(Article published in the Apr 11,2012
issue of Manila Standard Today)
Anyone who has just as much legal brains in his head as Justice Serafin Cuevas has in his little finger is certain to find as objectionable from the legal point of view, the gospels’ allegation that Jesus of Nazareth rose or was risen from the dead. Four grounds can readily to be cited: first, the authors of the gospels, and therefore also of the so-called resurrection narratives, were undeniably biased; second, not one of said authors had any personal knowledge of Jesus himself while he was alive, and much less of his alleged resurrection; third, their versions of the resurrection event, as a result, manifest irreconcilable discrepancies and inconsistencies; and, fourth, the resurrection narratives have no basis, assuming as they do as the fact intervention by the Divine with the natural, something that is per se, incapable of proof.
Bias on the
part of the gospel writers is easiest to demonstrate; their bias is very
palpable in all their resurrection narratives. Each of the gospel writers
were seeking to make their respective audiences believe that someone named
Jesus, from the obscure town of Nazareth, who was crucified and who died
sometime during the time when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, was, all
that notwithstanding, in fact alive and well. Such deliberate spin was in
fact admitted, in fact by John the Evangelist. He admitted that “these
[i.e. the selected sayings, deeds, acts, and alleged resurrection, of Jesus
the Nazaroan] are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ,
the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.
Thus, the gospel accounts, particularly of the resurrection, are of the genre of propaganda material, or paid advertisement, or, at the very least, instructional material in executive coaching seminars. Their main objective was to deliver the specific message that the writers wanted to convey; their intention was, in the language of Howard Gardner, to “change minds”, to make people believe.
The legal weight of their testimony, however, is severely weak; none of the evangelists had any personal knowledge of what they were talking about. Best reliable historical research dates the life and death of the Nazaroan sometime in the first third of the first century; the gospels, historians say, were most likely written in the succeeding last half. Mark’s, generally considered the earliest of the four, is said to have been written in the late 60s; Luke’s, the Acts, and Matthew’s are suggested to have been done circa 85 and John’s in the 90s. The experts thus conclude that not none of the evangelists personally knew the Nazaroan. Therefore, their narratives, in the language of Justice Cuevas, is hearsay.
Perhaps because of the four writers’ biases, and their lack of personal knowledge, their narratives about the resurrection contain irreconcilable conflicts and strange contradictions. The only point where they all agree on, is negative, i.e., that no one witnessed Jesus’ rising from the dead. What allegedly was seen instead, after the Sabbath, was an empty tomb.
The rest of their testimony is marked by conflict in many material details. Mark said that the first to discover that Jesus’ tomb was empty were three women, namely Mary Magdalene, Mary who was the mother of James, and Salome; but Matthew spoke only of two, namely, Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” who, according to earlier verses, could concededly have been the mother of James. John had only Mary Magdala (Magdalene). So, most likely two, but no more than three. But in contrast, Luke had a bit of a crowd. “The women,” wrote Luke,” were Mary Magdalene, Joana, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them....” Finally, In any case, women, in those times, were not reliable witnesses.
Instead of proof by direct evidence, the resurrection is sought to be implied from accounts of Jesus’ alleged post-crucifixion appearances. But even at this level, there is no consensus. Mark, in the version that has the longer ending, says Jesus “appeared first to Mary Magdalene” without saying where. John identifies the site of the first appearance as the tomb itself, also to Mary Magdalene. But Matthew narrates that the risen Jesus intercepted the women while they were on their way from the tomb to tell, as instructed by an angel, the apostles to go to Galilee where Jesus was to meet them. Luke, also talks of an appearance on the same day, but to two disciples who “were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus.”
In addition to bias, hearsay and conflict, the fourth objection against the legal truth of the resurrection is that the resurrection could not have been possible were it not for Divine Intervention. But such Divine Intervention is incapable of proof. Divine Action, as such, is outside human perception. What can be perceived is not the action itself but only physical or material manifestations that are attributed, by assertion only, to Divine Action. Hence, the resurrection has no basis.
Easter, therefore, ought be rejected as a legal truth; its actual occurrence fails to conform to the law’s standards of what is true, and, admissible.
Lucky for us, though, life is larger than law; there is more to life than what the law can grasp. The resurrection to us believers is meta-legal and that makes law, as to life, very often, if I may use a linguistic twin favored by Justice Cuevas, immaterial and irrelevant.