Institution Granting Degree
Michigan State University
The subject of this dissertation is the resurrection of Jesus, which is perceived to be the central doctrine of the Christian faith. The subject is treated rationally in regards to the possibility of the resurrection being a historical event.
Research in this topic falls into the realms of three disciples--religion, history and philosophy. The entire question is admittedly most related to Christian theology, but there has also been an upsurge in the amount of interest from contemporary history and philosophy as well. Some of these trends in intellectual thought are also investigated.
This dissertation therefore deals with the problems encountered in a rational approach to the resurrection. As stated above, the main purpose is to endeavor to ascertain if this occurrence can be demonstrated to be historical or not. However, there are other definite implications involved beyond this immediate purpose, for if the resurrection actually happened (or if it did not) this is surely much significance for Christian faith and theology.
The method used is first to investigate some preliminary questions. After studying the importance of the resurrection in contemporary intellectual thought (especially in these three disciplines), the relation of this even (as a claimed miracle) to science an history is examined. Also included is a study of the philosophical problem of reason and faith.
The main format consists of an investigation of three possible intellectual approaches to the resurrection. The first possibility is that this even did not occur literally at all. The second possibility is that it did occur, but that it cannot be demonstrated as such. The third possibility is that the resurrection did occur literally and that it can be demonstrated. It is extremely important to note here that the word "demonstrate" is not used as a synonym for "absolute proof" in this study. To belief that the resurrection can be demonstrated is this a reference to probabilities--that the resurrection is the most probably conclusion in light of the factual evidence.
The view of one primary scholar from each of three categories will be investigated, supplemented by several others who take a similar position regarding the occurrence of this event. One historian (David Hume), one philosopher (Soren Kierkegaard) and one theologian (Wolfhart Pannenberg) are the primary scholars. It is not the overall philosophies of these scholars which are studied, but rather their approach to this occurrence.
Lastly, an evaluation of each of these three possibilities is given. The object here is to ascertain the approach which is best supported by the facts.
The major findings of this study are difficult to summarize briefly because the argument here is a closely-knit one. However, it is concluded first that science and history cannot rule out the miraculous with an investigation. A priori rejections are not possible in view of the modern concepts of science and history. In addition, it is found that an investigation of the facts is needed in order to ascertain if miracles such as the resurrection actually occurred or not. An inductive study of the facts based upon the probability of the findings is thus the proper procedure and the one used here.
The results show that the literal resurrection of Jesus is in all probability a historical fact. Alternate theories are thoroughly investigated as part of the three major possibilities outlined above. It is found that there are no naturalistic views which adequately explain the facts. In addition, there are several strong historical facts which also point to this even. Based upon such probabilities, the resurrection is affirmed as a historical even. There are also certain implications for Christian faith and theology because of this conclusion.