Christianity’s core belief is that the Son of God took on human form, died for our sins and then rose from the dead to give us eternal life. But if Jesus Christ didn’t come back to life, it undoes His claim to be the all-powerful, eternal Son of God, Savior and Messiah. So, Christianity hangs on the Resurrection.
To believe the events around that first Easter, you pretty much have to believe that Jesus did indeed exist and that the New Testament can be trusted.
At the Impact 360 school in Pine Mountain, Georgia, Prof. Jonathan Morrow preps college-bound Christians in how to fight with the facts of their faith.
Jesus Isn’t Just in the Bible
He told CBN News, “Investigating the Resurrection is a historical question that you can do with eyes wide open; it’s not a blind faith kind of thing, like believing in the Easter Bunny or a lucky rabbit’s foot. This is real world kind of stuff. And you can investigate the data for it.”
Morrow added, “So when it comes to the Resurrection, we say ‘Well, how do we know Jesus existed?’ Some people even doubt that. The fact is, we have far more sources for Jesus of Nazareth than we do for many historical figures in the first century. We have at least 18. Twelve of those are non-Christian sources.”
There’s more evidence Jesus existed than Julius Caesar. Anyone doubt Caesar existed?
As for the Scriptures, Prof. Darrell Bock of the Dallas Theological Seminary explained that any piece of a surviving ancient work is called a manuscript. And more ancient pages or fragments of the Bible have survived by far than any other book from antiquity.
“It’s exceptional,” Bock said. “You’re talking about over 5,800 Greek manuscripts, over 8,000 Latin manuscripts. Most books that we work with in the ancient world have maybe at best a dozen manuscripts.”
Jonathan Morrow is a defender of the faith, the literal meaning of “apologist.” But he says Christians shouldn’t just defend the faith and the Resurrection. They should embrace it and let it change their lives just like it changed the ancient world. Watch below:
Christians: If Jesus Is Dead, So Is Your Religion
For some people, they might be ready to believe the Bible is legitimate, but they have a hard time believing Jesus Christ could have actually risen from the dead.
The problem with that, as far as Morrow is concerned, is that everything hangs on that fact.
This author of Questioning the Bible explained, “Paul made the argument in I Corinthians 15, saying ‘Look, you can test this: if the Resurrection didn’t happen, Christianity is false. Whether you believe it or not, whether you’re sincere about it, if the Resurrection didn’t happen, Christianity’s false – go to the next religion.”
If He’s Dead, Then They Lied
Some suggest that the apostles all lied in a vast conspiracy to turn the deficit of Jesus’ death into the positive of a risen Lord. But biblical apologists insist when you examine it all the way through, it’s actually easier to believe in the Resurrection than its alternatives.
Such Bible experts say that to dismiss the Resurrection, any theory you come up with to explain the historical happenings has to explain away three historical facts:
- That there was an empty tomb three days after Jesus’s body had been placed in it, though it had been constantly guarded by Roman soldiers;
- Jesus appeared to hundreds of people in numerous places for almost seven weeks after His crucifixion;
- And something huge did happen to suddenly and forever turn all the cowering, cowardly disciples into bold believers, proclaiming a risen Messiah they were willing to be tortured and die for.
Top biblical experts point out all the holes in these and other anti-Resurrection theories. Watch below.
Did Jesus Die, or Just Almost Die?
Still, alternative theories live on.
Some theorize that Jesus didn’t die on the cross but just went into a death-like state that fooled everyone who checked His body. Then under this theory, He awoke in the tomb, got up and walked out. Proponents say that explains His many appearances after His supposed death.
What this doesn’t explain is how in a near-death state and with exceedingly crippling wounds, He could work His way out of tightly-wrapped, glued-on burial garments and then roll away the massively heavy stone sealed onto the tomb by the Romans. And it doesn’t explain why He’d suddenly disappear after several weeks among His disciples, never to be seen again. Nor does it explain how so many people saw Him ascending up into the heavens.
