Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Case For The Resurrection Of Christ

         The crucifixion of Jesus Christ on a cross is not a seriously disputed point. The Jewish authorities and the Roman executioners would have known with certainty if He was plotting to escape or was playing head games to deceive them. This fact provides us with foundational grounds to embrace the story of His resurrection. Robert C. Newman writes:

        "...The Talmud says Jesus was "hanged" and "stoned and hanged." The Gospels speak of crucifixion, along with Paul and all Christian literature. This is supported by Josephus (both versions) and less directly by Tacitus, who has Jesus put to death by a Roman method. Since the term "hanged" is used by the rabbis for crucifixion as well as for the traditional hanging up of the body after stoning to death, it is not unreasonable to suppose the Talmud gives a somewhat garbled account, perhaps based on the facts that Jesus had a religious trial and was "hanged," but supplying other details from traditional practices." (Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question, p. 293-294)

        We have testimony of the resurrection from female disciples recorded in the four gospels. This is significant because the Greco-Roman world viewed woman as having a lower social status. They were thus considered less credible in presenting testimony. This would have made the male disciples of Jesus appear foolish to others. This is not characteristic of a forgery.

        The New Testament tells us that there were several hundred direct eye-witnesses to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. Surely, at least a handful of the people would have been conscious enough to expose the story as being a fraud, if it was one in reality. Eyewitness accounts are trusted on a daily basis in courtrooms. We do not doubt biographies if they are carefully written. In fact, the New Testament itself records people having doubt about the resurrection of Christ.

        1 Corinthians contains an oral creed uttered by the Apostle Paul that even most liberal scholars date to the time frame of Christ's death in the A.D. 30's (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Thus, the basic gospel message has been preserved through the centuries. This counts as a piece of evidence in favor of the gospels being historically reliable. Christ is a historical figure who affirmed the existence of God and claimed to be God Himself. The One Volume Bible Commentary, edited by John R. Dummelow, has this excerpt on 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

         "The present passage is the oldest account of the appearances of the risen Lord, written years before any of our Gospels, and only about twenty-five years after the events, while hundreds of witnesses were still living. It is thus a most valuable piece of evidence as to the certainty of our Lord’s Resurrection, which would remain firmly attested even if the authenticity of our Gospels were denied."

         Why are there no accounts from non-believing sources attesting to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ? This should not really be surprising to us. If any person did report on such an event and said that it had happened, it would mean that he believes that the resurrection actually occurred. Only Christians would say that the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave is a real thing. Robert C. Newman gives perspective on how ancient unbelievers would treat this kind of phenomena:

         "...For a Roman, such as belief would mere be another Christian "superstition" (Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny). A Stoic like Mara would also reject bodily resurrection, and the Talmud has chosen to ignore it. In any case, we know from Justin's debate with Trypho (in the 130s), from the anti-Christian polemic of Celsus (ca. 180) and from the Talmud that the Jews were aware of the Christian Gospels, and from Matthew and Justin that they sought to explain away the Resurrection as a case of body-snatching by the disciples." (ibid.)

        Another support for the resurrection is the incredible life transformation of the disciples of Jesus Christ. The New Testament records the disciples as being cowards who did not want to suffer any persecution to later becoming bold speakers who were even willing to die for the gospel. How does one explain this phenomena? Why would somebody die for something that he or she knows to be a lie? The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary has this excerpt:

        "BISHOP PEARSON proves the divine origination of Christianity from its success being inexplicable on the supposition of its being of human origin. The nature of its doctrine was no way likely to command success: (1) it condemns all other religions, some established for ages; (2) it enjoins precepts ungrateful to flesh and blood, the mortifying of the flesh, the love of enemies, and the bearing of the cross; (3) it enforces these seemingly unreasonable precepts by promises seemingly incredible; not good things such as afford complacency to our senses, but such as cannot be obtained till after this life, and presuppose what then seemed impossible, the resurrection; (4) it predicts to its followers what would seem sure to keep most of the world from embracing it, persecutions."

        The empty tomb of Jesus Christ is a powerful support of His resurrection because the Jewish and Roman authorities failed to produce a corpse, which would have permanently terminated this Christian movement. However, they were incapable of producing the dead body of Jesus because they did not have it. Moreover, the tomb was tightly secured with a huge rock blocking the entrance and was constantly guarded by Roman soldiers, which would have made it virtually impossible for Jesus Christ to escape. New Testament Scholar Gary Habermas published this study in a peer-reviewed Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus:

        "Of these scholars, approximately 75 per cent favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb, while approximately 25 per cent think that one or more arguments oppose it. Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority."

        Are the four gospels legends or historical narrative? The four gospels were written during a time when most of the eyewitnesses to the miracles of Jesus Christ were still alive. They would have naturally disputed fabricated details. Men such as Peter and John were Jewish. That point is worth consideration because lying was forbidden in Jewish culture (Exodus 20:16; Leviticus 19:11; Proverbs 19:5). The Jewish leaders were not recorded as disputing the miracles performed by Jesus (John 11:45-48). The authors of the four gospels intended to convey points rooted in history, reflecting knowledge of geography and recording what took place in Galilee and Judea. The gospels flow in a style similar to Greco-Roman biographies. They are indebted to the Old Testament in regards to what they are composed of.

        The Swoon Theory was originally proposed by opponents of the resurrection during the nineteenth century. It is claimed that Christ never really died on a cross, but came near to facing death due to being crucified. This theory is further elaborated on by the postulate that Jesus was simply removed from the cross and that He reappeared after three days to His disciples by escaping from His tomb. The Swoon Theory claims that such an occurrence was made possible as a result of alleged recuperation in the coolness of a tomb for a period of three days. In summary, this theory states that Jesus Christ only appeared to have died on a cross and thus deceived His disciples into believing in His resurrection. This explanation has many problems:

          *Jesus was beaten on the face and mocked during six trials among Jewish and Roman authorities (Matthew 26-27; Luke 23; John 18). He even suffered from thirty-mine lashes on His back.
          *His scalp was severely torn by the crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29).
          *Jesus' heart stopped pumping due to nails being driven through His wrists onto a wooden crossbeam, which was raised directly into the air. Not only did Jesus asphyxiate from His chest cavity being filled with liquid, but He also became extremely dehydrated while He was suffering on the cross. Jesus' side was pierced with a spear (John 19:34-35).
          *The body of Jesus Christ was tightly encased in thick layers of linen (John 19:38-42).
          *Jesus' body would have gone without any sort of medical attention or be given a source of bodily nourishment during the three days of being buried in the tomb.
          *If He was alive during that period of three days, then He would have had insufficient strength to remove the bulky stone from the cave, to put up a fight with the Roman soldiers, or to even have accomplished both tasks.

        Critics have attempted to dismiss the biblical resurrection narratives of Jesus by laying the charge that the apostles merely had visions of Him rising from the grave. In other words, His earliest followers did not actually see the body of the risen Christ. This explanation too comes with problems of its own:

          *If "hallucinations" could provide a plausible argument for denying the biblical resurrection accounts, then they could only provide a possible justification for rejecting post-resurrection appearances. 
          *If one decides to go with this theory, then how does he offer an explanation for the empty tomb, the removal of the huge bolder, and the mysterious disappearance of the dead body?
          *It would be next to impossible for several hundred people to experience the same hallucination for a period of forty days, especially at the same time and location (1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Acts 1:3). In fact, most hallucinations are not repetitive in nature or able to converse with people.
          *How can hallucinations eat or be physically touched (Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:42-43; John 20:27-28)?

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