An essay donated by Alton C. Thompson
Easter: What “It’s All About”?
On 2015-APR-05, a new television series "A.D." began. It was described as follows:
" 'A.D.' picks up where the smash hit, 'The Bible,' left off, continuing the greatest story ever told and exploring the exciting and inspiring events that followed the Crucifixion of Christ. As most of the world knows, the Crucifixion was only the beginning of the story. The immediate aftermath of Christ's death had a massive impact on his disciples, his mother Mary, and key political and religious leaders of the era, completely altering the entire world in an instant. Watch as the disciples struggle to survive and share their beliefs, guiding us from the sorrow of Christ's ultimate sacrifice to the awe-inspiring wonder of the Resurrection and beyond." 1
I, personally, have no intention of watching this series, for two reasons in particular:
The “as most of the world knows” in the above quotation implies that what they believe is, therefore, true. Their “most of the world” does not, obviously, include religious scholars, who hold a great variety of viewpoints about both Jesus and the early years of (what I prefer to call) “Jesuanism” (given that not all of the early followers of Jesus perceived him as a, or the, “Christ” or "Messiah"). 2 However, from the fact that it is used: “as a title for Jesus in the New Testament,” 2 one cannot legitimately conclude that all of Jesus’s followers -- during his life, and immediately after -- perceived Jesus as Christ. In fact, we have no solid evidence that any of his early followers thought of him that way. More importantly, we lack solid evidence that Jesus ever existed!
Although it seems to be true that:
“There is no evidence today that the existence of Jesus was ever denied [my italics] in antiquity by those who opposed Christianity,” 3
that fact does not prove that Jesus did exist. The fact that the ancient Mediterranean world had a number of “saviors” prior to the appearance of Jesus 4 -- including 16 crucified ones! 5 -- has led some to argue, in fact, that Jesus was an “invented” being! 6
- I find it peculiar that what Christianity finds notable about Jesus is what allegedly happened to him during the course of his life -- i.e., that he was born (of a virgin, no less!), was baptized by John the Baptizer, was crucified, became resurrected, ascended to Heaven, etc. Note that the Church calendar -- Easter being an example -- is dominated by these alleged events. For me, that is blasphemous in the extreme -- which is why I, for one, will not be attending an Easter “service”!
(By the way -- please excuse my sarcasm here! -- what service will be done (in terms of discipleship, that is) during that meeting, or at any other time that day, and by whom?!)
As the second of the above two points is, for me, of greater importance, let me use the remainder of this essay to explain the basis for my declaring the celebration of alleged events in Jesus’s life as the only aspect of his life worth celebrating.
Given that the nature of Jesus’s life is not known with certainty, with our principal knowledge of Jesus coming from the canonical gospels (along with non-canonical ones), we have no solid basis for commenting on Jesus’s life. However, if we recognize that our interest in Jesus today has -- for most of us, at least -- its basis in the possible relevance that it has for us today, at least two possible bases for that interest exist:
- One answer: “There are three important words associated with the death of Jesus on the cross: redemption, atonement and justification:
Redemption means being bought free. Jesus paid with his death the price of sin and
thus frees us from enslavement to sin and the devil (Ephesians 1:7).
Atonement means paying compensation for the damage caused by the crime. Jesus put
to death the hostility that had been created between us and God. The sacrifice of Jesus meets the justified demands of God. Because of atonement made by Jesus the grace of
God towards us is just. All the sins of all human beings have been paid for (Romans 5:9-11)
Justification means that because of Jesus, God accepts us sinful human beings. On the
cross Jesus is reckoned as a sinner in our place, so that God could reckon us as holy in his place. Because of his death on the cross we have this confidence: Anybody who
believes in Jesus is in front of God counted as one who had never sinned, counted as one who had lived a perfectly good life (Romans 3:25-26, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21,Philippians 3:8-9) 7
Redemption, atonement and justification have taken place totally and completely, and are gained through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). This faith then results in a change in life. Jesus lives in us and makes us more righteous day by day.”
