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A Positive Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth
by Sam Dallas
My personal apologetic for the resurrection of Jesus involves borrowing the “minimal facts approach” as established by Dr. Gary Habermas. This approach does not seek to establish the New Testament Gospels as “inspired” and, therefore, automatically trustworthy in their claims concerning the resurrection. Rather, using the New Testament books as simply historical documents, it establishes what events likely occurred in early first-century Jerusalem, among those recorded in these ancient records. “This approach considers only those data that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones.”
The first fact: Jesus died by crucifixion
“Crucifixion was a common form of execution employed by the Romans to punish members of the lower class, slaves, soldiers, the violently rebellious, and those accused of treason.” The sources for this event are numerous: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19 all coherently record the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. It is also mentioned in the book of Acts, in at least two of Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians and Galatians), and the book of Revelation. That is a minimum of eight “Biblical” sources, involving five different authors, and writings which span four decades.
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Concerning extra-Biblical sources, Josephus mentioned the crucifixion in his Testimonium Flavianum, in which he states, “When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified…” Tacitus also records, “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate…” (emphasis added). With ten ancient sources (and there are others) attesting to the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the evidence is strong for this historical “fact,” which is why even the critical scholar John Dominic Crossan of the liberal Jesus Seminar has stated, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”
The second fact: Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them
For a number of reasons, there is near consensus among critical scholars that the disciples of Jesus did, in fact, believe that he rose from the dead and appeared to them. There are two primary reasons for this consensus. First, they claimed to have seen Jesus following the crucifixion. This was recorded (explicitly or implicitly) by the eyewitness testimonies of Matthew, John, Paul, James, and Peter. Three of these men were Jesus’ disciples, James was Jesus’ half-brother, and Paul was a convert upon seeing the resurrected Jesus (recorded in Acts 9, 22, and 26). Furthermore, testimony of the resurrected Jesus is also recorded by other first-century followers of Jesus, such as Mark, Luke, and the author of Hebrews. This belief is actually (explicitly or implicitly) stated in all twenty-seven New Testament sources, which were written within decades of the event. In addition, there are sermon summaries and creeds embedded within many of these first-century texts, which can be sourced back to within mere weeks of the event itself…
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