Thursday, 17 May 2012

Literal, Mythological or Visionary Christianity?

If Christians said, “We celebrate the myth of Resurrection in seasonal rituals,” then there would be nothing to argue about. Instead, they say that the Resurrection was a historical event and, usually, that the rest of us are damned because we do not believe this. This generates two arguments.

First, was the Resurrection a historical event? Secondly, is it just or even credible that most human beings are damned because they have been brought up to believe otherwise or, in some cases, have examined the evidence for the Resurrection and still believe otherwise?

The apostolic message was that Jesus rose in fulfillment of scriptural prophecies. His Resurrection was supposed to have been a recent event, not a meaningful myth. Thus, mythological Christianity, although more tolerable than literal Christianity, was not the original message. However, the earliest Petrine and Pauline proclamations of the Resurrection mentioned neither an empty tomb nor a tangible resurrected body. Therefore, they might have expressed visionary experiences similar to those reported in other traditions. If “Jesus has risen” meant not that he had been re-animated but only that he had been seen in a series of visions, from which it was inferred that he had risen in a spiritual body, then eye-witness accounts of an empty tomb or of a tangible body miss the point. A visionary Resurrection is a psychological, not an historical, event. 

Thus, although mythological Christianity was not the original orthodoxy, visionary Christianity might have been.


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