The Bible, OT and NT, has been questioned for many years. The Christian fait has been victim of several accusations regarding its veracity and reliability as a historical document. Some how, the Bible has been able to survive and advance against all criticism. The amount of evidence we find and have to support what the Bible says goes far beyond what any other ancient document has. The evidence is not only archeological, but also scientifically validated. When compared to other religions one particular characteristic separates Christianity and makes it different. Not only the amazing stories from the OT, but the NT and particularly Jesus Christ is what came to change the course of religion forever. Many try to discredit the Bible but when they find themselves without any strong prove to do so; the most common thing to do is attack the person of Christ, his claims, and his resurrection. Many have tried to label Him as a great teacher or a great prophet, others of not being God, but when we read what Jesus said, and who he said he was, we have no other choice than to believe that He was the Son of God, otherwise he would be a liar and made the greatest scam in history. One of the most fascinating particulars of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection makes Christianity different from other religions, not only because of the resurrection itself but also because of the amount of evidence to prove it.
As I mentioned before, the Bible is a historical document, the NT is validated by not only the Bible, but other non-Christian sources validate what the Gospels say happened. “Quite simply, we have more witnesses to the text of the New Testament than to any other ancient Greek or Latin literature” (Strobel, pp. 215). Between Greek, Latin, and other languages we’ve got 25,000 to 30,000 handwritten copies of the NT. When we talk about the resurrection, we are not relying on anything else but in the evidence found in the NT. After having explained in a few words how the Bible is reliable, we have no other choice but to believe what it says about the resurrection.
Through history it has always been admitted that the tomb was empty, Jews have only tried to explain why the tomb was empty. Trypho, a Jew, said in the second century:
“One Jesus, a Galilean deceiver …we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven” (Dialogue with Trypho, by Justin Martyr).
This is only one of many examples that talk about what happened from an outside point of view, but that makes sense with what the Bible says. So if we have an empty tomb, validated by non-Christian sources, what choices do we have to explain such thing? Resurrection? Body was stolen? The Bible, since it is historically reliable, gives answers to the empty tomb.
At the time of Christ’s crucifixion, the Jews were under the Roman dominion and the Romans handled the crucifixion of Jesus. If we would say that the disciples stole Jesus’ body, as Trypho described it, we need to explain how the disciples could steal it going over the Roman guard outside the tomb. And if this would have happened, some romans would have known and would have written about the delinquent incident against their authority. The disciples not only would have had to sneak and go over the guard, but also they had to continue to lie about Christ’s resurrection and even die for that lie. All the disciples died and suffered for the sake of Christ, they preached Christ’s resurrection and that brought persecution not only for them but also for Christians and their message. If they had stolen the body of Christ, it is most likely that at least one would have backed up and confessed before being killed by crucifixion, sword, or stoned. To make my point let me compare this to the Watergate scandal. Chuck Colson, former aide to President Nixon and founder of Prison Fellowship, went to prison over this scandal. As he explains the Watergate scandal in Geisler’s book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist he says:
“Watergate involved conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States—the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned state’s evidence, that is, testified against Nixon, as he put it, ‘to save his own skin’” (Geisler, pp. 493).
He later says that this cover lasted only two weeks. Could you imagine face crucifixion as a consequence of hiding Jesus’ body? If Peter could deny Jesus before, couldn’t he deny him now that the punishment was greater? Something supernatural must have happened to give the disciples so much boldness to even die for the Gospel.
So, the disciples could not have been the authors of such scam, but what if someone else removed the body? Someone like the Jewish or Roman authorities. This is totally impossible, if this would have been the case, I am sure they would have produced it for everyone to see. That would have been the perfect condition to discredit Christianity and the resurrection of Christ. As we know, Christianity faced persecution but if they would have been behind the “scam” of the empty tomb, persecution would not have been needed; all they would have had to do is expose the body and embarrass the Christian promoters’ message. All these are theories that try to discredit the real reason for the empty tomb.
The NT also describes many appearances of Christ after the resurrection, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul gives a list of some of those who saw Christ: Peter, the twelve, 500 brethren at once (most still alive when Paul wrote this), James, and Paul himself. When referring to the 500 brethren, I find interesting that most were still alive when Paul wrote about the appearance of Christ. If they knew Paul was writing a lie, we should have many writings about the scam. But we don’t have anything that contradicts Paul’s account of Christ’s appearances.
It is hard for me not to get spiritual when talking about Christ’s resurrection. And even though I will try to stay in historical facts, I can’t do so without mentioning the incredible transformation that the disciples experienced after Christ resurrected. It not only validates the promise Jesus talked about when he said that they would receive power, but also proves once again that the resurrection was as real as the evidence of the promise. Take Peter as example, the very one that denied Christ, a few chapter later after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the upper room preaches a message and thousands are transformed too. Peter’s life was not the same, he must have seen Christ resurrected, otherwise there is no way he would have had the boldness and courage to die for Christ. And what about Paul? He persecuted the Christians, what could have transformed him in such a way that he turned around to preach Christ resurrected? Only something supernatural; Jesus. Paul’s teachings are still strong foundation in the Church today. Only the resurrection could have had such an impact in Paul’s life.
But probably one of the most incredible transformation is the one from James, Jesus’ brother. I can’t imagine him living and growing up with Christ besides him and doubting him. The Bible don’t talk much about it, but I guess there was some jealousy, who knows. The interesting thing is that after the resurrection, James was also transformed, so changed that he even died stoned for the sake of Christ. Again, only something incredible as the appearance of Christ could have changed him in such a way.
If the resurrection would have been an invention, I believe we would not have seen such an increase and spreading of the Gospel as we saw in the early Church. Many customs changed and persecution took place, but no one could discredit that Christ had resurrected. No prove at all was found. The Jews used to worship on the Sabbath, but we see that after the resurrection, the early Christian Jews started to worship on Sunday’s as part of the resurrection celebration. Easter also was incorporated and the art of the early Christians was now consisting of crosses as remembrance of the resurrection. The resurrection is consistent with Jesus’ life and with all that he said he would do. Immediately after the resurrection, we see a unique exaltation of Christ as Lord of Life. The Christian Church propagation, and growth increased and history changed.
Without the resurrection, Christianity becomes the greater scam of history; such scam has never been proved. So what does the resurrection prove? It proves that Jesus was (and is) who he claimed to be, the Son of God, God in flesh. It confirms the atonement and it shows that He can overcome death.
The empty tomb is not prove enough about the resurrection, even the disciples were not convinced (with the exception of John) that Jesus had risen from the dead. Nevertheless, the appearances erased all doubts and turned the disciples lives into lives of commitment to peacefully preach the Word with boldness.
We need Jesus, and we need an encounter. If I may, I would like to make an application here, many Christians today have not experienced an encounter with Christ. We live in a different time and we must exercise faith since we will not see Christ as the disciples or the 500 did. However, I believe Christ through His Spirit is revealed to those who seek Him. After erasing all doubts about the veracity and realness of God’s word, it is necessary to pray for that encounter and yes declare it by faith but I believe a confirmation will be given to those who seek Him.
I believe in God, in Jesus Christ and His resurrection. I believe He gave his life for me on the cross and that on the third day He rose from the death, that it is only through Him that I can be saved. What a great savior and hope we have in Christ. Not only our faith is what sustains us, but also an incredible amount of evidence that proves that our faith is real and solid. History, archeology, science, all these prove the realness of the Bible, God, Jesus, and His resurrection.
Martyr, J. Dialogue with Trypho.
Strobel, L. (2007). The Case for the Real Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Turek, N. L. (2004). I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.