THE CASE OF THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE BODY OF JESUS OF NAZARETHO
Part II – PLEADINGS
We’ve heard from the three most important witnesses in the case we are examining. Before giving you the floor, I would like to ask you to consider only the facts and to express your thoughts freely, without fear. Remember, we are not enemies, rather we’ve three minds, united as one. One, that has to find the truth. Th truth – no matter how frightening or trivial it might be. Now, in accordance with procedure, let the Prosecution speak first.
The Prosecution: I have bee given the part of the Prosecution in a peculiar case. A case, where the defendant’s bench is empty. So, who do I have to prosecute? Jesus of Nazareth? Either he did not resurrect, and therefore he is dead, and the dead we don’t try, or he did resurrect, which means he is God, and Gods we can’t try.
The Judge: If the body has been stolen, someone has to be accountable.
The Prosecution: And where are those accountable? I’m not an investigator. I’m a prosecutor.
The Defense: Honorable Judge, I suppose that my opponent is insinuating that we all take part in a senseless exercise. On the contrary, it is a vital inquiry.
The Prosecution: Will the Honorable Judge explain to my opponent that I do not wish to be interrupted or given advise.
The Defense: Please, accept my apologies. I state for the record that the attempt to deceive the mankind is a despicable crime, and that…
The Prosecution: I know that better that you. That’s why I accept a part in this case. And I will go further: in spite of the obstacles on the path to justice, I still manage to find criminals and they will be punished justly.
The Judge: Who creates obstacles to justice?
The Prosecution: I will explain this in due time, if I am given the opportunity to speak. So, what is the point here? There is a man who preaches that he is God’s son, and who promises people immortality. To make them believe he says that he will resurrect, which will prove that he is God’s son. And it so happens, that the same man is condemned to death as an enemy of God and the empire; he is crucified, dies, and is buried. On the third day – exactly as he said -his body disappears. Resurrected? Or Stolen? Yes, the attempt to deceive mankind is a despicable crime. Science and common sense tell us it is impossible for a dead man to resurrect. Nevertheless, they want us to believe that this case involves a miracle. They tell us “Your science is only the half of it. Th other half, maybe the more important one, is not known. And that’s where God is, and that’s where the miracle is.” I, personally, do not, even for a second, accept the existence of the miracle of the resurrection. It is clear to me, without a doubt, that the body was stolen. In fact, the purpose of this trial was to find the people responsible for the theft. Nevertheless, I see that everything done here is done solely to prove the antithesis – that he has indeed resurrected.
The Judge: What do you mean?
The Prosecution: First, the witnesses. We saw only three of them. Why just three and why them in particular? Where is Caiphas, the Jewish high priest? Were are the soldiers who guarded the grave? Where is the Joseph’s gardener? Now, these are the most important witnesses. Witnesses, who cold have objectively – I repeat, objectively – reveled the course of the events. Their miracle to be examined here today. Instead, the Court has called… I’m not afraid to say it… carefully selected witnesses, who…
The Judge: What? What are you saying?
The Prosecution: I believe that all three witnesses were chosen intentionally. Al three of them, who tried to convince us that the Nazarene had indeed resurrected.
The Judge: That is not fair. On the contrary, Joseph tried to prove that the resurrection was impossible. Mary longed to believe, but she had her doubts. Thomas was even ready to deny everything he saw and felt.
The Prosecution: No. All three of them believed in the Resurrection. Joseph was the cleverest one – he played the role of the heathen so his belief appeared more credible.
The Judge: Prove it.
The Prosecution: It’s easy. He stated clearly that he knew that the Nazarene has performed miracles – for instance, giving sight to a man blind since birth. One who believes such nonsense can believe anything, even the resurrection. Remember, at the end he said that Jesus would resurrect him, too?
The Judge: He didn’t say that. In fact, he said something entirely different.
The Prosecution: No, that’s what he said. Only he said in his usual twisted manner. However, we are here to find the true meaning of the vague statements. What can say about Mary? About this ostensibly hysterical woman? Yes, ostensibly, because she acted insane in order to deflect responsibility. But, as a matter of fact, she is convincing and extremely dangerous propagandist.
The Judge: Propagandist? For the dead Jesus?
The Prosecution: No, not for Jesus. He is, perhaps, an innocent victim of dangerous and clever conspirators. She propagandizes on behalf of those conspirators. I am afraid that her stories might blur many people’s mind, making them believe in the Nazarene’s resurrection.
The Judge: But she doesn’t believe in His resurrection. Didn’t you understand that at least? Didn’t you hear what she said at the end?
