Author of "The Glory of the Manger" and "The Glory of the Cross"
FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY
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FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY
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MARGARET CLARKE ZWEMER
"Etenim ipsa quoque astitit multis
et mihi ipsi" — ROMANS 16:2
The Nicene Creed
I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:
AND IN ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried: And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
AND I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY GHOST, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets: And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come. Amen.
The ancient creeds summarize the threefold glory of Christ. Christianity supernatural. The three great festivals of the Church. The glory of the Manger, of the Cross, and of the Empty Tomb. Ruskin's parable.
THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY
Job's question. The answer of primitive races. Of the Old Testament. Burial customs. This life does not end all. Wordsworth's poem. Boreham on Job's restoration. Enoch, Elijah, and Moses. John Donne's prayer.
DENIAL OF RESURRECTION
The Sadducees. Papini's testimony. Professor Joad's confession. Will Durant. Stefan Zweig. Sadducees of our day. John Baillie's book. The Burial Service. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
The Resurrection the most important event in human history. Historic truth not relative but real. Fiction about the life of Jesus marred by omissions. Examples. The evidence of the Gospels corroborative and overwhelming. In the Epistles and Revelation. Many infallible proofs. Twelve lines of evidence cited. Theories to explain the empty tomb unsatisfactory. The view of Klausner. Circumstantial proofs of the Resurrection.
The angel and the empty tomb. Discrepancies alleged. Tom Paine. Foakes-Jackson. Burkitt. L. P. Jacks' Confessions of an Octogenarian. His witness remarkable. The parallel records of the Resurrection story in the four Gospels and by Paul. Explanation of seeming discrepancies. The order of the appearances. Christ's resurrection body. Sown in weakness, raised in glory.
A VISION OF ANGELS
Luke's account. Is it reliable? Are angels outmoded? The Encyclopedia Britannica on angels. The Scriptural record of their character and office. Erich Schick's monograph. Angels in the Old Testament. Liberal theology rejects angels. Edward Langton's study. Christ's own testimony. The Poets. The angels of the Resurrection.
JOHN'S THREEFOLD WITNESS
Author of the Fourth Gospel and of the three Epistles. In Revelation he portrays the Risen Christ. The weight of his testimony as eyewitness. A. T. Olmstead on historicity of John. Date of his gospel. Harnack. John's passion for truth. Are the Epistles pseudographs? The raising of Lazarus. Robert Browning's poem, A Death in the Desert.
THE ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN
Christ's humiliation and exaltation in the New Testament. He foretold His Ascension. Great paintings of the Ascension. Pearson on the creedal statement. The miracle and glory of the Ascension. Old Testament references. The session at God's right hand. Wordsworth and Charles Wesley on the Ascension. The vision of Patrick Hamilton, Scottish martyr. And John Donne.
THE GENERAL RESURRECTION
Martha's faith in it. The Jews' mode of burial. Their doctrine of resurrection in Apocrypha and Prayer Book. The Church creeds. Tertullian, Jerome, Augustine. The Burial Service. The hymnody of centuries. Fortunatus. Dies lrae. Jerusalem the Golden. S. Baring-Gould. Katharina Von Schlegel. How are the dead raised? Resurrection more than immortality. Huxley's letter to Charles Kingsley. Comfort of faith in a bodily resurrection.
THE FIRST DAY OF EVERY WEEK
The first Easter Day. The Jewish sabbath. The Lord's Day in the New Testament. In our hymns. The observance of Easter. Its date. Pagan customs introduced. The celebration in Eastern Churches. Symbolism. Easter music. The Coptic Church. At Jerusalem. Across the world today. The real significance of Easter Day. Its message.
THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION
As basis of faith and source of power. Paul's conclusion at the close of his argument. The Road to Damascus. Source of Paul's gospel and passion. His dynamic for service. The work of Christ. To share His suffering. The power at Pentecost and for each believer. Christ abolished death.
THE GOSPEL OF HIS RESURRECTION
Paul's address at Athens. He preached Christ and the resurrection. What is evangelism? The London Times on the Easter message. The startling news that Christ arose. The message of the early Church. Polycarp, Clement. Witness of the Catacombs. Tertullian. Chrysostom's sermon. The Reformers had the same message. Adolph Deissmann's study of Paul.
THE REWARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS
Christ on recompense at the resurrection. The story told of St. Thomas in India. Parables of the Pounds and Talents. Star differs from star in glory. Myers' poem. Shakespeare on the stars. The glorious company of the Apostles. John Donne on emancipation of the soul. Joy of heaven, highest joy. Three kinds of joy. Life after death and service. No idleness in heaven.
THE GLORY THAT EXCELLETH
The significance of the word glory in the Bible. Jesus' consciousness of glory. Isaiah's vision. The Shekinah. Story of Rabbi Joshua. The glory of Moses' face. The face of Jesus Christ. Horace Bushnell's sermon. Theophanies. The glory that excelleth in Christ's resurrection.
THE HOLY CITY, THE NEW JERUSALEM
The Father's house of many mansions. Felix Adler's hymn. Heaven a place. The third heaven where God dwells. The abode of angels. The home of the redeemed. The rendezvous of childhood. The great multitude John saw. No sects in heaven. Thomas à Kempis on heaven. The Seven Beatitudes for those who overcome. The new song of joy. The fourfold crown. Jerusalem the Golden. Standfast crosses the river and enters glory.
THE RETURN OF OUR SAVIOUR
His promise. The Christian hope. Hymns of the ages. Peter's witness to that day of doom. The Christian Century. The trumpeters of King Shaddai. Dr. Deissmann's words. The light of eternity on present crisis. The second advent as missionary incentive. Threefold view of the times and the seasons. Watch and pray. An Ancient Prayer.
THE GLORY OF THE EMPTY TOMB
THE words of the Apostle' Creed and of the Nicene Creed, that dual heritage of all Christendom, summarize the threefold glory of our blessed Redeemer: "Jesus Christ our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary" (the glory of the Manger); who "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried" (the glory of the Cross); "the third day he rose again from the dead" (the glory of the Resurrection).
This threefold statement of the Creed expresses the three-fold mystery of the Christian faith—the Virgin Birth, the vicarious Atonement, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, mysteries which have not only awakened awe and adoration on the part of all believers but also opposition and denial on the part of unbelievers.
