As with all other pages we have posted recently, we only offer excerpts so that people can be aware of the information and thought expressed by a few scholars and archaeologists, as well as theologians. We do not edit but try to place everything on this page untouched.
The Resurrection has always been felt to be vital in connection with
Christianity. As a consequence, opponents have almost always
concentrated their attacks, and Christians have centered their defense, upon
it. It is therefore of the utmost importance to give attention to the subject,
as it appears in the New Testament. There are several converging lines of
evidence, and none can be overlooked. Each must have its place and
weight. The issues at stake are so serious that nothing must be omitted.
1. FIRST PROOF: THE LIFE OF JESUS:
The first proof is the life of Jesus Christ Himself. It is always a
disappointment when a life which commenced well finishes badly. We have
this feeling even in fiction; instinct demands that a story should end well.
Much more is this true of Jesus Christ. A perfect life characterized by
divine claims ends in its prime in a cruel and shameful death. Is that a
fitting close? Surely death could not end everything after such a noble
career. The Gospels give the resurrection as the completion of the picture
of Jesus Christ. There is no real doubt that Christ anticipated His own
resurrection. At first He used only vague terms, such as, “Destroy this
Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But later on He spoke plainly,
and whenever He mentioned His death, He added, “The Son of man ….
must be raised the third day.” These references are too numerous to be
overlooked, and, in spite of difficulties of detail, they are, in any proper
treatment of the Gospels, an integral part of the claim made for Himself by
2. SECOND PROOF: THE EMPTY GRAVE:
Another line of proof is the fact of the empty grave and the disappearance
of the body. That Jesus died and was buried, and that on the third morning
the tomb was empty, is not now seriously challenged. The theory of a
swoon and a recovery in the tomb is impossible, and to it Strauss
“practically gives its deathblow” (Orr, op. cit., 43). At Christ’s burial a
stone was rolled before the tomb, the tomb was sealed, and a guard was
placed before it. Yet on the third morning the body had disappeared, and
the tomb was empty. There are only two alternatives. His body must have
been taken out of the grave by human hands or else by superhuman power.
If the hands were human, they must have been those of His friends or of
His foes. If His friends had wished to take out His body, the question at
once arises whether they could have done so in the face of the stone, the
seal and the guard. If His foes had contemplated this action, the question
arises whether they would seriously have considered it. It is extremely
improbable that any effort should have been made to remove the body out
of the reach of the disciples. Why should His enemies do the very thing that
would be most likely to spread the report of His resurrection? As
Chrysostom said, “If the body had been stolen, they could not have stolen
it naked, because of the delay in stripping it of the burial clothes and the
trouble caused by the drugs adhering to it” (quoted in Day, Evidence for
the Resurrection, 35). Besides, the position of the grave-clothes proves the
impossibility of the theft of the body…
3. THIRD PROOF: TRANSFORMATION OF THE DISCIPLES:
The next line of proof to be considered is the transformation of the
disciples caused by the resurrection. They had seen their Master die, and
through that death they lost all hope. Yet hope returned three days after.
On the day of the crucifixion they were filled with sadness; on the first day
of the week with gladness. At the crucifixion they were hopeless; on the
first day of the week their hearts glowed with certainty. When the message
of the resurrection first came they were incredulous and hard to be
convinced, but when once they became assured they never doubted again.
What could account for the astonishing change in these men in so short a
time? The mere removal of the body from the grave could never have
transformed their spirits and characters. Three days are not enough for a
legend to spring up which should so affect them. Time is needed for a
process of legendary growth. There is nothing more striking in the history
of primitive Christianity than this marvelous change wrought in the
disciples by a belief in the resurrection of their Master. It is a psychological
fact that demands a full explanation. The disciples were prepared to believe
in the appearance of a spirit, but they never contemplated the possibility of
a resurrection (see <411611>Mark 16:11). Men do not imagine what they do not
believe, and the women’s intention to embalm a corpse shows they did not
expect His resurrection. Besides, a hallucination involving five hundred
people at once, and repeated several times during forty days, is
4. FOURTH PROOF: EXISTENCE OF THE PRIMITIVE
From this fact of the transformation of personal life in so incredibly short a
space of time, we proceed to the next line of proof, the existence of the
primitive church. “There is no doubt that the church of the apostles
believed in the resurrection of their Lord” (Burkitt, The Gospel History
and Its Transmission, 74).
