As we approach the celebration of Christ resurrection once again, it is always useful to be reminded of the historical facts that sustain the reality of this historical event. Though we have presented evidence for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in previous articles,1)Heath Henning, Eye-Witness Evidence for the Resurrection, May 11, 20019; http://truthwatchers.com/eye-witness-christ-resurrection/ , 2)Heath Henning, Reasons to Believe the Resurrection (Prat 1), March 27, 2016; http://truthwatchers.com/reasons-believe-christs-resurrection/ , 3)Heath Henning, Reasons to Believe the Resurrection (Part 2), March 27, 2016; http://truthwatchers.com/reasons-believe-resurrection-christ-part-2/ we will frequently revisit this most monumental moment of history with new thoughts.

The first line to discuss in a historical analysis is the actual philosophy behind studying history. How can an event that occurred two thousand years ago be known to have taken place? Perhaps it may be a surprise to the average person to learn that there is no established method to investigate historical events of the past. Historians are often very subjective in their means of scrutinizing their patchy remains of documents of what ever historical period they are studying, and every historian carries baggage of presuppositions they bring to the table when assessing the validity of a particular event. So, we must ask, how can we investigate history? The basic answer to this question is that examination must function the same way legal evidence would be presented in the court of law. In court, one’s future is determined by a jury whether convicted or acquitted of the accused crime by reconstructing what was the most likely scenario that transpired at some moment in the past. Furthermore, the conviction is not established with the same certainty of scientific proofs, but is dependent on the level of certainty that is beyond reasonable doubt.

What can provide a historian, or a jury of the court case, with evidence beyond reasonable doubt? The five substantiating criteria expressed by Michael Licona4)For his full discussion on the method of historical investigation see Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 107-130 provide a strong starting point. He first mentions the explanatory scope being described as “the quantity of facts accounted for by a hypothesis. The hypothesis that includes the most relevant data has the greatest explanatory scope.”5)Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 109 Secondly, the explanatory power of the evidence, or as Licona states, “[t]he hypothesis that explains the data with the least amount of effort, vagueness and ambiguity has greater explanatory power.”6) Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 109 The third criterion proposed is plausibility. The plausibility of any historical event “must be implied to a greater degree and by a greater variety of accepted truths (or background knowledge) than other hypothesis. In other words, this criterion assesses whether other areas known with confidence suggest a certain hypothesis.”7) Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 110 Fourth, what explanation is less ad hoc, that is to say, what conclusion of the known facts is determined by employing the least “amount of imagination in order to account for the available data. A hypothesis possessing an ad hoc component has the opposite problem of one lacking explanatory power.”8) Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 110 It is desirable to understand history from the matter of interpreting with simplicity of the extant evidence, or applying Occam’s Razor to the research. The last criterion to consider is illumination, meaning the conclusion that “provides a possible solution to other problems without confusing other areas held with confidence.”9) Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p.  111 This final criterion provides an understanding to the various other circumstantial evidences available.

Another issue we must consider when analyzing the historical information about Christ resurrection is the question whether miracles can be historically examined. As mentioned above, historians are driven by presuppositions and this often is manifested in anti-supernatural sentiments. Secular historians will deny the possibility of miracles without reflecting on the validity of evidence simply because they have predetermined that miracles cannot happen. It may be a rare thing for one to approach the topic unbiasedly, but those who have with honesty have admitted the resurrection is substantiated within historical examination. For example, Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide has written, “Thus according to my opinion, the resurrection belongs to the category of the truly real and effective occurrences, for without a fact of history there is no act of true faith.”10)Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: a Jewish Perspective, SPCK (London: 1983), p. 92 He later relates, “In regard to the future resurrection of the dead, I am and remain a Pharisee. Concerning the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday, I was for decades a Sadducee. I am no longer a Sadducee.”11)Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, (trans. W.C. Lines) Augsburg (Minneapolis, MN: 2002), p. 125 Lapide never confessed the Christian faith but simply acknowledged the historical validity of Christ’s resurrection.

