Adventures in Theology Blog

Chase A. Thompson: Author, Pastor, Vigilante.

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

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)

 

He was crucified, died, and was buried, and the third day He arose.’ Although the Gospels have most clearly testified concerning the evident fact of the Lord’s Resurrection, which was further proved a reality by many men, the Apostle preached that the Saviour ‘arose’ from the dead ‘on the third day.’ If He had risen on the same day He died, or in the night which followed, some people would scarcely believe that He truly died. So, you see, the postponement of the Resurrection was a confirmation of His death; conversely, the truth of His death was the authority of reason. Unless you show me that a man has been bent down, you will not convince me that he has been raised up; on the other hand, you will easily prove he was stretched out in sleep, if you show that he has been aroused. ‘And that he appeared to Cephas, and after that to the Eleven; then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time.’ O wonderful, inestimable goodness of the Lord! He thought it would not strengthen the faith of the Church enough if all the Apostles saw Him after the Resurrection unless He would show Himself to the crowds who stood around[1]
From a sermon preached by Caesarius of Arles in ~500 A.D.

Trot out one of those 500 witnesses or give us something that they wrote, and we will accept that as reliable proof or evidence.” [2]
 – Resurrection skeptic and agnostic, Farrell Till

The biblical messenger Paul makes a startling claim in the 15th chapter of his letter to the Corinthians – that claim is, essentially, that all of Christianity hinges on the historical truth of whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. If He did not rise from the dead, “then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” Additionally, Paul says that Christians should be the people in the world most looked down on and pitied IF Jesus did NOT rise from the dead. (vs. 19) Here’s the whole passage, please read it, as it is one of the most critically important passages in the entire Bible:

“ For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me. 
For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.11 Therefore, whether it is I or they, so we proclaim and so you have believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say, “There is no resurrection of the dead”? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. 15 In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ—whom He did not raise up if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-2)

Those are strong words! To Paul, the historical resurrection of Jesus wasn’t merely a belief, or facet of Christianity, it was the basis and foundation of the whole thing! The central and core heart of Christianity is the resurrection. If Jesus rose from the dead, then all humans should follow Him, and devote their lives to Him. If Jesus rose from the dead, then likely all of His other teachings are true, and must be obeyed. If Jesus rose from the dead, then He is unique in all of the history of humanity and is therefore worthy of our highest praise. 

  If Jesus did NOT rise from the dead, then what are people doing going around and worshipping a teacher who has been dead for almost 2000 years? What an absurdity! A recent survey of British ‘Christians’ conducted by the BBC revealed some startling facts: over thirty percent of those surveyed (who claimed to be Christians) did NOT believe in life after death. Additionally, nearly one-quarter (almost 25 percent) of the surveyed ‘Christians,’ did NOT believe Jesus rose from the dead![1] What an astounding statistic! I would love to sit down with them, and ask them why in the world they identify as Christians if they don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead – it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Those ‘Christians’ should be reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still dead in your sins.”

Thus it is remarkably important that Paul mentions that over 500 people actually saw Jesus after His death. There were over 500 eyewitnesses! This is not a small claim! Paul is effectively challenging the Corinthians in the chapter by telling them that the historical/factual resurrection of Jesus is the central core of Christianity, and if any of them doubt that it happened, most of the 500 people who witnessed the risen Jesus are still alive and can give testimony of the fact that they saw Jesus after He died and was buried. This demonstrates that Paul is not merely claiming a spiritual resurrection for Jesus; nor does it allow for the idea that Jesus is coming back and somehow symbolically visiting those who were important to Him. No, 1 Corinthians 15 makes it crystal clear Paul believed that Jesus bodily (not metaphorically) rose from the dead and factually appeared to 500+ people, many of whom could still attest to that appearance as eyewitnesses at the time Paul wrote His first letter to the Corinthians.

