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The Testimony of the Early Church


Reincarnation or Resurrection?

China bans reincarnation (1st minute)

Early Christianity

The book of Acts is written by the first century historian Luke. 

Luke describes the establishment of the early church and the spread of Christianity from the Jews in Jerusalem (~30AD) to the Gentiles in Rome (~60AD) over a period of about 30 years.

What tests do you use to judge the reliability of history?

  1. Manuscript evidence (The New Testament is supported by over early 5,200 manuscripts)
  2. Literary style (The style of Luke and Acts is of a investigative reporter. Luke 1:2-4)
  3. Archaeological evidence (Social & religious customs, politics, geography (names, places & topography))

Is the book of Acts reliable?

Quotes from eminent archaeologist Sir William M. Ramsay (1851-1939)

“I began with a mind unfavourable to it...but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.1

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy...this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.2

What message was a foundational belief of the early church? (ESV translation)

Acts 1:3
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Acts 2:24
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Acts 2:31
he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

Acts 2:32
This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.

Acts 3:15
and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

Acts 4:2
greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

Acts 4:10
let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.

Acts 4:33
And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Acts 5:30
The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.

Acts 10:40
but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear,

Acts 13:30
But God raised him from the dead,

Acts 13:33
this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’

Acts 13:34
And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, , no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,  “ ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’

Acts 13:37
but he whom God raised up did not see corruption.

Acts 17:18
Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.

Acts 17:31
because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Acts 17:32
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.”

Acts 23:6
Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.”

Acts 24:15
having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

Acts 24:21
other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ ”

Acts 25:19
Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.

Acts 26:8
Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Acts 26:23
that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles."
 

N T Wright - The Resurrection & The Early Church

Discussion

The resurrection was not central to the belief system of 1st century Jews. Some Jews however, believed in the resurrection(Pharisees) and others did not(Sadducees). Those that believed in a bodily resurrection taught that it would happen at the end times, when God judges the world.

How do you account for that Christianity was founded upon the resurrection of its founder, Jesus?

 

Further Research

Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

 

References

  1. William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, pg 8
  2. William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, pg 222