FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Theories Refuted by Evidence

with Josh McDowell | March 23, 2005
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The resurrection of Jesus is either the greatest hoax or the greatest fact in history. Today on the broadcast, popular author and speaker, Josh McDowell, compares theories that dispute the resurrection to evidence that supports it. Hear how Josh gave his life to Christ after weighing the facts himself.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • The resurrection of Jesus is either the greatest hoax or the greatest fact in history. Today on the broadcast, popular author and speaker, Josh McDowell, compares theories that dispute the resurrection to evidence that supports it. Hear how Josh gave his life to Christ after weighing the facts himself.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Josh McDowell compares theories that dispute the resurrection to evidence that supports it.

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Theories Refuted by Evidence

With Josh McDowell
March 23, 2005
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Josh: A Muslim student at the University of Uruguay said to me – we were kind of joking around with a lot of truth behind it, and he said, "You poor Christians."  He said, "You don't know where you're going."  He said, "We go to the tomb of our Master, we have his body.  You go to the tomb of your Master, and it's" – I said, "Go ahead and say it – it's empty."  Oh, I'd love to have had a Polaroid.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 23rd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  The empty tomb is just one piece of evidence that supports the reality of the resurrection.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  Are you ready for part 2 here?

Dennis: I think you need to strap on your seatbelts.  You are about to hear one of the most important messages.  In fact, you know, ESPN has "ESPN Classics." 

Bob: Yes, that's right.

Dennis: FamilyLife is offering you today what I believe is going to become one of the FamilyLife Classics.

Bob: That's right.  We're hearing a message this week from Josh McDowell called "Resurrection:  Hoax or History?"  It is a classic message that provides evidence for the reality of the resurrection, and we're going to just jump right in and listen as Josh McDowell presents compelling evidence for the reality of the resurrection of Christ.

Josh: Now, there are a lot of theories around that show that the resurrection was a fraud, and I recommend you read every one of them.  But, you know, I'm convinced of one thing – some people that came up to some of these theories must have had two brains.  One was lost and the other was out looking for it.  I'm serious.  Almost every theory I've ever had any professor present to me calls for a greater miracle than the resurrection – if it was true.

 Now, the Bible said this took place.  The truth of that, I don't care if you believe it or not.  With the research I've done, I'm convinced – any man or woman that takes time to examine the evidence, they're going to have to consider what the Bible says because of the evidence supporting it in history.

 Now, ladies and gentlemen, regardless if you try to say the disciples stole the body or what, there are certain documented facts of history that have to be dealt with.  For example, number one – the breaking of the Roman seal.  When that seal was broken, the FBI/CIA of the Roman Empire was thrown into finding that man or men, and when they were found, it was automatic crucifixion upside down where your guts run into your throat.  The disciples knew that.  They were a bunch of cowards. They went and hid themselves in their own homes.  The breaking of the Roman seal – it was feared by everyone.

 Second, every time somebody approached that tomb after the resurrection, an amazing statement was made in the Greek that's often lost in the English rendering.  For example, Mark says that the stone was rolled up a slope – up a slope, and for him to use that verb, there had to be an incline coming down to the front of the tomb.  Luke uses the same verb, but he added a different preposition – it means "to roll something away from something else in the sense of distance."  Now, they saw the stone roll away from – what would they roll away the stone from to steal the body?  Say, "The entrance."  Right – from the entrance of the tomb, now that's logical.  Well, on Sunday morning, the women were coming to the tomb. 

Now, I had a good question asked of me the other day.  Why were the women coming to the tomb if the Roman guard unit was there and the stone was so big and the seal was placed on it?  The answer is this – they did not know it had been sealed and the guard unit had been put there.  Christ was crucified and buried Friday afternoon.  The guard unit did not examine the body and seal it until probably about Saturday afternoon.  The women lived in the suburb of Bethany.  They didn't know about it.  And so Mark records they were coming to the tomb, and they were saying to each other "Who rolled away the stone from" – and they used the Greek word, like you brought out, more or less – for the entrance of the tomb. 

