Many people have unsuccessfully disputed the accuracy of the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. No discrepancies exist in the Bible, and certainly not in the Easter account. Jesus’ death and resurrection is axiomatic to the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Everything God’s dealing with mankind turns on Easter. It is the most important of the Christian holidays, even more important than Christmas. The blog this week concerns some of the claimed errors in the gospels’ accounts and explains why they are not true.
The accounts of the empty tomb don’t match: It is true that some of the unimportant detains in the accounts differ somewhat from one gospel to another. But all of the significant facts agree. The variation of unimportant details is to be expected. God didn’t dictate the Bible to the 66 authors as an executive would dictate a letter to his secretary. He inspired the writers to record the significant facts, and their styles vary considerably. Every policeman will tell you that eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable in details. We are all human, including the apostles, and are imperfect. But God saw to it that the major facts in the Easter accounts were accurate. And, the account is threaded through the Bible from Genesis 3:1 through Revelation, each mention of the event adding more insight until we get the entire picture.
Lee Strobel wrote “a careful historian doesn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”. He continued by saying that there are two incompatible accounts of Hannibal crossing the Alps to attack Rome, yet “No classical historian doubts that Hannibal did mount such a campaign” ( The Case for Easter, pp. 46, 47). The gospels harmonize in the facts that Jesus was arrested, crucified, that Joseph of Arimathea claimed the body and put it in his own tomb, women were the first to visit the tomb three days later on Sunday morning and find it empty. They saw a vision of angels who said Jesus was arose from the grave and that He was later seen by many and taught His disciples, giving them the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; compare, Isaiah 52:10). The accounts of Easter are accurate.
Jesus being in the tomb three days and three nights doesn’t add up: Even some pastors are confused on this point. The third night evades them. One pastor said he believes Jesus was crucified as early as Wednesday. Two important facts are overlooked here. First, any light at all at dawn counted as a whole day to the Jews, and He was absent from the tomb at first light on Sunday morning, which counted as a day. Second, the two ruling Jewish sects counted a day differently. One counted from sunset to sunset, while the other counted from sunrise to sunrise. The two methods overlap some. If both ways of defining a day are taken into account Jesus spent three days and three nights in the tomb.
The tomb wasn’t empty: Women discovered the empty tomb. That fact in itself verifies that the tomb was empty. Women held no importance in biblical Jewish society. They were unworthy of testifying in court. Women finding the empty tomb an reporting it to the men would be embarrassing to the disciples. They wouldn’t want to admit this fact, much less writ it into the gospels. And, the earliest Jewish writings assume the tomb empty.
Jesus rising from the dead, being seen by many and speaking with His disciples gave them the courage to face death rather than reverting back to the Jewish faith. All were martyred except for John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos. Tradition holds that he either died of natural causes at about age 90, or that he was martyred at about that age. In either case he lived a long life. None of the apostles recounted their faith in Jesus as Savior.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross and recovered later: According to modern doctors and forensic pathologists Jesus had to have died on the cross, not merely “swoon” as some claim. That theory keeps popping up even though it was discounted decades ago. Floggings like Jesus endured killed many men from shock and blood loss. Survivors were near death. Jesus was unable to carry His cross. To suffer the flogging, being nailed to a cross and being speared in the side by a Roman soldier was impossible to survive. Further, His death was confirmed by Roman soldiers whose job was killing. Their orders said to see that Jesus died on he cross and they did so. Anything less and they would be put to death, so they made certain He was dead. John’s account says both blood and water poured from Jesus’ side after He was speared by the soldier. Under extreme stress a clear fluid builds around the heart and lungs. The piercing allowed the fluid and blood to drain. John didn’t have modern medical knowledge and to him the clear fluid appeared to be water. Modern medical knowledge confirms Jesus’ death on the cross. Challenges to the Easter account abound, but all fail when closely examined. Jesus did die on the cross because He intended to do so.
The Sons’ whole purpose of coming to earth as Jesus was to die on the cross in my place and yours. His substitutionary death gives us the means of redemption. This is the theme of next week’s blog. I’ll be posting Easter messages on the Facebook page, www.theson-dayposts.org, all week. Stay with me this week, and I’ll look for you here on Easter.