Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Disciples Believed

So, I'm sharing the 'minimal facts' argument taken from Habermas and Licona's The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. The first historical fact, discussed in the last post, is that Jesus was executed by Roman crucifixion. Here's the second fact:

Jesus' close followers--his disciples--claimed and believed that he rose bodily from the dead and appeared to them.

Again, this is a fact of history, one that enjoys multiple independent sources of attestation and that, as a result, is accepted by virtually all scholars who study the issue. Habermas and Licona identify nine independent sources attesting to the statement that the disciples claimed from the very beginning that Jesus rose from the dead. These sources fall into three categories--the testimony of Paul, the testimony of oral tradition, and the testimony of written documents.

But not only is it historical fact that the disciples claimed resurrection--it is also historical fact that they believed it, that they truly thought that Jesus had appeared to them following his crucifixion. Habermas and Licona identify seven independent sources that attest to the willingness of the disciples to suffer persecution and even martyrdom rather than deny the resurrection. Habermas conducted a study of more than 1,400 sources published since 1975 about the resurrection, and concluded
perhaps no fact is more widely recognized than that early Christian believers had real experiences that they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus. A critic may claim that what they saw were hallucinations or visions, but he does not deny that they actually experienced something.
As just one example, the atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann writes,
It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.
So we now have two historical facts upon which our argument builds: 1) Jesus died by Roman crucifixion, and 2) His disciples believed that he rose from the dead and appeared to them.

No comments: