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THE RESURRECTION OF  JESUS AS EVIDENCE OF THE CLAIMS OF CHRISTIANITY

I.          EVIDENCE AND PRESUPPOSITIONS

            There are two basic tracks for apologitics (defending and demonstrating the truth of Christianity): presuppositionalist and evidentialist.  Over the past few weeks, Dr. Hughes has covered presuppositional apolegetics.  So that we don’t go over all the same information again, I will give you a simple definition:

Presuppositionalism: An apologetic strategy often associated with Cornelius Van Til and some of his students. The presuppositionalist emphasizes the way all human belief systems depend on unprovable basic assumptions, arguing that biblical faith or its lack crucially shapes our presuppositions. According to such a view, common ground between the believer and unbeliever is limited or nonexistent and apologetic arguments must take the form of explorations of the unbeliever’s system of thought so as to reveal contradictions within it due to its faulty presuppositions. [1]

There is another form apologetics often called evidentialism:

Evidentialism. The view that religious beliefs (as well as other kinds) are only rational if they are based on evidence. Typically, evidentialists will specify some minimum of evidence that is sufficient (such as “evidence that makes a belief more probable than not” or “evidence that makes a belief more probable than its competitors”). Another popular form of evidentialism is a proportional “ethics of belief” that holds that the strength of one’s assent to a belief should be proportioned to the strength of the evidence. This kind of ethic of belief can be traced to John Locke. Evidentialism has been strongly challenged by Reformed Epistemology, particularly the work of Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff.[2]

            As I hope you have seen over the past few weeks, a mere appeal to evidence cannot be sufficient to bring another human being to saving faith in Jesus Christ.  This has always been the case.  Consider for example the following story from the life of Jesus:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. Mark 3:1–6 (ESV)

            Why didn’t this miracle bring the Pharisees and Herodians to saving faith.  Surely this was an amazing thing.  There is no indication that they did not deny the miracle – and yet they still wanted to kill Jesus.  Knowledge is insufficient to bring one to saving faith.  Even absolute empirical, experiential knowledge cannot bring a human being to trust only in God’s work in Jesus Christ and to give up faith and trust in one’s own efforts.

            Does this mean that evidence is of no value?  Of course not.  Jesus, himself, appeals to the evidence of his ministry as testimony of who he is:

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” John 10:25 (ESV).

And:

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. John 14:11 (ESV)

The works are proof that Jesus is who he said he is.  And yet that proof was never able to save anyone.  It is only the sovereign act of the Holy Spirit which transforms a life and saves a man.

            A.        An Important Distinction:  Knowing and Showing

            Those two elements must be kept separate in our thinking.  William Lane Craig is probably the best evidentialist Christian apologist alive today makes this important distinction:

In summary we’ve seen that in answering the question, “How do I know Christianity is true?” we must make a distinction between knowing htat it is true and showing that it is true.  We know Christianity is true primarily by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Spirit.  We show Christianity is true be presenting good arguments for its central tenants.[3]

No one can have faith except it is given to him by God.  No one can know God except through faith.  This knowledge of God needs no proof, because it is known without proof.  However, that does not mean that Christianity does not have good evidence for its truth: as we shall see, the evidence for Christianity is extraordinary.

            B.        Christianity as a Historical Religion

            Christianity is a historical religion:  The truth of Christianity rests upon actual events in history:  God created the universe as the beginning of history.  Sin entered the world in a real time and place.  God became a man in a real city and moved around real people.  There was a day on which Jesus was alive and day upon which he was murdered.  There was then a day on which he resurrected from the dead in a real physical body.  There was a day on which you came to know Jesus as your savior and Lord.  There will be a day upon which Jesus returns.

            Many religions exist just fine without any historical evidence.  For example, to be a Buddhist is to make no claim about anything actually taking place in the physical world – in fact, a Buddhist must deny the reality of the physical world.

            There have been those who seek to protect Christianity by divorcing it completely from the real world.  All sorts of theories have been advanced by various theologians who somehow want to keep Jesus and an ultimate salvation but reject the necessity for the truth claims of Christianity.  We are not going to survey these theories – just know that such things exist.

            However, the biblical witness will not permit us to give up the reality of the historical claims.  For example, Jesus seems to revel in the most difficult problems of the Old Testament: a real Adam, Jonah in a fish, Daniel was a prophet, Isaiah wrote the entire book of Isaiah.

            Paul in his letter to the Corinthians states plainly that the historical fact of the resurrection is the nail upon which all of the claims of Christianity hang:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 1 Corinthians 15:13–15 (ESV)

No resurrection, no Christianity:  it is as simple as that.

