Thursday, December 3, 2020

December 3 The Eyewitness Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection

 Reason #3 The Eyewitness Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection

The facts of history would never lead you to believe that nothing particular happened at Jesus’ graveside or that no actual eyewitness accounts fueled the new religion of Christ.

Eyewitnesses in a time and place—that’s what history is all about. Like good detectives, historians must interview eyewitnesses to establish whether a “suspect” was at a particular place at a particular time when a particular happening took place. They do this because establishing time and place is the time-tested path for arriving at the truth of what happened in the past.

Time: Even die-hard atheists agree that Paul's detailed address on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 was written in about 55 A.D.—within 25 years of Jesus’ death.  So the resurrection story simply has to be at least as ancient as 55 A.D.  Furthermore, the rabbinic formula Paul uses in that passage ("For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received...")  is the traditional Jewish way of indicating that a teacher’s position comes from an already-existing tradition that was handed down to him by others. In other words, the resurrection tradition was handed down to Paul by other eyewitnesses long before 55 A.D. This means we can never escape the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus was being publically preached at the very time when eyewitnesses were still on hand to point out that a commotion surrounding Jesus’ tomb did indeed recently occur in Jerusalem. To avoid the implications of a guarded tomb coming up surprisingly empty, the skeptics of those days would have had to ask eyewitnesses not to believe their eyes.

Place: As the apostle Paul put it when he was being tried for preaching about the resurrection of Jesus, “The king knows of these things, for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Once again, even die-hard atheists acknowledge that Paul proclaimed the resurrection and that he had interactions with a substantial church in Jerusalem in the 50s A.D. And Jerusalem was not a large city! Mark Twain visited Jerusalem in 1869 and said, “A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is.” This means that a person listening to the resurrection message in Jerusalem from the 30s through the 50s A.D. would not have any trouble walking across town to verify whether a Jerusalem VIP buried Jesus, whether the tomb was guarded, whether the tomb came up inexplicably empty, etc. Indeed, the people who lived in Jerusalem at that time undoubtedly already knew these salient points of history because “this thing was not done in a corner.”

Summary: All people are understandably reluctant to believe in miracles and the resurrection of Jesus. And they were reluctant in Jesus’ day, too (bearing in mind that his detractors were numerous enough to orchestrate his public execution). But in spite of this, the account of Jesus’ resurrection took hold at the very time and in the very place (a little place) in which eyewitnesses were on hand to report what they saw. And eyewitness reporting from a particular time and place is the prescribed path for finding historical truth.

The facts of history would never lead you to believe that nothing particular happened at Jesus’ graveside or that no actual eyewitness accounts fueled the new religion of Christ.

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