Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Historical fact or Conspiracy theory?
‘But then something else happened. Some of them began to say that God intervened and brought him back from the dead. The story caught on, and some (or all – we don’t know) of his closest followers came to think that in
fact he had been raised.’
Bart Ehrman is not alone in his thinking. For many the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead is a conspiracy theory, nothing more than an elaborate hoax. For others, like myself, it is a historical fact, a truth to build your life on.
But how do we know if the Resurrection did or did not happen?
Christianity depends on the resurrection. If proven false, then everything falls apart. The Apostle Paul spells this out for us: ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.’
In other words, everything hinges on the Resurrection. If no Resurrection we are wasting our time, we are giving false hope and living a lie, ‘we are of all people most to be pitied’. It’s crucial then, that we can be certain the Resurrection is true. Of course nonbelievers will say: ‘Prove it! Prove that Jesus rose from the dead.’ That’s only fair, we must be able to give logical and reasonable evidence to the claim that the resurrection is true.
However, the onus is not just on Christians to prove that the Resurrection is true, the onus also rests on nonbelievers to prove the Resurrection is not true. Author and Theologian Tim Keller puts it like this:
‘It is not enough to simply believe Jesus did not rise from the dead. You must come up with a historically feasible alternative explanation for the birth of the church. You have to provide some other plausible account for how things began.’
Christianity is perhaps the most powerful movement the world has ever seen, outlasting ferocious persecution and opposition. In fact, Easter Sunday (the day Christians mark the resurrection) will be remembered and celebrated in almost every language and culture this coming week. If your belief is that the resurrection is not true, you must have an ‘alternative explanation’, for how the church has lasted so long and continues to spread to every corner of the globe.
You must also be able to explain how a bunch of unbelieving, frightened followers were changed overnight into believing, courageous preachers of the resurrection. When Jesus was arrested and executed not one of the disciples could be found – they had lost all hope and given up. Yet a few weeks later they were convinced it was true, so much so they were willing to die for it!
You see if the resurrection is not true then the first disciples invented a story which only got themselves and their followers persecuted and killed. Why would you invent a story that earned you no social status or privilege and rewarded you with no material gain or wealth?
For the next few days I aim to outline some of the evidence for the resurrection.
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