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Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Resurrection and Life After Death

Life after death has always been a controversial topic and it doesn’t show any indication of being resolved anytime soon. Atheists and by implication evolutionists believe that life on Earth is a random event driven various magical processes like mutation and accidental combinations. For these people death is the end, the body dies, the ego vanishes, and the body rots. This means life has no purpose, no objective, and no motivation to live a moral and just life. Not very inspiring but nevertheless a belief held by many people. However, there are those who truly believe in life after death, that each person has a soul that survives physical death, and that rewards and punishments exist for each soul in the afterlife. Recently, various people, some being scientists, have studied “near death experiences” and have arrived at the conclusion that there is indeed an existence after clinical death. This belief in an after life is widespread and goes back even beyond recorded history and the concept of reincarnation was part of early Christian belief. With the canonization of the Bible, various beliefs were eliminated and reincarnation was one of them. Apparently, the resurrection of Jesus was felt to be sufficient proof of life after death, but of course this presupposes that the resurrection did in fact occur as described.

There is no doubt that Jesus was a real person and contemporary writings state that he was crucified. Of course the only other details are provided by the Bible and not any independent source. According to the Bible, Jesus was not only crucified but that he predicted his death and his resurrection. Witnesses, quoted in the Bible, state that he was crucified and a Roman soldier pierced his side with a lance. It is also noted that he asked for and was given “gall” which has been described as being various things ranging from vinegar to a soporific. It is also worth noting that the number of witnesses was small, so there was no large crowd. Pilate demanded proof that Jesus was dead and posted a guard at his tomb to insure the body was not taken.

At this point the story takes on a very bizarre twist because Jesus was declared dead and buried but after three days the tomb was found open, the shroud intact, and the body of Jesus missing. How the stone sealing the tomb got moved is said to have been accomplished by “angels”, but the Essenes were known to have referred to various members as angels so these mortal angels are probably the ones who opened the tomb, but what about Jesus? We can consider several possibilities. First, that some one other than Jesus was crucified. While this is possible it seems rather farfetched because Jesus was kept under guard and substituting a volunteer would have been exceedingly difficult. Secondly, Jesus was in fact executed and the body taken away and hidden. The ten subsequent sightings of Jesus in the flesh would then have been the imposter. This is possible but would have been hard to accomplish because the witnesses knew Jesus very well and would have been able to spot someone pretending to be Jesus. The third alternative and most probable is that the “cup of gall” was in fact a soporific, the lance wound superficial (and premeditated), and Jesus was revived and spirited away.

Of course the fourth alternative is that Jesus did in fact die and was in fact resurrected in the flesh and carried bodily to heaven. This view of the resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity and was probably easier to accept when “heaven” was viewed as a physical place located “up there”. But given what we know about the universe today, heaven as a physical place is much harder to accept and thus we are still left with the body of Jesus and the question that if we die and live eternally after death, where is Jesus today?

There are several things that raise questions regarding this entire story. First, crucifixion was not a punishment handed out to everyone but was generally reserved for enemies of Rome. Pilate, resisted punishing Jesus and was coerced into it by the Sanhedrin, so it is possible that he imposed the crucifixion penalty in order to pacify the Jews, but what about the thieves? Was thievery a crime against Rome? A more plausible explanation is that Pilate did in fact see Jesus as a rebel leader and an enemy of Rome and that the thieves were in fact also rebels. This would then explain why Pilate demanded proof Jesus was dead and why a Roman guard was posted at the grave site. But what happened to these guards? How long were they there? If they were still there three days later, why didn’t they see the tombstone move, the grave open, and Jesus walk out? Most likely the soldiers were already gone – if they were there at all. The entire description of the resurrection lies in the Bible and the only independent accounts merely note that Jesus was crucified. It would seem even today, that if a criminal was executed, certified dead, buried, and then was resurrected, it would be headline news, yet no Roman source even mentions that Jesus was seen alive after his death or that even he was believed to have escaped death.

Jesus was seen in the flesh ten times after his death and urged his disciples to touch him – indicating that he was in fact alive, warm, in the flesh, and not a ghost. This seems like incontrovertible proof that if this did in fact happen, Jesus did in fact not die on the cross. The Bible is not a very reliable source of information because it was canonized in the fourth century and was heavily edited. Therefore, the entire resurrection story remains unproven and relies on faith, not facts. But the fact that the resurrection of Jesus is rather suspect doesn’t make eternal life false. Indeed, the disciples were simple uneducated men who may have had a difficult time grasping eternal life or life after death without some sort of proof, which Jesus may have arranged.

While the Bible stories may be more fiction than fact, the reality is that life after death has been an aspect of religion since the advent of man. Recent studies indicate that there does appear to be eternal life and that our physical bodies are mere shells for the people we really are. We do indeed move from a physical to spiritual state and back again. We may not be resurrected in the physical body but we do continue in spirit until we choose to manifest yet again on this physical plane.

4 comments:

allenupl said...

If you are interested in near-death experiences (NDEs) and how they relate to the issue/concept of life after death, you can read about them on the website of the International Association for Near-Death Studies at www.iands.org. In particular, you might want to check under the Research tab for published papers outlining new findings from the most current research, particularly the two written by Dr. Peter Fenwick and Dr. Pim Van Lommel.

During the past 30 years, near-death experiences have been the focus of many scientific studies at universities and medical centers throughout the U.S. and around the world. Many medical professionals who have seriously studied the research – and it is extensive – no longer dismiss this phenomenon as hallucinations or caused by physiological or pharmacological factors.

Last fall I attended a 4 day conference on NDEs at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston that reviewed in detail 30 years of research on NDEs. DVDs of the presentations can be ordered on the website above. Allen

Lekatt said...

I liked your article on life after death. I had a near death experience, and believe life will continue after death, but not in the traditional religious format.
I have a site where I discuss the NDE in length and have over 250 posted NDEs. They are fun reading. Check out the wildcard and see what you think.

Royce said...

I have contacted both sites suggested by Allen and Lekatt. Both are fascinating and I would like to pursue a discussion with each of you -- of course if you are willing. This is a topic of great interest to me. I have read a great deal abut NDE's as well as psychic phenomena including Cayce. If you prefer to remain annonymous I understand.

Royce

Lekatt said...

Sure Royce, be happy to discuss NDEs with you. Where, when. I have a message board and a blog on my site that would be ok, or what you suggest.