Easter : Evidence for the Resurrection

Easter Day : Evidence for the Resurrection
We live in a very cynical age that  prefers to mock than to believe. Numerous popular  writers with very varied credentials pour scorn on faith in general, Christianity especially and the resurrection as fact in particular. Put very simply their attack boils down to three elements: (1) the texts we have were all written so long after the events that we cannot be sure that they are reliable witnesses, (2) the first disciples were bound to invent “a happy ever after” ending and (3) such evidence as the New Testament and other Christian experience provides is biased and therefore not to be trusted. Well let’s deal with the last one first! Yes the NT is biased – but that does not make it any more or less reliable than any agnostic or atheist thinker today. A modern fallacy is to assume that only cynicism and scepticism is unbiased whereas commitment is prejudicial to truth. Modern anti-Christian are just as prejudiced as any born-again Christian – we simply need to be aware of the prejudices and examine the evidence!

So : evidence for the historicity of the Resurrection:

None of the disciples expected the resurrection. Although the Gospels and Paul are convinced that Jesus was fulfilling the Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament) there is no evidence that before Jesus any Jewish thinkers believed that the Messiah would suffer –and even less suggestion concerning resurrection.

The first newscasters were women. If the resurrection was a made up story it would have been put about by men. In C1st AD the evidence of women was regarded as unreliable.

The disciples all left Jesus and fled when he was arrested; then they hid behind locked doors. Something more than wishful thinking must have changed them to give the courage  publicly to declare Christ Risen.

If we read the Gospels and Paul’s accounts of Easter carefully  there are a  number of minor discrepancies. Far from this indicating fabrication it suggests truth – if the stories were made up then surely the first disciples would have made sure that the lies were water tight?

St. Paul himself started out as a persecutor of the Christian faith – he became a Christian and risked persecution and eventual death because he knew he had met the Risen Christ.

Many of the first Christians were put in prison and even executed for their Easter faith. If they had known they were lying why not save themselves by admitting the deception?

St. Paul’s letters were all written between about 40 - to 55 AD. In other words within only a couple of years of the events they describe

The Gospels were written as we now have them between about 60 and at the latest about 90 AD. This is in itself only a relatively short time gap between event and writing but we also must remember that the Gospels as we have them all show signs on being based on much earlier oral accounts.

The Christian day of worship rapidly became Sunday rather than the Jewish Saturday – this is most easily explained if Jesus rose from the dead on “the first day of the week” i.e. Sunday.

Although later on (from about the C4th.A.D.) it became the custom for devout Christians to visit the site of Jesus’ tomb there is no evidence of this in the first three centuries. In other words Christian experience of the Risen Christ does not rest just on historical past but on present experience – we meet the Risen Christ in worship and in the Sacraments.

 


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