Hello blog readers, I hope everyone had a blessed Easter Week 2014. Ours couldn’t have been better.
If you’re still hungry for more resurrection, I have written and posted on the resurrection of Jesus a few times over the years here at the blog.
In case you missed those posts, you may want to check them out:
- N.T. Wright & Rob Bell on Resurrection
- Why I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus
- Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
- Heaven to Earth: The Christian Hope in the Resurrection
- Jesus IS the Resurrection
This past Sunday I preached an Easter message based on research I presented in a previous article, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The sermon was entitled: Encountering God in the Resurrection of Jesus.
You may also be interested in hearing Greg Boyd’s recent sermon Resurrection Principle at Woodland Hills, and Mike Licona’s thought-provoking message Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? delivered to a church in Alabama.
If you’d like to hear a recent academic lecture, listen to William Lane Craig on Objective Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus at Yale University.
Looking for some books and/or videos on the subject?
- The Case for the Historical Resurrection by Habermas & Licona
- The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
- The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
- Resurrection (IVP DVD) by N.T. Wright
- Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? (Ignatius Press DVD)
The Lord has risen!
D.D. Flowers, 2014.
April 25th, 2014 at 1:28 pm
Yes, 2014 was a big year for death and resurrection, huh my brother?
April 25th, 2014 at 1:39 pm
It was indeed! Blessings, Jay.
February 10th, 2015 at 6:25 pm
Paul never claims to have been an eyewitness to the Resurrection. His claim of seeing “the Christ” was based on a “heavenly vision”, as he describes it, in Acts chapter 26, in which he briefly sees a bright light that speaks to him on the Road to Damascus.
Therefore, it seems that most of Christianity’s “eye-witness” evidence is based on the writings of the authors of the Gospels.
Who wrote the Gospels?
February 10th, 2015 at 6:56 pm
OK. So a “heavenly vision” of the resurrected Christ. Paul (Saul of Tarsus) certainly understood this encounter as an experience of the resurrected (then ascended) Jesus of Nazareth, the leader of the so-called, dying-rising Messianic sect of Christians.
While we don’t have a list of names, Paul wrote that over 500 people witnessed the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor 15:6). 1 Corinthians is among the undisputed letters of Paul. There is no reason to believe that Paul is lying. If he were lying, he isn’t to be trusted with anything.
February 10th, 2015 at 8:12 pm
I don’t think Paul was lying. I think Paul truly believed that he had “seen” the Christ when he had a vision (Paul’s description) on the Damascus Road in which a bright light spoke to him. Paul never says he saw a resurrected body.
If someone told you that while driving he was suddenly blinded by a bright light which then spoke to him, telling him that it, the light, was Jesus, and that he (the person hearing the voice coming out of the light) would be the greatest of all apostles, would you believe that Jesus had truly appeared to this person or would you think he had had a vision in which he sincerely believed that Jesus had appeared to him?
So if you wouldn’t believe someone’s report today of “seeing” Jesus in a bright light on the highway, why do you believe Paul’s vision was a real, physical encounter with the resurrected, walking/talking body of Jesus?
Paul’s radical conversion?
There is an orthodox Jewish rabbi and settler, living in Israel today, who recently converted to Islam and is now a radical Muslim imam! That is a much more radical conversion that a Pharisee joining a Jewish sect.
And what about the “Five hundred”? Paul specifically states in I Corinthians chapter 15 that he received this information second hand. If a Roman Catholic told you that 500 people saw the Virgin Mary appear to them yesterday on a hill in Spain, would you believe it? If a Muslim told you that 500 people saw the prophet Mohammad fly on a winged horse to Jerusalem, would you believe it? If the Mormon Church can provide the affidavits of thirteen men living less than 200 years ago who swore on the Bible that they had seen the Golden Tablets given to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni, would you believe it?
I doubt it. So why do you believe Paul’s SECOND HAND, at best, report that 500 people saw a resurrected Jesus?
February 10th, 2015 at 8:37 pm
Gary, my point is that any true vision of Jesus is that of the resurrected (living) Jesus. And Saul wasn’t just a Pharisee, he was a persecutor of Christians, who joined them and became the apostle to Gentiles. That’s no small conversion.
Yes, if I had a vision/experience of Jesus that confirmed the stories of over 500 people who were still living, I would certainly be inclined to believe it. Did you listen to the sermon? I’ve addressed this, and the historicity of such an early claim.
I don’t know of anyone who has ever claimed such a mass hallucination of Muhammad, Mary or anyone else for that matter, but if there were such a claim, I would likely conclude that they are all lying for some cause, or they did indeed experience something. But what was it?
In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, I’ve concluded that the only thing that makes sense of the evidence is that it really happened. You will not find any other case that comes close to that of the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, and the events that followed.
