WHO MOVED





THE STONE?










Who Moved the Stone? By Frank Morison

Itís Easter. Christians all over the world are proclaiming today that Jesus is risen. Jesusí Resurrection founds Christianity. But how can we be convinced about an event which took place 2,000 years ago? And how can we expect to make major behavior modifications based on a human impossibility, coming back to life after three full days? Well, of course, we canít be eyewitnesses, but for anyone with the desire to do some research, more than years and years of study will not exhaust the available evidence relating to Jesusí Resurrection. Christianity is based on a humanly impossible premise, that dead people can come back to life. And that Christ was the firstfruits, is what they call it, the firstfruits of that Resurrection.

Jesus was called the firstfruits of the Resurrection. And from his time forward, people have been saved from the final death, just like Jesus. Thatís the topic today, the Resurrection. It has nothing to do with Easter.

Let me give you a few facts about Easter. The word ďEaster,Ē in the first place, comes down to us from a couple of different words from the ancient Middle East, Babylon, Egypt, and so forth. Ashtart is one of them. Ishtar is another one, and Ashtaroth is a third one. You notice how close these sound to ďEaster.Ē These were the names given to the wife of Nimrod in the Bible. Her name was Semiramis, and Nimrod started the pagan belief system, he died, and Semiramis, his wife, filled it out and perpetuated it. And many of the things about the pagan belief system were grafted into the Christian belief system in Rome, at the Roman church. Iíve done a lot of shows on Christmas. Christmas doesnít have anything to do with Christ; itís all about Tammuz. Tammuz was Semiramisí son. The 40 days of Lent that everybody celebrates in the Roman Catholic frame, that 40 days is the 40-day mourning period for Tammuz, when he died early. We have these fertility symbols that hang around with Easter: eggs, bunny rabbits; itís all fertility stuff. The Easter sunrise service; thatís a pagan sunrise service. Sun worship is what it is. Easter has nothing to do with Christ. Passover does, but not Easter. Easter is a grafted-on pagan festival.

Okay, now some facts about the Resurrection. When one takes the time to research, many historical facts can be found regarding Jesusí ministry and his crucifixion and the four years that followed, and not a single fact is going to provide convincing evidence as to the Resurrection. Any one of these facts canít evoke much more than a ďso what?Ē But when you take them as a body, the facts are startling. As mundane as it might sound, just the fact of the growth of Jerusalem Christianity has far-reaching ramifications, as does the historical fact that the tomb was empty. See, we hear almost nothing in Christianity about the tomb being empty. Itís just a throwaway, something that people just throw in sometimes. But itís one of the most important facts that founds the Resurrection study. Nobody, absolutely nobody, ever said that the tomb wasnít empty. Itís such a given fact that almost no attention has been paid to it. And thatís mainly what weíre going to look at today, the fact that the tomb was empty, and some of the things surrounding that.

Hereís some of the important facts, out of many, many, that make the case a mystery. Number one, in a matter of months, there were thousands of converts, three thousand in one day. The very first day, when Peter stood up and preached on Pentecost, three thousand people were converted. Have you talked to anybody about Y2K lately? Itís almost impossible to convert people to a belief system that entails a change of lifestyle. You just canít do that. And here, in a matter of months, thousands of converts.

Another fact, of course, is that Jesus died. He did die. And, as we said, the tomb was empty. Fact number three, the tomb was empty. Nobody ever disputed the fact that the tomb was empty.

Now, another fact that enters into this is what the message was. After the crucifixion, what was the message that was preached by the apostles and the disciples? Well, that Jesus rose from the dead; thatís one thing. And that He ascended into heaven. And, maybe, as a sidelight, that the tomb was empty. But they preached those three things: the empty tomb, that He ascended into heaven, and that He was raised from the dead. And you know, the fifth fact is that the apostles never Ė we can find no record of any of the apostles or disciples repudiating their claim. Nobody said, ďOh, well, I guess I made a mistake.Ē Thousands went to the lions in the Roman circus, peacefully, some joyfully. How do you do that for a lie? How do you do that for something that you donít believe so strongly in? Some belief that youíre willing to die for. And the apostles, as I said, many more Ė this is a separate fact Ė not only didnít they repudiate their claims, but many of them died for it; they were murdered.

And the last fact I want to mention, fact number seven ó maybe the most important fact out of all the evidence, and thatís Paulís conversion. Weíll get into Paulís conversion pretty heavily. The champion on one side of the issue becomes the champion on the other side of the issue, a complete 180. And not just an acquiescence, a virile, vigorous, offensive campaign for either side. Listen, this just couldnít have happened. Itís impossible, the Resurrection. Come on! But it did. And you donít think that I know how this sounds? People being raised from the dead after three days? And youíre not going to be even close to being convinced when Iím through here.

I do want you to be convinced that I believe it. I want you to understand that so large a body of evidence exists as to found the conversion of thousands, of millions, of people. See, the Resurrection isnít a feeling; itís a fact. And anyone who understands the responsibilities of Christianity will want proof of its veracity before adopting a belief system and putting into practice its teachings. When you adopt Christianity, you release hold on not only the world around you, but your very own life. You renounce all claim, first claim Ė let me put it that way Ė to the things of your own life. Nothing is yours any more. First. Thereís one thing that comes first, and if youíre not willing to renounce everything, including your own life, in favor of that first thing, then youíre not being a Christian. People who take up that sort of a lifestyle donít do so by whim. They must have overwhelming evidence. Youíve got to have evidence to provide the courage to accomplish your own suicide! You know, and that evidence isnít found on Christian TV!

In 1920, an English journalist researched the material about Christís Resurrection. And in 1930 Frank Morison published Who Moved the Stone. I have the book here, and Iím going to read a lot out of it today. Hereís what the cover says: ďI want to take this last phase of Jesusí life with all its quick and pulsating drama, its sharp, clear-cut background of antiquity, and its tremendous psychological and human interest, to strip it of its overgrowth and primitive beliefs and dogmatic suppositions, and to see the supremely great person as he really was.Ē Thatís what Frank Morison said. The editor puts this in: ďSuch was English journalist Frank Morisonís drive to learn of Christ. The strangeness of the Resurrection story had captured his attention, and, influenced by skeptic thinkers at the turn of the century, he set out to prove that the story of Christís Resurrection was only a myth. His probing, however, led him to discover the validity of the biblical record in a moving and personal way.Ē Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone.

So I put together a little overview out of the material of the book. And mainly Mr. Morison has dealt with the many ramifications of the empty tomb. Itís a pivotal historical fact, way more important than it first appears.

Okay, letís go through the book here. Mark now how the probable course of events, so long as the belief that Jesus had risen was nursed in private, declared and encountered only to intimates behind closed doors, the external situation in Jerusalem might have remained unchanged. But the moment the claim of the disciples was seriously and publicly circulated, itís obvious that two things were inevitable. In the first place, a heated controversy was unavoidable between the partisans of the new movement and those who opposed it. I mean, they were out there preaching right in the temple, right? Against what was going on in the temple.

Secondly, however anxious the authorities might be to let the dangerous question of their policy against Jesus sleep, they could not ignore a campaign to preach their mortal guilt under their very noses and in the temple precincts. The events would be too strong for them. They would be compelled into some repressive action in self-defense. To have failed to have done so would have been to abrogate their position and to concur by silence. So they got out Saul!

Now, the question that we have to consider seriously is whether it is possible for all this widespread agitation and conflict of ideas involving, as it did, the definite claim that Jesus had risen, to have been conducted successfully, or indeed at all, in the actual and physical presence of the remains of Jesus. Oh, yeah, he died and raised from the dead. They canít do that when the body is close by. This is a concrete point to which we shall return repeatedly, for it is vital and quite fundamental to our understanding of the case. Itís impossible to read the records of the period without being profoundly impressed by the way in which, for friend and foe alike, the tomb of Jesus sinks into utter, undisturbed oblivion. No one in later years seems to have gone to Josephís garden looking for the rock-hewn cave and said, ďOh, this is the place where the Lord is buried.Ē

And the moment the women returned from the garden, the tomb of Jesus passed historically into complete oblivion. There is no trace of any controversy. The assumption that the tomb was empty seems to have been universal. The only controversy of which we have any record Ė and itís clearly a heated one Ė was on the vexed question as to whether the disciples had secretly removed the body. Now this is a very formidable fact. It suggests that something had already occurred to make the vacancy of the tomb common ground. And to place it high out of reach of dispute or argument.

