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Was the Resurrection a Legend?

The gospels say that a miracle healing man called Jesus Christ lived. They say he died by crucifixion and three days later he rose again. The tomb he was placed in was found wide open with the stone that had been across the entrance moved back and the tomb was mysteriously empty. His body was gone. Certain witnesses claimed that Jesus appeared to them as a resurrected being.


The gospels were written decades after the alleged resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Even then they don’t like to say a lot about the resurrection as if it was an embarrassment. The crucifixion of Jesus proved he was a fraud but his resurrection supposedly showed that those who reached this conclusion were wrong. But did it really happen? Was it a legend? Was it just a legend?

 

THE MOST IMPORTANT FACT

 

The Gospels are an understandable exception to what classical historians normally deal with, because classical historians rarely if ever deal with the written records of a highly revered religious figure who had very little contemporary significance to anyone but his followers when he was alive and to his worshippers after his death and where the entire written record comes only from those who worshipped him. Because of this, using the myth growth rates observed in other ancient records as a baseline to say what should be observed in the Gospels is a mistaken approach."  From Doubting Jesus' Resurrection by Kris Komarnitsky.

 

The same source gives us, "Jan Vansina explains why the Gospels, and the oral traditions that lie behind them, are not independent sources in this sense: …We cannot assume that the testimony of two different informants from the same community or even society is really independent. This is very important. In history, proof is given only when two independent sources confirm the same event or situation, but…it is not possible to do this with oral tradition wherever a corpus exists and information flows are unstemmed (i.e., in most cases). Feedback and contamination is the norm….No one will consider the three synoptic Gospels as independent sources, even though they have different authors…they stemmed from one single oral milieu, from one corpus in one community. Once this is realized, it is easy to see that it also applies to John, the fourth Gospel…"

 

And it quotes Wolfhart Pannenberg: “A single judgment of a sober historian easily outweighs a majority vote, in my opinion. Historical judgment must remain a matter of argument. A majority vote may express the dominant mood of a group, possibly its prejudices, but is not very helpful in judging claims to historical truth or authenticity.”

 

MYTH OR SYMBOLISM?

 

There is not a huge difference between a myth and a symbolic story.  Many feel that the Jesus story or parts of it is symbolic story telling rather than myth.

 

Earl Doherty writes that he has to "agree with Ehrman not to style the Gospel story as a “myth.” That story did not arise out of the same processes as the myths of Attis or Osiris, though elements introduced into them may have been inspired by common mythemes in the traditions of the time attached to savior gods or famous historical figures. “Allegory” and “symbolism” are perhaps the closest terms we could use to style the Gospels, some of it representing sectarian faith..."

 

HEARSAY

 

It is only hearsay that Jesus said he rose! “Jesus was able to tell us he rose from the dead for he rose from the dead therefore his resurrection is true.” That is not an argument.
 
THE POSSIBILITY OF LEGEND

The oldest resurrection of Jesus account is in Mark's gospel and even that one has problems for it has been tampered with or a portion lost.  We do not know either way.  Attempts to argue that there was no legend in the story of the empty tomb in Mark are refuted by the fact that the gospel contains very improbable miracle stories and expects us to take hearsay as evidence for them.  The Mark gospel is sober compared to the others but that does not mean it is credible!  It shows traces of legend which get worse and worse with each future gospel writer.

 

“I do not think of the evangelists themselves as eyewitnesses of the passion; nor do I think that eyewitness memories of Jesus came down to the evangelists without considerable reshaping and development” Fr Raymond Brown - Death of the Messiah.

 

Perhaps the story of the resurrection just started off as the result of some unusual event or report and got exaggerated and assembled window dressing as time went on so that the gospel accounts are legendary.

 

There are no neutral or hostile accounts of Jesus’ alleged comeback from the dead at all in the first century. You would need such accounts at the time it supposedly happened. Some accounts in the first century would be better than nothing but there is nothing. Even until the fourth century there is nobody mentioning the resurrection except Christians who did not even claim to be historians. Oddly enough the Christians were the people who preserved the records in which Jesus is strangely absent.

