Jesus Christ

      The Christian faith centers on the figure of Jesus Christ. Belief in Jesus, his deity, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection are essential to salvation.

      It follows that Jesus would be the focal point for attack from Christianity's critics. Attacks come from a variety of angles and involve several myths concerning Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

      Jesus was fully human. He was born to a Jewish family and lived his life in the lands surrounding Jerusalem. He cried, slept, worked, and was hungry. He knew anger, sadness, and was even near despair on the night before his death. He was also fully divine, equal with the Father, and given all authority in heaven and on earth.

      This section will focus on refuting the most common attacks against the figure, character, deity, and resurrection of Jesus by answering the following myths:

      Myth #1: Jesus never existed.

      Myth #2: It is impossible to know the truth about Jesus since he lived so long ago.

      Myth #3: Jesus was not born of a virgin.

      Myth #4: Jesus never claimed to be God.

      Myth #5: Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet.

      Myth #6: Jesus did not rise from the dead.

"This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without sciences and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times."

Philip Schaff, historian, Exposing the Myths about Jesus

Myth # 1: Jesus never existed.

      There is no scholarly ground to stand on when it comes to a claim that, historically, Jesus never lived. Many Christian and non-Christian sources reference Jesus, demonstrating that he lived, performed miracles, gathered a following, angered the Jews by claiming to be the Messiah, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate about AD 30. Even non-Christian histories report his supposed resurrection and the growth of the Christian sect that followed. They also purport that Jesus was worshiped as God by the early church.

      The New Testament contains twenty-seven separate documents which were written in the first century AD and contain the story of the life of Jesus and the beginnings of th Christian church. These facts were recorded by eyewitnesses. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, born AD 37, also records the existence of Jesus. Cornelius Tacitus (AD 112), a Roman historian, wrote about Jesus Christ while writing about the reign of Emperor Nero. He wrote of the existence of Christians in Rome and referred to Christianity when alluding to the burning of the temple of Jerusalem in AD 70. This history has been preserved by Sulpicius Severus. Other references to Jesus and his followers occur in the writings of the Roman historian Seutonius (AD 120).

"The testimony, both Christian and non-Christian, is more than sufficient to lay to rest any idea that Jesus, in fact, never existed. In light of the evidence, it is absurd to hold such a view."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #2: It is impossible to know the truth about Jesus since he lived so long ago.

      Refer to sections in this book on documentary support for the New Testament and historical reliability of the New Testament.

      In short, between biblical and other historical accounts, we have as much or more information about Jesus than about most other historical figures. These accounts come from eyewitnesses and were written and circulated when Jesus' followers and critics were still alive to refute any errors. The extant manuscript copies are far closer to the original writings than any other document of antiquity, so there is no reason to doubt their authenticity.

"We know more about the life of Jesus than just about any other figure in the ancient world. His birth, life and death are revealed in much more detail than most ancient figures whose existence is taken for granted by historians."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #3: Jesus was not born of a virgin.

      One argument against the virgin birth is that the Hebrew word in Isaiah's prophesy, "almah," can mean "young woman" as well as "virgin' (Isaiah 7:14). But the Greek "parthenos" used by Matthew and Luke must mean "virgin."

      The virgin birth is set down in the Bible as historical fact. (See Luke 1:26-37; Matthew 1:18-24)

      There are several reasons why the virgin birth was a necessity. The Bible teaches that the Word who became flesh was with God from the very beginning (John 1:1). The pre-existence of Christ is testified many times in the New Testament (John 8:58; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-16). When Jesus came into the world, he was not a newly created individual such as we are, but the eternal Son of God. To be born required divine intervention (McDowell, Answers).

      Another reason was because of his sinless nature. To be a perfect sacrifice, he must himself be perfect and without sin. The New Testament teaches that from the day he was born until the day he died, Jesus was without sin. Had he be born of a human father, he would have inherited the sin nature that contaminates our race. A miraculous birth was thus necessary (McDowell, Answers).

"Moreover, if Jesus had been sired by Joseph, he would not have been able to claim the legal rights to the throne of David. According to the prophecy of Jeremiah 22:28-30, there could be no king in Israel who was a descendant of King Jeconiah, and Matthew 1:12 relates that Joseph was from the line of Jeconiah. If Jesus had been fathered by Joseph, he could not rightly inherit the throne of David, since he was a relative of the cursed line."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

      The Bible records that Joseph had no sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus' birth, and records that he was known not to have fathered Jesus and that people assumed Mary had an illicit relationship. Even Joseph assumed this, and reasonably decided to break off their betrothal. He knew, as well as we do today, that a virgin conceiving a baby was a biological impossibility. And yet Joseph changed his resolve when an angel visited and told him of the miraculous nature of the conception.