My answer: Jesus was a teacher -- at times doing so via parables, 8 at times via non-parabolic stories, 9 and at still other times in a more direct manner. 10
For me, the first answer is a bunch of “gobbledygook” 11 that makes absolutely no sense to me -- and for that reason (believing that I am a typical representative of our species) cannot possibly make any sense to anyone else either! Why, then, do some accept it -- ostensibly, at any rate? I would guess that those who preach it do so as a device to “fleece the flock.” But why, though, does anyone allow oneself to be fleeced?! (Ask a psychologist who has studied religions!). 12
As to my answer, and why it makes sense to me: When reading the Bible, I do so using a “strategy” that is not one that I choose but, rather, one that “comes” to me. If a given passage in the Bible resonates with me, I conclude that it has “touched” my nature as a human being. Therefore it is important, so that I should take notice of it.
Although this may not seem to be a good basis for making decisions as to which Bible passages to, and not to, “attend” to, I believe otherwise -- and believe that there is good reason so to do!
Research has been establishing -- by, e.g., the researchers associated with Berkeley’s “Greater Good Center” 13 -- the fact that rather than being born with an allegedly “sinful” nature, we are naturally “good natured”! I firmly believe, then, that the reason any given Biblical passage resonates with me is that I am closely “in tune” with my nature as a human being. Given how I “decide” (unconsciously, of course!) which passages to which I should, and should not, give attention (if it “speaks” to me, accept it), it makes no difference to me what the origin of that passage might be. I’ll let Biblical scholars wallow in their (irrelevant -- to me!) interests to their “heart’s content” -- and ignore their “research findings” as of “no earthly interest.”
Given that for me (and why not everyone?!) what’s important about the Bible is the teachings that it contains, I regard as blasphemy Christianity’s fixation on matters other than those teachings.
Not only that, I firmly believe that the United States -- the world, in fact -- would now be a near utopia, in fact, had those teachings been taken seriously!
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"A.D. The Bible Continues," IMDb, 2015, at: http://www.imdb.com/
- Christ “(Ancient Greek: Χριστός, Christós, meaning ‘anointed’) is a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîhḥ) and the Syriac ܡܫܝܚܐ (M'shiha), the Messiah, and is used as a title for Jesus in the New Testament.”
"Historicity of Jesus," Wikipedia, as at 2015-APR-16, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
Bob Seidensticker, "Jesus: Just One More Dying and Rising Savior," Patheos, 2012-APR-15, at: http://www.patheos.com/
Kersey Graves, "The World's sixteen crucified saviors," Project Gutenberg, 2012, downloadable in various format from: http://www.gutenberg.org/
- For me, the fact that it’s known that a number of groups arose in the early years of the Common Era, each with some sort of orientation to Jesus, indicates that there must have been a real Jesus (or Yeshua). What’s in question is the details of his life, what he may have taught, etc. With Easter “around the corner,” there will be the claim in many Christian churches that Jesus (a) was crucified, (b) came back to life several days thereafter, and then still later (c) ascended to Heaven. None of those claims has solid empirical support, with the last two of these three claims “flying in the face” of what we know about life per se and physical laws.
"Significance of Jesus’ death," International Evangelical Church in Finland, 2015, at: http://www.church.fi/
"The Parable of the Good Samaritan," Bible Gateway, undated, at: https://www.biblegateway.com/
"The sheep and goats passage from Matthew 25, Bible Gateway, undated, at: https://www.biblegateway.com/
"The Beatitudes," Wikipedia, as on 2015-APR-09. at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
Bob Seidensticker, "10 Reasons the Crucifixion Story Makes No Sense," Patheos, 2013-MAR-13, at: http://www.patheos.com/
Jason LoNg, "The Psychology Hidden Behind Christianity," (2008) at: http://www.biblicalnonsense.com/
"Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life," at the University of California, Berkeley, "... studies the psychology, sociolog and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society." See: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/
Originally published: 2015-APR-19
Last updated 2015-APR-19
Author: Alton C. Thompson