Adventures in Theology Blog

Chase A. Thompson: Author, Pastor, Vigilante.

#1: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #1 The Empty Tomb

Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out!  (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post)  (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK) 

“If my words fail to convince you, the empty tomb may”[1]
– St. Jerome, 300s A.D.

“No one in Jerusalem would have believed the preaching for a minute if the tomb was not empty. Skeptics could have easily produced Jesus’ rotted corpse. Also, Paul could not be telling people in a public document that there were scores of eyewitnesses alive if there were not.”
[2]
– Tim Keller

A strong majority of scholars grant that the tomb of Jesus was found empty after his resurrection. Not all of those scholars actually believe that it was empty because of the resurrection, but they do grant its emptiness. Writing “a strong majority,” here is not an unsubstantiated claim, nor an exaggeration. Dr. Gary Habermas, one of the world’s foremost experts on the resurrection of Jesus (and my apologetics professor during seminary), has surveyed 3,400 scholars in this field, and he finds that upwards of 75 percent of them agree that the tomb of Jesus was empty.[1] Even very skeptical scholars like Dr. Bart Ehrman, an agnostic at best, grants that it is almost certain that Jesus’ tomb was found empty three days after His burial, “We can conclude with some certainty that Jesus was in fact buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb and that three days later the tomb was found empty.”[2]

As a historical fact, the empty tomb is difficult to dispute. Consider how quickly the movement to worship Jesus began in Jerusalem, particularly after Pentecost when thousands joined the Jerusalem disciples. It is clear from both biblical accounts and other history that the Jewish authorities opposed this new “cult” that was following Jesus. Given that, why didn’t the authorities, utilizing their temple guard, go to the tomb of Jesus, roll the stone away, and produce the corpse of Jesus? Yes, His body might have been decomposed after a few weeks, but Jerusalem is in an arid area, and it would likely be dry enough inside the burial cave that the body of Jesus would have been quite recognizable. Except, there is literally not a single ancient account of such a thing happening, not even from the enemies and critics of nascent Christianity.

Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase, “a skeleton in the closet.” This metaphor refers to a situation where there is something hidden in one’s life that could be the undoing of that person. The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allen Poe, is perhaps the most famous fictional representation of the skeleton in the closet trope. In that Poe classic, one man murders another, and hides his body under the floorboards of his house. Police officers arrive the next day to investigate the scream of the murdered man as he died, but they see no evidence of foul play, and have a very casual discussion with the narrator of the story, who is the murderer. As the officers converse with the unnamed narrator, his guilt manifests so that he hears the heartbeat of the man he murdered, and that heartbeat gets louder and louder. Finally, just before the officers proceed to exit without suspicion, the guilty man breaks down, confesses his deed, and tells the officers where the body is hidden. Thus, the metaphorical skeleton in the closet is revealed to be an actual corpse hidden in the floor beams.

If skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus are correct, then the disciples in the first two decades after the death of Jesus also had a sort of skeleton in their closet. If the tomb of Jesus wasn’t TRULY and FACTUALLY empty, then the Jewish officials could have easily opened the tomb and demonstrated to all that Christianity had a great hidden secret: namely, that it’s founder did, in fact, die, and stayed dead as well. And yet, there is absolutely no historical record that demonstrates that anything like this happened. Indeed, in Matthew 28:15, it is recorded that, at the time of the publication of Matthew (2-4 decades after the resurrection of Jesus), the Jews were saying that the disciples stole Jesus away. There would be no reason whatsoever to make such a claim if the tomb of Jesus had been anything but empty.

Wouldn’t it have been far easier, if it were possible, to have produced the body of Jesus and just been done with it? That probably wouldn’t have turned away every ardent Christ-follower, but it sure would have done so for most of them. However, the presentation of Jesus’ body to His followers never happened, because there was certainly no body to produce. Even if a skeptic went along with the explanation of the Jewish Sanhedrin, that Jesus’ body was stolen by His disciples, that skeptic still must grapple with the reality that the disciples almost all died horrible deaths, refusing to recant their allegiance to Christ. That would be an absurd thing to do if they were the ones that propagated a false story regarding the resurrection of Jesus. The stolen body theory defies logic, and has no ancient historical evidence.

This hoax theory, (That the disciples perpetrated a scam by stealing the body of Jesus and acting like He rose from the dead) not only does not account for the extreme suffering/martyrdom endured by those who would have enacted the scheme, but also doesn’t propose a good reason FOR performing the hoax in the first place. What could their motive possibly have been? I have not read a good skeptical theory that proposed anything worthwhile that the disciples of Jesus could have gained by perpetuating a myth that He rose from the dead. While some unscrupulous pastors and teachers have, in modern times, grown wealthy by exploiting their followers, Jesus clearly didn’t engage in that behavior; He was largely homeless, and it seems that none of His followers ever became very wealthy, comfortable, or materially blessed due to their proximity to Jesus!

Philosopher William Paley, writing in the 1700s, asked a series of questions that would seem to provide some logical prima facie evidence that the resurrection was not a hoax by the followers of Jesus: “Would men in such circumstances pretend to have seen what they never saw; assert facts which they had no knowledge of; go about lying to teach virtue; and though not only convinced of Christ’s being an imposter… bring upon themselves, for nothing, and with full knowledge of the consequences, enmity and hatred, danger and death?”[3]  It is highly unlikely that the disciples of Jesus would stick by their story of the resurrection unto their own deaths, unless they were thoroughly convinced that it actually happened beyond a shadow of a doubt.  (Chapter continued in the book) 

(Note: This is a partial preview of my book, you can continue reading FREE on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, or you can purchase the book for a few pennies, OR you can find a friend reading it and take it when he isn’t looking!) 

Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead

#1: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #1 The Empty Tomb

#2: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #2 Hysterical Women?

