Sunday, 31 March 2013

My Radical Theory About the Resurrection

Look, I know that, if people believe what I'm about to say, then it would turn our views on Easter - as they say - "upside down". I know this may come as a shock to many. That some will say this is just the sort or dangerous stuff that church leaders should stay well clear of. And I know that if the press got wind of my views I'd be on the front pages of the papers with headlines like "We must change our views of Easter, says Potty Archdruid."

But I've read the differing stories of the Resurrection in the Gospels. You can see the way the details are inconsistent - the number or angels, the people who go to the empty tomb, Jesus's different itinerary after leaving the Garden.

There's the vagueness of some stories about Jesus's appearances after Easter Sunday. The apparent randomness of when he turns up. The way John just goes off on a completely different storyline to the other Gospels. The story that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians, which seems to be a tidying-up.

And then on that - the fact that Paul's list is actually written before the scruffy, inconsistent, random selection of stories in the Gospels.

And I've come to the conclusion that the reason that these stories are so different, with so many loopholes and oddities, is that the story behind them is true. I don't need to tell myself that the Spirit dictated the words directly to the evangelists - not least because, if that were the case, it would suggest that a divinely-inspired, literally-true-in-in-every-word account is unaccountably full of minor discrepancies. No, I'm going to go with this being an divine story, written down several times in human handwriting.

I'm going to believe that the ideas that it was wish-fulfilment, a bizarre, 50-day, mass hallucination, a kind of spiritual consolation that became a story about a bodily resurrection - are all themselves made up - ways for failed modernists to try and persuade themselves that they could hold an unlikely belief and what they thought was a "scientific" framework in tension. I'm going to believe there are only two proper, respectable alternatives - either it's all been made up, or it's fundamentally true. And I'm going with the latter.

I'm going to accept that when Mary Magdalene - maybe a bit of s groupie, probably not a prostitute, definitely a mourning follower - gets down to the garden on that cold morning and finds a large stone in the wrong place, everything changes. For her, for the other women, for Peter, for John, for Cleophas, for James and Joses, for Paul, for you and me, for the whole of creation. Because Death has received a deadly blow, the gates of Hell are broken down, and we are free.

So I'm going to put on the scorched Hi Viz (got a bit too close to the Eternal Flame in that draught yesterday, didn't I), go out into the cold, imperfect, brutal, flawed world, and shout out the news that, against all probability, a group of women took to a bunch of broken, terrified Galileans all those centuries ago.

"He is risen!"


  1. Well Archdruid, you could be on to something.
    He is risen indeed.


  2. Scene: the squalid backroom of one of the disciples. Time: 2 days after the crucifixion. Jesus has been taken down from the cross and entombed. The disciples realise that their Lord is really dead.

    Peter: What are we going to do now? This wasn't meant to happen. He was supposed to be rescued at the last minute.

    Andrew: Yeah. God was supposed to send an army of angels to bring him down from that thing so we could give the Romans a bloody good smiting.

    Others: Shhh! They're probably listening right now!

    John: Alleluia!

    Others: Eh?

    John: Alleluia! He is risen!

    Peter: What? What the knowing Sheol are you doing? Are you mad?

    John: He is risen! I have seen Him!

    Peter: Oh I see! (gestures to the others.) Alleluia! He is risen!

    Andrew: Good one! Might work. Come on! Let's tough it out! Alleluia! Alleluia!

    Mary Magdelen: I saw Him in the garden! I touched Him!

    Peter: You would!

    MM: No really, I did, I touched Him. Just there. Like that.

    Andrew: Hang on! Waitabitwaitabitwaitabit! That's too glib. In 2000 years' time, who's going to believe it? We've got to add some inconsistencies. Come on guys, get creative!

    MM: I saw Him in the garden... but I didn't recognise Him – I thought he was the gardener.

    Clopas: Dad and me, we were on our way

    Simeon: ...Emmaus...

    Clopas: ...Emmaus, yeah, and we met this guy, right, and...

    Simeon: ...and he talked to us all the way, but we didn't recognise..

    Clopas: ...until he...

    Simeon and Clopas: (together) broke some bread!

    Clopas: ...and then we knew...

    Andrew: I gave him some fish...

    Peter: ...and a honeycomb.

    Andrew: What? Yeah, and a honeycomb. And he ate it all up.

    Thomas: Just a minute – I'm trying to think...

    John: Alleluia! He is risen!

    All: He is risen indeed!

    Peter: Right you lot! Out into the streets and spread the word! And don't forget the inconsistencies!

    Exeunt omnes.

    Thomas (off): Wait for me! Wait for me! What happened to the fish?

  3. Thank you, your archdruidness.
    He is risen indeed!

  4. Could anyone who's heard various eyewitness reports of the same event doubt that variations creep in?

    There's something about Easter Sunday when you've dragged yourself through a particularly rough period during Lent, and then find yourself in church with absolutely everyone else, even the usual non-singers and the ones who haven't been in church since last Easter, so this is the only hymn they know, bellowing out "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" with the organist going a bit mad in the background along with the young brass players he's recruited. And then the service starts...

    Somehow it brings back hope.


  5. I think you've cracked it. Have a blessed Easter.

  6. That's it in a nutshell! he is risen indeed and his followers are as confused and fallible as ever.


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