In D.H. Lawrence’s 1929 novella The Escaped Cock (also published under the title The Man Who Died), Jesus’ death is imagined to be a mistake—he didn’t actually die, but rather was taken down too early, and then sheltered by peasants. His resurrection appearances are thus imagined to be simply sightings of him as he escaped Roman justice. In his ‘resurrection’, he realizes that he now wants to live his life for himself, and becomes intimately aware of the life of the body.
Meeting with Madeleine (Magdalen) soon after his ‘death’, he responds to her question as to whether or not he will come back to his followers:
‘I don’t know what I shall do,’ he said. ‘When I am healed, I shall know better. But my mission is over, and my teaching is finished, and death has saved me from my own salvation. Oh, Madeleine, I want to take my single way in life, which is my portion. My public life is over, the life of my self-importance. Now I can wait on life, and say nothing, and have no one betray me. I wanted to be greater than the limits of my hands and feet, so I brought betrayal on myself. And I know I wronged Judas, my poor Judas. For I have died, and now I know my own limits. Now I can live without striving to sway others any more. For my reach ends in my finger-tips, and my stride is no longer than the ends of my toes. Yet I would embrace multitudes, I who have never truly embraced even one. But Judas and the high priests saved me from my own salvation, and soon I can turn to my destiny like a bather in the sea at dawn, who has just come down to the shore alone.’
There’s a Nietzschean flavour to this, but also a Deleuzio-Guattarian one, and the combination of the two produces an effect that I find quite satisfying. The despotic signifier of Christ, brought down to examine the implications of his own despotism, while at the same time echoing Zarathustra’s down-going question of the hermit in the forest: ‘Can it be? Does he not know that God is dead?’