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in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to
Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel
and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja
> Chapter 12: Resurrection (of Jesus
Books Section > Jesus in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja Nazir Ahmad > Chapter 12: Resurrection (of Jesus Christ)
The resurrection of Jesus is the miracle to which Christians turn with the most cherished eagerness. It is the foundation on which their hopes depend, on which their faith is fixed. If the ordinary doctrine of the Bible being Divinely inspired had to be given up, Christians felt relieved of a burden often too great for them to bear. If the complete verbal accuracy of the Gospel narrative was disproved, it was orthodoxy and not Christianity that suffered because it was only the more minute and embarrassing tenets of the creed that found their foundation swept away. If the Biblical miracles were shown to be untenable, Christian theologians were comforted for having one less weak and vulnerable outpost to defend. But if the resurrection of Jesus should be proved to be a myth and Christians compelled to expunge it from their creed, they must feel that the very pivot of their faith has vanished, the very basis of their hopes has disappeared and the entire foundation of their religion has been uprooted. Says Paul:
"And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor, 15 : 17).
Thus even if there be no truth in the assertion, yet according to Paul, Christ must be raised. It is for these reasons that it has been said that Christianity, in all its forms, nay, the entire faith of the Church, has as its pivot the resurrection of Jesus. It is accepted as a reality without appreciating the unreality upon which it rests. We are told that the evangelists "were not recording facts," as to them "historical accuracy was neither of importance nor of consequence" (Scofield: Reference to the New Testament, 125). I, for somewhat different reasons, entirely agree. But I do question the assertion that "it did not please God to cause to be written a biography of His Son" (Ibid., 3. 2). It is the old story. Man committed a sin, and blamed Satan for it. The Christians went a step further. They played havoc with the texts and blamed God for it. No! had a true account of the life of Jesus been handed down to us, there would have been no Christianity as it is known to us to-day. The needs of the Church, changing with the growth of Christology, had eliminated most of the authentic but inconvenient details; and introduced into the Gospels certain incidents and even whole episodes which were more appealing than historical facts. What should have happened, was made to happen; what should have been said, was represented as having been said.
The rapid expansion of, and accretions to, the Christian faith created a self-contradictory fabric of traditions wholly foreign to historical reality; but this entire fabric, so laboriously built, collapses in face of an honest enquiry. Christian apologetics are perforce reduced to a bare assertion, like the one we find in the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
"The earliest and the strongest evidence for the Resurrection is provided by the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul ... that it was believed and preached from the beginning" (Ency. Brit., 14th Edn: Vol. 13: 20).
This statement is as ridiculous as it is groundless. We know that idol-worship has been believed and preached from time immemorial; would this fact establish the truth of the cult? Further, the most early Christians did not believe in the resurrection. Can any one, in view of the irreconcilable discrepancies, have the audacity honestly to say that the factum of the resurrection stands established? It is obvious that the Gospels are at variance with one another. The only two facts common to all are the empty tomb and the presence in its vicinity of someone in white garments.
Denials of the resurrection are as old as Christianity itself. Even Paul asks his followers:
"Now if Christ is preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection? " (1 Cor, 15 : 12: see RN., p. 1272).
Thus while meeting an objection to the resurrection of Jesus, Paul asserted that it should be believed because it was preached and made it depend upon the correctness of the resurrection of mankind generally. Many of the episodes related and many of the details given in the New Testament owe their origin and arrangements to the necessity of countering Jewish scepticism. At the same time Christian apologetics had to reply to Pagan sceptics. Thus Celsus asked whether the story of the resurrection could not be explained by a vision produced from the strong imagination of and the agitated brain of an hysterical woman, Mary Magdalene, or of the disciples (Origen, C. Cels., 2 : 55).
The discovery of the empty tomb created an unforeseen difficulty in the way of the evangelists. The resurrection of Jesus was their solution and his "appearances" and "ascension" were logical sequences and the "testimony" of his resurrection.
I must make a departure from the usual process of explaining the alleged facts by way of a reasonable and critical examination of the narratives and must predicate it with a statement of the various irreconcilable discrepancies in the evangelical record.
