The ResurrectionCHARLES E. RICE
That Christ rose from the dead is an article of our faith. But we tend to overlook the fact that the resurrection was an historical event, just as much as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
If you were to try to convince a jury that Christ really rose, you would have to answer several questions:
The answers to the above questions can be summarized as follows:
1. Did Christ die?
There is no doubt that Jesus Christ was crucified. This is confirmed by non-Christian sources such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Josephus. If Christ had not been crucified, the references in the Gospels and Epistles to his crucifixion would have been contradicted by his enemies. The crucifixion of Christ, in light of his miracles and his claim to be God, was a major public event of the time.2. Was he buried?
This question can be answered briefly. The tomb was a very short distance from the place of execution. Joseph of Arimathea received permission to take the body after Christ's death had been verified, the body was entombed and the Romans set a guard over the tomb. Nobody at the time or since has seriously questioned the fact that Christ was buried in that tomb.3. Was the tomb empty on Easter?
Of course it was. If the body was still there, the Jewish leaders would have produced the body to refute the preaching and claims of the Christians.4. Where did the body go?
If Christ did not rise from the dead, somebody must have taken his lifeless body from the tomb. If we exclude all realistic possibilities of someone having taken the body, we must conclude that Christ rose under his own power.5A. Did the Jews take the body?
5B. Did the Romans take the body?Certainly not. It was completely against their interest to do so.
They had no more reason than the Jews to take the body. The claims of Christ were not only contrary to the beliefs and material interests of the Jews, they were regarded by the Romans as a threat to the Empire. Neither the Jews nor the Romans would have done anything that would support the claim that Christ had risen.5C. Did the Apostles or other disciples of Christ take the body?
6. Did the Apostles and Disciples merely imagine that they had seen Christ?To answer this we have to answer two further questions: How could they have taken it? And if they took the body, how can we explain the transformation of the Apostles and their willingness to die for their belief in the Resurrection?
Were the appearances of Christ mere hallucinations? The fact that a witness dies for his professed belief makes it entirely credible tht he believes what he says. So we are certain that the Apostles believed that they had seen the risen Christ. Next we should ask whether the experiences they believed they had were the sort on which they could have been mistaken. The answer is no. It is incredible that they could have been mistaken in thinking that Christ walked and talked with them, took food from them, ate part of it and gave the rest back to them, cooked fish for breakfast on the shore, a breakfast which the Apostles themselves consumed. And so on. It is wholly unreasonable to think that the Apostles were deceived as to what they were certain they saw.If Christ did not really rise from the dead, the transformation of the Apostles and the spread and endurance of the Church in spite of persecution would be a greater miracle than the Resurrection itself. A fair-minded jury examining the facts could only conclude that the Resurrection of Christ is as much a fact of history as is George Washington's crossing of the Delaware. This is confirmed, incidentally, by the evidence of the Shroud of Turin. Scientists have demonstrated, as conclusively as science can, that the Shroud can be nothing other than the burial sheet in which. the body of Christ was wrapped in the tomb. [See, for example, Humber; The Sacred Shroud (1977); Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary (Doubleday, Image Edition, 1963.)]
If we were discussing any other historical event there would be no serious challenge to the reality of its occurrence. But because it concerns religion, the clear historical proof of the Resurrection is rejected by some in favor of an absolute refusal to believe that such a miracle could occur. The evidence, how ever, demonstrates that not only is such a miracle possible, it actually happened.
Charles E. Rice. "The Resurrection" Chapter 12 in Truth in Christ: Notes on Teaching Some Elements of the Catholic Faith (Notre Dame, Indiana: Cashel Institute, 1983), 55-61.
This article reprinted with permission from the author Charles E. Rice.
Charles E. Rice is Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Notre Dame Law School and Visiting Professor of Law at Ave Maria School of Law, Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and to various Congressional committees on constitutional issues and is an editor of the American Journal of Jurisprudence. Professor Rice is also chairman of the Center for Law and Justice International in New Hope, Kentucky, and a director of the Thomas More Center for Law and Justice in Ann Arbor. He is faculty advisor and an assistant coach of the Notre Dame Boxing Club. He and his wife, Mary, have ten children and they reside in Mishawaka, Indiana. Professor Rice is the author of many books, including 50 Questions on the Natural Law: What It Is and Why We Need It and most recently The Winning Side: Questions on Living the Culture of Life.
1983 Cashel Institute
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