RESPONDblogs: Four Inconvenient Facts Surrounding Jesus’ Resurrection

presuppositions

Last year around Easter time, I had the opportunity to discuss Jesus’ Resurrection with a friend who is not a Christian, and is generally hostile to the idea of God…religion…and Jesus. What was fascinating about the conversation, was that we were coming at the subject of the Resurrection from two opposite directions.

 

My friend’s presupposition – his starting point – was that miracles do not happen. He is a Naturalist.

 

My own presupposition is the opposite. Nature is not all that there is. It cannot be, because it has been created. So there is the possibility of an influence from the realm outside of Nature impinging upon the material Universe. In other words…miracles. I am a Super naturalist.

 

During our discussion, I was laying out the historical facts that surround the Resurrection. But he refused to see them as any historical evidence or proof that Jesus was raised from the dead. Now, while I agree that this evidence does not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Resurrection happened, it mounts a very strong historical case that it did. But – presuppositions are strong. And my friend would not budge one inch.

 

Facts are facts – but facts NEVER speak for themselves. They must be evaluated. People who review these facts must interpret them…and we always interpret facts starting with our presuppositions (or personal biases). Our conclusions are always driven by these personal biases. Always.

 

My question is this – are the conclusions we draw the most reasonable ones?

 

The thing is…I think that when we look at the historical basis for the Christian claim that …

  • Jesus of Nazareth died at the hands of the Roman + Jewish authorities by crucifixion on the Friday
  • yet rose physically from the dead on the Sunday

… we have to go to incredible lengths to explain this evidence any other way! Collective hallucination, the hypnotism of un-consenting adults, a sudden widespread conspiracy run by people not known for lying and with no resulting personal gain from perpetrating it. What an unlikely mess of a conclusion.

 

The simplest explanation of the documented evidence – the most obvious conclusion is that – Jesus rose from the dead. Or more accurately…God raised Jesus from the dead.

 

What is the evidence? Well – lets watch our presuppositions as we review it…but I thought you’d never ask! Here you go…

 

Fact #1 – After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.

People in 1st century Jerusalem generally knew where the tomb was, both Jews and Christians. It is truly baffling that belief in Jesus resurrection could arise, flourish and grow…in the face of a well-known tomb containing his corpse.

“The honourable burial of Jesus is one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus” – A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University

 

Fact #2 – On the Sunday morning following the crucifixion, the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his women followers.

“It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.” – D. H. van Daalen, Mathematician + Historian of Science

 

Fact #3 – On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

Even many sceptical and critical scholars – who do not believe in the claims of Christianity – acknowledge this to be true.

“It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” – Gert Ludemann, New Testament Scholar and Critic, University of Gottingen

 

Fact #4 – The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every reason not to.

Jesus’ friends were strict monotheistic Jews. Everything in their worldview and their religious upbringing taught them that, while a resurrection from the dead was going to happen one day, it would not happen until the very end of human history. Jesus’ disciples had every reason to be sceptical of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

And yet – they bravely proclaimed it and most of them went to an early death as a result.

F. D. Moule of Cambridge University describes the situation in these terms. Each disciple’s belief in Jesus’ resurrection cannot be accounted for in terms of previous events or expectations or influences on these people. The only thing that can account for their belief – is Jesus’ literal, bodily resurrection.

 

 

 

I suggest to you that – having evaluated the available evidence – the simplest conclusion is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

Adapted from:

Craig William Lane. “Jesus and His Passion”. Reasonable Faith. Accessed 30th March 2015. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/jesus-and-his-passion.

Advertisements

Published by

stuartgrayuk

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

7 thoughts on “RESPONDblogs: Four Inconvenient Facts Surrounding Jesus’ Resurrection”

  1. The resurrection is an interesting tale to be sure. The lack of evidence however makes understanding it difficult. But here’s some issues that the story raises:

    Early Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria, in “On First Principles”, said that the resurrection related to the spirit, not the mortal body. He considered the concept of a resurrection to be for those that did not have eyes to see and ears to hear (referring to a well-known parable of Jesus). Also, Paul did not believe in the resurrection of the physical body, but rather the spiritual body alone (e.g. see 1 Corinthians 15:44). So if Paul and Origen did not believe in it, why would anyone else?

