A guy named Jesus Christ, according to eyewitnesses, proved his power over death. They claim that on the third day, after he died on the cross and was buried, Jesus came to them alive. Then he was viewed by more followers, including up to 500 individuals at one time.
The news that Jesus had risen from the grave quickly spread throughout the world. Is it possible, though, that Jesus’ resurrection is only a 2000-year-old legend? Is it based on historical evidence that can be verified?
If Jesus did not rise from the grave, the Christian faith’s basis would be shattered forever.
Jesus Prophesies His Death and Resurrection.
Seven hundred years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah prophesied of a coming Messiah who would suffer and die for our sins before being raised to life again.
Jesus claimed to be the Messiah who would be betrayed, arrested, convicted, spat upon, scourged, and executed, echoing the prophesy in Isaiah 53. He would then come back to life three days later. (See Mark 10:33 for further information.)
Everything Jesus taught and asserted was predicated on his bodily resurrection. Jesus’ message of forgiveness and hope for eternal life would be useless if he didn’t resurrect as he promised. Jesus was putting the truth of his statements to the ultimate test.
“When He claimed He would rise again from the dead, the third day after He was crucified, He stated something only a fool would dare to utter if He anticipated the devotion of any disciples – unless He was convinced He was going to resurrect,” Bible expert Wilbur Smith says. So, what went wrong?
Then What? A Horrific Death And Then What?
Jesus was betrayed by one of his followers, Judas Iscariot, as foretold by eyewitnesses. Then he was convicted, scourged, kicked, spit upon, cruelly beaten, and eventually executed on a wooden crucifixion under the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate.
For around six hours, Jesus was nailed on the cross. Then, at 3:00 p.m., Jesus said, “It is finished,” and died. Suddenly, the sky darkened, and the ground trembled.
Before permitting Jesus’ crucifixion body to be buried, Pilate wanted to be sure he was dead. As a result, a Roman guard pierced Jesus’ side with a spear. According to eyewitnesses, the combination of blood and water that poured out was a strong evidence that Jesus had died. Jesus’ corpse was brought down from the crucifixion, securely wrapped in linen, and buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb once his death was verified. The tomb was subsequently sealed with a huge stone and Roman guards were given strict orders to keep watch over it 24 hours a day.
The disciples of Jesus were so grieved by his murder on the cross that they fled for their lives, fearful of being arrested and executed as well. But then something unexpected happened…
“Shortly after Jesus’ execution, his disciples were transformed from a befuddled and frightened bunch into individuals whose message of a living Jesus and a future kingdom, preached at the risk of their lives, revolutionized an empire. Something unexpected happened… But what precisely is it?”
The Evidence is Examined by a Skeptic
Frank Morison, an English journalist, felt Jesus’ resurrection was a hoax and began researching for a book to prove his point. Morison was curious as to what had transpired to transform Jesus’ disciples and create a movement that has had such a significant influence on our world.
He came to the realization that there were five probable explanations:
On the crucifixion, Jesus did not truly die.
The body of Jesus was taken from him.
The disciples were experiencing hallucinations.
The story has become legendary. Alternatively, it may have actually occurred.
Morison began slowly and objectively studying the data to see where they would lead him.
1. Is Jesus still alive?
When Jesus was put in the tomb, Morison demanded proof that he was indeed dead. He discovered that Jesus’ death has been accepted as reality for almost 1800 years. Then, around 200 years ago, a small group of doubters proposed that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, but rather passed out and was resurrected by the chilly, damp air of the tomb. The “swoon hypothesis” was born out of this.
Morison questioned if Jesus would have been able to survive the crucifixion. He looked into both Jewish and Roman history and uncovered the following evidence for Jesus’ death:
He died, according to all reports.
Pilate confirmed his death.
No one doubts his death within the eyewitnesses’ lifetimes.
His death is mentioned by secular and contemporaneous historians like as Lucian, Josephus, and Tacitus.
Morison became convinced that Jesus was genuinely dead, a truth that trusted academics and historians nearly uniformly agree on.
“That Jesus Christ died on the cross, in the full physical meaning of the term…seems to me to be one of history’s certainties,” Morison writes.
But what if Jesus’ corpse was kidnapped?
