Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? (book review)

Did Jesus Rise From The DeadDr. William Lane Craig is a brilliant Christian apologist. Part of his brilliance is in the way he can make complex subject matters so accessible for everyone. This is fully on display in his book Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?

This book is a fairly quick read, but it is packed with powerful information. Point-by-point Dr. Craig leads us through the evidence for the empty tomb of Jesus, laying out all of the independently-corroborated evidence for Christ’s resurrection, and dismantling the arguments against His resurrection.

Next he lists several hypotheses—including the conspiracy hypothesis, the apparent death hypothesis, the displaced body hypothesis and the hallucination hypothesis—and gives us the criteria to analyze each of these hypotheses on our own. These criteria include the explanatory scope, the explanatory power, plausibility, less contrived theories, and the disconfirmation factors. Quite fascinating!

The book is well footnoted to give the reader ample sources to dig deeper on any of the points Dr. Craig covers. I could see this being an ideal book for those skeptical of the biblical claims of Christ’s resurrection, as well as a good study tool for Christians to prepare themselves to answer the objections others may have about the good news of Jesus being raised from the dead.

No Conspiracies Here

Burning heartsCould it really be this simple? Could it be that Jesus died and rose again just like the Bible says? Or does it need to be more complicated than that? Are there other theories that seem to fit the facts?

At the feast of Pentecost where Jewish people from all over the world convened in Jerusalem just 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter stood up to address them:

  • Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem… (Acts 2:14). He addressed locals and guests.
  • Jesus of Nazareth was a Man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you, as you yourselves know (v. 22). No one shouted Peter down or disputed this claim. Quite possibly because there were those in this audience who had personally seen or experienced one of Jesus’ miracles.
  • God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact (v. 32). Anyone could have easily refuted this claim because the tomb of Jesus was within walking distance, and yet no one did dispute what Peter said.

A short time later, healing a lame man outside the temple, Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin (rulers and elders of the people [Acts 4:8]). This was the very group who convinced the Roman governor Pilate to have Jesus crucified.

  • It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Whom you crucified but Whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed (v. 10). They didn’t dispute this, but they just told them to stop preaching in this name (v. 17).

Paul was a devout member of the Jewish religious leadership until he had a personal encounter with Jesus. It became awfully difficult for Paul to argue Jesus was dead, when he had seen Him and talked with Him! Paul’s former colleagues had him arrested by the Romans. The Roman governor Festus noted that the claims of the Jews against Paul was about a dead man named Jesus Who Paul claimed was alive (Acts 25:19). This is nearly 30 years after the resurrection of Jesus occurred. King Agrippa didn’t scoff this off. In fact, Paul said he was glad to talk to the king since “the king is familiar with these things…. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Again, Agrippa didn’t dispute the claim of Jesus’ resurrection, but simply accused Paul of trying to convert him to Christianity.

There is something in our hearts that wants the resurrection to be true.

  • We don’t want to work all our lives for nothing.
  • We don’t want to invest in relationships, only to have them end when one person dies.
  • We want there to be something more. We want there to be something that makes sense of the world.
  • Only the resurrection helps us make sense. Only the resurrection gives us lasting hope. 

An old song by the band Kansas says:

Deep within the hardest heart

There is something there that knows

There’s a hunger life can never fill

Til you face the One Who rose

There were two followers of Jesus that were out for a walk later in the day after the resurrection. They, too, were trying to figure out if the news reports they heard about Jesus’ resurrection was fact or fiction. Jesus met them on the road (although they didn’t recognize Him) and He walked and talked with them. He explained how all of the things in the Bible pointed to these facts: a Savior would come, a Savior would die, and a Savior would be raised to life again. As Jesus sat down to eat with them, they recognized Who He was, and then He disappeared from their sight. As they hurried back to tell the other disciples, they said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as He talked” (Luke 24:32).

Does it take faith to believe the biblical resurrection story? Yes!

Does it take faith to believe the conspiracy theories? Yes!

But I believe not only is the resurrection account more plausible, but it’s more satisfying too. The resurrection of Jesus rings true because IT IS TRUE, and because you were created by God to believe this truth so you can be in a relationship with Him.

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