Atheist philosopher Anthony Flew came to a similar conclusion. In the earlier years of his career he wrote, “Certainly given some belief about God, the occurrence of the resurrection does become enormously more likely.”12)T. Miethe and A. Flew, Does God Exist, HarperSanFrancisco (San Francisco, CA: 1991), p. 39 Of course he started himself with an atheist opinion making miracles unacceptable. However, in his later years of life he reviewed the available evidence for the existence of God and converted to a general theist perspective without any particular religious association. With his new espoused view of theism, he was more capable of considering the possibility of miracles. In an interview with Gary Habermas, Flew stated, “The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity, I think, from the evidence offered for the occurrence of most other supposedly miraculous events.”13)A. Flew and G. Habermas. “My pilgrimage from Atheism to Theism: A Discussion between Antony Flew and Gary R. Habermas,” Philosophia Christi, 6 (2004), p. 209 Anthony Flew, the former atheist philosopher, acknowledged only two of the five criteria for historical studies suggested by Licona as presented above.

As in the court of law, historical investigation is dependent upon eye-witness accounts.14)see Heath Henning, Eye-Witness Evidence for the Resurrection, May 11, 20019; http://truthwatchers.com/eye-witness-christ-resurrection/ N. T. Wright has expressed, “Had the tomb been empty, with no other unusual occurrences, no one would have said that Jesus was the Messiah or the lord of the world…. No one, in particular, would have developed so quickly and consistently a radical and reshaped version of the Jewish hope for the resurrection of the body. The empty tomb is by itself insufficient to account for the subsequent evidence.”15)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 689 Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus Christ stands or falls on the eye-witness accounts which has secured the historicity of the resurrection with the highest level of certainty due to the quantity of eye-witnesses. The resurrected Lord appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9, John 20:14), then to women returning from the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10), to Peter later in the day (Luke 24:34, 1Corinthians 15:5), to the  Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:13-33), then to the apostles without Thomas (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-24), then to the apostles with Thomas present (John 20:26-29), then to the seven by the Lake of Tiberias (John 21:1-23), then to a multitude of 500-plus believers (1Corinthians 15:8), to James (1Corinthians 15:7), to the eleven (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-20, Luke 24:33-52, Acts 1:3-12), later at the ascension (Acts 1:3-12), then to Stephen (Acts 7:55), then to Paul (Acts 9:3-6, 1Corinthians 15:8), then to Paul in the temple (Acts 22:17-21, 23:11), and finally to John on Patmos (Revelation 1:10-19).

The qualitative evidence from these eye-witnesses is further established by the fact that the large number of them were available to interrogate during that first generation of the gospel spreading across the Roman empire (1 Corinthians 15:6). The quality of the eye-witnesses is further confirmed by the unlikelihood of who they were. If some had conspired to disseminate a lie they would have avoided any embarrassing factors that would cause their cultural setting to question the validity of the claim. Yet the gospel is affirmed by an embarrassing fact of the unlikeliest witnesses—women. And not just any woman, but Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9, John 20:14), a former demoniac (Luke 8:2), who would surely have been rejected by the Jewish leaders of the day. The Jewish historian Josephus writing in the end of the first century tells us, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of their levity and boldness of their sex.” (Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews, 4.219)16)in older citations of Josephus it may also be  referenced as book. 4, chapter 8, paragraph 15; see The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 156 Other ancient sources confirm this. “The Jews say: We have a law, that a woman’s evidence is not to be received.”17)The Gospel of Nicodemus, chap. 7; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 8, p. 419 Celsus, a second century skeptic who wrote an attack against Christianity, ridicules the gospels offering credibility from the witness of “half-frantic women[,]”18)Origen Against Celsus, bk. 2, chap. 59; Anti-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 4, p. 455 “and certain women as ignorant as themselves[.]”19)Origen Against Celsus, bk. 3, chap. 55; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 4, p. 486 He further mocks, “Only foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children, of whom the teachers of the divine word wish to make converts.”20)Origen Against Celsus, bk. 3, chap. 49; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 4, p. 484 Of course, if the apostles were simply making up a religion to propagate in the first century they would have selected more acceptable individuals as the first eye-witnesses, such as Joseph of Arimathæa (Matthew 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:38) or Nicodemus (John 19:39-40).

