Jesus' Resurrection - Essential to the Christian Faith
Jesus' resurrection from the dead is as essential to the Christian faith as His death upon the cross. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians "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" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Paul emphasizes the importance of the resurrection with his statement "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised" (1 Corinthians 15:14-15).
Jesus' Resurrection - An Historical Event?
So, is Jesus' resurrection from the dead an historical event? It is proclaimed throughout the four Gospels as well as ancient correspondence. If these works are the historical documents they claim to be, then they bear witness to an historical event. According to Aristotle's Dictum, these pieces meet the criteria for legitimate historical documents. However, as they describe miraculous events, they are not recognized by secular society as valid testimony. How then will these accounts be validated? Two questions must be asked. First, do the authors of these literary pieces discredit their work, or do their lives give credit to their testimony? Second, do accepted historical authorities corroborate these accounts?
Jesus' Resurrection - The Disciples' Testimony
The men who believed in Jesus' resurrection from the dead, known today as Christ's Disciples, certainly had their testimony, as well as their convictions, tested by those who disbelieved. With the exception of John, every one of these men were put to death. These deaths were excruciating and merciless. More so were their lives, as these men were persecuted by the secular world and suffered great hardship for the spreading of their beloved Gospel, which they proclaimed. Paul gives account in his second letter to the Corinthians "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). Paul was later beheaded after suffering in a Roman dungeon for many years. His death was far less brutal then those of his brethren as he was a Roman citizen and often they were not. These men believed the Lord allowed them to suffer greatly, as there is no better evidence of their sincerity and the truth of their message than their endurance and perseverance without any hope of an earthly reward. Every single one of them could have escaped such torture and humiliation by simply denouncing the Resurrection of Christ. This was the goal of their tormentors. However, not one ceded to their persecutors, and this is dramatic evidence in rebuttal of any conspiracy theory.