The Gospels exhibit contradictions of the most glaring kind. Peimerus enumerated ten such contradictions; but in reality their number is much greater:
The "seal and watch" set upon the sepulchre and of the bribing of the soldiers of the watch occurs only in Matthew (Matt., 27 : 62, 66; 28 : 11-15). In Mark, Luke and John these features are not only missing, but they are excluded by the representation of women as intending to apply ointment to the body of Jesus; and in Mark at least as foreseeing the only difficulty in the weight of the stone; whereas Matthew has to make their object as only seeing the sepulchre.
In Luke the women get the spices ready before sunset on Friday (Luke, 23 : 54-56), in Mark they did not buy them till after sunset on Saturday (Mark, 16: 1); in John, Joseph and Nicodemus had already embalmed the body (John, 19 : 38-40), while according to Matthew (Matt., 27 : 59), Mark (Mark, 15: 46) and Luke (Luke, 23 : 53), Joseph had simply wrapped the body in a fine linen cloth.
The persons who came to the sepulchre on the morning of the resurrection were: in Mark, Mary Magdalene and some other women (Mark, 14: 1); in Matthew, only the two Marys (Matt., 28 : 1); in Luke, the two Marys and also other women (Luke, 24 : 10); in John only Mary Magdalene, to whom, however, are added Peter and the beloved disciple (John, 20 : 1). In Luke, Peter alone went to the sepulchre (Luke, 24 : 12). This passage is spurious and is interpolated to harmonise with Paul (1 Cor, 15 : 3-8).
The time of the visit of the women to the sepulchre is: in Mark, when the sun was risen (Mark, 16: 2); in Luke, in early dawn (Luke, 24 : 1, 2); in John, early (it was yet dark before sunrise (John, 20 : 1), but according to Matthew half a day earlier) (Matt., 28 : 1).
In Mark (Mark, 16: 4), in Luke (Luke, 24 : 2) and in John (John, 20 : 1) those who came to the sepulchre found that the stone was already rolled away; in Matthew it was rolled back by the angel in the presence of the women (Matt., 28 : 2).
In Mark (Mark, 16: 5-7) as in Matthew (Matt., 28 : 2-5) there was only one angel; and in Luke there were two, who are described as men in shining garments (Luke, 24 : 4).
In Mark, the one angel sat within the sepulchre (Mark, 16: 5); in Matthew, the one sat without the sepulchre upon the stone (Matt., 28 : 2); in Luke, the two came up to the women (Luke, 24 : 5). The appearance, however, was not until they had left the sepulchre.
As to what was seen in the sepulchre: in Mark, it was only the angel (Mark, 16: 5); in Luke, at least when the women entered it there was nothing (Luke, 24 : 3); in John, the beloved disciple saw the linen clothes lying (John, 20 : 6); and Peter saw the clothes neatly wrapped up and also a napkin (John, 20 : 7).
In the Synoptic Gospels the angels give information of the resurrection (Matt., 28 : 7; Mark, 16 : 6; Luke, 24 : 6) : in John, they merely questioned Mary Magdalene, "Why weepest thou?" (John, 20 : 13).
The discrepancies regarding the instructions given to the women are amongst the most vital in the whole account: in Mark (Mark, 16: 7) and Matthew (Matt., 28 : 7) they were directed to inform the disciples that Jesus had gone before them to Galilee; in Luke, there is no such injunction at all and in John, we find no words which could even seem to answer to the command in Mark and Matthew.
No less marked are the differences as to the message given by the women to the disciples: in Luke, they reported to the disciples (Luke, 24 : 9); in Matthew, they merely intended to do so (Matt., 28 : 8); in John, Mary Magdalene reported what she had seen (John, 20 : 18); and in Mark, the women out of fear said nothing at all to anyone (Mark, 16: 8).
The communication by the women produced different results: in Luke, it merely produced the unbelief of the disciples (Luke, 24: 11): and in John, Peter and the beloved disciple went to the sepulchre and came away wondering (Luke, 24 : 9).
In John, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene who was not allowed to touch the body (John, 20 : 14-17); in Matthew, he appeared to the two Marys, who embraced his feet (Matt., 28 : 9).
In Matthew, Jesus confirmed the information, which had already been given by the angels, to direct the disciples to proceed to Galilee (Matt., 28 : 10): in John, Mary Magdalene was simply asked to inform his brethren that he was ascending to heaven (John, 20 : 17).
