The cross is either the liberation of mankind or its subjugation. The call of the Nazarene “come, and I will give you rest”, is either the call of a Savior or a Charlatan. The scandal of the cross is that the answer lies in history not merely in orthodoxy, in the objective, not merely in the subjective, and in precedent not merely in consequent; and the answer to the call is either fulfilled or emptied on that Sunday that is called Good. The cries of the heart covet for the theology at Golgotha to be true but intentions contradict desire. We want to have our longings satisfied but we also want our autonomy and it is the latter conceit that chastises the former hope. Wherein this lays our highest longing, the vessel where the longing is placed is its weakest member. – T.H. Moller
If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us! – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A) Burial of Jesus Christ
“The best established fact of the passion story.” J.A.T. Robinson
1) Buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s personal tomb. Best established fact of the story according to most NT scholars.
2) A Sanhedrin member. The very council that condemned Jesus.
3) Multiple Attestation: More than one source mentions an event.
a. 1 Cor 15
b. Mark 15
4) No other independent burial stories and therefore no competing burial stories.
B) Tomb was Empty
1) Tomb was found empty by women. Women had zero legal credibility at the time.
2) Earliest Jewish polemic presupposed an empty tomb saying the disciples came and stole the body.
3) Early Attestation to both the burial and empty tomb found I Cor. 15
i. The words delivered and received are terms descriptive of rabbinic treatment of holy tradition, indicating that this is holy tradition received by Paul.
ii. Several primitive, early, pre-Paulint phrases are used (“the twelve,”, “the third day,” “he was seen”, “for our sins” [ plural ], “he was raised”). These phrases are very Jewish and early.
iii. The poetic style is Hebraic
iv. The Aramaic Cephas is used; this was an early way of referring to Peter.
v. “He was buried” implies the empty tomb and stands between the death and resurrection.
vi. There are four “that” clauses which mirror Mark’s general chronological narrative. The burial anticipates the empty tomb in this formula.
vii. “The third day” points to an empty tomb but since Paul did not actually see the resurrection how did he date it on the third day? Craig argues that the women found the tomb empty which dates the resurrection on the third day.
From J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, p.150 and W. L. Craig The Son also Rises.
C) Groups of people witnessed the appearances. Multiple attestation to the appearances.
Appeared to believers and non-believers alike.
1) 1 Cor 15 again shows that these reports are early
2) The reports are brief and sporadic and sometimes difficult to harmonize.
3) Disciples were slow to believe which casts a negative light on the first leaders of the church. This would be counterproductive to establish their leadership and authority.
4) The reports are reported with characteristic reserve. Compare with the gnostic Gospel of Peter which reports on the resurrection itself as a cross coming out of the tomb and Jesus standing so tall is head disappears into the clouds, although not green resembling a Jolly Green Giant standing above lilliputian Jerusalem.
“In light of these facts, the Gospel story is psychologically sound. The disciples were slow to recognize in Jesus as their Messiah, for by his actions he was fulfilling none of the roles expected for the Messiah.” George E. Ladd, I believe in the Resurrection, pp. 71-72
”It is historically certain that Peter and the other disciples had experiences, after Jesus’ death, in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” Gerhard Luddeman
“The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based.” Norman Perrin, The Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, p. 80
D) The Origin of the Christian Church: The earliest disciples came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite every predisposition to the contrary!
1) Their leader was dead and there was no Jewish tradition of a dead messiah.
2) Under Jewish Law, a person executed by crucifixion was cursed by God, a person shown to be a heretic.
3) The Jewish belief and hope had no hope or expectation of anyone rising from the dead before the general resurrection at the end of the world but the disciples came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. They went to their deaths for that belief.
”We have here a belief that nothing in terms of antecedent historical influences
can account for apart from the resurrection itself.” C.F.D. Moule
E) The changed lives of the disciples, including Paul. If one denies the resurrection of Christ then one has to posit an X to explain the origin of the Christian church, and that X has to be big enough to account for the changed lives of the disciples.
1) According to Eusebius, and indirectly corroborated by Josephus, all the disciples, with the exception of John were killed for their belief in the resurrected Christ.
2) Saul was a Pharisee intent on destroying the “cult of The Way”. But Saul who became Paul witnessed the risen Christ, and changed his message and approach as a result.