Was the resurrection of the man Jesus of Nazereth a myth? Many people are convinced it is. Some of them even claim to be Christians! That’s about as bizarre an ideology as I can imagine. The Bible itself says that if Jesus was not the Christ – the one whose life and death was foretold in the scriptures – then our faith is in vain, our worship is worthy of ridicule, and our religion is no better than any other. But can we trust the biblical accounts? Are there reasons to believe that it is not only Holy religious text, but is historically accurate as well? Did the death and resurrection of Jesus actually happen?
Dead men don’t walk, as catchy as that idea is for a movie title. There are accounts of people who were declared dead coming back to life, but those are explained by simply saying that they only seemed to be dead. Clearly they weren’t. Is someone who is declared brain-dead really dead? Most probably are, but there are documented cases where they weren’t. Is cardiac failure proof of death? Here again, only if the failure is permanent. Sometimes hearts even spontaneously start to beat again, even though attempts to restart them seem to have failed.
But I doubt that there is even a single event in recorded history (other than the resurrections in the Bible) where someone was declared dead, stayed that way for two nights, then on the third day, came back to not only life, but seemingly robust good mental and physical health? So why believe that this seemingly impossible event could have really, actually taken place?
In a bibliographical survey of over 2,200 publications on the resurrection in English, French, and German since 1975, Gary Habermas found that 75% of scholars accept the historicity of the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb and that there is near universal agreement on the post-mortem appearances.
N. T. Wright at the end of his voluminous study on Jesus’ resurrection opines that the empty tomb and post-mortem appearances of Jesus have a historical probability so high as to be “virtually certain”.
In Eight Reasons Why I Believe That Jesus Rose from the Dead, John Piper lists the following. (Click the link to read the entire article.)1. Jesus himself testified to his coming resurrection from the dead. 2. The tomb was empty on Easter. 3. The disciples were almost immediately transformed from men who were hopeless and fearful after the crucifixion (Luke 24:21, John 20:19) into men who were confident and bold witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 4:2). 5. The sheer existence of a thriving, empire-conquering early Christian church supports the truth of the resurrection claim. 6. The Apostle Paul’s conversion supports the truth of the resurrection. 7. The New Testament witnesses do not bear the stamp of dupes or deceivers. 8. There is a self-authenticating glory in the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection as narrated by the biblical witnesses.
While most of these will not be new to many people, # 7 provides a kind of a unique perspective. He says this in support of the claim:
How do you credit a witness? How do you decide whether to believe a person’s testimony? The decision to give credence to a person’s testimony is not the same as completing a mathematical equation. The certainty is of a different kind, yet can be just as firm (I trust my wife’s testimony that she is faithful). When a witness is dead, we can base our judgment of him only on the content of his writings and the testimonies of others about him. How do Peter and John and Matthew and Paul stack up?
In my judgment (and at this point we can live authentically only by our own judgment—Luke 12:57), these men’s writings do not read like the works of gullible, easily deceived or deceiving men. Their insights into human nature are profound. Their personal commitment is sober and carefully stated. Their teachings are coherent and do not look like the invention of unstable men. The moral and spiritual standard is high. And the lives of these men are totally devoted to the truth and to the honor of God.
What’s more, they each went to their deaths proclaiming it to be true. Why is that so significant? Because men will die for something they believe to be true, but will not die for something they believe to be a lie. Clearly, these men were convicted, convinced and compelled by what they saw with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears, and touched with their own hands. In the end for each of them, it came down to whether to lie, or to die. If even one of them had decided to lie, the veracity of the witness all of them bore would have been called much more into question. But none did.
The resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, is the single most important event in all of human history. That’s true whether you believe it actually happened or not. There is simply no other event, be it history or myth, that has had more impact on the cultures of the world, than the resurrection of Jesus, on the event we today celebrate on Easter sunday.