The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bedrock of the Christian faith. That is why it has been the target of the most vicious attacks by those who oppose the Christian faith. If the physical resurrection of Jesus can be disproven, then the entire Christian faith comes crashing down. But if the resurrection is true and Jesus Christ is alive today, then at the end of the day, nothing else really matters and He and His cause are worthy of our absolute devotion and faith.
Here are five life-changing truths you should know about the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
1. The Resurrection Is a Historical Fact
A few nights ago, Bill O'Reilly stated that his book Killing Jesus does not contain the word Christ because, he said, "It [his book] is based on history, not faith." His statement revealed a certain mindset, based in liberal theology, that has divorced the Christ of faith from the Jesus of history. Beginning in the 19th century, and driven by modern skepticism, the propagators of this thinking theorized that the Gospels were written not by contemporary eyewitnesses but by later followers of Jesus who embellished His life with all kinds of mythical stories of miracles and a resurrection.
There thus emerged a false dichotomy between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith and a quest by many to find the Jesus of history hidden behind the supposed unreliable stories of the Christ of faith in the Gospels. But let's be clear: There is no dichotomy between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. They are one and the same! The Gospels contain reliable eyewitness accounts of Jesus, His life and His resurrection.
This was the general belief for 1,700 years in the Western world, until the recent advent of modern rationalism and skepticism. Modern rationalistic professors may sit in their stuffy offices indulging in all sorts of speculation about the historicity of the Gospels, but those who have been willing to do the real work of empirical investigation have, again and again, been convinced of the historicity and truthfulness of the gospel account of Jesus and His resurrection.
A Harvard Law Professor Is Convinced
Dr. Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was the Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University and one of the principal founders of Harvard Law School. He authored the famous three-volume work A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which is still considered one of the greatest single authorities on judicial legal procedure. Greenleaf, a nonbeliever, originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believing that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would reveal the myth at the heart of Christianity.
But after months of carefully examining and cross-examining the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable and that the Resurrection did, in fact, happen. As a result, he became a believer and wrote a book entitled An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. Greenleaf concluded that, according to the jurisdiction of legal evidence, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best-supported event in all of ancient history.
A Skeptical Professor and Archaeologist Is Convinced
Sir William Ramsay believed and taught that the New Testament is a second-century document filled with myths and embellishments and not a reliable source of history. He set out to prove this theory by retracing Luke's account of Paul's travels in the book of Acts. He assumed that by carefully examining the places, people, laws and histories mentioned in Acts, he would be able to show all the mistakes and demonstrate with finality that the New Testament does not contain reliable history.
However, after years of archaeological digs and excavations in the cities and locations along Paul's route as recorded in Acts, Ramsay's view of the New Testament was completely changed and he acquired a very high regard for Luke as a historian. He wrote, "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment."
If Luke was this careful to get his facts right about names, places and dates, can we not be confident that he was also careful to get his facts right concerning the more important things about which he reported, such as the resurrection of Jesus? At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke says that he has thoroughly investigated the matter at hand, including interviews with those who were eyewitnesses of the events about which he is writing. We can be confident that if there had been any smell of conspiracy or hallucination from these eyewitness accounts, Dr. Luke would have detected it.
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