The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The resurrection is a fabricated myth used for religious propanda, only effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children. “…after the crucifixion Jesus’ corpose was prbably laid in a shallow grave, barely covered with dirt, and subsequently eaten by wild dogs; the story of Jesus’ entombment and resurrection was the result of ‘wishful thinking.’” – John Dominic Crossan1

Introduction:

– the resurrection of Jesus Christ is perhaps the most frequently and violently attacked belief of the Christianity. yet the resurrection is the “crowning proof” of the Christian faith.
– of all the religions of the world, Christianity is the best one to start investigating because Christianity places its whole foundation on the one miracle of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and says that if it did not happen then Christianity is false (1 Cor 15:14). therefore, all one has to do is disprove this one miracle and they can go on to investigate the next religion.
– “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, or it is the most fantastic fact of history.”
– in order to best respond to the challenges regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this outline will give three primary proofs for His resurrection and then respond to three main objections.

I. the facts of the empty tomb

    (1) Jesus was buried in a tomb
    a. this was the Jewish custom for Jewish holy men.
    b. no other burial story exists in either written or oral tradition.
    (2) the disciples began to preach Christ had risen from the tomb
    (3) it would have been foolish for the disciples to preach that Christ had risen if His body really was in the tomb.
    (4) no one would have believed them if they knew the body was in the tomb, yet thousands did just shortly afterward in the same city Jesus was crucified (Acts 1-2)
    (5) if the body was in the tomb anyone could have pointed to the tomb or exhumed the body to prove that Jesus had not been raised
    (6) the disciples were filled with discouragement and timidity after Christ’s death (Jn 20:19). They would not have had courage or purpose to preach a false resurrection if it weren’t really true.

II. the resurrection appearances
(1) women were the first to see Him resurrected (Lk 24:1-11). a women’s testimony in first century Judaism was “virtuously worthless.” they were generally not even considered credible enough to give a testimony in court. if Gospel writers were attempting to present false history they would not have recorded this.
(2) Peter, James, and Paul are all specifically named as eyewitnesses (1 Cor 15:5,7,8). All the twelve saw Him resurrected and on one occasion over and then five-hundred people saw Him at the same time (1 Cor 15:3-8 ).

    a. five-hundred people testifying in a courtroom would be overwhelming proof that something happened. how many of those five-hundred people would have to take the stand and testify of what they saw before any judge or jury would be convinced?
    b. at the time when the apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he says that many of those five-hundred people “are still alive (1 Cor 15:6).” this was a way of saying, “if you don’t believe me go ask them!”

(3) one of Jesus’ disciples, Thomas, heard reports that Jesus had risen but doubted them until he too saw and touched Jesus and was convinced (Jn 20:24-29).

III. a historical resurrection is the origin of the Christian faith
(1) all the preaching of the early church was based on the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:23,26; 1 Cor 15).
(2) there is no parallel in pagan religion to a physical bodily resurrection. the dying and rising gods were symbols for processes of nature but never considered as actual people.
(3) the number of converts on Pentecost, three-thousand people (Acts 2:41), was likely because everyone there in Jerusalem knew and heard about the empty tomb and the numerous resurrection appearances.
(4) no one challenged or argued with apostles over the historical facts of the resurrection in the 1st century. but instead argued with them about whether He really was the Messiah.

IV. three objections/explanations of the resurrection
A. the “resurrection” was a conspiracy or hoax devised by the disciples who stole Jesus body as the soldiers claim Matthew 28:12-159

    response #1: Matthew 28:12-15 describes how the chief priest paid the soldiers off to say the disciples stole the body.
    response #2: Matthew 28:13 tells how the soldiers were to say they were asleep when the body was stolen. if they were asleep how could they have known the body was stolen, or known anything that happened.
    response #3: in 1879 a roman edict was found stating that it was illegal under penalty of death to rob a tomb or to move a body from one place to another. disciples knew they would be guilty of death.
    response #4: if the disciples stole the body they would not have taken time to fold up the grave clothes (Jn 20:5-7).
    response #5: if the disciples stole the body they would not have died for what they knew was a lie.

