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November 14, 2007

31

How can you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead?

by Dave Malnes

Faith plays a part in accepting the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, faith can intersect with historical reasoning when it comes to the life and death of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is probably the biggest obstacle for skeptics because it is the most critical issue of the Christian faith. Without the bodily resurrection of Jesus, there is no Christian faith. 

When we apply to the resurrection of Jesus the very same historical criteria as we do when we accept other noted events as fact, the results are startling. The evidence for this historical truth of the resurrection of Jesus becomes stronger than any other event in Jesus’ life. In fact, the evidence is stronger than many other historical events in the world that we have taken for granted. 

Please consider the following regarding the resurrection of Christ:

* Five independent sources have written testimony to the resurrection event, plus refer to numerous other sources as well. Their individual accounts are unique from each other and share common material, thereby validating themselves as truthful and reliable witnesses. No two witnesses will share the same story in exactly the same way.

The location of Jesus’ tomb was well known by all. Not only Jesus’ followers, but even his opponents all agreed that the tomb was indeed empty. 

The Christian church began several weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion. The explosive growth of the church was based on the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah as evidenced by his miracles and especially his resurrection.

* The resurrection accounts lack the characteristics common to legends. They contain details that would be considered irrelevant to the story line, plus named several prominent people who could have been easily cross-examined.

* The conversion of the Apostle Paul is unexplainable. This man was the leading persecutor of the early Christian Church, yet was converted in a moment. We can do nothing else but accept his testimony that he was personally confronted by the risen Lord.

* Paul gives us an early list of the resurrection appearances. Again, a large number of people could be cross-examined. 

* There was a huge difference in the disciples before the death of Jesus and after his death. One day they were hiding in fear, the next they are boldly preaching. This can only be attributed to their real experience of Jesus’ resurrection.

There is no motive for the disciples to fabricate this story.  The disciples had nothing to gain and everything to lose. 

The denial of the Resurrection based on historical evidence means that a person has to deny most of ancient history. The resurrection of Jesus Christ has to be considered as a valid, historical event. 

So, what does it mean for us?

We are confronted face to face with the question we all have to answer someday. Is Jesus Christ your Savior or not?   

 

**This question and answer was inspired from the book, “Letters from a Skeptic” by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1994.         

31 Comments Post a comment
  1. hokku
    Nov 14 2007

    You wrote:
    “Five independent sources have written testimony to the resurrection event, plus refer to numerous other sources as well. Their individual accounts are unique from each other and share common material, thereby validating themselves as truthful and reliable witnesses. No two witnesses will share the same story in exactly the same way.”

    You overlook the fact that people fabricating stories or revising earlier stories will also not present them in exactly the same way.

    A glaring problem with the resurrection stories is that they differ in significant details. I invite you to write a single account of what happened from the burial of Jesus to his ascension, including every detail, omitting nothing, and presenting it in chronological order. Include the accounts found in Matthew, Luke, Mark (keeping in mind the post-resurrection account is not found in the earliest manuscripts of Mark) and those found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and Acts 1.

    The point of this exercise is that it quickly demonstrates how divergent the resurrection stories are. It will be interesting to see how your account of the burial to ascension turns out.

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  2. merganzerman
    Nov 15 2007

    Dear Hokku:

    Thanks for responding to this post. I appreciated your time in writing your comments.

    I would have to agree that when things are presented, and there seems to be a disagreement in the details or chronological order, it would bother me. That’s how I was raised in the culture we live in today. I can only imagine the newspaper reporters having a field day.

    However, in the case of the Gospels, this does not bother me. As I pointed out in a previous post, the rules of communication were far different that what we have today. Since everything was based on memory and oral communication, they had very little opportunity to write things down. To call on the phone and compare results. The intent of the GOspels were to give four very important accounts of the life and death of Jesus Christ. And actually, as share in this current post, the historical evidence clearly points to supporting the Gospels. To deny the history of the Gospels is to deny most of ancient history.

    May I recommend that you read other posts related to the category “Answers to a Skeptic” -especially those posts dated November 12 and 13 and the one posted on th 15th.

    Thanks again for your comments.

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  3. hokku
    Nov 15 2007

    You wrote:
    “And actually, as share in this current post, the historical evidence clearly points to supporting the Gospels.”

    I don’t see any evidence supporting them as factual, accurate, historical accounts. People believe all kinds of odd things and change their lives accordingly. Look at how many people have believed Joseph Smith’s account of his vision, but that does nothing at all to verify it. Nor do we have any accounts that unquestionably come directly from the hand of those who supposedly knew Jesus during his lifetime. Paul’s religion, like that of Joseph Smith, seems to have been the result of visions.

