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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)

Judaism and Christianity Introduction and History
History of Judaism Continued
Scholarly Objections and Historicity of Daniel (P. 1)
Historicity of Daniel (P. 2) & Judeo-Christian Syncretism
A Few Words on Gnosticism
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 1)
Christianity - A Sect of Judaism (P. 2) & Prophecy in Judaism
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 1)
Is Jesus the Jewish Messiah? (P. 2)
List of Messianic Qualifications & the Resurrection of Jesus (P. 1)
The Resurrection of Jesus (Part 2)
Study Conclusions and Overall Comparisons

Additional Material
The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses
Comparison of Mystical Religions to Judeo-Christianity
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 1)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 2)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 3)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 4)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 5)
Rabbinical Judaism Accepts Christian Interpretations (P. 6)

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




(Continued from previous section.)

As a historical record, the New Testament reports three historical facts about the events surrounding the resurrection. First, before his death Jesus prophesied that he would die and that he would rise from the dead on the third day afterward. This prophecy was known at least to his disciples and the chief priests and Pharisees. (As stated above, the New Testament records that, although aware of the claim, Jesus' disciples did not seem to understand this claim or at the least fully realize its implications until after the fact.) Second, Jesus died by crucifixion and was buried in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers who were there at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees. And third, on the third day after his death, Jesus' body was not in his tomb.

And we must keep in mind that according to the academic standards for determining historicity with regard to events, writings, and authorship, all 3 of these items are a matter of the historical record. We are now simply evaluating the accuracy of these historical accounts. It is also extremely important to state that there are no other competing or contradicting accounts of these 3 facts in the historical record dating anywhere near the timeframe of these events. As such, we have no historical documentation disputing the claims offered in these historical accounts.


1. Before his death Jesus prophesied that he would die and that he would rise from the dead on the third day afterward. This prophecy was known to his disciples and the leaders of the chief priests and Pharisees.

Matthew 12:38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Matthew 17:22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: 23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

Matthew 20:17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, 18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, 19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Matthew 26:1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, 2 Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.

Matthew 27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.

Mark 8:31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly.

Mark 9:31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day. 32 But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Mark 10:32 And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, 33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: 34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.

Luke 18:31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. 34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.

Luke 24:6 remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words,


2. Jesus died by crucifixion and was buried in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers who were there at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees.

Matthew 27:32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. 33 And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, 34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. 35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots...46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. 48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. 49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. 50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost...57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed...62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Mark 15:20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him. 21 And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross. 22 And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. 23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. 24 And when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. 25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified him...34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? 35 And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, he calleth Elias. 36 And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down. 37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost...39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost...43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. 44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.

Luke 23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. 44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour...46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost...50 And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: 51 (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid.

John 19:16 Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. 17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: 18 Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. 19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin...30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe...38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand


3. On the third day after his death, Jesus' body was not in his tomb.

Luke 24:1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout...12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass...22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body...24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the LORD out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 5 And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself...13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my LORD, and I know not where they have laid him.

These facts are undisputed in the available historical accounts. We have no reason to object to these facts as they are reported in the historical accounts. So, we accept that Jesus prophesied his death and resurrection, that he did die by crucifixion, and that his body was not in his tomb on the third day afterwards.

Consider that Jesus was crucified in a public area outside Jerusalem during a busy Jewish feast.

John 19:20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

Because of the public nature of Jesus crucifixion during a busy feast day many people would have seen him on the cross. Additionally, Pontius Pilate makes certain that Jesus was dead before giving his body to Joseph of Arimathaea to be buried. Pilate asks the centurion who was at the scene to certify that Jesus was, in fact, dead. This centurion would not have given a hasty account to Pilate.

Mark 15:39 And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost...44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

Likewise, Roman soldiers, whose duty involved being able to determine if the victim was deceased, confirmed that Jesus was, in fact, dead.

John 19:31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

And finally, the chief priests and Pharisees attest that Jesus was dead when they request of Pilate that guards be placed at his tomb.

