Atheism/So where did it go?


Alright Jeff let's say you are correct Jesus did not rise from the dead. So what happened to his body? Couldn't it have been easily displayed by skeptics? Where did it go?

Hey Charles,

Sorry I didn't answer earlier - it had nothing to do with the question and everything to do with other things going on in my life.

Anyway, I still think your question is happening on the wrong level of analysis. The question “What happened to Jesus' body?” is a lot like the question “How did the disciples get over Jesus' death if he didn't get resurrected?” Both questions assume part of the Bible is true while questioning another part of it. But as I said before, we can't know for sure how the supernatural claims of the Bible relate to the non-supernatural claims.

Stephen Law is a philosopher who wrote a fascinating blog post about the Contamination Principle[1] to address just this question. All modern academics agree that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (as Carl Sagan said) but most academics are inclined to believe the non-supernatural parts of documents that are heavily laiden with supernatural events. Stephen Law disagrees and argues that the supernatural events describing in the documents undermine the reliability of the documents, and therefore even its plausible claims cannot be trusted. William Lane Craig (Christian apologist) attempts a weak rebuttal but Richard Carrier (historian and philosopher) dismantles his rebuttal here[2].

But any way, let's get back to your question about Jesus' body. It could have happened as you imply, that there was a man named Jesus who died on the cross, his body was never found, and someone who looked a lot like him showed up afterwards claiming to be him. That would be difficult to explain and I would have to speculate on a bizarre error in the burial procedure or a deliberate fraud in which the body is stolen. But consider a second scenario, suppose there was a man named Jesus who died and no one saw any evidence of any resurrection. His follows spoke metaphorically about Jesus dying to give them a second chance or the spirit of Jesus being around to guide them. The next generation misunderstands the story and believe Jesus actually came back from the dead. The following generation writes down the most popular rumors about Jesus' resurrection; The generation after that regards any other story about Jesus' ressurection as heresy. Or consider a third scenario, in which Jesus is first introduced as a theological concept, then is featured in a mythological text as though he really existed, then supernatural details are removed until he appears to be both God and a man.

So I still think the question is not “What happened to Jesus' body?” but “Why did anyone write that Jesus' body was not found?” Answers to the first question provide satisfactory answers to the second question, but the second question allows for possible answers that the first question does not. And the second question has a lot of good answers. People have written untrue things for a variety or reasons all through-out history. We know also that people who had heard the story were encourage not to question it and also to tell as many people as possible. I don't believe I have to know every detail about who wrote the Bible and why, in order to argue that someone writing a book of untrue things is more likely then those things actually happening. Any talk about some of the things in the book being true, then, would just be speculation.

This subject reminds me of CS Lewis' trilemma[3]. CS Lewis says Jesus was either a “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”. He then argues that Jesus (as described in the Bible) was neither a Lunatic nor a Liar, in an attempt to provie that Jesus must be who he said he was. But the case that skeptics had always maintained as most likely was a fourth option “Legend”. Merely stating this last option makes it clear that CS Lewis is just setting up straw-men[4].



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Jeffrey Ellsworth


I am well versed on the arguments for both sides about the existence of God and am especially aware of the philosophical ramifications and psychological reactions to atheism. Also, if you have a question about atheism as that pertains to Science or Skepticism, I may be an especially good pick. However my knowledge of non-Judeo-Christian religions and Biblical archaeology is generally limited to knowledge about directions to more informative resources.


I've been an atheist for 14 years now, open about it for 9 years after being raised in a Roman Catholic family. In that time I have held many different philosophical perspective on the subject and had different emotional and psychological reactions to atheism. I have absorbed many internet articles, video debates, atheist publications, and secular podcasts in my process of understanding and supporting the atheist movement. I routinely hold conversations on the subject.

One article in If Journal, an interfaith publication.

I have a BS in Physics and Mathematics from the College of William & Mary I am pursuing my Ph.D in Physics at Indiana University at Bloomington. I have very little formal training in philosophy or sociology.

Awards and Honors
I was president of the William & Mary Students for Science & Secularism before graduating.

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