual, original, in-the-flesh, physical Jesus; come back from the dead. (Also in the “flesh” in 1 John 4.2).
Quoting from passages of the Bible like those just mentioned, generations of preachers pictured the resurrection of Jesus as a full, bodily revival of his original body; with the fatal wounds of his crucifixion still visible. Yet, just as there were caveats, qualifications, hesitations, in the account of the raising of Lazarus, there are even more hesitations, we will find, in the overall account of the resurrection of Jesus himself. So that in the end, we find out that the resurrection is not quite as simple and physical, as it would appear at first.
Insisting on the Simple
Versus One That Isn’t Recognized?
That Often Can’t Be Touched?
The quotes above, are often used as inspiration for your first, simple, childhood
picture of the resurrection of Jesus: for Sunday School illustrations picturing resurrection as the simple coming back to life, of your dead physical body. And at first, it seems as if that is what the Bible was talking about. Indeed, in some quotes, the risen Jesus explicitly seems to say, that he is a real physical person, not just a spirit for instance. And the full physicality of his appearance, is further seemingly emphasized by Jesus actually asking for food to eat; emphasizing his physical body, by his need for actual, physical, food. Furthermore, we might add now, if anyone is still questioning the physicality of this resurrection, this picture of Jesus tells the apostle Thomas to test the reality of this physical body, medically. By tracing, probing the body’s wounds with his fingers.
Many churchgoers are familiar with this story, of “Doubting Thomas,” as we like to call him: after the resurrection of Jesus, Thomas is not sure that the person he sees, really is Jesus; and so he wants, like a surgeon, to actually, literally push his fingers into Jesus’ wounds. To prove that it really was Jesus himself, with his fatal wounds still in him.
Many people might think Thomas’ insistence on such proofs, is rude and crude. But in fact, Jesus often said that there were many false prophets and false things in religion; and that therefore, as much of the Bible said, we should “test everything,” with “science”; to make sure it is true. (As we showed at length in our chapter on this*). From what we were told in church, we are used to thinking of religion as being “faith-based.” But as it turns out for example, in the longest and most definitive account, of Thomas testing Jesus … in fact Jesus himself actually commands Thomas to probe his wounds, physically, like a surgeon. To physically, scientifically prove that this physical resurrection is a real, miraculous physical miracle or “work.” That a body with fatal wounds in it, is walking and talking.
So in fact, this would seem at first to be a firmly real, raising of a dead body. Further Jesus himself even commands Thomas here – as he often does – to scientifically confirm the physicality of this resurrection, by science. But now note that, in the longer, original account of Thomas for example, though 1) Jesus tells Thomas to do scientific tests … 2) there is no record here, of what later Apostles assumed: that Thomas actually did it. That Thomas actually probed the wounds.
Read the longer account of Thomas, closely:
“The works that I do … bear witness to me” (John 10.25).
“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,’ We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe’ (John 20.24-5).
The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out our hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless , but believing. ‘ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe…that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20.26-31).
At first, this raising of Jesus, seems to be quite physical. And for example, to be even a good, medical/scientific exploration of, confirmation of, physical resurrection. But here note that, just like the case of Lazarus, there are qualifications and hesitations, in the medical account. First, note that strangely, 1) notice that though Jesus himself orders Thomas to perform a good objective examination, in this, the longer and more definitive account of this incident, there is not any record here that Thomas actually did it; that Thomas actually probed the wounds. Note that – here at least – 1) Jesus tells Thomas to perform the exam, but then 2) there is no account here, that Thomas actually does probe his wounds. Instead, right after the command, we see Thomas merely saying “My Lord”:
“”Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!'” (John 20.27-28).
Most preachers assumed that Thomas actually probed the wounds; but note that technically speaking, the text here does not say that. So that actually, amazingly, there is no account here at least, that this resurrection was medically verified; that Thomas actually probed the wounds.
It is often assumed, in other accounts of Thomas – even by other saints? (q.v.) – that Thomas in fact, took Jesus up on his offer, and actually probed his wounds, as ordered. But look at what is actually narrated here. Note that Jesus in fact commands Thomas to do this; but then, in the next sentence, we have Thomas immediately accepting, him as Lord – without, in this account, actually proving his wounds. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out our hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless , but believing. ‘ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Thomas simply declares Jesus to be a miracle resurrection, without the account saying anywhere, here in Luke, that Thomas actually probed the wounds.
In Luke’s account therefore, technically, there is no actual sentence that says that Thomas actually did put his finger in Jesus’ side.
A miraculous, physical resurrection therefore, was never fully confirmed medically, scientifically, here. Indeed, even in this account, the emphasis began to shift subtly from emphasizing scientific proof … to emphasizing “faith.” Thomas hears the command to test Jesus … but without following that command, just, some might say, “believes.” (Though even here we are not sure he believes: Jesus asks, but does not firmly say, this: “Have you believed?” (John 20.29). So the text does not even say that Thomas believed; Jesus merely asks whether he did, in a question. So that the text here, at least, does not present proofs of a physical resurrection; and does not even show Thomas believing without it, either.
The Bible, churches sometimes say that these pictures of apparent physical miracles, are presented, almost as just aids or supplements to faith; to help people “believe.” Sometimes churches speak as if such pictures might not be true; but they have value as “white” lies; lies that while not true in themselves, encourage others to believe other things which are true; to have “faith” for example. But surely of course, no true religion, would accept false evidence. Indeed, any religion that must be supported by lies, is itself untrue.
So let us not simply gloss over these things; the fact is, the full or simple physicality of a bodily resurrection – dead bodies rising from the grave – was never verified here, in the story of Thomas; while in fact, as we will have been seeing here, that first simple idea of resurrection is not verified in the other parts of the Bible dealing with them at length, either. As we found in the story about Lazarus, likewise, the closer we look at the ostensible original-body resurrection of Jesus, the more we notice that technically, that resurrection was not confirmed, even in the Bible itself. There are many subtle qualifications in the language, that let a closer reader see this.
In fact, this is what we see over and over; the truth, of the simple physicality, of that resurrection is not fully verified, even in the Bible itself. In particular, by touching. Indeed, though several people are commanded to touch the body, there is no record in the text itself, that they actually did so. (Touching bodies being bad in many cultures). This is true not only in the case of Doubting Thomas; but also, to touch the resurrected Jesus is actually prohibited in other parts of the Bible. In the part for instance, when Mary wants to touch the resurrected Jesus – but he tells her that she is not allowed to touch him (John 20, below).
