Case For The Resurrection of Jesus – Dr. William Lane Craig
Did People Really See Jesus After The Resurrection?
Finally, I took a look at some of the academic scholarship regarding the empty tomb of Jesus. I was truly surprised to find that a large majority of scholars today agree that Christ’s tomb was found empty.
- When you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what’s really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. There are old rabbinical sayings that said, ‘Let the words of Law be burned rather than delivered to women’ and ‘blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.’ Women’s testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren’t even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law. In light of this, it’s absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women… Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb — Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that — like it or not — they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status. 2
- 1 Historical sources: Matthew, Justin, Tertullian.
2 Dr. William Lane Craig, quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, 293.
The Case For Christ
OK, if I’m a lawyer, and I’m viewing the case for Christ through legal goggles, what am I missing? Anything…? Surely, other analytical legal minds have weighed the evidence in “the case for Christ“…
Again, I was truly stunned to find that great legal minds had already done this…
Check these guys out…
Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was one of the founders of Harvard Law School. He authored the authoritative three-volume text, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence (1842), which is still considered “the greatest single authority on evidence in the entire literature of legal procedure.”1 Greenleaf literally wrote the rules of evidence for the U.S. legal system. He was certainly a man who knew how to weigh the facts. He was an atheist until he accepted a challenge by his students to investigate the case for Christ’s resurrection. After personally collecting and examining the evidence based on rules of evidence that he helped establish, Greenleaf became a Christian and wrote the classic, Testimony of the Evangelists.
- Let [the Gospel’s] testimony be sifted, as it were given in a court of justice on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.2
Sir Lionel Luckhoo (1914-1997) is considered one of the greatest lawyers in British history. He’s recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Most Successful Advocate,” with 245 consecutive murder acquittals. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II — twice. Luckhoo declared:
- I humbly add I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.3
Lee Strobel was a Yale-educated, award-winning journalist at the Chicago Tribune. As an atheist, he decided to compile a legal case against Jesus Christ and prove him to be a fraud by the weight of the evidence. As Legal Editor of the Tribune, Strobel’s area of expertise was courtroom analysis. To make his case against Christ, Strobel cross-examined a number of Christian authorities, recognized experts in their own fields of study (including PhD’s from such prestigious academic centers as Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis). He conducted his examination with no religious bias, other than his predisposition to atheism.
Remarkably, after compiling and critically examining the evidence for himself, Strobel became a Christian. Stunned by his findings, he organized the evidence into a book entitled, The Case for Christ, which won the Gold Medallion Book Award for excellence. Strobel asks one thing of each reader – remain unbiased in your examination of the evidence. In the end, judge the evidence for yourself, acting as the lone juror in the case for Christ…4
As a “lone juror,” I sat quiet in my chair…
As jurors often do in the jury room, I asked to return once again to a provoking piece of evidence…
- 1 Knott, The Dictionary of American Biography, back cover of The Testimony of the Evangelists.
2 Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence, Kregel Classics, 1995, Backcover.
3 Sir Lionel Luckhoo, The Question Answered: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Luckhoo Booklets, back page. http://www.hawaiichristiansonline.com/sir_lionel.html.
4 Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, 18.
Since this is so powerful for me, I want to reexamine the Christian persecution and death that was such a dramatic part of early Christian history. Like me, any skeptic who holds to a notion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a man-made legend created after-the-fact by a group of religious zealots, should sincerely check out the legacy of Christian persecution and martyrdom. Eleven of the 12 apostles, and many of the other early disciples, died for their adherence to this story. This is so spectacular, since they all witnessed the alleged events surrounding Jesus and his resurrection, and still went to their deaths defending them. Why is this spectacular, when many throughout history have died martyred deaths for a religious belief? Because people don’t die for a lie. Look at human nature throughout history. No conspiracy can be maintained when life or liberty is at stake. Dying for a belief is one thing, but numerous eye-witnesses dying for a known lie is quite another.
