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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 13 Jan 2002

Jesus Christ: Fact or Fiction? QUESTION from Kevin McCarthy January 26, 2001 Besides faith and the Bible, is there any way to prove that Jesus Christ really existed, died and rose from the dead? My grade 8 son has to do a 5 minute speech on a controversial topic. Thanks for any help you can provide. Kevin
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on January 30, 2001 Dear Kevin
Your question is somewhat complex in that it involves two issues: Jesus' existence and his resurrection.
Let's address Jesus' existence.
There's no reason to discard the New Testament as a source of historical information. The overwhelming majority of scholars believe that the Gospels contain historical information, although there is a great diversity of views on how accurate the Gospels are.
But even if the Gospels were discarded, Paul's letters by themselves prove that Jesus really did exist because he knew people who knew him personally and it would be rash to advance that the apostles were liars and promoting a non-existent human being. Acts also attests to Paul and Jesus. The other epistles corroborate this information as well.
We also have the letters of Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp, who knew the apostles personally. They speak of Jesus.
So almost no historian denies that Jesus really existed.
The more problematic issue is that of his resurrection. Because in order to prove something, people have to be open-minded enough to accept that it could have happened There are many philosophical issues at stake such as: does God exist? Is Jesus God, etc.
You can't explore all these issues in a five minute speech, and you can't satisfy all objections. You can't expect to answer everyone's doubt but there's no reason to give up on presenting your point of view.
The principle evidence of Jesus' resurrection is the witness of the apostles. All the writers of the New Testament agree that Jesus rose from the dead; Clement, Ignatius and Polycarp agree that Jesus rose from the dead, so there was no mistake in the transmission of the message.
Some people might claim that they were deluded into believing that Jesus had died, but he really hadn't. But then if Jesus had escaped the tomb, after gone through what he did, he would look half-dead in the first place, and the apostles would have recognized that he hadn't died.
And if the apostles had believed that Jesus had risen, Jesus would have known the truth. Jesus hated duplicity and hypocrisy, and even his enemies admitted he was an honest person. He wouldn't have let the apostles believe he had risen from the dead if he hadn't.
Another major objection is the so-called discrepancies of the Gospels. Even if the Gospels did have discrepancies, historically speaking, that's not a problem, because when you look to corroborate information, you start on agreement first, then you work out the inconsistencies afterwards. All the Gospels agree that Jesus rose from the dead. The accounts of the Resurrection are given from several points of view, so it's natural that some authors include information that others leave out. If four people wrote diary entries on the same event, it can't be expected that they include the same information and see the events in the same way. One person would underline the actions of certain people, and another writer might emphasize the actions of others.
Thank you for your question.
God Bless, Suzanne Fortin.
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