The Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship and the Harvard-Radcliffe Discussion Group were joint sponsors of a discussion program moderated by psychiatrist Dr. Armand Nicholi, of the University Health Services in Harvard Medical School, and featuring an address by Dr. J. N. D. Anderson, dean of the faculty of law in the University of London and visiting professor last year at Harvard Law School. Dr. Nicholi’s introduction and Dr. Anderson’s address follow.

DR. NICHOLI: As we came in the door Professor Harvey Cox said that many more people are here tonight than were at the conference titled “God is dead”—and he wondered if perhaps more people are interested in His being alive. This afternoon somebody told me he had seen, on one of the subway walls, a sign that said, “God is dead. Nietzsche.” But a student had come along and put a line through that, and had instead written, “Nietzsche is dead. God.” We like to think that our beliefs are based on a careful consideration of the evidence. This of course is seldom the case. What we currently know about the functioning of the mind indicates rather clearly that our belief as well as our behavior is influenced more by how we feel than by what we think. Even within the intellectual community, where a high premium is placed on reason and on the process of distinguishing between assumption and fact, we find that what a man believes is influenced in large measure by emotional bias and prejudgments and less by objective and critical assessment of the evidence. There are few areas in which this is more true than in Christianity, and this accounts for many of the misconcepts that surround it. As with all reality, a little knowledge leads not to a few correct concepts but to many misconcepts. We have recently observed the Christmas season commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and soon we will be observing the Easter season commemorating his resurrection. Down through the centuries many have considered the Easter season the most profoundly meaningful to their faith. Others, of course, have taken a different view. The topic of our discussion, the evidence for the resurrection, is therefore both timely and provocative. Our speaker is a scholar of international repute and one eminently qualified to deal with the subject of evidence. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on Islamic law, and is now visiting professor at the Harvard Law School. He is dean of the faculty of law in the University of London, chairman of the department of Oriental law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, and director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in the University of London. It is a pleasure to introduce Dr. Norman Anderson.

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Our chairman has reminded us that men’s and women’s faith and beliefs are very often based on prejudice, instinct, upbringing, and feeling, rather than on reason and evidence. But it is with the aspect of evidence for Christianity that we are now concerned. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has always been regarded as a pivotal point in Christianity. St. Paul wrote long ago, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching meaningless, and your faith worthless.” “More than that,” he said, “we ourselves, we apostles, are found false witnesses to God.” So I imagine that everyone in this lecture room would agree that it is clearly a matter of great importance to try to make up one’s mind about the Easter story—whether it’s fact or whether it’s fable. But many people would say, “Obviously this is of great importance, but how can it be done? It all happened so long ago. How can we come to any considered conviction about it today?”

There are at least two ways one can set about this. The first way—the way we will follow—is examination of the historical evidence, to try to make up one’s mind whether it is early and more or less contemporary and whether it is convincing, or whether it is susceptible to rationalistic interpretation. The other approach would be experimentation—putting the risen Christ to the test in one’s own life and the lives of other people.

I shall try to consider this matter not in the manner of the preacher or the theologian, which I make no pretensions to be, but in the manner of a lawyer, which I do attempt to be. Now, on what evidence does the Easter story rest? It rests primarily on the written testimony of six men whom we commonly call Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul.

The question is continually asked, Is there no contemporary documentary evidence from non-Christian sources on this subject? And the answer, I think, is that substantially speaking there is none. There is a letter from the younger Pliny to the Emperor Trajan about the year A.D. 110 in which he makes a reference to the origins of Christianity and the early Christian community. There is a very short and passing reference to Jesus of Nazareth and his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate in the writings of Tacitus the Roman historian about the year 115. And there are a number of references, many of them disputed, in the writings of Josephus, who wrote between about 70 and 95. But the references to the origins of Christianity in Josephus, if you accept them as original (as some of them probably are), are meager in the extreme and make no statement on the resurrection. This is not surprising, for if one accepts the gospel records it is perfectly plain that the risen Christ made no attempt whatever to appear to his enemies or his opponents, to put them to confusion, but deliberately showed himself alive after his passion to witnesses chosen by him, and sent them to bear testimony to the rest of humanity. And none of these writers was living in Palestine at that time.

