Child of the world – “Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?”

Question: “Why should I believe in Christ’s  resurrection?”

Answer:  It is a fairly well-established fact  that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D., under  Pontius Pilate, by means of crucifixion, at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin.  The non-Christian historical accounts of Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus,  Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides and even the Jewish Sanhedrin corroborate the  early Christian eyewitness accounts of these important historical aspects of the  death of Jesus Christ.

As for His resurrection, there are several lines  of evidence which make for a compelling case. The late jurisprudential prodigy  and international statesman Sir Lionel Luckhoo (of The Guinness Book of World  Records fame for his unprecedented 245 consecutive defense murder trial  acquittals) epitomized Christian enthusiasm and confidence in the strength of  the case for the resurrection when he wrote, “I have spent more than 42 years as  a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in  active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury  trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ  is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely  no room for doubt.”

The secular community’s response to the same evidence  has been predictably apathetic in accordance with their steadfast commitment to  methodological naturalism. For those unfamiliar with the term, methodological  naturalism is the human endeavor of explaining everything in terms of natural  causes and natural causes only. If an alleged historical event defies natural  explanation (e.g., a miraculous resurrection), secular scholars generally treat  it with overwhelming skepticism, regardless of the evidence, no matter how  favorable and compelling it may be.

In our view, such an unwavering  allegiance to natural causes regardless of substantive evidence to the contrary  is not conducive to an impartial (and therefore adequate) investigation of the  evidence. We agree with Dr. Wernher von Braun and numerous others who still  believe that forcing a popular philosophical predisposition upon the evidence  hinders objectivity. Or in the words of Dr. von Braun, “To be forced to believe  only one conclusion… would violate the very objectivity of science  itself.”

Having said that, let us now examine the several lines of  evidence which favor of the resurrection.

The First Line of  Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

To begin with, we have  demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony. Early Christian apologists cited  hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their own alleged experiences.  Many of these eyewitnesses willfully and resolutely endured prolonged torture  and death rather than repudiate their testimony. This fact attests to their  sincerity, ruling out deception on their part. According to the historical  record (The Book of Acts 4:1-17;  Pliny’s Letters to Trajan X, 96, etc) most Christians could end their suffering  simply by renouncing the faith. Instead, it seems that most opted to endure the  suffering and proclaim Christ’s resurrection unto death.

Granted, while  martyrdom is remarkable, it is not necessarily compelling. It does not validate  a belief so much as it authenticates a believer (by demonstrating his or her  sincerity in a tangible way). What makes the earliest Christian martyrs  remarkable is that they knew whether or not what they were professing was true.  They either saw Jesus Christ alive-and-well after His death or they did not.  This is extraordinary. If it was all just a lie, why would so many perpetuate it  given their circumstances? Why would they all knowingly cling to such an  unprofitable lie in the face of persecution, imprisonment, torture, and  death?

While the September 11, 2001, suicide hijackers undoubtedly  believed what they professed (as evidenced by their willingness to die for it),  they could not and did not know if it was true. They put their faith in  traditions passed down to them over many generations. In contrast, the early  Christian martyrs were the first generation. Either they saw what they claimed  to see, or they did not.

Among the most illustrious of the professed  eyewitnesses were the Apostles. They collectively underwent an undeniable change  following the alleged post-resurrection appearances of Christ. Immediately  following His crucifixion, they hid in fear for their lives. Following the  resurrection they took to the streets, boldly proclaiming the resurrection  despite intensifying persecution. What accounts for their sudden and dramatic  change? It certainly was not financial gain. The Apostles gave up everything  they had to preach the resurrection, including their lives.

The  Second Line of Evidence for Christ’s resurrection

A second line  of evidence concerns the conversion of certain key skeptics, most notably Paul  and James. Paul was of his own admission a violent persecutor of the early  Church. After what he described as an encounter with the resurrected Christ,  Paul underwent an immediate and drastic change from a vicious persecutor of the  Church to one of its most prolific and selfless defenders. Like many early  Christians, Paul suffered impoverishment, persecution, beatings, imprisonment,  and execution for his steadfast commitment to Christ’s resurrection.

James was skeptical, though not as hostile as Paul. A purported  post-resurrection encounter with Christ turned him into an inimitable believer,  a leader of the Church in Jerusalem. We still have what scholars generally  accept to be one of his letters to the early Church. Like Paul, James willingly  suffered and died for his testimony, a fact which attests to the sincerity of  his belief (see The Book of Acts and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews XX, ix,  1).

