Five Reasons I Believe

Jesus' Resurrection is a

Fact of History



by CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL
Director of The Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry
© Copyright 2005–2015


As you survey the New Testament, it’s easy to see that Jesus made history’s most radical claims (John 6:35, John 8:46, John 8:58, John 10:27-28, John 14:6, 9, Matthew 9:2, John 14:15). Even a cursory reading of the four Gospels reveals that Jesus claimed to be a whole lot more than a “good teacher,” “spiritual leader,” or a “prophet.”

Search the writings of the world’s religions and you’ll never read anything like Jesus' claims on the lips of Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Joseph Smith, or you name the leader. But anyone could say the things Jesus said. Saying those things doesn’t necessarily mean they are true. And Jesus knew that. So, Jesus didn’t just make the claims, He proved that what He said was true by…

• Fulfilling dozens of Old Testament prophecies
• Living a sinless life
• Opening the eyes of the blind
• Healing lepers
• Opening the ears of the deaf
• Causing the lame to walk
• Casting out demons
• Feeding 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread

...just to mention a few of His miracles. But for His critics, these kinds of things were not enough. Matthew 12:38 says, “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”

As if these other miracles were not enough!

So Jesus, graciously, promised them another sign. Two verses down, in Matthew 12:40, Jesus said, “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus here, of course, was speaking about His impending death and resurrection three days later.

On another occasion, in John 2:19-21, Jesus told them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body."

So again, we see Jesus foretelling His resurrection.

Well, as you Bible students know, some days later, Jesus’ enemies did try to destroy Jesus. Jesus was executed just as Daniel 9:26 and Isaiah 53 had prophesied would happen to the Messiah 600 years earlier.

And then an amazing thing happened.

Three days later, Jesus' tomb was empty. Jesus rose from the dead, just as He and the Old Testament prophets had foretold in Psalm 16:10 and Isaiah 53:10-12.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a monumental event...for (among other things) it helped to prove that Jesus was the long expected Savior, whom God promised would come into the world to make a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to God.

But, can an intelligent person living in the 21st century really believe a man rose from the grave two thousand years ago? I believe the answer is Yes.

In this article, I want to share with you five reasons I believe Jesus' resurrection actually took place.

You can remember these five reasons with the acronym:

R.I.S.E.N.

The first reason I believe Jesus' resurrection is a fact of history is…

1. The RISE of Christianity in Jerusalem

It is an accepted historical fact that the Christian faith (a religion built upon the preaching of the resurrection of its leader) originated in approximately A.D. 32 right in the very city of Jerusalem where Jesus was publicly crucified and buried. Now, this in itself is a good piece of evidence that the resurrection actually occurred. Why?

Because a message calling people to repent and put their faith in a risen man could never have gained any substantial following amongst the Jews if the tomb had not actually been empty and had the Jewish people not seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion.

The message of a risen man, could not have been maintained a moment in Jerusalem if the grave was still occupied. [Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense, 232]

Remember that Jesus' disciples did not run off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ rose from the dead (where the facts could not be verified). They went right back to the city of Jerusalem where they would have been quickly exposed and disproved—if what they were teaching was false. The critics could have exposed the disciples as liars and Christianity would never have gotten off of the ground. They could have said, “Hey! Here is the grave and the body!!!” and squashed the whole movement.

But that never happened! And not only did Christianity originate there in Jerusalem, it thrived there!

Luke, whose writings have been confirmed by numerous extrabiblical writings and archaeological discoveries, tells us that 3,000 people believed the first post-resurrection sermon preached a few minutes’ walk from the tomb (Acts 2:41). Later in the same chapter there in Acts 2, Luke says that the church was growing daily (Acts 2:47). By Acts 4:4, Luke declares there were 5,000 believers comprising the early Christian church in Jerusalem. By Acts 6:7, Luke just says the number of disciples “continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem”—apparently losing count!

And not only did Christianity originate and flourish in Jerusalem, it went on to triumph over a number of competing ideologies and eventually overwhelm the entire Roman Empire.