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But when we turn to the New Testament documents the matter is very different. There are abundant references both to the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances and to the effect of the resurrection on the primitive Church. It is perhaps not always realized what considerable strides modern scholarship has taken in fixing beyond any reasonable doubt, to my mind at least, the early date of a great many of the New Testament documents; modern scholarship has really excluded, I think, the extravagantly late date attributed to some New Testament documents not so many years ago. I myself am fully convinced that the New Testament writers were not left to their unaided resources but were given divine aid; but naturally, in this attempt to assess the evidence of the resurrection in a more or less legal manner, I’m not taking that for granted in any way. Nor will you expect me to deal with the precise dates and authenticity of the different New Testament documents. It’s not my subject, and I wouldn’t presume to deal with it; anyway, it would take far too long. But as a basis for any research of this subject we must briefly examine some of the witnesses.

For our first witness I will call the Apostle Paul. If you will look sometime at the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, you will find there the most complete list of the resurrection appearances to be found in any one place in the New Testament. As far as I am aware, the vast majority of reputable scholars consider First Corinthians a genuine document of the Apostle Paul. And there seems no real doubt about the date—that it was written within a year or two of A.D. 55, or even earlier.

If you look at that chapter carefully you will see that the Apostle says he had already given an account by word of mouth, to the very people to whom he was writing, of what he was now committing to paper. This probably takes us back to the year 49, when he paid his first visit to Corinth. As a matter of fact, he states in this chapter that he had himself received what he passed on to others. That, I suppose, takes us back to his visit to Jerusalem, about which he tells us in the first chapter of the epistle to the Galatians, when he spent fifteen days with Simon Peter and also saw James, the Lord’s brother. In point of fact, in First Corinthians 15 we have an account of a private interview of the risen Christ with both Peter and James. And that, I suppose, would take us back to about the year 40—to within ten years of the event.

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But whether or not you accept that little bit of reasoning, in this list of the resurrection appearances Paul the Apostle specifically tells us that the Risen Christ appeared on one occasion to 500 brethren at once, and he says that, at the time when he wrote, the majority at least of these 500 witnesses were still alive. So there is our first bit of evidence—a document acknowledged by almost everyone to be written by the Apostle Paul, acknowledged to be written about the year 55, and stating positively that, at the time it was written, the majority of 500 witnesses to the resurrection were still living.

For our second witness we’ll call Mark, the writer of the second Gospel. Suggestions have been made that an Aramaic version of the Gospel may have been in circulation at a very early date. Be that as it may, almost everyone accepts Mark as a very early and primitive authority. Most scholars, I believe, accept the statement of one of the earliest Fathers of the Christian Church that Mark was Peter’s interpreter; in other words, that Mark’s Gospel is substantially a written account of the oral testimony of Simon Peter. And in this very primitive document we find another independent reference to the resurrection appearances and—more important—probably the earliest account of the women’s visit to the empty tomb on the first Easter morning.

For our third witness we’ll call the writer of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, conceded by the great majority of scholars to be Luke, “the beloved physician,” as St. Paul named him. Sir William Ramsey and others have shown what an accurate historian this writer was in such matters as disputed points in the accounts of the missionary journeys and the titles given to Roman officials whom St. Paul met in the course of those journeys. In these two documents, Luke and Acts, you find another independent account of the resurrection appearances, and of the women’s visit on the first Easter morning to the empty tomb—and also what I think is the earliest account of the apostolic preaching in Jerusalem based on the resurrection, going back, we are told, to the day of Pentecost.

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Now, we have considered the credentials of three of the witnesses. I’m not going to deal with the other three, not because I don’t accept them as equally authoritative but because time forbids. I have chosen these three because there is a substantial degree of critical agreement with regard to the points I’ve put before you. How then are we to deal with this testimony? It seems to go right back to the first generation of Christians. In fact, I would say that beyond any reasonable doubt whatever, it goes back to the first generation of Christians. It goes back at the very least to the time of the Pauline epistles, the earlier Pauline epistles. How is one to deal with it?