It is now admitted on all hands that the church of Christ came into
existence as the result of a belief in the resurrection of Christ…The only
explanation of these facts is God’s act of resurrection (<440236>Acts 2:36),
for nothing short of it could have led to the Jewish acceptance of Jesus
Christ as their Messiah. The apostolic church is thus a result of a belief
in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The early chapters of Acts bear the
marks of primitive documents, and their evidence is unmistakable. It is
impossible to allege that the early church did not know its own history,
that myths and legends quickly grew up and were eagerly received, and
that the writers of the Gospels had no conscience for principle, but
manipulated their material at will, for any modern church could easily
give an account of its history for the past fifty years or more (Orr, The
Resurrection of Jesus, 144). And it is simply absurd to think that the
earliest church had no such capability…
5. FIFTH PROOF: THE WITNESS OF PAUL:
One man in the apostolic church must, however, be singled out as a special
witness to the resurrection. The conversion and work of Saul of Tarsus is
our next line of proof. Attention is first called to the evidence of his life and
writings to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some years ago an article
appeared (E. Medley, The Expositor, V, iv, 359). inquiring as to the
conception of Christ which would be suggested to a heathen inquirer by a
perusal of Paul’s earliest extant writing, 1 Thessalonians. One point at least
would stand out clearly — that Jesus Christ was killed (2:15; 4:14) and
was raised from the dead (4:14). As this Epistle is usually dated about 51
AD — that is, only about 22 years after the resurrection — and as the
same Epistle plainly attributes to Jesus Christ the functions of God in
relation to men (1:1,6; 2:14; 3:11), we can readily see the force of this
testimony to the resurrection. Then a few years later, in an epistle which is
universally accepted as one of Paul’s, we have a much fuller reference to
the event. In the well-known chapter (1 Cor 15) where he is concerned to
prove (not Christ’s resurrection, but) the resurrection of Christians, he
naturally adduces Christ’s resurrection as his greatest evidence, and so
gives a list of the various appearances of Christ, ending with one to
himself, which he puts on an exact level with the others: “Last of all he was
seen of me also.”…
6. SIXTH PROOF: THE GOSPEL RECORD:
The next line of proof of the resurrection is the record in the Gospels of the
appearances of the risen Christ, and it is the last in order to be considered.
By some writers it is put first, but this is in forgetfulness of the dates when
the Gospels were written. The resurrection was believed in by the Christian
church for a number of years before our Gospels were written, and it is
therefore impossible for these records to be our primary and most
important evidence. We must get behind them if we are to appreciate fully
the force and variety of the evidence. It is for this reason that, following
the proper logical order, we have reserved to the last our consideration of
the appearances of the risen Christ as given in the Gospels. The point is
#2. Geisler, N. L. (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics (pp. 644–647). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Resurrection, Alternate Theories of. The evidence for the supernatural physical resurrection of Christ is compelling (see Resurrection, Evidence for, and Resurrection, Physical Nature of), and the objections can be adequately answered (see Resurrection, Objections to). Alternate explanations to a supernatural physical resurrection have been attempted, but a brief survey will show that they too fail.
Naturalistic Theories. In all naturalistic theories, in which the assumption is that Jesus died and did not return to life, two issues are inevitable problems: First, given the inescapable fact that Jesus actually died on the cross (see Christ, Death of; Swoon Theory), a basic problem with all naturalistic theories is to explain what happened to the body. It is necessary to explain why the earliest records speak of an empty tomb or why the dead body was never found. Second, the earliest disciples testified to seeing an empty tomb and being with Jesus in the weeks after his death. If untrue, why did these reports so motivate them to extraordinary actions?
The Authorities Moved the Body. One hypothesis proposes that the Roman or Jewish authorities took the body from the tomb to another place, leaving the tomb empty. The disciples wrongly presumed Jesus to be raised from the dead.
If the Romans or the Sanhedrin had the body, why did they accuse the disciples of stealing it (Matt. 28:11–15)? Such a charge would have been senseless. And if the opponents of Christianity had the body, why didn’t they produce it to stop the resurrection story? The reaction of the authorities reveals that they did not know where the body was. They continually resisted the apostles’ teaching, but never attempted to refute it.
This theory is contrary to the conversion of James and especially Saul. How could such a severe critic as Saul of Tarsus (cf. Acts 8–9) be so duped?
Certainly, this theory does not explain the resurrection appearances. Why did Jesus keep appearing to all these people in the same nail-scared body in which he was placed in the tomb? It is also contrary to the conversions of people from the opposition to Jesus’ side. It assumes Paul was duped when he was deep in the Jewish anti-Christian camp yet unaware the body was available. And he was duped into believing in the resurrection.
The stolen body hypothesis is a fallacious argument from innocence. There is not a shred of evidence to support it.
The Tomb Was Never Visited. One theory is that in the two months after Jesus’ death he appeared in some spiritual form to some of the disciples, and they preached the resurrection based on this. But no one ever checked the tomb to see if Jesus’ dead body actually was there. Why should they, if they had already seen him alive?
If we can believe nothing else from the earliest record in the Gospels, we can hardly avoid the point that Jesus’ tomb was a busy place on that early morning. If the issue just never came up, it certainly burned the minds of the writers of the Gospels. A harmonization of the order of events is found in the article Resurrection, Objections to. The women who came to finish burial procedures (Mark 15:1) saw the stone rolled away and the empty tomb. John reached the grave site and saw the burial clothes, followed by Peter who entered the tomb and saw the grave clothes and a headcloth (a strip wrapped around the head to keep the jaw closed) lying separately (John 20:3–8). While Paul does not mention the empty tomb explicitly, he implies it when speaking of Jesus’ burial as a precondition of his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:4).
The guards were sure to have made a thorough search of the tomb before they reported to the Jewish leaders that his body had vanished (Matt. 28:11–15). Their lives were forfeited if they had been derelict in their duty. These guards would not have had to agree to the cover story that the disciples had stolen the body if they could have offered some reasonable alternative explanation. But the story of the guards does not explain the resurrection appearances, the transformation of the disciples, or the mass conversions of people only weeks later in the very city where it had happened.
The Women Went to the Wrong Tomb. Some suggest that the women went to the wrong tomb in the darkness, saw it empty and thought he had risen. This story was then spread by them through the ranks of the disciples and led to their belief in the resurrections of Christ. There are serious problems with such a simplistic story. If it was so dark, why did Mary Magdalene assume the gardener was working (John 20:15)? Why did Peter and John make the same mistake as the women when they arrived later, in daylight (John 20:4–6)? It was light enough to see the grave clothes and the rolled-up headcloth in a dim, cave-like tomb (vs. 7).
