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   Chapter 18 THAT THE FAILURE OF OTHER EXPLANATIONS INCREASES THIS PROBABILITY.

The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 38349

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The first witnesses of the Resurrection. The value of all testimony depends on four questions about the witnesses, and here the denial of each corresponds to the four chief alternative theories.

(A.) The Falsehood Theory.

This would be to deny their veracity, and say that they did not speak the truth, as far as they knew it. But it is disproved by their motives, their conduct, and their sufferings.

(B.) The Legend Theory.

This would be to deny their knowledge, and say that they had not the means of knowing the truth. But amply sufficient means were within their reach, and they were quite competent to use them.

(C.) The Vision Theory.

This would be to deny their investigation, and say that they were too excited to avail themselves of these means. But this theory has immense difficulties.

(1.) Arguments in its favour.

(2.) Arguments against it.

(3.) Its failure to account for the facts.

(4.) The theory of real visions.

(D.) The Swoon Theory.

This would be to deny their reasoning, and say that they did not draw the right conclusion, since Christ's appearances were due to His not having died. But this theory also has immense difficulties.

(E.) Conclusion.

The alleged difficulties of the Christian Theory, extremely strong argument in favour of the Resurrection.

We decided in the last chapter that the Resurrection of Christ was probably true; that is to say, we carefully examined the various narratives, and came to the conclusion that they had every appearance of being candidly and truthfully written. We have now to consider, more in detail, the testimony of its first witnesses. And, as we shall see, this affords strong additional evidence in its favour; since all attempts to account for this testimony, without admitting its truth, fail hopelessly.

By the first witnesses, we mean those persons who saw, or said they saw, Christ alive after His Crucifixion. This will include the twelve Apostles, and over 500 other Christians, most of whom St. Paul says were still alive when he wrote. It will also include two persons, who at the time were not Christians,-St. Paul himself, an avowed enemy, and St. James who, though he was Christ's brother, does not seem to have believed in Him.[312]

[312] John 7. 5.

And before discussing the value of their testimony, it may be well to glance at some general rules in regard to all testimony. If, then, a person plainly asserts that a certain event took place, before we believe that it did take place, we must inquire first as to his Veracity: did he speak the truth as far as he knew it? Next as to his Knowledge: had he the means of knowing the truth? Next as to his Investigation: did he avail himself of those means? And lastly, as to his Reasoning: did he draw the right conclusion? And all possible ways of denying the truth of a man's statement can be brought under one or other of these heads. For if it is not true, it must be either:-

Intentionally false = want of Veracity.

or

Unintentionally false,

in which case he either had not the means of knowing the truth = want of Knowledge.

or

had the means, and either did not use them = want of Investigation.

or

used them wrongly = want of Reasoning.

From this it is clear that for anyone to deny a man's statement, without disputing either his veracity, knowledge, investigation, or reasoning, is very like denying that one angle is greater than another, without disputing that it is neither equal to it, nor less than it. We have now to apply these general rules to the testimony in favour of the Resurrection of Christ. And, as we shall see, the denial of these four points corresponds to the four chief alternative theories, which, may be called the Falsehood, the Legend, the Vision, and the Swoon Theory.

(A.) The Falsehood Theory.

We will begin with the Falsehood Theory. This would be to deny the veracity of the witnesses, and say that though they asserted that Christ rose from the dead, and appeared to them, they did not really believe it. In other words they were deliberate impostors, who, knowing that their Master did not rise from the dead, yet spent their whole lives in trying to persuade people that He did. And, as we shall see, their motives, their conduct, and their sufferings, are all strongly opposed to such a theory.

And first as to their motives, had they any interest in asserting that Christ rose from the dead unless they really believed it? Clearly they had not, for they were so few or so faint-hearted that they could not prevent their Master being crucified. What chance was there then of persuading the world that He had risen from the dead, and why should they have embarked on such a hopeless scheme? Nothing indeed but the most firm conviction of their Lord's Resurrection, and therefore of supernatural assistance, would ever have induced men to have ventured on it. If they believed the Resurrection to be true, then, and only then, would they have had any motive whatever for preaching it.