The most drastic way of dismissing the evidence would be to say that these stories were mere fabrications, that they were pure lies. But, so far as I know, not a single critic today would take such an attitude. In fact, it would really be an impossible position. Think of the number of witnesses, over 500. Think of the character of the witnesses, men and women who gave the world the highest ethical teaching it has ever known, and who even on the testimony of their enemies lived it out in their lives. Think of the psychological absurdity of picturing a little band of defeated cowards cowering in an upper room one day and a few days later transformed into a company that no persecution could silence—and then attempting to attribute this dramatic change to nothing more convincing than a miserable fabrication they were trying to foist upon the world. That simply wouldn’t make sense.

Others might say, No, we wouldn’t call these stories lies, but let’s call them legends; that’s a kinder word. And of course, if it had been possible to date the Gospels two or three hundred years after the event (I hardly need remind you that the attempt to do that has been made by a wealth of scholars and that it has quite definitely failed), then it might have been possible for legends of this sort to develop. But it seems to me almost meaningless to talk about legends when you’re dealing with the eyewitnesses themselves.

Besides, if you examine these stories you find they don’t really look like legends. To a legend-monger it would have been a great temptation to invent some story as to how the resurrection took place, or some incident in which the risen Christ appeared to put his opponents to confusion; but we find no such attempt. What legend-monger would have made the first resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene, a woman of no great standing in the Christian Church? Wouldn’t any legend-monger have made the first appearance to Simon Peter the leading apostle, or John the beloved disciple, or—still more likely, perhaps—to Mary the mother of our Lord? Why to Mary Magdalene?

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And who can read about the appearance to Mary Magdalene, or the incident where the risen Christ joined two disciples on an afternoon walk to Emmaus, or the time when Peter and John raced each other to the tomb—who can read these stories and really think they’re legend? They are far too dignified and restrained; they are far too true to life and psychology. The difference between them and the sort of stories you find in the apocryphal gospels of but two or three centuries later is a difference almost between heaven and earth. No, as far as I know, no one today suggests that these stories are either lies or legends, just like that.

All the attempts to explain the Easter story and the resurrection appearances that I’ve seen are marked by a rather interesting phenomena. The critics first of all isolate the stories of the empty tomb and attempt to explain them on a variety of ingenious hypotheses, and then they turn to the resurrection appearances and dismiss them as some form of psychological or pathological experience—no doubt vivid and convincing on a subjective level to the apostles, who certainly believed in the resurrection, but, according to the critics, with no objective foundation.

Well, let us consider the question of the empty tomb. The earliest attempt to explain away the empty tomb can be found in St. Matthew’s Gospel. There we are told that the Jewish leaders gave money to the guards to say that the apostles had come by night and stolen away the body and had no doubt disposed of it somewhere. But so far as I know, no one today suggests that the apostles did that. I am aware, of course, of a recent book entitled The Passover Plot, which comes back to that particular solution in a rather different way. I’d prefer to deal with that comprehensively a little later. But that the apostles as we know them came and stole the body really would be an impossible view in view of both ethics and psychology. To imagine that they just foisted a miserable deception on the world simply wouldn’t fit in with their life and teaching and all we know of them. And it couldn’t begin to explain this dramatic change of the little band of defeated cowards into witnesses whom no persecution could silence.

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No, better than that would be the suggestion that the body was removed by orders of the high priest or by orders of the Roman governor, or conceivably by Joseph of Arimathea, the owner of the sepulcher. Quite apart from anything else that may be said about those three suggestions, which we’ll take together to save time, the crucial point as I see it is this: Within seven short weeks—if the records are to be believed at all, and I cannot see any possible reason for Christian writers to have invented that difficult gap of seven weeks—within seven short weeks Jerusalem was seething with the preaching of the resurrection. The apostles were preaching it up and down the city. The chief priests were very much upset about it. They said that the apostles were trying to bring this man’s blood upon them. They were being accused of having crucified the Lord of glory. And they were prepared to go to almost any lengths to nip this dangerous heresy in the bud. Well, then, if the body had been moved by their orders, then, when the apostles started preaching the resurrection up and down the city, why didn’t they issue an official denial? Why didn’t they say, “That’s nonsense. The body was moved at our orders.” If that wouldn’t have convinced people, why didn’t they call as witnesses those who took the body away? If that wouldn’t have sufficed, why didn’t they point people to its final resting place? And if that wouldn’t have sufficed, why didn’t they produce the body? Surely they could have exploded Christianity once and for all. Why didn’t they do it?