#3: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #3 The Crucifixion Stigma

#4: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #4 The Marinovich Argument

#5: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #5 The Lithuanian Argument

#6: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #6 The 500(!) Eyewitnesses

#7: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #7 The Uncracked Conspiracy

#8: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #8 The Brother Factor

#9: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #9 The Conversion of Saul

#10: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #10 Show Me The Power!

#11: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #11 Bible Accounts are Too Detailed to Contain Mythic Information

#12: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #12 Bible Accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection are Too Early to be Mythical

#13: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #13 Textual Variants Demonstrate Biblical Reliability

#14: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #14 An Embarrassing Principle?

#15: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #15 Jesus Strikes Back?

#16: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #16 Skeptical Ancients, or Slack-Jawed Yokels?

#17: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #17 Minimal Facts Argument (Gary Habermas)

#18: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #18 – A Sabbath Switcheroo

#19: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #19 The Sign of Jonah

#20: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #20: My Personal Testimony

## 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – Conclusion

[1] Gary R. Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, ©2004), 30.

[2] Bart Ehrman, “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity,” Lecture 4: “Oral and Written Traditions about Jesus” (The Teaching Company, 2003)

[3] William Paley, The Works of William Paley: Archdeacon of Carlisle: with a Life of Author Volume 1 (Palala Press, 2015), 1

[1] Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 979.

[2] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, ©2008), 203,

#2: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #2 Hysterical Women?

Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out!  (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post)  (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK) 

But let not a single witness be credited; but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth[1]
– Jewish/Roman historian Josephus, pointing out the belief that women of his day should not testify in court

In dealing with a crowd of women at least, or with any promiscuous mob, a philosopher cannot influence them by reason or exhort them to reverence, piety and faith; nay, there is need of religious fear also, and this cannot be aroused without myths and marvels[2]  
– Strabo, a first century philosopher sharing a quite common view of women at the time: that they were immune to reason and comparable to a “promiscuous mob.”

Please don’t blame me. I don’t make the news, I only report it. In this case, the news is that the ancient world often had attitudes towards women that would be considered incredibly backwards, at best, in our current western culture. The quotes above, by Strabo and Josephus, are only the tip of the iceberg. Some more examples: In the Babylonian Talmud, the second century Rabbi Judah The Prince (who was not a wrestler, despite his WWE sounding name), said that male adherents of Judaism, “must recite three blessings every day: ‘Praised are you, O Lord, who has not made me a gentile,’ ‘Praised are you, O Lord, who did not make me a boor,’ and ‘Praised are you, O Lord, who did not make me a woman’[1] Lest you think Judah the Prince was an obscure figure in Judaism, I should point out that he was the chief editor of the Mishnah (oral Jewish law, in written form) and he was a primary leader of the Jewish community during the second century, where it was noted that he was a direct descendent of King David.

Speaking of the Misnah, one of the Rabbis found within testifies that, due to their menstrual issues, “women are not competent witnesses to be relied on…they are not halakhically admissible as reliable witnesses.”[2] Similarly, witness this excerpt from the Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia, “A particularly painful issue of difference between males and females (in the first century) is that of reliability in testimony. Women are not considered reliable witnesses when two kosher witnesses are needed, for example on monetary issues, capital crimes and sexual crimes… To some extent this is based on her reliability in counting her days of niddah (menstrual) impurity.”[3]

I imagine some of you are mad right now, so let me just sneak in one other somewhat infuriating quote written by our backwards ‘friends’ from antiquity. Celsus was a Greek philosopher and an adamant opponent of Christianity who lived in the second century. Of the resurrection, and the fact that a woman was the first witness of the risen Jesus, Celsus opined:

“But we must examine this question whether anyone who really died ever rose again with the same body. Or do you think that the stories of these others really are the legends which they appear to be, and yet that the ending of your tragedy is to be regarded as noble and convincing—his cry from the cross when he expired, and the earthquake and the darkness? While he was alive he did not help himself, but after death he rose again and showed the marks of his punishment and how his hands had been pierced. But who saw this? A hysterical female, as you say, and perhaps some other one of those who were deluded by the same sorcery, who either dreamt in a certain state of mind and through wishful thinking had a hallucination due to some mistaken notion, or, which is more likely, wanted to impress the others by telling this fantastic tale, and so by this cock-and-bull story to provide a chance for other beggars.” [4]

As you can see here, Celsus’ major attack on the validity of the resurrection account is that it was first witnessed and propagated by a hysterical woman (Mary Magdalene) and, another “one of those,” who was “deluded by the same sorcery.” On behalf of women everywhere, I am offended for you! Be reminded that, though this backwards attitude towards women was staggeringly rampant in the first century, that was not the case with Jesus, the apostles, nor the early church. Perhaps you’ve imagined that the “Jesus Team” consisted of Jesus and the twelve disciples, and those thirteen went around from city to city healing the sick and sharing the good news. You’d be partly right, but the Jesus team was actually quite a bit larger than that, as there were a number (the Bible says “many) of women that also travelled with Jesus and had a critical role on the team, paying for lodging and expenses, etc. Jesus Himself was radical in the way He treated women, having multiple deep individual encounters with them at a time when it would be scandalously inappropriate for a Rabbi to have a one on one conversation with a female. Compare the New Testament to any other document of antiquity, and you will find that it was radically forward thinking in its ethos of women.

To be sure, in many cases, women were treated quite poorly in the earliest centuries, and were viewed in a way that does not comport with modern reality. I could add many other quotes to demonstrate this historical fact, but that is not necessary to make the primary and pertinent point here: having a female witness to something monumental in the first century might be a little bit…inconvenient, to say the least.

