Why the Hypothesis that God Raised Jesus from the Dead is the Best Explanation
by Eric Chabot
In his recent book called The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, New Testament historian Mike Licona discusses what is called “The Historical Bedrock.” These three facts about the Historical Jesus are held by many critical scholars and historians.
The three points included as part of The Historical Bedrock are:
1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion
2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.
3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul became a follower of Jesus after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.
Licona is more than aware that just because there is a list of agreed upon facts that is agreed upon by historians and Biblical scholars will not make it true. If so, that would be what is called a “consensus gentium fallacy” which is the fallacy of arguing that an idea is true because most people believe it. As Licona says, “Something doesn’t become a “fact” just because the majority of scholars believe it.” (The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, pg 279).
However, as Gary Habermas says, “Certainly one of the strongest methodological indications of historicity occurs when a case can be built on accepted data that are recognized as well established by a wide range of otherwise diverse historians.” (see Norman L. Geisler and Paul K. Hoffman, Why I Am A Christian: Leading Thinkers Explain Why They Believe (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerBooks, 2001), 152.
After looking at #2, 3, I find it interesting that many New Testament scholars/historians agree that the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.
Allow me to mention few quotes here:
“We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.” (Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, pg 230).
“That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.” (E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, pg 280)
“That the experiences did occur, even if they are explained in purely natural terms, is a fact upon which both believer and unbeliever can agree.” (Reginald H. Fuller, Foundations of New Testament Christology, 142)
Some skeptics have tried to utilize the hallucination hypothesis to explain away the resurrection appearances. I think Glen Miller’s work on group hallucinations is helpful.
But why can’t some historians/New Testament scholars admit that the bodily resurrection of Jesus is what led the disciples to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them? Let me offer a couple of suggestions
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The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, along with the included interactive CD, will prepare you to make a compelling argument for the historicity of Christ’s resurrection, even to those who do not accept the Bible as divinely inspired. Authors Gary Habermas and Michael Licona first develop principles by which a historical event can be accepted as true, then apply them to belief in Christ’s rising from the dead, and finally, they offer sample scenarios illustrating the use of these principles. You will find this book to be the most practical and reader-friendly book in defense of Jesus’ resurrection on the market today. Josh McDowell calls it, “A phenomenal resource that is both user-friendly and up-to-date, that will equip believers to defend this crucial issue.”
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