Apologetics Lecture 9 Person and Work of Christ. Death and Burial

The following demonstrates the validity of his work. First, His death.

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Work of Christ

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Death

Read in class the Raw Data

Matthew 27:27-56

Mark 15:21-41

Luke 23:26-49

John 19:16-37

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The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is central to Christianity. Of the utmost importance is the resurrection; however, if Jesus did not truly die, then he did not truly rise from the dead. Therefore, we must establish the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Did he really die and did he really die by crucifixion?

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Here we will be dealing with the apologetic value of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. We will not be dealing with the atonement or how that works in Christian theology.

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First, we will deal with the reasons for rejecting the historicity of the death of Jesus, then we will investigate alternate theories for his crucifixion and finally evidence for the death of Jesus by crucifixion.

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Reasons for rejecting the historicity of the death of Jesus: religious reasons, philosophical, moral.

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Reasons for Rejecting the Historicity of the Death of Jesus

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1.Religious (dealt with under each religion later, primarily Islam)
2.Philosophical: It is irrational or immoral.

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The following are the philosophical grounds for rejecting the death of Jesus.

Theological liberals take issue with the idea that salvation was produced for us on the cross by substitution. This makes total sense in light of 1 Corinthians 1:18.

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However, does Christian teaching, especially the theological necessity of the death of Christ, violate rationality? Is it illogical? Just because it does not make sense to me, does that mean that it is irrational?

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There’s a difference between the following:

 Rational
 It makes sense
 It does not violate laws of logic
 I can understand it.
 Irrational
 It does not make sense
 It violates laws of logic
 I cannot understand it.
 Beyond rational (supra-rational?)
 It does not make sense
 It does not violate laws of logic
 I cannot understand it.

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For the liberal theologian’s claim that the cross is irrational due to “substitution” to hold up under scrutiny, he must prove that substitution is illogical and irrational in the mind of God. To do that would require knowing the mind of God, which, in turn, would require arguing from the revelation that we have.

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The only revelation that is credible is the revelation found in the Bible. The Bible clearly teaches salvation by substitution. Therefore, salvation by substitution is not irrational.

 The substitutionary death of Christ is either irrational or rational.
 It is not irrational.
 The first premise must prove that substitution is illogical and irrational in the mind of God.
 This requires knowing the mind of God.
 Further, this requires arguing from the revelation from God.
 The revelation from God is in the Bible.
 The Bible clearly teaches Christ death was substitutionary.
 Therefore, Christ’s substitutionary death was not irrational.
 Therefore, the substitutionary death of Christ is rational.

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That’s the charge of Christ’s death being irrational. Let’s deal with the charge that Christ’s death is immoral.

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3.Moral: The death of Christ is immoral

Liberals deny the biblical teaching of the substitutionary atonement, not only on rational grounds, but on moral grounds. Not only do they view the substitutionary death as irrational, they also view it as immoral. How can you justify punishing the innocent on behalf of the guilty?

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However,

 the Bible’s teaching on substitution for deliverance from sin is similar to
 human teaching on substitution for deliverance from death.

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Illustration: If a soldier dies by a heroic act in order to save the life of his comrades, he is greatly honored. For that matter, if anyone dies in order to save the life of another, he is viewed as a hero.

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This is what Jesus did. Read Romans 5:7-8. (v. 7 and the good men, e.g., a soldier)

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For those who emphasize that the Father sacrificed His Son, that the Father sent his Son in order to kill him, fail to understand that the death of Jesus on the cross was voluntary. It was not forced upon the Son of God to take flesh, to live and die for the sins of mankind. This isn’t divine child abuse.

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Jesus said… Luke 22:42; John 10:18. See also Hebrews 10:7

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The fact remains that the debt of sin must be paid for. Who else will pay for it other than someone who is without sin? And it must be paid to God. God’s justice demands that sin be dealt with in the way that he sees fit. Therefore, it is not unjust or immoral, but justice and the morality of God demand that sin be paid for by someone capable of paying it. Who else is capable of paying for it?

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In the wisdom and eternality of God, who is morally perfect, we cannot conclude that a moral absolute of God has been broken when a completely voluntary innocent person dies on behalf of others. It is not immoral; it is commendable. Otherwise, we would not commend such individuals, e.g., soldiers dying for other soldiers.