If the disciples went to the wrong tomb, the authorities had only to go to the right one and show them the body. That would have easily disproved all claims to a resurrection.
And, as with other naturalistic theories (see Naturalism), this offers no explanation for the reports that Jesus appeared.
The Disciples Stole the Body. The guards spread the story that the disciples had stolen the body in the night and took it to an unknown location. This is still a popular claim, particularly in Jewish circles. It explains the story of an empty tomb and the inability of anyone to disprove the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
Grave robbery is not in keeping with what we know of the moral character of the disciples. They were honest men. They taught and lived according to the highest moral principles of honesty and integrity. Peter specifically denied that the apostles followed cleverly devised tales (2 Peter 1:16). Furthermore, the disciples do not come off as particularly subtle or clever. If they were trying to make Christ’s predictions come true, up until this time they had not understood how the prophecies fit Jesus. They had not even understood that he was going to die, let alone that he was to be raised (John 13:36).
At the grave scene we find these conspirators confused and bewildered, just as we would suspect if they had not a clue what was happening. They did not know what to think when they first saw the empty tomb (John 20:9). They scattered and hid in fear of being caught (Mark 14:50).
Perhaps the most serious objection is that the hoax was so totally successful. For that to happen the apostles had to persist in this conspiracy to the death and to die for what they knew to be false. People will sometimes die for what they believe to be true, but they have little motivation to die for what they know to be a lie. It seems unbelievable that no disciple ever recanted belief in the resurrection of Christ, in spite of suffering and persecution (cf. 2 Cor. 11:22–33; Heb. 11:32–40). Not only did they die for this “lie,” but the apostles placed belief in the resurrection at the center of their faith (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 15:1–5, 12–19). Indeed, it was the theme of the earliest preaching by the apostles (Acts 2:30–31; 3:15; and 4:10, 33).
It is contrary to the conversions of James and Paul (John 7:5; Acts 9, and 1 Cor. 15:7). These skeptics would certainly have learned of the plot eventually, and they would never have remained in the faith on such a basis.
Finally, if the body was stolen and still dead, then why did it keep appearing alive, both to disciples and to others who were not disciples? Jesus appeared bodily to Mary, to James (Jesus’ unbelieving brother), and later to Paul, the greatest Jewish opponent of early Christianity.
Joseph of Arimathea Took the Body. A similar notion is that Joseph of Arimathea stole the body of Jesus. He was a secret believer in Jesus, and Jesus was buried in Joseph’s tomb. The problems of this theory boil down to “Why?” “When?” and “Where?”
Why would he take the body? Joseph really had no reason. It could not be to prevent the disciples from stealing it, since he was a disciple (Luke 23:50–51). If he had not been a follower of Christ, he could have produced the body and squelched the whole story.
When could he (or the disciples for that matter) have taken it? Joseph was a devout Jew who would not have broken the Sabbath (see Luke 23:50–56). At night, the torches he carried would have been seen. A Roman guard was posted in front of the tomb (Matt. 27:62–66). The following morning the women came by dawn (Luke 24:1). There was simply no opportunity.
If Joseph took it, where did he put it? The body was never found, even though almost two months elapsed before the disciples began preaching. This was plenty of time to expose a fraud. There is no motive, opportunity, or method to support this theory, and it gives no explanation of the appearances of Christ in his resurrected body.
And again, there is no good explanation, other than a supernatural resurrection, for eleven appearances over the subsequent forty days to more than 500 people (see Resurrection, Evidence for). They saw him, handled him, ate with him, talked with him, and were completely transformed overnight from scared, scattered, skeptics to the world’s greatest missionary society. Much of it happened in the same city in which Jesus was crucified.
Appearances Were Mistaken Identity. One naturalistic theory made more visible by Schonfield’s The Passover Plot is that the post-death appearances that were the heart of the disciples’ belief in the resurrection were all cases of mistaken identity. This is allegedly reinforced by the fact that the disciples themselves even believed at first that the person appearing was not Jesus. Mary thought she saw a gardener (John 20). The two disciples thought it was a stranger traveling in Jerusalem (Luke 24), and later they supposed they saw a spirit (Luke 24:38–39). Mark even admits the appearance was in “a different form” (Mark 16:12). According to Schonfield, the disciples mistook Jesus for different people at different times (Schonfield, 170–73).
This theory is beset with many difficulties. First, on none of these occasions mentioned did the disciples go away with any doubt in their minds that it was really the same Jesus they had known intimately for years who was appearing to them in physical form Their doubts were only initial and momentary. By the time the appearance was over, Jesus had convinced them by his scars, his ability to eat food, by their touching him, by his teaching, by his voice, and/or by miracles that he was the same person with whom they had spent over three years (see Resurrection, Evidence for). Schonfield neglects all this evidence and takes their initial doubt, which is a sign of the authenticity of the account, totally out of context.
Second, the mistaken identity hypothesis does not account for the permanently empty tomb. If the disciples were seeing different persons, the Jews or Romans could have gone to Jesus’ tomb and produced the body to refute their claim. But there is no evidence that they did, even though they had every reason to want to do so. The fact is that no one ever found the body. Instead, the disciples were absolutely convinced they were encountering the same Jesus in his same resurrected physical body whom they had known so closely all those years.
Third, this speculation does not account for the transformation of the disciples. Mistaken identity and a dead body rotting in some grave does not explain why the scared, scattered, and skeptical disciples were transformed into the world’s greatest missionary society overnight by their mistaken encounter with several mortal beings.
