The Resurrection: 2nd Century Legend? or 1st Century Factual Claim?

Silhouette of Jesus in the sunlight

Easter is just around the corner so thinking about the Christian claim that a man from Nazareth in 1st Century Palestine died and rose from the dead three days later is a timely consideration. The accounts of this event don’t read like mere story or legend. They have all the characteristics of Greek biographies that are to be considered historical accounts.

Many modern scholars accept the Gospels as part of the Greco-Roman biography genre (focusing on the similarities), while others find them uniquely Jewish (focusing on the differences). Overarching this ongoing debate is the apparent intent of the authors to assert a factual, historical narrative.[1] This is true even though they include fantastic claims of miracles and the resurrection and all of the theological statements, most of which are penned as coming from Jesus, himself.

From early to mid-19th Century, much of the biblical scholarship has leaned in a skeptical direction, and that inertia has continued robustly into the 21st Century. That scholarly trend has produced a progressive consensus that has viewed the Gospels, for instance, as 2nd Century manuscripts, written generations after Jesus lived and died, morphing the original message into something akin to legend. And, this, they say, accounts for the message of the resurrection.

This view begins with skepticism and ends with a skeptical conclusion explaining the resurrection claim by embellishment that comes with the passage of time. This was the consensus view when I studied religion in the 1970’s. But one man, wrestling with his own doubts, took the facts the skeptics would give him and pieced together an analysis that seems to nail the coffin shut on the view that the resurrection claim is a later embellishment of what the first followers of Jesus believed.

Continue reading “The Resurrection: 2nd Century Legend? or 1st Century Factual Claim?”

Evidence of the Resurrection

 (c) Can Stock Photo
(c) Can Stock Photo

The resurrection is the centerpiece of Christianity. If Jesus did not arise from the dead, everything is for naught. If He didn’t rise from the dead, he would be just a man. If he was just a man, he wasn’t even a wise man (like Ghandi or Khalil Gibran); he was a madman or a liar because no wise man is confused about his deity.

Most modern scholars accept, at a minimum, that the people who followed Jesus in the 1st Century believed that He arose from the dead and appeared to them in his body after his death. Paul wrote to the people of Corinth, recounting a list of people who had seen Jesus alive after His death on the cross, including more than five hundred (500), some of whom Paul said were still alive.

Think about that: about 35 years after Jesus died, most of more than five hundred people who claimed to see Jesus risen from the dead in his body were still alive.

This is not proof that Jesus arose from the dead, of course, but we can’t just write it off either! Continue reading “Evidence of the Resurrection”