"And if (Jesus) has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." 1 Corinthians 15:14.
Did you know that the earliest gospel (Mark) did not have any stories about Jesus being resurrected? This central theme of Christianity (and why Christians celebrate Easter) does not appear in the gospels until well after the 4th century CE!
"And if (Jesus) has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." 1 Corinthians 15:14.
Prior to the Council of Nicea (in 325 CE), when the trinity was made a religious concept, there was a great deal of disagreement in Christians as to whether Jesus was part of G-d, if there were two "parts" of G-d or a trinity. Early church fathers also recognized that the pagans had resurrection themes similar to their own. Justin Martyr (100 - 165 CE) wrote "when we say ... Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propose nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you consider sons of Zeus." (1 Apologies 21).
Resurrected gods (dying and resurrecting) was a common theme in pagan religions. The Greek god Asclepius often resurrected people from the dead. Zeus (the main Greek god) killed him, but later resurrected Asclepius himself.
There are three resurrections in the T’nach:
The prophet Eliyahu (Elijah) prays and G-d raises a young boy from death (1 Kings 17:17-24);
The prophet Elisha raises a boy whose birth he had prophesied (2 Kings 4:8-16 and 32-37);
A dead man's body thrown into Elisha's tomb is resurrected when the body touches Elisha's bones (2 Kings 13:21).
In other words, what many Christians see as the very reason for believing in Christianity (the resurrection of Jesus) is not unique to Jesus. Neither it is a messianic requirement for the messiah to be resurrected. The messiah IS required to resurrect the righteous dead (all of them) -- and this is something Jesus did not do.
As shown above there are examples of Elijah and Elisha raising the dead in the T’nach – and we know that all the righteous will be resurrected in the messianic age.
A Jew would say “so what?” to the resurrection of Jesus (if it ever happened). His resurrection certainly would not make him worthy of worship. . . It does not prove he was the messiah, and it certainly doesn’t show he was part of G-d.
But interesting enough the earliest copies of the gospel of Mark (said to be the earliest gospel) do not have Jesus being resurrected at all.
The resurrection of Jesus appears to be a later insertion -- later than the 4th century CE (when these early texts date).
The gospel of Mark ended with the verse 8: "Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."
No resurrected Jesus.
Eusebius (an early church father who lived from 264 CE to 340) CE, wrote in Ad Marinum 1 that "in the accurate manuscripts Mark ended with the words 'for they were afraid'[Mark 16:8].'"
The oldest copies of the Christian bible all end at Mark 16:8 (no resurrection).
Codex Vaticanus (dated by handwriting analysis called palaeography to the 4th century CE) = Mark ends at 16:8.
Codex Sinaiticus (dated by handwriting analysis called palaeography to the 4th century CE) = Mark ends at 16:8.
Codex Syriacus ( (dated by handwriting analysis called palaeography to the early 5th century CE) = Mark ends at 16:8.
No resurrection story in Mark in any of them.
So was the resurrection part of the early belief of all of Christianity -- or just "some"?
Is it possible (even probable) that the resurrection stories (all conflicting with one another) found in the four gospels and Acts were the result of the pro-resurrection Christians "winning" the theological battle of early Christianity? Today around 90% of Christians worldwide believe in the trinity (3 gods in 1 -- the father, the son and the holy ghost), but this concept was once controversial.
In the first century of Christianity the Gnostics believed that Jesus was G-d, but not man. An early adherent was Valentinus (100 CE to 160 CE) who believe that Joseph was Jesus' biological father, but when John baptized he physically died and resurrected as G-d. Jesus he was "born" as a G-d and no longer what he had been (100% human from human parents). The human Jesus is joined to the Savior.in Valentinus' version of Christianity.
A little later came the Arian sect, founded by Arius (250 CE - 336 CE). The Arians believed that Jesus was a man, and not G-d. The Arians did not believe in the trinity. They also thought that Jesus was not equal to G-d. Arius wrote "We are persecuted because we say that the Son has a beginning but that G-d is without beginning." Arius's Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia.
Prior to the Council of Nicea (325 CE) t the Arians and Gnostics were only two differing "schools of thought" as to whether Jesus was a normal human being, a part of a trinity or part of a duality. . .. There were other Christian sects also differing from modern Christianity. The Council of Nicea condemned Arius's doctrine and formulated the original Nicene Creed of 325.
Resurrection (תְּחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים) is a part of Judaism, and indeed it is one of the Rambam’s 13 Principles of Judaism. "My corpses shall rise; awaken and sing, you who dwell in the dust, for a dew of lights is your dew, and [to the] earth You shall cast the slackers." Y'shayahu / Isaiah 26:19.
