Happy Easter Everyone

Every year on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, Christians celebrate Easter, as they have ever since the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. Easter is the day on which they believe their Saviour’s body came back to life after suffering a horrendous death, and that he was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending to ‘heaven’ on a cloud. This is the very basis of the Christian religion.

JC

They believe it because some of the Gospels (not all of them, as we’ll see) say it happened. But most Christians have never read the New Testament in full, let alone studied it. They don’t know who wrote it, or when, or how it came to be in its final form. Nor are they aware of the inconsistencies and contradictions it contains.

If they read it, knew its history and thought about it, Christians would realise that the Gospel accounts of the resurrection are just as implausible as a three day old mangled dead body coming back to life would be today!

The church says the contradictions don’t matter, but they would, wouldn’t they? What matters is that believers accept their version of events without question, as a matter of faith, without letting inconvenient facts getting in the way.

But surely for the New Testament stories to have any real value they must be substantially true, which means historically accurate. Otherwise they are on the same par as the Tales of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and other stories written to make a point – thought provoking but works of fiction nonetheless.

What the Gospels Actually Say

The church claims that the entire New Testament was written by people who were all either present at the events they describe or who spoke to eyewitnesses and then presented accurate, unembellished accounts of what they saw or heard.

But this simply isn’t true!

The earliest gospel was written around 70 CE, and most Biblical scholars agree that it is probably the most historically reliable. The second and third were written around 80-90 CE and the fourth between 99-100 CE. All four were unnamed until the late second century when the names Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were ascribed. But they didn’t reach their final form until much later, after they had been translated and mistranslated many times and many additions and redactions had been made.

The longer the period between the actual events, the writing of the manuscript and its reaching its final form, the more embellished became the story.

The earliest New Testament writings are seven of the letters attributed to Paul of Tarsus (Thessalonians 1, Philippians, Philemon, Corinthians 1 and 2, Galatians and Romans). These date from 53-58 CE, a quarter of a century after the crucifixion. The other letters in Paul’s name were written much later after his death, not by him.

Paul had met with at least two of the disciples who knew Yeshua, Peter and James, yet he never claimed a physical resurrection. He wrote that Yeshua appeared in changed form. He wrote (1 Corinthians 15: 3-7): ‘For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received,’ and went on to report a number of ‘appearances’ to the twelve disciples (strange – after Judas’s suicide there were only supposed to be eleven) and to a wider group of believers.

The First Gospel (later named ‘Mark’) originally ended with the body missing and an angel telling the disciples to return to Galilee where they would see him. They were clearly not expecting this, and fled in terror (Mark 16:5-8). Much later, another section was added by an unknown author (Mark 16:9-19) in which Yeshua ‘appeared’ to them several times and spoke. Nowhere did either author claim that he had risen in bodily form.

The Second and Third Gospels (written around 80-90 CE and subsequently named ‘Matthew’ and ‘Luke’) used the First as a guide and added their resurrection narratives. reported dozens of sightings, although their accounts are remarkably inconsistent. Most of them began and ended mysteriously, for instance, he ‘drew near,’ then ‘disappeared from sight’ like a ghost.

The Third Gospel expanded the story, adding several more appearances in which Yeshua ‘came near’ and ‘stood among them’, showed them his wounds, ate fish, then vanished. Later, he ‘withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.’ (Luke 24:51) None of these incidents are found in the other Gospels. Moreover, far from fleeing to Galilee, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem and ‘were continually in the temple.’ (Luke 24:50) Perhaps he wasn’t sure of his facts or like any good journalist didn’t want to let the facts get in the way of a good story.

The Acts of the Apostles, written by the same author as the Third Gospel, merely says he ‘presented himself alive’ to the disciples over a forty day period.

By the time the fourth Gospel was written, it was clear that most Jews did not accept Yeshua as the Messiah, and this was reflected in the increasingly exaggerated claims made on his behalf.