The Prosecution: It was simply a precautionary tactic.
The Judge: You are simply distrustful of her.
The Prosecution: No, I doubt. Doubt is the only path to truth. Only doubts encourages a man to pursue, to study, to analyze.
The Judge: What about the faith?
The Prosecution: Faith, whatever it is, drives you to look only for evidence on its behalf.
The Judge: What about the unbelief – doesn’t it drive you to do the same?
The Prosecution: I am saying neither faith, or unbelief. I say doubt. Doubt is the path to knowledge. Knowledge needs neither faith, nor unbelief.
The Judge: Can you achieve such absolute knowledge, which doesn’t need faith or unbelief? And if you can, what will you do then?
The Prosecution: I don’t know.
The Judge: All right, continue. What do you have to say about the third witness? He neither believed, not ignored anything. He had seen everything.
The Prosecution: This so called “witness”…
The Judge: What is that supposed to mean?
The Prosecution: I will explain. And , please, do not interrupt or provoke me – don’t you understand that this can only hurt you?
The Judge: Although I I read unjustified threat in your words, please, accept my apology.
The Prosecution: As I said, the so called “witness’ was unquestionably the most artful of all three. Donning the mask of naivete and innocence, he had to summarize and illustrate all the “evidence” – direct and circumstantial – of the Nazarene’s resurrection. And now, let me set forth the entire plot: Joseph, the man of reason and logic, dismisses unwillingly these virtues, have been convinced by a miracle. Mary, the woman, replaces reason and logic with mysticism and God’s blessing – she “knows” with her heart. Thomas, the “foolish” peasant, after being persuaded by the miracle, draws a convenient conclusion, quote: “When I’m sure of my own resurrection, maybe I won’t be such an ox anymore. What they gonna do to me? Kill me? Then I’ll resurrect – I don’t care. Then I’ll say what I have to say in this life”, unquote.
The Judge: You are saying that the three witnesses had plotted? That doesn’t make any sense – the rich, educated Joseph, with a fallen woman, and a peasant?
The Prosecution: Maybe, if they were the real people. But they are not and there lies the great conspiracy. There are not Mary, Joseph, ant Thomas, but impostors, actors. Untalented, indeed, because no good actor would agree to take a part in this…
The Judge: These allegations must be proven.
The Prosecution: Nothing could be easier. Let’s begin with Joseph. “The Honorable Joseph.” This amateur, who couldn’t even to memorize his lines, stated proudly that he believed in some “emptiness full of atoms”. We know, however, that the real Joseph is not an avid supporter of Judaism, but an extreme Jewish nationalist. He had joined the Nazarene in order to use him as a flag in the revolution against the Empire.
The Judge: There are many people inside some of us, many people with their own beliefs…
The Prosecution: That is, with your permission, an excuse for cowards.
The Judge: I have no desire to argue with you, it’s beneath me… Also, I’m tired.
The Prosecution: However, the strongest proof of my theory was the third witness, Thomas. Whoever brought him here and gave him the part, didn’t know the facts himself. He confused an unknown peasant with Thomas, the follower of Jesus who believed in the resurrection of his Teacher only after seeing the wounds on his palms. That is why he – the follower, not the peasant – was “Doubting Thomas”.
The Judge: Can’t two people have the same name?
The Prosecution: Naturally, they can. Nevertheless, it is not only the name – here we have two Thomases, in the same drama, and both of them doubting. And that’s not at all – it has been confirmed that the woman was not Ruth, but Rebecca, and she had no two, but five children. How ignorant of the dramatist! He couldn’t deceive me, but he did deceive others who wanted to be deceived.
The Judge: I’ll make no comment – I have my dignity. Please, continue.
The Prosecution: Nothing shall prevent me from revealing the truth. I denounce the credibility of the three witnesses. Therefore, I refuse to accept their testimony which is intended to prove the existence of the miracle of the resurrection. Now, let me ask the question: What would happened if the miracle existed? Who would have exploited the resurrection? What would have happened to our civilized society if a men knew he was immortal? The answer is simple: A man would not be afraid of the law. The rule of law would not exist any longer, because the people would not obey the law.
The Judge: Perhaps the people would obey a higher law.