Additionally, as mentioned by Michael Licona and Gary Habermas, there are at least 42 writers from antiquity (only nine of which are in the Bible), that reference Jesus within 150 years of His life.[2] Almost all those ancient writers show clear evidence of believing in the factual and historical resurrection of Jesus. Here are some examples of believers in the resurrection of Jesus that wrote about it shortly after His death:

  • The Epistle of Clement: Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the first-fruits by raising Him from the dead.” AND, “The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.” This letter was written by Clement, probably around 90ad and possibly before the book of Revelation.  This is perhaps the earliest extant church letter outside of the Bible, and gives indisputable evidence that the early church not only believed in the resurrection of Jesus, but that they based their future hope AND proclamation of the Good news of Jesus on that hope… 

    This Chapter is 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!) 

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-39153121

[2] Gary R. Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, ©2004), 233

[1] Caesarius of Arles, Saint Caesarius of Arles: Sermons (1–238), ed. Hermigild Dressler and Bernard M. Peebles, trans. Mary Magdeleine Mueller, vol. 1, The Fathers of the Church (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press; Consortium Books, 1956–1973), 57–58.

[2] Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 247.

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

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

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) 

This…is that carpenter’s son, the son of prostitution, that Sabbath-breaker, that Samaritan and devil-possessed! This is he whom you purchased from Judas! …This is he whom the disciples secretly stole away, that it might be said he had risen again, or the gardener abstracted that his lettuces might come to no harm from the crowds of visitors.”[1]
 – Tertullian, quoting a Jewish conspiracy theory of the second century, which identified the gardener, or disciples of Jesus as those who stole His body from the tomb.

Do you believe that the government is suppressing evidence of alien interaction with humanity? Do you believe that John F. Kennedy was shot by more than one person, or that government agents somehow had a hand in the death of Martin Luther King Junior? Is it possible that militant atheists are actually using chemtrails (left behind by passing jets) in an attempt to poison heavenly angels? Some conspiracy theories are bizarre and strain credibility to the extreme (like the angel one…) other conspiracy theories are quite plausible, if unproven, such as the Martin Luther King Junior possibility. If you are a skeptic, you might be surprised to know that some of the most outlandish conspiracy theories are verifiably and historically true. We know this because almost always, co-conspirators break down, given a long enough time. There are death-bed confessions, and documents left behind. Big conspiracies usually leave some findable evidence.

 For instance, did you know that the U.S. Government intentionally withheld life-saving anti-syphilis medicine from a group of Alabama citizens for decades in order to test how syphilis impacts the human body? In this experiment, approximately 400 men with syphilis were separated into two groups. One group was given real medicine, and one group was given a placebo. This ‘test’ was designed to last for 6 months, but it ended up going for over 40 years. Yes, the government told hundreds of men that they were being treated for their disease, while giving them a placebo medication that did absolutely nothing. How did they get away with it for so long? These men were African-American, from my own home state of Alabama. The United States government simply thought they could get away with it but ultimately they were caught by some intrepid reporters and forced to settle in a class-action suit. We learn several things from the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment: Racism is not limited to a few states in the south, people can be incredibly calculating and cruel, governments aren’t always to be trusted, and conspiracies are difficult to suppress!

Speaking of the government, did you know that the government added deadly chemicals to alcohol during prohibition, so that anybody who tried to drink alcohol not meant for human consumption would die? During 1926-27 in only one city, New York, over 1100 people died from this government poisoning! Whatever your feelings on alcohol, I suspect that you might find that fact disturbing. In a somewhat similar, but less intentional situation, were you aware that government-made polio vaccines that were distributed from 1954-1963 were tainted with a cancer-causing virus called Simian virus 40? I’m no anti-vaxxer, but the fact that this news has been somewhat suppressed is a bit concerning.

 One more conspiracy theory, that is absolutely factual, and very timely, considering the current (as of 2017) allegations being put forward about possible Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election. Were you aware that Congress once had a Russian spy counted amongst its members? Yes, well before Joseph McCarthy began seeing communists behind every shrubbery, there was a member of the House of Representatives, Samuel Dickstein (D. – New York) who was on the payroll of the KGB, and did the bidding of the Russians.

