Wednesday 11 April 2012

Let no doubt trouble you...

Is there a shadow of doubt lingering in the remote recesses of your mind that certain aspects of Church teaching hang by a thread?
Possibly grounded upon superstition, fraudulent conspiracy and historical revisionism?
Is yours a faith like mine  haunted by fleeting bouts of fear that some spectre of medical science or archaeological discovery could potentially disprove all one holds dear, leaving one's beliefs - the ultimate meaning and purpose of one's life - in shreds? 
Few speculations torment more than the possibility that Christ did not die upon the Cross; with all its grave consequences for the faith.

With the death of Jesus came the death of His Gospel and any hope in His Truth and His Kingdom lay in ruins. Christ's message was so inextricably linked with His very Person that His teaching could not be ideologically amputated and isolated from Him; as one could a Socratic anecdote or Confucian aphorism.
In the shadow of the scandal of the cross, where Christ became officially a non-person to Rome and a Judaic false prophet hanged from a tree, the entire vision was discredited, shattered and the despondent apostles resigned to this failure were fully aware their brief time of hope was now consigned to oblivion and distant memory.
Yet this was not the end: But the beginning of a new world.
From the ashes of catastrophe and desolation a powerfully dynamic incandescent flame emerged -  a revolution that split time itself in two and ultimately within a dozen generations subsumed western civilization in its entirety so that no corner was not illuminated by the light of Christianity.

How did this arise?
The New Testament is unambiguous:

"This Jesus God raised up; and of that we are all witnesses" [Acts 2:32]
"If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" [1 Cor15:14]

The witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ, initially overwhelmed with stubborn disbelief, fear and dismay; with a scoffing resignation; these disciples, far removed from any form of extravagant enthusiasm or fanaticism; these broken few were the ones to whom Christ proved His risen reality.
Far from a delusional mass hysteria, individual hallucinatory events and collective desire to believe in the Resurrection; rather the historical reality of Christ's return, the living, breathing, talking, eating, physical Christ - the actual manifest Truth of His being among them re-ignited and restored their fractured faith and hope.
The Resurrection of Christ alone brought about the resurrection of the Gospel.
After extensive scrutiny of over 3,400 academic studies,  Habermas has concluded that the Resurrection Kerygmatic formulae from the Church of Corinth in AD51 derive from Paul's immersion in early Jerusalem Church Apostolic tradition from AD35-41 and accounts of Resurrection appearances were already prevalent for decades before they took their Gospel form.
Ascending Christological speculation of a drawn-out development of doctrine from empty tomb to resurrection narratives, or the hypotheses of theologians like Barth & Bultmann that a spiritual awakening of faith through a form of 'wishful thinking' invoked a 'resurrection in spirit' external to historical reality - both are disproven by concrete evidence of early kerygma and reference to appearance narratives.
The Historical Christ's Resurrection and real presence among them heralded the Christian era. He was the cornerstone upon which the Apostles and St Paul built Christ's Church.
Those who had witnesses the Risen Christ were unswerving in this assertion - even unto martyrdom.

The contemporary prevailing assertion has become that St Paul would not have been able to foment Christianity across the mediterranean without the testimonies from many of a Christ after the Cross ; that Christianity could not have risen if Christ had not risen. Without it Christianity's psycho-historical sociocultural development, is - even in the opinion of those seeking to debunk it -  highly implausible and counter-intuitive.

It is with ironic ideological inevitability that speculation long considered dead and buried has now been resurrected in a vainglorious attempt to counter the 'Risen Christ':
A Jesus who did not die upon the cross.
Islam adamantly attests they crucified an imposter, as did some C19th academics and more recently controversially speculative books such as Holy Blood & Holy Grail.

But what of a Christ who died [in Pilate's eyes] surprisingly quickly? 
Is it possible he merely fainted? Or suffered a cataleptic event? Or drugged?
Did He actually have His heart pierced with the spear or was it metaphorical?
Was there a guard sent to watch over the sealed tomb or an intermittent watch? Did Joseph of Arimathea even place Jesus in the tomb? Were the guards bribed or did they misdiagnose? Was the whole execution an elaborate hoax arranged by powerful sympathisers?
The Judaic 'Tractate of Mourning' [Semahot] insisted that a corpse be revisited  upon the third day to ensure the person was actually dead.  Even in today's technology-intense medicine misdiagnosis of death is frighteningly estimated to be as high as 1 in 1000.

Most medical experts are without doubt Jesus died on the cross; and was probably more than hallf-dead even before He was nailed to it! Even though Josephus recounts a later crucifixion survival story, the victim was surely permanently incapacitated.

Our traditional desensitised imagery and artistic portrayals of the crucifixion is simply wrong.
Evidence from Apocryphal letters and Gnostic writings, substantiated with broken pericopal structure, indicate that the Evangelists removed the more graphic details present in proto-gospels to make the Passion Narratives more 'PG'.

Roman scourgings were acts of  malignant hyper-violent barbarism inflicted upon 'non-persons'.The prisoner's violation and torture was so extreme that many were already in their death throes before crucifixion.
Golgotha was an outcrop in a rubbish dump -a vermin-infested open sewer .The execution was a tangible intimate affair between executioner and victim who were in continual close contact. The top of the cross was barely 7ft high - not the lofty monoliths of art & cinema. [the sponge on a stick was to avoid being bitten, not for reasons of height]

Ironically everything we have discovered regarding 1st century crucifixions is verified by the shroud of Turin - the arms over the crossbeam , the hemlock wedge 'rawlplugs' holding the nails in place; the distension of the feet nail holes indicating the pivot to prevent long-term diaphragm respiration etc. with knees raised to the side the body is contorted.
The pains involved are unimaginable - the damage permanent and irreversible - the direct shredding of nerves, the excruciating rapid muscle death, the poisoning of limbs with tetany, oedema fluid flooding the pericardium and drowning the heart from without...yet death does not come !!!
The body dies around the victim before they ultimately expire...sadistic execution as a form of proselytism - a graphic warning - "thus die the enemies of Rome".
A survivor could never stand upright again, let alone walk - the muscles and fascia would have been damaged and poisoned irreparably; neuropathy would be the predominant sensation -little feelng except agonising electrical short-circuiting in the limbs - heart damage would prevent even the slightest physical exertion - brain damage would cause intermittent convulsions and fits. Blood loss and accelerated infection within a traumatised highly compromised immune system leaves the victim with a prognosis of a few days at most.

The Centurion's spear which tore open the pericardium and heart would have brought instantaneous death.
This Official Imperial representative could decree that this man Christ was truly dead; for he had seen Him breathe His last...
The Jewish hierarchy declared Jesus was dead [and His body stolen]
His Disciples witnessed and knew Jesus to be dead - and accordingly abandoned all hope.
And thereafter would non-Christian sources: Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Mara bar Serapion & the Talmud...and even today the most antagonistic sceptics like Richard Carrier believe Christ died during Crucifixion

Whatever doubts torment you.
Please: Do not let Christ's possible survival of a Crucifixion be one of them.
It did not : It could not happen.

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