Next as to their conduct, did this show that they really believed what they preached? And here also the evidence is overwhelming. When their Master was crucified His followers were naturally filled with gloom and despair; but in a few days this was changed to intense joy and confidence. They preached the Resurrection in the very place where He was crucified, and boldly went forth to convert the world in His name. It is clear that before such a marvellous change could take place they must at least have thought they had, what St. Luke asserts they actually did have, many proofs of the Resurrection.[313] To them, at all events, the evidence must have seemed conclusive, or Christianity would have perished on Calvary.

[313] Acts 1. 3.

Lastly as to their sufferings. This is the most important point, since voluntary suffering in any form, but especially in its extreme form of martyrdom, seems conclusive as to a man's veracity. Persons do not suffer for what they believe to be false; they must have believed it to be true, though this does not of course prove that it actually was true. And here is the answer to the common objection, that since all religions have had their martyrs, this kind of evidence proves nothing. On the contrary, it does prove something, though it does not prove everything. It does not prove that what the man died for was true, but it does prove that he believed it to be true. It is therefore a conclusive test as to his veracity.

What evidence have we, then, that the first witnesses suffered for the truth of what they preached? And once more the evidence is complete and overwhelming, both from the Acts and St. Paul's Epistles. We need only refer to these latter, as their genuineness is undisputed. St. Paul then, in one place, gives a list of the actual sufferings he had undergone; he alludes to them in numerous other places, and often as if they were the common experience of all Christians at the time; and in one passage he expressly includes the other Apostles with himself in the long list of sufferings he describes. While he elsewhere declares that at a still earlier time, before his conversion, he himself persecuted the Christians beyond measure.[314]

[314] 2 Cor. 11. 24-27; Rom. 8. 35; 1 Cor. 4. 9-13; Gal. 1. 13.

There can thus be no doubt as to the continual sufferings of the first witnesses, and, as just said, it is a decisive proof of their veracity. We conclude therefore that when they asserted that Christ rose from the dead, they were asserting what they honestly believed whether rightly or wrongly, to be true. And as this belief was due, simply to the witnesses believing that they saw Christ alive after His death; we must further conclude that they honestly believed in the appearances of Christ as recorded by themselves, and their friends, in the New Testament. In other words, these accounts are not intentionally false.

So much for the veracity of the witnesses. It is not, as a rule, denied by modern opponents of the Resurrection; but in early times, when men ought to have known best, it was evidently thought to be the only alternative. St. Paul declares emphatically that unless Christ had risen, he and the other Apostles were false witnesses, in plain words liars.[315] That was the only choice. They were either saying what they knew to be true, or what they knew to be false. And the idea of there being some mistake about it, due to visions, or swoons, or anything else, never seems to have occurred to anyone.

[315] 1 Cor. 15. 15.

(B.) The Legend Theory.

We pass on now to the Legend Theory. This would be to deny the knowledge of the witnesses: and say that our Gospels are not genuine, but merely record subsequent legends; so we cannot tell whether the first witnesses had, or had not, the means of knowing the truth. But if we admit the genuineness of our Gospels, and the veracity of their writers (both of which have been admitted), the Legend Theory is out of the question.

They asserted, it will be remembered, that Christ's Body, not His Spirit, appeared to them, after the crucifixion; and from their own accounts it is clear that they had ample means of finding out if this was true. Whether they used these means, and actually did find out, is, of course, another question; but as to sufficient means being available, and their being quite competent to use them if they liked, there can be no doubt whatever. As has been well said, it was not one person who saw Him, but many; they saw Him not only separately, but together; not only for a moment, but for a long time; not only by night, but by day; not only at a distance, but near; not only once, but several times. And they not only saw Him, but they touched Him, walked with Him, conversed with Him, ate with Him, and examined His Body to satisfy their doubts. In fact, according to their own accounts, Christ seems to have convinced them in every way in which conviction was possible that He had really risen from the dead.

And even apart from our Gospels, the Legend Theory is still untenable. For St. Paul mentions several of the appearances, and as this was within a few years of the events, there was no time for the growth of legends. Moreover he heard of them direct from those who saw them, St. Peter, St. James, etc., so he must have known the circumstances under which they occurred, and, being an educated man, is not likely to have been taken in by any imposture. While his saying that some of the five hundred had died, though most of them were still alive when he wrote, implies that he had also made some enquiries about that appearance. His testimony is thus very valuable from every point of view, and absolutely fatal to the Legend Theory.

(C.) The Vision Theory.