 As Josephus notes above, there were many cultures in antiquity where a woman was not allowed to testify in court. In other ancient cultures, they might have been allowed to testify, but their testimony would not have carried as much weight as the testimony of a man.  In some of those situations, where women were actually allowed to testify, it would take the testimony of two women to override the testimony of one man. Why is such a cultural issue critical in discussing the resurrection of Jesus? Because, according to Matthew 28, the first two witnesses to the risen Jesus were women, Mary Magdalene and “The other Mary.” Luke adds that Joanna was there, as well as “other women,” and seems to indicate that “the other” Mary, was Mary the mother of James.

 All four gospels, written down by different men, in different places and at different time periods ALL feature a female (Mary Magdalene) as the first witness of the resurrection of Jesus. That some gospels also mention the presence of other women is far from contradictory, but is the very essence of differing eyewitness testimony. Some details will be included by some authors, and omitted by others. The bottom line is this: women, several of them, were the first witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Additionally, Mary Magdalene, perhaps the foremost of these female witnesses, had what might be considered a sketchy past: Jesus had driven not one, but SEVEN demons out of her at one point.[5] All of this leads to an incredibly important question: If, in the first century, the testimony of women was not considered as reliable by any culture, why does the Bible clearly, and in great detail, portray women as being the first and primary witnesses to the risen Jesus? That question also begets another important question: How is it, given the assumed unreliability of women, that so many thousands of people eagerly believed the account of the resurrection of Jesus – many at the cost of their own lives?

Though it is not part of the Bible, and not considered Scripture, there is an apocryphal document called the Epistula Apostolorum, which dates to roughly 120 A.D. It is supposedly an eyewitness account of the apostles, and covers issues like the resurrection of Jesus, some of His parables, and several prophecies. This document contains a depiction of the resurrection, and contains extended dialog between Jesus and the women at the tomb. It is interesting, for the purposes of our discussion here, because it depicts what would have likely been the attitude of men in the first century to the proclamation of women that Jesus rose from the dead; specifically, it portrays the 11 remaining disciples utterly refusing to believe the testimony of the women until they actually see Jesus. I’m not posting this below because I am certain that this is a reliable record, written by the apostles, of what happened on the first Easter Sunday, but because it is a good example of how first century men would have viewed the testimony of women:

Concerning whom we testify that the Lord is he who was crucified by Pontius Pilate and Archelaus between the two thieves and was buried in a place which is called the place of a skull (Kranion). And thither went three women, Mary, she that was kin to Martha, and Mary Magdalene and took ointments to pour upon the body, weeping and mourning over that which was come to pass. And when they drew near to the sepulchre, they looked in and found not the body

10 And as they mourned and wept, the Lord showed himself unto them and said to them: For whom weep ye? weep no more. I am he whom ye seek. But let one of you go to your brethren and say: Come ye, the Master is risen from the dead.

 Martha came and told us. We said unto her: What have we to do with thee, woman? He that is dead and buried, is it possible that he should live? And we believed her not that the Saviour was risen from the dead. Then she returned unto the Lord and said unto him: None of them hath believed me, that thou livest. He said: Let another of you go unto them and tell them again. Mary came and told us again, and we believed her not; and she returned unto the Lord and she also told him.

11 Then said the Lord unto Mary and her sisters: Let us go unto them. And he came and found us within and called us out; but we thought that it was a phantom and believed not that it was the Lord. Then said he unto us: Come, fear ye not. I am your master, even he, O Peter, whom thou didst deny thrice; and dost thou now deny again? And we came unto him, doubting in our hearts whether it were he. Then said he unto us: Wherefore doubt ye still, and are unbelieving? I am he that spake unto you of my flesh and my death and my resurrection. But that ye may know that I am he, do thou, Peter, put thy finger into the print of the nails in mine hands, and thou also, Thomas, put thy finger into the wound of the spear in my side; but thou, Andrew, look on my feet and see whether they press the earth; for it is written in the prophet: A phantom of a devil maketh no footprint on the earth. 12 And we touched him, that we might learn of a truth whether he were risen in the flesh; and we fell on our faces (and worshipped him) confessing our sin, that we had been unbelieving. [1]

 What a fascinating passage, and almost humorous in its depictions of the disciples utterly refusing to listen to the female witnesses! The only possible rational reason that the Bible depicts women as the first witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus (and prominent witnesses at His crucifixion) is that it factually happened. The depiction of these women as witnesses to what should be considered the most monumental event in the history of the world, makes no sense whatsoever if the biblical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are invented or even embellished.  

 Here’s why: There are perhaps five main theories about who Jesus was which can be summed up with the five “M’s” used by Southern Evangelical Seminary President Alex Mcfarland. Was Jesus merely a MYTH? That is, was he a legendary sort of character that was invented whole cloth by the lower class culture of Jerusalem who were seeking a hero to look up to? Or, was Jesus a MAN, simply a great teacher, who lived a great life and had a great influence on people, but nothing more than a special, and mortal, human being. In this view, either the followers of Jesus held Him in much higher esteem than they should have, or Jesus Himself had the most remarkable delusions of grandeur in history.

A third option is that Jesus was a MYSTIC, that is to say that perhaps He did possess some form of esoteric knowledge and power that elevated Him over the rest of humanity. Perhaps He was something more than merely a man, perhaps a first century alchemist of sorts, or even something like a mutant from comic book fame. Under this theory, Jesus wasn’t God, nor was He immortal; and He certainly wasn’t able to save humanity, but He was something more than an average person. A fourth possibility is that Jesus was/is a MISREPRESENTATION. This theory, popularized by writers like Dan “Da Vinci Code” Brown, posits that the church (or some other body) deified Jesus long after His death, and magnified Him and His accomplishments, in some sort of bid to gain power and control people. In this view, Jesus was merely a teacher that got heavily promoted after His lifetime into something more.

