Was Jesus resurrected from the dead?
by Tom Bell
The resurrection of Jesus can be argued to be – if true – the most remarkable event in history. It is the strongest vindication to Jesus’ radical claims of being the son of God and people all over the world have put their faith in Jesus based on the evidence for his resurrection. However, throughout the centuries after this unique event, critiques and skeptical scholars have published books and journals in an attempt to justify denying the resurrection.
Most people are happy to agree that God exists, however in today’s secular environment a social rejection has developed towards the claim that God has revealed himself decisively in Jesus. We ask, ‘What does Christianity offer that I can’t find in Islam, or Hinduism, or Judaism or any other faith?’ The Christian answer lies in the New Testament in the book of Acts:
“He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17.31).
The resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus’ radical claims of divinity. Let’s explore the objective evidence, which makes so many people around the world convinced that their doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus is correct.
Christianity is a religion grounded on historical events and therefore, like any other religion in history, can be investigated for its truthfulness, using historical methods. This investigation approaches the historical sources not as the inspired word of God, but as a mere collection of ancient manuscripts handed down from the first century AD. Its authority will only be that of which it inherits from its historical credibility.
In short, as examine such historical data, we find that providing one comes with the presupposition that God exists and can intervene with his creation, the more rational explanation to the events surrounding the resurrection story, is that God raised Jesus from the dead.
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In today’s culture, people are determined to draw the conclusion that the resurrection is a mythical, fictional or an irrelevant event in history. “How can anyone come back to life having been dead for three days”, we might say, “it’s completely unheard of and scientifically unworkable”. And for that very reason we automatically decide, that Jesus could not have been resurrected from the dead either. This ‘logical’ philosophy was most forcefully stated by the respected 18th century Scottish philosopher, David Hume, who put it this way: “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.” In an essay (Section X) in his book Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding, Hume argued that our concrete ‘background evidence’ of the laws of nature, should in all circumstances override the ‘foreground claims’ of supernatural and scientifically impossible so called ‘miracles’. Immediately, this idea sounds very reasonable. You’re unlikely to believe someone, who tells you that they saw a yellow elephant with pink stripes, when we know they consistently come in grey. It’s a very sensible immediate assumption to make.
Nonetheless, there are a number of problems with Hume’s argument. Human observation, whether it is personal or scientific, does not authenticate in full the fixity of natural laws…