Category Archives: Believable Bible

What Is On My Mind Today: Easter…He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

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                                               He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!
                                                            Resurrection Witnesses

Who are the witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? 

Death, the empty tomb, non-christian witnesses, christian witnesses, hallucinations, and science.

There are four truths about the resurrection of Jesus that are widely accepted by  serious historians.

  • The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.
  • Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.
  • As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its
    the Christian church was established and grew.
  • Without the Resurrection, there would have been no conversion of Saul into the Apostle Paul

Accounts of an historical Jesus, his death, crucifixion and resurrection are recorded within and outside of the Bible.  After Jesus rose from the grave He appeared to friends and foes alike. (The disciples and Saul who later became the Apostle Paul).  Within less than a half dozen years the story of Jesus’ resurrection was recorded within the Jerusalem Church. Far too soon for a legend to develop, and while many eyewitnesses to the events were still alive and available to confirm or deny the story.  There were also eyewitnesses to the conversation of Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus.

Then, there is the empty tomb. Found by women. The people of Jerusalem saw Jesus die on that cross, knew where he was buried and that three days later….that tomb was empty.  The Romans knew it, the Jewish leaders knew it and his disciples knew it. Also, no serious author during that period of history would document that women, whose testimony was worthless, were the only witnesses to a minor event, let alone one of the magnitude as the Resurrection on which the whole of Christianity is based.

Was Jesus ever really dead? 

There is plenty of evidence that Jesus, an historical figure, was crucified on the cross by Romans. But, was he really dead when he left the cross?  Or, was Jesus like the Apostle Paul in the Book of Acts where we are told that Paul was stoned and dragged out of the city and left for dead only to get up and re-enter the city.

Acts: 19-20 

19 And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.

20 Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.”

There is plenty of evidence that both Hebrew and Roman authorities were experts at inflicting and recognizing death. One of the major differences between the events described about Paul and Jesus is that people had prolonged contact with the body of Jesus. They had watched him suffer and breathe His last on the cross, took the body down from the cross and carried Him to the tomb.  All of these events took time.

Jesus hung on the cross for hours before He died and hung on the cross for a time after He died.  We know this because He was the first to die of the three men being executed that day.

Non-Christians who witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion were the first to determine that He was indeed dead.  Roman soldiers knew how to kill and paid with their own lives if they allowed a criminal condemned to death to escape their sentence.  Because of this, Roman soldiers were vicious and meticulous killers that carried out capital orders with enthusiasm and precision. They killed often, well and recognized the signs of death.

John 19:31-35

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”

Roman soldiers would not have hesitated to break the legs of Jesus if there was a sliver doubt that He was not already dead.  Roman ruler Pontius Pilate, who ordered Jesus’ execution, personally certified that Jesus was dead.

Mark 15 43-45

“43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.”

Then, too, John, an eyewitness to the crucifixion, in his Gospel records that water and blood flowed out of the side of Jesus after the Roman soldier pierced him.  In first century Jerusalem, this simple fisherman could not have known he was describing Circulatory Shock.

Circulatory Shock often occurs when a person dies from traumatic injuries. Death causes fluids, blood and water, to build up around the heart and fill the lungs. This fluid accumulation is called Pericardial or Pleural Effusion. It would have been impossible for a first century Jewish fisherman to include this information in his account of the crucifixion for reasons of deception. Therefore, it must be considered a true observation.

It is a Hebrew tradition to bury dead bodies as quickly as possible, usually the same day. Even so, preparing Jesus’ body for burial would have taken a considerable amount of time. His body would first have to be taken down from the cross and the nails removed from His hands and feet.  Then, it would have to have been carried to a burial location outside of the city…a considerable distance.  The body would have been washed and prepared for a traditional Hebrew burial.  Ointments and spices would have been rubbed onto the body, and it would have been wrapped in linen before being placed in the tomb.

There were no undertakers or mortuaries to prepare dead bodies for burial during Bible times. During the first century handling the dead bodies of loved ones and preparing them for burial was a common practice. A tradition born of necessity.  Considering the high infant, child and adult mortality rates during that period of history, Jesus was probably not the first body handled by those who prepared him for burial. These people would have certainly recognized the signs of death.

The first signs of death are the heart stopping to beat and the lungs ceasing to breathe. Soon, other signs of death appear such as Algor mortis, Livor mortis and Rigor mortis.

  • When the heart stops circulating the blood, there is a steady decline in body temperature (Algor mortis). Bodies begin to cool immediately after death.
  • Once the blood is no longer being pumped by the heart, it settles in whatever part of the body that is closest to the ground. When the heavy red blood cells sink they produce large black and blue bruise-type discolorations (Livor mortis or lividity) . This process begins within the first half hour after death and can be seen with the naked eye within two hours.  Size of the discolorations increase over the the next three to six hours, peaking between eight and twelve hours.  After six hours  the marks made by lividity becomes permanent and cannot be altered by moving the body.
  • When breathing stops oxygen becomes depleted and the body can no longer make the adenosine triphosphate reguired to break the actin-myosin cross-bridges that allow muscles to relax. Due to the fact that the actin-mysin bridges are not broken, muscles stiffen and Rigor mortis sets in.  This process affects all of the body’s muscles and begins within the first hours after death.  It becomes initially noticeable in the eyelids, neck and jaw.

The people who carried the body of Jesus to the tomb would have felt His body becoming cold and stiff and seen the marks of lividity.   So, yes, Jesus was absolutely cold stone dead when His body was put into the tomb.

Was the tomb really empty? 

On that first Easter morning women did discover an empty tomb. Even the Roman and Hebrew attempts to deny the resurrection are based on the premise that the tomb was indeed empty.  The very fact that Jewish leaders, hostile witnesses, accused the disciples of stealing the body, declares that the tomb was empty.  Dr. Paul Maier, a former Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University,  says this about the Jewish claim that the tomb was in deed empty, “positive evidence from a hostile source. In essence, if a source admits a fact that is decidedly not in its favor, the fact is genuine.”

Also the existence of the empty tomb is supported by historical authenticity.  The accounts of the burial and empty tomb have linguistic and grammatical similarities indicating that they are the same account. Therefore, if the elements of the burial are accurate, the revelation of the empty tomb would also be accurate.

The Resurrection was first preached by the disciples in Jerusalem, the same place that Jesus had been crucified and buried.  They could not have done this if Jesus’ body was laying in the tomb for all to see. People in Jerusalem knew where Jesus was buried. If the tomb was not empty the message of the Resurrection would have been disproved on the spot and the disciples declared lunatics and liars. The spreading of the Christian faith would not ever have occurred.

Then, too, there is Joseph of Arimetha.  He is the man who is named in the Gospel of Mark who went to the Romans to ask for Jesus’ body.

Mark 15:42-46
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock.

Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, was a member of the Jewish Sanhedrein.  This council would be something equivalent to our nation’s supreme court.  Its members would have been very well-known and respected.  Mark’s gospel was written within the first decade after the death of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea, his friends and family would have still been alive. If Mark’s account had it not been true, it would have been quickly exposed by Joseph of Arimathea, the Christian-hostile Sanhedrein and many others who would have relished exposing Christians as frauds.

Furthermore, it was a custom during the first century to set up shrines at the sites where holy men’s bones were buried.  History tells us that there were a least 50 such sites when Jesus was alive.  Many people believed that Jesus was a very holy man and prophet, and they knew where Joseph of Arimathea had buried his body.  Yet,  Jesus’s tomb was never made into a shine. Why?  Because His bones were not there.

Last but certainly not least, the criterion of embarrassment tells us that the story of the empty tomb is real, because no first century Jew in his right mind would expect anyone to believe anything said by a woman. The testimony of women during that time period was considered absolutely worthless.  The only reason for the Biblical writers to say that women discovered the empty tomb, was, like it or not, they did.

Yes, the tomb was empty.

Who were the first people to see the risen Jesus? 

There were many witnesses to the Resurrection.  Non-Christian sources include: the  empty tomb itself; the Roman soldiers ordered to guard the tomb: Jewish officials who began spreading rumors that the tomb was in deed empty, because Jesus’ disciples had, in spite of armed, war-trained Roman guards, had stolen the body,  and the conversion of Saul (Apostle Paul.)