Other embarrassing factors offer qualitative authentication include the fact that Matthew was a tax collector and wrote the first gospel to the Jews (Matthew 9:9; 10:3). The Jewish culture despised the tax collectors and mocked the Lord for associating with them (Matthew 9:10-11; 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 5:29-30; 7:34). Philo, a first century Jewish author, records the common activities which cause these tax-collectors to be despised. “Capito is the collector of the imperial revenues in Judea, and on some account or other he is very hostile to the nation of the country; for having come thither a poor man, and having amassed riches of every imaginable description by plunder and extortion[.]” (Philo, On the Embassy to Gaius, 199)21) in The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged New Updated Version (Trans. C. D. Yonge), (Peabody, MA: 1997), p. 775 Philo indicates that publicans were viewed as traitors of the Jews, serving the Roman empire and getting personal riches through extortion of the Jewish people. The Mishna indicates how severe this scorn of publicans was among the Jews by stating, “If a tax-collector entered a house [all that is within it] becomes uncleans[.]” (M. Tohoth 7.6)22)in The Mishnah (Trans. Herbert Danby), Hendrickson Pub. (Peabody, MA: 1933, 2016), p. 726

Matthew also records the event of the dead saints that appear in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matt. 27:52-53). This comment is hard to defend which has caused conservative scholars to attempt to explain it away as not being a literal historical event. For example, Licona claims this brief passage should be interpreted as “a poetic device”23) Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 553; see his full discussion of this text in pp. 548-553 emphasizing an apocalyptic style of “special effects” to the resurrection.24) Licona uses this term “special effects” to describe this event in Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 552 However, it should be kept in mind that Matthew is the only one who records this event and is offering it in his gospel written to the Jews in Judea who would have been able to evaluate and interrogate whether people in Jerusalem could confirm the validity of the account as reported. Surely the qualitative support of this testimony is established in its difficulty to believe and the fact that it is only reported to those who would be most able to easily refute it if untrue.

Another embarrassing factor is seen in Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-45; Mark 14:32; Luke 22:39-46). Martyrs were expected to be brave in the ancient world. “However, the accounts of Jesus’ martyrdom differ significantly from the others…. Given the embracing nature of these comments of despair, they are unlikely to be inventions of the early church.” 25)Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 289 Indeed, plenty of historical accounts could be provided of other martyrs who were murdered in the midst of severe suffering but remained defiant to their torturers. Licona provides examples of the 7 Jewish brother in 2 Maccabess chapter 7; Eleazar being whipped in 4 Maccabeas 6:1-30; Stephen being stoned in Acts 6:8-7:60; Rabbi Akiva, a second century rabbi who was tortured by Rome; Rabbi Hanina ben Taradion being another second century Jewish martyr; and Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John who was burned to death by Roman soldier in his old age.26)See Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: a New Historiographical Approach, IVP Academic (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 286-289 One could add to this brief list, Ignatius, who eagerly looked forward to being martyred, saying “suffer me to become food for the wild beast… let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts… [that] I may be found a sacrifice [to God].”27)Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans, chapt. 4; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 1, p. 75; also quoted by Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.28.4; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 1, p. 557; also cited by Eusebius, Church History, 3.36.11; in Eusebius, The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine (Trans. G. A. Williamson), Dorset Press (1984), p.147 Worst are the documents of the horrifying torments which the courageous the Syriac martyrs in the first and second century who held their confession of faith to death after prolonged time frames of intense brutal agony.28)see these account recorded in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 8, pp. 676-701

