by Thomas A. Miller, MD
Crossway, Wheaton, Ill. 176 pages.
reviewed by EUGENE BIERLY
For most people in the scientific world, the notion that a dead person could come back to life, once truly dead, is nonsense. And yet the belief that Jesus did exactly that forms the backbone of the Christian faith and has been one of its cardinal doctrines for some 2000 years. If science is correct, have we been deceived?
The question raised in the title of this book addresses this concern “head-on.” The author is especially qualified to take on this challenge being a person of science who understands how scientists think, evaluate evidence and determine its trustworthiness. As such, I found the book well researched and documented. When subjects were controversial, both sides were presented, giving a balanced viewpoint for any reader.
Among the issues presented in the book, the first relates to the reliability of the Gospels as basic source material for determining whether a resurrection actually occurred. The author presents compelling data that if the Gospels are held to the same standard of evaluation as other ancient documents they are just as trustworthy as other writings that we generally don’t question. Since they were written within 40 years of Jesus’ death (with the possible exception of John), it is highly improbable for myths to have been incorporated into these writings as eyewitnesses would still have been alive to refute such falsehoods.
A second issue concerns Jesus’ death, specifically the idea that he was in some “swoon-like” state when placed in the tomb. The author vigorously challenges this possibility from a medical perspective by showing how brutal a crucifixion really was and that there is virtually no doubt that Jesus was dead when removed from the cross. Further, the body was prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, and witnessed by Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus, indicating that four people confirmed his death and knew where he was buried.
Concerning the empty tomb, the author carefully discusses the various challenges as to whether it actually existed and why they do not “hold-up” to careful scrutiny.
In concert with the empty tomb, it is the fourth issue, namely the witnesses, which validate that a resurrection truly occurred. Not only was Jesus seen alive by more than 500 witnesses in the same body he possessed prior to death, but many of these witnesses talked and ate with him. Further, there are no recorded stories that the resurrection was a hoax. Of equal note is the impact of the resurrection on the disciples. It was as though they were re-invigorated with new energy and hope. Their attitude, thinking and commitment were radically changed to the point that they were even willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Christ.
I highly recommend this book. I believe any reader will find it thought provoking and persuasive and quite unique in its defense of the resurrection.
EUGENE BIERLY is a ruling elder and deacon who lives in Rockville, Maryland. His professional work has been in the physical and environmental sciences.