Matthew 27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

And, lastly Jesus' disciples were distraught over his death, including the Apostle John who was an eye-witness to the event and who wrote his account down for us.

John 19:32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true...

So, we know that before his death Jesus did prophecy his death and resurrection on the third day. We know that Jesus disciples as well as the chief priests and Pharisees were aware of this prophecy. We know that the disciples did not understand this prophecy and so were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead (Mark 9:32, Luke 18:34). We know that Pilate, a Roman centurion, and several Roman soldiers, and John the Apostle attested to the fact that Jesus was dead. And we know that Jesus was buried in a tomb, sealed by a great stone, and guarded by soldiers who were to prevent the disciples from coming and stealing Jesus' body. And furthermore, we know that we have no other documentation in the historical record disputing or refuting the claims offered in these historical accounts.

The critical question then, is why, on the third day after his death, was Jesus' body not in the tomb where he was buried?

Only two explanations are provided for us in the available historical account of these events. Either Jesus had risen from the dead or Jesus' disciples had taken his body. No other explanation is provided to us by those who were alive at the time and were in a position to investigate and verify these claims. Because this is the case, we must accept one of these two explanation and discard the other. No other explanation can be considered.

Since we have no information about the events in question besides that, which is provided by those who were present at the time, any additional explanation, which is not represented in their accounts must be discarded as mere novel conjecture since it is not based upon direct, objective verification or upon historical accounts. Since such explanations are entirely contrived and speculative or propositional in nature, there is no reason to accept their version of the events in question. Instead, if we wish to remain faithful to history, to remain faithful to the academic standard for historicity, and to avoid circular reasoning, we must, instead, rely upon the testimony of those who were in a position to objectively verify the occurrence of the event in question.

So, we must decide whether or not the historical account of the empty tomb is best explained by Jesus' resurrection or by his disciples stealing the body. This is particularly relevant given the fact that the "stolen body" theory is the only alternative to the resurrection explanation that is found in the historical record. Therefore, the "stolen body" theory is the only available alternative explanation that is not simply novel conjecture invented centuries after the fact. And so, we will now turn to examining the claim of the chief priests and Pharisees that Jesus' disciples stole his body.

The most important thing to note about the account of the chief priests and Pharisees is that, according to the only available historical account of these events, they were aware of Jesus' prophecy that he would rise from the dead on the third day after his death and that they placed guards at the tomb for the specific purpose of preventing Jesus' disciples from coming to take his body.

Matthew 27:62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

The first suspicious aspect of the explanation that the disciples stole the body is the assertion that they overpowered the Roman guards that were charged specifically with preventing them from doing so. Exactly how was it that Jesus' disciples managed to overpower the guards and steal away his body from the Roman soldiers? Even at face value this explanation seems more than a bit unreasonable.

It hardly seems sensible to assert that these men were at all capable (physically or emotionally) of challenging the Roman guards at Jesus' tomb, much less overpowering them and stealing the body, particularly after having just witnessed the Roman execution of their leader through torturous crucifixion.

But, the real question here is how the chief priests and Pharisees were able to directly verify that the disciples had stolen the body? How did they know that the disciples took the body? How did they know that Jesus' didn't, in fact, rise from the dead as his disciples claimed? Some eyewitness who saw the disciples steal the body would have had to report this to them. But who?

The New Testament records that it was the Roman soldiers in charge of preventing the disciples from stealing the body who informed the chief priests and Pharisees of what had occurred that critical Sunday morning. Perhaps the soldiers told the chief priests and Pharisees that Jesus' disciples had taken the body. This explanation is difficult to accept.

After all, why would Roman guards who had been overcome by Jesus' disciples and allowed them to escape with the body go and tell the chief priests and Pharisees of their failure to obey orders? After all, the chief priests and Pharisees as well as Pontius Pilate would have been irate that these Roman soldiers had allowed the disciples to accomplish the very thing they were charged to prevent them from doing.

