Evidence for the Resurrection - R. A. Torrey - ebook
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The resurrection of Jesus Christ is in many respects the most important fact in history. It is the Gibraltar of Christian evidences, the Waterloo of infidelity. If it can be proven to be a historic certainty that Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity rests upon an impregnable foundation. Every essential truth of Christianity is involved in the resurrection. If the resurrection stands, every essential doctrine of Christianity stands. If the resurrection goes down, every essential doctrine of Christianity goes down. Intelligent skeptics and infidels realize this. A leading skeptic has recently said that there is no use wasting time discussing the other miracles; the essential question is, Did Jesus Christ rise from the Dead? If He did, it is easy enough to believe the other miracles. If He did not, the other miracles must go. I am confident that this skeptic has correctly stated the case.

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EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION

BY

R. A. TORREY

New York Chicago Toronto

Fleming H. Revell Company

London and Edinburgh

Copyright, 1904, by

FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY

Hope. Inspiration. Trust.

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Contents

1.Did Jesus Christ Really Rise from the Dead?

2.The Self-Evident Truthfulness of the Gospel Stories of the Resurrection

3.The Circumstantial Evidence of the Resurrection

4.What the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead Proves

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1.

Did Jesus Christ Really Rise from the Dead?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is in many respects the most important fact in history. It is the Gibraltar of Christian evidences, the Waterloo of infidelity. If it can be proven to be a historic certainty that Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity rests upon an impregnable foundation. Every essential truth of Christianity is involved in the resurrection. If the resurrection stands, every essential doctrine of Christianity stands. If the resurrection goes down, every essential doctrine of Christianity goes down. Intelligent skeptics and infidels realize this. A leading skeptic has recently said that there is no use wasting time discussing the other miracles; the essential question is, Did Jesus Christ rise from the Dead? If He did, it is easy enough to believe the other miracles. If He did not, the other miracles must go. I am confident that this skeptic has correctly stated the case.

There are three separate lines of proof of the truthfulness of the statements contained in the four Gospels regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

First, the external evidence for the authenticity and truthfulness of the Gospel narratives. This is an altogether satisfactory argument, but we shall not enter into it at this time. The argument is long and intricate, and it would take many days to discuss it satisfactorily. The other arguments are so completely sufficient that we can do without this, good as it is in its place.

Second, the second argument is based upon the internal proofs of the truthfulness of the Gospel records. This argument is thoroughly conclusive, and we shall proceed to state it briefly. We shall not assume anything whatever. We shall not assume that the four Gospel records are true history. We shall not assume that the four Gospels were written by the men whose names they bear. We shall not even assume that they were written in the century in which Jesus is alleged to have lived, died, and risen again, nor in the next century, nor in the next. We will assume nothing whatever. We will start out with a fact which we all know to be true, namely, that we have the four Gospels to-day, whoever wrote them. We shall place the four Gospels side by side and see if we can discern in them the marks of truth or of fiction.

The first thing we notice as we compare these Gospels one with the other is that they are four separate and independent accounts. This appears plainly from the apparent discrepancies in the four different accounts. These apparent discrepancies are marked and many. It would have been impossible for four accounts to have been made up in collusion with one another and so many and so marked discrepancies be found in them. There is a harmony between the four accounts, but the harmony does not lie upon the surface, but only comes out by protracted and thorough study. It is just such a harmony as would exist between accounts written by several different persons, each looking at the events recorded from his own standpoint. It is just such a harmony as would not exist in four accounts manufactured in collusion. In four accounts manufactured in collusion, whatever of harmony there was would have appeared on the surface, whatever discrepancy there was would only have come out by minute and careful study; but the case is just the opposite. The fact is, that the harmony comes out by minute and careful study; the apparent discrepancy lies upon the surface. Whether true or false, these four accounts are separate and independent from one another. The four accounts supplement one another, a third account sometimes reconciling apparent discrepancies of two.