If we approach the Gospel records in the spirit of Renan, who, in his preface to his Vie de Jesus, tells us that "miracles are things that never happen," we will try to find a natural explanation for the birth of Jesus and for the empty tomb. If He was merely a remarkable Jewish teacher of the first century, His death becomes only a tragic martyrdom. But this is not the teaching of the New Testament. In the Manger of Bethlehem the Son of God came to be of us; on the Cross He gave Himself for us; through the Resurrection He gave Himself to us. This is the threefold glory of the Incarnation. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." 1"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." "And that he rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures." 2
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paniments and significance, and His glorious Resurrection from the dead. The glory of the Manger is the glory of the Cross, and both are consummated in the glory of the Empty Tomb. In the beautiful words of Paul Feine:
"It has been the belief and the teaching of the Christian Church of all ages and of all Confessions that Jesus, the Son of God, in His sacrificial death on the Cross wrought the reconciliation of men with God and by His Resurrection begot anew those who believe in Him unto a living hope of eternal life. This belief forms the content of the hymns and prayers of Christian devotion through all the centuries. In the proclamation of Jesus, the Divine Saviour, who died for us on the Cross, still lies (even today) the secret of the success of Christian Missions among the heathen. The symbol of this belief greets us in the form of the Cross from the tower of every church, from every Christian gravestone and in the thousands of forms in which the Cross finds employment in daily life; this belief meets us in the gospel of the great Christian festivals and in the two sacraments of the Church." 1 One would not expect reference to the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the Resurrection as the three red-letter days of Christendom in Mohammed's Koran, because he denied the deity of Jesus and His death and resurrection. Yet there is a strange passage in the account of the miraculous birth of Jesus from a virgin, and it comes from the lips of the infant Jesus:
"When Mary, to justify herself, pointed to him and they said, How are we to speak with one who is in the cradle a child? He said, 'Verily I am a servant of God; He has brought me the Book and He has made me a prophet, and He has made me blessed wherever I be; and He has required of me prayer and almsgiving so long as I live, and piety toward my mother, and has not made me a miserable tyrant: and peace upon me the day I was born, and the day I die and the day I shall be raised up alive.' That is Jesus the son of Mary—by the word of truth whereon ye do dispute." 2
The three days mentioned are indeed days of peace in the Gospel record. When Jesus was born the angels sang of peace on earth, and prophecy declared Him the Prince of Peace. In His death we have peace with God through the blood of the Cross (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:14). And after His Resurrection it was Christ who gave the disciples the symbol and the seal of His peace (John 20:19–26; Luke 24:36). The basic message of the Incarnation, of the Atonement, and of the Resurrection morning is peace with God. In this threefold sense Jesus Christ is indeed the Prince of Peace from the day He was born, the day He died, and the day He arose from the dead.
While I was a missionary to Moslems in the Near East for forty years, it first occurred to me to write on the threefold glory of the Christian revelation. The Glory of the Cross was written in Cairo in 1928, The Glory of the Manger, in 1939. And now this volume completes the trilogy as first meditated,
The Glory of the Manger and The Glory of the Cross both tell of the humiliation of our Saviour, "who emptied himself and took upon him the form of a servant . . . and became obedient unto death." The Glory of the Empty Tomb is that of the exaltation of the Saviour who arose from the dead and whom "God hath highly exalted, and given a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9–11).
This is the supreme glory, the glory which Christ had by right before the foundation of the world but which He manifested by His victory over sin and death when He "was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4).
This glory of the Resurrection exceeds the glory of the Manger and the glory of the Cross because the first and the second were in order to the last. Only when we know Christ and the power of His Resurrection by experience are our eyes
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opened to see the glory of Bethlehem and of Calvary. Moreover, the glory of the Resurrection differs from the glory of the Incarnation and the glory of the Atonement on the Cross. No mortal has shared or can share in the glory of the Manger or of the Cross. But all who believe in Christ will share in the glory of His resurrection. This mystery is explained by Paul in the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
The Easter message includes the whole story of Redemption from the day when
"The Lord God planted a garden
In the first white day of the world,
And set there an angel warden
In a garland of light unfurled;
"So near to the peace of Heaven.
That the hawk might nest with the wren:
For there in the cool of the even
God walked with the first of men,"
to that day when He met Mary Magdalene in the other garden, where there was an empty tomb. The symbolism of that Paradise garden stretches from Eden to the Holy City—from Genesis to Revelation. Every Easter morning even Nature itself seems to interpret for us the deep significance of the glory of Christ's victory over death.
Last year the genial Dave Boone wrote in the New York Sun just before Easter:
"How anybody can doubt the Resurrection and the eternal life after a trip into the country these days, when every shrub and tree has sprung from stark desolation into life and beauty in the great miracle of spring, is beyond me. I don't think the transition from death to life has ever seemed so amazingly planted by nature in every field and hillside. All outdoors is a church just now, it's a great cathedral such as the hand of man could never design or create. He couldn't even come close. And there's a sermon in every glen, a high mass in every valley and an answer to the doubts of mankind in
every apple orchard, in every cherry tree suddenly flaming into life, and in every flower telling the story of the Resurrection in country garden or tenement flower-pot."
It is this perpetual parable of the sublime truth of Christ's Resurrection that we find at the Garden Tomb where Mary first heard the message, saw the angels, believed the evidence of Christ's own voice and face and form, and then ran to give witness. Here is Ruskin's interpretation:
"Did you ever hear, not of a Maud, but a Madeline, who went down to her garden in the dawn, and found One waiting at the gate, whom she supposed to be the gardener? Have you not sought Him often; sought Him in vain, all through the night; sought Him in vain at the gate of that old garden where the fiery sword is set? He is never there; but at the gate of this garden He is waiting always—waiting to take your hand—ready to go down to see the fruits of the valley, to see whether the vine has flourished, and the pomegranate budded." 1 The chapters that follow are studies on the one theme of immortality and resurrection, our glorious hope and the song of our hearts on life's weary pilgrimage. The picture on the jacket is from the painting by the Norwegian artist, Axel Hjalmar Ender. It forms the altar-piece of the little wooden church at Molde, Norway and represents Mary, the mother of Jesus, The Magdalene and Salome listening to the angel's message,
HE IS RISEN!
THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY
"Our life is closed, our life begins,
The long, long anchorage we leave;
The ship is clear at last, she leaps!
She swiftly courses from the shore,
Joy, shipmates, joy."
"Joy, Shipmates, Joy!"
THIS question of the ages is put by Job, "If a man die shall he live again?" and he himself gives the answer of an undiscourageable hope in the words that follow, "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come" (Job 14: 14). The question of life after death is not left unanswered in the Old Testament, as some imagine. In this book we have the glorious words long since appropriated and transfigured by Christian faith in song and music: "I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" ( Job 19: 25-27).
Faith in the immortality of the soul and in a life after death can be traced to the beginning of human history. It is more than traditional; it is a well-nigh universal consciousness among primitive races scattered across the Eastern and Western hemispheres. The evidence of archæology and anthropology is cumulative and convincing. One of the most remarkable facts in the study of religions is the universal belief of mankind in a future state of existence after death. So unques‑
THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY 21
tioned and prevalent is this belief, that Sir James Frazer, the great authority on folklore, requires three volumes to collect the evidence of it solely among primitive tribes.1
James Freeman Clarke says, "With an unknown eternity behind him, man has everywhere believed in a hereafter. No traveller returns from that bourne to tell us anything about it. . . . But notwithstanding this, men have universally believed in another life." 2 "The belief best established among the aboriginal Americans," said Charlevoix, "is that of the immortality of the soul."
