Some say that the Resurrection of Jesus is merely a legend or a copy of other ancient material. If it were a legend, as the logic goes, it would suggest that something far less miraculous occurred that developed into, over time, the teaching that Jesus rose again never to die. St. Paul states, however, that if Christ is not raised, then the Christian faith is dead. If the Resurrection is only a legend, then Christianity comes crashing down in its most fundamental claim. Others claim that the Resurrection is just a copy of earlier religious or stories. Although this is the genetic fallacy, we should still look at some of these earlier stories to see if they really are much like Jesus’ resurrection. The genetic fallacy is the false conclusion that explaining where something came from or how it developed over time counts against its truthfulness. The historical events of the Resurrection would still have to be investigated in their own right to determine the accuracy of what they report because tracing earlier stories to show that the Resurrection supposedly borrowed from them is not enough to falsify the event itself.
1) Legends or elements of legends could, hypothetically, have crept their way into the Gospel material, but this does nothing to alter the legitimacy of the historical bedrock; Historical bedrock are uncontroversial historical facts that nearly all scholars studying in the field of historical Jesus accept. If the bedrock passes critical scrutiny — multiple attestation, criterion of embarrassment, eyewitness, etc. — and a case can be built on this bedrock for the resurrection, then much in the NT could be said to have certain elements of myth or legend without Christianity become false (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 585). Multiple attestation is a way to validate a fact by relying on multiple testimony to establish that fact. Criterion of embarrassment is a way to test some fact because, as the argument goes, it would not be included in the Gospel narratives unless it were true since it embarrasses someone or something that would want to be revered. For instance, Peter’s denials of Jesus, as the leader of the early church, would be quite the embarrassment.
2) Evidence of legends may hypothetically embellish facts, but the central fact would remain (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 585).
3) Homer says dead men do not rise: Illiad 24:549 – 51, 756. Thus, the Resurrection of Jesus is not borrowing from Homer (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 32).
4) Dead men rising was not allowed in myth either: Zeus punishes Apollo with a lightening bolt for attempting to raise a child (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 33).
5) Much of ancient literature denied existence to the dead at all (Illiad 9:413; Polybius Hist. 6:53.9 – 54.3; Sall. Cat. 51.20 (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 34).
6) Egyptian Mummification was more about ongoing life and fulfillment of life than about the negation of life requiring a rebirth (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 46).
7) Mummification implies that the person is still alive (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 47).
8) Apotheosis of Alexander the Great and later Roman emperors implied one of two things:
- that the body was destroyed and the soul passed to become a god.
- that the body and soul were taken up to become a god (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 55-57). The Resurrection is about a dead body coming back to life in this world and history never to die again, so Jesus’ Resurrection is clearly not an example of apotheosis.
9) Continuing with the last two points, this new god was added to the pantheon of gods, not isolated as one with a monotheistic God (Ibid.).
10) Apollonius of Tyana lives on but not in a body (no bodily coming back from the dead) (NT Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 75).