Gary, there is no “if” something happened. This is no hypothetical scenario. Something did happen. What was it? I’ve made my decision.
I encourage you to listen to the entire message.
February 10th, 2015 at 9:29 pm
David, if you have chosen to believe in the miracle of the Resurrection by faith, no one can argue with that position. Faith is an internal, subjective state of belief. No one can ever “prove” that your intuition and feelings of faith/belief in Jesus are false, just as no one can prove the faith/belief of a Mormon or Muslim wrong. Faith requires no evidence.
But if Christians are going to claim that there is historical evidence for belief that a first century Jew was resurrected after being truly dead for three days, then skeptics are well within their rights to request the evidence for such an historical claim. So what evidence is there:
1. At some point in time after Jesus’ death, his followers came to believe that he had been resurrected. Even skeptics would agree that this belief was present, very early on, definitely by the time of Paul’s conversion, which occurred a few years (three?) after the crucifixion.
2. Many of these followers of Jesus were willing to endure hardships, persecution, and even death for their belief in the resurrected Jesus.
3. Christianity spread to much of the Roman world within the first couple of centuries AD. Scholars estimate that adherents to this new Faith numbered several million people by the time of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.
But none of this proves the Resurrection happened. Yes, it proves that “something” happened, but which is more likely: that due to false sightings or visions, Jesus’ dispirited disciples came to believe that he had risen or the body of a dead man was truly re-animated, allowing him to walk out of his grave, walk through walls, teleport between Emmaus and Jerusalem, and eventually levitate into outer space??
I seriously doubt that you would ever accept this level of evidence from any other religion. If you won’t believe the thirteen affidavits of the Mormons, why are you willing to believe four anonymous first century writers and one vision-proned Jewish rabbi?
February 10th, 2015 at 9:55 pm
Gary, once again I ask that you listen to my sermon, which is primarily what this post was concerning. I put a great deal of time and personal energy into that message. And I have also provided links here and elsewhere to some of the best presentations of the evidence. If you’ve followed this blog for long, you know that I’m not about arguing for a faith that is solely internal and subjective. Quite the contrary.
February 11th, 2015 at 12:48 am
I looked at your article, “The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth”, David, and I see that you use as the foundational claim for your “evidence” for the Resurrection the same foundational claim that William Lane Craig uses: “the overwhelming majority of Bible scholars agree that the empty tomb IS an unquestioned historical fact.”
This is like me saying the following, “The overwhelming majority of Koran scholars believe that Mohammad really did receive the Koran directly from the angel Gabriel.”
Well, of course most Koran scholars are going to believe the supernatural claims of Islam for the simple reason that most scholars of the Koran are devout Muslims, just as the majority of Bible scholars are devout Christians. Either claim is based on the logical fallacy that the majority opinion on an issue must be correct. The majority opinion was once that the sun revolved around the earth. The majority was wrong.
The only evidence for an empty tomb comes from the Gospels. Paul says not one word about an empty tomb…ever…in any of his 13 (?) epistles. Isn’t that odd? Ask any evangelical or other conservative Christian for the best evidence for the Resurrection, and what is the answer: “the Empty Tomb!” But Paul says not one word about an empty tomb. He talks about Christ being buried and then rising on the third day, but no tomb. So, we are asked to believe that God’s “evangelist to the Gentiles” forgets to use the most convincing argument for the Resurrection, in all his epistles, and in all his recorded sermons in the Book of Acts, books deemed by the Church in later centuries to be the inspired Word of the Creator??
So coming back to the Gospels…WHO wrote them?? We don’t know. They were written decades after the alleged event, in far-away lands, in a foreign language, for purposes we do not know, but,…evangelical and orthodox Christians of today tell us that we should base our faith and our lives on these four anonymous pieces of first century literature.
It just isn’t logical, David.
If you tell me that the only way for me to believe in Jesus as God, and the only way for me to believe in the Resurrection, is by accepting it solely by faith, I can accept that position. We all make decisions every day based on faith. Every time I get into an airplane I do so by faith that it will not crash. I have never done a full inspection of the planes. I believe the plane will arrive at my destination safely solely by faith.
So, tell me to believe by faith alone, David, and I can buy your argument, but asking me to accept your supernatural belief system based on the assertions of four anonymous first century ghost writers is just too irrational.
Without evidence, the same level of evidence that YOU would demand of Islam and Mormonism to believe their supernatural claims, your belief system is just one of many thousands of superstitions on this planet; superstitions whose followers believe in them just as fervently and devoutly, by faith, as you believe in yours.
February 11th, 2015 at 9:28 am
Gary, it’s clear that you’re not that familiar with my understanding of faith, or all of the “evidence” and perspectives of the empty tomb and resurrection. You keep making bogus comparisons to other religions, and asserting that my idea of “faith” is just one of wishful thinking. I don’t mind addressing or elaborating on something for clarification, but I don’t want to rehash what I’ve written and preached elsewhere. That’s why I’ve asked several times if you listened to the sermon.