Whereas the first three Gospel writers portray Yeshua as what G-d would be like if he took human form, the Fourth Gospel (‘John’) thought he was G-d! This work is regarded by scholars as an abstract work of theology rather than a serious attempt at historical accuracy. Here Yeshua appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb but warned her not to touch him since he had not yet ‘ascended to the Father’. (John 20:17)  Later he ‘stood among’ the disciples and invited ‘doubting’ Thomas to touch his wounds. He also he appeared to different disciples on various occasions, in one instance filling their nets full of fish and offering bread and fish for breakfast. On this occasion, in common with most of his ‘appearances’, they did not recognise him immediately.

The Gospels agree on only two details – that the tomb was found empty on the third day after the crucifixion, and that Mary Magdalene was one of those who discovered the empty tomb. None of them say that Yeshua was seen walking out of the tomb, nor do they explain how he was seen fully clothed, considering the burial clothes were left in situ.

What happened to the body?

The Second Gospel has an interesting postscript that illustrates the writers’ dilemma: explaining what happened to Yeshua’s body. According to ‘Matthew’, the Jewish leaders, petrified of what would happen if the word got out that Yeshua had come back to life, paid the soldiers guarding the tomb to spread the story that the disciples came by night and stole the body while they were asleep. ‘This story is still told among the Jews to this day,’ he wrote fifty years after the crucifixion. (Matthew 28:15).

It was normal practice to leave crucified bodies on the crosses until the vultures had torn off the flesh, then remove the bones and dispose of them in sulphur pits outside the city used as a crematorium. It is highly probable that this is what happened to Yeshua’s body too.

But to say so would not have suited the gospel writers. Instead they wrote that Pilate allowed the body to be taken by an influential follower and placed in a sealed tomb. Quite why the Pilate would have allowed this particular troublemaker to be given special treatment is unclear.

When Yeshua died, his disciples were scared and confused, their hopes that the ‘kingdom of God’ was about to appear and reform the world shattered. Then, as the decades rolled by, their successors began to see him as the personification of G-d, and then G-d himself in human form. But how could G-d die? How could they execute G-d as a common criminal and leave his remains to rot in a sulphur pit?

Hence the Easter stories transformed Yeshua’s death and abject defeat into a noble sacrifice, the triumph of life over death, the victory of the Saviour over the Romans and the ultimate vindication despite not being recognised as the Messiah by the Jews. This was their purpose.

A miraculous presence

Apart from the apparent disappearance of the body, the only other historical fact of which we can be sure is that some of Yeshua’s followers believed that they felt the miraculous presence of their dead Master and perhaps saw visions of him. We can’t say exactly what these, but they obviously felt real because many of them suffered and died for it. It’s not unusual for bereaved people today to ‘see’ a departed loved one or ‘feel’ their presence – it happened to me when my father died.

But, in common with Paul, Peter, James and the authors of the First and Second Gospels, I don’t believe his body came back to life in a physical sense. If he had, the events would surely have been mentioned in the historical records of the day, not just the Gospels, and the Jewish population would surely have been won over. But they weren’t.

Diabolical Mimicry

There were many myths concerning a dying and resurrected god-man across the Middle East from the 5th Century BCE onward. In Egypt:

  • He was God made flesh, the Son of God.
  • His mother was a mortal virgin.
  • He was born in a humble cowshed before three shepherds.
  • He turned water into wine at a marriage ceremony.
  • He rode triumphantly on a donkey while people waved palm leaves to honour him.
  • He died, and on the third day rose from the dead and ascended to heaven in glory.
  • His followers awaited his return as judge in the last days.
  • His death and resurrection were celebrated by a ritual meal of bread and wine which symbolised his body and blood.

This was not Yeshua ben Yosef, the man whose life inspired the Christian religion, but the Egyptian god-man Osiris, five hundred years before his birth! The similarities were so obvious that the Second Century Roman satirist Celsus described Christianity as ‘diabolical mimicry’ and accused Yeshua of ‘having invented his birth from a virgin’. But this is unfair – Yeshua knew nothing about this (and neither did his mother) since the virgin birth stories were invented long after their death.