"Some have attempted to account for the virgin birth by tracing it to Greek or Babylonian mythology. They argue that the Gospel writers borrowed this story from the mythology of their day. This view does not fit the facts, for there is not any hero in pagan mythology for which a virgin birth is claimed, and moreover it would be unthinkable to the Jewish mind to construct such a story from mythology.

"Many deities among the Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians were reported born in an unusual manner, but for the most part these beings never actually existed. The accounts are filled with obvious mythological elements which are totally absent from the Gospel narratives. They are reports of a god or goddess being born into the world by sexual relations between some heavenly being and an earthly woman, or by some adulterous affair among the gods and goddesses."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"All these various stories of supernatural conceptions and births, which we meet within folklore and the history of mythology, have this one point in common--they serve to point not so much to the similarity as to the complete contrast and dissimilarity which exist between the Christian birth-story and the tales which are current in various pagan circles."

Dr. Thomas Thorburn, A Critical Examination

Myth #4: Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet.

      The good teacher myth takes many forms. Jesus was a good teacher, a prophet, a good man who was misunderstood. These forms all share one major aspect--they deny Christ's deity. If Jesus can be labeled as a "good teacher," that classes him with Moses, Zoroaster, and Mohammed and dismisses his Lordship and divinity.

      But Jesus himself said "Before Abraham was, I AM." He shared glory with the Father before the world began. He claimed the power to read men's minds and hearts and to forgive sins. He claimed to have come down from heaven. He claimed the power to raise himself from the dead, and witnesses confirmed his resurrection.

      If he claimed all those things and they were not true, he was not a good teacher at all, but a liar or a lunatic. Either that, or his disciples made up the whole rap and put words in his mouth, making them liars or lunatics.

"Logically, if Jesus was not divine, as the records unequivocally claim he was, we are reduced to three, and only three, interpretations of the New Testament data:

1. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God but knew he was not. He was a charlatan.

2. Jesus thought he was the Son of God, but actually was not. He was a lunatic.

3. Jesus never actually claimed to be the Son of God, though his disciples put this claim in his mouth. So the disciples were charlatans, lunatics, or naive exaggerators."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

Was Jesus a liar or charlatan?

      Jesus took pains to warn against lying, and said that those who lie are the devil's children (John 8:44). Would he then have lied concerning his own character and purpose?

"The idea of Jesus as a charlatan--as an intentional deceiver who claimed to be something he knew he was not--has never had much appeal, even among fanatical anti-religionists. Jesus' high ethical teachings and noble personal character have made such an interpretation extremely improbable."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

      William Lecky, the great nineteenth-century historian and a non-believer, wrote of Jesus:

"[The character of Jesus] has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said, that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists."

W.E.H. Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne

Was Jesus a lunatic?

      Did Jesus honestly misunderstand his nature and believe himself to be something he was not? Could a human be sane and think of himself as the eschatological Son of Man who would come again at the end of the age, with the heavenly host, to judge the world?

      No. A person who believed that of themselves would either have to be correct or insane. And so, some might argue, Jesus was a lunatic.

"Some paranoids manifest ideas of grandeur almost entirely, and we find patients whose grandeur is very largely of a religious nature, such as their belief that they are directly instructed by God to convert the world or perform miracles."

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus

"We cannot avoid the conclusion that Jesus was deranged if he thought of himself as God incarnate and yet was not."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

"Yet, in view of the eminent soundness of Jesus’ teachings, few have been able to give credence to the idea of mental aberration."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

      As psychiatrist J.T. Fisher asserted in 1951:

"If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene--if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage--if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here ... rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimum mental health and contentment."

J.T. Fisher and L.S. Hawley, A Few Buttons Missing

      One can't have it both ways. Jesus' teachings can't exhibit optimum soundness while the teacher is a lunatic who does not understand his own nature.

Did Jesus' disciples paint a false portrait?

      Could not Jesus' followers, in either an intentional or unintentional attempt to put him in the best possible light, have painted a false portrait of him? Jews had been waiting for a Messiah. Is it not possible that this desire for a Messiah led to the deification of Jesus?

      These theories quickly fall apart upon closer examination.

