Latest desperate attempt to explain away the Resurrection

Latest desperate attempt to explain away the Resurrection April 3, 2012

This is a particularly inventive piece of desperation, since it relies on saying the Shroud of Turin is genuine, while claiming the Resurrection was a hallucination:

“Theory: While Cambridge academic Thomas de Wesselow believes the shroud is real, he claims the image of Christ fooled the apostles into believing he had risen from the dead”

Mkay. Mr. de Wesselow explains:

‘Back then images had a psychological presence, they were seen as part of a separate plain of existence, as having a life of their own.’

Ah! “Back then”. You know, back when people were 2000 years dumber than today.

So when an negative image of the crucified Jesus miraculously appeared on a piece of cloth in which he had been buried, they mistook that image for the Risen Jesus. After that, apparently, the Mass Hysteria juggernaut took over and they just thought they had grabbed Jesus’ feet, talked with him on the Emmaus Road, seen him eat fish, not recognized him on three occasions, and poked their finger in his wounds.

Natural enough mistake. Happens all the time to 500 people and a Pharisee bent on persecuting Christians. Who *wouldn’t* think a piece of cloth is a living glorified Man God who can appear and disappear at will? I can’t even begin to count how many times mass hysteria has caused this in history (because the number of times is 0 and “mass hysteria” is only trotted out as the “explanation” for the resurrection–and by nutjobs who claim that no planes hit the WTC)

Me: I have this notion that if you are going to accept the authenticity of the Shroud (which I do) you should probably consider the possibility that the image is there BECAUSE JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD. Accepting that, you then have an explanation both for the Shroud and for the stories of eyewitnesses who could swear that they met Jesus, not a piece of cloth.

HT: Jon Sorenson.

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  • Margaret

    Now I can’t get this bizarre image of a bed-sheet-like thing with an image of Jesus on it walking down the road, complete with “legs,” sort of like the enchanted broomsticks in Fantasia…

  • nate

    “If true, this radically reshapes the version of the events which led to the birth of Christianity as a world religion, now followed by more than two billion people.”

    Man. Bites. Dog.

  • Ted Seeber

    I still go back and forth on the authenticity of the shroud- but I’m damn sure not only did Jesus arise, but he apparently led a zombie revolt in Jerusalem for a couple of days. It’s the downright weirdest Biblical Story Never Told (Matthew 27:51-53), right up there with the remnant in Genesis about the Second Flight of Fallen Angels, you know, the ones who came to rape human women and create “the heroes of old” (Genesis 6:1-7).

  • Scott

    Pay no attention to that man behind the cloth!

  • An Atheist

    How’s this for a theory: people don’t rise from the dead. They just don’t. Go read Dr. Robert M. Price for starters, he (the last in a long line of scholars using the higher critical method of biblical scholarship) have demolished the Easter Myth.

    • Mark Shea


    • Beadgirl

      A few years ago I read a book called Where Does the Weirdness Go, about quantum mechanics. In an extrapolation of the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment and a discussion of changes in the states of particles, the author mentioned that it was technically possible, given enough time, that the cat’s particles could move from a “dead” state to a “living” state (I am grossly oversimplifying) — in other words, although extremely unlikely, the weird behavior of sub-atomic particles could lead to a cat rising from the dead. Food for thought.

    • The Deuce

      Wait, you’re telling me that people don’t rise from the dead?! So, like, it would be a miraculous sign of divine power if someone actually did?! My mind is blown!

  • An Atheist

    Read Dr. Price, or better yet go all the way back to F.C. Bauer and other founders of the higher critical method. Your myth is hardly bulletproof.

    • Mark Shea

      Familiar with it. Boring. Losing consciousness.

    • Ted Seeber

      Dr. Price is hardly bulletproof as well.

  • An Atheist

    So, Mr. Shea, how many days passed between the supposed resurrection and the apostle’s preaching to the public at Pentecost?

    • Mark Shea

      50 (though, of course, the Resurrection appearances take place over the next 40 days). Why? Also, why are you afraid to have a real email address?

  • An Atheist

    With 50 days past any body would have been extremely decomposed, yes? So nobody could display the body to disprove their preaching. It would have been bones at that point and something tells me forensics was not very advanced in first century Palestine, and I doubt Jesus had dental records.

