Would You Buy an Edsel?

In the late 1950’s, the Ford Motor Company designed what it believed was the “car to beat all cars.”  In their minds, the Edsel would be found in every driveway in America.  It didn’t quite work out that way.  The Edsel was a complete sales bust, one of the worst ever recorded. 

The Edsel didn’t go down in history as the car of all cars, but as the quintessential example of a marketing disaster.  Many business schools continue to use the story of the Edsel to train marketers what NOT to do!

What made the Edsel such a sales disaster?  Ford didn’t understand the market.  They designed a car no one at that time wanted. 

When the Gospel writers first began writing their Gospels for a largely non-Jewish world, thirty to sixty years after Jesus’ death, the Resurrection was the Edsel of immortality.  It was a vision of the afterlife no one wanted.  At death, most people in the ancient Greco-Roman world believed—or at least hoped—that the soul would be liberated from the body, finally free from all the limitations it imposed.  This is often referred to as disembodied immortality.  The idea that your body would somehow follow you into immortality via resurrection was repulsive.

It’s not just ancient people though.  To illustrate how—outside of first-century Judaism—pervasively unpalatable this concept of physical resurrection has been throughout history, just look at modern Christians, who should know better.  Even though we celebrate Jesus’ bodily Resurrection every Easter, even though we read all about it in our Bibles, even though many of us profess every Sunday that we believe in the resurrection of the body, look at how few Christians talk about their own immortality this way. 

Instead, we talk about being liberated from our bodies at death, as if the soul is all that lives on, and as if that’s a far more desirable thing.  To be sure, prior to the end of time, as our bodies remain in the grave when we die, our souls are, as Paul puts it “with the Lord”.  But, one of the central tenets of Christian belief is that, at the consummation of all things, Jesus will return and raise our mortal bodies to a new, transformed, glorified existence, just as His has been!

Here’s why all this matters: For the Resurrection to be later legend developed by the Gospel writers and/or their contemporaries, it would have to be something that appealed to the audiences they were trying to reach.  But, in their context, those audiences would have been completely repulsed by the idea.  To those they were trying to convert, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus would have been a complete turnoff.  The bodily resurrection would have been unmarketable.  The bodily resurrection would have been the Edsel of immorality!

There would have been no reason, no motive, for them to invent the legend of Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  In fact, they would have had every motive NOT to invent it.  They would have felt tremendous pressure to describe Jesus coming back from the dead as a pure, immaterial, disembodied spirit—if they could; if those earliest disciples weren’t already saying He had been raised bodily

Even if, as some have suggested, there might have been some apologetical advantage to talking about a bodily resurrection, the unmarketability of it would have far outweighed whatever benefit it might have provided.  So, we can be sure the Gospel writers never would have told the story of a bodily Resurrection if it wasn’t something the Church already believed, right from the start.  And this provides another compelling reason why the bodily Resurrection of Jesus can’t be a later legend invented long after Jesus’ death. 

As I’ve said over these last three blogs, there are a number of other compelling reasons this is the case, even though any one of them would suffice.  Any one of them on their own makes the best alternative explanation for the Resurrection untenable.  And, this makes the actual, bodily Resurrection of Jesus the most likely explanation.

Next week I’ll address another question I received about a new topic.  If you have a question or comment you can leave them on the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website.  I love getting your questions and comments.  Keep them coming!

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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