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‘Once dead, always dead!’ [The challenge of the resurrection]

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1 ‘Once dead, always dead!’ [The challenge of the resurrection]
Dr. C.K.Tan BPharm MSc PhD MRPharmS PgCertMedEd St. James’ Church, Audley, Stoke-on-Trent

2 Why is Jesus’ resurrection important?
The resurrection is at the core of the Christian faith. 1 Cor. 15:17 ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.’ It is proof of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death. It is evidence of Christ’s divinity It is the foreshadowing of the resurrection of His followers - the basis of the Christian hope. Theologian Gerald O’ Collins: ‘In a profound sense, Christianity without the resurrection is not simply Christianity without its final chapter. It is not Christianity at all.’

3 Evidence for the resurrection
The evidence for the resurrection hinges on three crucial issues: Did Jesus die on the cross? Where was Jesus’ missing body? Did anyone see Jesus after his resurrection?

4 1. Did Jesus die on the cross?
Jesus could not rise from the dead if He did not die on the cross in the first place! Sceptics made two claims: Jesus did not die (the ‘swoon theory’) It was not Jesus who died on the cross

5 … did Jesus die on the cross?
Theory: Jesus never died on the cross but merely passed out from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought he was dead. On the third day He revived, left the tomb, and appeared to His disciples, who believed He had risen from the dead. Problems with the theory 1. It is physically impossible for Jesus to survive the tortures of the crucifixion without needing serious and urgent medical emergency treatment. Even if Jesus had somehow survived the crucifixion, His appearing to the disciples half-dead and desperately in need of medical attention would not have encouraged his disciples to worship Him as God.

6 … did Jesus die on the cross?
2. The Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus were experts in carrying out the death penalty by crucifixion. John Lennox, in ‘Gunning for God’: ‘In any case, the extent of Jesus’ injuries guaranteed death. Before he was crucified, he was flogged and had a crown of thorns pressed on to this head. Such flogging, as practised by the Romans, involved the use of a brutal instrument called a flagrum, which was like a whip with pieces of metal and bone attached to it. It bit deep into human flesh with the result that the victim sometimes died under its use. In Jesus’ case, he was so weak as a result of the flogging that he was not able to carry the cross as far as the place of execution.’

7 … did Jesus die on the cross?
3. The Roman soldiers made sure Jesus was actually dead: They thrust a spear in His side through the right lung and into the heart. When blood and water came out separately, it indicated the blood cells had begun to separate from the plasma which will only happen when the blood stops circulating. This also meant that his heart had already stopped beating. Medically this means that Jesus had already died before the spear was pierced onto his side.

8 … did Jesus die on the cross?
4. Upon deciding to break the legs of the criminals (in order to speed up the process of dying), they carefully examined the body of Jesus and found that He was already dead. So it was his enemies who pronounced him dead! Remember that the Roman soldiers would have faced the death penalty themselves had they made a mistake with Jesus’ death. Atheist scholar Gerd Ludemann wrote, ‘Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.’

9 … did Jesus die on the cross?
5. After being taken down from the cross, Jesus was wrapped in lengthy bandage-type grave-cloths and covered in about eighty pounds of spices, i.e. he was embalmed. This process would have finished off Jesus! It is impossible that after three days in an airless tomb, with no food or water, no medical treatment and being embalmed, that Jesus could revive.

10 … did Jesus die on the cross?
6. It is hard to imagine that Jesus (in any stage in his life, let alone effectively dead!) could roll a two-ton stone up an incline, overpower the guards, and then walk several miles to Emmaus. Jesus had spikes 5-7 inches long driven through his wrists and feet. His shoulders would have been dislocated during the crucifixion. How could he possibly walk and wander around Palestine making his appearances over a period of 40 days?

11 … did Jesus die on the cross?
David Friedrich Strauss, a sceptic and no believer in the resurrection: ‘It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry.

12 … did Jesus die on the cross?
Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which He had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship.’

13 Was it Jesus who died on that cross?
Theory: The Koran teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross but escaped death and was taken up to heaven alive. Based on the phrase, "it was made to appear to them" in the Koran, orthodox Muslims have interpreted this to mean that Allah made someone else look like Jesus, and this person was crucified instead of Christ. Many Muslims deny there were any Christian eyewitness account of Jesus’ death, basing this on Matthew 26:56 which says, “Then all the disciples deserted him, and fled.”