The Apostle Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 15: 3-8

“3 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: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

What the Apostle Paul was saying when he wrote this is that many of those who were eyewitnesses to the resurrection were still alive.  If you don’t believe me, go ask them.

Is there a difference between an apostle and a disciple?

Yes. The Davis Dictionary of the Bible says that an apostle had to be an eyewitness of the events of the life of Jesus.  An apostle had to have seen Jesus after the resurrection.  A disciple is a more general term used for a follower, pupil or scholar of a public figure.

Who were the women who discovered the empty tomb?

Mark 16: 1 and 2 

“And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.”

Who were the twelve apostles?

Andrew, Bartholomew, James the Elder, James the Lesser or the Younger, John, Judas, Jude or Thaddeus, Matthew or Levi, Peter, Philip, Simon the Zealot, and Thomas Didymus.

The following biographical information is provided at: http://www.bibleinfo.com/en/questions/who-were-twelve-disciples

Andrew

Andrew was the brother of Peter, and a son of Jonas. He lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum and was a fisherman before Jesus called him. Originally he was a disciple of John the Baptist (Mark 1:16-18). Andrew brought his brother, Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40).

According to tradition, it was in Achaia, Greece, in the town of Patra that Andrew died a martyr. When Governor Aepeas’ wife was healed and converted to the Christian faith, and shortly after that the Governor’s brother became a Christian. Aepeas was enraged. He arrested Andrew and condemned him to die on the cross. Andrew, feeling unworthy to be crucified on the same-shaped cross as his Master, begged that his be different. So, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is still called Saint Andrew’s cross and which is one of his apostolic symbols. 

Bartholomew or Nathanael

Bartholomew Nathanael, son of Talmai, lived in Cana of Galilee. His apostolic symbol is three parallel knives. Tradition says he was a missionary in Armenia. A number of scholars believe that he was the only one of the 12 disciples who came from royal blood, or noble birth. His name means Son of Tolmai or Talmai (2 Samuel 3:3). Talmai was king of Geshur whose daughter, Maacah, was the wife of David, mother of Absolom.

Bartholomew’s name appears with every list of the disciples (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14; Acts 1:13). This was not a first name, however; it was his second name. His first name probably was Nathanael, whom Jesus called “An Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile” (John 1:47).

The New Testament gives us very little information about him. Tradition indicates he was a great searcher of the Scripture and a scholar in the law and the prophets. He developed into a man of complete surrender to the Carpenter of Nazareth, and one of the Church’s most adventurous missionaries. He is said to have preached with Philip in Phrygia and Hierapolis; also in Armenia. The Armenian Church claims him as its founder and martyr. However, tradition says that he preached in India, and his death seems to have taken place there. He died as a martyr for his Lord. He was flayed alive with knives.

James the Elder

James, the Elder, Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John the Apostle; a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem. He preached in Jerusalem and Judea and was beheaded by Herod, AD 44 (Acts 12:1,2). The New Testament tells us very little about James. His name never appears apart from that of his brother, John. They were an inseparable pair (Mark 1:19-20; Matthew 4:21; Luke 5:1-11).

He was the first of the twelve to become a martyr. 

James the Lesser or the Younger

James, the Lesser or Younger, son of Alpheus, or Cleophas and Mary, lived in Galilee. He was the brother of the Apostle Jude.

According to tradition he wrote the Epistle of James, preached in Palestine and Egypt and was crucified in Egypt. Still another tradition says that he died as a martyr and his body was sawed in pieces. The saw became his apostolic symbol.

John

John Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of James, the Apostle. He was known as the Beloved Disciple. A fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem, he was a member of the Inner Circle. He wrote the Gospel of John, I John, II John, III John and Revelation. He preached among the churches of Asia Minor. Banished to the isle of Patmos, he was later freed and died a natural death. (The only apostle to do so.)

John was one of the prominent Apostles. He is mentioned in many places in the New Testament. He was a man of action; he was very ambitious; and a man with an explosive temper and an intolerant heart. His second name was Boanerges, which means son of Thunder. He and his brother, James, came from a more well-to-do family than the rest of the 12 Apostles. Since his father had hired servants in his fishing business (Mark 1:20) he may have felt himself above the rest. He was close to Peter. They were acting together in the ministry. Peter, however, was always the spokesman for the band.  

Judas

Judas Iscariot, the traitor, was the son of Simon who lived in Kerioth of Judah. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and afterwards hanged himself (Matthew 26:14,16).

It is said that Judas was a violent Jewish Nationalist who had followed Jesus in hope that through Him his nationalistic flame and dreams might be realized. No one can deny that Judas was a covetous man and at times he used his position as treasurer of the band to pilfer from the common purse. There is no certain reason as to why Judas betrayed his master; but it is not his betrayal that put Jesus on the cross-it was our sins. 

Jude or Thaddeus

Jude, Thaddeus, or Lebbeus, son of Alpheus or Cleophas and Mary. He was a brother of James the Younger. He was one of the very little-known Apostles and lived in Galilee. Tradition says he preached in Assyria and Persia and died a martyr in Persia.

Jerome called Jude “Trinomious” which means “a man with three names.”

It is said that Jude went to preach the gospel in Edessa near the Euphrates River. There he healed many and many believed in the name of the Master. Jude went from there to preach the Gospel in other places. He was killed with arrows at Ararat. 

Matthew or Levi

Matthew, or Levi, son of Alpheus, lived in Capernaum. He was a publican or tax collector. He wrote the Gospel that bears his name. He died a martyr in Ethiopia.

It was a common custom in the Middle East at the time of Christ for men to have two names. Matthew’s names mean “a gift of God.” The name Levi could have been given to him by Jesus. It is likely that James the lesser, who was one of the twelve Apostles, was Matthew’s brother, also the son of Alpheus. 

Of all the nations in the world, the Jews were the most vigorous haters of tax gatherers. To the devout Jew, God was the only one to whom it was right to pay tribute in taxes. To pay it to anyone else was to infringe on the rights of God. The tax collectors were hated not on religious grounds only but because most of them were notoriously unjust.

In the minds of many honest, Jewish men, these tax collectors were regarded as criminals. Such was Matthew. Yet, Jesus chose a man all men hated and made him one of His men. 

Matthew was unlike the other Apostles, who were mostly fishermen. He could use a pen, and by his pen he became the first man to present to the world, in the Hebrew language, an account of the teaching of Jesus. 

Peter

Simon Peter, son of Jonas, was a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum. He did evangelistic and missionary work among the Jews, going as far as Babylon. He was a member of the Inner Circle and authored the two New Testament epistles which bear his name. Tradition says he was crucified, head downward, in Rome.

In every apostolic list, the name Peter is mentioned first. However, Peter had other names. At the time of Christ, the common language was Greek and the family language was Hebrew. So his Greek name was Simon (Mark 1:16; John 1:40, 41). His Hebrew name was Cephas (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5 and Galatians 2:9). The Greek meaning of Simon is rock. The Arabic meaning of Cephas is also rock.

By trade, Peter was a fisherman. He was a married man (1 Corinthians 9:5) and his home was Capernaum. 

Among the twelve, Peter was the leader.  It is he who saw Jairus’ daughter raised to life. Yet, it is he who denied Christ before a maiden. He was an Apostle and a missionary who laid down his life for his Lord. It is true, Peter had many faults, but he had always the saving grace of the loving heart. No matter how many times he had fallen and failed, he always recovered his courage and integrity.

Peter was martyred on a cross. Peter requested that he might be crucified head downward for he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died. His apostolic symbol is a cross upside down with crossed keys.

Philip

Tradition says that disciple Philip preached in Phrygia and died a martyr at Hierapolis. Philip came from Bethsaida, the town from which Peter and Andrew came (John 1:44). The likelihood is that he, too, was a fisherman.

The Gospel of John shows Philip as one of the first to whom Jesus addressed the words, “Follow Me.” When Philip met Christ, he immediately found Nathanael and told him that “we have found him, of whom Moses … and the prophets, did write.”

