Did Jesus rise from the dead?
We will deal with the question, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” We will share 4 historical facts accepted by the majority of New Testament scholarship today. They include the honorable burial of Jesus, His empty tomb, His post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in God.
today on the johnny Cash show, we will ask the question, did jesus rise from the dead. What for historical facts are accepted by the majority of new testament scholarship today and lead to the conclusion that jesus really did rise from the dead. My guest, who will tell us is philosopher dr William Lane Craig, who received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Birmingham in England. Join us for this edition of the john Achterberg show, Welcome to our program. I’m john in Coburg, Thanks for joining me today. My guest is Dr William Lane Craig, who’s one of the finest philosophers of our day and a lot of folks are lucky to get one doctorate, he’s got two earned doctorates and the very topic that we’re going to talk about today, namely jesus resurrection was of such interest to him that he made this, his dissertation, his work for a second doctoral degree in Munich Germany Bill, tell us about that. Having studied the kalam cosmological argument for my philosophical doctorate, I wanted to follow up by doing doctoral studies in Germany under one of the world’s leading german theologians Wolf heart and I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the historicity of jesus resurrection. Now as a christian, I already believed in the resurrection of jesus. But I must say john that as a result of my study, I was absolutely astonished, really taken aback by the fact that the facts. Undergirding the inference to the resurrection of jesus are today acknowledged by the wide majority of new testament historians who have investigated the historical jesus and that quite shocked me. These are not the conclusions peculiar to conservative scholars or evangelical scholars, but these represent the majority view of the wide spectrum of new testament scholarship today, including persons who teach at non evangelical seminaries and universities and non christian scholars such as jewish scholars today. So the fundamental facts that undergird the inference to jesus resurrection are quite firmly established and recognized by the majority of new testament criticism. Yeah. And you say that there are four historical facts that any serious historian that’s investigating this topic must deal with. And these four facts are accepted by the majority of critical scholars of every stripe and flavor. What are those four historical facts? They can be conveniently grouped in these following four headings. Number one, that Jesus of Nazareth was given a proper burial following his crucifixion in a tomb by a member of the jewish sanhedrin named joseph of Arimathea. Second fact is that that tomb was then discovered empty by a group of jesus female followers on the sunday morning after his crucifixion. Thirdly, is that various individuals and groups of people under a variety of circumstances and at various locales, experienced appearances of jesus alive after his death. And finally, number four, that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that God had raised jesus from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary. Yeah. Take the first one, the honorable burial of jesus, the burial of jesus is so important because if the site of jesus grave were known in Jerusalem to both jew and christian alike, then it is impossible that a movement founded upon belief in the resurrection of jesus could arise and flourish in Jerusalem in the face of a tomb containing his corpse. So the burial of jesus is a very important step toward the inference to the empty tomb. And most scholars recognize that the burial account of jesus is in fact historical. First of all, it is attested in independent early sources. This is one of the most important criteria that historians use in assessing the history historicity of any event. If an event is independently attested in early source and it’s much less likely to have been made up, but actually represents the facts. And in the case of jesus burial, we have multiple early sources for the fact of Jesus burial in the tomb first would be the premarket passion story. That is to say, the story of the final week of jesus life that was used by Mark in writing his gospel. This is one of the earliest sources behind the new testament and probably goes back to within 10 years after jesus death to the eyewitnesses, A second early source would be the tradition that paul passes on in his first letter to the church in Corinth Greece. There, Paul recites this uh formula that he himself received and then passed on to the Corinthians. And that formula says christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures and he appeared to Cephas then to the 12. And the second line of that formula refers to jesus burial. This formula passed on by paul has been dated to within the first five years after jesus crucifixion. Thus, we have independent at a station of jesus burial in two of the earliest sources behind the new testament, not to mention a number of other sources, so that we have very good grounds for believing that in fact Jesus was buried in the two as the premarket passion story relates. Yeah, let me just stop right there and say that a lot of our listeners may find it interesting to hear that the gospel writers used sources, but luke actually says that in his preference, he examined these