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An essay donated by Jose Davis:
Jesus resurrection and ascension: "What's up Jesus?"
Every true Christian is
familiar with the proclamation allegedly brought by Jesus, which is best
understood in John 3:16, from the New Testament,
God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes
in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (New King James Version)
Surprisingly, many Christians
and non-Christians alike seem to overlook the fact that without the
ascension of Jesus into heaven, Christianity itself would have become a dead
one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the
Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so
must the Son of Man be lifted up…" John 3:13-14
Grasping this concept is
crucial to understanding how Christianity developed western civilization. To
think that Jesus never rose to heaven is not only "blasphemy", but a shocking
revelation to any Christian in the modern world. History would have
dramatically changed its course. If the Resurrection did not happen,
Christianity would have disappeared in its early ages. The third century Roman
emperor, Constantine, would have never converted to Christianity, which probably
would have hastened the decline of the Roman Empire. Even after the Roman
Empire, it’s apparent that without Christianity, the Christian Crusades to the
"Promised Land", Jerusalem, would not have taken place, leading to the Muslims
overrunning Europe in the early medieval ages. History would have been extremely
interesting if the human belief in the 1st century A.D. was that
Jesus of Nazareth actually never conquered death. The differences
between actual history and history without Christianity in the first century A.D. would
be extremely interesting.
Historians' rejection of the resurrection and ascension:
humanity may be faced with a second chance to uncover the factuality of this
doctrine. For the past two hundred years, New Testament scholars and historians
have been challenging the accepted belief that enough historical evidence is
available to support the resurrection. If the common public was to be convinced
that there is not enough evidence to support the Resurrection, what then? How
would this alter Christianity?
Is their enough historical evidence to support
the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Contrary to many historians, I believe there
The majority of historians
deny that historical evidence is present to support the
Man-God’s rise into heaven. With the advancement of technology and better
knowledge of culture context, scholars have developed a better understanding of
early Christianity. Artifacts from antiquity and further studies in Jewish and
Roman history have become more apparent. Some of these findings seem to
contradict certain accounts in the New Testament. Also, continued research by
New Testament scholars has raised questions of increasing significance, such as
the authorship of the Gospels. The Gospels were written by Greek-speaking,
intellectual Christians who seemed to be the complete opposites
supposed followers of Jesus. The Apostles were uneducated peasants who spoke
Aramaic, not Greek. The original New Testament was written in Greek. Not
only were the Gospels possibly falsely credited to others, but there is evidence
to support that they were finished sometime in between 65 to 125 A.D., about
thirty-five to ninety-five years after the supposed death of Jesus circa 30
A.D. So, if the Gospels are not first hand accounts, how valid or reliable are
they? Stories passed down orally tend to change over time, and since the Gospels
weren't written until decades after Jesus’ proclaimed death, there is a
probability that some tinkering has been done to the original story.
It has long
been known that certain discrepancies have been found throughout the Gospels on
the story of the Resurrection. But as New Testament scholars analyze the content
of the Gospels more intensely, more and more things are being found that do not
make sense. For example, no historians of Jesus’ time make a mention of Him. The
first explicit reference of Jesus outside of the Bible is made in 93 A.D. by a
Jewish historian named Josephus. This was more than six decades after the crucifixion of Jesus.
Even this historical reference of Jesus is believed to have its problems. Some
scholars believe that the references by Josephus were tampered with by the early
Church fathers in the third century A.D. The inconsistencies between the passages and Josephus’s literary style brings certain doubt. Furthermore, some evidence
has pointed in the tampering of the Gospel of Mark. From Mark 16:19-20,
scholars believe that those two last verses were added on later by others to
compensate for the account on Christ’s ascension into heaven that is so
evidently described in the other three Gospels. These are only a few of the
arguments scholars raise against the validity of the accounts on Jesus.
Obviously much concentration has been placed on the New Testament Gospels. The
Gospels give us our primary knowledge on Jesus Christ’s death
and resurrection. The Gospels,
in fact, are the only sources with detailed accounts of Jesus physically
ascending into heaven. The argument of many Historians is rather simple:
Although we have accounts that talk about a Man-God forgiving sins and bringing
salvation through his death, how certain are we that these accounts are valid?
Why we can believe in Jesus' resurrection and ascension:
The arguments put forth by
some historians and New Testament scholars are very compelling. It is true that
the New Testament has its problems. Contradictions among some of the books
in the New Testament exist, even though other Christians like to deny this
fact. The historical realization is correct: There is not much, besides the
Gospels, that can testify that Jesus was tried, persecuted, crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. Putting the historical
reality aside, to think that a man physically came back from the dead and
spoke to people again is highly improbable. If we heard that Leonardo DiCaprio rose out
of the water after he had apparently froze and drowned of exhaustion after the
sinking of the Titanic, we would suspect the validity of the sighting.
