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“He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve (1 Cor. 15: 5 NIV 1984).”

An Apology for the Resurrection of Jesus

Essay set 2

 

Trenton Clark Rindoks

PHIL 240-B01

Liberty University

Professor Beau Walker

Abstract

There are many skeptical arguments against the resurrection of Jesus. The minimal approach is deigned to debunk these arguments using the least amount of historical evidence and staying away from church doctrine and the views of the various denominations. Some skeptics claim the resurrection of Christ is nothing more than a fable or legend arising from influence of the mystery cults of Rome and the various pagan religions previous to the writing of the Bible and the presence of the historical Jesus. Finally, can one prove Christ rose from the dead if so how can this be done in an adequate manner? The following three essays will examine the above topics in detail starting with the minimal approach to apologetics, then addressing the issue of how to debunk the claims of the resurrection as a mere legend. Finally a case for the resurrection of Christ will be presented in detail.

“He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve (1 Cor. 15: 5 NIV 1984).”

An Apology for the Resurrection of Jesus

Essay Set 2

Essay 1/The Minimal Approach

Introduction

The minimal approach is deigned to debunk the arguments of skeptics against the Resurrection of Christ using the least amount of historical evidence and staying away from church doctrine and the views of the various denominations. Habermas and Licona explain the minimal approach as follows: “The minimal approach considers those historical data that are so strongly attested that virtually all scholars who study the subject grant them as facts, even the majority of non-believing scholars. Therefore, one cannot object to Jesus’ resurrection because he rejects the Bible, since in our argument nothing hinges on the trustworthiness of the Bible (Habermas and Licona 2004).” The minimal approach outlines 5 basic facts known as the 4+1 method these facts are: (1) Jesus died from crucifixion. (2) After his death Jesus rose from the dead and was seen by the twelve disciples and others in corporal form. (3)We have testimony from an enemy of Christianity of a corporal appearance of Christ after his crucifixion occurred and (4) another from a skeptic who based on their beliefs would not readily convert to Christianity or acknowledge such an occurrence. (5) The tomb was empty (Habermas and Licona 2004).

Jesus’s Death by Crucifixion

Besides the wealth of information within the Bible which is derived from over 5,000 manuscripts from the 1-4th century and earlier Hebrew oral tradition we have historical sources outside the Bible which record the crucifixion of Christ.” Flavius Josephus is the most famous Jewish historian. In his Antiquities he refers to James, ‘the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ. ‘There is a controversial verse (18:3) that says, ‘Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats….He was [the] Christ…he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.’ One version reads, ‘At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders (Got Questions.org-Bible Questions Answered 2002-2014).’” Other historians such as Tacitus, Thallus, and Mara Bar Serapion mention Christ death as well as it is detail in the Babylonian Talmud

Some skeptics may wish to argue that Jesus actually survived the crucifixion but an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has proven this could not be the case.  First before crucifixion convicted was repeatedly whipped. “The scourging…was intended to weaken the victim to a state just short of collapse or death.” Secondly,” the nails in wrist would crush the sensorimotor median nerve causing pain compared to by one of the doctor’s in the study as ‘crushing the funny bone with a pair of pliers.’” Also, when the victim attempted to breath he would have to pull up on his body and thus rip the nails into the flesh and bones of the feet. In the relaxed or down position one would have difficulty exhaling experiencing pain and eventually suffocate. Finally, if the process was taking too long a club was used to speed up asphyxia (Habermas and Licona 2004). However in the case Christ as documented in Gospel of Peter such tactics were not employed to delay suffering. We however do no from Biblical accounts a spear was used to check for death as described in John 19:34-35. The blood and water flowing from Jesus can be explained medically as a rupture to the sac surrounding the heart and a rupture to the right side of the heart itself both which would be fatal if Jesus survived the crucifixion (Habermas and Licona 2004).