            C.        What is the Place of Proof?

            No amount of evidence can ever bring someone to salvation: People are saved by hearing and believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:10-13).

            However, that does not mean that evidence does not exist or that it has no place.  Christianity makes claims to proof in the real world.  The Bible is not just a book of theology, it is also a book of evidences.

            What then is the place of such evidence?  First, the claims of the Gospel are made on the basis of such evidence:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. John 20:19–20 (ESV)

God knows that we are frail and that faith is a hard thing for us.  And so as a grace to us, God has given us remarkable proof for the truth of the Bible’s claims.  In fact, the accumulated evidence of the biblical claims is greater now than it has ever been. While the attacks are now as savage as they have ever been, the evidence is yet more sure in our favor.

            Again, the evidences do not saves.  Yet, the Holy Spirit uses such evidence and claims as set forth in the Bible to change men.

            Second, evidences are comforts to believers:  Consider the story of Thomas.  Jesus gave Thomas unequalled evidence of the resurrection. Now, in and of itself, evidence that Jesus had raised from the dead would only tell us that Jesus was risen and that the world was quite a bit more peculiar than we suspected.  It would not tell us that Jesus was the Messiah or that Jesus was God incarnate.

            Look carefully at what the Holy Spirit did with the evidence received by Thomas:

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:27–28 (ESV)

The Holy Spirit used the evidence to open Thomas’ eyes to the truth of Jesus.  Compare that to the unbelievers who saw the miracles and wanted to kill Jesus!  Do you see that evidence exists and can be used; but, evidence cannot save.

            Third, evidence removes the excuse of unbelievers:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:18–20 (ESV)

The fact of God is undeniable – and yet it is denied. When Judgment comes, no unbeliever can ever say, You didn’t give me enough evidence!  Moreover, the greater the evidence, the greater the condemnation:

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. Matthew 11:20–22 (ESV)

In short, evidence is a help to the believer and curse to the unbeliever.

II.        THE RESURRECTION

            The entire claim for Christianity rests upon the Resurrection:  no resurrection, no Gospel. On the other hand, if the Resurrection is true, then the claims of Jesus to the rest of the Bible are reliable and the entire biblical claim is sure.[4] 

            A.        Nature of the Argument

            Assume for a moment that Christianity is not true and that there was no bodily resurrection of Jesus.  That would mean that in the early church someone made up stories about the resurrection taking place.  They may have made up the stories because they were mistaken (the disciples all had various hallucinations), or they were merely trying to create a story to explain who they felt about Jesus, or because they were deliberate frauds, or some other reason.

            When people make up stories one of two things can happen:  First, the stories all sound exactly the same.  Second, the stories have so many loose ends and contradictions that they can’t fit together.

            When all the stories sound very similar, it is almost certainly because someone is lying.  Here’s why: We each have very different experiences of the same event.  When we recount what happened – even if we are all telling the truth – we all notice and emphasize different things.  There will be things are which are in common, but there will be many details which differ.  Try it yourself.  Take a recent experience of several hours or days which you shared with another person and both of you write two paragraphs about what happened.  Try it with your most recent vacation (remember that the resurrection accounts cover 40 days and the writing takes only a couple of paragraphs).

            Now, try this:  Take four of your friends and decide that you are each going to make up a story about how President Obama dropped into your home – unexpectedly – and had lunch in your kitchen while your friends were present.  Now, each of you go to your corner and make up the story.  There will be many elements which will be the same of all stories:  the place, the people present (at least the important players), the time of day, et cetera.  But the details will be all over the place – in fact, the stories will probably contain outright contradictions.

            Thus, true multiple witness accounts of the same event will have certain characteristics:  (1) The stories must not be identical. (2) The stories must not be contradictory. (3) The stories may very well appear contradictory at places. 

            Isn’t it possible that the people could get together and make up a story which has many parts, which appears contradictory and yet still all the elements go together?  It is possible, but it is extremely unlikely: First think back over a complex movie which you have seen.  There are very few people who are involved in actually creating the story and all of the people are professional story tellers. Have you ever seen such a movie and found inconsistencies?  Of course.  Keeping all the elements in place is very tricky work  — even for trained experts who can take years creating the original story. 

            More importantly, in a movie, there is only one story being told.  Imagine trying to keep a story consistent through three or four movies where there are different writers for each story.         