 

The problem of absent records or their non-existence is the chief reason for being suspicious that its all a legend.

 

The main argument Christians use to show that the resurrection was sincerely believed to have happened when the New Testament says is, "Faith in the resurrection of Jesus started soon after his death and spread like wildfire. Though this does not directly prove that Jesus rose from the dead, it does directly prove that lots of people believed he did. It indirectly indicates that Jesus rose. Why would people believe it unless the evidence that it happened appeared sufficient?"

 

This can be understood as an argument against the resurrection being mere legend. Or should it be understood like that?

 

It is wrong to think the resurrection faith is merely about a man coming back from the dead. An alleged miracle in itself does not interest people for long - there needs to be a psychological incentive put into the claimed miracle to get them interested long-term. Thanks to the preaching of Paul, the alleged return of Jesus was turned into hope of deliverance from sickness and death and evil. Jesus' risen body is described as utterly transformed and free from any possibility of these curses. It was a far more attractive idea than the Jewish idea of people becoming sad ghosts in Sheol or reincarnation or anything else on offer by the religions of the time. The idea was so novel and good that it would have been enough for one man to wait until Jesus had decomposed or his body safely out of the way to say, "I experienced Jesus as a resurrected being. Resurrection is so wonderful. You get a changed spiritual body that is unimaginably superior to the body you have now and you need never fear evil and sickness and death again. The dead who believe in Jesus will enjoy this glorious resurrection." The attractiveness of the doctrine would be the secret of its success. A legend can appear rapidly in the right mix.

We must remember too that the resurrection itself was eclipsed by the early Church's obsession with Jesus coming back soon to save it and the world and destroy evil. That hope in those dark and terrible times was enough to help Christianity thrive even if the case for Jesus' resurrection was weak. The gospels mention the coming a lot more than they do the resurrection of Jesus. And the epistles and the Book of Revelation stress the coming more than the resurrection.

 

Nobody forms popular and successful cults based primarily on the appearance of a ghost. Or a reincarnation. Or even a resurrection. It is easy to see why a resurrection would be a different story only if linked to making people feel they can be saved from sin and death and suffering. It needs to be more than an event - a lot lot more.

 

We must remember that the gospels report that Jesus exercised a lot of pressure on his audience and disciples. He taught that if they stopped believing in him they would be on God's rubbish heap, Hell, to suffer for all eternity. He said that anybody who suspected that Satan was behind any of his miracles was blaspheming the Holy Spirit and there would be no forgiveness for them in this life or the next. In that kind of atmosphere, the witnesses of Jesus would have not just been biased in his defence but totally biased. It was the right cauldron to cook up a legend in.

 

There has never been one as good since. The apostles (see Galatians 1) put curses called the anathema and the handing over to Satan on those who contradicted them. Jesus accused his critics of being completely bad (Matthew 12:34) - no room for loving the sinner and hating the sin if there is no good in the person at all! This was incitement to hatred.

 

Proof that the resurrection is a legend is in 1 Corinthians 15. There Paul, the first Christian writer, has to deal with Christians who have decided that there is no resurrection and that Jesus is dead and hasn’t risen at all.

 

He tells them that if Jesus hasn’t risen then the dead are lost

 

He tells them that if Jesus hasn’t risen then the witnesses of the apparitions of the risen Jesus are liars.
  

He tells them that if Jesus hasn’t risen believers are still in their sins and are to be pitied above all people.

 

The bad consequences he spells out prove nothing. To believe your grandma is alive because it is dreadful to think she is dead doesn’t mean she really is alive. Dreading to think of her death is not evidence that she is alive. Just because you want to believe your sins are pardoned doesn’t meant you have to believe in the resurrection. His arguments are so weak that they prove that he couldn’t do any better. If Jesus wasn’t the saviour maybe somebody else was.

 

Paul said that Jesus must have risen for Paul himself and the apostles could not be liars and would not misrepresent God – a sure indication that he thought they were lying and he should have known for he was one of them. If a salesman came to your door telling you that an amulet would solve all your problems for he says so you would see through him for saying that. And the honest give the best evidence they can to support their statements and don’t want you to just take their word for it.