all of these things before he wrote, he got together the information like a kid doing a term paper and he used different sources that he thought were credible. In luke’s case. It was eyewitnesses, Marx comes together and the scholars can tell that this is one continuous flow of information and Mark used this early source. Scholars can document this, this is what you’re talking about. That’s right. That’s exactly right now. A second reason to think that the burial story is accurate is the criterion of embarrassment. This criterion states that if an incident or event is awkward or embarrassing for the early christian church, then it’s more likely to be historical and the story of the burial by joseph of Arimathea passes this criterion, Jesus was not buried by his family members or by his devoted disciples. Instead they all deserted him and instead he’s buried by a member of the hated sanhedrin, the jewish court, all of whom Mark says, voted to condemn jesus to the cross. So the burial by joseph of Arimathea is very probable. Historically, it is highly unlikely that the early christians would have invented a story about a member of the sanhedrin giving jesus a proper burial in a tomb if this had not been in fact the case. So I find this just amazing that we actually know the name of the man who was responsible for the interment of jesus of Nazareth. This is just astonishing, john a T Robinson Professor of New testament studies at Cambridge University and someone very far from a conservative or evangelical, summarizes it by saying that the burial of jesus in the tomb is one of the earliest and best attested facts about jesus. Yeah, alright, let’s move on to fact number two, that the majority of critical scholars accept and it’s this on the sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers, why do critical scholars think that this fact points to historical credibility of the empty tomb story. Well, again, the empty tomb account is attested in independent and early sources, we have around six different independent sources attesting to the fact of the discovery of jesus empty tomb. One of these again would be the premarket passion story. The passion story does not end with the burial. The empty tomb story is part of the passion account. It is linked to the burial account by grammatical and linguistic ties it really is one narrative, and the story does not end until the discovery of the empty tomb. Similarly, in that pre pauline formula that Paul quotes in his letter to the church in Corinth, the third line of the saying, says, and he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. Now, there are two indications there that the empty tomb sticks behind this line of the saying first, when you compare the four lines of the saying to the gospel accounts on the one hand and the sermons, in the Acts of the apostles. What you find is that the first line corresponds to the crucifixion, the second line, and that he was buried corresponds to the burial account. The third line he was raised on the third day corresponds to the empty tomb story, and then he appeared to keep us then to the 12 corresponds to the story of the appearances. So that what paul is giving is a sort of sermon outline if you will, in which the third point of the outline is the empty tomb story. The other indication is the phrase on the third day. Why do they use this terminology? Well, to make a long story short, this is most probable because it was on the third day according to jewish reckoning that the women found the tomb empty and so naturally the resurrection came to be dated on that day. So it in paul’s information, we also have very early evidence for the empty tomb. We also have other independent sources behind luke and Matthew the sermons and the acts of the apostles, so that the empty tomb story is abundantly attested in independent early sources, historians think that they’ve hit historical pay dirt if they can find to independent early accounts of an event. But in the case of the empty tomb story, we have around six such independent early sources. Alright then, come on back to the women. Why is the fact that it’s recorded that women found the tomb empty? Why do critical scholars think that this fact points the historical credibility of the empty tomb story? This is one of the best examples of the criterion of embarrassment at work. Remember, the criterion of embarrassment, says that if a fact or incident is embarrassing or awkward for the christian movement, it’s unlikely to have been made up by them. The discovery of the empty tomb by women is such a fact in first century jewish society, the testimony of women was regarded as so worthless that they wouldn’t be believed. The jewish historian, Josephus actually says that the testimony of women should not even be admitted into court because of the levity and brashness of their sex, so women witnesses were worthless. Secondly, it also shows how the disciples had deserted jesus. Any later legendary account would have peter and john come and discovered the empty tomb, not women whose testimony was worthless. So the fact that it is women who are the discoverers of and principle witnesses to the fact that the empty tomb is best explained by the fact that like it or not, they were the discoverers of the empty tomb and the gospel writers record what for them was a rather awkward and embarrassing fact. You say another indication of the credibility of the empty tomb account is the fact that very enemies of the earliest disciples presupposed the empty tomb. What are you talking about? I’m talking about the