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Resurrection: Real? Or Real Dumb?

What is more important in Christianity than the resurrection?

Pretty much nothing!

Paul is pretty clear in 1 Corinthians 15. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then our preaching is in vain, our faith is in vain, we are misrepresenting God, our faith is futile, we are still in our sins, and we are the most to be pitied. Verse 32 even says, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'” Those are some very strong words!

However, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then it changes everything. That is why answering the question as to the truth of the resurrection is probably the most important thing we can do aside from putting our trust in Jesus.

“Resurrection: Real? Or Real Dumb?” is designed to help people see that the resurrection is real and that we should put our trust in Jesus. It really does make the most sense when looking at all of the possible explanations compared to the evidence as you see here.

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So, I encourage you to watch the talk and decide for yourself which explanation makes the most sense.

If you are looking for more resources, evidence, or objections to what was mentioned here, check out my Easter Resource.

If you are interested in having me speak at your church, camp, or youth group, click on the Endorsements & Speaking page to see my list of topics and contact me at Speaking Requests and email me at contact@coffeehousequestions.com. You can select a topic from the list or suggest your own. I am happy to help in any way I can. God bless!

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Look what was posted about Jesus on Snapchat

The Search for the Real Jesus Christ

Who was Jesus Christ? Was he God or merely a man? Was he a smart moral teacher? Did he even exist?

Articles from all sides are produced every year in an attempt to answer these questions. They mostly appear around Christmas and Easter due to the importance of those dates in the history of Christianity. It isn’t a surprise given the importance of those questions and the impact of Jesus Christ on human history. Discovering the truth of Jesus changes our understanding of all of human history and all of eternity!

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Snapchat, one of its features is “Discover” which is like a news feed. It is here that you will find news about sports, pop culture, tending profiles, and everything in-between. National Geographic is one of many groups who have a feed in the discover section of Snapchat. They published the story “The Search for the Real Jesus Christ.” When you click on the story, it takes you to this next screen prompting you to complete a quiz. There is only one question to this quiz. Could Jesus have been a real person?

Jesus Christ

If they have continued to hold your attention, the next step would be to swipe up and take their quiz. Here is the following screen.

Jesus Christ

Could Jesus have been a real person? Which one is it? Here is their answer.

Chose “yes” and you get a smiling emoji indicating your correct answer! A “no” response leads to a red square with a crying face for getting the wrong answer.

This was a bit of a surprise since I normally see published articles that doubt the historicity of Jesus. The surprising part of this is that the existence of Jesus isn’t doubted by mainstream scholars but is commonly doubted by popular publications. Since this is a popular post, I expected to see the opposite. However, here is the quote that concluded the quiz.

Jesus Christ

It is true that mainstream scholars don’t doubt the historicity of Jesus. Even one of the most popular non-Christian scholars, Bart Ehrman, affirms the existence of a historical Jesus. Here is his response to doubters in his own words.

So, what do we conclude?

Jesus existed. This doesn’t make Christianity true, but it should compel us to look further into who Jesus was. What we find is that there is strong evidence for the truth of the gospels and for his resurrection. These two facts lead to the best explanation being that Jesus was who he said he was, the Son of God.

Complete Easter Resource: A TV Interview, Blogs, and Podcasts on the Resurrection of Jesus

As we approach Easter this coming Sunday, it will become more common to hear and see objections to the resurrection of Jesus. Some headlines might doubt whether or not Jesus even existed. Others might grant his existence, but reject the resurrection for various reasons. Because of this, I have compiled what I have titled a complete Easter resources. It is complete in the sense that it is everything I have produced on the topic.

Below you will find a TV interview on Truth Matters, 8 blog posts, and 2 podcasts. In these resources you will find the evidence for the resurrection and responses to common objections. I also included a strategy that might be useful this week on how to teach the resurrection to your students. With all of that said, I hope you find this resources helpful and share it with your friends as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ this Sunday. God bless!

