But not everyone is willing to fairly examine the evidence. Bertrand Russell admits his take on Jesus was "not concerned" with historical facts.4 Historian Joseph Campbell, without citing evidence, calmly told his PBS television audience that the resurrection of Jesus is not a factual event.5 Other scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, agree with him.6 None of these skeptics present any evidence for their views.
True skeptics, as opposed to cynics, are interested in evidence. In a Skeptic magazine editorial entitled "What Is a Skeptic?" the following definition is given: "Skepticism is… the application of reason to any and all ideas—no sacred cows allowed. In other words… skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are "skeptical," we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe."7 Unlike Russell and Crossan, many true skeptics have investigated the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. In this article we will hear from some of them and see how they analyzed the evidence for what is perhaps the most important question in the history of the human race: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
In advance of his death, Jesus told his disciples that he would be betrayed, arrested, and crucified and that he would come back to life three days later. That's a strange plan! What was behind it? Jesus was no entertainer willing to perform for others on demand; instead, he promised that his death and resurrection would prove to people (if their minds and hearts were open) that he was indeed the Messiah. Bible scholar Wilbur Smith remarked about Jesus:
"When he said that He himself would rise again from the dead, the third day after He was crucified, He said something that only a fool would dare say, if He expected longer the devotion of any disciples—unless He was sure He was going to rise. No founder of any world religion known to men ever dared say a thing like that."8
In other words, since Jesus had clearly told his disciples that he would rise again after his death, failure to keep that promise would expose him as a fraud. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. How did Jesus die before he (if he did) rose again?
You know what Jesus' last hours of earthly life were like if you watched the movie by road warrior/brave heart Mel Gibson. If you missed parts of The Passion of the Christ because you were shielding your eyes (it would have been easier to simply shoot the movie with a red filter on the camera), just flip to the back pages of any Gospel in your New Testament to find out what you missed. As Jesus predicted, he was betrayed by one of his own disciples, Judas Iscariot, and was arrested. In a mock trial under the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, he was convicted of treason and condemned to die on a wooden cross. Prior to being nailed to the cross, Jesus was brutally beaten with a Roman cat-o'- nine-tails, a whip with bits of bone and metal that would rip flesh. He was punched repeatedly, kicked, and spit upon.
Then, using mallets, the Roman executioners pounded the heavy wrought-iron nails into Jesus' wrists and feet. Finally they dropped the cross in a hole in the ground between two other crosses bearing convicted thieves.
Jesus hung there for approximately six hours. Then, at 3:00 in the afternoon—that is, at exactly the same time the Passover lamb was being sacrificed as a sin offering (a little symbolism there, you think?)— Jesus cried out, "It is finished" (in Aramaic), and died. Suddenly the sky went dark and an earthquake shook the land. 9
Pilate wanted verification that Jesus was dead before allowing his crucified body to be buried. So a Roman guard thrust a spear into Jesus' side. The mixture of blood and water that flowed out was a clear indication that Jesus was dead. Jesus' body was then taken down from the cross and buried in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. Roman guards next sealed the tomb, and secured it with a 24-hour watch. Meanwhile, Jesus' disciples were in shock. Dr. J. P. Moreland explains how devastated and confused they were after Jesus' death on the cross. "They no longer had confidence that Jesus had been sent by God. They also had been taught that God would not let his Messiah suffer death. So they dispersed. The Jesus movement was all but stopped in its tracks." 10
All hope was vanquished. Rome and the Jewish leaders had prevailed—or so it seemed.
Next: Chapter 3 | Previous: Introduction | Table of Contents | References
© 2010 JesusOnline This article is from Y-Jesus
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