Christians worship him as God. But the President of American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, claims Jesus didn't exist. Others say Jesus was an impostor. The Da Vinci Code postulates Jesus was as a great man whose deity was invented by the 4th century Church.
Did Jesus rise from the dead?
We all wonder what will happen to us after we die. When a loved one dies, we long to see them again after our turn comes. Will we have a glorious reunion with those we love or is death the end of all consciousness?
Jesus taught that life does not end after our bodies die. He made this startling claim: "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again." According to the eyewitnesses closest to him, Jesus then demonstrated his power over death by rising from the dead after being crucified and buried for three days. It is this belief that has given hope to Christians for nearly 2000 years.
But some people have no hope of life after death. The atheistic philosopher, Bertrand Russell wrote, "I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my own ego will survive."1 Russell obviously didn't believe Jesus' words.
Jesus' followers wrote that he appeared alive to them after his crucifixion and burial. They claim to have not only seen him, but also to have eaten with him, touched him, and spent 40 days with him.
So could this have been simply a story that grew over time, or is it based upon solid evidence? The answer to this question is foundational to Christianity. For if Jesus did rise from the dead, it would validate everything he said about himself, about the meaning of life, and about our destiny after death.
If Jesus did rise from the dead then he alone would have the answers to what life is about and what is facing us after we die. On the other hand, if the resurrection account of Jesus is not true, then Christianity would be founded upon a lie. Theologian R. C. Sproul puts it this way:
"The claim of resurrection is vital to Christianity. If Christ has been raised from the dead by God, then He has the credentials and certification that no other religious leader possesses. Buddha is dead. Mohammad is dead. Moses is dead. Confucius is dead. But, according to...Christianity, Christ is alive."2
Many skeptics have attempted to disprove the resurrection. Josh McDowell was one such skeptic who spent more than seven hundred hours researching the evidence for the resurrection. McDowell stated this regarding the importance of the resurrection:
"I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men, OR it is the most fantastic fact of history."3
So, is Jesus' resurrection a fantastic fact or a vicious myth? To find out, we need to look at the evidence of history and draw our own conclusions. Let's see what skeptics who investigated the resurrection discovered for themselves.
But not everyone is willing to fairly examine the evidence. Bertrand Russell admits his take on Jesus was "not concerned" with historical facts.4 Historian Joseph Campbell, without citing evidence, calmly told his PBS television audience that the resurrection of Jesus is not a factual event.5 Other scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, agree with him.6 None of these skeptics present any evidence for their views.
True skeptics, as opposed to cynics, are interested in evidence. In a Skeptic magazine editorial entitled "What Is a Skeptic?" the following definition is given: "Skepticism is ... the application of reason to any and all ideas-no sacred cows allowed. In other words ... skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are "skeptical," we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe."7
Unlike Russell and Crossan, many true skeptics have investigated the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. In this article we will hear from some of them and see how they analyzed the evidence for what is perhaps the most important question in the history of the human race: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
So as Christians, what is do you think about this?