 

Paul gave a breakdown of the resurrection appearances but didn’t use them as evidence or say they were evidence. In fact it was after doing this that he attempted to give evidence in the form of those weak arguments that smack of desperation. They were not evidence for he gave no details and of course he knew that the Corinthians just didn’t believe the stories of the appearances of the resurrected Jesus any more. They couldn’t function as evidence.

 

The weakness of the arguments proves the resurrection was a legend. He couldn’t even promise to send them affidavits from witnesses.

 

It is conveniently forgotten by the Church that though the resurrection of Christ has great importance in the New Testament, it is not important by itself. It is important in that Jesus was found alive after his death TO GO UP TO HEAVEN! The resurrection was Jesus’ salvation. However, we know that Jesus ascending into Heaven is nonsense for if he went up is he living in a cloud or did he go to the moon or to Mars? It is totally ridiculous to believe in the resurrection and to deny that Jesus is up in the clouds. If one is not true then why trust the other? If one is legend so is the other.

 

Christians say the gospels were written in the seventh decade of the first century which was too soon for legends of that proportion to develop. They reject accounts written sooner after the alleged miraculous events – like the Bell Witch and the Blair Witch story. They are showing undue prejudice. Faith never depended on charity despite the Church linking the two as two sides of the one coin. The Christians say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the most stupendous miracle ever. The apostles agreed for they heralded the resurrection as the one miracle Satan or nature could not fake and the crown of God’s miraculous achievements and the credential that established that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Christians neglect their duty to make sure it is all that before they believe in it. Now if the resurrection is all that then it puts the miracles of the god-man Apollonius to shame in comparison even though this character also appeared after his death, had miraculous escapes and fought with vampires and demons. Yet Christians say the accounts of Apollonius are fabricated for they are full of miracles! But surely if the greatness of the miracle indicates fabrication then the resurrection cannot be true? Apollonius’s miracles though many would be more believable than the resurrection if this is the case for as a whole even then they cannot compete with it. This repetitive perversion of logic and facts that takes place in Christian circles is really tiresome and distressing for unbelievers.


Robert Price in Beyond Born Again reminds us that when the false Jewish Messiah Sabbatai Zevi was alive and despite him and his disciples saying there would be no miracles there were still miracle stories about him. He was said to have walked into a fire and emerged unscathed. After his death he was alleged to have appeared to many. His cult eventually died out from the blow he struck it when he converted to Islam but still despite the evidence that he was not God’s chosen the legends appeared.

 

The cult-founder William Branham was believed by many to be virgin born though he said in his autobiography that he was anything but.

 

Kimbangu was made a god against his will when he was alive. If his followers had left writings about him and this was the first century these writings would be edited and the embarrassing stuff removed and burnt and presto we would have him instead of Jesus.

 

The best answer to the legend theory is that there is no evidence that the gospels were available to the generation that knew Jesus or their immediate offspring. But this answer can be turned the other way. And the other way is the most likely way to be correct. The gospel writers were working in secret and their works were kept hidden or heavily censored versions were given out and so they were able to invent all the legends they wished. There was no need for a long process of legend making. If the gospels were published at all before the middle of the second century then it was to a carefully chosen few who would have been too bloody-minded to believe other than what the Church was saying. That means the gospels could be out and out novels presented as true stories. If Justin Martyr and Tatian are the indisputable first people to show knowledge of the gospels as many believe then the problem is that these two were hellbent on promoting Christianity at any cost even telling huge porkies. The first quoted from non-existent books and twisted everything while the second, his close friend, rewrote the Gospels to deceive the Church into accepting his peculiar prejudices.

 

Robert Price says that the resurrection legend could have started easily because many people believed that Jesus was John the Baptist physically raised from the dead (Mark 6:14). Their evidence was that Jesus was doing miracles but John never did any so if the people wanted to believe something they were not going to let the evidence stop them.