By the early fourth century, when the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, historians say there were around thirty million Christians. [Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity, 156; Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, 297]

Question for you: Is it reasonable to suppose that thousands of people within those early days following Jesus' death were actually deceived into believing a man rose from the dead? I don’t think so.

The best explanation for the immediate rise of the early church, right in the midst of a community that had not only been hostile to Jesus, but that demanded His crucifixion, is the resurrection. People had seen Jesus! Acts 1:3 says that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

The resurrection catapulted New Testament Christianity into existence. So, the first reason I believe Jesus rose from the greave is: The Rise of Christianity in Jerusalem

SKEPTIC: “Hold on a second Charlie. Islam came on the scene 600 years after Jesus and grew rather quickly!”

Well, yes, it did. But Muhammad didn’t call on people to believe in the resurrection of a dead man. Convincing people a crucified man has come back to life is enormously more challenging than just telling people to believe in Allah. And truth be told, the real reason Islam spread so rapidly had nothing to do with people witnessing anything miraculous.

Islam was forced upon tens of millions by military conquest. It is an undeniable fact of history that Islam spread by the sword.

This is far different than the spread of Christianity. Christianity spread over the first three centuries through the simple preaching of the gospel, calling upon people to repent and place their faith in a resurrected Savior. It was the Christians who were being put to death! And that leads me to a second reason you can be confident Jesus’ resurrection actually took place. Number TWO, the “I” in our acronym R.I.S.E.N…

Answers-Atheists-DVD-4

2. The INCREDIBLE Persecution and Deaths Endured by the Disciples

When Jesus was arrested and led away to be crucified, the Gospels tell us that His disciples…

• fled in fear (Matthew 26:56)
• went into hiding (John 20:19)
• lost hope (Luke 24:21)

A short time later, we read that something amazing happened. These same fearful men went through a dramatic transformation. Within a few weeks of Jesus' crucifixion, these same men were standing face to face with the people who had crucified their leader, preaching that Jesus was alive, telling people that they needed to turn from their wicked ways and know that Jesus was both Messiah and Lord (Acts 2:36-38).

To prevent this belief from spreading, the same authorities who had Jesus crucified…        

• threatened the disciples
• flogged them
• beat them
• imprisoned them
• and forbade them to speak the name of Jesus (e.g., Acts 4:16-18, 5:28)

So what did the disciples do? They got back up and said to the Jewish leaders, “We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).”

God give us that kind of courage and commitment to get the gospel out in our generation!

So, they said “We must obey God rather than men,” and then they went on “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ (Acts 5:41-42).”

But their courage had a cost—a large cost—but one the early Christians were willing to pay.

Flavius Josephus, Eusebius, Tertullian, and other independent extra-biblical sources record for us that many of Jesus’ earliest followers, including the apostles, suffered intense persecution and even death for their on-going belief and preaching that Jesus was Lord and was risen from the dead. We are told in these extrabiblical sources that...

•  Matthew was slain with a sword in a city of Ethiopia
•  Mark died in Alexandria, in Northern Egypt after having been cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.
•  Luke was hung to death upon an olive tree in the land of Greece
•  John was tortured and banished to the Island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9)
•  James, the brother of John, was beheaded in Jerusalem (Acts 12:2)
•  James the Less (as he’s called in Mark 15:40) was thrown from a pinnacle of the temple
•  Philip was hung up against a pillar at Heiropolis in the province of Phrygia
•  Bartholomew was flayed alive
•  Andrew was bound to a cross, and left to die
•  Jude was shot to death with arrows
•  Matthias (the apostle chosen to replace Judas) was first stoned, and then beheaded
•  Barnabas was stoned to death by the Jews at Salonica
•  Paul, after a variety of tortures and imprisonments, was finally beheaded in Rome
•  Thomas was run through the body with a spear in east India
•  Peter was crucified upside down in Rome

All of this is very sobering isn't it?

Question for you. Were these men lying?

I find it very difficult to believe these men “made up a story” about Jesus and then spent years enduring persecution, imprisonments, and such, only to die these kinds of painful deaths. Nobody lies to get themselves into these kinds of predicaments! People lie to get out of these kinds of things!

