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Evidence for the resurrection of Jesus

 

It is known that atheist researchers and liberal theologians question the historical accuracy of creation, which shows up in the Book of Genesis. They don’t think that the Bible is a reliable historical source in this respect. They’d rather believe in naturalistic theories about the Universe and the origin of life, although a great number of issues can be seen in those theories. For example, no one has been able to prove that life coming about by itself is possible. This problem is yet to be solved. Similarly, researchers don’t have a clear understanding of the origin of galaxies, stars, the Solar System nor the Earth. These problems haven’t been solved by any means.

If atheist researchers and liberal theologians have a false image of the Universe and the beginning of life and if they don’t recognize God’s part in creation, it is natural that they would have a similar attitude towards supernatural events, such as the miracles of the Bible and Jesus’ resurrection. They don’t consider these events to be historical events. The reason for this, however, is not that they would have scientifically proven these allegations. Instead, their stance simply originates from their naturalistic bias; a worldview, where the universe is a closed system in a way that besides nature, there is no supernatural reality. It is considered impossible that, e.g., God would have intervened with the events of this world. This possibility is discarded straight away.

We will find a good example of a naturalistic bias and attitude towards resurrection if we look at a few snippets from the Acts. They tell about two groups – Sadducees and Greek philosophers – who both rejected resurrection. It didn’t fit into their worldview and thus they rejected it, as it seemed impossible to them. In this respect a naturalistic bias is not a new concept:

 

- (Acts 17:16-21, 30-33) Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.

18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seems to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached to them Jesus, and the resurrection.

19 And they took him, and brought him to Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof you speak, is?

20 For you bring certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.

21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:

31 Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear you again of this matter.

33 So Paul departed from among them.

 

- (Acts 23:6-11) But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.

8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

9 And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.

10 And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as you have testified of me in Jerusalem, so must you bear witness also at Rome.

 

What about the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? Although, liberal theologians and atheist researchers react to it with suspicion or deny it, there are good reasons to believe that the resurrection of Jesus was a real historical event. We are going delve into it. However, at first we will address the reliability of the New Testament as a historical document. This is vital, as the New Testament precisely tells about the resurrection of Jesus. It is the best source for its research purposes. If it is historically reliable, then it is also reliable, when telling about the resurrection of Jesus. If you don’t want to read this historical part of the text, you can move on to the part about the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

 

Reliability of the New Testament

 

The New Testament compared to other ancient history texts. If we first compare the New Testament to other texts from the ancient history, it is light-years ahead of them in three things:

 

• The New Testament or its parts have over 24 000 Greek or other early hand written versions. This is an enormous amount, when considering the fact that Homer’s Iliad, has the second most hand written copies, which is around 643 copies. Other known texts of the ancient history have only ca. 1-20 hand written copies, and usually the number is below ten.

 

• Another observation relates to the space in time, ergo the time span between the original script and its earliest copies. The New Testament is ahead of other texts from the ancient history in this respect. For example, the earliest known copy of the Odyssey is from ca. 2200 years after the epic poem was written, Homer’s Iliad epic poem had a time span of ca. 500 years, but the time span between the entirety of the New Testament and its earliest copy is 250 years. In addition, even earlier versions of some separate scriptures from the New Testament have been preserved, and the oldest known part of the New Testament (an extract from John) is from ca. 120-130 A.D. These chapters indicate how it can be justified to assume that the texts of the New Testament have stayed the same.

 

• The third observation concerns Church Fathers’ quotations of the New Testament. Their writings, which were written between the 100-300s, have over a million citations of the New Testament. If the whole New Testament were to disappear, we could still reconstruct it completely from these citations, apart from 11 verses (1).

 

What do the former aspects prove? They don’t necessarily indicate the reliability of the content of the New Testament, but they do suggest that the New Testament has been preserved in its original form. This has been agreed by many researchers familiar with the subject matter. The first comment comes from bishop John Robinson, who became well-known for his book Honest to God:

 

John Robinson: To return back to the texts of the New Testament, the amount of scriptures and, especially, the short time span between the original texts and the earliest copies, which have survived up to our day, make it by far the most reliable collection of texts from the ancient history in the whole world. (2)

 

Professor F.F. Bruce: The New Testament has the largest quantum of evidence to its reliability than any other writing of that time. (3)

 

Professor Hans Küng: There are plenty more preserved scriptures of the New Testament, time wise they are much closer to and also more harmonious with their original version than any other collection of texts from the ancient history. (4)

 

Sir Frederic Kenyon: We cannot stress too much that the Bible’s – in this case especially the New Testament’s – main textual content is infallible. The number of the manuscripts of the New Testament, early translations and quotes that earlier writers of the church have used is so great that it is practically sure that for every passage that has been under suspicion, the right reading has been preserved, at the least in some of these texts. This cannot be said about any other ancient book in the world. (5)

 

Gospels of the New Testament in comparison with the biblical apocrypha. How about some of the biblical apocrypha – the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter… - that sometimes pop up in the media (e.g. along with the Da Vinci Code).? Some liberal researchers might value these texts greatly and underrate the Gospels of the New Testament, but that’s where they are making a huge mistake. For that there is a simple reason: They discard the earliest and the most precise sources of the New Testament that talk about the life of Jesus. All other depictions of the life of Jesus are from a much later time; they have been written almost one hundred years later.

A few quotes show, how it is not wise to have trust in these so-called apocrypha and the Gnostic Gospels, as they have been written late, and because they don’t possess the same eyewitness description that is present in the Gospels of the New Testament. These legendary books are not comparable to the New Testament, when it comes to how reliable they are:

 

Craig A. Evans: Many researchers’ compiled descriptions and reconstructions of historical Jesus have become badly distorted, because such documents have been used that were written late and whose historical value is questionable (…)

Three of those five gospels external to the biblical canon that were discussed in chapters three and four, were written at the end of the 100s. These are the Gospel of Thomas, the Egerton Gospel and the Gospel of Mary. The fourth text, a fragment of gospel from Akhmim, cannot have been written before the middle of the 100s if it really is the Gospel of Peter, which Patriarch Serapion mentions in the beginning of the 200s. However, there are serious doubts, whether it really is the Gospel of Peter (…)

All in all, the way that these gospels external to the biblical canon have been handled in the research is, frankly speaking, embarrassing… Indeed. When students ask me, why some gospels have been left out from the New Testament’s canon of scriptures, and whether some of them should be included, I urge them to read these gospels. When they do so, most of their questions get answered. (6)

 

J.B. Phillips: Obviously, most people have not had the chance to read apocryphal ‘gospels' and ‘letters’, even though all researchers have read them. I can only state that in these writings, we move to the world of magic and mystification, myths and imagination. When I was translating the New Testament, I never --- experienced the eerie world of sorcery and magic powers radiating from these books that have been left out of the New Testament. It is just this realistic faith of the writers of the New Testament that convinced me that their writings are genuine." (7)

 

When many liberal researchers try to bring forth legendary apocryphal books, there are many good reasons as to why the current books of the New Testament are a part of the Testament. The following aspects belong to those reasons:

 

One piece of evidence is that the writers are commonly known. They are known to have been apostles themselves or persons who had a personal connection with the apostles. There is no suggestion in the early church that the Gospels known by the names of their writers were written by someone else. When it comes to the apocryphal books, it is not known who wrote them, and they are not commonly known or valued.