 MESSIAH or MASTER is the final possibility of who Jesus was and is. That is, that Jesus is everything the Bible claims Him to be – He is the son of God, the King of Kings, and the savior of Israel and all of humanity. Really, aside from ridiculous theories (Jesus was an alien, etc.) those are the five options as to who Jesus was. If He literally and historically rose from the dead, then several of those possibilities are eliminated outright.[2]

In light of those potential identities of Jesus, ponder this question: Why invent and insert women as the first witnesses on Easter morning if the resurrection was a myth, or intentional deception? There is no plausible reason for the women to be portrayed as witnesses of this event, except for the simplest reason of all: it really happened that way. If the early church was simply inventing the story of Jesus’ resurrection, wouldn’t it have made far more sense to utilize a prominent and well respected witness? Perhaps somebody like Joseph of Arimathea, or even Simon the Pharisee, or Nicodemus, a Pharisee AND member of the ruling council – any of these (and dozens of others) would make for more believable and impacting witnesses, if one wants to allege that the disciples, or some other group fabricated the story of Jesus resurrection.

 In N.T. Wright’s epic book on the resurrection of Jesus, he states this case quite brilliantly. Consider well his questions, and the implications of their answers:

Even if we suppose that Mark made up most of his material, and did so some time in the late 60s at the earliest, it will not do to have him, or anyone else at that stage, making up a would-be apologetic legend about an empty tomb and having women be the ones who find it. The point has been repeated over and over in scholarship, but its full impact has not always been felt: women were simply not acceptable as legal witnesses. We may regret it, but this is how the Jewish world (and most others) worked. The debate between Origen and Celsus shows that critics of Christianity could seize on the story of the women in order to scoff at the whole tale; were the legend-writers really so ignorant of the likely reaction? If they could have invented stories of fine, upstanding, reliable male witnesses being first at the tomb, they would have done it. That they did not tells us either that everyone in the early church knew that the women, led by Mary Magdalene, were in fact the first on the scene, or that the early church was not so inventive as critics have routinely imagined, or both. Would the other evangelists have been so slavishly foolish as to copy the story unless they were convinced that, despite being an apologetic liability, it was historically trustworthy?[3]

Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead

#1: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #1 The Empty Tomb

#2: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #2 Hysterical Women?

#3: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #3 The Crucifixion Stigma

#4: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #4 The Marinovich Argument

#5: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #5 The Lithuanian Argument

#6: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #6 The 500(!) Eyewitnesses

#7: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #7 The Uncracked Conspiracy

#8: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #8 The Brother Factor

#9: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #9 The Conversion of Saul

#10: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #10 Show Me The Power!

#11: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #11 Bible Accounts are Too Detailed to Contain Mythic Information

#12: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #12 Bible Accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection are Too Early to be Mythical

#13: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #13 Textual Variants Demonstrate Biblical Reliability

#14: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #14 An Embarrassing Principle?

#15: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #15 Jesus Strikes Back?

#16: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #16 Skeptical Ancients, or Slack-Jawed Yokels?

#17: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #17 Minimal Facts Argument (Gary Habermas)

#18: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #18 – A Sabbath Switcheroo

#19: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #19 The Sign of Jonah

#20: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #20: My Personal Testimony

## 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – Conclusion

[1] Montague Rhode James in The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1924), pp. 485-503

[2] Alex McFarland, The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, ©2007), 111-14.

[3] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2003), 607–608.

[1] Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 19 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 230.

[2] Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert, Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Christian Reconstructions of Biblical Gender, Contraversions (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, ©2000), 275.

[3] https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/legal-religious-status-of-jewish-female

[4] James Stevenson, A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrating the History of the Church to AD 337 (London: SPCK, 1987), 133.

[5] This is mentioned in Luke 8:2. The idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute is not actually found in the Bible. It was possibly Pope Gregory the Great, in a sermon from 591 A.D., that first put forward the idea that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute.

[1] Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 117.

[2] Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, ©2002), 270

(Note: This is a partial preview of my book, you can continue reading FREE on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, or you can purchase the book for a few pennies, OR you can find a friend reading it and take it when he isn’t looking!) 

#3: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #3 The Crucifixion Stigma

Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out!  (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post)  (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK) 

The Alexamenos graffito from roughly 200ad. One of the earliest surviving depictions of Jesus is a bit of graffiti scratched on a wall in Rome! The Greek inscription reads, “Alexamenos worships his God,” and is likely meant to both make fun of Jesus, and to make fun of people who were crucified. The donkey head is part of the reviling, and reveals what the Romans thought of crucifixion.

 

The shameful embarrassment of Jesus’ crucifixion and the horror of his death are now surmounted as light banishes darkness at the dawn of this new day, the first day of the new era of salvation[1]” – Augustine

Can you name ONE person, other than Jesus, that was crucified? I suppose some might think of Peter, the apostle and disciple of Jesus. Per numerous early historical reports, including the apocryphal Acts of Peter (180 A.D.?), Peter was indeed crucified. He was possibly crucified upside down, but likely NOT because he didn’t consider himself worthy of being crucified like Jesus.[1] According to church history, Other than him, I suspect that the vast majority of people don’t know anybody that was crucified other than Jesus. Because of that, many readers might be quite surprised to find out that Jesus was not the only person crucified in antiquity; the practice was surprisingly common. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus records multiple incidences in which hundreds, even thousands of people were crucified on the same day, and not just by the Romans! At least six civilizations in antiquity were known to execute criminals by crucifixion, including the Jewish people themselves. In fact, Hasmonean Jewish king and high priest Alexander Jannaeus, the son of high priest/king John Hyrcanus, had hundreds of his own people butchered for opposing him during the Judean Civil War of the 90s B.C. Josephus describes the aftermath of that war here