2. Was Jesus’ corpse taken from him?
Morison speculated that the disciples may have fabricated the resurrection narrative by taking Jesus’ body and then saying he was alive. That may be feasible if the tomb was located in a remote location where no one would see them.
The tomb, however, belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, a well-known member of the Sanhedrin Council. Any notions of Jesus being “lost in the graveyard” would have to be rejected because Joseph’s tomb was in a well-known and readily recognizable place.
The Romans had appointed soldiers to watch over the tomb 24 hours a day, not just because the site was well-known. This was a well-trained security squad of four to sixteen men.
Josh McDowell, a former atheist and skeptic, spent over 700 hours investigating the evidence for the resurrection. “The Roman Guard unit was devoted to discipline and they feared failure in any way,” McDowell writes. It would have been difficult for someone to get past the guards and then move the stone without being spotted. However, the stone was moved away, allowing eyewitnesses to enter the tomb. And when they did, they discovered that Jesus’ corpse had vanished.
If Jesus’ body had been discovered, his adversaries would have revealed the resurrection as a hoax right away. The strength of this argument is summarized by Tom Anderson, past president of the California Trial Lawyers Association:
“Don’t you think it’s logical that one historian, one eye witness, one adversary would record for all time that he had seen Christ’s body in such a well-publicized event?” … When it comes to the witness opposing the resurrection, history is deafeningly silent.”
With no physical proof and a recognized tomb that was obviously empty, Morison concluded that Jesus’ corpse had vanished from the tomb.
Perhaps the disciples were hallucinating and only saw Jesus in their minds?
3. Did the Disciples have a hallucination?
Morison speculated that the disciples’ emotional turmoil may have caused them to hallucinate and envision Jesus’ resurrection.
“Hallucinations are individual occurrences,” says psychologist Gary Collins, past president of the American Association of Christian Counselors. A hallucination can only be seen by one person at a time by its very nature. They surely aren’t anything that a bunch of people can see.”
According to psychologist Thomas J. Thorburn, hallucination is not even a remote possibility. “It is impossible that… five hundred people of ordinary mental acuity… should have all types of sensual perceptions – visual, aural, tactual – and that all of these… experiences should be totally based on… hallucination.”
As a result, the hallucination idea looks to be another another dead end. What other explanation could there be for the resurrection?
4. Is it only a myth?
Some doubters believe the resurrection narrative is based on a tale that originated with one or more people lying or believing they saw the risen Jesus. As it was passed down through the generations, the mythology would have evolved and been exaggerated. ? However, there are three fundamental flaws in that idea.
Legends don’t form when there are many eyewitnesses there to dispute them. A. N. Sherwin-White, an ancient Rome and Greece historian, believed that the resurrection news traveled far too rapidly for it to be a fable. Even the most skeptics acknowledge that Christian hymns and creeds were sung in early churches within two to three years of Jesus’ death.
Legends are created through oral tradition and are not substantiated by current historical sources. The Gospels, on the other hand, were written within three decades after Jesus’ resurrection.
The legend explanation fails to account for both the empty tomb and the apostles’ passionate belief that Jesus was alive.
The data contradicted Morison’s initial belief that the resurrection narrative was mythological or legendary.
So, what occurred, exactly?
5. Is it true that Jesus was resurrected?
After ruling out the primary objections to Jesus’ resurrection based on their contradiction with the evidence, Morison began to wonder aloud, “Did it really happen?” Rather of seeking for evidence opposing Jesus’ resurrection, he pondered how strong the case for it was. There were a few facts that stuck out.
Women Come First
Every eyewitness narrative claims that Jesus appeared bodily to his followers, beginning with the ladies. Morison was perplexed as to why the plot’s major character was a woman. Women had almost little rights, personhood, or position throughout the first century. Conspirators, Morison reasoned, would have shown males, not women, as the first to encounter Jesus alive. Despite this, we are told that ladies touched him, chatted with him, and were the first to discover his tomb empty.
The disciples claim to have seen Jesus on at least 10 occasions. He allegedly showed them his hands and feet and instructed them to touch them. He ate with them and subsequently appeared alive in front of more than 500 people.
Peter explained to a multitude in Caesarea why he and the other disciples were so certain Jesus was alive.
“All that he performed in Israel and in Jerusalem is witnessed by us apostles. They crucified him, but God resurrected him from the dead.