The Gospel Core
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Theme: The Resurrection
This week’s lessons provide us with evidences to support the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul continues in his Gospel presentation by saying that this great fact of the Resurrection is well attested historically. There are many evidences for it, he says, and chief among these evidences is the fact that Jesus appeared to Peter and then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of who were still living, though some had died. And then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. And last of all, he appeared to Paul “as to one abnormally born.”
I have appreciated the writings of Charles Hodge on 1 Corinthians. Hodge wrote a very wise paragraph about the historical evidences for the Resurrection. He wrote that we are so constituted that we cannot refuse assent to the testimony of good men to a fact fairly within their knowledge. To render such testimony irresistible, it is necessary, first, that the fact to be proved should be of a nature to admit of being certainly known; second, that adequate opportunity be afforded to the witnesses to ascertain its nature and to be satisfied of its veracity; third, that the witnesses be of sound mind and discretion; fourth, that they be men of integrity. If these conditions are fulfilled, he continued, human testimony establishes the truth of the fact beyond reasonable doubt. If, however, in addition to these grounds of confidence, the witnesses give their testimony at the expense of great personal sacrifice or confirm it with their blood, then it is insanity and wickedness to doubt it. All these considerations occur in proof of the resurrection of Christ and render it the most authenticated event in the history of the world.
I don’t think that that is an overstatement. If we talk about the evidences for the Resurrection, we find that there are many. We could talk about the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection. If you say they were invented stories, they were either made up in collusion as the men got together, worked out the details, and wrote it down, or they were made up separately. Here was Matthew; he made his up; Mark made his up, and Luke, and John, and so on.
It has been pointed out quite consistently that they cannot have been made up in collusion because if they were, you wouldn’t find the kind of minor disagreements you do, things like the number of women at the tomb. You can explain why one would say one thing, and one would say another. But that is not the kind of thing that they would allow to stand in their narrative if they were making it up together with somebody else.
But on the other hand, they were not made up separately either, because in all of the basic facts the various accounts are in agreement. What is the explanation then, if they were not made up in collusion and they were not made up separately? The only possibility that is left is that they were not made up at all, so that what you really have here is the actual account. Eyewitnesses testified from their somewhat limited perspective of what they actually knew to be the case.
You can talk as well about the changed character of the disciples. Before the Resurrection, they were fearful, timid men. And yet, a short time after this alleged Resurrection, you find these same cowardly disciples standing up in Jerusalem in the presence of the very men who had killed their Master saying that they were guilty of his blood and proclaiming his Resurrection. What accounts for that? The only thing that can account for that is an actual resurrection. You have the change of the day of worship from Saturday, the Jewish day of worship, to Sunday, the Christian day of worship. Only a Resurrection on Sunday would account for that. Otherwise, the change is too radical. That just is not something that would have happened historically unless there was a cause such as the Resurrection to explain it.
There are many other various explanations and proofs. But what Paul talks about here are the eyewitnesses. You say, “Well, why doesn’t Paul mention the other things?” The reason is that writing at the time he did, it was not necessary to mention the other things because what can be better than an eyewitness, especially if you can talk about five hundred of them who all saw the same thing at once? Paul makes clear in his letter that those who were doubting the Resurrection should just talk to people who were there–Peter and the twelve, five hundred more at one time, then James, then all the apostles, and then, finally, Paul, to whom he appeared at the very end.
What are the evidences for the Resurrection mentioned in today’s lesson?
What is the chief evidence mentioned by Paul? Why?
How can we tell that the Gospel accounts were not made up, either by collusion or separately?