To me there’s only one answer: They couldn’t, because they didn’t know where the body was. The same argument would apply to the Roman governor. He too was upset about this strange teaching. If he had had the body moved, it seems incredible that he wouldn’t have informed the chief priests when they were so upset. And that would bring us back to the question, Why didn’t they explode the whole story?

Well, what about Joseph of Arimathea? I think my answer would be that the critics really can’t have it both ways. They have a choice. On the one hand, they can accept what the New Testament says about Joseph, that he was a secret disciple, in which case it is unlikely that he would remove the body without consulting the apostles first—and incredible that he wouldn’t have told them afterwards, when the preaching of the resurrection was echoing up and down the lanes and alleys of the city. That would bring us back to the idea that the apostles were foisting a miserable deception on the world.

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The other view critics can choose to take about Joseph of Arimathea—apart from the suggestion in The Passover Plot—is that he was a pious Jew who put the body in his sepulcher so that it wouldn’t hang on the cross on the sabbath day. In that case it’s unlikely that he would have moved the body without consulting the chief priests first, and it is fantastic to suggest that he wouldn’t have told them afterward, when they were so upset about this heresy. In that case, why didn’t they call Joseph as a witness? Why didn’t they issue an official denial?

Another suggestion about the empty tomb was espoused by one of the theological teachers at Cambridge, England, in the days of my own youth and innocence in that university. It runs somewhat like this: The women were Galileans and strangers in Jerusalem; they didn’t know their way about the city very well. They saw their Master buried in the half-light of the evening, when their eyes were blinded with tears, and they went to the tomb in the half-light of the morning. According to this theory they missed their way and went to the wrong sepulcher. A young man happened to be hanging about and, guessing what they wanted, said to them, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here [pointing to the tomb they were looking at]. Behold the place where they laid him [pointing to another tomb].” But the women got frightened and ran away. Subsequently they decided that the young man was an angel proclaiming the resurrection of their Master.

That’s very ingenious, but I don’t think it stands up to investigation. To begin with, it’s based on accepting the beginning and the end of what the young man is recorded to have said and leaving out the most important part, the middle; and for that I can see no scholarly justification whatever. For we are told that what the young man said is, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here. He is risen. Behold the place where they laid him”—which changes the whole meaning, of course.

However, even if you think that it’s justifiable to deal with his statement the other way, it’s not really as easy as it might seem—as those who put forward this theory themselves admit. For if the women went straight back to the apostles and told them, why didn’t the apostles do one of two things: either go and check up on the facts for themselves or start preaching the resurrection at once? Unless you ignore the whole tenor of the New Testament documents, they didn’t start preaching for another seven weeks. As I’ve already said, I cannot see any possible motive for Christian writers to have invented that seven-week gap. So we’re asked to believe that the women didn’t tell the apostles this story for quite a long time. Why not? Because the apostles had supposedly run away to Galilee. Why? Well, because Jerusalem was not a very healthful place for Christians just then. But we’re not told why the apostles were so particularly ungallant that they ran away and left their wives and sisters and mothers behind. We’re asked to believe that the men went down to Galilee and left the women in Jerusalem, and that the women stayed in Jerusalem for some weeks for no apparent reason. It was only when the apostles came back from Galilee already convinced by some mystical experience that their Master was still alive—only then, supposedly, that the women told them about the visit to the tomb. Then the apostles put two and two together, made seven or eight out of it, and proclaimed the resurrection.

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Frankly, I don’t find that convincing. On that basis, I suppose the body of our Lord would still have lain where it had always lain, in Joseph’s tomb. The chief priests must have known where that was, or if not they could have found out very easily. So they could have exploded the whole story by saying, “This is nonsense. If you don’t believe us, come and see.”

There is another explanation of the empty tomb, first put forward by a man named Venturini a couple of centuries or so ago. It has been resuscitated in recent years in a slightly different form by a heterodox group of Muslims called the Ahmadiya, who used to have their main headquarters at a place called Qadian and who have their English headquarters in a part of London called Putney. On two occasions they’ve invited me to go and address them. Their explanation runs like this: Christ was indeed nailed to the cross. He suffered terribly from shock, loss of blood, and pain, and he swooned away; but he didn’t actually die. Medical knowledge was not very great at that time, and the apostles thought he was dead. We are told, are we not, that Pilate was surprised that he was dead already. The explanation assertedly is that he was taken down from the cross in a state of swoon by those who wrongly believed him to be dead, and laid in the sepulcher. And the cool restfulness of the sepulcher so far revived him that he was eventually able to issue forth from the grave. His ignorant disciples couldn’t believe that this was a mere resuscitation. They insisted it was a resurrection from the dead.