 

Any good man could die and seem to have come back and sometimes evidence for something can itself be a mistake. For example, a man is murdered in a house. John’s belt buckle is found beside the body and John goes to jail for the murder. But what if John lost it and the dead man had found it and was holding it when the killer struck? So evidence might indicate that a man rose though he did not. Unless we can get the legal reports about the crucifixion and the tomb and the appearances we are entitled to keep an open mind but we certainly are not entitled to believe.

 

There is not a single eyewitness testimony to the appearances of Jesus following his death. There have been attempts to make the gospels seem to be such accounts but they fail for the gospels do not make that claim. This supports the legend idea.

 

Jesus at his trial, refused to speak up for himself when accused falsely. According to John, he

didn’t want to be asked about what he taught and said to go and ask what his hearers had to say about what he taught. People were brought in who said that he said that he would raze the Temple and in three days raise a new Temple not built by human hands. The gospels are keen though to claim that this was false testimony even though it could be taken as referring to the Temple of his body. Why do they feel this one is the one worth quoting and attacking? Even he had razed the Temple and built a new one not by human hands that wouldn’t be blasphemy if he had the power of God in him as the gospels claim. The answer is that the resurrection was invented and was condemned by the first believers. Even Christians who cannot admit this and that there were legends about Jesus, must admit that there were legends about Jesus even when he was supposedly alive. The people were so sure of them that they testified to them in court. If true, then we have legal statements then to that effect and all we have for the gospels is hearsay and gossip. So it is wiser to believe those testimonies than the gospels.

 

But nevertheless expressions like that used in court could have led to the idea that Jesus intended to rise again.

 

The resurrection implies that God protects his own. This suggests the malicious doctrine that God doesn’t not protect sinners and so if people suffer its their own fault. No matter how much good the belief can cause that evil doctrine is behind it. It is it’s very essence.

 

It is odd how the oldest gospel, Mark, states that Jesus could do no miracle among people because of their great unbelief. If that was the case, then how could he have risen when at that time the people had turned against him and ceased to believe and the disciples had abandoned him? In fairness, the gospel ends without saying there was any real evidence for the resurrection.

 

TEMPLE PROPHECY

 

In John 2, Jesus causes trouble in the Temple and claims authority to put the buyers and sellers and their animals and stock out. The Jews asked him where he got this authority and what evidence he had to show he had it. He replied that they should destroy this Temple and in three days he will raise it up. He didn't say what he meant by that. John says he meant the temple of his body which would die and be raised up again three days later. The Jews assumed he meant he would demolish the Temple and rebuild it in three days. From this they concluded that he was mad. Jesus is declaring that the resurrection is his big proof that he is the Messiah, Son of God and whatever else he claims to be. Would Jesus have misled them that way and made them think he wished to demolish the Temple? What other interpretation could they take of him? Maybe that is what he meant. Especially when he was attacking the Temple physically. It is tempting to think that the resurrection story could have started with a missing tomb. Then the apostles remembering the prophecy about the Temple decided it was his body he meant not the real Temple and decided they had enough to go on to proclaim a resurrection. In any case, Jesus was claiming the right to meddle even violently in Temple affairs without giving any evidence that he had authority to do so. He needed that evidence before he could act. But he didn't let that stop him. John puts this episode at the start of Jesus' ministry when he hadn't even started his ministry with its alleged miracles which worsens it all. He was not to be trusted.


The resurrection failed to be his big proof for nobody saw him rising. That can be taken as support for a literal interpretation of his Temple prophecy.

 

VISIONS

 

We do not know how the witnesses of Jesus had their visions and we know that in the mystical world having a spiritual impression could count as your soul having a vision.  The idea is that the soul has visions in a different way from the eyes would.  It would be like the eyes of wisdom seeing and working out that Jesus seems to be alive. Prayer groups that think they hear the Holy Spirit often work in such a way that they can agree on what they heard or think they heard.  It has to do with how spiritual impressions work and are formed as part of a process.

 

LEGENDS AND MASS CONVERSION

 

Legends do get mass conversions.   But if a legend fails to get them that is a good but not foolproof sign that it is a legend.  It makes legend-making plausible and even probable.