Jesus seen by the 12 and Others

One of the earliest sources detailing the appearance of Jesus to the disciples and others is 1Corinthians 15:5-8: “and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born (1 Cor. 15:5-8 NIV 1984).” The letter to the Corinthians from which 1 Corinthians is derived from was written in 56 AD in comparison to Luke which some scholars consider the oldest gospel written in 60 AD (Towns and Gutiierrez 2012).  However the sources from which Paul cites are creeds and oral traditions from the time of Christ and right after his death (Habermas and Licona 2004). The Gospels each mention Jesus appearing after the crucifixion although the details vary slightly from Gospel to Gospel. However the consistency in Thomas doubting and be asked to touch the flesh of Jesus the mention that Jesus ate and drank prove this as a corporal or natural not spiritual encounter.  Also, to those who wish to claim such an occurrence was a mass hallucination a hallucination is similar to a dream and would not be able to be seen by many in a similar fashion (Habermas and Licona 2004).

 

Testimony of Paul

When considering the appearance of Jesus to Paul one should remember a few facts. First it happened after the Accession and more importantly Paul at previous to his conversion was a member of the Pharisee, a Roman citizen, and a persecutor of Christians who viewed their very existence a threat to Judaism. Some skeptics claim that Paul invented the claim of his conversion to become a leader in the Christian Community but when one looks at the status of the early church this would seem an unlikely move. Why would one wish to face imprisonment possible execution, loss of status and join an organization considered to be outcasts? Saul (Paul) was rising in influence among the Pharisee and as a Roman citizen could have easily entered into life of public service if he sought prestige (Habermas and Licona 2004). Another Argument made with the conversion of Paul is that this encounter unlike that of the disciples was purely spiritual in nature however those who were traveling with Paul also experienced the blinding light and heard the voice but were not able to discern the content. Paul also frequently in his writings refers to Christ as resurrected in Body and even when he refers to us losing our body and being replaced by a spirit he is referring to our conduct not form when one looks at the Greek translation of Body and Spirit used by Paul in his writings (Habermas and Licona 2004). The most significant fact of Paul’s conversion is as a former enemy of Christ he came to believe and became a champion and founding father of Christianity who died for his believes. This in itself proves the power and truth of the conversion and corporal encounter with Christ.

James, Brother of Christ

James was a devote Jew who denied his brothers identity as the messiah even up to his death. Like Paul, James was visit by Jesus postmortem and faced many issues many considering becoming a Christian. The least of which would be considered an outcast of society the most serious would be to be cursed by God and the damnation of one’s soul. Also, like all the followers of Jesus by spreading the Gospel James could face possible persecution and death. Hardly a fate one would consider without experiencing a serious spiritual experience.

Seen by Others

Paul records that Jesus was seen by 500 others. In addition to these we have Biblical accounts of Jesus appearing to the women at the tomb. This is extremely significant as women were considered second-class citizens in Roman and Jewish society.  Under Jewish Law the testimony of Women could not be considered as valid evidence. If such is the case why would the writers of the Christian text include women as sources of the sighting of Jesus? Such use would be considered untrustworthy and be cause for embarrassment.  The use of women as sources adds validity to the Resurrection as defined by the criterion of embarrassment.

The Empty Tomb

The lack of Jesus’s body in the tomb has generated many theories among skeptics for centuries. The most common is that the disciples’ stole the body and contrived a conspiracy theory to propagated Christianity. This theory was first reported by Jewish authorities when the tomb was discovered empty after Christ had risen and is reported in the Bible in Matthew 28:12-15. If this was the case as pointed out by Charles Colson an accomplice in the Watergate Scandal: “Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides of the President of The United Sates-the most powerful men in America- who were intensely loyal to the president. But one of them, John Dean, turned state’s evidence that is, testified against Nixon to save his own skin in only two weeks. The fact is all around the President was facing embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody’s life was at stake. But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants were facing beating stoning or execution (Habermas and Licona 2004).” With such possible consequences it is doubtful any conspiracy would have taken place.

