Groothuis’ “Christian Apologetics” ch.22: The Resurrection of Jesus

This chapter of Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics covers the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus (which is evidence that the Father approves of everything he said and did in his ministry on earth).

The significance of the resurrection:  “Of all the world’s religions, Christianity alone purports to be based on the resurrection of its divine founder.” Matthew 16:21, 12:40, John 2:19-22 (p.526)

Whereas in ch.20 John Frame is quoted to dispel rumors that the virgin birth is stolen from other religions or mythologies, in ch.22 Groothuis quotes Bruce Metzger and J.N.D. Anderson on why the resurrection is not likewise stolen. Perhaps I will combine those two sections into a unique post at some point. However, a) those rebirths symbolized spring, vs. b) resurrection on the 3rd day, and c) mystery religions were not yet well-established at that time.


Paul, writing two early for the theft hypothesis: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)

There are other consequences if you read on to verse 19: 1) Christians are false witnesses, 2) Christians are unforgiven, alive or dead, 3) Christians are supremely pitiable, because their hope ends in this life.

The evidence for general theism, and the evidence for the resurrection, are both strong. One may come to Christianity through the evidence for the resurrection alone, without ever knowing the evidence for general theism. However, one may more readily accept the evidence for the resurrection, if one already accepts the evidence for theism, because if there is a God, miracles like the resurrection are more probable.

Groothuis defines a biblical miracle as “an act of divine agency whereby a supernatural effect is produced for the purpose of manifesting God’s kingdom on earth.” (p.532) (Hume misdefined it as a violation of the laws of nature.)

Groothuis defines a law of nature as describing “the basic properties of physical objects in relationship to one another.” (p. 532)

Hume’s Objection

Hume does not argue that miracles are metaphysically impossible, only that natural explanations are always more probable, and no amount of evidence could ever ground a belief that a miracle occurred (this begs the question). He argues that all miracle claims are based on misunderstandings of  prescientific,”ignorant and barbarous nations” who are not credible (however, the disciples were very skeptical, notably Thomas, and in order to identify a miracle, one needs to be able to identify the laws of nature by which they are contrasted).

However, it is not the general probability that ought to be considered for any event, it is that event’s conditional probability–the evidence that makes it more probable, despite its general improbability. As already mentioned, if God exists, this increases the probability (in this case, general) of miracles. The evidence for the resurrection, specifically, increases its conditional probability.

The “cancellation argument” against miracles: Various miracles of various conflicting religions cancel each other out. Answer: miracles do not directly support the truth claims of all religions, and the case for Jesus’ historical resurrection is far stronger than any other miracle claim made by a non-Christian religion.

Jesus was the “kind of person God might raise from the dead” (p538-539). 1) he was accredited by God through miracles, wonders, and signs (Acts 2:22), 2) he was a master teacher, 3) he was a man of compassion, 4) he was a worker of miracles, 5) his life fulfilled OT prophecies, 6) he claimed to be God, 7) he prophesied his own death and resurrection.

The “Minimal Facts” Approach: 

Using only those facts (“minimal facts“) contained in the NT that are accepted by both liberal and conservative critical NT scholars, the resurrection is shown to best explain them over rival hypotheses.

Four minimal facts:
1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. Jesus was buried in a known tomb. 
3. The tomb was found empty. 
4. There were postmortem appearances of Jesus.

Jesus died by crucifixion.

“Even if Jesus somehow survived the intense scourging, as well as the agonies of the cross … this would leave completely unexplained why Jesus’ disciples ended up hailing him the resurrected Lord of life.” (p.543)

Jesus was buried in a known tomb.

-There is no other burial tradition.
-Well-established through multiple, independent attestations (Matthew, Mark, John, 1 Cor.)
-Christians not likely to invent a member of the Jewish court that condemned Jesus (Joseph of Arimathea)

The tomb was found empty.

-It is found in Mark, probably the oldest Gospel, and 1 Corinthians 15.
-The stories are basic and lack fictional embellishments.
-All 4 Gospel accounts mention women witnesses (no cred in that culture) (principle of embarrassment)

There were postmortem appearances of Jesus.

12 (listed in chapter) in a 40-day period. As with discovering the empty tomb, women are the first witnesses of the risen Jesus. Since women had no cred in that culture, the disciples would not have invented their being the first witnesses (principle of embarrassment).

Paul is a very strong witness of the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15 he is settling a dispute in the church of Corinth over the resurrection of the dead, so he lists various post-resurrection appearances captured in an early creed (“What I received, I passed on…” probably from Peter and James, whom he mentions–eyewitnesses), dated to within 5 years of Jesus’ death.  In it, he (with the creed) affirms the physical nature of the resurrection. His is authorship is never disputed.

Other Well-Established Evidence

1. The transformation of the disciples from being full of fear (they fled), to being full of boldness (on Pentecost). (Also consider the conversion of skeptic James and persecutor Paul.)
2. The early worship of Jesus. (Philippians 2:5-11, another early Christian creed; Pliny the Younger Letters 10.96-97) –by monotheistic Jews
3. Circumstantial evidence (Acts: baptism, Lord’s supper, Sunday worship) presupposes Rez
4. Spiritual experiences in history and today

Alternative Theories

The Swoon Theory (including The Passover Plot version) was ruled out earlier in the chapter when discussing the minimal fact of the crucifixion.

~Hallucination~

Hallucination is the primary theory used to account for the appearances of Jesus (a minimal fact).

Problems with the Hallucination Theory:

1. They perceived Christ through sight, hearing and touch, and as a group.
2. Intense wish fulfillment was not a factor. A) They gave him up for dead, shocked he was alive. B) Thought resurrection happened to everyone at the end of history. C) Did not understand his repeated predictions of death and resurrection. D) Paul and James were not believers.
3. Christianity thrived and gained in popularity, when at first disciples were depressed.
4. The body could have been produced, the occupied tomb could have been investigated, in order to cure the hallucinations.

Theft Theory

Some claim the disciples stole the body — this is the only alternative theory recorded in the Bible. 

Problems:

1. The disciples had neither the motive, nor the means, to pull off the deception of hiding the body. 
2. They thought the resurrection happened to everyone at the end of history.
3. The theft theory cannot explain the appearances of Jesus.

Do this “Twelve Facts” Resurrection Logic Puzzle

Are there discrepancies in the resurrection accounts?

1. They can still be harmonized (only apparent, not real contradictions).
2. Secular history displays discrepancies as great or greater than.
3. All the accounts still agree on the resurrection.
4. Minor differences indicate authenticity, as upposed to collusion (in the case of uniformity).

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance and now coordinates the CAA Catechism. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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