TV Interview

Blogs

  1. What I learned from the Cross Examined Instructor Academy Part 1: Cold Case Resurrection
  2. The Case for the Resurrection: How do students respond?
  3. The Case for the Resurrection: Was Jesus crucified?
  4. The Case for the Resurrection: Did Jesus die on the cross?
  5. The Case for the Resurrection: Was the tomb empty?
  6. The Case for the Resurrection: Naturalistic Explanations for the Empty Tomb
  7. The Case for the Resurrection: Did the disciples claim to see the risen Jesus?
  8. The Case for the Resurrection: Did the disciples die as martyrs?

Podcasts

  1. How I Taught the Resurrection to High School Students (Podcast)
  2. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

What questions do you still have about the resurrection? Comment below!

Discussing the Resurrection of Jesus on Truth Matters TV

About two years ago I was able to connect with Ratio Christi and partner with their great work on college campuses. This last summer I gave my talk on world religions at the Ratio Christi chapter at Colorado State University. And now, most recently, I had the privilege of discussing the resurrection of Jesus on Truth Matters TV. Watch my recent appearance below and check out the link for all of their other shows.

If you are interested in me speaking at your church or youth group, click on the Endorsements & Speaking page, look through the speaking topics or suggest your own, and contact me at contact@coffeehousequestions.com. I am happy to help in any way I can. God bless!

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most important historical events. The truth of Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection. So, is there any good reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Can we really know what happened 2,000 years ago? I believe that there is evidence and that we can know what happened.

I thought it would be appropriate to repost my blog series on the resurrection since we are approaching Easter Sunday. In this seven-part blog series you will see that there are very good reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But it shouldn’t stop there. We shouldn’t only believe that Jesus rose from the dead, but we also need to put our trust in Jesus. It is Jesus that gives us life!

I hope you enjoy this series on the resurrection and happy Easter!

  1. The Case for the Resurrection: How do students respond?
  2. The Case for the Resurrection: Was Jesus crucified?
  3. The Case for the Resurrection: Did Jesus die on the cross?
  4. The Case for the Resurrection: Was the tomb empty?
  5. The Case for the Resurrection: Naturalistic Explanations for the Empty Tomb
  6. The Case for the Resurrection: Did the disciples claim to see the risen Jesus?
  7. The Case for the Resurrection: Did the disciples die as martyrs?

Discussing The Story of Reality with Greg Koukl

Today, I had the great privilege of spending an hour talking to Greg Koukl, the President and Founder of Stand to Reason, about his new book. The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between was released yesterday and it is a must read! This incredible new book will introduce you to the most important topics of the Christian story (God, Man, Jesus, Cross, and Resurrection), explain them in a way that is clear and accessible, and then put the pieces together so you can see the complete picture. You will learn something from this book no matter if you have been a Christian your whole life, you’re new to the faith, or you don’t even believe in Christianity. This book will help you see Christianity in a new way and help you make sense of reality.

“If you are a Christian, this is your story. If you are not a Christian, this is also your story, because this isn’t a religious fairytale. This is the Story of the way things really are.” – Greg Koukl

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Get your copy at STR.org

Enjoy my two part discussion with Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. If you don’t have iTunes, find the podcast and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player. Finally, if you’d rather stick to the radio, you can listen to the show on 100.1 KGBA every Saturday night from 9-9:30 PT.

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The Case for the Resurrection: Did the disciples die as martyrs?

The disciples suffered for their testimony and some of them were killed.

The final piece of evidence for the resurrection is the fact that the disciples’ lives were transformed, they suffered for their testimony, and some of them were killed. Before the resurrection, the disciples were fearful and cowards at times. Peter denied Christ in order to not be identified with Him. “After Jesus’ death, the lives of the disciples were transformed to the point that they endured persecution and even martyrdom. Such strength of conviction indicates that they were not just claiming that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them in order to receive some personal benefit. They really believed it. Compare this courage to their character at Jesus’ arrest and execution.”[1] Their courage grew and their lives were transformed.