 Mr. Dickstein was born in Vilnius, Lithuania (shout-out to Reason to Believe # 5), and was elected to the U.S. House of Representative in 1923, defeating Socialist incumbent Meyer London. Good job on these elections, New York, though, to be fair, voters that year had a difficult choice: Socialist Meyer, or KGB spy Dickstein.  Dickstein would go on to be re-elected 11 times, and would finish his political career as a justice of the New York Supreme Court. For the majority of his career, Dickstein was a paid Russian agent, who was leaking information to the Soviets AND doing their bidding in speeches, and other governmental activities. Perhaps most astonishingly of all, Dickstein was the initial creator and first chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities!! What was that committee charged with? Yep, you guessed it – they were in charge of rooting out socialist and communist influence from the United States of America. I don’t want to be redundant, but that bears repeating in case you missed it: The highest government organization in the nation devoted to anti-spying efforts, essentially an early version of the Department of Homeland Security, was founded and headed by a Russian spy! If you were to put that in a movie, it would be lambasted as unbelievable. And yet, it is true, and the truth of this conspiracy, was uncovered shortly after the death of Dickstein.[1] It is hard to suppress the truth for very long.

Almost every conspiracy, especially the big ones, will ultimately be rooted out. It is very difficult for any grand scheme, especially one that involves the participation of multiple people, to be kept secret forever. How does that proposition relate to the resurrection? By way of explanation, please allow me to share a personal story.

 Shortly after graduating from college, I happened upon a work of Christian fiction called A Skeleton in God’s Closet, by historian Paul L. Maier. It would become one of the most influential books I have ever read, because it opened my mind to consider and pray about the possibility of attending seminary. At the time, I had just finished Emergency Medical Technical school and was on my way to being a firefighter. I had never envisioned myself being a firefighter, but the job I had always desired – FBI agent – seemed a dim possibility, as I had dropped out of criminal justice graduate school upon learning that the FBI was not currently hiring. Thus it was that I had settled on training to be a fire-medic. Maier’s book introduced me to the world of biblical scholarship, something I, rather surprisingly, found myself fascinated by. In that fictional book, archaeologists discover what appears to be the bones of Jesus, and a note of confession from some of his closest disciples. The note is carbon dated to the first century and indicated that some of Jesus’ disciples had conspired to hide His body and perpetuate upon the world the greatest hoax in history: that Jesus had come back to life. In the story, this news shocks the world, and Easter is essentially cancelled for an entire year – only celebrated by a few die-hard adherents to Christianity.

 In an ironic twist, however (SPOILER ALERT), the protagonists of the book discover that the bones of ‘Jesus’ and the letter from His disciples were both elaborate hoaxes, perpetuated by a bitter archaeologist. This would be a conspiracy theory inside of a conspiracy theory, which leads us to a good discussion point relative to the resurrection. Most skeptical scholars believe that something unusual did indeed happen in regards to Jesus’ death in 33 A.D.[1] A significant percentage of those skeptical scholars who deny the resurrection of Jesus, hold to some version of the Hoax Theory, which proposes that some confederates of Jesus somehow pulled a fast one and perpetuated a deception that He rose from the dead.

Perhaps they did the ‘ole switcheroo, and an imposter took over for Jesus. Perhaps the disciples hid His body and merely claimed that He was resurrected (and people believed them.) Perhaps Jesus somehow survived the crucifixion in a normal, medical sort of way, and then He made up the story that He defeated death. Whatever hoax theory one might adhere to, I would point out that NONE of them have any evidence! Not only that – there has been NEVER been a discovery that would indicate anything like a conspiracy theory amongst the followers of Jesus. The fact that, despite centuries of diligent searching, no skeptic has come up with evidence of any sort of conspiracy is itself evidence that there is no conspiracy to be found!….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!) 