The tombs of ancient Egypt and their "Book of the Dead" bear eloquent witness to this faith in future life, a judgment to come, and rewards and punishment. The ancient tombs of the Etruscans bear beautiful inscriptions that whisper faith in immortality: "While we depart our essence rises." "We rise like a bird and ascend to our ancestors." "The soul rises like fire." And there are pictures of the soul seated on a horse and with a travelling-bag in its hand.3
When one reads all the evidence of belief in future life among primitive races as collected by anthropologists and the spade of the archæologist, it is passing strange that liberal theologians, biased by an evolutionary hypothesis, do not find the idea of immortality in the Old Testament! If Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, did he not even learn of their firm belief in a future life and a judgment to come? Dr. James Orr denies emphatically that the Old Testament has no doctrine of immortality. We quote the words he writes as evidence that the Hebrews, like every other ancient people, believed that the soul survived the body:
"It is said we have no doctrine of Immortality in the Old Testament. But I reply, we have immortality at the very commencement—for man, as he came from the hands of his Creator, was made
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for immortal life. Man in Eden was immortal. He was intended to live, not to die. Then came sin, and with it death. Adam called his son Seth, and Seth called his son Enoch, which means 'frail, mortal man.' Seth himself died, his son died, his son's son died, and so the line of death goes on. Then comes an interruption, the intervention as it were, of a higher law, a new inbreaking of immortality into a line of death. 'Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.' Enoch did not die. Every other life in that record ends with the statement, 'and he died'; but Enoch's is given as an exception. He did not die, but God 'took' him, i.e., without death." 1 And then he sums up the evidence from other parts of the Old Testament, not for life after death only, but for a whole immortality of body and soul and spirit—namely, the hope of a resurrection, such as the Pharisees held at the time of Christ.
The burial customs noted in the Pentateuch and the burial rites and graves in every part of the world and from prehistoric ages, tell of this living hope in the heart of man. R. R. Marett uses astonishing words in this connection, in a book which bears the striking title, Faith, Hope and Charity in Primitive Religion:
"Thus, then, so far as force of will could do it, Neanderthal man, to whom we grudge the name of Homo sapiens, achieved a future life. There can be no question, I think, that the experts are right in attributing to him deliberate burials with due provision for a hereafter. It is even noticeable that funeral custom is already beyond its earliest stage. At La Chapelle-aux-Saints, for instance, not only is the grave neatly dug and food laid by conveniently, but a cave too small for habitation has evidently been selected for a purely sepulchral purpose. If there was a time when the dead man was simply left lying by himself within his own cave-home, or when, perhaps, the dying man was prematurely abandoned, we are well past it." 2 Not only all primitive religions but all the great ethnic religions have taught belief in a future life.3 One can read an
THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY 23
analytical story in great detail of the burial rites in every part of the world which proclaims clearly and loudly down the centuries and across the Seven Seas, There is life beyond the tomb! Effie Bendann and Rosaline Moss tell of these Death Customs and of the Life after Death in Oceania and the Malay Archipelago (New York, 1930 and Oxford, 1925). Such detailed evidence is more than convincing. It shames those who in Western lands express no desire for personal immortality or for a life after death. For example, in a recent book a Harvard professor writes:
"So far as I can discover from observation on myself, the concept of immortality plays little part in my own thought and has had no appreciable influence on the formation of my character or on my conduct. It is hard for me to understand those to whom it is an obsession." 1 But no one can read the long, long story of death and sorrow in the annals of the race—written on funeral urns, on tombs, or in strange burial rites, in the worship of ancestors, in the fear of returning spirits, in mutilations for the dead (who are not dead), in mourning as those who have had no certain hope—no one can read this tragic story without realizing that there is a heart-hunger for eternity in every human breast.
The philosophers of the ancient and modern world, with few exceptions, have held the great faith in immortality; Pythagoras, Plato, Socrates, Cicero, and, in modern times, Dante, Descartes, Leibnitz and many others. Goethe once said, "I should be the very last man to be willing to dispense with faith in a future life; nay, I would say that all those are dead even for the present life who do not believe in another." 2
"The father and mother of all fears is, biologically speaking, the fear of death," says Marett. But primitive man and civilized man have met this fear squarely for thousands of years by an everlasting, innate hope. They will not, they could not
24 THE GLORY OF THE EMPTY TOMB
believe that death ends all. Rather, death began all. This was the urge to religious rites and ethics.
Our conclusion is, that the palimpsest of a primitive revelation to all mankind included belief in another life and a world-to-come, with rewards for the good and punishments for the evil. All religions teach some sort of heaven and hell. "It is an established fact," says Spiess, "that there is no tribe or people that does not possess the expectation of a future life, and none that places the end and goal of human life here on earth." 1
Nevertheless, belief in immortality only is the highest attainment of paganism. Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the A B C of Christianity. The longing of the human heart is satisfied only by the Gospel of the Resurrection. Denial of immortality would sink man to the level of the brute. In Dostoievski's novel, The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan says:
"If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love, but every living force containing the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral. Everything would be lawful, including cannibalism. There is no virtue if there is no immortality."
There is the closest possible connection in the Old Testament between ethics and immortality. The righteous are rewarded, not only in this life but in the life to come. "Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his," said Balaam—and he was looking into the far horizons of Israel (Num. 23:10). "Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart" (Psa. 97:11). The closing verses of the sixteenth Psalm are a clear testimony to immortality: "Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." No one who thought that death was the end of all could write in such fashion. F. W. Boreham gives a happy rendering of
THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY 25
the finale in the tragedy of Job (which Carlyle considered the greatest drama ever written). He says:
"In the first chapter we are told how Job, by one fell stroke of dire calamity, lost all that he had. And then, in the last chapter, we are told that the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. And in each case there is an inventory. Job lost seven thousand sheep; at the end he possesses fourteen thousand—twice as many. He lost three thousand camels; six thousand are at last given him—twice as many. He loses five hundred yoke of oxen; in the last chapter he owns a thousand—twice as many. He loses seven sons and three daughters; in the last chapter seven sons and three daughters are born to him. Why the number of sheep, camels and oxen doubled, whilst the number of sons and daughters remains the same? And since the number of sons and daughters remains the same, how can it be said that he had twice as many as before? The reply is obvious. He had lost his sheep and camels and oxen forever. His sons and daughters who had passed from his sight, together with the sons and daughters around his knees, give him twice as many as he had before." 1 The poet Wordsworth counts likewise in "We Are Seven":
"'Sisters and brothers, little maid,
How many may you be?'
'How many? Seven in all,' she said
And, wondering, looked at me.
"'And where are they? I pray you tell.'
She answered, 'Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.
"'Two of us in the churchyard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the churchyard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.'
"'How many are you, then,' said I,
'If they two are in heaven?'
26 THE GLORY OF THE EMPTY TOMB
The little maiden did reply,
'O master! we are seven.'
"'But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!'
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little maid would have her will,
And said, 'Nay, we are seven!'
In the Old Testament we have the expression over and over again, "He slept with his fathers." It occurs more than forty times. Is there no suggestion in all these many passages (we list only a few) 1 that those who died fell asleep to waken again? Is not this the very core of the argument used by our Saviour when answering the Sadducees regarding the resurrection? "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. . . . God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:32).
Nor can we forget that even as we have in the New Testament the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus (Matt. 9:25), of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:15), of Lazarus (John 11:44), of Dorcas (Acts 9:40) and of some of the saints after the Crucifixion (Matt. 27:53)—not to speak of the glorious and altogether different Resurrection of our Saviour from the Garden Tomb—there are three "resurrections" recorded in the Old Testament. Each of them was wrought as a miracle and is so spoken of in the story of the Prophets. There was the son of the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:22), the son of the Shunamite (II Kings 4:35), and the corpse that was cast into the tomb of Elijah and also resuscitated (II Kings 13:21).
