Beyond Tradition

Onward Christian Martyrs: The Body Snatchers

Part V of V (click here for Part I):

 
The body snatchers

We've covered just about every theory proposed in place of the official resurrection story, such as the empty tomb legend, visions, unknown removal of the body, and the swoon hypothesis. The next and only other feasible theory is that the disciples stole the body themselves and lied about his appearances. Not only was this the very first theory used as an explanation (which is important), but even the skeptics in the first few subsequent centuries seemed to have deemed this the only plausible one they could have used.[1] It seems that the known facts kept those right at the actual scene, including the first century authorities themselves, from sponsoring any of the other subsequent explanations skeptics centuries later (hundreds if not thousands of years removed from the event) began to cook up as an alternative. So, the disciples as the culprits was the story the ones closest to the event put forward as a substitute and was apparently the explanation they judged the least implausible to explain in a natural sense based on the circumstances surrounding the event. Again, that's an important factor to consider. In regards to how plausible these alternative theories are, who are you going to believe is more reliable; those closest to actual historical event, or those centuries removed from the event?

 

The art of imagination

The problem is that this theory faces limitations at the very outset, and it becomes apparent that this was the only story the first skeptics put forward because this was the only conceivable story available under very desperate and extreme circumstances. Christians had no political prestige until the 4th century, much less the Judeo-Christians pre-70 CE. They obviously had no way of knowing how sociopolitically pivotal Christianity would become in the subsequent centuries. There was essentially nothing for the first century Christian to achieve or protect in the way of prestige or political and financial gain other than persecution (which I'll discuss in a bit). In fact, even though Christianity as an organization somewhat thrived at Jerusalem where it had started before persecution dispersed the church outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), even the early church at Jerusalem suffered poverty as a result (Romans 15:25-26). 

The primary problems with this argument is based on what we discussed in Part I , in that not only was Jesus publicly dishonored in a degrading execution -- something that was certainly unexpected of the Messiah prior to his execution, in addition to the fact he had no clear political objectives or aspirations he expressed for Israel when he was alive -- something that was in fact expected of Messiah, but nothing had changed for the Judeo-Christians between this time and after. Judeo-Christians still observed the Judaic practice as before (see Acts 15:1-35, 16:1-3, 21:20; Galatians 2:1-4; 2:11-16; Philippians 1:1-3; James 2:8-11), Israel wasn't delivered from the Romans, the Davidic throne was not established, and Jesus was not ruling from Israel as their king; just some of the criteria they fervently believed validated any claimant to the Jewish Messiah that went unfulfilled.

Therefore, we are not only left completely bereft of any theological, ideological, or political reason for early Jews to have perpetuated Jesus' messianic legacy in any sort of honorable way within this culture, but left to imagine some rather impious men doing some rather impious things apparently for some mysterious motive that was in direct violation of Jewish law and community protocol about burials (discussed in detail here: The Theories; Theory #1). Such a theory might work well for an active imagination, but falls miserably short within any sort of historical context that justifies a motive that is clear to us.

As was discussed in Part II (here: Legend of the Empty Tomb, The tomb of shame), a burial specifically in a family tomb was the only honorable way of burial in this culture, thus supposing that the disciples disposed his body without knowledge of the family or even the community and its whereabouts would have only disgraced him even more. Here we have a movement based on a disgraced Messiah who had died one of the worst and most humiliating executions one could die, miserably failed to fulfill the political tenets they were expecting of the Messiah prior, his corpse treated in an unorthodox and humiliating fashion, with nothing in the way of prestige or wealth gained by its adherents for this action, yet who were still motivated to continue his legacy regardless of an impious act of stealing and hiding the body and lying about it afterward.

These absurd incongruities fail on all fronts of historicity and consistency, therefore we are forced to conclude a "saving face" justification to support this theory. We must disregard their piety as Jews, exclude any sort of honorable intentions on their part and assume they had staked their reps on the line and bet on the wrong horse, and when that horse lost to the inevitable Roman powers that be, they were compelled not by any honorable motives to preserve his legacy or continue his position as Messiah, but by their massive egos to save their reputations by stealing the body and concocting a resurrection story to save their potentially admonished reputations. Then they managed to get rid of the body so that no one, including the family, knew of its whereabouts ever after. Aside from the issues I just raised, accepting this as a plausible scenario is still difficult even from here because this wasn't exactly a society that made it easy to save one's face in this manner.