If the disciples did overpower them, is it likely that these soldiers would have told the truth to the chief priest, Pharisees, and Pontius Pilate? Would they have admitted to the chief priests, the Pharisees, and Pilate that they had been subdued by a bunch of fisherman? This also seems unlikely. Instead, it seems more reasonable to assume that if such a scenario did occur, the soldiers would have at least covered their tails, used the most available alternate explanation, and said that Jesus had, in fact, risen from the dead.

And we must wonder why the disciples would have left the soldiers alive in the first place. This would be very self-defeating. If the disciples' intention was to steal the body and then tell everyone that Jesus had risen from the dead it would not do to have Roman guards undermining their claim by explaining instead that they had simply came and taken the body. So, the disciples would not have left the guards alive. And yet if they killed the guards then how did the chief priests and Pharisees come to learn of the fact that they had stolen the body?

It seems that there is no reasonable explanation for how it is that the chief priests and Pharisees arrived at the conclusion that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but that his disciples, had stolen his body. The most reasonable explanation is that the chief priests and Pharisees were at least told by the soldiers that Jesus had risen from the dead, which is exactly what the New Testament reports (Matthew 28:12-15). So, since the soldiers reported to them that Jesus had, in fact, risen from the dead and since the body was not in the tomb, how did the chief priests and Pharisees objectively verify that the disciples had taken the body? They could not.

Since the soldiers were the only available means by which the chief priests and Pharisees could objectively confirm that the disciples had taken the body and since it is unlikely that these soldiers would honestly report that they had been overpowered by a bunch of fishermen, the chief priests and the Pharisees would not have been able to know that Jesus' disciples had taken the body through a process of objective verification. They would only be able to speculate that this was the case without having any evidence to that effect.

Furthermore, if the disciples did overpower the guards and steel the body, then we are left with this absurd notion that the disciples were not only willing to risk everything to steel a corpse but that they were, in fact, willing to endure a lifetime of persecution and violent death to testify for a lie that Jesus had risen from the dead when they knew that they had simply stolen his body. Additionally, the persecution and violent deaths of the apostles are also firmly established by the academic standards for historicity. So, of the two explanations, the resurrection provides a better explanation than the "stolen body" theory for the disciples' willingness to endure a lifetime of persecution ending in violent death.

Therefore, given that it is unlikely that Jesus' disciples would have been able to overcome the Roman soldiers, the most reasonable conclusion that we can draw from the only available historical accounts is that the chief priests and Pharisees simply invented the story that Jesus' disciples had stolen the body to cover their own tails.

And more to the point, it is absolutely necessary to point out that the ONLY explanation available in the historical record for the origination of the "stolen body" theory is the explanation provided in the New Testament. The Roman guards came back and reported the resurrection to the Pharisees who, in turn, derived the stolen body explanation in order to counteract reports of the resurrection. Historically speaking, this is the ONLY explanation available to us. To assume some other explanation would require us to completely fabricate theories based upon our own perspective millennia removed from the events and without any first-hand knowledge or evidence to override the only available historical record.

Still, a few questions remain. Why would the Pharisees be willing to lie about the resurrection? First, it is entirely possible that the Pharisees may not have believed that a resurrection had actually taken place. In which case, not believing that a resurrection had occurred, the Pharisees would not have had any moral reason to deny the resurrection account. Simply put, if the Pharisees didn't believe the resurrection had occurred, they would not have perceived that by denying the resurrection they were opposing God.

First, consider that the Pharisees did not witness the resurrection first-hand. They had only the testimony of the Roman guards. They could not be sure what these guards had seen. Nor could they be sure, if the body had in fact been stolen, that the guards would be willing to admit that they'd been outwitted or overpowered by a small band of poor, untrained Jewish fishermen.

But even if the Pharisees did believe the testimony of the guards and did realize that the resurrection had occurred, would they have had reason to publicize the "stolen body" theory knowing that Jesus had been raised? Absolutely. What benefit was there to them to tell the truth. As the men who had opposed Jesus and orchestrated the death of God's Messiah, it is quite conceivable that they would have considered redemption and forgiveness were beyond their reach. And so they may have sought to cover their offense to avoid having their error exposed to the public and losing whatever they might have left in this life.

