Zombie Jesus. No, this is not the movie sequel to the Canadian low-budget classic Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Rather it is part of a funny, though intended to be insulting email that I received as a reply to my invitation to church on Easter Sunday. It read (with bad punctuation and all), “i will not be attending your zombie Jesus festivities”.
On a humorous note, this note that was intended to be insulting to Jesus and my intelligence for believing in Jesus actually revealed his ignorance of the state of the mythological undead. A zombie, as defined by urbandictionary.com, is “a deceased human being who has partially returned to life due to indeterminable causes. The brain retains base facilities, namely gross motor function. In its near-mindless state, it grasps no remains of emotion, personality, or sensation of pain.” With this basic definition in mind only the most ignorant would even consider calling the resurrected Jesus a zombie as all accounts have him fully alive by a determinable cause with full brain & motor capacity complete with complex thought, personality, and emotions.
So how does one justify belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ? While on trial, the apostle Paul answered with this simple question, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). If that logic is not enough, let us look at some of the evidence that caused the twice knighted Guinness Book of World Records most successful lawyer in the world, Sir Lionel Luckhoo, to declare after several years of study, “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”
First, there is the empty tomb.
Jesus Seminar contributor John Dominic Crossan believes that there is no empty tomb because Jesus’ body was probably thrown into a shallow grave and was then dug up and consumed by wild dogs. Unfortunately for Crossan the fact of one of the earliest Christian creeds (1 Corinthians 15:3-7) and the reliability of Joseph of Arimathea’s actions have some scholars stating that “the honorable burial of Jesus is one of the earliest and best attested facts that we have about the historical Jesus” (Case for Christ p 210).
On the morning of the third day the tomb was discovered to be empty by several witnesses. Did the disciples steal the body? Not unless they could get passed a bunch of guards in order to propagate a lie that they would eventually go on to be killed for without ever recanting of the story. While people do die in a cause that may be a lie (like the 9/11 hijackers), people do not willing die torturous deaths for what they know to be a lie. What if they went to the wrong tomb? Then the Jews would have simply pointed them to the correct tomb or produced the body themselves.
Some people even have the absurd claim that Jesus didn’t die on the cross but actually just swooned. The theory is that the cool tomb revived Jesus and he simply walked out of the tomb. This theory is quickly put to death because people do not survive a Roman crucifixion. The pre-crucifixion flogging often killed people and caused a lot of blood loss. Then there are the dislocated joints and nails driven through the hand and feet which makes even the thought of Jesus pushing a giant rock seal out of the way and walking out of the tomb laughable. The Romans also made sure Jesus was dead by sticking a spear into His heart because if Jesus wasn’t dead the guard’s life was forfeit. Also, the linen grave clothes would have suffocated Him even if he survived the spear to the heart.
Second, there are the evidences of people seeing the resurrected Jesus.
The Bible records Jesus appearing to individuals such as Paul and Mary Magdalene, but also to groups of people such as the disciples as a group, to a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus, to over 500 other witnesses, as well as other instances. How does one explain away these eyewitness accounts?
Some claim that these are legends. Unfortunately this claim falls short based upon the aforementioned people not dying for a lie, the early Christian creeds that arose shortly after the resurrection and too early for legends & apocryphal stories to take root, and the evidence of the empty tomb that needs to be explained away.
Others claim that the appearances were hallucinations or the result of groupthink. Hallucinations happen to individuals and cannot be witnessed by others. Also, groups of people don’t have the same hallucination at the same time. As for groupthink, Anthony Flew stated when he was still an atheist that he doesn’t like that argument because it cuts both ways since you can say, “Christians believe because they want to, but atheists don’t believe because they don’t want to!” Also, you have all of the disciples defending the resurrection to the death, something participants of groupthink do not do, you have active opponents to the faith such as Paul and James saying that they too saw Jesus and believed, and you have the empty tomb to explain away.
Third, there is other circumstantial evidence.
Some of this evidence includes the disciples dying for their beliefs, the conversion of skeptics, the dramatic changes to the Jewish social structure & life that started after the resurrection, the start of communion and baptism, and the emergence of the church. For more on these, I recommend reading The Case for Christ.