The Resurrection of Jesus


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12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. First Corinthians 15:12-19 (KJV)

             Like an attorney who walks back and forth in the courtroom pleading his case on behalf of his client with great confidence; knowing that he has everything necessary to win a case, similarly, we see the Apostle Paul making this powerful statement in First Corinthians 15:12-19. These verses sound like a challenge to whoever dares to question the resurrection of our Lord.

            Before we get into the resurrection discussion, I believe that first we should know some basic facts about Jesus’ existence.

            1. He existed as a man. The historian Josephus grew up in a priestly family in first-century Palestine and wrote only decades after Jesus’ death. Jesus’ known associates, such as Jesus’ brother James, were his contemporaries. The historical   and cultural context was second nature to Josephus. “If any Jewish writer were  ever in a position to know about the non-existence of Jesus, it would have been     Josephus. His implicit affirmation of the existence of Jesus has been, and still is,   the most significant obstacle for those who argue that the extra-Biblical evidence is not probative on this point,” Robert Van Voorst observes. And     Tacitus was careful enough not to report real executions of nonexistent people. 2. His personal name was Jesus, as Josephus informs us. 3. He was called     Christos in Greek, which is a translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, both   of which mean “anointed” or “(the) anointed one,” as Josephus states and Tacitus implies, unaware, by reporting, as Romans thought, that his name was Christus. 4. He had a brother named James (Jacob), as Josephus reports. 5. He won over   both Jews and “Greeks” (i.e., Gentiles of Hellenistic culture), according to Josephus, although it is anachronistic to say that they were “many” at the end of his life. Large growth in the number of Jesus’ actual followers came only after his death. 6. Jewish leaders of the day expressed unfavorable opinions about him, at least according to some versions of the Testimonium Flavianum. 7. Pilate rendered the decision that he should be executed, as both Tacitus and Josephus          state. 8. His execution was specifically by crucifixion, according to     Josephus. 9. He was executed during Pontius Pilate’s governorship over Judea (26–36 C.E.), as Josephus implies and Tacitus states, adding that it was  during Tiberius’s reign.”[1]

            In making the case for the resurrection of Christ we must start by stating that Jesus spoke with great authority, that there is not one instant when Jesus was out-argued, he thought things unknown by man, he was a man of great compassion, a man of character, a worker of miracles and a man whose life was the very fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies.[2] Most importantly, Jesus himself predicted his own death and resurrection.[3]

The historical facts of the death, the empty tomb, and the postmortem appearances of Jesus

      Groothuis tells us about Minimal Facts and Maximal Result: Resurrection[4]; he pointed out that Apologists such as William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas and Richard Swinburne effectively use these method. 1) Death by crucifixion: “It is a well-established fact of history that Jesus died by crucifixion in the early 30s.” As we know, crucifixion was a public death. Groothuis also points out that the public crucifixion offered biblical and extrabiblical material witnesses. 2) Burial in a known tomb: Jesus was buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea.[5] This is a very important detail because that indicates an exact location for Jesus’ tomb. The Bible tells us,

“Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.”[6]

3) The Empty Tomb: Groothuis reminds us that all four gospels speak of the empty tomb. He also states that this testimony was given to Paul in First Corinthians 15. Paul got his information from reliable eye witness sources who were still alive during his time and who provided him with these sources within only 25 years or less of the actual crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I have no doubts that the Apostle Paul was alive during the death and resurrection of Christ and perhaps, he grew up listening to such story; a story that he learned to hate as he himself was a persecutor of the church.[7] The story is not fictional! Lastly, all gospel accounts pointed out that the women were first in making this claim of the empty tomb. At first, this fact does not seem important. However, if this story were to be made up, they would have not used women because during that time the testimony of a woman did not have much credibility.[8]

      4) The Postmortem Appearance of Jesus: Groothuis give us 12 biblical witness accounts of folks who saw Jesus after the resurrection, starting with Mary Magdalene, other women, Peter, two disciples on the road to Emmaus, ten apostles, eleven apostles, seven apostles, all the apostles, five hundred disciples who Paul states that many were still alive during his time according to First Corinthians 15:6. Also James was an eyewitness, again all disciples saw him together one more time and then the Apostle Paul.[9]

The transformation of Jesus’ disciples

       Without a doubt there was a deep and profound transformation that took place in the character of all the disciples. Groothuis points out that among other things, neither of the disciples, but John, were there during the crucifixion. Even as Jesus alluded of his own death and resurrection, it is obvious that the disciples did not believe him. These men could not even pray for one hour.[10] However, there was an explosion that took place after the resurrection; these men were totally transformed. The National Geographic Channel “Killing Jesus” and many other sources explained in details how these original apostles died horrible death for their believe in Jesus.