"First, all types of Jewish messianic speculation at the time were at variance with the messianic picture Jesus painted of himself , so he was a singularly poor candidate for deification. Second, the apostles and evangelists were psychologically, ethically and religiously incapable of performing such a deification. Third, the historical evidence for Christ's resurrection, the great attesting event for his claims to deity, could not have been manufactured."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

      Jesus' attitudes toward the Gentiles, toward freedom from the yoke of the law, were not at all what was expected of the Messiah.

"Zealot activists expected the redeemer to appear sword in hand and to lead the people against Rome's military power. ... Most apocalyptic visionaries, on the other hand, expected redemption in the shape of a cosmic cataclysm, out of which would emerge a new world with the chosen people marching toward final salvation at the head of a transformed mankind."

Jewish scholar S.W. Baron,

Social and Religious History of the Jews

      Jesus hardly fulfilled the messianic expectations of his day. Freedom from Rome. Reuniting of the Jewish people. A Jewish king returned to the throne. In fact, the Pharisees were his chief opponents, for he continually set himself above the law and refused to be bound by legalistic tradition. He disagreed with the Sadducees, who did not believe in angels or in the resurrection of the body.

      So if anyone deified Jesus, it must have been his own disciples. They, too, were Jews. It took them a long time to believe that this Jesus, so different from what was expected, was the Messiah. When he was crucified, they doubted it anew. They were down-to-earth people--fishermen, tax collectors, and the like. To purport such a fantastic lie, they would themselves have had to be liars or psychotics.

      Instead, we see a group of men gathered in a locked room following the crucifixion, all scared lest they, too, be arrested. They were scattered the night of the arrest, scared for their lives. Then something happened, and suddenly these frightened disciples of a crucified teacher went forth boldly and preached the gospel despite constant threats to their freedom and lives. All but one died for their faith in Jesus, and the one who was not martyred died in exile. These few disciples brought Christianity to the world. Could they have done so knowing it was a lie? There are those who would die for a cause. And doubtless many have died for a lie. But would a man deliberately give his life, knowing it was for a lie?

      This change in the disciples and their subsequent relentless spreading of the message is one of the strongest arguments for the truth of the resurrection.

Myth #5 Jesus never claimed to be God.

      This is a common argument, despite heavy evidence to the contrary. Even a cursory glance at the gospels reveals that just the opposite is true: Jesus made many claims that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, equal to the Father. His disciples clearly regarded him as the Christ, and all the New Testament books refer to this claim as fact and even offer prayers to God the Father and Jesus the Son without discriminating between the two. Even Jesus' enemies were well aware of his claim to be God, and it was for this "blasphemy" that he was ultimately put to death. Indeed, had it not been true, it would have been blasphemy of the highest degree.

      Jesus forgave sins (example, Mark 2), again blasphemy for anyone but God. He used the term "Son of Man" in reference to himself, one of the Old Testament's most lofty ascriptions to God's Messiah.

      Among the religious leaders throughout history, Jesus Christ is unique in claiming to be God in human flesh. It is a misconception that other religious leaders made similar claims. Buddha did not claim to be God, nor did Moses. Muhammad did not identify himself as Allah, and Zoroaster did not claim to be Ahura Mazda.

      But Christ claimed that he existed before Abraham (John 8:58), that he was equal with the Father (John 5:17-18), that he had the ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7) (something the Bible teaches only God can do, Isaiah 43:25). The New Testament equated Jesus as the creator of the universe (John 1:3) and the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). Paul says that God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).

      Jesus' enemies wanted to stone him for blasphemy, "because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God" (John 10:33).

      The following scriptures are just a sample of several in which Christ's deity is claimed and affirmed.

      John 20:28 records Thomas' confession upon seeing Jesus' hands, feet, and side, "My Lord and my God!"

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

Paul, Philemon 2:10-11

"Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?'

'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'

The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need any more witnesses?' he asked. 'You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?'"

Mark 14:61-64

"Therefore go an make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Jesus, Matthew 28:19-20

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his word. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves."

Jesus, John 14:9-11

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Jesus, John 14:6

      Clearly, Jesus did claim to be divine, and his disciples came to believe as well. History shows that the earliest Christians, too, prayed to Jesus as to the Father, sang songs of worship to him, and regarded him as one with God.

"Other teachers adhered to a set of teachings and principles. Jesus did not just claim to be teaching mankind the truth; he claimed that he was the truth (John 14:6)."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"Anybody who would dare to make such claims would have to be either out of his mind or a liar, unless he was God. Jesus clearly claimed all these things and more. If he is God, as he claimed, we must believe in him, and if he is not, then we should have nothing to do with him."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

      All right, so Jesus claimed to be God. Why should anyone believe such a claim?