 

In approximately 180 A.D. Irenaeus, who had a connection to Polycarpos, the disciple of Apostle John, wrote that, "the four gospels could be regarded as clear and natural as the four cardinal points."  This indicates how esteemed the current four gospels were at that time.

 

A Church Father Origenes (ca. 230 A.D.) referred to the four gospels. He said, "The Christians have four gospels, the heretics a large number of them." (Edwin M. Yamacchi, “The Word From Nag Hammadi,” Christianity Today, 13 January 1978)

 

The canon of Murator dating back to approximately the year 170 A.D., obviously refers to the four gospels as well. The early parts of the text have been partially destroyed, but in the later part it is stated how the Gospel of Luke is the third Gospel, and the Gospel of John the next after Luke. It is likely that the first Gospels were written by Matthew and Mark.

 

Ca. 160 A.D. Syrian apologist Tatianus made known a combination of four gospels that was known by the name of Diatessaron. This book was a combination of the four canonical Gospels: it included parts of each of the four Gospels. At present, the text is important mainly in showing how these four Gospels were valued and a part of the canon.

 

The Chester Beatty papyruses found in 1930 initially included the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul. These papyruses that were dated at the beginning of the 3rd century indicated that the current books of the New Testament had already been collected.

 

An opponent of Christianity, Celsus, who lived in the 2nd century, also indirectly confirmed the status of the current Gospels. In his assaults, this non-believer mentioned almost all of the essential issues and doctrines of the Gospels and quoted the New Testament eighty times, because they included Christians’ holy writings. He accurately quoted the current four Gospels.

 

Reliability of the texts. When we are talking about the events of the Gospels, it is true that they talk about miracles – a case, which is a stumbling block for many liberal naturalistic researchers. However, if the events are a part of real history, they belong in the realm of science and facts, not the realm of fairy tales. Researchers themselves turn to stories, provided that they try to deny historical events, due to their own naturalistic worldview.

It is, of course, true that nothing can be absolutely proven afterwards, and this also applies to the events mentioned in the Bible and the New Testament. However, there are good reasons to consider these events as historical. That is, for example, due the following reasons:

 

Eyewitnesses: The most scientific way in the field of history, and when things are being recorded, are the observations of eyewitnesses. There is no better and a more scientific way, because only the eyewitnesses can provide reliable information.

This condition is well met in the Gospels of the New Testament. Writers themselves were eyewitnesses or they had interviewed eyewitnesses. There could not be a better basis for the Gospels’ reliability:

 

- (2 Peter 1:16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

 - (John 1:14) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

- (1 John 1:1-3) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked on, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

2 For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show to you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us;

3 That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

 

 - (Luke 1:1-4) For as much as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

2 Even as they delivered them to us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus,

4 That you might know the certainty of those things, wherein you have been instructed.

 

It also becomes apparent in the Acts, how Luke, the writer, was there to see and witness the events. He wrote by using ‘us’, because he was there:

 

- (Acts 27:1-8) And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners to one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus' band.

2 And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.

3 And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go to his friends to refresh himself.

4 And when we had launched from there, we sailed under Cyprus, because the winds were contrary.

5 And when we had sailed over the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra, a city of Lycia.

6 And there the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing into Italy; and he put us therein.

7 And when we had sailed slowly many days, and scarce were come over against Cnidus, the wind not suffering us, we sailed under Crete, over against Salmone;

8 And, hardly passing it, came to a place which is called The fair havens; near whereunto was the city of Lasea.

 

Speaking the truth. Many liberal theologians claim that the Gospels cannot be true, because the Apostles wrote them and because they were created from the need to raise Jesus.

The former view is, however, easy to refute with one case: it’s not about the Apostles writing them, but whether they wrote according to the truth. Only that resolves the issue, and nothing else matters. For example, the following passages indicate, how it was important to stick to the truth:

 

 - (John 19:35) And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true: and he knows that he said true, that you might believe.

 

- (John 21:24) This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.

 

 - (2 Peter 1:16) For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 

Secondly, it must be recognized that the Gospels address major public events and there were famous people involved, such as rulers and high priests (Herod the Great, Pilate, Caiphas the High Priest and his father-in-law Annas, Joseph of Arimathea, the prominent member of the Council, Herod Agrippa, Gamaliel, Proconsul Sergius Paulus, Proconsul Gallio, King Agrippa, Governor Felix, Governor Porcius Festus, etc.).The Apostles could also appeal to the fact that the events had happened publically and were known to others as well. These kinds of aspects indicate that these really were historical events.

Accordingly, as the Gospels were written in a situation, where there were hostile attitudes towards Christianity, it would have been easy for the antagonists to debunk the texts if they would have not been true. They were eyewitnesses as well.

On the other hand, the fact that Christianity spread quickly during the first and the second century, indicates that the Gospels are about historical events that were known to everyone. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for Christianity to have spread so quickly.

 

- (Matt 4:24,25) And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.

25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

 

- (Mark 3:8) And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came to him.

 

- (Matt 14:16,20,21) But Jesus said to them, They need not depart; give you them to eat.

20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

 

- (Matt 16:9-11) Do you not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?

11 How is it that you do not understand that I spoke it not to you concerning bread, that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  

 

- (Acts 2:22,40,41) You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the middle of you, as you yourselves also know

40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.

 

- (Acts 26:24-26) And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad.

25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

26 For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

 

 - (Acts10:37,38) That word, I say, you know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;

38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

 

Other sources. How about sources outside of the Bible? It is interesting to notice that even if we didn’t use any texts from the New Testament or other Christian material, we could still gather the outline of Jesus’ life from non-Christian sources. Secular sources bring forth similar aspects of the life of Jesus and the early congregation as the New Testament puts forth. This shows how the events of the New Testament have been a part of the public knowledge. They didn’t take place in any hidden and far away location, as Paul used to say to Festus. (Acts 26:24-26) And as he thus spoke for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning does make you mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.).

 

- Jesus was a man filled with wisdom, if he can even be called a man (Josephus).

- Jesus was known by the name Jesus the Nazarene (Talmud).

- He said that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Talmud).

- He was a teacher (Josephus, Talmud).

- He had disciples (Talmud).

- He worked miracles (Josephus, Talmud).

- His disciples healed the sick and worked miracles (Talmud).

- Pilate (26–36 A.D.) condemned Him to death (Tacitus, Josephus) because of the provocation of influential Jewish men (Josephus) during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (14–37 AD.) (Tacitus).

- He was condemned to death on the cross (Josephus, Tacitus, Thallus, Talmud).

- There was darkness at the time of His crucifixion (Thallus).

- He was crucified during the Passover (Talmud).

- He rose from the dead (Josephus).

- The successors of Jesus regarded Him as God and sang songs to praise Him (Plinius the Younger).

- He had Jewish and Greek successors (Josephus).

- Faith in Christ originated from Judea (Tacitus, Josephus) and spread to Rome from there (Tacitus).

- Jesus' successors were called Christians (Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Plinius the Younger).

- Jesus had a brother called Jacob (Josephus).

- Jesus was called Christ or the Messiah (Josephus).

 

The fact that the events of the New Testament and the Bible are true thus gets confirmed by other sources. Archeology, notes from historians and also mentions from the Church Fathers have repeatedly endorsed the historical nature of the Bible. They mention dozens of rulers’ names, other persons and places, and many of them were originally known from the Bible. It is strong evidence to suggest that these events really happened.