Can’t Touch or Test?
The fact is, we find here, the Bible itself, began over and over, to question the reality of simple physical resurrections; of dead bodies rising from the grave. First of all, such resurrections are not verified by reliable witnesses. Then too, as part of this, for whatever reasons, people are not clearly pictured as even physically touching this physical-seeming Jesus; an act which would be necessary to confirm its physicality. (To confirm it was material, and not just a ghost, etc..):
“Mary stood weeping outside the tomb…. She turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek”‘ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, ‘Mary,’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher [or “Rabbi”]. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Mag. went and said to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’….” (John 20.11, 14, 16-18).
This incident with Mary, where Mary is said to have seen the resurrected Jesus, is very illuminating; let’s look at it closely. First of all noting in that indeed, Mary is not allowed to physically touch Jesus. Furthermore, and more importantly, there are also other questions in the Bible, odd observations, on what the resurrected body looks like. Note particularly that – unexpectedly, oddly – Mary M., who knew Jesus well, nevertheless does not recognize him. Mary turns around, and “sees Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus.” Nor was she allowed to touch or “hold” him.
Mary at first did not recognize Jesus. Which is somewhat strange; if this was really just a simple straightforward, physical, bodily return of the physical Jesus, then of course, his friends should recognize him right away. If this really is Jesus, resurrected bodily in the flesh, then he should after all, look pretty much the same. He should have been instantly recognized by his girlfriend, Mary M., and others. Yet, significantly, he was not visually identified at first at all. Not even by his closest friends.
Why not? Some say Jesus was wearing a “magical” disguise. (Note incidentally that people are still “weeping,” even after this resurrection, the beginning of this partial kingdom; when “weeping” is supposed to cease, as in Isa. 65-6; Rev. 21). But of course, magic is forbidden in Christianity.
So the bottom line here is that once again, a supposedly simple, physical manifestation of Jesus – a dead body rising from the grave – is not quite fully verified. Not only is that resurrected body really touched; but furthermore, the text often, in the most detailed accounts, does not firmly say that the walking talking body was even visually verified. Jesus asked Thomas if he had “seen”; but Thomas merely interjects an expression of surprise – “My Lord!” – rather than clearly confirming touch or sight either. While Mary is expressly forbidden to touch the body … and furthermore, at first, Mary does not even recognize what she sees, as Jesus; the Bible simply says Jesus was not recognized, say because of awful wounds; rather Mary simply assumed the person she saw, to be a “gardener.” So that Mary at first does not even visually verify the person she sees, as Jesus.
So, although resurrection was often pictured by priests, religious pictures, as being very simple and physical – as dead bodies rising from the grave – note many biblical objections to that common idea among priests. First, 1) this Jesus seems to promise he can be touched; or that others should try to touch him. But in these two major accounts at least, he is not actually touched, and confirmed. neither by Thomas, nor by Mary. Then too, 2) that this is Jesus, is not visually confirmed at first either; people who know Jesus extremely well, don’t recognize the person they see, as Jesus; which they should, if it is a simple, straightforward physical return. (Nor is this because he was disfigured by the crucifixion; as we will see, they instead saw him as a normal “stranger,” or “gardener,” without even noting anything different about him.)
Finally, too, we might now add this: 3) then there is another problem with this; in that this physical resurrected Jesus, by most biblical accounts, should have stayed in Jerusalem, eternally (Isa. 65-6; Rev. 21). But this first resurrection of Jesus is actually on earth, only “forty days” (Acts 1). Then it disappears up into heaven. As we see next.
The Resurrected Jesus Disappears;
Goes to “Heaven”
Note that this resurrected Jesus, the first resurrection of Jesus, the book of Acts tells us, lasts only “forty days”:
“To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days…. And … while they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts. 1.3-9. Note that though it is said there were many “proofs,” we have found the original accounts of Thomas and Mary, did not call these proofs, and did not document any scientific verification. Perhaps his “passion” or spirit was proven, but not his physical resurrection).
Even if Jesus had returned physically, simply, even if his dead body had been revived in the grave, still, there is yet another problem or shortfall, with this resurrection: all the old books suggested that when God returned to earth, it would be the foretold “day”; when at last, God would work incredible wonders; and defeat the enemies of Jews; and He would of course, not just later disappear. Indeed, when God appears on earth he is supposed to stay on in Jerusalem, himself (Rev. 21, Isa. 65-6, etc.):
“Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them” (Rev. 21.3).
When God appeared on earth, he is supposed to stay with them forever, on earth. However, in striking contradiction to this tradition, and to prophesies (Isa. 65-6, etc.) … Jesus next, after having been said to have risen from the dead, somehow, Jesus was unaccountably on earth only forty days (Acts 1) – and then disappeared. He was said to have gone up to heaven. Taken from the earth. To be “lifted up, and a cloud took him out of … sight” (Acts. 1.9 NRSV).
So even if Jesus was resurrected from the dead, physically, appearing on earth fully, physically resurrected, still however, this was a short-lived resurrection. This resurrection, or whatever it was, was very, very short; just forty days. And then, amazingly, Jesus just left. Jesus did not stay on earth, in Jerusalem – as had often been foretold – to rule his kingdom personally. Instead, he disappeared. For all the world as if he had been killed, after all.
And so finally, this (and other things too) suggests that this ostensible physical rising from the grave, was not the full, promised resurrection, or triumph, of God, on earth. Because, when God came to earth a second time, he was supposed to reign in Jerusalem, forever (Rev. 21, Isa. 65-6); but this Easter Jesus was not around for very long. Only 40 days. And if he left a church behind, that Church was never fully as good as all the old prophesies promised.
In sum, this ostensibly, physically-resurrected God on earth … was 1) not consistently verified, either by touch or 2) sight; and then 3) furthermore, it somehow – unaccountably, and in gross contradiction to earlier Biblical prophesies – said only a very few words over 40 days – and then, disappeared.
While indeed, 4) he disappeared up into a “cloud.”
