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Can a Scholar Believe in the Resurrection?

Can a classical scholar believe in Jesus? Lindsay Whaley, professor of mathematics and linguistics at Dartmouth University, certainly thinks so. Whaley writes:

Billions of people around the world…celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. But can we really take it seriously? Or is Christianity—as cosmologist, Stephen Hawking once put it—“A fairy story for people afraid of the dark?” Resurrection? Is the concept even intellectually responsible in the 21st century? After all, we know that … Death = decomposition = dirt. Again, Stephen Hawking [wrote]: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers.”

Is the resurrection of Jesus historically plausible? Dr. Whaley weighs the evidence Jesus’ resurrection and states:

Most people agree that the historical record is quite strong on the following eight points [simplified from her original list]:

Jesus was born in ancient Palestine. He became known for his healing and teaching activities. He clashed with the religious establishment and was crucified by the Romans. He was given a dignified burial. His tomb was found empty. Many people experienced visions of him after his death including his closest disciples and a large number of his other followers. He was worshipped as God soon after his death Belief about him as a divine savior who had been resurrected spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire.

Whaley concludes:

For me, the resurrection … requires one external hypothesis: that there is a God who can perform miracles. In a western university setting, belief in God can seem terribly far-fetched, let alone belief in the resurrection. … Perhaps the story of Jesus … is a comforting story for people afraid of the dark. But Oxford professor, C. S. Lewis, put my own view best: “the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.”


Lindsay Whaley, “Can a Classicist Believe in Christmas?” Veritas (12-13-16)

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