    As to my email address, I don’t want to get spammed with emails about ED pills and Russian brides for the next decade.

    • Mark Shea

      They dug up Lee Harvey Oswald 20 years later and there was still quite a bit of him left. So no, I don’t think 50 days would have done much. But, of course, the point of the story is that there was nothing to dig up since the grave was empty. Apparently, you subscribe to the incredible “apostles stole the body and then lied about it so they could all die horribly” theory. Not too original and deeply preposterous. But you get points for being biblical at least. At least the Cambridge guy is not such a fool as to think the apostles liar, merely extremely stupid.

    • The Deuce

      You fail biology and history. Care to try for a third?

    • Ted Seeber

      Last I saw, Mexican Cemetaries rent graves on a yearly basis.

  • An Atheist

    This is all assuming the biblical accounts are trustworthy narratives and not propaganda written by people with certain agendas. Even given that the evidence is shaky at best. Joseph smith had “eyewitnesses” too.

  • An Atheist

    The 19th Mormon martyrs died pretty horrible deaths (lynchings) and were social outcasts as well. I don’t think that says anything about the veracity of Joseph Smith’s story.

    • Mark Shea

      Already discussed that before. It’s one thing to die for a lie somebody told you that you genuinely believe. It’s another thing to die for a lie you yourself are telling that you know is false.

      Try harder.

    • Mark Shea

      By the way, note that you keep coming up with various arguments as your old ones fall uselessly from your hand. That’s because you and not I am the dogmatist:

      “Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder. The plain, popular course is to trust the peasant’s word about the ghost exactly as far as you trust the peasant’s word about the landlord. Being a peasant he will probably have a great deal of healthy agnosticism about both. Still you could fill the British Museum with evidence uttered by the peasant, and given in favour of the ghost. If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural. If you reject it, you can only mean one of two things. You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story. That is, you either deny the main principle of democracy, or you affirm the main principle of materialism–the abstract impossibility of miracle. You have a perfect right to do so; but in that case you are the dogmatist. It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence–it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed. But I am not constrained by any creed in the matter, and looking impartially into certain miracles of mediaeval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred. All argument against these plain facts is always argument in a circle. If I say, “Mediaeval documents attest certain miracles as much as they attest certain battles,” they answer, “But mediaevals were superstitious”; if I want to know in what they were superstitious, the only ultimate answer is that they believed in the miracles. If I say “a peasant saw a ghost,” I am told, “But peasants are so credulous.” If I ask, “Why credulous?” the only answer is–that they see ghosts. Iceland is impossible because only stupid sailors have seen it; and the sailors are only stupid because they say they have seen Iceland.” -G.K. Chesterton.

      To learn more about how your dogmatic commitments keep you from considering actual evidence and force you embrace fallacious arguments in desperation, go here.

  • An Atheist

    I agree there isthe a difference but Joseph Smith, in fact, did die for a lie he was telling that he knew was false. So did David Koresh. So did, as I am sure you know being a Christian, numerous “Messiahs” before and after Jesus of Nazareth.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes. And he went down in a gun battle with both barrels blazing because he was a fraud who had no intention of dying for his scam. In contrast, the apostles went to their deaths as Jesus did. In fact, the gospels carefully record that Peter was sharply rebuked for drawing his sword on Malchus. One of those little details that is hard to explain if the purpose of the gospels is to make Peter and the other apostles look really good.

      Try harder. Think it possible you may be wrong. After all, your personal dogma that miracles are impossible is something you have not even demonstrated yet. Why put so much faith in it?

    • Mark Shea

      So: returning to your dumb theory. You are seriously saying that not just one guy, like Joe Smith, but 500 hundred people (including a Pharisee who had been bent on persecuting them) all lied about having met the Risen Jesus, spent the next several decades getting beaten up and killed for it, and *nobody* ever said, “Okay. We lied. Being an apostle sucks. I’m going back to fishing”. Watergate came apart in about 20 minutes when the dirtbags ran for cover. But these dirtbags continued getting it on the chin for decades for no earthly rewards and wound up getting skewered, crucified, beheaded, and flayed alive–and all for a lie. Nobody ever thought to turn anybody else in? Nobody tried to plea bargain with the Sanhedrin about what really happened and where the body was stowed? Nobody ever tried to show how the miracles were faked and all the attendant phenomena were phonied up?