            B.        The Impossibility of the Gospel Writers Making up a Story

            The Gospels present four very different sounding versions of the Resurrection.  The accounts are so different in detail that no one argues that Matthew copied Mark or so on.  There are points at which the accounts appear to be almost contradictory.  Therefore, the stories do not look like they were the result of collaboration and deliberate fraud.

            The story of the resurrection must have been extremely early in the Christian church, because the basic proclamation of the Christian Church was (and is) Jesus is risen from the dead.  If we assume that the Gospels are true, then this does not present a problem.  But let us assume the opposite:  let us assume that the Apostles deceived themselves and others – that they really believed that Jesus had somehow raised, but they never really saw an empty tomb and never really spoke with a flesh and blood man.

            At some point, people are going to start asking questions about what happened.  Stories are going to start to circulate among the Christians. How is this happening?  If there were a single authoritative story, it would have been given – but we have several different stories (the four Gospels and 1 Corinthians 15:3-6).  These stories were recorded over a number of years.  They may not have been written down for 20 or 30 years after Jesus rose from the dead.  The stories were written down in very different locations and were sent to different parts of the church.  Some, such as Luke’s account, appear to have been in a letter to an individual man.

            Since the stories appear quite contradictory and yet do go together, there is no reason to believe that they were simply five separate stories which were made up over the course of time.  If they were made up, it is impossible that they the stories would also correspond (remember our thought experiment about making up four stories concerning lunch with the President?).

            Therefore, if the stories are not true, then the stories must be the result of deliberate fraud.

            If the stories were the result of deliberate fraud, then we must believe that the apostles got together in the very early stages of the church, created a story they knew was false, agreed to spread five different versions of the story throughout the church, hope that no one would change the stories too much, and make a decision that the stories would be spread at different times, in different places and to different people.

            But that’s not all:  They would also have had to realize that if the stories sounded too much alike someone might get suspicious, so they decided to make up five different stories that sound contradictory, so much so that many people haves stated plainly that there are contradictions.  They did this under extraordinary pressure and with great speed.

            And the conspiracy would have had to entail all of the earliest Christians, because they would have all known what really happened.  All of the very early group (perhaps those in the upper room in Acts 1:13) would have had to join the conspiracy.  None of them could have ever cracked (there is no evidence that any of the earliest Christians ever came up with an accusation of fraud). 

            And that’s not all:  They were all willing to get beat up, lose their property and then finally be murdered to perpetuate a hoax that they knew was not true.  It is one thing to trick someone and convince them that something which is false is actually true.  They can be tricked because they do not have contrary evidence.  But who willing permits themselves to lose everything, to be imprisoned and tortured for a known fraud?

            And that’s not all:  All the Jews and the Romans had to do quash Christianity was produce the body. Don’t you think at least one person would have asked about the body?

            And that’s not all:  The Apostles would have had to have been so clever that they knew that in 2,000 years, people would start trusting the testimony of women on the same level as men.  You see, in the ancient world, the word of a woman was not well respected.  If you were making up a story, you would have not chosen several women as your primary witnesses.  No one believed women.

            And that’s not all: They would have had to be clever enough to make up stories which showed themselves to be cowards and untrustworthy (remember the disciples fled from Jesus).

            And that’s not all:  No one expected anyone to be resurrected prior to the last day.  Everyone knew – even people 2,000 years ago – that no one rose from the dead.  While some Jews were willing to accept a bodily resurrection, the majority of the ancient world found that idea ridiculous or repulsive (see Paul’s speech and the reaction in Acts 17:32).  Therefore, the fraud perpetrated by the disciples would be one requiring people to believe something no one was even willing to believe.  People wanted to escape from the body, not to keep their bodies forever.  Usually when you commit a fraud, you convince people that something for which they wish to be true is true (you will get rich without work).  The disciples were offering, you will become poor if you follow our plan.

It would be like making up a story about a UFO and you chose a known drug addled drunk with severe brain damage as your star witness – in fact a whole group of them.  You claimed that the UFO actually landed in a field outside of town and left physical evidence (but there is no such physical evidence).  That you gave out multiple versions of this story: and none of them were ultimately contradictory.  That you were willing to have your life ruined and that you died for this fraud.  And that you managed to get dozens of other people to also ruin their own lives to join you in this bizarre fraud.

You see, you must account for the fact of Christianity in the mid-30’s in Jerusalem: a then Jewish sect which claimed Jesus rose from the dead.  You must account for the fact that this historical event was open to examination by anyone who cared to make a search. 

            Alternatively, one could believe Jesus rose from the dead.