But when they got there, they said, "Who rolled away the stone from the sense of distance, and they changed the Greek word from the "entrance of the tomb," to the word for the entire massive sepulcher.  In fact, that stone was in such a position – up the slope, away from the entire tomb – that John used an entirely different Greek verb.  He used the Greek verb "hairo" in John 20, and according to the [inaudible] lexicons, it means "to pick up something and to carry it away."

Now, men and women, if they just wanted to tiptoe in and steal the body, why all the effort to move a one-and-a-half to two-ton stone up a slope, away from the entire tomb, looking like it had been picked up and carried away?  I can tell you one thing, that guard unit had to have cotton in their ears with earmuffs on not to have heard that one.  That would have been recorded on the Richter scale at Cal Tech.

And then you've got this problem – the guard unit.  I'll tell you why nobody believed they fell asleep.  Check out Philidias [ph], even better, Justin, his digest number 49, lists 18 things that a guard unit was put to death for.  And what is interesting, they're disciplined.  If the guard unit failed always one person was executed, and if they didn't know who it was that was the culprit, they cast lots, and whoever drew the lot was killed.  One way they were killed, they were stripped of their clothes and burned alive in a fire started with their own garments.  Not one of them had fallen asleep.  They'd been up all night beating each other over the head not to lose it.

And then you've got this problem – the tomb wasn't empty.  You say, "Yes, it was."  No it wasn't.  You say, "It was, too."  It was not!  The tomb was not empty.  Look, the women panicked.  You would, too.  And they ran back and told the men.  And Peter and John ran to the tomb.  Now, John got there first.  For one, he was younger, plus he probably played a lot more tennis.  But he got there first.  Now, he didn't go in.  It says he leaned over –remember the entrance – he leaned over, and he looked in.  And he looked over where the body of Christ had been placed, and there were the grave clothes.  Headpiece where the head was, body piece where the body was that caved in a little, and empty.  The body of Christ had passed right through it into a new existence.  Let's face it, that would sort of make you a hotshot believer at least for the moment.

Men and women, if Jesus didn't die then, when did He die?  Why doesn't history have no record of anyone after the resurrection going back to pay homage to their great leader?  Very simple – who wants to worship an empty tomb?  Only tourists do that today.  You say, "Wait a minute, Josh, the Romans or the Jews took the body."  Why would they do that?  "Well, that's simple, McDowell, they put it in a safe place so there wouldn't be any deception."  That sounds pretty good unless you want to think.  Why would they do the very thing that would cause all their problems?  Men and women, the disciples did not trip off to Athens or Rome to do their preaching.  Look, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, the most difficult place on the face of the earth to convince anyone of the resurrection if that tomb wasn't empty.

Look, a 15-minute walk by a Jerusalite secretary on her lunch break, eating yogurt, could confirm the emptiness of the tomb.  Now, if the Romans and the Jews had the body, why didn't they just speak up and say, "Hey, we moved it."  If that didn't suffice say, "Look, we put it over here," and show them the Beacon storage slip.  If that wasn't enough, why didn't they take the body and put it in the carriage and march it right down through the center of Jerusalem?  Let me tell you, they'd have killed Christianity not in the cradle but in the womb.  There wouldn't have been any Christianity. 

See, a lot of people never realized the Christian faith is a bodiless faith.  If there would have been a body, there would never have been a Christianity.  A Muslim student at the University of Uruguay said to me – we were kind of joking around with a lot of truth behind it, and he said, "You poor Christians." He said, "You don't know where you're going."  He said, "We go to the tomb of our Master, we have his body.  You go to the tomb, and your Master, and it's" – I said, "Go ahead and say it – it's empty."  Oh, I'd love to have had a Polaroid, because there's one Muslim student that was realizing a most significant historical fact – the tomb was empty.