Well, the fact that these men laid down their lives, unwilling to recant or admit falsehood in the face of beatings, stonings, and torture, is another evidence that the resurrection actually took place.

Scrolls Apologetics

3. The SHIFT in Beliefs and Practices by Thousands of Jews

Shortly after Jesus' death, thousands of Jews in Jerusalem and the surrounding region began abandoning at least five cherished beliefs and practices.

The beliefs and practices they abandoned had been taught to them from childhood by their rabbis and parents. They were beliefs and practices that had given them their national identity and allowed them to be accepted by society. They were beliefs and practices that had even given them a supposed right standing with God. What beliefs and practices did thousands of Jews begin to abandon?

A. The Practice of Bringing Sacrifices to the Temple

Thousands of Jews, who had for centuries been going to the temple to sacrifice animals as a way of having their sins covered, suddenly stopped! Why? What would explain such a major shift in behavior?

They realized that Jesus was “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). They realized that all of those Old Testament sacrifices were “only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come” (Heb. 10:1) —a foreshadowing of what God would accomplish through His Son’s death. They had heard of (if not seen with their own eyes) the veil that had been ripped miraculously from the top down there in the temple (Mark 15:38). They remembered that Jesus had told them that the temple was even going to be destroyed (Matthew 24:2). And so they realized things had changed. They realized they were living under a new covenant with God.

If they were mistaken, abandoning the sacrificial system would jeopardize their well-being socially and spiritually. And yet thousands of Jews began to do that very thing. And they didn’t stop there. Thousands of Jews began to change…

B. Their Sabbath Day Worship From Saturdays to Sundays

The Sabbath of course for the Jews was not only a day they were to rest from physical labor, it became a day when the Jews would meet together in the synagogue, worship God together, and study the Scriptures. They had been doing it on the seventh day of the week (Saturdays) for some 1500 years!

But now, almost over night, thousands of Jews began meeting on a new day—the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2), a day they began to call “the Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). Why did they call it “the Lord’s Day”? Because that was the day of the week Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:1).

So, thousands of Jews, including the disciples, said, ‘Let’s start meeting on that day in commemoration of our risen Lord!’ And they even opened up their meetings to Gentiles (Acts 15)!

These Jews, who made up the early church, believed that the coming of the Messiah, along with His death and resurrection, cleared the way for a new relationship with God. One that was based, not on bringing sacrifices to the temple or on keeping the Mosaic law, but on the sin-bearing, life-giving help of a resurrected Savior. [Source]

These beliefs and practices the Jews abandoned are a third line of evidence that Jesus’ resurrection actually took place! Now, obviously, a lot more could be said about this. If you’d like to do further research on these and other beliefs and practices the Jews abandoned, I recommend you get a copy of Lee Strobel’s excellent award-winning book The Case for Christ.

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 4. The EVIDENCE for the Trustworthiness of the Bible

The account of the resurrection was not passed down to us in a supermarket tabloid or via a long chain of people playing “the telephone game.” It was passed down to us in a sober-minded, collection of historical documents that were written by eyewitnesses in the first century A.D.

This collection of documents making up the New Testament has been validated by a wealth of different evidences:

• Fulfilled prophecies
• Scientific discoveries
• Extrabiblical writings
• Manuscript evidence
• Archaeological discoveries

I have talked about these evidences elsewhere (Article, DVD, Book), so I won’t rehash them here.

SKEPTIC: “Hold on Charlie, How can you believe this!? The Bible isn’t trustworthy. The New Testament authors stole their idea for Jesus' resurrection from ancient pagan religions that were around long before the time of Jesus.”  

Perhaps you’ve heard this objection. This idea that there were religions with dying and rising gods long before Jesus has become a popular way of discrediting the gospels today. A lot of people, who have no knowledge of ancient pagan religions, have watched a YouTube video called Zeitgeist.

This poorly researched, low budget documentary (if we can even call it that), has been viewed by millions of people online. And unfortunately, countless people— unaware of its many errors—have been led to believe that the Gospel writers just stole their idea for Jesus' resurrection from earlier sources (pagan religions) that were around hundreds of years before the time of Christ.

