Christianity rests on a single, history-changing event: the resurrection of Christ. Paul himself proclaimed clearly, boldly, and unswervingly, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” and again, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (Corinthians 15:14, 17).
Liberal scholars for the last two centuries have attempted to dismiss the resurrection as a myth tacked on to the life of the “historical Jesus.” In 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, Paul clearly describes the resurrection and subsequent witnesses in a passage that is universally accepted as being from no later than about 50 A.D., not long after he personally met with Peter and James and heard their accounts. The short years between the resurrection even and the penning of this passage are simply not enough time for a "resurrection" myth to have developed.
Even a cursory reading of the book of Acts reveals that the central message of the apostles was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event of which they were eye-witnesses. A few passages from the apostolic sermons in Acts include:
- This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (2:32)
- And you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. (3:15)
- The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (5:30–32)
- And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (10:39–41)
Critics have offered various explanations for the empty tomb found on Easter morning, none of which stand up to scrutiny. The most popular explanation is that the apostles stole the body to further their agenda. However, the apostles faced excruciating executions that could have easily been avoided if they had produced the stolen body. It is psychologically unlikely that an entire group of men would stand up to torture and death for the sake of a hoax. Other lines of thought believe that thieves or the Pharisees stole the body. There were plenty of people, namely the Pharisees, who wanted to see Christianity stamped out and would have stopped at nothing to find and produce the body. The young faith could have been easily strangled from the beginning if anyone had been able to produce it.
Scripture makes it clear that the resurrection was a physical and entirely historic event. The apostles take great pains to explain that they were witnesses of the risen Christ, and history provides us with an indisputable fact that no sources, Christian or otherwise, ever disputed: the tomb into which Jesus’ body was laid on Good Friday was empty on Easter morning.
*The following excerpt is modified from chapter 18 of Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century.