Now, look at the family of Jesus.  Now, don't tell me He didn't have any brothers and sisters.  Not only is it recorded in the Gospels, but Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, in his antiquities records the death of James, the brother of the one called Jesus.  Now, when Jesus was alive, did His brothers and sisters believe in Him, did they?  No.  They thought He was a lunatic.  They thought He was deranged, going around saying, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.  No one cometh unto the Father but by me.  I am the Shepherd you are the sheep.  I am the vine, you are the branches."  What would you do if your brother did that?  It's the same thing.  They laughed, and they mocked at him.  In fact, they were embarrassed.  They said, "Look, Jesus, do you want people to believe in you?  Why don't you go up to Jerusalem?"  But where do you find those hardest to convince his own family?  After their brother went to that heinous death on the cross being cursed of God and was buried, you find those hardest to convince in the upper room in a matter of days were the disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit to descend. 

Men and women, if while He was alive, they laughed and mocked at him, and he went through that horrible, degrading death on the cross and was buried, what in the world happened that turned their lives upside down, they became followers of their own brothers, and most of them became martyrs.  James – I mean, you found him with the Pharisees not with the Christians.  He became a leader of the Jerusalem church, and he writes an Epistle – I, James, the servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, his brother.  The only answer I know to that that makes any sense is 1 Corinthians 15 – "Then he appeared unto James, his brother, the resurrection.  Jesus Christ is alive.

In fact you might say the one speaking tonight is evidence that Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, and that same power is available to every man and woman in this convention center.  Let me show you what I mean.  Let me bring it right down to where we live.

A few years ago my life was described by Thomas Aquinas, and he said there is within every soul a restless thirst for happiness and meaning.  I wanted to be happy and didn't want to be.  I wanted to be one of the happiest individuals in the whole world, and I couldn't see anything wrong with that.  I was on the back of a motor scooter with a businessman in Newport Beach, and we were riding along, and we were laughing and having a good time.  I enjoy life.  I love to laugh.  It's one reason why my physician said I don't have ulcers.  He said I laugh a lot plus I tell people exactly what I think.

So we were riding along, laughing and telling ourselves what we thought, and these two women pulled up in a brand-new Continental, and for three blocks at about 17-20 miles an hour, they just rode alongside staring at us.  Well, after about three blocks, the lady on the passenger side rolled down her window, and she yelled out and said, "What right do you have to be so happy."  Rolled up the window and drove on.

Well, I wanted to be happy, and more than that, I wanted the answers to these three questions – who am I?  What am I here?  Where am I going?  I wanted to be free.  Freedom is not doing what you want to do, it's doing what you know you ought to do.  So I started looking for answers.  Where I was brought up, everybody had religion.  So I took off for church.  I think I must have found the wrong church.  In spite of what the pastor said, I still believe in God.  But I felt worse inside than I did outside.  So I thought, "Well, maybe education is the answer."  So I went and enrolled in a university.  What a disappointment.  I used to buttonhole my faculty in their offices.  I'm sure some of them used to turn the lights off and pull the shades when they saw me coming. 

Dr. Sheldon, my economic theory professor, he could tell me how to make a better living, but my faculty could not tell me how to live better, and that's where they let me down.  Then I tried student leadership, political offices, got elected.  But it seemed like every Monday morning I woke up the same individual, usually with a headache because of the night before, and the attitude, "Well, here goes another five days."  I sort of endured, Monday through Friday.  Happiness evolved around three nights a week, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then I went out and started the vicious cycle all over again.

About that time, I became frustrated, not desperate, but I was frustrated, because there weren't very many people in the universities of this country more sincere in trying to find meaning and truth and purpose to life than I was, and I hadn't found it.  About that time I was very fortunate.  In and around the university, I saw a small group of people.  There weren't very many.  There were eight students and two faculty members.  There was something different about their lives.  They seemed to know where they were going in life.  That's unusual today.  But they not only seemed to know where they were going, they had something else that I admire – these men and women seemed to have convictions.  In other words, they seemed to know why they believed what they believed and, oh, I enjoy people like that.  I don't care if they agree with me or not.  They didn't talk about love, they got involved in people's lives.  They had something I didn't have, and I wanted it, so I made friends with them.