History decrees that this controversy had to be fought out in Jerusalem where no real illusions could prevail, where anybody could go and see the tomb between supper and bedtime. And where the overwhelming body of official, authoritative and conclusive witnesses existed. And yet, it is in the center of solid and conservative realism that, according to Luke, no fewer than 3,000 converts were made in one day, increased shortly afterwards to 5,000.

Now thereís another aspect of this question that must not be overlooked; I mean how it was that the disciples themselves came to believe this astonishing thing. Some people say it was a hallucination, right, group hallucination. Well, somehow, the rugged fisherman Peter, and his brother Andrew; the characteristically doubting Thomas; the seasoned and not-too-sensitive tax gatherer, Matthew; the rather dull Philip, intensely loyal but a little slow to apprehension. They do not fit easily into the conditions required for an absolutely unshakeable collective hallucination. And the pivotal phrase there is ďabsolutely unshakeable,Ē see, because they were martyred, right? Unshakeable. If itís a hallucination, these guys donít fit. And if itís not both collective and unshakeable, itís no use to us. The terrors and the persecutions that these men ultimately had to face, and did face unflinchingly, did not admit to a half-hearted adhesion secretly honeycombed with doubt. The belief has to be unconditional and of adamantine strength to satisfy the conditions. Sooner or later, too, if the belief was to spread, it had to bite its way into the corporate consciousness by convincing argument and attempted proof. Within twenty years, the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish church and impressed itself upon every town in the eastern literal of the Mediterranean, from Caesarea to Troas. In less than fifty years it had begun to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire.

I do not think that we shall ever reach a full understanding of the Resurrection problem until we prepare to recognize that the story of the womenís adventure, as told in this very early narrative of Mark, is not only the true story in the sense that the women actually went, and that they fled on discovering another person in the tomb; but true also in a far deeper and more important sense that the place they visited really was the original grave of Christ. It says there that a young man was working. If the young man, whom they surmised at the tomb was a gardener, well, he was there to be questioned at any time. And to give the true version of what had taken place. It can hardly be contended that he could not remember encountering three agitated women at such an unusual hour bent on such an exceptional mission. I mean, they were bringing all these spices and stuff to the tomb, right? If he was a workman preparing a grave for an interment, then some Jewish citizen must actually have been buried in a mistaken tomb within a few hours. There was the young man himself to whom the appeal could be made. And there were the friends, the relatives, and the mourners of the deceased person, who had only too sorrowful an occasion to know that the latter was buried within a few yards of the notorious Nazarene. Can we imagine, with all this conclusive evidence available, that the personal enemies of the disciples Ė and there were many Ė would never have sought it out? Surely we cannot. And in that simple reply, it seems to me, lies the dismissal of the theory of the womenís mistake. See, thatís one of the theories.

Name any one of your pet theories about what happened with the empty tomb, and one of them is that the women got the wrong tomb. They were stricken by grief, and it was dark, and they made a mistake. But, you see, they met this guy at the tomb. And who was he? But whether they told their stories in the first seven minutes or at the end of the first few weeks, the result must have been the same. Think of those four years of persistent propaganda, the steadily deepening conviction, and the success of the story. I mean, the new converts were being made every day. Think of the weekly discussions and disputations in the synagogues. Think of the innumerable private controversies as to whether this Jesus was the Messiah or whether he was not. And think of the highly placed Sadducees who were prepared to go to almost any length to discredit and overthrow the cause. And think of the opposition suddenly being reinforced by the logical and relentless mind of Paul. You think of all these things, admittedly historic, and then reflect that the evidence that could have pricked the bubble was to be obtained for the asking by merely walking the distance no greater than 2,000 yards.

Think of another matter, too. What an impetus such inquiries would have given to that contemporary veneration of the real resting place of Jesus, of which we see and thereís no trace. Personally, I am convinced that no body of man or woman could persistently and successively have preached in Jerusalem a doctrine involving the vacancy of that tomb without the grave itself being physically vacant. The facts were too recent. The tomb was too close to that seething center of Oriental life. Not all the make-believe in the world could have purchased the utter silence of antiquity or given to the records their impressive unanimity. Only the truth itself in all its unavoidable simplicity could have achieved that.

There can be no doubt that when the disciples were at last convinced that the Lord had risen, the womenís testimony would have been produced in evidence. The identity of the young man would have been raised, and the whole question of the encounter at the tomb would have become a matter of public discussion. But as I read the situation, the events took a very different and formidable course. Before the sun had risen far in the eastern sky, a strange but very definite rumor began to circulate through the crowded streets and bazaars of the city. And it came not from irresponsible sources, but from members of the temple guard. The details were circumstantial, and the story was that the disciples had stolen the body of the Nazarene. The physical vacancy of the tomb itself was not enough. The moment we recognize this, we begin to get real light on the historical reasons for the suppression of the womenís story. The womenís experience was not used as evidence at any time period during the early Jewish-Christian controversy for two very simple but sufficient reasons. In the first place, it proved nothing that was not already conceded by the other side. The tomb was empty. Second, the story possessed grave weaknesses by admitting that certain members of the Christian party had actually been in the neighborhood of the tomb under conditions of some secrecy and at a suspiciously early hour in the morning in question. Oh, yeah, they were there; they stole the body.

Now that was precisely the situation regarding the followers of Jesus. They were being charged publicly with having abducted the body. It was a very difficult charge to refute, even if they had been free to come out into the open. But we have reasons for believing that they were hiding, meeting in clandestine fashion behind closed doors. Surprising though it may seem, this reluctance on the part of the early Christians to give prominence to the womenís testimony did unquestionably persist through the early Christian times. Itís impossible to read through the early chapters of Acts, with their very detailed accounts of the primitive preaching, without being impressed by the singular absence of the contention regarding the tomb. If it had been ever seriously doubted that the body was missing, the adventure of the women and what it implied must have been thrust by implacable force of events into the very foreground of the Christian dialectic. It would have overshadowed every other consideration. For until that was settled, nothing fundamental to the Christian thesis could be understood. But the disciples were obviously spared this interminable and fruitless wrangle. The facts were so well known, that the campaign they undertook could positively be conducted with greater success in Jerusalem where the abandoned tomb lay than at any other place in the world. It was this that enabled them to concentrate on the two vital contentions that ultimately rent Judaism asunder. That would be, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and that he had been raised by the direct hand of God. They could surely never have reached this advanced stage of the discussion so early if the physical vacancy of the tomb had not been a common ground.

I cannot and do not believe that the body of Jesus of Nazareth rested in Josephís garden during any part of that period that is contemporary with the rise of Christianity. If it could be shown that there was a single document of admittedly early date dealing with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus in which it was even remotely hinted that such was the case, I for one would attach to that hint very considerable weight. But the documents are adamant on this fundamental feature of that Easter dawn. If all the varied literature from that far-off time written under different skies by men of varying temperaments, possessed by obviously divergent theories of the true course of those memorable events, there come down to us no hint or suggestion that the facts about the grave were other than those substantially recorded in the Gospel according to Mark. However disconcerting the fact may be, the literary verdict is unanimous and must at least be given its due weight by the impartial mind.