 

Christianity was not as successful in getting converts as todays Church would have you believe.   All the generation that existed when the apostles supposedly died did was worry about heretics who had gone as far as turning Jesus into a legendary bringer of magical knowledge.  There were as many varieties of Jesus as there were heretics.  If that is a good conversion record then Jesus was actually the man on the moon.

“Only in the 3rd century does material evidence of a Christian presence, anywhere in the Empire, begin to match even that of minor pagan cults” Richard Carrier, Not the Impossible Faith.  Pliny the Younger said he never was at a Christian trial or knew how to punish them. 

FINALLY

 

We can reason that there were triggers for the resurrection story starting off as hearsay and evolving into the stuff of legend.  The time scale fits the theory. 
  
ST FRANCES XAVIER AND LEGEND MAKING
 
FROM debunkingchristianity.blog.org

 

I regularly encounter pseudo-skepticism -- reflexive doubt in response to
criticism of credulous belief -- on the question of how the legend of
Jesus could have developed in the period between Jesus' death and the
writing of the synoptic gospels. Many Christians just don't see how or why
such fantastic inventions arose from the crushing disappointment of the
crucifixion of the man they supposed the Messiah (assuming here, arguendo,
the historicity of Jesus and his crucifixion by the Romans at around the
time commonly supposed)? "Why would these people die for a lie?" goes a
common retort.

That's a fair question, even if it is offered pseudo-skeptically. But I
don't think it's nearly as difficult as Christians commonly suppose. Even
granting the dubious claims that all of Jesus disciples except John died a
martyr's death (and indeed, this is precisely the kind of narrative we
might expect as a later bit of legendary embellishment), we need not
suppose a deliberate, coordinated conspiracy of lies is demanded of the
situation. Rather, we need only look to the social capacity and
disposition toward legend-making.

Inevitably, the pseudo-skeptic demands an example. I've suggested the
legend and folklore of King Arthur, and pointed to the invention of
"Newton's apple" by Voltaire as casual examples of the tendency to
mythologize and embellish real people and events that capture our passions
and imaginations. Reading a bit about Andrew Dickson White this week,
intrigued by his provocative phrase "an asylum for Science", used in
reference to his ambitions for Cornell University, a school he co-founded,
I came across White's book A History of the Warfare of Science with
Theology in Christendom (which title I believe is familiar to me from the
words of Bertrand Russell?). In the book, White recounts the case of
Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits, patron saint of missionaries,
and the man the Catholic church credits with converting more souls to
Christianity than any other since Paul.

White's book (which can be read here, or at Google books complete with
footnotes here) has a chapter on Xavier, in which he details the
progression and development of legends -- miraculous legends -- about
Xavier in the aftermath of his death. Here is why White chose to examine
the case of Xavier:

"We have within the modern period very many examples which enable us to
study the evolution of legendary miracles. Out of these I will select
but one, which is chosen because it is the life of one of the most noble
and devoted men in the history of humanity, one whose biography is
before the world with its most minute details - in his own letters, in
the letters of his associates, in contemporary histories, and in a
multitude of biographies: this man is St. Francis Xavier. From these
sources I draw the facts now to be given, but none of them are of
Protestant origin; every source from which I shall draw is Catholic and
Roman, and published under the sanction of the Church. " [1]

White provides his basic claim for the chapter here:

"During his career as a missionary he wrote great numbers of letters,
which were preserved and have since been published; and these, with the
letters of his contemporaries, exhibit clearly all the features of his
life. His own writings are very minute, and enable us to follow him
fully. No account of a miracle wrought by him appears either in his own
letters or in any contemporary document. At the outside, but two or
three things occurred in his whole life, as exhibited so fully by
himself and his contemporaries, for which the most earnest devotee could
claim anything like Divine interposition; and these are such as may be
read in the letters of very many fervent missionaries, Protestant as
well as Catholic."[2]

White continues with an example:

"For example, in the beginning of his career, during a journey in Europe
with an ambassador, one of the servants in fording a stream got into
deep water and was in danger of drowning. Xavier tells us that the
ambassador prayed very earnestly, and that the man finally struggled out
of the stream. But within sixty years after his death, at his
canonization, and by various biographers, this had been magnified into a
miracle, and appears in the various histories dressed out in glowing
colours. Xavier tells us that the ambassador prayed for the safety of
the young man; but his biographers tell us that it was Xavier who
prayed, and finally, by the later writers, Xavier is represented as
lifting horse and rider out of the stream by a clearly supernatural act.
"[3]

(emphasis mine in both quotes above)

According to White, Xavier is both quite keen on identifying diving
providence, but claims or even mention of miracles is conspicuously
missing from his writings. Not only are miracles absent from Xavier's own
accounts, the man who knew Xavier best, fellow Jesuit and historian of the
order Joseph Acosta, positively denies the presence of miracles in the
Jesuits' missionary enterprise of the time:

"But on the same page with this tribute to the great missionary Acosta
goes on to discuss the reasons why progress in the world's conversion is
not so rapid as in the early apostolic times, and says that an especial
cause why apostolic preaching could no longer produce apostolic results
``lies in the missionaries themselves, because there is now no power of
working miracles.'' He then asks, ``Why should our age be so completely
destitute of them?'' This question he answers at great length, and one
of his main contentions is that in early apostolic times illiterate men
had to convert the learned of the world, whereas in modern times the
case is reversed, learned men being sent to convert the illiterate; and
hence that ``in the early times miracles were necessary, but in our time
they are not.''[4]

Over the course of the decades following Xavier's death, admiring
biographers and sponsors for Xavier's canonization produced a rapid
"evolution" of miracles and supernatural works that got attached to
Xavier, increasingly fantastic as time went by. Here, White recalls the
situation 70 years after Xavier's death:

"In 1622 came the canonization proceedings at Rome. Among the speeches
made in the presence of Pope Gregory XV, supporting the claims of Xavier
to saintship, the most important was by Cardinal Monte. In this the
orator selects out ten great miracles from those performed by Xavier
during his lifetime and describes them minutely. He insists that on a
certain occasion Xavier, by the sign of the cross, made sea-water fresh,
so that his fellow-passengers and the crew could drink it; that he
healed the sick and raised the dead in various places; brought back a
lost boat to his ship; was on one occasion lifted from the earth bodily
and transfigured before the bystanders; and that, to punish a
blaspheming town, he caused an earthquake and buried the offenders in
cinders from a volcano: this was afterward still more highly developed,
and the saint was represented in engravings as calling down fire from
heaven and thus destroying the town.

The most curious miracle of all is the eighth on the cardinal's list.
Regarding this he states that, Xavier having during one of his voyages
lost overboard a crucifix, it was restored to him after he had reached
the shore by a crab.

The cardinal also dwelt on miracles performed by Xavier's relics after
his death, the most original being that sundry lamps placed before the
image of the saint and filled with holy water burned as if filled with
oil.''[5]

This is just a small sample of the inventory provided by White in the
chapter. What is striking is not just the breadth and depth of the body of
legend associated with Xavier in the years following his death, but the
"whole cloth fabrication" of the stories. For most, and possibly all of
the miraculous accounts given later, there doesn't even seem to be the
"seed" used for later embellishment, but a kind of ex nihilo creation of a
miraculum vitae for Xavier (one can feel the account of the crab returning
Xavier's crucifix resonating with Paul's miraculous survival of the
viper's bite on Malta in Acts).

The import of the example of Xavier, and the spontaneous appearance and
evolution of miracles attributed to him should be obvious to the
Christian, to the pseudo-skeptic; given a couple decades, and a cult
following, the invention and development of miracle accounts -- accounts
of fantastic miracles -- isn't implausible, or even novel, and relevant
examples are found right inside the history and culture of Christendom
itself.

