Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

Matthew 28

“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Maybe it just seems too fantastic of a story. Some one dead and buried came back to life? Everything you know about the human existence tells you it’s not possible for Jesus Christ to be resurrected after being crucified on the cross. But it did happen.

There is solid evidence that proves Jesus did come back from the dead. Truth or Tradition is a website dedicated to spreading the truth of Jesus Christ. They’ve published a booklet, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – 23 Arguments for the Historical Validity of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. You can read it in its entirety on line and order a free copy. Here are just a few of the arguments they highlight.

1. The resurrection narratives have the ring of historical truth

The resurrection narratives bear unmistakable signs of being historically accurate. The earliness of these accounts, at a time when hostile witnesses were present, would have made a fabrication unlikely and dangerous. There is agreement on the main facts and great variety in the witnesses given, yet they are not a mere repetition of some standardized story with all the discrepancies worked out. Indeed, the accounts of Christ’s resurrection appearances are clearly independent of one another, as their surface dissimilarities suggest.

3. The empty tomb is a historical given

No reputable New Testament historian doubts the historical fact that the tomb in which Christ was placed after his crucifixion was empty. Therefore, there are only three explanations for it. Either his enemies took the body, his friends took the body, or Jesus was raised from the dead. The first possibility is extremely unlikely, because his enemies would have certainly displayed his body if they could have, in order to humiliate his disciples, quell the rumors of his resurrection, as well as to cut short any new religious movement that threatened their Mosaic traditions.

It is equally unlikely that his friends would have taken his body, because after his crucifixion they were profoundly disappointed and discouraged men who did not believe that he would be resurrected. It is absurd to think that under these conditions they would invent a scheme in which they would steal away the body to fabricate a story they obviously did not believe.

7. His enemies would have produced his dead body to silence the believers

If he did not rise from the dead, what became of his body? If his enemies stole it and never showed it openly, that would have encouraged the very rumors of a resurrection that they were very anxious to prevent. But the decisive proof that his enemies did not take the body is that they surely would have quickly produced it with great fanfare, for they stopped short of nothing to discredit the story.

9. A non-Christian historian testifies in support of the resurrection

Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, wrote about Jesus Christ and the growth of Christianity as follows:

And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.

Though some have tried to dismiss this corroborating secular testimony as fraudulent, this is unlikely because Josephus’ writings were well received at the time of their writing by both Jews and Romans. He was even made an honorary Roman citizen.

16. The unanimous testimony of eye-witnesses, who could not all have been deceived or deluded

Some critics say that the early Christians had a vision or an hallucination of Christ after his death, in the same way people today claim to have “seen” the pop icon Elvis Presley. Could it not have been an ecstatic vision? A dream? A fantasy of an excited imagination? Perhaps an apparition? None of these is at all probable, for different groups of people do not keep on seeing the same hallucination. 500 people in a crowd would not all dream the same dream at the same time.

Go ahead and question the reality of the resurrection and of Christ, then do the research. Lee Strobel, one of the most well-known Christian apologists today did just that. A staunch atheist with a law degree, he set out to prove the story of Christ was false. Instead, the evidence he uncovered through his research so overwhelmingly proved that the Biblical Jesus and the events involving him were true, that he became a Christian. He went on to write several books including The Case for Christ in which he details the evidence that changed his mind. Josh McDowell was another skeptic. He too set out to prove Christianity false. After examining the life of Christ he also came to the only conclusion that made any sense, it was true. He accepted Christ as his savior. McDowell wrote the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict where he examines the C.S. Lewis Trilemmathat if Jesus is not the Lord he can either only be a liar or a lunatic. Would a liar die for his claim? Jesus was wise, self-controlled, loving even toward his enimes. None of those characterize a lunitic. I would encourage to read either of these books as well as C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity where he writes about the trillema if you have questions about the truth of Christ, or if you want to be able to better answer others’ questions.

The Easter season is the perfect time to begin to discover the truth of salvation offered to you through the sacrifce on the cross and ressurection of Jesus Christ. If you already believe, learn more so that you can share it with others.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

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7 Responses to “Did the Resurrection Really Happen?”

  1. Clark Says:

    Have you heard this one? If the resurrection is a lie, it’s not a very good one. The first people to report Christ risen were women. Women were not even allowed to testify in court back in the first century. So if the story was made up, they would have made up something better. It shows that 1) the Gospel writers were recording what actually happened, but manipulating the events, and that 2) God is no respecter of persons.