But thereís something far more arresting and significant than even this unanimous literary witness: the extraordinary silence of antiquity concerning the later history of the grave of Jesus. Itís strange. This absolutely unbroken silence concerning the spot that must have been a very sacred place to thousands of people outside the circle of the Christian believers themselves. Yet we can search in vain for any sign or hint or whisper that during those first four crucial years when the Christians were teaching their strange doctrine within the walls of Jerusalem, that there was a stream of pilgrims to that silent grotto beyond the gate. We catch no echo of any controversy between the many who knew the real facts and the deluded few who taught and presumably believed otherwise. Why was it that Jerusalem became a center focus of this mad unreason, that in the coming years was to spread itself outward to the utmost limits of the Roman world? Why Jerusalem in preference to Capernaum? Or Nazareth itself? Why did not this mystic church of believers spring into being and strike its deepest and most central roots in Galilee, the spiritual home of Jesus? A place impregnated with his personality and teachings? Why did everybody who caught the infection of this spring madness gravitate to Jerusalem as steel to a magnet? Why should so irrational a doctrine flourish most readily and take its implacable stand in the veritable present and vicinity of that which it denied? Thereís only one answer to all these questions that satisfies alike the unanimous literary witness and the collateral requirements of historical circumstance. It lies in the assumption that the story of the womenís visit to the grave, as given in all its primitive and naked simplicity in the Marcan fragment, is the true story. It was told not because it had any particular apologetic value, for as an apologetic, it can be riddled with criticism, but because things fell out that way. In other words, it was a fact of history.

Can we fly in the face of this cumulative and mutually corroborative evidence? Personally, I donít think we can. The sequence of coincidences was too strong. Thatís something I always say: how many coincidences make a fact? When we remember the swinging around of the disciples from panic fear to absolute certainty. The singular matter of the seven-week gap Ė see, they were told to wait seven weeks before they started preaching. That just doesnít make any sense; things die down and people forget. Seven weeks. The extraordinarily rapid adhesion of converts in Jerusalem; the strange absence of administrative vigor on the part of the authorities; and the state of growing of the church, both in authority and power, until the whole situation blew up into a frenzy of attempts at suppression under Saul. You take all these things together and we realize that we are in the presence of something far more tangible than the psychological repercussion of a fishermanís dream. Thus, by another converging line of thought, we come back to the point from which we started. However baffling and disconcerting it may seem at first sight, the evidence for the essential accuracy of the womenís story is overwhelming in consistency and strength.

Okay, now I want to take a look at Paul, the evidence of the man from Tarsus. Who is Paul? Itís almost impossible to imagine anything more fortunate, from a purely historical point of view, than the fact that at just the moment when Christianity was taking its measure of its adversaries, there chanced come to Jerusalem a young man whom, judged even by the high modern standards, could claim to be a very competent and almost impartial observer. The name of this young man was Saul. He was a Hebrew of very careful upbringing, intensely zealous in the performance of his religious duties, but with a mind broadened by the contact with wider life and speculative thinking of the Greco-Roman world. He was acquainted with at least some of the writings of Heroditus, of Epimenides and Menander; we find references to those people in his later speeches. And he hailed from Tarsus in Cilicia. The year was about A.D. 34, and Tarsus was kind of a crossroads of commerce. He was highly educated; he knew three or four different languages and so forth. He was a Roman citizen.

The fact that we have chiefly to deal with in this chapter is that this young man, coming from some freshness of the problem, began by being the outstanding figure on one side of the controversy and ended by being the outstanding figure on the other. He attempted to suppress the movement by force, but was himself suppressed and assimilated by it. It is clear that when Saul of Tarsus first came into prominence as a protagonist in this affair, a public controversy must have been going on for a considerable time. The movement had grown from its original nucleus of 19 or 20 people to a large following requiring seven deacons to deal with and supervise the daily administrations. And the only possible way in which such growth could have taken place was by direct propaganda. See, they didnít have satellite TV or newspapers. That is to say, by public and private argument and teaching, word of mouth. And yet it grew at such a prodigious rate.

While it may thus be true that the highly placed representatives of the Jewish hierarchy ďdid not argue with the Christians,Ē itís obviously not true of the Jews themselves. It could not possibly be true. Practically every convert of the faith for that first five years was a Jew himself. You could not have a movement growing at an average rate of 18 to 20 new converts every week for five years without affirmative ideas involving both public and private argument. And itís in this character of that argument that the real interest of the story lies. Now, if anyone will sit down and try to reason out quietly how it was that this small body of personal adherents of Jesus grew within four or five years to the dimensions required by the severity of the great persecution, he will be increasingly perplexed by one fact: the fact that all of this took place within a surprisingly short distance of Josephís tomb. And whatever may have happened to Joseph himself, this tomb was irremovable. And if, therefore, the negative critics were right, we should have a really ironical situation that throughout the period when the disciples were gaining converts daily at a prodigious rate, that the conclusive proof of their main contention lay within 2,000 yards of the scene of controversy, in the very tomb where everybody knew he had been placed on the afternoon of the crucifixion.

Now this indeed might have been a quite intelligible situation had the disciples taken almost any other line than that which they did. A momentís reflection will show that many things could be said about Christ during the critical weeks following the crucifixion without raising even the distant condition of the condition of the grave. It could be asserted that he was a great and good man, whose violent death in the height of his power was a national calamity, and a national disgrace even. It could be contended that the sublime teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and the parables marked him as one of the greatest of a long line of prophets and seers born in Israel. It might even be asserted that, though at some risk to oneís personal liberty, that the whole persecution was a deliberate murder and a heinous offense in the sight of God. We could imagine any one of these statements being discussed in private and semi-public meetings in Jerusalem after the excitable Jewish manner, with much heat and volubility, and then the whole company, so to say, putting on their hats and going home without a single person giving thought to the silent chamber in Josephís grotto? I donít think so! But we cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, conceive of such meetings being held in the very heart of the city to celebrate and proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus without the mind of every single hearer going back instantly to the crucial matter of the tomb. Very subtly, but decisively, the condition of the grave itself would become the final arbiter in this matter. Either it contained the remains of Jesus or it did not. If it did not contain the body, then one thing is certain, absolutely certain: Paul must have been aware of that very surprising fact. He must have known from the very beginning, through the whole period of his disputations with the Christians, and the great persecution must have been deliberately launched in spite of it.

One could hardly imagine a considerable body of people going about Jerusalem and declaring openly that Jesus had risen side by side, as it were, with the phenomenon of the empty tomb without the two circumstances being very widely and publicly connected. The authorities might affect to ignore the disciplesí claim, but the fact that the body of a first-class political prisoner had disappeared in mysterious circumstances could not, in any conceivable circumstances, be unknown to them. And if the authorities knew it, Saul would know also. ďThis is Walter Cronkite from BBC News. The body of President John F. Kennedy disappeared late this afternoon from Bethesda Naval Hospital. Film at 11:00!Ē You see, what if that was one of the headlines? See, if Kennedyís body had disappeared, the whole world would know it. They had to know.

So if the Marcan narrative is true, Saul of Tarsus must have been abundantly informed concerning the real facts, not only from the official side as regards the supposed abduction of the body, but through his disputations in the synagogue with Christians and the other disciples. What we are asked to assume is that throughout the entire period when Saul was challenging Christian parity to the first and greatest fight of his existence and, of course, for many years afterwards, that the body of Jesus lay in Jesusí tomb. No, itís ridiculous.

Consider first the small but highly significant fact that no trace exists in the Acts or the missionary apostles or in any of the apocryphal documents of indisputably early date of anyone going to pay homage at the shrine of Jesus Christ. Thatís remarkable, this absolutely unbroken silence concerning the most sacred place in Christian memory.

Consider the next very singular matter of the documents. The testimony is curiously inverted. It faces strangely in the wrong direction. If Christianity began by proclaiming merely the survival of Jesus and progressed through slow stages of legendary accretion to the belief of the physical vacancy of the tomb, then the oldest and most primitive documents ought to be at least invented. The clear lamp of the original normality ought to be seen shining through their primitive and archaic language. But itís not so; itís precisely the Matthean and Marcan documents, which by universal consent reaches back to the lost origins that are the most sharply cut in their outlines and describe the vacant tomb in the coldest objectivity.

