Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Dog Ate My Jesus

It’s the famous old excuse:

“Jimmy, where is your homework?”

“I’m sorry teacher, but the dog ate my homework.”

We’ve all heard it, but have you ever actually known someone to use that excuse? Have you ever used it yourself? Probably not.

Because it’s ridiculous!

 In my last post, I stated that there was no alternative to an empty tomb on the first Easter Sunday morning. Well, that was sort of untrue. Sorry.

I was a little disingenuous there, but for good reason. There has been one theory floated out there in recent times which does supposedly account for there being no body in the tomb. The problem is that the theory is as ridiculous as little Jimmy’s excuse, and should be dismissed out of hand. So although there may be an alternative, I don’t think there are any serious alternatives to the empty tomb.

This theory, which was touted prominently by Jesus Seminar founder and “expert” John Dominic Crossan, states that the reason there was no body in the tomb on Easter morning was because the body was never placed in a tomb in the first place. Instead, he argues, it was either thrown in a mass grave or left up on the cross to be devoured by wild dogs and carrion birds.

Now, on the surface that sounds like it might actually be a plausible explanation. We know that the Romans did in fact make it a practice to dispose of crucifixion victims in this way. But dig down just a quarter-inch or so and it completely collapses into utter nonsense.

The main problem is that in holding to this belief, you by necessity have to call all four of the gospel writers and Paul outright liars, for all of them specifically stated he was buried. The gospels even have specific details as to whose tomb it was (Joseph of Arimathea’s) and why he was placed in it. Then they all tell elaborate stories about women going to the tomb to finish dressing the body, disciples running to the tomb, Jesus appearing to them, talking to them, eating with them, teaching them.

Lies! All lies! Really?

Later I’ll go into why I don’t believe the gospel writers were lying, but does anybody really believe that all of these guys were lying through their teeth when writing this stuff? And that nobody called them on it when they did? No anti-Jesus people at the time spoke up and said, “Uhh hey wait a minute. That’s not true and you know it. We saw him thrown into a mass grave with our own eyes.”  No, in fact you see people saying just the opposite and affirming the burial of Jesus.

Another major problem with the ‘wild dogs’ theory is that not only do we have specific evidence that Jesus was buried in a tomb (the gospels), we also have extra-biblical evidence that all Jewish crucifixion-victims in general were buried. The Jewish historian Josephus corroborates this in his Jewish Wars, Volume 4, Chapter 5 (near the bottom of the page). In it, he states specifically that although the Romans did in fact humiliate corpses by casting them away without burial, the Jewish people:

used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.

 This was to abide by Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse.

So, really, there’s no good reason to believe that Jesus’ body was devoured by wild dogs. No one at the time used this as a refutation of the Resurrection, and Josephus specifically mentions that Jews were buried. It’s important to note too that his quote is not in any way referencing the Jesus story. He’s not using it to prove a point, he’s just mentioning it as something that happened at the time.

In the end, though, do we really believe that a theory such as this would only come to light after two thousand years had passed?

Really? It took that long for us to figure it out? And nobody, not one single person, who lived at the actual time the Gospels were being written thought to speak up and mention this?

Wow. That takes some faith.

So what do you think? As for me…

I think the dog theory is for the birds.

--SB
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not its falsity.

<--Part Three                      Home                      Part Five-->

17 comments:

  1. I am a farmer and have had sheep savaged by dogs. I suppose you could use a parable regarding that. My point however is that if you saw what wild dogs do, the mess you leave then you would realize that the "dog theory" is really clutching straws.

    Add in that the Tomb was guarded by Roman Soldiers who were subject to a strict regime of punishment for any dereliction of duty. Including being burnt alive for falling asleep on watch.

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  2. There are lots of problems with the Resurrection story that you are not addressing:

    1.NONE of the accounts in the Gospels match up as to who saw the tomb first, if the stone was already rolled away or if they saw angels rolling it away, etc. etc. etc. THE ACCOUNTS DO NOT MATCH.

    2. I've heard Christians use the "but details can differ among eyewitnesses to, say, a car accident, but the accident still happened."

    A. Major details can't differ in a true account. If someone says car x hit car y when car x ran the red light, but someone else says car Y hit car x when car x was parked in the alley, we have a problem.

    B. The Gospels are supposedly DIVINE TRUTH. Divine Truth can't have errors or contradictions

    3. Certain parts of the story REALLY make no sense. For example, the disciples lived with Jesus. They saw him walk on water, RAISE THE DEAD, calm storms, cure the blind. He finally PLAINLY TELLS them he is going to Jerusalem to be killed and AFTER 3 DAYS HE WILL RISE AGAIN.

