Did Jesus’ Resurrection Really Happen? Part 4

In part three, I stated that alternate explanations must take into account all the facts surrounding the resurrection. Let’s see how well the next few explanations do that.

 The Myth Theory

There is speculation whether Jesus’ resurrection was an actual historical event or whether it is a myth patterned after various “dying and rising” fertility gods of ancient pagan religions. Authors and apologists Josh and Sean McDowell contend that many college professors, liberal authors and Internet skeptics perpetuate this idea, and there are five arguments showing the weakness of this theory.[1]

First, the parallels are greatly exaggerated. Scholars describe pagan rituals in language they borrowed from Christianity, using words like “baptism” and “resurrection” when describing acts of pagan gods.[2] The problem with this is that they use these borrowed words even though their beliefs have little in common with Christian beliefs.

Second, their chronology is off. Available sources for pagan deities date from the second and third centuries A.D., many years after the New Testament canon was completed.[3] So how could the resurrection be based on a pagan myth when Christ’s resurrection occurred before there were sources available to uncover these pagan deities?

Third, Paul was a Pharisee before he met Jesus. This means he was a strict monotheistic Jew. Not only would he not have borrowed from pagan religions, but also he warned early Christian churches against doing this very thing![4] Fourth, the mystery pagan religions were non-historic, timeless depictions of annual events in nature. They were not specifically dated events that actually took place. The death and resurrection of Christ took place at a specific place and time in history.[5]

Last, any parallels that remain may reflect a Christian influence on pagan religions, and not the opposite.[6] In conclusion, the Myth Theory cannot be upheld since there are several logical counterarguments to which it cannot answer.

 The Unknown Tomb Theory

Whereas the Wrong Tomb Theory purports that the women and others went to the wrong tomb, the Unknown Tomb theory suggests that the actual tomb of Jesus was unknown. The claim here is that Jesus’ body was thrown into a common pit for the executed, rather than laid in a new tomb.[7] The problem with this theory is that it completely ignores the historical narrative of the Bible, which explains in great detail the events surrounding the burial and resurrection of Jesus. The McDowells add that in 1968, there was a discovery of the remains of a man who had been crucified and his remains were found in a family tomb outside of Jerusalem. In addition, the writings of Josephus tell us that it was a common practice for the Romans to allow the Jews to bury their own dead.[8]

The Legend Theory

It is argued that the resurrection account of Jesus is nothing more than legend and that it got started years after the time of Christ. There is little merit in this theory since the eyewitnesses preached about and wrote down what they saw and circulated the information. Paul tells us that in the mid-50s A.D., almost all of the 500 witnesses who saw Jesus after His resurrection were still alive to tell about it. His resurrection was well- known up to eight years after it occurred. There wasn’t enough time for myth to develop since eyewitnesses would be around to discredit the new myths.[9]

In part five, we will look at the last of the theories I have investigated.

            [1]Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection: What it Means to Your Relationship with God, (Wheaton, Ill., Tynedale House Publishers, 1996) 200

[2] Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection, 200

            [3] Ibid. 201

            [4] Ibid.

            [5] Ibid.

            [6] Ibid.

            [7] Ibid.

            [8] Ibid. 202

            [9] Ibid. 204

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