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Well, again, it’s very ingenious. But it won’t stand up to investigation. To begin with, steps were taken—it seems—to make quite sure that Jesus was dead; that surely is the meaning of the spear-thrust in his side. But suppose for argument’s sake that he was not quite dead. Do you really believe that lying for hour after hour with no medical attention in a rock-hewn tomb in Palestine at Easter, when it’s quite cold at night, would so far have revived him, instead of proving the inevitable end to his flickering life, that he would have been able to loose himself from yards of graveclothes weighted with pounds of spices, roll away a stone that three women felt incapable of tackling, and walk miles on wounded feet? The skeptic Strauss, you know, quite exploded that theory, to my mind, when he wrote that it would have been impossible for a being who had crept sick and faint out of a sepulcher, needing bandaging, sustenance, and attention, to convince his disciples that he was the risen Lord of Life, an impression which lay at the foundation of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could by no means have changed their reverence into worship.

So much for the empty tomb, except for two quick points. The first is this: Have you noticed that the references to the empty tomb all come in the Gospels, which were written to give the Christian community the facts they wanted to know? In the public preaching to those who were not believers, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, there is an enormous emphasis on the fact of the resurrection but not a single reference to the empty tomb. Now, why? To me there is only one answer: There was no point in arguing about the empty tomb. Everyone, friend and opponent, knew that it was empty. The only questions worth arguing about were why it was empty and what its emptiness proved.

The second point is this: I’ve been talking all this time about the empty tomb, but it seems that it wasn’t really empty. You remember the account in John’s Gospel of how Mary Magdalene ran and called Peter and John and how the two men set out to the tomb. John, the younger, ran on quicker than Peter and came first to the tomb. He stooped down, “peeped” inside (which I believe is the literal meaning of the Greek), and saw the linen clothes and the napkin that had been about the head. And then Simon Peter came along and, characteristically, blundered straight in, followed by John; and they took note of the linen clothes and the napkin, which was not lying with the linen clothes but was apart, wrapped into one place. The Greek there seems to suggest that the linen clothes were lying, not strewn about the tomb, but where the body had been, and that there was a gap where the neck of Christ had lain—and that the napkin which had been about his head was not with the linen clothes but apart and wrapped in its own place, which I suppose means still done up, as though the body had simply withdrawn itself. We are told that when John saw that, he needed no further testimony from man or angel; he saw and believed, and his testimony has come down to us.

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So much then for the empty tomb, which seems to me to be an exceedingly important bit of evidence, in fact, a basic piece of evidence. But equally important, I don’t think you can dismiss the resurrection appearances as just some form of hallucination or psychological or pathological experience. Now, I’m no doctor. Our chairman this evening is a psychiatrist, and I’d much rather leave this part of the presentation to him. But let me just say that I understand from medical friends that hallucinary experiences commonly conform to certain rules that simply don’t apply in this case.

To begin with, only certain types of persons have experiences like this—the type we call high-strung people. But I do not see how you can categorize witnesses to the resurrection as any one or two psychological types. Again, I’m told that experiences of this sort are highly individualistic, because they are naturally linked to the subconscious mind and to the past lives of the persons who experience them. So two different people will not have identical hallucinations. But in this case 500 are recorded as having had the same experience on one occasion, eleven on another, ten on another, and seven on another. And there were other groups, too. It doesn’t look purely subjective; it looks as if these experiences had some objective foundation.

Again, I am told that experiences of this sort commonly concern some expected event. A mother whose son runs away to sea always believes that he will come home, and she lights a lamp each evening to welcome him home. One day she imagines she sees him walk in at the door. But here the evidence is overwhelming that the disciples were not expecting any such thing. They ought to have been, but they weren’t.