    I think what is at work here is not evidence, which is lacking, but the will to believe — and that is psychology, not history.

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  4. merganzerman
    Nov 15 2007

    Well, hokku, if you have difficulty accepting the fact that there was indeed a man, by the name of Jesus Christ, who lived on this earth, died and rose from the dead, than you are going to have to deny the existence of:

    Julius Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, etc….

    To be honest, there is far more evidence, from a purely historical perspective, than any other historical figure of that era.

    I honestly think it would take more faith to not believe in the existence of Jesus.

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  5. Nov 16 2007

    You are right- many Christians cannot accept Christianity without believing the resurrection was real. But I don’t think it needs to be so – Jesus was trying to teach people how to be in their lives(love god with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself…, and not to be hypocrytical). That was his central message. so if one follows his teachings isn’t that all that matters, to be a good Christian? Something I thought about the other day was,which springs to mind reading your post, if the ressurection happened, then why was there a need for the stone blocking the tomb to be rolled away,for him to get out? If he was in a spiritual form, (which it’s taken to be for the ressurection right?), then surely he wouldn’t need to bother with a material
    thing like a big slab of stone – that would be no obstacle.

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  6. merganzerman
    Nov 16 2007

    First of all, thank you for writing your response.

    Allow me to clarify myself in the post. If a person does not accept the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as a real, historical fact, than I would say than that person is not really a Christian– if we define a Christian as a person who trusts in the Risen Christ as their substitute and Savior and as a result, are saved from their sins and are right with God.

    A person could agree with the teachings of Jesus, call him a good man, and try to follow his example. But that isn’t being a Christian, that is following a philosophy of life. Which is not a bad ideal. However, Christianity is not a philosophy, it is a relationship. It is a life with Christ and in Christ, based on a full trust of God’s promises and the 100% assurance that we will be received in heaven. It is not about being and doing good, for that is just a by-product. Beside, our attempts at doing good works without Christ does not please God. It just makes us good citizens.

    You raise a good point regarding the stone blocking the tomb. What was the point? Well, the stone was moved not for Jesus’ sake, but for the sake of the disciples. So, they could see for themselves that what Jesus said was true… He would die and come back to life again three days later. That was a good question.

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  7. lbolm
    Nov 16 2007

    mergan. wrote,”You raise a good point regarding the stone blocking the tomb. What was the point? Well, the stone was moved not for Jesus’ sake, but for the sake of the disciples. So, they could see for themselves that what Jesus said was true… He would die and come back to life again three days later. That was a good question.”

    AMEN! All signs point to Him and are for the doubtful and unbelieving!

    Love in Christ Jesus
    Jake

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  8. hokku
    Nov 16 2007

    Merganzerman wrote:
    “if you have difficulty accepting the fact that there was indeed a man, by the name of Jesus Christ, who lived on this earth, died and rose from the dead, than you are going to have to deny the existence of:
    Julius Caesar, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, etc….

    That is peculiar thinking, and one certainly does not follow from the other. First, there is a great deal of historical and archeological evidence for the existence of Julius Caesar. One cannot say the same for Jesus. Second, even if one could prove that a Jesus existed, to assume that he rose from the dead is as illogical as saying that because a Joseph Smith existed, he must have received golden tablets from the angel Moroni. It is just as illogical.

    Take a look at the gospel accounts. They cannot even agree on where the post-resurrection appearances took place.

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  9. merganzerman
    Nov 16 2007

    Before carrying this discussion farther, hokku. on whether not Jesus Christ existed, then I think you must do some more current research on the subject. I would avoid websites from athiests and agnostics, but look at secular sites on the subject. From a purely historical perspective, I think it would be wise to look at the consensus of the vast majority of historians, scientists, theologians, etc.. and their claims on the existence of Jesus Christ. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but the proof behind your denial on the historical Jesus is difficult to grasp.

    It is my guess, hokku, that you are a product of the Mormon church — based on your comments and knowledge regarding Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, etc… I know of many Mormons who have either been hurt by Mormonism, or have denied what Mormonism teaches and have turned to being agnostic. Look beyond what Mormonism teaches and compare it to what the Bible teaches. Their is true and free forgiveness in Christ, God does love you, you can be perfect in Christ Jesus, because he is your substitute.

    My prayers are with you.

