How Do You Know Jesus Really Rose from the Dead?

by Timothy Paul Jones

The witch’s knife plunged deep into the lion’s heart, and the majestic creature quivered and died. For a few seconds, complete silence descended on the movie theater. A slight sniffling beside me broke the stillness, and that’s when I heard my 9-year-old daughter whisper a rather profound word of wisdom to her friend.

A few months earlier, my daughter Hannah had heard the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was being adapted into a feature film. I told her she wouldn’t be allowed to see the movie until she first read the fantasy novel by C. S. Lewis. Then I added a challenge: if she read all seven books in the series before the movie’s release, I’d take her and her friend Lacey to see it on opening day. Three weeks later, Hannah had devoured all of the Chronicles of Narnia. So, on the afternoon of its release, I ended up in a packed theater with two girls, watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Since Hannah had already read the book, the storyline of the film was familiar to her—but her friend hadn’t yet read it. For Lacey, the tale of the lion who returns from the dead after giving his life to save a traitor was all new. Still, when the witch’s knife fell and Aslan the lion died, both children were moved to tears. The difference was that Hannah knew what happened next. It was in that moment that I heard Hannah lean over and whisper words of comfort to her friend: Don’t worry; I read the book. He doesn’t stay dead.

That’s what we as Christians believe as we read the New Testament.

For nearly 2,000 years Christians have confessed together that, because the one who died on Good Friday didn’t stay dead, our despair can never have the final word. And unlike the resurrection of Aslan the lion, the resurrection of Jesus is no fantasy. It happened in history, and Jesus himself has promised that everyone who trusts him will share in his new life. So as Christians we declare: Don’t worry; I read the book. He didn’t stay dead.

Reliable Testimony or Telephone Game Gone Bad?

But how sure can we be that the story of Jesus and his resurrection really happened? What if the New Testament (NT) authors never intended their words to be taken as reliable reports about Jesus’s life in the first place? What if their writings contained far more fantasy than history?

Those are precisely the possibilities some skeptical scholars have popularized over the past few decades…

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How Do You Know Jesus Really Rose from the Dead?