Nathanael was skeptical. But Philip did not argue with him; he simply answered, “Come and see.” This story tells us two important things about Philip. First, it shows his right approach to the skeptic and his simple faith in Christ. Second, it shows that he had a missionary instinct.

It is said that he died by hanging. While he was dying, he requested that his body be wrapped not in linen but in papyrus for he was not worthy that even his dead body should be treated as the body of Jesus had been treated. 

Simon the Zealot

Simon, the Zealot, one of the little-known followers called the Canaanite or Zelotes, lived in Galilee. Tradition says he was crucified.

Simon was a fanatical Nationalist, a man devoted to the Law, a man with bitter hatred for anyone who dared to compromise with Rome. Yet, Simon clearly emerged as a man of faith. He abandoned all his hatred for the faith that he showed toward his Master and the love that he was willing to share with the rest of the disciples and especially Matthew, the Roman tax collector.

Simon, the Zealot, the man who once would have killed in loyalty to Israel, became the man who saw that God will have no forced service. Tradition says he died as a martyr. His apostolic symbol is a fish lying on a Bible, which indicates he was a former fisherman who became a fisher of men through preaching.

Thomas Didymus

Thomas Didymus lived in Galilee. Tradition says he labored in Parthia, Persia, and India, suffering martyrdom near Madras, at Mt. St. Thomas, India.

Thomas appeared in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:2-16), in the Upper Room (John 14:1-6) where he wanted to know how to know the way where Jesus was going.

In John 20:25, we see him saying unless he sees the nailprints in Jesus’ hand and the gash of the spear in His side he will not believe. That’s why Thomas became known as Doubting Thomas.

By nature, Thomas was a pessimist. He was a bewildered man. Yet, he was a man of courage. He was a man who could not believe until he had seen. He was a man of devotion and of faith. When Jesus rose, he came back and invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints in his hands and in his side. Here, we see Thomas making the greatest confession of faith, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas’ doubts were transformed into faith. By this very fact Thomas’ faith became great, intense and convincing. 

Who replaced Judas Iscariot?

Either Matthais or Joseph Barsabbas also known as Justus were chosen by their fellow apostles to replace Judas.  Lots were cast to choose one. The lot fell to Matthias and he was elected.  (Acts 1:15, 26). Matthias was with Jesus since His baptism until his resurrection.  According to historical sources Matthias lived til 80 A.D. and was stoned to death.  After his stoning he may or may not have also been beheaded.  A burial marker for Matthias is located in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Apsaros.

The title “apostle” was not limited to the twelve, for Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and James (the Lord’s brother, Galatians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 15:7) were called apostles also.

What changed the disciples of Jesus from scared bunnies into fearless lions? 

The disciples had hoped that Jesus’ would be king of a kingdom here on earth and that He would destroy the powerful Roman government.  After Jesus was crucified His disciples were frightened.  They feared for their own lives.  They were confused and disappointed.  They scattered.

Yet, all of a sudden they were all ready and willing to die for what they knew to be true.  Jesus was alive and had risen from the grave. The Resurrection itself is what emboldened these terrified humans. Obviously these people no longer had a fear of death for they began proclaiming the Resurrection of Jesus right in the very streets of Jerusalem. A city filled with eyewitnesses and the authorities who had so recently sentenced Jesus to death. These simple men were well aware of the fact that they were openly opposing both Roman and Hebrew authority.  They were all willing to pay the price for that. 

Acts 5:17-40

“The priests and the captain … came up to Peter and John … They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead…They seized Peter and John… put them in jail…When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished… “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked’.. (Acts 4:1-16)
‘Then the high priest and all his associates,… arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. …they were furious and wanted to put them to death….They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.” 

The twelve disciples were not the only people to witness the risen Jesus.  He appeared to entire groups of people and to Saul (Apostle Paul), a Jewish Roman citizen known for his unrelenting persecution of early Christians.  Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

“3 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: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.And last of all he was seen of me.” 

This passage of New Testament Scripture is part of the earliest known Christian statement of faith or creed.  Jewish Scholar Pinchahs Lapide, Jewish theologian and Israeli historian, says that this creed “may be considered the statement of eyewitnesses.”

Just because the disciples appeared to sincerely believe that they saw Jesus after his death doesn’t necessarily mean they really did.  There are three possible reasons for the disciple’s behavior: they were lying; they hallucinated; or they really saw the risen Christ.

Did the disciples lie about the Resurrection?

In today’s world we have all seen people willing to die for causes that are lies. However, these people truly believe that the lie is truth.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the disciples would have known that to say so, was a lie.  Therefore, they would not have been dying for a lie they believed with their whole hearts to be true, they would have been dying for a lie, that they knew was a lie.  It is impossible to believe the disciples, to a man, would so bravely give up their lives and suffer so much pain and persecution for a known lie.

Easter quote

Charles Wendell “Chuck” Colson, Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint. He served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973.

Even if the disciples, who never sought political power, were crazy enough to give up their lives for a known lie.  I can assure you that after working for politicians and government for almost two decades, no reasonable person would believe that human beings, sane or not, could have all remained on the same page, as they traveled independently throughout the known world and successfully covered up such a lie. Just think of all of the recent leaks to the media regarding the current President.  Impossible!

Could the disciples have been deceived by an hallucination?

Most historical scholars concede that at least the disciples sincerely and completely believed that they had seen Jesus alive after he had been killed on the cross. Could the disciples have been deceived by an hallucination?  After all, they had been were under intense emotional distress.

The very descriptions of Jesus’ appearances discount the hallucination theory.  Hallucinations are individual experiences, not group projections. People cannot share dream experiences and they cannot share hallucinations.  Unlike the flu or colds, neither dreams or hallucinations transfer from one individual to another.

Nor, does the hallucination theory explain Apostle Paul’s experience with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus which occurred three years after the first reports of the Resurrection.  It is not reasonable to think that the mind of Paul, a persecutor of Christians, conjured up a vision of Jesus, in front of his guards, that was so intense that it blinded him for days and changed his life forever.

Nor, can the hallucination theory explain the empty tomb.

Then, too, the disciples did not just “see” or “hallucinate” the risen Lord.  They experienced Him. They spoke to Him and He spoke to them. They touched the wounds in His hands, feet and side; and ate, drank and walked with Him. The disciples believed that they had experienced the risen Jesus, because they had.

The most believable explanation for what turned a pack of quaking fearful cowards into fearless preachers of the Resurrection of Jesus, is that they did in fact experience the risen Lord.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Was Jesus the promised Messiah? 

Old Testament prophecies centuries before Jesus’ birth predicted his life, death, and resurrection.  The highly respected scientist Blaise Pascal describes these prophecies as, “tangible proof” for people who want evidence that God exists. These prophecies provide specific details about Jesus and His followers over which they had no control.  For example, Psalm 22:16, written centuries before the Romans invented crucifixion describes the piercing of Jesus’ hands and feet.

Psalm 22:16 

“16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.”

There are over 350 prophesies in the Old Testament about Jesus.  These texts are not little bits and pieces of information gleaned from Scripture by Christians to support their narrative.

I know that Jesus, was an excellent  scholar of the Scriptures. He would have certainly  known about the prophesies about the Messiah.  Now, maybe a person facing certain and painful death at the hands of the Romans maybe could have remained silent in front of their accusers to fulfilled prophesy. However, Jesus did not and could not chose the type of death he would suffer. Nor, could he control whether or not he would be beaten and flayed by guards. It was highly likely that Jesus, a Jew, would have died from the Hebrew sentence for death which is stoning, and not by crucifixion as foretold in the Old Testament.

And, Jesus was already dead when the rich man Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and placed it in his own tomb.  Isaiah 53: 9. “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death;” 

The purpose for Jesus’ life, His physical appearance, the reason for His Crucifixion, His silence before his accusers, His physical beating before His death, and the meaning of His Resurrection is all foretold by Old Testament prophet Isaiah hundreds of years before the events occurred.

Isaiah 53 

“53 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. 

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. 

12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

Can Science disprove the Resurrection? 

