The story of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is one of the greatest miracles and wonders that has ever happened in history. Or, it is the most sophisticated fraud that ever took place in history that has deceived millions of people. At least that is what Rabbi Tovia Singer thinks, as he claims: “Jesus never rose from the dead.”
We will prove otherwise.
The issue of Jesus’ resurrection raises the question about the veracity of the whole New Testament
Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew who claimed (and was also claimed by others) to be the Messiah that the Old Testament had predicted, was crucified and killed. His crucifixion was not a minor event in history, but his has become the most famous death in the world, and caused great commotion among the people and in Jerusalem at the time. Then three days after his death and burial, he rose and his tomb was found empty. His disciples claimed that God raised him from the dead. Based on this event, Messianism (Christianity) was born and spread, first in Israel and then out to the entire world. The New Testament describes Jesus as someone who was seen after his resurrection by numerous people throughout Israel. The claim of his resurrection was published in writing and distributed across the globe.
Did it really happen?
Let’s assume for a moment that this rumor was a lie. If it was just a fabricated story, many people during that time would have spoken against the rumor, insisting it was false. But no one at that time tried to deny that Jesus had conquered death. Even Jesus’ greatest enemies were silent on the matter. The rabbis of the Talmud were actually aware of Jesus’ supernatural powers, but they claimed that he is a sorcerer who received his powers from Satan – a claim which continues to this very day. Rabbi Daniel Asor for example, claims that Jesus “is himself the embodiment of Satan.” But we dedicated another piece to deal with that issue.
Those who witnessed the events of the New Testament knew the circumstances of the resurrection very well. According to the Jewish customs of that period, Jesus’ body was wrapped in shrouds and ointments. About 88 pounds of sweet-smelling resin and spice were mixed together to form a thick and sticky texture, similar to rubber which was applied to his body. The entrance to the tomb was blocked with a huge stone. The average weight of stones that were used to block the tombs was about two tons. Due to all the commotion in Jerusalem regarding Jesus’ crucifixion, the rabbis, who remembered that Jesus promised to rise from the dead after three days, demanded that Pilate should place guards at the tomb. In addition to that, the Roman guard attached the Roman seal to the tomb. If anyone dared to move the stone from the tomb, the seal would break and they would be subjected to the wrath of the Roman rule, and if the guards failed to protect the tomb, they would be severely punished.
Jesus’ disciples claimed that he rose from the dead. They reported that he appeared to them over a period of 40 days. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul lists in detail several occasions in which Jesus appeared to different people, including groups of over 500 people at one time. Most of those people were still alive at the time that Paul documented these things in writing, and therefore, the chances he would get away with just making it up are very slim. If he did, these witnesses would have immediately refute him if they knew he was lying.
Since there was no one who claimed that Jesus did not rise from the dead during that time, modern skeptics have developed several theories about this issue:
Maybe they went to the wrong tomb, and that’s why it was empty?
But if that was the case, surely the Roman authorities and the rabbis would have rushed to point to the correct tomb? Also, this doesn’t explain the fact that Jesus appeared to so many people after his resurrection.
And maybe Jesus’ image was just an illusion in the minds of some hallucinators?
That maybe in the case of one or two people, but not with hundreds or thousands, and over a period of 40 days. Also, this doesn’t explain where the body went.
What if Jesus simply fainted and later recovered?
As Rabbi Daniel Asor suggested: “Who’s to say that Jesus didn’t simply experience clinical death, then woke up in the cave or woke up from loss of consciousness? Is it possible to prove otherwise? Maybe in their time, they didn’t know how to determine death properly? And maybe in this case, the death wasn’t properly determined?” This claim was already answered by the researcher David Strauss about 200 years ago. These are his words: “The notion that a being who had crawled out of his tomb half-dead, who crept about weak and ill, in need of urgent medical treatment, requiring bandaging and support, could have given his disciples the impression that he was a conqueror of death and the grave, the Prince of Life, an impression which was the basis of their future ministry. This notion is completely unreasonable. Such a resurrection could have only weakened the impression which he had made upon them, sadden them and cause them bitter disappointment. It certainly would not have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm or their fear into worship.”
In addition, John then described what science is able to explain today: When Jesus was crucified; a Roman soldier also pierced his side. In the New Testament, John describes the following: “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34) 2,000 years ago it probably sounded odd, why John even bothered to mention that? Today we know about physiology, that when a man dies, the blood in his body, turns into serum; a clear liquid like water, and into red blood cells.
Okay, so he did die… But what if Jesus’ disciples simply stole the body?
This is not simple at all! We are talking about getting past the Roman Guard, trained and armed soldiers who would not allow that to happen, as they feared for their own lives. Let’s assume that Jesus’ disciples were able to get past the guards, or that they waited for the guards to fall asleep. Moving a two-ton stone would have caught the attention of those who are awake AND asleep. And if that was the case, the Jewish or Roman authorities would have immediately raised a loud cry, letting everyone know the body was stolen – something that didn’t happen. Also, this doesn’t explain the fact that afterward Jesus appeared to so many people during such an extensive period.
But the most convincing evidence is the lives of the first Messianic believers, to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection. They travelled all over the world, full of joy, performing miracles that even the Talmud documented as supernatural, and professing their complete loyalty and dedication to the Messiah who rose from the dead. They gave up riches and wealth, their social status, and their honor in exchange for contempt, persecution, beatings, being stoned, or any other way that would try and cause them to be silent. And eventually, they met their death as prey for lions and by crucifixion. Even then, they were full of joy. They were men of peace, who never tried to force their beliefs on anyone – they were so sure in their faith that they were willing to die. And today too, those who believe in Jesus have full confidence, as did those Messianic Jews 2,000 years ago; that the crucified Messiah conquered death so we can inherit eternal life.
The resurrection of the Messiah featured in Jewish tradition before Jesus was born
Do you think we are talking about some Christian invention or Pagan idea? If so, you will be surprised to find out that in ancient Judaism, they expected that when the Messiah would come, He would rise from the dead. Professor Israel Knohl, an Orthodox scholar from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, deciphered an ancient archaeological stone tablet from before the time of Jesus, which points to a vision of the resurrection of a Messianic leader. This stone tablet received the name “Gabriel’s Revelation”. Professor Israel Knohl explains that the angel Gabriel raises from the dead a Messianic leader by the name “Prince of Princes”, three days after his death. He is the leader of the People of Israel.
Professor Knohl said:
“It is possible to determine that in the period in which the revelation was written, at the end of the first century BCE, a common view among certain groups that the Messiah was to die and be resurrected after three days, was an integral part of the process of redemption Therefore, if there was a Jewish tradition about a Messiah who was resurrected, we can understand Jesus as a national Jewish messiah who goes to his death.”
Did you get it? Classical Judaism believed that the Messiah would die and rise from the dead after three days. Jesus the Messiah was crucified to death for our sins, conquered death, and rose from the dead. But the rabbis today refuse to accept even what the Sages claimed in the Midrash regarding the Messiah; that the One who is called Messiah Son of Joseph, would rise from the dead.
Here is another way that the rabbis have tried to hide Jesus from you.
Picture: Naama Smith