We now come to the Vision Theory. This would be to deny the investigation of the witnesses; and say that they were so excited, or so enthusiastic, or perhaps so stupid, that they did not avail themselves of the ample means they had of finding out the truth. In other words they so expected their Lord to appear to them after His death, and kept so dwelling on the thought of Him, as though unseen, yet perhaps very near to them, that after a time they fancied they actually saw Him, and that He had risen from the dead. The wish was, in fact, father to the thought; so that when a supposed appearance took place, they were so filled with joy at their Master's presence, that they neglected to ascertain whether the appearance they saw was real, or only due to their own fancy.

Such is the theory; though it is often modified in regard to particular appearances, by ascribing them to dreams, or to someone being mistaken for Christ. And as it is at present the favourite one with those who reject the Resurrection, we must examine it carefully; first considering the arguments in its favour, then those against it, then its failure to account for the facts recorded, and lastly what is known as the theory of real visions.

(1.) Arguments in its favour.

Now we must at once admit that it is possible for an honest man to mistake a phantom of his own brain, arising from some diseased state of the mind or body, for a reality in the outer world. Such subjective visions, as they are called, are by no means unheard of, though they are not common. And of course the great, if not the only argument in its favour is that it professes to account for the alleged Resurrection, without on the one hand admitting its truth, or on the other that the witnesses were deliberate impostors. Here, it is urged, is a way of avoiding both difficulties, by allowing that the witnesses honestly believed all they said, only they were mistaken in supposing the appearances to be real, when they were merely due to their own imagination. And undoubtedly the fact that men have often thought they saw ghosts, visions, etc., when there was really nothing to see, gives it some support.

(2.) Arguments against it.

Let us now consider how this Vision Theory would suit the accounts of the Resurrection written by the witnesses themselves, and their friends. As will be seen, we might almost imagine that they had been written on purpose to contradict it.

To begin with, the writers were not unacquainted with visions, and occasionally record them as happening to themselves or others. But then they always use suitable expressions, such as falling into a trance.[316] No such language is used in the Gospels to describe the appearances of Christ, which are always recorded as if they were actual matters of fact. While as to St. Paul, he never confuses the revelations and visions, which he sometimes had, with the one great appearance of Christ to him near Damascus, which qualified him to be an Apostle.[317]

[316] E.g., Acts 10. 10; 9. 10; 16. 9.

[317] 1 Cor. 9. 1; 15. 8; Gal. 1. 16-17.

Secondly, the appearances did not take place (as visions might have been expected to do, and generally did)[318] when the disciples were engaged in prayer, or in worship. But it was during their ordinary everyday occupations; when for instance they were going for a walk, or sitting at supper, or out fishing. And they were often simple, plain, and almost trivial in their character, very different from what enthusiasts would have imagined.

[318] E.g., Acts 10. 30; 11. 5; 22. 17.

Thirdly, subjective visions due to enthusiasm, would not have started so soon after the Crucifixion as the third day. It would have required a much longer time for the disciples to have got over their utter confusion, and to have realised (perhaps by studying the old prophecies) that this humiliation was, after all, part of God's scheme, and was to be followed by a Resurrection. Nor again would such visions have only lasted for a short time; yet with the single exception of that to St. Paul, they were all over in a few weeks, though the enthusiasm of the witnesses lasted through life.

Fourthly, it is plain from all the accounts that the Apostles did not expect the Resurrection, and were much surprised at it, though they afterwards remembered that Christ had foretold it. This is shown, not only by the Christians bringing spices, to embalm the Body, and persons do not embalm a body unless they expect it to remain in the grave; but also by the account of the appearances themselves. For with the exception of the two farewell meetings (and possibly that to the two Marys), Christ's appearance was wholly unexpected. No one was looking for it, no one was anticipating it. When for instance Mary Magdalene found the tomb empty, it never even occurred to her that He had come to life again, she merely thought the Body had been removed.

Fifthly, and this is very remarkable, when Christ did appear, He was often not recognised. This was the case with Mary Magdalene, with Cleopas and his companion, and with the disciples at Tiberias. But it is plain that, if they so hoped to see their risen Master, that they eventually fancied they did see Him, they would at once have recognised Him; and their not doing so is quite inconsistent with the Vision Theory.

