Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis with your questions regarding the Christ’s resurrection and its relationship to the Old Testament. Let’s go through each of your questions in order so that we can see the fallacious reasoning expressed by your friend. [P.’s original words are indented and in red.]
I have three questions regarding the Old Testament. An atheist friend of mine claimed that the Resurrection cannot be established as true unless it is first established that God revealed Himself to Moses.
One of the most effective things you can do to reach people with the gospel is to build a good relationship with them.
Let me commend you for maintaining a friendly relationship with this atheist. One of the most effective things you can do to reach people with the gospel is to build a good relationship with them, especially if you are following the Lord’s command to love one another. Jesus said that people will know that we are his followers if we love one another (John 13:34–35). Unbelievers need to see what God is truly like, and one of the primary ways they can do that is to see his love and power at work in our lives. Of course, we must avoid participating in sinful activities they might choose to do and be mindful of the negative influence they might have on us (1 Corinthians 15:33).
The first point made by your friend is a non sequitur. That is, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. I want to be very clear in what I’m about to write, because it might easily be misunderstood by some Christians, but it destroys your friend’s rationale.
The reality and historicity of the resurrection is dependent upon the answers to these two questions alone.
The reality and historicity of Christ’s resurrection does not depend upon Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and it does not even depend upon the Christian doctrines of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. The reality and historicity of the resurrection is dependent upon the answers to these two questions alone.
- Did Jesus of Nazareth die?
- Did Jesus of Nazareth live again after his death?
If Jesus died on the cross and was alive after that, then he rose from the dead. Period.
Please notice, I am not in any way denying Mosaic authorship or the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. In fact, I wholeheartedly affirm them. I am merely making the point here that the resurrection of Jesus comes down to whether it really happened in time and space, regardless of one’s views of the Bible and God’s existence.
Your friend is avoiding the main point by focusing attention on other matters. This common tactic is known as a red herring fallacy, and it tends to be used quite often by skeptics when discussing the resurrection. I’ve had skeptics tell me that they cannot believe that Jesus rose from the dead because there are supposedly contradictions in the order of post-resurrection appearances in the gospel accounts or because only Matthew includes strange details about saints rising and appearing in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51–53). Yet, neither of these claims has anything to do with whether Jesus rose from the dead. They simply distract from the main issue. At best (for the skeptic), they would have only shown that there is an error in the Bible as we have it today. It would not repudiate the central truth that all four Gospel writers and the other New Testament authors unreservedly proclaim without any disagreement whatsoever: Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. The truth is that the skeptic hasn’t proved an error because there are no contradictions in the order of post-resurrection appearances, and there is a perfectly logical reason why Matthew alone mentions the saints rising and appearing in Jerusalem.
He argues that that this is a requirement for the resurrection to be true as if God did not reveal Himself to Moses, then it would follow that the Old Testament religion evolved over time instead of being divinely revealed to mankind and this in turn provides evidence that the Biblical God does not exist and therefore the resurrection is already false. My question is how do I respond to this?
As I’ve shown above, the historical reality of the resurrection does not depend upon God revealing himself to Moses. Furthermore, God’s existence does not depend upon him revealing himself to Moses.
Now it is true that if God does not exist then the resurrection would be false, or at the very least, if for some unknown reason Jesus came back to life again, his death and resurrection would not have any special significance to us.
Even if God did not reveal himself to Moses it would not follow that the “Old Testament religion evolved over time.”
Once again, the skeptic has engaged in non sequiturs. Even if God did not reveal himself to Moses it would not follow that the “Old Testament religion evolved over time.” This is the fallacy of bifurcation—claiming something must be either A or B when there are other options available. In this case, your friend is claiming that either God revealed himself to Moses OR the Israelite religion evolved and God does not exist. There are other options. What if God revealed himself to Joshua or other key figures? Again, at best, the skeptic’s argument would only be a strike against the doctrine of inerrancy, but it certainly would not disprove God’s existence or the truth of the gospel message. Nevertheless, there are many reasons for believing that God appeared to Moses and that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. First and foremost, the Lord Jesus Christ said that Moses wrote these books, and since Jesus is God and cannot lie, I’ll take his Word for it. But there is also strong archaeological evidence to show that what the Bible tells us about Moses and the Israelites is accurate. This includes evidence for the Exodus, Conquest, and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch.
Why All the Fuss?
Let’s turn this around on your atheist friend for a moment. Ironically, your atheist friend is attempting to appeal to logical arguments, but from his or her own worldview there is no basis for the laws of logic. Atheists are philosophical naturalists, so their worldview makes no allowance for immaterial laws, and yet the laws of logic are both immaterial and undeniable. After all, one must use the laws of logic to argue that they don’t exist. Furthermore, atheism provides no ultimate standard for right and wrong. So, why would it be wrong for something to be untrue or contradictory in an atheistic worldview? The biblical worldview perfectly accounts for these things while the atheistic worldview provides no ultimate basis for logic or morality.
Also, how could your friend ever prove that God did not reveal himself to Moses? There has been a rather concerted effort among biblical critics and liberal theologians to undermine the authenticity of the Pentateuch (and much of the rest of Scripture) for the past two centuries or so. We are told that there is no archaeological evidence for the Israelites in Egypt during the time the Bible claims they were there. They claim there is no archaeological evidence for the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt or their conquest of Canaan. The reason they repeatedly say this is because they are looking at the wrong time period. They study layers representing the 12th and 13th centuries BC, and they don’t find evidence of these biblical events during this time period. Well, that’s because the Bible places these events roughly two centuries earlier (the Exodus around 1446 BC and the beginning of the conquest 40 years later). In the layers representing that time period, we find remarkable evidence for each of these events, confirming yet again that the Bible accurately records historical events.