Atheist author Simon Blackburn best illustrates the historical
human conception of death in his book Being Good:
self-sustaining processes of life are reasonably understood. They are easily
disrupted, and have finite duration. When the time comes, they cease, and what
was once alive, be it a leaf or a rose or a person, dies. There is no mystery
about that, beyond unraveling the chemistry and biology of it" 1
When one looks at historical
figures, like Alexander the Great and Adolf Hitler, an admirer or onlooker has
no metaphysical or spiritual interpretation on their deaths. As far as any
person is concerned, these historical figures are dead. People who did something
significant sometime during the course of their human existence caused other people
to write it down. The modern historian grabs the evidence available and makes a
conclusion based on it. All a historian wants to do is seek
physical evidence and a worldly rational conclusion. Modern historians are
correct: to attain evidence that is unnatural is unreliable because it is
outside the realm of materialistic, historical evidence. Miracles in themselves
are beyond human grasp. To quote Agnostic historian Bart D. Ehrman, a professor
at North Carolina University who studies early Christianity:
"Because historians can only establish what probably happened, and a
miracle of this nature is highly improbable, the historian cannot say it
This is plausible to a certain
extent. People who believe that Jesus never rose from the dead have credible
reason to have that opinion. The only way to truly believe in Jesus Christ is to
disregard the actual materialistic historical knowledge that we have because the
evidence that is known, isn’t enough to prove or disprove the existence
of Jesus and his Resurrection. Historians can claim that they "can only
establish what probably happened." However, since historian can only do so much,
does that mean they cannot say it probably occurred? This is the point where Dr. Ehrman and I depart in our opinions.
To truly understand what a
historian does, one must define the terms, "Historical" and "Evidence."
adj 1: of or relating to the study of history; "historical scholars"; "a
historical perspective" 2: having once lived or existed or taken place in
the real world as distinct from being legendary; "the historical Jesus";
"doubt that a historical Camelot every existed"; "actual historical events"
3: belonging to the past" (www.dictionary.com)
n. 1: A thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment: The
broken window was evidence that a burglary had taken place. Scientists weigh
the evidence for and against a hypothesis. 2: Something indicative; an
outward sign: evidence of grief on a mourner's face. 3: Law. The documentary
or oral statements and the material objects admissible as testimony in a
court of law."
According to the definitions of
both terms, it is clear that there is no hint of excluding words that are
outside the natural materialistic world, such as miracle or
supernatural. Definition two of historical: "having once lived
or existed or taken place in the real world as distinct from being legendary;
‘the historical Jesus,’" sounds like it is excluding unnatural phenomena,
but all it really does is exclude things that are considered stories with no
support of actual events in history, for example, the legend of Britain’s King
historicity of the Arthur of legend has long been debated by scholars. One
school of thought believes that Arthur had no historical existence. ... Although some
theories suggest he was a Roman Britain or pre-Roman character, by most
theories, and in line with the traditional cycle of legends, he was a
Romano-British leader fighting against the invading Anglo-Saxons sometime in the
late 5th century to early 6th century" (www.wikipedia.com)
According to wikipedia.com,
King Arthur can only be identified in history by theories because of
almost no actual consistent evidence. The references of King Arthur are obtained
from early Welsh literature that is so inconsistent that historians don’t know
if he was pre-Roman legion or an actual son of a king.
early reference to Arthur is in the Historia Britonum, attributed to the
Welsh monk Nennius, who is said to have written this compilation of early Welsh
history around the year 830 [CE]. In this work, Arthur is referred to as a "leader of
battles" rather than as a king." (www.wikipedia.com)
We have historical scholars
debating that King Arthur was a Roman or a Celtic deity. Because there is no
consistency in the accounts of King Arthur, he has become a Legend.
information we have on the historical Jesus, on the other hand, are obviously
the opposite of what historians have on King Arthur. Jesus is not a legend
because all the accounts of Jesus are historically consistent.
details may be different throughout the Bible; for example: consider when Joseph and Mary
go to Bethlehem then leave down to Egypt to run from King Herod.
states that they moved to Bethlehem because of a census but never mentions that
they leave Bethlehem to escape King Herod.
Unlike Luke’s testimony, Mark 2:1-15 gives another account that they must leave Bethlehem after
Jesus’ death to escape from King Herod, but never mentions why Joseph and Mary
went to Bethlehem in the first place.