Sixthly, we are repeatedly told that at first some of the disciples disbelieved or doubted the Resurrection.[319] This is an important point, since it shows that opinions were divided on the subject, and therefore makes it almost certain that they would have used what means they had of finding out the truth. And a visit to the grave would have shown them at once whether the Body was there, or not: and they are not likely to have preached the Resurrection, without first ascertaining the point. Moreover, some of them remained doubtful even after the others were persuaded, St. Thomas in particular requiring the most convincing proof. His state of mind was certainly not that of an enthusiast, since, instead of being so convinced of the Resurrection as to have imagined it, he could with great difficulty be got to believe it. Indeed, according to these accounts, scarcely one of the witnesses believed the Resurrection till the belief was almost forced on him.

[319] Matt. 28. 17; Mark 16. 11-14; Luke 24. 11, 37; John 20. 25.

Seventhly, subjective visions do not occur to different persons simultaneously. A man's private illusions (like his dreams) are his own. A number of men do not simultaneously dream the same dream, still less do they simultaneously see the same subjective vision-at least a vision like that here referred to, of a person moving about among them, and speaking to them. This is quite different from Constantine's army thinking that they saw a luminous cross in the sky, or a body of Spanish troops that they saw their patron (St. James) riding at their head, or anything of that kind; several instances of which are known. But a subjective vision, at all resembling what is described in the Gospels, is extremely rare. It may perhaps happen to one person in ten thousand once in his life. It is difficult to believe that even two persons should have such an experience at the same time, while the idea that a dozen or more men should simultaneously see such a subjective vision is out of the question. And the Gospels, it may be added, always imply that Christ was visible to all present (though some of them doubted as to His identity), which was not, as a rule, the case in other alleged visions.

Eighthly, how are we to account for visionary conversations? Yet these occurred on every occasion. Christ never merely appeared, and then vanished. He always spoke, and often for a considerable time, giving detailed instructions; and can we imagine anyone believing a mere vision to have done all this? Is it possible, for instance, for St. Thomas to have believed that Christ conversed with him, and for the other Apostles, who were all present, to have believed it too, if the whole affair was only a vision? Indeed, conversations in the presence of others seem peculiarly hard to explain as visions, yet they are mentioned more than once.

For all these reasons then-because the appearances are not described in suitable language, did not occur on suitable

occasions, began and ended too soon, were not expected, were not recognised, were not believed, occurred simultaneously, and always included conversations as well-the Vision Theory is to say the least extremely improbable.

(3.) Its failure to account for the facts.

But this is not all; the Theory is not only improbable, it does not account for the actual facts recorded-facts concerning which, unless the writings are intentionally false, there could be no doubt whatever. A vision, for instance, could not have rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb, yet this is vouched for by every Evangelist. Again, persons could not have honestly believed that they went to the tomb, and found it empty, if the Body was there all the time. And this also is vouched for by every Evangelist. Nor could they have thought that they touched their Master, i.e., took hold of His feet, if He existed only in their imagination; for the attempt to touch Him would at once have shown them their mistake.[320] Nor could they have seen Him eat food, for a vision, like a dream, would not explain the disappearance of the food. Nor again could a mere vision take bread, and on another occasion bread and fish, and give it them to eat.[321] In regard to all these particulars, then, the Vision Theory is hopelessly untenable.

[320] Matt. 28. 9.

[321] Luke 24. 30, 43; John 21. 13; Acts 10. 41.

There is also the great difficulty as to what became of the dead Body of Christ. For if it was still in the grave, the Jews would have produced it, rather than invent the story about its being stolen; and if it was not in the grave, its removal could not have been due to visions. With regard to this story it may be noticed that St. Matthew says it was spread abroad among the Jews; and Justin Martyr, himself a native of Palestine, also alludes to it. For he says that the Jews sent men all over the world to proclaim that the disciples stole the Body at night;[322] so there can be no doubt that some such story existed.

[322] Matt. 28. 15; Justin, Dial., 108.

But its weakness is self-evident. For if the soldiers (who were probably posted on the Saturday evening, and thus not known to the women) were, as they said, asleep at the time, how could they tell whether the disciples had stolen the Body, or whether Christ had come forth of His own accord? Moreover that Roman soldiers, with their strict discipline, who were put there on purpose to keep the Body, should really have gone to sleep, and allowed it to be stolen, is most improbable. And though it seems unlikely that they could have been bribed to say they were asleep, if they were not, as it was a capital offence; we must remember that they were already liable to death; since they had left the tomb, and the Body was gone. So whether they were asleep, or awake, at the time mattered little. And in any case, the fact of their having left it (which is plain from all the accounts) shows that something very extraordinary must have happened.

