It has been claimed by critics that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is nothing more than a fanciful myth formulated to instill hope in people. Is there any credence to this concept, or is it fallacious? The concept argues that the historical Jesus has been shrouded in mystery, cloaked with obscurity, and changed significantly due to legends. In this entry, we will examine these claims, and attempt to weigh the options. (Photo credit: Clay Peck)
Some scholars, such as John A.T. Robinson, argue that the New Testament must have been written before the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, given its silence on the rather large event. While Jesus himself predicts its Fall, if the New Testament was written after AD 70 (save for the Gospel of John), why was it not mentioned in any of the writings? Now, according to comparative literature, we can determine that it takes several generations for a myth to develop, at least to its full extent.
In other literature, we find no parallels or cases of myth developing - and being believed during the lifespan of the eyewitnesses - in regard to the short time frame of which the New Testament was written. In The Case For Christ, Lee Strobel interviews several experts - archaeologists, scholars, theologians, historians, medical practitioners, the like. One such expert is Craig L. Blomberg, Ph.D.. In the interview, Strobel brings up the dating of the New Testament. Blomberg recognizes that many date Mark to the 70s, Matthew and Luke in the 80s, and John in the 90s. He goes on to say:
"But listen: that's still within the lifetimes of various eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, including hostile eyewitnesses who would have served as a corrective if false teachings about Jesus were going around. Consequently, these late dates for the gospels aren't all that late. In fact, we can make a comparison that's very instructive. The two earliest biographies of Alexander the Great were written by Arrian and Plutarch more than four hundred years after Alexander's death in 323 B.C., yet historians consider them to be generally trustworthy. Yes, legendary material about Alexander did develop over time, but it was only in the centuries after these two writers. In other words, the first five hundred years kept Alexander's story pretty much intact; legendary material began to emerge over the next five hundred years."
Blomberg continues, "So whether the gospels were written sixty years or thirty years after the life of Jesus, the amount of time is negligible by comparison... we can support [early dates] by looking at the book of Acts, which was written by Luke. Acts ends apparently unfinished - Paul is the central figure of the book, and he's under house arrest in Rome. With that the book abruptly halts. What happens to Paul? We don't find out from Acts, probably because the book was written before Paul was put to death... That means Acts cannot be dated any later than A.D. 62. Having established that, we can then move backward from there. Since Acts is the second of a two-part work, we know the first part - the gospel of Luke - must have been written earlier than that. And since Luke incorporates parts of the gospel of Mark, that means Mark is even earlier. If you allow maybe a year for each of these, you end up with Mark written no later than about A.D. 60, maybe even the late 50s. If Jesus was put to death in A.D. 30 or 33, we're talking about a maximum gap of thirty years or so... Historically speaking, especially compared with Alexander the Great, that's like a news flash!"
John Macquarrie conveys, "Myth is usually characterized by a remoteness in time and space… as having taken place long ago." However, the Gospels concern "an event that had a particularly definite location in Palestine… under Pontius Pilate, only a generation or so before the New Testament account of these happenings."  Other historical research sides with this. Research shows that an early apostles creed, formulated 3-7 years within the death and resurrection of Jesus, found in 1st Corinthians 15:3-9, implies prior public belief.
Generally, most scholars agree that Paul's letters were written in 25 years or less of Jesus' ministry, and the preaching of the apostles was centered on the Resurrection. It's also important to note that 1st Corinthians 15:6 records that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once - after His resurrection. Many of the eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus were hostile toward Him, as described in the Gospels. (For example, Matthew 12)
The opponents of Jesus possessed both the means as well as the motives to correct any fallacies, any falsehoods, concerning Him. However, they did not provide any serious correction whatsoever. Note that the Jews were the least likely to invent or distort Christ. History illustrates this, as the Jews opposed the concept of mythically confusing deity with humanity, and specifically focused (the devout Jews) on the worship of the one true God. (Who Christians know as God the Father.)
As noted by Michael Grant, "Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of deaths and rebirths of mythical gods seems so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit." In comparison to Jewish and Greek myths, however, the Gospels do not resemble these in any fashion. In examining this, there are several points to consider. First off, the Gospels contain details that would be counterproductive, not conducive to the invention of legendary heroes. By taking a look at John 20, we can determine several points, as noted by Rev. Gary W. Jensen, M.Div.:
"With great restraint, no attempt is made to describe the resurrection itself. Mary neither initially recognized the risen Jesus (the “hero”) (John 20:14), nor even considered that there was anything special about Him (John 20:16). Indeed, even by the end of the day, the disciples (the secondary “heroes”) were still in hiding "for fear of the Jews" (John 20:19). And, were the Gospels the free creation of paternalistic bias, as feminists charge, it is incredible the writers would have chosen women to be the first witnesses of the risen Jesus. The testimony of women didn't even count legally. Yet, it was their courage the morning after the Resurrection that put the men's contrasting cowardice to shame."
The Gospels, specifically the Resurrection of Jesus, simply does not meet the standards of a Myth or Legend. Why is the Resurrection so important in Christianity? As Paul conveys in 1st Corinthians 15:17, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." If Jesus did not rise from the Dead, as Paul succinctly says, your faith is useless. That is why the Resurrection is so important. Professor Leaney, in Vindications: Essays on the Historical Basis of the Christian Faith, writes:
"The new Testament itself allows absolutely no escape from putting the matter as follows: Jesus was crucified and buried. His followers were utterly dejected. A very short time afterwards they were extremely elated and showed such reassurance as carried them by a sustained life of devotion through to a martyr's death. If we ask them through the proxy of writings dependent upon them, what caused this change, they do not answer, 'the gradual conviction that we were marked out by death but the crucified and buried one was alive' but 'Jesus who was dead appeared to some of us alive after his death and the rest of us believed their witness.' It may be worth noting that this way of putting the matter is a historical statement, like the historical statement, 'The Lord is risen indeed,' which has influenced men and women toward belief."
Verily I tell you, the Resurrection is not a myth. The empty tomb is historical fact. The disciples did not steal the body and perpetrate a lie, nor did they hallucinate, Jesus did not faint but did die, the witnesses did not go to the wrong tomb, and Jesus is an established historical figure. From these conclusions, the only logical conclusion, then, it seems is that the Resurrection is the only adequate explanation as to why the tomb was empty. He is "the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through [Him]." (John 14:6)
 John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (SCM Press, 1976). Print.
 Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. 1st ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998. 33-34. Print.
 John Macquarrie, God-Talk: An Examination of the Language and Logic of Theology (Harper, 1967), pp. 177-180. Print.
 Reginald Fuller, Foundations of New Testament Christology (Scribner's, 1965), p. 142. Print.
 Frederick Fyvie Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), pp. 11f, 14f. Print.
 Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels (Scribner's, 1977), p. 199.
 Jensen, Rev. Gary W. "Some say that Christ's resurrection was a myth, not history. Is this possible?." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, 1998. Web. 29 Mar 2011.
 Professor Leaney. Vindications: Essays on the Historical Basis of the Christian Faith, Morehouse-Barlow Co., 1966. Print.