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Plus, the logical conclusion that the substitutionary atonement is immoral leads to a repugnant logical conclusion.

 God is not immoral (He is perfectly loving).
 But a substitutionary atonement is immoral (so claim liberals)
 This statement presupposes a moral and unchangeable nature of God. Otherwise, they could not claim something is immoral.
 This moral and unchangeable nature of God still requires punishment of sin.
 Someone must pay for the punishment of sin since God is not immoral (e.g., not unjust. He demands justice.). So either…
 So either a substitute pays for the punishment of sin or (here is where it gets scary…) the sinner pays for the punishment of his own sin.
 A substitute doesn’t pay for anyone’s sin.
 Therefore, the sinner pays for his own sin for eternity.

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That is not a very helpful conclusion. Basically, if a substitute doesn’t pay for it, the sinner must. Liberals don’t like this conclusion either. So if God is not immoral, like both liberals and conservatives believe (he is perfectly loving) God will find a way to pay for the punishment of our sin and deliver us from it. Christ did just that 1 Peter 3:18.

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Conclusion: Often people reject the notion of the substitutionary death of Christ merely because of their presuppositions. That is, they have preconceived notions about who God is and what is right or wrong completely apart from revelation. It is our job to address their faulty presuppositions (which we just did).

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Someone says…

The atonement is divine child abuse. Notes from Jason Helopoulos’ article.

First, an assertion along these lines assumes that we have a better view of all things than God. It suggests that we can determine what is right, just, and righteous to a greater degree than God. How do we know that anything is right? How do we know if something is righteous or just? Paul says in Romans 7, “Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “Thou shall not covet.”” We know what sin is, what good is, what is right, what is wrong, what is just, and what unjustice is, because of the Law of God. God, Himself, is the standard for holiness, righteousness, and justice. Furthermore, He has established what is righteous and what is just and what is right. Therefore, how silly it is for those who wouldn’t know what is right apart from the Law to say that the Lawgiver Himself, who established, defines, and gives very meaning to that Law, is in contradiction with that same Law.

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Second, from all of eternity, He established that He would do this very thing (1 Cor. 2:7). Even before the world was created or the Fall occurred, God in eternity past had determined, planned, and ordained that the second person of the Triune God, the Son, would become flesh and willingly die to purchase a people for the glory of God (Eph. 1:4-5). He predetermined and decreed that the Son would come into this world to bear the penalty of sin for sinners. He did not come to only uphold the Law, but to fulfill it. Christ’s substitutionary death in our place was no plan B. This is the sovereign decree and plan of an omnipotent, omniscient, and merciful God. This is His world. This was His decree. It is His Law. And it is His right and generosity to provide for fallen sinners in such a merciful way.

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Third, Christ’s substitution for us was anything but divine child abuse as is clear from the fact that the Son willingly suffered in our place. Hebrews says, that Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus knows that He must die as a substitute for sinners and He willingly chooses this path. He says in Luke 9, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (vs. 22). In Luke 17 He says, “But first (the Son of Man) must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation” (vs. 25). In Luke 18 He says, “For (the Son of Man) will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (vv. 32-33). He willingly, humbly, and knowingly became a substitute for us.

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And that leads to our final point. Some may argue, “But even if Christ knew and willingly offered Himself, in our penal system, we would say it isn’t right for one man to bear the penalty of death for another.” That is true, because no mere man owns himself. Therefore, we don’t have the right to substitute our own lives in the place of another, enduring the justice that is their due. No man can justly offer Himself for another, because he is not his own. He was created by God and so he belongs to God. But Christ is His own. He is the owner of His own life. He is the Creator and He may choose to die for others if He so chooses, because it is His life. He is wholly unique as the Godman. He said, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18).[1]

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Alternative Theories

Some people avoid the historicity of the death of Christ by attempting to explain it away. This is often done with the eye toward being able to deny the resurrection. Since there was no death, they argue, there was therefore, no resurrection.

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First, the substitution theory. Was it really Jesus who died? Maybe it was someone else!