Although specific details are either
missed or explained differently in the two Gospels, the big picture remains the
same; Jesus Christ, the savior of all mankind, was born in Bethlehem. 5The same
can be said with the resurrection of Jesus. While Jesus’ birth is explained in
two of the four Gospels, Jesus’ resurrection is explained in all four of
the Gospels. The specific details may be different among the Gospels, but the
big picture remains consistent: Jesus, the Messiah of the Jews and the Christ of
the Gentiles, was crucified unjustly for acts that supposedly conspired against
Jewish theology. Soon afterwards, he physically resurrected and ascended into the heavens to
be one with the Father.
they crucified Him, and divided His garments… And Jesus cried out again
with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the
temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks
were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had
fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His
resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many." Matthew
when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on
Him, and led Him out to crucify Him. ... And entering the tomb, they saw a
young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were
alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth,
who was crucified. He is risen!" Mark 15 and 16
when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him…
Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened,
as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in
shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the
earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is
not here, but is risen!" Luke 23 and 24
the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, ‘The King of the
Jews,’ but, ‘He said, ‘I am the king of the Jews’’’ Pilate answered, ‘What I
have written, I have written.’ Then the soldiers, when they had crucified
Jesus, took his garments and made four parts… Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why
are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing Him to be the gardener,
said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid
Him, I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ she turned and said to
Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to
Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say
to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your
God.’’ (John 19 and 20)
The consistency of the Gospels
is evident. King Arthur may be a Celtic deity or a pre-Roman legion, but Jesus
Christ is claimed to be only one thing: Lord and Savior. Some historians like to
claim that there is not enough historical evidence to support the Resurrection
of Jesus, but these historians want to disclaim religion instead of finding
history. Yes, the Bible has its problems, but it doesn’t make any logical sense
to claim the New Testament to be a complete concoction of the human
imagination, for if Jesus and his Resurrection were just all a concoction, we
would see countless different stories of Jesus, like the ones seen for
proving King Arthur’s existence. Jesus is a constant. One Gospel doesn’t claim
him to be a superhero, while another Gospel claims him to be an alien from
planet Omicron Persi I Eight. The New Testament and all four Gospels
claim him to be one thing, savior and Lord.
The modern world emphasizes too
much on religion, and not enough on historical validity. We have more historical
evidence that Jesus rose than we do on the outcomes of the Greco-Persian Wars.
Even if one wants to omit the Christian works as historical evidence, there is
still enough evidence to support Jesus existed and resurrected. Evidence is "a
thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment." Nowhere in the
definition does it state that that "thing" has to be materialistic or physical.
If artifacts that hint of a new civilization that lived thousands of years ago
are found in the middle of an ancient temple, one must logically conclude
that their once was a civilization that lived thousands of years ago. But when
there is no material or physical evidence present to explain the artifacts (e.g.
a temple) we must rely on logical evidence. Material or physical evidence
should always overshadow logical evidence, but when material evidence is not
available, one has to make the best human logical conclusion. Since no real
strong physical evidence has been found on the Resurrection of Jesus, and if one
decides to disregard the teachings of the New Testament, it still boils down to
a puzzling question: Why would different individuals, who had no knowledge of
one another, write texts, which are almost exactly the same, on an event that
can never realistically happen?
One can find different answers to the question,
other than a resurrection, but in the end those answers come to an inconclusive
end. For example, one can claim that Jesus’ body was taken by his family to get
a proper burial and the Apostles just had visions they saw a resurrected Jesus.
But then that leaves the question, what about the guards that were protecting
Jesus’ tomb? If the guards were not killed, and they allowed people to take
Jesus’ body to be buried properly, wouldn’t they be the first ones to speak out
against a resurrected human being? The only logically sound explanations
to the question are that the New Testament’s accounts on Jesus’ resurrection are
true or that one of the greatest historical flops ever seen by man has fooled
thousands of historians, scholars, philosophers, theologians, etc who have spent
their lives believing that the basic premises of Jesus must be true. I tend to
choose the former for I know that man is not to any extent that ignorant and
Christian theology has gone
through countless tribulations through the centuries. Yet, those beliefs still
have kept one constant tradition: that Jesus resurrected. Devout
Catholic William F. Buckley, founder of the National Review, makes a bold
statement in his memoir, "Nearer, My God", that continues to perpetuate
my personal faith and strengthen my resolve.
"What keeps Christians afloat is the buoyant knowledge that no
devastating damage has in fact been done to Christian doctrine." Nearer My God 2
While it is understandable to
question the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, furthermore Christianity as a whole,
one still has no right to refute the actual event based on no physical or
materialistic evidence. If historians did such refutation with all matters of
history, humanity would end up with inconclusive evidence on everything
historical, which would nullify any event or figure in the past. Just because
Christianity is a "religion", that doesn’t mean that one should claim it to be
something made up.
Christianity differed from the majority of mystery cults in two fundamental
ways. First, its founder and savior was an actual historical personage
who had lived and died during the Roman Empire…"
Spiritual Metamorphosis 3
In the end, the belief of the
resurrection is all based on an individual’s faith. To have faith in God is to
have your own personal truth in your heart.
"God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and
truth." John 4:24
And whatever that truth
is depends on the heart of the individual, which varies due to the diversity of
the human personage.
This conclusion may not be valid. Archeological evidence shows that Bethlehem in Judea was abandoned during the first century BCE and first century CE. The Bible might have been referring to Bethlehem in the Galilee, near Nazareth.