      My faith is paltry compared to yours. You’ll believe anything.

  • Ed Pie

    “he claims the image of Christ fooled the apostles into believing he had risen from the dead”

    I may just be a fool–and never mind that I am–but I would have a much harder time believing in the resurrection if I or my buddies had been there and found a burial cloth still full of inanimate remains, whether or not they had left some kind of image on it.

    The Gospel accounts make no mention of an image on cloth anywhere after Veronica. They are pretty clear on the disciples’ expectation of finding a body, though.

  • Michael O.

    There’s this thing called the enter key that enables you to make paragraphs, An Atheist, instead of posting 20 times and making yourself look like a drunk attacking a dartboard.

  • An Atheist

    The accounts of the apostle’s deaths all come from rather sketchy early Christian tradition. I know Catholics put a very high value on oral tradition, but those who study history in a scientific and methodical manner do not. The bottom line is we don’t know very much about the twelve apostles.

    We know a quite a bit about Paul but he didn’t seem very eager to die as he played up his Roman citizenship every chance he got.

    • All he had to do to survive was to cast incense before the image of the Emperor and renounce his “atheism”, as defined by the ancients.

    • Mark Shea

      I know Catholics put a very high value on oral tradition, but those who study history in a scientific and methodical manner do not.

      Then you are deeply ignorant of those who study history.:

      Those of us who understand normal human emotion understand that “not being eager to be murdered” is a feature, not a bug. Paul’s efforts to avoid being killed are normal and good. His refusal to take up arms or mount an insurrection among his followers against his persecutors is the tiny moral difference between him and Joe Smith.

      Try harder.

    • SouthCoast

      “I know Catholics put a very high value on oral tradition, but those who study history in a scientific and methodical manner do not. ” Don’t hang much with anthropologists, eh?

    • Ted Seeber

      I have yet to meet an atheist of any stripe that studies history in an unbiased manner. Perhaps what you meant by “methodological” is “throwing out all the evidence I don’t like”?

  • No, the next fall back position is that maybe Jesus did rise from the dead, but He wasn’t really God, he was just a guy who happened to rise from the dead.

    When people defend their world view, and their world view is bound up with the structure of their personalities, they can fall back many steps.

    But then they die, and the steps end and become that great passage into the unknown.

    I think that dogmatic atheists are very much afraid of mystery, of the unknown, and they wish to tame it, like children who demand that there be a night light in the bedroom.

    It’s understandable. Not to be scorned. Most of us have known that fear.

    Mockery can only terrify people who are already terrified. Terror is the reason why atheists post on religious sites. Otherwise, being sure of their position, why would they bother?

    I would tell them: Calm down, everyone will die, those who believe and those who disbelieve. You will see.

    BTW, there is a great passage in Pascal’s Pensees about the superficiality of atheists.

  • There’s another approach. If we are wrong about life after death, then you, Atheist, will die, and that will shut you up, and we will go on to the next atheist and the next until all of you are dead. And then we will have some peace from your everlasting yammering. Thank God. And welcome to your annihilation.

    Go and die.

    For some reason it reminds me of how one of the Kamakazi pilots asked Gen. Ugaki if, after dropping a 500 pound bomb on an American ship he could return to base.

    The general shouted: No, go and die!

    The Japanese pilot who was there and described the scene remarked, with a grin: I thought he might have been more sympathetic.

  • An Atheist

    Pavel, I post here for debate, and yes I could be wrong. I find it unlikely but I could be.

    Can you admit you could be wrong? Or that we could BOTH be wrong? There are a lot of options aside from atheism or Catholicism.

    • C. S. Lewis wrote that even if we are wrong, what we will encounter might be even more wonderful than what we can imagine.

      Atheist, I am a very literal person who does not find it easy to be convinced by what he reads in books, even Holy Scripture, or by what someone says in a sermon. But I have had an experience so powerful that I cannot possibly see how it could have been generated by some imaginative process inside me.

      I believe – I am convinced – that if we get out of our own way, that there is an answer forthcoming that will astonish us. Our little egos and defenses and terrors hamper us, cripple us.

      But then, as St. Paul tells us, we can also look around at creation for proof of the creative power that surrounds us. That is another avenue.