    Yet after he is crucified, not even ONE of them has even a ray of hope that he was telling the truth? After all this? Not ONE of them speaks up and comforts his brothers and says, "Remember all the miracles he did? And how he predicted he'd be killed? He promised he'd rise again in 3 days, so let's have hope! Let's set a watch on the tomb on the 3rd day and have some hope for his promise!"

    C'mon. Ok, I understand fear of the Romans. So they stay indoors. But not ONE of them speaks up and has even a glimmer of hope.

    That's great building of tension for a fictional tale-all hope is gone and at the last hour the hero appears. But as a real account?

    But the priests who DIDN'T believe in Jesus somehow DID remember his promise(although he never actually plainly said to them he'd rise again-he just used the metaphor of the temple) and appealed to Pilate to guard the tomb?

    His followers who witnessed miracle after miracle UTTERLY FORGET HIS PROMISE but the doubters remember?

    C'mon. How likely is that?

    4. One of the Gospels relates that many "saints" rose from their graves and appeared to many. Yet NO other Gospel mentions this incredible event and no other recording is made of it in any other writing at the time.

    C'mon now: the Jewish people were ready for miracles, chafing under Roman occupation. Do you think if this event REALLY occurred it would not have been the talk of the town? Do you think at least ONE or TWO Roman officials would have heard about it and someone would have recorded it?

    Please answer these...if you dare.

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  3. Oh yes...a rejoinder to your writing about throwing the body to the dogs.

    Remember, the according to the Gospels, Jesus was convicted on a charge of sedition-claiming to be the messiah and the King of the Jews, a direct challenge to the authority of Rome and of Caesar.

    He wasn't just some thief or murderer-his was a crime against the state, at a time of revolt, rebellion, and many "messiahs" cropping up.

    The Romans would have wanted to make a special example out of him. No way they would have allowed special treatment of the body. They'd WANT him to hang their and rot and then they'd toss the maggot-meat to the dogs as an example to anyone who dared proclaim himself a "King".

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  4. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your comments. You bring up a great many points, and although a comment-reply is not really the most efficient way of responding to them, I'll try to address a few, but would refer you to The Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft & Tacelli for a fuller discussion.

    1. None of the gospels record any of the women or disciples witnessing the stone rolling away. No contradictions here.

    2. B. I am not a hardcore "inerrant-ist". I unequivocally believe that the Bible is inspired by God, but I do not believe that every single letter was dictated BY God, as if the writers were mere Dictaphones. God has always worked through flawed, broken people. I believe the Bible is trustworthy as a document of events which occurred. In fact, the Bible is far and away the most trustworthy document of ancient times in existence. You don't have to believe it is Divine Scripture in order to accept that it is a reliable source of information.

    3. Having your entire life change so radically, literally overnight, tends to do wonky things to people. I have no problem whatsoever believing this aspect of the story. In fact, it rings incredibly TRUE to me. Check out http://www.skbeliever.com/2011/04/friday.html for my take on it.

    The priests wanted the guard at the tomb because they were afraid someone would try shenanigans with the corpse, not because they actually believed he would rise. Five days earlier, there were thousands of people expecting Jesus to overthrow the current government...the air was primed to foment a political revolution, and they wanted to do everything possible to prevent that from happening.

    4. This is an excellent point. Again, I'll refer you to Kreeft & Tacelli.

    5. "They'd WANT him to hang there and rot and then they'd toss the maggot-meat to the dogs as an example to anyone who dared proclaim himself a 'King'." And yet nobody--nobody--used this as a refutation of the Resurrection until thousands of years later. In the end, the whole wild dogs hypothesis is a very small and inconsequential thread in the Resurrection storyline.

    If you’re going to look at inconsistencies in explanations as a basis for which version is more likely, please be my guest. On the one hand you’ve got a handful of them if you believe the biblical account, none of which have any essential impact on the story itself. On the other hand, you have so many inconsistencies, logical errors and direct historical refutations if you accept any of the other alternatives, that you can’t take one step without tripping over one and knocking the entire thing down like a house of cards. The biblical account comes out looking even *more* likely when faced with the ‘inconsistencies test’.

    I'd love for you to read the rest of this Resurrection series to see the picture in much fuller context: http://www.skbeliever.com/2011/03/resurrection-is-still-go.html
    New posts are always welcome from you. Happy Easter my friend.

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  5. Rather than refer me to another source, I want to hear YOUR answers in your own words as they reflect YOUR thoughts.

    The Gospel accounts of the resurrection are loaded with so many inconsistencies, they cannot be accurate depiction of eyewitness testimony.

    Look here:

    http://www.outreachjudaism.org/crucifix.html

    This is a chart of the many contradictions and inconsistencies.

    Add into all of this that we really don't know, with a certainty, who the authors of the Gospels were, nor where they were written, nor when.

    It's funny that they WERE written in Greek-so the question arises how and when these guys learned Greek, a considerably expensive proposition to get tutored in it and considering literacy at all was relatively rare amongst Galilean peasants.