The Prosecution: One who does not obey public law will not obey any other law. What would this have meant on a practical level? Remember what the Resurrected allegedly said to third witness: “I bring not peace. I bring a sword.” There are millions like that so-called “Thomas”. Can you imagine what could happen to our great society based on legal values, if they all believe that they are immortal? Now, the majority obeys the rule of the law because they are afraid of punishment; they are afraid of death. What if they know that there is no death? They will rise up, the socially deprived – peasants, slaves, bums, armed with the sword of the Resurrected and with the faith in eternal life (which means faith in their impunity). Millions will rush our marble cities, monuments, our peaceful homes, without fearing the weapons of our soldiers. And they shall overcome because they are countless. They will slaughter and destroy our culture. And, there will be a new world order – chaos. The, naturally, when we are no longer there, they will consume each other. And the earth will become a kingdom ruled not by God, but by beast. Now, I ask you, is there a worse crime against the people and their future, than the acceptance the idea of the resurrection? I accuse the people who stole the body of Jesus of Nazareth, of attempting to deceive mankind and nature, by spreading rumor of his resurrection. I propose, as well, that the court prosecute the three witnesses for their intentional efforts to prove the existence of the miracle of the resurrection.
The Judge: The witnesses? In accordance with procedure, and my personal vow that they would not be held accountable for their testimony…
The Prosecution: Your vow and your procedure cannot be honored in a political case such as this. The Prosecution rests.
The Judge: Let the Defense have the floor.
The Defense: In contrast to my opponent, my pleading will be guided by a single principle: “Testaments rather than statements”.
The Judge: Say what you think, and don’t be guided by what was said before.
The Defense: With all due respect to the thoughtful remark, the Honorable Judge himself said before: “If the body has been stolen, someone has to be held accountable.” I am not afraid to go even further – if Jesus has been resurrected, someone has to be held accountable.
The Judge: I beg your pardon?
The Defense: If Jesus has indeed been resurrected, the people who hope for their own resurrection have to be accountable.
The Judge: Then you are accusing the majority of the people.
The Defense: With your permission, Honorable Judge, I am not the one accusing here.
The Judge: Well, who are you going to defend then?
The Defense: I will try to answer this essential question in the course of my pleading. In order to do so, Your Honor, please have a little patience.
The Judge: Forgive me. Continue, please.
The Defense: Thank you, Your Honor. I won’t question the arguments used by the Prosecution in his efforts to eliminate every possibility of the existence of the miracle. Nevertheless, I must state for the record: We cannot deny something before defining it. So, What is the definition of “miracle”? “Event that cannot be explained by known laws of nature.” Now I ask you: Do we know all the laws of nature? I dare say: No, we don’t. Therefore, the event we today label ‘miracle’, because it can’t be explained, tomorrow, we know haw to explain it, will no longer bear frightening name of ‘miracle’.
The Judge: So, you assume that miracles do exist?
The Defense: I assume that the events we today call “miracles”, may be scientific facts tomorrow. Which means that no one has the right to enjoin people from believing I miracles. Ant that’s what this case is about. Yes, I agree with my opponent that the court procedure is not appropriate. Yes, I agree that the witnesses were chosen intentionally.
The Judge: You, too?
The Defense: Yes, with a light difference. I believe that we examined only witnesses who do not believe in the miracle. They did everything possible to prove that the resurrection was impossible.
The Judge: This is too much…. I mean, this remains to be proven.
The Defense: And I will prove it, if I’m given the opportunity to speak.
The Judge: I apologize.
The Defense: Let’s look at the first witness, the Honorable Joseph from Arimathaea. He didn’t even try to disguise his skepticism – he formulated it in a philosophical manner.
The Judge: But he’d accepted the miracle of the blind beggar.
The Defense: Only as evidence that Jesus was a sorcerer. This way he came to terms with his conscience, since he voted for the Nazarene’s death. And there is something that I can’t quite understand…
The Judge: What is it?
The Defense: In dealing with the Prosecution, you argued that Joseph did not accept the miracle. Now, you are arguing the opposite.
The Judge: Because I trying to be impartial.
The Defense: I thought as a Judge in this trial, you were impartial. Well, so much for the first witness. Now the second. At first glance, it seems like Mary believes passionately in Jesus’s resurrection. Only at first glance, because she offered us no serious proof of her faith. On the contrary, he testimony – senseless, illogical, and hysterical, I’d say – de facto impeached her credibility as a witness. For example, she couldn’t explain why she went to anoint the dead body of the Teacher, if she believed He would resurrect. The explanation, however, is simple: she needed the miracle, but she knew that it was impossible.
The Judge: You haven’t read her well…
The Defense: I have read her perfectly well. She wasn’t able to say who she saw in the garden – Joseph’s gardener or the Resurrected. Who do you think would believe that she saw the Resurrected, when she herself clearly doesn’t believe it? And what about her last line? “There are frightful moments, especially at night…”
The Judge: Faith without doubt is a dogma.
