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August 23, 2005

Ch. XXI. Q. 120. The Facts

THE facts whereby Christ's exaltation is declared are (a) that on the third day after His death, Jewish reckoning, His body disappeared from the tomb; (b) that He appeared alive on several occasions in visible and tangible "flesh and bones," which were recognized to constitute the body in which He died on the Cross; (c) that His body had acquired mysterious spiritual conditions and powers, transcending those possessed by us in this life ;1 (d) that forty days after the resurrection, He visibly ascended in the air, and was hidden from sight in a cloud, this proving to be His final withdrawal from this world.2

2. Our Lord's clothes were found lying in the empty tomb in positions suggestive of His body having exhaled from them, so to speak, without disturbing them except by causing them to collapse.3 The theft theory, that the body had been stolen, while it grants the fact of its disappearance, is incredible. If the Jews had stolen it, they would have produced it in confutation of the resurrection story, and the character of the apostles forbids the supposition that they stole it.4

3. The synoptic narratives of the resurrection were produced too soon after the possible date of its occurrence to be derived from either legendary or mythical sources, and St. Paul's testimony to the appearances was given while more than two hundred and fifty of the witnesses were still living. The swoon theory, that Christ did not die, but reappeared after recovery from a swoon, is inconsistent with any reasonable interpretation of the account of the crucifixion, as well as with the manner of His appearances.5 The theory of visions can be reconciled neither with the despondency and initial incredulity of the apostles, with His appearance to five hundred at once, nor with the cessation of His appearances after the fortieth day.6 Keim's theory, that the disciples were made, by a sort of telegram from heaven, to see what they would naturally suppose to be their Master in the flesh, in order that they might believe Him to be living on in the spirit, is not only contrary to the risen Lord's own testimony, but implies the use of deception by Him who is the Truth.7 No theory can be maintained which does not either reject the evidence en bloc or base itself upon acknowledgment of a real resurrection of our Lord in the flesh.

4. There are indeed mutual inconsistences in the narratives, but they concern minor details, and are such as inevitably emerge in independent human testimonies. The assertion that the Gospels preserve contradictory traditions, one that our Lord appeared after the first morning in Galilee only, and another that He appeared chiefly, if not wholly, in and near Jerusalem, is supported only by a precarious argument from silence, for each narrative, separately considered, is obviously incomplete.8

5. Objections to the possibility of the phenomena described in connection with Christ's appearances are deduced from the laws of matter. But such laws merely describe in generalized propositions our normal experience of matter. Science affords no warrant for defining the possibilities of the human body when possessed and controlled by its Creator. And no proof is to be had for the plea that flesh is incapable of being brought into such subjection to the spirit as to become a suitable medium of its self-expression.9 Every so-called scientific objection to the resurrection as described in the Gospels is really philosophical, and is based upon a priori denial of the possibility of miracles.

6. The Gospel description of our Lord's ascension into heaven is rejected on the ground that it presupposes a localization of heaven above the sky. It is to be admitted that the apostles probably did so localize heaven. But under any circumstances of human enlightenment, we can imagine no more effectual indication by our Lord of His withdrawal to heaven than an upward movement, followed by disappearance in the clouds. The symbolical form of His withdrawal does not, however, militate against the historical credibility of its Gospel description.10

7. The credibility of the narratives in question lies in the connections, and the significant place, which the facts considered have in history, as interpreted from the standpoint of belief in the divine Person of Jesus Christ. From that standpoint the resurrection and ascension are perceived to be central and determinative movements in the world-drama. They arc uniquely illuminating, and therefore uniquely credible.11

1 On the fact of the resurrection, 1 Cor. xv. 3-20; St. Mark xvi. 1-8 (with suppl. xvi. 9-l4); St. Luke xxiv; St. Matt. xxviii. 1-17; St. John xx. (with suppl. xxi.); Acts i. 22; ii. 24-32; 1 St. Pet. i. 3, 21; Heb. xiii. 20; etc. E.H. Day, Evidence for the Resurrection; Jas. Orr, Resurrection of Jesus; W. Milligan. Resurrection of Our Lord, Lecs. i.-iii.; W.J.S. Simpson. Resurrection of Our Lord, chh. i.-vii.; G.P. Fisher, Grounds of Theistic . . . Belief, ch. ix.; A.C. Headlam, Miracles of the New Test.Pro Fide, ch. xxii.; D. Stone, Outlines of Christ. Dogma, pp. 101-105; T. Christlieb, Modern Doubt, Lec. vii., T.J. Thorburn, The Resurrection Narratives; H.B. Swete, The Appearances of Our Lord after the Passion; Ch. Qly. Review, Jan. 1906, 4th art.

2 On the fact of the Ascension, St. Mark xvi. 19; St. Luke xxiv. 50-51; Acts i. 9-11. W. Milligan, Ascension, Lec. i.; W.J.S. Simpson, ch. ix.; Chas. Harris, pp. xlvi-xlvii, 501-502; M.F. Sadler, on Acts i. 9.

3 H. Latham, The Risen Master.

4 E.H. Day, pp. 25-29, W. Milligan, Resurrection, pp. 80-81.

5 T. Christlieb, pp. 455-457; W. Milligan, pp. 76-80; E.H. Day, pp. 45-50.

6 T. Christlieb, pp. 457-503; C.A. Row, Christ. Evidences, Lec. vii.; W. Milligan. pp. 81-114.

7 Found with modification in W.J.S. Simpson, Our Lord's Ressurection, ch. viii.; B.H. Streeter, in Foundations, pp. 127-141. Answered by E.D. la Touche, Person of Christ, pp. 314, 321-323; W. Milligan, pp. 114-119; E.H. Day, pp. 44-45.

8 E.H. Day, pp. 9-16; W.J.S. Simpson, ch. ii.; W. Milligan, pp. 56-62; V. Rose, Studies on the Gospels, viii.

9 The plea, e. g.. of W.J.S. Simpson, Our Lord's Resurrection, ch. viii. Cf., E.D. la Touche, pp. 32l-322.

10 T. B. Strong, Miraculous in Gospels and Creeds, pp. 14-15: Chas. Gore, Basis of Anglican Fellowship, pp. 15-20; W. Milligan, Ascension, pp. 15-26; Chas. Harris, Pro Fide, pp. xlvi-xlvii.

11 Introduction, ch. ii. 5; J.R. Illingworth, Divine Immanence, pp. 97-119; W.J.S. Simpson, app. II.; H.L. Goudge, in Ch. Qly. Review, Jan. 1914, art. II.

Posted by AKMA at August 23, 2005 02:58 AM