Everything we know about Paul is consistent with the assumption that he believed the tomb of Christ had been vacant on the morning when the women came to the tomb. Nothing we know about him supports the suggestion that he knew it had never been disturbed. I cannot find, however, that any modern writer has recognized and worked out the important bearing the historic phenomena of the grave must have had on the conversion of Paul. It will be apparent to anyone who gives this subject a momentís thought that so completely and exhaustive intellectual conversion as that of Paul must have rested not merely on a partial acquiescence in one aspect of the discipleís case, but on a fundamental satisfaction to its truth as a whole. And yet volumes have been written on the psychology of the conversion of Paul as though it were a subject that could be discussed independently of Saulís thought on the problem of the grave. This problem lay at the core of the whole controversy, and it was clearly impossible for Saul to have reached the point of extreme and violent antipathy to Christian belief without having his own private opinion concerning it. Then if the conclusions of this study are justified, then the fact was that the tomb was vacant on Sunday morning.

I submit that Saul came on the scene with this fact. It wasnít doubted. It never had been. But it was the subject of a bitter difference of opinion between the opposing camps. The Christians asserted that the body had been raised. The Jewish rulers declared that it had been stolen. But it must not be overlooked, however, that someone entered the fray as a partisan of the priests. He must have shared their knowledge and taken largely their point of view. If the reader will try to put himself in the place of Saul, he would see how difficult it was for a really logical mind to be opposed to Christians without taking the most sinister view concerning the vacant tomb. The whole thing would look like a plant. He could hardly avoid drawing the conclusion that even if the disciples themselves had not actually planned it, that they were at least privy to the abduction and the concealment of the body. Well, that lifted the whole thing out of the region of legitimate discussion into the field of deliberate falsehood and deceit and called for only one thing: the utter and ruthless extermination enforced by the full power of the state.

How can we account for the incident of Paulís conversion, having the admittedly historical consequences that it did? Why should a man of this tough breed, of this admittedly sane and virile, mental caliber, be uprooted in an instant from his cherished belief and swept like chaff before the wind into the dogmatic camp of his most hated enemies? It is not the immediate effects of the conversion that weíre concerned with, though these are noteworthy. But how does this reorientation of a manís entire suppositions survive the solitary communion in Arabia? It says that he went out into the desert for three years. And a lot of scholars say that he was taught by Christ Himself during that time, and thatís what I believe.

And then he waited for nine years in Tarsus, just hanging around. After all the bitter persecutions and hardships on the great missions, why was one of the greatest intellects of the ages brought over and fixed in an instant of time from one pole of dogmatic belief into another?

On the intellectual side of this phenomenon, the truth is clear. When Saul was really convinced that he had seen the risen Jesus, the immense, over-powering significance of the empty tomb swept for the first time into his mind. See, everything up to this point was based on his knowledge that the tomb was empty, but that it was a fraud. And now the tomb was empty, but it wasnít a fraud. See, the whole thing was just swept away. It was as though the great stone itself had crashed into and carried away his last defenses. He saw that if the disciples were not deceivers, but they were right, right through the whole range and gamut of their claim. And not only that, but all the crazy stuff that Jesus said, that he knew heaven from the inside, that His death would make right all the wrong of the world, that He had authority over everything in heaven and earth. All that crazy stuff that no human being could possibly believe true about himself. All those things had to be true now, too. And Paul realized that one could not associate a martyrdom so glorious as that of Stephen with a vulgar deception involving connivance and the abduction of a corpse. He began to understand why Peter was so sure, that why everyone connected with this movement was so unaccountably joyous and so immovably convinced. The curious thing is, indeed itís the master circumstance of all the strange stories, that once this conviction had been reached, its effect on any normally constituted mind was enduring. The vacancy of the tomb was a historic fact, fixed and unalterable. Its authority grew rather than declined with the passing years. It was never shaken throughout Paulís lifetime. And in this writerís judgment, remains unshaken until today.

And he ends with a bit of an enigma, an enigmatic statement here. ďSince the records have perished, the truth concerning the matter will probably never be disclosed. But there is one hint in an obscure and long-forgotten document, but I am bound to confess comes to me personally with peculiar weight. Itís that strange old fragment of which only a few sentences survive, The Gospel of the Hebrews.Ē Now donít confuse that with the Book of Hebrews in the Bible; this is the Gospel of the Hebrews. A passage in that document describes how Jesus, after His Resurrection, appeared to His brother James. Here it is stated in full: ďNow the Lord, when He had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, went in to James and appeared to him, for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour within he had drunk the Lordís cup [NOTE: the implication is that James was at the Last Supper and took Communion with the Apostles. . He wasnít. He didnít.] until he should see Him risen again from among those that sleep.Ē And again, after a little, ďbring ye, saith the Lord, a table and bread,Ē and immediately it was added, ďHe took bread and blessed and brake, and gave it unto James the Just, and said unto him, my brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of man is risen from among them that sleep.Ē

Well, on the authority of Josephus, there is the authentic voice of Paul also. It says that He appeared to James. And the agreement of two such witnesses lends this passage in authority almost exclusively its own. Itís the adequate witness. What then are we to make of that curious and significant sentence that describes Jesus giving the ďlinen cloth to the servant of the priestĒ? See, weíve got this one truth, and then weíve got this little offhand remark about giving the servant of the priest. What does that mean? See, I have the impression thatís not solely independent of this isolated passage of the Gospel of the Hebrews; that as dawn approached in that quiet garden, something happened to cause the watchers hurriedly to awaken from his companions and to proceed to a closer inspection of the tomb. It may have been only the stirring of the trees or the climbing of the gate and the night breeze, but it may have been something more definite and disquieting. Such as that which later shook and utterly humbled the proud and relentless spirit of Paul. ďHe appeared to Cephas, and to the twelve. He appeared to James. Last of all, as one born out of due time, he appeared to me.Ē Thatís what Paul says. Did He appear also, in the first instance, to the servant of the priest?

Who moved the stone? Who was it that moved that stone? Jesus came through that stone, and then handed some of his grave clothes or some linen cloth to one of the temple guards? I donít know. Pretty good stuff! Pretty good.

I donít try to convert anyone. In fact, my show may be aimed more at Christians than anyone. And are you one of those who gives the Resurrection lip service only? You better start taking God seriously and do the research thatís necessary to put your mouth on more solid ground than someone elseís pronouncements. See, again, if you hold a belief system like Christianity, this isnít something you do on Tuesday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00. Okay? Itís a complete change of lifestyle. And you canít do that without evidence to back it up. And you certainly canít defend your faith or explain your faith to anyone else if you donít study the evidence. Youíve got to do your homework with this stuff. And itís not that Ė well, we have to defend Christianity. Thatís not what Iím talking about here. We donít have to go around defending Christianity. I donít feel like I have to defend Christianity. But if I am able Ė listen to this Ė when Iím able to defend Christianity successfully, then I have a solid belief. If I canít defend it successfully, then I donít have a belief system; I donít know what Iím talking about here!

Jesus came out of that tomb. He just came out of the tomb; thatís a fact. And so will anybody else who acts in trust of Godís Word. Itís called faithing. Thatís what Jesus did. He acted on the trust that God had said He would raise Him up from the dead in three days. And He put Himself through that horrendous act of crucifixion and all that bodily harm on that promise. See, God has been known to change His mind, okay? He gave us warning that the places that I know that He changed His mind. But Heís been known to change His mind. And it isnít an absolute that He was going to raise Him in three days. From the hearerís end, you know, well, maybe things will change in the meantime and the plWho Moved the Stone? By Frank Morison


Itís Easter. Christians all over the world are proclaiming today that Jesus is risen. Jesusí Resurrection founds Christianity. But how can we be convinced about an event which took place 2,000 years ago? And how can we expect to make major behavior modifications based on a human impossibility, coming back to life after three full days? Well, of course, we canít be eyewitnesses, but for anyone with the desire to do some research, more than years and years of study will not exhaust the available evidence relating to Jesusí Resurrection. Christianity is based on a humanly impossible premise, that dead people can come back to life. And that Christ was the firstfruits, is what they call it, the firstfruits of that Resurrection.

