What made Jesus' followers believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

by John Kesler 53 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • John Kesler
    John Kesler

    What made some of Jesus' followers believe that Jesus rose from the dead? My best guess--and as E.P. Sanders says, we really don't know--is that Jesus' followers--distraught, sad, and disillusioned--had visions in what we now call altered states of consciousness, a condition that can be induced by fasting, sleep deprivation, and fatigue. Eventually, it was conceived that Jesus must have physically arisen from his tomb rather than just appearing spiritually, and so the first gospel, Mark, contains an empty-tomb story, though it lacks any postresurrection appearances, at least in the legitimate ending which concludes with 16:8:

    8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

    My thought is that the gospel ends this way on purpose as a way to explain why it took so long to proclaim the empty-tomb message. (Scholars are divided about whether this is how Mark intended the gospel to end or if he had another ending--now lost--containing appearances of Jesus.) When Matthew, Luke, and John wrote later, they added resurrection appearances, though they each followed different traditions regarding where Jesus appeared and to whom. Matthew followed Mark with its implied Galilee appearance (Mark 14:28, 16:7) and thus claimed that Jesus predicted (26:31-32) and fulfilled (28:7-10, 16) an appearance in Galilee, with no mention of an appearance in Jerusalem. Luke and John (except for the later-added John 21, which also has a Galilee appearance in v:1 ff) claim that Jesus appeared in Jerusalem (Luke 24/John 20), and Luke's Jesus makes no prediction about appearing in Galilee (9:22,44; 18:31-34) when speaking about his passion. I think that Paul probably had a vision of Jesus also, though I am not sure of the mechanism that caused this (epilepsy, feeling of shame about persecuting Christians, etc.) and whether Paul's belief that Jesus' rising as a "spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15:44) meant that Jesus' physical body was left behind (thus, no empty tomb, if Jesus was even buried in a tomb) or whether he believed that Jesus' physical body was changed into a "spiritual body," whatever that meant to Paul.

    Anyone who has studied this issue and has an opinion about what happened to make the disciples believers, whether there was an empty tomb, what explains the empty tomb, how did Mark's gospel end, etc. please give your thoughts. I only ask that no one preach. I already know what the NT claims happened.


    I will post on this tomorrow, as I am currently researching the resurrection of Jesus for a blog post. To night, I am just too tired to put together anything cogent.

  • tec

    Hi John,

    I hope you don't consider this preachy, and I promise to be quick.

    One explanation that Jesus' followers believed He rose from the dead is because they actually did see, hear, talk with, and touch him.

    Someone had to say it :)

    But I'm guessing you're looking for other explanations, so I will now... fade... out...

    Welcome to the board.


  • wobble

    Good post John ! and a big ,belated, welcome to the board !

    these are questions that I have been discussing with an elderly friend who has read much on the issues, and listened to lectures by Bart Ehrmann (spelling?) etc.

    As you say, there are many views, but the consensus seems to be that the stories arose from a desire to expand the religion from the foundation laid by Paul and others, so that it would spread throughout the known World.

    This would have been difficult, if not impossible, with a dead prophet (Jesus) and no reason for the Gentile world to adopt a new faith, or Jews to embrace it.

    The later Gospels, and there is a possibility that John's is earlier than we used to think, but all three seem to be tracts to promote a new religion.

    Probably all that they contain in the way of narrative has this motive, not historical accuracy. Contained within the sayings may be some of the original teaching of Jesus.

  • Chalam

    Welcome John Kesler!

    tec One explanation that Jesus' followers believed He rose from the dead is because they actually did see, hear, talk with, and touch him.

    Indeed, that is how the bible puts it :)

    Luke 24:36-43 (English Standard Version)

    36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, "Peace to you!" 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. JWs (and exJWs) should take note of what Paul says regarding the matter and the heretical claims of some.

    1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (English Standard Version)

    14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.



  • leavingwt

    that is how the bible puts it

    Second only to, "God did it" as the answer that works for a majority of sincere Christians.

  • PSacramento

    If we diregards the NT verison of what happened and try to analyse what we THINK MAY have happened, we nee dto understand what happened BEFORE the empty tomb and that was that Jesus was tortured and crucified and buried not by his disciples, but by Joseph or Arimethia (sp?).

    The disciples were to busy cowering in someone's home and considering what happened to Jesus, who can blame them?

    These same cowards would not go public and risk that very thing they were so afraid of happening to them on so whim or delusion or heresay or gossip, the only thing that awaited them and their proclamtion of Jesus' ressurection was persecution and death, which was what happened.

    So what would make a group of cowards decide that their life was not only worth losing, but also to be tourtured and die in the most horrific way possible in those times?

  • leavingwt
    So what would make a group of cowards decide that their life was not only worth losing, but also to be tourtured and die in the most horrific way possible in those times?

    The perfect mix of fear, guilt and future reward?

  • PSacramento
    The perfect mix of fear, guilt and future reward?

    And what would motivate that hope of reward?

    As for fear and guilt, well...ever seen a crucifixion? or even a horrible death?

    Fear cancels out a LOT of guilt.

  • leavingwt

    The manner in which Jesus died doesn't in any way speak to the truth of whether or not he was the Son of God or whether or not he was raised from the dead. Can we agree on this? (It would be easy to put someone to death today, in a much more painful and lengthy manner. Would this make their claims legitimate?)

    All over the globe, right now, people are killing themselves in the name of religion/politics. Most notably, the folks that are literally strapping bombs onto themselves (and others) and blowing themselves up. Why do they do this? The answers are probably mixed. Would we find some fear, guilt and hope of a future reward? Probably.

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