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06 April 2007

The Evidence for the Resurrection

medium_jesuspassionopt.jpgCBNNews.com - JERUSALEM - Today is Good Friday -- and this weekend, Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Over the years, many people have tried to disprove the events of that first Easter.

CBN News looked into the historical and archeological evidence for the resurrection, and here's what we found.

Jerusalem itself bears witness to the greatest story ever told: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Two thousand-year-old olive trees still thrive in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus agonized before his death.

An ancient Roman road leads from the Kidron Valley up to the house of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest.

Stones from the fortress of Pontus Pilate bear the marks of a Roman soldier's game called "King for a Day."

The impact of the last days of Jesus Christ and his disciples changed the world when according to the Bible; Jesus became the Passover lamb to atone for the sins of the world.

While some try to undermine the story, many biblical scholars say the life and death of Jesus is a matter of historical record. Darrell bock, professor of New Testament studies at Dallas theological seminary points to the Jewish historian Josephus.

Josephus, in the book called Antiquities -- book 18, sections 61-64 -- briefly describes the life of Jesus.

Now, some of what he said is disputed because of whether or not it goes back to him, but the part that is not disputed is that Jesus was crucified by Pontus Pilate, and that it was the Jewish leadership that was responsible for bringing Him to crucifixion.

And those were the base facts that correlate very nicely with the Biblical story.

The biblical story runs through the road called the 'Via Dolorosa,' or as it's called in English, 'The Way of the Cross.'

It marks the path from where Pontus Pilate sent Jesus to be crucified at Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion.

But in addition to Pontus Pilate, there's archeological evidence of other people involved in the passion of Jesus, like Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross of Jesus.

Claire Pfann is an expert in early Christianity.

She said, "Both Simon of Cyrene, the father of Rufus and Alexander, according to the Gospel of Mark, and Caiaphas, who was high priest at the time of Jesus and oversaw His Jewish trial, are both independently attested to by the discovery of each of their bone boxes or ossuaries."

"Now it's very interesting to think that, when you're looking at this event that happened on one weekend in Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago," Pfann added, "that three of the people who played significant roles in that and who are recorded in documentary evidence, are also attested to archeologically."

Beyond archeology, father Jerry Murphy O'Connor, who's studied the Apostle Paul and the early apostles, believes those closest to Jesus - most who died for the faith - would not have given their lives for a lie.

"We can rest our faith on the resurrection of Jesus," said O'Connor, "because that was the belief of His disciples -- the ones who knew Him, the ones who traveled with Him, the ones who were witnesses of the appearances that meant He was alive. They were the witnesses of the empty tomb. That meant there was no body; that's why they had to say He was risen from the dead."

Claire Pfann said, "I think we also cannot also set aside the fact that Paul understands this to be a bodily resurrection. He says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is pointless, in vain and everything we are doing is futile. I don't think that Paul is talking about some visionary, spiritual manifestation resurrection. He's talking about a literal, physical resurrection."

While some might say that our belief in the resurrection relies on faith alone, some scholars believe we have evidence that demands a verdict.

"We hear the same thing from even the pagan sources, about the story that accompanies Christianity," said University of the Holy Land scholar Stephen Pfann. "And what we find today is that these are all being questioned again.But it's great to have things like the ossuary of Caiaphas, of Simon of Cyrene to bear witness to the fact that these stories are not just fabrication, but they really are based on historical fact."

Ken Trestrail, a guide at Jerusalem's Garden Tomb, says the greatest benefit of the resurrection is what Jesus does for every man's soul.

Trestrail said, "The moment in time we do business with Him, He takes us in our arms, and His blood will deal with our sin problem. And He lifts us out of time and He plants our fate with His in the Heavenlies. Here's good news in a day of bad news. Two thousand years ago, death couldn't hold Jesus and 2,000 years on, death won't hold those of us who die in Christ Jesus."

But perhaps the greatest proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ lies beyond the old city walls of Jerusalem.

It's the testimony of more than one billion Christians from every tongue and tribe who testify their lives have been forever changed by the resurrected Jesus.

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