Fourth, it is highly unlikely that many people could be fooled on that many occasions. After all, Jesus appeared to over five hundred people on eleven different occasions over a forty-day period. It is less miraculous to hold in the supernatural resurrection of Christ than to believe that all of these people on all of these occasions who totally deceived and yet so totally transformed. It is easier to believe in the resurrection.
Finally, it is contrary to the conversion of skeptics as James and Saul of Tarsus. How could such critics be so duped?
God Destroyed (Transformed) the Body. All of the above theories are purely naturalistic. Another group contends that some kind of miracle occurred, but it was not the miracle of a physical resurrection of the body of Jesus after he had died. Rather, this alternative to the physical resurrection contends that God destroyed (transformed) the body of Jesus so that it mysteriously and immediately disappeared from view (see Harris). The later appearances of Christ were, according to some, theophany-like appearances, and according to others, they were appearances wherein Jesus assumed bodily form(s) in which the scars he showed were replicas to convince others of his reality but not of his materiality. This view is far more sophisticated and less naturalistic. It does not fall into the typical naturalistic or liberal camp. Rather, it is more in line with the neo-orthodox error on the resurrection. Many cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, hold a form of this view. But like the naturalistic views, these views too are subject to fatal flaws.
To explain away the one simple miracle of Jesus being raised immortal in the same physical body in which he died, those who seek a spiritual-body explanation posit that at least two miracles happened. First God immediately and mysteriously destroyed or transformed the physical body into a nonphysical body. Some say it was turned into gases which leaked out of the tomb (see Boyce), others that it was vaporized or transmuted. God also had to miraculously enable the non-physical Jesus to assume physical form(s) on different occasions by which he could convince the apostles that he was alive.
This hypothesis uses two miracles to explain away one and in the process makes Jesus into a deceiver. For he told his disciples both before and after his resurrection that he would be raised in the same body. He even left the empty tomb and grave clothes as evidence, yet he was not raised immortal in the body that died. Speaking of his resurrection, Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple [physical body], and I will raise it [the same physical body] again in three days” (John 2:19, emphasis added). This was a lie unless Jesus was raised in the numerically same physical body in which he died. Furthermore, after his resurrection Jesus presented his crucifixion wounds to his disciples as evidence that he had indeed risen in the same body in which he was crucified (cf. John 20:27). “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have’ ” (Luke 24:36–39). It would have been nothing short of deceptions to offer his crucifixion wounds as evidence that he had really risen unless it was in the same body that had been crucified. The whole point of the empty grave clothes (John 20:6–7; cf. Mark 16:5) was to show that the body that died was the one that had risen (cf. John 20:8). If Jesus had risen in a spiritual form there is no reason the physical body could not remain in the tomb. After all God is capable of convincing people of his presence and reality without a bodily form. he can do it with a voice from heaven and other miracles, as he did on other occasions (cf. Gen. 22:1, 11; Exod. 3:2; Matt. 3:17).
This view would make the apostles’ testimony to the resurrection false, since they affirmed that Jesus was raised from the dead in the same physical body in which he died. Speaking of the resurrection, Peter said: “he [David] foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that his soul was not left in hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:31–32). If this is true, then Jesus body was not destroyed; his same body of “flesh” (sarx) was raised up. It was “this Jesus,” the same one who was “crucified” (vs. 23), “dead and buried” (vs. 29). The apostle John shows the continuity between the preresurrection body of flesh and the one in which Jesus was raised and still has at the right hand of the Father. John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). John said that “every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come [and now remains] in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2). The use of the perfect participal (past action with continuing results in the present), along with the present tense (2 John 7) in a parallel passages emphasizes that Jesus was still (now in heaven) in the same flesh in which he came into this world. Thus, to deny that Jesus was raised in the same physical body in which he died makes Jesus a deceiver and his disciples false teachers.
Such a conception is strongly contrary to Jewish and biblical understanding of the resurrection, whereby the body that died is the one that comes out of the grave in the flesh. Job said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25–26). Daniel spoke of a physical resurrection from the grave, saying, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). Jesus affirmed that what is resurrected is the physical bodies that come out from the grave: “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28–29). Paul held out to bereaved believers the expectation of seeing their loved ones in their resurrection bodies (1 Thess. 4:13–18), noting that we will have bodies like Christ’s (Phil. 3:21).
#3. (1992). Bible and Spade (1992), 5(4), 120–121.
In conclusion, Christians in Jerusalem as late as the early fourth century knew that Jesus was crucified and buried on the Mount of Olives. In fact, Eusebius (the first Christian historian) stated that the only area to which pre-Constantinian Christians paid any attention in the environs of Jerusalem was the Mount of Olives, and specifically to a cave near its summit (Proof of the Gospel, VI.18). The Acts of John also mentioned the importance of this cave 100 years before Eusebius (Charlesworth I.301). In another work (The Acts of Pilate), we find that it was described as both a cave and as a tomb in the same context (bk.XII,XIII). Even the tomb of Lazarus had been a cave before it was a tomb (Jn 11:38).
When one views the evidence carefully, it can be seen that pre-Constantinian
Christians reckoned this cave on Olivet to be the ruins of the tomb of Jesus. Prior to Constantine, there is no evidence (either orthodox or heretical) that the later site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the western part of Jerusalem was in any way significant to Christians nor was the southwest hill important that came to be called “Sion” after the time of Constantine. Indeed, when Eusebius first heard in AD 326 that Constantine and his mother were selecting a Venus Shrine as the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, he stated that such was “contrary to all expectation” (Life of Constantine III.28).
