Don’t Crucify Me, Bro! part 3

Part 3, The Evolution of the Crucifixion

The earliest Christian documents that we have portray the death of Jesus as a mystical experience, not tying it to any historical place or time. It was only once someone made the effort to turn the belief into a narrative with the Gospel According to Mark, 50 years to 100 years after the supposed event, that the death trial of Jesus was extrapolated into the passion play that we know today. And it was then portrayed differently in each of the following attempts to re-tell the tale to different audiences. In the earliest gospel, Mark, Jesus is lead silently to his death. He is mocked along the way and, as he dies, he cries out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” At the turn of the first century, this portrayal of a truly gruesome death would have been the story converts of Christianity would have had preached to them. Evidently, a kindler gentler death was soon needed, for the popular re-write by Luke has Jesus going to his death practically cheerful, preaching to the women along the route and picking up a new Christian convert on the cross next to him before he cries Mission Accomplished.

The earliest copies of Mark that we have end when the women go to the tomb and find it empty. The women flee in terror and tell no one. Mathew added an earthly re-appearance by Jesus (the re-animation of the saints in Mathew 27: 51-53 shows us that an earthy re-birth from the tomb was an important element to his movement).

Luke adds an ascension to heaven, mostly like intended to be a reference to the ascension of Ilijah, an earlier savior figure in the Old Testament.

And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I am taken from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.

And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.

And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof! And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

-2 Kings 2: 9-12

The story of the crucifixion began simply, plain, and deeply mythological by a charismatic offshoot of Judaism in the first century CE.. The story grew over that years, and that is what we continue to see today. Theologians look for a spiritual message of divine acceptance and love in what began as little more an idea. Modern Christians, only familiar with fleshed out movie dramatizations of the narrative cannot imagine how the story could have been “invented” or “made up” so they demand evidence that it didn’t happen. Well, the evidence is usually sitting on a book shelf, gathering dust; it’s all in a book they love so much they dare not read it critically.

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