Saturday, 20 February 2010

Credible evidence for Jesus' resurrection or not?

I had a great week in Nijmegen! My office is on the 14th floor of the Erasmus building (to the right). Great view of the city!
I had a very interesting and engaging conversation with a Dutch couple on the plane earlier in the week. Afterwards, I once again realised how important it is for Christians to be able to offer legitimate reasons for WHAT they believe and WHY. It is one thing te believe that Jesus rose from the dead, it could be quite another to explain why. Did he really rise from the dead? Are there any credible evidence for it? Or is faith a step in the dark?
I have been studying these issues for more than five years now. From the start I decided to study not just those whom I agreed with. I wrestled with the likes of Gerd Ludemann, Sandy Wedderburn and John Dominic Crossan (not the kind of scholars to study over a cup of tea on a sunday afternoon). I have read their work carefully. Do I agree with some theories that Jesus' disciples experienced hallucinations? Or that his body rotted in a tomb? Or that the vultures tore his bodily remains apart on the cross? As a historian, I think there are credible reasons to refute these claims.

Four New Testament scholars, with the academic clout to deserve a hearing have convinced me of the credibility of believing that Jesus really rose from the dead. They are Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig and Tom Wright. All of their work on the resurrection of Jesus is worth looking at. Wright, who wrote a volume of more than 800 pages on the matter can state with convidence:
"Historical investigation, I propose, brings us to the point where we must say that the tomb previously housing a thoroughly dead Jesus was empty, and that his followers saw and met someone they were convinced was this same Jesus, bodily alive though in a new, transformed fashion. The empty tomb on the one hand and the convincing appearances of Jesus on the other are the two conclusions the historian must draw."
See also the youtube link below, for an excellent preview of a new book on the resurrection by Wright:

Hey, but the facts alone cannot produce faith! That is God's gift for those who put theit trust in Jesus.


Anonymous said...

It still remains an act of God to convince anyone of the Gospel of Grace, yet, it is wonderfull to find that we can tell why we believe the evangel of Christ and do so both rationally and with passion and conviction, in humility and with great seriousness. Christ rose from the grave, the tomb is empty - what an amazing thing it is that God can work this belief and that I can find in my heart and in my reason only full consent with it! To tell of it is not difficult, to convince others seem to be impossible, though I have seen it happen and know it to be true. People will be saved from their sins through trusting in Christ's atonement on the cross and His resurrection untill the last day. Why? because the empty grave witness to it that this is God's work - mighty and powerfull. This same power works effectively to bring sinners to him even today.

Frederik Mulder said...

Thanx for that Anonymous.I agree whole heartedly with you.Faith is a gift from God. No human being can convince another about what Jesus had done for us. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. But, and that is exciting for me: historians can study the evidence and acknowledge the credibility of what the early Christians claimed had happended to Jesus.
In the end, it is God who reveals himself to us, but that revelation is rooted in concrete history: A Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Palestine; a Jesus who healed the sick; a Jesus who died on the cross; a Jesus who rose from the dead.
There are numerous theologians, the likes of Wilhelm Herrmann who believed we are saved by God's grace alone, but declared it impossible for us to say anything about the historical Jesus...
Thanx for that Anonymous

francois said...

Amen and Amen!

Anonymous said...

Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life! He said NO MAN comes to the Father but by ME! Either He is the greatest liar or the TRUTH! I believe in great humility that HE is the SON of GOD! To those who have experienced freedom and DELIVERANCE FROM SIN we know the grave is empty! He is alive!!I know HIM. He speaks to me every day! He is waiting for me in heaven!

Steve said...

Ferdie, in my RE lessons looking at Mark's Gospel, we are dealing with "The feeding of the five thousand". I would like to quote two paragraphs from the student book - what do you make of this. Is it deconstruction? Are you able to points out the mindsets behind this?

Here goes: Start Quote
Different views

Some Christians believe that if Jesus was, indeed, the Son of God, then nothing was impossible for him. They also believe that since Mark's Gospel was divinely inspired, it always tells the historical truth and this miracle, therefore, occurred exactly as Mark recorded it. Others think that a miracle did happen, but that the number of those fed has been exaggerated. It has also been suggested that because of their strict food laws, most people in the crowd would have taken food with them. When they saw that Jesus and his disciples were prepared to share what they had, these people were shamed into doing the same.

Many Christians, however, believe that something out of the ordinary did happen but that it is not possible to know exactly what because of the influence of Old Testament stories on the way the story was relayed. They, therefore, look for a SYMBOLIC meaning in the story.

End quote.
What do you make of this? Blessings. Steve

Frederik Mulder said...

Wow Steve!
Part of this quote reflects the same old Enlightenment rationalistic re-interpretations of Jesus' miracle stories. In liberal German circles this "closed world" interpretation has been going for more than two hundred years now. The problem is that these people usually start off with the presupposition that miracles are impossible. In the 18th century, GE Lessing became famous for his rejection of the supernatural. Now if that is your starting point, then you will try al sorts of "creative" explanations, as long as you do not come up with what the text is actually trying to say.
The first few lines in die quote might create the impression that Christians who believe the miracle exactly as it is reported is actually naive and stupid. Well, I am sure there are worldclass scholars who would believe the miracle to be literally true, and that Mark used Old Testament images to explain it beautifully. Check out Richard Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitness which I reported on a few weeks ago. I did not check out the miracles there but would think he takes them pretty literal.

Steve said...

Thanks Ferdie
I'll share your comments with the students tomorrow, I appreciate it. I've just read parts of your interview with Leander Keck, very interesting. It's these little nuances in thought that appear so credible, but when one observes their fruit, it later becomes apparent that one has been duped. Often only after massive damage has been done. Too much of this going on today. Blessings. Steve.

Frederik Mulder said...

Thanx Steve,

William Wrede, whom Keck refered to "believed" in Jesus, but in a Jesus without any supernatural abilities. He claimed that the miracles in the Gospel of Mark (and therefore all the Gospels)were a later ecclecial addition.
It is vitally important to know WHAT theologians believe about Jesus, not just THAT they believe in Him.

Steve said...


I shared your earlier comments with my students, and your input is much appreciated. I'll pass this on as well.

The 'WHAT' of people's belief is rather crucial as I've discovered through the school of hard knocks. It is clearly evidenced in what we've seen presented to students at the University of Pretoria and how these views have impacted many lives in a negative way.