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Published: 4 May 2019 (GMT+10)

Defending the Resurrection


Many were encouraged by the article If Christ is not raised. But some wrote in with critical comments and objections to the resurrection. Since one point the article raised is the importance of being able to answer objections to the resurrection, we publish these, with answers from Lita Cosner, for your edification.

John, U.S., writes:

What if the women stole the body of Christ? How would we refute a claim as that, they went to visit the tomb of Jesus, so did they not have that ability? Also was the guard not there when they went to visit? If so, anyone could enter.

The women had no motive to steal the body of Jesus or to fake the resurrection, and if the earliest followers of Jesus wanted to fake a resurrection, women would be the worst people to choose to do it, because the testimony of women was not accepted in that day. The disciples themselves did not believe the women until they saw the empty tomb for themselves.

The women expected to find the tomb with a huge rock in front of it, and they were counting on the guards to pity them and move the sealed stone, because there’s no way they could do it themselves. If they needed the guards there, they obviously couldn’t be counting on slipping the body past the guards, who if anything would be even more alert as they were finishing the burial preparations. In fact, Matthew tells us that when the women went to the tomb, there was an earthquake, and the angel descended from heaven and rolled back the stone, and the guards became as dead men (Matthew 28:1–8).

Even the first Jews to spread the lie that the body was stolen said that the disciples, not the women, stole it (Matthew 28:11–15). The best refutation for the idea that the women stole the body would be that’s a dumb idea, it wouldn’t work, and nobody who denied the resurrection ever blamed the body stealing on the women.

David, U.S., writes

At best, the resurrection is a metaphor. There is no evidence that dead people come back to life. There is plenty of evidence to contrary. And there is also plenty of evidence to show that in the 21st century many followers are leaving their religion too. Just as God failed to prevent the deaths of 200,000 humans in the 2004 tsunami, so imaginary gods will not resolve the multiple challenges we face with excessive global warming.

Someone clearly didn’t pay attention in high school English. The resurrection as a metaphor doesn’t even make sense; literally no one in the New Testament used it as a metaphor. Yes, there’s lots of evidence that people don’t normally rise from the dead, which is precisely why it was such a big deal when Jesus rose from the dead (that was awesome!).1 Miraculous events are, by definition, outside of what science can investigate, which is why we need to look at it as a historical matter. And historically, there is much evidence for it.

Many people are leaving their religion in the West—this is a good thing, if they don’t actually believe in Christ, because that gives us a better idea of who we need to pray for and share our faith with. Many people reject the faith because they’ve never actually been taught how to defend their faith against the uninformed attacks of Internet atheists, who say things like, for instance, “the resurrection is a metaphor, at best.” Besides, Christianity isn’t dying. The ‘decline’ spoken about in the West is predominantly happening among liberal churches, while conservative, bible-believing churches are growing. And while the church is growing slowest in Europe and North America, it is actually still growing.2 In Asia, Africa, and South America, Christianity is experiencing dramatic growth.

You, the Bible, and I can all agree that imaginary gods can do nothing. And if you need to go back to 2004 to find hundreds of thousands of people dying, you’re not trying very hard. The Bible is clear that one consequence of sin is death, and sometimes death takes the form of a natural disaster that kills hundreds of thousands of people. But it is no less a ‘problem’ when people die on a smaller scale. We have a God who came down and died to conquer death, and who rose to show us that He was victorious, and guarantee us that when we trust in Him, we will be raised with a resurrection like His own.

Patricia B., U.K., writes:

Paul says "He appeared to over 500 brethren many of whom are still alive… last of all He appeared to me… what… as a human being… NO… as a vision in the heavens, a light that lit up the sky a voice that knocked him to the ground… so did Paul confer that all that had seen Him had seen Him the same way! Awkward if you want a physical resurrection. This means His body is still here.

Paul himself indicates that his own experience is unlike the apostles, “as to one untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:8). The Gospel accounts which detail the appearances to the women, the disciples, and on the road to Emmaus make it clear that Jesus appeared as a man, a physical human being who could be touched (John 20:27), who could eat food (Luke 24:42–43), and who looked so human that Mary was able to mistake him for the gardener (John 20:15–16). There were some supernatural aspects to His body; He could appear (Luke 24:36) and disappear (Luke 24:31) at will, for instance. But His resurrection was an actual resurrection that left the tomb empty. Otherwise the Jews would not have had to invent the story that the disciples stole the body.

References and notes

  1. Lutheran Satire, Donall and Conall meet Richard Dawkins, 5 April 2015; Return to text.
  2. Kandiah, K.,The Church is growing, and here are the figures that prove it, Christianity Today, 5 March 2015; Return to text.

