Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
This writing reasons with three points, that supports the resurrection of Jesus.
1. Empty tomb. Group of women found tomb empty after Sabbath on sunday morning.
2. Resurrection witnessess. Over 500 hundred persons saw Jesus after he was dead.
3. Birth of Christianity. Resurrection gave birth to Christianity. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then there has to be some mystical X that explains the origins of Christianity.
First I want to talk little bit about word "resurrection". At the time of Jesus it didn't mean life after death in some kind of unmaterial form. It didn't mean that soul would end up in hell or in paradise nor it meant reborning. It meant that death was overthrown, and returning to some kind of bodily immortality. Many non-Jews believed in some kind of non-material afterlife, but they thought that resurrection would be impossible. Many Jews waited resurrection of righeous at the end of times. Man who has been studying this subject is Hans Cavalli. He said, that in Palestine there was not a consept of a non-bodily resurrection.
1. THE EMPTY TOMB
If you consider the tale of empty tomb a reliable story, then the christians and the jews knew the location of the empty tomb. There are six arguments that comes up from this:
A) Sources that tell us about the empty tomb are very early.
The oldest sources we have are from Mark and Paul. In Gospel of Mark the story about empty tomb is based on the source that can be written no more that 7 years after the event. For this there is two arguments: First, the Gospel of Mark is based on short stories that has Jesus as their main character. But when Mark arrives to the passion week, the story telling changes. Events are described in order and they form a one whole story about life of Jesus. Mark is clearly using source that is much older than his writings. Second, the source that Mark uses does not mention the name of high priest (t.ex. Mark. 14:53–65). In stead of Caiaphas he talks about high priest. The simplest explanation is that the story is written while Caiaphas was still alive, so it can not be after year 37 CE. When Mark apparently in the 50's used the source, he did not add it to it anything, not even the name of high priest, Caiaphas. We are acting the same way today: If we say that "the president is speaking on TV", we mean that Obama is speaking. If there is Clinton who is speaking on TV, then we might say "president Clinton is speaking on TV".
Paul also cites Lord's supper in 1. Cor. at the mid-50's. This tradition requires that the Gospel of Mark was made. This supports that source of Mark is right from the beginning of the Christianity. Paul's source is at least old as Marks', if not older. The tradition is in Mark. 15. I talk about this later. I only meantion, that the source that Paul used must be made only couple of years after the death of Jesus.
B) Story from Mark is simple and does not contain legendary features. Mark 16:1-8:
"When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."
In the Marks' version the resurrection is not proven or described. He doesn't ponder victory over death and sin, he doesn't use divine names, doesn't cite prophecies that have come true and he does not describe the resurrected Lord. This is clear when you compare this to Gospel of Peter (written in 125-150):
"When the Sabbath morning dawned, a crowd came from Jerusalem and the surrounding area that they might see that the tomb had been sealed. (35) But during the night in which the Lord's day dawned, while the soldiers were stationed in pairs to keep watch, a great voice came from heaven. (36) And they saw the hea[v]ens open and two men descend from there, having a great radiance and approaching the tomb. (37) Then, the same stone which had been put in the entrance rolled away from it and gave way partially. And the tomb was opened and both young men went in.
(38) Then, seeing this, these soldiers woke up the centurions and elders, for they themselves were all there to keep watch. (39) And while they were describing what they had seen, again they saw three men coming out from the tomb, two supporting the other and a cross following them. (40) The heads of the two reached up to the heavens and the head of the one they were leading by the hand went beyond the heavens. (41) And they heard a voice from heaven saying, "Did you preach to those who sleep?"
(42) Obediently, there was heard from the cross, "Yes.""
In long story short, this is how legendary texts look like.
C) Women at the tomb
In first century Jews women were liars. They could not testify in the court but only in special occations. If the story of the empty tomb was a legend, then the women would not have found the tomb. Attitude against women are seen in John. 20, where Mary Magdalenes' arrivalt to the tomb are described in one simple line, but the race of men are described - one might say - little too spesific. Only reasonable explanation to take women to testifiy is that this really happened.
Apostles started preaching in Jerusalem. The place where Jesus was killed and buried. If Jesus was in the tomb, this would not be possible. The listeners could have checked the tomb because it wasn't so far away. Paul Althaus states that the resurrection "could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned." Point here is that if Jesus was in the tomb, the Jews would have dragged the corpse out.
E) Testimonial of those who oppose. Matt. 28:11-15:
11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 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.
Earlies reaction from Jews was that they tried to explain the empty tomb. This shows that there was a empty tomb after all. This converstaion is found from writings of Justin Martyr (130-150) and Tertullian (200).
F) The tomb is never praised as a holy place.
In first century there was a habbit to build a sanctuary on top of the place where the bones of the holy man were. At the time of Jesus there were at least 50 of this kind of places. Matt 23:29-30 says: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’"
Today many people value the place of where the grave of David is in Jerusalem. No where is there a meantion that disciples would had done the same. Why? Because the bones of the Jesus was not in the tomb.
2. RESURRECTION APPARATIONS
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."
Paul's list of the witnessess:
1. cor. 15:3-8
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."