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  10. hokku
    Nov 17 2007

    Merganzerman,
    You are not really dealing with the issue. You mentioned Julius Caesar, and I pointed out that there is all kinds of evidence of Caesar’s existence. But where is the evidence for Jesus? The earliest mention, that of Paul, seems largely derived from visionary experiences. The gospels have accounts that do not always agree, particularly on such important topics as birth and resurrection. There are really NO reliable secular, contemporaneous mentions of Jesus. Even that in Josephus is dubious.

    But suppose, for the sake of argument, that there was a Jesus. Given how the gospels vary, we cannot really trust what they say about him, nor can we trust the quotes they attribute to him, particularly when his self-proclamation is one thing in Mark, and quite another in John.

    That is why Joseph Smith makes a good analogy. Even if a Jesus did exist, there is no reason why we should believe much that is said about him, any more than we need believe Joseph Smith talked with the angel Moroni.

    And no, I am not and never have been a Mormon, but their history offers a good object lesson in gullibility. In the absence of genuine evidence, one is left only with unsupported belief, and that is the case with Christianity.

    One of the most obvious problems is that Jesus is quoted as saying he would “come quickly.” By no stretch of the imagination is some 2,000 years and counting “quickly.” Given that the supposedly prophetic words put into his mouth about a second coming in the Apocalypse are false, what reason can there be to believe any of it?

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  11. merganzerman
    Nov 17 2007

    thank you for your response, hokku.

    First of all, let me apologize to you. I should not have made assumptions that you were a former Mormon. I have been in contact with several former Mormons who are now agnostic and your comments run parallel to theirs. I regret making that assumption in my last comment.

    This will be my last comment with you on this subject. Reason, in regards to the Christian faith, can only go so far. To me, there are so many evidences of God and of Jesus, but only for a person who desires to look. And, I really don’t want to spend the time to look up and do the work for you in giving research on the existence of Jesus. If you think you are right, than so be it. I can’t convince you otherise. Only the Word of God can. However, I must ask, what if I am right? Thats the danger and the concern I have for you are the consequences that await your denial of Christ.

    May I suggest that you read the posts on my blog pertaining to Answers to a Skeptic. I have several more planned that I think you might find interesting and I welcome your comments.

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  12. hokku
    Nov 18 2007

    Meaning no offense, I think you are still not willing to deal with the issues. To respond not by answering the evidence, but instead by saying that you are “not willing to do the work for me” is assuming that I have not already thoroughly investigated the matter, which is a completely mistaken assumption. It gives the distinct impression that you are reluctant to deal with the mountain of glaring evidence, both biblical and extrabiblical, against your viewpoint. But that is, of course, your choice to make, and readers may draw their own conclusions from that.

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  13. Norb Meier
    Nov 20 2007

    Hokku – Not to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is certainly your choice, but to blame your decision not to accept Him as such on the basis of a lack of evidence for His existence is certainly not valid, as least legally so. Read a book like “Who Moved The Stone” by a formerly atheistic lawyer, Frank Morison or read the brief testimonies of non-Christian historians who lived at the same time as did Jesus and then, if you are able, legally refute such evidence. As Merganzerman pointed out, there is by far more evidence for the existence of Jesus than for any other person who lived at that time. To deny the existence of Jesus would logically mean that all the more you would have to deny the existence of any of the Roman emporers who also are recorded to have lived then. Just reading your responses inclines me to think that there are other reasons for your denial of His existence and His claims than a mere lack of evidence. – Nubs

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  14. merganzerman
    Nov 20 2007

    Thank you for your insightful response, Norb.

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  15. hokku
    Nov 20 2007

    Norb wrote:
    “Not to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is certainly your choice, but to blame your decision not to accept Him as such on the basis of a lack of evidence for His existence is certainly not valid, as least legally so.”

    It has nothing to do with modern standards of legality. As you know, criminals go free every day on the basis of “legality.” It has to do strictly with the evidence, and one can see simply from the biblical evidence that there is no basis for accepting the gospel accounts as accurate and historical.

    If you want to present specific issues with biblical support for them, I will be happy to address them one by one to point out their failings. As for me, I ask you to address the discrepancies in the resurrection narratives — the significant discrepancies not only among the three Synoptics and John, but also including the post-resurrection accounts in Acts and 1st Corinthians, keeping in mind that the earliest and best manuscripts of Mark have NO post-resurrection appearances at all.

    I prefer to deal with specific issues rather than vague statements, and I hope you do as well.

    To say that one must deny the existence of the Roman emperors because one does not accept the accounts of Jesus as historical is simply refusing to look at the facts. We have all kinds of textual and archeological evidence supporting the emperors, including CONTEMPORANEOUS coins in huge amounts, with their images and inscriptions, not to mention public inscriptions and other written texts. What do we have for Jesus, comtemporary with his supposed lifetime? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No unquestioned secular evidence at all.

