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The History of Resurrection Tradition
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word 'resurrection' stands for "the state of one risen from the dead." Generally, resurrection refers to restoration to life of the person who is clinically dead.
Concept of resurrection has been in existence in one form or the other since the very birth of the first human being in this planet. Over the centuries, different religions and mythological schools of thought have defined and taken the tradition of resurrection in different ways; therefore, it is always hard to find any commonly agreed fact about it.
For further clarification, it will be necessary to point out that resurrection stands apart from the concepts of 'immortality of soul' and 'resuscitation' as it involves the rebirth of both body and soul (Harrington).
It will not be wrong to say that the tradition of resurrection is closely associated with the philosophy of religion rather than the creed of human existence itself. Every religion, from past to present, has attempted to delineate resurrection in its own manner-but the basis purpose behind all was to convince people to act wisely in their lives.
The belief on resurrection is the strongest part of some of the religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam while the other mainstream religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism also have certain doctrines about it. However, the most solid and authentic theory till this era is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
History of Resurrection
When we talk about the history of resurrection, we actually talk about the history of human life. Adam, the first man, who, according to the belief of Abrahamic religions, descended to the earth along with Eve, preached his offspring about the doctrine of resurrection. Following his death, a number of prophets came and almost all of them converged on the point that there was a life after death, and that a living thing could reborn after losing life.
Though the proper history of resurrection tradition starts from the arrival of Jesus Christ, but we shall also take some snapshots of the existence of the concept in ancient eras.
Tradition of Resurrection among Greeks and Egyptians
Egypt and Greece posed to be the greatest civilizations of the old times. Both the nations were often at war against each other in pursuit of material resources and expansion of territories.
The concept of resurrection was found among both of the nations. In ancient Egypt, Osiris was the supreme God who was believed to have resurrected with some miracle (Radford). Apart from this, there was another God, Baal, commonly known as the God of rising while Osiris was considered to be the God of dying.
On the other hand, the ancient Greece believed that those, who resurrected from the bodies of the dead ones, had immortal lives and that they would never die again. The great figures of the time like Asclepius, Achilles, Alcmene, Melicertes, Heracles and Castor were believed to have resurrected. However, most of the Greece philosophers condemned this view and, resultantly, were punished by the clergy and nobility of the time.
As wars were common in those days, those, who died in the battle field, were considered to have taken a new life that, the Greece strongly believed, was never going to end. However, some scholars point out that this concept was propagated by the autocracy of that time in order to convince the people to sacrifice their lives for the cause of its political domination and material benefits.
This concept is also found in Islam to some extent. According to the Islamic mythology, the martyrs, who lay down their lives for right causes, do not die in fact, but transform into immortal deities who rest in heavens.
Resurrection Tradition in Judaism
The era of Judaism, one of the three Abraham religions, was much closer to the birth of Jesus Christ. The Jews, commonly known as Israelites, also believed on resurrection. According to their belief, all the dead ones went to Sheol, a place between heaven and hell, and used to live again in shape of some shadow (Harrington).
They also believed that a complete resurrection would also come at the end of history, and those with good deeds were entitled to gain an eternal life of calm and joy.
As Jews posed to be the most blessed nation, some saints and scholars of that era used to predict that they were entitled to live forever, and their souls were not going to decay after death.
Like Hindus, Jews also believe that a soul can relive in shape of animals and insects. It is the reason they do not cover their foods and edibles, rather expose them to insects, birds and animals as they think that they can be one of them after death. They also avoid trampling insects while walking. This view is very close to 'Transmigration of Souls' concept of Hinduism (discussed in detail below).
Christianity and the Culmination of the Resurrection Tradition
Mixing up the concepts of all religions, Christianity transformed the tradition of resurrection into a full-fledged history, and put its foundation on it. This religion backed up the doctrine with historical evidence in shape of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection in physical form.
As per the belief of Christians, Christ, after being crucified by the Romans on Good Friday and buried in the tomb of Arimathea rose to life again and rejoined his followers.
According to the New Testaments, believed to be based on the teachings of Christ, when Mary Magdalene and other ladies went to the tomb on Sunday morning to shower flowers on the grave of Jesus, they found the tomb empty as the buried one had turned to be alive again. It was reported to them by an angel.
After the empty tomb incident, Christians were confronted with the question of appearance of risen Jesus. It was the point where most of the differences emerged as the Prophet was not witnessed and met by all the followers. It is stated in the Bible that only a few blessed figures (disciples, Mother Marry and closest companions) happened to meet and interact with risen Jesus.
Whatsoever the reality is, the creed of Jesus' resurrection became the basic tenet of the Christianity. That incident changed the course of the history dramatically and the coming generations could not forget it (Keathley).
Views In Favour of and against Jesus Christ's Resurrection
For almost 2000 years, various scholars, philosophers, religious teachers and researchers have been putting forward different views and opinions both in support of and against Jesus Christ's Resurrection. Here we take a look on a few of them.
A renowned mythologist, N.T. Wright, writes in his book, 'The Resurrection of the Son of God', that early Christians held two strong convictions: one that Jesus' tomb was found to be empty and second that he appeared again bodily. The writer has used excerpts and evidences from the New Testaments to strengthen his claim that the story of resurrection is true (Wright).
Dr. George Hanson says, "The simple faith of the Christian who believes in the Resurrection is nothing compared to the credulity of the skeptic who will accept the wildest and most improbable romances rather that admits the plain witness of historical certainties. The difficulties of belief may be great; the absurdities of unbelief are greater" ("inplainsite.org").
J. Hampton, Keathley III, in his research study, 'False Theories against the Resurrection of Christ', concludes that none of the theories, which have been propounded to justify the resurrection so far, provides any solid evidence of his rebirth of Jesus Christ (Keathley).
Keathley has analyzed a number of theories including The Swoon Theory, The Hallucination Theory, Te Impersonation Theory, The Spiritual Resurrection Theory, The Theft Theory and The Unknown Tomb Theory. He has also presented refutation of each of the theories along with its description.
Osho, a spiritual teacher who lived and died in India after being abandoned by the entire world, presented a very different view on Jesus Christ' resurrection in the light of scientific evidences. He told that a human being died at least 48 hours after being hanged, and Jesus was removed from scaffold after 12 hours as the preceding day was Saturday or Sibt which was considered to be a holy day both in Judaism and Christianity. They put Jesus in a cave, aiming to hang him again on Sunday, but his disciples took him away from there and disappeared. Thus, Christ did not die actually, but fell unconscious. This theory denies the entire resurrection tradition.
There is another school of thought which believes that Jesus Christ's resurrection was one of his God-given miracles, avowing that it is not possible for a common human being to get a new life after death and live normally among his/her fellows. The proponents of this section argue that resurrection is just owed to miracles and without them, it is merely a myth.
Resurrection Tradition in Asian Religions
Like the Western and Arab religions, the resurrection tradition is also…[continue]
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