Substitution: This category of theories argues that someone else died in the place of Jesus. It is mostly held in the teachings of Islam. So we may deal with that more there. However, forms of this type of legend were offered as early as the second century by other opponents. Gnostics taught that Jesus changed form with Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus cross. The Jews mistook Simon for Jesus and nailed Simon to the cross. Then, Jesus ascended to heaven.

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Others have been offered as well

 the son of the widow of Nain, whom Jesus raised from the dead, was put to death.
 The devil himself.

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Critique of the substitution theory: It is simply not historically credible. Like the previous section, these conclusions may help substantiate the presuppositions of the holder of the theory, but they fail to line up with the facts of history.

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As we have argued already in this class, we have no reason not to trust the biblical accounts as history. Likewise, the substitution theory contradicts other historical accounts of the death of Christ. The substitution theory did not originate from history but from contrary religious teachings (i.e., faulty presuppositions), for example, Gnosticism and Islam.

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Two theories that argue that Jesus did not die on the cross are the swoon theory and the drugged-body theory. We will deal with these under the discussion of the resurrection.

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Evidence for Jesus’ Death by Crucifixion

Predicted: We noted several of these OT prophecies, but Jesus also predicted numerous times that he would die and rise again. For example, Matthew 17:22-23.

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Additionally, the Old Testament and New Testament predictions that the Messiah would rise from the dead assumes that he died. Therefore, not only do we have direct prophecies concerning the death of the Messiah, we also have indirect evidence of His death through the resurrection prophecies.

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Nature of Crucifixion: If you understand crucifixion and who it was who crucified Jesus, there’d be no way to conclude that Jesus did not die when he was crucified. You have to somehow argue that Jesus was not crucified at all.

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Know the facts surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus.

1.He did not sleep the night before the crucifixion. Recall he was praying in the garden of Gethsemane and then endured trials through the night.
2.He was beaten and whipped; crown of thorns.
3.He collapsed while carrying his cross.

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That was previous to the actual crucifixion.

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Crucifixion

1.Length of Time for Jesus: An already-bloodied, exhausted Jesus was on the cross for six hours beginning at nine in the morning. Mark 15:25,33
2.He would have been bleeding from his hands, feet, and scalp.
3.During crucifixion, Jesus would have to pull up with his hands and push up with his feet to breathe.
4.Finally, Jesus was pierced with a spear. Blood and water flowed out, which is proof of physical death (John 19:34). An eyewitness, namely John, clearly wrote the account.
 An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (21 March 1986)[2] concluded:
 “Clearly, the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between his right rib, probably perforated not only the right lung but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured his death [thus, the blood and water flowed out, Jn. 19:34]. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”
5.Testimony of His Death

Here, we deal with the historical data a little more closely concerning the actual death of Jesus.

 Autobiography: Clearly Jesus predicted it and claimed that he died. See Luke 23:46.
 Disciples:
 Luke, a doctor, records his death in Luke 23:46.
 John records it: John 19:30
 Witnesses: Luke also records other witnesses who heard his death cry: Luke 23:47-49
 Roman soldiers: John 19:33. Roman soldiers were expert executioners. They knew when someone was alive or dead. Breaking someone’s legs prevented the crucified from being able to breathe. They did not break Jesus legs, which proves they knew he was already dead.
 Pilate: Mark 15:44-45. Pilate made sure that Jesus was dead; he double checked.
 Tomb: Even if Jesus did not die on the cross, he was wrapped in 100 pounds of cloth and spices and placed in a tomb for three days. With no food, water, or medical treatment, he would have certainly died. However, the Bible is clear; he died while on the cross.

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Historical References to Jesus’ Death:

Early writers verify that Jesus did indeed die.

 The first-century Samaritan-born historian, Thallus (ca. 52), when discussing the darkness which fell upon the land during the crucifixion of Christ, “spoke of it as an eclipse” (Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, 113).
 The second-century Greek writer, Lucian, “the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced a new cult into the world.”
 Etc. Other Jewish, Gentile writers…

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Overall: Here, we have answered objections from those who would like to discredit the historicity of the death of Jesus. We have answered that those who do so, do so on the basis of faulty presuppositions. Alternate explanations clearly defy historical realities. The historicity of the death of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross is inescapable.

