Resurrection and Historical Inquiry

When some historians look at the historical Jesus, they will look at his life and teachings and then usually end at his crucifixion.  While they may look at what early Christians believed to have happened to Jesus, they will stop short of discussing the resurrection as a part of the historical Jesus.  Why?  Because history is not capable of discussing the supernatural.  Resurrection can be discussed as a part of theology or religious faith but it cannot be discussed as history.  Has anyone actually questioned this presupposition?

I want you to use your imagination.  Imagine one day that the presidents whose faces are on Mount Rushmore began talking.  I do not mean some rain that looked like tears or a shadow that looked like a smile.  I mean that the stone mouths on the rock face were visibly moving and that their words were audible to all present.  Hundreds and hundreds of people were present to hear the words.  What the presidents said was that it was God’s will that the United States should become the eleventh province of Canada.  To back this up, they predicted a major natural disaster that took place on exactly the day predicted.  The current president of the United States and other national leaders talked to the stone presidents and were convinced that they were indeed speaking for God.  Details were worked out and the United States became a part of Canada.

Now of course, this could be described only as a supernatural event.  But what would the history books be saying about this event ten years later?  Would they simply note that the United States joined Canada but remain completely silent on the circumstances that led up to it?  Unlikely.  With such a dramatic and well attested event, supernatural or not, the details would be recorded as history.

If that is the case, so should the resurrection of Jesus be included in historical inquiry.  People are free to disagree with the Christian interpretation.  There are differences in interpretation among historians all the time.  The point is that the resurrection of Jesus deserves a place at the historical table and should not be banished to only a matter of personal faith.

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