Some of you may know that I have a bit of an obsession with the undead. I am one of the admins at Zombie Theology. Since today is Halloween and zombies are awesome, I figured I would share a post that I wrote over there awhile back.
I feel like it would be an obvious oversight if we didn’t deal with one of the most commonly held beliefs about zombies in scripture: that the resurrected Jesus was a zombie. Jesus died on a Friday, was laid in a grave, and on Sunday morning, when some ladies went to check on him, he was gone. Later that day he visited some of his closest friends and over the next few weeks several other people saw him out and about as well. Jesus died and came back to life – that is the premise from which many assume that Jesus was a zombie. So the question is: did the resurrected Jesus’ behavior fit that of a zombie? Let’s try to consider this as neutrally as possible.
First we must consider our sources. For information on Jesus we will use Christian Scripture. We have two reasons for that: first because that is the nature of this series – to examine Scripture and see if the living dead can be found there, and second because if we believe Jesus really came back from the dead, which those in the zombie Jesus camp must agree with to understand that he was a zombie, then that conclusion would have to come from Scripture, the only historical document that tells of his resurrection.
For information on zombies we will have to loosely base our rules on the “Romero zombie.” I say loosely because Romero never wrote a rule book, but we can take our “rules” from the characteristics of the zombies in his films. There are many other zombie movies and books, but most would agree that Romero is the king of zombies therefore we will use his understanding as our standard on what a zombie is.
I would say that these are some fundamental zombie rules (let me know if you disagree):
- zombies are human bodies that died and have come back to life.
- zombies only possess basic motor skills.
- zombies cannot talk. At best they can communicate like animals through moans and groans.
- zombies have one intention: to eat the living.
- zombies are dangerous.
- zombies are physical, they have no supernatural abilities.
- zombies bodies are decaying and rotting.
- zombies are not capable of complex thoughts or problem solving skills.
Now lets compare these standards to what we see of the resurrected Jesus in Christian Scripture:
- Yes, Jesus did die and come back to life.
- Jesus built a fire and cooked fish for Peter and a few of his other followers. Building a fire requires use of very fine motor skills. – John 21
- Jesus talks to several people after rising from the dead. – John 21 (for one example)
- Jesus seemed to have no intention of eating people, we have no record of him eating any humans after rising from the dead, we do however see him eating fish and honeycomb (so not even just meat). – Luke 24:42-43
- Jesus did not seem dangerous at all, on the contrary people were happy to be around him. He traveled with two of his followers (without them even knwoing it was him) and they asked him to stay with them when he was getting ready to part from them. If he were dangerous it would not make sense to ask him to stay. – Luke 24:29
- Something really interesting about the resurrected Jesus was his ability to walk through walls and disappear. These seem like some kind of supernatural function which zombies are incapable of. – Luke 24:31, John 20:19
- Jesus’s body did still have the holes from the spear and nails, but surprisingly Thomas, one of his followers, was not afraid to stick his finger in those holes. Jesus broke bread and cooked fish and people ate these things. If Jesus were a rotting corpse it seems unlikely that people would be so willing to eat the food he prepared or stick their hands in his side. John 20: 27, Luke 24:42-43, John 21
- The resurrected Jesus could talk, he prepared meals, he explained complicated doctrines, asked tough questions, performed supernatural acts, and did several other things that demonstrated problem solving and complex thought processes. His actions and words demonstrated something beyond human, not subhuman such as the living dead.
So whether you are a Christian or not, it is clear from Scripture that the risen Jesus it describes is certainly not a zombie. One is forced to disbelieve the Bible and write off the resurrection all together, or embrace the Bible’s story and realize that the risen Jesus was someone who was raised in glory, not decay. Whichever you choose, a zombie Jesus is clearly not an option.