The Resurrection

Image of The Resurrection by Fra AngelicoThe Resurrection of Jesus  is the foundational doctrine of our Catholic faith, and it is a belief which distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. In fact, Jesus is the only person in all of history to claim to have returned from the grave by His own power. (We say “person” because we believe he was wholly-God and wholly-man.)

In rising again, Jesus proved His total dominion over death. Just as His death is proof of His humanity, His resurrection is proof of His divinity. So, when the Apostle Thomas saw the Risen Christ he called Him, “My Lord and my God!” in the Gospel of John 20:28.

As we explain elsewhere, Christ’s death is our redemption; His rising is our assurance that we too shall rise again (see Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, 8:11). Moreover, as Saint Paul write is his First Letter to the Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.”

Christianity’s first eyewitnesses to the Risen Christ were women, most notably Saint Mary Magdalene. That the initial testimony to the faith’s foundational truth was entrusted to women is highly significant because in ancient Palestine the testimony of women carried little weight. So, it stands to reason that had the Resurrection been a fabrication the story would have been concocted so that Jesus appeared first to men, perhaps to Saint Peter or one of the Apostles—to someone whose testimony would have carried the most weight, not the least.

Each of the four Gospels testifies to the Resurrection, and it is mentioned throughout the New Testament letters as well.

Image of The Resurrection by Dirk BoutsBeyond Scripture, we have the witness of the historical documents known as the writings of the Early Church Fathers, who were Christians who had learned from the Apostles directly or from others who had known them.

Pope Saint Clement, for example, who knew both Saints Peter and Paul, wrote from Rome in about 96 A.D., “The Master is continually proving to us that there will be a future resurrection, of which he has made the Lord Jesus Christ the firstling, by raising him from the dead” (See the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians 24).

Even outside of the  community  of Jesus’ followers we find historical testimony to the Resurrection. Writing around 93 A.D., for instance, the Jewish historian Josephus described Jesus as “a doer of wonderful works” and “the Christ” (see Antiquities of the Jews 18:3:3). Going on to document Jesus’ trial and crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, he added, “He appeared to (those that loved him) alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”