It is plain that these accounts must be either a record of facts that actually occurred, or else fictions. If fictions, they must have been fabricated in one of two ways, either independently of one another, or in collusion with one another. They cannot have been made up independently; the agreements are too marked and too many. They cannot have been made up in collusion; as already seen, the apparent discrepancies are too numerous and too noticeable. Not made up independently, not made up in collusion, therefore it is evident that they were not made up at all. They are a true relation of facts as they actually occurred.

The next thing that we notice is that these accounts bear striking indications of having been derived from eye-witnesses. The account of an eye-witness is readily distinguishable from that of one who is merely retailing what others have told him. Anyone who is accustomed to weigh evidence in court, or in historical study, soon learns how to distinguish the account of an eyewitness from mere hearsay evidence. Any careful student of the Gospel records of the resurrection will readily detect many marks of an eyewitness. Some years ago, when lecturing at an American University, a gentleman was introduced to me as being a skeptic. I asked him what course of study he was pursuing. He replied that he was pursuing a post-graduate course in history with a view to an historical professorship. I said: “Then you know that the account of an eye-witness differs in marked respects from the account of one who is simply telling what he has heard from others?” He replied: “Yes.” I then asked: “Have you carefully read the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Christ?” He answered: “I have.” “Tell me, have you not noticed clear indications that they were derived from eye-witnesses?” “Yes,” he replied, “I have been greatly struck by this in reading the accounts.” Anyone else who carefully and intelligently reads them will be struck by the same fact.

The third thing that we notice about these Gospel narratives is their naturalness, straightforwardness, artlessness, and simplicity. The accounts indeed have to do with the supernatural, but the accounts themselves are most natural. There is an absolute absence of all attempt at coloring and effect. The simple, straightforward telling of facts as they occurred. It sometimes happens that when a witness is on the witness stand that the story he tells is so artless, so straightforward, so natural, there is such an entire absence of any attempt at coloring and effect, that his testimony bears weight independently of anything we may know of the character or previous history of the witness. As we listen to his story we say to ourselves: “This man is telling the truth.” The weight of this kind of evidence is greatly increased, and reaches practical certainty, when we have several independent witnesses of this sort, all bearing testimony to the same essential facts, but with varieties of detail, one omitting what another tells, and the third unconsciously reconciling apparent discrepancies between the two. This is the precise case with the four Gospel narratives of the resurrection of Christ. The Gospel authors do not seem to have reflected at all upon the meaning or bearing of many of the facts which they relate. They simply tell right out what they saw, in all simplicity and straightforwardness, leaving the philosophizing to others. Dr. William Furness, the great Unitarian scholar and critic, who certainly was not overmuch disposed in favor of the supernatural, says: “Nothing can exceed in artlessness and simplicity the four accounts of the first appearance of Jesus after His crucifixion. If these qualities are not discernible here, we must despair of ever being able to discern them anywhere.”

Suppose we should find four accounts of the battle of Monmouth. Nothing decisive was known as to the authorship of these accounts, but when we laid them side by side we found that they were manifestly independent accounts. We found, furthermore, striking indications that they were from eye-witnesses. We found them all marked by that artlessness, simplicity, and straightforwardness that carry conviction; we found that, while apparently disagreeing in minor details, they agreed substantially in their account of the battle—even though we had no knowledge of the authorship or date of these accounts, would we not in the absence of any other account say: “Here is a true account of the battle of Monmouth?” Now this is exactly the case with the four Gospel narratives; manifestly separate and independent from one another, bearing the clear marks of having been derived from eye-witnesses, characterized by an unrivalled artlessness, simplicity, and straightforwardness, apparently disagreeing in minor details, but in perfect agreement as to the great essential facts related, if we are fair and honest, are we not logically driven to say: “Here is a true account of the resurrection of Jesus?”

The next thing that we notice is the unintentional evidence of words, phrases, and accidental details. It oftentimes happens that when a witness is on the stand the unintentional evidence that he bears by words and phrases which he uses, and by accidental details which he introduces, is more convincing than his direct testimony, because it is not the testimony of the witness, but the testimony of the truth to itself. The Gospel stories abound in evidence of this sort.