I talked about a conversation I had on the resurrection in one of my recent podcasts. A man sitting by me on the plane told me that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. When I asked him what their motive was he responded by saying that they were treated like royalty and fed all day, and all they had to do was tell their story. But this is not what happened. Yes, their lives were transformed. No, they were not treated like royalty. Can we know what really happened to the disciples after the resurrection appearances?

After the resurrection their courage grew the disciples began to proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead. This proclamation caused the disciples to be persecuted and some were even killed. I once heard a presentation where the speaker said that all of the disciples were martyred except for John. This can be nice to claim for apologetic purposes, but it is difficult to support with evidence. We can know that Paul was beheaded under Nero and even Peter, who denied Christ, was crucified.[2] Many would claim that Peter was crucified upside down, but Dr. Sean McDowell claims that the evidence for this is inconclusive. The fact that Peter was crucified is verified historically. We can also be confident that James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in AD 62 in Jerusalem.  Lastly, Dr. McDowell says that it is more probable that not that Thomas died as a martyr in India. It is difficult to know what exactly happened to the other disciples. Even if we don’t know exactly how they died, it is not difficult to see the things that the disciples went through. The book of Acts is filled with stories. We may not be able to say that all the disciples died for the faith, but we are able to say that they were all willing to die. We have no historical record of any of them recanting.

Lastly, how are the deaths of the disciples any different from current day martyrs? The major difference is that the disciples were really there and knew if it was the truth or a lie. It is unlikely that the disciples would suffer and some be killed for a belief that they all knew was a lie. Their suffering and persecution combined with the fact that they were really there shows that they really believed it. Some may die for a lie they believe is the truth, and this is what we see with present-day martyrs. They weren’t there in the beginning to know if their beliefs are really true. However, it is not reasonable for someone to die for a lie they know is a lie. This is why the suffering and fate of the apostles is so important for the truth of the resurrection.

 

Conclusion

I have shown that there is strong historical evidence that Jesus was crucified, he died, was buried, the tomb was found empty, the disciples began to claim that they had experienced the risen Jesus, and that the disciples suffered for their testimony and some of them were killed. There are many different naturalistic theories that attempt to explain one or more of these historical facts like the swoon theory, stolen body, moved body, wrong tomb, and the hallucination theory. Each of these naturalistic theories fails to account for all of the historical evidence. For these reasons, I conclude that the best explanation given the historical evidence is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.

[1] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 56.

[2] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 58.

The Case for the Resurrection: Did the disciples claim to see the risen Jesus?

In order to make a case for the resurrection of Jesus, we need to confirm that: 1) Jesus was crucified. 2) Jesus died. 3) Jesus was buried and the tomb was found empty. 4) The disciples began to claim that they had experienced the risen Jesus. 5) The disciples suffered for their testimony and some of them were killed. This blog series is working through each one of these historical facts and responding to common naturalistic objections.

The disciples began to claim that they had experienced the risen Jesus.

Shortly after the tomb was discovered to be empty the disciples claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to them. We are told that Jesus appeared to Cephas, the twelve, more than five hundred brothers, James, all the apostles, and also to Paul.[1] Paul, who wrote this list of appearances, was not with the disciples when this happened but received it shortly after. “In fact, many critical scholars hold that Paul received it from the disciples Peter and James while visiting them in Jerusalem three years after his conversion. If so, Paul learned it within five years of Jesus’ crucifixion and from the disciples themselves.”[2] It is for this reason that many skeptics hold to the belief that the disciples claimed they had experienced the risen Jesus.

Atheist historian, Gerd Ludemann admits that the creed from 1 Corinthians is early. “We can assume that all the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus. It is also likely for 1 Cor. 15:6a-7 since the conversion of Paul lies at the chronological end of the appearances cited and is probably to be thought of as not later than three years after the death of Jesus.”[3] Three years doesn’t provide time for embellishment or myth. Even one of the most famous skeptical New Testament historians, Bart Ehrman agrees. He said,

Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution. We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death.[4]

Based on the multiple attestation, early writings, and skeptics in agreement, it is reasonable to conclude that the disciples believed to have had experienced the risen Jesus.