B. the “resurrection” was merely a resuscitation from an apparent death. “Jesus was not completely dead when He was taken down from the cross. He revived in the tomb and escaped to convince His disciples that He had risen from the dead.”

    response #1: physically impossible. considering the extent of Jesus’ tortures. a modern medical examination of the Gospels determines that Jesus suffered from hematidrosis, hypovolemic shock, respiratory acidosis, pericardial and pleural effusion, and finally died of cardiac arrest.
    response #2: religiously impossible. a half dead Jesus appearing to disciples would not evoke their worship to Him as Lord.
    response #3: biographically impossible. goes against all we know of Jesus character.

C. it was not a bodily resurrection but spiritual/psychological resurrection
response #1: Jesus called His body “flesh and bones” (Lk 24:39)
response #2: Jesus offered His body for physical inspection (Jn 20:27)
response #3: Jesus ate food (Lk 24:41-43)
response #3: one person could have had a hallucination or delusion but not 500 people all at the same time (1 Cor 15:6).

For further study of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ some great resources include:
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith. Wheaton, ILL: Crossway Books, 1984.
Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.
Geisler, Norman L. and Brooks, Ronald M. When Skeptics Ask. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990.
McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972.
Moreland, J.P. Scaling the Secular City. Grand Rapids, MI: 1987.
Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Christian Evidences, Chicago: Moody Press, 1953.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.
Wilkins, Michael J. and Moreland, J.P. Jesus Under Fire. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

2 comments for “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

  1. Jonathan
    November 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    What is odd about this article is that almost every single “fact” you point to in order to validate the resurrection story is from the exact same source of the story. How is that a viable case? Whether or not you believe the bible is the written word of God doesn’t matter here. What matters is the basis of your argument. 1) The bible says that Jesus Christ was killed and then resurrected from the dead, so it’s true. 2) It’s also true because other stories in the bible point to it being true. 3) Given the fact that those stories are in the bible, and writers outside of the bible have successfully found them and talked about them in convincingly strong tones, it clearly must be true. You cannot argue in this circular fashion and expect anyone that does disagree with your beliefs to take you seriously. It proves nothing more than your own inability to prove something. Christians might read this and applaud your biblical stance, but I find it difficult to imagine someone outside of the church buying into it. So, how would someone go about proving this to be true without using the bible? They can’t. It’s a faith based religion, not fact based. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere (outside the bible) that this event actually took place. If there were the “truth” would surely stand under any level of honest scrutiny. It’s faith based, please don’t try to sell it as a fact. That is a lie of the worst sort.

  2. November 11, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Hello Jonathan, thanks for you comment. I’ll respond a few ways for you.

    First, technically I did not cite just one source but five different authors (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul) whose works were complied together as the Bible. If you are looking for further corroboration there are other non-Christian corroborative sources such as Josephus, Seutonius, Tacitus, and Pliney the Younger (see “Historical Evidence” below).

    Second, you fault me for using circular reasoning. The funny thing is you commit the same fallacy by presupposing that your use of reason itself is without error. This is more of an epistemology issue than about the resurrection. But presupposing God revealing himself in words of truth called the Bible provides an equally, if not greater, source of confidence. The wiki aritcle actually isn’t that bad: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presuppositional_apologetics

    Third, I’ll try and help by stating the argument in terms you may be more familiar with culturally:

    Bertrand Russell, a famous athiest, wrote a book called “Why I am Not a Christian” and in it he states this about the resurrection of Jesus and the possiblity of our resurrection, “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my own ego will survive.” That is what is on my mind today. Last week, we look at the evidence inside the Bible, but perhaps some of you would say that is circular reasoning, just because the Bible says it doesn’t make it true. Is there anything outside the Bible to support the resurrection.