“The Jews fought against Alexander, and being beaten were slain in great numbers in the several battles which they had, (380) and when he had shut up the most powerful of them in the city Bethome, he besieged them therein; and when he had taken the city, and gotten the men into his power, he brought them to Jerusalem, and did one of the most barbarous actions in the world to them; for as he was feasting with his concubines, in the sight of all the city, he ordered about eight hundred of them to be crucified; and while they were living, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes”[2]

Years later, almost 40 years after the death of Jesus, The Roman general Titus launched a severe siege against Jerusalem. During that campaign, all who attempted to leave Jerusalem were caught and crucified by the Roman army – sometimes as many as 500 PER DAY, according to Josephus, who was present at the destruction of Jerusalem. Crucifixion was common during ancient times, it was dreaded, and it was anything but a glorious way to do. The worst criminals and the most hated enemies were crucified

 In the United States, we have a constitutional provision that bars utilizing “cruel and unusual” punishment on people. Being crucified on a cross is without question a form of cruel and unusual punishment. It is not the nails that kill, but ultimately, a form of suffocation. Crucifixion is designed to last a very long time – sometimes days – and involves the one being crucified slowly losing his ability to breathe as his arms and legs become too exhausted to push up and draw in air. You and I don’t think about breathing very much – it is a function of our autonomic nervous system, and thus happens without conscious thought. On the cross, however, one is aware of every breath, and each one is agony filled. One must push up on both arms and legs, extending out just enough to get in a breath, and then relax. It is agonizing to do so when tied to a cross; it is painful beyond enduring to do so when nailed to a cross.

The horrors of the cross have been largely sanitized in the church today. Even though most have seen a dozen or more dramatizations of Jesus dying, most have been toned down, and don’t really show all that Jesus likely suffered. Seneca the younger, a Roman statesman who lived during the time of Jesus, described crucifixion this way in his work Of Consolation: To Marcia.

I see before me crosses not all alike, but differently made by different peoples: some hang a man head downwards, some force a stick upwards through his groin, some stretch out his arms on a forked gibbet. I see cords, scourges, and instruments of torture for each limb and each joint: but I see Death also.”

 There would likely be a large and very upsetting amount of blood spilling from Jesus. The crown of thorns, with one inch or more protrusions, would make deep holes in an area that is absolutely filled with blood vessels. His back would be bleeding profusely from the lashing with the cat of nine tails. The nail wounds on Jesus’ wrists and feet would also be bleeding, as first century nails would not be quite as sharp and clean-edged as the nails we have now. And, as noted by Seneca above, it is conceivable that Jesus was stuck through with sticks. All of this blood would be highly upsetting to behold and also incredibly obvious and visible, because the majority of the time the Romans crucified their victims without any clothing whatsoever. Think of the embarrassment and agony of that situation: bleeding profusely, wracked with muscle cramps and pain beyond the ability of the toughest person to endure, having to push up on strained and shredded muscles to just simply get a single breath…and doing it all NAKED. How utterly astounding that the king of the universe would stoop so low.

And now consider, given the gut-shredding horrors of the crucifixion, how it came about that followers of Jesus glorified and worshipped Him as the son of God afterwards. If you deny the resurrection, what could you possibly propose in its place that would be strong enough to erase the memory of the crucifixion to the point that the early church worshipped Jesus?

Consider also Willie Francis. Whom, you might ask? One of the first things you will note about Willie Francis is that millions of people don’t worship him, and yet he shares a few things in common with Jesus. Willie was convicted of murder in Louisiana in 1945 for an act that he allegedly committed when he was 15. Despite the fact that he was underage; despite the fact that he was not tried by a jury of his peers (his jury was all white); despite the fact that most of the physical evidence against Willie disappeared; and despite the fact that the gun used to kill the victim actually belonged to a deputy sheriff that had threatened to kill the victim in the past – despite all of those things, Willie Francis was convicted and electrocuted in May of 1946. Only, he didn’t die. Francis was one of the few people that have ever survived a round with the electric chair, and he did so due to a drunk guard setting things up improperly. Sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t cruel and unusual to re-execute a teenager, and Francis was re-executed in May of 1947.

Aside from the multiple and disgusting racial injustices of that situation, I need to point out to you that nobody worshipped Francis during that year after his first execution attempt failed. Nobody tried to start a religion around him, or anything like that. Similarly, no religion has started around John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee, nor Joseph Samuel, despite the fact that both men survived multiple hanging attempts. Why not? Why not venerate, honor and worship people like Lee, Francis and Samuel? Because…that would be incredibly odd to worship a convicted criminal who somehow managed to escape death. Take away the resurrection, and it is unexplainably strange, to worship Jesus of Nazareth. Sure – he was a great teacher. Socrates was a great teach also, and he was also unjustly killed, but nobody is going to roll up to First Socrates Baptist church this Sunday and celebrate Easter, are they? I submit that it is very difficult to explain why so many Christians followed Jesus after His terribly bloody, painful, and embarrassing crucifixion if there was not a literal and actual resurrection that took place three days later.

If you’d like a demonstration of how odd it is that somebody would worship a man crucified on a cross, then try wearing a flashy gold electric chair necklace sometime, and when people ask you about it, tell them that you worship an executed criminal. The look on their face will tell you all you need to know about how first century Jews would have responded to claims about Jesus if He didn’t literally and truly rise from the dead.