Such an attempt would have only made it worse for them. It would have made them susceptible to a slew of even more public derision and ridicule than before, both from the Romans: by perpetuating a risen Lord and king who had been publicly humiliated and executed as a slave and criminal by the imperial state, and in a Greco-Roman world where a resurrected body wasn't accepted (discussed here: The Silent Texts; The Greek repudiation); and from the Jews: by perpetuating a risen Lord and king who had been publicly humiliated and executed as a slave and criminal, believed to be morally cursed by God by their law (Deuteronomy 21:22-23), offered a contradictory view of messianic resurrection that wasn't held by them (discussed here: Part I; The first century resurrection view), and who had miserably failed on all fronts of a political Messiah the Jewish nation was anticipating.

Therefore, it would have been far better and much more likely they would have opted to either remain in hiding for an indefinite amount of time, or just left the country all together to avoid public scorn, ridicule or even the threat of their lives. Thus, we would not only have to assume this by disregarding the entire historical context, but assume a very gullible and naive culture on top of all that. But let us proceed anyway.

 

The Roman Guard

A major problem from the outset is the same problem that pretty much disrupts all these theories -- Matthew's account about the sentries guarding the tomb, in addition to the conspiracy contrived by Jewish authorities as a result (Matthew 27:62-66; 28:11-13). Once again, the only way to get by this -- and it is indeed essential to get by it -- is to completely dismiss it as a fiction created by Matthew himself. However, even though the guard account is only recorded in Matthew's gospel, there is no reason to dismiss it other than the necessity to remove it as an inconvenience here. The account is not only historically plausible but simply doesn't follow a logical course we would expect as an invention (discussed here: The Evangelists: Matthew's harebrained scheme?). But we'll grant the removal of this account for purposes of exploring this matter deeper.

 

The Messiah dilemma

Though this theory and the other theories may attempt to explain the motives of his followers, they still fail to explain the motive Jesus had himself from the beginning. I went into great length about this in another article (here: The Messiah Dilemma). Simply put, there is no way around the fact that most of the fantastic and preternatural claims Jesus made about himself expressed throughout the gospel works came from his own lips while he was alive. But since Jesus was much too smart to be delusional or unreasonable about knowledge of his mortal limitations, and didn't follow any sort of typical pattern of a delusional narcissist, he had to be a fraud at least to some degree, which then only makes trying to solve his motivation as a devout Jew living in Judea an oxymoron and impossibly irresolvable. This is just sort of an aside that can't be forgotten as one of the many issues when considering alternative resurrection theories. 

 

Paul

Paul’s conversion is an enigma in and of itself. The apostle Paul is one of the few so-called historical "certainties" that scholars don't question, even though he is not attested to by any secular sources (based primarily on the firm authenticity of most of his letters, the natural flow of content contained in his letters, and the sheer number of early Christian sources attesting to his existence). 

Paul was a Second Temple Pharisee (Acts 23:6) -- a sect that was fastened to a rigid monotheism (Acts 22:3, 26:4-5). He was ducated by Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and considered himself a "Hebrew of Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5) -- meaning he was a Jew who was just as devout and blood legit as they come. He was also a radical fundamentalist to Judaism prior to conversion (Galatians 1:13-14). A lie or fraud falls short of an explanation from his fundamentalist attachment to Phariseeism to his sudden conversion to this new fraudulent movement, especially in light of Paul's direct contact with the assumed perpetrators of the stolen body (Galatians 1:18-19, 2:9). I've heard some pretty off-the-wall alternative explanations from the skeptical community for this, which just shows me how far-reaching one must go to explain such an incredible reversal of beliefs.

A theory I've heard to date is that Paul's experience was due to an epileptic seizure he had on his way to Damascus during his encounter with the risen Lord (Acts 9:1-7). Though epileptic seizures have been known to cause religious experiences, this seems doubtful under the circumstances. Aside from the fact Acts records that the men with Paul could actually hear the voice themselves, the question must be asked why we would assume that Paul's condition was a result of an encounter with Jesus in the first place and not Abraham, David, Moses, Gabriel, Michael, Yahweh himself or even one of the myriad number of gods of the Greek pantheon? Could someone be so totally swayed from a cultural religious conviction over to a religious belief they have enmity against based on an epileptic seizure? This would be analogous to Osama bin Laden converting to Christianity from an epileptic seizure and then attempting to convert his Muslim peers in Afghanistan in spite of harsh treatment and persecution by his peers. Is that plausible?