Reason to write chapter 15 is that some had been doubting the teachings of resurrection. Paul says that this is against the teachings that he had preached. The scholars agree that this text is a tradition that Paul had received earlier, possibly from Peter. Text is not from Pauls mind but from tradition that has form among Christians only couple of years after death of Jesus. This is supported by words like "delivered" (παραδίδωμι), and "receive" (παραλαμβάνω). Those words are common thecnical terms in rabbinical literature, in which tradition is passed on. Section also includes words that are not common in Pauls letters, such as "for our sins", "according to the scriptures", "seen" (οπτανομαι), and "rose again".
Here I look more closely at the apparations:
"And that he appeared to Cephas". Luke (24:34) mentions that "The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon". We have now two intepended sources to prove that Jesus did appear to Peter.
"And then to the Twelve". The missing of Judas did not affect to the name of the disciplines, "Twelve". Also Luke 24:36-42 and John. 20:19-20 tells about the same thing. This is the strongest evidence of them all.
"After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters". There is no mention anywhere in the NT of this happening. It could be the place what Luke 24:33 mentions or Matt. 28:16-20. It has to be place outside, because 500 people is pretty large group. Paul says that "most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep". This indicates that Paul is telling people to go and check his claims, if they don't belive. Paul doesn't just say "just belive", but he encourages the doubters to check the facts.
"Then he appeared to James". When Jesus appeared to James, it is one of the strongest evidences for the historiacity of apparations. James was half brother of Jesus and according to the Gospels the brothers of Jesus did not belive in him (Mark. 3:21, 31–35; Joh. 7:1–10). Later James was the head of the congrecation in Jerusalem. The rest of the brothers of Jesus were also gathered together at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). What explaines the conversion of brothers of Jesus? If Jesus did appear to James, this kind of situation is easily explained.
"Then to all the apostles". Apparently there was more that 12 disciplines. For example Acts 1:21–22 talks about this kind of group.
"And last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born". The conversion of Paul is difficult to explain with anything else than that the Jesus did appear to him. Paul was a pharisee. He hated the habbits of Christians and tried to destroy them. Then happened something that he left jewish postition as a leader and joined to Christians. In Pauls life there was a huge theological change. There was a new understanding about God. Secondly there was a huge change of lifestyle. Paul choosed to be poor and suffered greatly (2. Cor.11:23b–33)
If we don't accept the testimony of Paul for his lifestyle change, then it is hard to imagine what else it could have been. In what premise we should reject Paul's testimony just to fill it with our own speculation? Paul's life gives strong message that his conversion was not to gain wealth or better life. And everybody that has been believer for say, 20 years, knows how hard is to change own theological understanding. And in the case of Paul it wasn't the minor change. His whole understanding of God changed. Paul had nothing to win.
There is lots of stories in the NT that tells about apparations of Jesus for different people:
-For Peter (1. Kor.15:5, Luke 24:34).
-For twelve disciplines (1. Kor.15:5, Luke 24:36–53 and John 20:11–17.)
-For female disciplines (Matt 28:9–10 and John 20:11–17.
-For disciplines in Galilee (Mark 16, Matt. 28:16–20 and John 21.)
Also, there is stories in Acts (2:32, 3:15, 10:41, 13:31). Like Mark, Luke uses very early sources. Apparations happened in very differend situations and divided to period that were several weeks. This makes it historical.
BIRTH OF CHRISTIANITY
Even the most skeptical scholars agree that Christianity arose from that the first disciplines believed that God had rose Jesus from the dead. If Jesus didn't rose from the dead, then what explaines the birth of Christianity?
After the dead of Jesus the disciplines were upset. The man that they tought to be Messiah, was crusified and died. N. T. Wright says that disciplines had only two options: To return home and tell that Jesus wasn't the Messiah, or find new guy who would be the Messiah and follow him. It seems that the disciplines chosed the first one. Then what happened? What caused the dramatical change in disciplines? How did they started to think that Jesus was risen from the dead? Christianity could not caused this to happen, because Christianity itself is formed by the story that Jesus rose from the dead. Resurrection belief is the the cause of Christianity, not the result. Tom Holmen said that there is only two options: Disciplines took influence from pagan cultures or Jewish culture.
NT Wright has done a comprehensive study of the first-century non-Jewish thinking in the Middle East. This article is here: http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Jesus_Resurrection.htm In their view, the bodily resurrection was impossible. This was due to the fact that the Greco-Roman thinking, the soul or spirit was good, but the physical and material world was weak, corrupt and polluted. Salvation for them meant the releasement of the soul from the body. Resurrection was therefore not only impossible, but also undesirable. Once out of the body, not a a single soul could desire to recover it. The aim was to get rid of the body forever. Thus, the disciples were not able to take inspiration from the Gentiles.
Unlike the pagans, the Jews took the material and physical world as a good thing. Death was not considered liberation from material world, but a tragedy. By the time of Jesus, Judaism had developed the idea that someday would occur bodily resurrection of all the righteous, when God would reform the world and eliminate the suffering and death. The idea of the resurrection of the individual in the middle of the history of the Jews, however, was an alien idea. Resurrection would happen, but it would happen a) for all, not just one, and b) at the end of history, not during it. When Jesus says to Martha, at the Lazarus' funeral that, "Your brother will rise up," Martha says, "I know that he will rise up again in the resurrection" (John 11). So the argument that an individual's resurrection would have been a one option available, is false. Jesus' disciples made thoughts that were incomprehensible to the Gentiles as well as Jews.
The birth of Christian church and rapid growth will remain unsolved mystery to every historian, who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself.
So what do you think. Richard Carrier has great objections to many of the arguments, but I haven't found them all.