I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history . . .
~ E. M. Blaiklock
Professor of Classics
The Resurrection of Christ - his rising from the dead - is the foundation of all Christianity. Without it Christianity is nothing. A pale philosophy descended from Judaism, with no more moral power than the Pacifism of Gandhi or the claimed peacefulness of Hinduism. Either Christ rose from the dead or Christianity is a sham, a hoax, the greatest con ever perpetrated on mankind.
Those who insist that Jesus Christ never existed can be ignored. The evidence is overwhelming. The texts of the Gospels were written within the lifetime of the many witnesses to His life, His ministry, His many miracles, His death. And His resurrection. Had there been any question that He existed, when and where the Gospels say He did, the Christians would have been laughed out of existence. The historical accuracy of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, continues to be proved, textually and archaeologically. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, lived. Those who say He didn't are fools, ignorant, or liars.
Had He lived and died, with the claims He made for Himself, and not arisen from His grave, then He would have been, not a good man, or a peaceful Philosopher, nor a Holy Prophet. He would have been either a most evil man, or the most foolish and deluded of men ever. Since the things He said cannot fit the bill of a terribly foolish man, then He was either pure evil or the Son of God. There is no other choice.
Curing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising Lazarus from the dead, none of these things fit the definition of evil. Though His statements could seem harsh, to modern, humanistic ears, they were completely in step with Scriptural thoughts. Jesus was therefore not evil.
But did He rise from the dead? That is the problem when we discuss Jesus Christ. The Gospels say that He did. Roman Law was initiated shortly after His resurrection which indicate that a tomb was empty of its body, despite Roman guards and seal placed on it. Thus we have a kind of proof that the Romans thought that Jesus disappeared from His grave. The Jews made many excuses for the empty tomb, none of which held water. Nor do they hold water today. In fact, in conjunction with the behavior of His own Disciples following the crucifixion, they point to a fact which the Jew could not refute: Jesus was not in the tomb after the third day.
The description in the Scriptures of the place where His body had been lain, following His death, showed clearly that his graves clothes were still there. They were not pulled from His body and discarded, but left lying on the spot, as if the body had simply risen through them.
Pat Zukeran, in his essay "The Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? says:
"Three facts must be reckoned with when investigating the Resurrection: the empty tomb, the transformation of the Apostles, and the preaching of the Resurrection originating in Jerusalem.
Let us first examine the case of the empty tomb. Jesus was a well- known figure in Israel. His burial sight was known by many people. In fact Matthew records the exact location of Jesus' tomb. He states, "And Joseph of Arimathea took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb" (Matt. 27:59). Mark asserts that Joseph was "a prominent member of the Council" (Mark 15:43).
It would have been destructive for the writers to invent a man of such prominence, name him specifically, and designate the tomb site, since eyewitnesses would have easily discredited the author's fallacious claims.
Jewish and Roman sources both testify to an empty tomb. Matthew 28:12 13 specifically states that the chief priests invented the story that the disciples stole the body. There would be no need for this fabrication if the tomb had not been empty. Opponents of the Resurrection must account for this. If the tomb had not been empty, the preaching of the Apostles would not have lasted one day. All the Jewish authorities needed to do to put an end to Christianity was to produce the body of Jesus.
Along with the empty tomb is the fact that the corpse of Jesus was never found. Not one historical record from the first or second century is written attacking the factuality of the empty tomb or claiming discovery of the corpse. Tom Anderson, former president of the California Trial Lawyers Association states,
'Let's assume that the written accounts of His appearances to hundreds of people are false. I want to pose a question. With an event so well publicized, don't you think that it's reasonable that one historian, one eye witness, one antagonist would record for all time that he had seen Christ's body? . . . The silence of history is deafening when it comes to the testimony against the resurrection.'"
Indeed! The Tomb was empty. That is not in dispute. Not by anybody.
The Disciples had fled at His arrest, only a few of them venturing forth, John to witness the crucifixion, and Peter to go with him and others to prepare the dead body for burial. They would again venture forth a few days later to finish the burial ceremonies. But they then hurried to the tomb, told by the women that the tomb was empty and the Angels said He had risen.
Again, the disciples hid in a room, fearful that the Romans or the Jewish authorities would come to arrest them soon. This was a group of men who were now in fear for their own lives, hiding in a locked room.
"Second, we have the changed lives of the Apostles. It is recorded in the Gospels that while Jesus was on trial, the Apostles deserted Him in fear. Yet 10 out of the 11 Apostles died as martyrs believing Christ rose from the dead. What accounts for their transformation into men willing to die for their message? It must have been a very compelling event to account for this.
Third, the Apostles began preaching the Resurrection in Jerusalem. This is significant since this is the very city in which Jesus was crucified. This was the most hostile city in which to preach. Furthermore, all the evidence was there for everyone to investigate. Legends take root in foreign lands or centuries after the event. Discrediting such legends is difficult since the facts are hard to verify. However, in this case the preaching occurs in the city of the event immediately after it occurred. Every possible fact could have been investigated thoroughly.
Anyone studying the Resurrection must somehow explain these three facts."
Read the rest of his essay for a very cogent description of excuses raised for His not having been resurrected. His writing is very easy to read and enjoy.
Josh McDowell relates:
"A student at the University of Uruguay said to me. 'Professor McDowell, why can't you refute Christianity?'
'For a very simple reason,' I answered. 'I am not able to explain away an event in history--the resurrection of Jesus Christ.'
How can we explain the empty tomb? Can it possibly be accounted for by any natural cause?"
"The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts.
The writers of the four Gospels either had themselves been witnesses or else were relating the accounts of eyewitnesses of the actual events. In advocating their case for the gospel, a word that means 'good news,' the apostles appealed (even when confronting their most severe opponents) to common knowledge concerning the facts of the resurrection.
F. F. Bruce, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, says concerning the value of the New Testament records as primary sources: 'Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.'"
I highly recommend his essay, "Evidence for the Resurrection", and his book, "Evidence That Demands A Verdict".
As for me I am persuaded that He rose from the dead, that He was the Son of God, that He redeemed all mankind by dying for us at Calvary. I know He was resurrected. There is not a question in my mind. That resurrection by Christ gave every one of us the free pass, if you will, to face God when the time comes. For we have the only advocate we need, Jesus Christ. He stands with us, speaks on our behalf, writes our names in the Book of Life. When God asks how we will pay for our sinful lives, Christ will say, "I have already paid, Father."
Christ the Lord is Risen today! Praise God! We are saved!