Saturday Was Silent, But Sunday Was Coming…

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It was Saturday morning, AD 33, just outside the gates of a small part of the Roman empire. Only one week ago, the people were looking for a hero. A king was hailed on Palm Sunday as He rode into town on the back of a young donkey colt. He was to be the one to deliver them out of the hands of Roman oppression. Just the day before, these same people change their cry for a king to a call for a crucifixion. The cross of his crucifixion is now empty, with their deliverer buried in a tomb behind a huge stone, affixed with a seal of Roman authority, and guarded by centurions sworn to defend the tomb with their lives. His followers, especially the twelve closest to Him were scattered, defeated, and one even committed suicide. They had seen, heard, and touched this man in his walk upon the Earth. They must have thought, where is our hero now? What will become of us? What will happen tomorrow? If they only knew then that Sunday was coming. They sought a king to overthrow Rome physically and politically. However, the battle was not physical but spiritual. Deliverance was to arrive not by the sword, but by the cross. The  Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1.23-24:

22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  

In this narrative, how can we today understand this occurrence nearly 2000 years ago? How can we know what tomorrow brings? In 33 AD, tomorrow brought the resurrection of Jesus. How do we know the story the Bible delivers is valid and reliable?

Consider the acronym: HERO.

H- HISTORY

No other event has more corroboration of history in antiquity than the resurrection of Jesus. Based on the scholarship of Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Michael Licona, as well as the investigation of other scholars, the basic facts surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are agreed upon based on historical attestation without citing the Bible as a reference. Even so, the facts correspond directly to the account of the events as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3 ff.  Furthermore, history supports at least 84 specific events recorded in the book of Acts concerning the persons, practices, and doctrines of the early church immediately after the resurrection. [1]

E- EVIDENCE

No other event in history has the volume of evidence in such detail and corroboration as the resurrection of Christ. As Dr. Gary Habermas puts it, ” …no other historical person has the volume of early data as that relating to the resurrection. If the resurrection is true, then the teachings and doctrines of Christianity logically follow.” [2] Also, no other persons in history have the quality of data to support the historical events surrounding their lives. According to Drs. Frank Turek and Norman Geisler in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist, the New Testament testimonies can be categorized by what they call the six “E’s”:

Early (To within as few as 5 years or less of the event),

Eyewitness (Persons who were actually alive and present at the time of the incident),

Embarrassing (Details included that preclude any fabrication or embellishment),

Excruciating (The eyewitnesses were willing to die and did not recant their testimonies),

Expected (Over 300 predictions were made by prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah some 500 years before the event), and

Extra-Biblical (also called Enemy testimony, sources outside the Bible describe the death, burial, and resurrection as historical events). [3]

R-RELIABILITY

Some detractors will state that since we have no original copies of the New Testament (autographs), then how can we know that the manuscripts are authentic, or really say what the author intended? How can we trust that the resurrection accounts are factual? Obviously, we want to know that the Bible we hold in our hands is the same as the one Apostles had in the first century.  According to New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, the goal of New Testament Textual Criticism (the discipline to achieve this goal) is to study the copies of any document whose original autograph is unknown or non-existent, for the primary purpose of determining the exact wording of the original. [4] In the case of the New Testament, these copies are handwritten. Handwritten copies imply that changes could have occurred, known as variants. Although there are more than 200,000 variants, fewer than 0.25% are viable and do not change any meaning, or affect any doctrine or Christian belief. The sheer number of manuscripts, totaling over 6800 for the New Testament alone as well as church letters and quotations from early church fathers, reconstruct all but just a few verses. Just like a jigsaw puzzle, the more individual pieces you possess then the more closely you can visualize the entirety of the picture on the box top. Summarily, the majority of variants affect the only spelling, wording, or syntax, and do not affect understanding at all. As a result, we can be assured that the accounts recorded about the resurrection are authentic.

O- ORTHODOXY

Orthodoxy can be defined as authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice. The doctrine of the resurrection of Christ as mentioned previously was expounded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 :

“3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ” (ESV)

The importance of this scripture is immense as it represents one of the earliest creeds of the church. In considering the transmission of the events surrounding the resurrection, it is helpful to think logically about how information could be related immediately afterward before anything was written down. Also, many people were not literate. If you think of a creed much like a hymn, it makes sense that reciting a creed repetitively and consistently was a great value. One does not have to know how to read or write to remember the words to a song, and it makes sense especially in light of the oral traditions of the first-century culture. An interesting side note relates to the specific time when this creed was written. Junius Annaeus Gallio was the Roman proconsul of Achaia when Paul was at Corinth, A.D. 53, under the emperor Claudius. [5] Paul appeared before Gallio according to Acts 18:12-17. These events place Paul in Corinth around 20 years after the crucifixion (AD 33). Once again, early, eyewitness testimony establishing Paul in Corinth and testifying through his first letter to the Corinthians of the resurrection event.

In closing, how do we understand, know, and rely on the account of this one Sunday in AD 33? History demonstrates the event was early, corroborated by eyewitness testimony and with support intrinsically and extrinsically verifiable by reputable sources. The transmission of the message is supported by multiple sources of evidence. The reliability is confirmed by correlation and agreement of numerous authors from varied backgrounds, occupations, and geographic locations.  Furthermore, as Paul reminds us, the church doctrine is unchanged from what he received which was of “first importance.” The question remains ultimately when faced with the certainty of Christ’s resurrection, how then will you respond?

 

[1] Turek, Frank and Geisler, Norman L. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004. pp. 256-259.

[2] Habermas, Gary. The Risen Jesus and Future Hope. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.

[3] Turek, Frank and Geisler, Norman L. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004. Chapters 9-11.

[4] Wallace, Daniel B., in Credo Courses: New Testament Textual Criticism Workbook. Columbia, SC: The Credo Courses, p. 11, 18.

[5] http://biblehub.com/topical/g/gallio.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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