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Religion of Thursday, 16 June 2011

Source: kwaku ba

Did Jesus Really Ascend into Heaven ?

Faith versus Evidence: Did Jesus Really Ascend into Heaven ?

Following the death and resurrection of Jesus, Christians also posit that after 40 days Jesus rose through the clouds and ascended into heaven. But is this true and accurate? Is this an account that can be defended and stand up to scrutiny? This article looks at some of the evidence concerning this most important event as described in the Bible, so that readers can verify for themselves and ask and answer very important questions regarding this facet of the Christian faith.

Act 1: 9 – 12 reports that for forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus continued to teach his followers. Jesus and the remaining 11 Apostles were gathered near Mount Olivet, to the northeast of Bethany. Jesus gave his apostles the Great Commission of spreading his message all over the world, and that they shall receive the Holy Spirit. Shortly after this pep talk Jesus is taken up and received by a cloud. Then two men clothed in white (we will assume they are angels) appear and tell the apostles that Jesus will return in the same manner as he was taken up to heaven. This is the most detailed account of the Ascension in the Bible.

In the Gospel of Luke, there is no time reference in the narrative to say when the Ascension specifically took place. If one were to assume that the events listed happened one after the other then it can be argued that the Ascension taking place on Easter Sunday evening.

1 Peter 3: 21-22 states that Jesus has ascended to heaven and is at God's right side.

Ephesians 4: 7- 13 talks about Jesus ascending higher than all the heavens. Interesting, so how heavens are there and which does God or Jesus live in?

Luke 24:50-51 gives a shorter description of the events. Jesus led the eleven apostles to Bethany, not far from Jerusalem. Then as he was blessing them, Jesus was carried up to heaven. It is pertinent to note that in the first Bibles published Luke was the first part of Luke-Acts, It was later that scribes divided it into two books, Luke, and Acts. scholars speculate that this Ascension description, less detailed than that in Acts 1:9-12, is from a different author, perhaps created by a scribe when Luke-Acts was divided into Luke and Acts.

Other passages imply an ascension even though it is not explicitly mentioned, for example John 6:42, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' Matthew 28: 18-20 describes Jesus at a mountain in Galilee with Jesus commanding the Disciples to spread the Gospel to the ends of the world, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (the "Great Commission"). But there is no specific mention of Jesus Ascending up to heaven in this quotation.

So let us examine some key points here. First of all Jesus rise upwards towards the sky, and this is described as him ascending to heaven. Why is that? Is the sky heaven? The fact is in the ancient times, it was believed that the earth was flat and that the sky was the upper limit of the earth, anything beyond that would be in the heaven where God, or the gods lived. So the idea was that if Jesus rose up up and up he would leave the earth and enter into heaven where God was. Today we know that this is not true. The earth is not flat and if you rise up through the clouds and keep going you will leave the earth atmosphere and enter space, but not heaven. There is no heavenly paradise on the immediate boundary outside of the earth atmosphere. If you leave the earth as have countless man made spacecraft you enter the darkness and coldness of space, and without the correct equipment a human will quickly die, besides if one rises into space without the correct speed, the earth gravitational forces will pull you back towards the ground and kill you easily. But none of this was known even by Jesus that is why he tells his disciples to spread the message to the ends of the earth. Today we know the earth is a globe like a ball so it cannot have an end. Why was this statement not corrected by the omnipotent being?

So since the earth is a globe a person ascending from Europe would be moving “upwards”, whereas a person in Argentina ascending would be moving “downwards”. So what exactly is the correct direction to get to heaven by flight? Let us recall that that the account of Acts states that Jesus was taken up on a cloud. The problem with that claim is that clouds do not move vertically and down to act like an elevator sending someone to a destination overhead. Clouds also cannot defy the laws of gravity and the other processes responsible for their formation. Also the two angels who appeared were not there to facilitate Jesus upward motion, they were there to announce to the Apostles that their master had been sent back to Heaven. Moreover as anyone who has sat on airplane can tell you clouds exist only up to a certain altitude, beyond that they cannot take you anywhere, so was Jesus left hanging among the rain clouds? How did he continue his journey to Heaven, and where exactly is this heaven? So we can see that these claims in the Bible are absurd and of no merit.

Next we can talk about the 40 days. Why after 40 days? What is special about 40 days? Well, we must remember that the Romans who were the colonial masters back then used a calendar which consisted of 10 months, each with 40 days. For example December which comes from the Latin word Decem which means 10, so December means 10th month. This is why most Roman and Greek festivals we hear of were celebrated over a 40 day period in other words over that entire month. One common example is the Roman pagan festival called Saturnalia that today we call Christmas. It was celebrated over the entire month of December with the major activities happening between 17th and 25th of the month. Also we hear of festivals in which 40 days of preparation was needed before the festival began. In other words one whole month was being set aside for preparations. It was later that the so called Julian calendar invented by Julius Caesar was adapted by The Roman empire that had twelve months each with different numbers of days to make up the year. However the practice of 40 days celebrations etc remained. So it is no surprise that 40 days is used as the waiting period before Jesus ascended into heaven. Remember, at the time Israel had been colonized by the Romans, and the New Testament itself was written in Greek, and the Greeks by then had already been conquered by the Romans and had adopted many of their cultural practices. Many of these Roman practices later spread throughout Europe as the Roman Empire expanded to conquer as far as Germany, France, and parts of Britain. When these countries themselves became colonial powers they also did the same and passed on these practices to their colonial subjects for example Ghana.