All, then, that the story proves is this (but this it does prove unquestionably), that though the Body was guarded, yet when it was wanted it was gone, and could not be found. And this is a strong argument not only against the Vision Theory, but against every theory except the Christian one. For when the Resurrection was first announced, the most obvious and decisive answer would have been for the Jews to have produced the dead Body; and their not doing this strongly supports the Christian account. Indeed, the empty tomb, together with the failure of all attempts to account for it, was doubtless one of the reasons why the Apostles gained so many converts the first day they preached the Resurrection.[323]

[323] Acts 2. 41.

Lastly, we must remember that this gaining of converts, i.e., the founding of Christianity, is, after all, the great fact that has to be explained. And even if the Vision Theory could account for the Apostles themselves believing that they had seen Christ, it would not account for their being able to convince others of this belief, especially if the Body was still in the tomb. For a mere vision, like a ghost story, would begin and end in nothing; and if the Resurrection also began in nothing, how are we to account for its ending in so much?

Summing up these arguments, then, we conclude that the Vision Theory is most improbable in any case; and can only be accepted at all by admitting that nearly the whole of our accounts are not only untrue, but intentionally so. But then it is quite needless. Its object was to explain the alleged Resurrection without disputing the veracity of the writers, and this it is quite unable to do. In short, if the writers honestly believed the accounts as we have them, or indeed any other accounts at all resembling them, the Vision Theory is out of the question.

It does not even account satisfactorily for the one appearance, that to St. Paul, which it might be thought capable of explaining. For his companions as well as himself saw the Light and (apparently) heard the Voice, though not the actual words.[324] And how could a subjective vision of St. Paul have thus affected all his companions? Moreover physical blindness does not result from such a vision, and to say that in his case the wish was father to the thought, and that his expectation and hope of seeing Christ eventually made him think that he did see Him, is absurd. For even when he did see Him, he did not recognise Him; but had to ask Who art Thou, Lord? Here then was the case of an avowed enemy, and a man of great intellectual power, who was converted, and that against his will, solely by the appearance of Christ. And as he had access to all existing evidence on both sides, and had everything to lose and nothing to gain from the change, his conversion alone is a strong argument in favour of the Resurrection, more especially as the fact itself is beyond dispute.

[324] Acts 9. 7; 22. 9; 26. 13, 14.

(4.) The Theory of real visions.

Before passing on, we must just glance at a modification of the Vision Theory, that has been suggested in recent years; which is that the Apostles saw real visions, miraculously sent by God, to persuade them to go on preaching the Gospel. And no doubt this theory avoids many of the difficulties of the ordinary Vision Theory, especially in regard to the appearances beginning so soon as the third day, their not being expected, and their occurring simultaneously. But it has even greater difficulties of its own. For it admits the supernatural, and yet these divinely sent visions were such as to mislead the Apostles, and to make them think that Christ's Body had risen from the grave, and saw no corruption, when in reality it was still decaying in the tomb.

And this alone is fatal to the theory. For if God gave a supernatural vision, it would certainly be to convince men of what was true, not of what was false. And even a real miracle is easier to believe, than that God should found His Church on a false one. Moreover supernatural visions are just as unable as natural ones to account for the facts recorded, such as the rolling away of the stone, the empty tomb, the holding of Christ by His feet, or the disappearance of the food. While the great difficulty as to what became of the dead Body, applies to this as much as to the ordinary Vision Theory.

(D.) The Swoon Theory.

Lastly we come to the Swoon Theory. This would be to deny the reasoning of the witnesses; and say that though they saw Christ alive after His Crucifixion, they did not draw the right conclusion in thinking that He had risen from the dead, since as a matter of fact He had never died, but had only fainted on the Cross.

And in support of this, it is urged that death after crucifixion did not generally occur so quickly, since Pilate marvelled if He were already dead; and that He might easily have been mistaken for dead, as no accurate tests were known in those days. While the blood coming out of His side is also appealed to, because blood does not flow from a dead body. Moreover, as He was then placed in a cool rock cave, with aromatic spices, He would probably recover consciousness; when He would come forth and visit His friends, and ask for something to eat: which is what He did according to St. Luke. And they, superstitious men, looking upon their Master as in some sense Divine, and perhaps half expecting the Resurrection, would at once conclude that He had risen from the dead; especially if they had already heard that the tomb was empty.

