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by Richard Carrier
WE find presented in the canonized histories of several of the demigod Saviors the following remarkable coincidences appertaining to their death: --
The twenty-fifth of March is the period assigned by the Christian world generally for the resurrection of Christ, though some Christian writers have assigned other dates for this event. They all agree, however, that Christ rose from the dead, and that this occurred three days after the entombment. Bishop Theophilus of Cesarea remarks, relative to this event, "Since the birth of Christ is celebrated on the twenty-fifth of December, ... so also should the resurrection of Jesus be celebrated on the twenty-fifth of March, on whatever day of the week it may fall, the Lord having risen again on that day." (Cent. ii. Call. p. 118.) "All the ancient Christians," says a writer, "were persuaded that Christ was crucified on the twenty-third of March, and rose from the dead on the twenty-fifth." And accordingly Constantine and contemporary Christians celebrated the twenty-fifth of March with great 'eclat' as the date of the resurrection. The twenty-third and twenty-fifth, including the twenty-fourth, would comprise a period of three days, the time of the entombment.
- Their resurrection from the dead.
- Their lying in the tomb just three days.
- The resurrection of several of them about the time of the vernal equinox.
Now mark, Quexalcote of Mexico, Chris of Chaldea, Quirinus of Rome, Prometheus of Caucasus, Osiris of Egypt, Atys of Phrygia, and "Mithra the Mediator" of Persia did, according to their respective histories, rise from the dead after three days' burial, and the time of their resurrection is in several cases fixed for the twenty-fifth of March. And there is an account more than three thousand years old of the Hindoo crucified Savior Chrishna, three days after his interment, forsaking "the silent bourn, whence (as we are told) no traveler ever returns," and laying aside the moldy cerements of the dead, again walking forth to mortal life, to be again seen, recognized, admired, and adored by his pious, devout and awe-stricken followers, and thus present to the gaze of a hoping yet doubting world "the first fruits of the resurrection."
At the annual celebration of the resurrection of the Persian Savior "Mithra the Mediator," more than three thousand years ago, the priests were in the habit of exclaiming in a solemn and loud voice," Cheer up, holy mourners; your God has come again to life; his sorrows and his sufferings will save you." (See Pitrat, p. 105.) The twenty-fifth of March was with the ancient Persians the commencement of a new year, and on that day was celebrated "the feast of the Neuroner" and by the ancient Romans "the festival of the Hilaria." And we find the ancients had both the crucifixion and resurrection of a God symbolically and astronomically represented among the plants. "Their foundation," says Clement of Alexandria, "was the fictitious death and resurrection of the sun, the soul of the world, the principle of life and motion." The inauguration of spring (the twenty-fifth of March), and the summer solstice (the twenty-fifth of June), were both important periods with the ancients.
Hence, the latter period was fixed on as the birthday of John the Baptist (as marked in the almanacs), when the sun begins to decline southward -- that is, decrease. How appropriately, therefore, John is made to say, "I shall decrease, but he shall increase." And the consecrated twenty-fifth of March is also the day marked in our calendars as the date of the conception and annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And it was likewise the period of the conception of the ancient Roman Virgin Asteria, and of the ever-chaste and holy virgin Iris, as well as the time of the conjugal embrace of the solar and lunar potentates of the visible universe. May we not, then, very appropriately exclaim of religion and astronomy, "what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."
RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRISTWith respect to the physical resurrection of the Christian Savior, it may be observed that, aside from. the physical impossibility of such an occurrence, the account, as reported to us by his four "inspired" Gospel biographers, are so palpably at variance with each other, so entirely contradictory in their reports, as to render their testimony as infallible writers utterly unworthy of credence, and impels us to the conclusion that the event is both physically and historically incredible. There is scarcely one incident or particular in which they all agree. They are at loggerheads, -- 1. With respect to the time of its discovery. 2. The persons who made the discovery (for no witness claims to have seen it). 3. With respect to what took place at the sepulchre. 4. What Peter saw and did there. 5. And as to what occurred afterward, having a relation to that event.
- Relative to the time the witness or witnesses visited the sepulchre and learned of the resurrection, Matthew (chap. xxviii.) tells us, "It was at the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn;" but according to Mark (xvi.), the "Sabbath was past, and the sun was rising;" while John (chap. xx) declares "it was yet dark." Now there is certainly some difference between the three periods, "the dawning of the day," "the rising of the Sun," and "the darkness of night." If the writers were divinely inspired, there would be a perfect agreement.
- With respect to the persons who first visited the sepulchre, Matthew states that it was Mary Magdalene and another Mary; but Luke says it was "Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women;" while, according to John (and he virtually reiterates it), Mary Magdalene went alone. It will be observed, then, that the first "inspired" and "infallible" witness testifies there were two women; the second that there were four; and the third witness declares there was but one. What beautiful harmony! No court in the civilized world would accept such discordant testimony!
