Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Resurrection: Parable or Reality?

A few years ago, the Vatican was heavily embroiled in this argument: do we re-teach the resurrection as myth and parable as it used to be taught, or do we allow the literal (or materialist) translation to continue to be used whether that is accurate or not? At the time, the only argument proposed against reverting to the 'as parable' teaching was that "some fundamentalists might lose their religion". This is the first time I've ever heard religious dogma be shaped by what some followers might erroneously believe. You're telling these people to expect their bodies to rise up after a waiting period, that their graves would be empty?

Suddenly, in the middle of these discussions, the U.S. sex scandals hit the church, and everyone's attention and time were diverted, as usual, to the more sensational, yet temporary issues. Interesting timing, as this has been going on for at least decades, if not centuries.

Has everyone forgotten the Crusades in the middle ages? Well, the first instructions to the first Christian crusaders was "the infidels now have the body of Jesus, which is in Solomon's Temple; we must go and bring back the body of our Lord to the holy city of Rome." In fact, even though some claim the Knights Templar did retrieve the body during the first crusade, this same argument was used by later popes to get the other crusaders to go back to Jerusalem again and again. The worst was the "children's crusade", in which almost all the children perished, an estimated 50,000, less than 1% returned to Europe. (This is the story behind the "Pied Piper" fairy tale, as this crusade actually had an adult leader)

Some recent 'accounts', and likely bogus, claim that some records indicate that the 'body of Jesus was removed by Pilate's soldiers the first night to a secret location because he feared a crowd might grow at the tomb which could become an angry mob'. However, this was from tv and there is no historical evidence, or even mention of these events outside of the Bible itself, not even in Jewish historian Josephus' accounts, who was an eyewitness in Rome to this era. (He did later write that the "Christians burning the homes of senators in Rome are being led by an elderly man called Jesus". It's a myth that the city was burned, only about 150 homes of politicians, simply terrorism directed at politicians to get more liberal religious laws.)

For purposes of this site, we're assuming this is simply a parable of the soul (or spirit, you know, this 'thing' that animates the matter) of a person. The body perishes, the soul does not. So the spiritual being of a human "rises after death", from its temporary house, the body, which will now return to the earth. ("Ashes to ashes, dust to dust"; our body actually recycles its atoms back into the planet within 1000 years).

I'm not sure of the significance of the "three day waiting period", unless this is a cultural ritual to give the family and friends time to arrive for a burial or at least a memorial service. (Now, the "trinity" people will say three represents the trinity, but if you can find that in the Bible it'll be news to everyone, since it was injected into Christianity during Constantine's major compromise with all the 9 dissenting factions of Christianity to keep the "Holy Roman Empire" from disintegrating.)

It's more likely that the soul leaves the body at the time of death, if it's nature is immortal. Scientists have measured an 18-21 gram loss in body weight at the time of death (the Russians detected this first, the danged 'commie athiests' - which acutally gives it more weight as they had no dogma or creed to fortify), so this may prove its existence scientifically. Remember that centuries earlier, in Greece, Socrates himself had been put to death for arguing the "immortality of the soul."

It's no accident that the celebration of this parable comes after the Passover moon, in the springtime. This is when all of nature is 'reborn' after winter's hibernation. Plants that are perennials (not evergreen) are reborn from their roots, animals that hibernate all winter now awaken and re-emerge into the world. The Passover moon is also usually the first time that its warm enough in some areas to go outdoors, make pilgrimages, backpack trips, long hikes. It's the time of year we took our first hikes in the desert, to Joshua Tree, after the cold winter. (The coldest night I've ever spent was one December night halfway down into Grand Canyon, on the Kaibab Plateau; I was so cold that I shook all night and didn't sleep)

Spring is the perfect time for a rebirth or resurrection parable to be applied to all of life. Rather than dwelling on the death, as most films and some people do, we should be instead be meditating on the rebirth.

[Cross Artwork: unfortunately I cannot read the name of the artist on this beautifully drawn print that I was given, it looks like Groffruiw - note to all artists: print your name somewhere as well as signing your work illegibly!]

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