Note that when things disappear into a “cloud,” clouds, cloudiness, have long been a metaphor, for things that are uncertain and indistinct, clouded or veiled. And, as will be seen, Jesus’ allegedly firm physical appearance here, was rather “cloudy”; as will be seen over and over, there are always uncertain and strange things about such appearances, even according to the Bible itself. Strange things, qualifications, hesitations, that will make it clear eventually, that the resurrection was not such a simple physical affair, as dead bodies rising from graves, at all.
No more than the alleged physical resurrection of Lazarus. Which was questioned by the Bible itself, as well.
Resurrection is indeed, a “cloudy” thing. Appearances of Jesus in this period are not just “cloudy,” but also strange in other ways too. As we are seeing now. Jesus appears in ways that last only forty days. And ways where others do not recognize him. While indeed, 5) because of all this though most Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead, three days after his crucifixion, on Easter, many believe that this is a legend that confused Jesus with the Easter Bunny; with ancient traditions of the rebirth of plants and animal babies, in the spring. While 6) Christian tradition now half-ignores this Easter appearance; it believes Jesus rose … but then disappeared into “heaven” after forty days; and amazingly, it looks forward to yet another “Second Coming.” Most Christians believing that somehow, the first appearances of Jesus on earth were not quite enough; that yet another, second coming will be necessary, before all the old promises are fulfilled.
So let us keep looking; for a second and better vision, coming, of Christ. Which might begin to emerge in part, from looking at accounts of the first resurrection, the first Advent, of Jesus himself.
Churchly, Spiritual Interpretations
What then is resurrection like? Parts of the Bible seemed to favor the simple rising of a dead body from the grave.
Simon Peter for example, seems to say that he saw the body of Jesus, walking and talking and asking for food:
“They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning inside as he talked on the road and explained the scriptures?’ They got up immediately and returned to … the Eleven disciples…. They were greeted with ‘the lord had been risen! It is true! He had appeared to Simon.’ Then they recounted what had happened on the road and how they had come to know him in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking … he himself stood in their midst…. In their panic and fright they thought they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you disturbed? Why do such ideas cross your mind? Look at my hands and my feet; it is really I. Touch me…. Have you anything here to eat?'” (Luke 24.13-36, 41 NAB).
This account appears to again assert that Jesus is appearing as a full, physical self. And furthermore, this even explicitly insists indeed, that it is not just a “ghost,” or a spirit.
But remember all those earlier qualifications on, and apparent sins in, such physical accounts. Among which was the problem that the physically-present Jesus was only on earth forty days. Leaving us with … what?
Spiritual Understanding of Resurrection
So what did the churches eventually, finally tell us is the nature of say, Jesus’ resurrection? To this very day, 1) we are often told the Easter Jesus was real and physical. However 2) to be sure, the physical Jesus, the Bible said, went to “heaven” after forty days. And 3) we don’t see Jesus around us, physically, today. So what should we say?
In effect, we must say that the first accounts of the physically resurrected Jesus, dead bodies rising from graves, were not the most durable accounts. Indeed finally, even the churches themselves began to admit that the physical Jesus himself was taken away:
“And when he said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1.9).
“Jesus … was taken up away from you” (Acts. 1.11).
Spiritualization of Jesus
At this point, finally, the physical Jesus is no longer with us. But where therefore, if anywhere is God and his promises? Where is Jesus or God? Where is his promised “kingdom”? Many ancient people at this point, simply concluded that Jesus and his way of life were simply, false. Jesus was a false prophet, a false Christ; who promised many things, but did not deliver them.
However, this is a conclusion that many Christians could not face, or bear. And so, rather than face it, it came to be said that after all, the thoughts and ideas of Jesus live on; his spirit lives on. So, it is all metaphoricalized and spiritualized. The purely, simply physical Jesus, lasted only 40 days; before being taken away. While the old promises of physical rewards, are dealt with, by being all but totally disappeared. By metaphoricalization and spiritualization.
If Jesus was not physically there, in any obvious physical way, after forty days – and if he is not obviously walking around us today – then are promises of resurrection just totally false? Finally, the Bible left open the possibility, that the resurrection was all spiritual, or symbolic; that God and Jesus, live on, metaphorically speaking; in that Jesus gave us the “Holy Spirit” as his successor (John 20.22, Acts 2.4, etc.). And the Holy Spirit is always here.
There were in fact – especially in John and Paul – statements that after all, the things that Jesus presents and gives us, even the presence or resurrection of Jesus himself, might not be physical at all; but only spiritual:
“My kingship is not of this world…” (John 18.36).
“And when he said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20.22).
“As he blessed then, he left them, and was taken up to heaven” (Luke 24.51).
Here then is an extremely important point in the evolution of thinking about resurrection: when the simple physical Jesus – like the Easter Jesus – was taken away, (and discredited?) then what was left? Is there any future to ancient legends of resurrections left?
Remember that here are many physical ways Jesus was said to have appeared to people, after his death. But finally, all the more simply physical forms of re-appearance, resurrection in the Bible, even these seemingly very simple physical appearances, are actually indirect, partial, tentative … or temporary. The resurrected Jesus they encounter with the Eleven, for instance, was just one of many – and yet, the physical appearance, had many problems with it. First, 1) many could not “touch” it; indeed, 2) that physically resurrected Jesus, with the wounds in his side and appendages, disappears into the “clouds” after just forty days. So what now is left? Is Christianity, just false?
The simple physical reappearance of Jesus, body and all, it appears certain, was not quite reliable, or permanent. And so parts of the Bible began to suggest that after all, stories of apparent physical miracles – like resurrection – might be just metaphors; metaphors for spiritual things. Like the story of the Prodigal Son, above.
There are many evident errors, heresies, in any theory or picture of the afterlife, that suggests there is a simple physical resurrection, consisting in long-dead bodies rising from graves. The 1) first major sin in picturing resurrections as bodies rising from graves, is that the Bible told us to honor science … and such things are contradicted by science; we never see such things in real life. While 2) the next problem is that the Bible itself was not necessarily firmly committed to this picture of the afterlife, itself. First, a) the various accounts of such things in the episode of Doubting Thomas, and b) then Mary at th tomb, show that in effect, such manifestations were not empirically verified. While c) the Bible itself began in fact, to see bodies rising from graves, as metaphors; it began to “spiritualize” the resurrection. To suggest that Jesus “returns” and is with us, not in physical form, but in spirit.