However, most likely the Pharisees probably did not consider the guards' tale to be reliable enough to shake them from their perceptions. Having long ago committed themselves to the course of opposing Jesus, his resurrection would been inconceivable to the Pharisees and so they may have simply put forth the "stolen body" theory without considering that Jesus might have actually risen from the dead.

But there is one more question. Given the fact that the account in the historical record describes decisions that were made by the Pharisees concerning the guards' report at a time when the disciples were not present, how would the disciples be able to know about the Pharisees' decision to publish the "stolen body" theory? In short, wouldn't the disciples simply have had to make up their account of the Pharisees' response to the guards?

The answer here is no. The historical record contains information that would sufficiently explain how the disciples could possess such accurate information about the Pharisees' response to the guards and their decision to advance the "stolen body" theory. For, in the historical record, we find that at least two members of the prominent and leading Jewish community were secret disciples of Jesus and, therefore, were in communication with the disciples. Those two men are Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus. Even if these men were not present when the guards' report came in and the decision was made to publish the "stolen body" theory, they most certainly would have heard about it. Thus, the historical record contains a sufficient means of explaining how the disciples would know about the origin of the "stolen body" theory and the Pharisees' response to the Roman guards, which in turn would explain how such information made it into the historical record in the New Testament without having been invented or imagined by Jesus' disciples.

The result of these considerations is that, at least so far, the most reasonable explanation of the events described in the historical record seems to correspond to the New Testament record. However, there is one more angle to consider this from. Doesn't extraordinary nature of the resurrection provide sufficient reason to override the information in the historical record regarding the origin of the "stolen body" theory?

Here the critical question is this: what is the most pressing natural fact in the historical record? In fact, this is perhaps the critical question for this entire portion of the investigation. When considering what exactly did occur that Sunday morning, was the body stolen or did Jesus rise from the dead, we must be careful to arrive at an explanation that sufficiently explains the other historical facts. For, it is a fundamental fact that for every effect there must be a sufficient cause.

In this issue, the most pressing natural fact (as opposed to the supernatural elements under investigation here) is the fact that the disciples of Jesus Christ endured a lifetime of suffering ending in violent death. As we have said, to deny testimonies of the supernatural because of a pre-existing prejudice against the supernatural is circular reasoning. However, while some might find it necessary to be suspicious of the claim of a resurrection despite the testimony of the historical record and the academic standards for determining historicity, there is absolutely no reason to doubt the historical record regarding the persecution and violent death suffered by the disciples of Jesus. This is a natural event recorded in the historical record in accordance with the standards for historicity and even a predisposition against the supernatural would provide no reason to override historical testimony of such normal, natural events as human persecution and violent deaths.

This leads us to the problem at hand - a problem that, of course, has been pointed out by other authors and scholars. It might be conceivable that disciples would lie about their teacher, including the manner in which he died. And it is even conceivable that to some extent such disciples could perhaps be willing to risk crucifixion themselves by taking on armed Roman guards or maybe even endure some persecution and possibly mild torture to save face after committing such a lie. But it is not really conceivable that anyone would be willing to endure harsh torture or a violent death for the sake of perpetuating a lie about a dead body that they'd stolen.

We might even consider the previous example of Jewish Mystic and self-proclaimed messiah, Shabbetai Tzevi. For review, here again is the basic reference information regarding Shabbetai Tzevi.

