For the first decades after Galilean radical Jesus of Nazareth was executed for sedition by the Romans, the earliest followers of Jesus did not believe in a bodily resurrection as later taught. Textual and archaeological evidence show that the earliest Palestinian Jewish Christianity and the competing early Pauline Christianity disagreed about many things, but both agreed his resurrection was spiritual. The later differing stories about an empty tomb and bodily appearances of a risen Jesus, written in the later Greek Gospels after 70 CE, when Titus and the Roman legions took Jerusalem, were deliberately patterned after the Greco-Roman ‘translation fable’ literary mythological form used to describe the final exaltation of Greco-Roman heroes and demi-gods in the Hellenistic cultural milieu. The archaeology of pre-70 CE Jerusalem burial sites yields a surprising look at how what the first followers of Jesus thought happened to him, long before the Easter doctrine was invented.
Lee Greer is an evolutionary biologist, a published scientist, an educator, and married to Linda and a father of three. Lee and Linda have been members of the UU Church of Riverside for years.