The Third and Fourth Lines of Evidence for Christ’s  resurrection

A third line and fourth line of evidence concern  enemy attestation to the empty tomb and the fact that faith in the resurrection  took root in Jerusalem. Jesus was publicly executed and buried in Jerusalem. It  would have been impossible for faith in His resurrection to take root in  Jerusalem while His body was still in the tomb where the Sanhedrin could exhume  it, put it on public display, and thereby expose the hoax. Instead, the  Sanhedrin accused the disciples of stealing the body, apparently in an effort to  explain its disappearance (and therefore an empty tomb). How do we explain the  fact of the empty tomb? Here are the three most common explanations:

First, the disciples stole the body. If this were the case, they would have  known the resurrection was a hoax. They would not therefore have been so willing  to suffer and die for it. (See the first line of evidence concerning  demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony.) All of the professed eyewitnesses  would have known that they hadn’t really seen Christ and were therefore lying.  With so many conspirators, surely someone would have confessed, if not to end  his own suffering then at least to end the suffering of his friends and family.  The first generation of Christians were absolutely brutalized, especially  following the conflagration in Rome in A.D. 64 (a fire which Nero allegedly  ordered to make room for the expansion of his palace, but which he blamed on the  Christians in Rome in an effort to exculpate himself). As the Roman historian  Cornelius Tacitus recounted in his Annals of Imperial Rome (published just a  generation after the fire):

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the  most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called  Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin,  suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of  our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus  checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of  the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every  part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest  was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an  immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as  of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths.  Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were  nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly  illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Annals, XV, 44)

Nero  illuminated his garden parties with Christians whom he burnt alive. Surely  someone would have confessed the truth under the threat of such terrible pain.  The fact is, however, we have no record of any early Christian denouncing the  faith to end his suffering. Instead, we have multiple accounts of  post-resurrection appearances and hundreds of eyewitnesses willing to suffer and  die for it.

If the disciples didn’t steal the body, how else do we  explain the empty tomb? Some have suggested that Christ faked His death and  later escaped from the tomb. This is patently absurd. According to the  eyewitness testimony, Christ was beaten, tortured, lacerated, and stabbed. He  suffered internal damage, massive blood loss, asphyxiation, and a spear through  His heart. There is no good reason to believe that Jesus Christ (or any other  man for that matter) could survive such an ordeal, fake His death, sit in a tomb  for three days and nights without medical attention, food or water, remove the  massive stone which sealed His tomb, escape undetected (without leaving behind a  trail of blood), convince hundreds of eyewitnesses that He was resurrected from  the death and in good health, and then disappear without a trace. Such a notion  is ridiculous.

The Fifth Line of Evidence for Christ’s  resurrection

Finally, a fifth line of evidence concerns a  peculiarity of the eyewitness testimony. In all of the major resurrection  narratives, women are credited as the first and primary eyewitnesses. This would  be an odd invention since in both the ancient Jewish and Roman cultures women  were severely disesteemed. Their testimony was regarded as insubstantial and  dismissible. Given this fact, it is highly unlikely that any perpetrators of a  hoax in 1st Century Judea would elect women to be their primary witnesses. Of  all the male disciples who claimed to see Jesus resurrected, if they all were  lying and the resurrection was a scam, why did they pick the most ill-perceived,  distrusted witnesses they could find?

Dr. William Lane Craig explains,  “When you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what’s  really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the  discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung  of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. There are old rabbinical  sayings that said, ‘Let the words of Law be burned rather than delivered to  women’ and ‘blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children  are female.’ Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t  even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law. In light of  this, it’s absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are  these women… Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male  disciples as discovering the tomb – Peter or John, for example. The fact that  women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by  the reality that – like it or not – they were the discoverers of the empty tomb!  This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it  was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than  its legendary status.” (Dr. William Lane Craig, quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case  For Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, p. 293)

In  Summary

These lines of evidence: the demonstrable sincerity of  the eyewitnesses (and in the Apostles’ case, compelling, inexplicable change),  the conversion and demonstrable sincerity of key antagonists- and  skeptics-turned-martyrs, the fact of the empty tomb, enemy attestation to the  empty tomb, the fact that all of this took place in Jerusalem where faith in the  resurrection began and thrived, the testimony of the women, the significance of  such testimony given the historical context; all of these strongly attest to the  historicity of the resurrection. We encourage our readers to thoughtfully  consider these evidences. What do they suggest to you? Having pondered them  ourselves, we resolutely affirm Sir Lionel’s declaration:

“The evidence  for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels  acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

Recommended Resources: Logos Bible Software and  The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary  Habermas.

While he is not the author of every article on, for citation purposes, you may reference our CEO, S. Michael  Houdmann.

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4 Responses to Child of the world – “Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?”

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  2. “There is none so blind as those who WILL not see” comes to mind.
    The evidence is clear and cannot be denied.

  3. Pingback: Child of the world – “Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?” - WHERE JESUS CHRIST IS CENTRAL

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