[1] https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/april-3-ad-33

[1] http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/10/samuel-dickstein-congressman-russian-spy-111641

[1] Reverend Alexander Roberts, ed., The Ante-Nicene Fathers: the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.d. 325 Volume Iii Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian -Three Parts: 1. A (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007), 91.

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

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

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 Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, so His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go to Judea so Your disciples can see Your works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he’s seeking public recognition. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” (For not even His brothers believed in Him.)

Jesus told them, “My time has not yet arrived, but your time is always at hand. The world cannot hate you, but it does hate Me because I testify about it—that its deeds are evil. Go up to the festival yourselves. I’m not going up to the festival yet, because My time has not yet fully come. “After He had said these things, He stayed in Galilee.

After His brothers had gone up to the festival, then He also went up, not openly but secretly. John 7:2-10

Then He went home, and the crowd gathered again so that they were not even able to eat. When His family heard this, they set out to restrain Him, because they said, ‘He’s out of His mind.’ Then His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside, they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him and told Him, “Look, Your mother, Your brothers, and Your sisters are outside asking for You.’

He replied to them, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And looking about at those who were sitting in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.’ “Mark 3:20-21; 30-34.

I still give my sister, Channing, a hard time about it. When I was about 13, and she was 7, I had her convinced that I was He-Man, the incredibly powerful champion of justice and foe of Skeletor on television. The way I convinced her was quite simple. I would take a medium sized rock, and ‘throw’ it high into the air, all the while never letting go of the rock. As her eyes followed the supposed trajectory of ‘thrown’ rock, I would surreptitiously slip it into my pocket. Then we would go for a long walk to look for the rock’s landing place. A few hundred yards later, I would deftly slip the rock out of my pocket, let it fall on my shoe (so as to not make noise) and then I would walk away until she actually found the rock. When she did, she would come away with the idea that I, her brother, could throw a rock over 500 yards, and therefore, as I explained to her, I was He-Man. QED. It is sort of easy to fool a seven year old with such tricks, it is quite another thing to fool an adult. Especially one that is fed up with you, and doesn’t hold you in nearly the same esteem level as everybody else does.

As the Scriptures show at the beginning of this chapter, Jesus had several run-ins with His family during His public ministry. He had a dispute with His brothers about going to the Passover, at which point He rebuked them about being too focused on worldly ideals. More seriously, at some point during the early part of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus mother and brothers came to where He was teaching and tried to “restrain Him.” Because they thought He had gone crazy. Yes, Jesus dealt with much of the same family drama as the rest of us do, though I can honestly say I don’t think my family has ever tried to have me committed for being crazy. At least not yet.

 Enemy attestation is a fancy way of saying that whatever positive thing your enemy says about you, is likely true. For instance, a group of my critics might say, “That Chase Thompson, boy is he trouble. His hair is unkempt, he dresses funny, he eats enough cereal for five elephants, and preaches way too long…but, he does have good ears, so don’t talk about him behind his back.” Chances are, if all of that is said, then I really do have good hearing. Positive things your enemy says about you are strong testimonies. 

 Along those lines, we read in 1 Cor 15 that Paul mentions by name three eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus (Paul himself, James the brother of Jesus, and Peter) Two of those witnesses began as enemies of Jesus’ ministry: James, the brother of Jesus, who apparently wanted to have Him committed to a loony house; and Paul, who was a persecutor who breathed out murderous threats against the church, ultimately presiding over the murder of Stephen, the first martyr. Peter himself rejected Jesus before His death. Keep in mind too, that Jesus was worshipped as the risen savior by at least TWO of His brothers since the author of the penultimate book of the Bible, Jude, was also likely the (half) brother of Jesus. And yet, post-resurrection, all of these men did a dramatic and life-long 180, worshipping Jesus and declaring Him as the resurrected Son of God at the COST OF THEIR OWN LIVES.

If you can get your brother (i.e. James) to worship you as God…then that might be the best example of enemy attestation in world history! If you don’t believe me, go and try to convince your adult sibling, who has known you all of their lives, that you are something so special that you stand out above all of humanity. Good luck! …(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

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

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) 

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

“Who are You, Lord?” he said.