Well, the movie is full of errors (and I’ll tell you where we document that here in a minute). But its errors include its attack on the resurrection.

Dr. Norman Geisler, a scholar who has written 80 plus books on religion and philosophy, responds to the “copycat theory” by pointing out:

“The first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, more than a hundred years after the origin of Christianity. So if there was any influence of one on the other, it was the influence of the historical event of the New Testament on mythology, not the reverse. The only known account of a god surviving death that predates Christianity is the Egyptian cult god Osiris. In this myth, Osiris is cut into fourteen pieces, scattered around Egypt, then reassembled and brought back to life by the goddess Isis. However, Osiris does not actually come back to physical life but becomes a member of a shadowy underworld...This is far different than Jesus’ resurrection account where he was the gloriously risen Prince of life who was seen by others on earth before his ascension into heaven.” [Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist,” 312]

And a host of other scholars affirm the same thing, as I point out on our website. If you want help addressing the alleged parallels between pagan religions and Christianity, as presented in the Zeitgeist video, I encourage you to go to click on our “Zeitgeist” section.

SKEPTIC: “All right Charlie. Maybe the disciples didn’t steal the idea for Jesus' resurrection from earlier sources, but the resurrection narratives (in the Gospels) still have errors. For example, Jesus said He would spend three days and three nights in the grave. So, how was that fulfilled if Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose on Sunday morning? That seems at best like three days and two nights, but Jesus specifically said three nights.”

Ah, a very good question. It is true that Jesus said He would be in the grave three days and three nights. Jesus said in Matthew 12:40, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Now, critics of the Bible point to this passage in Matthew 12:40, then look at all of the “Good Friday” services taking place, then do the math and conclude that Jesus couldn’t count or that the Gospel writers erred. This is one of the most commonly cited “apparent contradictions” in the Bible.

Well, the critics have overlooked something (as is often the case). It is very likely that Jesus was not crucified on a Friday (as churches traditionally celebrate), but rather a Thursday. Let me walk you through a couple of the reasons I, and others, believe this to be the case.

First, nowhere in the Bible are we told that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Many people have concluded that He was crucified on a Friday because it says in Mark’s Gospel that Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body “the day before the Sabbath” (Mark 15:42). People read that and conclude that the Sabbath that is mentioned there refers to the Saturday Sabbath that the Jews observed every seventh day of the week. If that is the case, they conclude Jesus must have been crucified on Friday.

What they overlook though is that the weekly Saturday Sabbath is not the only Sabbath the Jews were told to observe. The Book of Leviticus says that the Jews were to observe a special Sabbath the day after Passover.

Leviticus 23:5-7
5 “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover. 6 Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. 7 On the first day [of the Feast of Unleavened Bread] you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.”

Did you see that there in verse 7? No matter what day the 14th day of the month landed on, the Passover was to be followed by a special Sabbath (a day of no work). All right, now question for you: What feast was going on the day Jesus was crucified?

The Passover (John 18:28). The timing of Jesus' death was no accident. The events of the first Passover in the book of Exodus (when the Lord passed over the homes that had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts) foreshadowed the time when God would provide a way for our sins to be passed over through the blood of a lamb—the Lamb of God, Jesus—who would take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

So, according to the sovereign plan of God, Jesus was crucified on the very day the Jews in Jerusalem were celebrating Passover. The timing is just amazing! So, according to God’s instructions in Leviticus 23:7 (that we just looked at) there was to be a Sabbath, a day in which no work was done, the day after Passover.

That is the Sabbath I believe is being referred to in the New Testament when it says the Jews were concerned about crucifixion victims being left on the cross on the Sabbath (John 19:31). And the apostle John even confirms in his Gospel that the Sabbath that occurred the day after Jesus' crucifixion was a special one.

In John 19, John gives us his account of the crucifixion. After Jesus utters those final words, “It is finished,” John tells us in v. 30 that Jesus “bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.” Then, I want you to notice what John writes next in verse 31…

John 19:31
“Therefore, because it was the preparation day [the preparation day is the day before a Sabbath, the day the Jews prepare for the Sabbath], that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”

Notice that. John says that this Sabbath that occurred the day after Jesus' crucifixion was a “high day.” Passover Sabbaths were known as “high days.”

