NEW ORLEANS (BP)--"What If?" is a series of best-selling books put together by Robert Cowley in which historians look at some key event in history and try to imagine what if it had not happened that way.
Such as: What if Pontius Pilate had spared Jesus?
That is the title of the chapter by Carlos M.N. Eire, chairman of Yale University's department of religious studies. The subtitle reads, "Christianity without the Crucifixion."
Eire imagines Pontius Pilate heeding the warning of his wife whose sleep had been disturbed that night by thoughts of "that righteous man." Her message to the governor said, "Have nothing to do with him."
So, he asks, what if Pilate had resisted the religious leaders and the rabble who were crying for Jesus to be executed? What if he had released Him?
On one page of the book, underneath a 13th-century painting of Pilate with the Jewish leaders, is the caption: "The Decision That Made a Religion."
Eire asks, "What if Jesus hadn't been nailed to a cross at Pilate's orders? What if he had lived a long, long life? Or even just ten more years? Or one? What if his person and message had been interpreted differently, as they surely would have been?"
The answers could easily go all over the map, as Eire acknowledges. He says, "To speculate on what might have happened if anything at all had been different in the story of Jesus and his followers is to sail in an infinite ocean of possibilities."
In other words, your guess is as good as his.
One thing is sure: If no crucifixion, no resurrection. And without either a cross or an empty tomb, we have nothing but an inspiring story of a wonderful man who lived an exemplary life. In other words, we're in big trouble.
Asking "what if Jesus did not go to the cross" is tantamount to wondering: "What if God were wrong?"
And when you open up that Pandora's Box, chaos erupts in every direction.
This being Easter season, it's the "in" thing for preachers and Bible teachers to go to seed on the pivotal event of the resurrection. Without it, nothing. With it, everything.
The crucifixion is the first half of that story. Separating the death of Jesus from His resurrection and trying to make one more important than the other is like running a ripsaw through your torso and trying to decide which half was more essential to your existence. Read More