Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Fact of the Resurrection

While many insist that Christianity is just a matter of mindless faith, the Bible itself speaks of evidences and proofs. Let's just take the example of the resurrection:

“After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)

It is by virtue of these proofs that Paul suggested that his skeptical readers to check out the validity of the resurrection claims with the many eyewitnesses still alive: “He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:6).

Although the eyewitnesses are no longer alive, we do have their highly credible accounts. I’ll lay out a few:

1. All the Church Fathers, many of whom knew the Apostles and saw them die the death of martyrs for what they believed, are unanimous about the resurrection.

2. There are the 27 books of the New Testament that all affirm this reality. These include many impressive eyewitness accounts. Some of these books had been written by people who had previously not believed in Jesus but were later convinced by the evidence of the resurrection. Paul had actually been persecuting the Church. James and Jude were brothers of Jesus who had not believed.

3. The Book of Acts records many thousands of Jewish people coming to a faith in Christ after the crucifixion. This isn’t understandable apart from a resurrection. Likewise, many people who had previously been opposed to Christ came to faith after the crucifixion. This turn-around can only be understood from the perspective of the resurrection, as Paul detailed (1 Cor. 15:1-8).

4. The Apostles, who were fleeing for the lives and had given up their faith after the crucifixion, were turned around by their experience with the resurrected Jesus who appeared to them for 40 days. These same men all became martyrs, never compromising their testimony even when offered their lives to do so. (Seldom if ever do we hear of two or three co-conspirators willing to die for a story they concocted.) Furthermore, the Mosaic Law demanded death for anyone who would teach novelties.

5. Jesus’ Apostles are regarded as highly credible for other reasons. For one thing, they never tried to portray themselves in a positive way, but were self-deprecating. They clearly had no motives to promote their own interests. They reported what they did because they genuinely were convinced of the truthfulness of their report. Even the agnostic, Bart Ehrman admits that “the oldest and best sources we have for knowing about the life of Jesus…are the four Gospels of the NT…This is not simply the view of Christian historians…it is the view of all serious historians of antiquity…it is the conclusion that has been reached by every one of hundreds (thousands, even) of scholars.”

6. The post-resurrection transformation of their lives, proves that the Apostles were convinced that they had seen the resurrected Jesus. The evidence for this is so compelling that “Even the atheist [Gerd] Ludemann conceded, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” (Strobel) Why then does Ludemann remain an atheist? He prefers to believe that the claims of Jesus’ appearances were all based upon 40 days of mass–hallucinations.

7. Without a Resurrection, it would have been next to impossible to account for the growth of the Church. After all, who would invest their lives in a religion where its God had been put to death in such a disgraceful way, unless there was a final and decisive chapter to this story?

8. Following the reports that Jesus had risen, both Romans and Jews were unable to produce the body. A Roman guard had been placed at the tomb to prevent the possibility that Jesus’ disciples would steal the body and claim that He rose and He had said He would. Nevertheless, the Jewish authorities had claimed that the cowardly disciples had stolen the body. However, no reputable historian takes this position. In view of this, historian William Ward, claims, “All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor [of the empty tomb], and those scholars who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific evidence.” (Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus) Had there been a body, the Christian assertion of the Resurrection could easily have been put to rest.

9. There is no contemporary counter-evidence. Instead, Jewish sources acknowledge that Jesus was crucified on the Passover and that He had been a worker of miracles.

10. The Christian rituals of Communion and Baptism both envision a resurrection and go back to the very beginning of the church. This suggests that the ordinary Christian believed in the resurrection even from the beginning.

11. Evidently, the New Testament evidence had been so unimpeachable, that even the writers of other religions (Gnostic Gospels) piggy-backed on their miraculous accounts of the resurrection, as they applied their own errant interpretations.

William Lane Craig therefore concludes, “All the theories, like ‘The Disciples stole the body,’ or ‘Jesus wasn’t really dead’ have been universally rejected by modern scholarship.” (Strobel)

No comments:

Post a Comment