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Secondly…

The Burial

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Raw Data

Matthew 27:57-66

Mark 15:42-47

Luke 23:50-56

John 19:38–42

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The Nature of the Scene of Jesus’ Tomb

Before arguing for the historicity of the empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth, we will deal with the nature of the scene of Jesus tomb.

http://www.graincon.com/sitebuilder/images/tombofjesus-600x358.png

A Jewish Tomb

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Solid rock tomb: The Gospels tell us that the body of Christ was placed in a new tomb and that it was hewn out of solid rock. It was a private tomb, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

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Entrances to Jewish tombs typically measured 4.5-5 feet high. Read John 20:5.

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Jewish Burial: The New Testament record confirms that the burial of Christ followed the customs of the Jews.

 Not on the cross overnight: The Jews did not allow a Jewish person’s body to remain on a cross throughout the entire night. The Talmud taught that to do so was a cursing of God.[3]
 Preparing the Body: The body was washed with warm water in the burial chamber.
 The Spices: John 19:39 records the weight, 100 Roman pounds[4], 75 American pounds, or 32.5 kilograms. Nothing too extravagant, seeing that when Herod died, it required 500 servants to carry the spices.

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The Stone in Front of the Tomb: “Very Large”

 An early manuscript adds as a parenthetical statement to Mk. 16:4, “And when He was laid there, he (Joseph) put against the tomb a stone which 20 men could not roll away.”
 Georgia Tech engineers calculated that the size of the stone had to be approximately 1.5-2 tons in order to roll against the 4.5-5 foot doorway.

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Roman Security

 Read Matthew 27:63-66.
 Roman guards
 A Roman guard was highly trained; perhaps the most trained individuals in the history of the world at that point.
 A Roman guard probably consisted of a unit of 16 men (at least 4).
 4 men would have been placed directly in front of the tomb.
 12 men were asleep in front of them. Thus, thieves would have had to walk over the guards who were sleeping.
 Every four hours another unit of four was awakened and the awake unit was allowed to sleep.

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 High Priest bribes Roman guards: Read Mt. 28:11-15. A multi-man force.
 Roman Seal (Mt. 27:66):
 It can only be placed on the stone in the presence of the guards.
· It was a cord that was stretched across the rock.
· It was fastened on either end with sealing clay.
· The clay was stamped with the official signet of the Roman governor.
 It served the purpose of authenticating, or proving its reality or genuineness. The seal was a testimony of the presence of Jesus body in the tomb. They were truly guarding something. Breaking the seal would result in capital punishment.

Summary

1.Christ died by crucifixion.
2.Christ’s body was buried in a tomb of solid rock (no back entrance).
3.The stone in front of the tomb weighed about two tons.
4.Between 4 and 16 highly-trained Roman guards were commissioned to guard the tomb.
5.The tomb was sealed with the authority of Rome. Breaking the seal meant death.

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Conclusion: Jesus’ body is in there, for sure!

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from Apologetics Lecture 9 Person and Work of Christ. Death and Burial

Go to Theology Main Page

Go to Apologetics Lectures Main Page

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  1. http://www.alliancenet.org/christward/was-christs-death-divine-child-abuse#.WIqVDxsrKM8

  2. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=252

  3. NET Note: The Jewish authorities, because this was the day of preparation for the Sabbath and the Passover (cf. Joh 19:14, requested Pilate to order the legs of the three who had been crucified to be broken. This would hasten their deaths, so that the bodies could be removed before the beginning of the Sabbath at 6 p.m. This was based on the law of Deut 21:22–23; Jos 8:29 that specified the bodies of executed criminals who had been hanged on a tree should not remain there overnight. According to Josephus this law was interpreted in the 1st century to cover the bodies of those who had been crucified (J. W. 4.5.2 [4.317]). Philo of Alexandria also mentions that on occasion, especially at festivals, the bodies were taken down and given to relatives to bury (Flaccus 10 [83]). The normal Roman practice would have been to leave the bodies on the crosses, to serve as a warning to other would-be offenders.

  4. NET note: The Roman pound (litra) weighed twelve ounces or 325 grams. Thus 100 Roman pounds would be about 32.5 kilograms or 75 pounds.

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