Shabbetai Tzevi - born July 23, 1626, Smyrna, Ottoman Turkey [now Izmir, Tur.] died 1676 , Dulcigno, Alb. also spelled Sabbatai Zebi, or Zevi, a false messiah who developed a mass following and threatened rabbinical authority in Europe and the Middle East." - Britannica.com

"Shabbetai Tzevi - As a young man, Shabbetai steeped himself in the influential body of Jewish mystical writings known as the Kabbala. His extended periods of ecstasy and his strong personality combined to attract many disciples, and at the age of 22 he proclaimed himself the messiah." - Britannica.com

Of course, after proclaiming himself to be the Jewish Messiah and attracting enough of a "mass following" to "threaten rabbinical authority in Europe and the Middle East," it is conceivable that Shabbetai Tzevi would be willing to endure at least a moderate amount of persecution and perhaps even some torture to save face before recanting his claim to be the messiah. But in the end, when faced with torture, Shabbetai Tzevi succumbed and converted to Islam, thereby forfeiting his claim and resulting in the loss of most of his following because of his apostasy from Judaism.

"Shabbetai Tzevi - In September, however, he was brought before the sultan in Adrianople and, having been previously threatened with torture, became converted to Islam. The placated sultan renamed him Mehmed Efendi, appointed him his personal doorkeeper, and provided him with a generous allowance. All but his most faithful or self-seeking disciples were disillusioned by his apostasy. Eventually, Shabbetai fell out of favour and was banished, dying in Albania. The movement that developed around Shabbetai Tzevi became known as Shabbetaianism." - Britannica.com

This illustrates the point quite succinctly. The point here is not whether Shabbetai Tzevi actually believed that he was the messiah. Even if he believed he was the messiah, his convictions were not strong enough to overcome the threat of torture and perhaps violent death. How much more so when a man knows for a fact that something is a lie. When faced with the threat of torture and violent death, it is preposterous to think that any man would endure such a sacrifice for the sake of something he knew was a lie. In fact, in order to overcome the threat of severe persecution, torture, and death, a man's convictions regarding a claim would have to surpass those of Shabbetai Tzevi.

And so we arrive at the historic problem concerning that famous Sunday morning and the reports of the resurrection of Jesus. No matter how the Pharisees arrived at the alternate explanation that the body had been stolen from the tomb, whether they received this idea from Roman guards or in some other way, any version of the "stolen body" requires the conclusion that the disciples were willing to endure lifelong persecution, excommunication, torture, and violent death for something they knew was a lie, for a body that they knew they had stolen or for a messiah who falsely claimed he would rise from the dead and did not do so. And while it is possible that the disciples would have been willing to endure such things so long as their belief in the resurrection surpassed the convictions of Shabbetai Tzevi, it is preposterous to think that the disciples would have endured these things knowing full well that the resurrection was a lie.

But, in contrast to Shabbetai Tzeve, some might say, "what about Simon bar Kokba? Surely he was a man that was willing to die for what he believed." But the case of Simon bar Kokba only proves our point even more. For while it is conceivable that a man, such as Simon bar Kokba, would fight and die for what he believed in, how many men would be willing to endure excommunication, lifelong persecution, jail, torture and violent death for something that they knew was a lie? And that is the problem with any explanation of the historic record that does not involve a real resurrection, including the stolen-body theory. All such explanations inherently require that the disciples of Jesus would be willing to endure persecution and violent death for something that they knew was a lie.

And so, all such theories make no sense whatsoever. They reduce the historical record to something that can be discarded based upon personal preferences and modern convenience. As such, we become the writers of history rather than simply the observers and collectors of what is recorded by those in a better position to write it than ourselves.

As we have said, some might find it necessary to be suspicious of the claim of a resurrection despite the testimony of the historical record and the academic standards for determining historicity. But there is absolutely no reason to doubt the historical record regarding the persecution and violent death suffered by the disciples of Jesus. This is a natural event recorded in the historical record in accordance with the standards for historicity. As such it must be accepted as true. And because it must be accepted as true, it requires a sufficient explanation. For, as we have said, it is a fundamental fact that for every effect there must be a sufficient cause.

The result is that the historical record regarding the persecution and violent deaths endured by Jesus' disciples requires an explanation for the events of that famous Sunday morning that would produce within the disciples a belief in the resurrection that surpassed the convictions held by Shabbetai Tzevi and Simon bar Kokba. But what would be sufficient to produce such an all-surpassing belief?