We would have to assume Bin Laden had gone insane, yet this still doesn't really explain conversion from one extreme religious belief to another that he had enmity towards prior. What's even more of a mystery is Paul's choice of Jewish candidates for his deep theological beliefs. Picking Jesus of Nazareth as a candidate for Paul to deify, honor and worship as the Messiah of Israel out the pool of other great and influential Jewish men at his ready disposal who did not die by crucifixion, such as Hillel or Shammai (both being the forerunners of first century Phariseeism), John the Baptist, the Teacher of Righteousness, Gamaliel, or even his Jewish peer James the brother of Jesus makes absolutely no sense apart from a miraculous persuasion. All these other men had sizable followings, were considered very wise, honored the God of Israel, had impacted Judaism in a positive and memorable way, and lived moral lifestyles just the same. The major difference, of course, is that none of them were killed in such a disreputable manner.

No matter the imaginary theories used to solve this problem, they all still fail to give a natural explanation of Paul's sudden conversion from the faith he grew up in and was a radical fundamentalist adherent to, to a movement he was a fervent enemy against, and why he picked a crucified Jew from Nazareth to deify, honor and worship in the first place. The fact that Jesus was the most unlikely choice, out of the pool of other great and honorable Jewish men of Paul's era he could have used to brand this unusually heavy theology is inexplicable regardless of any speculative medical condition used to explain Paul's abrupt conversion. An illicit act of stealing the body and perpetrating a resurrection story from those whom Paul had personal contact makes anything less than an actual resurrection absurd in the face of these factors.

The martyrdom history breakdown

The proclamation that was at the crux of the Christian movement from the very beginning was that Jesus, who had been crucified and buried, had risen. It wasn't a spiritual proclamation that gradually evolved, it was a proclamation based on a sudden turn of unexpected events -- a dead Lord, then a risen Lord. The idea that the disciples removed the body and were then willing to suffer martyrdoms for what they knew was a false proclamation is an absurdity, and this is the common apologetic motif.[2]

Devout believers have always been willing to suffer and die in the spirit of their religious convictions throughout history, even to this day, so this is certainly nothing new, but never for what they knew was false, and rarely willing to suffer persecution at the hands of their own countrymen. It is true, however, that the history of Islam is rife with martyrdom, and the adherents of the faith in the very beginning stages of the movement were willing to suffer persecution for their beliefs. The difference is that Christianity stands apart from all other religions of the world based on its theology.

As we discussed in Part I, the Christian movement in the very beginning was not based on a set teachings or principles like that of Islam, it was based on theology and worship of a historical Galilean Jew, his resurrection and the doctrine of salvation through his blood and death that rested upon it. However, because there are no sources to substantiate most of the apostolic martyrdom tradition earlier than the third century, were preserved by the church fathers ("bias sources") and what's worse, some of the apostles actually have conflicting traditions, naturally these traditions are open season to skepticism and doubt.

And indeed they are, since men dying this way, and in most cases dying in isolation is pretty much a definitive resurrection defense because if these stories are true, something obviously happened to these men afterwards, and convictions such as these are not spurred on by conscious fraud. When all is said and done, the fact remains, the only accounts that do exist purport that they suffered some sort of martyrdom as an end result of their evangelism. Therefore, to deny a miraculous explanation, the only thing left to do -- other than rationalize it with theories of delusion that are unfeasible -- is to simply dismiss as untrue that they were martyred... end of story. Then we are simply left with a blank historical page of their fate or the history of their activities after the fact. To me, that's just not good enough, so let's explore this in more detail.

It's worth noting the irony in regards to a passage in John's gospel (John 21:18-22), which is used in some cases to argue vaticinium ex eventu by those who assert that the author had prior knowledge about Peter's martyrdom and then guised it as a future prediction made by Jesus. "Stretch out your hands" they argue pertained to Peter's execution via crucifixion which we find in other separate traditions about Peter, and they often use it as one of the arguments to prove John was not only embellishing details, but wrote it well after the fact of Peter's death (mid to late 60s) and at a time his death would have been widely known. However, those who argue this seem to be in a bit of a dilemma. If we are to accept the ex eventu argument, then this is self-evident of Peter's martyrdom!

In any event, though some of the more obscure apostles have unsubstantiated martyrdom traditions, the traditional martyrdoms of the more prominent apostles like Peter, Paul, and James the Lesser (Jesus' brother) are relatively solid and cannot be easily dismissed. James’ martyrdom is recorded by Josephus.[3] Josephus is obviously an impartial non-Christian source, and though he oddly does not go into detail about why James was put to death, we know from both the New Testament sources and Josephus that James was a staunch practitioner of the Mosaic law, thus the fact he was put to death for breaking the law is not at all a far stretch of a conclusion that it was for his Christian faith which was indeed considered a violation of Judaic law.

