Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
by Arthur Policarpio
Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
What will happen if one day, a massive scientific study suddenly uncovers the bones of Jesus – and proves, beyond reasonable doubt, the authenticity of the find?
The world, as we know it, will come crashing down. The greatest “fraud” in history would have been unveiled. The Faith of close to 2 billion Christians all over the world would be shattered. The beliefs of billions of people throughout the ages would have been in vain.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then He is not God. If He is not God, then our Faith is in vain.
Thanks be to God that such a horrific scenario has not, and will not, come to pass – despite futile attempts by some contemporary “scientists” who exert all their efforts to disprove the historical basis of Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection.
The Importance of the Resurrection
When I was still in college, I was exposed daily to the rantings of my atheist philosophy professor, who made it his daily habit to condemn Christianity and scorn Jesus. Many of my previously devoutly religious friends, at the end of the course, ended up being swayed and became atheists themselves. For me, the effect was the opposite: it only strengthened my Faith, and motivated me to make it my own personal vocation to defend the Faith, primarily through the written word.
In one of his impassioned lectures, this philosophy professor argued that the Christian Faith is supposedly such a “pitiful” religion. It is supposedly a religion for the weak, a religion that glorifies sufferings and pain, instead of accomplishments and glory. It is a religion that has as its ultimate symbol the Cross: a sign of death and defeat.
Back then, I was not yet properly intellectually-formed to argue a logical response, but now I realize the fundamental fallacy of his argument. The philosophy professor mistakenly assumed that the story of Christianity ended in Jesus’ ignominious death on the Cross. What he missed out is the fact that the story of Christianity does not end with the Cross.
Instead, Christianity “ends”, or rather, “begins” with Jesus’ glorious Resurrection. Christianity is not a religion of weakness, suffering and defeat (although Christian living necessitates sacrifice and self-denial). Rather, Christianity is in fact a religion of ultimate glory: what can be more glorious than Jesus proving to the whole world, through His Resurrection, that He was, indeed God? What can be more glorious than Jesus’ message that just like Him, all of us will, if we so choose, “rise from the dead” and be reunited with our glorified bodies at the end of time?
The Resurrection greatly differentiates Christianity from all other religions. Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius and other great religious founders all died. Jesus died – then lived again, proving His divinity.
Jesus rose from the dead to prove to everyone that He was God. Our Lord’s message of “love your neighbor” was not the “news” of the day – many other great philosophers and teachers espoused His messages. What was “news”, what was truly earth-shaking for the Jews and for the rest of the world during Jesus’ time, was the fantastic, unbelievable story of a Man who claimed He was God, and who rose from the dead three days after His recorded death.
The Resurrection was the proof that the Apostles needed to convert the world to Christ. It is the proof that we, in present times, should powerfully highlight to convert our world today back to Christ.
Can the Resurrection be Proven?
Is it possible to actually prove the Resurrection? For those who believe, no proof is necessary. But for those who do not believe, no proof is seemingly sufficient. However, the great news is that yes, the Resurrection can actually be logically proven.
The fact is that there are documents that currently exist that actually testify to the historical event of the Resurrection. These documents, of course, are the Gospels. The writers claimed to have been eyewitnesses of the Resurrection event.
Given this claim by the Gospel writers, there are only five (5) possible “theories”, or explanations for the claimed Resurrection event:
- Jesus did not actually die, but actually just resuscitated.
- Jesus didn’t rise from the dead; the apostles were unwittingly deceived, and were just hallucinating.
- Jesus didn’t rise from the dead; the apostles were myth-makers – they created a story that wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
- Jesus didn’t rise from the dead; the apostles were deceivers – they deliberately invented the Resurrection story.
- Jesus actually died and rose from the dead.
Those are the only five possibilities. If we can, therefore, refute #1-#4, then there is no other alternative but to accept #5 – that Jesus actually rose from the dead!
Jesus did not Actually Die?
What if Jesus did not actually die, but actually just suffered a “near-death experience”? What if he was actually able to survive the crucifixion, and that his supposed Resurrection was just a “resuscitation”?
There are several ways to answer this theory.