Ian Hutchinson, professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, offers three hypotheses regarding the Resurrection.

Hypothesis one: There wasn’t a literal bodily resurrection, because that contradicts the laws of nature. Jesus’s spirit may have lived on while his body remained in the tomb.

Hypothesis two: There was in fact a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Hypothesis 3: Those that believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus were brainwashed as children.

It is important to note that Professor Hutchinson discovered his Christian faith as a young adult and did not grow up in a home that taught the resurrection of Jesus. He came to faith as an undergraduate at Cambridge University and was baptized in the chapel of Kings College on his 20th birthday.

Professor Hutchinson writes,

“My Christian colleagues at MIT – and millions of other scientists worldwide – somehow think that a literal miracle like the resurrection of Jesus is possible. And we are following a long tradition. The founders of the scientific revolution and many of the greatest scientists of the intervening centuries were serious Christian believers…”To explain how a scientist can be a Christian is actually quite simple. Science cannot and does not disprove the resurrection. Natural science describes the normal reproducible working of the world of nature. Indeed, the key meaning of “nature”, as Boyle emphasized, is “the normal course of events.”

“Miracles like the resurrection are inherently abnormal. It does not take modern science to tell us that humans don’t rise from the dead…Maybe people were more open then to the possibility of miracles than we are today. Still, the fact that the resurrection was impossible in the normal course of events was as obvious in the first century as it is for us. Indeed that is why it was seen as a great demonstration of God’s power.”

“Science functions by reproducible experiments and observations. Miracles are, by definition, abnormal and non-reproducible, so they cannot be proved by science’s methods.”

“If science is not able to adjudicate whether Jesus’ resurrection happened or not, are we completely unable to assess the plausibility of the claim? No. Contrary to increasingly popular opinion, science is not our only means for accessing truth…a bare presumption that science has shown the resurrection to be impossible is an intellectual cop-out. Science shows no such thing.”

Professor Hutchinson is a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He may not be an eye-witness, but he, dozens of his colleagues, and all born-again Christians are Resurrection witnesses. For they have studied scripture, asked hard questions and through much soul searching and thought have come to believe that Jesus, God’s only son, did in fact rise from the dead on Easter morning.

Today is Good Friday, a day that Christian’s all over the world observe Jesus’ death on the cross. Sunday will be Easter, a day that celebrates Jesus’ Resurrection and victory over sin and the grave.  If you have never read the parallel gospels accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, I encourage you to do so.  (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16; Luke 24: 1-44; John 20:1-29)

I invite you to learn more about the Christian faith and a just and loving God who keeps his promises by reading His holy word in the Bible.  If you are new to the Bible, begin by reading the Gospel of John in the New Testament.

I pray that you will consider accepting the risen Lord, Jesus Christ as your personal savior.  It isn’t hard to do.  The Apostle John beautifully simplifies why Jesus died and explains how everyone can be assured of eternal life.

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Yes, Jesus has risen, He has Risen deed!  Happy Easter! 

 

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What Is On My Mind Today: Intelligent Design? The Bible, Science and Scientists

I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses


                                                       Intelligent Design?
                                              The Bible, Science and Scientists

J. Richard Gott, born in 1947, is a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University. He developed two cosmological theories: time travel and the doomsday argument.  Once when Professor Gott was asked if he believed in God, he answered, “I’m a Presbyterian. I believe in God; I always thought that was the humble position to take. I like what Einstein said: “God is subtle but not malicious.” I think if you want to know how the universe started, that’s a legitimate question for physics. But if you want to know why it’s here, then you may have to know—to borrow Stephen Hawking’s phrase—the mind of God.”

Few topics today are more misunderstood and controversial than the relationship between religion and science.  Religion and science are not mutually exclusive. They are merely different due to their very nature.  Science seeks knowledge about the world and its behavior.  Religion is about morality, God and the afterlife. Science studies the natural world, not the supernatural. Science is about how. Religion is about why. As the highly respected physicist Albert Einstein once said,”Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

Surprisingly, the early church encouraged the quest for scientific knowledge. In fact, it was the early church that promoted and financed initial interest in studying science.  According to James Hannam, PhD, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge,

“Christians believed that God created the universe and ordained the laws of nature. To study the natural world was to admire the work of God. This could be a religious duty and inspire science when there were few other reasons to bother with it. It was faith that led Copernicus to reject the ugly Ptolemaic universe; that drove Johannes Kepler to discover the constitution of the solar system; and that convinced James Clerk Maxwell he could reduce electromagnetism to a set of equations so elegant they take the breathe away.”

There is much false information about the church and science.  For example, the church did not teach that the earth was flat.  Nor, did Christopher Columbus believe it to be so.  Flat earth theory is not found in the bible, the exact opposite is true.

The prophet Isaiah, whose writings are dated to between 740-680 B.C., clearly declared the earth to be a circle over 300 years before Aristotle.

Isaiah 40:22

“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:”

Early scientists found scientific clues within the pages of their Bibles.  Job, the oldest book in the Bible, was written around the 6th century B.C.  Several of its verses relate directly to major scientific discoveries that did not occur for thousands of years.   Such as:

– Light can be parted and transmit sound.

Job 38: 24 and 35

24 By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?

35 Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?

– At a time when people in cultures all over the world believed that the earth was supported in the heavens by being carried on the back of elephants who were standing on top of a turtle, or that the heavens were being supported on the back of a Greek fellow named Atlas, the Bible states,”


Job 26:7

He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.

– The writer of the book of Job, most likely lived in a desert and did not have much deep-sea diving experience. Yet, his writings tell us that there are springs on the bottom of the oceans, a fact that was not discovered until the 20th century.

Job 38:16

16 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

– Isaiah an Old Testament prophet includes a reference to the infinite expansion of the universe, which also was not discovered by science until the 20th Century.

Isaiah 40:22

“It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:”

There have been some famous clashes between the church and science.  The story of Galileo springs to mind.  Galileo Galilei lived from 1564-1642.   He was a devout Catholic all of his life and remained devoutly Christian even after he was accused of being a heretic, because he agreed with Copernicus that the earth was not the center of our solar system.   To the end of his days Galileo believed, “that the glory and greatness of Almighty God are marvelously discerned in all His works and divinely read in the open book of Heaven.”

Galileo’s disagreement with the church was never over faith-based messages, but the Church’s attempts to restrict freedom of thought and scientific inquiry.  The church eventually changed its tune regarding scientific inquiry. During the middle ages, the church paid monks, friars and priests to attend university and required them to study math and science.
By the 17th century Jesuit monks led the world in the fields of scientific discovery and publication.  In fact, some of the great cathedrals were designed to act as observatories to study the night skies.  And, the field of modern genetics began in a monastic garden by a monk growing peas.  Until the 18th Century (1700s)  the leading sponsor of scientific research was the Catholic Church.
Many of England’s oldest universities were established by the church. One of the first was a college founded by the Celtic cleric StIlltyd in about AD 500Oxford University was established by the church and in the year 1209, so was Cambridge University.  The University of Edinburgh was founded by the Presbyterians.

Of the first 108 colleges to be established in America, 106 were started by religious organizations.  There were 246 colleges at the beginning Civil War in 1861. Of these, 17 were state-funded institutions. The rest were all founded by religious organizations or individuals.  Eighty percent of the colleges in the United States were church-related by 1881. By 2001 higher education schools acknowledging religious association dropped to 20 percent (approximately 980 institutions).  Of the nearly 1,000 religiously affiliated colleges and universities, 65 are associated with the Jewish faith.

Many of our nation’s most well-known colleges were founded by the church.

Harvard College was named after the minister John Harvard and was founded in 1636 to educate Congregation and Unitarian clergy.   An original rule of the school was, “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”

The college of William and Mary was founded in 1691 by Reverend James Blair.

Yale University was founded in 1701 by Congregational ministers.

Princeton was founded in 1746 by Presbyterians.  The college’s first president, Reverend Jonathan Dickinson declared, “cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

The “Digest of Educational Statistics, 2000,” records that there are over 1.5 million students enrolled in religion-affiliated colleges and universities which are sponsored by over sixty-six different religious groups.  Many of these campuses are liberal arts colleges. However there are medical colleges, professional schools, two-year colleges, theological seminaries, and Bible colleges. Their ranks include major research universities such as Notre Dame.

