The Resurrection of Jesus Christ as Christianity’s Centerpiece - page 1


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From the Spring 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ as Christianity's Centerpiece

by Benjamin C. Shaw, Student Fellow, and Gary R. Habermas, Ph.D.

esus’ resurrection is at the very core of the message preached by His disciples. As C.S. Lewis states, for them to “preach Christianity meant primarily to preach the Resurrection.”1 The apostle Paul was very clear on this point when writing to the church in Corinth. Not only did Paul center on the value of the resurrection for believers, but he highlighted what Christianity would look like without this event. According to Paul, if Christ had not been raised from the dead, our sins would not have been forgiven (1 Cor. 15:17); he similarly argued that the Christian faith would be futile (v. 13) and that we should be pitied above all others (v. 19). A more powerful statement regarding the importance of this occurrence is difficult to imagine.
 The New Testament’s view of the resurrection’s significance and its effects should also encourage believers to be familiar with its historical and practical applications. Its historical evidence grounds the Christian’s claims in the real world and reveals God’s activity. So for the Christian, the resurrection is more than just a historical event that one accepts on rational or historical grounds. It does not stop there. The practical outworkings of this foundational tenet are numerous and cover virtually every aspect of theology as well as the everyday features in the life of the believer.
 This essay will begin by highlighting historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. Then we will consider how this event influences the present lives of believers.

The Resurrection: Grounded in History

  Understanding some of the core historical data surrounding the resurrection will provide grounding for this watershed Christian event. The New Testament does not shy away from setting forth several key details. These well-evidenced facts are so strongly attested that both believing and nonbelieving scholars are virtually unanimous in recognizing and accepting them.2 Due to space limitations, we will be able to present briefly only a few of these considerations.
 First, Jesus’ death by crucifixion is a prerequisite for any consideration of Jesus’ resurrection. The crucifixion is easily one of the most secure historical facts of the New Testament. Many reasons account for the scholarly unanimity on this point.
 Jesus’ crucifixion is reported in a plethora of independent sources from both Christian and non-Christian authors. Scholars, including skeptical ones, have counted approximately a dozen relevant sources that attest to the occurrence of this event.
 Additionally, the crucifixion is not something that the earliest believers would have invented. In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul highlights this very point, acknowledging that this event is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. According to Deuteronomy 21:23 (cf. Gal. 3:13), Jews believed that those who were hung on a tree (including crucifixion victims) were cursed by God. For the Gentiles, it was foolishness to worship a man who had suffered such a dishonorable death, normally reserved for the worst criminals.
 Then look at the scene itself. David Strauss, a radical liberal commentator of nineteenth-century Germany, famously argued that it would be almost unthinkable for someone to believe that Jesus could have somehow survived the crucifixion process, revived in the tomb without medical assistance or sustenance, and rolled away the heavy stone from the tomb entrance—all after having been severely beaten. Then He would have had to walk a distance on feet that had just been pierced through with nails, not to mention His side wound, administered to secure His death.

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