First, Jesus could not have survived crucifixion. Roman law actually laid the death penalty on any soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way. Furthermore, the fact that the Roman soldier did not break Jesus’ legs, as he did the two other crucified criminals, means that he was sure that Jesus was dead.
John, an eyewitness, claimed to have seen blood and water come from Jesus’ heart pierced by the soldier’s lance. Medically, this meant that Jesus’ lungs had collapsed and that he died of asphyxiation.
Likewise, assuming that Jesus somehow survived the Resurrection, how could He have moved the big stone that guarded His tomb? How can a wounded, half-dead man roll away such a big stone – without being noticed by the Roman guards?
Were the Apostles Simply Hallucinating?
What if the apostles were merely hallucinating when they saw Jesus?
There are several ways to refute this theory.
First, the fact is that there were many witnesses. Multiple witnesses corroborated the same story: that they saw Jesus alive; that they touched Jesus; that they heard the risen Jesus speak; that they saw Jesus eat and drink, just like a real, physical person (and therefore not merely a ghost).
In one occasion, the Gospels report that more than 500 people actually saw Jesus after His Resurrection. Furthermore, St. Paul wrote that most of those 500 people who allegedly saw Jesus, as reported by the Gospel, were still alive, and the reader can therefore check the story with any one of them.
Also, if the apostles were merely hallucinating, they could have easily verified it by checking if Jesus’ corpse was still in the tomb. If it was just a hallucination, where was Jesus’ body?
Was the Resurrection Story Simply a Myth?
Is it possible that the Resurrection story was simply a myth? Does the Resurrection story belong to that literary body of non-fictional stories, such as Alice in Wonderland?
Could we have all been wrong in interpreting the Gospels as historical accounts – whereas in fact, the authors in reality meant them to be myths, and not factual recounting of historical events?
The answer to this is that the authors of the Gospel clearly stated that their writings are eyewitness accounts of events that they witnessed. The authors all referred to themselves as “witnesses” of events that transpired regarding the life of Jesus.
Were the Apostles the Ultimate Deceivers?
Is it possible that the apostles simply made up the entire Resurrection story, fabricated the Gospels, and essentially propagated the biggest lie the world has ever known?
This theory is one of the most popular in modern days, and is the underlying current behind many modern-day heretical attempts to debunk Jesus, such as the Da Vinci Code.
Why is it impossible, then for the apostles to be deceivers?
First of all, there is zero incentive for the apostles to deceive. People deceive others usually for personal gain. In the case of the apostles, their “deception” resulted in them being hated, scorned, persecuted, exiled, crucified, beheaded, roasted, and fed to lions.
At the slightest sign of inconvenience, they should have dropped their deception and admitted their fault. And yet, the fact is that there is no single person in the history of Christianity who ever confessed, freely or under duress, that the whole story of the Resurrection was merely one big elaborate lie perpetuated by the apostles.
The apostles, early martyrs and saints, under intense pressure and persecution, did not waver and admit to any deception. In fact, they died horrible deaths in witness of their story. They willingly died for their supposed “conspiracy”. There is no greater proof for honesty and sincerity than martyrdom.
Jesus Really Rose from the Dead!
If the theory of resuscitation (that Jesus did not actually die) can be proven false; if the apostles did not hallucinate; if the Gospels were not just myths, but actual historical accounts; and if the apostles were not deceivers; where does this leave us? It leaves us with only one possible explanation to the Resurrection event: that it really happened!
The unbeliever simply cannot provide any other logical explanation or alternative theory outside of those discussed above. Our Christian Faith is not a Faith based on thin air. It is not an edifice based on shifting sand, with little or no foundation. On the contrary, it can be clearly and logically supported and proven.
Jesus really rose from the dead! This realization burned the hearts of the apostles so much that they were completely, almost miraculous changed – from fearful, ignorant disciples who abandoned their Master, to passionate, fearless apostles who died proclaiming the Faith.
Jesus rose from the dead! This is the message they spread throughout the world, the message that captured the hearts of millions and converted people throughout the generations to the Faith.
It is the same message that we, in our present times, should shout from the rooftops and bring to this world so much lacking in Faith. May this Easter message burn our hearts with ardor for our Faith, so that just like the early apostles, we too in our own small way, will do our small part in helping convert our world, little by little, to our Risen Lord.
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