For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
With Easter on the horizon, I thought I’d take a different tack with regard to Church History this week. Christianity is unique in that it insists upon historical, witnessed events as proof of its teachings. Some religions rely on private revelations made to an individual, who then goes on to teach these revelations more widely. Others have stories of the gods which have been passed down through the generations.
Christianity presents us with a figure whose teaching was heard by thousands, and whose claims were recorded by the four gospel writers. Jesus is mentioned in many Roman sources outside of Christianity and his existence is not in doubt. The crucifixion took place in public and would have been witnessed by friend and foe alike. After all, the whole point of Roman crucifixion was public humiliation, and so prominent sites were used. The resurrection was similarly a public even witnessed by hundreds, as the Apostle Paul records.
Given all this, it is not surprising that the resurrection has been the focus of many of the attacks on Christianity and in the remaining days leading up to Easter we will have a look at some of the theories put forward to discredit the resurrection to see if they hold water. This is a vital business! As the Paul reminds us: “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).