All the criticisms we have examined fall short in refuting the crucifixion and resurrection. They either ignore historical evidence, medical testimony, or eyewitness accounts. Each criticism tries to address one part of the equation, but leaves other events unanswered. With the exception of the theory that the disciples stole the body, the theories do not explain the dramatic change in their lives. They went from a cowardly group of dispirited men to world changers in forty days. The Gospel accounts of the disciples are not flattering. They are presented as doubters, cowards, betrayers, and most of all unable to comprehend what Jesus was teaching. These men believed so firmly, that they would face death rather than recant their testimony. These theories fail to explain why a group of Jews would change their day of worship to Sunday rather than the Jewish Sabbath.
None of these theories address one of the most profound changes ever to take place in a man. They do not account for Saul of Tarsus. This man was a persecutor of the early Christians. When we first meet Saul in the book of Acts he is participating in the stoning of Stephen. Later he is on his way to Damascus to arrest followers of Christ. This was a man whose personality does not lend its self to hallucinations or visions. One not easily deterred from his mission. In his own words he was:
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. Philippians 3:4-6
These are not the words of a man easily dissuaded from his task and yet he became the greatest evangelist the world has ever known, spreading the Gospel to the gentiles. Without an explanation for Saul’s conversion, all criticisms of the resurrection fall short. What caused Saul to become Paul?
Paul is unique from all the other New Testament writers in that he alone is accepted by nearly all critics as reliable and accurate. If what Paul writes is reliable, then his accounts of the resurrection must be taken as reliable. (1)
Finally the criticisms do not take into account the rapid rise of the church. From a small group of believer in Jerusalem, Christianity spread to the world. Dr. James Kennedy in his book Why I Believe (2) writes:
“It is an indisputable fact of history, not faith, that the largest institution in the history of the world began in Jerusalem AD 30 when the Apostles began to preach that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.”
The evidence for the resurrection is there, it is up to each of us to let the world know what we believe and why. Because Jesus commanded it:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19
And God commanded it:
“always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. 1 Peter 3:15
I had originally intended to finish this series this coming Saturday but then thought that Easter would be the best time. If you have been following this series and the comments then you know that I have had three atheists make comments. All were well thought out and are comments usually made by unbelievers. Did I change their minds, I think not but neither did they change my mind. For some there just is not enough proof and never will be. But that does not mean we stop replying to their comments but always in love and respect. The evidence is there for those who chose to believe, after all many atheists have come to believe in God and Jesus once they examined the evidence. Finally, this series was not meant to be an exhausted look at the resurrection. Countless books have been written on this subject. Rather it is an attempt to give believers answers to some of the more common criticisms of the resurrection and hopefully pique you interest in further study.I hope all of you have had a blessed Easter.
1 Gary R. Habermas, “Miracles,” speech delivered to AP10 Class, May 24, to 29, 2004, Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC.
2 D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1980), 108.
WORKS CITED In Series
Braswell, Jr., George W.. Islam Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics and Power. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.
Caner, Emir Fethi and Ergin Mehmet Caner. More Than a Prophet. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2003.
Habermas, Gary R.. The Historical Jesus Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ. Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 2003.
———. “Miracles.” Lecture delivered to AP10 Class, May 24 to 29, 2004. Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC.
Hanegraaff, Hank. resurrection. Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2000.
Hoeller, Stephen A.. Gnosticism New Light On The Ancient Tradition Of Inner Knowing. Wheaton: Quest Books, 2002.
Hugh Shonfield. The Passover Plot. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1965.
Josephus. Josephus The Complete Works. Translated by William Winston, A.M. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 1998.
Kennedy, D. James. Why I Believe. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1980.
McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999.
Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.
Pickthall, Mohammed Marmaduke. “The Meaning Of The Glorious Quaran.” Sacred-texts.com. http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/pick/index.htm. (accessed August 9, 2004).
Ryrie Study Bible New International Version. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.
Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998.