Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Alternative Views

So far I’ve laid out what I believe to be a strong case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, having studied apologetics extensively I have come across several “alternative views” to the resurrection. I’d like to take a closer look at some of the most popular alternative views and then comment on them in light of what we’ve learned in the past several posts.

The first alternative view is the “Legend Theory.” That is, the New Testament accounts of the resurrection are the product of a legend produced over time. Well there are some basic evidentiary problems with this view. The biggest problem is that the historical documents narrating the event can be traced back to a time period when eyewitnesses were alive whom could easily refute the account. These documents trace back to the original disciples that were involved as well as the original location (Jerusalem) of the resurrection. Additionally, many Scholars agree that a legend takes a minimum of 2 generations to develop. Therefore, there simply wasn’t enough time, nor is there enough evidence to support this theory.

The second alternative view is the “Swoon Theory.” This view holds that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, he just swooned, and was awakened while in the tomb. No one really holds to this view anymore except for Muslims. Here’s the problem – to hold to the swoon theory one must believe:

First, Christ didn’t die on the cross. Then the professional Roman executioners whose lives were on the line if the punishment wasn’t carried out, didn’t ensure he was dead. (Remember they didn’t need to break his legs). Next, the spear in his side which both split open his lung and pierced his heart didn’t kill him. The incredible agony and stress leading up to his execution in addition to his weakened state due to the floggings and beatings didn’t precipitate his death. Then with no food or drink or way to ease his suffering he had to lay in a pitch black tomb. Next, in his weakened condition he would have to get up from under 92 pounds of spices and burial clothes that were bound so tight they eliminated any movement. He would then need to find and roll back the stone at the entrance of the tomb which historians agree was a wheel made of granite, 8 feet in diameter and 1 foot thick weighing about 4 tons, all by himself. He would have to do this silently because after he moved back the stone he would still need to sneak past the guards and escape so he could appear to his disciples as active and radiant.

Is this reasonable to believe? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

The third alternative view is that someone stole the body. Well right off the bat there are two things to notice. First, it presupposes the tomb was indeed empty, and second it assumes that someone knew where the correct tomb was located. But there are some big problems with this theory. First, it doesn’t explain why the disciples believed they saw the risen Jesus. Second, it doesn’t explain why Paul or James (neither of which believed in Jesus while he was alive) converted to Christianity. Thirdly, even if this was true, it would only explain the empty tomb, it wouldn’t disprove the resurrection.

The fourth alternative view I’ve heard is the “Wrong Tomb Theory.” That is, Jesus’ followers went to the wrong tomb. This theory is full of problems. First, we have absolutely no ancient documents that say they went to the wrong tomb (Remember, we know from Matthew that the Jewish authorities had to bribe the guards so say the body was stolen, not that they went to the wrong tomb). Secondly, we know the tomb was owned by Joseph of Aramethea (and his servants) and therefore could have easily been pointed out the location of the correct tomb. But perhaps the most powerful evidence is that the Bible claims the correct location of the tomb was known by many (See Mark 15:47, Matthew 27:61, Luke 23:55, John 19:39). But regardless, even if the disciples did go to the wrong tomb, it still wouldn’t account for the appearances of the risen Jesus to the disciples.

The fifth alternative view is that of naturalism. That is, “Only science proves what is true.” However we must look at exactly what science is. Science only relates to what can be observed and tested. By definition, a historical event cannot be observed and tested and therefore all historical events must then be disqualified. So you can’t argue that science can be used to “prove” historical events. But a more important aspect of this view is that it is self-refuting. Science, in and of itself, cannot prove that only what science proves is true. In other words, you can’t put take “science” into a laboratory, observe it and record observations and discover that only what science proves is true. Therefore, the statement cancels itself out. As if that wasn’t enough, there are many things we accept that are outside of the purview of science. Things like "love" and "ideas" cannot be observed or measured but no one denies they exist.

