Evidence Of The ResurrectionEvidence of the Resurrection
Over time, I found the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to be some of the most solid and attested facts of antiquity. After rising from the dead and before ascending back into heaven, Jesus was seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses, many of whom died unflinchingly for their testimony. Christ's earliest followers were willing to suffer and die for their story. 1 This established fact attests to the sincerity of their faith and strongly rules out deception on their part. In fact, all but one of the New Testament's writers were executed for proclaiming and defending Christ's resurrection (John alone was spared, but forced into exile by the Roman Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianius). This is truly compelling evidence of the resurrection.
Granted, martyrdom in itself is not unique -- many throughout history have willingly died for their beliefs. What makes the disciples' martyrdom extraordinary to me is that these men were in a position to actually know whether or not what they were professing was true. You see, no one will knowingly suffer horribly and ultimately die a brutal death in order to defend something they know to be a lie. For example, the September 11th suicide hijackers may have sincerely believed in what they died for, but they certainly weren't in a position to know whether or not what they believed was true. They put their faith in religious traditions passed down to them over many generations.
In contrast, the New Testament's martyrs either saw what they claimed to see or they didn't; plain and simple. Either they interacted with the resurrected Jesus or they didn't. Dramatically, these men clung to their testimonies even to their brutal deaths at the hands of their persecutors, and this despite being given every chance to recant and knowing full well whether their testimony was true or false. Why would so many men knowingly die for a lie? They had nothing to gain for lying and obviously everything to lose.
In addition to the disciples experiencing what they claimed to be resurrection appearances, there were even a few skeptics who believed Jesus had appeared to them alive after the crucifixion. Most biblical scholars today agree that Paul was a skeptic and even a persecutor of the early Christian church prior to experiencing a post-resurrection appearance. Most scholars also agree that James was a skeptic prior to experiencing what he called a post-resurrection appearance.
Paul's experience caused him to immediately change from a nasty persecutor of Christianity to one of its most aggressive advocates. He claimed that this change came only after personally interacting with the resurrected Christ, and he willingly suffered and died for his testimony. 2
And prior to Jesus' resurrection, his very own brother, James, was a skeptic. 3 His experience of a post resurrection appearance is reported within five years of Jesus' crucifixion. 4 After personally interacting with the risen Christ, James became a leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem. 5 James willingly died for his belief that Jesus was the Messiah who had died and rose again. 6
I had to ask myself… Would someone who was willing to suffer and die a horrible death in defense of the Scriptures be guilty of corrupting those very same Scriptures? That's crazy! And if that person did corrupt the Scriptures (or even allowed them to be corrupted) that would mean he knowingly suffered and died for a lie!
It's just human nature... No one suffers and dies for a known lie! OK, maybe one lunatic, but not a whole group of eye-witnesses...!
Again, when critically analyzed, this "evidence of the resurrection" of Jesus Christ is truly compelling.
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