Skip to comments.If I Had Faked the Resurrection
Posted on 04/16/2003 6:36:15 PM PDT by Remedy
I set out as a young man to debunk Christianity. I met a young Christian woman who challenged me to intellectually examine the evidence for Christianity, and I accepted her challenge. I aimed to show her-and everyone-that Christianity was nonsense. I thought it would be easy. I thought a careful investigation of the facts would expose Christianity as a lie and its followers as dupes.
But then a funny thing happened. As I began investigating the claims of Christianity, I kept running up against the evidence. Time after time, I was surprised to discover the factual basis for the seemingly outlandish things Christians believe. And one of the most convincing categories of evidence I confronted was this: The resurrection accounts found in the Gospels are not the stuff of fable, forgery or fabrication.
I had assumed that someone, or several someones, had invented the stories of Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead. But as I examined those accounts, I had to face the fact that any sensible mythmaker would do things much differently from the way Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did in recording the news of the resurrection. As much as I hated to, I had to admit that if I had been some first-century propagandist trying to fake the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would have done a number of things differently: I would wait a prudent period after the events before "publishing" my account.
I would wait a prudent period after the events before "publishing" my account.
Few historians dispute the fact that the disciples of Jesus began preaching the news of His resurrection soon after the event itself; in fact, Peter's Pentecost sermon (Acts 2) occurred within 50 days of the Resurrection. And textual research indicates that the written accounts of the Resurrection, especially the creedal statement of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, are astoundingly early in origin, possibly within two years of the event. Such early origins argue against any notion that the Resurrection accounts are legendary. I would publish my account far from the venue where it supposedly happened.
I would publish my account far from the venue where it supposedly happened.
Dr. William Lane Craig writes, "One of the most amazing facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection was that it originated in the very city where Jesus was crucified. The Christian faith did not come to exist in some distant city, far from eyewitnesses who knew of Jesus' death and burial. No, it came into being in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified, under the very eyes of its enemies." I would select my "witnesses" very carefully.
I would select my "witnesses" very carefully.
I would avoid, as much as possible, using any names at all in my account, and I would certainly avoid citing prominent personalities as witnesses. Yet at least 16 individuals are mentioned by name as witnesses in the various accounts, and the mention of Joseph of Arimathea as the man who buried Jesus would have been terribly dangerous if the gospel accounts had been faked or embellished. As a member of the Sanhedrin, a Jewish "Supreme Court," he would have been well-known. J. P. Moreland writes, "No one could have invented such a person who did not exist and say he was on the Sanhedrin if such were not the case."
His involvement in the burial of Jesus could have been easily confirmed or refuted. Perhaps most important, I would avoid citing disreputable witnesses, which makes significant the record of Jesus' first appearances-to women-since in that time and culture women were considered invalid witnesses in a court of law. If the accounts were fabrications, the women would never have been included in the story, at least not as first witnesses. I would surround the event with impressive supernatural displays and omens.
I would surround the event with impressive supernatural displays and omens.
As Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide writes, "We do not read in the first testimonies [of the Resurrection] of an apocalyptic spectacle, exorbitant sensations, or of the transforming impact of a cosmic event. . . . According to all New Testament reports, no human eye saw the resurrection itself, no human being was present, and none of the disciples asserted to have apprehended, let alone understood, its manner and nature. How easy it would have been for them or their immediate successors to supplement this scandalous hole in the concatenation of events by fanciful embellishments! But precisely because none of the evangelists dared to 'improve upon' or embellish this unseen resurrection, the total picture of the gospels also gains in trustworthiness." I would painstakingly correlate my account with others I knew, embellishing the legend only where I could be confident of not being contradicted.
I would painstakingly correlate my account with others I knew, embellishing the legend only where I could be confident of not being contradicted.
Many critics have pointed out the befuddling differences and apparent contradictions in the Resurrection accounts. But these are actually convincing evidences of their authenticity; they display an ingenuous lack of collusion, agreeing and (apparently) diverging much as eyewitness accounts of any event do. I would portray myself and any co-conspirators sympathetically, even heroically.
I would portray myself and any co-conspirators sympathetically, even heroically.