The sixth and final alternative view is the “Hallucination Theory.” That is, the disciples must have hallucinated when they saw the risen Christ. This view may seem reasonable at first glance, but let’s look a little deeper. Hallucinations occur to individuals, they do not appear to groups. However Jesus appeared to both individuals AND groups (remember appearing to the 500 at one time). He was also seen by friend AND foe over a period of forty days. Hallucinations don’t last for 40 days. According to most Psychiatrists, hallucinations generally only appear to certain kinds of people: those that are high-strung, highly imaginative, and very nervous. Yet Christ appeared to multiple people, in a strict Jewish culture, under very different circumstances. It doesn’t seem logical for all of them to have a hallucination. But even if one does hold to the hallucination theory, it still doesn’t explain the empty tomb.

I realize there are many other alternative views out there but space doesn’t allow me to address them. I hope that you are able to see that when people give you alternative views to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, you don’t need to be nervous. Instead look deeper into what they are claiming and compare it to what you’ve learned about Christ’s resurrection. I believe you will quickly see that when one objectively looks at the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, the truth of the event shines through and all other views quickly fall away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Dying For A Cause

So far we’ve looked at written documents left behind by the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. I’d like to transition from looking at their writings to looking at their lives. I don’t know if you are like me, but often times I feel that “talk is cheap.” I am much more interested in actions than I am in words. That’s why I believe the evidence of the eyewitnesses’ lives is just as powerful as the documents they left behind. The Disciples clearly believed they had seen Jesus Christ appear to them after they saw him executed; their words, actions and the course of the rest of their lives hinged on this one central belief.

Before we can truly understand their behavior, we must look at what their mindset was to help us understand what was really going on. For those who have studied the Bible you know that the Messiah was supposed to liberate Israel from the Roman oppressors. He was not supposed to be executed by them. This is what made it so difficult for the Disciples to understand Jesus’ predictions about his death. So when we examine the behavior of the Disciples, we see a group of men who abandoned and denied Jesus at the time of his arrest and execution who suddenly turned into men who boldly and publicly proclaimed his resurrection to the point they were executed for it. We must ask ourselves what was the origin of this belief? There are really only two options: influence from either Jewish or Pagan sources (you can’t argue for Christian influence because Christian influence hadn’t been invented yet).

To argue the origin was from Pagan influences is absurd. People will often quote ancient Greek mythology stories involving a resurrection (unfortunately these people don’t realize the first traceable mythological resurrection story is dated to 100 years AFTER Jesus’ time). To claim that the early Disciples thought their friend would come back to life based on Greek folk tales would be like you thinking your friend came back from the dead because you saw the movie E.T. Clearly Pagan mythology is not the appropriate way to understand the resurrection story.

The second option is from Jewish influences. We know that the concept of the resurrection wasn’t a new concept for a Jew as it was found in many places throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:2, Ezekiel 37). However the Jewish belief of the resurrection was ALWAYS after the end of the world and NEVER before that. This is the frame of mind the disciples brought with them in approaching the resurrection. This helps explain why it was so hard for them to understand Jesus’ predictions about rising from the dead; the resurrection only occurs at the end of the world. Given the 1st century Jewish beliefs about resurrection you cannot explain the Disciples and other early Christians belief in the resurrection of Christ outside of the actual event itself

But let’s put this aside for a moment. I want to focus on what I think is the most powerful argument that the Disciples saw Jesus Christ raised from the dead. The Disciples were willing to die for their belief. Now let me be clear about this, being willing to die for a cause does not verify the truth of their statements, it just verifies the sincerity of their statements. (For example, the terrorists that flew into the world trade center were sincere in their beliefs that this horrific act would secure their place in paradise, but that doesn’t mean that the act actually did secure their place). Every single one of the Disciples (minus John who was banished to an island) and numerous other witnesses of Christ’s resurrection were executed for their belief in the resurrection. Now many of these people weren’t killed immediately. Some had up to 30+ years before their death. It just doesn’t make sense why someone would go 30+ years knowingly believing a lie and then giving their lives for that lie. So how do we know the Disciples died specifically because of their belief in Jesus? Well, in addition to the Bible we have several non-Biblical sources that record these accounts: Clement (1 Clement 5:2-7), Ignatius (Letter to Smyrna 3:2-3), Polycarp (To the Philippians 9:2), Dionysus of Corinth (cited by Eusebius in Eccleastical History 2:25:8), Tertullian (Scorpiace 15), and Origen (Contra Celsum 2:56, 77) are just a few.