The next citation indicates Luke’s accuracy as a historian (other Gospels talk about the same cases). If he was precise in describing relatively insignificant details – whose correctness can be verified from other sources – then why wouldn’t he have been accurate in describing miracles or those cases that cannot be externally verified? Only a naturalistic bias that faithless theologians have prevents them from accepting these notions.

 

In a sense, this is exactly what archaeology does. If ancient historical details have been proven to be correct time and time again, we should also trust the stories of the historian in question that cannot be confirmed in the same way.

   I asked for a professional opinion from McRay. – What do you think: does archaeology prove or disprove the reliability of the New Testament when archaeologists study the details included in the stories?

   McRay immediately replied. – The studies make the New Testament more reliable, there is no question of that. Just like any ancient document is more reliable if archaeologists notice when proceeding with their digs that the author provided correct information about a location or event. (...)

   – The consensus among both liberal and conservative scientists is that Luke was a very faithful historian, McRay replied. – He was a learned man, he was eloquent, his command of Greek was almost classical, he wrote like a well-educated man and archaeological findings have proven time and time again that Luke was very precise in his writings.

   McRay added that in many cases related to the harbour stories, scientists at first thought that some of Luke's references were false, but later findings have confirmed that he wrote the information correctly. (...)  One prominent archaeologist carefully studied Luke's references of 32 countries, 54 cities and nine islands without finding a single error. (8)

 

A.N. Sherwin-White, a researcher of the classical era who has been regarded as the pre-eminent expert of Roman law, also wrote about the reliability of the Acts of the Apostles (Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963, p. 173). He states that attempts to deny its reliability are absurd:

 

The historical accuracy of the Acts has proven to be amazing. (…) Any attempt to reject the fundamental quality of the history of the Acts, even in the small details, seems absurd. Researchers of the history of Rome have for a long time regarded it as self-evident.

 

Some researchers and archeologists have spoken out about, how archeological findings verify the historical nature of the Bible:

 

Keith N. Schoville: It is important to understand that archaeological excavations have produced a lot of evidence that clearly proves that the Bible is not filled with false information. To this day, none of the historical events of the Bible have been proven false on the basis of this evidence obtained by archaeological research. (9)

 

Nelson Glueck: Absolutely and certainly speaking, not a single archaeological finding has ever questioned any passage of the Bible. Tens of archaeological findings that confirm the historical statements of the Bible either in broad outline or in detail have been made.  (10)

 

Above, we have discussed the reliability of the New Testament. We noticed that there are good reasons to believe that the New Testament accurately tells about the events from 2000 years ago – events that are not the fragments of imagination, but real history. The New Testament tells about historical events and Jesus is a historical figure (an indication of that is also the fact that our calendars are based on his presumed birthday; A.D., B.C.). This is also a realistic assumption, when the New Testament talks about miracles, the virgin birth of Jesus or the resurrection.

It is interesting that the earliest Church Fathers have written about the same things. They lived during the same time as the disciples or a few decades after the disciples at most, so they have been very close time wise to the original events and also to the people. They had a similar time difference in relation to the life of Jesus, as for example, people nowadays have to the Second World War. Currently there are tens of millions of people, who can still remember war related events and also some events before the war, such as what happened during the 1920s and the 1930s. The time differences don’t appear to be that large, as many people might live over one hundred years.

Then, what have the early Church Fathers written during the beginning of the second century? Next, we will look at a few quotations about, what they have said about the virgin birth of Jesus and his resurrection. Their writings indicate that these events were generally believed to be true and were considered real:

 

The virgin birth of Jesus

 

There is One who is Doctor, physical and spiritual, who had been born and unborn, God in flesh, real life that came to die, born both of Mary and of God, first under suffering, then outside of it, Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Ignatius, in his letter to the Ephesians 7:2)

 

For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary according to a dispensation, of the seed of David but also of the Holy Ghost… And hidden from the prince of this world were the virginity of Mary and her child-bearing and likewise also the death of the Lord. (Ignatius, in his letter to the Ephesians 18:2, 19:1)

 

Yet you are completely convinced that He was born of the family of David, the Son of God from the will and power of God, born of a virgin, baptized by John so that He would fulfill all righteousness. 2. He really suffered during the time of Pontius Pilate and tetrarch Herod, was nailed on the tree for us. His suffering before God by which we are born was so that He, through His resurrection, would raise His saints and believers, whether Jew or Gentile, to be the one and only body of His church.” (Ignatius in his letter to the believers in Smyrna 1:1, 2)

 

Resurrection of Jesus

 

Let us note, dearest brothers, how the Ruler continually shows us that the resurrection is a part of our future. The first fruit of this resurrection is that He has raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. (Clemens, the bishop of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthians 24:1)

 

God sent Christ and Christ sent the Apostles; both have taken place in good order by the will of God. 3. When the Apostles received their task, when they discovered the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and became stronger in faith in the word of God, they started to be filled with the Holy Spirit and preached the good news that the kingdom of God was at hand. 4. From country to country and from town to town they preached their message. (Clemens, the bishop of Rome, in his letter to the Corinthians 42:2-4)

 

If Jesus Christ due to your prayers deems me worthy and if it is the will of God, I will explain to you more accurately what I have begun, the dispensation of God, which is all about a new creation, Jesus Christ, faith in Him and love for Him, His suffering and resurrection. ((Ignatius, in his letter to the Ephesians 20:1)

 

Instead, I wish that you could be completely sure of the birth and suffering and resurrection that took place during the governorship of Pontius Pilate. This was all put into effect in real life and by Jesus Christ, our hope; if only none of you would turn away from Him. (((Ignatius, in his letter to Magnesias 11:1)

 

Be like deaf when someone speaks to you and does not know anything about Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, born of Mary, who really lived, ate, and drank, really met persecution during the time of Pontius Pilate, was really crucified and died in front of those who are in Heaven, on Earth and under the Earth, 2. From him, who also really was raised from the dead when his Father raised him; in the same way the Father in Christ Jesus will also raise us who believe in Him, and without Him we have no real life. (Ignatius in his letter to the believers of Trallis 9:1, 2)

 

Yet you are completely convinced that He was born of the family of David, the Son of God from the will and power of God, born of a virgin, baptized by John so that He would fulfill all righteousness. 2. He really suffered during the time of Pontius Pilate and tetrarch Herod, was nailed on the tree for us. His suffering before God by which we are born was so that He, through His resurrection, would raise His saints and believers, whether Jew or Gentile, to be the one and only body of His church.” (Ignatius in his letter to the believers in Smyrna 1:1, 2)

 

In our Lord Jesus Christ, in Him, who showed perseverance and went to death for the sake of our sins. Him God raised and freed from the pains of Hades. (Polycarpos in his letter to the Philippians 1:2)

 

There is also the next point, my brothers. If the Lord was submitted to suffer for us, even though He is the Lord of the whole universe, and to whom God said in the foundation of the world, Let us make man in our image and likeness; how could He submit to suffer in the hands of people? Learn this. 6. The prophets received their gift from Him and they prophesied about Him. And when He had to appear in flesh to destroy death and give an example of the resurrection of the dead, He agreed to that. 7. He did it to fulfill the promise made to the fathers, but also to prepare people for Himself and to indicate while He was still on Earth that after His resurrection He would exercise judgment Himself. 8. He also preached through teaching Israel and performing wonders and miracles and showed a special love for Israel. (The letter of Barnabas 5:5-8)

 

Then why do many current researchers and liberal theologians deny the virgin birth of Jesus and the resurrection, although these have been reported in the earliest sources? Are they more scientific than others, when they evade these events associated with Jesus?