These miracles, we believe, are recorded not to raise idle discussion or doubts, but to usher in faith. They were, in a sense, previews or rehearsals of the Resurrection. To read the Old Testament aright we need the New Testament as interpreter and guide. Our Lord and His apostles found abundant tes‑
THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY 27
timony to immortality and even resurrection in the Scriptures. If we are blind we must blame our blindness and not the landscape or the sun.1 Moreover, there are none so blind as those who will not see.
Read, for example, the story of Enoch's translation (Gen. 5:24), of Moses' burial (Deut. 34), of Elijah's fiery chariot that carried him away from this world (II Kings 2:11), of Ezekiel's vision of the resurrection of all Israel (Ezek. 37:1-10), or Daniel's prophecy (12:1–4) of the final resurrection of the righteous and the wicked—and who can doubt that here we have sufficient answer to Job's questionings and the corroboration of Job's faith in his Redeemer?
We may well offer the prayer of John Donne as we read the Old Testament:
"And let Thy patriarchs' desire
Those great grandfathers of Thy Church, which saw
More in the cloud than we in fire,
Whom nature cleared more, than us grace and law,
And now in heaven still pray that we
May use our new helps right—
Be satisfied, and fructify in me;
Let not my mind be blinder by more light,
Nor faith, by reason added, lose her sight."
John Ruskin's Complete Works have nearly 5,000 Bible references (so Sir E. T. Cook tells us), and he knew the Book almost by heart.2 In Modern Painters (Vol. IV, chapter 20), we have this eloquent description of the death of Moses. One should read it in full to realize what an artist finds in the story. Here is a single paragraph, the closing scene:
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"With his unabated strength, Moses with glance undimmed, lies down upon the utmost rocks, with angels waiting near to contend for the spoils of his spirit, and puts off his earthly armour. We do deep reverence to his companion prophet, for whom the chariot of fire came down from heaven; but was his death less noble, whom his Lord Himself buried in the vales of Moab, keeping, in the secrets of the eternal counsels, the knowledge of a sepulchre, from which he was to be called, in the fulness of time, to talk with that Lord, upon Hermon, of the death that He should accomplish at Jerusalem?"
If we could only read the Old Testament like that!
Job's great confession, "I know that my redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God" (19:25, 26), is familiar to all students of the Bible. Modern critics have tried their utmost to take out of this great passage any clear reference to a future resurrection. But they will not succeed so long as it is sung in our hymns, rendered in Handel's Messiah, and finds an echo in all our hearts.
Even those who lack an affirmative Biblical faith in immortality and the resurrection of the body express their wistful longings by metaphors and analogies which betray the fact that deep down in the human heart there is a sense of the immortal and of life beyond. In a recent volume of poems by Ada Jackson, for example, she pictures death as not so dreadful after all; it is only
"The last page scanned, a book laid by:
The quiet closing of a door;
The doffing of a well-worn cloak
Found, on a sudden, old and poor;
The snuffing of a candle flame;
A stirrup-cup drained to the lees;
A tavern bill cast up and paid
Death is no more than one of these." 1
But the very analogies used are eloquent with a faith that
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triumphs over unbelief. The last page scanned, the whole book of one's life may be read over again. Who can say that memory ends with death? The door closed by death has hinges and so must have Another Room. The outworn cloak cast off is really a promise of being clothed with a better robe, all white and glorious. The candle flame is not necessarily snuffed out but sometimes snuffed to burn more brightly. "The smoking flax-wick he will not quench." If "the soul of man is the candle of the Lord," as the Bible teaches, it is reasonable to believe that when He lights our candle it will, some day, somewhere, "shine more and more unto the perfect day." The stirrup-cup referred to in the poem—an unfortunate symbol for those who take life seriously—is quaffed by the horseman booted and spurred, eager for the long ride. It marks the setting out, not at all the end of his journey. And as for paying the tavern-bill, that is not death (although it is the wages of sin). The earthly house of this caravansary is not the final resting place; at the end of life's pilgrimage we have "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
Death is not the end but the beginning of all things; it is the long road that leads to glory and honor, or to everlasting shame and contempt, on the day of the general resurrection. The prophet Daniel strikes a New Testament note:
"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:2, 3).
DENIAL OF RESURRECTION
"The cradle and the tomb; and in between them
Anguish, and strife, and faith beyond despair.
A resurrection . . . then the pattern wheels
Full cycle back, to find a final limit:
A tomb within the stonier hearts of men."
The London Times, December 23, 1944.
IN sharp and painful contrast with these intimations of immortality by poet and seer and Old Testament prophets, and in contradiction to the almost universal belief in a future existence when death slams the door, has been the denial of immortality and resurrection by Sadducees ancient and modern. We read in the Gospel, "The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection" (Matt. 22:23); while Luke also refers to this agnostic sect who assert that "there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both" (Acts 23:8). This testimony is confirmed by Josephus, the Jewish historian, who certainly was not ignorant concerning the matter.
The leaven of the Sadducees has been at work for many centuries and especially in these latter days. Papini, in the preface to his Life of Christ, tells how he was led astray by agnostic Liberalism until converted to a living faith by the evidence of Christ's Resurrection. He describes those who led him astray and their successors are not a few:
"Certain of them drew on their boundless imagination to evolve what they considered proof positive of a fantastic theory that the
DENIAL OF RESURRECTION 31
story of the Gospel is no more than a legend from which we can reconstruct the natural life of Jesus as a man, one-third prophet, one-third necromancer, one-third demagogue, a man who wrought no miracles except the hypnotic cure of some obsessed devotees, who did not die on the Cross but came to Himself in the chill of the sepulchre and reappeared with mysterious airs to delude men into believing that He had risen from the dead." 1 There are many today who deride the Resurrection of Christ and openly delude those who look to them for guidance. Professor C. E. M. Joad of London University tells how World War II brought him to a new belief in God. But the astonishing confession of this spiritual odyssey does not end in full Christian faith. It stops on the negative side of a wistful theism. He writes:
"I am willing, as once I was not, to bank on the religious hypothesis being true, 'this life is not all, and something probably survives the break-up of our bodies.' If not, then the whole universe 'of space and time is a bad joke beyond our understanding, a vulgar laugh braying across the mysteries.'"
Here is a professor who turns his back on the Bible and seeks to find God apart from revelation. Job and his three friends came nearer to solving the problem of God and evil than does Professor Joad.
At the conclusion of his quest, and in his last chapter, the statements regarding Christ and historic Christianity are bitter and deeply painful to those who love the Saviour. Not only does Professor Joad reject the Christian claim that "the Birth, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ are unique facts in the history of the world" (p. 284), but holds them temporally and spatially utterly absurd (pp. 294, 295). The vastness of the universe and the immensity of geological time make the whole claim incredible. He says Christian teaching in this respect is, therefore, hopelessly parochial.2
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The terrible tragedy of World War II and the aftermath of its horrors have not always turned men to faith but often to pessimism and despair. The daily press affords many instances of such utter loss of faith, the result of which is moral suicide. Life loses all its meaning if there is no life beyond. Professor Will Durant, the popular historian of philosophy at Columbia University, wrote, On the Meaning of Life, and expressed his doubts in these words:
"God, who was once the consolation of our brief life, and our refuge in bereavement and suffering, has apparently vanished from the scene; no telescope, no microscope discovers Him. Life has become in that total perspective, which is philosophy, a fitful pullulation of human insects on the earth, a planetary eczema that may soon be cured; nothing is certain in it except defeat and death—a sleep from which, it seems, there is no awakening. . . . Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day. . . . It seems impossible any longer to believe in the permanent greatness of man, or to give life a meaning that cannot be annulled by death. We move into an age of spiritual exhaustion and desponding like that which hungered for the birth of Christ."
