Easter is fast approaching. So now we get the fine pleasure of hearing a ton about a magical
Hollywood's real version of what easter is ALL about!
Easter bunny who runs around getting people fat(ter). Movies like “Hop” are coming out but strangely there are no movies about the resurrection of Christ coming out this Easter. So, I thought it would be good to tackle the resurrection from a historical perspective.
To sum up where we are thus far…
- We can prove that the time span of the writings of the gospels and the rest of the New Testament took place within an acceptable time frame from the crucifixion.
- We can also demonstrate that the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is far superior and in fact the most documented event in history.
This post is going to take a look at the most critical event in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19)
The resurrection is the lynch pin of the Christian faith. Without it, there is no arisen God, and thus Jesus was not who he said he was. So the question then becomes, are the events depicted in the Gospel historically accurate?
Here are the facts that are relatively agreed to by most New Testament Scholars
- On the Sunday morning after the crucifixion the tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
- On multiple occasions many people and groups interacted with a live Jesus after his death.
- The original disciples suddenly and sincerely changed directions and passionately argued for a resurrected Christ.
Those that dispute the above three facts are on the fringe. Many New Testament skeptics will accept the above facts. The support for this evidence is the documents within the New Testament.
Quick Note….Most atheists immediately dismiss the use of the New Testament because it is part of the Bible. I would argue against this. You cannot, at least from a true scholarly perspective, dismiss the documents of the New Testament. While it is presented in a single book, the New Testament must be viewed as a collection of documents which were recorded by several different men. Thus the New Testament provides an opportunity for skeptics to corroborate evidence from one author to another. Again, historical evidence shows that the New Testament was written within an acceptable amount of time from the crucifixion. The manuscript evidence is 99% accurate. So we can say with comfort, what we read in the New Testament, was in fact written within 20-60 years of the crucifixion. Let’s look at each fact.
1. The Empty tomb
There are multiple sources besides Mark that testify to the empty tomb. Matthew and John are independent sources about the empty tomb. It is also mentioned in the sermons in Acts (2:29; 13:36) and implied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:4. These are independent sources attesting to the fact of an empty tomb.
Another thing to consider is the fact that women discovered the tomb first. This is most definitely note worthy for one simple fact: women were not highly regarded in Jewish society. Josephus says that women weren’t even permitted to serve as witnesses in a Jewish court of law! If the empty tomb was legend and not fact, the writers of this legend most certainly would have put men at the tomb for the discovery, rather than women. The fact that it is women who discover the tomb empty can only mean one thing…they were in fact the chief witnesses to this event.
2. On multiple occasions many people and groups interacted with a live Jesus after his death.
The list of eyewitnesses to have Jesus after his death is numerous. Paul provides a list of those who have seen him in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. In this list Paul includes the name of Peter, the Twelve, and James. These are people that Paul personally knew. These appearances cannot be dismissed as mere legends.
Additionally, narratives of the appearances are multiple and independently attested to. Consider for example this, the appearance to Peter is attested by Luke and Paul; the appearance to the Twelve is attested by Luke, John and Paul; and the appearance to the women is attested by Matthew and John. The testimony of the appearances is so broad that it cannot be reasonably argued that the earliest disciples did have such experience.
3. The original disciples suddenly and sincerely changed directions and passionately argued for a resurrected Christ.
This is a topic we have covered before by asking you “Would you die for a lie?”
Here is the reality of the situation for the disciples.
- Their leader was dead. Messianic expectations of their Messiah were one of the Messiah defeating Israel’s enemies not being shamefully executed as a criminal.
- The Jewish belief system did not have/did not allow for anyone being arisen from the dead before the general resurrection of the dead at the end of the world.
Despite these two realities the original disciples came to believe so strongly that Jesus had arisen from the grave and began preaching it throughout the world. The simple fact here is that these Jewish men went about the world preaching something that ultimately was un-Jewish and outlandish according to their own faith. Acts 5:33-39 illustrates these points of contention.
So now the question becomes…what is the best explanation of these facts?
First some common attempts to explain the above facts:
- The body was stolen.
This would explain the empty tomb, but not the appearances, and most definitely not the change of the disciples, even if they stole the body.
- The appearances were hallucinations.
This is highly improbable (if not absolutely impossible) considering that the ENTIRE list provided by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 would have had to have the same hallucination. That is 500+ people all having a hallucination of Jesus returning from the dead.
The only plausible and absolute explanation of the three facts mentioned above is that Jesus in fact rose from the dead. No other event or explanation could cover all three facts.
We hope we have answered some of your questions regarding the historicity of Jesus and His resurrection… If you have further objections you would like us to answer, please let us know… If not, would you consider trusting in Him today?