When the messiah comes the righteous will be resurrected and the soul reunited with body; this is why Jews do not believe in cremation or embalming (Isaiah 26). The T'nach seems to tell us that only the righteous will be resurrected (Daniel 12). Yet, there is a school of thought that every Jewish soul that ever lived will be resurrected. “Even the empty ones amongst you [Israel] are filled with mitzvot as a pomegranate [is filled with seeds]"—Talmud, Berachot 57a and The soul of every Jew is a "veritable portion of G‑d," and as such is eternal and indestructible.
If the resurrection of the messiah were so special why is it that all righteous people will be resurrected?
Many missionaries insist that Jesus is the "paschal lamb" -- saying Jesus' crucifixion echoes the ritual sacrifice of the Passover lamb.
Not even close.
The annual sacrifice of the paschal goat or lamb (not just "lamb" -- and goats were more common) was a celebratory offer made and eaten every Passover while the Temple stood. It was a festival -- a happy time, which had nothing to do with the murder of Jesus in a violent manner.
It also had nothing to do with sin.
When we have a Temple, and can bring sacrifices, we are commanded to keep the goat or lamb for four days (Sh'mot / Exodus 12:3 - 6) from Nisan 10 to Nisan 14. It was slaughtered on the 14th, roasted and then eaten that same night (which was now the 15th of Nisan as days begin at Sundown).
The Passover aka paschal goat or lamb -- usually a goat -- (the פֶּ֛סַח / pesach) offer is mentioned in D'varim (Deuteronomy) 16:2: "You shall slaughter the (פֶּ֛סַח) paschal sacrifice to HaShem, your G-d, [of the] flock, and [the Festival sacrifices of the] cattle, in the place which HaShem will choose to establish His Name therein."
We do not bring the sacrifices now because we do not have the place which HaShem will choose. That "place" was the Temple, and we do not have a Temple thus we are forbidden from bringing sacrifices for now.
But note that the Passover sacrifice had to be kept for four days, slaughtered, roasted and eaten. . . as part of the festival.
Yes, Passover is a festival as in CELEBRATION. The festival sacrifices are mentioned in the verses in Numbers (Bambidar / Numbers 28:16 - 17 "The 14th day of the first month (Nisan) is G-d's Passover. Then, on the 15th day, a festival shall begin, when matzo (unleavened bread) shall be eaten for seven days." ).
A festival shall begin.
Not a sad time.
Not a time of sin and repentance and atonement.
The paschal lamb was not a sin sacrifice (other wise called a חַטָּ֖את -- a chatat -- is an offering for a "missing of the mark" or accidental sin.
Torah tells us clearly that the sacrifice is part of a CELEBRATION, a festival -- a rejoicing -- to remember our freedom from slavery.
Sh'mot / Exodus 12:14 "This day must be one that you will remember. You must keep it as a festival to G-d for all generations. It is a law for all time that you must celebrate it."
There it is again: festival.
Showing all of this to a missionary they may actually admit that the Passover offer was not for sins -- hard to deny given that the bible says so very clearly.
But (the will insist) the FIRST paschal offer mirrors Jesus' death and it was all about blood, blood, blood.
Sorry -- also wrong.
Moses clearly tells Pharaoh (and us) that the animal to be sacrificed by the Jews is sacred (e.g. a G-d) to the Egyptians. The paschal lamb (or sheep) has nothing whatsoever to do with atoning for sins. In Egypt it was an affront to the Egyptians -- the slaughtering of their ram god. After the Exodus it was a remembrance and celebration.
Some say that the Egyptian Kevatim would worship the Zodiac sign of the sheep (what today we call Aries). To this end, they banned the slaughter of sheep and despised sheep traders and shepherds (Sh'mot / Ex.8:22, B'reshit / Genesis 46:34) .... By sacrificing their "god" (sheep / goat) the Jews were insulting the Egyptians and proving they trusted that G-d would protect them from the Egyptians as they insulted them. . .
There are other offers brought during the Passover holiday . They are mentioned in Bambidar (Numbers) 28:18-25. In addition to the various celebratory offerings—every festive occasion also had completely separate “atonement” offerings (sacrifices). These other sacrifices are all public, communal offerings that were made throughout the year for “atonement."
Not ONE of them was ever a lamb.
Nope, no lamb for "forgiveness of sins."
All holy days had a list of sacrifices some of which were sin, some guilt, some the daily offering, etc. The list of sacrifices also re-enforces the fact that atonement to G-d is an ONGOING process not a one time "last and final" sacrifice. That concept makes no sense since people make mistakes every day and mistakes often = accidental sins, or even perhaps more serious errors.