The Defense: That, with your permission, sounds like a dogma itself. Finally, let’s examine the testimony of the third witness, Thomas, the peasant. He was supposed to be the witness who had seen the miracle, even touched it, so to speak. And what happened? At the slightest suggestion that he might have been mistaken, he easily admitted he was mistaken. Then later, after only a few questions, he was ready to believe again. Considering this mercurial attitude, can we rely on his testimony?
The Judge: He was a simple man and his is frightened by these proceedings.
The Defense: With all due respect, why should he be frightened? The Honorable Judge swore to him that nothing would happen to him for telling the truth. And yes, he is a simple man, but we all know that history bears fourth thousands of cases where simple men, like Thomas, have died heroically in the name of the truth. Now. I do believe that everyone can see the blatant attempt of the three witnesses to prove that the miracle didn’t take place, that Jesus didn’t resurrect, and, therefore, that immortality doesn’t exist. However, sense and logic tell me that the event we today call miracle, could in fact occur. That’s why I am certain that society will accept the idea of the resurrection, which evokes the belief in immortality. Oh, don’t frighten us with the apocalyptic images of a kingdom ruled by beast. When all the people believe in immortality, their leaders – yes, there will be leaders then, but they will be the strong and the clever ones.
The Judge: Maybe, the crafty ones?
The Defense: I said the clever and the strong ones. The leaders who are able to instill obedience in the people. Obedience not to the leadership, but rather to a higher law designed to strengthen the new world order. Yes, there will be a rule of law again, and it will grant immortality only to the people who obey it. Diligent work, positive attitude, respect for the leadership – this the only way to earn the right to resurrect, for yourselves and for your children. Harmony, not the chaos, will be established in our land. A place where people work voluntary – here on earth, and after the resurrection.
The Judge: You believe neither in resurrection here, nor in heaven there. You simply want to use people’s faith so you can manipulate and rule them. That is what you are pleading for.
The Defense: If you just let me finish you will understand what I am pleading for… I stated for the record, that the attempt to deceive mankind is a despicable crime. Especially regarding something so great as immortality. Isn’t the pursuit of immortality the force that drives human progress? When the artist creates, when the philosopher thinks, when the mason builds, when the general wins battles, aren’t they all dreaming of being immortalized? Now, let’s assume, just for a second, that there wasn’t a resurrection and the body was abducted. I ask you: can we prosecute the people who supposedly have stolen the body of Jesus in order to convince the masses that there is eternal, life? Of course not – they are our saviors, chosen to keep secret the fact that there is no immortality. Nevertheless, as I said, this just a hypothesis – my conclusion is that Jesus has indeed resurrected and we must proclaim the holy truth. The defense rests.
The Judge: Will the Prosecution rebut?
The Prosecution: Although it is difficult for me to respond, I’ll do so because I feel obligated. Whether the dead body of The Nazarene was resurrected or abducted, is not the issue of this case. Rather, I believe the issue is whether we will create a heaven on earth based on human rationality and pride – a place where free and equal individuals live I harmony, or whether we will become a herd of cowards who work and pray, never raising our eyes to look at the stars. Shall the paragon of society be a human being who incarnates the divine power of knowledge, or an ox who obeys in order to have the impossible, immortality. The choice is yours, you are the Judge… I have nothing more to say.
The Judge: Does the Defense have any closing remarks?
The Defense: I certainly do. My opponent fears that if the people believe in immortality, they will raise a sword against, according to his words, “our great society”. But is our society really great? Is it a society of equal and free people, commanding the absolute power of human knowledge? No, it is not, and you know it. The truth is that our society consists of millions of slaves and a handful of masters. This sad reality is the strongest proof that without a common spiritual ideal, pursued with religious faith, a society turns into pack of wolves, each of them fighting for his own interest. That is why, regardless of whether the body of Jesus is stolen or resurrected, we must conclude that He has come back to us. This verdict bestows upon us belief in the ideal and glory for mankind. The verdict acquits everyone, except those who are guilty of disbelief. That is all I have to say…
The Judge: Now I shall step down to deliberate by myself in order to reach my verdict.