The appearance to the two men of Emmaus is known only to Luke (Luke, 24 : 13-15), although they had immediately after returned to Jerusalem and informed the disciples of it (Luke, 24 : 33-35).
An appearance to Peter before the evening on the same day is known only to Luke (Luke, 24 : 34).
None of the Gospels record the appearance of Jesus to James his brother or to Paul though Paul mentions both (1 Cor, 15 : 7-8).
In Luke, Jesus appeared to the disciples and drank and ate with them (Luke, 24 : 36-43). They were commanded to remain in Jerusalem till the Pentecost (see contra 10 above). In John, the same incident is narrated without Thomas (John, 20 : 18-26).
Luke makes no reference to the circumstance that the doors were shut when Jesus entered any more than he does to the conferring of authority spoken of by John (John, 20 : 19). John, on the other hand, knows nothing of Jesus having eaten anything.
John alone mentions the second visit, eight days after, to the disciples with Thomas (John, 20 : 26).
In Matthew (Matt., 28 : 16-20) and in John (John, 21 : 1) the appearance of Jesus at Galilee is recorded, though at different times.
It may be mentioned here that the Apocryphal Gospels contain nothing of consequence beyond the Canonical Gospels except that an interval of eight days is placed between the resurrection and his first appearance.
It is obvious, therefore, that the Gospels agree in two facts only and in nothing else: the empty tomb and the presence of someone in white garments.
If we believe the Gospels; the disciples expected the resurrection because, we are told, the Old Testament and Jesus (Matt., 12 : 40; 16 : 4, 21; 17 : 9, 23; 20 : 19; 26:32) had predicted it. No one has yet been able to point out to a single passage in the Old Testament which foretold the resurrection of the Messiah. The Jews never held any such belief. It is true that there are passages in the New Testament (Matt., 12: 40; Luke, 24 : 27) which attribute such predictions to the Old Testament, and Paul also speaks of the resurrection as being "according to the scriptures" (1 Cor, 15 : 4). But these are mere assertions without the least justification.
In any case, it will have to be admitted by all that at the time of the Passion the disciples behaved as if they had never heard anything of the resurrection. The first and the second Gospel narrate the dispersal of the disciples at Gethsemane in very clear terms. According to Matthew:
"Then all the disciples forsook him and fled" (Matt., 26: 56).
And Mark says:
"And they all forsook him and fled" (Mark, 14: 50).
Luke has carefully omitted this incident, no doubt, to keep his witnesses at hand. But the earliest tradition considered that the disciples were no longer at Jerusalem at the time of resurrection; and had returned to Galilee (The Gospel of Peter, of Huck, Synopse, 22). There can be no doubt that the wretched disciples, driven by fear and despair, recalled to mind the words of Jesus:
"All ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I shall smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered" (Mark, 14: 27).
They fled because they were "of little faith" (Matt., 6 : 30), "fools and slow of heart" (Luke, 24 : 25), and "hypocrites" (Luke, 12 : 56). Jesus had truly described them in these terms and had also scornfully said of them:
"Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled" (John, 6 : 26).
Knowing their real character, Jesus himself had advised them:
"Let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains" (Luke, 21 : 21).
When Jesus is alleged to have spoken of resurrection they did not understand him (Luke, 18 :33-34). We catch a glimpse of the wretched fugitives with "heavy hearts and streaming eyes" (The Gospel of Peter, 22) at their hope of the expected Kingdom being shattered to pieces. Their comparison of the tragedy with their unrealised anticipations is portrayed in the words of the two pilgrims of Emmaus:
"But we trusted that it had been he, which should have redeemed Israel" (Luke, 24 : 21).
We know that whenever Jesus is alleged in the Gospels to have tried to explain the resurrection to them in advance they did not understand him (Mark, 8 : 31; 9 : 10, 30, 32). The first announcement of the resurrection found them sceptical. From these facts, unless we admit the absurd, we must conclude that Jesus predicted nothing of the kind: but that later when faith found it impossible that Jesus should have been unaware of the fate awaiting him, it could find no better way of declaring that he had known of it than by making him predict it.
But the idea of resurrection to them would have been quite different. To them the resurrection expected at the end of the world was expected to take the form of a material restoration of the body and to be a renewal of earthly life. The resurrection of Lazarus represented their conception.