[1]From the Acts of Peter, Chapter 38, it is apparent that Peter asked to be crucified upside down because He wanted to demonstrate that fallen humanity had been restored to order by Jesus’ death on the cross. Here is Peter’s speech from that book (which is not Scripture): “And when they had hanged him up after the manner he desired, he began again to say: Ye men unto whom it belongeth to hear, hearken to that which I shall declare unto you at this especial time as I hang here. Learn ye the mystery of all nature, and the beginning of all things, what it was. For the first man, whose race I bear in mine appearance (or, of the race of whom I bear the likeness), fell (was borne) head downwards, and showed forth a manner of birth such as was not heretofore: for it was dead, having no motion. He, then, being pulled down -who also cast his first state down upon the earth- established this whole disposition of all things, being hanged up an image of the creation (Gk. vocation) wherein he made the things of the right hand into left hand and the left hand into right hand, and changed about all the marks of their nature, so that he thought those things that were not fair to be fair, and those that were in truth evil, to be good. Concerning which the Lord saith in a mystery: Unless ye make the things of the right hand as those of the left, and those of the left as those of the right, and those that are above as those below, and those that are behind as those that are before, ye shall not have knowledge of the kingdom.”

[2] Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 361.

[1] Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 373.

(Note: This is a partial preview of my book, you can continue reading FREE on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, or you can purchase the book for a few pennies, OR you can find a friend reading it and take it when he isn’t looking!) 

Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead

#1: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #1 The Empty Tomb

#2: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #2 Hysterical Women?

#3: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #3 The Crucifixion Stigma

#4: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #4 The Marinovich Argument

#5: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #5 The Lithuanian Argument

#6: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #6 The 500(!) Eyewitnesses

#7: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #7 The Uncracked Conspiracy

#8: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #8 The Brother Factor

#9: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #9 The Conversion of Saul

#10: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #10 Show Me The Power!

#11: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #11 Bible Accounts are Too Detailed to Contain Mythic Information

#12: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #12 Bible Accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection are Too Early to be Mythical

#13: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #13 Textual Variants Demonstrate Biblical Reliability

#14: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #14 An Embarrassing Principle?

#15: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #15 Jesus Strikes Back?

#16: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #16 Skeptical Ancients, or Slack-Jawed Yokels?

#17: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #17 Minimal Facts Argument (Gary Habermas)

#18: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #18 – A Sabbath Switcheroo

#19: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #19 The Sign of Jonah

#20: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #20: My Personal Testimony

## 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – Conclusion

#4: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #4 The Marinovich Argument

Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out!  (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post)  (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK) 

Today the term ‘Jesus’ accounts for 1 out of every 10,000 words appearing in scanned books. How much more prominent could he possibly have ever been? There is not enough room for much upside here.”[1]
 – Who’s Bigger, a book that ranks the most famous people in all of human history. Jesus came in first place by far.

When I was a teenager, the number one high school recruit in the nation was a guy named Todd Marinovich. Todd was a great quarterback, who ultimately signed with Southern California, and went on to play pro football for the Oakland Raiders. Todd’s father raised him from a baby to be a quarterback, utilizing every opportunity possible to train his son. In fact, Todd was famous as the kid who had never eaten a hamburger (or much other junk food) by the time he signed with the Trojans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, things didn’t end up so well for Marinovich. While he did play quarterback at a high-profile college, and did play some football in the NFL, his career ultimately ended poorly due to drugs and other troubling issues. As of 2017, Todd has been arrested for wandering around naked with marijuana and amphetamines.  It seems that it might be a bad idea to raise somebody to be a “Robo-quarterback,” from the age of two. 

It does cause you to think, however. Let’s do a thought experiment: What if your goal was not to raise a great quarterback, but to raise your son to become the most famous person that ever lived? Let’s consider that you have a budget of 25 million dollars to make it happen, and you use a chunk of that money to hire some of the best ‘fame’ consultants that the world has to offer. After a year-long research period, these consultants come to you with the following 7 step plan: 1. Your son needs to be born in a dank and unsanitary room, unfit for human habitation, with urine and animal droppings all around. For good measure, they tell you, make sure your son sleeps his first few nights in an animal’s feeding trough. 2. Your son’s birth should be heralded and announced by some dirty and poorly thought of shepherds to proclaim his arrival. 3. Your son must stay almost 100 percent exclusively in an area the size of Rhode Island for his entire life. 4. Your son may never write a book or leave any art behind, or letter or even a self-portrait – only his memories and teachings. 5. Your son should have followers, but very uninfluential followers – ones that are possessed of little fame, money, or import.  6. You son must die before he reaches the prime of his influence, which for most men is in their mid-forties to fifties. 7. Finally, these consultants recommend that your son must be executed by the state in the most dishonorable way possible. For an American, that might be the electric chair, for a first century Jewish person, that would be a cross. Would such advice produce somebody likely to become the most influential or important person in history? Hardly!

I suspect that you would fire your advisers with extreme prejudice the moment they presented you with such a ridiculous plan. Not a single one of the seven steps above are even remotely conducive to becoming famous. Indeed, every single one of those seven steps would seem to favor anything but fame, import and influence. And yet, Jesus met all of the above criteria, and then some. He was born in a most embarrassing and unimpressive manner. His childhood was spent as an immigrant on the run, in a foreign country, from governmental officials that desired to kill him. To our knowledge, Jesus never wrote a book, or a letter, or any work of art whatsoever. There are no surviving pictures of Him, so we have no idea what He might have looked like. He lived in the tiny country of Israel, which is much smaller than most people realize. Consider the state of Alabama, which is 52,000 square miles in size. As the 30th largest state in the United States, Alabama is much smaller than its neighbor Georgia. And yet, one could fit six and a half Israel’s in Alabama and still have room left over for the cities of Birmingham and Montgomery and Huntsville! And, with maybe two exceptions, Jesus never travelled beyond the borders of his tiny nation. Finally, as noted above, He died the most ignoble death possible as a condemned enemy of both His home country, and the ruling power of the world at the time.