It is very important that we take into consideration the behavior of the disciples after Christ’s resurrection. We know they believed they had seen the risen Jesus, despite having every reason to the contrary, to the point they willingly gave their lives in defense of that belief. That is powerful evidence! Perhaps Jewish Rabbi Pinchas Lapide said it best:

“This scared, frightened band of the apostles, which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter, then no vision or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation”

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Appearances

Well, so far we have looked at the accuracy of the burial account and established the fact that the tomb was empty. But big deal, all an empty tomb tells us is that the body wasn’t there. This leads us to our second area of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus; the multiple appearances of Jesus Christ after his execution. Had Jesus only appeared to one of the disciples, it would be pretty difficult to believe he had resurrected from the dead. But Jesus didn’t appear to just one person. Instead he appeared to many different people, individually and in groups, over a span of time. I won’t go into exquisite detail of the resurrection appearances as books have been written about this topic, nor do I want to investigate the appearances as recorded by the gospels, rather I want to examine the appearances from the perspective of Paul as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. Although the gospels record the different appearances of Jesus quite adequately, I want to look at Paul’s account for two reasons. First, almost all Scholars agree that Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians predates all four of the Gospels which makes it the earliest account that we have. Secondly, because in reading 1 Corinthians we have an authentic letter from the former chief persecutor of the Christian church who was an eyewitness to, and also in contact with other eyewitnesses to, the risen Jesus. This makes his testimony much more powerful than any of the gospel writers.

1 Corinthians 15:5-8 reads:

“and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Although this passage takes up a little bit of space, it packs in lots of important information. Paul first mentions that Jesus appeared to Peter. This account is independently attested to in Luke 24:33-34. (Remember what I said earlier, that events are much more credible if more than one source records it [Multiple Independent Attestation in Scholar speak]). Paul then mentions that Jesus appeared to the 12 disciples. This is account is independently attested to by Luke in Luke 24:36-43 and John in John 20:19-20.

Next Paul mentions that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once. 500 people! Now sometimes when I mention this people will point out that this account isn’t found anywhere else in the New Testament (which I guess implies it isn’t as credible?). But I’m not so sure about that. Some people believe, me included, that this appearance to the 500 is recorded in Matthew 28:16-17 which reads “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.”

Let me tell you why I believe these were the same appearance. First, it was on a mountain. Mountains were necessary to accommodate large groups of people (remember the feeding of the 5,000 and the teaching of the Beatitudes were on mountains). Secondly, it was by appointment. The disciples were told to go there and wait for Jesus. This provided plenty of time for other people to hear the news and gather together as well. Thirdly, Matthew records that “some doubted.” Who were these people? Surely not the disciples. Could they have been some of those 500 that had gathered around? I know my argument isn’t airtight but that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be. Even if Matthew is talking about a totally different appearance that doesn’t discount the authenticity of Paul’s record. It simply means we don’t have a second record of it. More important than the number of sources is Paul’s challenge. When Paul writes “most whom are still living yet some have fallen asleep” he is directly challenging his readers to verify the accounts for themselves. By knowing that some have died (fallen asleep) Paul is showing he isn’t just passing along some story but that he is personally acquainted with these individuals. He must know who these people are to know which ones are dead and which ones are alive. On a side note, just to help explain the magnitude of these 500 witnesses seeing Jesus alive after his execution, if all 500 of these witnesses were brought into a courtroom and each one spoke for only 6 minutes, you would have 50 hours of courtroom testimony.

Continuing on with our study, we see that next Jesus appeared to James, Jesus’ own brother. Now according to Galatians 1:19, we know that Paul had firsthand information of this appearance by talking directly with James when he traveled to Jerusalem. Okay, quick pause for background information, even though they grew up together, James did NOT believe that his brother Jesus, was the Messiah nor the son of God. We know this from both Mark 3:21 and John 7:5. We also know that after Jesus’ death James DID become a believer in Jesus. We know this because James was executed by the Sanhedrin in 65 AD for leading the church in Jerusalem. So how do we explain this conversion of James to faith in Jesus? Here’s an even better question: what type of event would need to take place to convince you that your brother was the Lord and would cause you to be willing to be executed for that belief? I don’t know about you, but for me it would take nothing less than seeing my brother come back from the dead.

