Decision Tree - Jesus and the Resurrection
So we've got Mark Ashton here in Gathering this afternoon. Looking at the claims of the Bible related to Jesus and his purported resurrection is a matter of simple sequential decision making. It's like a decision making tree if you've ever seen one of those.
Decision One: Was Jesus a Historical Person? Yes or No?
If he wasn't even a real person, we can talk about how legends arise and spread. How a legend with such implications have ever gotten off the ground is another issue. We'd also have to explore the possibility that Jesus was a real person, but just not a divine person.
Decision Two: Did Jesus really die? Yes or No?
The Swoon theory postulates that Jesus in fact survived the crucifixion! Everyone merely thought he was dead. His body was placed in the tomb where he revived. Possible. Not very likely given the efficiency of the Roman execution apparatus.
So where are we? Let's suppose Jesus was a real person. Who really was successfully executed. What about the tomb? On to decision three...
Decision Three: Did the tomb remain inhabited by Jesus or not?
If Jesus' remains were in the tomb, this would have been a very powerful deterrent against the initial spread of the Christian claim that Jesus was resurrected. Just produce the body and this "ridiculous rumor" would be immediately silenced! Hmmm. What else we got? Is that the end of the decision-making line?
Decision Four: OK, empty tomb - what are the options for what that means?
Three real options are open to us here according to Mr. Ashton's decision tree. The disciples stole the body, made up the resurrection story and spread the legend. This would beg all manner of questions about the ability of the disciples to steal a body from a tomb under Roman guard.
A second possibility is that either the Romans or the Jews stole the body! This wouldn't be in their best interests. Both groups were opposed to the spread of a radical new religious movement excited about a risen Messiah. They would have had reason to KEEP the body under guard, so that if stories did circulate about a risen Jesus, they could simply produce the corpse of Jesus and use it as conclusive proof of Jesus' permanent death.
That leaves us with an empty tomb and a resurrected Jesus as a very plausible explanation (miraculous though it be) for the widest body of evidence. It's not a slam dunk for many people - partly because we don't have the same kind's of evidence we're used to handling today in modern forensics (DNA, photographic or video recordings of a live Jesus, etc). We're forced to weigh the merits of the eye-witness accounts.
Questions from the crowd.
- At one point they're called Disciples. At another point they're called Apostles . Are these the same groups?
- What is the secular evidence for the Resurrection? How detailed is the information those resources give us?
- Was anyone else's remains in the tomb Jesus' body was initially laid in?
- Why do the gospel writers make it such a point that it was women who first discovered and reported the empty tomb?
Catch the whole presentation with Q/A on our media page in a day or two: