Ask Mr. Wisdom: Q & A #2
by Jason Wisdom
Question: [I have heard Christians say] that “If Jesus rose from the dead, then he was God”, but if that is the argument being made, why are the other people mentioned in the Bible who rose from the dead not God?
Response: That is an excellent question. The answer is in the context. However even before that, it is necessary to pin down out exactly what the claim is. It isn’t that Jesus rose from the dead and that makes him God. Rather, the claim is that the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that he is God. That is an important distinction because it frames the resurrection as the ultimate piece of evidence that validates his divinity claims.
Note: for the purposes of this particular question, I am not addressing the issue of the Bible’s historical reliability. That is, I am not addressing the question, “how do we know Jesus actually said that?” For this question, I am only addressing the claim, “if Jesus rose from the dead, then he was God,” which is offered from a Christian perspective, and I will simply work within the Christian worldview to demonstrate that it is not contradictory or fallacious.
So, what is the context of Jesus’ resurrection? He was a miracle worker who claimed authority, divinity, and autonomous power. He claimed the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2); when he spoke, he spoke with authority; instead of saying, “this is what the Lord says,” he said simply, “I tell
you” (Matt 7:29); He claimed to be the prophesied messiah (Luke 4); He took the divine name, “I am” on multiple occasions, all of which caused the Pharisees to rend their garments and take up stones to kill him for blasphemy–they knew exactly what he was claiming. There are other examples, but I am trying not to make this post unbearably long.
So, most relevant to your question: Jesus claimed authority to “lay his life down and take it up again” (John 10:18). He also made the bold claim that after his death, he would resurrect after 3 days (John 2:9). And consider what he told the Pharisees when they asked him for a sign to prove his authority. He said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus was convinced that he would be the source of his own resurrection and he even predicted the time (after 3 days) that it would happen. There can be no doubt that he was claiming divinity and pointing to the resurrection as the ultimate evidence to verify it.
What about the other biblical accounts of resurrection? None of the people who were resurrected in the Bible (other than Jesus) made any claims to be divine. Neither were their resurrections prophesied. Furthermore, these resurrections always involved some prophet/apostle who did not claim to possess autonomous power, but only to be a conduit for the power of God. Elijah and the widow’s son (1 Kings 17); Elisha and the son of the Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4); the dead man who touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13); Peter and Tabitha (Acts 9); and Paul and Eutychus (Acts 20).
In short, the context makes it clear that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole Christian faith is a sham…
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