Post Author: Bill Pratt
In part 1 of this post, Tim Keller presented historian N. T. Wright’s analysis of Jewish and Greco-Roman attitudes toward an individual resurrection. Would the ancient world have accepted the story of Jesus’s resurrection without serious skepticism? According to Keller, Wright’s research indicates that the Greco-Roman world would not have been at all receptive.
But what about Jews in particular? Keller mines Wright’s historical research to further examine two skeptical theories which attempt to explain how the story of Jesus’s resurrection could have originated.
Over the years, skeptics about the resurrection have proposed that the followers of Jesus may have had hallucinations, that they may have imagined him appearing to them and speaking to them. This assumes that their master’s resurrection was imaginable for his Jewish followers, that it was an option in their worldview. It was not.
Others have put forth the conspiracy theory, that the disciples stole the body and claimed he was alive to others. This assumes that the disciples would expect other Jews to be open to the belief that an individual could be raised from the dead. But none of this is possible. The people of that time would have considered a bodily resurrection to be as impossible as the people of our own time, though for different reasons.
Keller notes that in the first century there were many other Jews who claimed to be the Messiah, and who were executed for those claims. What role did resurrection play in those cases? Here is Wright:
In not one single case do we hear the slightest mention of the disappointed followers claiming that their hero had been raised from the dead. They knew better. Resurrection was not a private event. Jewish revolutionaries whose leader had been executed by the authorities, and who managed to escape arrest themselves, had two options: give up the revolution, or find another leader. Claiming that the original leader was alive again was simply not an option. Unless, of course, he was.
There is only one Jew who claimed to be Messiah and whose followers proclaimed that he rose from the dead after he was executed. Perhaps they proclaimed it because it actually happened.