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Is Jesus God appearing in flesh?

The second step: Christological Creeds

In the very beginning of Christianity, before the New Testament Bible was penned, before Paul was called, the Christian message was preached and transmitted by oral creeds. These creeds contained the essential teachings and confessions of the central Christian message. And these creeds had found their ways into the New Testament record. Their literary forms are usually short, stylized and parallel, easy to recite and remember.  Here are some examples of the confession creeds found in the New Testament:

8Remember Jesus Christ, 
         raised from the dead, 
         descended from David. 
(II Timothy 2:8)

16By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
         He who was revealed in the flesh,
         Was vindicated in the Spirit,
         Seen by angels,
         Proclaimed among the nations,
         Believed on in the world,
         Taken up in glory.
     (I Timothy 3:16)
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And below is one of the most important Christological creeds which gives us clues to complete our investigation about the factuality of Jesus' resurrection:

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3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that 

     Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

   4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

   5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

   6After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;

   7then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles;

   8and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.       (I Corinthians 15:3-8)

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About this passage in the First Corinthians, we know:

  1. I Corinthians was written in 55 A.D. 
  2. Paul said that this creed about Jesus' resurrection, which he "delivered" to the churches, had been "received" from the disciples of Jesus. Critical scholars agree that the date of Paul "receiving" this creed would be 33-35 A.D. 
  3. The creed would have been formed about  3-5 years after the actual event, that would put the event close to 30 A.D., the time of Jesus' death
  4. The  numerous eyewitnesses of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus were still alive when Paul wrote this letter in 55 A.D. 
  5. Paul's conversion from a persecutor of the churches to a follower of Jesus was due to his personally having witnessed the resurrected Jesus. (Acts 9)

  6. And Jesus' resurrection was the central tenet of Christianity since the very beginning of Christianity (note also the above two other creeds).

Conclusion:

Our historical data bring us to the only conclusion that Jesus' resurrection is not a legend developed after Jesus' death. It is indeed a historical record of what actually happened. The historical evidences compel the conclusion that Jesus did resurrect from the death and appeared to His disciples. The disciples had witnessed the resurrected Jesus and they had been totally changed. The resurrection of Jesus is a proof of Jesus' identity: He is indeed the Messiah whom the Bible had foretold. The arrival of the Messiah means God's plan of redemption has  become a reality. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, God redeem our souls and forgive our sins. And that is the Good News, the Gospel, preached from Jerusalem to the whole world.  

                          -------------------------------------- + --------------------------------------    What does Jesus mean to you

About the objections...

 In the early part of last century, many attempts were made to use naturalistic hypotheses to explain Jesus' resurrection, but they were all defeated through critical historical analyses. Today, no serious critical scholars or historians would bother to entertain those hypotheses because of their utter failures in the face of historical evidences. However, many such naturalistic hypotheses are still often raised today by seekers and skeptics. The following is a quick summary of the refutation of these naturalistic hypotheses intended to explain away the resurrection:

The following twelve historical facts are agreed upon by practically all critical scholars and historians, whatever their schools of thought:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion.

  2. Jesus was buried.

  3.  Jesusˇ¦ death the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended.

  4.  Tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered to be empty just a few days later.

  5. The disciples had experiences, which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.

  6. Because of these experiences, the disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection.

  7. This message was the center of preaching in the early church.

  8. The message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before.

  9. The church use Sunday as their primary day of worship.

  10. The church was born and grew as a result of the preaching. 

  11.  James who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed he saw the resurrected Jesus.

  12.  A few years later, Paul was also converted by an experience which he believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.  

The above 12 facts refuted the following naturalistic explanation, but we can simply use just four of the above (boldfaced) , to refute the naturalistic hypotheses of Jesus' resurrection. (The "x" denotes that the fact argues against the hypothesis.)

Naturalistic explanations Jesus died on the cross  Disciples saw resurrected Jesus Disciples changed  Paul's conversion
No one knew where body of Jesus was placed after crucifixion, and that is why they couldn't find Jesus' body.

 

x   x
Disciples looked into a wrong tomb for body of Jesus and they did  not find the body and so they thought Jesus was resurrected.   x   x
It's a legend: it never actually happened x x x x
Resurrection of ideas: only Jesus' teaching lives on.  x x    x
Collective hallucination (which is in itself scientifically unsound)   x x x
Disciples stole the body and claimed that Jesus was resurrected.    x x x
Government stole the body    x x x
Swoon theory: Jesus was still alive in the tomb and later came out of it. x x x x

                                       
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case for resurrection.jpg (37510 bytes) More further study:

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary R. Habermas

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