The Case For Christianity: The Resurrection of the Messiah
guest blog by Timothy Knowlton
As a matter of Historical Causation, the cause for the origin of Christianity in the First Century was the Resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus had not resurrected from the dead, He would have been just another failed messianic figure, and His movement would have either died out, or perhaps been taken over by another prominent figure. It was Jesus’ resurrection, in conjunction with his claims, that generated the inference that he is God’s Messiah, and thus the corollaries of his deserving of devotion, worship, and even divinity. Thus the logic: Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, God resurrected Jesus from the dead to prove His claims are true. Hence, Jesus is the Son of God. Moreover, using the resurrection of Jesus as an argument for the existence of the God of the New Testament is quite reasonable. For instance, just as God is postulated as the Intelligent Designer of the design we observe in the world, so God is postulated as the cause for the resurrection of Jesus.
Regarding objections to the resurrection of Jesus, there is very little, or no positive independent historical evidence for alternative theories to the resurrection of Jesus. Intrinsically, they are by nature parasitical to the extant historical sources we have in favor of Jesus’ resurrection. In some cases, it may even be counter-productive to spend so much time and effort addressing these objections, and may even add weight and credibility to them. It just seems to be poor historical epistemology to be expected to refute every alternative theory which lacks its own independent justification.
These theories also have the "we know better than the ancient sources as to what really happened" property about them, as if they are in a better position than the contemporaries who were there at the time and had access to living eyewitnesses, oral and written tradition, etc. I think N.T. Wright’s approach is best historically, using the philological argument, that the Greek word ‘anastasis’ and its cognates, which the New Testament writers used, means the body that died is the same body that came out of the grave, even if there are some ‘modifying properties.’ ‘Anastasis’ does not mean ‘hallucination,’ nor ‘apparition.’ Ultimately, this is what the extant ancient texts tell us, and they nor any other ancient source say anything about a ‘twin brother’ of Jesus hoaxing the resurrection. If objectors are going to make positive claims to historicity, the burden of proof is on them to make evidential justification for their claims.