Christian holidays like Christmas and Resurrection Sunday bring the crazies out of the woodwork. A few years ago the Freedom From Religion Foundation boasted that it put up a banner in an Illinois park declaring “Nobody died for our ‘sins’ Jesus Christ is a myth.” There is something about Jesus that makes certain people want to poke Christians in the eye.
The historicity of Jesus is not disputed by serious scholars in academia. So Jesus was a real historical figure and not a mythical one. To question the existence of Jesus exposes the claimant to be a silly, intellectual lightweight.
The most significant historical event in human history is the resurrection of Jesus. The facts of the resurrection of Jesus are well attested. Here are the facts that nearly all historians agree upon:
1. Jesus died by crucifixion. He didn’t swoon and then revive in the tomb. Think how silly the theory is that after his brutal scourging, his horrific agony on the cross, and the piercing of his side that Jesus only fainted. His fainting would have had to have fooled the Romans who were experts at killing. His embalmers would have had to have been fooled as well. Then, a badly beaten Jesus would have had to have the super-human strength to move the large stone from the tomb entrance. And then, he would have had do it so quietly so the Romans guards would not have found out about it. Now, that would have been miraculous. The facts lead to the conclusion that Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. Jesus’ disciples believed that Jesus resurrected and appeared to them. Something happened to this band of cowards who huddled in an upper room days after the crucifixion. They were transformed into courageous evangelists. They believed in the resurrection so much that they refused to deny it even in the face of death. The disciples could not have manufactured the resurrection. Many people are willing to give up their lives for something they believe to be the truth. Who would face torture and death for something they know to be a lie? The only explanation for their transformation is that disciples saw the risen Jesus.
3. Paul, who formerly persecuted Christians, became one himself because he believed Christ appeared to him. Paul, himself, was changed from a staunch hater of Christianity to it’s most ardent defender. He claimed this transformation was because the resurrected Jesus appeared to him. After his conversion he was beaten, imprisoned, stoned several times for preaching the resurrection of Jesus. He finally was beheaded after he refused to deny the resurrection of Jesus. Paul must have seen the resurrected Jesus.
4. James, the brother of Jesus, who was a Jewish religious leader and a former antagonist to Jesus, became a Christian because he claimed Jesus appeared to him. During the time of Jesus on earth, Jesus’ younger brother, James, did not believe his older brother was the Messiah. Jesus later appeared to James and he became a believer. (I Corinthians 15:7). He later was killed because he refused to stop preaching the resurrection. James’ conversion can only be explained by seeing Jesus alive again.
5. The tomb was empty (and still is). The one thing the Jewish leaders could have done to quiet the reports of Jesus’ resurrection was to produce the dead body of Jesus. They could not because they didn’t know where his body was. That fact is amazing because the Jews took all precautions because they knew Jesus predicted his resurrection. Pilate gave them a Roman guard which put the seal of Rome on the tomb. In order for the cowardly disciples to steal the body they would have had to fight off the Roman guard and survive the retaliation for having done so.
The only explanation that reconciles all those facts is that Jesus resurrected from the dead. To simply reject the facts above, that nearly all of academic historians agree are true, is to be a believer in fairy tales.
Are you a believer in fairy tales?