How can anyone believe that a man rose from the dead?!
By Emma Parkin
The resurrection story might just be a fable, an embellishment of the facts, or a kid’s story for some, but many people all over the world will celebrate Easter because they believe Jesus actually rose from the dead.
You might ask or wonder: how can this be? How can people believe this story?
The Case of the Empty Tomb by Josh McDowell outlines the evidence for the resurrection and some alternative theories. Take a look…
“I was there!”
The New Testament accounts of Jesus coming back from the dead were written very soon after the event. Particularly, those that were alive in Jesus’ time would have read them. These people would have had the opportunity to speak up if the claims were false.
Also, those writing the accounts were there themselves or learned what they did from other eye witnesses. The authors stuck to their accounts even in the fiercest of persecution. Surely one of these people would have given in and revealed the truth if it was all a lie?
Dead and buried
Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb with an extremely large stone rolled over its entrance. Roman guards were stationed at the entrance to protect against any attempts to vandalise the tomb.
The empty tomb
The followers of Jesus said he had risen from the dead. Paul (another New Testament writer) claims that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of his followers at one time. The majority of these witnesses were still alive at the time and could confirm what Paul wrote.
What caused the early Christians to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ? These early Christians were beaten, tortured, thrown to the lions, stoned to death and crucified. Every method was used to try to stop them talking. Instead, they gave their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message. No one would give their life for what they know is a lie.
It is only fair to weigh up the evidence with other possible theories and come to a conclusion based on what is thought to be most plausible. Let’s now look at some of the most common objections…
How can we believe anything the Bible says?
One conclusion about the New Testament scriptures are that the stories were based on myths and legends – that over time, events of what happened had been passed on down the generations, like a big game of Chinese whispers, and facts and fiction had been woven together into this fabricated tale.
However, archaeological discoveries have shown that the early manuscripts dated from soon after the time of Christ and no book was written any later than 80 AD. Scholars estimate that Jesus died between 30 and 36 AD. Therefore, there was not enough time for myths to form: the people who had witnessed the events were still alive to confirm or deny what was being said.
Maybe they looked in the wrong tomb?
The Jewish authorities who had sentenced Jesus to die would have had a major investment in ensuring they knew where Jesus’ body was and would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb. This would have squashed for all time any rumour of a resurrection.
Maybe the people Jesus appeared to were just hallucinating?
This view is unsupported by psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations. And again, if people started claiming they had seen him, why wouldn’t the body have just been produced to squash the beliefs.
Maybe Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross?
The swoon theory says that Jesus didn’t actually die but merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. He later revived in the cool tomb and the disciples thought he had risen from the dead. A sceptic David Frederick Strauss (certainly no Jesus-follower) said this: “It is impossible that a being who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, could have given to the disciples the impression that he was a ‘Conqueror’ over death and the grave…..” However, this is what the followers of Jesus believed and based the whole of their lives around.
Maybe the disciples stole the body?
After Jesus’ death, his followers were depressed and afraid. It is highly unlikely they would have summoned the courage to face the soldiers at the tomb. They would then have had to lie to the world about what they had done. Leading lawyer J.N.D. Anderson said: “Nor would it explain their dramatic transformation from dejected and dispirited escapists into witnesses whom no opposition could muzzle.”
If the Jewish or Roman authorities had moved the body, they would have silenced the resurrection story very quickly by wheeling out the body.
Having looked at some of the evidence and the alternative theories, what conclusion would you come to?