    PR

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  6. Oh-I don't know that the "throw the body to the dogs" argument was not made until recently. I can only say that you've offered no refutation to my point that Jesus was killed as political prisoner, charged with sedition against Rome. Hence the sign above the cross "King Of The Jews".

    At a time of revolt against Rome, with Zealots running about and Messiahs cropping up every other week, do you NOT think they'd want to make an example out of him?

    Frankly, I think it's very likely, given all this, that the body was left up for everyone to watch as it rotted away and the crows ate it. The Romans were bloody, brutal bastards, and Pilate was actually recalled from his governorship back to Rome for being too brutal.

    And this is the guy who is going to be nice and give some Jewish guy a body of a person who was just executed for sedition against Rome? I don't think so.

    The Gospels pile incredulity about unlikelihood. Joseph Smith is more consistent in his story about the Golden Plates, and I don't buy that one either.

    PR

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  7. You wrote: "The main problem is that in holding to this belief, you by necessity have to call all four of the gospel writers and Paul outright liars, for all of them specifically stated he was buried."

    You are assuming that the Gospel writers were who they said they were, when in fact, we really don't know WHO wrote the Gospels; the alleged authors aren't here to interrogate.

    They don't have to be liars about anything other than their identity, and, in fact, the practice of writing something and attributing authorship to another source in order to gain credibility was quite common.

    Liars? No, simply repeaters of legend, mixed with fact, mixed with story. Who knows which is what? I don't and YOU DON'T EITHER.

    PR

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  8. "Rather than refer me to another source, I want to hear YOUR answers in your own words as they reflect YOUR thoughts." My friend, I have written 13 entire articles on this subject giving you my thoughts in my own words. ;)

    http://bit.ly/hYzbe7

    The reason I refer you to that book is because there is far more information required to adequately discuss your objections than can be transmitted in a mere comment-reply. And the authors do an excellent job at discussing every aspect of the Christian faith in great, clear detail.

    I am quite familiar with the "contradictions" amongst the four gospels regarding the Resurrection. Again, FAR more information than can be presented here. There are literally hundreds of books that have been written over the centuries addressing this issue. Kreeft & Tacelli's is merely one. You might look also at Morison's "Who Moved The Stone", Strobel's "The Case For Christ", Lewis's "Mere Christianity", McDowell's "Evidence That Demands A Verdict", or any of the multitudes of others written.

    Regarding the final point you make about authorship of the gospels, we actually have a great deal of evidence as to who, where and when they were written. I believe the source that you are getting your information from is quite far out-of-date.

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  9. "Oh-I don't know that the "throw the body to the dogs" argument was not made until recently."

    PR, how about this--if you can find me ONE verified source within 100 years of Jesus' death making this claim, then I will humbly eat crow, apologize for misleading my readers, and edit my article to reflect this. I've already provided a verified source, made by a respected historian of antiquity, stating unequivocally that the Jews *buried* their crucified-dead.

    "I can only say that you've offered no refutation to my point that Jesus was killed as political prisoner."

    Of course I haven't refuted that, because I agree with you 100%! It's common knowledge that Jesus was crucified under the auspices of treason against Rome. This is clearly stated in the gospels themselves. I really don't know why you view this as evidence against the Resurrection, though. Can you enlighten me as to your line of thinking here?

    You're also contradicting yourself cross-posts here, PR. In my "Saturday" post you make the point that the Romans didn't have the manpower to carry out Jesus' sentence, and didn't care enough about the Jews' "internal squabbles" to do anything about it even if they did. Yet here you make the point that they were intensely interested in stamping out Jesus.

    "Joseph Smith is more consistent in his story about the Golden Plates."

    Oh come now. Now you're just having fun with me. ;)

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  10. Let me challenge *you* for a moment, if I may, PR.

    If you were to become intellectually convinced that Jesus indeed DID rise from the dead, would you begin to follow him as his disciple?

    However unlikely that scenario may seem to you, would you be honest enough and have enough integrity to actually change your mind and begin worshiping him, if you were to come to believe the Resurrection?

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  11. Yes, indeed I would. It would be nice to have a personal appearance, but yes.

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  12. You listed a few books and I only have time to devotedly study ONE. I will spend the summer doing so. Which do you most recommend?

    And have you read Paul Ehrman's book, Jesus Interrupted"? It seems a devastating critique of the Gospels and the New Testament as a whole. I'd challenge you to fearlessly and honestly read it. It can only strengthen your faith if your faith is true and make you an even better defender of your faith.

