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Why Christians Don't Believe in Blind Faith

Why Christians Don't Believe in Blind Faith

Don’t believe something if it isn’t true.

I don’t believe in blind faith. If something isn’t true, then it’s not worth my time. I don’t believe in ghosts, aliens, or conspiracy theories. I tend to be skeptical even about most modern day miracle claims. And yet, I believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the first Easter. I believe it really happened.

Why?

The first Christians didn’t believe in blind faith either. They staked their lives on events they witnessed with their own eyes. The Apostle John summarizes their conviction with these words:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.   - 1 John 1:1-2

WHAT DO THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS CLAIM ABOUT THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS?

The clear and consistent witness of the New Testament is that a Jewish rabbi named Jesus was executed on a Roman cross, buried in a rock tomb, and then raised from the dead on the third day by the power of God. He was not a ghost or a spirit. He was raised in a human body – yet now incorruptible and immortal (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:24-29). This event was both the catalyst and the foundation of the early Christian movement that spread like wildfire across the Roman Empire.

Their claim was twofold – First, that the tomb was discovered to be empty on the third day (much to the surprise of Jesus’ disciples), and second, that the risen Jesus appeared to over 500 of his followers during a period of 40 days. The early Christians saw this event as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, as well as the source of forgiveness, life, and healing for the entire world.

The message has persisted to this day. But what do we make of these claims? Can we take them as literal history? Or are they more or less the stuff of legends – the kind of things ancient people naturally believed but that modern people can’t take seriously?

THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM POSED BY THE RESURRECTION

A little known fact about the resurrection of Jesus is that it presents historians and scholars with a genuine historical problem. The evidence is clear that something happened on Easter morning, and whatever the nature of the occurrence, it was significant enough to convince the disciples that God had indeed raised Jesus from the dead.

 So, the resurrection is a very live, debated question in historical circles. For example, Gary Habermas, an expert on the historical question of the resurrection of Jesus, notes that between 1975 and the present over 3.400 books and academic articles have been published on this topic alone![1]

While not all scholars come to the same opinion about what happened, the evidence is strong for Jesus’ bodily resurrection – at least strong enough that even skeptical scholars must provide an adequate alternate explanation.

Obviously not everyone believes in God, let alone the possibility of the supernatural, so how one approaches the question will inevitably be colored by presuppositions about what’s possible or impossible. But regardless of where we stand on the question of Jesus, his resurrection invites pressing questions about the meaning of life, the nature of God, and the destiny of human beings beyond death – all questions we should never take lightly or avoid because of assumptions we make about reality.

In the following pages I’d like to give a brief summary of the issues involved in the question of Jesus’ resurrection. What evidence exists? What counter arguments have been offered in response? How well do these arguments account for the evidence? And finally – most importantly – what does all this mean, and why does it even matter?

BEDROCK FACTS – WHAT ALMOST ALL SCHOLARS ADMIT

Michael Licona, is his massive book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, points out that almost all scholars, regardless of religious convictions, readily admit three nonnegotiable historical facts:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.

2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them

3. Within a few years of Jesus’ death, Paul converted after what he interpreted as a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.[2]

Many scholars admit the empty tomb as a historical fact (though they differ on the reason why it was empty). However, almost all scholars agree on the above three historical facts – what historians call “historical bedrock.

 DO THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS VIEW THEIR WORK AS HISTORY?

Regardless of whether one accepts the resurrection as fact or fiction, a careful reading of primary biblical sources reveals that the Gospel writers and apostles saw themselves as reporting factual history.

Consider, for example, the opening words of Luke’s Gospel:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.  - Luke 1:1-4

A few things stand out here. For one, Luke makes clear that he is attempting what others have also ventured to do – put together a narrative (an orderly account) of things that actually happened in history. Furthermore, Luke follows typical Greek and Roman procedure for writing history. He consults eyewitnesses of the events in order to verify the truth of what he writes.

In his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, New Testament scholar and historian Richard Bauckham demonstrates clearly that the Gospel writers either were witnesses of the events of Jesus’ life (including his empty tomb and later appearances), or relied on the eyewitness accounts of those who experienced these events firsthand.[3]  Furthermore, as they compiled their eyewitness accounts, they followed well-documented procedures for writing history in the first century Roman Empire.

