Osama and Jesus: Rumours of Escaping Death

A middle eastern bearded man who was a threat to the empire is summarily executed, while rumours quickly spread that the man did not really die.

Conspiracy theories about Osama Bin Laden’s death are already appearing days after it happened. Was he really killed? Where’s his body? Why won’t the president release the photograph? If this is the case days later, what will the stories be in a few decades time? In a couple of thousand years?

How does this situation compare to the aftermath of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Does it lend credibility to sceptics who would see the empty tomb and resurrection stories as the conspiracy theory of an extremist group?

I think the questions are valid ones for sceptics to ask. (Not that I’ve heard them asking them, but the sceptical side of my brain was weighing up the comparison this morning.) But I see a number of important differences.

1. The source of the conspiracy theory is not Bin Laden’s inner circle. It’s people who are much more removed, people without the facts, Americans who are used to seeing conspiracy theories in everything and Muslim extremists who don’t trust anything the West tells them.

2. Jesus’ execution was very public while Bin Laden’s was not. Jesus’ resurrection was also public, with many of his disciples testifying to seeing him in the days after the resurrection. (Of course, the sceptic will ask why only believers saw him, and insist that the empty tomb tradition of Mark is the earliest account, while the resurrection stories are a later fabrication.)

3. The early church responded in a way consistent with Jesus’ resurrection: they grew quickly, motivated by a deep love and hope and performing acts of service and compassion. They did not seek revenge and they did not go through a crisis. I expect both of these could be the outcome within Al-Qaeda. Of course, Al-Qaeda is a group with a very different ideology to the first Christians and they may go through a resurgence stirred up by Bin Laden’s martyrdom. I am not sure what I would make of such an event in relation to the early church.

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One thought on “Osama and Jesus: Rumours of Escaping Death

  1. I appreciate your analysis. It has given me a fresh angle and perspective on a subject that I have studied since 1969. Back in those days, after reading Jn. chapter 13, I became obsessed with the notion that Peter and Judas were in inverted roles. I had no idea of a Gospel of Judas in those days. But, my simplistic and naive notions of the time were based on Peter’s Sicari like nationalism and chauvanism as it is expressed elsewhere in the canonical gospels.The fact that all the apostles deserted Jesus made it clear that only Peter remained for a while, till he was recognized, then fled like the rest. This scene, if historical, leaves room for stagesetting by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were not regular attendees of Jesus itinerary. But, it shows that they had more interest in Jesus than has heretofore been recognized. So, Joseph and Nicodemus, and Lazarus, (can’t leave him out) were behind the scenes directors and providers for Jesus and his entourage, not to mention other play actors whose sicknesses were suddenly healed TV evangelistic style. Now Peter,leader of the frontline soldiers (disciples/apostles) redeemes himself in the eyes of the 11 or 10 others by seeing Jesus alive. He vilifies Judas, takes the crowd under his wing and leads them in a different path than Jesus’ brother James (the logical successor). The varying accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus make any foolproof reconstruction of events impossible. But, others have made progress in that direction. Any Ideas you could add would be appreciated.

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