      The Bible gives miracles and fulfilled prophecy as convincing proof that Jesus was who he said he was. But the primary sign was the resurrection. When the religious leaders asked for a sign, Jesus said, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). In John 2:19, Jesus was again asked for a sign. He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up ... but he spoke of the temple of his body."

      Jesus' ability to raise himself from the dead separates him from everyone else in history. Thus anyone wishing to refute the case for Christianity must explain away the resurrection.

Myth #6: Jesus did not rise from the dead.

      Christ's resurrection from the dead is an essential element to the Gospel message. Without it, the rest is meaningless. Jesus himself recognized that it would serve as proof of his deity:

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."

He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 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."

Matthew 12:38-40

      The resurrection set Jesus apart from everyone who ever lived and confirmed that he was the Son of God.

... who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul, Romans 1:4

      And the apostles recognized the importance of the resurrection as central to the faith.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the de4ad are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:12-191

      More recently, Michael Green said it like this:

"Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenants of belief. Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian church would never have begun; the Jesus movement would have fizzled out like a damp squib with his execution. Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once you disprove it, and you have disposed of Christianity."

Michael Green, Man Alive

      Those who have set out to discredit the resurrection use different theories to try to explain it away. Those theories follow.

The "swoon theory"--Jesus wasn't really dead

      The swoon theory supposes that Jesus didn't really die. He merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought him dead, but he later recovered and the disciples thought he rose from the dead. Some have even suggested Jesus arranged to be drugged on the cross so that he could feign death and recover from the beatings, exposure, trauma, and loss of blood.

      This makes no sense. Prisoners occasionally died from the beating preceding crucifixion. Jesus went through such a scourging. If it was a plot, it was an extremely foolish one, for he could not have expected to survive the beating and crucifixion. After the beating, he was so weakened he could not carry the cross to Golgotha. In fact, the Bible records that he collapsed. Death by crucifixion followed, and Frederick Farrar attempts to describe what such a death was like:

"Death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly--dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, shame, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds--all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness.

"The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries--especially at the head and stomach--became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself--of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most--bear the aspect of delicious and exquisite release."

Frederick Farrar

      During this torment, Jesus was pierced in the side with a spear. Following hours of this sort of treatment, Jesus was removed from the cross after a Roman centurion certified he was dead. There was some surprise that he died so quickly, and as a result his legs were not broken, as was the custom to hasten death.

"The disciples of Jesus may not have been as sophisticated as twentieth century man in the realm of scientific knowledge, but they surely knew the difference between someone who was dead and someone who wasn't."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

      To suppose that Jesus not only survived that experience, but then walked whole and unharmed out of the sealed tomb to proclaim that death was conquered, is beyond ludicrous. It must also be considered that, where other criminals might hope to escape closer inspection (though they could not hope to escape death), this man, whose claims that he would rise again were widely known, would have had to have been most certainly dead before the Romans would have handed over his body.

The bodysnatchers theory -- Someone stole the body

      The Bible itself mentions this myth. After the resurrection, some of the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb went to the chief priests and reported what had happened. Matthew reports:

When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "you are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Matthew 28:12-15

      Many factors make this story impossible to believe. The stone, for example, most likely weighed a couple of tons. The women, on their way to the tomb Sunday morning, wondered aloud who would roll the stone away for them (Mark 16:3). It would have required several men and a great deal of noise to remove the stone.

      The chief priests had requested a detachment of soldiers from Pilate (from four to sixteen men) to guard the tomb. These would have been trained fighting men, under Roman law penalized by death for failing their mission or falling asleep at their post.

      Christ was publically put in the tomb on Friday. On Sunday morning, the body was missing. If he did not rise from the dead, then someone took the body. There are three groups that could have taken the body: the Romans, the Jews, or the disciples.

      The Romans would have had no reason to steal the body, since they wanted to keep the peace in Palestine.

      The Jews would not have taken the body, because the last thing they wanted was a proclamation of the resurrection. In fact, they asked for the Roman guard (Matthew 27) to make sure no one stole the body.

      The disciples of Jesus had no reason to steal the body, and if they did, they later died for something they knew to be untrue.

"Those who entertain the stolen body myth suppose that a group of disciples, who days before had run like scared bunny rabbits, confronted a guard of heavily armed, battle-trained Roman soldiers. They either overpowered them or snuck past them in their sleep to move a two-ton stone up an incline without waking a single man. Then, so the thinking goes, the disciples carted off Jesus' body, hid it somewhere and, over the course of the next several decades, endured ridicule, torture, and martyrdom to spread a lie--what they knew to be a lie--throughout the known world.

