The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most meaningful event in history to the degree of even dividing our reckoning of dates throughout history. It is recognized as a reality that no intellectual could honestly deny without a prior bias presupposition. Henry Morris said, “The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. Everything else that was said or done by Christ or the Apostles, no matter how great or marvelous, is secondary to the resurrection in importance.”1)Henry M. Morris with Henry M. Morris III, Many Infallible Proofs, Master Books, 1996, p. 97 When the Jews asked the Lord for a sign, He offered them nothing less the His resurrection (John 2:18-22). The apostle Paul expressed the same message, that Christianity was nothing without a historical resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14).

 

George Hanson wrote, “The simple faith of the Christian who believes in the Resurrection is nothing compared to the credulity of the skeptic who will accept the wildest and most improbable romances rather than admit the plain witness of historical certainties. The difficulties of belief may be great; the absurdities of unbelief are greater.”2)George Hanson, The Resurrection and the Life, William Clowes & Sons, Ltd., 1911, p. 24 Thomas Arnold stated, “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.”3)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 Lord Darling-fromer Chief Justice of England expressed, “…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.”4)Lord Darling, as cited by Michale Green, Man Alive, (Downers Grove Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1968), p. 54 Arthur Michael Ramsay declared, “I believe in the Resurrection , partly because a series of facts are unaccountable without it.”5)Arthur Michael Ramsay, God, Christ and the World (London: SCM Press, 1969), p. 78 Timothy Keller indicated, “Nothing in history can be proven the way we can prove something in a laboratory. However, the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact much more fully attested to than most other events of ancient history we take for granted.”6)Timothy Keller, Reasons For God, Dutton (New York, NY, 2008), p. 210 Ron Rhodes wrote, “The resurrection of Christ is perhaps the best-attested historical event of ancient times.”7)Ron Rhodes, The Complete Book of Bible Answers, Harvest House. 1997, p. 114 Norman Geisler said, “Nothing like it is claimed by any other religion, and no miracle has as much historical evidence to confirm it. Jesus Christ rose from the dead to a transformed body on the third day after His death.”8)Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, Baker Book House Co., 1990, p. 118

 

Why are so many scholars willing and able to make such bold assertions? Michael Green proclaimed, “…no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”9)Michael Green, Man Alive, Intervarsity Press, 1968, p. 54 That is because no jury in the world could ignore that exhaustive amount of testimonies of the multitudes of eyewitnesses. Luke wrote his record based on the testimonies of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-3), and indicated Christ’s resurrection was established “by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). John, speaking of the Lord after the resurrection, tells us “we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled… and bear witness… That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you…” (1 John 1:1-3). Who are the “we” mentioned by John as having seen heard and handled the risen savior? He appeared first to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; John 20:14); 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); to the apostles without Thomas (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-24); to the apostles with Thomas present (John 20:26-29); to the seven by the Lake of Tiberias (John 21:1-23); 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); at the ascension (Acts 1:3-12); to Stephen (Acts 7:55); to Paul (Acts 9:3-6; 1Corinthians 15:8); to Paul in the temple (Acts 22:17-21; 23:11); and finally to John on Patmos (Revelation 1:10-19).

 

Furthermore, we see strong circumstantial evidence when we consider the nature of these witnesses. The first eyewitnesses were women that were excluded from baring testimony in court. If it was a made up story, it would not have this mark of humility (Mark 16:9; John 20:14). As an ancient Christian apocryphal, The Gospel of Nicodemus records, “The Jews say: We have a law, that a woman’s evidence is not to be received.”10)The Gospel of Nicodemus, chap. 7; The Anti-Nicene Fathers, Edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D., & James, Donaldson, LL.D., Hendrickson Publishers, 2012, Vol. 8, p. 419 The disciples themselves did not believe their testimony of the women at first (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:22-23) even though Christ had told them He would rise from the grave (Matthew 16:21). The disciples did not accept this plain statement but the Jewish leaders that opposed Him did understand and attempt to thwart His resurrection (Matthew 27:62-64). Surely a made up story would not have made the men who were to become the leaders of the church to look like fools while giving the women this honorable position and opportunity.

 

This also indicates another factor that would not be presented if the resurrection event was a farce. The major leaders of the early church were originally skeptics that converted after the resurrection. One example is James, the Lord’s brother (John 7:3-5; Acts 1:14), who became the pastor of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; 21:18). Doubting Thomas is perhaps the most famous of such examples (John 20:24-28). Again, we are told that some of the disciples doubted when meeting the risen Lord at a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-17). If these men made up a story they would have made themselves heroes, men of great faith, but instead we find humility and honesty because it is a record of truth.

 

The enemy of Christ believed on Him after an eyewitness encounter of the resurrected Lord. (Acts 9:26-27). What could have possibly changed Paul from a persecutor of Christians to one of the greatest propagators of the faith (Acts 22:5; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:22-24; Philippians 3:6)? Paul suffered greatly for his new faith in Christ (1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Dave Hunt expressed it as follows: “What would cause an admired rabbi to abandon the religion to which he had devoted his life and to adopt contrary beliefs – indeed, beliefs of which he had been the chief opponent? To all appearances, by so doing he had nothing to gain and everything to lose! It seems insane to exchange a comfortable prestigious life for one of abuse, persecution and eventually martyrdom….  Paul declared that he had personally met the resurrected Christ. If true, that would explain everything – but what proof did he offer? That he was now willing to suffer persecution and to die for Christ , as he eventually did, would seem to be proof enough…. The original apostles had to acknowledge that Paul’s teachings, which he had not learned from them, were authentic…. He even corrected Peter, who had been the chief apostle before him.”11)Dave Hunt, How Close Are We? Harvest House, 1993, p. 88-89 We are also told that “a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). These are the same Jewish priest who had plotted to put Christ to death (John 11:53, 57), and stirred the people up to call for His crucifixion (John 19:6, 15).