While the empty tomb is a major piece, believed by “the majority” of historians both Christian (conservative & liberal) AND agnostic/skeptics, it’s not the only contributing factor to my embrace of the resurrection. N.T. Wright does a great job, in several of his works, explaining that “resurrection” (anastasis) only meant a physical rising from the dead in second-temple Judaism. So, with that in mind Paul doesn’t need to use the phrase “empty tomb” when he speaks at length about the resurrection in 1 Cor 15. It is implied. If you have a resurrected Jesus, you clearly had an empty tomb.
Surely you’re aware of oral tradition, and that writing down these stories 20-30 years after the events isn’t a problem. Are you aware of how far out other “historical” documents were written, at least the copies we have? Nothing in antiquity comes close to the proximity of the NT (Gospel) writings to the actual events. It is rather astounding, actually.
And why do I need to know that they were actually written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John? I don’t know who built that plane you’re flying on, but I trust they knew what they were doing and that their purpose is self-evident, even if they forgot to tighten a bolt.
Finally, the difference between the NT and any claims made by the Quran or the book of Mormon is a matter of historical collaboration and symmetry. There is good reason to believe that both books have falsified events/places (e.g. the Quran says Jesus wasn’t crucified!; the book of Mormon describes locations that don’t exist, etc.). The Gospels describe events that happened in real time and real places, which are confirmed by outside sources. Now, none of that means that what they say actually happened (i.e. Jesus rose from the dead), but it puts the NT on solid historical footing that is not there with Islam and Mormonism. And what we do know about Muhammad and Joseph Smith is enough to have us doubt their accounts.
Gary, of course there is mystery (not-knowing) involved with faith. That’s why it’s called faith. But I’ve taken all of the evidence that exists, as mentioned in my 3-part post and sermon, and made my decision. And that was without including the existential and experiential argument involving the real presence of the resurrected Jesus in my life.
February 11th, 2015 at 11:01 am
I will listen to your sermon and then comment further. However, on the issue of faith in the maker of an airplane and faith in the anonymous authors of the Gospels there is a very big difference.
We know who the makers of airplanes are (Boeing, Airbus) etc. We can study their reliability, safety record, and the trustworthiness of what they say. We cannot do the same with unknown authors.
Based on the fact that there are relatively few airplane crashes (it is safer to travel by plane than by car) we can reasonably assume that Boeing and Airbus have the intent to build safe trustworthy planes. In other words we know the purpose of their work. We can do no such study of unknown authors. We have no idea what their purpose was in writing these books. Were they recording historical facts that they personally had witnessed or were they writing historical fictions: stories that include real cities, real countries, real kings and governors, and real Jesus, a real crucifixion, but imaginary miracles and an imaginary resurrection.
Christians make the assumption that because the Gospels include some historical truths that means that ALL assertions made in the Gospels are true. This is a huge assumption based on zero evidence. Homer’s Iliad is one example of an ancient book which involves real historical events (the Greek-Trojan War) mixed with fantasy and myth. Since we do not know the authors of the Gospels and we do not know for what purpose they were writing, to assume that EVERYTHING that they wrote is historical fact is simply wishful thinking.
On the issue of the Jewish view on Resurrection, NT Wright ( I read his book, all 800 plus pages) makes a big deal that no Jew would believe that one man would be resurrected before the general resurrection of the righteous. It would never have been believed. Well, the overwhelming majority of Jews did not believe it, and still do not believe it for 2,000 years. The fact that a small percentage of Jews believed the Jesus story is not unusual in the history of humans nor even in the history of Judaism. Sects and splinter groups are a natural phenomenon in human history. The Saduccees did not believe in a resurrection, the Pharisees did. This demonstrates that Jews were already divided on the issue of resurrection. The Jesus movement just divided it further.
February 11th, 2015 at 2:58 pm
For several reasons I go with the gospels being ancient historical biographies.
The purpose of Luke’s gospel couldn’t be any clearer when he says:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Lk 1:1-4).
What more do you expect someone to say? If that’s not purpose, I don’t know what is.
John the apostle said this in his epistle: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).
Homer didn’t write “history” like this.
Also, the miracles in the gospels are met with awe and wonder. They are not common-place. And the resurrection event itself is told so inquisitively and strangely, as if they’re trying to find the words to describe such an unexpected, mind-blowing event, that “myth” simply does not fit. Paul’s exposition of the anastasis of Jesus and the future anastasis of all believers is reflective of something (meta)physical and real—reaching for inadequate human words just to describe it.