Examine the story of G-d's command to Moses regarding the first paschal offer. It is found in Sh'mot / Exodus 12. "On the tenth of this month, every man must take a שֶׂה (seh) for each extended family, a lamb for each household. 12:4 If the household is too small for a שֶׂה (seh), then he and a close neighbor can obtain a [ שֶׂה (seh) together], as long as it is for specifically designated individuals. Individuals shall be designated for a lamb according to how much each one will eat. 12:5 You must have a flawless young animal, a one-year-old male. You can take it from the sheep or from the goats. 12:6 Hold it in safekeeping until the fourteenth day of this month." Sh'mot / Exodus 12:3 - 6.
Drinking blood is forbidden because blood is identified with life - it is the "life force" in all living creations. Some of our Sages (e.g., in the Talmud and also the commentator Sforno) explain that there was a belief that, through eating blood, one could cultivate the companionship of demons (the demons are invisible beings who get their sustenance from consuming blood). Thus pagan religions often drank blood as part of their religious observance -- but it is strictly forbidden in the T'nach (Jewish bible). Vayikra / Leviticus 17:10-11.
Torah tells us that a proper sacrifice must be of a kosher, domestic animal (the animal is often identified as a bull, a seh (goat or lamb), etc (see Sh'mot / Exodus 13:13; Vayikra / Leviticus 22). Jesus, being a human (or even a demi-god) was obviously not a kosher animal and thus was unacceptable as a sacrifice.
The blood of the שֶׂה (seh) was a sign -- it did not "save" let alone save the Jews from the wrath of the Egyptians. The Paschal animal was not an atonement offering -- it had nothing to do with "saving" the Jews -- either the physical lives or the souls.
What kind of sign was the blood of the שֶׂה (seh)?
The blood was on the inside of the doors, where the Jews were to be able to see the blood painted on the door-frames but the Egyptians were not to see it. The sign was for the Jewish people, not for the Egyptians. How do we know the blood was on the inside of the doors (and not the outside, where the Egyptians would see it)? The text! It clearly says the sign is for "you" -- for the Jews, and not for the Egyptians. As Rashi opined"
[The blood will be] for you a sign but not a sign for others. From here, it is derived that they put the blood only on the inside. — [from Mechilta 11].
The sign meant that the Jews believed enough that G-d would free them that they risked being killed by the Egyptians who worshiped goats and sheep by keeping the animals close for four days, slaughtering them (which was obvious to the Egyptians), painting the animal's blood as a sign of their trust in G-d and then EATING the Egyptian gods. All of these actions (not just one little thing) was an act of defiance of their slave masters, and showed G-d that they trusted in Him, and Him alone.
"The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are staying. I will see the blood and pass you by (pasach). There will not be any deadly plague among you when I strike Egypt." Sh'mot / Exodus 12:13.
THE BLOOD WAS A SIGN.
Not an atonement.
Not somehow magic.
Who was the blood a sign FOR?
Well, it was painted on the inside of the houses -- not the outside. The sign of the blood was not for an angel (wouldn't an angel know who to kill or not kill?), or the Egyptians -- no the sign was for the Jews.
Keeping the animal INSIDE 9yuch) for four days, living with the smell and filth, then killing it and putting its blood inside the houses -- every single action was one of bravery by the Jews and showed trust in G-d to save them.
You see, Egyptians worshiped the animals -- so the Jews were defying the Egyptians by killing and eating the Egyptian god.
Torah also says that the Passover sacrifice be a male-goat, be offered on an individual (per household) basis (Bamidbar / Numbers 28:22), not as a communal offering. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus’ death (termed a “sin sacrifice”) expiated the sins of mankind (Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:12, 10:10, 10:18 ). In previous posts the חַטָּאת / cḥattat / sin sacrifice has been discussed. The חַטָּאת / cḥattat (accidental sins) and אָשָׁם / asham sacrifices were PRIVATE offerings brought by INDIVIDUALS, not “atonement” offerings on behalf of the entire nation. The חַטָּאת / cḥattat / sin sacrifice was only for mistakes -- when someone tried to do the right thing and "missed" -- thus if Jesus died for sin it would only have been for a "missing of the mark" -- an accidental mistake (and again, human sacrifices were forbidden, PERIOD).
Also, no individual sacrifice could be brought for someone else or in advance. The type of offering was specified (female goat or lamb being the most common, but sometimes a bull, birds or flour) -- only domesticated (not wild) kosher animals were fit for sacrifice. Human sacrifices (Jesus anyone?) are totally forbidden by the Torah. Read Vayikra / Leviticus chapter 5 to learn about the אָשָׁם / asham (guilt / tresspass) qorbanot (sacrifices) and the very few things they covered:
No one can die for the sins of another.
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.