More embarrassing factor could include Peter’s denial of Jesus Christ out of fear (Matt. 26:35, 75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:34, 61). Thomas doubting the testimony of his own companions (John 20:24-28). James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, being skeptic before conversion (John 7:3-5; Act 1:14). The oddest declaration found in one of the resurrection sightings by the multitude indicating “when they saw him [the risen Jesus]: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:16-17). N. T. Wright speaks of this comment as the “strongest mark of authenticity[.]”29)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 643 Of course the preeminence of the apostle Paul who was formerly a persecutor of Christians in not the best flattery to offer his character if  his past was being made up (Act 22:4, 26:11; 1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13, 23). The willingness to be honest even with the plethora of embarrassing factors shows the integrity of the character of the authors of the gospels and the New Testament documents and their reliable in the reports they offer for our historical scrutiny.

Notable is the fact that these eye-witness accounts began to be reported at an early date following the recent event of the crucifixion and resurrection. The report of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6 claims there was over 500 witnesses. Scholars have understood this passage as part of a creed developed within 3-8 years of the crucifixion. “This statement is as strong evidence as anyone could hope to find for something that happened 2,000 years ago.”30)Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection, Regal (Ventura, CA: 2009), p. 196 William Lane Craig says of this sighting, “it is nearly indisputable that this appearance took place.”31)William Lane Craig, The Son Rises, Wipf and Stok Publishers (Eugene, OR: 2000), p. 94-95 Another scholar comments, “there can hardly be any purpose in mentioning the fact that most of the five hundred are still alive, unless Paul is saying, in effect, ‘the witnesses are there to be questioned.’”32)C. H. Dodd, “The Appearance of the Risen Christ: A Study in the Form Criticism of the Gospel,” in More New Testament Studies, University of Manchester Press (Manchester, UK: 1968), p. 128

Furthermore, the fact that these documents claim to be written by eye-witnesses should be taken at face-value (2 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 1:1; Acts 1:3, 2:32; John 19:35). This would place an unprecedented factor of an extremely early recording of these events. Paul expressed the Gospel went to the Jews first (Rom. 1:16). Contrary to the modern skeptic Bible scholars that opine Mark was the earliest written gospel, Matthew was held historically as first written Gospel. Papias (A.D. 60-130) wrote, “Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language[.]”33)Papais, Fragments of Papias, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 1, p. 155 Eusebius, the first church historians reports of Pantaenus, prior to teaching the catechetical school in Alexandria in A.D. 180, traveled to India as a missionary, “where he appears to have found that Matthew’s gospel had arrived before him and was in the hands of some there who had come to know Christ. Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached to them and had left behind Matthew’s account in the actual Aramaic characters, and it was preserved till the time of Pantaenus’s mission.”34)Eusebius, The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine (Trans. G. A. Williamson), Dorset Press (1984), pp. 213-214

John’s gospel is agreed by practically all scholars to be the latest written gospel. The internal evidence places its authorship as an early document. One relevant passage says, “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool” (John 5:2). The word “is” in Greek is a present indicative verb indicating Jerusalem has not been destroyed at the time of the writing. John’s first epistle was written in A.D. 85, which John “writes” (present active indicative) to the “children,” “fathers,” “young men,” and once again to the “children” (1 John 2:12-13), than switches the tense to aorist, stating “I have written” to the “fathers” and “young men” (1 John 2:14). The tense change has confounded many commentators, but it is likely due to the fact that John is referring to his gospel which he had written twenty years earlier in A.D. 65, so the children could not be said to have been written to in the past since they are too young but only in the present tense.35)The Critical Greek Text has altered the second reference to “children” as an aorist active indicative to produce symmetry in the passage. This reading in the Critical Text goes against the philosophy of textual critical criterion, which claims the more difficult reading should be the preferred reading. The reading of the Textus Receptus, which is presented above, shows the broken symmetry which is unexpected, and hence, the more difficult reading which the Critical Text should have preferred over its own reading based on their own rules of textual criticism. The Textus Receptus should always be the preferred reading as it is the preserved text which Christians used throughout church history. See Heath Henning, “Textus Receptus in the Early Church Fathers,” June 9, 2018; http://truthwatchers.com/textus-receptus-in-the-early-church-fathers/ This indicates that the four gospels were written between A.D. 38-65. Moreover, Jerusalem kept checks on missionary laborers for soundness in doctrine (Acts 8:14, 11:1-3, 15:1-2, 21:17-25) which proves the message being spread across the Roman empire did not vary from what was the established belief of the historical events of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection that occurred in Jerusalem.