Oops, Wrong Tomb
Some suggest the female disciples who first found the empty tomb might have just had the wrong one, and the other disciples took advantage of that, concocting a Resurrection myth to explain the empty tomb. But surely the Jewish leaders who’d had Roman guards placed by Jesus’ burial place, and Joseph of Arimathea who owned the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid, would have quickly displayed the body and corrected the mistake if indeed the women had gone to the wrong tomb.
“If you’re going around preaching Jesus was physically raised from the dead and people knew where He was buried and knew where they could find His bones, that message wouldn’t even get off the ground,” insisted Bock, author of Truth Matters.
Not Smart to Lie Where Everyone Knows You’re Lying
Josh McDowell, author of New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, said the disciples knew this well.
“In the Resurrection, where was the hardest place in the world to convince anyone it was true if it was false? Jerusalem, where a 15-minute walk by anyone could confirm the emptiness of the tomb,” McDowell said.”
Matthew 28 points out the Jewish leaders bribed the tomb’s guards to say they’d fallen asleep and the disciples then stole Jesus’ body. But if these guards were asleep, how would they know it was the disciples? And how could they have slept through the disciples rolling away the huge stone that covered the entrance to the tomb, a stone some have suggested was so heavy, it may have taken more than a dozen men to push it away?
Debunking this conspiracy idea, Morrow said, “Conspiracy theories unravel very quickly because people will eventually tell what they know. And the more people who are involved, and the more people who saw the event, you multiply your chances of the story getting out. So that’s the first thing. The second thing is the Gospels, the earliest historical record we have, don’t show the tales of being doctored to say the same thing, like they got their stories straight. They had the ring of truth to them.”
Would You Die for a Lie You Made Up?
And if the disciples were making up Jesus’ Resurrection, would they have lived and died for Him and a fiction they themselves made up?
McDowell explained, “They said after He was crucified and buried, He was raised from the dead and for 40 days — not 40 hours, not four days — for 40 days, they lived with Him and walked with Him, with overwhelming proof that He’d been raised from the dead.”
McDowell concluded, “If the Resurrection was a lie, they had to know it. And if they knew it, then you’d have to say here were these men who not only died for a lie, but they knew it was a lie. I challenge you to find others in history who that’s true of. It’s not.”
Morrow added, “The earliest disciples would have known – not just believed, but would have known – that either Jesus was who He claimed to be and was actually raised from the dead or they were making this thing up. And yet history tells us that we have good reason to think they all went to their death with the exception of one for that core belief: that Jesus was raised from the dead. They didn’t recant that. Conspiracies break down under pressure. And this conspiracy would have cost them their lives.”
What Would Cause Such Radical Transformations?
These and other experts say that in truth, it would take something as radical as Jesus’ Resurrection to completely transform the disciples like cowardly Peter, who was so scared just before the crucifixion, he swore he didn’t even know Jesus. Watch below.
But just a few weeks later Morrow pointed out Peter went from hiding away, fearful the Jewish leaders might have him killed as well, to boldly preaching salvation through Christ before a crowd of thousands, including some who sought Jesus’ death.
Morrow explained, “You see Peter with this radical transformation, going from coward to this courageous champion who’s saying ‘Look, here I stand, this is what I’m saying, this is what’s true. You crucified this guy, but this is what He offered.’ You’ve got that radical transformation right at the heart of what’s going on around that earliest Christian movement.”
From Christ-Hater to Christian Martyr
Morrow pointed out Jesus’ doubting brother James was also instantly changed.
He said, “James – the brother of Jesus —didn’t follow Jesus during His earthly ministry; thought He was crazy.”
McDowell agreed, saying, “James despised his brother. Thought He was embarrassing the family. And then Jesus appeared to him in James’ own word, and he became the leader of the church of Jerusalem.”
Morrow added, “And after the fact, James becomes an early leader in the Church, and was persecuted and eventually killed for that belief.”
And biblical apologists say it could only be a resurrected Jesus showing up forcefully and vividly two to three years later that could transform the church’s worst persecutor into its main missionary.
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SOURCE: CBN, Paul Strand