OK, I guess I’ve made my point…Here’s an account of early Christian persecution, as compiled from numerous sources outside the Bible, the most-famous of which is Foxes’ Christian Martyrs of the World:1
Around 34 A.D., one year after the crucifixion of Jesus, Stephen was thrown out of Jerusalem and stoned to death. Approximately 2,000 Christians suffered martyrdom in Jerusalem during this period. About 10 years later, James, the son of Zebedee and the elder brother of John, was killed when Herod Agrippa arrived as governor of Judea. Agrippa detested the Christian sect of Jews, and many early disciples were martyred under his rule, including Timon and Parmenas. Around 54 A.D., Philip, a disciple from Bethsaida, in Galilee, suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified. About six years later, Matthew, the tax-collector from Nazareth who wrote one of the Gospels, was preaching in Ethiopia when he suffered martyrdom by the sword. James, the brother of Jesus, administered the early church in Jerusalem and was the author of a biblical text by his name. At age 94, he was beat and stoned, and finally had his brains bashed out with a fuller’s club.Matthias was the apostle who filled the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded. Andrew was the brother of Peter who preached throughout Asia. On his arrival at Edessa, he was arrested and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground (this is where we get the term, St. Andrew’s Cross). Mark was converted to Christianity by Peter, and then transcribed Peter’s account of Jesus in his Gospel. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria in front of Serapis, their pagan idol. It appears Peter was condemned to death and crucified at Rome. Jerome holds that Peter was crucified upside down, at his own request, because he said he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord. Paul suffered in the first persecution under Nero. Paul’s faith was so dramatic in the face of martyrdom, that the authorities removed him to a private place for execution by the sword.In about 72 A.D., Jude, the brother of James who was commonly called Thaddeus, was crucified at Edessa. Bartholomew preached in several countries and translated the Gospel of Matthew into the language of India. He was cruelly beaten and then crucified by idolaters there. Thomas, called Didymus, preached in Parthia and India, where he was thrust through with a spear by a group of pagan priests. Luke was the author of the Gospel under his name. He traveled with Paul through various countries and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree by idolatrous priests in Greece. Barnabas, of Cyprus, was killed without many known facts in about 73 A.D. Simon, surnamed Zelotes, preached in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, where he was crucified in about 74 A.D. John, the “beloved disciple,” was the brother of James. From Ephesus he was ordered to Rome, where he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where John wrote the last book of the Bible, Revelation. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.Christian persecution didn’t slow the growth of the Christian faith during the first few centuries after Jesus. Even as its early leaders died horrible deaths, Christianity flourished throughout the Roman Empire. How can this historical record of martyrdom be viewed as anything but powerful evidence for the truth of the Christian faith – a faith grounded in historical events and eye-witness testimonies?
1 John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Ed. by W. Grinton Berry, Reprinted by Fleming H. Revell, 1998.
What is Faith?
So, where am I with all this…? Where has this journey taken me, and how should it impact my life? I intellectually believe that certain things happened in history, but what does that really mean for my life today…?
What is belief? What is faith?
Although the Christian faith is not based purely on evidence, it is definitely supported by evidence. Faith is not about turning off the brain and merely relying on the heart, or squashing reason in favor of emotion. No, Christian faith is about seeking and knowing Jesus with all facets of the human character. It’s not a “blind faith” as I once thought… It’s a “calculated faith” based on a preponderance of the evidence. Well, I’ve collected the evidence, and I’ve put it on trial… After a number of months in the jury room, I have returned with my personal verdict… Jesus Christ is who he claims to be… the Son of God who came to this earth about 2,000 years ago to offer true and lasting hope for mankind.
OK, now what…? I intellectually believe, by a preponderance of the evidence, that God exists, that the Bible is true, and that Jesus is his Son… How does this affect me? What is faith, as far as it concerns me?
I love the metaphor of a chair… Find the chair closest to you. Look at it closely. Examine its design. Is it structurally sound? Is it sufficiently engineered? Will the materials chosen by the manufacturer support your weight?
Most likely, you picked a chair that you believe will support you. That’s belief. You applied logic, knowledge and experience to make an informed intellectual decision.
Now sit in the chair… That’s faith! At one point, intellectual assent only goes so far. True living requires that we put our beliefs into action. Intellectual belief without actionable faith is hollow and meaningless…
Have you ever heard about the guy who walked a tight rope across Niagra Falls? Many people watched him do it. To them he asked, “Do you believe I can walk a tight rope across the Falls?” They all replied, “Yes.” They had already seen him do it.
Then he pushed a wheel barrow on a tight rope across Niagra Falls. When he completed the feat, he asked the onlookers, “Do you believe I can walk a tight rope across the Falls pushing a wheel barrow?” To that they replied unanimously, “Yes.” Because they saw him do that too.
Finally, a buddy of the tight rope walker climbs into the wheel barrow and the tight rope walker pushes him across the Falls. Wow, what a daring feat! When they finished, the tight rope walker asked the crowd, “Do you believe I can walk a tight rope across the Falls pushing a wheel barrow with a person in it?” To that they exclaimed, “Yes!” For they were now believers in this guy’s awesome abilities.
Then he looked at the crowd and asked, “Who’s next?”
There you have it… Belief vs. Faith…!
Is Jesus God?
Why has the name “Jesus Christ” caused more division, agitation and controversy than any other name in history?
Come on, why…?
If I bring up God in a coffee shop discussion, nobody is really offended. If I speak about Buddha or Brahman, Moses or Mohammed, I really don’t irritate the listener. However, the name Jesus Christ seems to cut right to the soul. It did for me! When people brought up the other religious and philosophical leaders of history, I usually participated in some sort of intellectual discussion. When people tried to discuss Jesus with me, I felt that my space had been violated! What right did this person have to challenge me and my worldview? I’ve found that something makes Jesus more contentious and convicting than all the other religious leaders combined.
Really, what is it…?