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
US $14.00
Creation Restored
US $10.00
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00

Readers’ comments

Trish C.
I believe in the Resurrection but just question the picture that goes with the article. It would have to be "taken"/drawn from INSIDE Jesus' tomb so the crosses could be seen on the hill. However, there is vegetation around the opening and would that have been so in a tomb cut out of a rock or rocky area? Just wondering that's all.
Lita Cosner
The illustration is purely artistic and does not depict the actual tomb of Jesus.
Richard P.
Although I'm a bit late joining the discussion, I'd like to add a little more than has been said so far in response to "There is no evidence that dead people come back to life. There is plenty of evidence to contrary." by David - US.
1) Ordinarily they don't come back to life (Lita's point). But David must be aware of the view that Jesus was no ordinary man, whether he agrees with this or not. So his argument is circular: it assumes Jesus was just an ordinary man to prove He couldn't rise, to prove He was not God.
2) "There is no evidence that dead people come back to life". "Yes there is, there's historical eyewitness evidence that Jesus did so". "But that can't be real eyewitness evidence, because dead people don't come back to life". This is effectively what David is saying. It's another instance of circular argument: How do you know the dead don't rise? Because there's no evidence of it. How do you know there's no such evidence? Because the dead don't rise. See also CS Lewis on Miracles.
3) It is also an induction fallacy: millions of people are known not to have risen from the dead, therefore no one can rise from the dead. As a mathematician, I know that millions of examples do not prove a theorem, but one counterexample disproves it. I imagine David is not a mathematician.
Frank B.
Why do WE also endanger ourselves every hour? 1Cor.15v30.
Zach S.
David's objection got me thinking; whenever I hear someone ask "Why would God allow so much death and suffering" and whenever I hear a response from a theistic evolutionist or and old-earth "creationist" the answers they often give makes me shutter. They usually say "Suffering is part of our walk with God" or "We were made to suffer and we learn through suffering and we are to take joy in it" I'm like no way; The God of the Bible dose not "will" people to suffer, it's purely because of our sin that we suffer. Btw. David the only thing "imaginary" is "excessive global warming". Thanks and God Bless!
King T.
David from the U.S. makes this statement: "There is no evidence that dead people come back to life. There is plenty of evidence to contrary". He just left out two very important words - "by itself". All people mentioned in the bible as rising from the dead did so by the power of God. I assume he is an atheist who does not believe in the God of the bible or any other god(s) by definition. Hence perforce, he has to believe that life arose all by itself from non-living materials. Now consider, given his attack on the resurrection, just how absurd that idea must be: We know - and David has just confirmed it - when someone/something dies it does not come back to life again all by itself. Never been observed. Plus that just-died someone/thing already has all the biological ingredients lined up in the right order yet it cannot kick-start itself into life. So how much more of an uphill for the random, non-living material to first organize itself into the biological order BEFORE it can do the impossible act of kick-starting itself into life? This is just pure logic, I haven't even touched on the biochemistry (or abstract logic and information) yet where we know just chirality by itself is an already insurmountable obstacle to spontaneous self-assembly of biological life. So like all atheists, David demands EVIDENCE for the existence of God but glibly neglects to demand evidence for the most fundamental tenet of his own belief system - abiogenesis. In fact by his very statement he refutes that tenet but he is oblivious of that fact.
Lassi P.
Liked this article!

There is also a practical reason as to why Jesus appeared to Paul in less bodily way. Paul even, I think, alludes to it when he says "as to one untimely born". Indeed! Its all about timing. The 500 brethren most probably saw Jesus before His ascension to heaven, unlike the untimely born Paul.