Consider also another example, this time from the enemy of Christianity who converted to the faith after his own encounter with the risen Christ – the Apostle Paul. He writes in his first letter to the church in Corinth (modern Greece):

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  - 1 Corinthians 15:1-9

Paul uses a very specific Greek word (paradidomi), which we translate as “delivered.” The word carries the idea of passing on a carefully preserved body of truth from one person to another. Elsewhere in the New Testament we’re told that Paul visited eyewitnesses of Jesus’ empty tomb and appearances – Peter (Cephas) and John (see Galatians 1-2, Acts 9, 15). During these visits, it’s almost certain that Paul received the eyewitness testimony of those who saw Jesus. This most likely took place shortly after the resurrection – perhaps as early as three years after. What this means is that Paul received the unanimous testimony of the eyewitnesses a few years after the event, rather than decades after – thus ruling out the possibility of a legend, which takes multiple generations to develop.

It’s also noteworthy that Paul gives a list of specific witnesses, apparently in order of occurrence. Many scholars note that the early church knew by heart the names of the witnesses – in fact, these words that Paul writes may not be his own, but instead the very words of Peter (Cephas) and John themselves.

In order to add weight to the claim that Jesus was truly raised, Paul is also careful to point out that while some of the 500 witnesses had died by this time (Paul wrote this letter about 20-25 years after the resurrection), most of those who saw Jesus were still living. The fact that such an abundance of witnesses was still alive meant that anyone doubting the claim of Jesus’ resurrection were free to do their due diligence and cross examine those who saw him alive.

Finally, Paul admits that Jesus even appeared to himself – a former persecutor and enemy of the church (see Acts 9, Philippians 3, Galatians 1). This experience not only led to the conversion of a skeptic – it also led Paul to lose everything, suffer unspeakable persecution, and even die a martyr’s death at the hands of the Roman empire.

Regardless of where we stand on the resurrection, we have to at least admit that Paul and the other apostles had no doubt in their minds about what happened Easter morning – so much so that they would lose even their own lives for their message.

BUT WEREN’T ANCIENT PEOPLE SUPERSTITIOUS?

Some would argue that any witness of ancient miracles (especially a man rising from the dead!) lack credibility because ancient people lived in a pre-scientific age and were therefore more inclined to superstition. This may be true at one level. Ancient people did have their ghost stories (just like we often do as modern people!). However, resurrection – in the sense that a dead person came back to life in a very final, irreversible manner – was not a belief held by ancient people.

In his massive book The Resurrection of the Son of God, historian N.T. Wright spends over fifty pages documenting the variety of beliefs Greek and Roman people held about human destiny after death.[4]  Following the tradition of Homer, some believed in the survival of the soul after death in a place of punishment or bliss. The philosopher Plato, for example, taught that the body was a “prison house,” thus making the soul’s escape from the body the definition and goal of immortality. Others, like the Epicurean philosophers, denied any existence of the soul beyond this life.

Despite a plurality of beliefs about the hereafter, both those that allowed for the continuance of the soul after death, as well as those that denied it, all shared one thing in common – no one believed, or even desired, that a person would come back to life in the body. This explains the surprise and even offense Paul encountered when he preached the resurrection of Jesus to the philosophers of Athens in the Areopagus. Luke recounts, “When they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked” (Acts 17:32).

What this means is that the idea of resurrection was not “imported” into Judaism. The apostles did not take a Greek or Roman idea about the afterlife and then create a fictional story about their recently killed teacher. This would be an odd move for the fierce monotheism of first century Jews. The strong Jewish identity of the early church would be at odds with blending religious ideas from the outside world.