Furthermore, c) even if a simple resurrection was true, still the Bible in fact, has the physically resurrected Jesus whisked up into heaven, after only “forty days” on earth. Raising the following question: why didn’t Jesus stay here, physically? It is hard to find good reasons for this; and all too easy to think of scientific and practical reasons, to say that such an appearance was not credible.
Many people to be sure, like to try to think of resurrection (and God) in very simple terms: as working “miracles”; as dead bodies, rising from the grave, for example. But the Bible itself, we are beginning to show here, actually is a multi-layerd text, that it presents “many” different pictures and perspectives, on the afterlife. And especially of the re-appearance of Jesus, after death (q.v.). And none of them are just simple, full bodily resurrections.
Indeed we see, St. Paul was quite disdainful of the idea of full body resurrections:
“But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ You foolish man! … But God gives it a body as he has chosen ….’ I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…. And this mortal nature must put on immortality” (1 Corin. 15.35-38-50-53).
“It is spiritual and not literal” (Rom 2.29).
“He considered that God was able to rise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Essau…” (Paul, Heb. 11.19).
It seems therefore, that Paul thought that there is something “figurative,” “spiritual,” “not literal,” about resurrections.
Yet to be sure, many people will not be entirely satisfied with a religion that only delivers spiritual things, and not physical things. And so, let’s see if we can come up with something better than that, from the Bible itself. As it turns out, the story of the two witnesses to an appearance of Jesus at “Emmaus,” is actually, part of the key to a probably, spiritual and physical resurrection.
The Real Resurrection; the
Spiritual and Physical Resurrection
If Jesus was physically resurrected, eternally, or if God is on earth in the flesh, then he should have been around in history in every era; he should be here with us physically today. So where indeed, is God? How is he with us? Many say that God is with us in “spirit” only; the Holy Spirit. Yet actually, there have been many more satisfactory accounts, that reconcile the 1) apparent materiality of bodies rising from graves, 2) with spirituality, to suggest that 1) the spirit of God 2) lives on in various material entities around us. And finally we will find, this is the best and most defensible idea of afterlife, resurrection.
Our churches have long told us, that God appeared often in material forms. That for example, 1) originally appeared walking and talking it seems, like a person, before Adam and Eve, in heaven and on earth. And then 2) to Moses he appeared in various other forms, like a burning bush. While 3) God came to live in Jesus, his material body, somehow. Then, after Jesus was killed, 4) Jesus they say returned three days after his death, on Easter, as a bodily resurrection. But then 5) that resurrection of God on earth, in “flesh,” in Jesus, went to “heaven.”
So where is God and Jesus now? Many 6) churches say he somehow lives on, just as a spirit; like the Holy Spirit. 7) Or in heaven. But 8) others suggest that his spirit lives on somehow, in some material things; particularly in our churches; or 9) in the minds, brains, of ministers and priests (in “persona Christi” etc.); and 10) Popes or other religious leaders; or in the 11) Bible or other holy “word”s; or 12) somehow, in the Eucharist; the bread and wine of communion, the Lord’s Supper. Or finally the most important way – as some churches might allow – 13) in the minds or spirits and bodies, of believers.
There are many ideas of how God, his spirit, appears in physical forms. Or you might say, is “resurrected” in them. But how does this happen? Often paintings picture the Holy Spirit as floating like a dove, rather above physical things. Or they say that the bread in the Eucharist is really, actually, literally the body of Jesus; and when we eat it, we get Jesus in us. At various times in the past, it was hinted that the Pope was Jesus resurrected or some such.
But just exactly how this embodiment works, how God comes to earth and flesh, is never explained; it still seems very surreal. But now finally, we can outline what should probably considered by most preachers, to be the fullest and most accurate idea of the resurrection, or continuing survival of Jesus, or the resurrection of God into material bodies: the ideas – or “spirit” – of God, Jesus, the Bible, were stored effectively in the “word”s of the Bible; and those who read them, can have that spirit in their own minds, their own material brains. And it is in that way, finally, that Jesus “lives on” in the world; in that his thoughts, his ideas, his spirit, are duplicated, in the minds, brains, of living persons, from era to ear; on to today. In age after age, the spirit of God is downloaded so to speak, into various receptive minds. So that the thoughts, the spirit, find embodiment … in many various individuals. And as any given such individual dies, there is at least one other to take his place. So that the spirit of Jesus, God, never dies. And often in fact, we might “face” one or more such persons, even in our own lifetimes. So that we meet the “lord” face to face.
This seems rather amazing and over-complicated. But we can show this finally, is the best characterization of what the Bible itself was driving at. And what is more, we will show, it is both historical, and scientifically supportable.
Though the Bible at times seemed to many preachers, to picture many very simple if supernatural physical miracles. Miracles, with no reason in or natural explanation behind them – just ad hoc, deus ex machina appearances of things out of thin air; dead bodies rising physically from graves – eventually, the Bible itself moved on. In part, to a more “spiritual” version of the afterlife. The simpler vision can be seen in many appearances of the Easter Jesus: Jesus is said there, to have been resurrected from the dead, whole and entire, mind and body too. However, in addition to that, there are a number of other, more mysterious and complicated – and more sophisticated – forms in which Jesus was said to have reappeared, after death. Some of these reappearances were similar to, an extension of, the old belief in The Prodigal Son: that we are “reborn” only metaphorically; in that the thoughts or spirits or ideas of good people of the past, are conveyed to (enter) others; and that is how the old spirits or ideas are reborn; and that is how we ourselves are born again to a new spirit. And how the old spirits live on, or a reborn. As we will begin to show now. Which is the real, provable resurrection.
This picture at last explains – and is supported by – what is perhaps the most complicated, but also the best, picture of resurrection in the Bible: the apparent appearance of Jesus, after his crucifixion, at “Emmaus.”
The first, too-simple idea of resurrection that most priests have often had – dead bodies rising up – was in fact, eventually modified, amended, in the Bible itself. First the Bible began to include some ambiguities and refinements of the old bodies rising idea. For one thing, remember that it noted above, dozens of problems, ambiguities and unresolved doubts, among the crowds and in the accounts, of an apparently simple physical rebirth; in 1) Lazarus; and in 2) the physical side of the Easter resurrection of Jesus. As far as Lazarus, for example, the Bible itself is not sure that Lazarus is really physically “dead”; the Bible often used the term “death” and “life” ambiguously, and metaphorically. While indeed, medically, it is often hard to distinguish a coma, from death.