effort in the 28th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew to refute the earliest jewish response to the disciples, proclamation of jesus resurrection. What were jews saying in response to the disciples proclamation he has risen from the dead. Were they saying his body is still there in the tomb in the garden or these men are drunk with new wine? No, they were saying the disciples came by night and stole away his body. Now think about that for a minute the disciples came by night and stole away his body, the earliest jewish response to the proclamation of the resurrection was itself an attempt to explain why the body was missing. And so the jewish authorities entangled themselves in this hopeless series of absurdities, trying to explain away the empty tomb. This is evidence for the historicity of the empty tomb, that is absolutely top drawer because it comes not from the early christian movement, but from the very enemies of the christians, who themselves testify to the fact that the body was gone Fantastic. Let’s go to fact number three, you say that the third historical fact accepted by the majority of critical scholars is that on multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of jesus alive from the dead. It’s amazing that critical scholars agree with this fact and and this is a fact john, which I think virtually 100% of critical historians acknowledge, I cannot think of any that would deny the fact of these postmortem experiences of seeing Jesus alive. One reason for this is that paul provides a list of such eyewitnesses in this early christian tradition in his letter to the church in Corinth Greece. The final line of that saying is then he appeared to Caiaphas, that’s the Aramaic word for Peter, the chief disciple, he appeared to Peter then to the 12, that means the Disciples. Then Paul begins to add in his own words, additional witnesses that he’s aware of. He says. Then he appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive though some have died. Then he appeared to James, that would be Jesus, younger brother and the church leader in Jerusalem. And then paul says finally to all the apostles, then last of all, as to one untimely born, says paul, he appeared also to me and on the basis of the early nous of this information, as well as Paul’s personal contact with people like Peter and James. Every new testament scholar acknowledges that these early individuals and groups did experience these appearances of jesus alive after his death. Now you can try to explain these ways as hallucinations if you want to, but you cannot responsibly deny that they occurred. C. H. Dodd also mentioned this very fact. Talk about that. Well, it’s so interesting that paul doesn’t just list the appearance to the 500 brethren, but he adds this parenthetical comment that most of them are still alive though some have died. Now, why does he add that? Well, one of the characteristics of ancient historical writing was to list the eyewitnesses whom inquirers could go and speak with about the event. And so paul is saying in effect the witnesses are there to be questioned, Paul knew that these witnesses were still about and you can tell that this isn’t just speculation on his part because he was aware that some had died and he mentions that, but the others were still about and could be interrogated if one wanted to talk to them about what they had seen. Bill talk about jesus younger brother, James, why is he so important to scholars? That he’s a part of that list. This is so remarkable, john that in this list of appearances, it includes James, jesus younger brother. This is remarkable because neither James nor any of jesus, other brothers apparently believed in him during his lifetime. They didn’t think he was the messiah, they didn’t think he was a prophet, they didn’t think he was anybody special. Indeed, there are some stories in the gospels that suggests they thought that jesus was crazy and yet in the Book of Acts, all of a sudden Jesus family turns up in the upper room in worship with the other christians, and eventually, James emerges as one of the leaders in the new testament church, he eventually becomes the sole elder of the church in Jerusalem? That’s all we hear about James in the new testament, but from Josephus, the jewish historian, we learned that James, the younger brother of Jesus was martyred for his faith in the mid 80 sixties, during a lapse in the civil government when the sanhedrin illegally stoned him to death. Now think of this, what would cause James to move from becoming an unbeliever and skeptic about his older brother to being willing to die for his belief in jesus as messiah Jesus. Crucifixion would only confirm in James mind that his older brother was delusionary. Can there be any doubt that the reason for this transformation in James is what Paul says then, he appeared to James. Now most of us have brothers, what would it take for you to believe that your brother is the lord, so that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this transformation in James is due to the fact that he did experience an appearance of jesus risen from the dead? Yeah, the fourth historical fact, which any critical historical hypothesis concerning the fate of jesus of Nazareth has to explain is this is the very origin of the disciples belief that God had raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. What do you mean? It’s an indisputable historical data um again acknowledged by all new testament, historians that the early followers of jesus sincerely and suddenly came to believe that God had raised