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What was the nature of Jesus' resurrection appearances? Most attempts to explain these appearances in purely naturalistic terms have long been discredited by critical scholars. Nonetheless, we will consider the currently most popular naturalistic theory: the objective vision theory. Could the appearances of Jesus have been objective visions? That is, perhaps Jesus' spirit was translated directly from the tomb to heaven while his body was left to decay in the tomb, and God then began sending to the disciples actual visionary manifestations of some kind that led them to conclude that Jesus was alive spiritually in the heavenly realm. The central problem with this theory is that first century Second Temple Judaism knew nothing of a non-physical resurrection of the dead. One of the undisputed features of Pharisaic theology, which was the popular theology of that day, was its espousal of a bodily resurrection of the dead in the end times, and the disciples employed the common vocabulary consistent with this notion to explain Christ's appearance. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why some one as theologically astute as the Apostle Paul would be using the well known terminology of physical resurrection to explain the appearances of Jesus to himself and the other disciples if he understood these experiences to be only visionary and incorporeal. First century Jews knew the difference between a vision and a resurrection, as did first century pagans, and it seems quite implausible that Paul and the other disciples would have failed to make this distinction, particularly when faced with threats to their lives. Furthermore, we are left with no explanation for the empty tomb. In addition, there is the testimony of Peter recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. In Acts 2:24, Peter states plainly about Jesus that "God raised him up, losing the pangs of death, for it was not possible for him to be held by it." In verse 32, Peter asserts, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses." Sandwiched in between these two verses, Peter presents a contrast between King David and Jesus, quoting Psalm 16:8-11 as his proof text (Acts 2:25-28). He points out that King David "both died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day" (Acts 2:29). Peter argues that David must have been speaking prophetically in this psalm, for "he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31, italics mine). This is as lucid a statement as Peter could make about his understanding of the resurrection. Unlike David's body, which by contrast remains decomposed in its tomb, Christ's body experienced no such corruption or decay after his death and burial. Peter's testimony contains the concept of a physically resurrected Christ in space and time, and it appears that Peter was indeed preaching such a Christ within but a few weeks of Christ's crucifixion. Once again, a broad


consensus of scholars agree, just as they agree about the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, that this is a summary of a real sermon that expresses the deepest convictions of the Church in its earliest days, convictions that never wavered, even when believers faced torture and death. Thus, all of the truth indicators present in the ancient texts, the authenticity of which are agreed upon by virtually all critical scholars, point to the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. No one at the time anticipated such an event, yet many claimed to have witnessed it. Nor did the disciples begin proclaiming an incorporeal vision and later invent the story of a bodily resurrection. All the evidence supports a primitive claim and a primitive conviction that Jesus Christ walked out of the tomb in his own strength, fully alive. As St. John asserts at the beginning of his first epistle, that "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life...we proclaim also to you, that you too may have fellowship with us." But the early disciples did not only exhort their listeners to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. These men were convinced that the resurrection meant something profound about the nature of God and the eternal destiny of all people on earth. It was not just a trick to impress people, but a miracle that validated all that Jesus had said during his lifetime about himself, God, and the human condition. And their Easter proclamation is as valid today as it was over 2,000 years ago.

Arnie Gentile is the creator of the Christian Apologetics Blog at http://www.mychristianapologetics.com where he addresses issues of philosophical, theological, and devotional interest. He holds undergraduate degrees in Education and Theology and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. The Christian Apologetics Blog is committed to exploring the excellence of the God who loves us and penetrating the purpose of the life God has given us. Visit us and subscribe for free: http://www.mychristianapologetics.com

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