According to Paul, Jesus then appeared to the apostles again and then finally appeared to Paul himself. Although we’ve only looked at one small passage regarding the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, I hope you can see that Jesus appeared to many people over a span of time in the very city he was killed in. He didn’t appear to just one person way out in the woods never to be heard from again; that is of course unless you believe the account of Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Empty Tomb – Part 3

So far we’ve looked at several different aspects of the empty tomb. We know that we have reliable and accurate information telling us that the body was placed into the tomb. We know that the resurrection account started in very location the death and burial took place providing many opportunities for those eyewitnesses involved to be thoroughly questioned. Next we discovered that despite every logical reason for it to be the disciples, it was women who discovered the empty tomb. Finally we examined that both Peter and John went and verified the women’s story.

In wrapping up our analysis of the empty tomb, I want too look at a few other factors that I think provide further evidence the tomb was indeed empty. The first factor is Jewish cultural reverence for its Rabbis. In ancient Judaism the graves of Rabbis were carefully cared for and honored. In some cases, the Rabbi’s students would visit the grave of their Rabbi every year. This is important for two reasons. First, people would have a vested interest in knowing where the tomb was in order to visit it. Many had been healed or had their lives changed by Jesus’ ministry. It is reasonable to think that they would have an interest in where the gravesite was. This leads credence to the fact that the location of the tomb was known by many. Secondly, there is no report of people hanging around Jesus’ tomb years after his execution. Although it doesn’t “prove” anything, the absence of veneration at the tomb of Jesus does highly suggest that the tomb was empty. In other words, if the tomb was empty, than it would have lost its significance as an object of veneration.

A second, and very powerful, evidence for the empty tomb is the response by the Jewish authorities. The very first, and only, response we have from the Jewish authorities is found in Matthew 28:12-15 which says “And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' "And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble." And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.” Now for a moment let's ignore the rather obvious information presented here, that is, that the Jewish authorities had to bribe the guards to cover the incident up. Instead let’s look at the inferences that can be made from this account. First off, the fact that they were trying to bribe the guards to say the disciples stole the body presupposes that the tomb was empty. If the tomb wasn’t empty, why say the body was stolen? Secondly, this account eliminates the argument of “they went to the wrong tomb.” If the Jewish authorities were bribing the guards, then they not only knew the tomb was empty, but they knew the location of the correct tomb. The fact that the earliest, and only, Jewish response to the empty tomb allows for both the location of the tomb to be known as well as a verification of the tomb being empty provides a very powerful argument in favor of Jesus’ resurrection.

Although the gospel accounts can easily stand up to the toughest scrutiny, there are other accounts outside of the Bible that specifically mention the empty tomb. Justin Martyr, Trypho 108, and Tertullian De Spectaculis 30 are just a few of the sources that validate that the tomb was empty.

As our examination of the empty tomb comes to a close I’d like you to remember what I said in the introduction to this series. First, we need to access what are the facts. So far we’ve investigated the burial account, eyewitness testimony, the Jewish leader’s response and non-biblical sources, all of which independently verify the truth that the tomb of Jesus was empty two days (three by Jewish timekeeping) after his execution. The second thing we need to do is ask ourselves what is the most reasonable explanation of these facts? The way I understand it, there are only two possible explanations for the empty tomb. The first explanation is that it was a human work. But which humans? Jesus’ enemies had the power to empty the tomb, but they had no motive. Jesus’ followers had the motive to empty the tomb, but they lacked the power. I believe the most reasonable explanation to the empty tomb is the second option, that is that God in his incredible and limitless power, raised Jesus from the dead.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Empty Tomb – Part 2

In my last post we examined the accuracy of the burial account. We learned who was responsible for burying Jesus and the implications that knowledge has on the story as a whole. In this post I want to examine the accounts of those that discovered the empty tomb. This is important because we need to know that we have credible testimony as to what really happened.