    Circumstantial Evidence

    Circucumstiantial evidence is when unrelated facts when considered together can be used to infer a certain conclusion. Our lawyers here today know a lot about circumstantial evidence. So let’s look at the circumstances that surround the Bible’s claim of Jesus rising from the dead. So what the Bible says he did, is there any supporting evidence to conclude such a thing?

    1. The Transformation of the Disciples

    The disciples were changed from being lowly, timid, self-conscious followers to strong, powerful, compassionate and fearless leaders, giving to the poor, taking care of widows and orphans, who all suffered and died (except John) on the claim of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. (ex. story of Peter). Their good character and their courage evidences Jesus must have really appeared to them in bodily form.

    2. The Day and Object of Jewish Worship Changed

    The Sabbath was the sacred to Jews. That is Saturday. But Scripture tells us that the reason why Christians started worshipping on Sunday was because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday and worship had become all about Jesus, instead of the Torah. Jews would not have done so, they would have been mortified if Jesus did not really do something as great as rising from the dead to change their sacred tradition.

    3. The Practices of the Church

    Baptism and Communion became fixed elements of Christian worship and they are elements that are meaningless if Jesus did not rise. Baptism is a picture of death to life and was talked about as a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. Communion is a picture of Jesus death on the cross, which would have had no meaning if Jesus was not God and did not rise from the dead, he would have been just another crucified human and there is no need to attach theological significance to his death.

    4. The Preaching of the Church

    The preaching of the early church was saturated with talk about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. (how much do we preach about it today) This would not have been their primary source of material if it had not happened, they were stuck on it.

    5. The Tomb was not Enshrined

    It was the cultural way to enshrine the tombs of holy men, yet there is no trace of any veneration for a tomb of Jesus. There is no question that a hoy man named Jesus existed in the first century, if so then where is his gravestone inscription, unless he rose from the dead?

    6. The Growth of the Church

    The church grew at an unheard of exponential rate…essentially a worldwide phenemoenon. Only the widespread knowledge of something like a resurrection of Jesus could have spawned such a movement. Any other explanation for the rapid growth just doesn’t make sense. There were many wise men around…none had results like that.

    Historical Evidence

    Lastly, we look at the historical evidence. Maybe you have wondered is there any books or writings besides the Bible which mention the resurrection, maybe ones written by people who were not Christians? The answer is yes, there are several.

    1. Josephus from “Antiquities” written ~AD 93 (Jewish historian worked for Roman governer)

    “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a wise man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has to this day not disappeared.”

    2. Seutonius “Vita Nero” written ~AD 54 (Roman historian under Nero)

    “Punishment was inflicted on the Chrstians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition [the resurrection].”

    3. Tacitus “Annals” written ~AD 66 (Roman Historian)

    “Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. . .”

    4. Pliny the Younger “Letter to Turkey Emperor Trajan” written ~AD 111 (to explain Christian worship)

    “I have never been present at an examination of Christians. Consequently, I do not know the nature of the extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, nor the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed…They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this: they met reguarly before dawn on a fixed day [Sunday rememberance of resurrection] to chant verses alternatlely amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god…”

    That’s the evidence. Ten confirming circumstances and written accounts outside the Bible, that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. It will not due to simply dismiss it because we have never seen the resurrected Jesus or because it seems too fantastic. The burden of proof is on those who say it didn’t happen.

    Jonathan, I hope that helps. I can’t help but pick up a tone of vehemence or anger in your words. But maybe that is because tone is hard to communicate in text. If it’s not, then let me tell you there is an answer whatever it is you are so frustrated about…if you feel Christianity is unjust or wronging you or if someone who called themselves a “Christian” hurt you, then know that Christianity is about a God who is objectively just (which you inherently appeal to by your apparently vehement condemnation) took injustice on into himself on the cross so that we might be freed and forgiven from hurt, pain, and the wrath of God for our personal defiance and rebellion.

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