Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Resurrection of Christ
Few articles are more important than this. It deserves our particular attention, because it is the grand hinge on which Christianity turns. Hence, says the apostle, he was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. Infidels, however, have disbelieved it, but with what little reason we may easily see on considering the subject. "If the body of Jesus Christ, " says Saurin, "were not raised from the dead, it must have been stolen away. But this theft is incredible. Who committed it? The enemies of Jesus Christ? Would they have contributed to his glory by countenancing a report of his resurrection? Would his disciples? It is probable they would not, and it is next to certain they could not. How could they have undertaken to remove the body? Frail and timorous creatures, people who fled as soon as they saw him taken into custody; even Peter, the most courageous, trembled at the voice of a servant girl, and three times denied that he knew him. People of this character, would they have dared to resist the authority of the governor?
Would they have undertaken to oppose the determination of the Sanhedrim, to force a guard, and to elude, or overcome, soldiers armed and aware of danger? If Jesus Christ were not risen again (I speak the language of unbelievers, ) he had deceived his disciples with vain hopes of his resurrection. How came the disciples not to discover the imposture? Would they have hazarded themselves by undertaking an enterprise so perilous in favour of a man who had so cruelly imposed on their credulity? But were we to grant that they formed the design of removing the body, how could they have executed it? How could soldiers armed, and on guard, suffer themselves to be over-reached, by a few timorous people? Either, says St. Augustine they were asleep or awake: if they were awake, why should they suffer the body to be taken away? If asleep, how could they know that the disciples took it away? How dare they then, depose that it was STOLEN. The testimony of the apostles furnishes us with arguments, and there are eight considerations which give the evidence sufficient weight.
1. The nature of these witnesses. They were not men of power, riches, eloquence, credit, to impose upon the world; they were poor and mean.
2. The number of these witnesses.
See 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 : Luke 24:34 . Mark 16:14 . Matthew 28:10 . It is not likely that a collusion should have been held among so many to support a lie, which would be of no utility to them.
3. The facts themselves which they avow; not suppositions, distant events, or events related by others, but real facts which they saw with their own eyes, 1 John 1:1-10 :
4. The agreement of their evidence: they all deposed the same thing.
5. Observe the tribunals before which they gave evidence: Jews and heathens, philosophers and rabbins, courtiers and lawyers. If they had been impostors, the fraud certainly would have been discovered.
6. The place in which they bore their testimony. Not at a distance, where they might not easily have been detected, if false, but at Jerusalem, in the synagogues, in the pretorium.
7. The time of this testimony: not years after, but three days after, they declared he was risen; yea, before their rage was quelled, while Calvary was yet dyed with the blood they had spilt. If it had been a fraud, it is not likely they would have come forward in such broad day-light, amidst so much opposition.
8. Lastly, the motives which induced them to publish the resurrection: not to gain fame, riches, glory, profit; no, they exposed themselves to suffering and death, and proclaimed the truth from conviction of its importance and certainty. "Collect, " says Saurin, "all these proofs together; consider them in one point of view, and see how many extravagant suppositions must be advanced, if the resurrection of our Saviour be denied. It must be supposed that guards, who had been particularly cautioned by their officers, sat down to sleep; and that, however, they deserved credit when they said the body of Jesus Christ was stolen.
It must be supposed that men, who have been imposed on in the most odious and cruel manner in the world, hazarded their dearest enjoyments for the glory of an impostor. It must be supposed that ignorant and illiterate men, who had neither reputation, fortune, nor eloquence, possessed the art of fascinating the eyes of all the church. It must be supposed either that five hundred persons were all deprived of their senses at a time, or that they were all deceived in the plainest matters of fact; or that this multitude of false witnesses had found out the secret of never contradicting themselves or one another, and of being always uniform in their testimony. It must be supposed that the most expert courts of judicature could not find out a shadow of contradiction in a palpable imposture. It must be supposed that the apostles, sensible men in other cases, chose precisely those places and those times which were most unfavourable to their views. It must be supposed that millions madly suffered imprisonments, tortures, and crucifixions, to spread an illusion. It must be supposed that ten thousand miracles were wrought in favour of falsehood, or all these facts must be denied; and then it must be supposed that the apostles were idiots; that the enemies of Christianity were idiots; and that all the primitive Christians were idiots." The doctrine of the resurrection of Christ affords us a variety of useful instructions. Here we see evidence of divine power; prophecy accomplished; the character of Jesus established; his work finished; and a future state proved. It is a ground of faith, the basis of hope, a source of consolation, and a stimulus to obedience.
See Saurin's Sermons, ser. 8. vol. 2: Robinson's translation; Ditton and Wast on the Resurrection; Cook's Illustration of the general evidence establishing the reality of Christ's resurrection, p. 323. Ecc. Rev. vol. 4. but especially a small but admirable Essay on the Resurrection of Christ by Mr. Dore. Bish. Horsely.
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Resurrection of Christ'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/r/resurrection-of-christ.html. 1802.