It is not uncommon for people, even those who are not historians, to evaluate historical events. They attempt to say what have been the greatest happenings in man’s story, judging the relative importance of all other occurrences in relation to them. For a long time Columbus’s discovery of America has held one of the top places in the public-opinion poll. No doubt the astronauts’ moonwalks are near the top now. To the Christian, however, the most stupendous fact of history remains the same: God became man, died for man’s sins, and rose again from the dead.

Easter is the celebration of a historical event. We know that Jesus Christ died and rose again at the Jewish Passover while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, while Herod the Tetrarch reigned in Galilee, and while Caiaphas was high priest in Jerusalem. Yet although the Church has always stressed the historicity of this great event, it has not placed an equal emphasis upon what the Resurrection reveals about the nature of history.

That the writers of the New Testament recognized Easter’s significance for the understanding of history is quite clear from the many passages in which they refer to the course of history and its meaning in the light of Christ’s death and resurrection. One has only to think of Peter’s statements in his Pentecostal sermon (Acts 2), Paul’s teachings in Philippians 2 or Colossians 1, or Peter’s warnings in the last chapter of his second epistle. Moreover, the whole view of history found in the Apocalypse is based firmly on the fact that Christ “was dead and is alive.” To the New Testament, Easter is the key to the proper understanding of history.

But what light does Easter shed on history? What does Easter tell us of its nature?

As we read the Easter ...

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