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|The Resurrection of Jesus, is it real?|
The empty tomb
The body of Jesus, according to Jewish burial custom, was covered in a linen cloth. About 45 kilos of aromatic ingredients, mixed to form a sticky substance, were placed on the cloth which covered the body.
They placed the body in a tomb made of solid rock. with the help of levers they moved a massive block of stone (weighing about 2 ton) and closed the entrance of the tomb.
A Roman guard composed of strictly disciplined men was ordered to guard the tomb. Fear of punishment "caused deep devotion to their duty, especially on night shifts". The guard placed on the tomb the Roman stamp, the sign of Roman power and rule. The purpose of the stamp was to deter any vandalism. Whoever tried to move the rock from the entrance of the cave would have broken the stamp and that would have brought on the rage of Roman law.
The tomb was empty.
Christ's followers said that he was risen from the dead. They confirmed that for 40 days he appeared to them. "With much proof" (some translations say "with irrefutable proof").
The apostle Paul said that Jesus appeared simultaneously to more then 500 of his followers, most of them were still alive in Paul's time and could confirm or deny his writings. A.M. Ramsey writes "One of the reasons I believe in the resurrection, is that without it a series of events remain unexplained." The empty tomb was too "well known to be denied by anyone."
Paul Althaus says that the resurrection "could not be supported in Jerusalem not even for one day, what am I saying, not even for one hour, if it wasn't confirmed as a sure happening to all interested that the tomb was empty."
Paul L. Maier concludes: "If all the evidence is weighed carefully and justly, it is truly reasonable, according to the rules of historic research, for one to conclude that the tomb in which they buried Jesus was really empty on the morning of Sunday. And there is not one shread of evidence that has been discovered until this day, in the written sources, the inscriptions or archaeology, which has refuted this."
How can we explain the empty tomb? is it possible to be attributed to natural causes?
Based on unshakable evidence, Christians believe that Jesus was risen bodily in time and space by the supernatural power of God. The difficulties of such faith are great but after studying the evidence the difficulties not to believe are even greater.
The state in which the tomb was in after the resurrection is impressive. The Roman stamp broken, which meant immediate crucifixion head downwards to the culprit. The large rock lifted and moved, not only from the entrance, but away from the whole massive tomb. As if it had been lifted by someone and placed elsewhere. The guards ran. Justinian in his work Digest 49. says there were eighteen violations for which a team of guards could have been executed. Amongst them are the cases of a guard who fell asleep or left his post unattended.
The women came and found the tomb empty. They panicked and returned to tell the men.
Peter and John ran to the tomb. John arrived first but didn't go in. He looked inside, the shrouds are little creased but nothing inside them. The body of Christ passed through them to a new existence. We have to admit, something like this would make one believe at that instance. The theories which are put forward to explain the resurrection from a natural point of view are impossible. it is this reality which helps to increase our belief in the resurrection.
According to one theory proposed by Kirsopp Lake the women said the body was missing, as they went by mistake to a different tomb. If this was the case then his students made the same mistake by going to investigate the women's words. We can be certain that Judaic authorities who placed the Roman guard in front of the tomb, so that the body could not be stolen didn't make a mistake with the location. Nor did the Roman guards because they had put the body there (along with the Judaic authorities).
If in fact it was the wrong tomb, then the Judaic authorities wouldn't have wasted any time in showing the body from the real tomb, to kill effectively once and for ever any rumour about a resurrection.
According to another theory the body was stolen by his students when the guard had fallen asleep. Disappointment and lack of courage by the students are strong arguments against the theory of their sudden transformation into courageous daring men, so as to confront a detachment of soldiers in front of the tomb and steal the body, they had no desire to do that.
J.D Anderson the head of London's university of law, president of the eastern division at the school of eastern and African studies, and director of higher education of law at the university of London, commenting on the theory that the students stole Jesus body, says: "Something like that is completely contradictory of what we know about them: their ethical teaching, their quality of life, their grief and persecution. The empty tomb and the confirmation of seeing Jesus resurrected changed them. A logical explanation can't be given as to how a dramatic transformation from discouraged dejected renegades to martyrs which no resistance could close their mouth (more further down).
The theory that the Judaic or Roman authorities, moved the body can't give a more logical explanation about the empty tomb. If the authorities kept or knew where the body was, when the students were heralding the resurrection in Jerusalem, why didn't they say they had the body? If they had taken it why didn't they say where it was? Why didn't they put it in a cart, and show it in the center of Jerusalem? It is certain that this act would have destroyed Christianity, one who is familiar knows that the last thing the Jews wanted was a rumour of a resurrection spreading, as they had him as an impostor, MATTHEW 27:63 "Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, 'After three days I will rise again.'.
Dr John Warwick Montgomery says: "It passes the boundaries of any logic that the first Christians conjured up such a story amongst people who could have easily showed the body of Jesus."15
Professor Thomas Arnold, director of Rugby for 14 years, author of the three volume work The history of Rome, and holder of the seat of contemporary history at Oxford was well acquainted with the value of proof for elucidation of historical events. Said: "for many years I have been accustomed to studying history, examining and weighing the evidence from those who have written it, and I don't know of any other event in history which is confirmed with clearer and fuller proof of every kind. To the just seeker the enormous sign that God has given us, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is priceless."
