Evidence and Significance
Barack Obama on Easter said...
Opening Remarks at the Annual White House Easter Prayer Breakfast, cited at the Baltimore Sun (April 18, 2011).
Then comes Holy Week. The triumph of Palm Sunday. The humility of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. His slow march up that hill, and the pain and the scorn and the shame of the cross. And we’re reminded that in that moment, he took on the sins of the world — past, present and future — and he extended to us that unfathomable gift of grace and salvation through his death and resurrection. In the words of the book Isaiah: "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this "Amazing Grace" calls me to reflect. And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I’ve not shown grace to others, those times that I’ve fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of our son — his Son and our Savior.
"Jesus' Resurrection and Christian Origins", chap.9 in Passionate Conviction, eds. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig (B&H Academic, Nashville : 2007), p.128.
The historian is bound to face the question: once Jesus had been crucified, why would anyone say that He was Israel's Messiah? ¶ Nobody said that about Judas the Galilean after his revolt ended in failure in AD 6. Nobody said it of Simon bar-Giora after his death at the end of Titus's triumph in AD 70. Nobody said it about bar-Kochbar after his defeat and death in 135. On the contrary, where messianic movements tried to carry on after the death of their would-be messiah, their most important task was to find another messiah. The fact that the early Christians did not do that but continued against all precedent to regard Jesus Himself as Messiah, despite outstanding alternative candidates such as the righteous, devout, and well-respected James, Jesus' own brother, is evidence that demands an explanation. As with their beliefs about resurrection, they redefined messiahship itself and with it their whole view of the problem that Israel and the world faced and the solution they believed God had provided. They remained at one level a classic jewish messianic movement, owing fierce allegiance to their Messiah and claiming Israel and the whole world in His name. But the mode of that claim and the underlying allegiance itself were drastically redefined. ¶ The rise of early Christianity, and the shape it took in two central and vital respects, thus presses upon the historian the question for an explanation. The early Christian retained the Jewish belief in resurrection, but both modified it and made it more sharp and precise. They retained the Jewish belief in a coming Messiah but redrew it drastically around Jesus Himself. Why? ¶ The answer early Christians themselves give for these changes, of course, is that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion.
The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford University Press: 2003), pp. 190-1.
If, further, God's purpose of identifying with our suffering and providing an example and instruction of how to live is to be fulfilled, he must show us that he is doing this. For God to bring to life someone condemned for certain teaching would be to express his approval of that teaching. And since belief in the Resurrection ... was clearly the force which led to the spread of the Gospel throughout so much of the world, if God brought this about, his doing this constituted and intervention in history to make the life of Jesus successful. If God raised Jesus and thus gave impetus to the Church which centrally thereafter taught that Jesus was God Incarnate (which there are also independent grounds for supposing Jesus to have implied), he showed that it was God himself who identified with our suffering. While the Resurrection would vindicate that and all the other teaching of Jesus, since a crucial element of that teaching concerned the availability for us ordinary humans life after death, it would provide the first example of that to which it witnessed. Jesus was the forerunner. If God raised Jesus from the dead, he accepted his sacrifice and vindicated his teaching.
"Dying on Stage: 'The Act of a Dreadful Thing'" in Resurrection, Porter, Hayes, and Tombs, eds. (Continuum: 1999), pp. 297, 301.
Crucifixion demands entombment. And entombment generates drama. Who is hiding in the cupboard of French farce? Who is behind the screen on Blind Date? What is the bran tub, or the cracker, or the long awaited letter when it drops in the letter-box? Open the box! The drama of entombment is there literally in the stage illusionist's repertoire. It might have died with Harry Houdini, but it hasn't. I saw it only the other day on television: the comedian Freddie Star, bound and shackled and then submerged in a fish tank. Curtains drawn round the tank. Lights dimmed. A roll of drums, the lights flash, and then the lights go up and the curtains are drawn back to discover... an empty fish tank. And a few minutes later, Freddie is discovered somewhere else, damp but unharmed and smiling, the Starr reborn. ... I come back to death, 'nothing more terrible, nothing more true'. We go to Shakespeare's tragedies, go to sit in the dark in our boxes at the theatre, to confront what 'we can't escape'. And Shakespeare shows us the mutilated bodies in a stage spectacle. And he portrays death as final, 'the sure extinction that we travel to and shall be lost in always'. But the ritual of theatre-going won't allow it to rest there. We are obliged to remain incarcerated while another stage-spectacle is enacted, the resurrection before our eyes of the actors who are dead. The curtain call. It is a cheat. Like death. Something I know I can't escape, yet can't accept. Tirez le rideau.
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (InterVarsity Press: 1999), p. 127.
I stress the historical angle from the outset because it has of course been argued, indeed insisted upon, in many circles that whatever we mean by the resurrection of Jesus, it is not accessible to historical investigation. As Dominic Crossan remarked about the study of Jesus in general, there have been some who said it could not be done, some who said it should not be done and some who said the former when they meant the latter. Getting to the heart of these objections and answering them in detail would take us far too afield within a single chapter. I simply wish to assert that the historian, so far from being debarred from the investigation of Jesus' resurrection, is in fact obligated to undertake such an investigation. Without it a large hole remains in the center of first-century history, no matter what presuppositions the historian may possess.
W.S. Ross on the Empty Tomb said...
"Did Jesus Christ Rise from the Dead?" in An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism (ed. Gordon Stein, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1980), p. 211.
The most extraordinary Roman soldiers that Rome ever heard of were those soldiers that were set to watch the tomb of Jesus. They managed to fall asleep simultaneously in order to allow Jesus to pass unseen, and when they awoke, for a bribe they deliberately committed suicide by admitting that they had slept — an admission that meant instant execution. Was ever invention so stupidly desperate and mendacity so recklessly absurd as that invention and that mendacity upon which rests the story of the Resurrection, upon which the whole fabric of the Christian faith has elected to stand or fall? The basis is too puerile to support a story told by an idiot for the purpose of imposing upon a fool.
Dio Cassus, Hist. 51.16
Whenever the question of bodily resurrection is raised in the ancient world the answer is negative. Homer does not imagine that there is a way back; Plato does not suppose anyone in their right mind would want one. There may or not be various forms of life after death, but the one thing there isn't is resurrection: the word anastasis refers to something that everybody knows doesn't happen. The classsic statement is Aeschylus's play Eumenides (647-48), in which, during the founding of the Court of the Areopagus, Apollo himself declares that when a man has died, and his blood is spilt on the ground, there is no resurrection. The language of resurrection, or something like it, was used in Egypt in connection with the very full and developed view of the world beyond death. But this new life was something that had, it was believed, already begun, and it did not involve actual bodily return to the present world. Nor was everybody fooled by the idea that the dead were already enjoying a full life beyond the grave. When the eager Egyptians tried to show their new ruler Augustus their hoard of wonderful mummies, he replied that he wanted to see kings, not corpses.