Then too, 2) so far as the ostensibly simple physical resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday (?), we find that there are problems with recognizing, verifying Jesus physically, and so forth. While then too, finally, that physically resurrected body disappears up into the “clouds” after just forty days. Leaving us with … what?
So supposed we consider the Easter resurrection, particularly Emmaus, even more closely; as being rather physical … but also rather spiritual. Or indeed, we see “spirit” being “poured” on “flesh.” So we have both spirit, and flesh; spirit, finding material expression.
Read the story of the appearance at Emmaus, carefully. It is set a short time after the crucifixion of Jesus. Two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem (quickly), on the road to Emmaus, a village nearby. While walking, they are overtaken by a man, a “stranger.” At first, they do not recognize the man as Jesus. As they walk on for a while though, they notice somehow, that this stranger … was actually, Jesus (Luke 24.13-15):
“Two of them that same day were making their way to a village named Emmaus seven miles from Jerusalem, discussing as they went all that had happened. In the course of their lively exchange, Jesus approached and began to walk with them. However, they didn’t recognize him. He said to them, “what are you discussing, as you go along?’ They halted, in distress, and one of them, Cleopas by name, asked him, ‘are you the only person in Jerusalem who does not know the things that went on there in the past few days?’ He said to then, ‘what things?’ they said: ‘All those that that had to do with Jesus…; how our chief priests and leaders delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified…. We were hoping that he was the one who would set Israel free. [But]… some women of our group have just brought us some astonishing news. They were at the tomb … and failed to find his body…. Some of our number … went to the tomb and found it to be just as the women said; but him they did not see” (Luke 24.13 ff, NAB;)
Then the “stranger” does this:
“Then he said to them, ‘what little sense you have!… Beginning then with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted for them every passage of Scripture which referred to him…. When he had seated himself with them to eat, he took bread, pronounced the blessing … then broke the bread and began to distribute it to them. With that their eyes were opened – and they recognized him; whereupon he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24.13ff, NAB; italics, mine)
Typically, this is often interpreted to us by preachers, as simply yet another, strange, inexplicable, surreal, physical “miracle.” Jesus appears, but is say, somehow – magically, mysteriously, miraculously – disguised. And then suddenly – magically, miraculously – he reveals himself as Jesus. And then – suddenly, magically – he simply disappears again. Dissolving into thin air.
At first all this appears – to someone who does not understand Nature at all – to be a physical miracle; and this is what many call it; an account of something that is beyond nature; of something we never see in real life. But if it is, it is supernaturally physical; a physicality that is very, very magical. Or, as magical-seeming things from God are called in Christianity, “miraculous.” A physicality that is totally different from what we see physical reality do in normal life. But if so, then at the very least, it is not quite normal matter, here; so let’s look at this alleged event more closely, now. As it turns out, there are many elements in it, of actually, another kind of semi-metaphorical “afterlife.” And then finally, we will show that this afterlife is the real one finally; one that is both 1) spiritual and 2) physical. Here we will begin to see that resurrection is real; but in a way that our churches have not to date, understood or been able to mentally “see.”
Note first, that if you read all the account of the resurrection at Emmaus, this reappearance of Jesus at Emmaus, is not quite the simple re-appearance of a physical body. Read it more closely, now: here Jesus is winking and blinking in and out of existence, somehow; now you see him, now you don’t. There is indeed something strange and different about this “physical” appearance, that is different from physical nature as we see in normal life. From the perspective of simple physical thinking, it is all quite surreal and inexplicable and magical. In part for instance, Jesus appears, but “disguised” or looking different, in some way, from his normal body. Disguised, it is said, as a – or in a? – “stranger.”
So first of all, this is not a simple reappearance of a physical body. Real, normal physical persons, do not often change their appearance so radically that their friends do not recognize them; and then suddenly vanish. Though this might happen in matter at the atomic level, it does not happen at the level of gross, visible matter.
And in fact, the strangeness of this appearance, is a hint that perhaps, we should read it metaphorically, allegorically. Or that the Bible intended to propose, actually, three or four different ways that Jesus actually was returning, in some different forms that were not quite simply physical in any obvious way. But here is the best one.
When Jesus appears to the disciples, on the road to Emmaus – the hot springs outside Jerusalem – at first, in Luke, this looked like a typical miracle; Jesus appears physically, bodily, wounds in his hands. However, it is time to note some strange details of that appearance. First, note, this resurrected Jesus appears, it is said, in “disguise.” That is, for some reason, the people do not recognize him. He appeared to be a “stranger,” to the walkers, and a “gardener,” to Mary. But finally, we can come up with an explanation that makes rational sense of all this. In the events at Emmaus.
Actually, the key to a rational understanding of all this, of resurrection, occurs there.
How does resurrection really work? How does the incident at Emmaus explain it all? It will take another, whole chapter to explain it adequately. But briefly, what happened in Emmaus, is that two witnesses met a good Christian … who had the thoughts of Christ in his mind. So that in this way, the spirit of Jesus lived on in, was reborn in, his own body. And this is how Jesus is resurrected.
That is, in certain social situations, involving real, concrete, physical ordinary people, the memory and ideas of deceased persons, can be brought to mind. By rituals designed to recall them, or reading about them in books, or just personal memories, and so forth. Which help bring their ideas, or spirit, to mind, or to call them up into our imagination.
And there are those who particularly, remember Jesus … and act like him no doubt. In this case, of course, scripture, and Christian rituals, and Christian behavior, help evoke, bring out, a bit of Jesus in all of us; we sense his “presence” more vividly than usual. And finally, it was sometimes said, such a person can become some imbued with the spirit of Jesus, that they “become” him, so to speak. As for instance, a Catholic Priest is said to “become” Jesus, or one with him, during the Eucharist, and so forth.
In some ways, this seems to many, very mystical and mystifying. But it is very commonsensical. And this we suggest, is what happened at Emmaus; the two witnesses (and Mary) actually just saw … a Christian, not Jesus, who had so perfectly embodied Jesus, his spirit, that … one “day,” they saw Jesus in them. That is why they do not recognize him at first; he, is spirit, is in another body. A “gardener,” a “stranger.” But eventually they come to see. To see Christ, living on, reborn, in other good people.
What Is Resurrection, Immortality, Then?