      Simon was crucifies up side down, Andrew was scourged and the tied rather than nailed to a cross so that he would last longer; he died two days later; James (Son of Zebedee) was beheaded; it is said that his accuser repented, was moved by James courage and asked to be executed with James; they did tried to kill the Apostle John but he was the only one who died of all age. I guess his greatest torture was to see his friends die one by one. Phillip was also crucified, it is said that Bartholomew was either crucified or skinned alive and beheaded; Thomas was killed with spear, Matthew was stabbed in the back, James (Son of Alphaeus) was killed by stoning and hitting him in the head by a club; Jude was crucified and Simon the Canaanite.[11]

      There is no doubt that these men and many others, during that time, were radically changed; their passion was use mightily to powerfully introduced Christianity to the world.

      They’re other valuable explanations for the effect of the resurrection of Christ. 1) A passionately worship of Jesus a very unlikely thing to do for a Jew during that time. A Jew would have never worship a man. 2) Circumstantial evidence: Contrary the custom of the time of honoring the Sabbath according to the law of Moses, Christian changed the day of worship to Sundays in honor of the resurrection of Christ that took place on a Sunday. This was a constant reminder of the resurrection of our Lord; it was indeed center to their message. 3) Spiritual Experiences can be added; but this may be one more valuable for the believer than the skeptic.[12] Groothuis states,

      “When taken together, these multiple lines of evidence, both documentary and       circumstantial, lead us to a Christless tomb, a dead man found supernaturally alive          and a dynamic group of followers who turned the ancient world upside down.”[13]

Alternative naturalistic explanations

      Some of these naturalist explanations are 1) That these witness were hallucinating. However, this can be easily disproved. Groothuis explained that the disciples were shocked at the first report of the resurrection according to Luke 24:1-11 and John 20:24-26. Also, Groothuis argue that it is impossible for that many people, in different times and spaces be shocked.[14]

      Other naturalist explanations are a Christian conspiracy and that somebody stole his body. Gary Habermas, a Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman, Department of Philosophy and Theology, at Liberty University, made the point that we have less evidence to the existence of Alexander the Great that to the validity of the resurrection of Christ.[15]

Why one of the alternative naturalistic explanations presents the greatest challenge, and what you believe is the best response.

            Perhaps the greatest challenge against the resurrection by these truth oppressors is the fact that, at first there seems to be minor discrepancies in the way the story is told. However, for a truth seeker and with a little study on the matter, as Groothuis suggest, the harmony of these narratives of the story of the resurrection can be found. There are many differences stories told by different writers through history, but these skeptics seems not to have a problem accepting these stories as truth.

            Groothuis gives an excellent example of how historians have a system in place to harmonize seemingly contradictions in the account of stories, 1) The assumption of differences; the reality that the same story told by two or more writers is bound to have some differences in it, and, 2) The complexity of truth that establishes that many times the truth can be found in both seemingly contradicted stories.[16] The bottom line is that when looking at the story of the resurrection; the fact of the resurrection itself is clear in all accounts.

            I have been watching a lot of debates since I started this class and one thing is obvious, we have a new generation of philosopher, scientist, etc. who identify themselves as atheist that are not seeking the truth, but in fact oppressing it. It seems like there is no effective argument that can be presented for them to even recognize possibilities that differ from their foolish assertions. They have done a great job in disregarding and mocking the Bible as a fiction book that can’t be trusted.

            It seems to me that these arguments presented by Groothuis are very edifying and encouraging for us as Christians who already believe the truth of the resurrection of Christ. I am also aware that for serious scholars, regardless of their beliefs, these are indeed solid arguments. I am not too sure these arguments presented by Groothuis offer any meaningful objection to this generation of truth oppressors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] “Did Jesus Exist? Searching for Evidence Beyond the Bible” by Lawrence Mykytiuk originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily on December 8, 2014.

[2] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, (Downers Groove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) 535

[3] John 2:18-22

[4] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 539-546

[5] “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus’ disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” Matthew 27:57-61King James Version (KJV)

[6] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 27:57–60.

[7] For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. First Corinthians 15:9 (KJV)

[8] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 544

[9] Ibid. 546

[10] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 351

[11] Patrick J. Kiger, How did the Apostles Die, National Geographic Channel: Killing Jesus, http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/killing-jesus/articles/how-did-the-apostles-die/ February 19, 2015

[12] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 552- 554

[13] Ibid. 555

[14] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 556-558

[15] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M

[16] Douglass Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 561-562

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