Unlike any other widely followed religious leader in history, Jesus Christ made a unique claim. He declared himself God. Not a god, not god-like, but God incarnate — the creator of the universe in human flesh. Intellectually, that’s very disturbing. Spiritually, that’s a direct attack on everything comfortable and coexisting in my safe little world. However, “is Jesus God“?
For me, I retreated to the typical responses to the life and claims of Jesus. Depending on the stage of my life, they sounded something like this:
“Jesus was a great man.”
“Jesus was a nice moral model.”
“Jesus was an esteemed teacher.”
“Jesus was a religious prophet.”
However, as Christian scholar Josh McDowell declares in his foundational book, More than a Carpenter, these types of statements raise a compelling “trilemma.” Once you examine the actual claims of Jesus and his eyewitness followers, there are only three alternatives for who he really is – Jesus Christ was either a liar, a lunatic, or our Lord.
- The issue with these three alternatives is not which is possible, for it is obvious that all three are possible. But rather, the question is ‘which is more probable?’ Who you decide Jesus Christ is must not be an idle intellectual exercise. You cannot put Him on the shelf as a great moral teacher. That is not a valid option. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. You must make a choice. ‘But,’ as the Apostle John wrote, ‘these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and’ – more important – ‘that believing you might have life in His name’ (John 20:31). 1
When looking at the question, “Is Jesus God?”, C.S. Lewis, a popular British theologian, stressed:
- I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. 21 Josh McDowell, More than a Carpenter, Tyndale House Publishers, 1977, pp. 33-34.
2 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, The MacMillan Company, 1960, pp. 40-41.
Christian Religion vs True Relationship
Please understand, I’m not selling “Christian religion” here. If anything, I still believe “religion” has kept more people from God than anything else in history.
Actually, I’ve discovered that true Christianity isn’t a Christian religion at all – it’s discovering and establishing a relationship with God. It’s trusting in Jesus and what He did on the cross for you and me,1 not on what we can do for ourselves.2
“True Christianity” isn’t about “organized religion.” It’s not about hierarchical structures, ornate buildings, flamboyant preachers, or traditional rules and rituals. In fact, let’s just drop the “Christianity” label all together. Simply, it’s pursuing and reconciling three basic questions of life:
- Does God exist? If so, what am I going to do about it?
- Is the Bible true? If so, what does that mean for me?
- Who is Jesus? If he is who he claims to be, how will this reality change my life?
Again, it’s not about the so-called “Christian religion” at all…
It’s not about the man-made machine we know today as “Christianity”…
It’s all about Jesus.
He’s either the Son of God who offers the only true hope for the world, or he’s not.
1 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 — Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
2 Ephesians 2:8-9 — For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
Become a Christian Today!
How do I become a Christian? Once you have asked all your questions, weighed all the evidence, and tested all the arguments, you will ultimately be confronted with the basic question Jesus asked his own disciples in Matthew 16:15:
‘But who do you say that I am?’
Simon Peter replied:
‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’
What is your reply?
If you have come to the same conclusion as Simon Peter, you are a few steps away from having a personal relationship with our loving God. It is our sincere hope and prayer that each of you reach this conclusion, for we know that true happiness, joy and peace only come when we recognize our purpose for existing and yield our wills to our Creator. As you will see, Christianity is not based on a religious building, formula or ritual, it’s a matter of what you truly believe in your heart.
Become a Christian: Step through the Gospel
First, you can be sure that God loves you unconditionally and desires to have a personal relationship with you.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
Second, you need to admit your sinful nature to God, because this is what separates all of us from Him.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).
Third, you should stop trying to please God through your own efforts, and realize that salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ is a gift that none of us deserves.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
Finally, you just need to step in and truly accept God’s gift — His Son, Jesus Christ.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
So, now you know the basic steps to become a Christian. As a result, if you desire God’s gift of eternal life and fellowship with Him, you are as close as a sincere act of faith.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6).
Jesus also says,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20).
Receiving Jesus is a matter of truly asking Him to come into your life, to forgive your sins, and to become your Lord and Savior. It’s not merely an intellectual undertaking, but rather, an act of sincere faith and heart-felt will.
If you want to receive Jesus now, and accept His gift of salvation, it’s a matter of believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of your sins, and turning the rest of your life over to Him. This is not a ritual based on specific words, but rather, a prayerful guideline for your sincere step of faith.
- “Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)
If you decided to become a Christian today, welcome to God’s family. Now, as a way to grow closer to Him, the Bible tells us to follow up on our commitment.
- Get as commanded by Christ.
- Tell someone else about your new faith in Christ.
- Spend time with God each day. It does not have to be a long period of time. Just develop the daily habit of praying to Him and reading His Word. Ask God to increase your faith and your understanding of the Bible.
- Seek fellowship with other Christians. Develop a group of Christian friends to answer your questions and support you.
- Find a local church where you can worship God.
Did you become a Christian today? Please Clickor Are you already a Christian? Please