On February 23, 1942, an Austrian writer, Stefan Zweig, committed suicide. He was not in financial straits or in poor health; he was a well-known author at the top of his profession, established comfortably in Brazil, a country he had learned to love. The reason for his self-destruction was put in these words: "After one's sixtieth year unusual powers are needed to make another wholly new beginning. Those that I possess have been exhausted by long years of hopeless wandering."
When men deny the faith of their fathers and turn their backs on the Bible and its revelation of immortality, they hesitate to answer Job's question, "If a man die shall he live again?" Some say, "Yes"; others, "No"; and a still larger number answer, "Perhaps." Alas, some of this class are inside the Church—Sadducees of the Temple. One of them "examines the traditional form of belief in the life after death to
DENIAL OF RESURRECTION 33
distinguish between what is essential and what is transitory in the doctrine . . . and how far modern science and philosophy make necessary either the abandonment or modification of the belief." 1 He seems to maintain at the close of his discussion that "the historical critical evaluation of the Resurrection narratives in the New Testament does not vitally affect the Christian belief in immortality." Christ's post-Resurrection appearances, if actual, or the empty tomb (to which he makes no reference) are not important, since our faith can "rest secure in a personal spiritual experience of newness of life through Christ."
This is the position of those who maintain that Christianity as a religion of the Spirit is independent of historical facts! But it is a perilous position, like sawing off from the tree the branch on which we are sitting. Arnold Lunn is right when he says that
"the sceptic begins his study of the Gospels by making an act of faith in the impossibility of the supernatural. His verdict on the authorship and dates is an unscientific deduction from an unproved and false premise. The Christian conclusion is, on the other hand, a scientific induction from the facts. The sceptic begins with dogma, the dogma that miracles do not occur, and adjusts the facts to that dogma. The Christian begins with the facts and ends with the dogmas which are alone consistent with and imposed by the facts. The sceptic begins with a pre-judgment that miracles do not occur. The Christian ends with the post-judgment that miracles have been proved to occur. The conflict is between post-judice and prejudice."2 Perhaps the most outspoken objection to faith in Christ's bodily Resurrection is that by Walter Marshall Horton, who confesses, however, that he has been "more recently led to the verge of orthodoxy" from a humanist position. He writes:
"The Resurrection of Christ presents many difficult and almost
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insoluble problems to the modern mind: confused and self-contradictory accounts of what happened . . . a body materialistic enough to leave an empty tomb and retain the marks of the crucifixion, yet immaterial enough to pass through closed doors and vanish without notice ... final ascension of this body, through the clouds, in an upward direction, presumably headed for a nonexistent, pre-Copernican heaven! Were we to attempt to grapple with these problems, we should be plunged into a sea of speculative difficulties. At present, our concern is with knowable facts. The knowable fact about the Resurrection of Christ is that His flaming spirit, undismayed by the final disaster which overtook His cause, somehow contrived to leap the gap of death and became incarnate in the discouraged hearts of His followers."
And he goes on to say that it is appropriate to celebrate Easter in springtime, when we witness "the resurrection of vegetation from the death of winter. . . . It marks the assurance that death is as powerless against 'the soul-force' of a personality like Christ's as is the onslaught of winter against the swelling tide of spring." 1
But such a dim springtime faith in immortality is far from the Christian faith of the Apostle Paul and of those who were eyewitnesses of the Resurrection.
An otherwise excellent book, And the Life Everlasting, by John Baillie, also concludes by citing a number of great theologians and critics (Ritschl, Barth, Goguel and Henry Sloane Coffin), that "the Resurrection of our Lord was not an event in the physical world as we ordinarily understand it" (p. 175). Even Christ's own prediction of His death and Resurrection as recorded in the earliest (Mark 8:31) gospel record, cannot be taken seriously. "It is difficult to escape the conclusion that either the definiteness of the prediction or the unexpectedness of its fulfillment must be exaggerated in our records" (p. 164). Yet there the record stands in all the manuscripts and versions and revisions: "And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and
DENIAL OF RESURRECTION 35
of the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." Only a bias against the supernatural of prophecy and a bodily resurrection permits an intelligent reader to suggest that here is exaggeration or error in the record. Was not Jesus Christ a prophet? Do not all of the gospels clearly teach that His Messianic consciousness included the knowledge of His own Cross and Resurrection? Yet such is the incredulity of modern Sadducees. In fact, the expression of faith in what they call "a spiritual resurrection" is irrational. "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have," said the Saviour (Luke 24:39). In a forthright defense of the miracle of Christ's Resurrection, Arnold Lunn, a Roman Catholic, rightly says that "Modernism is a parasite which draws whatever vitality it still possesses from the dogmas it denies." 1
The pastor of the First Unitarian Church in Chicago has the courage of his incredulity, and therefore advocates radical changes in the usual Christian burial service. He favors cremation before the burial service "with the urn of ashes set upon a table in the chancel." And he concludes his article by saying:
"If there is a definite belief in immortality, surely the funeral is no place for weakness of expression. Let it be well considered, however, that expressions of such faith become weak and false motions where it is not truly and genuinely held. Where it is not held, there may still be vigor in voicing the nobility of life, the splendor of existence, faith in the power of the good, and trust in that all-embracing order of all things that is the life of God." 2 This is rather feeble compared with the burial service in the Book of Common Prayer or the Lutheran ritual with its Pauline emphasis on the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Christ's answer to the Sadducees and Paul's argument
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for faith in the Resurrection are both based upon the Word of God and the power of God. "Ye do err, not knowing the scripture, nor the power of God" (Matt. 22:29). When Jehovah appeared to Moses in the bush He was the God, not of the dead but of the living—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive to Him who spoke of them. The miracles of the Old Testament, the burning bush, the translation of Elijah, Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones—all these are mere exegetical puzzles to the Modernist. They strengthen the faith of those who believe God's Word.
At the close of the Jerusalem Missionary Conference in 1928, as we sat together one Sunday afternoon looking down the mountain slope of Olivet over the Garden of Gethsemane and Jerusalem, we realized the glory of the promise, "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed." Many of us recalled the hymn of faith:
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"And now that Thou dost reign on high,
And thence Thy waiting people bless,
No ray of glory from the sky
Doth shine upon our wilderness;
But we believe Thy faithful word,
And trust in our redeeming Lord."
"We cannot imagine how, without some such impressive occurrence bringing the appearances of Christ to a decisive end, the disciples could have reached the state of mind in which we find them in the opening of the Acts, in which they are wholly without expectation of any more manifestations of Christ and wholly set on what is promised them—spiritual equipment for a task of unknown magnitude."
Belief in God, p. 273.
IT has been truly said by Principal Marcus Dods, the Scotch theologian of a previous generation, that "the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the most important event in the history of Christianity but also the most important event in the history of the world." The first statement is more obvious than the second until we realize that the greater includes the less. Redemption and life eternal are far more than the slow progress of civilization and the evolution of nations which pass off the scene one after the other.