Even if we admit such an unlikely possibility, the resurrection of Jesus is far removed from the plurality of stories about pagan deities. While some ancient people did have stories of dying and rising gods (Adonis, Attis, Isis and Osiris, for example), no one believed that these stories were actually true. They were myths that reflected the cycle of life and death observed in agriculture. N.T. Wright comments, “When Paul preached in Athens, nobody said, ‘Ah, yes, a new version of Osiris and such.’ Whatever the gods – or the crops – might do, humans did not rise from the dead.”[5]

Most Jewish people did believe in resurrection, but the resurrection of Jesus was not expected in the least. The Gospels all bear witness that those who found the tomb of Jesus empty on the third day were surprised, grieved, or confused… but none of them even thought to suggest that Jesus had been raised. This is because the prevailing Jewish belief at the time was that a great, final resurrection of all people would take place at the end of history. On that day God would restore life to his people, heal all injustices, apply peace to his broken creation, and dole out retribution to his enemies. So, no one would expect Jesus to be raised because no one else was raised along with him. No one expected that God would do for one man ahead of time what he had promised to do for all of creation.

This explains why resurrection was not even on the radar after Jesus died. In fact, other people had claimed and later would claim to be the Messiah. Some of these people were killed. All of them eventually died. But what no one ever suggested was that these potential Messiahs were raised. Their followers either tried to find a new Messiah, or gave up their hope and returned to normal life. No one claimed resurrection. Overall, the claim that Jesus was raised, apart from its actual occurrence, is strange and difficult to account for.

WHAT OTHER EVIDENCE EXISTS?

Strange things happen all the time. Often truth is stranger than fiction. As abrupt and out of place as the resurrection may have been for the first century, it is within the realm of possibility that the disciples invented the resurrection stories. So, is there additional evidence that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead? The answer is yes – much evidence!

Evidence for the Empty Tomb

Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-10

One of the odd things about the Gospel narratives is that they offer an account of the resurrection that goes against the grain of what we’d normally expect in a fabricated account. I remember the first time I carefully read and compared the Easter stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I noticed, to my surprise, that something big was missing – the actual event.

No one reports that they saw Jesus rise from the dead. Isn’t this kind of a let down? As I grew up with only casual encounters of the Gospels, I think I assumed that any story about Jesus’ resurrection would include a description of… Jesus’ resurrection. Wouldn’t we expect a description of the actual event? That would be the most likely move if the stories were fictional, but nothing of this nature is reported in the four Gospels.

What we get are the bare facts. Some women who were disciples of Jesus and were present at his death and burial came to the tomb early on Sunday morning. What they found was shocking – the tomb was empty.

Note that none of the women, or the disciples who later came to the tomb, respond to their discovery with rejoicing. Their first thought was not “Christ is risen” but rather “Christ is missing!” To their shock and horror, they supposed that the body had been stolen.

Scholars widely agree that in the ancient world, the witness of women (unfortunately) did not hold up as a reliable testimony in court. If the Gospel writers fabricated the account, they definitely chose the wrong witnesses for their cultural context. Even the second century philosopher Celsus mocks Christians for believing the witness of (in his opinion) such unreliable characters. However, as N.T. Wright points out, the early Christians told the story as it happened, even when the details did not appeal to prevailing opinions.[6] 

The Gospel writers also offer details more characteristic of eyewitness testimony than a fabricated account. For example, in the Gospel of John, he reports that Peter and another disciple (presumably himself) both see the linen cloths used for Jesus’ burial laying in the empty tomb, as well as the face cloth folded up separately (John 20:5-8). It’s easy to skim over the importance of these little details, but John recorded them for a reason. If someone were to have stolen the body of Jesus, it’s very unlikely that a grave robber would have taken the time to unwrap the body, let alone nicely fold up the face cloth. Grave robbers don’t typically increase their chances of getting caught by taking more time than would be necessary. Taking the body as it was would have been the most natural option. 

Alternate Explanations for the Empty Tomb

 Some have proposed that the empty tomb can be easily accounted for -  someone most likely stole the body. The previously mentioned details about the linen and face cloth make this unlikely, however, let’s admit the possibility for the sake of argument. Who would have a reason to steal the body? Two potential suspects stand out – either the disciples, or the enemies of Jesus.

The disciples are unlikely culprits. For one, every indication we get from the Gospel narratives is that after the death of their leader, they were hiding out for fear of their own arrest and possible punishment. It’s generally not a good idea to venture out proclaiming “Jesus is alive” shortly after his death unless you have good reason for doing so. You might very well end up in the same situation!