Since the apostles had nothing to gain in their lifetime of being dedicated to spreading the message of Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, the burden of proof would fall on the skeptics to explain why they were willing to suffer in order teach what was culturally unacceptable? N.T. Wright states, “The immediate conclusion is clear. Christianity was born into a world where its central claim was known to be false. Many believed that the dead were non-existent; outside Judaism, nobody believed in resurrection.”36) N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 35 They were not seeking to gain power. Even Peter renounced the idea of being an authoritative pope (1 Pet. 5:3). Nor did they gain money from their ministry (1 Pet. 5:2; 2 Thess. 3:8). Instead, they worked to earn a living (1 Cor. 4:12; Acts 18:3; 1 Thess. 2:9), and spent their own earnings on those they ministered to (2 Cor. 12:15). They taught their followers to do the same (1 Tim 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7). Being persecuted and despised (1 Cor. 4:12; 2 Cor. 11:23-33) and eventually murdered for preaching Christ’s resurrection, they gained no worldly goods but lost all they had including their lives. Why would they do such things if the resurrection was not true?

Other questions for skeptics would be why is only Jesus Christ remembered out of the numerous Jews crucified under Pilate? Or more generally, can you name one other historical figure who was crucified? Perhaps one would offer the tradition that Peter was crucified, but the only reason he is remembered is because his association to the Lord Jesus Christ. Another historical figure who could be offered is Spartacus. But what happened to his followers after he was crucified? They disappeared. That is exactly the purpose the Romans used this horrifying method of torturing people to death—to make any followers flee from identifying any association for fear of being crucified. So, what makes the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ different? Why did they not disappear, but instead became bold and vocal of their association with the crucified Lord, even in the face of threat of being crucified themselves. The opponents mocked Christians about their crucified God. Justin Martyr wrote, “For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal Godl[.]”37)Justin Martyr, First Apology, 13.4; in The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 6, p. 166-167 Arnobius mentions the heathens scoffing, “because you both allege that one born as men are, and put to death on the cross, which is a disgraceful punishment even for worthless men, was God[.]”38)Arnobius, “Against the Heathens” 1.36; in The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 6, p. 422 Lactantius asks, “Why was it by the cross especially? Why by an infamous kind of punishment, which may appear unworthy even of a man if he is free, although guilty?”39)Lactantius, “The Divine Institutes, 4.26.29; in The Ante-Nicene Father, (ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson) Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, Massachusetts: 1896, Fifth Printing, 2012) Vol. 7, p. 128 Clearly, the very central expression of the gospel, Christ crucified, was despised and considered foolishness to the world in the first century (1 Corinthians 1:18). All other crucified criminals are forgotten but Jesus Christ is exalted. What makes Him different?