"The core of universal history is the history of redemption, if it be not its outermost periphery as well. For what is the history of the world but the condemnation of the world by its righteous and faithful Creator, Preserver, and Sovereign, and its reclamation in virtue of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God's Son, and man's Saviour? If that be so, then the Resurrection of that same Lord and Christ must be the center both of sacred and secular history." 1
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There is at present a lamentable tendency to confound the facts of history with a theory based on the relativity of those facts and to put such facts as are not acceptable to the modern mind in the category of superhistory and no longer on the plane of reality. In the matter of Christ's Resurrection we seek, above all else, the truth, the naked truth, for our very life depends on it. As G. M. Trevelyan remarks in his History of England:
"In the realm of History, the moment we have reason to think that we are being given fiction instead of fact, be the fiction ever so brilliant, our interest collapses like a pricked balloon. To hold our interest you must tell us something we believe to be true about the men who once walked the earth. It is the fact about the past that is poetic; just because it really happened, it gathers round it all the inscrutable mystery of life and death and time. Let the science and research of the historian find the fact, and let his imagination and art make clear its significance."
This failure to distinguish history from fiction is found in most of the novels and so-called "lives" that profess to give the basic facts of the Gospel story in a more imaginative and attractive form; Ernest Renan's Life of Jesus is a well-known example. When such writers tell of the Manger or the Cross or the Empty Tomb, they often empty the record of its facts and leave the reader saying, "They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him." 1
Even Ben Hur, The Brothers, The Nazarene, The Galilean, and The Robe leave out more than they put in, and so the brilliant and talented artists, authors of these "best sellers," leave the devout reader (who believes the Gospel with all its stupendous miracles and mysteries) dissatisfied. A recent example is The Human Life of Jesus (1945) by John Erskine, a distinguished Columbia University professor. The first statement in his Preface admits that "the central doctrine of Christianity is the Incarnation. Jesus is the Son of God who became man."
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But the human life of Jesus is shorn of its glory by the author's frank statement, "I do not believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead nor that he ever said he did" (p. 132). He makes sport of the miracle at Cana and of the feeding of the thousands on loaves and fishes. The story of the Resurrection is so contradictory in transmission that when the gospels were written "the events of that morning had become legendary and the legend was transmitted with inevitable variations, additions and subtractions" (p. 239). He confesses, or rather concedes, that the soul is immortal and that our loved ones who have died are with us spiritually, "sustaining and inspiring us." "This constant resurrection of the dead is for me a simple fact, part of any human acquaintance with the daily mystery and beauty of life" (p. 239).So the miracle of the Resurrection was not an actual fact. It was really only a transformation of the apostles! Like the Transfiguration, it was an hallucination, a day-dream, coming while the sleepy apostles watched Jesus in prayer (p. 180). Such a human life of Jesus is sure to breed doubt and destroy all faith in the Gospel. Such fiction, be it ever so brilliant, "makes our interest collapse like a pricked balloon," as Trevelyan said.
Another example of modern fiction denying the bodily Resurrection of our Lord is The Galilean, published at Hollywood and apparently adapted for the screen with all its glamour and exuberance of style.1 In it the Crucifixion is the despairing cry of a broken-hearted man, the last protest of a body racked by pain and agony. The Resurrection is not factual nor actual. The empty tomb was a mistake. "It is only in a delirium of nameless ecstasy that Mary heard Him say, 'Touch me not'" (p. 244).And all this occurred "in the somnolent peace of the garden where only a murmurous breeze raised elfin echoes." What took place on Easter morning? The last lines of the book tell us: "It was that deathless, that divine stream of love which
THE EVIDENCE 41
in Jesus had found its greatest impetus, and that for a measureless instant had touched Mary Magdalene with its ultimate meaning." And as for Pentecost and St. Stephen and St. Paul and all the Epistles, written prior to the synoptic gospels,—not a word. These writers never refer to their sources as authoritative. They mingle fiction with fact.
In both of these recent attempts to portray the human life of Jesus one is astonished that the witness of the Epistles and of the Acts to the life of Jesus Christ, His death, Resurrection, and Ascension, are not referred to by the writers. Yet they must be aware, as everyone is, that the earliest records and portrait of Jesus Christ are in these sources, written before the gospels and also by Christ's contemporaries. Such is the incredulity of modern unbelief.
It may not be easy to weave the statements of Paul in I Corinthians 15:1–8 with those of the four evangelists into one perfect pattern. But the narrative is self-evidencing by its very nature, and so is the agreement of the writers of the four documents on all the main facts, despite minor discrepancies. Their evidence is corroborative and is that of eyewitnesses.
First of all, we note that our Lord's Resurrection took place without any external intervention. "I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father" (John 10:18). Christ returned from the realm of death by His own will.
Regarding the main fact of the empty tomb and the bodily reappearances of our Saviour after His Resurrection, Bishop Westcott said that no event in history has better attestation. The overwhelming testimony of the books of the New Testament (twenty-three out of twenty-seven) speak of Christ's Resurrection as a fact of vital importance and as the central theme of apostolic preaching and witness. These books were all written during the lifetime of the Apostle John, who saw with his own eyes the Risen Christ and the empty garden-tomb (John 20:5).
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To give all the evidences in the New Testament that relate to the Resurrection would be to quote three-fourths of its contents. The reader will find references to Christ's Resurrection in His own words, before the event and in the earliest of the gospels (Mark 10:34). The same prophetic anticipation and declaration are found in Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:23, 20:19; Luke 18:31-34, 9:20-27, and John 14:18, 19. Then we have the Resurrection narrative itself in each of the four gospels.
In the other books of the New Testament the message of the apostles, their joy and confidence, their anchor of hope and their strength for labour and sacrifice, is solely in the Risen Christ. Here are single passages listed from each of these books; to read them in sequence is to see the historic account of the gospels as the very warp and woof of all New Testament teaching:
"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). "And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4; I Cor. 15—entire chapter). "Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you" (II Cor. 4:14). "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Gal. 1:1). "And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:19, 20). "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Phil. 3:10). "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:12). "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (I Thess. 1:10). "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the
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Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels" (II Thess. 1:7). "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory" (I Tim. 3:16). "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel" (II Tim. 2:8). "In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Titus 1:2). "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant. . . ." (Heb. 13:20). "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons" (James 2:1). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Peter 1:3). "Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath skewed me" (II Peter 1:14; cf. John 21:19). "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming" (I John 2:28). "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 1:24). "Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death" (Rev. 1:18).
None of these words could have been written by men who believed that Jesus of Nazareth remained in the tomb as a martyr to truth!
In the second place, we note that the character and the quantity of the evidence for our Lord's Resurrection is as cumulative as it is convincing.
1. The divine nature of Jesus Christ made the Resurrection absolutely necessary. He was the conqueror of death before He died.
2. The work which He came to do demanded it. Because He died and rose again that work was completed.
3. Jesus Himself repeatedly predicted it, and in the Old Testament Messianic promises such resurrection was foretold.
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4. The empty tomb demonstrated it.
5. The earliest belief of the Church is inexplicable without it. Instead of Christ building that Church on a rock it would have been built on a fable—if Christ had not risen.
