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Resurrection of Jesus Christ

According to the New Testament, God raised Jesus Christ from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. This miraculous event, which is generally referred to as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is commemorated and celebrated by Christians each year at Easter.

Most Christians accept the New Testament account as an accurate historical account of an event that is central to their theology, although there is significant dissent.

For very many self-identifying Christians, the Resurrection is one of the foundational beliefs of Christianity: the belief that Jesus Christ died for the sins of humanity and was resurrected to live with God the Father is regarded by many as the cornerstone of Christianity. Saint Paul said that if the resurrection did not really happen, then Christians were to be pitied above all men (I Corinthians 15:19). Christians have lived and died the death of martyrs in hope of the resurrection, both in hope of Christ's resurrection in the past and in hope of their own in the future.

Non-Christians generally view the New Testament account of the resurrection of Jesus as fictional. Some people who call themselves Christians regard the resurrection as a myth; but since some Christians view belief in the resurrection as essential to Christianity itself, the latter would not regard the former as bona fide Christians. See Christianity.

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The Biblical account

Some New Testament references that describe this event are:

Acts 4:10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
1 Cor 6:14 And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
Gal 1:1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
1 Pet 1:21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God

Other Christian records

Some of the earliest records of the resurrection outside the New Testament are found in the writings of Ignatius (50 - 115), Polycarp (69 - 155) Justin Martyr (100 - 165), and Tertullian (160 - 220).

The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians -- 1:2 - 2:1, 12:2

The Letters of Ignatius...

  • ... to the Ephesians -- 20:1
  • ... to the Magnesians -- 11:1
  • ... to the Trallians -- 9:1-2 (one of the more detailed mentions of the historical events)
  • ... to the Romans -- 6:1
  • ... to the Philadelphians -- 8:2 - 9:2
  • ... to the Smyrnaeans -- 1:1 - 3:3 (another passage with slightly more historical details than the others)

The letter of the Romans to the Corinthians, probably written by Pope Clement I, also speaks of the resurrection at length.

Non-Christian records

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus is reputed to have written in 93 that Jesus "appeared to [the disciples] alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold". However, this is a highly controversial passage: see Josephus on Jesus for more information.

The historicity of the resurrection

As with all historical events which occurred beyond a few hundred years ago, the issue of historicity[?] is an important aspect of any person's belief in the actual occurrence of the event. In contrast with scientific phenomenon for which reproducibility and falsifiability is important, historical phenomena depend on different criteria, such as uniqueness of occurrence, plausibility of circumstances, and testimony of witnesses.

Some historians have questioned the historicity of the events related by the New Testament. One of the first to do so was Edward Gibbon (1737 - 1794). See The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for an extensive quote from that work in which Gibbon wonders why no contemporary historians noticed three hours of darkness in the middle of the Roman Empire. Other historians have explained this darkness as an eclipse local to the Jerusalem area.

Comparisons with other Resurrection stories

While the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the foundational beliefs of Christianity, accounts of other resurrections also figure in religion, myth, and fable.

Some Christians hold that the stories are significantly different and any similarities are superficial, and no special significance therefore need be attached to them. Other Christians would observe that while many believers in the various "mystery religions" in the first and second centuries of the Roman Empire freely borrowed from each other, Christianity was not founded by any of these, but by Jews. Paul of Tarsus, who created much of the New Testament, was himself a Jew, a Pharisee until his conversion on the road to Damascus, and had been trained by Gamaliel, one of the leading Jewish theologians of the time. In each town that Paul visited, he preached in the Jewish synagogues before preaching to the Gentiles or non-Jews. Thus, Christians think it unlikely that the resurrection story would be invented or borrowed in order to appeal to Gentiles. Jews point out that the story would have little appeal to Jews, however.

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