If the disciples who had "witnessed" the resurrection had written down their impressions from day to day, and their records had come down to us, much that remains obscure would have become clear. The earliest testimony available, that of Paul, was written about twenty-five years after the event and is much too vague. But the first conceptions changed rapidly, involving equally swift changes in the original reminiscences. Very soon the disciples, confused by the growing Christological distortions of their testimony, became incapable of restoring it to its original form. It cannot be too often repeated that what we find in the Gospels is the conviction of those who thought they had established the truth of facts, and not the facts themselves. And this unshakable conviction should not be confused with the legendary form in which it was subsequently clothed by the redactors. Says Loisy:
"The accounts in the Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels do not represent the original appearances, but the way in which the belief in the resurrection of Christ became conscious, took shape and justified itself half a century and more after the birth of Christianity" (Loisy, La Le'gende de Jesus, 467).
The earliest source to mention the appearance of Jesus is Paul. He says:
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and he was buried: and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve; after that he was seen of about five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also: as of one born out of due time" (1 Cor, 15 : 3-8).
Paul has no personal knowledge and he is delivering first of all what he received at Jerusalem from James and Peter (Gal., 1 : 18, 19). The list of appearances seems to be in a chronological order, for the words after that suggest it. It is noteworthy that Paul does not mention any appearance to Mary Magdalene or any other women. Nor does he mention the appearance to Ananias (Acts, 9 : 10, 15). He would not have omitted to mention this proof in support of the fact of resurrection if he had known of it, for he was out to establish this fact: He makes his views clear by saying:
"If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Con, 15 : 14).
It follows, as a matter of course, that James and Peter must also have been ignorant of these facts. Again, Paul speaks of Jesus having appeared to Peter by himself, but about this the Gospels are silent (the only reference is found in Luke, 24: 34, but it is not from Peter himself); and then to the twelve apostles, Judas Iscariot having killed himself, only eleven were left, as we know that the twelfth apostle, Matthias, was selected by the remaining eleven apostles by lots long after these appearances of Jesus (Acts, 1 : 26). Again, there is no reference to the appearance to the two men of Emmaus (Luke, 24: 13-31). So evidently, Paul is wrong again in his narrative. He does not give any details of the various appearances mentioned by him. It is difficult to understand why he should not have done so, if he knew of them. He only speaks of Jesus having been seen and uses the same word regarding himself. He does not assert that he saw Jesus in person on the road to Damascus. It is now almost universally admitted that what Paul saw was a vision only; a vision to Paul alone of all the bystanders, and therefore subjective or mental only. Are we, then, to suppose that the other appearances mentioned by him were also in vision only? Further, Paul does not mention any time or place of these appearances. Had they any connection with the resurrection or ascension of Jesus, he would not have failed to specify the time and place.
Paul, therefore, is not a safe guide, for at best his knowledge is confined to hearsay, or, as he puts it, to what he had received.
We know that none of the evangelists witnessed the resurrection of Jesus. We have Epistles of Peter, James, John and Jude, all of whom are said by the evangelists to have seen Jesus after he rose from the dead. In none of their Epistles is the fact of the resurrection even stated, much less that Jesus was seen after the resurrection by anyone in general or the writers of these Epistles in particular. The reference by Peter in his first Epistle does not meet the case (1 Peter, 3 : 18-22). It in fact proves the contrary. He speaks of the resurrection as a quickening of the spirit with a definite view to preach unto the spirits in hell. Nowhere does he assert that he saw the Risen Lord. And it is noteworthy that the Gospels do not cite anyone saying: "I saw the Risen Lord."
I will now proceed to consider and analyse the significance of the various appearances as recorded in the Gospels. I have already mentioned in detail the discrepancies found in the different versions: and will endeavour to avoid, as far as possible, any repetition.
It is, to begin with, evident that the women were present besides the sepulchre when the angels appeared, for they got their information from them that Jesus had risen, and they had further invited them to see the tomb for themselves. The angels also instructed them to direct the disciples to proceed to Galilee, to which place Jesus had gone. But Jesus, knowing his disciples, realised that this second-hand information might not be considered by them to be trustworthy, so he had to appear himself before the women and give the same instructions (Matt., 28 : 6,7, 10).