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Again, I am told that experiences of this sort commonly occur in suitable circumstances with suitable surroundings. But analyze the resurrection appearances: one at the tomb in the early morning; one during an afternoon walk into the country; one or two private interviews in the full light of day; one in an upper room in the evening; one at the lakeside in the early morning; and so on.

Finally, I am told that experiences of this sort commonly recur over a very considerable period, either getting more and more frequent until there is some crisis, or less and less frequent until they die away. But in this case 500 people claim to have had at least one such experience. A number claim to have had several such experiences within a period of forty days. And at the end of those forty days these experiences seem to have come to a sudden end. Not one of these men or women claims to have had such an experience again. I am aware that the Apostle Paul some years later claims to have seen a vision of the risen Christ in heaven on the road to Damascus. I have no doubt that he did have it, but I suggest that there was a fundamental difference between this vision and the experiences of the forty days during which the risen Christ came in and went out among the disciples.

Nor do I think you can explain these alleged appearances by the phenomena of modern spiritism. Here I’m certainly no expert, but you certainly can’t find one medium who was present on each occasion, nor can you find the usual little band of earnest seekers after the supernatural. And the One who appeared seems to have been very different from alleged spirit emanations. He could be clearly seen in broad daylight, recognized with some difficulty (it seems), and he could invite a finger to explore the print of the nails.

Nor do I think that these stories are adequately explained by the theory of the mere spiritual survival of Christ. It seems to me that the evidence goes much further than that. The evidence is that his spirit came back to his mutilated human body, which was somehow transformed—transformed into something that I can only call a spiritual body. If you ask me what a spiritual body is like, I must say frankly that I don’t know. But we live in a world of three dimensions, and there are lots of other things we don’t know. The evidence seems to point to the fact that this body could withdraw itself from the grave-clothes, could apparently pass through closed doors, could appear and disappear, and yet could be recognized with some difficulty, could be clearly seen and distinctly heard, and could invite, as I said, a finger to explore the print of the nails.

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Now just a word, if I may, about that recent book called The Passover Plot. It’s an ingenious book, but I must say that I find it wholly unconvincing. It is an attempt to explain the whole story of the crucifixion and resurrection, written by a Jew who has great respect for Jesus of Nazareth but who excludes even the possibility of his deity without any examination of this in the book at all. He believes that Christ himself believed he was the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures and that he very largely interpreted his messiahship in terms of the passages about the suffering servant in the latter part of Isaiah. And the author of The Passover Plot believes that Christ deliberately set to work to fulfill those prophecies by suffering an apparent death, and something that might be regarded as a resurrection. Jesus is said to have very carefully kept the secret of what he intended to do from the twelve apostles, who knew nothing about it whatever, and to have confided his plan only to Joseph of Arimathea and to one or two others in Jerusalem—that he plotted it all; that he virtually provoked the betrayal; that it was arranged that one of the people in the plot should put a sponge to a reed, and put it to his lips, containing a substance which would cause him to swoon away; that Joseph would then go and ask for the body, alleging that it was dead when it was not dead; that the body should be nursed and looked after and that Christ should be revived; but that this plan was frustrated by the spear-thrust in his side. The author imagines that the persons in the plot managed to resuscitate Jesus of Nazareth for a period of about half an hour, that he was able to give messages to his disciples, but that he then died and they disposed of his body somewhere. Then they tried to pass on his messages to the apostles, who knew nothing about this, and the apostles made a whole series of mistakes which led them to belief in a resurrection.

Never in my life have I read a book which took some bits of evidence and rejected others on such a subjective basis. Many incidents in the Gospels are accepted just because they fit this theory; others are rejected because they don’t. Occasionally an attempt is made to give an objective basis, but time and again it’s purely subjective. I find the elements in the plot wholly unconvincing—the utter secrecy from the twelve, and the supposed provocation of the betrayal, for example; and I cannot see what would have been the result had the alleged plot succeeded. What would have happened if Christ had apparently come back to life? Would he then have told the disciples? What would he have gained? I cannot believe that this story in any way explains the resurrection appearances, which allegedly refer to an entirely different person. Surely the apostles would not have made so gigantic a mistake as that. And I cannot see how the conspirators would have kept it secret after it had all failed, and would never have shared it with the other apostles.