The direct answer is that they are not any more scientific than any other people, it is only about their bias. They presume that no God or a supernatural being can intervene with the events of this world, and therefore, there cannot be miracles, virgin birth of Jesus, or his resurrection. They are considered impossible. Hence, it is not about, how scientific they are or that they would have information that other people don’t have, but it’s merely about their worldview and their perception of God. They have a deistic view of the world, where they might believe in some kind of god’s existence, but they don’t believe that he could do anything in the world.

The spiritual language has another name for it too: unbelief. These researchers and people have unbelief for the virgin birth of Jesus, resurrection and other events mentioned in the New Testament. The same phenomenon occurred already during the time of Jesus:

 

- (Matt 17:17) Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him here to me.

 

- (Matt 13:57,58) And they were offended in him. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.

58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

 

 

Proof for the resurrection of Jesus

 

Next, we will move on to discuss the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Before that, however, we will address his death.

 

The death of Jesus on the cross. If the resurrection of Jesus is a historical event, then it of course entails that Jesus is a historical person, but also that he had to have died first. Surely, we cannot talk about his resurrection if he hasn’t died first. Death must come first before resurrection.

Then how did Jesus die? The sources outside of the Bible have clear information about this – they confirm, what is being said about it in the New Testament. According to those sources, Jesus didn’t die normally due to old age, but violently and through crucifixion. This becomes apparent, for example, from the following sources:

 

The historian Josephus: "In those days, there lived a man called Jesus... Many Jews and Greeks followed Him. He was the Christ. Provoked by our influential men, Pilate condemned Him to death on the cross. However, they who had loved him remained faithful to him.”

 

Cornelius Tacitus:... " Their name came from someone called Christ, whom the procurator Pilate condemned and nailed on the cross during the reign of Tiberius.

 

Thallus, a Samaritan by birth, mentioned Jesus. He writes in his historical book dated approximately 52 A.D. that the darkness that fell at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus was caused by an eclipse of the Sun.

 

Talmud (Sanhedrin 43, a) mentions that Jesus was crucified during Easter.

 

The majority of liberal researchers agree that there are legitimate reasons to believe that Jesus died on the cross. They might not believe in the resurrection, due to their world view, but they do admit unanimously that Jesus died, when he was fairly young and that he died on the cross. John Dominic Crossan, a well-known liberal researcher and a founder member of the so-called Jesus Seminar, has written the following:

 

[Jesus’] crucifixion is as certain as anything can be in history. (11)

 

An atheist researcher, Gerd Lüdemann, has written similarly:

 

The death of Jesus as the result of crucifixion cannot be disputed. (12)

 

We can also look at Bible passages relating to the subject. They also talk about the death of Jesus through crucifixion. The disciples were also able to proclaim the same thing to the crowds, as it was already known by everyone. What makes it so remarkable, is that most of the people, who were listening, were adversaries of the Gospel:

 

- (John 19:30-35) When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) sought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

32 Then came the soldiers, and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.

33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs:

34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and immediately came there out blood and water.

35 And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true: and he knows that he said true, that you might believe.

 

- (Luke 23:32,33) And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.

33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

 

- (Acts 2:22-25,36) You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the middle of you, as you yourselves also know:

23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

24 Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held of it.

25 For David speaks concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made the same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

 

- (Acts 3:14,15) But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted to you;

15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

 

- (Acts 4:9,10) If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the weak man, by what means he is made whole;

10 Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole.

 

- (Acts 10:39,40) And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

40 Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly;

 

- (Acts 13:29-31) And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher.

30 But God raised him from the dead:

31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people.

 

- (1 Cor 2:7,8) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world to our glory:

8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

 

- (1 Cor 1:23) But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness;

 

- (Rev 11:8) And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

 

An empty tomb. It doesn’t usually take long after people’s death, when they get buried. The body is not left for everyone to see it rot, rather it’s put inside a grave. This has been a common practice in every culture and that’s how it was also in the case of Jesus. He was put in a tomb by a great member of an assembly (Sanhedrin), Joseph of Arimathea, when he had first asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He must have been a well-known person, just like Pilate.

The following passages, e.g., tell about the burial of Jesus. In Matthew it is further explained, how guards were put to guard the tomb of Jesus, as was wanted by the adversaries of Jesus. In addition, they secured the tomb by sealing it with a large stone. Before that they had made sure that the body of Jesus was in the tomb:

 

- (Matt 27:57-66) 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 sepulcher, and departed.

61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulcher.

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate,

63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

64 Command therefore that the sepulcher be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say to the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

65 Pilate said to them, You have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as you can.

66 So they went, and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

 

- (1 Cor 15:3,4) For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

 

The Bible testament, however, is that the Body of Jesus was in the tomb only for a few days, until it no longer were there. The tomb had become empty. The following aspects also talk for the empty tomb. They strongly suggest that Jesus was resurrected:

 

The authorities didn’t have the body. The first proof for an empty tomb is that the authorities didn’t have the body of Jesus. They couldn’t bring it for everyone to see, although they had placed the guards. They had a strong desire to suppress the new movement, but the problem was that there was no body. If it were in the tomb and in the possession of the authorities, they could have instantly shown that the assumptions of the resurrection of Jesus were a ridiculous lie.

Instead, the adversaries of Jesus began to spread a rumor that the guards had fallen asleep and that during that time the disciples had stolen the body. This becomes apparent from the following passages. They relied on such a hasty lie, in order to suppress any rumors that might start to go around. The main focus is on, why they began to spread such a claim. The only rational reason is that they presumed the tomb was empty. They knew that to be the case.

 

- (Matt 28:11-15) Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and showed to the chief priests all the things that were done.

12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money to the soldiers,

13 Saying, Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.

14 And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.

15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

 

The shroud. If we continue with the Gospel of Matthew, which tells about the guards, this same Gospel has a description of, how the women, who showed up at the tomb, were urged to look at the spot, where Jesus had laid. Mark also says: ”behold the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6). This suggests that the tomb was empty and that the body of Jesus was not there.

 

- (Matt 28:1-8) In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.

2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

5 And the angel answered and said to the women, Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus, which was crucified.

6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there shall you see him: see, I have told you.

8 And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

 

In reality, the tomb was not completely empty. The shroud was still there, the shroud that had been wrapped around the body. They formed a heavy casing of over 30 kg with different balmy herbs that were applied on the shroud around the body. John tells us, how the burial happened:

 

- (John 19:38-42) And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, sought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid.

42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulcher was near at hand.

 

Accordingly, when the disciples arrived at the tomb, at first they didn’t see an empty tomb, but rather a flat shroud that had been around the body. They noticed that it was like an empty caterpillar cocoon, which didn’t have anything inside. The body must have left the cocoon and gone through the shroud. The Bible says that it was such a convincing proof that John believed it instantly, when he saw it.

Secondly, when the shroud is left behind, it weakens the theory of someone stealing the body even more. If it was up to thieves, could they have stolen the body without the shroud, which was still there and in the same position as if there were a body still inside? I hardly doubt that would have been possible.