            C.        The Resurrection Accounts

MATTHEW 28:1-7:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said [Gr. “answering said”] to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” Matthew 28:1–7 (ESV)

Elements:

            1.         The women leave early Sunday morning.

            2.         The women include Mary and Mary Magdelene .

            3.         Guards are the tomb

            4.         One angel descends

                        A.        The angel rolls away the stone.

                        B.        The angel sits on the stone.

                        C.        The soldiers fall down as dead men.

                        D.        The angel answers to the women.

            5.         The women leave the tomb.

Observations:

            1.         At some point the soldiers got up and left.

            2.         The women must have said something to the angel, because the angel answers.

3.         If the women saw the angel come down and roll away the stone, why weren’t they scared?

            4.         If the soldiers and the women were at the tomb at the same time, why didn’t the women and the soldiers speak to one-another?

            5.         When exactly did the women arrive at the tomb?

            6.         Matthew is the only writer to mention the soldiers (Matt. 27:62-66, 28:4, 28:11-15): What effect will this have on Matthew’s story?  What elements in Matthew’s story do not appear in the other Gospels?

MARK: 16:1-8:

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Mark 16:1–8 (ESV)

Elements:

            1.         The women leave early Sunday morning.

            2.         The women include Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome.

            3.         The women arrive at the tomb, and the stone has been rolled away.

            4.         One angel inside the tomb.

            5.         The women leave from the tomb.

            6.         They never tell anyone.

Observations:

            1.         The women at some point must have told someone.

            2.         The angel is in a different place: inside the tomb, not on the stone.

            3.         There are no soldiers.

            4.         Matthew and Mark differ primarily in two aspects: (1) the location of the angel: on the stone or in the tomb; (2) the presence/absence of the guards.  Is there in any connection between these two differences?

LUKE 24:1-7:

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, Luke 24:1–10 (ESV)

Elements:

            1.         The women left early Sunday morning for the tomb.

            2.         The women include: Mary Magelene and Mary the mother of James and Joanna and the “other women”.

            3.         The women enter the tomb.

            4.         There are two angels.

Observations:

            1.         This is nearly the same as Mark, except:

                        A.        There are two angels.

                        B.        Joanna is present.

JOHN 20:1-3:

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. John 20:1–3 (ESV)

Elements:

            1.         Mary Magdalene went to the tomb.

            2.         Mary saw no angels, merely an empty tomb and ran back to Peter and John.

            3.         Peter and John ran to the tomb.

Observations:

            1.         Mary says, “We do not know where they have laid him.”

            2.         Was doesn’t Mary see any angel?

 

IV.       PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:

            Before we get to John, let us consider what we have with Matthew, Mark & Luke.  These three accounts have much in common, enough that they all sound like they are speaking of the same event.  Yet, there are seemingly conflicts which will not reconcile:

            1.         Where was the angel(s)?

            2.         How many angels?

            A.        Where was the Angel?

            Matthew has the strange element of the angel sitting on the stone.  Remember that Matthew is also the only account to have the soldiers.   The other accounts have no soldiers and have the angel(s) in the tomb.  Is there a connection?

            Let’s pretend that the women came to the tomb and saw the angel descend from heaven, felt the earthquake, and saw the stone rolled away:  How would they have responded?  We know the soldiers fell down like dead men. Wouldn’t the women have been scared too?  Yet, in Matthew they are depicted as having a conversation with the angels.  Does that sound right? 

            Consider this:  The elements which are unique to Matthew: the angel descending, the earthquake, the stone being rolled away, the angel sitting on the stone are all things which would have been seen by the soldiers.  Mark, Luke & John all do not refer to the soldiers.  Matthew however, has three scenes involving the soldiers: (1) the meeting granting permission to guard the tomb; (2) the resurrection; (3) the bribery to keep the soldiers quiet.  Matthew must have had a soldier as a source for his story.  Would it then be surprising if Matthew’s Gospel had things which were only seen by the soldiers? 

            In fact, if Matthew was telling the truth, it would be surprising if his source – the soldiers – did not have some aspect of the story which was not known to the women.  Moreover, the additional detail in Matthew is precisely the sort of information which only the soldiers would have possed.

            Try this:  The leave to go the tomb.  On the way to the tomb, an angel descends, rolls away the stone, sits on the stone and scares the soldiers.  The soldiers get up and leave.  By the time the women arrive at the tomb, the angel and the soldiers are gone.  When we read Matthew, we assume that there are no gaps in the story.  But what if there were a gap? 