Of course, the resurrection is not verifiable in a factual/historical sense. You either believe it or you don’t. If you believe, no evidence, no insights, no knowledge, no common sense will shake your belief.  That’s the way the human mind works; it’s also the nature of belief.

© David Lawrence Preston, 25.3.2018

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Front cover 201 things

Hay House/Balboa Press, 2015

Easter Myth #10: Yeshua’s immediate followers believed he was the Son of G_d

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. Most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures because they have never read them from cover to cover. The gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #10: Yeshua’s contemporary followers believed he was G_d’s messenger

There is no concrete evidence that Yeshua was seen as G_d’s unique messenger around the time of his death, let alone the Messiah or Son of G_d.

But beliefs about him continued to evolve. As the 1st Century CE progressed, Christians began to experience his memory in new ways. His followers came to believe that he was more than just a great prophet and teacher, but the very incarnation of G_d. By the time the Fourth Gospel was written around the turn of the century he was no longer seen as a person of flesh and blood, but a supernatural being free of restrictions in time and space. He had become G_d.

Today, Easter – the day he is said to have come back from the dead – is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar, although Christmas is celebrated more enthusiastically. Christians believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But the gospels are far from clear on the nature of the ‘resurrection’ or the timing of the ‘Ascension’, and most Christians aren’t even aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures.

The Easter stories transformed Yeshua’s abject shame and defeat into a noble sacrifice, the triumph of life over death, victory over the Romans and his ultimate vindication before G_d. Easter became the crux of traditional Christianity, marking the beginning of the process by which a humble but brave teacher and religious zealot from Galilee became transformed in the minds of his later followers into their saviour, Messiah, judge, way-shower and G_d.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

Easter Myth #9: Early Christians quickly adopted the sign of the cross

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. For instance, the Easter stories are highly dubious as factual accounts.

On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware that the gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #9: Early Christians quickly adopted the sign of the cross as their symbol

The cross (or crucifix) is the main symbol of Christianity. In churches it is often shown on a portrait or statue showing a contorted male in agony, festooned with thorns and dripping with blood. At Easter time, wooden crosses are carried through the streets in many countries.

However, the earliest Christian art (dating from the 1st Century) doesn’t show the sign of the cross but the fish (signifying Yeshua’s connection with the fishing trade). The cross was considered shameful since crucifixion was reserved for the lowest criminals. The first reference to Christians using the cross as a symbol date from around 200 CE in North Africa. Christians there traced the sign of the cross across their foreheads. This has remained part of the baptism ceremony although nowadays it is usually made across the abdomen as a form of blessing or protection.

The use of the crucifix as a symbol owes much to Paul of Tarsus. He wrote, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of G_d;’ and, ‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.’[1]

Personally I would prefer to see the benign image of the statue of Christ the Redeemer which looks on the world from the top of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro as the universal symbol of love and compassion. I think Yeshua would probably agree.

 

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

[1]1 Corinthians, 1:18 and Galatians 6:14

Easter Myth #8: The risen Yeshua appeared to hundreds of ordinary people

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists are extremely doubtful that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. For example, the Easter stories are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures.

Myth #8: The risen Yeshua appeared to hundreds of ordinary people

Paul of Tarsus claimed that the risen Yeshua appeared to over five hundred people. We have no way over verifying this number of people felt they had had this experience; however they all had one very important thing in common –  Paul’s letters state that  all were Christian believers.

Why? If the Jewish people as a whole, or both Jews and gentiles, were his intended audience, why not appear to believers and non-believers alike?

Psychologists tell us that we are just as likely to see what we believe as believe what we see. In other words, our beliefs colour our perceptions. There’s no verifiable evidence for a physical resurrection, just the words of a handful of devoted people keen to show that G-d vindicated Yeshua even though its chosen people had not recognised him as the Messiah?