Jesus was called the firstfruits of the Resurrection. And from his time forward, people have been saved from the final death, just like Jesus. Thatís the topic today, the Resurrection. It has nothing to do with Easter.

Let me give you a few facts about Easter. The word ďEaster,Ē in the first place, comes down to us from a couple of different words from the ancient Middle East, Babylon, Egypt, and so forth. Ashtart is one of them. Ishtar is another one, and Ashtaroth is a third one. You notice how close these sound to ďEaster.Ē These were the names given to the wife of Nimrod in the Bible. Her name was Semiramis, and Nimrod started the pagan belief system, he died, and Semiramis, his wife, filled it out and perpetuated it. And many of the things about the pagan belief system were grafted into the Christian belief system in Rome, at the Roman church. Iíve done a lot of shows on Christmas. Christmas doesnít have anything to do with Christ; itís all about Tammuz. Tammuz was Semiramisí son. The 40 days of Lent that everybody celebrates in the Roman Catholic frame, that 40 days is the 40-day mourning period for Tammuz, when he died early. We have these fertility symbols that hang around with Easter: eggs, bunny rabbits; itís all fertility stuff. The Easter sunrise service; thatís a pagan sunrise service. Sun worship is what it is. Easter has nothing to do with Christ. Passover does, but not Easter. Easter is a grafted-on pagan festival.

Okay, now some facts about the Resurrection. When one takes the time to research, many historical facts can be found regarding Jesusí ministry and his crucifixion and the four years that followed, and not a single fact is going to provide convincing evidence as to the Resurrection. Any one of these facts canít evoke much more than a ďso what?Ē But when you take them as a body, the facts are startling. As mundane as it might sound, just the fact of the growth of Jerusalem Christianity has far-reaching ramifications, as does the historical fact that the tomb was empty. See, we hear almost nothing in Christianity about the tomb being empty. Itís just a throwaway, something that people just throw in sometimes. But itís one of the most important facts that founds the Resurrection study. Nobody, absolutely nobody, ever said that the tomb wasnít empty. Itís such a given fact that almost no attention has been paid to it. And thatís mainly what weíre going to look at today, the fact that the tomb was empty, and some of the things surrounding that.

Hereís some of the important facts, out of many, many, that make the case a mystery. Number one, in a matter of months, there were thousands of converts, three thousand in one day. The very first day, when Peter stood up and preached on Pentecost, three thousand people were converted. Have you talked to anybody about Y2K lately? Itís almost impossible to convert people to a belief system that entails a change of lifestyle. You just canít do that. And here, in a matter of months, thousands of converts.

Another fact, of course, is that Jesus died. He did die. And, as we said, the tomb was empty. Fact number three, the tomb was empty. Nobody ever disputed the fact that the tomb was empty.

Now, another fact that enters into this is what the message was. After the crucifixion, what was the message that was preached by the apostles and the disciples? Well, that Jesus rose from the dead; thatís one thing. And that He ascended into heaven. And, maybe, as a sidelight, that the tomb was empty. But they preached those three things: the empty tomb, that He ascended into heaven, and that He was raised from the dead. And you know, the fifth fact is that the apostles never Ė we can find no record of any of the apostles or disciples repudiating their claim. Nobody said, ďOh, well, I guess I made a mistake.Ē Thousands went to the lions in the Roman circus, peacefully, some joyfully. How do you do that for a lie? How do you do that for something that you donít believe so strongly in? Some belief that youíre willing to die for. And the apostles, as I said, many more Ė this is a separate fact Ė not only didnít they repudiate their claims, but many of them died for it; they were murdered.

And the last fact I want to mention, fact number seven ó maybe the most important fact out of all the evidence, and thatís Paulís conversion. Weíll get into Paulís conversion pretty heavily. The champion on one side of the issue becomes the champion on the other side of the issue, a complete 180. And not just an acquiescence, a virile, vigorous, offensive campaign for either side. Listen, this just couldnít have happened. Itís impossible, the Resurrection. Come on! But it did. And you donít think that I know how this sounds? People being raised from the dead after three days? And youíre not going to be even close to being convinced when Iím through here.

I do want you to be convinced that I believe it. I want you to understand that so large a body of evidence exists as to found the conversion of thousands, of millions, of people. See, the Resurrection isnít a feeling; itís a fact. And anyone who understands the responsibilities of Christianity will want proof of its veracity before adopting a belief system and putting into practice its teachings. When you adopt Christianity, you release hold on not only the world around you, but your very own life. You renounce all claim, first claim Ė let me put it that way Ė to the things of your own life. Nothing is yours any more. First. Thereís one thing that comes first, and if youíre not willing to renounce everything, including your own life, in favor of that first thing, then youíre not being a Christian. People who take up that sort of a lifestyle donít do so by whim. They must have overwhelming evidence. Youíve got to have evidence to provide the courage to accomplish your own suicide! You know, and that evidence isnít found on Christian TV!

In 1920, an English journalist researched the material about Christís Resurrection. And in 1930 Frank Morison published Who Moved the Stone. I have the book here, and Iím going to read a lot out of it today. Hereís what the cover says: ďI want to take this last phase of Jesusí life with all its quick and pulsating drama, its sharp, clear-cut background of antiquity, and its tremendous psychological and human interest, to strip it of its overgrowth and primitive beliefs and dogmatic suppositions, and to see the supremely great person as he really was.Ē Thatís what Frank Morison said. The editor puts this in: ďSuch was English journalist Frank Morisonís drive to learn of Christ. The strangeness of the Resurrection story had captured his attention, and, influenced by skeptic thinkers at the turn of the century, he set out to prove that the story of Christís Resurrection was only a myth. His probing, however, led him to discover the validity of the biblical record in a moving and personal way.Ē Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone.

So I put together a little overview out of the material of the book. And mainly Mr. Morison has dealt with the many ramifications of the empty tomb. Itís a pivotal historical fact, way more important than it first appears.

Okay, letís go through the book here. Mark now how the probable course of events, so long as the belief that Jesus had risen was nursed in private, declared and encountered only to intimates behind closed doors, the external situation in Jerusalem might have remained unchanged. But the moment the claim of the disciples was seriously and publicly circulated, itís obvious that two things were inevitable. In the first place, a heated controversy was unavoidable between the partisans of the new movement and those who opposed it. I mean, they were out there preaching right in the temple, right? Against what was going on in the temple.

Secondly, however anxious the authorities might be to let the dangerous question of their policy against Jesus sleep, they could not ignore a campaign to preach their mortal guilt under their very noses and in the temple precincts. The events would be too strong for them. They would be compelled into some repressive action in self-defense. To have failed to have done so would have been to abrogate their position and to concur by silence. So they got out Saul!

Now, the question that we have to consider seriously is whether it is possible for all this widespread agitation and conflict of ideas involving, as it did, the definite claim that Jesus had risen, to have been conducted successfully, or indeed at all, in the actual and physical presence of the remains of Jesus. Oh, yeah, he died and raised from the dead. They canít do that when the body is close by. This is a concrete point to which we shall return repeatedly, for it is vital and quite fundamental to our understanding of the case. Itís impossible to read the records of the period without being profoundly impressed by the way in which, for friend and foe alike, the tomb of Jesus sinks into utter, undisturbed oblivion. No one in later years seems to have gone to Josephís garden looking for the rock-hewn cave and said, ďOh, this is the place where the Lord is buried.Ē

And the moment the women returned from the garden, the tomb of Jesus passed historically into complete oblivion. There is no trace of any controversy. The assumption that the tomb was empty seems to have been universal. The only controversy of which we have any record Ė and itís clearly a heated one Ė was on the vexed question as to whether the disciples had secretly removed the body. Now this is a very formidable fact. It suggests that something had already occurred to make the vacancy of the tomb common ground. And to place it high out of reach of dispute or argument.