    Again, if you want to convince me or anyone else, be specific, and offer evidence in support of your points.

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  16. merganzerman
    Nov 20 2007

    I took up your challenge and did a Google search “historical evidence of Jesus Christ”. There were countless books and articles written on the subject in support of the historical Jesus. I could do a whole website on the subject, but it wouldn’t really matter, because I still would not be able to convince you.

    At the same time, I looked at books and articles that refute the historical Jesus. Though there are much fewer— However, I find it interesting that quite a bit of material denying Jesus Christ has been fairly recent. It seems, to my interest, that there is a concentrated effort by hokku and others to deny Christ no matter what the evidence states. Kind of like President Clinton’s approach, “deny, deny, deny”.

    It seems to me we may be living in the age of hardened hearts— much like the one Moses faced in front of the Pharoah — or the Pharisees who saw Jesus — his death, his resurrection — and still denied.

    May the Lord have mercy on your soul for this is your choice of stubborn unbelief, my friend. For I’m afraid you are beyond convincing — even if I gave a hundred proofs or if God himself wrote the message, “Believe in me” in the sky, you still would not believe.

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  17. hokku
    Nov 20 2007

    You wrote:
    I took up your challenge and did a Google search “historical evidence of Jesus Christ”.

    Actually, you evaded my challenge. What I asked you to do was this:

    “As for me, I ask you to address the discrepancies in the resurrection narratives — the significant discrepancies not only among the three Synoptics and John, but also including the post-resurrection accounts in Acts and 1st Corinthians, keeping in mind that the earliest and best manuscripts of Mark have NO post-resurrection appearances at all.”

    That was my challenge — not googling to see how many Internet hits you get for articles in support of historicity versus how many against. That is not the way do do research. Go directly to the Bible and compare the accounts and all their discrepancies line by line, event by event, and then the real, completely fallible and human nature of the biblical documents becomes obvious.

    So this is really the issue. Are you willing to look at the evidence and deal directly with it, or do you prefer “belief” to biblical evidence?

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  18. merganzerman
    Nov 30 2007

    Dear Hokku:

    I want to finally respond to your challenge regarding the chronology of the New Testament accounts.

    Before I make that answer, I think it will be important to note that the central point of our discussion is the validity or reliability of the historical accounts as told in the New Testament. I think it is important to note that when you apply the criteria needed to validate a historical event, the resurrection story holds up quite well. In fact, the evidence is as strong, if not stronger, than any other historical event.

    Now to your question. First of all, when you apply all of the resurrection accounts in the New Testament, they are not exactly alike or there are “difficulties” when trying to harmonize the accounts chronologically. This is all pointed out in the famous “Wolfenbuttel Fragmente” which points out the supposedly irreconcilable divergence in the Gospels. These authors point to illusions or hallucinations or visions on part of the disciples.

    However, what is interesting is that there is no mention by these authors of how these unbelieving disciples came to this faith.

    First of all, it is clear that all the evangelists agree that Jesus really rose from the dead—which is the main point. All of the other details really are incidental, so it’s really unfair that because a writer omits every reference to an incident, that this event (Jesus risen from the grave) did not occur. I think that the lack of harmony on the accounts of the Jesus’ resurrection is not the reason of not accepting it as true, but a preconceived prejudice against the trustworthiness of the Gospel record.

    When considering the accounts of the resurrection, it is very apparent that “each evangelist has a special end in view and that each knows full well the object and purpose of his presentation” (Godet). Matthew was trying to reach the Jews, Luke to the Gentiles, and John on the progression of faith to those who believed. This would play a factor in their accounts. Furthermore, these evangelists were addressing people who were already familiar with the story of the Gospel through oral testimony. The purpose of writing them down was to strengthen their faith.

    I know this is very brief, but I attempted to put things in a nutshell. I could go on and do an account by account explanation, but many other more capable people than myself have already done so. It would not be too difficult to find on the internet and there are numerous books – some sitting here in my library – that go into great detail for the purpose of bringing harmony to the resurrection story and accomplish the purpose for which the event was recorded – to strengthen our faith.

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  19. hokku
    Nov 30 2007

    Unfortunately you have not really dealt with the problem directly. Only by doing so will you see what is there to be easily seen — that none of these accounts is reliable.

    That becomes obvious when one compares the details of the gospel accounts and those included in Acts and 1 Corinthians. But one must actually do the work to get the realization. Until you do that, you will not understand the nature of these stories or why they are so discrepant an unreliable.

