If Jesus did die, on the other hand, we have to account for what happened to his body. His disciples stole the body? Why would they do that? To fake a miracle that no one in their right mind would believe? Two days before they were running away like terrified bunnies and now they get together and plan a Mission: Impossible style heist? Dogs ate Jesus’ body on the trash heap? That doesn’t match what we know about Jewish burial customs, and besides, the story is clear that Jesus’ friends asked for his body and it was given to them. The disciples went to the wrong tomb? Wouldn’t they just have said, “Whoops, wrong tomb” rather than “He is risen from the dead!”? It wasn’t really Jesus who was crucified? All his enemies were out to get him. So they would have been duped by a patsy?
The only other option is that the disciples were deceived or deluded. What all of them, plus hundreds more who say they saw Jesus alive? Did they meet to get their stories to line up? If so, they weren’t deluded, they were devious. If they were not deceived and deluded but devious, would they keep up their lie and be willing, in the end, to be tortured and die for it? Would you?
When faced with such overwhelming arguments, most atheists simply shrug and say, “Well, there are lots of strange things in the world that we don’t have the answer for.” But this won’t do. The weight of history and the evidence gathered demands a verdict. If atheists demand evidence and evidence is supplied, then a response must be demanded.
You remind me that I spoke of botanical, biological, historical, forensic, photographic, scientific, physical archaeological evidence for the resurrection?
That would be the Shroud of Turin, and an article much longer than this one.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker is a former Evangelical, then an Anglican priest and now a Catholic priest. Visit his website at dwightlongenecker.com to browse his books and be in touch.