Archive for November 2012

The Christian Church Grew Because of the Resurrection Message

The Christian Church Grew Because of the Resurrection Message

The early Christian Church grew because of the resurrection message, not at the end of the sword. The church faced severe persecution, but in only 300 years became so prevalent that the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.

Early Christianity spread from city to city throughout the Roman Empire and beyond into East Africa and South Asia, as shown by the graphic below. The Apostles established churches in major cities and regions throughout the Roman Empire. Over 40 church communities were founded by the year 100. By the end of the 1st century, Christianity had already spread to Greece and Italy, some say as far as India. By 301 AD, the Kingdom of Armenia became the first to declare Christianity as its state religion.1

Christianity spread despite persecution and certainly not by the sword.

There began the persecution under Emperor Nero in 64–68 AD. In 64 AD, a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying portions of the city and economically devastating the Roman population. Nero himself was suspected as the arsonist by Suetonius, claiming he played the lyre and sang the ‘Sack of Ilium’ during the fires. In his Annals, Tacitus, stated that ‘to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace’ (Tacit. Annals XV). Suetonius, does not mention any persecution after the fire, but in a previous paragraph unrelated to the fire, mentions punishments inflicted on Christians, defined as men following a new and malefic superstition.” 2

The persecutions continued with Emperors Diocletian and Galerius in the late 200s AD and early 300s AD.

The Great Persecution is considered the largest. Beginning with a series of four edicts banning Christian practices and ordering the imprisonment of Christian clergy, the persecution intensified until all Christians in the empire were commanded to sacrifice to the gods or face immediate execution. Over 20,000 Christians are thought to have died during Diocletian’s reign. However, as Diocletian zealously persecuted Christians in the Eastern part of the empire, his co-emperors in the West did not follow the edicts and so Christians in Gaul, Spain, and Britannia were virtually unmolested.3

Emperor Diocletian

This persecution lasted, until Constantine I came to power in 313 and legalized Christianity. Constantine I was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD. According to Christian writers, Constantine was over 40 when he declared himself a Christian. How could Christianity grow so fast and result in a Roman Emperor converting within 300 years? The message of the Gospel and the Resurrection!

Emperor Constantine

References

    1. History of early Christianity, (Wikipedia) Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_early_Christianity#Spread_of_Christianity (November 21, 2012)
    2. Persecution of Christians, (Wikipedia) Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians#Persecution_of_early_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire (November 21, 2012)
    3. Diocletianic Persecution, (Wikipedia) Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian_Persecution (November 21, 2012)

Lesson Outline

Twelve Known Resurrection Facts Believed By Harshest Critics of Christianity 

  1. Jesus died from crucifixion
  2. Jesus was buried in a tomb.
  3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
  4. Quiz on Week 1 Lessons.
  5. The tomb was discovered to be empty three days later.
  6. The disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus..
  7. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  8. Quiz on Week 2 Lessons.
  9. The resurrection message was the center point of preaching in the early church.
  10. The resurrection message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried.
  11. The church grew because of the resurrection message.
  12. The primary day of worship was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection.
  13. James, a skeptic, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
  14. Paul, an opponent, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.

Six Common Objections Refuted By 12 Known Resurrection Facts:

  1. The Unknown Tomb theory
  2. The Wrong Tomb theory
  3. The Legend theory
  4. The Disciples Stole Body theory
  5. The Authorities Hid Body theory
  6. The Swoon theory
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Early Christianity Spread Rapidly In 300 Years the Roman Emperor Himself Converted

Early Christianity Spread Rapidly: In 300 Years the Roman Emperor Himself Converted

In approximately 313 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.

Constantine's_conversion

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The resurrection message was proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried

Just the Facts: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Lesson 8 of 18: The resurrection message was proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried

Watch this short video to hear Gary Habermas, Professor of Philosophy and Theology, Liberty University, explain why it is important that the resurrection message was proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried. The resurrection message was not proclaimed generations later and not in some far off location. Therefore, living people in Jerusalem had an opportunity to refute it if it were false.

Here are the main points made in the video:

The proclamation of the empty tomb was made in the city of Jerusalem in which the tomb was located. Therefore, it provided easy access for verification. All you had to do was go down the street and check it out.

The Jewish leaders themselves admitted there was an empty tomb. They thought somebody had pulled a fast one and stolen the body. This is “enemy attestation:” critics saying this is true. Matthew 28:11-15

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Lesson Outline

Twelve Known Resurrection Facts Believed By Harshest Critics of Christianity 

  1. Jesus died from crucifixion
  2. Jesus was buried in a tomb.
  3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
  4. Quiz on Week 1 Lessons.
  5. The tomb was discovered to be empty three days later.
  6. The disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus..
  7. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  8. Quiz on Week 2 Lessons.
  9. The resurrection message was the center point of preaching in the early church.
  10. The resurrection message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried.
  11. The church grew because of the resurrection message.
  12. The primary day of worship was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection.
  13. James, a skeptic, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
  14. Paul, an opponent, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.