The persecution of Christians in the first century, including the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, is documented by Clement I, written in his letter to the Corinthians in the first century.[4] Ignatius from the first century also confirmed Paul was martyred.[5] Tertullian, around the end of the second century, documents Paul and Peter’s martyrdom.[6] There are fictional narratives during this time that reflect this information about Paul and Peter. What is believed to be a work by Hyppolytus, whom Eusebius claimed existed in the early first century, also confirms these martyrdoms. Moreover, the fact that some of the apostles on Hyppolytus' list died natural deaths further bolsters a genuine attempt to at least document these deaths as accurately as possible.[7] The general Jewish persecution of Christians, including the martyrdom of James the Greater (brother of John), is also documented in one of the earliest sources, the book of Acts (7:57-59).

Though I proposed what I believe to be a very a firm pre-70 date for Acts in a previous article (here: The Acts of Luke), it was at least written in the first century and has been proven to be a reliable and historical source overall (discussed here: Luke/Acts). Acts records that even after the deaths of Stephen and James the Greater, followed by the danger, threats, and persecution that ensued (also indicated in Paul's epistles), the surviving apostles, including Peter, John, James the Lesser, and those who followed Paul kept at it unrelentingly. This might fit men who are deluded, but this is simply not the actions of men who have based their beliefs on a conscious scandal.

One of the most reliable New Testament sources we have is Paul, who also verifies a first century pattern of persecution that is recorded in Acts (8:1-3, 9:1-2), an activity of which he confirms in his own letters he in fact took part as a devout Pharisee before he converted (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13, 1:22-24). Acts indicates that during the reign of terror Paul apparently took part in, most of the Christian coverts scattered from Jerusalem throughout other areas of Judea. Paul also continued to document the first century persecution of Christians in general throughout his works after his conversion (see 1 Corinthians 4:12-13; 2 Corinthians 4:8-10; Galatians 4:29, 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 2 Timothy 3:11-12); in addition to an inventory of the hardships he personally faced during his missionary work, which also attests to the dangers and perils in and around Judea and Rome associated with the missionary activity…

 

2 Corinthians 11:25-27 "Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure."

 

The purpose here is not to prove that all the traditional martyrdoms of the apostles are true, but to form the historical framework -- the dangers and hostility within this environment and the eventual executions of the main players involved. Thus, even if one were inclined to dismiss most of the martyrdoms as unsubstantiated legend, we have to contend with at least some of their martyrdoms, martyrdoms that are backed by data that cannot be easily dismissed, in addition to a very hostile environment that actualized the reality of potential martyrdom.

Potential martyrdom 

Persecution of Christians in subsequent decades of the movement by the imperial government of Rome itself is well documented, but what is more essential within a supposition resurrection scandal is the potential dangers in the first few decades of the movement when the alleged guilty parties were still active within the movement. Putting aside their individual martyrdom traditions and the validity of those traditions, once we get a sense of the historical environment this movement spawned actually serves as a significant factor than the martyrdom itself. We can certainly assume that the religious theocracies of the Middle East today reflect the theocracies of the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Larry Hurtado states of this past culture...

 

"Both in profession and in public religious practice, devout Jews of the Roman era were clearly monotheistic. In fact, it appears that the monotheistic stance was more firm and characteristic in the Hellenistic and Roman era than in a previous period. The weakening or undermining of a supposedly pure Old Testament monotheism in the Judaism of the period of Christian origins alleged by some previous scholars such as Bousset is directly the opposite of the actual historical movement in Judaism of the time toward a more emphatic monotheism."[8] 

 

Though Israel is largely secular today for the most part, it was strictly a religious theocracy in the first century, and its citizens, outside of the imperial rule of Rome (which gave Jewish citizens much leeway with its socioreligious customs and practices), expressed a strong collective adherence to the fundamental tenets of Judaism. We indeed know for a fact from Jewish historians like Philo and Josephus, and numerous other Greco-Roman writers such as Tacitus, Cassius, Philostratus, and Suetnoius that fundamentalist religious Jews, 2,000 years ago (pre-Diaspora) behaved in the same religious fervor that fundamentalist Muslims in the same region do today, who guarded Judaism with unwavering adherence, and, in many cases, religious fanaticism.