The Judge: All stand. I’ve reached my verdict. Given the part of the Judge in this case, I have heard the witnesses, Joseph, Mary and Thomas, and the pleadings of The Prosecution and the Defense, and after long nights of deliberation by myself, longing to reach a just verdict which establishes the truth about the disappearance of the body Jesus of Nazareth, also known as Jesus Christ, and knowing that that there could be many just verdicts in this matter, I am ordering the one that is my own. It is as follows. First, the body of Jesus has been abducted by unknown individuals and spirits, delivered to a place forever unknown, and has been resurrected for eternal life on earth and in heaven. Second, if the individuals and spirits referred to above are apprehended, they shall be punish with full arm of the law, crucified and elevated to the stature of saints and angels. All witnesses, the Prosecution and the Defense shall be free from any guilt, except from the guilt of being partial. He who doubts this verdict shall be plagued by doubt in his faith and faith in his doubt, until the end of the world. Day seven in the year one.
The Voice of Pontius Pilate: We must talk.
The Judge: Hail to you Pontius Pilate, the Emperor’s Procurator! Are you satisfied with the verdict?
The Voice: What do you think?
The Judge: I think that you ought to be satisfied – this was the fairest verdict I have ever reached. The only one possible in a case such as this.
The Voice: Tell me, my friend, do you know why I gave you the part and the power of the Judge?
The Judge: Because you wanted me to find the truth.
The Voice: Which truth?
The Judge: The truth!
The Voice: Not just “the truth”. The truth which the Empire needs. Your verdict, dear friend, reflected your own truth, which was not the Empire’s truth. You see, simple people can have their truths; the Empire employees, never. They are part of the Empire, and, therefore, the Empire’s truth must be their truth.
The Judge: You should’ve told me that.
The Voice: You should known that. The Empire needed the truth that establishes its eternity. The truth which says that no one and nothing is higher than the Empire. Instead of condemning Jesus for his disregard of the Empire, you as a Judge…
The Judge: Wait a minute…I didn’t know that Jesus himself was supposed to be on trial. By the way, my friend, didn’t you wash your hands clean by proclaiming that He was innocent?
The Voice: I did. I was sure that other would get their hands bloody.
The Judge: And if you hadn’t been so sure?
The Voice: Then I wouldn’t have had any choice. I would’ve kept his blood on my hands, so the Empire could see it and appreciate it. You, however, were given a choice: Jesus or the Empire, the law or the miracle. The Empire always gives the people a choice. It just punishes the wrong one.
The Judge: I made the only choice possible after considering the witnesses’ testimony.
The Voice: I heard their testimony. The Defense and the Prosecution were right about the witnesses.
The Judge: Those were the only witnesses who knew…
The Voice: Those were the only witnesses who believed.
The Judge: Both the Defense and the Prosecution were strongly against me, personally. Yes, they were right, but they limited their understanding to the law of reason.
The Voice: This not the time for rhetoric. You have made more important things to do.
The Judge: What I have to do?
The Voice: To bear the burden of proving your innocence. Or, at least, stop incriminating yourself.
The Judge: You mean, confess sincerely that I have ordered the wrong verdict. How can I do that? I just couldn’t rule the resurrection didn’t occur, because it might have. Nor could I proclaim that the resurrection did occur, because it might not have. I realized that in order to reach the truth, I had to unite these two alternatives in a complete and irrefutable oneness.
The Voice: In order to exist in the Empire, you had to have chosen one alternative.
The Judge: Even if I had chosen the miracle?
The Voice: Even then. The Empire would recognize and punish you as a respected enemy. This way you could’ve become a part of the Empire again.
The Judge: Oh, that would’ve been beautiful.
The Voice: However, you’ve issued your verdict and you’ve lost the privilege to live in the Empire. There is nothing beyond the Empire. Ergo, you’ve lost the privilege to live anywhere.
The Judge: I knew it… I knew it…
The Voice: You do not exist anymore, and because the Crucified is the reason for your non-existence, I grant you, as last comfort, a death like His.
The Judge: You will crucify e… So what? I have been crucified for centuries, hanging between “yes” and “no”, between the law and the miracle. Finally, thanks to this case, I have discovered the truth. And I have become whole, and sound. Yes, I was lonely. Desperately lonely. But complete. I have found peace of mind. Because I have found my truth. I don’t really care whether this truth is the Empire’s truth, or not. You cannot crucify me now, when my soul has its truth. I won’t feel the pain. No one an make me suffer, nothing an bring me joy, or death, or life.
The Voice: What a pity. You are dead.
The Judge: I want to ask you something. Please, tell me the truth, in the name of our lost friendship. When you made me the Judge in this case, did you know that I would order a verdict for which I had to be punished?
The Voice: I did. I and doubted it.
The Judge: Well, do you think that wen they drive the nails into my palms it will hurt a lot?
The Voice: I hope it hurts. A lot.