            Is it possible that the women in Matthew spoke with an angel inside the tomb?  Look carefully, at Matthew’s words.  Does he ever say that the women spoke with an angel sitting on the stone?  Does he say where the angel was when they spoke?  Note that the contradiction between Matthew and Mark relies upon an assumption, i.e., that the women saw the angel on the rock.

            Let us also consider whether there is evidence of a “gap” in the text.  First, Matthew implies that something was left out of the story.  He wrote that the angel answered  the women.  This implies that the women said something to the angel which was not recorded. Second, the word “but” is a translation of the Greek word de.  That word signifies a movement in the narrative.  It does not mean exactly the same thing as the English word “but” or “however”; while it often signifies some sort of break in the story, it does not require that the movement or break be an exact opposite like the word “However”.  Thus, the word is translated into English with everything from “and” to “on the other hand.”  When we compare various translations, we find that the word in Matthew 28:5 is (1) not translated at all, (2) translated as “and”, and (3) translated as “but”. In fact the “Now” which begins Matthew 28:1 (“Now after the Sabbath …”) is the Greek word de.

            Thus, Matthew is signaling some sort of shift in the text when we move from the scene involving the guards at the tomb to the scene of the women at the tomb.  The movement between the scene might be better understood if we add some paragraph breaks to the text:

Scene 1:          

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.

Scene 2:

And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

[After this, the soldiers leave: this is why none of the stories which rely solely upon the women’s testimony contain a reference to the soldiers.  The women show up at the tomb and enter.]

Scene 3:

But [de] the angel said [Gr. “answering said”] to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” Matthew 28:1–7 (ESV)

            B.        How Many Angels?

            This is easy.  Let us assume I ask you about whom you spoke with at Church this morning.  You might say you spoke with Mr. X.  Does that mean that his wife was not at church, or that she was not standing near him?  Of course not.  You could say, I spoke with Mr. X.  You could also say, I saw Mr. X and his wife.  Mr. X told me …..

            By the way, the word in Luke for stood in the clause, “two men stood by them in dazzling apparel” typically means to appear.  Thus, in Luke 2:9, the same word is used to reference an angel appearing.  The women went into the tomb.  While in the tomb, two angels appeared; only one angel spoke (agreeing with Matthew).

            C.        What About John?

            First, we know that Mary Magdalene was not alone.  She says, “We do not know ….” Obviously, someone was with Mary when she came to the tomb.

            Why didn’t she speak with the angels?  The angels appeared to the women while they were in the tomb.  The angels were not sitting there when the women entered. If Mary looked inside and saw the tomb empty, she could have left before the angels appeared.

            Thus, Mary looks in and see the empty tomb.  She immediately leaves to Peter and John. The other women look around inside and are visited by two angels.  These women leave before Peter and John come back.

V.        WHAT DOES THIS PROVE?

            It must be admitted that this is not only possible solution to the problem of the four texts.  Therefore, a better solution to this problem does not subtract the main point being made by this lesson:  What this does show is that the four texts do not look like they were the result of a decision to commit fraud.  If they were, the four texts would look largely identical.

            It also shows that the texts look like the results of real eye witness accounts: there are important similarities (the empty tomb), but many dissimilarities. 

            If there were actual contradictions in minor details, that would not prove that the main point of the story was false.  It would merely be a normal element of real eye witness testimony.

            Since the stories look contradictory, but also contain hints and elements which make it possible to piece together a coherent narrative which takes all of the accounts as true, the most reasonable conclusion is that the accounts depict a true event.

            When this conclusion is coupled to the many other reasons to believe that the resurrection accounts are true history, then the only rational conclusion is that Jesus actually rose from the dead.  Now, this will not necessarily lead anyone to saving faith – anymore than Jesus’ miracles made all who saw them followers of Jesus.  But what it does is (1) give comfort to your faith; (2) take away the excuse of those who will not believe.  They can still refuse to believe, but they cannot reasonably claim to be standing on solid history.  They are standing on a faith which seeks to disbelieve. Rom. 1:18.


[1] C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 96.

[2] C. Stephen Evans, Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 41-42.

[3] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), 58.

[4] It is actually a bit more complicated than that:  If the Resurrection is true, then the claims of Jesus to be God incarnate have substantial and firm evidence.  If Jesus is God incarnate, then he would have sufficient knowledge and authority to state whether something were true.  Since God is a trustworthy source of information, and since Jesus is God, then Jesus’ testimony on some subject is trustworthy.  Jesus affirmed that the Scripture was true; therefore, I have good and substantial reasons for believing the Scripture without additional evidence (although such evidence does in fact exist).