History decrees that this controversy had to be fought out in Jerusalem where no real illusions could prevail, where anybody could go and see the tomb between supper and bedtime. And where the overwhelming body of official, authoritative and conclusive witnesses existed. And yet, it is in the center of solid and conservative realism that, according to Luke, no fewer than 3,000 converts were made in one day, increased shortly afterwards to 5,000.

Now thereís another aspect of this question that must not be overlooked; I mean how it was that the disciples themselves came to believe this astonishing thing. Some people say it was a hallucination, right, group hallucination. Well, somehow, the rugged fisherman Peter, and his brother Andrew; the characteristically doubting Thomas; the seasoned and not-too-sensitive tax gatherer, Matthew; the rather dull Philip, intensely loyal but a little slow to apprehension. They do not fit easily into the conditions required for an absolutely unshakeable collective hallucination. And the pivotal phrase there is ďabsolutely unshakeable,Ē see, because they were martyred, right? Unshakeable. If itís a hallucination, these guys donít fit. And if itís not both collective and unshakeable, itís no use to us. The terrors and the persecutions that these men ultimately had to face, and did face unflinchingly, did not admit to a half-hearted adhesion secretly honeycombed with doubt. The belief has to be unconditional and of adamantine strength to satisfy the conditions. Sooner or later, too, if the belief was to spread, it had to bite its way into the corporate consciousness by convincing argument and attempted proof. Within twenty years, the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish church and impressed itself upon every town in the eastern literal of the Mediterranean, from Caesarea to Troas. In less than fifty years it had begun to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire.

I do not think that we shall ever reach a full understanding of the Resurrection problem until we prepare to recognize that the story of the womenís adventure, as told in this very early narrative of Mark, is not only the true story in the sense that the women actually went, and that they fled on discovering another person in the tomb; but true also in a far deeper and more important sense that the place they visited really was the original grave of Christ. It says there that a young man was working. If the young man, whom they surmised at the tomb was a gardener, well, he was there to be questioned at any time. And to give the true version of what had taken place. It can hardly be contended that he could not remember encountering three agitated women at such an unusual hour bent on such an exceptional mission. I mean, they were bringing all these spices and stuff to the tomb, right? If he was a workman preparing a grave for an interment, then some Jewish citizen must actually have been buried in a mistaken tomb within a few hours. There was the young man himself to whom the appeal could be made. And there were the friends, the relatives, and the mourners of the deceased person, who had only too sorrowful an occasion to know that the latter was buried within a few yards of the notorious Nazarene. Can we imagine, with all this conclusive evidence available, that the personal enemies of the disciples Ė and there were many Ė would never have sought it out? Surely we cannot. And in that simple reply, it seems to me, lies the dismissal of the theory of the womenís mistake. See, thatís one of the theories.

Name any one of your pet theories about what happened with the empty tomb, and one of them is that the women got the wrong tomb. They were stricken by grief, and it was dark, and they made a mistake. But, you see, they met this guy at the tomb. And who was he? But whether they told their stories in the first seven minutes or at the end of the first few weeks, the result must have been the same. Think of those four years of persistent propaganda, the steadily deepening conviction, and the success of the story. I mean, the new converts were being made every day. Think of the weekly discussions and disputations in the synagogues. Think of the innumerable private controversies as to whether this Jesus was the Messiah or whether he was not. And think of the highly placed Sadducees who were prepared to go to almost any length to discredit and overthrow the cause. And think of the opposition suddenly being reinforced by the logical and relentless mind of Paul. You think of all these things, admittedly historic, and then reflect that the evidence that could have pricked the bubble was to be obtained for the asking by merely walking the distance no greater than 2,000 yards.

Think of another matter, too. What an impetus such inquiries would have given to that contemporary veneration of the real resting place of Jesus, of which we see and thereís no trace. Personally, I am convinced that no body of man or woman could persistently and successively have preached in Jerusalem a doctrine involving the vacancy of that tomb without the grave itself being physically vacant. The facts were too recent. The tomb was too close to that seething center of Oriental life. Not all the make-believe in the world could have purchased the utter silence of antiquity or given to the records their impressive unanimity. Only the truth itself in all its unavoidable simplicity could have achieved that.

There can be no doubt that when the disciples were at last convinced that the Lord had risen, the womenís testimony would have been produced in evidence. The identity of the young man would have been raised, and the whole question of the encounter at the tomb would have become a matter of public discussion. But as I read the situation, the events took a very different and formidable course. Before the sun had risen far in the eastern sky, a strange but very definite rumor began to circulate through the crowded streets and bazaars of the city. And it came not from irresponsible sources, but from members of the temple guard. The details were circumstantial, and the story was that the disciples had stolen the body of the Nazarene. The physical vacancy of the tomb itself was not enough. The moment we recognize this, we begin to get real light on the historical reasons for the suppression of the womenís story. The womenís experience was not used as evidence at any time period during the early Jewish-Christian controversy for two very simple but sufficient reasons. In the first place, it proved nothing that was not already conceded by the other side. The tomb was empty. Second, the story possessed grave weaknesses by admitting that certain members of the Christian party had actually been in the neighborhood of the tomb under conditions of some secrecy and at a suspiciously early hour in the morning in question. Oh, yeah, they were there; they stole the body.

Now that was precisely the situation regarding the followers of Jesus. They were being charged publicly with having abducted the body. It was a very difficult charge to refute, even if they had been free to come out into the open. But we have reasons for believing that they were hiding, meeting in clandestine fashion behind closed doors. Surprising though it may seem, this reluctance on the part of the early Christians to give prominence to the womenís testimony did unquestionably persist through the early Christian times. Itís impossible to read through the early chapters of Acts, with their very detailed accounts of the primitive preaching, without being impressed by the singular absence of the contention regarding the tomb. If it had been ever seriously doubted that the body was missing, the adventure of the women and what it implied must have been thrust by implacable force of events into the very foreground of the Christian dialectic. It would have overshadowed every other consideration. For until that was settled, nothing fundamental to the Christian thesis could be understood. But the disciples were obviously spared this interminable and fruitless wrangle. The facts were so well known, that the campaign they undertook could positively be conducted with greater success in Jerusalem where the abandoned tomb lay than at any other place in the world. It was this that enabled them to concentrate on the two vital contentions that ultimately rent Judaism asunder. That would be, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and that he had been raised by the direct hand of God. They could surely never have reached this advanced stage of the discussion so early if the physical vacancy of the tomb had not been a common ground.

I cannot and do not believe that the body of Jesus of Nazareth rested in Josephís garden during any part of that period that is contemporary with the rise of Christianity. If it could be shown that there was a single document of admittedly early date dealing with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus in which it was even remotely hinted that such was the case, I for one would attach to that hint very considerable weight. But the documents are adamant on this fundamental feature of that Easter dawn. If all the varied literature from that far-off time written under different skies by men of varying temperaments, possessed by obviously divergent theories of the true course of those memorable events, there come down to us no hint or suggestion that the facts about the grave were other than those substantially recorded in the Gospel according to Mark. However disconcerting the fact may be, the literary verdict is unanimous and must at least be given its due weight by the impartial mind.

