This past Sunday Christian ministers around the world boldly stated, “He is risen!” and their congregations enthusiastically responded, “He is risen indeed!” But is the bodily resurrection of Jesus a factual statement or empty religious rhetoric? Historically accurate or wishful thinking?
To begin with, and this may seem odd, not everyone under the broad umbrella of Christendom accepts a literal resurrection. Those of a more liberal theological persuasion deny that Jesus was bodily resurrected. Their argument is whether the resurrection actually happened or not is unimportant. What is important is that the allegory of the resurrection provides a religious symbol of hope. To these the question is not one of historical accuracy, but religious attitude.
Then there are many who contest resurrection because they undermine the authenticity of the New Testament, but have they been fair in their analyses? A. Sherwin-White, classical Roman historian, speaking of the New Testament wrote, “…the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity, even in matters of detail, must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it (Jesus’ resurrection) for granted.” F.F. Bruce adds, “If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.”
As well, there are those who say that the idea of resurrection is simply too incredible. However, is the process of a grub going into its cocoon and emerging as a butterfly incredible? Like the resurrection, it’s immensely wonderful, but totally credible.
Bible-believing Christians base their beliefs on scripture. And these scriptures teach literally, clearly, unapologetically, repeatedly and without compromise or contradiction that Jesus rose physically from the dead leaving the tomb empty.
The biblical and historical records seem to be harmonious. A myriad of witnesses (500 at once, 1 Corinthians 15:6) over the space of 40 days tends to cement the deal. The large bribes paid to soldiers to spread a rumor that Jesus body had been stolen obtained no credibility. Conjecture that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross was laughable, especially to anyone knowing anything of Roman crucifixion. Crucifixion left no survivors and the blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ pierced side also indicated that death had occurred.
No serious historian challenges the resurrection. E. M. Blaiklock, former professor of classics at Auckland University wrote, “I claim to be an historian. My approach to classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history.”
So, this past Sunday I said, “He is risen!” and my congregation responded with a hearty “He is risen indeed!” And we believe it!