"On the contrary, however, that is too much to believe."

Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door

The wrong tomb theory -- The tomb was empty because it was not the right tomb

      There are actually a few who cling to the theory that the women went to the wrong tomb, and that's why Jesus' body was not there.

      This point hardly deserves an answer. However, some of the more obvious flaws in this theory follow.

      First, the women went together, and the two Marys had been there already.

      Second, there were angels awaiting them, with a message: "Jesus is not here, he is risen." Did the angels, too, visit the wrong tomb?

      Third, Peter and John, not believing the women's testimony, ran to the tomb themselves, and they, too, found it empty. Did they, also, run to the same wrong empty tomb? It's starting to seem coincidental that all these witnesses happened upon the same "wrong tomb" ...

      Fourth, the stone and Roman seal marked Jesus' tomb and would not have been present at the wrong one.

      Fifth, the chief priests and Romans would have been all too happy to point out the mistake and locate the right tomb, and the body.

The fact of the matter is ...

      The facts just don't support any other theory than the truth--Jesus did rise from the dead and appear to his disciples.

      The accounts of his appearances are recorded for us by eyewitnesses to whom Jesus appeared alive over a forty-day period after his public crucifixion. (Acts 1:3)

      Writing about AD 56, the Apostle Paul mentions that more than 500 people had witnessed the resurrected Christ at one time and most of them were still living when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:6). This is a challenge to those who might not have believed, since Paul is saying that there are many people yet living who could be interviewed to find out if Christ had indeed risen.

      Not only is there evidence to support the resurrection, but there is also a severe lack of evidence to support any alternative explanation. So many people in Jesus' day opposed him and wanted to destroy his following. All they would have had to do was produce a body. They could not. By far the most logical explanation is the one the Bible presents: They could not disprove the resurrection because it actually happened. They could not produce a dead body because there was not one--Jesus rose from the dead, and that fact is attested by historical evidence and eyewitness accounts.

"The theories attempting to give an alternative explanation to the resurrection take more faith to believe than the resurrection itself."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #7: There are contradictions in the four resurrection accounts.

      If the Gospels were placed in four parallel columns, a number of apparent differences would be highlighted. However, these ultimately help confirm the truthfulness of the accounts, rather than refute them. None of the four gospels give all the details. There would be no need for four gospels if they did. And it would appear contrived and suspicious.

      Only Matthew records the first appearance to the women. Only Luke records the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Mark and John record the appearance of Mary Magdalene. Only John records the appearance of the Lord in the upper room when Thomas was absent, and the appearance on the Sea of Galilee.

      This is to be expected. No four witnesses would write up the same description of the same event, detail for detail. If they did, there would be obvious collusion.

      The main points are agreed upon by every witness. Additional details do not discredit the account, but increase its credibility. The details do not contradict each other, but work together to create a bigger picture.

      One apparent contradiction concerns the time the women came to the tomb. Mark's account has the women coming to the tomb at the rising of the sun. John states that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb when it was dark. However, there would have been a walk of quite some distance from Jerusalem or Bethany, and in order to reach the tomb at sunrise, the women would have had to leave while it was still dark.

      Another area which appears contradictory concerns the angels at the tomb. Matthew and Mark relate that one angel addressed the women. Luke and John report two angels at the tomb. However, Matthew and Mark do not say that there was only one angel at the tomb, but that one angel spoke to the women.

"Though they report some of the details differently, the Gospels agree in all important points. The accounts are in harmony on the fact that Jesus was dead and buried; that the disciples were not prepared for his death, but were totally confused; that the tomb was empty on Easter morning; that the empty tomb did not convince them that Jesus had risen; that Mary thought the body had been stolen.

"The gospel writers also concur that the disciples had certain experiences which they believed to be appearances of the resurrected Christ. That normative first century Judaism had no concept of a dying and rising Messiah is a historical fact.

"The disciples proclaimed the resurrection story in Jerusalem, in the place where Jesus had been killed and buried. All these facts considered together constitute a powerful argument for the validity of the resurrection story."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"In these fundamental truths, there are absolutely no contradictions. The so-called variations in the narratives are only the details which were most vividly impressed on one mind or another of the witnesses of our Lord's resurrection, or on the mind of the writers of these four respective Gospels.

"The closest, most critical examination of these narratives throughout the ages never has destroyed and can never destroy their powerful testimony to the truth that Christ did rise from the dead on the third day, and was seen of many.'

Wilbur Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ




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