 

- (John 20:3-10) Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher.

4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher.

5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

6 Then comes Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and sees the linen clothes lie,

7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.

9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

10 Then the disciples went away again to their own home.

 

- (Luke 24:12) Then arose Peter, and ran to the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

 

Peter’s sermon. Peter’s sermon – when he talked about the resurrection of Jesus, Acts 2:22-36 – had such an impact that around 3000 people turned to God, which itself is proof for the fact that the tomb had been empty and that this was public knowledge. This cannot be explained in any other way than it being public knowledge that the tomb was empty. Also, many groups of priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7).

What is noteworthy is that Peter held his talk in the same town, where Jesus was crucified and, where the happenings were certainly known. He could have not announced the resurrection if the empty tomb hadn’t been a publicly known fact. If the body of Jesus would still have been in the tomb, nobody would have believed any claims of Jesus being resurrected.

A few comments refer to something similar. Researchers admit that historical data speaks for an empty tomb:

 

William Wand, a professor at Oxford University: Every piece of historical data available to us suggest to it [that the tomb was empty], and the researchers denying that, ought to admit that they have come to their conclusions based on other than scientific history. (13)

 

Doctor Ron Sider: If both Christians and their Jewish opponents recognize that the tomb was empty, we really don’t have any other choice than to accept the empty tomb as a historical fact. (14)

 

Doctor Paul Maier: If all the evidence is being carefully and objectively considered, based on historical criteria it is justified to make a conclusion that the tomb in Joseph of Arimathea’s possession, where Jesus had been buried, was in fact empty at the first morning of Easter. Thus far, there hasn’t been slightest evidence found from literary sources, tomb and wall writings or from archeological findings that would have suggested this claim to be false. (15)

 

Doctor D.H. Van Daalen: It is incredibly difficult to claim against the empty tomb from the basis of historical research. (16)

 

Resurrection revelations. One indication for the resurrection is the revelations of the resurrection. The disciples got to meet Jesus many times for 40 days. They saw, touched, spoke and ate with him, hence, they were not a few seconds lasting visions, but rather meetings with a real person that would last for a whole night. The concrete nature of the events becomes clear from the following passages:

 

- (Matt 28:8-10) And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus to them, Be not afraid: go tell my brothers that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

 

- (John 20:19-31) Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the middle, and said to them, Peace be to you.

20 And when he had so said, he showed to them his hands and his side.  Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be to you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted to them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the LORD.  But he said to them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the middle, and said, Peace be to you.

27 Then said he to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said to him, My LORD and my God.

29 Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name.

 

- (Acts 1:1-3) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen:

3 To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

 

- (Acts 10:40,41) Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly;

41 Not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.

 

- (Acts 13:29-31) And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulcher.

30 But God raised him from the dead:

31 And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people.

 

- (1 John 1:1) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked on, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

 

Furthermore, the list of eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus is long. Four Gospels and chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians tell about many named witnesses and groups, and the largest group reported was “the group of 500 brothers”. According to Paul, many of them were still alive, hence they could have been interviewed. In any court a statement from over 500 people would be considered as strong evidence.

What makes Paul’s statement about the group of witnesses to the resurrection so significant, is that Paul knew the disciples personally and, because his books were written ca. 55 A.D., ergo 25 years after the death of Jesus and the resurrection. This is a very short period of time. In addition, he had transmitted the same information to the Corinthians already during his previous visit, thus it is really early knowledge. It also mentions the death of Jesus and his burial, which liberal researchers also admit to be true. They admit the two first things to be true, but not the last one, which is the resurrection of Jesus.

 

- (1 Cor 15:3-8) For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brothers at once; of whom the greater part remain to this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

 

The majority of liberal researchers also recognize the disciples sincerely believing in the resurrection of Jesus as a fact. Researchers don’t deny that the resurrection of Jesus was the focal point of the disciples’ proclamation, although these researchers might question the possibility of resurrection, due to their view of the world.

We will get a good picture of, how the disciples constantly talked about the resurrection of Jesus, from the following passages. Surely, the disciples would have not talked about this topic if they hadn’t thought of it as a historical fact. Why else would they have proclaimed such a thing if they would have not considered it as a definite truth?

 

- (Acts 1:21,22) Why of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

22 Beginning from the baptism of John, to that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.

 

- (Acts 2:22-24,32) You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the middle of you, as you yourselves also know:

23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

24 Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held of it.

32 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

 

- (Acts 3:14,15) But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted to you;

15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

 

- (Acts 3:25,26) You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

26 To you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

 

- (Acts 4:1,2) And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came on them,

2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

 

- (Acts 4:9-11) If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the weak man, by what means he is made whole;

10 Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole.

11 This is the stone which was set at nothing of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

 

- (Acts 4:33) And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was on them all.

 

- (Acts 5:30,31) The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree.

31 Him has God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

 

- (Acts 26:2,6-8) I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before you touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God, to our fathers:

7 To which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.

8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

 

- (Apt 17:18,32) Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seems to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached to them Jesus, and the resurrection.

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear you again of this matter.

 

- (1 Cor 15:12-16,20,21) 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 Yes, 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:

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.

21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

 

- (2 Cor 5:15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not from now on live to themselves, but to him which died for them, and rose again.

 

- (1 Peter 3:21,22) The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him.

 

- (Rom 4:23-25) Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

25 Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.

 

- (Rom 6:9) Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death has no more dominion over him.

 

- (Rom 8:11) But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.

 

- (Rom 8:34) Who is he that comdemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

 

- (Rom 10:9) That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.

 

- (1 Cor 6:14) And God has both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.

 

- (Gal 1:1) Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

 

- (Eph 1:20,21) Which he worked in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

 

- (2 Tim 2:8) Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

 

- (1 Peter 1:21) Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

 

A change in the disciples. One thing that you should pay attention to is the change that happened in the disciples. Before the crucifixion of Jesus they were really fearful, but changed through the resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the Pentecost.

Thus, if we first look at, how they acted during Jesus’ capture and his death, they were real cowards. All of them left Jesus and fled. Additionally, the most outspoken person of the group, Peter, denied Jesus three times in front of people. Jesus had foreseen this and so it happened:

 

- (Matt 26:55,56) In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are you come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and you laid no hold on me.

56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

 

- (Luke 22:54-62) Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.

55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.

56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked on him, and said, This man was also with him.

57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.

58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, You are also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.

59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.

60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what you say. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crew.

61 And the Lord turned, and looked on Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, Before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice.

62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

 

When we look at the Acts, we can see, how the disciples got out there, although a few moments before they had been behind locked doors in fear of the people (John 20:19: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the middle, and said to them, Peace be to you.) and Peter had denied Jesus. They transformed from cowards to brave witnesses and began to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. They put their lives on the line in the same place, where their Lord had been crucified.

What changed them? They must have really met the resurrected Jesus Christ and also received his promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Had they not considered the resurrection Jesus as real and felt the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they would have not been brave enough to go to those people, who they had feared moments before. All other explanations seem constrained.

 

- (Acts 2:12-24,32,33) And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What means this?

13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said to them, You men of Judaea, and all you that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known to you, and listen to my words:

15 For these are not drunken, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

19 And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:

21 And it shall come to pass, that whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

22 You men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the middle of you, as you yourselves also know:

23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

24 Whom God has raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be held of it.

32 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear.