  2. Clark Says:

    NOT manipulating the events,

    that little difference makes all the difference

  3. Tom Wrong Says:

    I dunno – this makes a pretty good case for the resurrection beginning as a visionary experience.
    http://merkavah-vision.blogspot.com/2008/03/easter-sermon-part-33-resurrection.html

  4. Colleen Says:

    To say that the resurrection was merely a vision it first to ignore the questions of where was the body and why didn’t the Romans and anyone else who had a vested interest in proving the story wrong search for it and produce it? You are also ignoring the list of over 500 eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after his death. Perhaps is the women at the tomb had been the only ones to see him you could dismiss it as the hallucinations of hysterical women. That many eyewitnesses could not have had the same vision. I would urge you to research this beyond one article that doesn’t support its theory with other than speculation on how people who didn’t know Christ personally interpreted the events.

  5. Tom Wrong Says:

    Hi Colleen –

    If the first Christians proclaimed that Jesus ascended spiritually from Hades to heaven, there was no question of any ‘material body’ or ‘searching’ for any material body. The first Christians would have accepted that Jesus’ material body was rotting in the ground, but would have proclaimed his spiritually transformed body had ascended into heaven. As the post I quoted from explained, the idea of an earthly ‘stopover’ for 40 days (or whatever) inbetween Hades and heaven was a much later addition to the tradition.

    You speak of a “list of over 500 eyewitnesses”. Who is on this “list”? Surely you must be referring to Paul’s claim that Jesus “appeared” to over 500 Christians at one time – none of whom are “listed”. And I did not “ignore” this claim by Paul. To the contrary, this “appearance” is just one more story that began with a visionary “appearance”. It is quite common for mass visions to occur in religious groups, and particularly so in ancient Judaism. Josephus records a vision that occurred to a whole army in one place! Also, it is quite plausible that the details of one or a series of visions have been grouped together and exaggerated here, so as to invent a vision that occurred to more than 500.

    I have read much more than that one article, thank you. But I encourage you to read more about the practice of Jewish and Christian visions. Have you read the following?:
    – Francis Flannery-Dailey, Dreamers, Scribes and Priests: Jewish Dreams in the Hellenistic and Roman Eras. Supplement to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 90. Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2004
    – Dan Merkur, “The Visionary Practices of Jewish Apocalyptists.” In The Psychoanalytic Study of Society, 14, eds. L. Bryce Boyer and Simon A. Grolnick, 119-148. Hillsdale: The Analytic Press, 1989.

    Regards,
    Tom

  6. Colleen Says:

    If Jesus body was rotting in the ground was the tomb empty, the graves clothes even left behind?

    To believe that the resurrection and the appearance of Jesus were visions would be to say that just about every writer in the New Testament got it wrong. Clearly they all believed that Jesus was truly resurrected. If I am going to believe that’s wrong how can I accept that anything else in the Bible, Old or New Testament is true? I can’t just pick and choose which parts to believe. It must be all of nothing. Therefore I have to take Paul at his word that there were 500 witnesses.

    I think these articles explain the evidence better than I could.

    I’m sorry. I should have not implied that you only read one article. I respect your opinion, and doubt I will do much to change your mind. I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm

    http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=639

  7. Tom Wrong Says:

    Colleen,

    I don’t think that there was any ‘tomb’ or ‘grave-clothes’. Historical records show that most crucifixion victims were thrown into a mass pit. The story about a pious Jew who offered Jesus his own family tomb is probably a much later story. The orginal version of Jesus’ ‘resurrection’ was merely that he ascended directly from earth to heaven, in a ‘spiritual body’. Questions about his corpse would not arise as long as this was the story. Only decades later, when the ’empty tomb’ story developed would anybody have been interested in asking where his physical body was. And by that time, finding it in a mass pit was impossible. Of course, it may have been possible to locate Joseph of Arimathea’s family tomb, but it wouldn’t have been found there either.

    It’s not every writer in the New Testament that got it wrong. Paul writes about his personal ‘vision’ of the resurrected Jesus in just the same way as the other ‘visions’ by the other disciples. Paul does not envision a physical resurrection, but appearances from heaven in a ‘spiritual body’ that had ascended from the grave. Only in the Gospels do we first hear of a tomb story. The 4 Gospels are not independent sources, remember, they all depend on earlier stories, Matthew and Luke are dependent on Mark’s story, and possibly John is dependent on Mark as well.

    I can understand why you might prefer to believe in the Bible, for the sake of your own security and faith. But, if we are talking about what is more likely, the vision explanation has a very high degree of support from the first century practices of Jews and Christians, including Paul himself, and many other Christian writers.

    Regards,
    Tom

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