At the dedication of the “Holy Sepulchre” in AD 335, Eusebius requested Constantine to inform the assembled bishops his reasons for building that church. The reasons were “SECRET to us [Eusebius and the bishops], but known TO YOU ALONE…which caused YOU to RAISE UP this sacred edifice (Oration of Eusebius, XVIII, emphasis mine). There were no historical documents or traditions which were retained by Christians at Jerusalem to support its legitimacy. It was selected because of the dreams, visions and supposed miraculous signs associated with Constantine and his advisors. The early church historian Sozomen felt that historical records were not necessary when visions and dreams presented the “real facts” to the Christian world (History II.1).
Eusebius showed in his works written before AD 326 that Jesus was actually crucified on what he called the symbolic “Mount Sion” for Christians. Three times in his Proof of the Gospel (I.4; VI.13; IX.14) he identified the Christian “Mount Sion” as being where Jesus spent most of His time when He was in the area of Jerusalem and that spot was on the Mount of Olives (Mk 11:1; Lk 21:37; 22:39; Jn 18:2).
Eusebius also said the shekinah left Mount Moriah and went eastward to abide on this Christian “Mount Sion” that was located “adjacent to” or “opposite” Jerusalem and the Temple Mount — an apt geographical description of the Mount of Olives (Proof of the Gospel, I.4; VI.18). To Eusebius, Olivet was where the New Covenant began when the Temple veil tore in two (VIII.2). Eusebius even stated that the Christian church was founded on Olivet (VI.18) and Jerome reiterated the same belief (Letter CVIII.12).
#4. (1992). Bible and Spade (1992), 5(4), 120.
Even Muslims (who inherited many traditional beliefs from the Jews and Christians) firmly believe that the summit and the western slope of the Mount of Olives is the judgment area for mankind. The Encyclopaedia Judaica has an interesting excerpt about this.
All the dead will congregate on the Mount of Olives and the angel Gabriel will move paradise to the right of Allah’s throne and hell to its left. All mankind will cross a long bridge suspended from the Mount of Olives to the Temple Mount, which will be narrower than a hair, sharper than a sword, and darker than night. Along this bridge there will be seven arches and at each arch man will be asked to account for his actions (IX col. 1576).
This is the Muslim account. It is easy to see that this traditional Muslim belief is based on the geography of the Temple and the Red Heifer arched bridge over the Kidron Valley that existed in Jesus’ time. Indeed, the Hebrew word for the altar where the Red Heifer was burnt to ashes is miphkad (see Ez 43:21). This word means “muster” or the place where people “congregate” or “gather together.” And in traditional teaching, it was at or near this site on Olivet where all mankind would “congregate” to be judged. This teaching can be seen in the New Testament itself. When the Son of Man returns with all His angels, He shall sit on His glorious throne and He will then “gather together” before Him for judgment all the nations of the world.
Those selected to be on His right hand will go into the Kingdom of God while those on His left will go into the fire of perdition (Mt 25:31–46). The geographical features of this teaching of Jesus (from the Jewish point of view in the first century) shows Jesus sitting on His glorious throne (which was in the Sanctuary of the Temple) and all the nations were then depicted as gathering together before Him at the summit and on the western slope of the Mount of Olives to face Him for judgment. This allowed them to be judged “in the presence of Jesus.”
The Book of Revelation also spoke of the wicked being tormented in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb (Rv 14:10). To be judged “in the presence of God” while He sits on His throne locates these individuals at the summit or on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Again, this is why, even to Christians, the region of the Kidron Valley became known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat — the place for God’s judgment.
#5. (1981). Bible and Spade (1981), 10(2), 64.
Even this very brief look at several aspects of the shroud of Turin reveals that it has much significance for Biblical studies. Scientific inquiry reveals that there is little chance that it is a fake. In particular, experiments show that there is no foreign substance that could account for the image. Historical inquiry provides much good material for a very early date that is seldom mentioned. Studies of the pollen samples have refuted historical agnosticism, while scientific studies of the material and especially the coins over the eyes point to a probable first-century date.
On the other hand, the shroud is consistent with the Biblical data concerning Jesus’ burial. What appears at first to conflict turns out, on further investigation, to be interwoven. At any rate, there appear to be no contradictions and even some Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence for the type of burial seen in the shroud.
Further, a study of probabilities reveals that it is highly probable that the man buried in the shroud is Jesus. Both have many intricate and unusual points in common, with no discrepancies. In addition the shroud has been preserved throughout its history as the actual burial garment of Jesus, and legend links it with the apostles themselves.
Most interesting, at least for this writer, concerns the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. The man of the shroud was not buried in the material for more than a few days, but neither was he unwrapped. Instead an image on the cloth is clearly visible, probably caused by a burst of radiation from a dead body.
True, we do not have absolute proof for the identity of the man of the shroud. Neither do we need it to demonstrate the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus (or for anything else in the Christian faith). But it appears to provide strong empirical corroboration for Jesus’ resurrection, and when combined with the historical evidence for this event I would submit that we have a twofold apologetic from both science and history.
As such there is good warrant for further study of the shroud. It appears that it can provide continuing confirmation of the most treasured of our beliefs: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(Reprinted by permission from the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Vol. 24, No. 1, March 1981.)