Did the disciples experience hallucinations of the resurrected Christ?

So why don’t these skeptics believe Jesus rose from the dead if they agree that the disciples believed to have had experienced the risen Jesus? They believe it is possible that the disciples hallucinated the resurrection appearances. Carrier, who holds to the hallucination theory states, “I believe the best explanation, consistent with both scientific findings and the surviving evidence (particular to Christianity and the general cultural milieu in which it rose), is that the first Christians experienced hallucinations of the risen Christ, of one form or another.”[5] Carrier isn’t alone in his belief in the hallucination theory. Ludemann claims, “But not long after the Friday on which Jesus died, Cephas saw Jesus alive in a vision which also had auditory features, and this event led to an incomparable chain reaction.”[6] This chain reaction is the beginning of the belief that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to all the different witnesses.

The first problem with the hallucination theory is that hallucinations are individual experiences that cannot be shared. Dr. Gary A. Sibcy, a licensed clinical psychologist, has taken a great interest in group hallucinations and come to the following conclusion:

I have surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent.[7]

After more than a decade of research, professionals have been unable to find a single case when a group hallucination happened. The reason group hallucinations can’t occur is because hallucinations are much like dreams in that they are subjective personal experiences. “Hallucinations are linked to an individual’s subconscious and to his particular past experiences, making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.”[8]  This understanding that hallucinations are subjective personal experiences also creates a problem for the skeptic when Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at the same time.

The hallucination theory also has the problem of too many people in very different moods. Along with Paul’s mention of “the 500” in 1 Corinthians, we have statements from other Gospel writers that they too saw the risen Jesus. It was not just one story told by a single source who experienced a hallucination. “Likewise, individuals and groups, friends as well as foes saw Jesus not once but many times over a period of forty days. We are told that these numbers included both men and women, hardheaded Peter and softhearted Mary Magdalene, indoors and outdoors, and so on. Not all these persons would be in the same state of mind.”[9] Here, Habermas shows that in addition to multiple sources, there were many different moods in which the witnesses experienced Jesus’ appearances. Along with the examples listed by Habermas, we have the vision witnessed by Paul, who was a leader in Judaism and on his way to Damascus in order to arrest Christians. He was most likely not in a state of mind to experience a vision of the risen Jesus and change the course of his life. He already had the life for which he had worked. Paul would be the last person to grieve the death of Jesus.

Furthermore, there is the account of Jesus’ skeptical brother James, who witnessed his brother’s ministry without becoming his follower. But it seems something changed after the resurrection event. Again, 1 Corinthians 15:7 states that Jesus appeared to James, convincing him of the fact that Jesus had risen to life. Therefore, there are too many witnesses reacting in different moods for the hallucination theory to be plausible. The hallucination theory also fails to account for the empty tomb. For these reasons, the belief that the disciples hallucinated Jesus’ resurrection appearances does not account for the evidence.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:5-9 ESV

[2] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 52-53.

[3] Gerd Ludemann, The Resurrection of Jesus (Minneapolis, MI: Fortress Press, 1994), 38.

[4] Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (Oxford: OUP, 2001) 231.

[5] Lowder, The Empty Tomb, 184.

[6] Ludemann, The Resurrection of Jesus, 174.

[7] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 484.

Gary Habermas obtained this statement from Gary Sibcy and then forwarded it to Michael Licona the same day in an email dated March 10, 2009.

[8] Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, INC, 1981), 84.

[9] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 109.

The Case for the Resurrection: Naturalistic Explanations for the Empty Tomb

In order to make a case for the resurrection of Jesus, we need to confirm that: 1) Jesus was crucified. 2) Jesus died. 3) Jesus was buried and the tomb was found empty. 4) The disciples began to claim that they had experienced the risen Jesus. 5) The disciples suffered for their testimony and some of them were killed. This blog series is working through each one of these historical facts and responding to common naturalistic objections.

