Saturday, June 01, 2013

Book Review: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? A Surgeon-Scientist Examines the Evidence

Imagine with me for a second if a respected scientist whose been widely published in scholarly journals, lectured at prestigious universities and served in a prestigious role for the National Institutes of Healthy for twenty-six years wrote a book on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thankfully we do not have to imagine this; we have such a book in Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead A Surgeon-Scientist Examines the Evidence by Dr. Thomas A. Miller, MD.  In his book, Dr. Miller responds to the idea that many believe to be true that science is “all authorative”. This approach leaves many in and outside the science community doubting Jesus’s resurrection as a verifiable, historical event. Miller challenges the notion that modern medicine has disproved the possibility of the resurrection through a careful investigation of the evidence and evaluation of its reliability by demonstrating that science and religion are not incompatible. His approach is a compelling one that will help speak to people in the science community.

Many people today question the resurrection of Christ. They think that such an event if it happened isn’t a fact of history but rather a fantasy. If one considers the evidence for the resurrection and understands how ancient history is done, one cannot but come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Christ is a fact of history. To deny that point is to deny the discipline of history itself, a point those who reject the resurrection fail to consider.  In order to establish that point consider the following proofs:

Thomas Arnold (Professor of modern history at ….Oxford….): “No one fact in the history of mankind is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort” than the fact that “Christ died and rose from the dead.” Bishop B.F. Westcott: “Indeed, taking all the evidences together it is not too much to say that there is no historical incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.” John Locke said, “Our Savior’s resurrection is truly of great important in Christianity; so great that His being or not being the Messiah still stands or falls with it.” Billy Graham: “The entire plan for the future has its key in the resurrection.” Martin Luther: “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in words alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” John R. Stott: “Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed.” William Lyon Phelps (Yale Professor: “In the whole story of Jesus Christ, the most important event is the resurrection.” Benjamin Warfield (Princeton Professor): “The resurrection of Christ is a fact.”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is rooted in history, He predicted His resurrection (Matthew 12:38-40 Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34 John 2:18-22), was buried in a tomb that was easy to find, appeared physically alive three days after His death, was recorded as Scripture shortly after it occurred, celebrated in the earliest church creeds, His family worshipped Him as God because of His death and resurrection, and His resurrection was confirmed by His most bitter enemies like Paul.

Now that we have considered these important points in order to further establish my point that the resurrection of Christ is established by history, consider the following:

Josephus (37-100A.D)
In the Tetestimonium Flavianum,” he says: Now there was about this Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these men and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Suetonius (70-160 A.D.)
Suetonius was a Roman historian and annalist of the Imperial House. In his biography of Nero, Suetonius mentions the persecution of Christians by indirectly referring to the resurrection: “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition [the resurrection].”

Pliny the Younger (62-113A.D.)
Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to the emperor Trajan describing early Christian worship gatherings that met early on Sunday mornings in memory of Jesus’ resurrection day: I have never been present at an examination of Christians. Consequently, I do not know the nature of the extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, nor the grounds for starting an investigation and how are it should be pressed. They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error accounted to no more than this: they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day[Sunday in remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection] to change verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god.”

Wilbur M. Smith in Therefore Stand: “The original accounts of Buddha never ascribe to him any such thing as a resurrection; in fact, in the earliest accounts of his death, namely, the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, we read that when Buddha died it was ‘with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains behind.” 60/385

Professor Childers says, ‘There is no trace in the Pali scriptures or commentaries (or so far as I know in any Pali book) Sakya Muni having existed after his death or appearing to his disciples.’ Mohammed died June 8,632 A.D., at the age of sixty-one, at ….Medina…., where his tomb is annually visited by thousands of devout Mohammedans. All the millions and millions of Jews, Buddhists, and Mohammedans agree that their founders have never come up out of the dust of the earth in resurrection.”

Theodosus Harnock says: “Where you stand with regard to the fact of the Resurrection is in my eyes no longer Christian theology. To me Christianity stands or falls with the Resurrection.”

Professor William Milligan states: “While speaking of the positive evidence for the Resurrection of our Lord, it may be further urged that the fact, if true, harmonizes all the other facts of His history.”

Bernard Ramm says that even “the most cursory reading of the Gospels reveals the fact that the Gospels deal with the death and resurrection of Christ in far greater detail than any other part of the ministry of Christ. The details of the resurrection must not be artificially severed from the passion account.”

