The Resurrection: Fact or Fraud?

“All but four of the major world religions are based on mere philosophical propositions.  Of the four that are based on personalities rather than on a philosophical system, only Christianity claims an empty tomb for its founder” (McDowell, p. 205).  Followers of Judaism agree that Abraham died about 1900 B.C.  The earliest accounts of Buddha’s death declare that he died “with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind,” (Smith, p. 385) and make no mention of a resurrection. Muslims admit that Mohammed died June 8, 632 A.D., at the age of 61. Only Christianity has consistently claimed a resurrection for its Founder.

Jesus cited the resurrection as the ultimate proof of His claims to Divine authority.  When those Jews who had witnessed Him overturn tables, and with a whip of cords drive the moneychangers and their animals out of the temple, said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” He replied, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:18-19).  When those Pharisees who had heard Him say that “blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men” (Matthew 12:31) said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You” (Matthew 12:38), He responded, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40)–three days only.  Jesus taught, and His apostle later confirmed, that He was “declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).

If the resurrection of Christ is false, Christianity is a farce.  According to Paul, this is true on at least four points, for he wrote:

  1. “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
  2. “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17)
  3. “If Christ is not risen…you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
  4. “If Christ is not risen…then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18).

Truly, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ and Christianity stand or fall together” (McDowell, p. 203).

Because of this, God has provided every necessary proof to allay the doubts of an honest mind concerning Jesus’ resurrection.  First, there is the eyewitness testimony:  “I (Paul) delivered to you first of all that which I also received:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Secondly, there are the transformed lives of the disciples.  Peter, who had denied Jesus three times the night of His betrayal, and who had been unwilling to stand with Him during those dark hours, only a few weeks later stood before a multitude, and proclaimed that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts. 2:36).  What sparked such a dramatic shift in Peter’s behavior?  From where did this boldness come?  A lie?  A more reasonable explanation is “He was seen by Cephas [Peter]” (1 Corinthians 15:5). And James, who during Jesus’ life did not believe his Brother’s claims (John 7:5), and yet later called himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1)—what happened to him?  The answer:  “He was seen by James” (1 Corinthians 15:7).  Then there are the apostles as a whole.  Most of them scattered when Jesus was arrested. Later, however, they were willing to endure persecutions, and even die, for their insistence that the resurrection really happened.  Was it so easy to find 11 men who could be deceived concerning something so amazing, and who would then lay down their lives for it?  It is more believable that “He was seen…by all the apostles” (1 Corinthians. 15:7).  (More Than a Carpenter, p.64-68).

Lastly, there is the absolute lack of a better explanation for the empty tomb the women found early Sunday morning. The supposition that He swooned on the cross, was mistaken for dead, and that the following Sunday He resuscitated rather than resurrected, is found absurd when examined under the medical microscope.  The proposition that his body was stolen by the apostles, and a false claim made about its whereabouts (which they would have had to support), makes no sense when we consider their moral lives, and their devotion to the ‘tale’ even unto death.  Equally ridiculous seems the notion that they could have visited the wrong tomb, one that was unoccupied, and built their claim on that.  Would not the locals have had knowledge of where Jesus had been laid, and easily have debunked such foolery?

When all is taken into account, we are unable to accept any other explanation than what is offered in Scripture—that on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead to die no more!

Bibliography:

  • McDowell, J. (1999) The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, Tenn.
  • McDowell, J. (1977) More Than a Carpenter. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: Wheaton, IL
  • Smith, W. (1945) Therefore Stand. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI

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