The Bible presents women as key eyewitnesses to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Now unless this was actually the case, there is no reason to portray anyone other than the disciples as having been there at the cross. If you and I had sat down and were inventing the story of Jesus, would it make sense to include these minor players as opposed to the disciples? After all the disciples were major players during the life of Jesus so why shouldn’t they be major players at his death and burial? It just doesn’t make sense unless it truly happened that way. However the story doesn’t stop there. Mark writes in his gospel (Mark 16:1) the very names of these women! Since the Mark’s account was written so early this has huge implications. By listing these women’s names these women could have easily been questioned about the truthfulness of the event.

But I think there is an even stronger piece of evidence than just the fact the eyewitnesses were known by name. The written record of the empty tomb being discovered by women is unheard of in the ancient world. Now we must look at these records through the eyes of a 1st century Jew. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but women had zero status in ancient Jewish society. Their testimony was considered so worthless that they were not even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in court. So why would the gospel writers state that women were the initial discoverers of the empty tomb unless it historically happened that way? If I were living in that culture at that time and I was making up a story, I would be a fool to use women as eyewitnesses to an event I was trying to record as truly happening. No one would take that account seriously. Instead I would have recorded the disciples as being the discoverers of the empty tomb. But we know the disciples were nowhere to be found but rather were probably hiding, fearful for their own lives, somewhere in Jerusalem. Why would the gospel writers, or even the early Christian church intentionally humiliate its male leaders by recording them as hiding in Jerusalem while mere women carried out the proper burial procedures? I can find no reasonable explanation other than because it actually happened that way. The criterion of embarrassment (that an event is more likely to be true if it is embarrassing for those recording it) strongly supports the historical account of women finding the empty tomb.

So we know that women discovered the tomb empty, but what about the disciples? Well both Luke (24:12, 24) and John (20:3) tell us that both Peter and John went to the empty tomb to investigate it for themselves. Now both Luke and John’s accounts are independent of each other so we have the criterion of Multiple Independent Attestation occurring in our records of their investigation. Secondly, John writes of himself as an eyewitness (John 21:24). Being an eyewitness exponentially increases both the credibility and accuracy of his testimony. Sometimes I am asked why only two of the disciples went to go check out the women’s story. Although we don’t know for sure there are several plausible possibilities. First, the other disciples may not have believed the women (after all, women held no status and no one would believe their friend came back from the dead). Second, maybe the disciples were fearful of their lives so they only felt comfortable sending out two. Thirdly, it’s possible that the women only came across Peter and John and the other disciples weren’t present. Regardless of which reason is true, the important thing isn’t the number that checked out the tomb, but rather that someone did in fact go and check it out. It seems to me that it is more implausible to think they would have stood by, listened to the women’s account, and not gone to check it out.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – The Empty Tomb – Part 1

The first aspect of the resurrection I’d like to look at is that of the empty tomb. I think the empty tomb is a very powerful argument for the resurrection of Christ. However before we can look at the empty tomb we need to start with the burial account. Looking at the burial account is important for two reasons: First, before we can accept a tomb as being empty we need to know for sure the body was there in the first place and second because if the burial story is fundamentally correct, than the site of Jesus’ grave in Jerusalem was known to both Jew and Christians alike and that has radical implications.

As far as my research shows, the burial account is almost universally accepted by Scholars as being factual. Now this has important implications because you can’t deny the historicity of the empty tomb without denying the historicity of the burial story. The burial account is also part of Mark’s gospel (Mark 15:42-47) and most Scholars agree that Mark’s gospel is the oldest. (Scholar Rudolph Pesch argues that Mark was written within 7 years of Jesus' execution). This is important not only because the older something is the less likely it could have been started by legend but because it allows for the eyewitnesses to still be interviewed.

