The Resurrection: Reason to Believe or Wishful Thinking? -- By: Brian Janeway

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 14:2 (Spring 2001)
Article: The Resurrection: Reason to Believe or Wishful Thinking?
Author: Brian Janeway

The Resurrection:
Reason to Believe or Wishful Thinking?

Brian Janeway

After the crucifixion, Jesus’ corpse was probably laid in a shallow grave, covered with dirt, and subsequently eaten by wild dogs—the story of Jesus’ entombment and resurrection was the result of wishful thinking (Crossan 1994:154).

Would you believe that this quote comes from a highly influential scholar who professes the Christian faith? His name is John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar. No doubt you have seen the spate of television programs and newsmagazine articles in recent years generated by Crossan and his fellow Seminar scholars with such headlines as “The Real Jesus” or “The Historical Jesus.”

At Easter you may have unique opportunities to share your faith with others who otherwise pay little attention to the Christian creed. Are you prepared to provide them reason to believe? After all, Peter exhorts us to ‘“always be ready to make a defense” of our faith (1 Pt 3:15).

Though the Jesus Seminar espouses radical views and only represents a small minority of scholars, it has been my experience that much of America implicitly accepts its presuppositions. How many times have you heard “I believe Jesus was a great teacher or moral leader but not the Son of God,” or something similar?

The major assumption of the Seminar (and, I would contend. America at large) is that the Gospels are not historically reliable accounts. The stories handed down to us are the product of myth and legend embellished by later writers long after Jesus was crucified and buried. (They do believe He was crucified!)

Allow me briefly to examine several aspects of the New Testament that place it on a solid foundation of reliability. They will demonstrate that the theory of its mythology is itself fanciful and simply unsupportable.

The first evidence is the number of surviving manuscripts from antiquity. The oldest yet recovered is the John Rylands Fragment containing five verses from John 18. It is on a small piece of papyrus dating from about AD 125. This places it within about 25 years of the death of the Apostle John! Our earliest complete New Testament books date from about AD 200 and the first complete New Testament is dated between AD 325–350. The total count of Greek manuscripts now numbers over 5,000. There is no other book from antiquity that comes anywhere near this abundance.

The second noteworthy aspect of these documents is the gap between their original composition and the earliest copies. When compared to any other ancient book, the New Testament is vastly superior....

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