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Four E’s of the resurrection

Earlier this year I attended a class taught by Lee Strobel on the topic of the resurrection of Jesus.

The resurrection really is the lynch-pin of the Christian faith. As Paul said, if the resurrection was not a real, historic event then our “faith is in vain”, it is “futile” and “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:14-19).

Therefore, it is of vital importance that we can be confident that the resurrection really did occur, and that we can share this confidence with others.

Lee Strobel provided a simple framework for presenting the evidence for the resurrection, the 4 E’s: Execution, Early, Empty, Eyewitnesses. The following are some of my notes summarizing these four groups of evidences (hopefully they do justice to the speaker’s presentation!).

Execution
Simply put, we can be confident that Jesus was killed.

  • The Romans knew how to kill people and were very good at it.
  • There are 5 external (non-biblical) sources which record the death of Jesus.
  • If somehow Jesus had survived his torture and crucifixion by natural means, there would be no way for him to appear to be resurrected, glorified and to have concurred death … he would appear to be near death with the need for a lengthy recovery.

Early
We have very early records of the resurrection … there simply was not enough time for myth to develop between his death and the earliest records.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 contains the earliest known creed. Paul wrote this letter around 53 to 55 AD and this creed which he “also received” has been dated back to approximately 24 to 36 months after the event itself.
  • Legends take more than 2 generations to supplant truth.

Empty
The tomb was under guard but empty.

  • A key fact is that no one in the first century claimed otherwise, even among those who denied Jesus was resurrected.
  • Traditionally, sceptics have questioned why the tomb was empty, not if the tomb was empty.

Eyewitnesses
Jesus appeared to over 500 people after his resurrection, believers and sceptics alike.

  • Hallucinations are an inadequate explanation since they are an individual product of the mind.
  • Regarding suggestions of group think, those experiencing group think need to have the mental expectation of what they cooperatively “see” … and most didn’t (his followers thought he was defeated, and sceptics like his brother James or Saul certainly had no reason to expect he would rise).
  • People are willing to die for there beliefs if they sincerely believe in them. Since the apostles were in a position to know the truth regarding the resurrection, the only explanation for their actions is that they knew Jesus had risen from death. (I find this line of evidence to be especially persuasive.)