So how do we know Jesus' body actually made it into the tomb? The Bible states that Joseph of Arimathea is the man responsible for burying Jesus but it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to include incidental details like “he was a rich man.” This is important because we know Jesus was buried in a bench tomb and bench tombs belonged only to the wealthy. We also know that the body had to be in the tomb before the first evening star, otherwise it would defile the entire land. The burial also had to be completed quickly as the Sabbath was coming and no work could be done on the Sabbath. Therefore the burial had to take place late on the day of his crucifixion. Now we know that Jesus died at about 3pm and the Sabbath started around 6pm. Therefore, Joseph of Arimathea probably had servants to assist him in the burial as touching the body would have defiled him for the coming Passover meal. Now let’s think about it, if Joseph had helpers, than more than one person not only knew for 100% where the tomb was, but they also knew for a fact that the body had been put in the tomb. Remember, these men were associated with the Sanhedrin and NOT Jesus’ followers. This leads me to my next point; it is highly unlikely that early Christians would have invented a story involving a practicing member of the Sanhedrin. There was a tremendous hostility towards the Sanhedrin by the early Christians and therefore no reason to attribute the account as such unless it actually happened that way.

Some diehards may still refuse to believe the burial account, but this leads to a major problem; no other burial tradition exists. If Jesus wasn’t buried by Joseph of Arimathea we have no other burial story to go on. Nothing is offered by the Jews, nothing at all. This is hard to explain unless the gospel account is the true account.

So looking back at the details regarding Joseph and his servants, I think it is safe to say we know the body was in the tomb. But I think there is another powerful evidence regarding the empty tomb that we tend to overlook, that is, the geographical origins of the resurrection. Now let’s think about it, it would have been impossible for Christianity to start in a city where Jesus’ body lie. To prove that Christianity was false, all the Jewish leaders had to do was exhume the body for all to see. They wouldn’t have needed to prove the corpse belonged to Jesus as the burden of proof would have then shifted to the disciples. I can’t overstate enough the importance of the location of the origin of the empty tomb narrative. It didn’t begin in some far off land like Rome, or Greece, but it began in the very city the execution and burial took place. The very place where the most independent eyewitnesses could be interviewed. This presents a powerful argument for the historicity of the burial account and the empty tomb.

I think Wilbur Smith said it best when he said “Let it simply be said that we know more about the details of the hours immediately before and the actual death of Jesus, in and near Jerusalem, than we know about the death of any other one man in all the ancient world.”

Friday, April 01, 2005

Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead? – Factors Increasing Reliability

As we begin to look at the historical accounts of Jesus’ triumph over death, there are five factors that increase the reliability of the information we’ll be investigating. I present these factors now because starting with my next post we are going to dive right into our study and I want you to be on the lookout for examples of these different factors. Although none of these factors in and of themselves prove the truth of the information, taken as a whole I think they present a pretty powerful argument.

The first factor is called “Multiple Independent Attestation” or MIA. MIA essentially asserts that if a particular statement or event about Jesus is written by multiple sources and those sources are early, then those events are much more likely that they are to be historically true. Many of the recorded events we have of the ancient world are single source, or only have one record of them. However the Bible presents multiple accounts of the same event. Look at it this way, if you were on a jury determining the fate of the defendant, would you rather have testimony from one witness or many?

The second factor that increases reliability is called “Double Dissimilarity” or in plain english “embarrassment.” In other words, if an event was embarrassing or awkward for the early church, than these are more likely to be historically true. For example, the early church would probably not make up a story about Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. John the Baptist baptized sinners for repentance. Jesus was sinless and wouldn’t therefore need to be baptized. To imply that the Son of God needed to repent was blasphemous. The early church would not make this up.

The third factor that increases reliability is that of eyewitness testimony. The New Testament writers Paul, John and Matthew were all eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:16 “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” On top of that, Mark was a scribe for Peter and Luke was a scribe for Paul. Having eyewitness testimony as opposed to hearsay (third hand information) creates for a much stronger case. Many a criminals have been sentenced based solely on eyewitness testimony.

The fourth factor that increases reliability is the accuracy of the manuscripts. Now I’m not going to go into detail about it here because it is a topic worthy of its own post. However, I will say that we have over 24,000 manuscripts and manuscript fragments of the Bible which is far more than that of any other ancient document. We have so many that the next closest is Homer’s Iliad with 643 copies. A close examination of those manuscripts with the Bible we have today puts the accuracy at about 99.7%.

The fifth and final factor increasing reliability is that of non-biblical sources. Although powerful, the New Testament is not the only record we have of the resurrection. As you will see, there are many records of the resurrection outside of the Bible.