- And in relation to what took place at the tomb, Matthew testifies that "the angel of the Lord" sat upon a stone at the door of the sepulchre, and told the women their Lord was risen. But Luke steps forward here, and avers that instead of an angel they found two men there, not outside, but inside, and not sitting, but standing. But Mark sets the testimony of both these "inspired" witnesses aside by affirming there was but one man there, and he was sitting. While Matthew says "they," St. John says "she" (speaking of the person or persons who left the sepulchre). According to Matthew the angel who rolled away the stone from the sepulchre sent a message to the disciples. But Mark affirms that it was not an "angel" outside, but a "young man" inside, who did this. And here the question naturally arises: Why was it necessary for a being who could say, "I have power to lay down my life and take it up again" (John), to have an angel to roll away the stone from the sepulchre, Certainly, if he possessed such omnipotent power, he needed no aid from any being to perform such an act.
- And relative to Peter's visit to the tomb, there is a total disparity in the testimony of the witnesses. According to Luke, he did not go into the sepulchre, but only stooped down and looked in. But Mark affirms he did go in, and that it was the disciple who went with him who stooped down.
- And with respect to the events which occurred immediately subsequent to the resurrection, there is no less discrepancy, no nearer agreement, in the testimony of the evangelical witnesses. Matthew says that when Christ's disciples first met him after the resurrection, they worshiped him, and held him by the feet. (Matt. xxviii. 9) Strange, indeed, and wholly incredible, if John is a reliable witness, for he affirms he did not allow even his best and dearest friend (Mary) to touch him. And then John combats this testimony of his by declaring he invited the skeptical Thomas, not only to touch him, but to thrust his hand into his side for tangible proof of his identity.
- And why, let us ask here, was not the skeptical Thomas damned for his doubting, when we, who live thousands of miles from the place, and nearly two thousand years from the time, are often told by the priesthood we must "believe or be damned?"
- And if Thomas was really convinced by this occurrence, or if it ever took place, why have we no account of his subsequent life? What good was effected by his convincement if he never said or did anything afterward?
- John tells us Mary first saw Christ, after his resurrection, at the tomb, but Matthew says it was on her way home she first saw him.
- We are told by Luke (xxiv. 36) that when Christ appeared to his disciples on a certain occasion, they were frightened, supposing it to be a spirit. But John (XX. 20) says they were glad. Which must we believe?
- According to Matthew, the disciples were all present on this occasion; but according to John, Thomas was not there.
- Here let it be noted that none of the narrators claim to have seen Christ rise from the tomb, nor to have got it from anybody who did see it. The only proof in this case is their declaration, "It came to pass."
- And we are prompted to ask here, how "it came to pass" that the chief priests and pharisees cherished sufficient faith in Christ's resurrection to set a watch for it, as Matthew reports, when his own disciples were too faithless in such an event to be present, or to believe he had risen after the report reached their ears; for we are told some doubted. (See Matt. xxiii.)
- And how came Matthew to know the soldiers were bribed to say Christ's body was stolen away by his disciples, when the disclosures of such a secret would have been death under the Roman government.
- And their confession of being asleep, as related by Matthew, would have subjected them to the same fatal penalty by the civil rulers of Rome.
- And if the soldiers were all asleep, can we not suggest several ways the body may have disappeared without being restored to life?
- And here we would ask if Christ rose from the dead in order to convince the world of his divine power, why did not the event take place in public? Why was it seen only by a few credulous and interested disciples?
- And if such an astonishing and miraculous event did occur, why does not one of the numerous contemporary writers of those times make any allusion to it? Neither Pliny, Tacitus, nor Josephus, who detail the events very minutely, not only of those times, but of that very country, says a word about such a wonder- exciting occurrence. This fact of itself entirely overthrows the credibility of the story.
- And the fact that several Christian sects, which flourished near those times, as the Corinthians and Carpocratians, etc., rejected the story in toto, furnishes another powerful argument for discrediting it.
- And then add to this fact that his own chosen followers were upbraided for their unbelief in the matter.
- And what was Christ doing during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension, that he should only be seen a few times, and but a few minutes at a time, and by but a few persons, and those interested?
- And we would ask, likewise, -- What more can be proved by Christ's physical resurrection than that of the resurrection of Lazarus, the widow's son, and several cases related in the Old Testament, or the numerous cases reported in oriental history?
- And what analogy is there in the resurrection of the dead body of a perfect and self-existent God and that of vile man?
- And why should Christ be called "the first fruits of the resurrection," when so many cases are reported as occurring before his?
- And why do Christians build their hopes of immortality almost entirely upon Christ's alleged resurrection, in view of the numerous facts we have cited showing it to be a mere sandy foundation?
- Of course no person who believes in modern spiritualism will discredit the story of Christ being visually recognized after his death as a spirit -- for they have ocular proof that many such cases have occurred within the last decade of years. But it is the story of his physical resurrection we are combating -- the reanimation of his flesh and bones after having been subjected three days to the laws of decomposition. Neither science nor sense can indorse such a story.
- It was a very easy matter, and very natural to mistake Christ's spiritual body for his physical body; for such mistakes have been made a thousand times in the world's history.
- Is it not strange, in view of the countless defects in the story of Christ's physical resurrection as enumerated above, that the orthodox Christian world should rely upon it as the great sheet anchor of their faith, and as their chief and almost their only hope of immortal life?
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