It seems surprising to non-Christians that otherwise reasonable people in the 21st century should so readily believe tales such as these, but we should remember that closed communities tend to conform to the prevailing beliefs of the group, whether Christians, Scientologists, Muslims or Jehovah’s Witnesses etc.

Of course, the resurrection cannot be verified. You either believe that the gospel writers told nothing but the truth, or you don’t. (If you do, you still have to explain which of the conflicting New Testament versions you believe.)

Regardless of the facts, whatever you decide to believe is true – for you. That’s the way the human mind works.

©David Lawrence Preston, 1.3.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

Easter Myth #7: The Gospels’ accounts of Easter Day are accurate and consistent

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. Indeed, the Easter stories are highly dubious as factual accounts, and they are the very basis of the religion.

Christians believe these stories because the gospels say they happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #7: The Gospels’ accounts of Easter Day are accurate and consistent

Between them the gospels report dozens of sightings of the risen Yeshua, but their stories differ. Most began and ended mysteriously. Usually he ‘drew near’ then ‘disappeared from sight’.

  • The First Gospel ended with the body missing and an angel telling the disciples to return to Galilee where they would see him. They were clearly not expecting this, and fled in terror.[1]

Decades later, twelve extra verses were added in which the Christ figure ‘appeared’ to them several times. He spoke to them and was immediately whisked away to heaven. The NRSV New Testament says in the footnotes that some authorities mark these verses ‘doubtful’. Nowhere does either the original author or the later contributor claim that Yeshua had risen in bodily form.

  • In the Second Gospel, Mary Magdalene and another Mary encountered Yeshua by the empty tomb, but they didn’t recognize him. Clearly he wasn’t the man they remembered from just a few days earlier. He told them to tell the disciples to return to Galilee where they would see him. Several sightings are reported.

The writer adds an interesting postscript: the Jewish leaders, petrified of what would happen if the word got out that Yeshua had come back to life, paid the soldiers guarding the tomb to spread the story that the disciples came by night and stole the body while they were asleep. ‘This story is still told among the Jews to this day,’ he wrote fifty years later.[2]

  • The Third Gospel added several more appearances in which Yeshua ‘came near’ and ‘stood among them’, showed them his wounds, ate fish, then vanished (there are no such claims in ‘Mark’ or ‘Matthew’). Later, he ‘withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.’[3] All of this happened on Easter Sunday. None of these stories concurred with the other gospels. Moreover, far from fleeing to Galilee, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem and ‘were continually in the temple.’
  • In the Fourth Gospel, Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb and went to fetch Cephas and ‘the disciple who Yeshua loved.’[4] They ran back to the tomb, then the two disciples ‘returned to their homes.’ (It’s not clear where these ‘homes’ were. It’s implausible that they had homes in Jerusalem). Mary then encountered two angels by the tomb who told her Yeshua had risen. She turned round and he was standing behind her, but she did not recognise him. He told her not to touch him because he had not yet ‘ascended to the Father.’[5] She then reported back to the disciples.

Later, says the author, he ‘stood among’ the disciples and invited ‘doubting’ Thomas to touch his wounds.[6] He also he appeared to the disciples on various occasions, once while they ate bread and fish for breakfast and one in which he appeared on a beach and gave the disciples some advice on fishing.[7]

  • Acts of the Apostles, written by the same author as the Third Gospel, merely says he ‘presented himself alive’ to the disciples over a forty day period before the momentous events of Pentecost.

Once again we find ourselves wondering which, if any, of these accounts is correct, since they can’t all be right!

There seems little doubt that some of Yeshua’s followers felt the presence of their Master after his death and others thought they saw visions. We must not be too sceptical – it’s not unusual for bereaved people to ‘see’ a departed loved one or imagine they are around them. Their experiences, whatever they were, may have felt very real, because many of them later suffered and died for their faith.

