Tim recently summarized this theory in an email: “The problem is transporting a small quantity of meat from one location to another location containing an enormous quantity of meat without being caught.” He is a genius at wording fresh perspectives succinctly.
We discussed his theory over dinner last week. (He comes to our home every Wednesday night for dinner and a movie. Tonight the movie is Hugo.) Here’s my memory of that conversation. My comments come across here as belligerent but I assure you they weren’t:
Me: So you think someone carried the body of Jesus from the tomb to the heap of carcasses from sacrifices at the base of the city wall.
Tim: Yes, he was already outside the wall. You just have to do it so no one notices.
Me: And who would be motivated to do this thing? The religious leaders want the body where everyone will see it and know it’s dead. And the disciples are so terrified of the whole situation, this unexpected death of their leader, that all they’re thinking about is that they’re going to be next. They aren’t expecting a resurrection and they certainly don’t intend to fake one. They don’t want anything to do with the body.
Tim: Jesus worked it all out ahead of time. He had someone steal the body and hide it.
Me: Why would he do that?
Tim: To start a religion. No religion starts by accident. Here were all those prophesies and at some point he realized he was fulfilling them, so he deliberately set up his crucifixion in Jerusalem. [He has told us on other occasions that Jesus of Nazareth is the best contender for the role of the Messiah.]
Me: Why would he arrange for a fake resurrection? What would he stand to gain after he was dead?
Tim: He was sorry for all those people looking for a Messiah and he wanted to encourage them.
Me: So it was altruistic?
Tim: Yes, something like that.
Me: How would it encourage them to believe in a Messiah who wasn’t really resurrected, who was the embodiment of a God who couldn’t really answer their prayers or heal or forgive them?
Tim: It gave them a religion. He saw it all ahead of time–well, he couldn’t predict Paul.
Me: This seems really far-fetched. What if you just accept the record as written, that he died and God raised him from the dead?
Tim: I do, kind of.
Me: You believe Jesus died and was raised from the dead.
Tim: People don’t come undead.
Me: Don’t you suppose that if one did, it would be news and people would be writing and talking about it for centuries? Don’t you suppose that’s why we have it recorded for us?
At this point Jerry had dinner on the table–bless him!–so we three held hands and Tim said a Hebrew grace over the meal. Before praying, he evaluates what’s on his plate and modifies the grace to cover “meat,” “produce from the ground,” fruit “from a tree” or “from a vine” as appropriate. He has even devised prayers of gratitude for water–and for marijuana.