Evidence #5 for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Criterion of Embarrassment

John 20:19 “The disciples were afraid of the Jewish leaders, and on the evening of that same Sunday they locked themselves in a room.”

In April 1945, General Dwight Eisenhower toured the Nazi’s Ohrdruf concentration camp. Dead bodies were piled like firewood everywhere. Anyone still alive was a human skeleton. It was a scene almost too horrific to believe. “The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick… I made the visit deliberately, to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”  

He brought in the media to document the atrocities of the camps and collect evidence of what went on there. He also brought in German civilians living in surrounding towns as well as other soldiers to be eyewitnesses. He did not want the passage of time to ever allow us to forget that the Holocaust was a real historical event.

His foresight proved to be prophetic, as deniers began surfacing, claiming the Holocaust was nothing more than a conspiracy theory – a hoax perpetrated by the Allies, Jews, or Soviet Union – and that the Nazis did not use extermination camps and gas chambers for the genocidal mass murder of Jews.

The problem with denying the Holocaust is you must ignore the overwhelming historical evidence for it. The apostle Peter said something very similar to General Eisenhower: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2Peter 1:16). Like Ike, he, along with Luke, John, Matthew and Paul, made sure there was evidence.

It is now 6 weeks since we celebrated Jesus’s death and resurrection. Church attendance always doubles, as most Americans make a token appearance on Easter as a yearly tradition. But do the resurrection and the Holocaust share something in common? As time has gone by, deniers have reduced it to “propaganda”?

The critical question to answer: “Is the resurrection a fact of history?” Just as Eisenhower made sure there was evidence to validate the Holocaust, is there evidence to validate the resurrection? Again, the answer is yes.

So far, we have walked through 4 pieces of historical evidence demonstrating that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. We began with His death by crucifixion. Then we examined the evidence for the empty tomb. Then we examined the oral transmission that dates within 2-3 years of Jesus’s death that records His resurrection and the multiple eyewitness sightings. And finally, the 4th piece of evidence we examined last week was the Postmortem appearances, where the apostle Paul visited the eyewitnesses to verify their eyewitness accounts.

Now, we examine the embarrassing, cowardly testimony of the disciples for the resurrection. In our verse this week, after Jesus was crucified, the disciples hid in fear of what the Jews would do to them, because they now believed Jesus was dead (even though He told them many times He would rise from the dead). And yet, all 4 gospels record women, not the disciples, went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’s dead body for a proper burial.  

If this was a fabrication or a hoax, you wouldn’t record all the men as scared cowards and the women at the tomb. Academic historians call this the “Criterion of Embarrassment” – a critical analysis of an historical event which is likely to be true since the author has no reason to invent an account that would embarrass them.

In early Judaism, women were subordinate to men. The Talmud prohibits women from testifying in court. So, it is remarkably embarrassing that men hide while women testify to the risen Christ! If John was fabricating the resurrection, he would have a man be the first witness of the risen Christ. But that isn’t the account: “Early on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So, she ran to Peter and the other disciple and said, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’ So, Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb” (John 20:1-3).

Peter, John (the other disciple) and the rest of the men locked themselves in a room, hiding in fear from the Jews. Why would John portray the men followers of Jesus as cowards and a women follower as brave enough to go to the tomb? By the criterion of embarrassment, we can conclude this account as historically reliable.

Jesus tells Mary to go find the cowardly disciples and testify as an eyewitness on His behalf: “Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17).

With the Crucifixion, Empty Tomb, Early Writings, and Postmortem Appearances established, we have a 5th piece of evidence to validate the Resurrection. There is no denying it – Jesus Christ is the living, risen Savior.

The Evidence of Faith’s Substance _ Article #503

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