Yet the Gospel writers present strikingly unflattering portraits of Jesus' followers (such as Peter and Thomas) and their often skeptical reactions (Mark 16:11, 13; Luke 24:11, 37; John 20:19, 25, 21:4). Such portrayals are very unlike the popular myths and legends of that (or any) time. I would disguise the location of the tomb or spectacularly destroy it in my account.
I would disguise the location of the tomb or spectacularly destroy it in my account.
If I were creating a resurrection legend, I would keep the tomb's location a secret to prevent any chance that someone might discover Jesus' body, or I would record in my account that the angels sealed it or carried it off into heaven after the Resurrection. Or I might have taken the easiest course of all and simply made my fictional resurrection a "spiritual" one, which would have made it impossible to refute even if a body were eventually discovered. But, of course, the Gospel accounts describe the owner of the tomb (Joseph of Arimathea) and its location ("At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb," John 19:41), and identify Jesus' resurrection as a bodily one (John 20:27). I would try to squelch inquiry or investigation.
I would try to squelch inquiry or investigation.
I might pronounce a curse on anyone attempting to substantiate my claims, or attach a stigma to anyone so shallow as to require evidence. Yet note the frequent appeal of Jesus' disciples, to the easily confirmed-or discredited-nature of the evidence, as though inviting investigation (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 13:31; 1 Corinthians 15:3-6). This was done within a few years of the events themselves; if the tomb were not empty or the Resurrection appearances were fiction, the early Christians' opponents could have conclusively debunked the new religion.
As Dr. Edwin Yamauchi says of the citation of the resurrected Christ appearing to more than 500 people in 1 Corinthians 15, "What gives special authority to the list [of witnesses] as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, 'If you do not believe me, you can ask them.' " I would not preach a message of repentance in light of the Resurrection.
I would not preach a message of repentance in light of the Resurrection.
No one in his right mind would have chosen to create a fictional message that would invite opposition and persecution from both civil and religious authorities of those days. How much easier and wiser it would have been to preach a less controversial gospel- concentrating on Jesus' teachings about love, perhaps-thus saving myself and the adherents of my new religion a lot of trouble. I would stop short of dying for my lie.
I would stop short of dying for my lie.
Lee Strobel has written, "People will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they're true, but people won't die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false.
"While most people can only have faith that their beliefs are true, the disciples were in a position to know without a doubt whether or not Jesus had risen from the dead. They claimed that they saw him, talked with him, and ate with him. If they weren't absolutely certain, they wouldn't have allowed themselves to be tortured to death for proclaiming that the resurrection had happened."
These are not the only reasons I believe in the truth of the Bible and the reality of the Resurrection. But these were among the "many convincing proofs" (Acts 1:3) that I encountered in my attempts to prove Christianity wrong, which eventually led me to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be and that He really did rise from the dead. It didn't happen immediately, but eventually I gave in to the truth, and on Dec. 19, 1959, the Risen Christ radically changed my life. I've seen Him do the same for countless others, and I pray, if you haven't done so already, you will let Him do the same for you.
Josh McDowell is a speaker, author, and traveling representative for Campus Crusade for Christ. His books include Evidence That Demands a Verdict, More Than a Carpenter, and The New Tolerance. He was assisted in writing this article by Bob Hostetler, an award-winning writer who lives in Hamilton, Ohio.
This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
Copyright © 2000 Josh McDowell.
All rights reserved.
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Creation and the Resurrection The two greatest events in the history of the cosmos were, first of all, its supernatural creation and, secondly, the resurrection of its Creator from the dead. The evidence for each, to one whose mind and heart are open to evidence, is overwhelming. All true science points to creation, and the best-proved fact of history is the resurrection. The Bible, of course, teaches that both are vitally true, vitally important and vitally related, but even to one who does not believe the Bible, the evidence is still unanswerable. He may reject it, but he cannot refute it.
Furthermore, each is necessary to the other. The creation, invaded and permeated by decay and death, heading down toward ultimate chaos, can only be saved and renewed if death is defeated and life is restored by its Creator. The resurrection, conversely, triumphing over death and promising ultimate restoration of the perfect creation, can only be accomplished by the Creator Himself. The creation requires the resurrection and the resurrection requires the Creator.
