Perspectives on Comparative Religion

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Alhaji Giwa, Lagos

Jesus said that the killing of prophets ended with the killing of Zacharias (Matthew 23:35-36). How was it, therefore, that the Jews had succeeded in killing another prophets?

Crucifixion was meant to be an accursed death (Deuteronomy 21:23). If Jesus was crucified, did that mean he also suffered an accursed death?

Why was it that a Roman soldier was so readily prepared to allow Joseph (a subjected citizen) to take down Jesus’s body from the cross without checking and without Joseph having any apparent lawful authority?

Why is there no direct account by Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus that Jesus was dead when he was taken down from the cross? Surely, this eye-witness account would have settled the matter beyond dispute?

Why should Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take so much trouble to recover the body Jesus when this would have been the duty of the nearest relative?

Why did Pilate agree to release the ‘body’ to Joseph of Arimathea (a known Jew and follower of Jesus) if he was not sympathetic to Jesus?

Crucifixion was a slow death. It usually lasted several days. Death followed from exhaustion, inability to respire properly as a result of being in an upright position or attacks by wild animals. Why did Jesus, who was a fit and healthy man used to walking the country-side for long distances, die so quickly in only a matter of a few hours?

If Jesus really was expected to die in such a short time, why did Pilate express surprise at Jesus’s death? (Mark 15:42-44)

Why would the Jews bribe the soldiers to say that Jesus’s disciples had stolen the corpse whilst they (the soldiers) were asleep? If the soldiers had truly related this story, they might have been asked how they knew that the disciples had stolen the corpse if they were asleep?

Why did the Jews not go and check the tomb themselves? They had put much effort into getting Jesus crucified. A friend of Jesus had been allowed to take the body away. Why did they not visit the tomb before Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus did?

Why did Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus not stay with Jesus in the tomb after taking down his body from the cross to witness the resurrection? Jesus had apparently told his followers that he would die and rise after three days (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:17-19). This report had even reached the Jews (Matthew 27:63). Why did not Joseph and Nicodemus remain with Jesus to witness the event?

Did the Jews really believe that Jesus had died? If so, why did they ask the Romans for a guard to be placed outside the sepulcher? Matthew says the Jews explained this by saying that Jesus’s disciples could spread false rumours about him rising from the dead. However, if the Jews really believed this to be the reason for the request, why could they not have asked the disciples to produce the risen Christ as proof? If the disciples had then done so, the Jews could then presumably re-arrest Jesus.

Why were the Roman authorities so disinterested about the apparent removal of the body if this is what the Jews were claiming?

Why was the stone moved from the tomb (Matthew 28:2) if it was a supernatural rising?

When Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus saw him, he was wearing gardener’s clothing (John 20:15). Where did Jesus get these clothes from? His own clothes had been taken by the soldiers who had divided them drawing lots (John 19:23). It was not through Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus because they are only reported of having taken in herbs, aloes and a linen shroud (John 19:39,40). What was the significance of Jesus wearing gardener’s clothing (as opposed to normal clothing)? Was it meant to be a disguise? If so, for what purpose?

Why were the women who visited the tomb terrified if Jesus was dead (Mark 16:8)? What did they have to be terrified of if the Jews had succeeded in killing Jesus?

If Jesus could conquer death and rise from the dead, why did he fear seeing the Jews after the crucifixion? Particularly as death had no more power over him? (Romans 6:9).

Why did Jesus disguise himself after the resurrection and appear only to the disciples? Surely, this was the great manifestation of his power and the fulfillment of purpose of his creation. What was the purpose in keeping it all a secret now?

If Jesus was the risen Christ, why did he meet his disciples behind closed doors and not in the open as he used to?  (John 20:19)

How many times did Jesus ascend to Heaven? Luke (23:43) states that Jesus told one of those crucified with him that he would be in Heaven that day with him. Does that mean that Jesus went up to Heaven after his death, came back to earth and then ascended to Heaven once more? According to John there appears to be yet another Ascension. When Mary Magdalene asked to touch him, Jesus forbade her saying that he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). Later Jesus appears to the disciples and actually invites Thomas to touch him, (John 20:27) which must mean that Jesus had ascended and returned. Thus, is it possible that there were three Ascensions?

If Jesus was God and Jesus was dead for three days, does that means also that God (heaven forbid) was also dead for three days?

Why is it that there is not a single direct account of Jesus’s life by any of the twelve disciples or anyone who knew him personally? Can the word of those who did not know him or have the opportunity to hear him personally vouch for the accuracy of some of the reported remarks?

How was it that the Gospel writers were able to report accurately Jesus’s words without committing them to memory or putting them on paper, some thirty to thirty five years after his death before the first Gospel was written? Furthermore, given that:

(a) Those writing the Gospels did not hear the words directly from Jesus and it cannot, therefore, be said that the words left a lasting impression.

(b) They would have been passed on by word of mouth and therefore risked personal comment being added.

(c ) There is no written record of Jesus’s words in Aramaic (his spoken language) thus necessitating a translation at some stage. In the light of this, what weight can be placed on the reliability of some of the reported speeches? (Note this question does not relate to stories or parables since these can be more easily remembered).

Why is it that Mark (the first written Gospel) is the shortest account when one would expect it to be the longest? Did the memories of later authors (e.g. John – written some 30-50 years later) became clearer with the passage of time?

If the Gospels are the word of God and the authors of the Gospels were divinely inspired, why are there so many contradictions in them? For example, why should God tell Mark that it was the third hour when Jesus was crucified (Mark 19:14) but tell John it was the sixth hour? (John 19:14). Why should God tell Matthew and Mark that the two who were crucified with Jesus reviled him (Matthew 27:44, Mark15:32) but tell Luke that Jesus told one of them that he would be rewarded by being in Heaven with him that day? (Luke 23:39,43) Why should God tell Matthew that the first ones to visit the sepulcher after the crucifixion were Mary Magdalene and the ‘other’ Mary (Matthew 28:1) but tell Luke it was Mary Magdalene,  Joanna, Mary the Mother of James and the  other women (Luke 24:10) and tell John that it was only Mary Magdalene? (John 20:1)

Why is it that there is so much confusion and disagreement between the Gospel writers over the account of the crucifixion and resurrection? Is it fair to say that nobody was entirely sure of what actually happened?

The author of Mark assert that Jesus was taken up to heaven and sat on the right of God (Mark 16:19).This remarks could only come from Jesus himself or an eyewitness account. Since it was not Jesus who reported it, does that mean that the eyewitness actually went to heaven and saw Jesus sitting at the right side of God? If so, was that person also taken to heaven and then brought back to report the incident?

The disciples are said to have witnessed the Ascension (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50).This must have been the most incredible experience of their lives. Why is it that not one of them wrote a single word concerning it afterwards? Why is that the only accounts related are by others who had no direct knowledge of the incidents?

TO BE CONTINUED