Where did the idea of Christ rising from the grave come from? Jews did not believe in a resurrection in the middle of history but only expected it to occur at the end times (Matt. 16:21-22, 20:17-19; Mark 8:31-32, 10:32-34; Luke 9:22, 18:31-34; John 11:24; Acts 1:6). Pagans abhorred the idea of resurrection (Acts 17:32). N. T. Wright relates, “Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and thereafter actually claimed that somebody had been truly dead and then come to be truly, and bodily, alive once more.”40)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 76 He further acknowledges, “Paul’s views on resurrection remain rooted firmly in Judaism—which is hardly surprising, because no pagans known to us ever imagined that resurrection could or would really take place, let alone offered any developed framework of thought on the subject.”41) N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 272 After Christ arose from the grave, the disciples began to teach His resurrection as fulfillment of what had been prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures (Acts 3:18, 17:2-3, 26:22-23). The apostles referenced a number of Old Testament texts to support their new view (Ps. 16:8:11 in Acts 2:25-32, Ps. 118:22 in Acts 4:10-11, Ps. 2:1-2 in Acts 4:25- 28, Is. 53:7-8 in Acts 8:32-35, Is. 55:3 and Ps. 16:10 in Acts 13:33-37). What changed their minds so dramatically and suddenly?

Those who are identified as enemies to the early development of Christianity claimed that the missing body was due to grave robbers. The Jews said the disciples stole the body (Matt. 28:13). This was still reported during Justin Martyrs day (160 A.D.), who records a dispute with Trypho, a Jew who said, “you have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilaean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.”42)Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, chap. 108; The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 1, Vol. 1, p. 253 A 5th century Jewish text entitled Toledoth Yeshu still reported the disciples stole the body of Jesus Christ from the grave. However, why is it recorded that the apostles discovered a folded napkin in the tomb (John 20:7)? Surely grave robbers would not waste time neatly folding the napkin and risk getting caught.

The ancient Roman and Greek world also had plenty of hero cults where the tombs of the dead were venerated. Even the Jews in Israel had venerated tombs of Old Testament saints, which is evident from a first century Jewish text titled The Lives of the Prophets.43)in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Ed. James H. Charlesworth) Doubleday (New York, NY: 1985), Vol. 2, p. 379-399 The culture would have had no problems with the grave of a dead man to have become revered and there would be no need to make up reports of the corpse having been resurrected. If Christ remained in the tomb, we would expect the tomb to become a cultic icon. “The graves of heroes played an important part in their post-mortem cult; nobody supposed such graves were empty.”44)N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN: 2003), p. 57 However, it is clear the tomb was emptied of the disposed body and this account was apparently reported to the emperor in Rome. An archaeological inscription discovered near Nazareth reads: “Ordinance of Caesar. It is my pleasure that graves and tombs remain undisturbed in perpetuity… If any man lay information that another has either demolished them, or has in any other way extracted the buried, or has maliciously transferred them to other places in order to wrong them, or has displaced the sealing or other stones, against such a one I order that a trial be instituted…. Let it be absolutely forbidden for any one to disturb them. In case of contravention I desire that the offender be sentenced to capital punishment on charge of violation of sepulture.”45)C. K. Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents, Harper & Row (New York, NY: Rev. ed. 1987), p. 15 Why would the death penalty be instituted with this decree sent to the small insignificant town of Nazareth, unless this has something to do with Jesus Christ who grew up there?

The ancient view and expectation of historians was to place primary sources such as eye-witnesses as authorities. For example, the early Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) expressed in his Histories, “Thus far I have spoken of Egypt from my own observation, relating what I myself saw, the ideas that I formed, and the results of my own research. What follows rests on the accounts given to me by the Egyptians, which I shall now repeat, adding thereto some particular which fell under my own notice.” (Histories 2.99)46)Herodotus, Histories (Trans. George Rawlinson), Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY:1997), p. 171 So Herodotus acknowledged the distinction between his own observation and what he heard from secondary sources. This view was also held by the Jews of Israel as evidenced by Josephus who expected eye-witness accounts from historians and contemporary events, indicating, “they have justly the same opinion of the ancient writers, since they see some of the present generation bold enough to written about such affairs, wherein they were not present, nor had concern enough to inform themselves about them from those that knew them[.]” (Against Apion 1.45)47)Josephus, The New Complete Works of Josephus (Revised and Expanded) (Trans. William Whiston, Introduction and Commentary by Paul L. Maier), Kregel Publications (Grand Rapids, MI: 1999), p. 940 Consider how the Jews present in Jerusalem during the time of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection being more capable to investigate the claims that Christ resurrected and upheld by others to be authoritative primary sources for what they witnessed. To know that shortly after the resurrection 3,000 Jews converted (Acts 2:41) show the convincing firsthand evidence of eye-witnesses. Another 5,000 Jews converted following shortly after (Acts 4:4). A company of Jewish priests were also converted (Acts 6:7). These priests were the same that had recently conspired to kill Christ (John 11:53, 57, 19:6, 15). Saul the persecutor of Christians converted (Acts 9:26-27; 1 Cor. 15:9). These all changed their views of Jewish monotheism to Christian Trinitarianism, and had changed their views of Christ as a dead man to a living God. C. F. Moule states, “the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church… remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself.”48)C. F. D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the new Testament: An Inquiry Into the Implication of Certain Features of the New Testament, SCM Press (London: 1967), Vol. 1, p. 13

