And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:...After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:4,6
“Dead men don’t rise from the dead”. Those holding to this presupposition will prima facie deny the veracity of the New Testament given its claims that Jesus rose from the grave. Thus, their quest for the historical Jesus will never discover a divine Jesus. This is methodological
Both the New Testament gospels and epistles abound with claims of the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus. The authors of these texts claim not only that Jesus came back to physical life at a point in history but that all people will experience a similar physical, bodily resurrection in the future. Despite various claims to the contrary (that the resurrection of Christ was meant as spiritual or otherwise symbolic), the bodily resurrection of Jesus is a serious Biblical claim that must be addressed.
Additionally, the Christology of Jesus is a serious Biblical claim that must be addressed. That Jesus was raised from the dead does not in and of itself, indicate that he is God incarnate. That Jesus claimed to be God incarnate does.
Obviously, the claim that God could do anything (whether it be raising someone from the dead or causing the wind to blow) requires that God exist. If there is no God, then He can’t be Jesus. Thus, Jesus can’t be God. Neither can God have raised Jesus from the dead. What’s the point, then, if the New Testament authors lied about or were unclear in their reporting of the resurrection and Christological claims of Jesus? If it’s impossible for such claims to be true, are apparent discrepancies in their accounts really worth exploring? The answer is no.
The question that must first be answered is,
“Does God Exist?”
To show this, the Christian apologist can turn to cosmological, ontological, teleological, and axiological arguments for the existence of the “god” of classical theism. Only when the atheistic
legend theorist is convinced that such a “god” can exist can he be shown that the god of classical theism is actually revealed in the triune God of the Bible. That the atheist denies the existence of God indicates that he is stuck in a mire of futile “speculations.” If one is to wrestle with a pig, it is wise to first give him a bath.
One of the best responses is that these followers seemed to have genuinely believed the message of the text. “Even skeptical New Testament scholars admit that the earliest disciples at least believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead. In fact, they pinned nearly everything on it.”
Jesus’ earliest followers believed the Christian message, even at the risk of their lives. This begs the question, for the proponent of the legend option, “Do the extant New Testament texts contain the same Christian message which Jesus’ earliest followers
believed?” In other words, can the textual transmission of the New Testament be trusted? The evidence indicates that it can. “The text of the “New Testament is 99.5% textually pure. In the entire text of 20,000 lines, only 40 lines are in doubt (about 400 words), and none affects any significant doctrine…The purity of (the) text is of such a substantial nature that nothing (Christians) believe to be true, and nothing (Christians) are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by (textual) variants.”
The New Testament portrays events recounted by sincere believers that were entirely possible under a theistic worldview. This does not necessitate their truth but neither does it necessitate that the incarnate God of the New Testament is a fabrication, impossibility, or legend. What it does necessitate is that the claims of Jesus should be sincerely considered."