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If I had faked the Resurrection

By Josh McDowell with Bob Hostetler

I set out as a young man to refute Christianity.

I met some young Christians who challenged me to intellectually examine the evidence for Christianity, and I agreed. I aimed to show them — and everyone — that Christianity was nonsense. I thought it would be easy. I thought a careful investigation of the facts would expose Christianity as a lie, and its followers as dupes. But then a funny thing happened.

As I began investigating the claims of Christianity, I kept running up against the evidence. Time after time, I was surprised to discover the factual basis for the seemingly outlandish things Christians believe. And one of the most convincing categories of evidence I confronted was this: The Resurrection accounts found in the Gospels are not the stuff of fable, forgery or fabrication. I had assumed that someone — or several “someones” — had invented the stories of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. But as I examined those accounts, I had to face the fact that any sensible mythmaker would do things much differently than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did in recording the news of the Resurrection.

As much as I hated to, I had to admit that if I had been some first-century propagandist trying to fake the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would have done at least 10 things differently.

1. I would wait a prudent period after the events before “publishing” my account.

Few historians dispute the fact the disciples of Jesus began preaching the news of His resurrection soon after the event itself. In fact, Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2) occurred within 50 days of the Resurrection. And textual research indicated that the written accounts of the Resurrection — especially the creedal statement of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 — are astoundingly early in origin (possibly within two years of the event).1 Such early origins argue against any notion that the Resurrection accounts are legendary.

2. I would “publish” my account far from the venue where it supposedly happened.

Dr. William Lane Craig writes, “One of the most amazing facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it originated in the very city where Jesus was crucified. The Christian faith did not come to exist in some distant city, far from eyewitnesses who knew of Jesus’ death and burial. No, it came into being in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified, under the very eyes of its enemies.”2

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George O. Wood, Hal Donaldson, & Ken Horn

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3. I would select my “witnesses” very carefully.

I would avoid, as much as possible, using any names at all in my account, and I would certainly avoid citing prominent personalities as witnesses. Yet at least 16 individuals are mentioned by name as witnesses in the various accounts, and the mention of Joseph of Arimathea as the man who buried Jesus would have been terribly dangerous if the Gospel accounts had been faked or embellished. As a member of the Sanhedrin (a Jewish “supreme court”), he would have been well known. J.P. Moreland writes, “No one could have invented such a person who did not exist and say he was on the Sanhedrin if such were not the case.”3

His involvement in the burial of Jesus could have been easily confirmed or refuted. Perhaps most importantly, I would avoid citing disreputable witnesses, which makes significant the record of Jesus’ first appearances — to women — since in that time and culture women were considered invalid witnesses in a court of law. If the accounts were fabrications, the “women would never have been included in the story, at least, not as first witnesses.”4

4. I would surround the event with impressive supernatural displays and omens.

As Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide writes, “We do not read in the first testimonies [of the Resurrection] of an apocalyptic spectacle, exorbitant sensations, or of the transforming impact of a cosmic event. … According to all New Testament reports, no human eye saw the Resurrection itself, no human being was present, and none of the disciples asserted to have apprehended, let alone understood, its manner and nature. How easy it would have been for them or their immediate successors to supplement this scandalous hole in the concatenation of events by fanciful embellishments! But precisely because none of the evangelists dared to ‘improve upon’ or embellish this unseen Resurrection, the total picture of the Gospels also gains in trustworthiness.”5

5. I would painstakingly correlate my account with others I knew, embellishing the legend only where I could be confident of not being contradicted.

Many critics have pointed out the befuddling differences and apparent contradictions in the Resurrection accounts. But these are actually convincing evidences of their authenticity; they display an ingenuous lack of collusion, agreeing and (apparently) diverging much as eyewitness accounts of any event do.


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