Every Sabbath day was a holy day to the Jews but this was a “high day” (megale hemera in the Greek, which literally means “a great day”) speaking of its special connection with the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. So, John is indicating here that this was a special Sabbath day, not a regular Saturday Sabbath day.

So, knowing that there was a Sabbath the day after Passover allows us to back up the day of the crucifixion. We are not bound to a Friday crucifixion with a Saturday Sabbath. We can assume with a fair degree of confidence that the crucifixion happened on Thursday, followed on Friday by the Passover Sabbath, then Saturday’s normal Sabbath, and then an early Sunday morning resurrection. And thus Jesus' prophecy about being in the grave three days and three nights (in Matthew 12:40) was perfectly fulfilled.

• Thursday going into Friday was night 1
• Friday going into Saturday was night 2
• Saturday going into Sunday was night 3

And then Jesus was raised just as the Gospels say.

So, with a little investigation, an alleged error in the Gospels concerning the resurrection can be laid to rest. These are just a couple of examples of how the Gospel documents, that tell us of the resurrection, stand up to the critics. So that, is the fourth reason we can be confident in the Gospel’s accounts of the resurrection: The Evidence for the Trustworthiness of the Bible

 

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All right, there’s a fifth reason I believe in the resurrection (the N in our acronym R.I.S.E.N.)...

5. NONE of the Skeptics’ Theories for the Empty Tomb Are Convincing

Even skeptical scholars acknowledge that the tomb of Jesus was empty. As I mentioned earlier, there is no way Christianity could have ever gotten off  the ground if Jesus’ tomb was still occupied. The Roman authorities or Jewish leaders could have just gone to the tomb and paraded the body around downtown Jerusalem for everyone to see and squashed the whole movement.

So, the tomb was empty. There’s really no questioning that. But critics have come up with other theories to explain the empty tomb…none of which is convincing. Let’s consider some of their theories. The first theory is the...

A. Jesus is a Myth Theory

Some critics of the Bible say “The reason why His tomb was empty is because He never even existed. The whole story about Him being a real person was made up by some clever deceivers back in the first century.”

Now, you’ll never hear a respected historian or scholar suggest this. But the “Jesus is a myth” theory has gained a lot of momentum as of late on the Internet. Well, the idea that Jesus never existed is ludicrous! Why? In addition to the 27 New Testament documents that tell us about Him, there are a wealth of extrabiblical sources that mention Him. Did you realize that?

Jesus is referred to by more then 30 sources outside of the Bible within 150 years of His life. These sources reveal to us more than 100 facts about Jesus' life, teachings, death and resurrection.

Some of these sources include first century historians like:

• Flavius Josephus
• Cornelius Tacitus
• Suetonious
• as well as the Jewish Talmud

The Talmud is a compilation of Jewish teachings that were passed down from generation to generation and then organized and compiled after the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70. The Talmud mentions Jesus. Here is one excerpt:

“On the eve of Passover Yeshu [a Hebrew word for Jesus] was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!” (Sanhedrin 43a)

Not only does the Talmud mention Jesus, it mentions His crucifixion and even says it occurred at the time of the Passover—the very time the New Testament says it occurred. So even the Jews, who rejected Jesus as their Messiah, mentioned that He existed!

The evidence that Jesus was a real person is so strong, even Bart Ehrman, one of the most zealous critics of the Bible alive today, acknowledges that Jesus was a real historical person:

“There is no scholar in any college, or university in the Western world who teaches classics, ancient history, New Testament, early Christianity, or any related field who doubts that Jesus existed...With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life...sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue...and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life...Historical sources like that are pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind...The claim that Jesus was simply made up falters on every ground.” Source 1, 2.

So, the “Jesus is a Myth” theory utterly fails as an explanation for the empty tomb. Surely He did exist!

