The Christian faith did not begin in an obscure town or from a nameless face in history. It placed itself in the centre of history’s religious narrative and made some astounding connections. Why is this such a powerful apologetic?
Thus far in our investigation we have looked at the many individual pieces of historical data that point to the Resurrection, but it is time to take a look at the bigger picture.
The problem with modern criticism of the Resurrection is that it consistently places its focus on a singular piece of data (i.e. the burial of Jesus in Joseph’s tomb), attempts to debunk that piece, then proceeds to offer an alternative explanation. Wash, rince, repeat, until every piece is reimagined and we get a brand new picture of the Resurrection narrative as a whole. However, a significant apologetic lies in the bigger picture and we miss it when we continually isolate a single event in a much larger story. Collectively, what we’re dealing with is something that claims to be deeply imbedded in history in astonishingly significant ways.
If you want to begin a new religion in ancient Israel would it be smart to claim that your religion has important connections that it, truthfully, does not have? Let me put it this way. If I were make the claim now, or even years down the road, that my dear Grandma had been resurrected, would it help my case if I stated that she had been put on trial before Judge Judy, was wanted by the Federal Government for execution, and was buried in Paul McCartney’s tomb? Of course not. Yet this is exactly the kind of story we read in the Gospels. The New Testament is filled with connections to and reports of incidents involving extremely significant people.
This made Christianity vulnerable to suspicion, inspection, and disproof. This is not how you begin a new religion. You start a religion by linking to a nameless and obscure individual and writing about events that have nothing to do with those of greater social standing.
If you didn’t have those connections, or those incidents never really happened, your new religion would not exist. A falsification of even a single one of these reports would be catastrophic. If two were proven false, that would be as good as a deathblow. This would be true of any place where the New Testament or the early Christians made a bold claim about any event, in any city, that could have easily been fact checked by the authorities. A man healed of disease proclaiming his miracle to the Jewish leaders. The raising of Lazarus in a highly public place. The triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The temple veil torn in two. An earthquake and a darkness at midday. The burial of Jesus in the tomb of a member of the Sanhedrin. A crowd speaking in tongues and the disciples healing hundreds at Pentecost. The list goes on and as the social factors we’ve examined thus far can attest to, they had every reason and motivation to prove all of these false.
But that correction never came. Theology was challenged, Jesus’ identity was scrutinized, claims of a stolen body were spread, the early Christians were mocked, criticized, and persecuted, but the historical connections of the faith remained true. Christianity could not/would not have survived if its connections to history were false.
The reality is, modern critics are not the first to challenge the events that the New Testament reports. Indeed, we can be as bold as to say that they are nothing more than pale imitations of the ancients. Alternative theories will always be suggested, mockery of the spiritual will continue to exist, but if even the ancients who, at the very centre of the rise of Christianity could not prove its historical claims false, how much more can modern critics two millenia removed?