We have already dealt with a number of events that have come under the charge of critics: the guards, the women and the angels. There are several events that also involve a supposed contradiction in where they took place. We will leave those for tomorrow.
So, today, we will look at the remaining events that have been called into question. You will notice that this gets easier for us as we go along, because we have already laid much of the groundwork.
For example, there are two events that come under fire because they are not found in the gospel accounts at all! This may be surprising to some. But it is not until we get to 1 Corinthians that we are told that they occurred:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
This is the famous “creed” that we find already well developed before Paul pens it to the Corinthians—very early in the church. We will refer to this often in our later posts, for it is a key piece of testimony that every believer should understand and wield.
But, for our purposes, we want to deal with the two events that were left out of the gospel accounts. I have put them in bold.
The first is the appearance of Jesus to more than 500 “at one time”. Critics have argued that if this were true, the gospel writers would certainly have highlighted it. But we have already made the case that a historical record is not bound to include things we want included and one cannot then declare the record to be false because it does not. One might certainly argue their disappointment that an author chose not to include some particular event, but you cannot then throw it out because of your preference.
Notice something wonderful about this brief mention. Paul tells us, in essence, that if his readers of that day wanted to check this fact out, there were a whole lot of people who were part of that group that saw Jesus and most of those folks are still alive and running around. This is historical gold and is great evidence for the risen Jesus.
The second is the appearance to James. There is no other mention of this—when or where, just that it happened. It too, is a remarkable event recorded in just a few words. We will return to it later. But, here again, the same argument holds regarding selectiveness of historical records. However, even though none of the gospel authors includes it, Paul finds it of importance to note. With good reason, as we will see shortly.
There is also a mention in this “creed” of the appearance of Jesus to Peter (Cephas). It is only mentioned in one of the gospel records, in Luke. When the two men had seen Jesus on their way to Emmaus, they hurried back to Jerusalem:
And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Luke 24:33-34
This, too, has seen its share of critics, and for the same old argument: an appearance to Peter had to be huge. Why was it not elaborated?
The answer to this, again, is the reality of selective history from the author. But humanly speaking, I wonder if this meeting with Peter, who had only a few days before denied His Lord, was so special, so deeply reconciliatory and full of grace, that it was meant to be kept private, mentioned only in this small way and so very briefly by Paul.
The only events left that have any criticism also concern where they took place, and we will deal with that tomorrow.
But I would like to return to this incredible mention of Jesus appearing to James.
This is James, the younger, half-brother of Jesus. Here is a good idea of what James thought a few years earlier:
Then [Jesus] went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21
There is a spiritual principle here that each of the gospels record for us. When Jesus went home, He was not received, even to the point of the Scripture saying that He could do no great work there. The principle is presented here by Jesus:
And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Mark 6:4
A very sad principle that no doubt many of you suffer with. Many of us have a son or a daughter, a dad or a mom, brother or sister, who are on the other side of a huge spiritual wall because of “Jesus”. We address this in The Engagement Project and offer some guidance, but for us now, it is amazing to think that James had, at one time, thought his older brother was “out of His mind!”
But then, the risen Jesus comes to him.
And he is never the same again.
We next find that James is present in the final meeting with Jesus before His ascension. Later, when Peter is miraculously delivered from prison by an angel, the first thing he says is to report what had happened to James. In the end, James is referred to as an apostle and eventually as the head of the Jerusalem church and the council of elders. He penned the epistle we title “James”.
What brought about this radical transformation?
The risen Jesus.
Some of the most skeptical critics of the New Testament, shake their heads at this one and admit that it is one of the most powerful evidences of the resurrection.
Has the risen Jesus transformed your life?
Meet with Him, and He will!