Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection
By Kris D. Komarnitsky
Kris D. Komarnitsky does not attack Christianity, but like President Thomas Jefferson, Leo Tolstoy, Bart D. Ehrman, and a host of other rational thinkers, he questions and dismisses the miraculous elements of the Christian faith. His focus in this superbly composed and easy to read book is to use simple logic to discover what could have possibly occurred to cause the early followers of Jesus to believe that Jesus was miraculously resurrected.
He points us to the earliest version of Jesus’ death, Paul’s I Corinthians 15:3-7. Paul states that Jesus “died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,” “he was buried and raised on the third day in accordance with scriptures,” and he “appeared to” many people. Komarnitzsky analyses each of the quoted items, and explains what caused people to believe these unnatural events.
Paul’s statement was designed to persuade Corinthians to accept Jesus as the messiah. Yet he omits the current core conviction that visitors to Jesus’ tomb discovered that it was empty. This omission suggests that he knew nothing of this later developed idea. This is consistent with the earliest version of the Gospel of Mark, the first Gospel, which also lacks the story of the empty tomb, an ending that was added by a later writer who was bothered that the Gospel overlooked this later-developed basic belief. Additionally, while Paul attempted to support his thesis by stating that the miraculous events were predicted in the Hebrew Bible, he gives no biblical source, and scholars are unable to find any biblical verse that clearly supports his view.
Komarnitsky addresses why Jesus’ followers never checked his grave to see if his corpse was there. He shows that when Jesus died, people like him were buried in the ground without markers, Jesus’ followers left Jerusalem and headed north after his death, and the location of his burial was unknown.
He explains by discussing “cognitive dissonance” how the legend that Jesus died for human sins arose. Jesus’ death was a detrimentally-destructive logical and psychological blow to Jesus’ followers who expected Jesus to save them and bring them peace and who based their lives and behavior on this conviction. Their trust and reliance on him and his mission was so strong they couldn’t face the terrible truth that he had failed. An explanation had to be found. He was not dead at all. He was resurrected. He would return to perform the messiah’s predicted task to bring peace. But why did he die? He did it for us. He died for our sins.
Komarnitsky shows that the appearances traditions of Jesus are not unique; many people had such hallucinations; they saw recently dead relatives; and legends expand when there is a need for growth.
Why was three chosen as the day that Jesus’ empty tomb was discovered? Komarnitsky suggests that it derives from Psalm 16:10. Another possibility is that the number three was used about two dozen times in the Hebrew Bible to indicate the passage of a period of time that was neither too short nor too long. It took Abraham three days, for example, to travel to the place where he expected to sacrifice Isaac. Jonah was in a fish for three days.
In short, Komarnitsky uses an understanding of the history of the period, logic, and basic psychology to show that it is more probable that the miracles associated with Jesus’ death are legends that his followers developed to explain why Jesus didn’t fail the mission they understood he was trying to perform.