A second theory to explain the empty tomb is the…

B. The Stolen Body Theory

This theory suggests that the tomb was empty there in Jerusalem because Jesus' disciples stole His body. But the “stolen body theory” raises some difficult questions:

How could the disciples have stolen the body?

That would have required sneaking past an armed and trained detachment of Roman soldiers, breaking the Roman seal that was put upon the stone (Matt. 27:66), then moving a two-ton stone away from the entry to the tomb without being detected. Certainly the Roman guards that Pilate put on guard at the tomb (Matt. 27:65) to prevent this kind of thing from happening would have heard something and quickly put an end to the attempted thievery.

Roman soldiers were highly trained in the art of defense and killing.

I find it hard to believe that the disciples who fled in fear when Jesus was arrested (Matt. 26:56) would risk their lives trying to steal a dead body from the very people who had three days earlier executed their leader.

Another difficult question “the stolen body theory” brings up is this: Why would the disciples steal Jesus' body? What benefit would come to them for doing that? Is it reasonable to believe that the disciples stole Jesus' body only to suffer for preaching a message that they contrived?

I have a very hard time believing that! So, I find “the stolen body theory” utterly unconvincing. Another theory for the empty tomb is…

C. The Lost Tomb Theory

In 2007 the Discovery Channel aired a documentary called “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” that claimed the actual tomb that contained Jesus' bones had been discovered. The primary evidence for this radical conclusion was the discovery of six bone ossuaries found in a grave in Jerusalem. The ossuaries dated back to the first century and had the following names engraved on them…

1. Jesus, son of Joseph (lit. “Yeshua son of Yoseph”)
2. Mary (lit. “Maria”)
3. Matthew (“Matia”)
4. Joseph (“Yose”)
5. Mary (lit. “Mariamene [who is also called] Mara”)
6. Judah, son of Jesus (lit. “Yehudah son of Yeshua”)

Well, those names sound familiar don’t they!? And so the men who put the documentary together concluded  these ossuaries belonged to the very persons mentioned by those names in the New Testament. And thus, the whole story of Jesus' resurrection was a farce. He was actually married to Mary Magdalene, had a son named Judah, and was buried in a grave with the rest of His family.

It sounded like part two to The Da Vinci Code book!

Well their conclusions were immediately blasted by scholars from every end of the spectrum, Christian and non-Christian. There are numerous reasons why archaeologists and historians quickly dismissed their outrageous claims.

I’ll quickly mention two.

First, the names inscribed on the ossuaries found in the tomb in Jerusalem were very common names in Israel in the first century. Joseph was the second most popular name in the first century. Jesus was fourth. Matthew was the sixth.

Among women, Mary was far and away the most popular woman’s name. That being the case, a tomb with ossuaries mentioning Jesus, Joseph, Matthew and Mary is not sufficient proof that the cave was the burial site of Jesus of Nazareth.

Professor Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the tomb, and one of many scholars who disagreed with the documentary’s conclusions, said there are more than 900 buried tombs just like the alleged “Jesus” tomb within a two-mile radius of where this tomb was found.

He pointed out that of these tombs, 71 bear the name “Jesus” and that “The name ‘Jesus son of Joseph’ has been found on three or four ossuaries. These are common names.” [Jerusalem Post]

So, that is one strike against the supposed discovery. Another blow to the documentary’s conclusions is this: If the disciples were “making up a religion” and basing it on the resurrection of Jesus, they wouldn’t...

• bury His body in the very city that He was put to death
• inscribe His name on the outside of His ossuary
• and then bury the other members of His family in marked ossuaries in the same grave

That would be foolish!

Now, I was never part of the Mafia, and I’m not speaking from first hand experience, but I would think you would get rid of the body, burn it, dismember it, etc. Then you could more safely move about the city telling people, “Our leader has risen!”

So, those are just a couple of the problems with the “Lost Tomb Theory.” I offer a more in-depth response to the Discovery Channel documentary here.

D. The Hallucination Theory

This theory suggests that the early Christians were hallucinating and only thought they had seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion. Well, this theory is not convincing either, for a variety of reasons.