Many impartial students who have approached the resurrection of Christ with a judicial spirit have been compelled by the weight of the evidence to belief in the resurrection as a fact of history. An example may be seen from a letter written by Sir Edard Clarke, K.C. To the Rev. E. L. Macassey:
“As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter Day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and a truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect. The Gospel evidence for the resurrection is of this class, and as a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate.”
Professor Bernard Ramm comments: “In both ecclesiastical history and creedal history the resurrection is affirmed from the earliest times. It is mentioned in Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians (95 A.D), the earliest document of church history and so continuously throughout all the patristic period. It appears in all forms of the Apostles’ Creed and is never debated.”

The Jewish explanation
The earliest attempt to provide an alternative explanation for the resurrection of Christ did not deny that tomb was empty (Matthew 28:13-15). The Jews claimed that the body was stolen, thus admitting the fact of the empty tomb. The tomb was closed with an enormous rock and sealed by the government, and there is no explanation for how the rock was moved while being guarded by Roman soldiers. Second, if the body had been stolen, a large ransom could have been offered to the thieves and they could have been coerced to produce the body. If the disciples had taken the body then the only thing the Jews would have had to do is to persecute the disciples enough to give up the body of Jesus. Thirdly, if the body was stolen, how are we to account for the fact that Jesus appeared to multiple crows of people, proving that he was alive. Finally, the theft of the body is unlikely and still fails to account for it returning to life.

As Dr. Miller engages the topic of the resurrection he doesn’t mince any words but engages the Scripture with a view to help people understand what the resurrection is. Given the overwhelming evidence for the resurrection it becomes readily apparent that those who reject it do so because they love their sin and opinions more than they love the Bible and Christ. Sadly, the very people who say they are Bible scholars, are God-rejecting, man-centered, false teachers.

Ultimately no matter how much evidence, one gives for the resurrection it is not enough. The problem isn’t with the evidence for Christ; the problem is men’s hearts. Man is spiritually depraved and incapable of understanding Christ apart from the Sovereign work of the grace of God. Without the Holy Spirit operating in one’s life, opening their eyes to the Truth of Christ, no man can come to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3).

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? by Dr. Miller is an important book that will help those who are skeptical about the resurrection understand not only what the resurrection is, why it’s important, but also deals with the underlying worldview issues for why people reject the resurrection of Christ. It is this dealing with the worldview issue especially that this book is worth the price of the book.

Whether you are a Bible College or seminary student, or a Pastor, or layman this book will help you. First, it will help you understand (as it did for me) why people in the science community are often hostile to Christianity. Second, it will help Christians to explain the resurrection of Christ in a fresh but biblically faithful way to people who are scientifically minded. Finally this book written by a leading scientist is a powerful contribution to the literature on the resurrection, and one I will be coming back to often.

Whether you are a skeptic struggling with the resurrection and searching for answers to your questions or you are a new or seasoned Christian this book is a must read for its logical, unbiased evaluation of the facts concerning the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and plan to recommend it to all my friends engaged in dealing with people who doubt the resurrection of Christ.

Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Dave Jenkins is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. He enjoys biblical, systematic and historical theology and apologetics. More of his writing can be found at


Bob Seidensticker said...

“No one fact in the history of mankind is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort” than the fact that “Christ died and rose from the dead.”

You’re left with the uncomfortable truth that historians scrub every supernatural claims from history. That the claims were made can, of course, be historical. But that Merlin was actually a shape shifter, or Julius Caesar was encouraged by a spirit to cross the Rubicon (as Suetonius said), or Jesus was raised from the dead? These aren’t part of history.

MaryLou said...

Historians who begin with the presupposition of naturalism automatically dismiss any claims of supernatural events as possible, but that doesn't mean that they didn't happen.

James said...

As a Christian, I have to say I don't have much of a problem entertaining the mere possibility that Julius Caesar encountered a spirit before crossing the Rubicon. What kind of spirit it might have been is up for debate.

A good question to ask that may or may not bolster plausibility of other claims of the supernatural is whether these particular events are attested to by multiple individuals, how well these multiple attestations mesh together regarding the core claims, the degree of relationship between the author of those claims and the occurrence of the reported event, and whether contemporary detractors of such claims have made a more solid case against them by the aforementioned criteria.

This, of course, doesn't constitute proof, but seems to add a degree of plausibility to claims rather than mere possibility.

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