One of my (online) students sent me this essay from his brother, Ashby Camp. Besides the content of the essay, I appreciated its very nature, which Camp describes in the opening:
When I say “the historical case for Jesus’ resurrection,” I mean I am going to approach the question without relying on the inspiration or inerrancy of the Bible. Though I certainly believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, I think it is important to see that one need not start from that position to conclude that Jesus was resurrected. Even if one treats the New Testament documents as one would treat any other ancient documents, there are very good reasons for believing that Jesus rose from the grave.
I say this because I actually heard a Christian (I think it was on the radio) say something like, “Sometimes people ask me how can I know the Bible is true? Well it says in Psalm such-and-such…” I almost drove off the road.
Camp advances several independent arguments in his essay, but one of the central points is that either the early Christians truly believed Jesus had come back from the dead, or they were deliberately inventing falsehoods to try to give credibility to their (dead) Teacher’s message. But the problem with that second option (Camp shows) is that there are several obvious stumbling blocks in the gospel accounts–for example, the original eyewitness testimony being from women, who were not considered credible witnesses in that culture. If the story were a complete fabrication after the fact, it is odd that Jesus’ disciples would have included awkward details such as this.
I also enjoyed Camp’s dwelling on the fact that even those who believed Jesus to be the Messiah weren’t expecting Him to be crucified (and then resurrected); this was inconceivable to them, since the promised Messiah was supposed to deliver them from their oppressors.
The fact the disciples were not expecting Jesus to be resurrected within history, despite what he had told them, is confirmed by their reaction to his death. None of them said, “Don’t worry; he’ll be back in a few days.” Rather, their hopes were crushed; they went into hiding. You can feel the despair in the disciple Cleopas’s statement in Lk. 24:21. He said to the unrecognized Jesus on the road to Emmaus that they “had hoped
that [Jesus] was the one to redeem Israel,” the implication being “but they crucified him so he could not have been.”
Even when the women reported to the apostles and the others that the tomb was empty and that angels had announced Jesus’ resurrection, they did not believe them (Lk. 24:1-11). Thomas had everybody telling him that the Lord had risen, and he said he would not believe it unless he could see that the allegedly resurrected Jesus had distinguishing marks of crucifixion and could feel those marks and the solidity of Jesus’ body (Jn. 20:24-25).
Anyway, let me know what you guys think in the comments.