The English researcher Brooke Foss Westcott, said having gathered all the evidence, it isn't an exaggeration to say that there is no other event in history for which there is better and varied evidence than the resurrection of Christ. Only the hypothesis that the resurrection must have been a hoax could have proposed the idea of lack of evidence.
Dr Simon Greenleaf was one of the greatest intellects this country (America) has ever had. "He was a famous professor at Harvard university and succeeded judge Jaseph Story as professor of Dane law in the same university. H.W. Knotts in the Dictionary of American Biography writes about him "The emergence of Harvard's school of law in the distinguished place that it holds amongst schools of the same kind in America is attributed to Story and Greenleaf." When he was a professor at Harvard, Greenleaf wrote a volume in which he examined the value from a leagal point of view of the giving of evidence of the apostoles on the resurrection of Christ. He observed that it was impossible for the apostoles "to continue to reafirm the truth time after time, if in fact Jesus wasn't resurrected from the dead." Greenleaf concluded that the resurrection of Christ is one of the better clued events in history, according to the rules of legal evidence as they are applied in court.
Another in the legal profession Frank Morison, started with the purpose of refuting the resurrection. He believed that Jesus led one of the most interesting lives, but as far as the resurrection was concerned, he theorized that someone added a myth to the whole story. he was planning to write a story based on the last days of Jesus life, naturaly he was going to avoid the resurrection. He was counting on a clever, logical approach that would dicredit the resurrection of Jesus. But when he approached the events with the prism of legal foundation and it's construction, he was forced to change his mind, finaly he wrote a best-seller Who moved the stone? It's first chapter bore the title "The book that didn't want to be written".
The rest of the chapters are determined to show the evidence that Jesus was indeed resurrected.
George Eldon concludes: "The only logical explanation for these historical events that can be given is that God resurrected Jesus." He who believes now in Jesus christ can have complete confidence, just like the first Christians that his faith is based not on a myth or legend but on a firm historical event, the resurrection of Christ and the emty tomb.
What is your evaluation and decision? What is your opinion on the empty tomb? After examining the evidence from a legal point of view Lord Darling former president of England's high court answered:"There is so much exciting evidence, positive as well as negative, direct nad indirect, which no jury in the world can deny that the resurrection is not real".
One fact that is often overlooked by whoever doubts Christianity, is the dramatic transformation of the apostoles of Jesus. Their changed lives is a firm, unshakable proof of the authenticity of it's claim. We can rely in the witness of the apostoles as out of the twelve men, the eleven found a torturous death supporting two things: The resurrection of Christ, and their faith in him as the son of God.
Tortured, whipped and finaly died as a result of the era's cruelest methods. Usually the popular answer is: "So what? Many have died for a lie, what does that prove?"
Yes many have died for a lie, but they thought it was truth. Now if the resurrection is not real (is a lie), the students knew it. It can't be proven that they were mistaken. So these eleven men not only died for a lie and here is the fine point-they knew it was a lie. It would be difficult to find eleven men in the history of mankind who died for a lie, knowing it was a lie.
Classical writer A.N. Sherwin-White writes:"The doings of the apostoles, their historical confirmation is not to be denied." And continues:"Every attempt to reject the basis of their historicity, even in detail, seems illogical. Even Roman historians consider it a fact." A.N. Sherwin-White continues "After personally trying to discredit the historicity and validity of the scriptures, I came to the conclusion that they are viable. From the moment one rejects the Bible as untrustworthy, he is forced to reject the whole philology of antiquity".
To conclude, two Oxford professors, Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton, were determined to destroy the basis of the christian faith. West was aiming to prove the falsehood of the resurrection and Lyttleton was planning to evidence that Saul was never converted to Christianity. Both concluded the opposite and became passionate supporters of Christ. Lord Lyttleton writes:"The apostoleship of Paul alone, if considered as it should, is by itself capable of proving that Christianity is a divine revelation". Lord Lyttleton comes to this conclusion, from the reality of the twenty five year apostoleship and torment of Paul for serving Christ.
The Apostle Paul before accepting the word of God was an eminent and rich Roman citizen, who was named Saul. Saul who lived in Jerusalem and occupied by his fathers business was devoted to the religious laws of the Jews, at first he was completely incredulous to the teachings of the apostoles, and had even threatened to murder them, until one day, and I will quote the Bible, "Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' And he said, 'Who are you Lord?' And the Lord said 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city and you will be told what to do.'
The men who were travelling with him stood speechless hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate or drank." This is how his conversion into Christianity came about.
Paul went from one extreme to the other, time after time he declared that the live, resurrected Jesus had transformed his life. He was so convinced that he was martyred for his belief. The possibility of death and torment that hung over his head were unimportant to him, what a transformation!