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