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The Resurrection of Jesus ChristNo other event in history has been the object of as much scrutiny andcriticism as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ isthe basis upon which all Christianity stands. If the resurrection neverhappened, then there would be no Christianity, as the Apostle Paul says in 1Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is uselessand so is your faith.
” This is why opponents of the Christian faith have triedto attempt to discredit the Biblical account of the resurrection. Of the manytheories of the resurrection, the Biblical account is the only historicallyreliable and possible explanation of the resurrection.The historical reliability of the Bible is the first matter that needsto be discussed. There are three criteria that the military historian C.Sanders lists as principles for documentary historical proof: thebibliographical test, internal evidence test, and the external evidence test(McDowell 43). The bibliographical test is the examination of text by thedocuments that have reached us. The reliability of the copies of the NewTestament is tested by the number of manuscripts (MSS) and the time intervalsbetween the time in which the piece of literature was written and our earliestcopy.
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There are more than 5,300 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and10,000 Latin vulgate manuscripts, not to mention the other various translations.Totally there are around 24,000 total MSS for the New Testament. The nextclosest document in respect to MSS is the “Illiad” by Homer, with 643manuscripts(McDowell 43).
The textual reliability then continues with respect to the time intervalbetween the original and the first known manuscript. The shorter the interval,the more reliable the text is. Homer’s “Illiad” was written in 900 BC and theearliest copy was found in 400 BC. This is compared to the New Testament thatwas written from 40-100 AD. The first known manuscript of the New Testamentwas found in 125 AD. This twenty-five year gap is very impressive as comparedto the Illiad’s five hundred year span (McDowell 45). This first test hasbasically shown that the text which people have in their possession isessentially the original text.
The second test is the internal evidence test. The internal evidencetest proves whether or not what was recorded is credible and to what extent. Dr.Louis Gottschalk, former professor of history at the University of Chicago,states the ability of the writer to tell the truth is helpful in determiningcredibility. The “ability to tell the truth” is related in two ways.
They arethe witness’s nearness chronologically and geographically (McDowell 51-52). TheNew Testament accounts were written by men who were eyewitnesses or related thestory from eyewitness accounts. Chronologically speaking, the Gospels were allwritten while people, other than Christians, who had been eyewitnesses to thelife of Christ were still alive. For the most part the non-Christianeyewitnesses were opponents of the faith. The resulting effect of this wouldbe the necessity for the disciples to relate the life of Christ accurately dueto the fact that any inaccuracies would have allowed opponents to discreditChristianity right from the beginning (McDowell 52-53).
The third test to prove historical reliability is that of exteriorevidence. Gottschalk defines external evidence as “conformity or agreement withother known historical or scientific facts…(McDowell 54).” Other writers area great source of exterior evidence. The writings of historian Eusebius, andIraneous, Bishop of Lyons, have confirmed the writings of the Apostle John.
These men did their historical writing between 130 and 180 AD. They researchedscrolls from the time of Christ. Archaeology also provides exterior evidence.Archaeologist Joseph Free states, “Archaeology has confirmed countless passageswhich have been rejected by critics as unhistorical and contradictory to knownfacts (McDowell 54).” A wonderful example of this is found in Paul’s letter tothe Roman’s. In this letter he makes reference to the city treasurer, Erastus.A pavement fracture was found during the excavations of Corinth, in 1929, on itwas inscribed the words: “ERASTVS PRO:AED:P:STRAVIT (‘Erastus, curator ofpublicbuildings, laid this pavement at his own expense.
‘)(McDowell 110)”Archaeologist F.F. Bruce states that this man and the man Paul refers to are onein the same (McDowell 110). These three tests when applied to the Bible show itas the most historically reliable text known to man, thus the events found uponthe pages of the Bible are actual historically proven events.
In light of these facts there are still many theories other than that ofthe Biblical account. Three of them include the “Visionary” theory, the thefttheory, and the wrong tomb theory. The first theory is that of Strauss, that theappearances of Jesus after His death on the cross were “visions generated by theimaginations of the disciples (Ramsey 48).” This may be the easiest of all thetheories to discredit.
First of all it does not take into account the inabilityof the disciples to grasp this idea that Christ was alive and to recognize Himfor who He was (Ramsey 48). There were many doubters even among those whowalked with Jesus for His three years of ministry. The best known is the storyof Thomas, who didn’t believe until he had touched the wounds on Christ’s hands(Jn 20:25).
There is also the fact that Christ revealed Himself to a group ofpeople equaling 500 (1 Cor. 15:6), it would be ludicrous to assume that all ofthem had seen the same hallucination.The next major theory is one developed by B.H. Streeter, who states thatthe tomb was definitely empty, however the resurrection was not the cause, buttheft (Ramsey 50).
Streeter thinks that the disciples had stolen the body toprove the supernatural claims of Jesus (Wells 206). This theory is also easilyreputed due to two major facts: the Roman Guard and the boulder. First foranyone to steal the body of Christ the thieves would have to get by the RomanGuard Unit. According to Josh McDowell, a magna cum laude of Talbot TheologicalSeminary, the Roman Guard of that day is considered one of the greatest fightingforces of all time. A unit consisting of sixteen, eight at a time would guardthe tomb, and every four hours they would be relieved.
The Guards were ladenwith the best armor and weapons of the time. Their only punishment was death,these men did not fail assignments (McDowell 227-229). According to Streeterthis unit must have fallen asleep, which if caught, would result in death. Nextis the boulder, it weighed between one and a half to two tons (McDowell 226).
The moving of this boulder would have been a very difficult thing to do withoutwaking up the Roman Guard.The third theory is that of Dr. Kirsop Lake who states that the womenwho had first seen the empty tomb had gone to the wrong tomb (Ramsey 51). Thistheory lacks plain common sense and does not take into account the broken Romanseal. First these women had followed the tomb owner and the Roman Guard to thetomb, to see where Jesus was buried (Lk. 23:55). For these women to have gone tothe wrong tomb on that first Easter Sunday then the owner of the tomb, and theRoman Guard would have all gone to the wrong tomb.
The broken Roman seal ishowever the icing on the cake. This seal was equivalent to that of police linestoday. The Roman seal was placed on the tomb after being inspected by a guard.The seal was a cord that stretched across the boulder that was placed at thetomb entrance, and was sealed at either end with clay. Finally the clay wasstamped with the official mark of the Roman governor (McDowell 230).
The sealwas used to show authenticity, to prove that Jesus was inside the tomb (McDowell230). If the women had gone to the wrong tomb there would have been no brokenseal, because it was not common for dead bodies to be protected by the Romangovernment.The Biblical account of Christ’s resurrection is the only historicallypossible version of the resurrection. The other theories that have beenintroduced all have large holes in them. Many do not take into account all ofthe facts of the resurrection, because they do not view the Bible as thehistorically reliable piece of literature that it is. When one takes intoaccount the reliability of the Bible, and the many facts of the resurrection itis impossible to conclude any other theory than that of the Bible.
Christ diedon the cross for man’s sins. On the third day He rose from the grave, provingall He had preached and taught. The fact of the matter is this: all theopponents of Christians at the time of Christ’s resurrection had to do was findthe body and march through the city square. They weren’t able to, because itwasn’t there, He has arisen, and that’s a fact!