14 …was it Jesus who died on that cross?
Problem with theory: there were both Christian and non-Christian eyewitness accounts of the crucifixion and death of Jesus: Though many disciples forsook Jesus and went into hiding, some of them were witnesses, even if from a distance (Mk. 14:54). John (19:25) specifically records that Jesus’ mother, his mother’ sister (probably Salome), Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, were standing by the cross. How could these women, who knew Jesus and were very close to him, including his mother, not recognise Jesus?

15 …was it Jesus who died on that cross?
There was ‘the disciple whom he loved’ (probably John) to whom Jesus, while on the cross, commanded to take care of his mother Mary (Jn.19:26-27). The Gospel of Luke reports that while Jesus was carrying the cross, “a large number people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him” (Lk. 23:27). The Gospels are scattered with references to Jewish leaders (Mt. 27:41; Mk 15:31, Lk. 23:35), the Roman centurion (Mt. 27:54; Mk 15:39; Lk. 23:47) and soldiers (Mt. 27:35; Mk.15:24; Lk. 23:36; Jn.19:18,23) who all witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion.

16 Where was Jesus’ missing body?
No one disputed that the tomb was empty, not even Jesus’ enemies! In fact, the first people to tell the world that the tomb of Jesus was empty were the Jewish authorities, and not the Christians! They knew from the guards that the tomb was empty. They did not question this; they merely claimed that the disciples stole the body while the guards slept (Mt. 28:11-15). A number of theories were advanced to explain this away.

17 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
The Wrong Tomb theory: The women who reported the body missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. Problems with the theory: 1. Joseph of Arimathea, and a fellow member of the Sandhedrin, Nicodemus (Jn.19:39-42, 7:50-52), buried the body of Jesus in a private tomb belonging to Joseph (Mt 27:60). They knew where the tomb was and could easily have corrected the women. They would have gone to the tomb themselves to investigate this incredible story.

18 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
2. Witnesses saw where the tomb was: the women from Galilee saw it (Lk 23:55), as did Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses (‘the other Mary’) (Mt. 27:62; Mark 15:47). As they followed Joseph, and saw the tomb in which Christ’s body was laid, it is unlikely they went to the wrong tomb. 3. Later on, in broad daylight, some of the disciples went to Jesus’ tomb to confirm the women’s statement. It is extremely doubtful that the Apostles would not have corrected the women's error (if they had made one).

19 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
4. The site of the tomb was also known by their enemies The Jewish authorities, who had asked for that Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent the body from being stolen, wouldn’t have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there! If the wrong tomb was involved, the Jewish authorities would have gone to the right tomb, produce the body and destroy once and for all any rumour of a resurrection!

20 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
5. The site of the tomb was well known to the public. Jesus’ body was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council. This was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid before. Joseph’s family, relations and friends, as well as those who have constructed the tomb, could easily locate it, produce the body and march it down the streets. Christianity would never have begun!

21 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
The Stolen Body Theory: Someone stole the body. Problems with the theory: Who stole the body? Who would have a motive to steal the body?

22 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
1. The Jewish and Roman authorities They had the means to steal the body. They did not have to overpower the guards and they would be able to roll the stone away. But if they had the body in their possession or knew where it was, why didn’t they just produce the body when the disciples began preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem? Why didn’t they recover the corpse and put it on display in the centre of Jerusalem? This would have destroyed Christianity!

23 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
Dr John Warwick Montgomery: ‘It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus.’

24 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
2. The disciples It was claimed that the disciples stole the body while the guards slept (Mt. 28:11–15). But the depression and cowardice of the disciples provide a solid argument against their suddenly becoming so brave and daring as to face a detachment of well-trained and armed soldiers at the tomb and steal the body. They did not believe in the resurrection in the first place!

25 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
The fact that Jesus was embalmed initially by Joseph and Nicodemus before the Sabbath and the women who came after the Sabbath (in order to continue the embalming) suggested they were NOT thinking of a resurrection. If you believed Jesus was going to live again, you wouldn’t tie him so tightly with the burial cloth and load him with that amount of expensive spices!

