Happy Easter: My Favorite Easter Joke

  • The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, c. 1602

Regarding Good Friday, I’ve talked before of the well known point in academic New Testament studies that Jesus’ passion is basically a creative re-write of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, so it’s questionable that there is any historical material in there. Our earliest detail of the crucifixion is from Paul that Christ died according to the scriptures, which could mean anything from Christ died in agreement with what is said in the scriptures, to we learn how Christ figuratively died by reading the scriptures. And, there’s lots of room in between these 2 poles of the spectrum. But, what about the crucifixion? Was Jesus crucified? Again, this may be a creative re-write of Psalm 22:16b LXX, and more directly Galatians 3:13 which is appropriating Deuteronomy 21:23.

Intertextuality aside, Paul may have introduced the crucifixion element into the Jesus tradition because it seems to be absent from the inherited material (in the 7 authentic letters of Paul) such as the Corinthian Creed/Poetry and the original core of the Philippian Christ Hymn/poetry [1] (see also possibly pre-Pauline Romans 1:3-4; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 13:13). “Christ crucified” might be a figure of speech, such as when we read in the New Testament about being “crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20)” or “pick up your cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24-26)” We have a similar figurative death of John the Baptist in the gospels to mirror the humiliating death of Jesus which has little in common with the actual account of the death of John the Baptist that we find in Josephus.

So, the responsibility would seem to be on those making the crucifixion claim to demonstrate Christ was crucified. Perhaps Jesus was stoned like Stephen, since both stories mirror one another. But, on to the joke about the resurrection.

In the gospels we find progressively more compelling accounts that Jesus was risen. In the last gospel, John, we find doubting Thomas is a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience — who, in John’s account, refused to believe the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles until he could see and feel Jesus’s crucifixion wounds. So what’s the joke? If the apostle Thomas, who knew Jesus, couldn’t be convinced of the resurrection without touching the wounds of the risen Jesus, where does that leave the rest of us who only have textual accounts!? Jesus remarks: :

  • 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:27-29)

Okay, thanks for coming out, lol.


[1] Phrases such as “even death on a cross (Phil 2:8c)” are often considered to be additions (by Paul) to the hymn/poetry he is quoting, as are Phil 2:10c, 11c. This would fit with the 2 inherited kerygma statements Paul quotes in 1 Cor 15 and Romans 1:3-4 which focus on Christ’s death but do not say that death was by crucifixion. It may be that Paul’s gospel thus innovated on two fronts: (1) Pagans didn’t need to fully become Jews to become Christians, and (2) Christ dying (preached by Peter and James before Paul) evolved into preaching Christ figuratively becoming crucified to fill full of meaning Deuteronomy 21:23 as per Paul’s citation in Galatians 3:13 whereby Christ was a curse in the eyes of the world (though he was innocent), although not “accursed” as the penal substitution interpretation would want, since in Jewish thought there is nothing about merely being hung on a tree that accursed you, but rather your actions can.

Check out my companion post to this Easter one: It’s Holy Saturday, So What Happened To Jesus Between Good Friday And Easter?