It is often claimed by Christians that Jesus is unique among religious figures because he is the only one that died and resurrected, and also the only one that ascended to heaven when his time was done here on earth. But is that true? Let us take a look at some others and what their worshippers say about them

The first religion to teach of an afterlife was that of the Ancient Egyptians. By around 3,000BC the ancient Egyptians worshipped Horus. Horus, was the son of the supreme being Osiris. Horus was born of the virgin Isis on December 25th His birth was announced by a star in the east which led 3 kings to search for him and adorn him with gifts. At the age of 12 he became a teacher in the temple, teaching the teachers and scribes. He had 12 disciples who accompanied him on his travels, where he performed miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water. According to the ancient texts he was eventually betrayed by one of his followers, arrested, crucified and resurrected after 3 days.

Attis of Phrygia, born of the virgin Nanon, born December 25th He became a great preacher, but was arrested crucified and after 3 days he resurrected.

Krishna of India, born of the virgin Devaki. His birth was marked by a star in the east, he performed miracles, and when he died he resurrected.

Dionysus of Greece, born on December 25th. He was a travelling teacher who healed the sick and performed many miracles, for example turning water into wine, and upon his death he was resurrected.

Mithra of Persia. Born of a virgin on December 25th. He had twelve followers, and upon his death he was buried and after 3 days he resurrected. Mithra is the first documented god whose followers were required to worship him on Sunday. Mithraism later became a state sponsored religion of the Romans. The celebration of his birth on December 25th was marked by the Roman festival Saturnalia. This festival later had its name changed and today we celebrate it by the name Christmas.

And there are many other examples.

So once again we see the Christian beliefs and traditions based off of pre-existing paganism, and not original, just like Christmas, Easter, Pope, confession, baptism, heaven, hell, virgin birth, trinity, 12 disciples, resurrection, miracles, fasting, original sin, Great flood etc etc. These are all ideas that were practiced by other religions that flourished many centuries before Christianity was invented. So the question remains, why does Christianity recycle pre-existing beliefs and add them to its belief system?

Now regarding ascension let us study what Jesus himself taught about it? Jesus says in John3: 13 : “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” But in Genesis we are told of Enoch, direct descendant of Seth and also the father of Methuselah, that ” And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; For God took him.” Genesis 5:24. In other words he was so righteous that God himself came down and took him away, he did not experience death. This is reinforced in Hebrews 11:5 “Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him” So where did God take him because according to Jesus, it was certainly not to heaven. Unless there are several heavens and Jesus does not access or knowledge on all of them, but Jesus is God and God is all knowing, so what is going on here? Then we have Elijah, another righteous man of God who performed several miraculous works. But instead of dying he was taken direct to heaven. 2 Kings 2:11 :And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”. So Yahweh of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament, which is accurate and which is not? More than one opposing claims can all not be right. Who is wrong, Yahweh or Jesus? And why?

So at this time we can now ask ourselves some important questions and vouch some well informed answers.

Did Jesus really ascend to heaven?

The Biblical claims are sketchy and mixed at best. Besides that, there is no extra-biblical evidence to support the claim. If this claim was accurate it would be a world famous event. The Roman government would have reported it in their documents, for example, as well as countless others. But no such accounts exists. There is insufficient evidence to support the claim that the ascension took place as claimed in the New Testament.

But Kwaku Ba Jesus is the only figure who died and resurrected and then went to heaven. So you are wrong

Answer: No not true at all. In this article we looked at more than 6 others whose followers claim they died and resurrected. But just like the Jesus claim it is all based on faith. There is no evidence to back up the claims. We can therefore safely reject the claims as speculation or hearsay.

Even if Jesus did in fact ascend to heaven is the Biblical narrative accurate?

No. It says he was taken onto a cloud and then up into the sky. Clouds do not behave like that. Going up into the sky does not send you into heaven, it sends you into outer space, which we know is not where heaven would be if it existed at all. Moreover, the earth is a globe, so rising vertically from any point will send you in a different direction in the cosmos, so which direction is it to heaven?

The Bible again proves to us that it is a work of fiction and speculation, concocted up by ancient tribes who lived in the Middle East many years ago as a way of regulating and controlling their society. All societies everywhere in the world have similar fairy tales, in Ghana we call it Ananses3m. There is no proof for any of them. They are not true. There is no proof of any Gods, anywhere. At this time readers are encouraged to add their comments to this debate so we can work together and foster a knowledge based democracy in our beloved Ghana. Superstition and unproven divine claims will contribute nothing towards the development of Ghana.

kwaku ba; May 2011