Saturday, March 3, 2007


The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is one of the well established facts of ancient history. It is also a necessary part of the gospel, or good news about Jesus. Paul boils down this good news to four facts (1 Corinthians 15:1-8):

“ … I make known to you brethren, the gospel … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
… He was buried,
… He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
… He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, … to more than five hundred,… then … to James, then to all the apostles, … and last of all … to me also.”

The resurrection is so essential to the gospel and Christian faith that Paul later in the same chapter says “ … if Christ has not been raised, then our message is empty, your faith also is empty … your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins, … those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished … we are of all people the most pitiful” (verses 14-19). Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection.

So when it was announced that the Discovery Channel was going to air a documentary on the discovery of Jesus’ family tomb, it grabbed the attention of many.

The film pieces together fragments of “evidence” to claim that this tomb was discovered in Jerusalem and has in it an ossuary, or bone box with Jesus’ name on it, another with Mary Magdalene’s name and another with the name of a son, Judah. DNA evidence “proves” that the human materials in Jesus’ and Mary’s boxes are different and thus (get this) were husband and wife. By the way, as far as I know, no actual bones were found.

One site I googled already had a lengthy rebuttal to all the claims and “evidence,” so I won’t bother. I can’t really say more than the experts, except to say that if claims were made about any other person in history, based on such manipulation of such slim evidence, they wouldn’t even get a hearing.

Though the news media sometimes love to make much out of things like this, to hype it as something that will shake Christianity to the core, there’s just nothing to it. The evidence is on our side. I heard one newsman draw a distinction between “facts and faith,” as though Christian faith is something that is held in spite of the facts.

But Christian faith is based on solid evidence – the empty tomb, the failures of attempts to explain it away, the 500 plus witnesses and the changed lives of Jesus’ disciples.

It is those who choose to believe this latest attempt to deny the resurrection who are really holding their faith in spite of the facts. It seems that many people are desperate to find an escape from the truth about Christ. This is just one of many attempts, that go all the way back to the first century. See the record of the first attempt in Matthew 28:11-15.

What bothers me more than the claims of unbelievers, however, is the fearfulness of believers. Many are circulating e-mails and petitions to keep this off the air. Why? What are we afraid of? I believe that while this film will convince those who want to be convinced, it will go the way of the other books, movies, etcetera, all of which have attempted to do the same. It might even get people talking about Jesus. It might be a great opportunity for witness – which should be our goal! We can present to people the truth about Jesus, that He is the Son of God who died for our sins (and rose from the dead), as well as for the sins of those who try to prove that He didn’t!!

Bill Ball

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