A poll this year conducted by the BBC found that 40% of all Christians don’t believe in the Resurrection story as portrayed in the Bible, with 25% not believing in it at all. The result? More Christians don’t believe in the Biblical Resurrection story than do believe in it!
So how should sceptical Christians — who now seem to constitute the UK majority — understand the Resurrection narrative?
The swoon theory, first advocated and best elucidated by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, in his book “Jesus in India” seems to be the explanation people are turning to. Ahmad simply applied the principle of Occam’s Razor to the Resurrection narrative and in doing so, radically re-interpreted the crucifixion events.
Ahmad asked a simple question: if you see someone walking around three days after you saw him undergoing execution, with the very wounds of his execution still fresh, asking for food, travelling in the dead of night, refusing to present himself to the authorities who sentenced him, what’s going to be your natural conclusion?
Is it more likely that: a) they died and came back to life; or b) they never died in the first place, and simply survived their ordeal?
Indeed, there is not a single example in human history of a dead person coming back to life, but there are many examples of individuals surviving botched execution attempts, making the latter far more likely.
To support his theory, Ahmad highlighted the fact that Jesus was only on the cross for some six hours, whereas it usually took people up to twenty-four hours to die by crucifixion; the thieves crucified with Jesus were still alive at the time when Jesus was presumed dead. This theory is made even more plausible with Ahmad’s observation that Jesus was a young fit man, giving him ample physiological reserves. Moreover, Jesus’ bones were not broken on the cross, unlike those of the two thieves with him.
Indeed, medical scrutiny of the crucifixion narrative indicates that Jesus was still alive at the time of being taken down: the spear lanced into his side, according to the Gospels, describe the “gushing out” of blood and water. Doctors have pointed out that blood does not “gush” out of a dead body, but a living one. The use of myrrh and aloes by Jesus’ doctor, Nicodemus, once taken down from the cross, point to his continued survival too. These are not, as argued by the Gospel writer, “embalming herbs” but healing herbs, used to this day to promote wound healing.
But if Jesus didn’t die on the cross and then ascend to heaven, where is he now? Ahmad argued that Jesus migrated East to seek the lost sheep of the House of Israel as he promised he would, and ultimately died there. In fact, Ahmad said he had discovered Jesus’ tomb in Kashmir, which has now managed to find its way on to the Lonely Planet travel guide!
So where did the Resurrection story come from, if it wasn’t true? That’s the subject of my new book, “Paul & the Pharisee Conspiracy Against Jesus.”
We must remember that the first person to write about the Resurrection as a literal resurrection from death, was St. Paul, long before any of the Gospels. Why did he do this?
I argue that St. Paul was not a follower of Jesus, but a hypocrite — the wolf in sheep’s clothing Jesus warned of. As a Pharisee persecutor of Jesus’ followers, he had failed to stem the tide of conversions to Jesus’ Judaism, especially after Jesus’ survival from crucifixion.
Paul thus changed his tactics. He infiltrated Jesus’ community and began to propagate doctrines amongst them through means of secretive epistles (Corinthians, Galatians, Romans) that would put off any orthodox Jews from accepting Jesus.
The principle method Paul utilised was to misrepresent Jesus’ survival of crucifixion, as death and resurrection. He then linked his new doctrines to Jesus’ alleged atoning death.
But how would alleging that Jesus died on the cross serve Paul’s Orthodox Jewish cause? Simple. Since the Old Testament teaches that one who dies on wood is “accursed of God,” no orthodox Jew in their right mind would accept religious doctrines with an accursed Messiah at their centre, especially those that would appear to run contrary to fundamental Jewish doctrines of God’s unity and the necessity of divine law, as the Trinity and New Covenant do, respectively.
Through this tactic, Paul sought to create clear blue water between orthodox Jews and Jesus’ Jews, so that no orthodox Jew would bridge the gap. What Paul didn’t anticipate however, was how Jesus’ Jews would react.
Indeed, I highlight something entirely ignored in Biblical studies — that it was Jesus’ Jewish followers from Galatia, not orthodox Jews, who rioted in the Temple in Acts 21 on seeing Paul. It was they who had him arrested by the Romans, citing their reason that “this is the man who teaches all men everywhere against our people and against our Law and against this place.”
My book asks a simple question: why were Jesus’ followers, twenty-five years after the crucifixion, mobbing Paul as a heretic for preaching what now constitute modern Christian doctrines? If they still believed in the necessity of Jewish law for salvation, then where does Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection fit in? The inevitable conclusion is that modern Christian doctrines didn’t come from Jesus.
The clincher however, is in the extra-Biblical sources. By carefully reading 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, we can see that Paul reverted to being a Pharisee after his imprisonment in Rome.
Ahmad’s re-interpretation of the crucifixion events have dramatic implications for Christian theology. If Jesus survived the crucifixion ordeal, then he didn’t die for anyone’s sins. There was no atonement, and no resurrection. The doctrine of the New Covenant, that salvation is obtained through faith in Jesus’ death rather than through works under the law, is untrue. Further, if Paul is shown to have concocted major Christian doctrines to misrepresent Jesus, then it means that Christians would need to radically review how they understand the message of Christ.
You can buy Paul and the Pharisee Conspiracy Against Jesus here.
By Syed Nasser & Tahir Nasser
Syed Nasser is a retired barrister. His career as a contract lawyer has developed in him the skills required for analysing and critiquing Biblical texts, bringing out new and previously hidden aspects of events. “Paul & the Pharisee Conspiracy Against Jesus” is the first book in a seven part series, deconstructing the history of Christianity and Judaism, up to the modern age.
Learn more about his work at: www.jesusorpaul.com
Syed Muhammad Tahir Nasser is a writer, moonlighting as a medical doctor. He also serves as the science editor for the Review of Religions (one of the oldest English-language magazines on comparative religions), writes for national and online media, and is a speaker on University lecture circuits on issues relating to Muslim youth and Islam in the modern world. He has written for the Huffington Post, Patheos and the Guardian.