Thank you again folks at CMI!
Dean D.
If Patricia would read a little further in 1Cor. 15:12-19 she would find that a denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus means our faith is worthless. To deny the bodily resurrection means to deny Jesus himself. I would not want to stand before God in judgement with this false belief.
Michael R.
A very good set of responses Lita, thank you. The problem some people have is that they attach far too much importance to their own ideas and opinions, instead of approaching God and the Bible with a humble heart. They are like the rich young man in the gospel who wanted to follow Jesus but would not give up his riches. Consequently he ended up walking away from Jesus. I have seen a number of cases of people who thought of themselves as Christian, but seemed to think that they knew better than the word of God. Unable to let go of their own ideas, they ended up walking away from the faith, sometimes into quite sinful lives.
Richard G.
God bless you Lita. You do a difficult job well. I get a bit sick of people gaily opposing the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. When they can write the world's best-selling book or even near it, we may be inclined to listen to their twaddle. Let them try to write a rival to the Bible. They'll need the ability to transform every day around the world 85,000 sinners into good people. They would need the ability to make prophecies which like the Bible's perfect record have 100% accuracy of fulfillment. The Bible is full of scientific statements and has never once been proved incorrect. I've heard that our science textbooks are so much in error that they only last about ten years. What temerity and effrontery these opposers have to gaily suggest the world's best seller which satisfies millions, is in error. Satan had temerity and effrontery when he told bald lies to Adam and Eve, offering no authority the same as these resurrection deniers. And look what suffering began when our first parents believed Satan's statements which contradicted God's Word. My advice is to be careful not to show the world your true desperate state. I don't call people fools who oppose CMI, but the world's best seller says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" How nice God allows the worst people to repent and to receive His forgiveness per courtesy of Jesus' Cross and His resurrection. How nice that Jesus returned to Heaven and is available to anyone who humbles him or herself to confess their pride etc.. I did that myself 69 years ago when I was 17.
Terry D P.
“At best, the resurrection is a metaphor. There is no evidence that dead people come back to life. There is plenty of evidence to contrary. — David, U.S.” There is plenty of evidence that only adult living human couples, [male and female] can reproduce the next generation of living humans. So, how did the first living couple come to exist, and begin generating the human race? Darwin supposed that all life forms on earth came about by abiogenesis. That is, many “inanimate/inorganic/dead substances” randomly assembled themselves into a single [inanimate/dead] organic cell which spontaneously sprung into life. Darwin imagined that this single “resurrected” cell subsequently split into symbiotic male and female cells; each cell slowly co-evolved into the male and female couples that have produced each generation of humans. It is a well established fact that only living adult human couples begets male and female children, which grow up into adults who pair and beget their own children. So, how can evolutionists assert that there is no evidence that dead people can come back to life, when they assume that the first human couple was assembled from two cells of “dead matter” which spontaneously sprang into life for no apparent reason. But in the Bible it says: “Then the LORD God formed a [dead] man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Thus the man became a living creature. — Gn 2:7”. Thus, the living LORD God originally formed all kinds of life on the earth, from the “dead” dust of the ground in accordance with the principal that only life begets life. It stands to reason, that the invisible Word/Spirit who created the universe, would easily be able to fulfil his prediction to raise himself from the dead on the third day.
John F.
Not only do they pay no attention in school. Those who dispute the resurrection aren't paying attention to what atheists scholars are saying like James Crossley, Bart Ehrman, Gerd Ludemann, etc., they agree with some or all of the “minimal facts of the resurrection. They are even ignorant of the 'coldcase' appologist ex dectective J Warner Wallace who very able defends the authority and reliability of the NT.
Nicholas M.
Lutheran Satire FTW!
Dale S.
I believe by faith also that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a real event in history. I stake my very salvation on this fact! His resurrection was an actual resurrection that left the tomb empty. It was a supernatural event that can only be believed by saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Scoffers in the last days in Peter chapter three will deny His resurrection and return according to the Scriptures. People who claim to be saved and deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ must examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. Our God the Lord Jesus Christ cannot lie according to the Bible. The problem with people that they don't want to believe what the Word of God (Holy Bible) says about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Faith grows by hearing the Word of God. You must diligently seek God through His Word (Hebrews 11:6) to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him (2 Peter 3:18). Amen!
Sincerely In Christ,
Dale Stuckwish
Bill P.
I don't have the words to express the sadness in my heart when I read or hear these type of comments against "The Risen Christ". I can only assume these comments are from people who put their faith in the wisdom of this world. If so I understand why they respond this way, for the wisdom of this world is at odds w/the True and Living God. The only thing worse is when those who claim the title of Christian have the same attitude. Long, long ago in my youth when I lusted after the things of this world I had no need for The Truth of God because it just got in the way of the fun I was having BUT even then there was a guilt deep inside myself that I could never get rid of. Then the day came when The Lord shed His grace on me and showed mercy towards me.
I know now that The Holy Spirit of God was knocking on the door of my heart (as He has been doing for the last 2,000 yrs. w/all peoples), wanting to come in so He could save me from my sin and freely give to me something I could not get for myself, "The Gift of Eternal Life". He did this for me some 40 yrs ago and since that time His Holy Spirit has led me in ALL The Truth of His Word. He is Alive both as God and Man at the RT. hand of His Father and my Father, His God and my God in heaven. His followers who abandoned and denied Him touched His wounds, they ate w/Him, and one of them even saw Him in the garden, and she was so full of joy she wanted to cling to Him and not let go. They went from being afraid for their lives to giving their lives for telling others the "Good News" of Him being raised from the dead.
He is alive He has touched the hearts of millions through His Holy Spirit and this world hates Him and those who put their trust in Him for doing so. Look at today's news, many are killed simply for believing in Him.
Colin H.
Paul mentions that more than 500 brethren saw the risen Jesus at one time, and that most of these witnesses were still alive at the time of his writing. But neither Paul, nor the Scriptures give any details about the time when above 500 brethren saw the risen Jesus at one time.
Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus led the disciples out to Bethany on the Mount of Olives. He gave the disciples a command to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and then rose bodily into heaven. Jesus often visited Bethany, and had friends there. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Simon, and likely many more. Jesus was able to borrow a donkey from Bethany to ride into Jerusalem. Simon made a supper for Jesus in his home in Bethany, and many would have gathered. So when Jesus led the disciples out to Bethany, the news would have spread like wild-fire and many in Bethany would have come out to see Him, perhaps more than 500, and they would have seen the risen Jesus rise bodily into heaven. The Scripture does not tell us this, so this is speculation, but highly likely.

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