26 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
If the Jewish and Roman authorities had any evidence that the disciples stole the body, they would easily have arrested them on the charge of tomb-robbing, a very serious offence at that time. Once the news spread that the disciples had stolen the body, how would they have been able to move the body around in secret? Whoever did the stealing would have to conceal it from the other disciples!

27 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
J.N.D. Anderson, a former dean of the faculty of law and Director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London: ‘This would run totally contrary to all we know of them (the disciples): their ethical teaching, the quality of their lives, their steadfastness in suffering and persecution. Nor would it begin to explain their dramatic transformation from dejected and dispirited escapists into witnesses whom no opposition could muzzle.’

28 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
The Soldiers Fell Asleep Theory: While the soldiers were asleep, the disciples came to steal the body. Matthew 28:12-13: ‘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.'"

29 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
Problems with the theory: 1. If the soldiers were sleeping, how did they know what happened? How did they identify that it was the disciples who stole the body? Would the Jewish or Roman authorities have handed such an important assignment to men who fall asleep during their duties? Anyway, Roman soldiers were not likely to fall asleep on such an important assignment. They would be executed for failure of duty.

30 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
2. Jesus’ body was placed in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock, not in a grave dug in the earth. The body was usually placed in an alcove on a rock-ledge. Such tombs were usually secured with a large disc-shaped stone that fitted into a slanting groove at the entrance to the tomb: though easily rolled into place, it would have required several men to move it away. It is, therefore, physically impossible for the disciples to sneak past the soldiers and then move a two-ton stone up an incline in absolute silence. Certainly the guards would have heard something and be awoken, even in the unlikely event they fell asleep.

31 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
3. The tomb was secured with a Roman seal. Anyone who moved the stone would break the seal, an offense punishable by death. The total dejection and fear in the disciples makes it difficult to believe that they would suddenly become so brave as to face a detachment of soldiers, steal the body, and then lie about the Resurrection when they would ultimately face a life of suffering and death for their lie.

32 … where was Jesus’ missing body?
4. John and Peter, on entering the tomb, found the grave-cloths "lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself separate from the linen" (Jn. 20:6-7). There was simply not enough time for the disciples to sneak past the guards, roll away the stone, unwrap the body, rewrap it in their wrappings, and fold the head piece neatly next to the linen. In a robbery, the thieves would have flung the garments down in disorder and fled away in haste. But the burial cloths were undisturbed (except flattened) and not unrolled or cut.

33 Did anyone see Jesus after the resurrection?
The early disciples claimed that they had actually seen the risen Christ, talked with him, touched him and even eaten with him. Jesus appeared to eyewitnesses of very different character, in different places and situations, and at different times of day. These appearances took place over a 40-day period and then stopped suddenly.

34 … did anyone see Jesus after the resurrection?
Jesus’ appearances as recorded in the gospels: To Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18) To the women who went to the tomb (Mt. 28:8-10) To Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-32) To the eleven disciples and others (Lk. 24:33-49) To ten apostles and others, with Thomas absent (Jn. 20:19-23) To Thomas and other other apostles (Jn. 20: 26-30) To seven apostles (Jn. 21:1-14) To the eleven disciples (Mt. 28:16-20) With the apostles at the Mount of Olives before his ascension (Lk. 24:50-52, Acts 1:4-9)

35 … did anyone see Jesus after the resurrection?
Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 that Jesus appeared to: Peter The twelve 500 believers (at one time) James (brother of Jesus) All the apostles Paul (Saul) Paul gave the names of specific individuals and groups of people who saw him, written at a time when people could still check them out if they wanted confirmation.

36 … did anyone see Jesus after the resurrection?
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 was actually a creed of the early church and not just the words of Paul. Evidence shows that this creed was in use within 20 years of the resurrection. Other scholars are convinced this was even earlier – between 2 to 8 years of the resurrection.

37 … did anyone see Jesus after the resurrection?
The Hallucination Theory: Jesus’ appearances were a hallucination that occurred in the minds of the disciples. Problems with the theory: In order for hallucinations of this type to occur, psychiatrists agree that several conditions must exist: 1. Hallucinations generally occur to people who are imaginative and of a nervous make up. However, the appearances of Jesus occurred to a variety of people. For example Peter (hard-headed fisherman), James brother of Jesus (a sceptic), Thomas (‘doubting Thomas’) and Saul/Paul (a persecutor of Christians and eminent intellectual).