Though there were diverse Jewish sects in the first century with varying opinions and views, some that even feuded with each other (much like Islamic sectarian strife today), there were fundamental religious tenets that one dare not cross as a Jew. There were chiefly four main socioreligious sects that Josephus pointed out which had the most impact on culture and politics. The Essence movement was probably the most diverse of the four in regards to their practice of Judaism, and socioreligious friction and even persecution is undoubtedly a reason they completely separated as a community from the rest of their Jewish counterparts. However, from the description Josephus gives us, these sects weren't that much diverse from the fundamental tenets that made up Judaism, which consisted of honoring the one true God of Israel (Yahweh), the Torah and moral living. Among the many direct and indirect illustrations Josephus used to demonstrate this radical fundamentalist theocracy that dominated the Jews of his time in his writings, he also stated...

 

"... it is become natural to all Jews immediately, and from their very birth, to esteem these books [the Torah] to contain Divine doctrines, and to persist in them, and, if occasion be willingly to die for them."[9]

 

The Pharisees, probably the most stringent of the groups when it came to upholding Judaic values and tradition, undoubtedly had the most mainstream influence on Jewish communities during this time. The zealots were another formidable force of militant Jews and probably the most dangerous; in fact, from their descriptions and actions in early literature one would easily view them in the same light as we view active Jihadist terrorist groups today.

Scholars like Hurtado know very well the religious fervor that ancient historians describe of Second Temple Jews. Thus, in this sociopolitical historical context, we would expect the first Jewish adherents of the Christian movement in the first few decades to be under constant pressure, hostility and antagonism among their peers, and indeed, this is exactly what we find. The events and situations recorded not only in the gospels, but in Acts, describe in detail the treatment of Jesus, the disciples and apostles by their own countrymen for their wavering religious views (see Acts 4:1-3, 5:17-18, 6:8-14, 8:1, 9:22-24, 12:1-4, 13:50, 14:4-6, 17:2-9, 21:26-31).

As I mentioned earlier, we also get a firm sense of this hostility from Paul's letters (see 1 Corinthians 4:12-13; 2 Corinthians 4:8-10; Galatians 4:29, 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 2 Timothy 3:11-12), not only from Paul's portrayal of himself as a Pharisee before conversion and his ill treatment of the movement spurred on by his own zealous fundamentalism (Galatians 1:13-14), but the behavior and actions of his fundamentalist peers. We don't just see this from non-converted Jews outside the Judeo-Christian movement but Jews within the movement itself that were in constant contention with Paul about the tenets and principles of Christianity and how it should be practiced in the context of Judaism.

Although we have very little extrabiblical sources directly describing Christian persecution prior to Nero, the first century historian Suetonius records an event that probably occurred around 49 CE and that is also recorded in New Testament scripture (Acts 18:2). The issue apparently highlights the friction between Jews and early Christians occurring at Rome that actually resulted in the expulsion of these Christians...

 

"Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome."[10]

 

The "he" is Claudius Caesar, and though the actual magnitude is hard to determine, it was obviously significant enough to involve a decree by the Roman Emperor himself. Scholars agree that Suetonius' 'Chrestus' was undoubtedly a reference to Christ, possibly a mistake or a derivative of 'Christus,' referring to adherents of the Christian faith. Bernard Green has this to say...

 

"Chrestus is a common enough name for a slave, meaning ‘useful’ or ‘good,’ but Suetonius writes as though he expects his readers to know who he is talking about. The most plausible interpretation is that it is a misspelling of Christus and that it means Christians. In other words, Suetonius was reporting the expulsion of Jews who had accepted Jesus as Messiah, such as Aquila and Priscilla, and who were responsible for tumults within the Jewish community. The imperial government would not, presumably, have wanted to get drawn into a Jewish theological dispute but they might easily have acted to keep the peace when there was rioting or disturbances."[11]

 

The war against the Romans in 70 CE, and the subsequent wars in the second century could be compared to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the religiously inspired zealousness of its adherents against western foreign occupiers. This Judaic fundamentalism, attested to by multiple sources, perfectly compliments the history we know of this people, their culture and the environment -- a culture willing to die or moved to warlike actions against opposing sects, kings, governors, and even Caesar himself when they felt their fundamentalist religious beliefs were under political and social threat. In other words, both extrabiblical and biblical sources are in harmony in regards to this hostility and is what we would expect from this historical context when comparing the sources.

