Jesus’ resurrection – the evidence reviewed
by Peter Saunders
‘Christianity stands or falls on the claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead’: So claimed Ludwig Kennedy in a radio debate with Lord Rees-Mogg. He was right. The Apostle Paul put it even more bluntly: ‘If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith’. (1 Corinthians 15:14) The resurrection is of ‘first importance’ (1 Corinthians 15:3,4), and yet the difficulty of accepting it is a major barrier to faith for some people.
But although the resurrection appears incredible, we believe it happened on the basis of solid evidence. First, no-one disputed the fact that Jesus died on the cross. He was seen to breathe his last by eye-witnesses, and was certified dead by Roman soldiers whose very business was killing. They decided not to break Jesus’ legs (customary practice to hasten death in crucifixion), because they were convinced he was dead already; and this was confirmed by the observation of ‘blood and water’ (separated cells and serum) coming from his pierced side. This only occurs as a post-mortem event.
The so-called ‘swoon’ theory, that Jesus may have only fainted and revived in the cool of the tomb, does not hold water. It involves believing that a man beaten to within an inch of his life, impaled on a cross and then wrapped in 75 pounds of bandages and spices (rather like a plaster of Paris cast!) could somehow unwrap himself, push away a one ton boulder, single-handedly overcome an armed Roman guard; and then persuade over 500 others that he had conquered death. The foolishness of this position is evidenced by the fact that no-one dared suggest the possibility until centuries later…
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