A Natural (Understanding of) the Rebirth of Spirit,
As “Ideas” Living On
This is about the current state of the art, of interpreting resurrection and afterlife, as far as churches know. Until now, the resurrection of Jesus has been seen by many people, as being a physical miracle; God himself has walked around physically among us; Jesus himself with holes in his hands and feet, alive after being crucified. But then eventually, we were told, the way Jesus lives on, in stranger appearances; appearing in strangers and in rituals and so forth. While we were also told that his “spirit” lives on, in the Holy Spirit. But what was all that about? Is it all an impossibly strange and surreal miracle? Or does it all make some kind of firmer sense, finally?
Suppose we now try to explain it naturally, logically. By trying to correlate what the Bible says, to real things we have seen in real life. In fact, this part of the story was a roundabout way of saying that the spirit, the ideas of the Lord, are always present in some way, particularly in several different media, in certain situations. No doubt, God is everywhere; he “fills all things”; and his will is expressed in everything in Nature; but it is said his will for human beings, is expressed best or most vividly, some have tried to say, in certain social, moral situations and rituals and sayings. First, Jesus is said to be present, in some kind of “disguised” way, in, or as, 1) good-willed strangers, who have the thoughts and spirit of Jesus in their own souls. Then too, 2) he “appears” somehow, particularly when we read the Bible or scripture. Then too, 3) Jesus appears again, in some mysterious way in holy ritual ceremonies that memorialize his life; like especially the sharing of bread and wine with others; the shared Eucharistic meal (see Catholic “mysteries,” etc).
These qualifications should hint, that this is not just a simple physical appearance; first, it is not simple, in that it seems “disguised” in some way. Secondly, it shows up particularly in certain specific times and ways: particularly, we are told in the aftermath of the incidents an Emmaus, when the scripture is quoted; when the Eucharist is performed or bread is broken; when you are kind to strangers on the road; and so forth. Incidents which were intended to suggest that Jesus and the spirit of God re-appear most vividly, during religious services.
There are many different pictures of how Jesus might be resurrected, or live on. Many think of this as a supernatural miracle; dead bodies rising from graves to walk and talk, again. But God also told us to honor science, and what we actually perceive “come to pass” in real life; and such things as physical resurrections, science and experience say, do not happen in real life. While a closer look at the Bible itself, finds that the Bible itself had hesitations and qualifications attached to images of physical resurrections (in for example, the raising of Lazarus, and the Easter resurrection of Jesus). While the Bible also, indicated that many “images” can be misleading; and suggesting that even our own Christian images of God and good, can be read as “figures,” “parables,” “allegories,” or symbols; as metaphors.
Particularly, the Bible seems to authorize the interpretation of any physical incidents and “miracles,” as metaphors for spiritual things. And indeed, the final incidents right after the execution of Jesus, around Emmaus in particular, suggest the second, spiritual/metaphorical meaning to resurrection.
All this has seemed mysterious in the past. But the practical sense of all the above, we now note, is simply this: the ideas or spirit of Jesus, “live on” in the Bible; and survive in part, there. So that Jesus’ ideas – or “spirit” – appear to us again in our minds or spirits, when we read scripture; or when we perform rituals designed to recall them to us. Or when we simply recall the “word” – and thoughts – of truth in our own minds or spirit. In this sense, the moral theories or spirit of Jesus, are “reborn” in us; “live on,” in us. And in our churches and so forth.
That finally is the first part, of an at once, commonsensical and natural and “spiritual” explanation, of all the above, and of rumors of resurrection and immortality: the ideas (/”spirit”) of Jesus, live on, in the words of the Bible, and in the minds and spirits of those who follow him. Jesus is reborn, in us, in believers. To the extent that we accept his spirit, or ethical ideas and beliefs.
That is what the final parts of the gospels, at Emmaus, were trying to get at. And that is the first part, of what resurrection and immorality are about. No doubt, God “fills all things” in heaven and earth, religion and nature. But, it is said, he lives on particularly well for us, in some moral and ethical (and some say religious) and scientific teachings. And in those people who read them, and understand, and accept – and reproduce; resurrect – that spirit in their own hearts and minds. When we do that, Christ is “reborn” or resurrected in us and our communities.
(While by the way, we ourselves “die to” our former, unenlightened selves; and are “born again” with a new spirit in us. Then in addition, we will find, once we are good, then part of us continues in turn, in the good people who come after us).
To be sure though, all this has been known to a few persons, for ages; and all this probably still seems rather vague and mystical, spiritual and insubstantial, to many people. So we will need to firm all this up a little more. As we will do next; in our chapter on Immortality. Where we show how material and physical and provable and substantial, the transmission or perpetuation (/immortality) of ideas, or “spirit,” really is.
In the past, many strange theories and pictures were presented of the afterlife of Jesus for example; including 1) the Easter, physical resurrection (like Lazarus). But then, for whatever reason, that resurrected Jesus disappeared after 40 days. Then the Gospels turned to some other pictures of afterlife. Including 2) Jesus appearing somehow, in strangers; and/or 3) in “disguise”; or 4) walking and talking, but in a form not to be “touch”ed. Or 5) in a strange new “Holy Spirit.” Or 6) when scriptures are read, and 7) bread is broken.
What is the sense of the later ideas? In large part, the Bible or preachers, often tried to simply accept such things, without understanding them; accepting them as surreally disconnected, strange ideas. But God told us to use logic, and reason, and science.* And using them at last, finally these otherwise strange and surreal images, finally make perfectly natural sense. If we think of the “spirit” of Jesus, as his ideas. Then of course, it is easy to say that the ideas of Jesus, like that of many authors, live on in his written “word”s; the words of the Bible. Then, when believers hear those words or ideas or spirit, and take them to heart, or undertake rituals that remind them of that spirit … then those ideas, that spirit, find a place in – or are “born again” into – our own hearts or minds. So it is in that way, that the ideas – or “spirit” – of Jesus, are duplicated, born again – or “resurrected” – in our own mind or spirit. (Though this might seem like a new or strange doctrine, actually it is the sense behind traditional Christian teachings of churches like the Roman Catholic Church: we, the living followers of Jesus and God, become the “body of Christ”; hosting his ideas or spirit in our own bodies and minds).