#6. Shanks, H. (Ed.). (2004). BR 05:04.
The narratives (Mark 16:1–18; Matthew 28:1–20; Luke 24:1–53; John 20:1–21:25) function as important theological conclusions to the four Gospels. However, they contain differences that cannot be harmonized and display traces of apologetic and Christological reflection that point to later development. Some of the Gospel narratives focus on the discovery of the empty tomb; others recount appearances of the risen Christ. Generally speaking, scholars have concluded that the narratives were composed and developed later than the kerygmatic formulas The kerygmatic formulas, in turn, consist of short statements of one, two or four clauses. Some affirm the resurrection event, using verbs specific to that event, verbs such as “anistem” (rise) or “egeiro” (raise up) that do not appear in the Gospel narratives. For example, Romans 4:24 refers to Jesus as “him that was raised from the dead” (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Other kerygmatic formulas proclaim the exaltation experienced by Christ because of his victory over death, with no mention of resurrection. For example, Ephesians 4:10 speaks of Jesus as one who “ascended far above all the heavens.”
Most scholars have concluded that the kerygmatic formulas are our earliest textual witnesses to the resurrection.
Both the narratives and the kerygmatic formulas can be subdivided, giving us four streams of tradition: The Gospel narratives can be subdivided into (1) the discovery of the empty tomb and (2) appearances of the risen Christ to the disciples. The kerygmatic formulas can be subdivided into (3) references to the resurrection and (4) exaltations that seem to assume the resurrection.
No easy synthesis or chronological ordering of these four types of traditional material is possible. Nevertheless, we can, in general, arrange various attestations of Jesus’ resurrection into a chronological arrangement as follows: (1) pre-Pauline, (2) Pauline, (3) Gospel testimonies and (4) post-Gospel testimonies…
1. The principle of skepticism. According to this principle, the historian must exercise some skepticism when approaching ancient authors’ claims about particular events, unless corroborating evidence can be found to substantiate those claims. Such an attitude has produced rather radical historical skepticism about the resurrection on the part of many scholars, including Rudolf Bultmann, Norman Perrin and Willi Marxsen.5 Conservative scholars, on the other hand, have tended to be far less skeptical about the Easter texts; their optimism is undergirded by greater confidence in the veracity of the biblical writers or by belief in the corrective inspiration of the Holy Spirit working through biblical writers. See, for example, the works of Grant R. Osborne and George E. Ladd.6
2. The principle of correlation. The general understanding of historical causality assumes that each event has an antecedent—an empirical cause—and subsequent, empirically verifiable effects. Those subscribing to this principle of historiography must automatically rule out the supernatural as a causative agent. Thus, when the New Testament declares, as in Acts 2:23–24, “You crucified this Jesus … but God raised him up,” the conclusion must be drawn that something else happened than the direct intervention of the Divine to restore Jesus to life. Perhaps what arose was not the dead Jesus, but the faith of the disciples in the eschatological significance of this event (so Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling and Willi Marxsen).7 But, clearly, not all believing exegetes are willing to go so far (for example, Gerald O’Collins and Raymond E. Brown).8 Their world is not circumscribed by a system of closed laws and natural order whose miraculous interruption is impossible.9
3. The principle of analogy. According to this principle, any historical event, in order to be intelligible, must be fundamentally similar to, even if slightly different from, events experienced by the historian in her/his own time. In the case of the resurrection, since modem persons do not experience the revivification of the deceased,* the notion of resurrection of a first-century Jew must remain unintelligible. Of course, in response to such a view, scholars such as Wolfhart Pannenburg have claimed that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is precisely the event without analogy. It is the unique event that shatters such positivistic historiography.10
Generally, New Testament scholars of the past decade have either rejected or tended to modify to some degree these “principles of modem historiography,” many finding them too deterministic in light of contemporary science. There are, however, notable exceptions.11
Let us now look at the results of some recent research into the resurrection data in pre-Pauline testimonies, in Pauline testimonies, in Gospel testimonies and in post-Gospel testimonies…
Scholarship of the past decade has made it clear that the tradition about the empty tomb is less well-attested than the tradition of the appearances. Does the tradition reporting the empty tomb therefore represent a fabrication? Did the corpse really remain in the tomb?
I perceive an increasing number of scholars concluding that even though Paul does not explicitly mention the empty tomb in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5, it is: probable that Paul has knowledge of that tradition and that it is pre-Pauline. Certainly, the stories of the empty tomb are intended, theologically, to identify the risen Christ with the crucified Jesus; and it is clear that Paul accepts this identification fully.30
Moreover, the argument has never been successfully refuted as to why, if the body was still in the tomb, Jewish leaders did not produce it to disprove Christian claims. The balance of probability seems to be growing that the Jerusalem community in which the empty tomb tradition arose knew the tomb’s location and knew it to be empty!
#7. (2006). Christian Apologetics Journal, 5(1), 38–47.
Chapter One: “Is there Sufficient Historical Evidence to Establish the Resurrection of Jesus?” By Robert Greg Cavin
Summary of the Argument:
Cavin argues that even on the assumption of “complete historical reliability,” the New Testament does not “provide sufficient information to enable us to establish the historicity of the resurrection” (p. 19; hereafter just the page number) because: (1) Resurrection is not mere revivification but involves an imperishable supernatural body (23–24). (2) And there is no New Testament evidence that Jesus’ post-revivified body was imperishable and supernatural. (3) Therefore, even if Jesus was revivified, there is no evidence of His resurrection (in this New Testament sense of the term).