So who are these scientists that believe in God?

Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), called the “the pathfinder of seas,” is considered the father of modern oceanography.  Maury proved that the ocean actually contained paths where ocean currents and winds helped ships move faster.

Maury was born in 1806 in Spotslyvania County, Virginia, and moved with his family to Franklin, Tennessee when he was five. Maury’s interest in the ocean was the result of his hero-worship of his older brother, a Flag Lieutenant in the United States Navy.  Unfortunately, the much idolized older brother contracted yellow fever during his military service and died.  After his brother’s death, Maury’s father forbid him joining the Navy.  That did not stop the young Maury.

The famous Sam Houston, the only man to be elected governor of two states, Tennessee and Texas; serve in the U. S. Senate;  elected as the first and third President of the Republic of Texas and the only governor within a future Confederate state to oppose secession, was a friend of the Maury family.  Houston used his considerable influence to get Maury, age 19, an appointment to the Navy.

Maury entered the Navy as a midshipman. He instantly began to learn methods of navigation and to study the seas. The warship he was assigned to, the USS Vincennnes, was the first U. S. warship to circle the world.
Maury’s ocean going days ended when he was 33 years-old and severely broke his leg in a stagecoach accident.  It was after this accident that Maury’s research into the ways of the oceans really began.
The story about Maury and his quest to find the Bibilical “paths of the seas.” Is found in, “A Brief Sketch of the Work of Matthew Fontaine Maury”, authored by his son, Richard Launcelot Maury.

 

“At one time, when Commodore Maury was very sick, he asked one of his daughters to get the Bible and read to him. She chose Psalm 8, the eighth verse of which speaks of “whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea.” He repeated, “The paths of the sea, the paths of the sea. If God says the paths of the sea, they are there, and if I ever get out of this bed I will find them.”

And so, the ancient Biblical text from Psalm 8:8, written thousands of years ago inspired the future father of oceanography.  From that point on, Maury focused his research on studying navigation, meteorology, winds, and currents.  He pored over thousands of ships logs and charts.  He found “the paths of the sea.”

In his publication, “Wind and Current Chart of the North Atlantic”  (1847), Maury showed that by using ocean currents and winds, “The paths of the sea“, travel times for ocean voyages would be greatly reduced, and they were.  Some voyages were reduced by weeks. “The paths in the sea” Maury discovered and charted are still used today and have become major trade routes.

In Maury’s comprehensive work on oceanography published in 1855, “Physical Geography of the Sea” he wrote,

“I have always found in my scientific studies, that, when I could get the Bible to say anything on the subject it afforded me a firm platform to stand upon, and a round in the ladder by which I could safely ascend.”

 

When participating in laying the cornerstone for East Tennessee University on November 30, 1860 Maury said,

“I have been blamed by men of science, both in this country and in England, for quoting the Bible in confirmation of the doctrines of physical geography. The Bible, they say, was not written for scientific purposes, and is therefore of no authority in matters of science. I beg pardon! The Bible is authority for everything it touches.

What would you think of the historian who should refuse to consult the historical records of the Bible, because the Bible was not written for the purposes of history?

The Bible is true and science is true, and therefore each, if truly read, but proves the truth of the other. The agents in the physical economy of our planet are ministers of Him who made both it and the Bible.”

 

Many other famous scientists from history were believers in an almighty God. Their ranks include:

  1. Leonardo Da Vinci  (1452-1519)Leonardo Da Vinci, raised Catholic, is probably the most talented and celebrated genius in human history.  He was a powerful two-brainer.  Both the artistic and analytical sides of his brain were highly developed and used.  While, modern popular portrayals of Da Vinci often show him as anti-God, he was always a Catholic.  At the end of his life, as he faced death, Da Vinci sought to strengthen his relationship with God.
  2. Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
    Polish astronomer Copernicus was the first to discover that earth’s system of planets circle the sun.  A strong believer in God, he was made a canon in the Catholic church in 1497, and presented his theory of our planetary system to Pope Clement VII in the Vatican gardens in 1533.
  3. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1627) Famous philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon life’s goals were to discover truth, render service to his country and church. He is credited with discovering and establishing scientific method.  Scientific method, the basis for the study of science today, studies the natural world through experimentation and reason.  Bacon believed in God and rejected atheism.  He wrote,“It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion; for while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.”
  4. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
    Kepler, a brilliant mathematician and astronomer, studied light and the laws of planetary motion.  Well before Sir Isaac Newton was born, Kepler came very close to solving the concept of universal gravity.  He was a committed christian and a pious Lutheran.
  5. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
    Descartes known as the father of modern philosophy was also a mathematician and scientist. He is famous for his conclusion, “I think therefore I am”. A Roman Catholic, Descartes had a strong lifelong faith in God.  God was central to his philosophy.  Like Sir Francis Bacon, Descartes used scientific method.  He used it to try an establish the near certainty of God’s existence.  He believed that, “only if God both exists and would not want us to be deceived by our experiences – can we trust our senses and logical thought processes.”   Even today science cannot explain human consciousness and perception, although scientists in the field of quantum mechanics are trying.
  6. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
    Roman Catholic Blaise Pascal a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and writer is known for discovering the theory of projective geometry.  He also established the foundation for probability theory, the principles for vacuums and air pressure.  In 1654 a religious vision changed the course of his studies from science to theology.  Pascal’s influential defense of Christianity, “Pascals Wager” was published after his death. His last words were, “May God never abandon me.”
  7. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
    Sir Isaac Newton the discoverer of gravity also studied optics, mechanics and math. He is regarded as an undisputed genius.  Newton was also devoutly religious.  God was central to his systems of physics, nature and the absoluteness of space.  In the words of Newton, “The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
  8. Robert Boyle (1791-1867)
    Robert Boyle studied chemistry and discovered “Boyle’s Law” for gases.  He was a devout Christian protestant  His theological view, that the study of nature is a religious duty, was published in 1690 in his work, “The Christian Virtuoso”.   In his day he defended his faith against atheists.
  9. Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
    Michael Faraday was one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century.  He revolutionized the study of physics with his research on electricity and magnetism. Faraday was devoutly Christian and a member of the Sandemanians, a Christian sect that originated within the Presbyterian church.
  10. Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
    Mendel was a monk who laid the mathematical foundations for genetics by conducting experiments in the monastery’s garden.
  11. William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907)
    Kelvin is regarded by most modern physicists as the scientist of the 19th Century who had the greatest influence on modern physics.  He is ranked with Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Kelvin, along with his fellow physicists George Gabriel Stokes and James Clerk Maxwell were were committed Christians in a time when anti-Christian sentiments were on the rise.
  12. Max Planck (1858-1947)
    Planck is best known for quantum theory.  His work in quantum mechanics revolutionized the understanding of the the atom. In a 1937 lecture titled “Religion and Naturwissenschaft,” he stated that God is present everywhere.  He felt that atheists attached too much importance to symbols. Planck, like Einstein, was most likely a Deist, believing in an almighty, all-knowing and loving God, but, not necessarily a personal one.  He believed that science and religion wage a, “tireless battle against skepticism and dogmatism, against unbelief and superstition” with the goal “toward God!”
  13. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
    Einstein is probably the most famous and highly respected scientist of the 20th century.  Eisenstein did not express a belief in a personal God, he did however recognize the impossibility that the universe was not the result of a divine intelligence.  Einstein’s view of God was that God reveals himself within the harmony of nature.  He once told a young physicist, “I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”

Many famous and current scientists believe in God.

“According to 100 Years of Nobel Prizes a review of Nobel prizes award between 1901 and 2000 reveals that (65.4%) of Nobel Prizes Laureates, have identified Christianity in its various forms as their religious preference. Overall, Christians have won a total of 72.5% of all the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, 65.3% in Physics, 62% in Medicine, 54% in Economics.