The manner in which the news was conveyed to the disciples, as already mentioned, is different in different Gospels. It is a peculiar fact that on getting this extraordinary news, none of the disciples took the trouble of going to the sepulchre. Luke goes on to give the reason:
"And these words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not" (Luke, 24 : 11).
Luke, however, makes an exception in favour of Peter (Luke, 24 : 12) and John appends to Peter another disciple "whom Jesus loved," who also went to the tomb and found it empty, and they returned wondering (Luke, 24 : 9). John, throwing overboard all the alleged prophecies of Jesus regarding his resurrection, which he is supposed to have made in the presence of his disciples, gives an explanation:
"For as yet they knew not the scriptures that he must rise again from the dead" (John, 20 : 9).
I may mention here that the passage in Luke dealing with the visit of Peter to the tomb is another pious forgery of the early Christian Fathers (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 768. See also Peake's Commentary on the Bible, 741); and John, who is alleged to have gone with him, must also disappear. None of the disciples, therefore, went to the tomb.
The first appearance after the resurrection was to Mary Magdalene, an hysterical woman out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils, and whom he found weeping (Mark, 16: 9; John, 20 : 14).
In Mark, directions are given to the women to inform the disciples that they should proceed to Galilee where they shall see him (Mark, 16: 7), Matthew says the same (Matt., 28 : 7). This was in keeping with the prophecy of Jesus:
"After I am risen again. I will go before you into Galilee" (Matt., 26 : 32; Mark, 14: 28).
In keeping with this prophecy Matthew describes Jesus' second appearance at Galilee to the disciples (Matt., 28 : 16-18). Mark, however, mentions certain appearances which must have been at Jerusalem (Mark, 16 : 12-14). John, like Mark, knows nothing of the directions to the disciples to go to Galilee. In Luke not only is there no trace of an appearance at Galilee, but in fact Jerusalem, with its environs, is made the sole place of his appearance. Not only this, but Luke puts into the mouth of Jesus, when he appeared in the evening after the resurrection, a direction to the disciples at Jerusalem:
"Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke, 24 : 49).
And in the Acts Luke expresses it more definitely though in a negative form:
"That they should not depart from Jerusalem" (Acts, 1 : 4).
Now, how could Jesus direct his disciples to journey to Galilee, and undertake the longest journey which a Jew could make within his own country, and yet at the same time have commanded them to remain in Jerusalem until Pentecost? And how could Jesus ask them to meet him in Galilee when he himself had the intention of appearing before them that very day in Jerusalem? Wolfenbuttle Fragmentist suggests that if Jesus appeared to his disciples at Jerusalem on the day of his resurrection and commanded them not to depart thence until Pentecost, then it is false that he commanded them also within the same period to go to Galilee.
To this a very simple, but a very significant, answer has been given by a Church apologist. He says that Jesus originally intended to go to Galilee and directed his disciples to do the same. They were ignorant of, and doubted, his resurrection and being in hiding did not bestir themselves. Jesus was, therefore, forced to postpone his departure and had to appear before them at Jerusalem (Dean Whitney, Resurrection of the Lord, 31). I cannot controvert this assertion: but it does appear strange that either the "son of God" did not really know his disciples or could not foresee the future. However, when he did appear to them:
"They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit" (Luke, 24 : 37).
And to dispel their doubts, Jesus had to say:
"Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. handle me and see; for a spirit hash not flesh, and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke, 24 : 39).
We are further told:
"And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy and wondered, he said unto them: Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and honeycomb. And he took it and did eat before them" (Luke, 24: 40-43).
But in spite of these demonstrations, some doubted him (Matt., 28 : 17). I need hardly mention that the words for joy are a later Christian interpolation (Revised Version, p. 1167).
Mark gives a version, similar to that of Luke, under somewhat different circumstances, but it has now been universally admitted that from Verse 9 onwards Chapter 16, in which this narrative appears, is another pious forgery. The translators of the Revised Version content themselves by remarking:
"The two oldest Greek MSS., and some other authorities omit from Verse 9 to the end. Some other authorities have a different ending to the Gospel" (Revised Version, p.1123).
If we turn to John, we find that Jesus first stood behind Mary Magdalene as she was running away from the tomb. She did not recognise him, and took him for the gardener until he called her by name. He directed her to inform his disciples.
