Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus

The Crucifixion of Jesus

A copyrighted image of Jesus on the Cross

From time to time I’ll invite friends to contribute posts for discussion on my blog.  My friend Clint Wilson has graciously accepted an invite to share from a talk he did on the resurrection of Jesus as viewed from an historical research perspective.  I hope it can be enlightening in giving reasons why Christians uphold the resurrection as a true event in history.  I will break this up into multiple posts so individual pieces can be discussed/debated without having to respond to the whole piece at once.

I. Importance & Centrality of the Resurrection

 Resurrection is the linchpin of the Christian faith-you can’t have Xty without resurrection.  In the first century we know of multiple messianic or quasi-messianic movements b/c of the records of the Jewish historian Josephus’, a contemporary with many of these movements.  They, like Jesus went about proclaiming the kingdom of God, promising signs of salvation and wonders.  And all of these movements came to an end with the violent death of the key figure or founder.  In the 1st century when your movements leader was executed violently, you could either give up the movement or find yourself a new messiah.  Yet, the jewish groups that followed Jesus didn’t do either of these things.  They continued the movement and said that their recently crucified Jesus was the messiah and was therefore the Lord of the world.  How can we explain this?  Why did this group continue to move forward in promoting the Kingdom of God and say that their leader, who by the way had been crucified on a cross by the Roman empire, was in charge of it all?  The answer that they all gave was that Jesus had been raised from the dead…he had been resurrected.

There are numerous instances in Scripture that indicate the centrality of the cross as a focal point for the Christian experience.  

Proliferation of Resurrection teaching

  1. It was the focal point of the disciple’s preaching
    1. Many doctrines were based upon it
    2. Belief in it is required for salvation (Rom 10:9)
    3. It secured for us an inheritance in heaven (1 Pet 1:3-4)
    4. If it did not occur we are lost (1 Cor 15:17)
  2. It was the evidence that Jesus provided to validate his teachings (Mt 12:38-40; 16:1-4; Jn 2:18-21).  The Resurrection was the chief reason provided by the apostles that Xty is true (Acts 17:2-3, 18, 31; 2:22-32; 1 Cor 15:17)
  3. It is claimed, therefore, that Jesus’ resurrection largely confirms Jesus’ claims, much of xtian doctrine, and the truthfulness of Xty (1 Cor 15:14).

Has the Resurrection fallen on hard times?

 Professor Richard Dawkins of the University of Oxford tells us in The God Delusion that a “serious” historical case can be made “that Jesus never lived at all”.  In The Atheist Manifesto the French philosopher Michel Onfray contends that from start to finish Jesus was “a trick born of a rational mind”.  “At that time,” he assures us, “Jews were not crucified but stoned to death.”  And, finally, in the provocative God Is Not Great Christopher Hitchens speaks of Jesus’ “highly questionable existence” and says of the resurrection: “We have a right, if not an obligation, to respect ourselves enough to disbelieve the whole thing.”  But do we?

 I think that if we look at the historical facts we will see that the alternative theories which would seek to explain away a historically reliable physical resurrection are built on shaky if not unsupported arguments altogether and that that the evidence is in favor of Jesus’ rising from the dead.