Response to the Argument
First, even revivification is a miracle that supports Jesus’ claim to be God in the flesh (Matt. 12:40; John 2:19–21; 10:18 cf. Mark 2:10). So, the objections really gain nothing by making this distinction. And if He is deity, then He will by nature be able to make his body immortal.
Second, there is evidence in the Gospels that Jesus’ post-revivified body was imperishable and that it was supernatural: (a) It was able to supernaturally appear and disappear (Luke 24; John 20). (b) It ascended into heaven (Acts 1:8–11; Luke 24:50–51). c) It appeared many years after it was in heaven to Paul. Even granting that both Steven’s (Acts 7) and John’s (Rev. 1) experiences were visions and not physical appearances of Christ, the one to Paul (Acts 9) was not a non-physical appearance because of several reasons: (1) There was physical light and sound that was seen and hear by others with him by their natural senses. (2) Paul said, “Have I not seen our Lord” (1 Cor. 9:1). This is perfect indicative active (heoraka from horao) which entails an active seeing with his own natural eyes. (3) Paul’s experience of seeing Christ is listed along with the appearance of Christ to other disciples in 1 Corinthians 15:7–8. (4) The Bible also says Jesus is currently positioned in heaven (Heb. 1:3; Rev. 4) and further verification will come when He returns from heaven (Rev. 1:7) in the same resurrected body (Acts 1:10–11; cf. Zech. 12:10). (5) What is more, the Old Testament predicted and Jesus miraculously fulfilled this prophecy that His body would not corrupt in the grave (Psalm 16:10; cf. Acts 16:31). Thus, by miraculously fulfilling this prophecy he proved that His resurrection body was incorruptible. So, contrary to Cavin’s claim, there is evidence for the resurrection of Christ into an imperishable and supernatural physical body in both the Gospels and epistles.
Third, my colleague Dr. Thomas Howe, has noted that Cavin’s “inductive” method is based on an unjustified nominalist epistemology that one cannot know the essence of a matter on the basis of a few instances. This in turn is based on Hume’s atomistic epistemology which affirms that “all events are entirely loose and separate.” But this is not the case, as our experience reveals, particularly internal experience that one’s mind is the cause of his ideas and words.
Fourth, another of Cavin’s arguments must be challenged, namely, that it is possible for the Christian God to permit “a major theological deception. .. misleading even the elect” (35). If this is taken to imply that God could permit a revivification of a corpse by “a powerful evil spirit,” then it is contrary to reason and to fact. Nowhere in the Bible is such an event noted. The work of the Anti-Christ, the greatest of all early deceivers, is said to be a “false” miracle (2 Thess. 2:9). The Devil is a master magician and a super-scientist, but he cannot perform a truly supernatural act like creating life or resurrecting the dead. When God created life from dust by the hand of Moses, the magicians who had counterfeited Moses’ efforts to that point declared: “This is the finger of God!” (Ex. 8:16–19). Only God can create life (Gen. 1:21; John 1:3), and only God can resurrect the dead. And since God is morally perfect, He would not deceive anyone allowing a miracle to occur by an evil spirit that leads people astray from the truth. God cannot lie or deceive (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2). For a miracle is an act of God to accredit a prophet of God who is telling the truth of God (John 3:2; Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3–4). And a morally perfect God cannot accredit falsehood and evil which are by nature contrary to His character.
Finally, Cavin claims that the real problem with those opposed to miracles is not a metaphysical bias against the supernatural, but it is with the logic of the argument for the resurrection. However, this does not seem to be the case for several reasons. First, all the so-called “logical” arguments they pose fail.1 Second, they admit that even if one could prove the revivification of the body of Jesus three days later, they would still not count it as a miracle. Even their skeptical mentor, David Hume, admitted that such an event would be a miracle.2 When considering the incorrigibility of such antisupernaturalism, one is reminded of Jesus’ statement that “neither would they believe though one were raised from the dead” (Luke 16:31)! …
Chapter Two: The Resurrection as Initially Improbable By Michael Martin
Summary of the Argument
Martin argues that “Bayes theorem indicates that if the initial probability of the resurrection is very low, the historical evidence must be extremely strong to make rational belief in the resurrection possible” (53). Further, he insists that even on the assumption of supernaturalism it is low because “there is good reason to expect God would not perform miracles” (53). And “even if some miracles could be expected, there is good reason to suppose they would be rare and thus a priori unlikely in any given case” (53). What is more, even suppose God has a good purpose for redeeming humanity, “given the many alternative ways that this could have been achieved, it is a priori unlikely that he would have chosen to do this in the manner, time, and place depicted in scripture” (53). His argument is summarized thus: “1. A miracle is initially improbable relative to our background knowledge. 2. If a claim is initially improbable relative to our background knowledge and the evidence for it is not strong, then it should be disbelieved. 3. The Resurrection of Jesus is a miracle claim. 4. The evidence for the Resurrection is not strong. 5. Therefore, the Resurrection of Jesus should be disbelieved” (46).
Martin rejects the free will objection that whatever the probabilities are, a person is free to chose otherwise. He insists that the improbabilities for the resurrection of Christ remain low since we do not know God’s mind.
He also rejects the argument that if God exists, there is a high probability that God wants to redeem mankind. He insists that, even granting this, it is still low because we do not know when or where God will chose to resurrect Christ, nor even whether He will since he could redeem mankind some other way.
