Easter is celebrated around the world this week as Christians’ most important remembrance. Christmas is important and celebrated with great energy each year also. But Easter and Christmas differ in that Christmas is much less threatening than Easter.
Christmas with the baby in the manger, the angels and the wise men, to say nothing of all the retail hype, is more sedate, palatable and undemanding than the tortured, crucified and risen Christ. For the serious thinker, Easter is a time of remembering and reflecting that demands a personal verdict. “What do I do with these facts? What does it mean to me?”
Christians see the resurrection as the most provable event in history. With the many thousands of manuscript copies of eyewitness testimony it is difficult to argue that point. Compared to all other author’s manuscripts of antiquity that are not disputed as true e.g. Caesar, Tacitus, Plato, Aristotle, etc, the manuscript evidence alone for the Christian faith far outweighs them all by the tens of thousands and are dated within less than one hundred years of the events.
Take, for instance, Plato. He wrote between 427 and 347 B.C. The earliest copy we have is dated approximately 1200 years later around 900 A.D. There are seven copies of Plato’s work. Caesar wrote of his Gaelic War campaign between 100 and 47 B.C. Ten copies exist of this great work with the earliest being dated at 900 A.D.
We could continue with the top fifteen of the most important ancient writings and find that all of their manuscripts total 1002. The earliest time span between the original and the copy of these is 750 years (Pliny) and the latest is 1400 years (Sophocles). These all are considered to have a 95% accuracy factor from the original. Not bad.
Not bad indeed, until you compare the manuscript evidence for the accuracy of the New Testament. The New Testament was written between 50 and 100 A.D. We have 5600 Greek copies of the New Testament, all dated less than 100 years from the originals with an accuracy of 99.5% between the copy and the original. And the .5% in no way disputes any doctrinal claim of the Christian faith, but are minor copying errors for the most part.
Also, there are an additional 19,000 copies of the New Testament in the Syrian, Coptic, Latin and Aramaic languages. That brings the grand total to over 24,000. All of the originals are believed to have been completed by 70 A.D.
This means that there would have been plenty of First Century people alive then that could have disputed the claims of these writers in no uncertain terms if they had written fables. There are absolutely no ancient record of First Century contemporaries that contest the claims of these Apostles and disciples of Jesus.
This truly is just a small part of the many proofs that gives the Christian confidence to stand firm in his/her faith. These alone are things to seriously ponder as you consider Easter this year.
If you are a “C &E” (Christmas and Easter) church goer, maybe you will take a solemn and thoughtful consideration of the claims of Christ this year. The implications are great and the new life He promised is too precious to ignore.
Happy Easter everyone! Enjoy the egg hunts for the kids and the great family time. And I hope you will attend a great church celebration of Easter with a new slant on why we celebrate this most important event.