Gary, even the Talmud records that Jesus was a “magician” for doing miracles. Josephus mentions it as well. How in the world are you going to chalk up the miraculous events in the gospels as fanciful myth and legend? You may do so, but not without violating the clear intent of the text. For what? To fit a post-enlightenment worldview?
I recommend reading: What are the Gospels? by Richard Burridge
February 11th, 2015 at 3:26 pm
Does “Luke” say: “The apostles Peter, Andrew, and James sat down with me and recounted to me the details of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? No. What Luke says is that the information he is writing down was “handed down” from eyewitnesses. What does that mean? It could mean that Peter told “John Doe” and John Doe then told Luke what Peter had said. That is second hand information regarding eyewitness testimony. Or, it just as well could be that John Doe told Luke what “Billy” said that “Rob” told him that “George” told him, that “Phil” told him, that “Lance” told him, etc., etc….what Peter said. Bottom line, whoever wrote Luke does not identify his sources, nor does he identify that his immediate sources are eyewitnesses. He gives a vague claim that eyewitness testimony has been passed down to him.
Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God? If you do, don’t you find it odd that the author of a book of God’s Holy Word needs to “carefully investigate” his information and presumably his sources? If Luke had actually sat down with Peter, Andrew, James or any of the other apostles, would he have said that he had to carefully investigate/verify the accuracy of their story? If you believe that the Apostles had been filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and therefore their preaching was de facto straight from the mouth of God, why would a divinely inspired author of a book of the Holy Bible need to investigate carefully the information given to him??
I think this statement makes it very clear that Luke did NOT receive his information directly from an eyewitness. Luke most likely received what he BELIEVED to be eyewitness testimony from second hand, third hand, twentieth hand sources, because…he had checked out his immediate source or sources and found him, her, or them to be reliable. Just because your immediate source is a reliable person does not mean that the other people in the chain of passing down the story got the details correct. Have you ever played the game “telephone”?
And why would someone writing under the inspiration of God need to investigate his sources before he started writing?? Is that how inspiration works: man does his research, verifies his sources, writes his book…and then the Almighty comes down and gives his official stamp of approval on the final product? Sounds like a very human enterprise to me, not something miraculous or divine.
February 11th, 2015 at 3:48 pm
Gary, you’re opening up too many topics at once. Just so you know… I don’t normally dialogue this much online because it’s almost impossible to arrive at any place that is beneficial for anyone. No, I don’t believe in “inerrancy”. Yes, it is a human, as well as Spirit-breathed, undertaking. I have written about my view of inspiration here.
It sounds like you offer as much conjecture as you’re accusing the NT writers of. I have suggested some of the best reading I’ve found on these concerns in several of my resurrection posts. I hope you’ll check them out, as well as other relevant videos.
I have asked the same questions that you pose, and through research and study of the entire spectrum of scholarly opinion, I’m most convinced of the reliability of the NT and of the truth claims that are made about Jesus.
Blessings on your journey, bro.
February 11th, 2015 at 11:43 pm
Thank you for your blessings, David.
I leave with you with this: For every other alleged historical event we determine its historicity by examining contemporaneous, corroborating, independent testimony from two or more known sources along with any available archaeological evidence.
The Resurrection of Jesus has no such supporting evidence. To believe that this supernatural event occurred, one must suspend belief in the laws of nature and in the rules of evidence to believe it.
This alleged event can only be believed by faith.
February 11th, 2015 at 3:39 pm
In regards to John:
The opening statement of John certainly sounds like the author has seen, heard, and touched Jesus, but just because he says that, is he being truthful? Remember that many, many “gospels” were floating around the Roman world in the first and second centuries. There is the Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Mary the Mother of God, even the Gospel of Judas. Do you believe that Peter, Mary, and Judas wrote these books just because the authors of these books say so??
Just because something is stated as fact in a book does not make it so. That is true today, and it was true in the first century. Plagiarism and forgeries were rampant in those times.
Read this quote:
“1Behold, he comes with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon them, and destroy the wicked, and reprove all the carnal for everything which the sinful and ungodly have done, and committed against him.”
Which book of the Holy Bible is this from? Answer: None. It is a passage from the Book of Enoch, a book the Church Fathers determine was NOT inspired, even though the author of the Epistle of Jude, which the Church Fathers decided was inspired, quotes this very passage from Enoch as if it IS inspired! Open your Bible to the epistle of Jude and you can read it for yourself.
Just because the Gospel of John sounds “bible-like” in tone does not make it a true, unquestioned historical account. Did Jesus leave a list of what “gospels” were inspired and which were not? Did the Apostles? Did Paul? No. The books of the New Testament were decided not by apostles but by ordinary, mortal, imperfect men…churchmen, to be exact. The same churchmen who were teaching infant baptism and baptismal regeneration were the true, apostolic doctrines of the One, True Church, determined which books were from God and which were not. The Canon of the New Testament is nothing more than a catholic Church tradition.