Cracking the Da Vinci Code

Older than Christ: Myth, History, and Resurrection
by Jonathan Wilson

Other religions include resurrections in their myth. However, the resurrection of Jesus occurred in history.

Bible-believing Christians will say that what separates our faith as truly distinct from all others is that we believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. This exposes Christians to a problem: other religions far older than Christianity have talked about various gods and heroes rising from the dead.

Sir Laurence describes in detail the resurrection of Horus the son of Isis and Osiris (chapter one). Resurrections occur in Greek mythology and in Mayan myth as well. Some of these resurrections are cyclical as a means of explaining the cycle of summer, winter, summer again. Some occur just once. Nevertheless, the conception of a dead person coming back to life is not new with the Christian faith, so how does that make Christianity distinct?

What is distinct about Christian faith is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be located in history. It happened during the Jewish passover celebration when Pontius Pilate ruled in Palestine on behalf of the Roman government. He had Jesus crucified. His death by scourging and crucifixion was verified by Roman soldiers. He was entombed and sealed on Friday evening, and on Sunday morning he came back to life. Over the course of the next forty days, Jesus appeared to over 500 people.

Due to the kinds of records that were kept, and the interruption in civilization, scholars in our time disagree as to what precise year Jesus was crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected. It happened between 29 and 34 of the Common Era, years which are encompassed by the rule of Pilate.

Myth is not located in history. Ancient stories of the actions of gods and goddesses are not traceable to the historic continuum of human society. They are stories that take place not in memory but in mystery. Horus is not an historical figure, so the story of his resurrection illustrates a concept that is true, but which is not understood by experience.

The Mayan corn god who is killed in order to make the fields fertile and then springs back to life, and Persephone who leaves Pluto in Hades every Spring, do these things in a dimension unknown to human reality. These cyclical resurrections are used to explain the cycles of dormancy and life in nature: A resurrection in another dimension has an impact in our world, but the connection is mysterious.

The resurrection of Jesus is not a myth. It is an event in human history that is attested by eye-witnesses, many of whom were willing to be killed rather than retract the truth of what they had seen. Unlike Horus, Jesus entered into human history. His resurrection is understood by the experience of those who saw him alive. The resurrection of Jesus is not an extra-dimensional event used to explain natural phenomenon. Christians do not believe that because Jesus is alive the corn is going to grow, nor do Christians believe that Christ is continually put to death and continually rising from the dead. This event happened once for all time.

Christians believe that because Jesus rose from the dead, so will everyone else. Jesus has shown us that the grave or the urn of ashes is not the end of the story. His resurrection determines our faith and action as believers.

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