I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Christianity and Jesus:
He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!…Resurrection Witnesses
He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!
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.
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.
“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.
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; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 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. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 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.2 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 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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
“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; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 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. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.8 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.
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.
“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.
“53 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 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. 3 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. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 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. 6 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.
7 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. 8 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. 9 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.
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!