Is Jesus the Only Way to God? The resurrection of Christ is one of the best-attested events in human history. Thomas Arnold, author of the famous three-volume History of Rome, appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford, and certainly a man well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts, said: "I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and 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." Numerous other prestigious scholars of history and law down through the centuries would concur.
Indeed, Jesus is the only way to God! In the days of Noah, there was no salvation outside of the Ark. In the days of Moses, there was no deliverance except for those who were under the blood. And in our day, there is no redemption outside of Christ.
Cynic Sage or Son of God? Boyd gives an overview of historical Jesus research and then summarizes the main arguments of his two opponents, Crossan and Mack. He then proceeds to show why the theories of Crossan and Mack are almost certainly false. Boyd argues convincingly for the canonical gospels and Paul's writings being much more reliable sources than the Gospel of Peter or Gospel of Thomas for information on Jesus.
The Case for Christ : A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel "The Case for Christ" is a well-articulated defense of the Christian faith, which is a statement I don't make lightly because I am not a Christian. I wish some of the reviewers of this book held to the same sober standards that the author employed in seeking the historical evidence for Jesus. They make all kinds of ill-supported claims --for instance, that the author tries to offer "conclusive proof" of the deity of Jesus. But the book never claims such "conclusive proof" is possible; only that the preponderance of the evidence points toward the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead and thereby confirmed that he is the son of God.
Liberalism "A God without wrath, led men without sin, into a kingdom without judgment,through the ministrations of, a Christ without a cross."H. Richard Neibuhr
In the United States the term came to be applied to the radical edge of liberal theology (beginning c.1910) . Whereas earlier liberalism was a kind of pathetic salvage movement trying to save the essence of Christianity from the ashes of the Enlightenment, Modernism posed a direct challenge to evangelical Protestantism and fostered a full scale response in the form of Fundamentalism.
The only other option is that Jesus believed the claims, and in reality they were (and are) true. In that case, Jesus was and is Lord, God, and the sole Savior - and we had better deal with it.
The Comforting Doctrine of Hell the other certainty, Judgment, and the other possibility, Hell, have vanished from the minds of Christians.
WRT these lines, James Burnham once famously observed that "liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide."
Examine Neibuhr's warning statement, and you'll recognize it as the "justification" of the doctrine of "if it feels good, do it," "I'm entitled to feel good about myself," ends-justify-the-means, no-account "free lunch."
Which seems to be what our degenerate idea of "liberalism" has sunk to. Once upon a time, "liberalism" was preeminently about human liberty. But now, it has become a prescription for human greed, power-lust, rapine, and bondage....
Thanks for the excellent post, Remedy; and Dataman, thanks so much for the ping. May you have a blessed Easter!
How about throwing a little more light on the subtle shade of distinction that is so glaring to you between #1 & #2.
'Kingdom? Kingdom? Sorry, Neibuhr, we've just stricken references made by this unfortunate, infectious kingdom cult, and liberated the histerical-I-mean historical Jesus.'
'It was the Christian thing to do, afterall.'
Yes, some, such as the Neibuhrs may still have such revisionistic thoughts, but we've made even that obsolete too and corrected these misconceptions. It's about time we did! -- 2000 years.
Jews for Jesus claims that one of those messiahs was the true messiah of many convincing proofs.
"justification" of the doctrine of "if it feels good, do it," "
And "if it sounds good, believe it."
With An Apology to Arius: When and How Should We Deal with Heresies and Heretics? The Christian life is often presented as spiritual warfare; if the pagans are the enemies, the heretics are the traitors.
Your fifth is ruled out by historical evidence. There survives nothing of any Christians who denied Jesus made the claims recorded in the Gospels. If they had existed, we'd have at least polemics against them (as we have polemics against Judaizers and Gnostics), if not their own works. Instead, nothing. If Paul of his followers had invented the claims, the anti-Paulicians would have said so. So would the Jewish authorities.
There are still three options.
Astute point, Remedy!