6. The many appearances of the Lord as listed by Paul in Corinthians and by the writers of the Gospel emphasized its certainty by many infallible proofs for forty days, and, in one instance, to more than five hundred people at once.
7. The testimony of Paul given thrice in the book of Acts, that he had seen Jesus after His Resurrection and heard His voice. This is the evidence of a former enemy of the faith, given before priests and rulers—as it were under oath—for he was on trial for his life.
8. The unbroken evidence of the Christian Church for nineteen centuries, in creed and ritual and hymnody, in life and martyrdom, is that Christ arose from the dead.
9. The convicting and converting power of the message, "He died and rose again," is overwhelming in its evidence, even to the unbeliever, because it is in the lives of those who are Christ's own.
10. The experience of every believer is that of Paul "buried with Christ in baptism" and alive in Him because of His glorious Resurrection.
11. The hope in our own resurrection and life everlasting is based on His Resurrection—"Who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light in the Gospel." That hope lives on in millions of human hearts.
12. The Lord's Supper, or Eucharist, observed since the night in which Jesus was betrayed and down the ages, in catacombs, churches, cathedrals or wayside chapels, is palpable evidence of the Resurrection fact. It is not and never has been the commemoration of a dead hero but a communion with the Lord of life who died for us on the Cross and rose again.
Here we must add also that all theories for the disappearance of Jesus after the Crucifixion and for the fact of the
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empty tomb are not only contradictory but futile and frivolous.
The earliest theory is given in Matthew's gospel, where it is said the chief priests and elders "gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught" (Matt. 28:12-15). A bit of cross-examination and the piece of bribery and corruption fail to convince any honest man. This theory of a tomb empty by fraud has no adherents today. The hail has swept away this refuge of lies (Isa. 28:17).
Another theory advanced by rationalists and opponents of the Gospel story is that our Lord never died on the Cross. He only swooned and in that condition was laid in the tomb. Then He revived and by some devious method made good His escape and was afterwards seen by His apostles! The wonder is that some "distinguished scholars" (Paulus and Voysey) have thought it worth while to champion this theory, and that the Ahmadiya sect of Moslems have also adopted it. According to this group of Moslem propagandists, Jesus swooned on the Cross, recovered, went to India and died there. They discovered His tomb near Kashmir and have built a whole new cult-religion, with its own Messiah, on this shattered remnant of Western destructive rationalism!
The "swoon theory" is contradicted by every circumstance mentioned in the gospels. Joseph of Arimathea (who laid Christ's body in his own new sepulchre) and Nicodemus must have known whether He was really dead; otherwise why did Nicodemus bring a hundred weight of spices (John 19:39)? The centurion's testimony was like that of an officer ordered to execute a criminal and give his report. "He saw that Christ gave up the ghost" (Mark 15:39, 44-45). Add to this the testimony of one of the soldiers who, to make assurance doubly sure, pierced the side of Jesus, following which "forthwith came there out blood and water," the sign of a ruptured heart (John
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19:34). At the grave, sealed by the Roman governor, was a guard of soldiers to watch lest there be an attempt to remove the dead body. The soldiers were so terrified by the reality of the angel vision and the removal of the stone that they fled. Their story so impressed, may we not say, convinced, the Jewish authorities that they actually had to bribe Roman soldiers to tell a deliberate lie about the facts (Matt. 28:11–15). And yet, in spite of all this evidence, the swoon theory is still in vogue among rationalists.
The third theory, which seeks to explain the facts by denying them, is that of the vision. Christ did not really arise from the dead. It was real only to those who saw it and believed it, "such stuff as dreams are made on"—a purely subjective experience.
Such a theory does violence to the account of Luke, the physician, who expressly gives evidence that Jesus Christ was more than a phantom: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." His identity is proved to eye, ear, and touch in the accounts of all the witnesses—and these, Luke tells us, are "many infallible proofs."
The modern Jew also denies the Resurrection of our Saviour, although he pays high tribute to Jesus of Nazareth as a great Prophet and Leader, "the very crown of Judaism." For example, Rabbi Joseph Klausner, in a remarkable book translated from the Hebrew and widely circulated, tries to answer two questions.1 "How was Christianity separated from Judaism, and why did Judaism not accept the teaching of Paul as it likewise did not accept the teaching of Jesus?" In his attempt to answer these questions the author seeks for natural causes and finds them in the pagan world, the mystery religions, the downfall of Jewish temporal power, the stormy political events of the Roman empire and in Paul's paradoxical genius. Gibbon's reasons for the early spread of Paul's faith appeal to him more strongly than those of Harnack. The supernatural is
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eliminated at the outset. The Resurrection story in the gospels originated with Mary Magdalene and other hysterical women (Renan), and the others, including Paul, saw Jesus only in dreams and visions (pp. 264–267; 322–325). The vision on the road to Damascus was an hallucination. The evidence in I Corinthians 15 is passed over in silence. Christianity was founded on a fable. Jesus Christ did not arise from the tomb.
One-half of the book (pp. 303–611) deals with the life, work, and teachings of Paul. Dr. Klausner believes positively that Saul (Paul) met Jesus before the Crucifixion (p. 435), that the cruel death of Christ, and Stephen's martyrdom preyed on his conscience and his peculiar psychological make-up. He sums up the factors that account for the rise and triumph of Christianity as follows:
"Paul came to those yearning for salvation and preached an attenuated Judaism, from which had been taken the sharp edge of the Torah and the difficulties in the observance of the ceremonial laws; and in place of a dying and rising god, such as was common in the various pagan religions of that time, he added to this attenuated Judaism a dying and rising Messiah." 1 Although Dr. Klausner leans heavily on Liberal interpreters of early Christianity, he states, "If there had been no 'primitive church' in which was born the resurrection story and apparently also the view that the crucified Messiah was the vicariously suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53), then the very foundation stone of Paul's teaching would have been lacking (p. 581)." According to Dr. Klausner, however, the Resurrection was only an hallucination!
Another very subtle version of the vision theory is known as the "objective vision." It is based on the references of Paul to his vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, and asserts that all the Resurrection appearances were of the same nature. But according to this school of rationalists, there was no empty
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tomb! Jesus died, was buried, and decayed! They explain the empty tomb away by arguing that Mary Magdalene went to the wrong grave in the morning dusk and misled those who came later. But a vision created by lively imagination or blind devotion to the Crucified One does not explain the many appearances that followed (Luke 24:39), or the fact that five hundred brethren must have seen the same "vision" simultaneously (I Cor. 15:6). As Prebendary Row observed: "We are not dealing with the genesis of a ghost story but with the source and origin of a spiritual society which will endure as long as the moon endureth, and longer still." 1
One of the most interesting circumstantial proofs of the Resurrection is the curious statement in John's gospel (20:7), "And the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together [Greek, "coiled round and round"] in a place by itself." No one can study the Greek text and fail to see what is implied. The cloth had been folded around Jesus' head in burial as a turban is folded, and it lay by itself in that form when the other linen had been laid aside, just as when they go to sleep Arabs and other Orientals put the turban off without disengaging its folds. Dr. Campbell Morgan first called my attention to this in one of his sermons, and it is also referred to in a note on the article by H. S. Curr from which I have quoted earlier.
