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One of the unfortunate myths of our popular culture is that
Christianity is a superstition whose beliefs are incompatible with
reason and will not stand up to scrutiny. As Easter approaches, let’s
take a look.
To begin, let’s dispel this notion that Jesus never asserted His own
Deity. He claimed to be God in the flesh, not merely a great prophet.
“Before Abraham was born I am.” Jesus didn’t simply say that he knew
what the truth was. He boldly asserted that He was Truth. He claimed He
had the authority to forgive sins. He accepted worship. He said He had
the power to answer prayer.
C.S. Lewis told us not to listen to revisionists who said Christ was
simply a great moral teacher. If He claimed to be God and wasn’t, then
He was the worst sort of liar, or a lunatic. Hardly a moral teacher.
“You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a
demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us
not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human
teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Christ’s disciples also claimed that He was God. He lived a sinless
life. He performed many miracles. He fulfilled Old Testament prophecies
of the coming Messiah made hundreds of years before He was born.
His moral teaching was simple enough to be understood by anyone, yet
so profound that no human being can ever completely fathom its depths.
In fact, when the temple guards returned without arresting Him they gave
this as their reason for not doing so, “No one ever spoke the way this
Yet, none of this would matter if Christ had not been physically
resurrected. The evidence of this most pivotal historical event is
powerful, but many theories have been advanced to refute it. Some say
that He never died on the cross but just appeared dead (swooning). But
New Testament accounts testify that Jesus did die and that His corpse
was placed in a tomb.
Roman soldiers were so sure of His death that they didn’t even break
His legs to hasten His death, as was their usual practice. When they
pierced his side, blood and water flowed out, which is said to be a
medical sign of death. Pilate inquired to make sure that Jesus was dead
before he gave the body to Joseph of Arimathea for burial. Dr. Norman
Geisler states there is more evidence that Jesus died than there is that
most important people from the ancient world ever lived.
There were many and diverse witnesses to the resurrection. Christ
appeared over seven weeks on different days at different times of the
day in different places and to different people. One of His appearances
was witnessed by 500 people. And we must remember that all the Romans
needed to do to nip Christianity in the bud was to produce the body of
Jesus, dead or alive.
The disciples had no motive to concoct this story. By proclaiming His
resurrection they were putting their own lives at risk. Not one of them
ever recanted his account despite being variously tortured, hated,
scorned, persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, crucified, boiled alive,
roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions. One of the greatest
proofs of the truth of Christianity is the radical transformation of the
disciples from a terrified bunch into a fearless group ready to proclaim
the Gospel to the world.
Most of our evidence about these matters comes from the New
Testament. Is it historically reliable? Scholarship demonstrates that
there is more abundant and accurate manuscript evidence for the New
Testament than for any other book from the ancient world. There are also
numerous early secular writings (Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Suetonius,
Pliny the Younger, Thallus, Mara Bar-Serapion) attesting to Jesus and to
many of the essential claims of the New Testament concerning His life,
death and resurrection.
It is impossible to do more than scratch the surface of this subject
in a short column but suffice it to say that there exists a mountain of
evidence affirming the truth of Christianity. Easter is an appropriate
time for skeptics, such as I used to be, to investigate that evidence
and for believers to celebrate the risen Lord.