Given all of that, how in the world has Jesus become the most famous and influential person to EVER LIVE? It’s not like he had an army of followers – just 12 uninfluential men and a group of women that travelled with the Jesus Team to met their needs, per Luke 8. Jesus might have been somewhat famous in His own home country, but even there, He was quite unpopular with the rich and famous, with perhaps Simon the Leper and Joseph of Arimathea being the lone exceptions.

If there was no resurrection, then what might explain Jesus’ startling and sustained rise to fame and influence? The Bible, of course, would point to the fact that Jesus is the only person that ever lived who has permanently overcame death. (Lazarus, you will remember, only temporarily overcame death.) The Bible would also indicate that, after Jesus’ ascension, God sent the Holy Spirit to fill and empower all who followed Jesus, which enabled them to take His good news to every corner of the earth. But, if you don’t agree with the biblical account of the spread of Jesus’ fame, what is your explanation? And, in the name of science, do you think your theory might be repeatable? In other words, do you think it would be possible, given a skeptic’s explanation for the rise in fame of Jesus, for that process to be duplicated? Could somebody else with Jesus’ giftings (and geographical/technological limitations) become as famous as Jesus did?  

I suspect not. Every hypothesis which attempts to explain the fame of Jesus apart from the resurrection of Jesus is ultimately not scientifically sustainable, since such a hypothesis could not be tested. Skeptics, like Jeffrey Jay Lowder, suggest that a claim like the resurrection of Jesus requires extraordinary evidence before one could logically accept it as true. I concede his point, and agree with him. However, I believe that there is PLENTY of extraordinary evidence that points to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, including the fame of Jesus, the spread of the Gospel, and the fact that almost 1/3 of the known world today worships a Galilean[1] that was born over 2000 years ago. I suggest that, if you are going to doubt the resurrection, you should have extraordinary evidence that refutes it. I have never seen a skeptic produce any such evidence that would refute convincingly any Christian claim about the resurrection of Jesus. In that light, ponder the following statement from pastor and writer Tim Keller:

“The resurrection of Jesus was a major historical problem, no matter how you looked at it. Most modern historians made the philosophical assumption that miracles simply cannot happen, and that made the claim of the resurrection highly problematic. However, if you disbelieved the resurrection you then had the difficulty of explaining how the Christian church got started at all. “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” That is how the first hearers felt who heard reports of the resurrection. They knew that if it was true it meant we can’t live our lives any way we want. It also meant we don’t have to be afraid of anything, not Roman swords, not cancer, nothing. If Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything. Most people think that, when it comes to Jesus’s resurrection, the burden of proof is on believers to give evidence that it happened. That is not completely the case. The resurrection also puts a burden of proof on its nonbelievers. It is not enough to simply believe Jesus did not rise from the dead. You must then come up with a historically feasible alternate explanation for the birth of the church. You have to provide some other plausible account for how things began.[2]

Essentially then, I am arguing here that Jesus’ coming from utter obscurity to time dominating ultra-relevance is a proof, so to speak, of the veracity of the Bible, and the plausibility of the resurrection. Before you scoff too much at this, my dear skeptic friend, consider well how you would explain Jesus’ meteoric and sustained rise to relevance absent the resurrection.

FULL CHAPTER. 

[1] Remember that, even in tiny and insignificant Israel, that Galilee and Nazareth were both considered tiny and insignificant.

[2] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, ©2008), 200

[1] Steven S. Skiena and Charles Ward, Who’s Bigger? Where Historical Figures Really Rank (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 32.

(Note: This is a partial preview of my book, you can continue reading FREE on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, or you can purchase the book for a few pennies, OR you can find a friend reading it and take it when he isn’t looking!) 

Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead

#1: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #1 The Empty Tomb

#2: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #2 Hysterical Women?

#3: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #3 The Crucifixion Stigma

#4: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #4 The Marinovich Argument

#5: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #5 The Lithuanian Argument

#6: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #6 The 500(!) Eyewitnesses

#7: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #7 The Uncracked Conspiracy

#8: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #8 The Brother Factor

#9: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #9 The Conversion of Saul

#10: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #10 Show Me The Power!

#11: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #11 Bible Accounts are Too Detailed to Contain Mythic Information

#12: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #12 Bible Accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection are Too Early to be Mythical

#13: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #13 Textual Variants Demonstrate Biblical Reliability

#14: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #14 An Embarrassing Principle?

#15: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #15 Jesus Strikes Back?

#16: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #16 Skeptical Ancients, or Slack-Jawed Yokels?

#17: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #17 Minimal Facts Argument (Gary Habermas)

#18: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #18 – A Sabbath Switcheroo

#19: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #19 The Sign of Jonah

#20: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #20: My Personal Testimony

## 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – Conclusion

#5: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #5 The Lithuanian Argument

Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out!  (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post)  (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK) 

Everyone knew that the Messiah, the son of David, must come from Bethlehem, the city of David, as the prophets had foretold. But Jesus came from Nazareth, not only an obscure village with no royal connections, but also located in Galilee, which, as John 8:41-52 reminds us, was no place for a Messiah to come from.”[1]
-R.T. France

The Lithuanian argument is a sort of subset of the Marinovich argument, and takes a similar approach to demonstrating the reasonableness for the resurrection. Can you name (without Googling) which countries border Lithuania? Could you locate Lithuania on a globe without country names? What about the capital of Lithuania? Most Americans, at least, know very, very little about Lithuania. I know this for a fact, because I have asked over one thousand college students in my various classes (World History, New Testament and Old Testament) what the capital of Lithuania was, and I cannot recall a single student ever getting the correct answer. 

