Anthony Le Donne directed his readers to Scot McKnight’s interesting analysis of the zombie theme in the resurrection narratives of Jesus. Like Anthony, I was also amused, though there were some fatal flaws with McKnight’s arguments–mainly because he takes a canonical (re: orthodox) approach to Zombies and any True™ Z-fan will tell you that the Zombie motif is far from stable or stagnant. In fact, the Zombie motif is constantly shifting with the social currents of the time (much like figure of the historical Jesus, actually).
But let us get on with it. First and foremost, McKnighly lays out his interpretation of the resurrection:
Resurrection is not a natural process, and it is certainly not something that makes one “the living dead.” Jesus’ resurrection was a total physical renewal. On Easter morning, death and corruption were decisively overrun in this single human person, as every cell of Jesus’ body cast off mortality for immortality.
Resurrection, then, is what it looks like when the affects of sin are removed from a human being.
That is fine; I can respect McKnight’s faith in this regard, but then we have to differentiate the physical and spiritual act of sin-cleansing from the actually event of rising from the dead. They may be linked, but we cannot discount the fact that Jesus shows the wounds of his crucifixion (“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”, Lk 24.39, NIV; cf. Jn 20.20) and even demands his disciples touch them (“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’”, Jn 20.27, NIV… yuck)!
Though it brings me no joy, I bow to the scholarship of Licona:
“[E]ven if Jesus had somehow managed to survive crucifixion, He would not have inspired His disciples to believe that He had been resurrected. Imagine Jesus, half-dead in the tomb. He revives out of a coma and finds Himself afraid in the dark. He places his nail-pierced hands on the very heavy stone blocking His exit and pushes it out of the way. Then, He is met by the guards who say “Where do you think you’re going, Pal?” He answers, “I’m out of this hole.” He then beats up the guards, after which He walks blocks if not miles on pierced and wounded feet in order to find His disciples. Finally, He comes to the house where they are staying and knocks on the door. Peter opens the door and sees Jesus hunched over in his pathetic and mutilated state and says, “Wow! I can’t wait to have a resurrection body just like yours!”
So if the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ death are to be believed, and if Licona is a trustworthy scholar (I leave those two questions to be answered at the discretion of the reader), then we must accept that Jesus actually died and then came back to life in the flesh (according to two Gospels, at least). We know that in most narratives, Zombies also come back to life after they die and exhibit the same wounds they had at death and experience no pain–like Licona’s risen Jesus model, Zombies are able to perform amazing athletic feats without suffering from the debilitating effects of their afflictions (death), for example they can climb building or chase after cars or leap in the air or even jump out windows and land on their feet (like cats) without once stopping because of the pain. And they do all this with super strength and super speed, in a primal fashion, which defies all physical and natural laws and order.
McKnight then tries to find an example of Biblical Zombies and decides, to my surprise, that Adam is the best option: “Looking at other stories, the better biblical example of one with zombie-ism was actually Adam. Adam dies, yet he lives.” But this isn’t so at all. The best other example of Zombie-ism in the Bible is clearly the case of the saints rising from the grave and walking all over Jerusalem like a pack or horde of Zombies on the prowl (for brains or sins or whatever these zombies crave):
“The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Mt 27.51, NIV)
Both Wright and Licona have argued that this happened (because, after all, who would make up a story like this?) so we are left with multiple examples of dead coming to life and roaming around, eating food in some instances, showing signs of exposed wounds (one must wonder in what state the dead saints must have been!), doing amazing feats (walking along roads with no signs of pain from their afflictions).
This is all just from the narrative bits now, but there is also that cannibalism thing that plays a huge role in the Zombie-ism of Jesus’ death and subsequent rising… (“Take and eat; this is my body.”, Mt 26.26-9, NIV) and the blood drinking. This ritual cannibalism was performed by all those at the table with Jesus. I mean, that might as well have been right out of the mind of George A. Romero!
I think we must all come to agreement here. The historical Jesus, had he risen from the dead as described in at least some of the narratives of his resurrection, must have been a Zombie.