The Lost Art of Resurrection

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“How come nobody resurrects anymore!” You hear it all the time. A church is only as good as its padded kneelers, its reliably saliva-free holy water, and its ability to bring about a modern miracle from time to time.

And don’t think that bringing people back from the dead is a thing of the past! It was commanded by Jesus himself, who knew a thing or two about how the whole resurrection thing worked.

Jesus sent out the twelve apostles with these instructions…Heal the sick, raise the dead. —Matthew 10:5,8

Churches are pretty confident about the healing the sick part. Prayers for the ill and infirmed abound, though God evidently has a longer wait time than your HMO’s GI specialist as he often needs cure requests repeated on multiple Sundays.

But why are churches so reluctant to try their hand at resurrections. If any church could find a successful revival incantation, its congregation would soon include most of the entire world.

But most of us know the likelihood of raising the dead (I mean the dead-dead, not the near-dead, medically revivable types) is 0.000%. So part of the problem of a church even trying is that no one would believe you if you succeeded. How do we know that? Let’s look at what happened to our most famous resurrected case study: Jesus of Nazareth.

After seeing the empty tomb, here’s what Mark said happened.

The women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone.
—Mark 16:8

None of us would have heard about the resurrection if Mark’s version was not totally contradicted by the other three gospels:

So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
—Matthew 28:8

Later, when Jesus showed up, it was not just Thomas who doubted:

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. —Matthew 28:17

That’s right, they saw Him and were still doubtful. I just can’t see how, if a preacher I knew came back to life, I would hang out with him, worship him, but in the back of my mind be saying, “Meh, it’s probably not him.”

While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have ye here any meat?” —Luke 24:41

“Verily I say unto you, what’s in the fridge?”

Furthermore, on the Road to Emmaus, two disciples walk and talk with what we are told is the risen Jesus, yet through it all they don’t recognize him. Again suspicious.

Adding even more to the suspect nature of the reporting of the resurrected Jesus is the blatant inconsistencies of the evangelists. Of all the Crucifixion and Resurrection inconsistencies, and there are many, one of the worst may be the list of who saw the resurrected Jesus. As so much of the religion relies on this supernatural event, detailing who the witnesses were would seem like a high priority. The reality reveals just the opposite.

Screen shot 2016-03-24 at 8.55.12 PMA more likely explanation of events, like the accounts of Elvis’ return in the late 1970s, comes from William Greg’s 1875 book The Creed of Christendom:

We may believe that the minds of the disciples, excited by the disappearance of the body, and the announcement by the women of his resurrection, mistook some passing individual for their crucified Lord, and that from such an origin multiplied rumors of his re-appearance arose and spread.

In addition to the question of veracity, it’s important to ask what any resurrection, including Jesus’, actually proves.

Even though Acts 26:23 insists that Jesus was the first person to rise from the dead, the Bible has over eight resurrections that predate Jesus’ return to the land of the living, and two that followed.

  • The widow of Zarephath’s son (resurrected by Elijah) —1 Kings 17:17–24
  • The Shunammite’s son (Elisha) —2 Kings 4:32–37
  • The corpse thrown into Elisha’s tomb (Elisha’s bones) —2 Kings 13:21
  • The widow of Nain’s son (Jesus) —Luke 7:11-15
  • Jairus’ daughter (Jesus) —Luke 8:49-56
  • Lazarus (Jesus) —John 11:39–44
  • The post-crucifixion saints of Jerusalem (Spontaneous and simultaneous revivals) —Matthew 27:51-53
  • Dorcas of Joppa (Peter) —Acts 9:36-43
  • Eutychus (Paul) —Acts 20:9–12

If resurrecting proves you are God worthy of adoration or that all your teachings are true, then why does no one worship Lazarus? It seems that either your teachings are without peer or they’re not. Whether you ate meat after you died or not should maybe be of secondary importance. Still it’s a pretty cool trick.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.

The Top 7 Bible-Themed Rides You Won’t Find at the Ark Encounter Amusement Park

Ark Encounter RideJesus expected his followers to have faith strong enough to command a tree to wither and die, and, for no particular reason, to send a mountain into the ocean. To date, no one has accomplished either of these destructive acts of faith.

But when it comes to showing Bunyanesque quantities of faith in the Bible though, it’s hard to beat the folks at Answers in Genesis who are now in the process of creating a life-size Noah’s ark and accompanying theme park.

Controversial to some, due to its proposed $43 million in tax breaks from the state of Kentucky, Ark Encounter may run into even more controversy as they create other Bible-themed rides for the non-ark portion of the park. Currently, their only other major ride in development—the way they plan to attract tourists away from Disneyworld and other parks—is The Ten Plagues of Egypt. You can almost hear the kids fighting in the back seats of cars across America:

“I want to see the plague of boils first!”

“No, I want to see the death of the firstborn first.”

Since this is the second best ride they could find from the Bible, they appear a little desperate for ideas. In order to help them avoid picking an even less appealing ride, I offer my Top 7 Bible-Themed Rides You Won’t Find at the Ark Encounter Amusement Park. If you’re a praying person, you may want to pray that these never get chosen.

1. Porkvalanche!

You loved how God killed off animals in the Great Flood, now see his son take a turn as Jesus makes 2,000 pigs commit mass suicide. Audiences will roar at the demons being hurled into the porcine herd, compelling them to jump off a cliff and drown in the sea. All the fun of a waterside, all the horror of a slaughterhouse!