jesus from the dead. Now, how do you explain the origin of this extraordinary belief? This belief is so un jewish, according to jewish thinking, messiah was not supposed to be executed, he was supposed to establish David’s throne in Jerusalem. The crucifixion of jesus was a catastrophe for these early disciples, it would be impossible for them to continue to believe that Jesus was messiah confronted with his crucifixion and burial in the tomb. Secondly, jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the general resurrection at the end of the world, confronted with jesus suffering death and entombment, the disciples could at most have preserved their master’s tomb as a shrine where pilgrimages might be held and where they would await uh for the general resurrection at the end of the world, when they and their master would be united in the kingdom of God, but they wouldn’t come to believe that he was already risen from the dead, contrary to jewish thinking and their own plane eyesight. And yet it’s indisputable that these early disciples did come to believe that God had raised jesus from the dead, despite every predisposition to the contrary, it seems to me that the best explanation for this extraordinary transformation in the disciples is the one that they gave God raised jesus from the dead and that made it possible to believe that jesus was messiah at after all, and they saw jesus resurrection then as the forerunner of our own general resurrection, which would take place at the end of the world. So we’ve seen that there are four facts which are generally acknowledged by the historical community today. The only question is how do you best explain these? Well down through history, skeptical scholars have offered various hypotheses, like the disciples stole the body or jesus wasn’t really dead and all of these have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The fact is that there just isn’t any plausible naturalistic explanation of these facts and therefore, I think the christian is well within his rights in believing that God raised jesus from the dead and that jesus therefore was who he claimed to be. We saw that jesus crucifixion was instigated for his blasphemous claims to be the messiah, the son of God, the son of man, if this man has been raised by God from the dead, then God has publicly and unequivocally vindicated those allegedly blasphemous claims for which he was crucified so that the resurrection of jesus is God’s divine imprimatur vindicating who Jesus really was. Now folks, you’ve listened to this fantastic information and if intellectually you’ve decided that Jesus did claim to be the son of God, did claim to be the messiah did claim to be the son of man and the proof was his resurrection, it actually did happen. Then what you gonna do with jesus, Jesus paid for your sins? If you put your faith in him, turn to him, he will change your life, he’ll come into your life, he’ll save you and I advise you to think seriously of all that you’ve heard in these programs and then turn to the Lord and ask him to be your savior and your Lord dr craig, I just want to say thank you for coming and doing these programs with us, I’ve just enjoyed this and folks, if you want to know how to get all of this information, just stay tuned and we’ll tell you right now, well, thank you for joining us today here on the john Achterberg show. If you’re interested in becoming a christian, please go to our website at J A show dot org and click on become a christian, which you’ll find at the top of our homepage. You’ll also be able to read information and how you may start a personal relationship with jesus christ as your savior. For more information concerning today’s program. 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Yeah, well, again, on the same basis that I know that he’s my savior because he said he’s coming back and the bible tells us that when jesus was ascending, the angels came to him and said, look, this same jesus that you see now is coming back again and Jesus himself talked about the fact that he’s going to come back again, and that will be the culmination of God’s whole program of project Earth, aren’t all religions the same. And my answer to the question is they’re all the same. If you’re looking at mere religions attempts to try and reach God. So at the moral level, many religions will say, you must be good, you must be kind, you must help people in need, you must give money, you must fast in that sense, all religions are the same. But if you think of a religion as a world view, that has to answer some basic questions, every worldview and religions are just worldviews have to answer five basic questions. Why is something here as opposed to the creation, how did we get into a mess mess? How do we get out of this mess? And what happens after we die? You will find that the answers given by the various religions are so completely different, has to be mutually exclusionary. Therefore, if any one of them is right, the others can’t be right. So this is an issue of sheer logic, it’s not just simply trumpeting one over the other. So it all depends on what you mean by religion. If you mean just the moral advice we give. Yeah, they’re all the same. But if you’re saying, which one really helps us to understand the true picture of reality from a worldview perspective, look at the answers to the four basic questions of creation, suffering, salvation and destiny. And you will find that each religion gives completely different answers. And if you give many different answers to the same question, they can’t all be right.