But thereís something far more arresting and significant than even this unanimous literary witness: the extraordinary silence of antiquity concerning the later history of the grave of Jesus. Itís strange. This absolutely unbroken silence concerning the spot that must have been a very sacred place to thousands of people outside the circle of the Christian believers themselves. Yet we can search in vain for any sign or hint or whisper that during those first four crucial years when the Christians were teaching their strange doctrine within the walls of Jerusalem, that there was a stream of pilgrims to that silent grotto beyond the gate. We catch no echo of any controversy between the many who knew the real facts and the deluded few who taught and presumably believed otherwise. Why was it that Jerusalem became a center focus of this mad unreason, that in the coming years was to spread itself outward to the utmost limits of the Roman world? Why Jerusalem in preference to Capernaum? Or Nazareth itself? Why did not this mystic church of believers spring into being and strike its deepest and most central roots in Galilee, the spiritual home of Jesus? A place impregnated with his personality and teachings? Why did everybody who caught the infection of this spring madness gravitate to Jerusalem as steel to a magnet? Why should so irrational a doctrine flourish most readily and take its implacable stand in the veritable present and vicinity of that which it denied? Thereís only one answer to all these questions that satisfies alike the unanimous literary witness and the collateral requirements of historical circumstance. It lies in the assumption that the story of the womenís visit to the grave, as given in all its primitive and naked simplicity in the Marcan fragment, is the true story. It was told not because it had any particular apologetic value, for as an apologetic, it can be riddled with criticism, but because things fell out that way. In other words, it was a fact of history.

Can we fly in the face of this cumulative and mutually corroborative evidence? Personally, I donít think we can. The sequence of coincidences was too strong. Thatís something I always say: how many coincidences make a fact? When we remember the swinging around of the disciples from panic fear to absolute certainty. The singular matter of the seven-week gap Ė see, they were told to wait seven weeks before they started preaching. That just doesnít make any sense; things die down and people forget. Seven weeks. The extraordinarily rapid adhesion of converts in Jerusalem; the strange absence of administrative vigor on the part of the authorities; and the state of growing of the church, both in authority and power, until the whole situation blew up into a frenzy of attempts at suppression under Saul. You take all these things together and we realize that we are in the presence of something far more tangible than the psychological repercussion of a fishermanís dream. Thus, by another converging line of thought, we come back to the point from which we started. However baffling and disconcerting it may seem at first sight, the evidence for the essential accuracy of the womenís story is overwhelming in consistency and strength.

Okay, now I want to take a look at Paul, the evidence of the man from Tarsus. Who is Paul? Itís almost impossible to imagine anything more fortunate, from a purely historical point of view, than the fact that at just the moment when Christianity was taking its measure of its adversaries, there chanced come to Jerusalem a young man whom, judged even by the high modern standards, could claim to be a very competent and almost impartial observer. The name of this young man was Saul. He was a Hebrew of very careful upbringing, intensely zealous in the performance of his religious duties, but with a mind broadened by the contact with wider life and speculative thinking of the Greco-Roman world. He was acquainted with at least some of the writings of Heroditus, of Epimenides and Menander; we find references to those people in his later speeches. And he hailed from Tarsus in Cilicia. The year was about A.D. 34, and Tarsus was kind of a crossroads of commerce. He was highly educated; he knew three or four different languages and so forth. He was a Roman citizen.

The fact that we have chiefly to deal with in this chapter is that this young man, coming from some freshness of the problem, began by being the outstanding figure on one side of the controversy and ended by being the outstanding figure on the other. He attempted to suppress the movement by force, but was himself suppressed and assimilated by it. It is clear that when Saul of Tarsus first came into prominence as a protagonist in this affair, a public controversy must have been going on for a considerable time. The movement had grown from its original nucleus of 19 or 20 people to a large following requiring seven deacons to deal with and supervise the daily administrations. And the only possible way in which such growth could have taken place was by direct propaganda. See, they didnít have satellite TV or newspapers. That is to say, by public and private argument and teaching, word of mouth. And yet it grew at such a prodigious rate.

While it may thus be true that the highly placed representatives of the Jewish hierarchy ďdid not argue with the Christians,Ē itís obviously not true of the Jews themselves. It could not possibly be true. Practically every convert of the faith for that first five years was a Jew himself. You could not have a movement growing at an average rate of 18 to 20 new converts every week for five years without affirmative ideas involving both public and private argument. And itís in this character of that argument that the real interest of the story lies. Now, if anyone will sit down and try to reason out quietly how it was that this small body of personal adherents of Jesus grew within four or five years to the dimensions required by the severity of the great persecution, he will be increasingly perplexed by one fact: the fact that all of this took place within a surprisingly short distance of Josephís tomb. And whatever may have happened to Joseph himself, this tomb was irremovable. And if, therefore, the negative critics were right, we should have a really ironical situation that throughout the period when the disciples were gaining converts daily at a prodigious rate, that the conclusive proof of their main contention lay within 2,000 yards of the scene of controversy, in the very tomb where everybody knew he had been placed on the afternoon of the crucifixion.

Now this indeed might have been a quite intelligible situation had the disciples taken almost any other line than that which they did. A momentís reflection will show that many things could be said about Christ during the critical weeks following the crucifixion without raising even the distant condition of the condition of the grave. It could be asserted that he was a great and good man, whose violent death in the height of his power was a national calamity, and a national disgrace even. It could be contended that the sublime teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and the parables marked him as one of the greatest of a long line of prophets and seers born in Israel. It might even be asserted that, though at some risk to oneís personal liberty, that the whole persecution was a deliberate murder and a heinous offense in the sight of God. We could imagine any one of these statements being discussed in private and semi-public meetings in Jerusalem after the excitable Jewish manner, with much heat and volubility, and then the whole company, so to say, putting on their hats and going home without a single person giving thought to the silent chamber in Josephís grotto? I donít think so! But we cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, conceive of such meetings being held in the very heart of the city to celebrate and proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus without the mind of every single hearer going back instantly to the crucial matter of the tomb. Very subtly, but decisively, the condition of the grave itself would become the final arbiter in this matter. Either it contained the remains of Jesus or it did not. If it did not contain the body, then one thing is certain, absolutely certain: Paul must have been aware of that very surprising fact. He must have known from the very beginning, through the whole period of his disputations with the Christians, and the great persecution must have been deliberately launched in spite of it.

One could hardly imagine a considerable body of people going about Jerusalem and declaring openly that Jesus had risen side by side, as it were, with the phenomenon of the empty tomb without the two circumstances being very widely and publicly connected. The authorities might affect to ignore the disciplesí claim, but the fact that the body of a first-class political prisoner had disappeared in mysterious circumstances could not, in any conceivable circumstances, be unknown to them. And if the authorities knew it, Saul would know also. ďThis is Walter Cronkite from BBC News. The body of President John F. Kennedy disappeared late this afternoon from Bethesda Naval Hospital. Film at 11:00!Ē You see, what if that was one of the headlines? See, if Kennedyís body had disappeared, the whole world would know it. They had to know.

So if the Marcan narrative is true, Saul of Tarsus must have been abundantly informed concerning the real facts, not only from the official side as regards the supposed abduction of the body, but through his disputations in the synagogue with Christians and the other disciples. What we are asked to assume is that throughout the entire period when Saul was challenging Christian parity to the first and greatest fight of his existence and, of course, for many years afterwards, that the body of Jesus lay in Jesusí tomb. No, itís ridiculous.

Consider first the small but highly significant fact that no trace exists in the Acts or the missionary apostles or in any of the apocryphal documents of indisputably early date of anyone going to pay homage at the shrine of Jesus Christ. Thatís remarkable, this absolutely unbroken silence concerning the most sacred place in Christian memory.

Consider the next very singular matter of the documents. The testimony is curiously inverted. It faces strangely in the wrong direction. If Christianity began by proclaiming merely the survival of Jesus and progressed through slow stages of legendary accretion to the belief of the physical vacancy of the tomb, then the oldest and most primitive documents ought to be at least invented. The clear lamp of the original normality ought to be seen shining through their primitive and archaic language. But itís not so; itís precisely the Matthean and Marcan documents, which by universal consent reaches back to the lost origins that are the most sharply cut in their outlines and describe the vacant tomb in the coldest objectivity.

