The Case For the Resurrection of Jesus: Part One - Introductory Thoughts
Throughout the centuries, skeptics have maligned the Resurrection of Christ, placing so much weight on theories and arguments that do nothing to support the real evidence. But what these critics fail to understand is that Jesus’ Resurrection is not just a myth that can be easily dismissed; it is a fact of history, and, as such, it is the central point of Christianity. Why, then, is the Resurrection so important? A synopsis of the facts is quite revealing. The Resurrection was the central theme upon which the disciples based their preaching, providing strong evidence in its favor; if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then what they preached was false, and they were liars. Yet many doctrines are based upon it. For example, Paul states the importance of believing in the Resurrection in order to be saved: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Additionally, Peter wrote that we have a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” which is “…an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for [us]…” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Furthermore, if Christ did not rise from the dead, Paul said, “your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Moreover, in response to the critics of His day, Jesus pointed to His Resurrection as proof for the truths of His teachings. In John 2:18-21, when the Jews asked Jesus for a sign He said, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” Even the apostles stated that the Resurrection was evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity. Therefore, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, His claims, as well as the claims of his disciples, are false. The Resurrection, then, “confirms Jesus’ claims, much of Christian doctrine, and the truthfulness of Christianity” (page 219).
But how can we be certain that Jesus actually predicted His resurrection? This is a vital question that demands an answer. But we must first note that this question is based upon the assumption that the Resurrection is not a historical fact; if the Resurrection did occur – and is a historical fact, as can be proven – then using the Resurrection as a basis to reject Jesus’ prediction’s fails. Secondly, the Gospels record some embarrassing details about the disciples and the women who followed Jesus. For example, whenever Jesus talked about His resurrection, they didn’t know what He was talking about. Then when He did rise from the dead, they didn’t believe it; they thought someone had stolen His body. Even after seeing the empty tomb, they couldn’t comprehend it! This supports the authenticity of the Resurrection account; for if it had been invented, no one – not even those who highly respected the apostles – would have included predictions of Jesus’ Resurrection that would have made them look foolish! Additionally, Mark 8:31 states, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” The use of “The Son of Man” in correlation with Jesus’ prediction of His Resurrection provides sufficient proof that Jesus’ claim can be trusted. The Jews did not view this term in connection with a suffering Messiah; Daniel 7:13-14 speaks of “the Son of Man” being exalted. Therefore, “This criterion ‘focuses on words or deeds of Jesus that cannot be derived either from Judaism at the time of Jesus or from the early Church after him’” (page 30, quote by Meier). Lastly, Jesus’ predictions concerning His Resurrection are confirmed in numerous passages throughout the New Testament. These points, then, attest to the fact that Jesus’ Resurrection predictions are trustworthy.
There are also several additional points which argue favorably for the Resurrection of Christ. Five facts, collectively known as the “Minimal Facts Approach,” point strongly to the authenticity of the Resurrection. “This approach considers only those data that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly ever scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones” (page 44). Of these facts, four meet the minimal facts approach, and one comes very close to meeting it. Additionally, there are three sound arguments for Jesus’ Resurrection. Firstly, the disciples sincerely believed that Jesus died, rose from the dead, and appeared to them as is evidenced by their willingness to be persecuted and die for their faith. Secondly, there is external evidence for their belief: the conversion of several people who did not believe in Jesus beforehand – Paul the former persecutor, and James (the Lord’s brother). The empty tomb is also strong external evidence for the Resurrection; Jesus’ body is not there. Also, none of the opposing theories put forth by the skeptics provide plausible evidence in light of the historical facts; the only alternative is that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.
Come back next time for Part 2!