Two questions about the Nazarene

Opinions from believers and non-believers equally welcome. Lots of hypotheticals here, so bear with me.

The first question concerns the actual body of Jesus. There is some evidence that the Christ-figure did at least exist, and was crucified. Tacitus writes:

Josephus also writes about the crucifixion;

Granted, the authenticity of these sources has been questioned. What is not questioned is the importance of the crucifixion and resurrect to Christianity, Paul states;

Researching this topic a Christian source notes that if it Jesus had not risen, it would be an absolute disaster for Christians, worse than useless, but concludes that fortunately Christ has risen and these disasters are thankfully averted.

Let’s propose that this is not the case - the stolen body hypothesis is proven, or the real tomb of Jesus is found. The specifics will no doubt be important, so I’ll throw out some suggestions (please add to anything else that could conceivably count toward proof that the body of Christ has been found). A ‘Dead Sea Scroll’ type scenario occurs, new scrolls from the time of Christ state that he did not resurrect, and give new insight into the location of the tomb - shortly thereafter, in the vicinity of Golgotha, an archaeological survey rolls away a stone from a mid-1st century tomb. Inside, the find the well-preserved remains of a man, wrapped in degraded linen and showing chemical traces of myrrh and aloe on the skin. He was clearly crucified - nail marks through the wrists, a small fragment of spear found in the side, and what can be discerned as a crown of thorns besides the skull. The body is dated with scientific levels of precision to have been killed around 30 A.D. The archaeologists also find a stone tablet roughly translating as “RIP Yeshua. Signed, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.”

So my first question is; What would be the reaction to such an occurrence, what can reasonably be described as the body of Jesus being discovered?

Onto question number two, then - again, a hypothetical, so bear with me.

This one’s more based on the idea of the Gospel of Judas (and this rather amusing scit where the Terminator is assigned to protect Jesus), and the central idea in Christian theology of the atonement through Christ. Hebrews makes is clear that without the bloodshed of Christ, humans ain’t getting into heaven:

So, no need for you to suffer - Christ does it for you. There are numerous ethical problems, particularly in regards to scapegoating and moral responsibility with this divine plan, and even setting that aside - why do the Romans, Jews, Judas - whoever gets the blame for killing Christ, get such a bum rep? Surely they were doing all of humankind a favour by enabling this sacrifice?

So my second, rather long-winded, question is this; If present at Cavalry, would you (and *could *you- here Christian dopers or God’s advocates are really needed on this point), attempt to save the Christ-figure from crucifixion, and what would be the consequences if you managed it (which should be possible in a secular interpretation of events which then got the theological treatment - it’s also argued by Islam that the Christian recount of Christ’s death is inaccurate)?

First, a lot of people would find a way to deny the authenticity of the body as The Body. What would have kept various anti-Jesus priestly or Roman authorities to have faked up an intact Jesus tomb complete with corpse?

BUT let’s assume that it’s a total slam-dunk. The Body has indeed been found & Easter cancelled. There would be some suicides, some falls into total hedonism, more conservative churches may falter & more liberal ones grow, Spong would be on all the TV shows doing the “Tolja So” L, religious conservative Christians who remain R & C may turn to Noachidism or an old-time Unitarianism, which would probably be where I’d end up…

after I have one wild weekend! L

OH- Second Q- If I knew it was JC & His death was necessary for humanity’s redemption, then no, I wouldn’t try to save Him other than maybe cheer for Him vs. Barabbas. If I didn’t know it was the Man Himself & thought it was just an innocent dude & I could actually save him- yeah. And if it turned out He was JC & needed to die for Salvation, then God can get that taken care of in spite of what I do.

Non-believer here. I don’t think it’s possible to slam-dunk a Jesus corpse. Many people would reject it as an ancient or modern fake by sheer reflex, regardless of evidence - probably more people than currently resist evolution.

Regarding the people who do accept it, I again use evolution as a model: lots of Christians accept evolution and it doesn’t even slow them down. Adam and Eve was a parable or a myth; perhaps the literal empty tomb was too. And actually only a small change is necessary here - Jesus could have come back from the dead in a new body, made to look like the old one, leaving his old corpse intact. It would take about four seconds to justify this - Jesus v.2 could walk around with gaping wounds and not bleed, which was not a function of his prior body. And most people expect huge chunks of humanity to be ressurected sometime in the (near?) future, and pull it off without looking like zombies, skeletons, or small piles of ash and bone fragments. Plus, odds are good that some of your molecules were part of a prior human at one time - are you going to share them? Nope - ressurection will clearly give us shiny new bodies. Why couldn’t Jesus have gotten a new body too?