But surely if a body had come back to life in a physical sense it would have been reported in the historical records of the day!

The only things the four gospels agree on is that the tomb was empty on the third day and Mary Magdalene was one of those who discovered it. None explains how Yeshua was encountered in the garden fully clothed, considering the burial clothes were left in situ.

The church likes to sweep aside the differences as if they don’t matter, but they do. They cast doubt on the accuracy of all four versions bearing in mind that none of the authors were eye-witnesses and at least forty years had passed before their accounts were written.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

 

Balboa Press 2015

[1] Mark 16: 5-8

[2] Matthew 28:15

[3] Luke 24:50-51

[4] John 20:2

[5] John 20:17

[6] John 20:19-20

[7] John 21:4-6

Easter Myth #6: Yeshua’s disciples expected him to resurrect

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as fact.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware that the Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #6: Yeshua’s disciples expected him to resurrect because he had told them so

According to the gospels, Yeshua repeatedly told his disciples that he would be killed and then resurrected on the third day[1] and this was his destiny as foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures. And yet according to these same sources, nobody – not even his closest disciples – expected him to rise again.

When the post-Easter Christ figure/apparition ‘appeared’ to them, all the witnesses were surprised, so much so that most did not recognise him. How could this be? If he had told them he would return and they believed in him why did it come as such a surprise?

Or were the sightings of the risen prophet inventions of the gospel authors? The writers of the Second, Third and Fourth Gospels went to some lengths to insist that the risen Yeshua was not a ghost, nor was he a badly injured man hobbling around. Even though he could appear and disappear at will, he ate, drank and could be touched.

However, not one of these authors could have been present at the events they describe. All were writing at least fifty years later using hearsay as their source material. There’s not a single piece of evidence, not even a sentence in any of the contemporary non-gospel records of the time. If his closest disciples were sceptical, why shouldn’t we?

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

 

[1] E.g. Mark 9:31 and 10:34; Matthew 16:21 and 17:23; Luke 9:22 and 24:7; John 20:19

Easter Myth #5: Disciples witnessed the ‘resurrection’

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #5: Several of Yeshua’s disciples witnessed the ‘resurrection’

The fact is, according to the gospels themselves, nobody saw him walk out of the tomb. Even Paul of Tarsus – his main apostle and for many the actual founder of the Christian religion – believed that Yeshua returned in changed form, not as a resuscitated corpse

The earliest reference to a resurrection appears in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, written around a quarter of a century after the crucifixion. But Paul never claimed a physical resurrection; he believed that Yeshua had reappeared in changed form, transformed into a spiritual body. Perhaps that’s why he was not easily recognized in the Easter stories.

Three of the gospel writers did not agree. They went to some lengths to insist that the risen Yeshua was not a ghost, nor was he a mutilated man hobbling around. In their versions he could appear and disappear at will, ate, drank and could be touched.

Why make it up? When Yeshua died, his disciples were scared and confused. Their hopes that he was the one to liberate his people were shattered. Then, as the decades rolled by, successive generations of Christians began to see him as the personification of G_d. But how could G_d die? How could they execute G_d as a common criminal? Why didn’t he try to escape so he could continue his ministry? They had a lot of explaining to do, and the startling explanation they came up with was resurrection.

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

 

 

Easter Myth #4: Yeshua was given a decent burial

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #4: Yeshua was given a decent burial

While Yeshua’s crucifixion is referred to in other sources, the circumstances of his burial are vigorously contested.

It was unheard of for a crucified person to receive a decent burial; this was part of the punishment. It was normal practice to leave crucified bodies on the crosses until the vultures had torn off the flesh, then remove the bones and take them to the sulphur pits outside Jerusalem which were used as a crematorium. Alternatively the naked body would be left on the cross so that vultures could attack, which was considered an excellent deterrent to other would-be insurrectionists. Any remains would then be placed in a shallow grave or eaten by dogs.

