Around the end of the first century A.D., when the Roman Empire was at the pinnacle of its power, the emperor decided to call a gathering of high officials from all the kingdoms under Rome’s control. The invitation was extended even to countries that were not directly under Rome’s authority.
On the chosen day thousands of officials from all over the civilized world made their way to Rome and met together within the Colosseum. The Emperor had arranged for a series of festivities as well as for official business to be discussed.
However, in order to start the day with a display of power, it was decided that the first event of the day would be a public execution. A lowly man who claimed to be a prophet had caused some disturbance throughout the region and the emperor decided to make an example of him. Before the eyes of everyone present this man was dragged into the arena, he was decapitated, and his head and body were hanged on two different poles in the middle of the arena.
This was done early in the day and from then on the day was filled with gladiator fights, music and dance as well as several public addresses by the emperor and several other high officials.
As the evening was nearing however, before the dumbfounded gaze of everyone present, the severed head detached itself from the pole on which it was hanging, reconnected with the body and the previously decapitated prophet suddenly stood before the crowds alive and well praising God.
Everyone present froze and the festivities came to an untimely end. The various delegates made their way back to their respective countries and shared this story with their own countrymen. Many of them recorded the story and archaeologists today have found hundreds of copies of it in libraries all over the old world that share surprising similarity. From the Northern lands of Sweden and Finland and as far down as South Africa, documents exist describing this event in vivid detail.
Now, in case you are starting to worry, don’t. This entire story was made up and I will explain just why in a second. But first notice a few significant points:
1) This fictional event happened at the center of the empire, not in some obscure part of the world.
2) It was witnessed by the highest officials and the most intelligent and educated men of the world at that time.
3) It was a decapitation and the severed body remained such for several hours; no room to doubt whether the person really died or not.
4) He was kept at the center of the arena the entire time. No opportunity to switch the body.
5) The same group that witnessed the death, also witnessed the resurrection.
6) There are hundreds of independent documents from trustworthy sources attesting to the event, not just four.
And the question I have for the reader is this:
Had this event actually happened, would scientists and archaeologists today believe that a resurrection really did take place two millenniums ago?
The answer is NO. Virtually any alternative explanation is more likely to have happened than an actual resurrection. It could be that the audience was in a state of hypnosis, or in an altered mental state from alcohol or drugs. It could be that the rest of the festivities were of such a nature as to distract the audience from the body just long enough to replace it with a lookalike. There is an endless list of possibilities that are more likely to have happened than an actual resurrection in spite of all the precautions I took above to make the story credible.
And, the point of it all is this: It makes no sense for Christians and Atheists to go in endless rounds debating whether there is sufficient evidence to believe the resurrection of Jesus actually happened when the is NO level of evidence that would be sufficient to believe such an event happened. Nothing short of actually witnessing such an event in a scientifically controlled environment and being able to reproduce it; something that just can’t be done with a historical event from the distant past.
Thus, talking about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John not being sufficient witnesses or that they all copied from each other or that there is no external evidence outside the Bible for the resurrection etc. is a complete waste of time. Why would God provide more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus when no amount of evidence would have been sufficient by today’s standards?
Christians especially need to stop embarrassing themselves by arguing that the resurrection of Jesus is evidence that Christianity is true. It is not and neither can it be. The only sense in which it could have been evidence was for the people that actually witnessed it; it is in this sense that the Bible claims it to be evidence and not for us today.