 

The reason why many of the Jewish leaders converted to faith in Christ is because they understood how His resurrection was a fulfillment of prophecies from their own Hebrew Scriptures. Consider Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-31). His sermon presented Christ’s resurrection as a fulfillment of Psalms 16:10 and 3,000 Jews put their faith in Jesus as their Messiah that day (Acts 2:41). It was the common manner of preaching Christ from the Scripture in the synagogues on the Sabbath (Acts 13:5, 14-15; 14:1; 15:21; 18:26), because the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection was “according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The Dead Sea Scrolls revealed the importance of interpreting messianic passages and the expectancy of the Jews in that era. “In some other Scrolls, by contrast, the theme of Messianism is more prominent. …the Damascus Document speaking of the Messiah – in the singular…. Again and again two [Messiahs], and once possibly even three Messiahs…. It seems that there are some allusions suggesting that the eschatological High Priest was expected to undergo suffering and humiliation before being glorified.”12)The Complete Dead Scrolls Translated in English, (translated by Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics, 2004, p. 86 The Dead Sea Scrolls expressed the Jewish understanding that the Messiah would bear the threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King as a descendant from David even though the priest descended from Aaron. Titles for the Messiah identify this as “Prince of the Congregation,”13)IQSbv, 20; The Complete Dead Scrolls Translated in English, (translated by Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics, 2004, p. 189 “the Priest Messiah,”14)IQSa,II; The Complete Dead Scrolls Translated in English, (translated by Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics, 2004, p. 161 “the Prophet and Messiahs of Aaron and Israel,”15)IQS,IX, 10-11; The Complete Dead Scrolls Translated in English, (translated by Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics, 2004, p. 110 “The Branch of David.”16)4Q285, fr. 7; The Complete Dead Scrolls Translated in English, (translated by Geza Vermes), Penguin Classics, 2004, p. 189

 

Michael Wise and James Tabor, wrote in Biblical Archaeology Review: “Our Qumran text, 4Q521, is, astonishingly, quite close to this Christian concept of the Messiah. Our text speaks not only of a single Messianic figure… but it also describes him in extremely exalted terms, quite like the Christian view of Jesus as a cosmic agent. That there was, in fact, an expression of a single Messianic figure at Qumran is really not so surprising. A reexamination of the Qumran literature on this subject leads one to question the two Messiah theory. As a matter of fact, only once in the Dead Sea Scroll text is the idea of two Messiahs stated unambiguously.” Also they noted, “We know the Qumran group was intensely interested in the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel. They tried to place within this chronological scheme as they calculated the eschaton. They must have made something out of this Messiah figure who was cut off.”17)Michael Wise and James Tabor, Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1992, p. 60-61 The following quotes are adapted from Arthur Kac, The Messianic Hope and Mark Eastman, M.D., The Search For Messiah.18)Adapted from Arthur Kac, The Messianic Hope, Baker Books, 1975, p. 77-78; and Mark Eastman, M.D., The Search For Messiah, The Word for Today, Joy Publishing, 1996, p. 132-134 According to the Midrash Ruth Rabbah…

 

‘she sat beside the reapers,’… means that for a short while the kingship will be snatched away from the Messiah, as it is written, ‘For I will gather all nations to Jerusalem to wage war’ (Zechariah 14:2), while the passage, ‘and he served her roasted grain,’ means that the kingship will be restored to him, as it is written, ‘He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth’ (Isaiah 11:4).

 

It will be with the last deliverer, (the Messiah), as with the first (Moses); as the first deliverer revealed  himself first to the Israelites and then withdrew, so also will the last deliverer reveal himself to the Israelites and then withdraw for a while.

 

Our righteous anointed is departed from us: horror has seized us, and we have none to justify us. He has borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression.  He bears our sins on his shoulders, that we may find pardon for our iniquities. We shall be healed by his wound, at the time that the eternal will create the Messiah as a new creature. O bring him up from the circle of the earth. Raise him up from Seir, to assemble us the second time on mount Lebanon, by the hand of Yinon.

 

Mark Eastman commenting on the last quote says:

 

According to this prayer, the Messiah would apparently depart after an initial appearance (“Our righteous anointed is departed from us: horror has seized us, and we have none to justify us”). The context of this prayer seems to indicate that the Messiah has departed as a result of some kind of suffering (“He has borne the yoke of our iniquities, and our transgression, and is wounded because of our transgression.  He bears our sins on his shoulders, that we may find pardon for our iniquities”).

Finally, as a result of the wounding and suffering of the Messiah, the people of God would be “healed” and justified in the sight of God. This will happen when he, the Messiah (Called Yinon), reappears as “a new creature” (“We shall be healed by his wound, at the time that the eternal will create the Messiah as a new creature.”)19) Mark Eastman, M.D., The Search For Messiah, The Word for Today, Joy Publishing, 1996, p. 134

 

The prophetic testimony of the Old Testament further validates the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zechariah 12:10) The Talmud commenting on this verse, states:

 

What is the cause of the mourning? It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah, the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, ‘And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son.’20)Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a; http://juchre.org/talmud/sukkah/sukkah3.htm#52a ; also cited by  Mark Eastman, M.D., The Search For Messiah, The Word for Today, Joy Publishing, 1996, p. 218

 

Noting the context is important to understanding the full implication of this verse. “In that day, saith the Lord, I will” (v.4) “In that day will I” (v.6) “in that day, that I will” (v.9) “And I will… and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” (v.10). It is the Lord—Jehovah—speaking in the first person singular pronoun and is being pierced.

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