I do note that White's book is now well over a hundred years old, and as
science proves, a lot can be discovered over the course of a hundred and
more years. I've done some googling on this, but have not found anything
that indicates that White's claims in the book have been overturned by the
discovery of new evidence from Xavier's writings or reports by his
contemporaries that substantiate the miracles later attributed to him. If
readers are aware of such a case, I stand to be corrected. But as it is, I
commend the case of Xavier and his admirers to the pseudo-skeptic, as a
vivid historical example of "legendation" in action, the kind of
inventions and embellishments we see accounting for the death of Jesus
circa 30CE and the legend of Jesus emerging over the next 50-60 years.

[1] Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with
Theology in Christendom (Prometheus Books, 1993), lib ii, cap XIII, p. 5.

FURTHER READING

Christianity for the Tough-Minded, Ed John Warwick Montgomery, Bethany Fellowship Inc, Minneapolis, 1973
Conspiracies and the Cross, Timothy Paul Jones, Front Line, A Strang Company, Florida, 2008Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Vol 1, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1995
He Walked Among Us, Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, Alpha, Cumbria, 2000
Jesus and Early Christianity in the Gospels, Daniel J Grolin, George Ronald, Oxford, 2002
Jesus: The Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan, London, 1985
The First Easter, What Really Happened? HJ Richards, Collins/Fount Glasgow, 1980
The Historical Evidence for Jesus, G A Wells, Prometheus Books, New York, 1988
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, Corgi, London, 1982
The Jesus Event, Martin R Tripole SJ, Alba House, New York, 1980
The Jesus Inquest, Charles Foster, Monarch Books, Oxford, 2006
The Passover Plot, Hugh Schonfield, Element, Dorset, 1996
The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1993
The Resurrection of Jesus, Pinchas Lapide, SPCK, London, 1984
The Unauthorised Version, Robin Lane Fox, Penguin, Middlesex, 1992
The Second Messiah, Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, Arrow, London, 1998
The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Raymond E Brown, Paulist Press, New York, 1973
The Womb and the Tomb, Hugh Montifiore, Fount – HarperCollins, London, 1992
Verdict on the Empty Tomb, Val Grieve Falcon, London, 1976
Who Moved the Stone? Frank Morison, OM Publishing, Cumbria, 1997
 
THE WWW

Still Standing on Sinking Sand, Farrell Till,
www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1997/1/1sink97.html

Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story by Richard Carrier
www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/index.shtml

A Naturalistic Account of the Resurrection, Brian Marston
http://www.phlab.missouri.edu/~c570529/PhilosoStop/resurrection.html
This site argues that somebody unknown stole the body to stop the apostles stealing it or venerating it and lost it and argues that the witnesses of the risen Jesus were lying because no effort was made by them to preserve first hand reports of what was seen and how and when. It argues that since the apostles had followed Jesus at great personal sacrifice and now he was dead they invented the resurrection to save face. Also the inclination of people at the time to believe in dying and rising gods may have overwhelmed them and made them lie to themselves that Jesus had risen. He answers the objection that a lie like that would need a large-scale conspiracy for lots of lies start off with a small group of people and if the lies are attractive other people will believe them. Plus he says that Jesus could have rigged events to make sure he would fulfil Old Testament prophecy so the Christians should not be saying the gospel story is true for it fits old prophecy. When a story fits something like a prophecy or another story, the story is made up. End of. And especially when it fits prophecy that isn’t prophecy at all.  I would add that owing to the total absence of evidence that Jesus was nailed to the cross and the fact that the gospels never say any of his friends were close to the cross that Jesus might have been tied to it and the Christians later assumed he was nailed because the psalm seemed to say so.

The Case For Christianity Examined: Truth or Lies?
www.askwhy.co.uk/awstruth/ChristianCase.html

Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story, A Reply to William Lane Craig by Jeffrey Jay Lowder
www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/empty.html

The Resurrection, Steven Carr
www.bowness.demon/co.uk/resr.htm

Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? Dan Barker versus Mike Horner
www.ffrf.org/debates/barker_horner.html
 
Craig’s Empty Tomb and Habermas on the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus
www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/indef/4e.html

Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb by Amos Kloner
www.bib-arch.org/barso99/roll1.html