And the same day:
"When the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in their midst, and saith unto them, "Peace be unto you." And when he had so said he showed unto them his hands and his side" (John, 20 : 19-20).
Thomas, however, was not present on this occasion. When the other disciples told him of this appearance, he replied:
"Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of nails, and thrust my hand into his side. I will not believe" (John, 20 : 25).
Thus Jesus was compelled, eight days later, to appear again and had to invite Thomas to see his hands and thrust a finger into his side (John, 20 : 27). I might here mention that the phrase put into the mouth of Thomas: "My Lord and My God" (John, 20 : 23) could never have come from the mouth of a Jew. It was an expression of astonishment and not that he addressed Jesus as such.
The episode related in John (John, 20 : 28) is much more interesting. It is a kind of appendix, inserted by another hand, to the Gospel. It is in fact a secondary and tendentious addition, clumsy and inconsistent. It upsets the whole plan of the Gospel, which clearly ends with verses 30 and 31 of ch. 20, and was probably added to make the Gospel acceptable to the Church which adhered to the Synoptic version. The author of the Gospel accepts the appearance at Jerusalem, while the interpolator follows the tradition of the appearance at Galilee. The juxtaposition of Chapters 20 and 21 discloses an inexplicable contradiction, except in the light of extra information thrown in for the benefit of believers. Ignoring the contradiction in the fourth, seventh and twelfth verses, the entire chapter is of a legendary character. The last two verses and the talk of Jesus with Peter could not have been from the pen of the author of this Gospel. The words "we know" clearly disclose that this chapter was appended to the Gospel by the Ephesian elders "who first put it in circulation." The basis that the author of this Gospel was "the beloved disciple" is derived from verses 20-24. Peake, in his Commentary on the Bible, gives cogent reasons for holding that the entire chapter was a subsequent addition (Peake, Commentary on the Bible, 764-765). Dummelow describes it as "an appended addition at a later time (Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible, 810)."
This chapter introduces a sudden and a complete change of scene. The disciples, we are told, had taken to their former life in Galilee, when Jesus appeared to them in the morning twilight at the sea of Tiberias (John, 21 :1). As usual his disciples knew him not and were afraid, and none of them dared ask him "Who art thou?" (John, 21 :12). Once again, he could only dispel their doubts by distributing bread and fishes and asking them to eat (John, 21 :13), no doubt himself partaking of same.
It is often alleged that Jesus did not appear to his disciples in a physical body. But Ignatius in his Epistle to the Church at Smyrna wrote:
"I know and believe that He was in flesh even after the Resurrection, and when he came to those with Peter he said: 'Take, handle me and see that I am not a bodiless phantom.'"
Origen quoted a similar passage from the Gospel of Peter. It has also been quoted and relied upon by Jerome and Eusebius. In the Gospel According to the Hebrews it is recorded:
"Now James had taken an oath that he would not eat bread.... (And the Lord said: Bring a table and bread; and he took the bread and blessed and broke; and afterwards gave it to James and said to him, my brother, eat thy bread for the son of Man has risen from the sleep" (Andrews: Apocryphal Books of the Old and New Testaments: Gospel According to the Hebrews).
James was sceptical and Jesus said:
"Take hold and handle me and see that I am not an incorporal spirit" (Ibid).
Now, either it was a natural and perfectly human life and body which accordingly continued to be subject to physical and organic laws, or his life was already of a higher super-human character and his body was transfigured. The human form in all its aspects, the continuance of the marks of the wounds, the human speech, the acts of walking and breaking bread are incompatible with a heavenly corporeality; but all doubts must be set at rest in face of the fact that Jesus consumed earthly food and allowed himself to be touched. Further, we observe in him precisely the same progress as might be expected in the gradual cure of a severely wounded man. In the first hours after getting out of the tomb he was obliged to remain in the vicinity of the garden. In the afternoon he had strength sufficient for a walk to the neighbouring village of Emmaus, and only later was he able to take the more distant journey into Galilee. Again, he took as much time, nay longer, to reach Galilee, for his appearance there was after the arrival of his disciples. Then again, there exists the same remarkable gradation in his allowing others to touch his body. Immediately after the resurrection his wounded body was yet tender and sensitive and he asked Mary Magdalene not to touch him; eight days after he himself allowed Thomas to touch and feel his wounds.