So - the literalists and the liberal christians are covered, with little or no change to their theology. You’ll get some lossage from the cracks in the middle, of course; some people will become disillusioned and switch to atheism or some other religion or new splinted sect or different existing christianity variant. This happened due to evolution too, of course - but it didn’t kill Christianity then and it wouldn’t this time either.
As for saving Jesus - presuming as part of the question that you’re presuming the religion to be correct and thus the death of jesus to be necessary for salvation - either you would damn all of humanity, or God wouldn’t let you succeed, or God would get Jesus killed later when you weren’t around. I think those are all the options.

If the question allows the possibility that the secular interpretation is correct and the religion isn’t true, then if Jesus hadn’t been crucified, his religion wouldn’t say the crucifiction was necessary. Those assertions were made after the fact - if different things had happened, then those things would have been called important. (This is of course assuming that in this alternate history his religion got off the ground at all - and that in the current timeline the crucifiction actually occured, and wasn’t completely invented.)

Thanks for the replies, guys.

Oh this I think I have to agree, so many would flatly deny it despite evidence. Although I don’t know that so many would be in denial that Christianity could remain a serious world religion. Then again…

Not at all, the only presuppositions of the two questions are that some kind of Jesus figure existed and was crucified (points which secularists need not disagree with). To answer my second question, I think I would ask the Nazarene figure why he believed his sacrifice necessary and moral - if he is God, and only God could make his redemption even possible (or moral, as C.S. Lewis notes - a man can’t take on the sins of another, God clearly can). If he was God, why can he not simply forgive humankind without mutilating himself?

Yes, kind of a Pascal’s wager scenario - if Christian theology is right, one of your three options would probably occur, either the sacrifice occurs anyway, or all humanity is damned. Or, Christian theology is incorrect, and you’re allowing an innocent if eccentric preacher suffer a painful death for no good reason.

Speaking only for myself, it would not have much of an impact on me. I did not choose to follow Jesus because He was resurrected, but rather because when I read the Gospels, I decided that the teachings of Jesus were a morally correct description of how I should live. With that decided, hypothetical scenarios such as the discovery of the body of Jesus would not have any bearing on my choice. I believe that Jesus Christ would be equally correct in his moral teachings even if the real creator and ruler of the universe instead revealed Himself through Mohammed, Joseph Smith or Menachem Mendel Schneerson, or if there is no creator and ruler of the universe at all.

As for the wider impact, I generally agree with begbert that it wouldn’t be very much. As I understand it, most Christian theologians think (and always have thought) that there is a difference between earthly and heavenly bodies, as demonstrated for instance when Jesus was seen in his heavenly body during the transfiguration.

One NT writer claims that Jesus showed His wounds to Thomas, and even asked him to put his finger in the wound; I guess to convince people that it was truly Jesus. But on the other hand, Jesus is said to tell the people He was talking to, that he would return in Glory with His angels, before some of them died…it didn’t happen that way, nor was it recorded if it did, or there are 2000+ year old people walking around now!


Heck, even non-believers might find it more plausable that the whole thing was an elaborate fake-up than that the body of a particular individual would have survived intact, complete with decisive identification, for two thousand years.

I don’t buy it. All four gospels include the empty tomb as part of their main narrative, without any indication that that part should be read metaphorically. It seems a stretch to treat that part as parable or myth while taking the rest of the gospel accounts of what Jesus said and did literally, and a huge stretch to treat it as myth while taking the resurrection appearances literally.

You think Jesus’ teaching presents a morally correct description of how you should live? Didn’t you find Jesus’ tacit approval of slavery just a tad bothersome?

I don’t think you’re likely to get much of an answer beyond “don’t ask me; ask the Lord”. Jesus is on record (;)) suggesting that the nasty bits be bypassed if at all possible; if he’d known a reason why the sacrifice was necessary he wouldn’t have questioned it.

Religious belief is really stretchy. And besides, who’s to say that those angels didn’t just relocate Jesus’s body somewhere for a little while? It’s pretty hard to convince people that Jesus has risen if he left behind a corpse in doing so. So maybe they hid the stiff to avoid confusing the masses, the way God casually refrained from mentioning evolution when he wrote Genesis.

Seriously, this wouldn’t be the hardest thing theists have had to explain away.

I’m not aware that Jesus ever did approve of slavery, tacitly or otherwise.

He was doubtlessly aware of it and didn’t rail against it. That’s enough to qualify as tacit approval, technically.

This seems a little off-topic, though.