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|The resurrection of Christ, an established fact|
A Byzantine painting from the year 1315, depicting the resurrection of Jesus Christ
Paul L. Maier, Professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University, observes: 'If all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the cannons of historical research, to conclude that the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty (Jesus was resurrected) on the morning of the first Easter. And no thread of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement.'
The empty tomb is a silent testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that has never been refuted to this day.
One man who was highly skilled at dealing with evidence was Dr. Simon Greenleaf. He was the famous Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University and succeeded Justice Joseph Story at the Dane Professor of Law in the same university. The rise of Harvard school of Law to its eminent position among the legal schools of the United States is to be ascribed to the efforts of these two men. Greenleaf produced his famous three-volume, A treatise on the Law of Evidence, which still is considered one the greatest single authorities on this subject in the entire literature of legal procedure.
Greenleaf examined the value of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ to ascertain the truth. He applied the principles contained in his three-volume treatise on evidence. His findings were recorded in his book, An examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the courts of Justice.
Greenleaf came to the conclusion that according to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.
Howard Vos, researcher declares that: 'From the standpoint of literary evidence the only logical conclusion is that the case for the reliability of the New Testament is infinitely stronger than that for any other record of antiquity.'
There are both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions that acknowledge an empty tomb. These sources range from the Jewish historian Josephus to a compilation of fifth-century Jewish writings called the Toledoth Jeshu. Maier calls this positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favour, then the fact is genuine.'
The first counter-argument to the claim of an empty tomb was that the disciples stole the body.
Gamaliel, who was a member of the Christian movement was of God; he could not have done this if the tomb had been occupied, or if the Sanhedrin had known the whereabouts of Christ's body.
Even Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with the trypho relates that Jerusalem authorities sent special representatives throughout the Mediterranean world to counteract the theory of the empty tomb with the explanation that his followers stole the body. Why would the Jewish authorities bribe the Roman guard and propagate the 'stolen body' explanation if the tomb was occupied?
Historian Ron Sider concluded that: 'If the Christians and their Jewish opponents both agreed that the tomb was empty, we have little choice but to accept the empty tomb as a historical fact.'
Tom Anderson, former president of the California Trial Lawyers Association and co-author of the Basic Advocacy Manual of the Association of the Trail Lawyers of America, says, 'Let's assume that Christ did not rise from the dead. Let's assume that the written accounts of his appearances (after his resurrection) to hundreds of people are false. I want to pose a question. With an event so well publicized, don't you think that it's reasonable that one historian, one eyewitness, one antagonist would record for all time that he had seen Christ's body: "Listen, I saw that tomb-it was not empty! Look, I was there, Christ did not rise from the dead. As a matter of fact, I saw Chris's body." The silence of history is deafening when it comes to testimony against the resurrection.'
Presence of hostile eyewitnessess
Concerning the value of the presence of 'hostile witnessess' in applying the 'cross-examination' principle to the proclamation of the resurrection, law professor Dr. John Montgomery writes '...this rule underscores the reliability of testimony to Christ's resurrection which was presented contemporaneously in the synagogues-in the very teeth of opposition, among hostile cross-examiners who would certainly have destroyed the case for Christianity had the facts been otherwise.'
F.F.Bruce, the Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, says concerning the value of the New Testament records being scrutinized by vocal opponents: 'Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnessess in the audience would have served as a further corrective.'
There are three steps in historical testimony: observation, recollection and recording. The bitter enemies of this new movement centering around Christ were ready to challenge any over-zealous follower who might have wanted to add a miracle or to sweeten up a story to make Christ more appealing. These 'hostile witnessess' were ready to correct any distortion in the 'observation, recollection and recording' of all that Jesus 'did and taught.'
Stan Gundry, theologian, asks, 'Is is possible that they would have allowed false statements to pass as facts concerning his life which would have opened itself to ridicule if it had created such stories to perpetuate itself.'
Crucifixion with nails
Many have questioned the historical accuracy of the nailing of the hands and feet. The reason for this skepticism is that there has been almost zero evidence of it in history.
Dr J.W. hewitt, in his Harvard Theological Review article entitled, 'The Use of Nails in the Crucifixion,' said 'To sum up, there is astonishingly little evidence that the feet of a crucified person were ever pierced by nails.' He went on to say that the victim's hands and feet were bound by ropes to the cross.
For years Dr Hewitt's statement was quoted as the final word. The conclusion, therefore, was that the New Testament account of Christ being nailed to the cross was false and misleading. Crucifixion by use of nails was considered legendary. It was believed that nails would have ripped the flesh and could not have supported a body on the cross.
Then, a revolutionary archaeological discovery was made in June 1968. Archaeologist V. Tzaferis, under the direction of the Israeli Department of Antiquities and Museums, discovered four cave-tombs at the site of Giv'at ha-Mivtar (Ras el-Masaref) just north of Jerusalem near Mount Scopus. These family tombs, hewn out of soft limestone, date from the late second century BC to 70 AD composed of forecourts which led to burial chambers, they housed fifteen limestone ossuaries that contained the bones of thirty-five individuals.
In many of the containers, moisture had helped preserve the bones. Evidence of death by violence was discovered in five cases: one by a blow from a mace, another by an arrow, and another by crucifixion. The skeletal remains were examined by Dr N. Hass of the department of anatomy of the Hebrew University and the Hadassah Medical school.
Tomb I-dated back to the first century AD by its pottery-contained a number of ossuaries. In ossuary 4, inscribed with the name Yohanan Ben Ha'galgal, were found the bones of an adult male and of a child. A large seven inch spike had been driven through the heel bone, and both legs had been fractured. Haas reported: 'Both the heel bones were found transfixed by a large iron nail. The shins were found intentionally broken. Death caused by crucifixion.'
The discovery from the time of Christ adds solid archaeological evidence that the method of nailing individuals to a wooden cross as a means of execution, as mentioned in the New Testament, no longer is based solely upon literary evidence.
Gospel writers verified by their contemporaries
Not only are the Gospels not contradicted by their contemporaneous writers; they are also not impeached or disproved by later scientific research and historical investigation. And at this point we come to make direct application of the test of the coincidence of their testimony with collateral and contemporaneous history.
For this purpose, as a matter of illustration, only facts of profane history corroborative of the circumstances attending the trial and crucifixion of the Master will be cited.
In the first place, the Evangelists tell us that Pontius Pilate sat in judgment on the Christ. Both Josephus and Tacitus tell us that Pilate was governor of Judea at the time.
In John 18:31 we read: 'Then said Pilate unto them take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, it is not lawful for us to put any man to death.' From many profane historians, ancient and modern, we learn that the power of life and death had been taken from the Jews and vested in the Roman governor.
In John n19:16,17 occurs this passage: And they took Jesus and led him away; and he, bearing his cross, went forth.' This corroborative sentence is found in Plutarch: 'Every kind of wickedness produces its own particular torment; just as every malefactor, when he is brought forth to execution, carries his own cross.'17
In Matthew 27:26 We read: 'when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.' That scourging was a preliminary to crucifixion among the Romans is attested by many ancient writers, among whom may be mentioned Josephus and Livy. The following passages are taken from Josephus:
Whom, having first scourged with whips, he crucified.
Being beaten, they were crucified opposite to the citadel.
He was burned alive, having been first beaten.
From Livy, a single sentence will suffice:
All were led out, beaten with rods, and beheaded.
In John 19:19,20 we read: 'And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross; and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek and Latin. 'That it was a custom among Romans to affix the accusation against a criminal to the instrument of his punishment appears from several ancient writers , among them Suetonius and Don Cassius. In Suetonius occurs this sentence. 'He exposed the father of the family to the dogs, with this title, "A gladiator, impious in speech."
And in Don Cassius occurs the following: 'Having led him through the midst of the court or assembly , with writing signifying the cause of his death, and afterwards crucifying him.'
And finally, we read in John 19:32: 'Then came the soldiers and brake the legs of the first, and the other which was crucified with him (Jesus).' By an edict of Constantine, the punishment of crucifixion was abolished. Speaking in commendation of this edict, a celebrated heathen writer mentions the circumstances of breaking legs. 'He was pious to such a degree.' Says this writer, 'that he was the first to set aside that very ancient punishment, the cross, with the breaking of legs.'
Some argue that the resurrection accounts are legends, cropping up years after the time of christ.
In reality, this would be impossible. Resurrection accounts were circulated and written down by the original eyewitnessess. Paul related that in AD 56, there were almost 500 firsthand eyewitnessess who were still alive.
If it were possible to date the Gospels 200 or 300 years after the event of resurrection, the theory might be plausible. But in view of the facts, it is like a bucket without a bottom.
Many have tried to date the New Testament documents more than 100 years after Christ, and have miserably failed. Paul L. Maier, writes: 'Arguments that Christianity hatched its Easter myth over a lengthy period of time or that sources were written many years after the event are simply not factual!
In analyzing much of New Testament criticism, William Albright wrote: 'Only modern scholars who lack both historical method and perspective can spin such a web of speculation as that with which some critics have surrounded the Gospel tradition.' Albright's own conclusion was that 'a period of twenty to fifty years is too slight to permit any appreciable corruption of the essential content and even of the specific wording of the sayings of Jesus.'
Dr J.N.D Anderson concludes that it is 'almost meaningless to talk about legends when you're dealing with the eyewitnessess themselves.'27
The facts speak louder than the theories
Professor Paul L. Maier, a man trained to analyze historical arguments, concludes, 'None of the theories (the resurrection plotted or a natural explanation such as the body stolen) offers any solid base for historical reconstruction of what happened on the first Easter morning. If honestly examined, they appear quite fanciful, and all of them raise far more difficulties than they solve. No one theory explains all the phenomena reported at the time, and it would take an incredible combination of several of them to do so. This much must be admitted, not merely on any basis of Christian apologetic, but of sober historical inquiry.'
Many times, the Jewish high priest must have mused, 'why did we ever ask the Romans to secure the grave? They took so many precautions they actually overdid it and thus gave significant testimony to the resurrection of Jesus.
Only one conclusion takes into account all the facts and does not adjust them to preconceived notions. It is the conclusion that Christ is in fact risen-a supernatural act of God in history.
Authors comments: If film or television had been invented then, you now would have been certain of the resurrection, just by seeing footage of Jesus crucifixion, confirmation of death and his many post resurrection appearances (CNN would have loved the whole story). Human nature was the same then as it is now, if the resurrection was not real, the many opponents would have shown it was a lie. An unwritten law is that a lie sooner or later will be unmasked, a Greek proverb says the liar and the thief are happy only for one day. The story of the resurrection if not real, would not have reached us.
These comments, my comments, are more than enough, the learned from this article have said it all.
Now, how can you be so certain that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not real?
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