Another theory often argued is that the disciples simple went to the wrong tomb or the body was never buried or moved. We have historical documentation that Joseph of Arimathea buried the body in his personal tomb. Also, Jewish burial even if Jesus’ body was later moved to the criminals’ plot would have been documented by Law. Thus the chance that the went to the wrong tomb is a weak proposition at best

Conclusion

The minimal Approach is designed to debunk claims by skeptics using the least amount of historical evidence and staying away from church doctrine and the views of the various denominations. This effective approach is designed to stay away from controversial issues often employed when more traditional methods are employed. Although it may not be sufficient enough to change the mind of all non-believers it should be a sufficient starting point for most evangelists or theologians to begin a dialog on the resurrection and the need for salvation. After this has been firmly established one may then proceed with other measures such as personal testimonies acts of kindness and outreach. As a final caution one should remember we do not win others to Christ but merely plant seeds only the Holy Spirit can bring about a conversion experience within an individual.

Bibliography

Got Questions.org-Bible Questions Answered. 2002-2014. http://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-exist.html#ixzz3CatHGNiV (accessed 09 06, 2014).

Habermas, Gary R, and Michael R Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregal, 2004.

NIV. Swindoll, Charles R. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publish House, 1984.

Towns, Elmer L, and Ben Gutiierrez. The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essay 2/Addressing concerns of the Legend of Christ’s Resurrection

Introduction

Some skeptics claim that the resurrection of Christ as detailed in the Bible is nothing more than a retelling of a historical account using mythical details from cultures that influenced the Jewish people particular the Mystery Cults of Rome. However as probable as this may seem w will examine the unlikelihood that such an occurrence happened.

Mystery Cults Examined

The resurrection accounts of the Mystery cults actually date to times after the resurrection of Christ with the exception of the Cult of Osiris.  If there was any influence on resurrection and religion it would that the Mystery cults were influenced by Christianity. Prior to Christianity the cult of Cybele considered the efficiency of their bloodbaths to extend life by twenty years but after the rise of Christianity and into the third Century AD tis was extended to eternity (Komoszewski, Sawyer and Wallace 2006). The myths concerning Osiris are also sketchy. In some accounts Isis assembles but 13 of his 14 parts and he descends to become the God of the underworld. In others he becomes the Sun. Still unlike Christ he is not made completely whole but is reborn in a partial body in a sort of zombie or mummified state (Habermas and Licona 2004). The earliest known Mystery Cult resurrection story is that of Mithra and it dates to around 150 AD and it also is a modification from the earlier pagan story of its origin (Habermas and Licona 2004). Still other Mystery Cults were simply a merger of pagan deities from various cultures that were custom modified to meet the needs of their followers and as such would prove to unreliable sources to any intellectual.

 

Plato

Some skeptics who wish to disprove that Christ appeared in natural form will claim Paul was influenced by the writings of Plato. Plato believed that all consciousness, Ideas, and things that exist are in Heaven first and then are discovered first that all people and things have souls. One must remember logically at first glance this argument would make sense.  Before the Roman occupation the Greeks occupied Israel so Hellenistic thought would be prevalent in the culture. Also, as Paul was educated he would have studied classical literature. However, the Jews also, believed in the soul or spirit prior to Plato. If Plato had any influence on Judaic or Christian thought it would more than likely be in how the underworld is organized but this too is also a weak argument as the Jews had a preexisting idea of the underworld or Sheol.

Conclusion

Although some skeptics claim the resurrection of Jesus Christ is nothing more than legend fabricated to propagate the Church by using preexistence concepts of myth and legends from pagan and the Mystery Cults that were previous and existed at the time of the writing of the Bible. A careful review of historical data can prove otherwise. Also when one compares the actual stories themselves there is an extreme contrast in detail between the living Christ, the cycle based pagan Gods or Gods of the underworld. Some Critics have also made claims of extreme legends such as Jesus being an extraterrestrial being. Although it is possible life exist outside this planet the mathematical likelihood is improbable. The mathematical possibility for life to exist on a life sustain planet is 1:1025. The number of planets in the universe is 1025.  Thus it is very unlikely we would have life on any of the other 1030 planets in the universe (Habermas and Licona 2004).

Bibliography

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Habermas, Gary R, and Michael R Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregal, 2004.

Komoszewski, J. Ed, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B Wallace. Reinventing Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006.