Was the body stolen?

One of the points for the fact of the empty tomb was that the enemies of Jesus said that the disciples stole the body. Is it possible that this really happened rather than being a cover-up? Richard Carrier, a world-renown atheist speaker and author, thinks the theft of the bod is a plausible hypothesis. He wrote, “So even if the empty tomb story is not a legend, it is not necessary to conclude that only a genuine resurrection would explain it. One prominent natural explanation is theft of the body.”[1] It is possible that the disciples stole the body in order to continue their movement.

However, there are a few problems with the belief that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. First, “the disciples of Jesus claimed to have seen the risen Jesus because they really believed that they had seen him.”[2] As we will see in the next two sections, the disciples truly believed that they saw the risen Jesus and they were willing to die for that belief. It doesn’t seem likely that the disciples would steal the body, lie about it, and then die for a lie. When they claimed to have seen the risen Jesus it was because they really believed it. Second, if the disciples stole Jesus’ body, how do you explain the conversion of Paul? Paul was an enemy of the church that became a believer after seeing the risen Jesus. If they disciples stole Jesus body then it seems unlikely that Paul would have converted to Christianity.

Was the body moved?

Since the disciples seemed genuine in their belief that the tomb was empty, maybe it is possible that the body was moved and the disciples were unaware. Carrier defended this idea as well as the stolen body theory. He said, “One prominent natural explanation is theft of the body. Another, which I developed in a preceding chapter, is that the body was legally moved without the knowledge of the disciples.”[3] Even Mary Magdalene thought that the body was moved. In John 20:2 we see that “she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’” This explanation fits what Mary believed and makes sense of the genuine belief of the disciples, but it too has its flaws.

There is no mention of Jesus’ body being moved in the text, only Mary’s thought that it might have happened. It is easy to come up with a theory to explain one piece of evidence, but the theory has to be based on evidence or else there is no reason to trust it. “This is the Fraud 2 option, which is flawed because it cannot account for the vast majority of the known historical facts. Virtually all critics recognize this. That is why very few scholars held it during the twentieth century.”[4] The moved body theory doesn’t explain the appearances which we will cover next, and it even admits that the tomb was empty. If it wasn’t for the appearances of Jesus, it is likely that the disciples wouldn’t have been transformed into bold proclaimers of the faith. That wasn’t done by the empty tomb.

Wrong tomb?

The last objection to the empty tomb is called the wrong tomb theory. Carrier defends this theory as well by saying, “The surviving evidence, legal and historical, suggests the body of Jesus was not formally buried Friday night when it was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, that instead it had to have been placed Saturday night in a special public graveyard reserved for convicts. On this theory the women who visited the tomb Sunday morning mistook its vacancy.”[5] Again, like the other theories, this theory ignores contrary evidence and commits the fallacy of special pleading. First, as mentioned before, we know where Jesus was buried. There is no reason to doubt the Joseph of Arimathea burial story. Habermas states that, “No sources support the wrong tomb theory. If the women and disciples had gone to the wrong tomb, all that the Roman and Jewish authorities would have had to do would have been to go to the right tomb, exhume the body, publicly display it, and clear up the misunderstanding.”[6] This theory is complete conjecture and cannot hold up to scrutiny.

With the naturalistic explanations failing to answer the evidence it is reasonable to conclude that the tomb was empty. “All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor of [the empty tomb], and those scholars who reject it out to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”[7] The stolen body, moved body, and wrong tomb theories fail to ground themselves in historical evidence. It is for that reason that it is more reasonable to conclude that the tomb of Jesus was discovered empty.

[1] Richard C. Carrier, “The Plausibility of Theft” in Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005), 349.

[2] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 93.

[3] Lowder, The Empty Tomb, 349.

[4] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 95.

[5] Lowder, The Empty Tomb, 369.

[6] Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 98.

[7] Ibid. 73.

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