This is actually kind of sad, because Lithuania is a lovely country that is, for the purposes of this discussion, approximately 3 times larger than the country of Israel. Consider this: The Roman Empire at its height was roughly 51 percent the size of America in square miles Therefore, Lithuania to America in 2016 very roughly corresponds to the size and influence of Israel to the Roman Empire in the first century. In fact, Lithuania is actually a little bit larger proportionally, compared to the U.S., than Israel was to the Roman Empire in the first century.

At least from a mathematical perspective, we can perhaps get a vague understanding of how citizens in The Roman Empire viewed Israel by thinking about how Americans presently view the country of Lithuania. You might, of course, argue that Lithuania is significantly farther away from the United States vs the distance of Israel to Rome, and you’d be correct, but remember that it would take the average American about 8 hours to fly to Lithuania in the present time, while a journey from Israel to Rome in antiquity would likely take two weeks, possibly more. Though the U.S. is further on the globe away from Lithuania, in practical terms, that country is far closer to the States than Rome was to Israel in the first century.   

Imagine then that a teacher of a new and radically different religion arose in Lithuania in the 1700s. Imagine that this particular teacher had no television shows, no operas, no compositions, no music, no books, art, or anything. He didn’t even have any famous and important followers, and yet, within about 200 years of his ignominious death, his followers would be well on their way to dominating the religious landscape of America. Can you imagine it? Americans suddenly worshipping and telling others about this amazing Lithuanian teacher?

This is, euphemistically speaking, what Jesus and His followers did. Historically and factually – a teacher and His followers from a largely unknown, small and unimportant country came to dominate an entire empire within a short time after the death of that teacher. People MUST have a rational theory to explain how Christianity spread so far and wide in such a short amount of time without military power or economic riches! Such a thing has never happened before in history and hasn’t happened since.

Keep in mind that the Jesus movement from the first few centuries spread across all cultures and languages, gaining adherents from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, many of whom were openly hostile to the Jewish people. Remember also that there were dozens of claimants to the title of messiah around the time of Jesus, and none of them ever amounted to anything historically significant except Jesus.  I propose that a public, bodily resurrection of Jesus is a plausible answer to how Christianity came to dominate the greatest civilization in world history. In fact, I am honestly not sure that there is another answer that could be proposed to explain the cross-cultural dominance and appeal of Christianity in the first five centuries A.D.

Skeptical theories (i.e. that Jesus never existed – which no almost no peer reviewed scholar, atheist or otherwise, believes…or that an impostor took His place, or that the resurrection was invented by His followers, or that they hallucinated Him, or even that Jesus was simply a good teacher who had his reputation greatly enhanced by legendary exaggeration decades after his death.) don’t account very well at all for the explosion of Jesus’ followers all across the world – permeating multiple cultures and languages.  

FYI, the countries that border Lithuania are: Latvia, Poland, and Belarus. The capital city of Lithuania is Vilnius. And a world conquering king coming out of a small town in Lithuania is about as likely as one coming out of a small town in Israel. And yet, it happened. Tiny, insignificant (at the time) Israel produced the most famous and influential person the world has ever known, an indisputable fact that only makes sense in light of the resurrection.

Perhaps you’ve heard skeptics raise objections about the supposed fact that nobody (other than ALL of the writers of the various books eventually collated into the New Testament) ever mentioned Jesus in writing during His lifetime, or shortly after? First, as you will read shortly, that is quite an exaggeration, there are extant documents from over 40 people that wrote about Jesus within 150 years of His death and resurrection. If that number seems small to you, then consider that there are only extant works from 10 people who wrote about Tiberius Caesar within 150 years of his lifetime, and He was the emperor of Rome for over 20 years at the height of its impact!

Very likely, there were many more people than 43 who actually wrote about Jesus, but many, many books and writings from 2000 years ago have disappeared for a wide variety of reasons. In keeping with our Lithuanian thought experiment, consider this: If a worker of miracles and great teacher really did arise in Lithuania in the 1700s, even if that man were to also genuinely come back from the dead, how many Americans do you think would write about him within 100 years of his lifetime? Of those that did, how many of those writings would survive almost 2000 years? If the Bible accounts of how Jesus lived His life are exactly true – and I believe they are – then there is very little reason nor means that the Romans (or Greeks) would have known about Jesus during His lifetime, or even decades afterwards. In the same way that an 18th century American would be highly unlikely to write about a Lithuanian holy man – even one that legitimately did miracles – a first century Greek/Roman would also be highly unlikely to write about a Jewish Messiah.

[1] R T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary On the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007), 41.

(Note: This is a partial preview of my book, you can continue reading FREE on Amazon via Kindle Unlimited, or you can purchase the book for a few pennies, OR you can find a friend reading it and take it when he isn’t looking!) 

Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead

#1: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #1 The Empty Tomb

#2: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #2 Hysterical Women?

#3: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #3 The Crucifixion Stigma

#4: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #4 The Marinovich Argument

#5: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #5 The Lithuanian Argument

#6: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #6 The 500(!) Eyewitnesses

#7: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #7 The Uncracked Conspiracy

#8: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #8 The Brother Factor

#9: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #9 The Conversion of Saul

#10: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #10 Show Me The Power!

#11: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #11 Bible Accounts are Too Detailed to Contain Mythic Information

#12: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #12 Bible Accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection are Too Early to be Mythical

#13: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #13 Textual Variants Demonstrate Biblical Reliability

#14: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #14 An Embarrassing Principle?

#15: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #15 Jesus Strikes Back?

#16: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #16 Skeptical Ancients, or Slack-Jawed Yokels?

#17: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #17 Minimal Facts Argument (Gary Habermas)

#18: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #18 – A Sabbath Switcheroo

#19: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #19 The Sign of Jonah

#20: 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – #20: My Personal Testimony

## 20 Reasons To Believe Jesus FACTUALLY Rose from the Dead – Conclusion

Sponsors:

Recent Pins.

Follow Me on Pinterest
Share This