The fact that such a large crowd of Jews could exchange their Jewish traditions (Sacrifices, Circumcision, Sabbath, etc.) were forsaken to remember Christ resurrection through the Christian ordinances. For example, the Sabbath observance changed to Sunday worship. Breaking the Sabbath was capital punishment (Num. 15:32-36; Matt. 12:1-14; Mark 1-6; Luke 6:6-11, 13:14; John 5:2-18, 9:14-16). Jews were willing to be killed before they broke the Sabbath (1 Maccabee 2:29-37). Why would Jews so committed to the Sabbath change so suddenly to worshiping Christ on Sunday—“the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10)? “For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace…. If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death[.]”49)Ignatius, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 1, p. 62

Other Christian ordinances reveal they were performed for the purpose of commemorating the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism (though has Jewish antecedent) was adapted and practiced as soon as Christianity started (Acts 2:38, 41). Baptism is only by immersion as it pictures the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4 cf. Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12). The Lord’s Supper also was an ordinance started as soon as Christianity started (Acts 2:42). It was done in remembrance (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25) to “show the lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. 11:26). “They came together regularly to have a celebration meal for one reason: to remember that Jesus had been publicly slaughtered in a grotesque and humiliating way…. They celebrated his execution because they were convinced that they had seen him alive from the tomb.”50)J. P. Moreland, interview with Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ, Zondervan (Grand Rapids, MI: 1998), p. 342

The historical evidence is strong. Michael Licona assessed the historicity of the “Resurrection hypothesis” against five other naturalistic attempts to explain what happened on the first Easter Sunday, concluding the Resurrection Hypothesis “is not only superior to the competing hypotheses examined, it outdistances them by a significant margin.”51)Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, InterVarsity Press (Downer Grove, IL: 2010), p. 606 Other scholars have noted, “there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”52)Lord Darling, as cited by Michale Green, Man Alive, InterVarsity Press, (Downers Grove Ill.: 1968), p. 54 Ron Rhodes writes, “The resurrection of Christ is perhaps the best-attested historical event of ancient times.”53)Ron Rhodes, The Complete Book of Bible Answers, Harvest House (Eugene OR: 1997), p. 114 Thomas Arnold says, “I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better, fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair enquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”54)Thomas Arnold, Christian Life, Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close: Sermons, Nabu Press, 2011, (originally published by G. Woodfall and Son, 1842), p. 324 Timothy Keller also confirms, “the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact much more fully attested to than most other events of ancient history we take for granted.”55)Timothy Keller, Reasons For God, Dutton (New York, NY, 2008), p. 210 Josh McDowell commenting on 1 Corinthians 15:6, states, “If each of these 500 people were to testify in a courtroom for only six minutes each, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand eyewitness testimony. Add to this the testimony of the many other eyewitnesses and you could well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.”56)Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection, Regal (Ventura, CA: 2009), p. 196 Indeed, no historically informed jury would reject this evidence.

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