I tend to spend a lot of time contemplating Christian apologetics I have realized. We live in a pretty turbulent period of history, so I guess it is quite relevant. Arguably, I should also spend time contemplating the Reformation or Romans, in order to pass this semester, but I’m sure I will do fine…I just find apologetics fascinating.
Recently I have been preparing for a paper on the Resurrection of Christ, particularly focusing on the circumstantial evidence for it. Circumstantial evidence simply refers to what happened as a result of the Resurrection. Hence, I narrowed my thoughts to three main arguments:
1. There would not have been such a response within the lives of the disciples and other apostles if the Resurrection had not happened;
2. The Christian church would not have grown, had the resurrection never occurred; and
3. The tomb would not have been empty if Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Before unpacking those a bit more, I want you to understand several absolute facts. The following facts have been attested by ancient and contemporary, Christian and atheist historians:
- Jesus lived.
- Jesus was crucified.
- Jesus was buried in a tomb, dead.
- The tomb was empty.
- The disciples’ attitudes changed completely, and believed Jesus to have risen.
- The church grew out of the belief in the resurrection.
Firstly, the bible tells us that after Jesus died, his disciples became filled with despair. They felt lost and absolutely hopeless. They locked themselves away from the Jews, some even fled. However, a few days later their attitudes had completely changed, no longer depressed, but filled with joy, proclaiming Jesus had come back from the dead.
Something happened to change their attitude.
It was very unlikely that a few sympathy cards and boxes of chocolates caused such a radical change in behavior. In fact, they believed so desperately that Jesus had come back from the dead, that they were willing to become martyrs. There is no way that they would declare Christ’s resurrection to their death if it was a story, a lie. They believed it 100%. We have ancient historical records from historians such as Josephus, claiming not once did the disciples renounce their faith.
More than this, Paul claims to have experienced the physical Jesus Christ, on the road to Damascus. Paul (or Saul) was a leading persecutor of Christianity and highly ranked and respected Jewish leader. He went out of his way to kill people who claimed to be Christian. He was the least likely person to help the Christian cause. However, all of a sudden he started preaching the news of Christ’s resurrection after claiming to have experienced the physical Jesus.
Secondly, after thousands of years of tradition, the Jewish religion was the least likely religion for another religion to grow out of, especially when this new religion was considered heretical to the older one. The Jews, whilst being a tolerant race (except, of course, when it came to those darn Samaritans), were incredibly patriotic and resistant to accepting any other religion. For thousands of years, the Torah was the only thing they followed, letting no person or idea replace their Patriarchal Fathers talked of in the Hebrew Scriptures. A new, inclusive religion would not sprout from this exclusive religion.
Furthermore, without the resurrection, there would be no Christian faith. The resurrection is the pivotal point in the Gospels. Jesus did not come to die; he came to defeated death. If he had not resurrected, he would have merely been another prophet. Judaism would have continued, waiting for the messiah to come to rid them of their Roman adversaries. Jesus proved Himself to be the divine Christ when he defeated sin and death, resurrecting in physical form.
Thus, it was only because of the resurrection that the Christian church grew. It was the resurrection that convinced the disciples Jesus was the messiah. There is no way the church had not grown, if the early Christians were not adamant Jesus rose from the dead.
Thirdly, if there was no resurrection, why was there no body in the tomb? There was a Roman guard (trained to be killers…and the Romans were serious about their killing) outside the tomb, which had a Roman seal. The tomb belonged to the Jewish leader Joseph, who was known by all. The bible accounts clearly state that the women who found the empty tomb knew the exact place Jesus was buried. Therefore – because of these issues – the women did not get the wrong tomb.
Also, no one would possibly have been able to steal the body. This is because (a) the disciples would not have been able to get passed the Roman guard, and were most probably terrified of breaking the seal (which would have been considered equivalent of attacking Caesar himself, who was considered a deity by the Roman population); and (b) neither the Romans, nor the Jews, were able to produce the body. Producing the body of Jesus would have undoubtedly squelched any new Christian movement – but there was no body. No one – disciple or not – were in a position to steal the body. Nobody move Jesus, but he was not in the tomb.
Further, the primary witnesses of the empty tomb were women. Now I personally have nothing against women, but in those days a woman’s testimony was on the same level as a thief or a slave. No one would ever consider a woman’s testimony reliable. If the empty tomb was merely a story, why would the author have chosen women to be witnesses, rather than men?
Without the resurrection, there would be no Christianity, in my opinion. I hope I have been able to shed some light on the topic, and if you have any comments, opinions or criticisms – Christian or not – please tell me – I would love to hear your thoughts!