 

- (Acts 4:13,14) Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

14 And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

 

The beginning of Christian congregation. If we abandon the thought of an empty tomb and the resurrection, it is difficult to convincingly explain the beginning of the Christian congregation. Nothing can come from thin air. However, the Gospel spread rapidly during the first century and people became convinced of the Christ’s realness through the life changes that they experiences and through their healings. If Jesus would have stayed in the tomb and the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit didn’t happen, surely any similar nation movement would have not begun. Also, the changed life of Paul, a radical opponent, is proof on its own.

The Acts talk about these early stages. Because Peter preached about the resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, around 3000 people started believing. This hardly would have happened if the empty tomb wasn’t known by everyone and if the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t considered a believable explanation. Peter preached exactly among those people, who had seen the crucifixion of Jesus:

 

- (Acts 2:29-32,41) Men and brothers, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day.

30 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;

31 He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

32 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls.

 

We might also ask, if the resurrection is not regarded as a believable explanation, then why would a spiritual movement form around Jesus in a way that today he has over millions of followers? Why didn’t that happen, e.g., to John the Baptist, whose sermons were heard by many? The best explanation must be the resurrection of Jesus and that He is the Lord to this day.

 

- Why doesn’t any other first century Jew have millions of followers these days? Why didn’t a religious movement form around John the Baptist? If we think about all the people from the first century, including the emperors of Rome, then why is Jesus still being praised, when all the others have faded into history?

- Because this Jesus – this historical Jesus – is also a living Lord. Because he is still present and the others are long gone. (17)

 

ISSUES BY WHICH IT HAS BEEN ATTEMPTED TO PROVE THAT THE RESURRECTION DID NOT TAKE PLACE. Even though there are good reasons to believe in the resurrection, some researchers have nevertheless said that it could not have been possible. They have justified their view with the following points, for example:

 

Jesus was not really dead. The first argument is that Jesus was not really dead: he was only unconscious and then revived.

   But if we look at this issue we see that it is not true, and the following issues speak against it:

 

 - Several historical sources refer to the crucifixion of Jesus (Josephus, Tacitus, Thallus, Talmud). For example, historian Josephus wrote: "He was Christ. Provoked by our influential men Pilate still condemned him to death on the cross."  Historian Cornelius Tacitus has also written: "They had been named after a certain Christ, whom procurator Pontius Pilate condemned and nailed onto a cross in the reign of Tiberius."

   So we can really assume that Jesus was dead, because these several sources refer to this.

 

The death of Jesus was assured by professional Jewish and Roman soldiers. The custom at that time was that the Sanhedrin sent two rabbis and two of their students to confirm the execution of a criminal condemned to death. Furthermore, according to the Roman law, there had to be the executors and a so-called exactor mortis, "death observer”, who gave an accurate testimony of the execution. In the case of Jesus, the death was further assured by piercing His side, whereupon blood and water flowed (John 19:33,34). Piercing the side took place after He had already been found to be dead. If he had not been dead, the blood would not have separated to look like blood and water. This separation of blood and water-like blood serum is one of the clearest pieces of evidence showing that he was indeed dead.

 

- (John 19:33-37) But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs:

34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and immediately came there out blood and water.

35 And he that saw it bore record, and his record is true: and he knows that he said true, that you might believe.

36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.

37 And again another scripture said, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

 

• Close friends of Jesus put the body inside a shroud with different herbs, because it was a common Jewish custom (John 19:39,40). Of course they made sure that He was dead before burying Him!

 

• The idea that a half-dead, manhandled and weakened Jesus would have made an impression among the disciples, is indeed possible. A person whose hands and feet are pierced could probably not stand on his own even after a month. A person who almost perished because of his sufferings could not have convinced the disciples of being the Prince of Life and someone who won death. At most, they would have pitied Jesus.

   However, according to the testimony of the disciples, they faced quite a new kind of Jesus who had a resurrected body. This body was quite different and everlasting, so that it alone made a great impression on the disciples. This resurrection must, therefore, be clearly distinguished from the resurrection of Lazarus and the others raised from the dead. They only returned to their old bodies, but Jesus resurrected to a whole new condition. The other resurrected also died again, while death had no power over Jesus.

 

Metherell was unwilling to play imaginary games. – Yet again, I had to prove, how he possibly couldn’t have come out alive from the cross. But even if he did, then how could he have walked with feet pierced with nails? How could he have appeared in Emmaus after a short while and walk long distances? How could he have been able to use his arms, when they were stretched and dislocated ? Remember that he also had terrible contusions in his back and a wound in his rib made by a spear. Then he stopped. A thought came into his mind, and he was ready to present the rest of his speech, which would put an end to the faint theory. It was an argument that no one could refute after the German theologian David Strauss had said it in 1835. – Listen now, said Mertherell. – A man in such bad condition would have never been able to inspire the disciples in a way that they would have called him the Lord of Life, and began to proclaim, how he had raised from the grave. – Do you understand what I mean? Jesus was a victim of gruesome violence. He had lost a lot of blood and suffered from trauma caused by the pain. He would have looked so helpless in that state that the disciples would have never greeted him as someone, who has won death. They would have pitied him and tried to get him better. –Hence, it is irrational to assume that if he had appeared in front of them looking like that, that they would have started a worldwide movement and hoped that one day they might also have such a resurrection body as he had. That is a completely impossible assumption. (18)

 

The women went to the wrong tomb. The second explanation for those believing that the resurrection never happened is that the women went to the wrong tomb.

This attempt to explain it is, however, quite poor. First of all, it doesn’t explain the revelations after the death of Jesus that made it possible for the disciples to talk and eat with him and also touch him. They were convinced that that they had met the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Secondly, a wrong tomb is a bad alternative, because the women saw the place, where Jesus was buried. Likewise, it is unfathomable that all the followers of Jesus would have made the same mistake. Without a doubt, the same mistake would have not happened. Besides, they could have asked Joseph of Arimathea, the owner of the tomb, about it:

 

- (Luke 23:50-56) And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just:

51 (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.

52 This man went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.

53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulcher that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.

54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid.

56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

 

The biggest issue with the wrong tomb is that the burial site of Jesus was known to the Jewish leaders. If the disciples did go to the wrong tomb, then why didn’t the adversaries bring the body of Jesus for them to see, in order to instantly falsify any claims of resurrection? Surely, they would have done this if only they had had the body. However, they didn’t have it, which is a strong indication towards resurrection.

 

Was it a question of a delusion? One explanation given for the disciples believing in the resurrection is that they saw a delusion.

   However, if we study the points below, they show quite clearly that it cannot have been a question of a delusion or misperception:

 

 - Firstly, the tomb was empty and the place was known to everybody, which proves that there must have been some abnormal and supernatural reason for the body to disappear from the tomb. If the body did not disappear because of the resurrection, then what caused it? If the disciples had hallucinated, then the tomb would have not been empty. Or if they had seen another person, in that case, the tomb would have not been empty either. Hallucinations don’t cause bodies to disappear from graves.

   Neither can the empty tomb be explained by delusions, because the opponents of the gospel also knew about the tomb. Furthermore, the preaching of Christ’s resurrection would not have been successful in Jerusalem if the fact of the empty tomb had not been common knowledge there.