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  13. I do not wish to get into all of the specifics about supposed contradictions in the Gospel accounts. As has been mentioned, those back-and-forths can be found at a deeper level in various places. However, I am surprised that no one has mentioned the fact of the persecutions and martyrdoms of the disciples. How is it that the disciples (who would’ve known for sure if Jesus had appeared to them or not) all suffered—and the vast majority died—for their faith? Who suffers and dies for something they know isn’t true? Even if they found the empty tomb and no body, they could’ve imagined other scenarios besides a resurrection: maybe dogs, maybe tomb robbers, maybe any number of things.

    And if Jesus hadn’t appeared to them, why go out and suffer so much for preaching a lie—i.e., that He did appear to them and is the Savior. It is one thing to die because someone else has supposedly witnessed something and has convinced you that it’s true. But to be able to know for certain that something is false, and then die for that falsehood?

    Of course, if this message had brought them power, riches, honor, and glory, then they would have a reason to be liars and frauds. But it only brought them disgrace, ridicule, imprisonment, torture, and often martyrdom. And for something they would have known for certain was false: that Christ, their friend, never appeared to them again after his brutal execution.

    One other point. If the Gospel accounts were basically all the same, the skeptics would claim forgery. If the Gospel accounts are different (e.g., gives more or less details about the number of women at the tomb), the skeptics claim contradictions. Christianity loses either way. It’s really a nice trick. But let us assume for a moment that these minor contradictions do exist and that they can’t be reconciled. Does that change for a second the fact that Jesus of Nazareth lived and was crucified? No. Does that change the fact that His disciples all claimed that He appeared to them fully alive and well? No. Does that change the fact that all of his disciples suffered persecution and a great number of them martyrdom? No. The blood of the disciples gives the greatest testimony to the Resurrection. This should be our starting point, and only from here should we start examining minor details about how many angels or how many women were at the tomb.

    And for the record, "Jesus Interrupted" was written by Bart Ehrman, not Paul.

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  14. I'd just like to make a brief comment concerning the textual reliability of the Gospel accounts. Anonymous says we don't know who wrote them or when or where they were written. However there is both internal and external evidence of these facts. Of course someone who doubts the veracity of the text will throw out the internal evidence, but the external evidence is still there. By this I'm referring to the fact that we have the oldest and most numerous manuscripts for the New Testament compared to any other literary work from antiquity. There are parts of manuscripts that date back to 125 AD for the Gospel of John (who is believed to have died around 100 AD). The textual evidence shows that they were not just a compilation of folklore that was compiled at a later time by people who had no contact with Jesus or his disciples. At least we know when they were written, and the early date argues for the fact that they were written by the people they claim to have been written by. If not, these people, who were still around, would not have put up with a fraudulent account of he facts.

    As per the point about them having been written in Greek, doing a little research will show that Koine Greek was spoken all around the Mediterranean sea at the time Jesus lived, as a consequence of the Hellenistic empires that resulted from Alexander the Great's conquests. Even in Rome, Greek was commonly spoken. This is also true of Palestine. Koine Greek was the commercial language of the time. It is hard for monolingual westerners to understand this, but all over the world, it is common for people to speak more than one language fluently. Most of my European friends are at least bilingual. Many of my African friends speak 5 languages: several African ones as well as European languages. And I've talked with Africans who have very little education who spoke 3 languages fluently. So there is little doubt that most all Palestinians in Jesus' time, including Jesus and his disciples, spoke at least Aramaic and Koine Greek.

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  15. "It would be nice to have a personal appearance, but yes."

    Heh heh, it would indeed, wouldn't it? I must say that it is very refreshing to have a mature discussion with someone like you. Quite often, I find people who disagree with my belief in the Resurrection resort to name-calling and personal insults in lieu of actual argument. I do hope you'll come around to seeing the evidence for the Resurrection for yourself, but all the same I respect you for your reasoned and honest doubts. I believe that all God asks of us in this regard is to remain intellectually open, honest, and humble--whatever side we may happen to land on at the time.

    I have not read that specific book by Ehrman, but I am well-acquainted with his beliefs and arguments. I believe much of his criticism has been adequately addressed over the centuries. In addition, I have read many books, blogs, and articles that are anti-Christianity (some sincere and reasoned, others mere screeds filled with bias and invective). The only one I've ever read that truly challenged me was Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason". I spent a long time doing some research and reflection after reading that.

    Which of the books I listed would I recommend to you? Probably Kreeft & Tacelli, as you may have guessed. If you want something geared more toward a lay audience, go with Strobel's Case For Christ. If you want something drier, McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict. More classical? Lewis's Mere Christianity. For me personally, Kreeft/Tacelli hits the sweet spot and covers all the basics of Christian belief in a well-researched, but still accessible, manner.

    Blessings to you, my friend.

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  16. Kreeft and Tacelli it is then. I'll spend an entire summer with this.

    Thanks....

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    Replies
    1. Hey Anonymous, did you ever have a chance to read that book? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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