Hallucinations are very rare and they vary greatly. You may know an individual who has hallucinated while using LSD or some other drug, but you never hear of a large group of people having identical hallucinations. That’s not how they work. They are individual experiences.

Years ago, when I worked at a surf shop in southern California, there was a man, a scraggly wandering drug addict, who would stop by the shop about once a month or so and talk to me about the aliens that had appeared to him.

He had some crazy stories! (I believe the drugs he took were causing the hallucinations). But he was all alone. There was never anyone by his side vouching for his stories. No one else ever seemed to see the aliens infiltrating our town...and for good reason: Hallucinations are rare. And when a person experiences one, rarely, if ever, is it identical to the hallucinations other people are having.

Now, back to Israel in the first century AD. Here are hundreds of Jews in Israel, in the first century, claiming to have seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion, to have touched His scars (John 20:27), to have heard Him teach, and to have even eaten with Him (John 21:12-15).

If there was only one or two of them making that claim, then perhaps we might chalk up the sightings to hallucination, but there were more than five hundred people who claimed to have seen Jesus alive during the forty days following His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6). That, to me, rules out the possibility of hallucinations. Hallucinations don’t happen that way.

When Paul mentions the five hundred plus people who had seen Jesus alive after His resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:6, he says most of them are still alive. He was implying to the Corinthians that they were still available for questioning.

In other words, ‘If you don’t believe me,’ Paul says, ‘you can ask them. They saw Him as well!’

So the first blow to the hallucination theory is that hallucinations are rare. Second, they vary greatly. A third factor that rules out the theory is that hallucinations are typically the result of mental disorders (schizophrenia) or drug use.

But the New Testament documents are so sane, so full of virtuous counsel, so rich in wisdom, so accurate down to minute historical details…surely these are the words of men with sound minds. I have a hard time believing the New Testament documents were penned by men who struggled with drug addictions or mental disorders.

And one final problem with the hallucination theory. If the disciples were just hallucinating, the Jewish leaders could have dragged Jesus’ body out of the tomb and exposed the fact. But they could not do that…because the tomb was empty!

So, this is the fifth reason you can be confident Jesus rose from the grave...None of the skeptics' theories for the empty tomb are convincing.

Conclusion:

Friends, at this very hour, the cremated body of…

• Siddhartha Guatama (now known as the Buddha) lies in a grave at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains
• Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia
• Joseph Smith is buried in Nauvoo, Illinois
Charles Darwin is buried at Westminster Abbey in London

They are all dead and their graves are occupied.

Only Jesus Christ proved that what He said was true by rising from the dead. Brothers and sisters in the faith, rejoice! Your Savior, the one you follow is alive! Jesus' resurrection is not a holiday to celebrate once a year. It is a fact to be pondered hour-by-hour. It’s a reality to be lived in day-by-day throughout the year.

Because of the resurrection, you have a living Savior who can be known, called upon, worshipped and trusted daily! You’re not following the teachings of some dead man. You are walking through this life with Jesus, the true and living God! What a blessing that is!

If you are not yet a follower of Jesus...
there are radical implications from the resurrection for you as well. Because of Jesus' death on the cross in your place, for your sins, and His subsequent resurrection, the Bible says you can have your sins forgiven. You can escape the judgment of God that’s coming to all of those who are still in their sins on the day of judgment. You can escape eternity in Hell. You can be reconciled back to your Creator and go on to enjoy a relationship with Him not only in this life but throughout eternity!

Don’t put that off friend. A day of judgment is coming. Be reconciled to God today! Turn from your sins. Acknowledge Jesus as your Lord. Receive God’s forgiveness. Click here for more details.

 

 Charlie-Campbell

CHARLIE H. CAMPBELL (Twitter: @charlieabready)
Charlie Campbell is the Director of the Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry and a popular guest speaker at churches and conferences. He is the author of numerous articles, books, and DVDs, including:

•  Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
•  Evidence for the Existence of God
•  One Minute Answers to Skeptics
•  Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
•  The End Times: Ten Upcoming Events in Bible Prophecy
•  The Case for the Resurrection

•  Teaching and Preaching God's Word

His DVDs and books have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Ed Hindson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and many others.

 

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