What is resurrection? In the past, there have been many different, surreal, supernatural seeming pictures, images, of resurrection, and the continuing presence of God and Jesus. But none of them really made sense, in a rational or scientific way. But here, we are about to find, we can finally make rational sense again, of resurrection, immortality. In a way consistent not only with every word of the Bible, but also, with Science and Logic, too. We find that the old “images” and icons of resurrection – dead bodies rising from graves – were never fully approved even by the Bible itself it seems; much less, by the science it advocted. Whereas, a metaphorical/”figur”ative understanding of them, was approved by God himself, over and over again. (As we found in our chapter on Metaphors).
To be sure, for now, all this is still read, as being rather insubstantial, non-physical, and “spiritual”; resurrection seems to be, for now, about the what anthropologists and sociologists would call the “cultural transmission of ideas.” Yet, even now, our understanding of resurrection, is being handled by way of concepts in some relatively new sciences; anthropology and sociology. And as that happens, we will be seeing, suddenly, things thought to be surreally unrelated and supernatural and singular, are suddenly … connected to our normal, natural sense of things; to experiences we have every day. And though at first, this seems to make religion less than our spectacular dreams, in the end, it makes it far more practical, workable, real … and “fruitful.” As we will see.
Finally it also begins to fulfill part of the prophesy of the Second Coming of God to earth, spirit to flesh. When we suddenly match up the heretofore-disconnected and disembodied “words” and “spirits” of religion, to natural science, the part of this ancient prophesy is fulfilled: as our heaven, at last, begins to merge with our earth; as “word” and “world,” religion and science, “word” and “flesh,” “spirit” and “flesh” … begin to more fully meet, again at last.
So that actually, this more natural, normal, (which also means today, scientific) understanding of the events of the Bible, is actually the beginning, the catalyst of the greatest and culminating moment in believer’s life; and in the history of the world in fact: the return of God, good, spirit, from floating detached in heaven; to the world, to the earth. To practical, visible, workable, fruitful, materially-efficacious form.
As we will be seeing even more clearly, soon.
To be sure though, to get to this vision, this second and “full”er, better, attached and embodied sense of God and good, first, you have to be prepared to face sins and errors, in many of our pre-existing concepts, from Religion. First, indeed, we will have had to pass through the “pain” and “fire” critical self-examination, self-criticism, of our first, too-simple pictures, images, of things like resurrection. In this case, we must pass through the first images of resurrection, as simple bodily revival; remembering now that after all, those simple bodily resurrections, were temporary; that resurrected Jesus, disappeared after only forty days. What we should do, is move on first, to the somewhat more adult, priestly or “spiritual” interpretation of all that; as being about the transmission and re-creation of mind, ideas, or spirit, in believers, churches; the second “body of Christ.” But then, next, we will finally need to move beyond our preachers, our priests and ministers, our imams and gurus, our Ayatollahs and Mullahs. Finally, we will need to re-discover the side of God that our preachers forgot, or denied: the science of God. Which alone leads finally, to the truly “full”er, more “mature,” “second” or even “third” vision, second coming, of God, to this material earth or universe.
Any one of us and more, can come to see at least a pre-figuration, a preview – and perhaps, parts of the very substance – of the Second Coming of God, to earth. But to get there to be sure, requires real “humility”; humility great enough, to be humble even about our old religious ideas, too. Humility great enough, to begin a critical re-evaluation of even our oldest, most cherished ideas, of God and good. Of our heaven, itself. (As Finally, it is only if you do that, can you can get to the second, more mature, fuller, clearer vision of God and good, at last. (As we found in our chapters on the Destruction of Heaven, and Science).
No doubt, this is difficult, and painful, and hard to believe for many people. But it is finally, what the Bible itself said. It is what God himself said. In the Quran, the Vedas, the Torah, the Pali canon … and the Bible itself.
God told us to do this. So let us now continue to take a critical look at the many other at first, surreal, non-sensical, and apparently “super”natural visions, of resurrection and immortality, and the presence of God. But now, let us begin to help flesh out those ideas, help them make sense, come to earth again. By correlating, matching up the old ideas … with things we see in nature, “all around” us, every day. As we will begin to do further, next. With an at-once fully biblical, but also fully rational and scientific, proof of … biblical and Platonic, immortality.
There finally, we will be finding, is the scientifically-sustainable, real immorality: in that some aspects of our life – as will be seen, the 1) ideas of many of us – and our 2) genes and the character they determine – can live on … in others. And this is not vague or merely metaphorical; we will show that science – Psychology, and Anthropology specifically – now acknowledge, with Philosophy and Religion, that the mind – formerly “spirit” – exists. So that next we will be able to show that spirit survives, is reborn, through transmission and reproduction of ideas. Which is finally 1) not only the most important immortality and resurrection, described and developed in the Bible; it is 2) also scientifically real.
So, after having reviewed lots of misleading images of false or incomplete resurrections, finally the Bible itself – and we – will present a far more substantial vision, coming, of Jesus.
Psychology: Vases or Faces; the Loved One
Who Seems to Reappear;
Can we almost see someone revived today, from the ancient past? How did Jesus reappear on the Road to Emmaus? What is resurrection, in the Bible, then? Finally, about all it really is, it seems, is a very metaphorical things. It is that the ideas, ideals, of great persons of the past, live on in culture – and then, when we are educated in the sayings of past ancestors, and read and write books about them, and take their ideas as our own, the thoughts that were in the minds of ancient heroes, are “born again,” they live again … in us.
In this way, we ourselves can be “born again,” in that in some cases, someone from the past makes a particularly dramatic impression on us, and changes our lives; makes us a “new person.”
Is this enough? Is this all? And how does Jesus reappear?
And is it real enough, to comment on? In the past, according to the traditional hard sciences and common sense, such things seemed insubstantial; many called such things “just metaphorical,” and many religious persons, were inclined to call this just “spiritual,” not physical. However, as it turns out, today, the Social Sciences are finding that the cultural transmission of ideas, ideals, is actually, real, and important. Culture, the transmission of ideas, is important; it alone produces the complex consumer goods that makes real prosperity. Indeed, no human very complicated or advanced human community – which is what we need for affluence – can be sustained over time. Not unless there is some way to pass on – revive – the wisdom of its past; though language, sayings, material culture, books, and so forth.
