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Five independently established facts:
• • • •
Death of Jesus on the Cross Details of Jesus’ Burial Discovery of the Empty Tomb Direct encounters with Risen Jesus Dawning of the Church
1. Death of Jesus on the Cross
There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus was drugged. The heavy loss of blood makes death highly probable. When His side was pierced with a spear, water and blood flowed out. Jesus’ legs were not broken. Pilate asked for assurance before releasing the body.
6. In the article “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ” the Journal of the American Medical Society concluded: “Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between His right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured His death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.” (March 21, 1986, p. 1463)
2) Details of Jesus’ Burial
1. Jesus’ burial is attested in the very old tradition quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15:3–5.
Paul quotes an old Christian received no later than his visit to Jerusalem in A.D. 36 (Gal 1:18) The second line of this tradition refers to Jesus' burial. It thus goes back to within the first five years after Jesus' death. We can match the events of this Christian tradition with the events described in the gospels and in the apostles' preaching in Acts
Matching of the events
I Cor 15:3–5
Christ died . . .
Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And he [Joseph] bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb. "He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him." "But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him."
he was buried . . .
he was raised . . .
But God raised him from the dead . . . . . . and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people.
he appeared . . .
2. The burial is part of very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel.
Mark is working with a pre–Markan passion narrative This multiplicity of independent sources is important Marcus Borg explains, "if a tradition appears in an early source and in another independent source, then not only is it early, but it is also unlikely to have been made up."
3. The gospels record that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin gave Jesus an honorable burial.
Christian tradition would not invent a story of Jesus' honorable burial by his enemies The members of the Sanhedrin were too well-known False stories were not allowed to be spread about one of its actual members
4. No other competing burial story exists.
If the burial story were a legend, then there would be competing burial legends There is none The only burial story known is the burial by Joseph of Arimathea.
The honorable burial of Jesus is "one of the earliest and best – attested facts about Jesus.” - John A. T. Robinson
3) Discovery of the Empty Tomb
1. The Historical Reliability of the Story of Jesus' Burial Supports the Empty Tomb.
The tomb must have been empty, when the disciples began to preach that Jesus was risen. The disciples could not have believed in Jesus' resurrection if his corpse still lay in the tomb The Jewish authorities would have exposed the whole affair simply by pointing to Jesus' tomb
2. Paul's Testimony Implies the Fact of the Empty Tomb.
Paul does not explicitly mention the empty tomb "He was buried," followed by the expression "He was raised" implies the empty tomb. As E.E. Ellis remarks, "It is very unlikely that the earliest Palestinian Christians could conceive of any distinction between resurrection and physical, 'grave-emptying' resurrection. To them an anastasis (resurrection) without an empty grave would have been about as meaningful as a square circle."
3. Paul's expression "on the third day" implies the Empty Tomb.
Since no one actually saw Jesus rise from the dead, why did the early disciples proclaim that he had been raised "on the third day"? It was on the third day that the women discovered the tomb of Jesus empty "on the third day" is a time-indicator pointing to the discovery of the empty tomb
4. The Empty Tomb Story Is Part of Markan Source Material and Is Therefore Very Old.
Mark apparently employed a source of information that is accordingly very early. Pre-Markan passion source never refers to the high priest by name. This is incredibly early and makes the hypothesis of legend with regard to the empty tomb an idle theory.
5. The Tomb Was Probably Discovered Empty by Women.
Women were not qualified to serve as legal witnesses. Women occupied a low rung on the Jewish social ladder. Consider these Jewish texts: "Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women!" and again: "Happy is he whose children are male, but unhappy is he whose children are female!"
6. The Disciples Could Not Have Preached in Jerusalem Had the Tomb Not Been Empty.
One of the most amazing facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection was that it originated in the very city where Jesus was crucified. If the proclamation of Jesus' resurrection were false, all the Jewish authorities would have had to do was to point to the tomb.
7. The Earliest Jewish Propaganda Against the Christians Presupposes the Empty Tomb.
In Matt 28: 11-15 we have the earliest Christian attempt to refute the Jewish propaganda against the Christian proclamation of the resurrection. The Jewish propaganda that the disciples stole the body presupposes that the body was missing and that the tomb was empty.
"It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.” - D. H. Van Daalen
"By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the Biblical statements concerning the empty tomb.” - Jacob Kremer
4) Direct encounters with Risen Jesus
1. Paul's Testimony Proves the Disciples Saw Appearances of Jesus.
Appearance to Peter (Luke 24:34) Appearance to the Twelve (Luke 24:36-42 and John 20:19-20) Appearance to 500 brethren Appearance to James Appearance to "all the apostles“ Appearance to Saul of Tarsus
"The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based." - Norman Perrin
2. The Resurrection Appearances Were Physical, Bodily Appearances.
Paul, and indeed all the NT, makes a conceptual (if not linguistic) distinction between an appearance of Jesus and a vision of Jesus. The unanimous testimony of the gospels in this regard is quite impressive. The gospel accounts have been shown to be fundamentally historically reliable
"It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ."- Gert Lüdemann
5) Dawning of the Church
1. Without this belief in the resurrection, early Christianity could not have come into being.
The origin of Christianity hinges on the belief of the early disciples that God had raised Jesus from the dead. R.H. Fuller says, even the most skeptical critic must posit some mysterious X to get the movement going. But what was that X?
2. If one denies that the resurrection itself was that X, then one must explain the disciples' belief in the resurrection
Not From Christian Influences Not From Pagan Influences The parallels are dubious. There is in any case scarcely any trace at all of such pagan cults of dying and rising gods in first-century Palestine. Grass: it would be "completely unthinkable" that the original disciples could have come to believe in Jesus’ resurrection on the basis of pagan myths about dying and rising seasonal gods.
3. Not From Jewish Influences
Isaiah 26:19, Ezekiel 37, and Daniel 12:2 The Jewish conception of the resurrection differed in two fundamental respects The resurrection always occurred after the end of the world. They had no conception of the resurrection of an isolated individual.
Explanatory scope Explanatory power Plausibility Ad hoc–ness Accord with accepted beliefs Superiority to rival hypotheses
God raised Jesus from the dead is the best explanation
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…” – Jesus (Jn 11:25-26)
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