The fact that Jesus, after his supposed resurrection, was so seldom with his disciples, and for so short a time, is a proof that his natural human body, weak with wounds, did require longer rest after some exertion. His absence thus shows, that he was conscious of the real position. Had he been resurrected from the dead he should have shown himself to his enemies also and thus convinced them of his Divine origin. But he did not do so. In fact he did not wish to face another trial and ordeal, and so he used to disappear as suddenly as he used to appear. It may be urged that if he needed bodily rest he should have remained with his disciples who would have attended him with love and care. But Jesus could not run the risk of another betrayal: he had already had a foretaste of it, and his disciples even after his appearances were wondering and doubting. The question then arises: where did he live during the long intervals between the appearances in the wilderness or in the mountains? The answer to this could only be furnished by the two men in white garments, or perhaps the members of the secret Order, the Essenes. In his peculiar circumstances there could be no suitable abode for a suffering man like him except among his secret colleagues of whom even the disciples knew nothing and from whom he could come as and when he liked. I will, a little further on, discuss in detail this aspect of his life.
It may be objected that the coming of Jesus into rooms with doors shut indicates that he did not have a physical body. But did he pass through the doors, for it is nowhere said that he passed through the wooden boards. Peter is said to have come out of a closed prison (Acts, 12: 16). No one has ever suggested that the gates of the prison were closed and yet he got out. Now, the gates had to open even though of their own accord (Acts, 12: 10). It would have been superfluous, perhaps absurd, for the evangelists to have stated that the door was opened. It must be taken for granted, unless it is stated that it was shut and continued to remain shut and Jesus passed through the wooden boards. I might mention here that the removal of the stone from the sepulchre clearly shows that Jesus had got out of the tomb in his earthly body and that the angels who were seen there were also in physical bodies. Again, the first information conveyed by the women was "that he (Jesus) was alive (Luke, 24 : 23)," which absolutely negatives any idea of a spiritual resurrection. That is why the doctrine of Resurrection was expanded in the Fourth Article of the Religion of the Church of England in the following words:
"Christ did truly rise again from death and took upon his body, with flesh, bones and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature; wherewith he ascended into heaven and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day."
Paul, it is true, spoke of the nature of the resurrected body and asserted that it had changed from one of flesh and blood to one spiritual, incorruptible and immortal, in such a way that there was no trace left of the corruptible body of flesh and blood which had been laid in the tomb. This really amounted to the acceptance of the Jewish cosmogony whereby it was believed that all dead souls had to descend into Hades.
The death of Jesus therefore, involved for him, as for other men, according to the Jewish belief, the same journey. To prove the death of Jesus, therefore, he was made to descend into Hades. In the New Testament the references to Jesus' descent to the underworld are only incidental. The post-Pauline Epistle of Peter tells us that Christ:
"Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Peter, 3 : 18-19).
And a little further on that:
"For this cause, was the Gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (1 Peter, 4 : 6).
But according to the Jewish belief the soul of the dead person remained near his body for three days, at the end of which it departed and corruption set in. Therefore three days and three nights were fixed for his sojourn in hell, and a comparison was made with the prophecy of the Prophet Jonah (Jonah, 1 : 17), though by doing so the following prophecy had to be overlooked:
"After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight" (Hos., 6 : 2).
But Jehovah had promised:
"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Ps., 16 : 10).
The Acts, therefore, attributed to David a saying:
"Seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts, 2 : 31).
It is obvious that these contradictory assertions are the result of confusion. In the Apostolic or Sub-Apostolic Age no one felt impelled by dogmatic consideration to insist on the descent of Jesus into Hades as an Article in the Baptismal Creed. Harnack has suggested a solution. According to him the empty tomb complicated matters and confused the traditions. Some took Jesus to hell, others to heaven.
The Synoptic tradition is no better informed, and so it had to assert that Jesus departed from his disciples in whatever body he had resurrected and went up into heavens in the same body to sit on the right hand of God.
in Heaven on Earth [Journey of Jesus to
Kashmir, his preaching to the Lost Tribes of Israel
and death and burial in Srinagar] by Khwaja
> Chapter 12: Resurrection (of Jesus