Time Magazine Online is attacking the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In an article published Monday, the magazine reports a dubious claim by a Jewish collector that an inscription has been found which shows the idea of three days in the tomb and then a resurrection was already known of in Jewish legend before Jesus actually did it. The article, entitled Was Jesus’ Resurrection a Sequel? appears at their online site, www.time.com. The claim is that a writing, dated before Jesus, records a command from the angel Gabriel to a Jewish rebel named Simon about the time of Jesus’ birth. The translation, which is open to much controversy, states: “In three days you shall live. I Gabriel command you. Other scholars believe the translation is incorrect but nevertheless the article tries to remove the idea that Jesus actually died and arose from the grave by making the Biblical claim just another part of Jewish apocalyptic writing which was common, yet never accomplished.
In fact, the idea of a third day resurrection was not new with Jesus. Our Lord himself used the semblance of Jonah’s three days in the belly of the fish as a shadow or ancient modeling of his coming resurrection (Jonah 1:17; Matthew 12:40). The prophecy of Hosea 6:2, although not quoted in the New Testament, certainly seems on target here: “He will revive us after two days; he will raise us up on the third day that we may live before him.” The point is that the idea of a third day resurrection is not new with the so-called Gabriel inscription. Only by discounting the older Old Testament writings can one somehow suggest that Jesus got the idea from this suspicious Gabriel writing. The idea was not unique with Jesus. It was a part of the prophecy penned about him long before.
But the greatest strength, in my judgment, of the resurrection arguments is the fact of the first century church. How could a church begin with such power and growth so soon after his resurrection were it not true? The Church did not begin in a corner. It began on the grounds of the Jewish Temple. It began very publicly in the midst of a major Jewish feast. How easy it would have been to destroy the fledgling church by showing the resurrection was a fake? How could tens of thousands submit to the risen Savior if there was any evidence that he was still dead?
Paul seems to almost taunt the unbelievers when he writes,
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared unto Cephus, then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more that five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; ” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).
Observe the invitation for the mid-first century readers to check out his resurrection story with hundreds of eyewitnesses! Even at that late date, there was ample first hand evidence to prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Please observe further that the claim was not simply of an empty tomb, but of an actual appearance of the risen Lord!
Detractors must further deal with the conduct of the apostles after the resurrection. They were changed men. And, every one of them suffered greatly because of Jesus after his resurrection. Can anyone explain why men would suffer, and in all but one case, die for something they knew to be false?
No, it is clear to those who will examine it closely and honestly: He arose! The implications of that resurrection are remarkable and perhaps that is why skeptics do all they can to assault the truth of that world changing moment.