    The resurrection accounts in the Bible are confusing, at best, and downright contradictory. The day and time of the crucifixion and the resurrection and the appearances vary from gospel to gospel. An empty tomb proves nothing as there is no proof that Jesus ever died. In fact, his body supposedly never decayed while he was dead. The appearances then could be nothing more than seeing Jesus alive.

    So when you say that the simplest explanation is that God raised Jesus from the dead, some people are certainly going to have a hard time agreeing with you. For example, even though I’m a Christian, I don’t personally believe that God can, or would, raise anyone from the dead. There’s no proof that that is even possible. Certainly, if an omnipotent, omniscient God wanted to, he could have arranged for a much more believable way to demonstrate the divinity of Jesus. As it stands, most people will believe it because they are Christian or disbelieve it because they are not Christian. All you’re left doing is preaching to the choir.

    1. Hey there

      Thanks for taking the time to respond to my blog.

      I’m interested in your belief that the Apostle Paul did not teach the physical resurrection of the body. Having read 1 Corinthians chapter 15…

      https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+corinthians+15&version=NIV

      …I really think the opposite is true…he is teaching the physical resurrection of the body to new believers who struggle with this concept.
      Now I agree that the challenging thing about understanding Paul’s letters is…when we read them it’s like we are only hearing one side of a telephone conversation. The point of 1 Corinthians 15 – when we read it – is pretty clearly Paul’s response to the claim by some Christians that there is no physical resurrection from the dead. He makes reference to this claim in v12

      “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” 1 Cor 15:12, NIV

      https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+corinthians+15%3A12&version=NIV

      1st century pagans apparently were happy to believe in the immortality of the soul but to them the thought of physical bodily resurrection…was just absurd. (Bruce Winter). Paul is responding to this position that new believers are holding onto and he starts his argument with the earliest of the Christian creeds that scholars date to within a few years of the crucifixion + resurrection.

      https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+corinthians+15%3A3-8&version=NIV

      “he was buried, that he was raised…and that he appeared…”. For the early Christians, their counter cultural understanding would have been Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead. After which…as Paul says… he appeared and interacted with hundreds of people – in many different situations and settings.

      What about Jesus surviving his crucifixion? I agree – an empty tomb is not compelling unless a dead person was laid there. But you know…Jesus suffered a brutal flogging at the hands of Roman torturers – he was flogged to within an inch of his life, history tells us. He was forced to carry the heavy instrument of his death up to the place of the Skull. And then he was nailed to it. At which point he suffered excruciating pain (that word was first coined to describe the unique torture of Roman crucifixion). And before his expert executioners were satisfied that his weak and bloody body had expired…they stuck a spear into it…and decided he was so dead they didn’t have to break his legs to speed up the process! He was laid in the tomb after all of that. If he had somehow been revived in the coolness…if he had managed to roll the stone away and evade the guards standing there…and made it back to his friends…I doubt they would have seen him, been amazed and called him the risen Lord of Life. They would have panicked and called for a doctor.

      Hey – I’m happy whoever I’m talking to. And if the only people listening are the choir – well that’s fine. I want them to know the solid reason and historical underpinning of the Christian faith too…after all…Paul did that for the church in Corinth…right?

      Anyway – Happy Easter, sir!

      Stu

  2. You have drawn a conclusion from what you call “facts” but they are not established as facts. It is from books not written at the time. Ever hear of the game called telephone? Your facts are not facts. Your conclusion is unsound.

    1. So your presuppositions are causing you to state that the historical sources that report those four historical facts are unsound…leading to my conclusion being unsound? Well, you are on your own there.

      Also – the game of telephone (or Chinese Whispers as us Brits name it) is not a model of first century society at all. The point of telephone is – to whisper a message from one person to one person with the overall goal of seeing how the message gets corrupted once it has worked its way down a chain of people…and to have a good laugh about it at the end. The message of the Resurrection was owned and proclaimed publically by a community of believers who passed it on carefully as a community – with all the inherent checks and balances at each stage of communication. We see evidence of the early Christian creed in the New Testament. We know it was a public process because Acts records it this way and extra-Biblical history records it this way. These historical sources (that you presumably have decided are unsound) record that Christians were expelled from Rome in the first century for causing an uproar at the instigation of Christ (who had been crucified many years previously).

      Hey – we all have presuppositions…you and I look at the same data very differently 🙂

      Stu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s