The notion that scientists are or must be atheists and that atheism is a modern invention is a myth.  Atheists have existed since man first discovered God. Whether it is about atheists or anything else, there really is nothing new under the sun. As King Solomon, the son of Kind David, wrote, thousands of years ago in the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes,

Ecclesiastes 1:9

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Great scientific minds, whose work spans centuries found their faith strengthened by what they discovered as they studied natural law and phenomena. They discovered order.  Einstein’s famous comment about the”uncertainty principle” probably says it best, “God does not play dice”.

What Is On My Mind Today: Historical Jesus? Non-Biblical Evidence

I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

good
Jesus Calming the Storm, by Patricia Turgeon

 

                                                              Historical Jesus?
                                                        Non-Biblical Evidence

There is an overwhelming amount of historical and archaeological evidence available to show that the New Testament is a reliable historical document.  The New Testament contains extensive scripture references about, to and from Jesus Christ. However, if you still have doubts about the veracity of the Bible, I believe that it is fair to ask if there are non-biblical sources that provide evidence of a historical Jesus? Yes, there are.

Few people know the names of non-biblical authors from antiquity that document the existence of a historical Jesus.  However, many of us have heard of the Romans and their Christian killing, blood thirsty Emperor Nero.

In July of A.D. 64, the same year that the Romans executed Apostles Paul and Peter, the city of Rome was destroyed by fire.  Nero, who is thought to have set the fire himself, needed a scapegoat…he chose Christians.  Roman historian Tacitus recorded,

“Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.”

What does this reference tell us?  First, that Christians were named after a historical person called Christus, which is Latin for Christ.  The extreme penalty suffered was obviously Roman execution by crucifixion. His crucifixion occurred during the reign of Tiberius, and he was sentenced to death by Pontius Pilatus.  All of these details about Jesus are recorded in the Gospels.

Tacitus refers to “a most mischievous superstition,” which began in Judaea and had spread to Rome.  This is indirect testimony that Christians believe Jesus rose from the grave.  What abominations had Christians committed?  They did not worship Emperor Nero or Roman gods, but only the one true God.  And, Christians were accused of cannibalism, because they participated in sharing the body (bread) and blood (wine) of Holy Communion.

Within the Roman empire the Christian doctrine acknowledging the divinity of Jesus and following his teachings was extremely revolutionary.  Christians promised to follow God’s moral laws and the teachings of Jesus to love their neighbors as themselves at a time when Rome’s chief import was sand to soak up the blood of the human victims sacrificed in the Colosseum for sport and entertainment.  For a time, Roman’s actually imported more sand to soak up blood than grain to feed its citizens.

In an 112 A.D letter from the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor Phiny the Younger to Emperor Trajan, Phiny asks for direction on legal proceedings against Christians.  He felt impelled to ask for the Emperor’s advice because there were multitudes of Christian believers of every age, class, and sex.  In this letter Pliny shares information about early Christians,

“They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

Phiny’s words “they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god”, illustrate that early Christians acknowledged Jesus’s divinity.  When he says that Christians sang to Christ, “as to a god,” he is pointing out that unlike other gods, Christ had been a person who had lived on this earth.  His reference that Christians, “partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind” is a repudiation of the claim that Christians practiced cannibalistic rituals.

A collection of Jewish rabbinical writings dated from between 70-200 A.D. called the Babylonian Talmud also contain references to Jesus.  The Talmud is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism. It is the primary source of Jewish religious law and theology.  In nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud is the foundation to Jewish cultural life.

The Talmud would clearly be a biased source against Jesus and yet it agrees with most of the major events of his life: being conceived out of wedlock, gathering disciples, making blasphemous claims about himself, and working miracles.  However, the Talmud attributes Jesus’s miracles to sorcery and not to God.

The Talmud says that,

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald . . . cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.” 

What does this quotation reveal? First, “Yeshu” is the Hebrew pronunciation of Jesus.  Secondly, it confirms that Jesus was crucified on the eve of Passover. The term “hanged” is often used as synonym for the word “crucified”.  The New Testament uses the word “hanged” instead of the word “crucified” multiple times.

Luke 23: 32, 33, 39

32 And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

“39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”

Acts 5:30

 

“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.”

 

Acts 10:39

“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree”

What about that bit about the cry of the herald for forty days that Jesus was to be stoned?  Jewish leaders felt threatened by the message of love and justice that Jesus preached. They plotted for a long time against him and made no secret of the fact that they wanted him killed.  In those times, a death sentence rendered by Jewish law was carried out by stoning. Fearing that Jesus’s followers would revolt against Jewish authority, should they condemn him, Jewish leaders took him to Pilate. To be crucified, and fulfill Old Testament prophecy, Jesus had to be condemned by Roman law.

The references about Jesus practicing sorcery would refer to his miracles and the charge of apostasy…Jesus claiming to be God’s son.  It was for this last claim that he was sent to the cross.

Evidence from Lucian

Lucian of Samosata was a second century (200 A.D.) Greek. He wrote this snarky description of early Christians :

“The Christians . . . worship a man to this day–the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.”

Lucian does not mention Jesus by name, but obviously that who he is writing about.

Probably the most well-known non-biblical references about Jesus and the origins of Christianity are those recorded by first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus.

Josephus a scholar, historian and hagiographer was born in Jerusalem to a father of priestly descent and a mother claiming royal ancestry.  His writing entitled, Antiquities of the Jews, is dated to around 93-94 A.D.  It contains references about Biblical Jesus and  John the Baptist, a great prophet and Jesus’s older cousin.

The first reference about Jesus is found in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3.  The text is called the “Testimonium Flavianumand says,

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvelous things about him, and the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”

This version of the text is found in Josephus manuscripts as early as the third-century.  Scholars agree that Josephus wrote the core message about Jesus, but they suspect Christians made complimentary additions to his text at a later date.  Josephus would not have believed or stated publicly that Jesus was the Messiah or that he rose from the dead.  If he had, Josephus could not still have claimed to be a non-Christian Jew.

In 1972, Professor Schlomo Pines of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem announced the discovery of a manuscript translation of this text by tenth-century Melkite historian Agapius.

“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”

This version of the the text is considered to be more in line with what Josephus may have originally wrote.  He could have made this statement and remained a non-Christian Jew.

Josephus’s other reference to Jesus is found in Book 20, Chapter 9, 1.  A vast majority of modern scholars believe that this text is authentic.

Josephus wrote,

“Having such a character (“rash and daring” in the context), Ananus thought that with Festus dead and Albinus still on the way, he would have the proper opportunity. Convening the judges of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, whose name was James, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned. But those of the city residents who were deemed the most fair-minded and who were strict in observing the law were offended at this. Accordingly, they secretly contacted the king [Herod Agrippa II], urging him to order Ananus to desist from any more such actions, for he had not been justified in what he had already done. Some of them even went to meet Albinus, who was on his way from Alexandria, and informed him that Ananus had no authority to convene the Sanhedrin without his consent. Convinced by these words, Albinus wrote in anger to Ananus, threatening him with punishment. And King Agrippa, because of this, deposed him from the high priesthood, in which he had ruled for three months.”

The New Testament tells us that Jesus did in fact have a brother named James.  James was stoned to death by Jewish authorities.

There is almost unanimous agreement among modern scholars that Josephus’s reference in Book 18, Chapter 5, 2 to the imprisonment and death of John the Baptist is authentic.

Non-biblical sources proof that,

John 1: 14

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today: Believable Bible: The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

I have decided write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

Bible read me

                                                    Believable Bible?
                  The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

I spent all of last year reading the entire Bible. The Bible is not easy to read, especially the Old Testament.  The text itself can be hard to understand and many of the events described disconcerting.  I know that there are parts of it, I will never understand.  I even read the Old Testament Book of Numbers chapter, line and verse.  After completing the first chapter of the Book of Numbers,  I learned two things.  Its precise details spoke to authenticity, and it became incredibly clear to me that I was never meant to be an accountant.

The Bible was never intended to be a “proof” of God, similar to a mathematical proof. It was meant to contain mysteries beyond human understanding. The Bible is the revelation God. His power, wisdom, strength, justice and love.