 

- The fact that the disciples repeatedly preached about the resurrection of Christ, proves resurrection (Acts 2:24 3:26, 4:33, 10:40, 13:32, 17:18, 26:23). They could have spoken about many other things, but they preached this, because they considered it so certain. Had it not happened, a good question is how anybody could even think to concoct such a lie. It is not likely that ordinary fishermen would have thought to speak about such a thing, unless it really happened.

 

• Hallucinations and delusions usually go by certain rules. They usually last for a short while, often lasting only a few seconds, but above all, they are individual and subjective. For example, drug users’ experiences might be very different, when subjected to drugs. Conversely, it was different in the cases of revelations of Jesus’ resurrection, because he revealed himself to different sized groups and at best 500 people saw him at the same time (1 Cor 15:6: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brothers at once; of whom the greater part remain to this present, but some are fallen asleep.). Surely, it was not possible that so many people experienced a simultaneous hallucination, because people rarely even have the same dream or experience the same hallucination at the same time. Moreover, people talked and ate with Jesus and also touched him. This rules out the possibility of hallucinations.

Clinical psychologist Gary Sibcy has commented on the matter:

 

I have gone through specialist literature - - that psychologists, psychiatrists and other relevant healthcare professionals have written over the last decade, and I have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, which would be a case, where more than one person has supposedly experienced a shared vision or other sensory perception, although there clearly hasn’t been any outer reference point. (19)

 

• If it were a delusion, people would have likely seen other delusions over time. However, in the Gospels is told that they lasted only for 40 days and then suddenly ceased. After that, no strange things were seen. This would certainly not have happened if it were a case of delusions caused by an ordinary disease.

 

- (Acts 1:1-3) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen:

3 To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

 

• It is important to emphasize that the disciples used exactly the word resurrection, which in Judaism specifically meant resurrection of the body. This also speaks for the fact that the body of Jesus left the tomb and transformed into a new one. When, e.g., Lazarus was raised from the dead, he came out in his old body, but this was not the case with Jesus. For example, Jesus walked on the roads of Emmaus, the disciples were able to touch him and they also ate with him. If these were hallucinations or a ghost, such things would have not been possible.

 

- (Matt 28:9,10) And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus to them, Be not afraid: go tell my brothers that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

 

- (Mark 16:12) 12 After that he appeared in another form to two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

 

- (Luke 24:13-35) And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three score furlongs.

14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.

15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.

16 But their eyes were held that they should not know him.

17 And he said to them, What manner of communications are these that you have one to another, as you walk, and are sad?

18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said to him, Are you only a stranger in Jerusalem, and have not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?

19 And he said to them, What things? And they said to him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:

20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

22 Yes, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulcher;

23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.

24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulcher, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.

25 Then he said to them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 And they drew near to the village, where they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.

29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave to them.

31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.

35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

 

- (Luke 24:36-45) And as they thus spoke, Jesus himself stood in the middle of them, and said to them, Peace be to you.

37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.

38 And he said to them, Why are you troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see me have.

40 And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet.

41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said to them, Have you here any meat?

42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.

43 And he took it, and did eat before them.

44 And he said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

 

- (John 20:24-29) But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the LORD.  But he said to them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the middle, and said, Peace be to you.

27 Then said he to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said to him, My LORD and my God.

29 Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

 

- (John 21:11-19) Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.

12 Jesus said to them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? knowing that it was the Lord.

13 Jesus then comes, and takes bread, and gives them, and fish likewise.

14 This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

15 So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs.

16 He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my sheep.

17 He said to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Love you me? And he said to him, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep.

18 Truly, truly, I say to you, When you were young, you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not.

19 This spoke he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said to him, Follow me.

 

- (Acts 1:1-4) The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen:

3 To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, you have heard of me.

 

Paul describes well the body of resurrection in the 15th chapter in the Corinthians. The body of resurrection is a body that is imperishable, strong and glorious:

 

- (1 Cor 15:35-49) But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

36 You fool, that which you sow is not quickened, except it die:

37 And that which you sow, you sow not that body that shall be, but bore grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:

38 But God gives it a body as it has pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differs from another star in glory.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

46 However, that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

 

The next citation follows the same topic and highlights the materiality and the embodiment of resurrection. It was not about hallucination.

 

When the first followers of Jesus chose exactly the word resurrection to describe, what had happened to Jesus after his death, it indicates that they were convinced that something had happened to the body of Jesus. According to Wright, this shows, how it was not about hallucinations. Throughout history people have seen “visions”, where their deceased loved ones have come to visit them. However, based on those visions, they have not insisted or believed that their loved ones were raised from the dead. On the contrary, these kinds of “visions” have made them more convinced that the person is really dead and that their soul has moved on to the other side. The followers of Jesus, however, said something special: On the third day Jesus had – by no means similarly to the saints of the Old Testament moved on to the other side “to the safety of Abraham” or “to the paradise”, as was commonly believed in Judaism – rather raised from the dead (anastasis ek nekroon). The idea that resurrection might have meant something else than a bodily event, is a modern invention. It would have not come to any Jewish mind during the time of Jesus.

An empty tomb as well as meeting a resurrected person would have not been enough on their own to convince the disciples that Jesus had raised from the dead. Instead, both of them together convinced them that, what happened to Jesus, was a real bodily awakening from the dead into a new imperishable life. Accordingly, the disciples began to proclaim the awakening of Jesus from the dead as an inseparable core part to the saving Gospel (1 Cor 15:1-5). (20)

 

Were the people of the first century more gullible? It is worth to discuss here, what kind of people the people of the first century were. Because one reason that has been used in trying to explain the beginning of believing in resurrection during the first century, is that people used to be very gullible back then. It is often said that, as they didn’t have current scientific information available to them, they were willing to believe anything, as well as the virgin birth of Jesus and his resurrection.

This perception, however, is completely false and it has no historical basis. People of that time must have been familiar with the laws of nature and realized that people don’t normally arise from the grave. It was particularly those laws of nature that got them to realize that resurrection and the peculiar things mentioned in the Gospels didn’t really belong to everyday life. In this respect they were completely the same as we are today.

This doubtful attitude towards resurrection became clearly apparent, e.g., in the reactions of Greek philosophers and Sadducees. Both of these groups considered it impossible:

 

- (Matt 22:23-33) The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,

24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed to his brother.

25 Now there were with us seven brothers: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife to his brother:

26 Likewise the second also, and the third, to the seventh.

27 And last of all the woman died also.

28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven?  for they all had her.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, You do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying,

32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.

 

- (Acts 17:30-33) And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:

31 Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear you again of this matter.

33 So Paul departed from among them.

 

It should be noted that the disciples themselves first doubted, whether the resurrection of Jesus could actually be real. This doubtful attitude, which resembles the attitudes that people have today, becomes clear in the following passages:

 

- (Mark 16:9-14) Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

12 After that he appeared in another form to two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

13 And they went and told it to the residue: neither believed they them.

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

 

- (Luke 24:1-12) Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.

2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher.

3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:

5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said to them, Why seek you the living among the dead?

6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spoke to you when he was yet in Galilee,

7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.

8 And they remembered his words,

9 And returned from the sepulcher, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest.

10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things to the apostles.

11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

12 Then arose Peter, and ran to the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

 

- (Luke 24:22-27) Yes, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulcher;

23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.

24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulcher, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.

25 Then he said to them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:

26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?

27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

 

- (John 20:19-29) Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the middle, and said to them, Peace be to you.