“I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.

  • Acts 9:1-6

Things were going great, until he came along! During the first seven chapters of the book of Acts, the nascent church was growing explosively in numbers (Acts 2) and in love and unity towards each other (Acts 4). Though there were persecutions – various members of the apostolic team were arrested and beaten for preaching about Jesus – by and large, things were going swimmingly for the church, “They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47-48) Saul, a young and gifted Pharisee trained by the highly respected council member Gamaliel, aimed to disrupt all the prosperity that the early church was enjoying.

He was there when the first martyr of the church, Stephen, was viciously stoned for preaching truth. Not only was Saul there, according to Acts 8:1, he was there as a legal witness and representative that gave approval for the death sentence to be given to Stephen. There was no trial, and Saul was no judge, but he yet saw fit to give legal permission for an impromptu execution, and Stephen – one of the early church’s best and brightest – was brutally stoned. That didn’t seem to satisfy the anger and hostility of Saul at all. His one-man campaign against the followers of Jesus only grew after that point. Luke explains it like this, in Acts 8:3, “Saul, however, was ravaging the church. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.” The result of these focused efforts by Saul was that the entire church in Jerusalem was impacted, and many fled Jerusalem, scattering across the Roman world at the time. Unbeknownst to Saul, God was using his persecutions to spread the good news of Jesus beyond the borders of Israel!

Even after his persecutions and arrests had scattered the Jerusalem church, Saul’s mission continued unabated. Acts chapter 9 sees that Saul is “breathing murderous threats” against the church, and receiving the blessing of the high priest in Jerusalem to go outside the country of Israel in order to arrest followers of Jesus, and return them to Israel for trial. While on such a mission to the Syrian city of Damascus, Saul has a blinding and terrifying encounter on the road. During that encounter, he comes face to face with his enemy, Jesus. According to Saul’s testimony, Jesus confronts Saul for persecuting Himself and His followers, blinds him, and instructs him to go into Damascus for further instruction. While in Damascus, Saul meets a disciple named Ananias, who reluctantly prays for him, lifting Saul’s blindness. Ultimately, Saul converts, takes a new name (Paul), and becomes the great missionary and evangelist of the early church. As a side note of interest, if you read Paul’s THREE accounts of his meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, you might be surprised to find that there is no horse/donkey mentioned at all! Like the “apple” in the Garden of Eden, Saul’s horse is never mentioned in the Bible, but is the product of the imaginations of later artists, like Michelangelo, in this particular case.

If one desires to be a skeptic of the resurrection of Jesus, then there needs to be an answer given for the dramatic conversion of the apostle Paul. To say that He completely changed his mind on the basis of anything other than a convincing and certain encounter with the risen Jesus is to strain the bounds of credibility. It is rare, if not utterly unheard of, for a person to completely change the passionate course of their life based on flimsy evidence. To propose that Paul did such a dramatic 180 turnaround simply on the basis of having an imaginary encounter with Jesus is ridiculous….(Continued) 

(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

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

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) 

 

“[Christianity made life in the first few centuries] a lot more bearable. The Church didn’t clean up the streets. Christians didn’t put in sewers. So you still had to live with a trench running down the middle of the road, in which you could find dead bodies decomposing. But what Christians did was take care of each other. Their apartments were as smoky as the pagan apartments, since neither had chimneys, and they were cold and wet and they stank. But Christians loved one another, and when they got sick they took care of each other. Someone brought you soup. You can do an enormous amount to relieve those miseries if you look after each other.