After reading the Bible, it became clear to me that conceptually….I am to an ant, as God is to me.  An ant cannot understand the power and scope of my universe, anymore than I am able to understand the power and scope of the realm of God.  An ant may not know of my existence, but I certainly exist and know about the ant.

Faith in God is about believing in the unseen. That may seem like a lot to ask, but we believe in many things we cannot see.  When I was a Christian preschool teacher each spring I would prepare a lesson about how air is like God.  The children couldn’t see air, but that did not make air any less real.  If they stood in front of a fan, they could feel air.  If I whistled they could hear air. To see air we needed…a balloon.  The balloon showed the children that air is a real thing.  The Bible is the balloon of God.

God provides plenty of proof of his existence throughout the Bible through witness accounts, allegory, parable and prophesy fulfillment.   Historians use many different tools to evaluate the accuracy of the scriptures such as corresponding archaeological evidence and other external sources.

Archaeologists have discovered in non-biblical sources the names of Biblical kings, government officials, cities and celebrations. For example, in the Gospel of John we are told that Jesus healed a cripple beside the Pool of Bethesda. The Bible describes that there were five walkways (porticoes) leading to the pool.  For many years historians did not believe that the pool even existed. Then, the pool and its five walkways were found forty feet below the ground.  In the Book of Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands.  All of which exist.

When there is a lack of archaeological evidence or documents to support the accuracy of a primary source, a historical analysis tool called the criterion of embarrassment can be used. The criterion of embarrassment states that recorded accounts that would be embarrassing to the author are presumed to be true, because it would be counterproductive for the author to promote embarrassing accounts about themselves.  In other words, people can be counted on to put their best foot forward.

Biblical characters have far-too many embarrassing human faults to be considered glorified herculean heroes. Many of the accounts of their lives are of the most embarrassing sort.  Therefore, critiquing them by using the criterion of embarrassment would indicate that we are reading truth.

Here is a very small sample of embarrassing Old Testament stories. The great King David was an adulterer and murderer. Noah got so drunk that he was found naked by his sons. And, then there is the story of Lot’s daughters. They got their father drunk so that he’d have sex with them and get them pregnant.  Yes, incest. The gals were successful in their endeavors.

The New Testament fares no better. The Apostle Peter, the rock the church was to be built upon, denies Jesus three times in public, within ear and eye shot of Jesus himself, then runs away crying.  When Jesus was arrested a fellow lost all his clothes and ran away naked.

Mark 14: 51-52

“51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

The Apostle Paul escapes his enemies by being lowered out a window in a basket. Even, the account of discovery of the empty tomb on Easter morning would have been horribly embarrassing and a hard sell to first century Jews.  Women made the discovery!  Their testimony wasn’t even taken seriously in a court of law at that time.

Biblical characters were not made-up figments in the imaginations of the 40 different authors who wrote the Bible over 1,500 years (1450 B.C. the time of Moses to about 100 A.D. following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ).  There are so very many extensive and precisely detail lineages within the Bible. These folks existed and they experienced all of the joys, fears, anxieties, sorrows and vices of humankind. And, in spite of all of their human faults and weaknesses, God got his work done through them anyway.

The Bible was completed almost two-thousand years ago, around 100 A.D. If you go online you can read the Bible in over 150 different translations.  So, it is fair to ask whether or not modern Bibles are accurate translations of original text.  Is today’s Bible still the message God wanted shared?

Today’s Biblical translations are made from original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts.  In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in a cave in Israel.  These scrolls contained Old Testament scripture that was 1,000 years older than any other known Biblical manuscript. When known manuscripts, including modern ones, were compared to the Dead Sea Scroll text it was in total agreement 99.5%.  The differences were all minor and had no effect on messaging.  The differences included minor spelling variations, such a missing or incomplete letters and sentence structure changes that had no effect on the meaning of the sentence.

However, the Dead Sea Scrolls are not the oldest Old Testament text ever found.  In a First Temple period burial tomb near Jerusalem in 1979, an excavation lead by Gabriel Barkay found two small silver scrolls.  The scrolls were dated to the 7th century B.C., the time of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah and King Josiah. Four centuries before the Dead Sea Scrolls.

It was a challenge to unroll the small silver scrolls without damaging them.  It took three years just to unroll the largest scroll which was about three inches long when unrolled.  Inside the scroll were very delicate engraved words.  The first word that was recognized was “YHWH”….Jehovah.  This is God’s name in the Hebrew Bible.  The scroll’s 19 lines of small Hebrew writing was an almost a word for word copy of a very familiar ancient priestly blessing found in the Old Testament Book of Numbers.

Numbers 6:24-26

“The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

There are great gaps of time between the writing and the dates of first known copies for most ancient writers.  There also very few known copies of these works. Even those of Plato, Caesar, Aristotle, and Homer.  Yet, few doubt or question the accuracy or reliability of the publications by Plato, Caesar, Aristotle or Homer.

Plato wrote “The Republic” about 380 B.C.  The earliest know copies are dated from 900 A.D. ….1,300 years later.  There are just seven copies in existence.  Caesar’s Gallic Wars” were penned between 100-44 B.C. There are ten known copies of this work, all of which are dated almost 1,000 after it was written.   The works of Aristotle were published between 384 and 322 B.C.  The earliest known copy is dated 1100 A.D., a span of 1400 years.  There are only 49 copies in existence.  Homer’s Illiad was written in 990 B.C. It’s earliest know copy is 400 B.C., a gap of 500 years.  There are only 643 known copies.

The original writing of the New Testament is better preserved than any other ancient manuscript. There are over 5,000 whole or partial Greek manuscripts of the New Testament all dated within 50-225 years of its writing. Over 24,000 if you include those of other languages.

When it came to Scripture, scribes (monks) were meticulous in their copying of original manuscripts. They checked and rechecked their work, to make sure it perfectly matched. If there was a mistake, they had to start the whole thing over again.

The New Testament was written between 50-100 A.D.  The earliest known copy was found with the Dead Sea Scrolls in Cave 7.  At that site a fragment of the Gospel of Mark was found by Jose Callahan.  It has been dated to have been written in A.D. 50. Less than 25 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  At the same site, fragments of the Book of Acts and other books of the New Testament where also discovered and dated to have been written shortly after 50 A D.

Fragments from the Gospel of John, (John Rylands Papyrus) have been discovered that date within 40 years of being penned.  The Chester Beatty Papyrus is a nearly complete copy of the New Testament and has been dated within 100-150 years of its composition. The Bodmer Papyri contains most of the Gospel of John, and dates to A.D. 200.  Should all of the manuscripts of the New Testament have been destroyed, the entire New Testament, with the exception of 11 verses, could be reconstructed through the recorded quotes of early Church fathers.

From the Rylands Papyri, found in Egypt, dated to 130 A.D, we can reasonably conclude the this gospel was completed long before 130 A.D.  We know this because it had to be written, hand copied, and had to travel from Greece to Egypt. Since, most scholars agree the the Gospel of John was the last to be written, this papyri would affirm that the entire New Testament Gospel was completed in the first century after Jesus’s crucifixion.

It is believed that most of the writing in the New Testament was completed twenty to forty years before the end of the first century.  The gospels are traditionally dated as follows:  Gospel of Mark A.D. 60;  Gospels of Matthew and Luke between 60-70 A.D. and the Gospel of John between the years of 90-100 A.D.

Both internal and external evidence supports these early dates.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke prophesy the fall of the temple in Jerusalem.  This event occurred in A.D. 70.  Yet, none of these first three gospels mention this catastrophic event in Jewish history.  Since, they had prophesied this event, one would think they would have staked a claim to the accuracy of the prophesy, had it occurred prior to the completion of their writing.

Luke, wrote both his gospel and the Book of Acts.  He ends the Book of Acts by noting that the Apostle Paul is alive and well, and preaching about the risen savior.

Acts 28:30-31 

“30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”

Both Apostles Peter and Paul died martyrs in around 67 A.D.  The book of Acts does not record either man’s death.  So the Book of Acts must have been completed before that date and Luke’s Gospel was completed before the Book of Acts.