Six Common Objections Refuted By 12 Known Resurrection Facts:

  1. The Unknown Tomb theory
  2. The Wrong Tomb theory
  3. The Legend theory
  4. The Disciples Stole Body theory
  5. The Authorities Hid Body theory
  6. The Swoon theory
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The Early Church Not a Generation Later Preached the Resurrection Message

The Early Church, Not a Generation Later, Preached the Resurrection Message

The early church preached the resurrection message.  It was not made up a generation later.

peter-preaching

Acts 2:1-41

, “…14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd… 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it…. 36 ‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’”

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The Resurrection Message Was Central in the Early Church, Not a Generation Later

Just the Facts: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Lesson 7 of 18: The Resurrection Message Was Central in the Early Church, Not a Generation Later

Watch a short video by Gary Habermas, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Theology, Liberty University in which he discusses the early Resurrection references.

Here are the main points conveyed in the video:

How early are the Resurrection references? Just compare the Resurrection references to other ancient works, such as Life of Alexander, written by Plutarch in AD 75, 400 years after Alexander died in 323 BC. This is a highly acclaimed work and not disputed despite the great time lag between the written work and the event.  We forget that the ancient world did not have tape recorders and it was very expensive to produce written works.

Jesus was crucified in approximately 30 AD. Paul’s conversion was soon afterwards. (Critics say around 1-3 years after the crucifixion, around 33 AD.) In Galatians 1: 11-20 Paul says that after three years he went to Jerusalem and spoke with Peter and James, and they discussed the Gospel, the center of the faith for the Church. That would be around 36 AD.

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

In Galations 2: 1-2 Paul states that after 14 years he again went to Jerusalem to talk with the church leaders.

1 Then after fourteen years, I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

Paul confirms that he and the other Apostles were preaching the Gospel facts in 1 Corinthians 15: 11: ”Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

Therefore, the core beliefs of Christian teaching can be dated to within 6 years of the crucifixion and are contained in the following creed reproduced in in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8:

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

To record eye witness testimony a few years after the event is unheard of in the ancient world. The value of this evidence is therefore extremely good.

Chronology of the Early Christian Church

Lesson Outline

Twelve Known Resurrection Facts Believed By Harshest Critics of Christianity 1

  1. Jesus died from crucifixion
  2. Jesus was buried in a tomb.
  3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
  4. Quiz on Week 1 Lessons.
  5. The tomb was discovered to be empty three days later.
  6. The disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus..
  7. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  8. Quiz on Week 2 Lessons.
  9. The resurrection message was the center point of preaching in the early church.
  10. The resurrection message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried.
  11. The church grew because of the resurrection message.
  12. The primary day of worship was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection.
  13. James, a skeptic, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
  14. Paul, an opponent, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.

Six Common Objections Refuted By 12 Known Resurrection Facts:

  1. The Unknown Tomb theory
  2. The Wrong Tomb theory
  3. The Legend theory
  4. The Disciples Stole Body theory
  5. The Authorities Hid Body theory
  6. The Swoon theory

 

References

    1. Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus MP3 Audio by Craig J. Hazen, Ph.D. Professor of Comparative Religion and Apologetics Biola University http://apps.biola.edu/apologetics-store/products/audios/item/evidence-for-the-resurrection_CD

(4)

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Quiz 2 on Just the Facts Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Quiz 2 on Just the Facts: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Take this short self-quiz to test your knowledge of the second week’s lesson on Just the Facts: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.

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Why the disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers

Just the Facts: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Lesson 6 of 18: Why the disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers

Watch this short video to hear Dr. William Lane Craig explain why the disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.

Here are the main points made in the video:

Something happened to the disciples. Once they fled, then they boldly preached Jesus resurrection. What happened?

After Jesus’ death, different individuals and groups of people claimed to have seen Jesus alive on different occasions and varying circumstances. This is universally acknowledged today by New Testament critics. The reason? In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is quoting from an early Christian saying that he received and passed on. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

This saying has been dated to within 5 years of Jesus’ crucifixion. It provides a list of eye witnesses who claimed to have seen Jesus alive after he died. You may think they were hallucinations, but you cannot deny that they saw something, namely the risen Christ. This something changed their lives.