Christian women had tremendous advantages compared to the woman next door, who was like them in every way except that she was a pagan. First, when did you get married? Most pagan girls were married off around age 11, before puberty, and they had nothing to say about it, and they got married to some 35-year-old guy. Christian women had plenty of say in the matter and tended to marry around age 18. Abortion was a huge killer of women in this period, but Christian women were spared that. And infanticide—pagans killed little girls left and right. We’ve unearthed sewers clogged with the bones of newborn girls. But Christians prohibited this. Consequently, the sex ratio changed and Christians didn’t have the enormous shortage of women that plagued the rest of the empire.”[1]

  • Sociologist Rodney Stark, discussing the attributes of the early church.

Historical research shows with definite clarity that Jesus was not raised from the dead.… For two thousand years an abiding faith in Jesus’ resurrection has displayed enormous power, but because of its utter groundlessness we must now acknowledge that it has all along been a worldwide historical hoax[2]
 
– Gerd Ludemann, Atheist Bible Scholar

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead – what explains the spread of Christianity throughout the known world? How was this done by the bumblers we read about in the Gospels? Where did their change come from? What was their inspiration? If the only thing that comforted them in their grief over losing their master was that they had some sort of psychological/imagined vision of Him, how could that possibly explain the POWER that they had to bring upheaval to the entire world!? The impact of these people was so strong that they were known as world-disruptors by their enemies! (Witness Acts 17:6-7, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too, and Jason has received them as guests! They are all acting contrary to Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king—Jesus!”)

 The earliest followers of Jesus would not have been merely convinced to live their lives in such a manner by a hoax, by a vision, or even by the mythical expansion of the Jesus narrative. None of those things adequately explain the power by which they testified about Jesus, and the lives of sacrifice, love, and care that they lived day in and day out. Remember that the early church was not just some hippie commune made up of college students that grew up and got regular jobs when they were older. They were not CUGs – Christians until Graduation – The church persisted, lovingly caring for each other, and the pagan world, and powerfully teaching about Jesus. You might deny the miracles that were recorded by Luke, and others, during the spread of the gospel. (I don’t) but one cannot deny the sociological impact of a group of Jesus followers that were somehow empowered to love and serve and sacrifice in a different way altogether than adherents of any other religion or philosophy. Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, and His Holy Spirit empowering these Christians, how might one explain the rapid spread of the Gospel and the way that the early church lived their lives? 

Lots of Elvis followers (You can insert others like Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., etc.) believe he is still alive, so why aren’t they changing the world? Simple belief that a dead person is not dead is not a sufficient propellant for world-changing exploits. Recall that there were dozens of Jewish Messiah claimants other than Jesus, some are even mentioned in the Bible. During their lifetime hundreds, if not thousands of people followed them zealously. After their death, however, their followers disbanded and dispersed in every case, with the singular exception of the followers of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…whose group grew exponentially AFTER the death of its founder. This dynamic is quite difficult for a secular historia or skeptic to explain.

Here is Dionysius, one of the leaders of the church in the third century, explaining how Christians cared for each other during natural disasters:

 “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred or death to themselves and died in their stead…. the best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that their death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.

They heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease they push the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spreading contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might they found it difficult to escape.”[1]

 Alternative explanations for the miraculous power shown by the early church AND the miraculous love shown by the early church fail to adequately account for the growth and expansion of Christianity in the first three centuries. The Gospel of Jesus leaped over cultural and language barriers, and engaged three entire continents of people representing hundreds of languages, cultures, and belief-systems. In the quote presented at the beginning of the chapter, Dr. Ludemann arrogantly contends that historical research has clearly shown that Jesus did not rise from the dead. This is an utter falsehood, as historical research has done no such thing. I do find it interesting, however, that even the atheistic Dr. Ludemann grants that the early church was propelled forward by an “enormous power,” though he never specifies what that power might be, beyond psychological delusion.  I propose a risen savior as a superior answer and the most likely and most fitting explanation and answer to the question: ‘What power propelled the early church?   (FULL CHAPTER) 

[1] Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, ©1996)

[1] Denise Janssen, Educating for Redemptive Community: Essays in Honor of Jack Seymour and Margaret Ann Crain (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2015), 13

[2] Lüdemann (2004), 190; cf. 209; (1995), 135.[2]

(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

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