Most New Testament scholars concur that Paul’s epistles date from A.D. 48-60. The details he provides about the life of Jesus are consistent with those of the gospel writers.  In his first letter to the the Corinthians in Chapter 15, Paul summarized the gospel as told by its writers.  In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul actually quotes from the Gospel of Luke, indicating that the Gospel of Luke was certainly completed before Paul was killed in 64 A.D.

1 Timothy 5:18

“18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

Luke 10:7

“7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. “

There are also external sources that help provide an early date for the New Testament.  An early father of the church, Clement of Rome, wrote a letter to the church in Corinth in A.D. 95. In that message he quoted not only from the gospels, but also from other portions of the New Testament.  Before he was martyred in Rome in 115 A. D., the Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius, drafted a letter using quotes from all of the gospels, as well as some of the other New Testament letters.  By the second century church fathers were so familiar with the text of the apostle’s writings that they quoted them as scripture.

Why are early dates for the New Testament so important. There are two reasons:

First, the closer an event is to its historical record, the more likely it will be that the record is accurate.  When the New Testament, including the gospels were written, eyewitnesses to the life and death of Jesus were still alive to attest to the truth of the text.  The writers of the New Testament were either first-hand witnesses to the events surrounding Jesus or they were very close companions to, first hand witnesses.  Their accounts had to be and are supported by chronological and geographic fact.

Author Dr. Colin Hemer painstakingly reviewed each and every verse in the Book of Acts to determine the accuracy of the history written by its author Luke.  In just the final 16 chapters, Dr. Hemer identified 84 facts that have been collaborated by archaeological and historical research.

Second, the documented early dates of the New Testament is too short of a time period for legends to have developed.  Historians agree that it takes over eighty years, or more than two generations, for legendary accounts to become established.  Legends tend to be made up after all of the first generation witnesses and those that they directly shared their first-hand accounts with have died off.

The four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were readily accepted by early Christians because their accounts readily agreed with the common knowledge known about Jesus. People were still alive who had met Jesus, heard him speak, knew of his healing powers, ability to perform miracles and had seen him after he had risen from the dead. Matthew and John personally knew Jesus and had traveled with him for more than three years. Mark and Luke, were close associates of the apostles and recorded what they had directly learned from them.  Their accounts would have been easily fact checked.

Luke wrote in the Book of Acts, ““This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses”

John noted, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

He also wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life … These things we write.”

A reasonable person could conclude from presented evidence, and there is so much more, that Jesus did exist and the Bible is authentic, accurate and reliable.

2 Peter 1:16

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty”

 

 

 

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

I have decided write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:

What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Believable Bible?…The Criterion of Embarrassment and Translation Accuracy

Historical Jesus?…Non-Biblical Evidence

Intelligent Design?….The Bible, Science and Scientists

He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses

Easter morning

                                 What is Easter?….A Promise Fulfilled By A Loving God

Easter, like Christmas, is a celebration of the Christian religion.

What is a Christian?  A Christian is a person that believes that there is one almighty God.  That God created humans, humans did not create God. That every human being is a child of God, created in his image and to be valued. All humans are imperfect sinners and have fallen short in the eyes of God.  That Jesus Christ, God’s only son, willingly gave up his life on the cross to save our souls from eternal punishment. That only by having faith in Jesus and being the recipients of his grace will we enter heaven for an eternity.

John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

You may be asking yourself isn’t that rather non-inclusive? No, it is not.  The invitation to find eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ is for everyone. You cannot complain that you were excluded from attending the party, if you chose to reject the invitation.

Matthew 11: 28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

How can you tell if someone is a Christian?  They walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  The Bible clearly teaches that actions speak louder than words.  The activities and character traits listed below by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians explains quite well what is and is not the behavior of a born again follower of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5: 18-23

“18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5: 22-23 was the scripture that my confirmation pastor wrote in my Bible…..he underlined “self-control.” He knew me well.

The Story of Easter actually begins in the Garden of Eden with God’s gift of free-will and the first sin.

God loves us with a love so deep that it is beyond comprehending.  He could have created humans as cute pets or made it impossible for humans not to love him.  God did not want more pets, he wanted companionship…a genuine loving mutual relationship.   For love to be genuine there has to be choice.  So of all the animals on earth, humans were endowed with free-will…the choice to love or not to love God.

You may be pondering that if God is all about love, why is there evil? God did not create evil.  There can be no understanding of good, without the contrast of bad.  Love cannot exist without evil.  I know that concept may sound strange. However, when God gave us the freewill to choose to love him or not, he had to allow the possibility for evil.  Humans created evil when they chose to disobey God.  Self-importance and wanting to be a god, caused our separation from God. Then, as now we certainly did not suffer from an excess of humility.

God always keeps his word and is pretty straight forward explaining the consequences of our actions.  Even in the Garden of Eden, God told Adam exactly what would happen if the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was eaten.  Adam and Eve would die.  I know that many theologians teach that there was no death on this earth before the fall.  I have always questioned that, since Adam had to know what death was, for it to be a deterrent.

Genesis 1: 16 -17

“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

What were Adam and Eve thinking? God gave them a whole garden in a perfect paradise, minus one tree, couldn’t they be content or happy with that? Of, course not, they had to go for the forbidden fruit.

Adam and Eve bought into satan’s argument that forbidden fruit was a better deal than their relationship God. In that one fateful moment paradise, perfection and peace was lost. Our choice, never God’s will. So, it was human arrogance, not the will of God, that introduced into this world disaster, disease and death.

And so sin, or evil, came into this world and separated us from God.

What is sin? Sin is any thought, word or deed that disrespects God or harms our fellow human beings.

Matthew 22: 37-40
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So what did Adam and Eve learn from disobeying God? That there is a big difference between being a parent and a friend.  Parents discipline their children and hold them accountable.  Adam and Eve learned that there were consequences for actions.  Paradise was lost to them.  God informed them that their lives would now include hard work, physical pain, and death. Then, God, hurt and angered by their betrayal, lovingly made his wayward fallen children garments from animal skins to cover their nakedness.

Before, God read Adam and Eve the riot act, he first cursed satan.

Genesis 3: 14-15

“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.

15 And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

The woman’s offspring that God promised would  “crush” satan’s head, was going to be his only son Jesus.

From that point on, God reassures humanity throughout the old testament that he has not forgotten his promise of a savior. Abraham, chosen by his faith, was promised that the savior would be one of his descendants.  As, was King David.  Major and minor prophets foretold of Jesus’s birth, ministry and death on a cross.

It is interesting to note that the Old Testament was completed by 450 B.C., hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus.  Within its pages are over 300 prophesies about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

What are the odds of that?  Well…..
1 person fulfilling 8 prophecies is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 and
1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies has 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power, therefore one person fulfilling hundreds of prophecies really leaves nothing to chance.  Click here to view a list of the biblical prophesies about Jesus.

Whereas, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, Easter recognizes the fulfillment of God’s long ago promise in the Garden of Eden, to send a savior to once and for all destroy death.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus always knew that his mission on this earth was to die on the cross. On several occasions Jesus told his disciplines about his upcoming death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Matthew 17: 22-23

“22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.”

 

Matthew 17:9

“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 

Of course, the Jewish leaders who had persuaded Pontius Pilate to crucify Christ had, had enough trouble with this self-proclaimed Son of God.  They did not want any rumors started that Jesus really had risen from the dead.  So to prevent any type of mischief, they procured guards from Pontius Pilate and sealed off the tomb with a large stone to ensure no one could steal Jesus’s body.  It is important to note that at that time in history it was common knowledge among soldiers that if you failed at your post, you probably could expect to forfeit your own life.  Guarding was serious business.

Matthew 27: 62-66

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

 

The first Easter morning was on the third day after Jesus was killed on the cross.

Matthew 28: 1-10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Sometimes, I’m not sure what good God sees in any of us, but I do know from reading the scriptures that God exists, he keeps his promises and is the very definition of unconditional love.   If you want to find God, know Jesus and experience, “The peace that passes all understanding”, open a Bible and begin reading the Gospel of John. 

Yes, Jesus has Risen, He has Risen indeed!