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There’s a phenomenon in the world today called the Christian Church. It can be traced back in history to the region of Palestine in the first century. To what does it owe its origin? The New Testament—its documents of association, as a lawyer would call them—makes the unequivocal statement that the Church owed its origin to the resurrection of its founder from the dead. Is there really any other theory that fits the facts?

Much the same can be said about the phenomenon of the Christian Sunday, which can be traced back in much the same way. We need to remember that almost all the first Christians were convinced Jews who were fanatically attached to the Jewish sabbath. What would have prompted them to change that to the first day of the week? It would have required something pretty significant. In fact, it took the resurrection to make them do it. Much the same argument could be used about the festival of Easter.

What about the success of the early Church? Our Lord himself had had a big following in Galilee but a very small following in Jerusalem. We are told, however, that the apostles made thousands of converts in Jerusalem, many of them from among the circle of the priests. They did it by preaching the resurrection. And they did it within a short walk of Joseph’s tomb. Anyone who listened to them could have walked to the tomb and back between luncheon and what the English call afternoon tea. Do you really believe they would have made all those converts if the tomb hadn’t been empty?

What about the apostles? What was it that changed Peter from one who three times denied his Master before servants to someone who defied the chief priests? We are told that the risen Christ appeared to Peter, and he was never the same man again. What changed James, the unbelieving brother of our Lord during the days of his ministry, so that he became the president or bishop of the Jerusalem church a few years later? We are told that the risen Christ appeared to James, and he then wrote about his human relative as the Lord of glory. Or what about Paul the persecutor, who was in the inner councils of the chief priests? Do you believe he would have become Paul the apostle without checking up on whether the tomb was empty? Why, he must have known the tomb was empty, but he didn’t know until the vision on the road to Damascus why it was empty.

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What about the very strong evidence that Christ himself foretold his resurrection, though the disciples simply couldn’t understand it? Not so very long ago there was in England a young man barrister, or what you would call a trial lawyer, by the name of Frank Morrison. He was an unbeliever. For years he promised himself that one day he would write a book to disprove the resurrection finally and forever. At last he got the leisure. He was an honest man and he did the necessary study. Eventually, he wrote a book that you can buy as a paperback, Who Moved the Stone? Starting from the most critical possible approach to the New Testament documents he concludes inter alia that you can explain the trial and the conviction of Jesus only on the basis that he himself had foretold his death and resurrection.

What about that awkward seven weeks’ gap to which I have already referred? How can you really explain it in any other way except by that fact that the apostles were completely absorbed for the first forty days by their intermittent interviews with their risen Lord, and that they then waited for another ten days at his command until the Holy Spirit came?

What about Christian experience all down the ages? And the multitude of men and women—rich and poor, reprobate and respectable, learned and ignorant—who have found in the risen Christ their joy and peace and certainty?

And what about the One who rose? Even if someone were to take the attitude, “I can’t help it; however strong the evidence may be, I will never believe that Tom Smith could be dead for a large number of hours and then come alive again,” would that apply to the One of whom we are speaking? Why, he was unique—unique in his teaching, unique in his miracles, unique in his claims, unique in his personality, unique in his sinlessness. Quite apart from the resurrection there is most excellent evidence, to me at least, that he wasn’t just a man but God incarnate. Is it incredible that such a One should rise again? To me the incredible thing is that such a One as he should die for us men and for our salvation.

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I have been dealing with the historical evidence for the resurrection. No doubt you could hire a lawyer to do it very much better than I’ve done it. But I can only say that I wholeheartedly believe in what I’ve been saying. And I suppose that, for the individual, the final evidence of the resurrection—I don’t mean the most important evidence but the concluding evidence—is the evidence of personal experience. I’m not referring to some weird mystical experience of the risen Christ apprehended by the senses. I am saying only that all through the ages, and still today, men and women have come to faith in Christ and through him in God through the evidence for the resurrection, and that their faith has been authenticated in daily life. This experience has been true down the ages; it’s true today. I’ve traveled a good deal and have lived in a number of different countries, and I’ve seen it happen time and again. I can only say that I for one am thoroughly convinced.

Milton D. Hunnex is professor and head of the department of philosophy at Willamette University, Salem, Oregon. He received the B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Redlands and the Ph.D. in the Inter-collegiate Program in Graduate Studies, Claremont, California. He is author of “Philosophies and Philosophers.”

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