Furthermore, it would be odd for the disciples to steal the body of Jesus, and then go on to risk their lives proclaiming his resurrection, when in fact they possess the undeniable evidence that their claims are false. Other men had claimed to be the Messiah. Some were killed. No one ever claimed these men were alive again – even in a figurative sense. Their deaths were evidence of the opposite – these characters were not the Messiah. Their followers either gave up or got busy trying to find another Messiah. Of course, the disciples of Jesus did neither. They do quite the opposite! They proclaim his resurrection.

Interestingly enough, the early church was already aware of the claim that the disciples had stolen the body. In Matthew’s Gospel we read about the religious leaders asking Pontius Pilate for a group of soldiers to guard the tomb against the possibility of the disciples tampering with the body. After the resurrection, Matthew tells us that the leaders paid a sufficient amount of money to the soldiers to cover up the news by claiming the disciples stole the body while they slept. It would be odd for the church to openly acknowledge a rumor about the theft of the body if they had in fact been responsible for the truth behind the claim.

The religious and political leaders are also doubtful suspects for the theft of the body. It would be odd for a group so opposed to the resurrection message to create grounds for its credibility. Why create an empty tomb and thus reinforce the early Christian message?

In fact, it would be far more likely that the authorities would do the exact opposite. Rather than steal the body, why not openly expose the body? An easy way for the religious and political authorities to abruptly stop the Christian movement would have been to prove the tomb was not empty. In other words, the authorities responsible for the death of Jesus could have easily snuffed out the central claim of the Christian faith – “God raised Jesus!” – by exhuming the body and parading it publicly.

Still others, though representing a minority opinion, resolve the empty tomb by claiming that the body of Jesus was never properly buried. While it is true that some victims of crucifixion were placed in a shallow grave, most likely to later be eaten by wild animals – archaeologists have found the buried remains of crucified persons.[7]  The Gospel writers carefully recount the burial of Jesus, the names of those present, and even the person to whom the tomb belonged. Also, it’s hard to imagine empty tomb accounts that arise out of thin air. Some historical event most likely lies behind it.

Evidence for the Appearances of Jesus

Matthew 28:9-10, 16-20, Luke 24:13-53, John 20:11-29, 21:1-25, Acts 1:16-11, 9:1-22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-9

 As previously mentioned, the Apostle Paul recounts a well-known list of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus (himself included). The Gospels (with the possible exception of Mark),[8]  recount multiple post-resurrection appearances to the women who found the tomb empty, as well as the disciples who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry and would later be his apostles. Luke summarizes the claim of the early church well:

 He [Jesus] presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  –  Acts 1:3

So, what do we make of these appearances? What evidences do we have for their credibility – especially since many people claim to have had visions or encounters with the dead?

What almost all scholars admit is that the disciples did have some kind of experience of what they, at the very least, interpreted to be Jesus. Opinions differ, however, as to whether these experiences were grounded in reality, or can be explained in strictly naturalistic terms.

Some would dismiss the post-resurrection appearances as hallucinations. While this is possible on the individual level, it doesn’t pair well with the bodily, i.e. physical experience of Jesus. The disciples claimed to eat and drink with Jesus and place a high emphasis on his physicality.

Additionally, it seems very implausible that multiple people would experience hallucinations in multiple different locations. Clinical psychologist and expert in hallucinations Dr. Gary A. Sibcy summarizes:

I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.[9]

But isn’t it true that grieving people often claim to see a recently deceased loved one? Could it be that some of the disciples had imagined experiences of Jesus following his death, and that these experiences retold over and over gradually spread and developed into the resurrection stories? At face value this seems like a possible option, except for one key factor - when someone claims to have seen a deceased loved one, they typically do not conclude from that experience that the person is no longer in the grave. What they claim to have experienced was the soul of the person – not the body. This is not the case with the post-resurrection accounts. Also, why the empty tomb accounts if they only encountered the departed soul of Jesus?

And what do we make of the Apostle Paul? His fierce resistance to the early Christian movement is well documented – both in his own letters (Galatians 1, Philippians 3), as well as Luke’s account of his conversion in the book of Acts (see chapter 9).

