Many people believe that there is no solid evidence for the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. They assume there is no proof for the authenticity of Christ as he is presented in the New Testament. At a certain time in my life, I had my doubts too.
I wonder if you have a friend or a contact who has doubts about Jesus Christ. Your contact could be a secular person, a relative, a close a church goer, a friend or a Muslim. Here is Chapter 3 from my book Unshackled and Growing which will speak to you or to your friend’s doubts. Your friend might get satisfied by reading this chapter only in two blogs, or he or she might be interested to download Unshackled and Growing for free and read the whole chapter and the rest of the book on her or his phone.
Sometime ago, I read a book titled The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and it motivated me to write a summary of his book in this chapter. Before writing his book, Strobel wanted to prove that any evidence for Christ could not be believed and that what the Bible said about him was wrong. As I read this book, I kept thinking how Strobel’s questions reminded me of so many of my Muslim friends’ questions about Christ: Was Jesus really the person the Bible says he was? Did he really die on the cross? Can the Bible be trusted? And perhaps most important, what does Maryam: Surah 19 verse 33 mean, where Jesus talked about his own birth, death, and resurrection in the Qur’an?
Background of Strobel’s Book
Lee Strobel, an American journalist who considered himself an atheist, wrote The Case for Christ in 1998. Prior to that, he worked at the well-known Chicago Tribune newspaper, where his specialty was covering big court cases. Before researching the book, he believed there was far more evidence that God was merely a product of wishful thinking, ancient mythology, and primitive superstition. What Jesus said about himself, Strobel believed, was nothing more than the invention of superstitious people.
But then Strobel’s wife became a follower of Christ. That stunned him, and he worried that she might become legalistic and narrow minded. To his surprise, he noticed instead that fundamental changes took place in her character, integrity, and self-confidence. Wanting to discover what was behind these changes, he launched an all-out investigation into the facts surrounding Christ and the Bible. His search took place over a period of approximately two years. In his own words, he explains his objective this way: “Setting aside my self-interest and prejudices, as best I could, I read books, interviewed experts, asked questions, analyzed history, explored archaeology, studied ancient literature, and for the first time in my life picked apart the Bible verse by verse. I plunged into the case with more vigor than with any case I had ever pursued.”
With a journalist’s mind, Strobel dared to ask every imaginable question as he interviewed the top experts in the world. I was amazed by the extent of his questions and by the degree to which he did not leave any stone unturned. Strobel wanted to disprove Christ, but every question he asked was fully answered. His conclusions differed radically from what he had anticipated, and he ended up writing an entire book that makes a case for Christ.
My friend, if you are struggling with questions about Jesus, I encourage you to read The Case for Christ. This book is not written specifically for Muslims, I am confident that most, if not all, of your questions will be answered. Here are some of the main questions it addresses:
• Can biographies of Jesus be trusted?
• Do the biographies of Jesus stand up to scrutiny?
• Were Jesus’ biographies reliably preserved for us?
• Is there credible evidence for Jesus outside his biographies?
• Does archaeology confirm or contradict Jesus’ biographies?
• Is the Jesus of history the same as the Jesus of faith?
• Was Jesus really convinced that he was the Son of God?
• Was Jesus crazy when he claimed to be the Son of God?
• Did Jesus fulfill the attributes of God?
• Did Jesus—and Jesus alone—match the identity of the Messiah?
• Was Jesus’ death a sham and his resurrection a hoax?
• Was Jesus’ body really absent from his tomb?
• Was Jesus seen alive after his death on the cross?
• Are there any supporting facts that point to the resurrection?
• What does the evidence establish, and what does it mean today?
There is nothing wrong with honest doubt. As it did in Strobel’s case, it can lead to searching and serious study, and finally it can lead to certainty. On the other hand, when people close their minds because of fear or fanaticism, they are left with only stagnation and sterile religiosity. One of the best places to look for proof about Jesus is the Old Testament, which contains prophecies written about Christ centuries before his birth.
Prophecies About the Messiah
The Old Testament contains nearly 50 prophecies about Jesus Christ, some of which were made centuries before his arrival on earth. The degree of exactness in these prophecies is mind-boggling. The prophet Isaiah (about 700 years before Christ) foretold that Christ would be born of a virgin. The prophet Micah (also about 700 years before Christ) prophesied that the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem. The book of Genesis (about 13 centuries before Christ) and the prophet Jeremiah (about 500 years before Christ) foretold his ancestry line—that he would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, from the tribe of Judah, and the house of David. The Psalms (about 800 years prior to Christ) foretold specifically his betrayal, which would take place at the hands of Judas Iscariot. The Psalms also foretold the accusations against him, made by false witnesses.
But perhaps the most important prophecies Jesus fulfilled were those about his death and resurrection. One of the Psalms describes in detail how Christ would specifically die, yet it was written at a time when crucifixion was not even invented yet as a means of execution. The prophet Isaiah described the Messiah’s suffering and death in detail hundreds of years before they actually happened.
Some critics point out that perhaps Jesus intentionally went about fulfilling these prophecies. They claim that Jesus knew that there was a prophecy about the Messiah entering Jerusalem on a donkey, so that’s what he did on that famous day, called Palm Sunday, a few days before his crucifixion. At face value, this argument looks convincing. In reality, it is weak when you take all of the prophecies into consideration. How could Jesus control the fact that Judas was paid exactly 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal, just as the prophecy says (Matthew 27:3)? How could he arrange his own ancestry to fulfill prophecy? How could he arrange to be born in the town of Bethlehem, when Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth? How could he arrange the events of his crucifixion and resurrection to match the account in the book of Isaiah?
The Reality of Jesus’ Death
What about the idea that someone else was crucified in the place of Jesus? Who could that person have been? Some believe it was Judas, who betrayed Jesus. But the Bible says that Judas was found dead after he hanged himself shortly after the crucifixion (Matthew 27:5).
If someone else was crucified in the place of Jesus, how could God punish an innocent person? If it was someone else, why didn’t that person scream out that he was not the Christ? If God did not want Jesus to be crucified, couldn’t he have protected him by having Pilate declare him innocent? If it was someone else who was crucified in Jesus’ place, did this other person rise from the dead? More than 500 people saw Jesus Christ after he rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:6). If it was someone else who died and rose, how did that person know all those he appeared to? Why were all these people not able to differentiate between the real Jesus and that “other” person?
Some critics try to explain the resurrection by suggesting that Jesus only fainted from exhaustion on the cross or that he had been drugged, which made him appear to have died. These critics say that after Jesus was put in a cool tomb, he was revived from the fainting spell, and thus his reappearance was not a miraculous resurrection. The tomb was empty, they say, because Jesus fled to Egypt or, as the Ahmadia sect says, he fled to India.
But what does medical science say? Is there any possibility that Jesus could have survived the torture and the crucifixion without dying?
In the next blog we will get the answer to these important questions and talk as well about the reality of the resurrection.
Have you watched the move “The Passion of The Christ”? I have watched it several times, at times alone and at other times with friends. The actor Jim Caviezel is a devout Catholic and a committed Christian. Please watch this ten-minute powerful interview and see what Jim Caviezel had to say about how acting that role had impacted him. Now the Hollywood community has shunned him because he played that role. Please watch the powerful interview.