      For me, the difficulty is to accept that God is Love, and yet, I have experienced some proofs of that as well.

      If necessary, we can cry out for help, but we must be desperate, we must feel our own frailty and helplessness.

      But here you are on your own.


    Whose gleaming dust are you? said He,
    Will you agree to a bargain?
    I can arrange for you to be
    A falcon or a salmon

    You could command the bright updrafts
    Of the mighty hills of heaven,
    The souls of purgatory laugh
    That will be there by evening

    You might be flashing in the stream
    That issues from My fountain,
    Scales of gold and ruby gleam
    Beneath My silver mountain

    But I have thought another change
    Could be the one to fit you,
    A body that will seem most strange
    Though it will not upset you

    It is the glory of the joy
    With which you are endowed,
    This body I will not destroy
    For it does not suit the proud

    But you must be agreeable
    To be clothed in such attire,
    A form of light most beautiful
    For angels to admire

    April 2, 2012

  • Actually, I take the story of Jesus metaphorically too, like many biblical stories in the old testament. I take it as a story that wants to give us a theological message, which in the end is the important thing, wheter or not it happened.

    • Mark Shea

      The people who report the story, and who died for it in gruesome ways, neglected to make this clear to the people who crucified them, stabbed them, and stoned them to death. The key to understanding a text is not to ask, “What does it mean to me?” but “What did it mean to the people who wrote it?” Those people very obviously meant to say that they had seen Jesus Christ alive bodily after his death and had eaten fish with him and poked their finger in his wounds. Spiritualizing that away is crap. It’s either true or a lie.

      • Interesting way of seeing it. True, we have to look at what it meant to the people of the time, it’s just that Jesus’ story has so many pagan parallels it is very hard to overlook, and I really feel that whether or not he resurrected or perform miracles is inconsequential to the christian or even catholic faith, because, again, what matters is it’s message. I never said I don’t believe in the Resurrection, though, because I do, I just think it’s not essential.

        • Mark Shea

          That the story of Jesus has a few “pagan parallels” means absolutely nothing about the historicity of the resurrection. The pagan parallels are quite inexact and take place in cloud cuckoo land once upon a time. The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth takes place in broad daylight during the reign of a Roman bureacrat named Pontius Pilate and in front of 500 eyewitnesses, most of whom are still alive when Paul writes his first letter to the Corinthians in the mid-50 AD. What matters is indeed the message. And the message *nothing other* than that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified in time and on earth was found to be alive three days later and was seen and spoken with by many witnesses who were not concocting a myth by describing that “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands”. If you do not grasp that the Resurrection is not only essential to the Christian message, but virtually all the news the Christian message has to give, you simply do not understand the Chrisian message at all. The gospels are accurately described as “passion narratives with long introductions”. The core of the gospels is not Jesus miracles (which, yes, are also eyewitness accounts of things which actually happened and not mere morally instructive tales), nor his parables and sayings. All these things are spokes on the wheel. They gain meaning from the fact that Jesus, who is God in human flesh, died for our sins and rose again for our justification, so that we could receive his Holy Spirit and become partakers in the divine life. It is only in light of his resurrection and the power he gives us to live his life that his sayings and actions become intelligible.

          Ask yourself: if the passion, death and resurrection are “inconsequential” to the message of the gospels, why does every gospel spend one quarter of its ink on a 72 hour period in the life of Jesus? Quite obviously, it’s because that 72 hour period is absolutely the essential core of the story. Everything else in the gospel is just preface, preparation, and commentary.

  • Matt Mac

    Christianity rises or falls on the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, the story would have ended pretty quickly. I once read an excellent essay titled, “How Not to Start a Religion”. If the Gospel writers were creating a myth, why have its hero born out of wedlock, as a bastard…which at the time is punishable by death. Why have him born in a barn, essentially homeless? Why have your hero live in a slum, work as ‘blue collar’ laborer? Why have your hero hang out with the low lifes and losers of society? Why have your hero suffer the most shameful of deaths…dying naked on a cross for public viewing…abandoned by all? Yeah…that story really works right? So let’s make-up a story of his rising from the grave and start a following…which has its beginning in downtown Jeruselem….a following that has lasted over 2,000 years with billions of followers. Yeah, that’s the way to start a religion….