How every Christian can learn to explain the resurrection of Jesus to others
Basically, as a Christian, I think we, myself included, all ought to be able to show that there is a case for the resurrection on historical grounds. Even if Christians know that the resurrection is true by the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit, you cannot use that when persuading and defending it to other people. So you have to make a case using the available evidence and the normal rules of historical investigation. You can’t assume the Bible is inerrant with your co-workers and you can’t focus on Christian-ese or peripheral issues, either. So how can you do it?
Part A: Historical methods
The way I normally start is with the standard rules used by all scholars who analyze ancient biographies. Basically, there is a list of criteria that scholars across the spectrum use for deciding which parts of ancient literary sources are more likely to be true. It’s amazing when you see debates on this because both sides basically agree on the methodology.
And, if you apply the methodology carefully, then both sides actually agree on what facts in the biographies are authentic. I am talking about agreement on authentic facts by atheists and fundamentalists alike!
Here are some of the rules used for analyzing ancient biographies:
1) multiple attestation – if the fact about X is asserted by two or more
sources, then the fact is likely authentic.
2) dissimilarity – if a teaching of X is different from popular teachings
and concepts of that time and place, it is likely authentic.
3) embarassment – if a fact is embarassing to X or X’s community or the
writers of the biography of X, then it is likely authentic.
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4) enemy attestation – if a fact about X is corroborated by enemies of X,
or X’s community, then that fact is likely to be authentic.
5) early attestation – if a fact about X is in an early source, then that fact
is likely to be authentic.
And there are others.
So, if you want to talk about the resurrection at work without being laughed at or fired, you can use these criteria to identify historical facts.
Part B: Minimal facts
Using the historical methods above, you won’t be able to recover MOST of what the New Testament writings say about Jesus. For example, the guard at the tomb is only in Matthew, so you cannot use that as a minimal fact. And John is a pretty late gospel, so most of that can’t be used. So what parts can be used?
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