Summary: Part of an adult Sunday school series on the Person of Christ.
• THE RESURRCTION OF CHRIST WAS A PHYSICAL RESURRECTION.
Some skeptics have tried to solve their dilemma of not being able to explain away the resurrection by suggesting it was a “spiritual resurrection.” Dr. Wilbur M. Smith wrote of the nonsense of this view.
"There is no such thing as the ‘resurrection of a spirit.’ Resurrection means being raised again. The spirit never has to be raised from the grave, because it never enters the grave; a spirit can know no resurrection from the dead, because a spirit never dies! The New Testament continually insists that it was a BODY which was placed in the tomb, so it was a body which came forth from the tomb . . . it is sheer nonsense to talk about believing in a SPIRITUAL resurrection of Christ. There is no such thing. If it were a spirit that was being raised, there would be no sense in insisting on the third day. A spirit could manifest itself at any time after death." - The Supernaturalness of Christ, (Boston: W. A. Wilde Co., 1940), pp. 193-4, quoted by Tim Lahaye, Jesus: Who Is He? (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996), pp. 227-8.
Norman Geisler points out several facts as evidence that the resurrection was physical, not spiritual.
"The physical or bodily nature of the resurrection is proven by the fact that Jesus was ’seen’ by over five hundred people (1 Cor. 15:1-7), that he claimed to ’have flesh and bones’ (Luke 24:39), that he ate fish to prove he was physical (Luke 24:42-43), and that he challenged the doubters to look at his wounds—’handle me and see’ (Luke 24:39). Doubting Thomas was challenged thus: ’Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put your hand, and place it in my side’ (John 20:27). John, who recorded this event, wrote later of Christ: ’That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, . . . this life was made manifest . . .’ (1 John 1:1-2). The repeated contact with the bodily Christ after the resurrection by ear, eye, and touch leaves only one conclusion—they were in physical contact with a bodily resurrected Jesus of Nazareth."- Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), p. 350.
• IS THE NEW TESTAMENT RELIABLE?
1. It agrees with the records of secular historians.
Flavius Josephus was a Pharisee and priest living in Jerusalem. Born in A.D. 37, following the death of Christ, he witnessed first-hand the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He fought as a general of the Jewish rebel forces in Galilee in the war against Rome. Josephus was captured by the Romans at the fall of the city of Jotapata and became friends with the Roman general Vespasian. As a historian, with access to both Roman and Jewish governmental records, he described the events in Israel during the turbulent decades of the first century. In A.D. 94, Josephus published in Rome his definitive study of the history of the Jewish people called Antiquities of the Jews. One of the most fascinating passages in his important history concerned the events in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." - Josephus: The Complete Works (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 577.
Josephus was a Jew writing to please the Romans. This story would not have pleased them in the slightest. He would hardly have included it if it were not true.
2. It agrees with the records of sacred literature.
Josh McDowell uses the writings of Ignatius as evidence for the reliability of the New Testament accounts:
"Ignatius (c. 50-115 A.D.), Bishop of Antioch . . . a native of Syria, a pupil of the Apostle John, . . . is said to have ’been thrown to the wild beasts in the colosseum at Rome. His Epistles were written during his journey from Antioch to his martyrdom.’ At a time when he would have undoubtedly have been very sober of mind, he says of Christ: ’He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. He also rose again in three days. . . .’” - Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith (Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972), p. 192, quoted from Who Was Who in Church History, Ed. By Elgin Moyer (Moody Press, 1962).