The Resurrection - Can we prove it? ~ Pastor Jon Panelli
Historians and skeptics normally do not debate that Jesus existed. In fact, Jesus is one of the most well documented figures in antiquity. What has been questioned is the resurrection of Jesus.
What I have found in talking with most people is that skeptics of Christianity usually have doubts based on either bad experiences in church or the belief that events of the Bible are inaccurate. However, when it comes to talking about Jesus Himself, there seems to be more of an open mind when He is examined, because He is extraordinary in selfless behavior. He is normally at least viewed as a very good person. But looking further, what makes Him truly extraordinary?
The main difference between Jesus being a good person and the Savior of all mankind is whether or not He actually rose from the dead. This is the signature act that truly identifies Him as God and not just an extraordinary man. In fact, Paul addressed this in 1 Corinthians 15:17, stating, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile”. So it really does come down to the resurrection of Christ. Since the resurrection is so essential to the Christian faith, can it be proven?
Many stop there and say no, but there is actually a ton of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus! So if you question the resurrection, I pray this will bring clarity and assurance that Christ truly is the Savior who takes away our sins. If you are a believer, I pray this will equip you to have a valid answer for those who question the resurrection.
What theories could there be against the resurrection?
There are 5 theories that I have found the most used:
1 It is a Myth
2 Disciples made it up
3 Stolen Body
4 Swoon theory
1.) Myth - did Jesus even exist and did the resurrection even happen?
~ 39 ancient sources in addition to the New Testament such as Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and the Talmud refer to the life, teachings, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ
~ The New Testament is the most historically accurate document that we have in antiquity by far
~ Jesus appeared to over 500 eye witnesses
~ That Jesus was crucified and that His tomb was later empty is not often debated by atheists or historians (1 Cor.15:3)
~ If one of the most well documented events in antiquity is called a myth, then there is no longer any credibility for less documented events in history.
2.) The Disciples made it up
~ The disciples were being persecuted unto death for this belief - why make it up? What did they have to gain? People will die for what they believe in, but never for a lie.
~ They used females as the first witnesses in their story - something that would be very damaging to their case if not true because unlike Jesus' view, women’s opinions were not validated in that society or in court. The fact that women were the first witnesses and the Gospel spread is strong evidence that it had to be true.
~ The disciples had just abandoned Jesus
~ The disciples did not accept the testimony of the women who saw the tomb
3.) The Body was stolen
~ There were in upwards of 15 Roman guards positioned to guard the tomb. The penalty for them sleeping on the job was likely death. How could they all be sleeping and not see it? How could all of them risk this?
~ If the guards were sleeping, how could they give testimony? Sleeping people don’t witness anything!
~ The disciples would have to move a 1-2 ton stone uphill without waking the guards.
~ The disciples would be carrying a bloody body - no trace of blood.
~ Grave cloth was neatly folded (John 20:5-8).
~ This would require bravery - but the disciples were scared and had abandoned Jesus (Mark 14:50, Luke 22:54-62, John 20:19)
4.) Swoon Theory - Christ fainted and was revived in the tomb by the spices and cool tomb
~ Jesus was viciously beaten, which normally resulted in death
~ Death certificate (John 19:31)
~ Burial of 75 lbs of myrrh, aloe, and spices
~ Why would Jesus leave His clothes?
~ Jesus would have to move the stone by himself after the physical beating and crucifixion. If He did, this would just add to Him being more than a man.
~ Witnesses viewed Him as healthy, not as if He merely fainted. He also appeared several miles away, which would be very difficult in that condition.
5.) Hallucination Theory - that the witnesses were hallucinating
~ Psychologist Gary Collins writes, “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time”.
~ Many different incidents and witnesses, who were not expecting it and surprised to see it:
Mary Magdalene returning from the tomb, Peter, followers on the road, disciples, disciples plus Thomas, Seven disciples, 500+ followers, James, eleven disciples at ascension
~ Jesus invited witnesses to touch him (Luke 24:39-43)
~ Peter & John confirmed the story through checking the gravesite (Luke 24:11)
He truly is Risen and that changes everything.
I hope this helps to shed light on the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. May the Lord bless you as you seek Him!
~ Pastor Jon Panelli