“If you could meet any person of the past, and ask just one question, whom would you like to meet, and what would you ask?” When asked that question, a professor of philosophy at London University, and not a Christian at the time, answered: “I would like to meet Jesus Christ, and ask him, Did you or did you not rise bodily from the dead?” Did Easter really happen? Here are the “theories” and the facts.
FRAUD THEORY: Jesus’ disciples lied. They stole his body and hid it.
RESPONSE: This theory ignores the security precautions taken by the Roman authorities to make sure that the body of Jesus was not stolen. His disciples were never charged with stealing. This theory fails to answer why, if they had taken his body, the grave clothes were still left in the tomb. It omits the fact that Jesus’ body was never found. What amazed the Romans and the Jewish authorities was that the men disciples, who were supposedly lying, happily admitted that women – who were in those times disdained as inferior to men – were the first to discover the empty tomb. If these men had lied, they would also have claimed that privilege for themselves.
SWOON THEORY: Jesus fainted on the cross, and was mistakenly taken to have died.
RESPONSE: This theory forgets that Roman soldiers were experts at crucifixion. They knew when someone was dead. It ignores how effective crucifixion was. No one survived. It fails to take into account that one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear – a fatal wound to the heart. It ignores how utterly weak Jesus must have been after the Roman flogging, then after an entire day struggling to breathe on the cross, and after three days in a cold tomb without water or food, supposedly still alive. How could such a broken man escape from the binding of his grave clothes, and from the solidly sealed tomb, moving the heavy stone at the entrance? This theory claims that Jesus, who lived a morally pure and truthful life, lied and deceived.
HALLUCINATION THEORY: The disciples only imagined they saw Jesus alive after he died.
RESPONSE: This theory assumes that the disciples expected Jesus to rise from the dead. But they were shocked and utterly surprised to see him alive again. Jesus had to repeatedly convince them and prove to them that he was physically alive. It ignores that many people — women first — saw Jesus alive. If their seeing and touching Jesus’ resurrected body was a “hallucination”, all the Romans or the Jewish leaders had to do was to produce his body. They never did. They tried. They could not do so. What they saw was the amazingly transformed lives of the disciples.
Yet the ultimate question is not whether a person will accept factual evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. Many do. And such evidence must be valued and carefully considered. The question is whether a person will respond to the revelation in the Scriptures of the Bible — its outright claim to be the very Word of God.
The question is whether its claim of “thus says the Lord” is taken at face value or taken for empirical evaluation – in which case that very act of placing it under a microscope denies its claim even before it is considered.
The issue is how we can know anything truly and objectively, especially in relation to that which concerns God. The issue is cognitive — and radically, so – since knowledge of the very nature of God, the Creator of the cosmos, is available and knowable only to the extent that God wills to reveal something of his nature and purpose. He is God. His purpose concerns everything.
Therefore, we as creatures are totally dependent on revelation by the Creator. Obviously, such revelation cannot depend on us, on our demanding it or perceiving it apart from God’s initiative or interpretation. His revelation for our true knowing – including for rational and logical reasoning — cannot depend on our observational or evidential or empirical or rational or philosophical or psychological or mathematical deduction. Such reasoning may be excellent, but will always be dependent on him, if truly true to reality.
We are in total dependence on the Creator God for any knowledge which is rationally and objectively true. Man is not an independent or autonomous being (Genesis 1:27). He or she cannot know truly, objectively, and reasonably unless God reveals truth personally and reasonably (1 Corinthians 2:14).
(Interestingly, during the 1930’s a famed mathematician, Kurt Gödel, demonstrated that the validation of any cognitive system — mathematical or linguistic or empirical — could not be established from within that system. He affirmed, therefore, nothing we can observe in the universe could be validated and truly understood from within its evident reality. Without a personal transcendent source, no personal knowledge.)
Factual evidence can prepare a man to consider the truth. But, to reason and to observe rightly, he needs an exchange in the very basic presupposition of his reasoning process. He needs to take at face value the “thus says the Lord” of the Scriptures, and therefore to consequently exchange his presupposition that independent human reason is the principle of knowing for the presupposition that sovereign revelation by God is the principle of knowing, even knowing by human reason or logic.
That is something only God can bring about. And the testimony of Scripture is that God does it – does it continually, infallibly, plainly, perseveringly, and personally in order for us to know His very nature and power (Romans 1:18-20). We may suppress His so plain revelation. However, by His grace, God’s truth shines through to us most immediately as we turn to the focal point of all revelation in human history: The person of Jesus Christ.
The Bible reveals him to be the Person of God who became man – truly God and truly man — to reveal in completely human and righteous terms the condition necessary for anyone to know God personally. Please see John 1:1-5, 6:44, 16:8. Colossians 1:15-20. Hebrews 12:14. Romans 3:23, 10:14-17. John 3:16.