The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs. The herd of about two thousand pigs rushed down the cliff into the sea and drowned. —Mark 5:13

2. The Undead Jamboree

Even though Acts 26:23 insists that Jesus was the first person to rise from the dead, the Bible has over eight resurrections that predate Jesus’ return to the land of the living, and two that followed.

  • The widow of Zarephath’s son (resurrected by Elijah) —1 Kings 17:17–24
  • The Shunammite’s son (Elisha) —2 Kings 4:32–37
  • The corpse thrown into Elisha’s tomb (Elisha’s bones) —2 Kings 13:21
  • The widow of Nain’s son (Jesus) —Luke 7:11-15
  • Jairus’ daughter (Jesus) —Luke 8:49-56
  • Lazarus (Jesus) —John 11:39–44
  • The post-crucifixion saints of Jerusalem (Spontaneous and simultaneous revivals) —Matthew 27:51-53
  • Dorcas of Joppa (Peter) —Acts 9:36-43
  • Eutychus (Paul) —Acts 20:9–12

Kids would be thrilled to see recreations of their favorite dead Bible heroes being brought back to life, but parents may frown on their children quite likely getting the impression that Jesus was just one in a long line of back-from-the-grave Bible embellishments.

As a quick aside, though most Bible miracles such as talking bushes and snakes have tapered off in modern times, resuscitating people is more prevalent than ever. I saw it happen to my own father. The miracle worker that saved his life when he was down and out with a sudden heart attack is known by three initials: AED. If you are unfamiliar with how to recognize and operate a defibrillator, please watch this video. There are plenty of people walking around today who are eternally grateful to people who learned how to operate these simple and amazing machines.

3. Everybody Must Get Stoned

Imagine “It’s a Small World” but with better music and innumerable depictions of every capital offense described in the Bible. Here are but a few:

  • Cursing your parents —Exodus 21:17
  • Worshipping other gods —Exodus 22:20
  • Gathering sticks on the Sabbath —Numbers 15:32-36
  • Disobeying a priest —Deuteronomy 17:12

The ride could end in two different ways. Riders, now consumed by bloodlust, could exit through the “Stones for Every Occasion” gift shop and purchase rocks at prices way over wholesale, or you could have Jesus come on and spoil the mood by saying, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.”

4. Ye Old Testament Sideshow

“See God’s Back Parts (as shown only to Moses), watch the 99-year-old Abraham agree to get circumcised, marvel at Jacob, the Canaanite Casanova: two wives plus two handmaidens plus one septuagenarian = 13 kids and one exhausted Jacob!”

5. Tamar’s Wild Ride

Warning: Riders must keep there eyes in their sockets at all times.

There is never a dull moment as Tamar marries Er. God then kills Er because of an unspecified transgression. By law, Er’s brother Onan must then impregnate Tamar. Onan’s seed is spilled on the ground, so of course, God kills Onan. Onan’s brother is next in line to marry Tamar, but when that is delayed, Tamar is so desperate to get pregnant, she dresses as a prostitute and tricks her father-in-law into fathering her children. When he discovers she’s pregnant, he demands that she be burned to death, until he realizes he is the father.

So once we get off this ride and shake off our temporary PTSD, what is the moral lesson gained from this biblical soap opera? According to Genesis 38:26, between not giving your son to his widowed sister-in-law on the one hand and prostitution on the other, the thing that gets God murderously enraged is failing to impregnate a sister-in-law. So why is that legal but prostitution is illegal? God’s not going to be happy about that.

6. The All New Testament Sideshow

“Step right up and prove your faith in Jesus today by handling 100% poisonous snakes, drinking 100% poisonous poison, and treading on genuine serpents and scorpions.”

They will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them. —Mark 16:18

It’s not every religion that tells its followers that it’s absolutely fine to drink poison. You have to love the adaptability of Christians today who have decided to play down this test of faith, given how it has proven itself deadly to some of the most faithful believers who ever lived, and died.

A marginally safer route is snake handling, but sadly the County Health Department would shut down this carnival fare fairly quickly.

7. Noah’s Post-diluvian Carcass Roundup

You already had a chance to see all those cute animals that got saved on the ark. Now see what Noah found once the waters receded. You can’t just leave all those drowning victims, human and animal, lying all over the ground. Do you really want to go out for a nice, quiet stroll at night and have to worry about tripping over a waterlogged orangutan carcass? Faced with this massive cleanup effort and very few humans left to help him, Noah’s course of action when he finally hit dry land makes a bit more sense:

He drank some wine, got drunk, and lay naked inside his tent. —Genesis 9:21

The Bible is full of wild, evocative, and sometimes disturbing stories. Setting aside the Great Flood’s death and destruction that often gets swept under the rug, the story of Noah’s Ark has captured believers’ imaginations like no other. For someone like me, who sees biblical literalism as an intellectually untenable position, Noah’s story is a case study in the length believers will go to in order to preserve some highly implausible beliefs.

The list of questions that arise when challenging a literal interpretation of the ark account is long and intriguing. Biblical literalists are often willing to avoid these hard questions or to twist reality into knots in order to avoid admitting a possible mythic, non-literal component to certain elements of the Bible.

It is truly remarkable the absurd lengths that some people are willing to go to in order to defend the most absurd claims in the Bible. Jesus recommended casting a mountain into the sea, but he said nothing about throwing your common sense in as well.

Michael Morris is the author of Bible Funmentionables: A Lighthearted Look at the Wildest Verses You’ve NEVER Been Told!, which features all of the shocking and hilarious verses that your minister, rabbi, or charismatic cult leader is afraid to preach.