Also, can the Resurrection be established as true regardless of the Old Testament? I think it can but I am not sure.
Yes, the resurrection can be established as true regardless of the Old Testament. As I explained above, whether Jesus rose from the dead does not depend on the accuracy or historicity of the Old Testament. It depends on whether Jesus of Nazareth died and then lived again after his death. The 500+ people who reportedly saw him alive after his death (1 Corinthians 15:6) did not need the Old Testament to prove to themselves that he was alive. Those men whose lives were transformed upon seeing the risen Savior did not stop and say, “Hmm . . . I don’t think I’m really seeing Jesus alive in front of me right now because I’m not sure if God truly revealed himself to Moses.” That would be absurd, but that’s what your friend is essentially claiming. He’s trying to ignore and undermine history’s most important event by calling into question whether God spoke to Moses, something he could never disprove and you could not prove through scientific investigation.
The Old Testament provides much of the background to explain why the resurrection is so important.
That being said, the Old Testament provides much of the background to explain why the resurrection is so important. Adam’s sin brought suffering, death, and the curse into creation, but the Last Adam (Jesus Christ) died for our sins, and then he rose from the dead, showing that he has power over sin and death. He promises to give eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 3:15–16), and someday he will make all things new and there will be no more suffering, death, or curse.
Finally, can the Resurrection of Jesus Christ be used as evidence that the religion of the Old Testament originated from divine revelation?
You’ve mentioned “the religion of the Old Testament” a couple of times, so I think we need to define that. I assume you are referring to the Israelite religion, or what would later be called the Jewish faith, based on God’s law that he delivered through Moses. Of course, there were plenty of righteous people in the Old Testament prior to the giving of the law to Moses (e.g., Enoch, Noah, and Abraham), so they couldn’t rightly be classified as members of the Jewish religion. Now let’s move on to your question.
What Would Jesus Do?
Our strongest reason for believing the Bible is authoritative is because we are following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, we need to consider why we view Scripture as our authority. It isn’t because there were 66 books compiled into one larger volume that the church has traditionally viewed as authoritative. It is because we believe the writing of those books was inspired by God. And our strongest reason for believing the Bible is authoritative is that we are following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He claimed to be God and predicted multiple times that he would rise from the dead. Therefore, if Jesus rose from the dead (and he did), then the resurrection is proof that God approved of Jesus’ work and ministry, including his claims to be divine. Thus, the resurrection demonstrates Christ’s deity, and since he is God and he viewed the Old Testament as true and authoritative, then we should follow his lead.
In fact, Jesus stated that God revealed himself to Moses: “And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?” (Mark 12:26). Of course, Jesus was referring to the event described in Exodus 3, where “the angel of the LORD” appeared and spoke to Moses from the burning bush, and there are very strong reasons to conclude that “the angel of the LORD” is the preincarnate Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. And since Jesus is the Son of God, he would know full well that God revealed himself to Moses because he is the one who appeared to Moses.
During his ministry, Jesus frequently spoke about Moses and even spoke with him on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:30). When he was tempted by Satan, Jesus responded to each temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy, a book written by Moses. He spoke of the writings of Moses as the “commandment of God” (Mark 7:8–10), reiterated instructions from these writings (Matthew 8:4), and answered challenges to his teaching based on these books without ever questioning the divine authority of the writings (Luke 20:27–40). Following his glorious resurrection, Jesus used the writings of Moses (and others) to demonstrate to his followers the things written about the Messiah, especially about his suffering and death (Luke 24:26–27, 44). Throughout all of his teachings, the Son of God never questioned whether Moses wrote the Pentateuch or whether his writings carried divine authority.
It is demonstrably true that long before Jesus was ever born the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would die and rise again.
The second way the resurrection confirms the Old Testament is that it is demonstrably true that, long before Jesus was ever born, the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would die and rise again. Isaiah states that the Messiah would be “cut off from the land of the living” (Isaiah 53:8), that his death would be a sacrifice for our sins (Isaiah 53:5, 10–12) and afterward he would “prolong his days” (Isaiah 53:10). And we know this chapter wasn’t written after Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection. The Great Isaiah Scroll includes these teachings, and it was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Daniel 9:26 states that “the Messiah would be cut off, but not for Himself.” Psalm 16:10 adds that God’s “holy one” would not remain in Sheol or see corruption, a reference cited by Peter (Acts 2:27) and Paul (Acts 13:35) as a reference to Christ’s resurrection. The accurate predictive prophecies of the Old Testament demonstrate its supernatural source since only God has perfect knowledge of all things, including future events.
This truth answers another skeptical claim. We often hear atheists claim that nothing happens when a person dies. The body just becomes worm food. Or if they are a bit more agnostic, they might claim that there’s no way to know what happens. On the contrary, we can know what happens to a person after death. God’s Word tells us what will happen: those who have received God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ will dwell eternally with him while those who have rejected God’s forgiveness will suffer eternally apart from him. Also, we can know what happens because our Savior came from heaven (John 3:13), lived a sinless life, and then died in our place. Then he came back to life, and he has told us what awaits people upon death.
I am eager to hear your response and Thank you so much for your time and work for the Kingdom of God.
Thanks for reaching out to us. It is an honor and privilege to serve the Creator of the universe and to share the good news of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection with a world that desperately needs to hear it.
Tim Chaffey, AiG–U.S.