Everything we know about Paul is consistent with the assumption that he believed the tomb of Christ had been vacant on the morning when the women came to the tomb. Nothing we know about him supports the suggestion that he knew it had never been disturbed. I cannot find, however, that any modern writer has recognized and worked out the important bearing the historic phenomena of the grave must have had on the conversion of Paul. It will be apparent to anyone who gives this subject a momentís thought that so completely and exhaustive intellectual conversion as that of Paul must have rested not merely on a partial acquiescence in one aspect of the discipleís case, but on a fundamental satisfaction to its truth as a whole. And yet volumes have been written on the psychology of the conversion of Paul as though it were a subject that could be discussed independently of Saulís thought on the problem of the grave. This problem lay at the core of the whole controversy, and it was clearly impossible for Saul to have reached the point of extreme and violent antipathy to Christian belief without having his own private opinion concerning it. Then if the conclusions of this study are justified, then the fact was that the tomb was vacant on Sunday morning.

I submit that Saul came on the scene with this fact. It wasnít doubted. It never had been. But it was the subject of a bitter difference of opinion between the opposing camps. The Christians asserted that the body had been raised. The Jewish rulers declared that it had been stolen. But it must not be overlooked, however, that someone entered the fray as a partisan of the priests. He must have shared their knowledge and taken largely their point of view. If the reader will try to put himself in the place of Saul, he would see how difficult it was for a really logical mind to be opposed to Christians without taking the most sinister view concerning the vacant tomb. The whole thing would look like a plant. He could hardly avoid drawing the conclusion that even if the disciples themselves had not actually planned it, that they were at least privy to the abduction and the concealment of the body. Well, that lifted the whole thing out of the region of legitimate discussion into the field of deliberate falsehood and deceit and called for only one thing: the utter and ruthless extermination enforced by the full power of the state.

How can we account for the incident of Paulís conversion, having the admittedly historical consequences that it did? Why should a man of this tough breed, of this admittedly sane and virile, mental caliber, be uprooted in an instant from his cherished belief and swept like chaff before the wind into the dogmatic camp of his most hated enemies? It is not the immediate effects of the conversion that weíre concerned with, though these are noteworthy. But how does this reorientation of a manís entire suppositions survive the solitary communion in Arabia? It says that he went out into the desert for three years. And a lot of scholars say that he was taught by Christ Himself during that time, and thatís what I believe.

And then he waited for nine years in Tarsus, just hanging around. After all the bitter persecutions and hardships on the great missions, why was one of the greatest intellects of the ages brought over and fixed in an instant of time from one pole of dogmatic belief into another?

On the intellectual side of this phenomenon, the truth is clear. When Saul was really convinced that he had seen the risen Jesus, the immense, over-powering significance of the empty tomb swept for the first time into his mind. See, everything up to this point was based on his knowledge that the tomb was empty, but that it was a fraud. And now the tomb was empty, but it wasnít a fraud. See, the whole thing was just swept away. It was as though the great stone itself had crashed into and carried away his last defenses. He saw that if the disciples were not deceivers, but they were right, right through the whole range and gamut of their claim. And not only that, but all the crazy stuff that Jesus said, that he knew heaven from the inside, that His death would make right all the wrong of the world, that He had authority over everything in heaven and earth. All that crazy stuff that no human being could possibly believe true about himself. All those things had to be true now, too. And Paul realized that one could not associate a martyrdom so glorious as that of Stephen with a vulgar deception involving connivance and the abduction of a corpse. He began to understand why Peter was so sure, that why everyone connected with this movement was so unaccountably joyous and so immovably convinced. The curious thing is, indeed itís the master circumstance of all the strange stories, that once this conviction had been reached, its effect on any normally constituted mind was enduring. The vacancy of the tomb was a historic fact, fixed and unalterable. Its authority grew rather than declined with the passing years. It was never shaken throughout Paulís lifetime. And in this writerís judgment, remains unshaken until today.

And he ends with a bit of an enigma, an enigmatic statement here. ďSince the records have perished, the truth concerning the matter will probably never be disclosed. But there is one hint in an obscure and long-forgotten document, but I am bound to confess comes to me personally with peculiar weight. Itís that strange old fragment of which only a few sentences survive, The Gospel of the Hebrews.Ē Now donít confuse that with the Book of Hebrews in the Bible; this is the Gospel of the Hebrews. A passage in that document describes how Jesus, after His Resurrection, appeared to His brother James. Here it is stated in full: ďNow the Lord, when He had given the linen cloth to the servant of the priest, went in to James and appeared to him, for James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour within he had drunk the Lordís cup [NOTE: the implication is that James was at the Last Supper and took Communion with the Apostles. . He wasnít. He didnít.] until he should see Him risen again from among those that sleep.Ē And again, after a little, ďbring ye, saith the Lord, a table and bread,Ē and immediately it was added, ďHe took bread and blessed and brake, and gave it unto James the Just, and said unto him, my brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of man is risen from among them that sleep.Ē

Well, on the authority of Josephus, there is the authentic voice of Paul also. It says that He appeared to James. And the agreement of two such witnesses lends this passage in authority almost exclusively its own. Itís the adequate witness. What then are we to make of that curious and significant sentence that describes Jesus giving the ďlinen cloth to the servant of the priestĒ? See, weíve got this one truth, and then weíve got this little offhand remark about giving the servant of the priest. What does that mean? See, I have the impression thatís not solely independent of this isolated passage of the Gospel of the Hebrews; that as dawn approached in that quiet garden, something happened to cause the watchers hurriedly to awaken from his companions and to proceed to a closer inspection of the tomb. It may have been only the stirring of the trees or the climbing of the gate and the night breeze, but it may have been something more definite and disquieting. Such as that which later shook and utterly humbled the proud and relentless spirit of Paul. ďHe appeared to Cephas, and to the twelve. He appeared to James. Last of all, as one born out of due time, he appeared to me.Ē Thatís what Paul says. Did He appear also, in the first instance, to the servant of the priest?

Who moved the stone? Who was it that moved that stone? Jesus came through that stone, and then handed some of his grave clothes or some linen cloth to one of the temple guards? I donít know. Pretty good stuff! Pretty good.

I donít try to convert anyone. In fact, my show may be aimed more at Christians than anyone. And are you one of those who gives the Resurrection lip service only? You better start taking God seriously and do the research thatís necessary to put your mouth on more solid ground than someone elseís pronouncements. See, again, if you hold a belief system like Christianity, this isnít something you do on Tuesday afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00. Okay? Itís a complete change of lifestyle. And you canít do that without evidence to back it up. And you certainly canít defend your faith or explain your faith to anyone else if you donít study the evidence. Youíve got to do your homework with this stuff. And itís not that Ė well, we have to defend Christianity. Thatís not what Iím talking about here. We donít have to go around defending Christianity. I donít feel like I have to defend Christianity. But if I am able Ė listen to this Ė when Iím able to defend Christianity successfully, then I have a solid belief. If I canít defend it successfully, then I donít have a belief system; I donít know what Iím talking about here!

Jesus came out of that tomb. He just came out of the tomb; thatís a fact. And so will anybody else who acts in trust of Godís Word. Itís called faithing. Thatís what Jesus did. He acted on the trust that God had said He would raise Him up from the dead in three days. And He put Himself through that horrendous act of crucifixion and all that bodily harm on that promise. See, God has been known to change His mind, okay? He gave us warning that the places that I know that He changed His mind. But Heís been known to change His mind. And it isnít an absolute that He was going to raise Him in three days. From the hearerís end, you know, well, maybe things will change in the meantime and the plan will change and you wonít have to raise Him from the dead. You see, the supreme act of faith was Jesusí crucifixion. And when you act in faith, God puts His life force into your body, the indwelling of the Spirit. And He put so much life force in Jesusí body that it brought Him back to life. Not only that, it healed Him, and it changed His body so He could walk through a locked door. Itís a miracle. And you know what? Miracles do happen.

Why did we do this show? Why do we study the evidence of the Resurrection? The same old reason: to show that God is real. And you can trust what He says with your life.

Thanks to Pam for this transcription.







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