So, again, the validity of martyrdom tradition becomes a moot point. The resurrection scandal theory must propose that the disciples (the perpetrators of this scandal) essentially challenged not only the authorities but their own religious communities around them by falsely exalting a man whom the Jewish establishment had accused as an idolater and blasphemer, the Romans as a criminal, and in tandem had put to death; yet kept this unwavering motivation during typical persecution we know for fact was a reality -- i.e. hardships, ridicule, synagogue and community expulsion, beatings, imprisonment, and at the very least, in face of potential death. The pressure of persecution and potential martyrdom is even worse than facing the moment of death itself because this is ongoing without any predictable course.

To think they devised this scheme in this environment is untenable. There is simply no way of denying the fact that the disciples believed he had risen, and even if we take the extreme viewpoint and unjustifiably dismiss most of the later martyrdom traditions as inconclusive or unreliable, we still have to contend with the historical environment they were subjected to. Thus, this inevitably forces one back to square one; perhaps argue that the resurrection story was merely a delusion or maybe a misconstrued situation caused by an empty tomb, which takes us back to alternative theories we previously explored (here: Onward Christian Martyrs: The Theories).

 

Conclusion

I don't buy the argument that the resurrection cannot be proven a historical fact just because it defies natural historical probability. When one valuates the evidence honestly, the evidence is in fact extraordinary. No, we cannot come to a historical "certainty" about the resurrection, anymore than we can be certain about anything in history that is not discovered or dug up by archeology or tested in a laboratory. However, I believe you can come to a logical certainty when it is placed within the proper historical framework we thoroughly explored, and when all other natural explanations for the resurrection belief are exhausted and shown to be implausible against the barriers that make up the historical framework. When one understands this framework, instead of ECREE becoming the criterion, the historical framework itself becomes an extraordinary hurdle that requires an extraordinary explanation to get over, thus the historical hurdle itself becomes the extraordinary evidence.

No matter how I look at it, there are just too many barriers as a whole to try and explain away, hence any other theory just falls by the wayside. Therefore if a resurrection did occur, not only does it completely nullify the distorted and erroneous "Jesus" that the secular world reshapes in order to fit into a neutral and politically correct acceptable mold, but it cancels out the possibility that Jesus was a fraud for his preternatural claims, which is the only other conclusion apart from denying he ever made such claims, a view I debunked in another article (here: The Messiah Dilemma).

Moreover, the fact he is the resurrected Son of God as he claimed he was also fills in the void that leaves us bereft of an adequate explanation to justify any motive he had had his extraordinary claims been a lie. In other words, we don't need to struggle with any motive Jesus had for making his claims, other than the fact that the claims are true. If there is good evidence for the historical resurrection of Jesus then this is where it all starts. Jesus believed there was an eternity. Jesus believed in two opposing eternal beings -- God and Satan. Jesus believed in a heaven and hell. Jesus believed the world would eventually come to an end, and the only thing left would be his words. Jesus believed that the gospel and kingdom of God was the most important goal that anyone could ever strive for. Jesus believed he was the only true way to the one true God.

Love it or hate, accept it or reject it, if he historically rose from the dead, this is the divine stamp of authoritative approval that bolsters and legitimizes everything else he taught and believed as genuine. Since he demonstrated an extraordinary and impossible power over the laws of nature that no other religious founder in the history of mankind has ever demonstrated, and made claims about himself that no other religious founder has ever made, he is THE authority, is obviously the source of whom to look for truth, and is also one to use as a guide and barometer by which to gauge all other truths or non-truths.

Go home 

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Source References

1. See Stolen Body Hypothesis: Critique of the Stolen Body Hypothesis.

2. J. B. Phillips, Fate of the Apostles (www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm).

3. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 20, chap. 9:1 (http://wesley.nnu.edu).

4. Clement, Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 5 (www.newadvent.org).

5. Ignatius, Epistle to the Ephesians, chap 12 (www.newadvent.org).

6. Tertullian, The Prescription Against Heresies, chap. 24; Scorpiace, chap. 15 (www.newadvent.org).

7. Hyppolytus, On the Aposltes and Disciples: On the Twelve Apostles (www.newadvent.org).

8. Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, pp.29-42; 2005.

9. Josephus, Against Apion, book 1, 8 (http://www.ccel.org).

10. Suetonius, Claudius, chap. 25:4 (http://penelope.uchicago.edu).

11. Bernard Green, Christianity in Ancient Rome, pp.26-27; 2010.