And the chief argument in favour of the theory is, of course, the same as that in favour of the Vision Theory. It professes to account for the recorded appearances, without admitting either the truth of the Resurrection, or deliberate falsehood on the part of the witnesses; who, according to this theory, were themselves mistaken in thinking that Christ had risen from the dead, when in reality He had never died. They could not therefore have helped in restoring Him; He must have recovered by Himself. This is essential to the theory; so it is quite unlike a case recorded by Josephus, where a man who had been crucified, and taken down alive, was gradually restored by a doctor.[325]

[325] Josephus, Life, 75.

How then would this theory suit the facts of the case? While admitting its possibility, it is hard to find words to express its great improbability. It has immense difficulties, many of them peculiarly its own. And first as to Christ Himself. He must have been extremely exhausted after all the ill-treatment He had received, yet He is supposed not only to have recovered consciousness, but to have come out of the tomb by Himself, rolling away the large stone. And then, instead of creeping about weak and ill, and requiring nursing and medical treatment, He must have walked over twelve miles-and this with pierced feet[326]-to Emmaus and back. And the same evening He must have appeared to His disciples so completely recovered that they, instead of looking upon Him as still half-dead, thought that He had conquered death, and was indeed the Prince of Life. All this implies such a rapid recovery as is quite incredible.

[326] The feet being pierced is often disputed, but St. Luke (who probably knew more about crucifixion than we do) evidently thought they were; for he records Christ as saying, See my hands and my feet that it is I myself, which implies that His hands and feet would identify Him.

Next as to the piercing of His side with a spear.[327] This is recorded by an eye-witness, and would doubtless of itself have caused death, though St. John's statement that He was dead already seems the more probable. Nor did the blood coming out, in any way, disprove this. For blood (as long as it remains liquid) will of course flow out downwards from any body, just as other liquids would do. Only when a person is alive, the action of the heart will make it flow out upwards as well.

[327] John 19. 34.

Again, it is most unlikely that so many persons, both friends and foes, should have mistaken Christ for dead. Yet according to this theory the soldiers entrusted with the execution, who must have had a good deal of experience in such matters; the centurion, who was sent for by Pilate on purpose to ascertain this very point; the Christians, who took down the Body and wrapped it in linen cloths; and the Jews, who are not likely to have left their Victim without making sure of the fact, must all have honestly believed that Christ was dead when He was not. Moreover, the tomb was carefully guarded by His enemies for the express purpose of securing the Body. How then did they let it escape? If they were not asleep at the time, they must either have done this willingly, because they were bribed; or unwillingly, because they could not help it, being overcome by some supernatural Power; and either alternative is fatal to the Swoon Theory.

This theory also requires not only that the Apostles should have been mistaken in thinking that Christ had risen from the dead, but that Christ Himself should have countenanced the mistake; or He would have explained the truth to His disciples. He is thus made to be a deceiver instead of His Apostles, which all will admit to be most improbable.

And then, what became of Him afterwards? If He died again within a few weeks, His disciples could scarcely have thought Him the Prince of Life, who had the keys of Death and of Hades;[328] and if He continued to live, where did He go to? Moreover He must have died again at some time, and His real tomb is sure to have been much venerated by His followers; and it would have prevented any belief in the Ascension. Yet as said before (Chapter XV.), this seems to have formed a part of Christian instruction from the very first.

[328] Acts 3. 15; Rev. 1. 18.

But perhaps the chief argument against this theory is that it does not account for many of the actual facts recorded; such as Christ passing through closed doors, His vanishing at pleasure, and His Ascension. These details present no difficulty on the Vision Theory, nor on that of deliberate falsehood; but they are inconsistent with the present one. And though it accounts to some extent for the empty tomb; it does not account for the angels being there, announcing the Resurrection.