Lesson Outline

12 Known Resurrection Facts Believed By Harshest Critics of Christianity 2

  1. Jesus died from crucifixion .
  2. Jesus was buried in a tomb.
  3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
  4. Quiz 1 on Week 1 Lesson.
  5. The tomb was discovered to be empty three days later.
  6. The disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus
  7. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  8. The resurrection message was the center point of preaching in the early church.
  9. The resurrection message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried.
  10. The church grew because of the resurrection message.
  11. The primary day of worship was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection.
  12. James, a skeptic, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
  13. Paul, an opponent, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.

6 Common Objections Refuted By 12 Known Resurrection Facts:

  1. The Unknown Tomb theory
  2. The Wrong Tomb theory
  3. The Legend theory
  4. The Disciples Stole Body theory
  5. The Authorities Hid Body theory
  6. The Swoon theory
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Two men encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus

Two men encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus

The account of Jesus’ appearance to two men on the road to Emmaus and to the disciples, corroborates with the list of witnesses Paul provides in

1 Corinthians 15:3-9

Luke 24:13-35

13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. 

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Why the disciples believed they saw the risen Jesus

Just the Facts: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Lesson 5 of 18: Why the disciples believed they saw the risen Jesus

Watch this short video to hear Dr. William Lane Craig describe the resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Here are the main points made in the video:

The primary list of witnesses that say they saw Jesus alive after his death appears in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

These can also be correlated to appearances reported in the Gospels.

All New Testament scholars agree that Peter experienced an appearance of Jesus shortly after his death. This is recorded in Luke 24:13-35 when two men on the road to Emmaus reported a close encounter with Jesus: “…33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”

The appearance of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room is recorded in Luke and John:

  • Luke 24:36 “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
  • John 20:19 “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’”

There is also an account of Jesus appearing to the disciples on a mountain top in Galilee in Matthew 28: 16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This may have also been an appearance to the 500 brethren. It would have to take place out of doors and probably on a hillside.  Unlike the other appearances that were unexpected, this one was by appointment to rendezvous. The phrase, “but some doubted” could be a reference to a larger crowd than just the disciples. The 500 were known by Paul because he knew that some had died in the interim and was aware that most of them were still alive and could be questioned.

Next, Paul says that Jesus appeared to his younger, half-brother, James.  Paul met with both James and Peter when Paul first went back to Jerusalem after his conversion on the road to Damascus. He was there for two weeks on a fact-finding trip . Galatians 1:18-19: ”18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas [Peter] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”

Neither James or any of the other half-brothers of Jesus were believers during Jesus’ lifetime. They did not think he was anything special. However, later James emerges as one of the pillars and leaders of the New Testament church. In fact James was martyred in AD 67 by the Jewish Sanhedrin for his belief that Jesus was Lord and Messiah. How can this be? Jesus must have appeared to James as Paul said.

Jesus appearing to the apostles was corroborated in Acts 1:3: “ After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”

Finally, Paul says he appeared to me. This is a conversion as remarkable as James. Paul (Saul) was a Jewish Pharisee and persecutor of the church. He hated the Christian “heresy” and was determined to do everything in his power to stamp it out. He was responsible for the deaths of Christians. It all turned around on the road to Damascus when Paul saw an appearance of Jesus: Acts 9:3-6

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Therefore, we can be assured that the accounts of Jesus’ appearances are true because there are multiple accounts before individuals, groups, in multiple locations and multiple circumstances.

This video addresses critics’ claims that the appearances were hallucinations:

This video addresses the legal admissibility of the eye witness accounts and whether the accounts were mere visions rather than appearances:

Lesson Outline

12 Known Resurrection Facts Believed By Harshest Critics of Christianity 2

  1. Jesus died from crucifixion .
  2. Jesus was buried in a tomb.
  3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
  4. Quiz on Week 1 Lessons.
  5. The tomb was discovered to be empty three days later.
  6. The disciples believed they encountered the risen Jesus.
  7. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  8. The resurrection message was the center point of preaching in the early church.
  9. The resurrection message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified and buried.
  10. The church grew because of the resurrection message.
  11. The primary day of worship was changed to Sunday, the day of resurrection.
  12. James, a skeptic, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.
  13. Paul, an opponent, was converted because he believed he encountered the risen Jesus.

6 Common Objections Refuted By 12 Known Resurrection Facts:

  1. The Unknown Tomb theory
  2. The Wrong Tomb theory
  3. The Legend theory
  4. The Disciples Stole Body theory
  5. The Authorities Hid Body theory
  6. The Swoon theory
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The empty tomb

The empty tomb

Pivotal to the Christian faith is the empty tomb. Christ had died and been buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Three days later it was empty. Christ had risen.

Empty Tomb Picture

Source: http://www.turnbacktogod.com/empty-tomb-of-jesus-pictures/

Luke 24:1-8

1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

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