Response to the Argument
Martin’s argument is particularly weak for several reasons. First, it admits that given God’s existence, a miracle is possible. If so, then he cannot eliminate the possibility of miracles without disproving God’s existence which no one has succeeded in doing.3
Second, his argument does not eliminate the probability of miracles since if God exists and if He wants to intervene supernaturally, then it is it more than probable that a miracle will happen – it is certain. This in spite of all alleged a priori probabilities to the contrary.
Third, whether a miracle has occurred is not determined by a priori probabilities but by a posteriori facts. Even from a purely experiential perspective, even though the a priori probability is 216 to 1 against getting three sixes on the first toss of three die, it does happen sometimes. And when it does happen, then all probabilities as to whether it would happen are irrelevant. All that is relevant is the evidence as to whether indeed this event did happen.
Fourth, when the free will of God is concerned, the only antecedent factor that is relevant for a miracle is whether He wills for a miracle to happen. And from the empirical side, the only relevant factor as to whether someone came back from the dead is the evidence that he was dead and that he later was alive again. Thus, Martin misses the point on his answer to both proposed objections. For if God wills a resurrection to occur, then there is a 100% chance it will occur. Hence, contrary to the anti-supernaturalist’s claim, given God’s existence, the entire issue boils down to a factual one, namely, what is the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth died and then came back to life some time later.4
Chapter 3: “Why Resurrect Jesus?” by Theodore Drange
Summary of the Argument
Drange argues that the resurrection of Jesus is not important, saying, “It would have seemed more like a real death if Jesus, or at least his body, had stayed dead.. .. That would have been a greater sacrifice on God’s part. So, the way Christian theology portrays the matter, there is an apparent inconsistency between the atonement and the resurrection” (55).
Further, he finds Charles Hodge’s reasons for the resurrections inadequate. First, as for Hodge’s claim that “all of Christ’s claims and the success of His work rest on the fact that He rose from the dead” (56), Drange insists that at best, the resurrection would only be a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition. But even this is rejected since “all that the gospel maintains is that Christ’s atonement was successful, and, consequently, salvation has been made possible for humanity. It was the death of Christ, not his resurrection, that was supposed to have atoned for humanity’s sins” (57).
Second, Hodge argued that “on His resurrection depended the mission of the Spirit, without which Christ’s work would have been in vain” (60). This mission included the source of our spiritual life, the revealing of divine truth, the inspiration of the Bible, the influence of people toward faith, the regeneration of their souls, making the sacraments effective, and calling men to ministries in the church. But Drange sees “nothing in this list which could not be accomplished even if Christ’s body had been permanently destroyed” (60).
Third, Hodge argued that Christ’s resurrection secured life for his people. “As He lives, they shall live also. If He had remained under the power of death, there would be no source of spiritual life to men. . .” (61). But Drange believes an afterlife could be possible without a resurrection, and people could have a resurrection without Christ having one shortly after His death.
Fourth, Hodge also contended, “If Christ did not rise, the whole scheme of redemption is a failure. . .” (63). But Drange believes that his response to the first argument of Hodge suffices here also. Some may argue that even if the resurrection was not a necessary way to accomplish redemption, it may have been God’s chosen way. But Drange insists that all Christ’s resurrection would show is that His body was revived, not that this is logically necessary so that ours can as well (65). And as for the claim that the resurrections showed something to humankind in general, he argues that an omnipotent being could have done a better job at marketing or advertising the fact. And even then “the resurrection could have been accomplished through some sort of magic or superscience” (66).
So, “Hodge’s reasons for regarding the Resurrection to be an important event are all failures.. .. So far as Christian theology is concerned, all of them could go on quite well without it. . .” (66). In short, Drange claims that the question “‘Why Resurrect Jesus?’ does not have any reasonable answer within Christian theology. Instead of being essential to the overall system, the Resurrection may very well have been a kind of afterthought on the part of the biblical authors” (67).
Response to the Arguments
First of all, Drange’s argument is clearly contrary to the biblical record which makes the resurrection necessary for salvation (Rom. 4:25; 10:9). Indeed, Paul said, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:17).
Second, Jesus did make an important connection between His life and our spiritual life when He said we shall rise because He did (John 11:25). And Paul did also when he pointed out that Christ was the “firstfruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20; cf. Matt. 27:52–53). In short, if Jesus the Son of God cannot defeat death, then how can we mortals do it. Further, since death was brought about by the Devil, then resurrection is necessary to defeat God’s Adversary the Devil (Heb. 2:14–15).
Third, Christ’s resurrection can be an objective demonstration of God’s work of salvation in Him without all men knowing about it. Wars are often officially over for a long time before all combatants are aware of it. Even laws are officially promulgated without all persons knowing about them.
Fourth, according to the Bible all men will be resurrected but not all will be saved because Christ was resurrected (1 Cor. 15:22; cf. John 5:29). Thus, there is an actual effect on all humankind, even if many are not now aware of it. Indeed, many believers (at least before the time of Christ) were saved on the basis of Christ’s resurrection without knowing about the fact of His resurrection.
Fifth, the incorrigible nature of Drange’s antisupernaturalism is revealed in the fact that he was willing to acknowledge that Christ could have come back from the dead by an act of “some sort of magic or superscience.” Even David Hume admitted that this would be a miracle. If not a resurrection, then what would count as a miracle?
20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in a]”>[a]Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “b]”>[b]Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins c]”>[c]have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called d]”>[d]Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
26 e]”>[e]After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been f]”>[f]shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
30 Therefore many other g]”>[g]signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is h]”>[h]the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.