20 And when he had so said, he showed to them his hands and his side.  Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be to you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins you remit, they are remitted to them; and whose soever sins you retain, they are retained.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the LORD.  But he said to them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the middle, and said, Peace be to you.

27 Then said he to Thomas, Reach here your finger, and behold my hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said to him, My LORD and my God.

29 Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

 

The disciples lied. Another alternative is that the disciples invented the entire story of the resurrection and stole the body before starting to spread the lie.

   However, there are some major problems with this theory, such as:

 

• The first obstacle would have been the Roman guard who was placed by the tomb. These Roman soldiers answered for guarding of the tomb with their lives, and so they certainly would not have been lazy in their task. Justinianus tells in his book Digest (chapter 49, passage 16) of eighteen crimes that might cost a guard group their lives. These included, for example, sleeping on guard duty and ceasing guarding without permission.

 

• The second reason to doubt this theory are the characters of the disciples. They were in no way inclined towards stealing and lying, based on what we know about them. It would have been against their ethical teachings, as they condemn lying and evilness very vigorously. Why would they have preached the resurrection so powerfully, if they had known that Jesus was dead? Such behavior cannot be expected from people, who strive to be honest. Jesus himself spoke about honesty and the disciples also wanted to pursue such a path of honesty. Furthermore, liars don’t inherit the kingdom of God:

 

- (John 8:45,46) And because I tell you the truth, you believe me not.

46 Which of you convinces me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me?

 

- (Eph 4:25) Why putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.

 

- (Eph 5:9) For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;

 

- (Phil 4:8) Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

 

- (Col 3:9) Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds;

 

- (1 John 2:21) I have not written to you because you know not the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

 

- (1 John 3:18) My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

 

- (Rev 21:6-8) And he said to me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to him that is thirsty of the fountain of the water of life freely.

7 He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

 

- (Rev 22:14,15) Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and fornicators, and murderers, and idolaters, and whoever loves and makes a lie.

 

• The third reason is, what the disciples would have benefited from a lie, if the resurrection were not true. Most of them were tortured and many suffered a martyr death because of the events. Of course, people can die for something they believe to be true, but hardly for a conscious lie, from which they do not benefit in any way. A person may lie only to benefit from it or to avoid something uncomfortable. The case with the disciples was at least not this, because they only suffered because of what happened. Also, how could they have had the energy to act according to their roles up until their deaths? This kind of a "conspiracy theory" and a lie concerning altogether hundreds of people would certainly have been revealed sooner or later, and it would have been difficult to keep a secret.

 

Furthermore, I noted that the Bible always refers to large and public events. If these had not actually taken place, the cancellation of the Bible's information would not have been a problem for its enemies, who have always been the majority. But nobody has succeeded in it. On the contrary, they have become stronger as the message of the Bible has been despised and ridiculed. I also noted that those who have testified of these events have been ready to die for it. They have stood fast, even though it has not benefited them in any outward way but has caused mere trouble, suffering and death. Why would they have done so if they had not been convinced of its truthfulness? Why would Peter and John and Thomas and others have testified that Jesus had risen from the dead if they had not seen it? Why would they have stuck with their testimony if they knew it would result in a lot of suffering for them? We can read their answers in 2 Peter 1:16- 21 and 1 John 1:1 - 3. (21)

 

The conclusion to be drawn from everything told above is that the resurrection really took place. The evidence to support it, such as the empty tomb, resurrection revelations and the beginning of Christian congregation, is strong enough for us to believe. We can believe it as well as the other things the Gospels tell us about Jesus.

The following comments will continue on the same subject. Lawyers must constantly consider evidence from both sides and many of them are convinced that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is convincing enough for us to believe in it:

 

Sir Edward Clarke: As a lawyer I have made a thorough investigation on the evidence relating to the events of the first day of Easter. In my opinion the evidence is legitimate. I myself have many times sentenced people on significantly less convincing grounds in Supreme Court. Conclusions must always be based on evidence, and an honest witness is always plain and avoids attention. The evidence from the Gospels meet these requirements about resurrection and as a lawyer I unreservedly accept them as honest people’s factual statements, and that they were personally able to be convinced on the validity of the events. (22)

 

Lord Darling, a former judge of the Supreme Court: There is so much evidence – positive and negative evidence and pieces of circumstancial evidence – that no jury comprised of sane people in the whole world would leave a verdict against resurrection. (23)

 

However, the significance of the resurrection of Jesus is not limited to Him alone. Because He lived a holy, pure and perfect life for us, we now have the opportunity to receive a glorified and perfect resurrected body as well. In order to get it, we must allow God to save us first. Indeed, let it happen in your life too, and don’t turn away, when God calls for you. Don’t let your heart become hardened, turn to Jesus Christ and let Him save you:

 

- (John 5:39,40) Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

40 And you will not come to me, that you might have life.

 

- (John 6:68) Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life.

 

- (Acts 16:30,31) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house.

 

The prayer of salvation. Lord, Jesus, I turn to You. I confess that I have sinned against You and have not lived according to Your will. However, I want to turn from my sins and follow You with all my heart. I also believe that my sins have been forgiven by Your atonement and I have received eternal life through You. I thank You for the salvation that You have given me. Amen.

 

 

 

References:

 

1. John Lennox: Tähtäimessä Jumala (Gunning for God), p. 223

2. John Robinson: Can we Trust the New Testament

3. John Young / David Wilkinson: Käsittely jatkuu (The Case Against Christ), p. 105

4. John Young / David Wilkinson: Käsittely jatkuu (The Case Against Christ), p. 105

5. F.G. Kenyon: Our Bible and the ancient manuscripts, s. 85 - Cit. from "Voiko Raamattukritiikkiin luottaa?", Tapio Luttinen, p. 40.

6. Craig A. Evans: Jeesus-huijaus paljastuu, p. 116,117

7. J.B. Phillips: Ring of truth: A Translator's Testimony, 1967, p. 95

8. Lee Strobel: Tapaus Kristus (The Case for Christ), p. 132-134,136

9. Keith N. Schoville: "Biblical Archaeology in Focus" (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1978, p. 156)

10. Nelson Glueck: Rivers of the desert, 1959, p. 31

11. John Dominic Crossan: Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography, p. 145, San Francisco, Harper Collins, 1991

12. Gerd Lüdemann: The Resurrection of Christ, s. 50. Amherst, Prometheus Books, 2004.

13. William Wand: Christianity: A Historical Religion? (Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1972), p. 93-94

14. Josh McDowell: Jeesus: totta vai tarua (Christianity: Hoax or History), p. 31

15. Josh McDowell: Jeesus: totta vai tarua (Christianity: Hoax or History), p. 31

16. Josh McDowell: Jeesus: totta vai tarua (Christianity: Hoax or History), p. 31

17. Lee Strobel: Tapaus Kristus (The Case for Christ), p. 196

18. Lee Strobel: Tapaus Kristus (The Case for Christ), p. 283,284

19. Ks. Michael Licona, The Evidence for God, p. 178. Ada, Baker Academic, 2010

20. Pasi Turunen: Uskon puolesta, p. 182,183

21. C.O. Rosenius: Synti se on (Syndens dagliga plåga), p.  113

22. John R.W. Stott: Kristinuskon perusteet  (Basic Christianity), p. 51

23. John Young / David Wilkinson: Käsittely jatkuu (The Case Against Christ), p. 193