This leads to another problem: the number of people willing to endure the persecution and violent death. There's not just one person willing to face excommunication, torture, and violent death to testify to the resurrection. There are at least 12 eye-witnesses. In fact, the historical record attests to the existence of 500 witnesses of the resurrected Jesus. But, for argument's sake, let's just stick with the smaller number of 12. Unlike Shabbetai Tzevi, there is no mention or evidence in the historical record of anyone of these 12 recanting, not one. (For more information concerning the persecutions and violent deaths suffered by witnesses of the resurrection, please visit our addendum entitled, "The Sufferings of Eyewitnesses.")

Here the most rational explanation for why 12 men would all prefer to endure persecution and violent death for an event is simply this. They didn't just hallucinate it. They didn't conspire to sacrifice their lives for a lie. Surely at least one out of 12 men would have succumbed and recanted if that was the case. Even Shabbetai Tzevi, a man confident enough to claim he was the messiah, recanted when faced with torture. Since the historical record describes that these 12 men did seek and did receive objective, verifiable evidence that Jesus had risen from the grave, the most rational explanation of their willingness to endure lifelong persecution and violent death is that all 12 of these men did, in fact, receive such objective verification of the resurrection.

As a result of witnessing objective, verifiable proofs of the resurrection first-hand, these men came to possess belief in the resurrection that surpassed the conviction of Shabbetai Tzevi and so they were willing to endure persecution and violent death because of what they had seen. And since the explanation that the disciples did witness first-hand objective verification of the resurrection is the only explanation that accounts for the natural facts found in the historic record and all other explanations result in preposterous conclusions and mere modern contrivances, we arrive at the conclusion that the historical testimonies regarding the resurrection are the most reasonable assessment of the events in the historical record, even the natural events, which we have no reason to doubt unless we seek to overturn the whole knowledge of human history and the whole process of historic investigation in order to avoid concluding that there was a resurrection. But that is too high a price to pay. It is wholly unreasonable and based upon nothing but circular reasoning, prejudiced by preconceived preferences and conclusions.

And it is precisely the academic standards concerning historicity combined with the overwhelming number and quality of early records regarding the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, including his resurrection, as well as the pressing circumstances of his disciples' willingness to die for their testimonies that makes the resurrection of Jesus Christ the single most-attested to and best-attested to event in all of non-modern history.

Since we have shown that one of the two available explanations for the empty tomb cannot have been based upon objective verification of the evidence, we must accept the only other explanation provided by history. Since, the chief priests and Pharisees could not have objectively verified that the disciples had taken Jesus' body from the tomb and since the disciples themselves were unwilling to believe until they were able to objectively verify the evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus' did, in fact, rise from the dead just as they testify. So, we can accept the New Testament account as a reliable and accurate testimony that Jesus' resurrection is a historical fact and, in fact, as the only reasonable explanation available in the historical record.

But, some may suggest that this standard by which we accept the historical reality of Jesus' resurrection is too low because it would force us to also accept the validity of any similar claim made by anyone else. To this we say, sure, no problem. If there is any other historical figure who claims to have risen from the dead that has the quantity and quality of historical documentation that Jesus' life, death, and resurrection does, was objectively verifiable when it occurred, and is the most reasonable interpretation of the available historical record then yes we would consider this claim.

However, the problem, of course, with this objection is that it will never be more than hypothetical speculation. The simple fact of the matter is that there are no other historical figures who claim to have risen from the dead. Let alone any which meet these same standards established by the New Testament record. So, in reality our standard is sufficiently high enough. In fact, it is so high that any other supposed contender would be disqualified by comparison to it.

With this, our study of Judeo-Christianity is complete. We have demonstrated two things. First, unlike Islam, which cannot be said to legitimately derive from Judaism or Christianity, Christianity is the legitimate interpretation of Judaism. Therefore, Judaism and Christianity are really a single religion and not two distinct religions as most people in the modern era conceive of them. Second, unlike all of the other religions we have studied, the evidence offered by Judeo-Christianity does substantiate its truth claims about God and provide sound reasons for accepting its claims as reliable and accurate.


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