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  20. merganzerman
    Nov 30 2007

    Sounds like a stalemate. I rest my case with my previous comment.

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  21. hokku
    Nov 30 2007

    Merganzerman wrote:
    “Sounds like a stalemate. I rest my case with my previous comment.”

    You have no case to rest. All you did was say that there are some books somewhere that the deal with the matter, but you neither say HOW they explain it nor show that their attempted explanation is at all reasonable.

    I take this as your admission that you really do not want to deal with the evidence in this matter. That is unfortunate, because it is the only way you are going to realize the truth of the matter, in my view.

    I don’t know why it is so difficult to get Christians to read their Bibles when it comes to demonstrating the human and fallible nature of the “scriptures.”

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  22. Dec 7 2007

    You are absolutely right many Christians can not accept Christianity without believing resurrection as a real but even I think that Jesus was trying to teach people how to be in their life. Thanks for great post on Jesus Christ.

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  23. merganzerman
    Dec 7 2007

    Thanks for your comments, Jesus.

    I truly believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the centerpoint of Christianity. No other man or prophet in all of history rose himself from the dead. Not only is there an extremely strong case for the story being historically reliable, but it goes even further. Jesus did bring us great teachings on how to conduct our lives, but his actions (death on the cross, resurrection) is what truly bring us life — life with God, the Father, not only now, but eternally in heaven.

    Thanks

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  24. hokku
    Dec 7 2007

    Merganzerman wrote:
    “No other man or prophet in all of history rose himself from the dead. Not only is there an extremely strong case for the story being historically reliable, but it goes even further.”

    First, according to the Bible Jesus did not “raise himself from the dead.” The Bible says God raised him from the dead.

    Second, it is precisely the case for the story being historically reliable that I would like you to deal with. If you compare all the accounts, you can see they are clearly NOT reliable, but are instead very discrepant. Yet you are not willing to deal with the biblical evidence. When you do that, the fatal weakness of your case will become obvious.

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  25. merganzerman
    Dec 7 2007

    Thank you, hokku:

    You are right in that the Bible does not specifically state “Jesus raised himself from the dead”. However, we have to remember that Jesus is God. The Trinity. So, with that knowledge, Jesus being God, rose himself from the dead.

    Thank you for allowing me to clear that up.

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  26. hokku
    Dec 7 2007

    Merganzerman wrote:
    “However, we have to remember that Jesus is God. The Trinity. So, with that knowledge, Jesus being God, rose himself from the dead.”

    That is faulty theology even by Christian standards, which holds that the Trinity consists of “persons” Jesus is a “person” and could not have raised himself from the dead. That is simply contrary to the Bible (and Christian theology).

    But you still are not willing to deal with the evidence for historicity you keep talking about. Why are you so reluctant to present and examine it?

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  27. merganzerman
    Dec 15 2007

    Hokku:

    Just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten you, nor avoiding your questions and comments.

    In the next few weeks, I am going to go ahead and attempt to answer your questions with a new blog– instead of using the comment box. Keep posted.

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  28. hokku
    Dec 16 2007

    Thanks for the update. I hope it proves helpful to you.

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  29. merganzerman
    Dec 20 2007

    Wanted to let you know that today’s post, December 20th, is dealing with our discussion regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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  30. Phil
    Dec 24 2007

    Someone earlier made the comment, about why the stone could not have been left in place.

    Jesus Christ was not just resurrected in spirit, but also in body. Note the discussion of his burial cloths left behind.

    As the risen Christ in body and spirit, the stone was rolled away for him to exit the tomb.

    As to Jesus’ second coming, this concept is carried on, as first the dead in Christ are raised up, and then those still living rise up with them to meet Jesus.

    Jesus resurrected Lazareth in body, and commanded him to come forth out of the tomb.

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  31. hokku
    Dec 24 2007

    Phil wrote:
    “Jesus Christ was not just resurrected in spirit, but also in body. Note the discussion of his burial cloths left behind.

    As the risen Christ in body and spirit, the stone was rolled away for him to exit the tomb.”

    Actually there was considerable difference of opinion on this in early Christianity. Note that Paul, the earliest Christian writer we know of, says nothing at all about an empty tomb. And he says that resurrection is not physical but spiritual — “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.” So no empty tomb was required. And keep in mind there were those in the congregation who did not even believe in resurrection, as Paul remarks.

    Again I would point out the substantial discrepancies in the resurrection stories, which are only part of the disagreements in early Christianity on the matter.

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