The Real Jesus: Myth #7 (9 & 10 of 10)


Myth #7: Jesus never really rose from the dead
John Dominic Crossan: “Was Jesus even buried at all? … I feel terribly sympathetic toward the followers of Jesus because I hear hope there and not history.”

In his book, The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan is clear about the agenda behind his attack on the truth of the resurrection. Remember that in Crossan’s mind, the resurrection is not plausible and the Gospel accounts are not reliable. Therefore, he uses historical reconstructions based upon what he believes might have happened. Again, there are no written historical records to back up his claims. Instead, he writes:

“If you cannot believe in something produced by reconstruction, you may have nothing left to believe in” (John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 426).

Crossan’s attack on the truth of the resurrection, in the big picture, is really an attack on the nature of truth itself. According to Crossan, truth fluctuates from generation to generation. He writes:

“It is not … that we find once and for all who the historical Jesus was way back then. It is that each generation and century must redo that historical work and establish its best reconstruction … it is that Jesus reconstructed in the dialogues, debates, controversies, and the conclusions of contemporary scholarship that challenges faith to see and say how that is for now the Christ, the Lord, the Son of God” (John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus, p. 217).

In Crossan’s reconstructed version of the story, Jesus’ death was accidental — the type of execution that the oppressive and arbitrary justice of the Romans might carry out on any given day. In the days following the crucifixion, one or more of the Apostles may have invented a story about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in order to give themselves some credibility. And then some followers of the Apostles, who just happened to be scribes, may have recorded the event as though it were history — another unfortunate accident — according to Crossan.

But Crossan fails to answer some obvious questions: If the resurrection were a hoax, why would there be a Christian movement in the years after Jesus’ death? If Christ’s death were an accident, why would there even be a scribe who would want to record a distorted record of Jesus’ death?

Lacking answers to these questions as well any real evidence for their claims, the scholars of the Jesus Seminar speculate endlessly as to how and why the resurrection story came about.

Jennings: “Some scholars think that the resurrection stories were borrowed from eastern pagan cults called mystery religions.”

Jennings: “The mystery cults had an influence because the people who wrote the Jesus story took an earlier story and passed it on via Jesus.”

The writers of the New Testament also mention the “mystery religions” that Peter Jennings refers to here — most notably, the Apostles Peter, John and Paul. What is being described here is Gnosticism — an eastern cult that had followers the world over at the time of the Roman Empire. At the time of Jesus, even Judaism had succumbed to the effects of the ancient mystery religions.

But do similarities among stories told among cults and mystery religions disprove the resurrection of Jesus? Let’s look at some evidence:

According to the Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, there were over 500 eyewitnesses, including the Apostles, who saw Jesus after the resurrection. Many preached the Gospel and a few of them wrote books and testimonies.

There is also the testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the blood of the martyrs in the first century. Many of the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection died as martyrs for their faith. It would be hard to imagine people dying for what they knew was a fraudulent claim.

In contrast to this strong evidence, Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar states:

“If we don’t understand why he could be executed, then we miss the political passion that animated his mission … When we turn Jesus’ death instead into the eternal sacrifice for sin that makes our forgiveness possible, then we really set aside that which mattered so much to Him …”

The epitome of liberalism is the false dichotomy between the social Gospel and eternal salvation. Of course, there is no contradiction between the two.

Christ lived a perfect life, not only as an example for us, but actually according to scripture to be the “second Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) to fulfill the covenant of righteousness so that His righteousness may be imputed to us.

In Christ’s death we find forgiveness for our sins, not only because he died as a martyr for the truth, but also because He became sin on our behalf. His eternal sacrifice through his death for sin does not in any way obscure the message of His perfect life.

The Real Jesus: Conclusion (10 of 10)

Debunking the Myths

Christians in our day do not need to be persuaded to lay aside the historical accounts of Jesus found in the Gospels, in order to find a historical Jesus. Although there is outside evidence, the greatest proof that the Bible is true comes from the Word itself.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14).

The name given to Jesus is the Word. The authority of the Word of God comes from the fact that it is the testimony Jesus Christ has given of himself:

“If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true … I am one who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me.” (John 8:14,18).

The authority of the Word of God does not come from the study of the historical accuracy of the Bible; the study of archaeology to prove the validity of the Bible; or the study of science to prove the account of creation. Instead we believe the authority of the Word because Jesus Christ Himself gave it.

The authority of the Word of God does not come from us being able to prove that it is true. The authority of the Word of God comes from the fact that it is God’s Word. God spoke it; it is truth.

This approach is sometimes called presuppositionalism. The authority of the Word of God is presupposed (believed ahead of time). It is the opposite of evidentialism, the idea that we must seek to prove that the Bible is true by offering evidence. Evidentialism is not wrong; it is important to defend what we believe. However, it is impossible to “prove” Scripture using evidence from philosophy, history, archaeology, science, and other rational proofs. To do so would be to claim that these proofs have the same infallible authority as God himself.

The Word of God preached is all the evidence that a person needs in order to be saved. We do not need to “prove” the Gospel in order for it to be effective. The Word of God preached is a living and powerful sword that pierces the hearts of its hearers. While the Word preached is the only weapon of our warfare, there is already much evidence of the truth in natural revelation.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

But the truth preached, not the evidence that the Word is true, is the only effective message of salvation. Paul writes in Romans 3:4:

“Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).

We should not lay aside the evidence completely. Paul preached a sermon in Athens (Acts 17:23-31), and appealed to evidences that God exists from Greek philosophy. But Paul concluded his Gospel message with this idea:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31).

Truth is revealed, not by evidence, but by the Word preached. Our problem is not that we lack understanding or need more information. Our problem is that each one of us is a sinner and needs repentance.

The Authority of the Word of God

The authority of the Bible is implied by the fact that we call it: “God’s Word.” Inspiration is the means by which the Bible received its authority. The apostolic writings of the New Testament were boldly described in the same authoritative terms that denoted the Old Testament as the Word of God. The New Testament books were called “scripture,” “prophecy,” “the Word of the Lord,” and so on.

[Scroll the following scriptures on screen over the narration in the following two paragraphs]

“Hear the word of the LORD …” – Jeremiah 31:10

“But the word of God grew and multiplied.” – Acts 12:24

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God …” – 2 Timothy 3:16

“… as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” – 2 Peter 3:16

“Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” – Revelation 22:7

“So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” – Acts 19:20

Every book in the New Testament contains some claim to divine authority. The New Testament church read, circulated, collected, and quoted the New Testament books right along with the inspired Scriptures of the Old Testament.

The contemporaries and immediate successors of Jesus’ Apostles recognized the divine origin of the New Testament writings along with the Old. All of the great Fathers of the Christian church from the earliest times held to the divine inspiration of the New Testament. There is a continuous claim for the inspiration of both Old and New Testaments from the time of their composition to the present.

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