Paul claims to have seen the risen Jesus, which results in his dramatic conversion and call to be an apostle. He didn’t keep his experience to himself. It caused him to do a complete turnaround in his view of the world. In fact, he recounts countless sufferings and persecutions for his preaching about the resurrection of Jesus, and we have good historical evidence that he died a martyr’s death at the hands of Nero. The majority of the apostles, as well as countless other Christians, suffered the same fate rather than deny the truth of what they saw – the resurrected Jesus.

Paul appears to be a sane person in all of his writings. Nothing suggests that he was crazy. In fact, with piecing clarity he frankly admits what’s at stake if his message is not true:

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ… And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied…If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."  - 1 Corinthians 15: 14-19, 32

From the perspective of his sufferings, Paul knows what’s at stake if he’s basing his life on a lie. It’s unlikely that Paul and the other apostles would claim that Christ had been raised, at great expense to their own well being, if in fact they knew it to be false, or even questionable.

But Don’t People Die for False Beliefs All the Time?

Yes. People will die for a deeply held belief. Suicide bombers come to mind. But do suicide bombers have any objective evidence that taking their own lives will in fact bring about a promised reward in the afterlife? No. The only way to find out is to try it. And no one comes back to verify the claim.

The first Christians, on the other hand, suffered persecution and even went to their death on the basis of what they saw – not just as individuals, but as a community. For them, Jesus’ resurrection was a well-documented reality, thus leading them to readily risk all, not with naïve, blind faith, but instead with clear-headed conviction. It’s for this reason that the French mathematician Blaise Pascal once quipped, “I believe those witnesses who get their throats cut.” Many of the witnesses of the resurrection gave witness to the point of death, even when given opportunity to renounce Christ. Would they have given everything if they saw him die, and yet had no hard evidence that he was raised?

But can we – almost two millennia removed from the event - believe something we have no access to with our five senses? We believe all kinds of things we have no direct access to. I have never observed subatomic particles, but I do believe they exist on the basis of authority. Everything we believe about human history rests on the witness of others. In the same way, Christians today have access to events they did not witness in person. The witness of the New Testament, as well as the birth and continuance of the church to this day, all bear witness to the reality of the resurrection. It’s on the basis of this witness that many thoughtful, well-informed, and perhaps even skeptical people joyfully respond to the Easter proclamation – He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

But it’s also hard to believe that someone was raised from the dead. Everyone knows (both then and now) that these kinds of things don’t happen. So why do some scholars believe in the resurrection of Jesus, while others do not? Why do equally intelligent people come to radically different conclusions?

Where you start typically determines where you end up. The atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel once admitted:

I want atheism to be true... It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God: I don't want the universe to be like that.[10]

I appreciate Nagel’s honesty. He admits his bias toward the evidence. In the same way, many who approach the New Testament do so with “methodological skepticism” – the assumption that anything miraculous in the Bible must have an entirely natural explanation.

Of course, not everyone who rejects the resurrection of Jesus does so as an atheist. Even people who believe in some kind of God reject the resurrection or pay little attention to its significance. Why? The resurrection is challenging. If God truly raised Jesus from the dead, the implications are either joyful or unsettling, all depending on how we approach the question of who God is, what it means to know him, and what his purposes are for the world. Do we want to be in control of our own lives? Or will we fly the flag of surrender, bow the knee, and confess, “Jesus is Lord”?

WHAT DOES THE RESURRECTION MEAN?

Simply put, the resurrection means everything. It’s the single most important event in the history of humanity. It means that God has not abandoned his creation to sin, death, and evil. It means that it’s good to be human – not just for this life, but forever. It means that God has triumphed decisively over evil, injustice, and chaos, and that peace, justice, and beauty will have the last word. It means that human history has a purpose beyond death and futility. It means that nations and races can be reconciled, that the abused and broken have value, and that individual human lives can be restored to God through forgiveness and grace. The resurrection means all of this, and so much more.

HOW SHOULD I RESPOND?