Nor does it account for the grave-clothes being so carefully left behind. For if Christ had come out of the tomb by Himself, He could scarcely have left His clothes behind; not to mention the difficulty of taking them off, caused by the adhesive myrrh, which would have stuck them together, and to the Body. These grave-clothes are thus fatal to this, as to every other theory, except the Christian one; yet it was a simple matter of fact, as to which there could be no possible mistake. Either the clothes were there, or else the persons who said they saw them were telling a falsehood. Moreover, in any case Christ could not have walked to Emmaus and back, or appeared to the Apostles, or to anyone else, in His grave-clothes, so He must have obtained some others, and how did He get them? His enemies are not likely to have supplied them, and if His friends did, they must have been aware of the fraud.

On the whole then, we decide that the Swoon Theory, like the Vision Theory, is very improbable in any case, and only tenable at all by supposing a large part of our narratives to be intentionally false. But then it is quite needless.

(E.) Conclusion.

Before concluding this chapter a few remarks may be made on the alleged difficulties of the Christian theory. There are only two of any importance. The first is that the Resurrection would be a miracle, and probably nine out of ten men who disbelieve it, do so for this reason. It is not that the evidence for it is insufficient (they have perhaps never examined it) but that no conceivable evidence would be sufficient to establish such an event. Miracles, they say, are incredible, they cannot happen, and that settles the point; for it is of course easier to believe any explanation, visions, swoons, or anything else, than the occurrence of that which cannot happen.

But we have already admitted, in Chapter VII., that miracles are not incredible. And though no doubt, under ordinary circumstances, a dead man coming to life again would be so extremely improbable as to be practically incredible; yet these were not ordinary circumstances, and Christ was not an ordinary man. On the contrary, as we shall see, He was an absolutely unique Man, claiming moreover to be Divine, and having a mass of powerful evidence both from His own Character, from previous Prophecies, and from subsequent History, to support His claims. Therefore that He should rise from the dead, as a proof that these claims were well-founded, does not seem so very improbable after all.

The other difficulty refers to Christ's not appearing publicly to the Jews. Why, it is asked, did He only appear to His own disciples? Surely this is very suspicious. If He really did rise from the dead, and wished the world to believe it, why did He not settle the point by going publicly into Jerusalem?

But we cannot feel sure that this would have settled the point. No doubt the Jews who saw Him would have been convinced, but the nation as a whole might, or might not, have accepted Christianity. If they did not, saying for instance it was due to a pretender, it would have been worse than useless. While if they did, the Romans would very likely have looked upon it as a national insurrection, and its progress would have been more than ever difficult. It would also have greatly weakened the force of Prophecy; since, in the absence of ancient manuscripts, people might think that the old Jewish prophecies had been tampered with, to make them suit their Christian interpretation. But now these prophecies, having been preserved by men who are opposed to Christianity, are above suspicion.

Moreover, to get the world to believe in the Resurrection required not only evidence, but missionaries, that is to say, men who were so absolutely convinced of its truth, as to be willing to spend their whole lives in witnessing for it, in all lands and at all costs. And the chief object of the appearances may have been to produce such men; and it is obvious that (apart from a miraculous conversion like St. Paul's) there could not have been more than a few of them.

For only a few could have conversed with Christ, and eaten with Him after His death, so as to be quite certain that He was then alive; only a few could have known Him so intimately before, as to be quite certain that it was really He, and only a few had loved Him so dearly as to be willing to give up everything for His sake. In short, there were only a few suitable witnesses available. And Christ's frequently appearing to these few-the chosen witnesses as they are called[329]-in the private and intimate manner recorded in the Gospels, was evidently more likely to turn them into ardent missionaries (which it actually did) than any public appearance. Indeed it so often happens that what everybody should do, nobody does; that it may be doubted whether Christ's publicly appearing to a number of persons in Jerusalem would have induced even one of them to have faced a life of suffering, and a death of martyrdom, in spreading the news. This objection, then, cannot be maintained.

[329] Acts 10. 41.

In conclusion, it seems scarcely necessary to sum up the arguments in this chapter. We have discussed at some length the veracity, knowledge, investigation, and reasoning of the first witnesses of the Resurrection; and as we have seen, not one of these points can be fairly doubted. In fact the evidence in favour of each is overwhelming. Therefore the alternative theories-the Falsehood, the Legend, the Vision, and the Swoon Theory-which are founded on denying these points, are all untenable. And this greatly supports the conclusion we arrived at in the last chapter; so that combining the two; we have an extremely strong argument in favour of the Resurrection of Christ.

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