The Exodus versus the Resurrection
Most world religions look to various miraculous events as the foundations of their faith. Judaism and Christianity both share this quality. Both of these belief systems see certain supernatural occurrences as the pillars of their respective faiths. Judaism looks to the Exodus experience, while Christianity looks to the resurrection of Jesus. Each of these belief systems points to their own “foundational miracles” to justify their respective beliefs.
How do these two claims compare to each other? Is Christianity’s claim that Jesus was resurrected in any way comparable to Judaism’s claim that the miracles of the exodus were real events in the history of the nation? Are these two claims equally credible?
The answer is a thunderous NO! There is no way to compare Christianity’s resurrection claim to Judaism’s exodus. These two are as far apart from each other as east is from west. This is true on several levels.
The Exodus impacted the lives of two nations in a concrete way that is measurable in practical terms. Egypt lost it slaves, Israel was freed from slavery. Egypt was devastated by a series of plagues, while Israel was sustained in the desert for 40 years. The Egyptian army drowned in the sea, while Israel was saved from its pursuers.
To understand the impact of the exodus in modern terms try to imagine the Mississippi turning to blood for a week, the entire USA plagued with frogs, lice, locusts, darkness and the death of the firstborn. Then imagine the entire army drowning in the sea. The impact of these events touches so many people.
Who is impacted practically by a resurrection?
The exodus miracles lasted for 40 years, the resurrection of Jesus is limited to a few “sightings”.
Those who testify to the truth of the exodus are the physical descendants of the people who were impacted by this event. There is no one alive today claiming to be a physical descendant of those who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection.
The witnesses for the exodus include an entire nation, a nation that was large enough to capture the land of Canaan. The witnesses for Jesus’ resurrection are the few individuals who followed him in his life-time.
The community of witnesses that testify to the verity of the exodus had no predisposition for this story. There are no motivating factors that we could point to that would explain why the Jewish people “needed” to produce the exodus story. The followers of Jesus desperately “needed” a resurrection story. These people had already committed themselves in devotion to this charismatic leader. They believed he was greater than Moses and wiser than Solomon, and now he was dead. With this psychological backdrop, it would be a historical aberration if these people wouldn’t come up with something along the lines of a resurrection story.
Direct versus Implied
The foundational events of Judaism directly prove the theological truths that they are called upon to support. God introduced Himself to the nation at Sinai with the words: “I am the Lord your God”. They were shown that there is no power aside from God (Deuteronomy 4:35). The nation heard God speaking to Moses, thus confirming that Moses is indeed a prophet – i.e. one to whom God speaks (Exodus 19:9). The two pillars of Judaism, the perception of God and the knowledge that Moses is a true prophet came directly from God to the entirety of the nation.
Even if we were to assume that the resurrection actually happened, it would still not confirm the theological claims of Christianity in a direct way. Just because someone was resurrected does not make him or her the second person in the godhead or the Jewish Messiah. The Jewish Scriptures record several instances of resurrection (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4:8-37, 13:20,21). No one ever claimed that the people who were resurrected by Elijah and Elisha were divine. It is only through the interpretation of the theologian that one moves from a resurrection claim to the trinity.
There is a fundamental difference between the ideas that the exodus and the resurrection are called upon to support. The concept that there is One Supreme being who is above all of nature is a concept that many philosophers came to believe in through human reasoning. There is no inherent “mystery” in the concept of One Creator to whom all are beholden.
The Christian trinity, on the other hand, is a theological absurdity. The concept that a human being, who walked the earth like everyone else, is somehow divine; is not a logical conclusion that anyone would come to on his own. Christian theologians admit that this concept is a “mystery” that cannot be readily understood.
Consistency versus Conflict
The theological claims of Judaism do not conflict with any other claims that Judaism accepts as valid. There is no room for potential conflict. The exodus establishes the basis of a belief that does not conflict with any other previously established claim in any way.
The theological claims of Christianity, on the other hand, conflict with the claims of Judaism that Christianity claims to accept. The exodus miracles taught the Jewish people to worship no one beside the God that they were introduced to at Sinai. This obviously excludes Jesus. Christian theologians found the need to exert themselves for 2000 years to reconcile the monotheism of the Jewish Scriptures with the trinity of the Catholic Church, coming up with conflicting solutions to this problem. In other words the faith that the resurrection is called upon to support needs a plethora of complicated theological arguments to defend it from the charge of idolatry. The faith that the exodus is called upon to support does not.
Who is Obligated
According to Judaism, the only people that are bound to the teachings of Moses are the physical descendants of those who experienced the exodus and those who choose to join them. Judaism does not believe that the rest of the world is separated from God if they do not accept the teachings of Judaism. Judaism teaches that as long as one follows their conscience that God implanted into every human being they can enter into a relationship with God.
In sharp contrast, Christianity teaches that anyone who does not accept Jesus is condemned to the fires of eternal hell, their relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth notwithstanding.
In order to establish that there is One Supreme Being above all of nature; God turned the Nile into blood, plagued Egypt with frogs, lice, wild animals, pestilence, boils, locusts, hail, darkness, and the death of their firstborn. This wasn’t enough, he had to split the sea, and drown the Egyptian army. Still not enough. He had to sustain a nation in the wilderness for 40 years leading them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of cloud by night. Still not enough. He had to speak to the entirety of the nation to establish the only claim for a national revelation in the history of mankind. All of this; for the purpose of establishing a truth that the philosophers of many disparate cultures discovered on their own.
Yet Christianity would have us believe that to establish the idea that a certain human being is deserving of all of our worship – the same God produced a resurrection that was only verified by the few believers?! And Christianity doesn’t stop there. Christianity would have us believe that the same God condemns everyone to hell for not believing the theological claims of the Church.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal