You can tell when an event is big news by all the new feeds, trending on Twitter, blog posts, articles and publicity it causes. These types of media frenzies give evidence that something noteworthy happened. When it comes to events that happened in our past, we can look to the eye witnesses or the written accounts. This is how history is recorded and verified, by comparing the accounts. It’s very telling when we do this for Jesus.
“There is far more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than for any single event in the history of the world” says Ralph Muncaster an intellect with degrees in science, mathematics and logic who once was a skeptic of the Bible, of Jesus, of the Resurrection. He decided to investigate these so called fables he became startled with his findings and now is a believer and advocator of the faith. He says, “History can never be proved.” He means empirically like in science, (observable and testable, provable). Evidence is the only basis for verifying historical fact.
Magnitude of records coincides with the magnitude of the impact it made. For instance if you do a Google search you see what impact something has made by how many times it has been written about. For Sept. 11th 2001, the number is high. For Abraham Lincoln it’s higher, for Jesus Christ even more, even today he still is written about daily.
The magnitude of the record of Jesus Christ stands far above any record of anyone who has ever lived upon this planet.
Existing early manuscripts exceed 24,000. The earliest written records were within 25 years of Jesus death. No other work of antiquity approaches Christ’s documentary vastness. This includes all works we accept as historical fact. Let’s take for instance the records, and writings of and during the Roman empire. We regard these as historical fact about the Roman empire. Of Julius Caesar and the Gaelic Wars we have 10 early records, the earliest is 900 years after Julius Caesar lived. Of the 14 books of the history of Rome by Tacitus only 4 survive, Other records and documents from Roman era by Thucydides, there are 8, from Herodotus there are 8, from Pliny the Younger we have 7. There are more but not close to the magnitude of the records of Christ. Of portions of manuscript copies of the New Testament which testify of Christ there are in existence today over 24,000. 24,000 copies verses a handful during the same time period. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers of attestation. On the other hand the original books of the New Testament were written between 25-100 AD. The earliest manuscript in existence today dates from 90-130 AD.
Here’s a chart to illustrate the above:
|Caesar’s Gallic Wars
Tacitus’ History of Rome
Pliny the Younger History
The New Testament
24,000 NT manuscripts recording the resurrection are in existence. The vastness of the number is particularly extraordinary considering:
1. Jesus was not in a political position of power such as governor, general or dictator which are the ones usually written about. When your or I die there probably won’t be much written about us that will survive time, but if I were the president or a political power figure more so. Jesus was from a small, distant town and was a lowly carpenter with only three scant years of ministry. But there are 24000 manuscripts of his life, death and resurrection.
2. The records survived the most intensive eradication effort. Rapidly growing in numbers Christian witnesses were executed. First by Nero beginning in 54 AD, then Domitian, Trajan, Decius, Valerian and Diocletian. They were crucified, burned thrown to the lions and gladiators in the coliseums. Any one professing belief in Christ was executed and any records found were burned. **In 303 AD an Imperial Edict was passed that ordered all scriptures burned in the entire Roman controlled world and anyone found with them executed. But still 24,000 exist.
3. There was no printing press and the world population was low. The number of surviving early manuscripts is absolutely staggering considering they were all hand copied by a far smaller population base than even existed. Of 138 million people in the entire world including the far east and China , Rome was under control of half of that population and 24,000 manuscript copies exist today with no automatic duplication.
The way that many try to write off the resurrection is by saying it’s a legend. Mythology. Because Jesus was crucified in 33 A.D. some believe that the New Testament writings about Jesus weren’t written down until 50, 60, 100 years later. so the thinking is, you’ve got this huge gap of time. and certainly in that gap of time all kinds of legends and make believe and mythology and wishful thinking grew up and distorted what had actually happened so that when the New Testament was finally written it probably bears no resemblance to what actually had taken place.
The evidence is that scholars have now discovered that the New Testament writings about Jesus were written much closer to the life of Jesus Christ than critics had once charged. In fact, they were written well within the lifetimes of eyewitnesses that would have corrected the information if it had been exaggerated or false. But the record of the resurrection is even earlier than that.
Look at what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 “I’ve passed on to you what I have received which is of the greatest importance that Christ died for our sins as written in the scripture, that He was buried and raised to life on the third day as written in the scriptures.” What paul was doing was passing along to the Christians at the church of Corinth a creed that was recited by the earliest Christians. This was a creed they would recite in gatherings of Christians. This creed of course confirms that Jesus died for our sins and He was buried and resurrected on the third day. And then it goes on and talks about eyewitnesses and so forth. Scholars have been able to date this creed back to as early as 24-36 months after the life of Jesus Christ. and the beliefs that make up that creed go right back to the cross itself.
There was no huge gap of time between the time of Jesus’ resurrection and the time it was written down. this was like a news flash it happened that quickly. In 1844 there was a famous historian that challenged any historian anywhere to come up with one example of legend growing up that fast and distorting an historical reality. To this day, no historian has ever been able to give an example. In fact they did a study and went back to the first century when Jesus lived and they studied how long it took for legend to grow up and thoroughly distort a solid claim of historical truth. They said two generations of time isn’t even enough for that legend to develop.
We don’t have two generations of time here. we have a period of months. And the eyewitness accounts that make up the creed go right back to the event itself. This idea that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a legend, forget it. it’s not true. That’s what I found out, anyway. Paul, right after he’s given this creed, later in the creed it mentions that 500 people saw Jesus at the same time after He was resurrected. It specifically said that they’re still alive, many of these people. so in effect Paul was saying, “You don’t believe me? Check it out yourself. There are eyewitnesses still walking around. Go talk to them. interview them. question them. satisfy your own curiosity.” He couldn’t have done that if this had been written so much later that these people weren’t around. But because they were around, there were still witnesses present who could testify to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
I hope you will join us on Easter as we examine more reasons to believe the resurrection!
Examine the Evidence, Ralph Muncaster, Harvest House Publishers, 2004
Evidence the Demands a Verdict , Josh McDowell, Thomas Nelson, 1979
The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel, Harper Collins, 1998