 

 

 

Essay 3/A Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

Introduction

In this essay we will examine whether or not the resurrection can be proven and can such evidence be used to further any further apologetic arguments. It is my belief that the minimal approach provides significant evidence that the resurrection occurred however this leaves one main issue unexplained. If Christ was resurrected then there must be a God to perform such a miracle and if so how can this be proven? Also, how can one define a miracle?

Proof of God

The easiest way to proof God exists is to use the Al-Ghazali Argument which simply stated is as follows: (1) whatever begins to exist has a cause. (2) The universe Began to exist. (3) Therefore the universe has a cause (Craig 2010). From there one can build to a more complex argument such as The Leibniz Argument which simply stated is as follows: (1)God is the only necessary being. (2) There are an infinite number of finite worlds that God could actualize but God is obligated to create only the best possible world. (3) God created the best possible world.

If this does not proof sufficient one may turn to mathematics as proof although a negative plus a positive could yield a positive result nothing added to itself or either a negative or positive integer will yield a result. Thus something cannot spring from nonexistence. Matter can spring forth from antimatter but not from nothing there must be a starting point for creation to start even if one simply wishes to call I Intelligent Design. If one then wishes to push the issue of Good and evil a quick response is that God did not create evil but evil is a creation of man and if God was to wipe out all existence of evil who would be left or at the very least what would become of free will (Habermas and Licona 2004)?

Miracles

Philosopher Richard Swinburne suggests the following criteria for a miracle: (1) It has never happen before or since; (2) the event definitely cannot be accounted for by the current laws of nature; and (3) and no foreseen revisions of the laws of nature can explain the event (Habermas and Licona 2004). Following the above guidelines the resurrection of Jesus fits into the category of a miracle. A body could hardly come back to life, rise from the dead and interact with people short of in a science fiction film.

Further use of the resurrection in apologetics

After establishing a case for the resurrection of Christ one can go a step further and begin a path of ministry. One then may wish to begin a Christian based friendship to establish a rapport and share the love a Jesus and the teachings of Christianity. The next step would be to share a testimony of faith and invite one to become involved one’s church or Christian community.

Another application to apologetics is to authenticate other scriptural writings and to prove the Bible the inerrant work of God. After this is proven one could proceed to teach various tenants of faith, theology and introduce denominational beliefs. One may be wary of the latter as this may scare of some new believers sometimes it is best to keep things simple at first.

A final application is the strengthening of one’s own faith and mindset. With a greater knowledge in the historical aspect of the resurrection one can be more certain of one’s own fate and in times of struggle be certain Christ is there. Also, when one goes through times of temptation and struggle this can be communicated to others who are hurting and serve as encouragement. This benefits both believers and non-believers as even Christians can fall from faith from time to time.

Word Count # 3432

Bibliography

Craig, William Lane. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010.

Got Questions.org-Bible Questions Answered. 2002-2014. http://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-exist.html#ixzz3CatHGNiV (accessed 09 06, 2014).

Habermas, Gary R, and Michael R Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregal, 2004.

Komoszewski, J. Ed, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B Wallace. Reinventing Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006.

NIV. Swindoll, Charles R. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publish House, 1984.

Towns, Elmer L, and Ben Gutiierrez. The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Comment

  1. The problem with having this kind of discussion is that it presumes that one can believe the Bible literally, every word of every passage. Now there are no New Testaments that we have today that were written prior to the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Even assuming that the gospels that exist today are the original gospels, there is no consensus among biblical scholars as to who wrote the gospels, or when. The discussion gets further complicated if you believe, as I do, that the gospels were written according to the writing style of that period for religious texts. You may be familiar with midrashic writing as Jesus’ parables were a form of midrashic writing. Briefly, there’s a surface story (e.g. miracles) for the masses but there’s a disguised story for those (enlightened ones) who have, as Jesus said, ears to hear and eyes to see. This Sacred Knowledge was taught under the veil of allegory and symbolism and is referred to in several places in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 13:11).

    So while this kind of intellectual debate is interesting, it’s inevitably futile. As Stuart Chase so aptly put it, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”

    Like


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