So, although in the past this sort of thing was seen by 19th century, crude science, as evanescent, unreal, and though many preachers themselves saw it as “spiritual,” as it will turn out her, eventually, there is something real here. At one time, it seemed “ghostly.” To both believers, and to scientists too. Ghostly – holy ghostly – and some would even say, unreal; un-quantifiable. However, as we will seen in our next chapter … today Social Science is now capable of describing this; furthermore, not as something that is “just psychological,” either.
However, Psychology – one of the Social or Behavioral Sciences – can begin today, to give the Emmaus resurrection, or rebirth, a preliminary explanation. That will lead to a full scientific explication of this phenomenon, in our next chapter. And we can show, how indeed ancients, were undecided whether these events were 1) physical or 2) spiritual /mental. Because they occupied a realm of existence that impinged on both; and that was so complicated, it could not be exactly described clearly … until today.
Consider for a moment the “stranger,” or the “gardener,” who changed suddenly into Jesus; what is going on there? Was this just spiritual? Or did the people, say, actually see something, with their eyes as well as their hearts? Consider; phenomenologicalistic psychology or philosophy might tell us that often, what we think we see with our eyes, depends on our brains or minds, and what they are prepared to see. So that what we are seeing, can actually change, as our state of mind, our mindset, changes.
There is a common illustration used in introductory psychology texts, to prove that the actual visual appearance of a thing, seems to change, when our spirit/mindset changes.
At times, how our mind things, seems to change what your eyes see. That is because what our mind registers from our eyes, is not just what the physical eyes themselves see. The image from the eyes goes to the brain – which then interprets what it sees. The classic psychological diagram for this? It is of two identical faces in profile, facing each other against a dark background. Which, if you look at it one way, told it is a “vase,” looks like a vase. But then, if you are told it is two faces, you look again … and it looks like two faces facing each other.” This is a common illustration used in psychology texts, to prove that how your mind is set, can actually change the physical appearance of things, to you. It can be used in religion, to show that a “spiritual” change, can produce what appear to be physical changes, in at least this way.
There is a common case of this, that ordinary people might have experienced; a case when their “eyes play tricks on them.” It happens often, when someone has lost a loved one. Or is looking for him or her. As you walk though a crowd, your mind is set on that person … and often, you will think that someone who is like them, is them; your mind is set to see the lost one … and sees them in others. A girl who has broken up with a boyfriend, but misses him … will run up to a person that has her boyfriend’s walk, or looks somewhat like him … thinking it is the lost one. Because their mind is playing tricks on them; their mind is set on one thing, and everything around them looks a little different.
Likewise, when the first Apostles lost Jesus, when Jesus was executed, they had lost their loved one. But, they had his image – and his thoughts, behaviors, spirit – in mind. So that, when they began to look around them, when they saw things that reminded them of Jesus – a stranger that was like Jesus in his behavior; a bit of scripture that reminded them of things Jesus had said – suddenly, they “saw” Jesus in a stranger; the stranger seemed to “morph” into Jesus.
Another example: in many cases, Jesus told us that a person who appears superficially bad – like the Samaritan – might be good underneath. Sometimes the superficial appearance of a thing is very deceptive, and disguised deeper realities; other times, though, and more often, even St. Paul noticed that the visible things, are clues to the “invisible things” underneath. A visual shift in the appearance of a stranger, is clue to a spiritual reality, and vice-versa.
So how can Jesus appear to you? Many are not used to finding or “seeing” good, or Jesus, in anything but Jesus himself, his original body. They will look around themselves and see strangers and friends … but not Jesus. However, the Bible is attempting to change your mindset a bit, here, so that you can see Jesus, or good, or God, in others. When others are good, Jesus is peeking out from them; inside them. Or using them as a “body” for his “Spirit.” Or is “changing someone else, a stranger, into himself.” All these are different ways to talk about the same thing. But each of them is misleading in its own way too; you need to see beyond these illustrations, so they do not become idols. Learn to try to make out the deeper message.
Which soon, we will see. One day, you will see a stranger walking toward you; you will not quite recognize him at first. But then suddenly, now, you “see.”
Is that enough? Many will be disappointed by this; it is not as grand as many had thought, or promised; it is too normal, and natural; and also only metaphorical or spiritual. And yet, it is real enough. And as we begin to see the reality and solidity of the “cultural transmission of ideas” (and the transmission of the other characteristics, carried through DNA), we will begin to see at last, a modest, humble, but provable, resurrection.
Many have been disappointed at how natural and normal this resurrection is; they had always imagined, and promised, something far, far more supernatural and spectacular. But God told us to be “humble,” and not proud. So let us now, walk into the humble immorality. Where we see Jesus in others. And therefore, Jesus here on earth.
To those who have studied such things, this is not new or particularly revolutionary; the general idea here has long been known. Indeed, it has all-too-commonly been asserted, by various individuals or institutions or churches, that the spirit of God, Jesus, lives on in they themselves. And historically we have found, however, that though this idea is sometimes partially true, on the other hand, there has always been an irresistible temptation to vanity and pride in all such claims. Once one decides that the spirit of God, Truth, lives on in you yourself, or your institution, one becomes arbitrary, dogmatic, vain, dictatorial, inflexible, and stupid. For this reason, we might reissue such claims here … but with a number of strong cautions. The fact is, no human being is ever entirely perfect; and no human being, or any organization associated in any way with human beings is entirely perfect, sacred, holy, either. None of us is ever the absolutely perfect embodiment of ultimate Truth or God. Therefore, while asserting that many of the best ideas and spirits of the past live on in many of us, to some extent, even today, on the other hand, perhaps after all, just before Jesus, Julius Caesar was rightly chastised by the Roman Senate and others, for claiming to be a god. While finally, we will not have been founding yet another inflexible, vain, dogmatic assertion of perfection, god-hood, here; but will have been founding after all, a science of God; a science which knows that all our best ideas and spirits after all, are almost inevitably flawed in one way or another; that each and every one of our old ideas and spirits must be scientifically tested over and over; to see if they really work, today.
In this case, we will therefore need to continue to look critically, at whatever afterlife, immortality, was offered in the Bible itself. To see if we can understand it even better, next; and add to it, or improve it. As we will work to do, in our next chapters on the origins of Christian immortality, resurrection, in the work of Plato; Plato as re-presented to us by the Apostle Paul, and others. There we will begin to see more clearly, the clearest and most rational expression, of many ancient theories of resurrection and rebirth and immortality. And then we will see how to expand on that, with the science of God.
END OF CHAPTER