Christ's Resurrection: Fact or Myth
Christians believe Jesus Christ was crucified. There are several references to it in historical records outside of the bible. But, there are many questions leveled by skeptics about what followed. Modern science generally rules out the possibility of miracles. However, wouldn’t that be a philosophical assumption, not a scientific conclusion?
Critics claim Christ's resurrection is a myth, not history. Some historical researchers argue otherwise. As proof they offer the following evidence.
· The Apostle's Creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9 includes the Resurrection and has been dated to within 10 years of the event.
· The Apostles always focused their preaching around the Resurrection. In a very short period of time, many Jews who had faithfully worshiped God on the seventh day of each week, became Christians and began meeting on the first day of each week.
· Hundreds of eyewitnesses saw Christ after his death, once appearing to a group of 500. 1 Corinthians 15:6. Many of these eyewitnesses were hostile toward Jesus and had motive to disprove the fact if they could, yet they didn’t.
There are those who believe Jesus didn’t die on the cross but only fainted. But this theory is full of holes. The condition of Christ’s savagely beaten body alone should discount any idea he could have dragged his body out of the sealed tomb, much less parade about the countryside revealing himself to his Apostles and others.
Crucifixion was an excruciating torture involving asphyxia, dehydration, and congestive heart failure. The soldiers pronounced Jesus dead. The mixture of blood and water from the spear wound in his side is evidence of this.
However, there is one fact virtually all scholars agree upon. The Apostles were convinced they had seen the resurrected Christ. As the Bible clearly indicates, none of them expected Jesus to rise from the dead. In Luke 24:37 we read "They were terrified and frightened and supposed they had seen a spirit.”
So what convinced them, hallucinations? Certainly the disciples would recognize their master, someone they had been with for over three years. And the concept this frightened, terrified little band changed overnight into a strong, united and determined group taking on the “Great Commission” …well, no vision or hallucination can explain such a transformation.
Another argument skeptics present is they say the Gospels differ and contradict each other. Therefore, someone must have made the whole thing up. Not necessarily so. For example, news reporters will each describe a certain event a different way depending on how they viewed it. So, the fact all four Gospels aren’t exactly alike is to be expected.
But, what about the claim they contradict each other? Many are often surprised to find what they thought were contradictions turn out not to be contradictory at all, but merely supplementary. At first differences may appear great, but all of the Resurrection accounts fall neatly into place upon closer examination.
If all four Gospels told the same exact story, in the same order, with the same details, that would be cause to become suspicious. We would wonder why the four writers simply didn’t write one account and sign their names as co-authors to it. True, none of the four Gospels gives all the details of what happened. They wrote about what they saw and found pertinent.
For instance, Matthew is the only gospel to record the first appearance to the women. Luke tells about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The appearance of Mary Magdalene is excluded in both. Only John records the appearance of Christ in the upper room.
As we can see the Gospels each add different details. No four witnesses would write them up exactly the same way, detail for detail. If they did, there would be justification for doubt. But, when the most important points are agreed upon the differences add to, rather than take away their validity.
And it should be noted none of the details necessarily contradict each other, but rather complete the larger picture. One incident some claim to be a contradiction concerns the time the women came to the tomb. Mark’s account says they arrived at the tomb at dawn. John states Mary Magdalene arrived when it was dark. The facts are made clear when one takes into account the women had to walk quite some distance since they lived in Jerusalem or Bethany. It was dark when they left, but arrived at dawn. Mark was speaking of their arrival, John, their departure.
Another point of contention concerns the angels at the tomb. Matthew and Mark say one angel addressed the women. Luke and John say two angels were there. Is this a contradiction? No, Matthew and Mark do not say that there was only one angel, only that one spoke.
Though they report some details differently, they all agree in the important points:
· Jesus was dead and buried
· The disciples were not prepared for His death
· The tomb was empty on Easter morning
· The empty tomb did not convince them Jesus had risen
· Mary thought the body had been stolen.
It’s a historical fact first century Jews didn’t believe in a resurrection of a Messiah.
Noted scholar Wilbur Smith said “In these fundamental truths, there are absolutely no contradictions. The so-called variations in the narratives are only the details which were mostly vividly impressed on one mind or another of the witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection, or on the mind of the writers of these four respective Gospels.”
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