1. The four gospels present different resurrection stories with contradicting details. If the early church were trying to present prove of an historical event, it probably would have made more effort to get the stories straight. If they were presenting a symbolic truth about life, the differences in narrative wouldn’t be a problem. Mystical rabbic teaching stories would be a part of the early church’s heritage.
2. The stories are placed around the time of the Passover, which puts the whole narrative near the vernal equinox. Listeners would recognize the equinox as the time when other “saviors” had died, been taken underground and then rescued by a loving parent. Those stories were often understood as revelations about the life process, not merely magical events that happened to individuals.
3. The resurrection happens the day after the Sabbath which, in mystical lore, is the “eighth day,” which happens in consciousness rather than in fact. One way of understanding the “eighth day” is when we are struck by something beautiful and step out of time. In Jesus’ day, the eight day also represented the birth of the sun, or the renewal of all life.
4.The resurrection also happens on the third day after Jesus’ death, which is also the length of time before the moon is “reborn” after it has waned. The rebirth of the moon was a popular symbol of the circle of life. People of the time would have already heard the story of an empty tomb in the religion of Attis.
5. In the resurrection stories, people don’t recognize Jesus or mistake him for other people like the gardener. That is a strange detail to add if the point was to convince people that the resurrection was an historical event. It makes perfect sense to add the detail if one point of the symbol is to see Christ in others.
6. The earliest gospel, Mark, does not include actual resurrection appearances like the later gospels. In the earliest manuscripts, Mark ends with the empty tomb. It makes much more sense to assume that the later gospel writers would write mystical imaginative hymns to the resurrection event, than to assume that Mark would leave them out.
7. Paul and other writers insist on the resurrection being real, but that is not the same thing as it being literal. Some things are real but cannot be put into words. The laws of physics can only be deeply expressed in symbols. The depths of subjective human experience, the province of religion, are also beyond words.
8. If the symbol “God” is referring to something that is everywhere, it cannot be born and die. Something which is omnipresent cannot have a second coming because it is already here. It is our minds that need such images to lead us to the threshold of awareness, but none of them can capture the mystery to which they refer.
#7 – Real is not the same as being literal.
Is it a coincidence that you make this point two days after the passing of Garcia Marquez? (if there is a meddling God then Gabo better be resurrected tomorrow!)
I remember being blown away by his mocking of the term ‘magical realism’ because he felt those that used it were typically people who didn’t see the magic that was in reality. Until then I hadn’t even considered the idea.
Thank you, Jesse. I didn’t do it consciously, but that may have been in the back of my head. Thanks.