Once we have accepted Christ as our Saviour, made the encounter of His absolute demands, and been led captive by His love, we cannot doubt that He died for our sins and rose again. That experience is so vital that it kills all doubts and drives away all scepticism. A soldier, who had gone through the disillusionment and agony of the War just ended, wrote:
"If death ends life, then evil must be good,
Wrong must be right, and beauty ugliness;
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God is a Judas who betrays His Son,
And with a kiss damns all the world to hell,—
If Christ rose not again."
We can bear witness, "Christ is risen indeed." He is with us evermore through His word and by His Spirit. None of us pretend to be apostles, none of us witnessed Him in the days of His flesh, but the humblest believer may use the words of Paul, "Christ in me the hope of glory." . . . "I knew a man in Christ." . . . "To be with Christ which is far better." That is the fellowship of His Resurrection.
This sense of the indwelling Spirit of God within us, never letting us be and never letting us go, has been powerfully set forth in the words of James Martineau:
"Whence but from Him, the vision ever haunts us of a purer and more perfect order in our daily life—an order less indulgent to our ease, more faithfully accounting for our time, more fresh from our affections? Who is it that smites us to the heart when the petulant word has escaped the lips or the shameful indulgence degraded our will? It is not we that conduct all this sad strife and administer this deep experience. We neither fetch our own inspirations nor inflict our own retributions. It is a holier Spirit that broods near us and flings athwart us His shadow or His flash."
When we wrestle in secret prayer, when we witness to His love, when we rest our weary souls on Him alone, then we need no further proof. We stand with doubting Thomas when his doubts were all gone, and cry out, "My Lord and my God ——"
But the story of the gospels, in all its fullness and simplicity, is in itself conclusive evidence, as we shall see in the next chapter. Instead of saying "If Christ be not risen . . ."we affirm, "He is risen indeed."1
"St. John, who entered the empty tomb and who was an eye-witness of the appearances of the risen Lord, would, we may be sure, have corrected anything in the Synoptic Gospels which he knew to be false."
The Third Day, p. 73.
THE first witness was the angel from heaven on the morning of the Resurrection: "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." So the first evidence offered from heaven itself was the empty tomb. Then Jesus gave infallible proof Himself by His bodily appearances for forty days. Afterwards, in the presence of His disciples, some say five hundred at once, He ascended to heaven. St. Paul makes the Resurrection of Christ the very foundation of the Christian faith. "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain . . . then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished " (I Cor. 15:17, 18).
But it is not surprising that unbelievers have tried to discredit the records by stumbling over the facts or by alleging contradictions. There is one particular contradiction which is continually brought forward, not only by sceptics but by those who call themselves Christian believers. It is that between the Synoptic Gospels and John. The former, they say, stress Christ's appearances in Galilee, the latter in Jerusalem. It is rather surprising that this alleged discrepancy, of which Strauss the rationalist and Thomas Paine made so much, should in
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our day be used seriously by Christian theologians. Yet such is the fact.
Tom Paine wrote, "According to Matthew, the eleven were marching to Galilee to meet Jesus in a mountain by His own appointment at the very time when, according to John, they were assembled in another place" (Age of Reason, Conway edition, p. 164).
Strauss wrote (of Mark 16:7), "If they had been given [the message], the disciples would certainly, as in Matthew, have gone to Galilee, and this, in Mark, they are not supposed to have done, as he, with Luke, represents the appearance of the risen Jesus as taking place, not in Galilee, but in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood."
Dr. F. J. Foakes-Jackson writes (Beginnings of Christianity):
"But it is definitely implied that they were in Galilee when they first saw the risen Jesus" (Mark 14:28 and 16:7); "Luke and Acts, taken together, give a different account of events, and represent the disciples as staying in Jerusalem after the crucifixion. They cannot both be true, for the disciples cannot have been both in Galilee and at Jerusalem when Peter first saw the risen Lord."
The Rev. P. Gardner Smith, B.D., wrote:
"Luke xxiv and John xx leave no room for a journey of the disciples to Galilee. . . . It is perfectly obvious that we have in Luke a tradition which, in certain important particulars, is not to be reconciled with that in Mark and Matthew. . . . The appearance in Galilee, which is described in Matthew and anticipated in Mark, is quite definitely ruled out by Luke."
Professor F. C. Burkitt wrote:
"The surviving traditions of these appearances of Jesus are confused and contradictory; there can be little doubt that there is an
52 THE GLORY OF THE EMPTY TOMB
element of unhistorical legend and even fancy in some of the tales, notably those which are located in Galilee."1 When, however, we read the story in the fourfold gospel, just as it is recorded consecutively or comparatively, there are few Christians aware of any contradictions. Where formerly Bible students seriously studied the harmony of the Gospels, they now are asked to study their disharmony. Where formerly the fourfold portrait of our Saviour was admired for its manifold revelation of His character and mission, today we are asked to sit in judgment on the artists and express a preference as to which painted the earlier, and which painted from life or from mere hearsay and tradition. So before we try to answer these critics let us look at the records once more, without coloured spectacles.
That was the extraordinary experience of L. P. Jacks, the distinguished scholar and editor of The Hibbert Journal. He records it in The Confessions of an Octogenarian (London, 1942), from which we will quote his own words: "I was well over fifty years of age when I discovered the New Testament." He was a Greek scholar, had taken complete theological courses, and "had read widely in the literature of the Higher Criticism and knew the work of Harnack well." He was also a Unitarian preacher of note. Then there came a time
"when [he says] I resolved to read, without spectacles of one tint or another and not in fragments, the whole New Testament." [The result of this study for some years brought him to a remarkable conclusion:] "The whole of the New Testament seemed to me covered, explained and held together by the saying 'If Christ be not risen from the dead, then is our preaching vain.' Christ, the vanquisher of death, the donor of immortality in virtue of His Resurrection, and proved the Son of God by that, and by nothing short of that, is the first form in which the Central Figure appears in the New Testament, chronologically earlier than that in the Gospels, not one
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of which was in existence when the Epistles, which show no knowledge of the Gospel story, were written. . . . Eliminate the Resurrection from the dead and you deprive the Gospels, one and all, of their motif and unifying purpose. They would then cease to be Gospels and become collections of more or less edifying matter for which it would be hard to find a specific name. Lofty ethics? Deeds of beneficence? Noble words and gestures? Yes, of course. But the ethics, deeds, words and gestures of an Immortal. What else would you expect from one who rose from the dead? All is in keeping." 1 The New Testament contains the records not only of four well-known witnesses, but also of the fifth, Paul, for he was the earliest to record his witness and the greatest of the apostles in his ministry. You may read those records for yourselves, but read them without coloured spectacles.
Those who find serious discrepancy in these five accounts of the Resurrection state (as we have noted) that according to John 20:26 the apostles remained eight days in Jerusalem, where they met in seclusion for fear of the Jews; while Matthew (28:16) and Mark (16:7) represent the apostles as leaving for Galilee immediately after the Resurrection. This, however, is not a necessary inference, as we are nowhere told exactly when they started for Galilee. A keen student of Scripture has pointed out that if the gathering of the "five hundred brethren at once" to which Paul refers took place in Galilee (I Cor. 15:6), it would have been dangerous to arrange so large a gathering near or in Jerusalem. Christ planned this meeting even before His Crucifixion. Did He not also appoint a time as well as a place? Let us note the words of this writer: