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Defending the Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is the most significant event in the history of Christianity and in the life of a Christian. “There would be no Christianity without [the] resurrection, which is central to the entire New Testament.” The resurrection validates the truth of scripture for both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and the resurrection is foundational to the Christian faith. Romans 1:3-4 says “...concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord...”. The resurrection proved the truth of Christ’s claims which constitutes the basis of the Christian faith.

Obviously, in order to be resurrected, Jesus had to die, and his death was not only recorded in scripture, but was well documented by both Roman and Greek historians. As such, Jesus’ death is a well-established fact, which even the liberal scholars have no reason to doubt. Nonetheless, some individuals have proposed alternative theories that include Jesus’ survival of the crucifixion or that he was not crucified at all. However, historical evidence eliminates any theory that does not support Jesus death on the cross. It is worth noting that crucifixion was well designed by the Romans as a painful execution system that always ended with death. Another important fact to support Jesus’ death was the inclusion of Joseph of Arimethea. Joseph was part of the Sanhedrin, which means he was well known and to include him as part of the burial story without any conflicting stories to offset the inclusion, strongly supports Jesus’ death was known and accepted by the locals.

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to different groups of people which included hundreds of individuals. Among these groups was the listing of women witnesses. Women, in general, were not highly regarded as a legitimate source of testimony for this culture. So, the fact women were mentioned by the disciples as a primary source of testimony supports the truth of the claim. The disciples or anyone else during this time would have avoided using women, unless, of course, it bears truth to the actual events.

The empty tomb can provide a challenge in developing an apologetic argument in that no substantial non-biblical evidence exists. Even so, once the biblical and circumstantial evidence is examined, the resurrection surfaces as the best explanation for the evidence. The Romans knew what was at stake and implemented measures to

ensure no tampering would occur to Jesus’ dead body until three days had expired. Producing Jesus’ dead body after three days would have easily discredited Jesus’ resurrection claims, and Christianity would have crumbled. Yet, the tomb was found empty.

An important aspect of the resurrection is the impact on Jesus’ disciples. After the crucifixion, all the disciples scattered in fear, Peter even denying to know Christ. Within a few weeks, however, the disciples were preaching boldly in the very place Jesus was crucified. This boldness was the result of seeing Jesus alive! If the resurrection was concocted based on a lie, no doubt, one or more would have confessed when facing severe persecution and death as a result of their beliefs. But, even to death, all proclaimed the gospel. “Christianity was born out of the afterglow of the resurrection of Jesus.”

There are several alternative naturalistic explanations that some say present a challenge to the resurrection. Of these, the most significant challenge is the perpetration of a Christian conspiracy. Many non-believers easily entertain this idea of a conspiracy. Even though it would require an elaborate plan that would have been executed flawlessly, it appears to be the most believed alternative explanation. This conspiracy would have included a corpse heist, but this does not hold well, especially when one considers the difficulty of overpowering Roman soldiers and/or convincing them to join the conspiracy. This is highly unlikely because the Roman command would not tolerate such behavior and any insubordination would result in death. For all of Jesus’ disciples to support a conspiracy, knowing their likely fate, is highly unlikely.

Obviously, the Christian has no need for proof regarding the resurrection. We live by faith. Even so, it is good to know what the opposition may bring to us and how we can respond.

Pastor Andy Horton

Waco Baptist Church

Ref: Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics

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