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‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes: Christ’s resurrection was a miracle not fake news


What’s the best gift you can give someone you love this Easter? Certainly not Easter eggs! You might offend the National Trust, Cadburys, Tim Farron and people of other faiths. How about giving your loved ones an Automatic Crap Detector (ACD) for Easter?

ACD is software that sniffs out the daily diet of fake news and la-di-da leftism dished out in truckloads by the New York Times,  The Washington Post, The  Guardian, CNN, the BBC and sundry others.

‘Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him,’ Ernest Hemingway once quipped. ‘You reject everything that is not or can’t be completely true.’ The US President called for an ACD in his unique tongue of Trump-speak. At his first press conference as President-elect, the term “fake news” burst from the media echo chamber and became a mainstream meme. ‘You are fake news!’ he said, pointing at CNN’s Jim Acosta.

Fake news has been around for over two thousand years. Easter might well be the biggest fake news in human history. Some Jewish religious leaders are anticipating an outbreak of fake news following the execution of the self-proclaimed “King of the Jews.” They go to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and remind him that Jesus of Nazareth had predicted his resurrection.

‘Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last fraud will be worse than the first,’ they tell Pilate. Pilate replies, ‘You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.’ ‘So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard,’ reports Matthew’s gospel.

“Fake news” is an ‘enormously lucrative venture’ writes former CIA deception expert Phil Houston. ‘Its lucrative nature encourages viral reporting on it. Other media outlets, driven by the profits generated by thousands or millions of page views start to pick up on it.’ You’ve got a story to tell if you’ve got a story to sell!

So is the resurrection the biggest fake news hoax in history? Even Jesus’ disciples did not buy it when he spoke about it before his death. The “fake news” story of Jesus’ resurrection was no story at all. It simply would not sell for five reasons.

It was not expected. The disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. They had not psyched themselves into believing in the resurrection. It is not as if they were expecting something to happen that did not happen and when it did not happen they cooked up a story or deluded themselves into believing that it did happen and convinced more and more people that it had happened! On the contrary, when faced with the risen Jesus, they refused to believe. When the evidence proved to be irrefutable, they then had radically to redefine what they believed and accept the hard facts that something had indeed happened.

It was not necessary. Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries believed that only on the Last Day all God’s people would be raised from the dead. Resurrection was not something that happened to a single individual while the rest of the world went about as normal. Jews, like the Sadducees, did not believe in the resurrection at all. There are no stories about Old Testament patriarchs or prophets being raised from the dead. The Greeks and the Romans rejected as cock-and-bull any notion that men could rise from the dead. If Jesus’ followers had cooked up the story of the resurrection hoping to attract Jewish, Greek or Roman converts, they were more likely to be ridiculed for preaching such nonsense.

It was not possible. Dead men don’t rise. But what if Jesus had swooned on the cross and was later resuscitated in the tomb? Roman soldiers were good at killing people. Given a rebel leader to work on they would have done a thorough job. A soldier even punctured Jesus’ heart with a spear when his platoon came to Jesus expecting to break his legs to hasten his death and found him already dead.

The 19th century German scholar D F Strauss, who disbelieved the resurrection, said: ‘It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence… could have given to the disciples the impression that he was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life…. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which he had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship’.

It was not plausible. Nobody would believe the resurrection just because the disciples found the tomb empty. Tombs were often robbed in the ancient world. In fact, Pilate had ordered an armed posse to guard the tomb. If the disciples did steal the body, sooner or later someone would have let out the secret. The disciples were hardly daring enough to be tomb-raiders. Most people are not prepared to die for the truth. How many people are prepared to die for a lie—especially when they know that what they are dying for is a lie? Since the city was seething with rumours of the resurrection, the authorities could silence all speculation by conducting an investigation and producing Jesus’ stolen body.

What if the disciples were hallucinating? Hallucinations do not normally occur to large numbers of people on different occasions. Hallucinations do not involve physical contact, let alone the apparition eating and drinking. The risen Jesus was around for six or seven weeks before ascending to heaven. It would have been far more convincing for the disciples to steal the body, and then to fabricate a story that Jesus had ascended into heaven like Elijah.

It was not profitable. There was no money to be made. Rather, such a story would invite persecution. Nearly all the disciples were executed for their beliefs. Matthew was slain with a sword in Ethiopia. Mark was killed on the streets of Alexandria. Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece. John was put in a cauldron of boiling oil, but escaped death, and was banished to Patmos. Peter was crucified upside down in Rome. James the Great was beheaded in Jerusalem. James the Less was clubbed to death. Bartholomew was flayed alive. Andrew was bound to a cross and killed. Doubting Thomas was stabbed to death with a lance near Madras. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Matthias was stoned and beheaded. Barnabas was stoned to death. Nero had Paul beheaded in Rome.

Jesus’ disciples were snowflakes before the resurrection. They were hardcore sceptics with unassailable in-built Automatic Crap Detectors. So why would they bother with fabricating and peddling a “fake news” story that was unexpected, unnecessary, impossible, implausible, and guaranteed to get them killed unless they had irrefutable evidence that it was absolutely and undeniably true?

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‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
‘Rebel Priest’ Rev Jules Gomes
The Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes, BA, BD, MTh, PhD (Cantab) is a journalist and academic.

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