38 … did anyone see Jesus after the resurrection?
2. Hallucinations are subjective and individual. No two people have the same experience. In this case, over five hundred people (1 Cor. 15:6) have the same account. Group hallucinations of a non-existent event have never been reported. 3. Hallucinations occur only at particular times and places and are associated with the events. The Resurrection appearances occur in many different environments and at different times. 4. Hallucinations of this nature occur to those who intensely want to believe. However, several such as Thomas and James, the brother of Jesus, were hostile to the news of the Resurrection. The others simply had not expected to see Jesus again, and believed despite themselves.

39 Other evidence for the resurrection
Physical evidence found at the tomb: the grave-cloths of Christ Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome arrived to find the stone rolled away from the tomb, and the tomb empty. Mary ran at once to tell the apostles Peter and John. She did not speak of the resurrection, merely that the body of Jesus had been removed. Tomb-robbing was a very common activity in the ancient world.

40 … other evidence for the resurrection
Peter and John ran to the tomb. John got there first, stooped, and looked inside. Immediately he noticed something strange: the linen grave-cloths that had been wrapped around the body of Jesus were still there. Stranger still, they were lying just as they had been when his body was in them, but the body had gone. When Peter arrived, they both went into the tomb and saw what was possibly the strangest sight of all: the cloths which had been wrapped around Jesus’ head were lying on the ledge where the body was laid though his head was no longer in them. They were still wrapped as if it had been, except that they had probably collapsed flat.

41 … other evidence for the resurrection
The effect on John was powerful: he saw and believed (John 20:3-8). He believed because it looked as if in some way the body of Jesus had come right through the grave-clothes and left them exactly where they were when the body was inside. (See John Lennox’s ‘Gunning for God’)

42 … other evidence for the resurrection
How did they they get to be like that? Tomb-robbers would not have taken the corpse, and left the valuable linen and spices. Even if for some strange reason they only wanted the corpse, they had no reason for wrapping all the cloths round again as if they were still round a body, except, perhaps, to give the impression that the tomb had not been disturbed. But if they wanted to do that, why did they not roll the stone back into its place? Further, how could any tomb-robber remove the stone when the guards were there? The noise would hav disturbed them. Why rob a tomb and commit a very serious offence at a tomb that was officially sealed and guarded?

43 … other evidence for the resurrection
Women as the first witnesses The first reports mentioned in the gospels of appearances of the risen Christ were made by women. In first-century Jewish culture, women were not normally considered to be competent witnesses. Their testimony were not accepted in a court of law! Anyone who wanted to invent a resurrection story would never have used women to be the first witnesses! But the gospels did! This is an indication that the resurrection account was authentic and true.

44 … other evidence for the resurrection
The fate of the disciples Many of his disciples lost their lives because of their beliefs. People may be willing to die for what they believe is true but no one dies for what they know is untrue! The disciples would not have had a problem with a dead Jesus They had not believed in the resurrection in the first place. They would simply have made his burial place into a shrine and made pilgrimages to it.

45 Summary of the evidence
Critics of the resurrection have to show proof to counter the overwhelming evidence for the following: Jesus died on the cross Jesus was buried in a tomb Jesus’ tomb was empty Hundreds of eyewitnesses All the critics’ objections have been thoroughly discredited.

46 Implications What if Jesus rose from the dead?
It is not a question of science as science cannot prove Jesus’ resurrection did not, or did, take place. If God exists, then the resurrection is possible. If you claim that the resurrection is impossible because God does not exist, then it is a problem of philosophy and not of history or science.

47 …summary Only by asking the right question can we reach the
right answer We can question whether Jesus rose from the dead and demand the historical evidence for this. Historical evidence there certainly is plenty. What if we asked a different question, one that goes like this? ‘Assume for a moment Jesus rose on the third day after his actual death. What would this event tell us of Jesus? What would this prove? It would prove He was who He was – God in the flesh. How should you then respond?

48 Resources Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics. John C. Lennox. Gunning for God. Why the new atheists are missing the target. Josh McDowell. Is there solid evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? Lee Strobel. The Case for Easter. In The Case for Christ. Patrick Zukeran (from Bethinking, UCCF)

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