To say this, of course, would not have suited the gospel writers. Instead they wrote that Pilate gave permission for Yeshua’s body to be taken by an influential admirer, Joseph of Arimithea, and placed in a tomb that he had constructed for himself. With Mary Magdalene and another Mary looking on, a large stone was rolled across the entrance and an armed guard positioned close by.

Quite why Pilate would have given permission for the body of this particular troublemaker to be given this special treatment is unclear, except it set the scene for what followed next.

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

Easter Myth #3: The gospels accurately recorded Yeshua’s last words

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records.

Myth #3:  The gospels accurately recorded Yeshua’s last words

It was normal for victims of crucifixion to suffer for many hours in the heat of the day, then slip into a coma before being pronounced dead. Usually it took over twenty-four hours but the gospels say Yeshua died relatively quickly. But what were his last words?

  • According to ‘Matthew’ he let out a cry, ‘My G_d, my G_d, why have you forsaken me?’[1] – hardly the cry of a man who had participated willingly in his fate.
  • In ‘Luke’, he cried more nobly, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’[2]
  • In ‘Mark’, he merely breathed his last.[3] ‘Mark’ claimed that Pilate was surprised that Yeshua died so soon.[4]
  • In ‘John’ he said nothing profound, but took the opportunity to ask ‘the disciple who he loved’[5] to take care of his mother.

Interestingly members of the public were not allowed to get close to the crucifixion scene. Only the Roman guards would have heard words spoken by the condemned – certainly not the gospel authors!

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

[1] Matthew 27:46. This is a quote from Psalms 22.1.

[2] Luke 23, 46

[3] Mark 15:37

[4] Mark 15:44

[5] There are several references to ‘the disciple who Yeshua loved’ in the Fourth Gospel. Those who think it was the author himself are mistaken because the gospel was written many decades after the events they purport to describe. It is clearly a fabrication.

Easter Myth #2: Pilate was a kindly ditherer, open to persuasion

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #2:  Pilate was a kindly ditherer, open to persuasion

The Pontius Pilate of history was a ruthless tyrant, far from the weak and wavering man portrayed in the gospels. If Yeshua was believed to pose a threat to law and order his fate would have been quickly sealed.

Few scholars regard the gospel reports of Yeshua’s ‘trial’ as credible. The gospels say Yeshua had broken no law in Roman eyes and only when the chief priests convinced Pilate that he was a danger to public order was his fate sealed. But this is extremely unlikely. Roman Prefects could treat members of the subject nation as they wished. Pilate had a history of putting usurpers to death without trial without hesitation. It is doubtful that Pilate would have lost any sleep over it.

The author of ‘Matthew’ was so keen to absolve the Romans of their responsibility that he had Pilate’s wife advising him in to ‘have nothing to do with this innocent man for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’[1]

But outside the gospel stories there is no record of Pilate ever showing mercy, and it would have been completely out of character to let Yeshua off the hook. Indeed, he was later recalled to Rome to face charges of misrule and committed suicide in disgrace!

Pilate’s reluctance in the gospels to crucify this noisy Jewish dissident contrasts so much with what is known about him from other sources that it seems certain that later editors ‘doctored’ the gospels to deflect blame away from Rome. Why would they do such a thing? Simple: the Christian leaders of the First and Second Centuries did not want to make enemies of the Romans.

In the decades that followed, the Romans took charge of the religion and put the finishing touches to the early Christian Scriptures. It would have been embarrassing to say the least that a senior Roman official had condemned the Saviour to death!

It was convenient to deflect the blame for his death to the Jews. The repercussions for Christian-Jewish relations were severe and lasted for nearly two thousand years, until Pope John Paul the Second made a wholesome apology to the Jewish people in 2000.[2]

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

[1] Matthew 27:19. There is no mention of this in the other gospels.

[2] In 2000, Pope John Paul also apologised for the crusades, the massacre of French Protestants and the trial of Galileo.