For the skeptic…

Have you ever seriously doubted your doubts? Have you ever wondered if you’re wrong? I encourage you to read outside of your comfort zone. Read the Gospels and other writings of the New Testament with care and consistency so that you know exactly what you’re rejecting and why. Take the time to read a few books that disagree with your perspective. And pray – even if you’re skeptical. Ask God with honesty and persistence to reveal himself to you.

For the uncommitted…

Most people in America claim to be Christian in some sense. But what does it mean to truly know Jesus? C.S. Lewis once wrote:

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.[11]

Are you living as if Jesus is only moderately important? Jesus calls us to so much more. His resurrection means that when we turn from our sins and trust in his death and resurrection for our forgiveness, we become “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The evidence that this new creation has taken place in us is that we worship with God’s people regularly, hunger and thirst for his Word and the Lord’s Supper, and commit ourselves to lives that reflect his resurrection life. So what’s holding you back? God is calling you. There’s no guarantee that he will give you another opportunity to respond. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” (Rev 3:20). Will you respond?

For the new Christian…

The apostle Peter wrote in one of his letters:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation. – 1 Peter 2:2

If you’ve realized that God has woken you from the dead and given you the gift of faith, then go after his Word. Learn as much as you can. Become part of a church where the Bible is preached and you have the support of other Christians. Cry out to God to give you his Holy Spirit so that you understand his Word and apply it to your life. Read as much as you can so you can become a well informed, thinking Christian – one who can give an answer to those who ask you about your hope in Christ (1 Peter 3:15-16).

For the seasoned Christian…

Perhaps you can’t remember a time when you didn’t trust Christ. So what does Easter mean for you? Typically, we think of Easter in terms of the future. Christ will appear at the end of this age and make all things new. This is true. But Christ is also making all things new right now. You are the evidence that he’s already at work. And you are also the means by which he’s at work in this world right now. This is why Paul ends an entire chapter on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 with these words:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In other words, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Now let’s get to work.

Amen.

 

FOR FURTHER READING

Christianity in General:

The Reason for God – Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Basic Christianity by John Stott

Simply Christian by N.T. Wright

The Bible:

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham

How We Got the Bible by Timothy Paul Jones

The Question of Canon – Questioning the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate by Michael Kruger

The Resurrection of Jesus:

The Son Rises – Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus by William Lane Craig

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona

The Resurrection of Jesus – A New Historiographical Approach by Michael Licona

The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright

 

[1] Quoted from Licona, Michael. The Resurrection of Jesus – A New Historiographical Approach. (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Academic, 2010), 278. This was the count at the publishing of Licona’s book in 2010. Habermas’ database of resources covers English, German, and French publications. 

[2] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 463. I would recommend this book to anyone who has studied history at the university level or beyond. Licona approaches the question of Jesus’ resurrection from the perspective of the philosophy of history (how history is properly understood and practiced), an often neglected element in scholarship related to Jesus. He also applies strict historical criteria to several hypotheses about the resurrection, both skeptical and religious.

[3] Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses – The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006). Bauckham is a highly respected expert in his field, and his book represents a trend in recent scholarship toward taking the Gospels more seriously as historical documents. He gives an overview of the central role of Peter’s witness in Mark’s Gospel, as well as the evidence for the witness of other characters in the Gospel accounts.

[4] Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), 32-81. Wright’s work is very exhaustive on the topic of ancient beliefs related to death and the afterlife, both Jewish and pagan. His work as a historian has provoked a good deal of debate in the last decade. For example, see Robert Stewart’s compilation of essays from a variety of perspectives in response to Wright’s work in comparison with skeptical scholar John Dominic Crossan, The Resurrection of Jesus – John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006. The book also contains the transcript of a public debate between the two scholars.

[5] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 81.

 

[6] Ibid., 607.

[7] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 307.

[8] Most scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel ends at 16:8, and that the text following is a later addition, most likely on the basis of the other three Gospels. Opinions vary – some think Mark intentionally ended his Gospel abruptly, others think the ending was lost, and still others that Mark died or was martyred before he finished its composition. 

[9] Quoted from Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 484.

[10] Nagel, Thomas. The Last Word. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 130.

[11] The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 2 (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), xi.

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