If someone asked you why you think Christianity is true as opposed to all the other religions, what would you have to say? Could you defend your belief? Why couldn’t Judaism, Islam, Mormonism and other religions be true? How do you know Christianity is true and the others are not?
I’ve given some thought to this question recently… For me, it all starts with Jesus. According to the apostle Paul, writing in 55 AD (~25 years after the resurrection) under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, if Christ was not raised, then Christianity is useless and of no value (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). Of course, if Christ did predict and accomplish His resurrection, then that would validate His claim to be who He said He was. So, I have to ask… Who would’ve been in the best position to know the facts about Jesus? There are 3 groups that were closest to the events:
- The Jews – they were the ones opposing Jesus at that time. Many passages affirm this. The phrase “the Jews” appears 127 times in the New Testament. In many of these verses where the Jews seem to be in opposition to Jesus are in the gospel of John. Here are the verses in John where it seems that the Jews are in opposition to Jesus:2:18, 2:20, 5:10, 5:16, 5:18, 6:41, 7:1, 8:48, 8:52, 8:57, 9:22, 10:31, 10:33, 11:8, 18:14, 18:28, 18:31, 18:36, 19:7, 19:12, 19:21, 20:19
- The Disciples of Christ (of which most were Jews as well). Not only was Jesus thoroughly Jewish, but so were His disciples.
- The Romans – they were the occupying force in Palestine during the time of Jesus.
Many religions have something to say about Jesus. For example:
- Judaism says that Jesus’ tomb was empty and that his disciples stole the body.
- Islam says he was a prophet, but not the Son of God and was not crucified, that Allah put a substitute on the cross, but instead took Jesus directly to heaven.
- Mormonism says that he was the spirit brother of Lucifer
So, if I’m going to pay attention to any historical source, I would be wise to consider those who were closest to the events. It seems to me that the disciples were closest to the events of Jesus since they lived and walked with Him for 3 years, directly experiencing His miracles, teaching and post-resurrection appearances. The Jews were also very close to Jesus and they acknowledged some of the key facts in the story – namely that He was a miracle worker, that He was crucified and that His tomb was empty Sunday morning. John 12:10-11 tells us that “the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.” Acts 6:7 tells us “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Since the faith increased in Jerusalem, which was the center of Judaism, we can assume those priests being spoken of were Jewish. So, the biblical record is clear that even though the Jewish leadership in large part rejected Jesus, many Jews did actually believe in Him.
So, in relation to the religions that had something to say about Jesus, I would not trust Islam, since it does not record eyewitness testimony about Jesus, but rather personal revelation written down more than 500 years after the events. Nor would I trust Mormonism, since it’s writings come ~1800 years after the events. The New Testament writings are the most credible source of information about Jesus. We have excellent historical evidence that the resurrection is the best hypothesis to account for the known facts about Jesus. Here are the facts:
- Jesus died by crucifixion
- He was buried
- Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended
- The tomb was discovered to be empty just a few days later
- The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus
- The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection
- This message was the center of preaching in the early church
- This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before
- As a result of this preaching the church was born and grew
- Sunday became the primary day of worship
- James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed he saw the resurrected Jesus
- A few years later, Paul was also converted by an experience which he, likewise, believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus
Here is a chart that shows theories that attempt to explain these facts:
So, you can see that the only theory that accounts for all the known historical evidence is either that Jesus was an Alien or that He was bodily resurrected.
As good historians, we must go with the theory that accounts for all the facts, therefore, the most likely explanation is what the New Testament reports – that Jesus was resurrected bodily. Therefore, Christianity is true, beyond a reasonable doubt and anything that contradicts it is false.