After a couple of weeks, we were seated around a table in the Student Union.  Six of the students were there, two of the faculty, and one of their wives, I think.  I wish you could have been there.  The conversation after about 30 minutes started to get to God.  Well, let's face it, if you are an insecure student or insecure professor or businessman or woman, the conversation gets to God, you have to put on the big front – hey, every university, every community, every block, every office has the big mouth.  You know, the person that says, "Oh, Christianity, hah!  That's for the weak.  It's not intellectual."

You know what I found to be true – the bigger the mouth, the greater the vacuum.  The bigger the front they put on, the greater the emptiness on the inside.  Well, I wanted what they had, but I didn't want them to know that I wanted what they had, but all the time they knew I wanted what they had and didn't want them to know that I wanted what they had.  So I did what some of you have done when you've been anxious for something but didn't want to appear it.  So I leaned back in my chair and just with a flippant attitude almost, I just looked over at this young lady, and she was a good-looking woman – I used to think all Christians were ugly – I'm sorry, but I figured if you couldn't make it anywhere else you became a Christian.  But she was really cute, and that sort of threw me for a loop, because it wasn't what I had anticipated. 

So I looked over, and I just said, "Tell me, what changed your life?  Why are you so different from the other students, the faculty?  What happened?"  I couldn't believe her – she looked back at me with a little smile, and that can be irritating.  And she just said two words I never thought I'd hear in university as part of the solution.  She looked back and said, "Jesus Christ."  I said, "Oh, for heaven's sakes, don't give me that garbage."  I said, "I'm fed up with religion, the church, the Bible, don't give me any of that garbage about religion."

All I know is, she had a lot of courage and a lot of convictions.  In fact, I think she had both.  She shot me back eye-to-eye, and she said, "Mister, I didn't tell you religion.  I told you the person of Jesus Christ." 

Well, I apologized to her.  I said, "Please forgive me for my attitude," but I said, "I have had so many poor experiences with religion and religious people, I don't want anything to do with it."  Do you know what happened then?  I couldn't believe it, I thought it was a joke.  Right there in the university, they challenged me to intellectually examine the claims that Jesus Christ is God's Son.  I mean, they got personal.  God, Yahweh, took on human flesh, death on the cross of the sins of mankind, His burial, His literal resurrection the third day, and then they said His ability to change a man and woman's life in the 20th century.  I thought it was a farce.

But they kept challenging me over and over and over again, so I accepted their challenge, and I did it to refute them.  In fact, the whole background of my first seven bestsellers was to write a book against Christianity.  I figured any fool could do that, and I'd qualify.  And so I set out for two years and spent a lot of money and a lot time, and it backfired.  After two years, I became convinced that Jesus Christ had to be who He claimed to be.  I went through quite a struggle, because my mind told me this was true, and my will was way over here.  Because I found out becoming a Christian was a rather ego-shattering experience.  Christ says, "I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in."

I used to think going to church made you a Christian.  Going to church doesn't anymore make you a Christian than walking into the garage makes you a car.  It doesn't work that way.  A Christian is somebody that exercises his will and places his trust in Christ as Savior and Lord.  Well, finally, my mind told me one thing and my will the other thing, and every time I was around those cotton-pickin' Christians, that conflict used to go just like that.  Have you ever been around happy people, and you're miserable?  So I knew I had to get it off my mind.  So December the 19th, 1959, at 8:30 at night, the second year in university, I put it to the test, and I became a Christian.

Somebody said, "How do you know?"  I said, "I was there."  I got alone with a friend of mine by the name of Jerry.  He made sure my other friends weren't watching.  I was a coward.  And I got with a friend of mine and prayed four things that established a relationship with the resurrected Christ that literally transformed my life.  I said, "Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on that cross for me."  I realized if I'd been the only person in the whole world, Christ still would have died for me.  It's hard to understand that kind of love.  But now that I just have an absolutely gorgeous wife, two darling daughters, Katie and Kelly, and a precocious son, Sean, I can understand this type of love a lot more.

The second, I said, "I confess there's things in my life unpleasing to You, and I ask You to forgive me."  Third, I said, "Right now, the best way I know how, I trust you as Savior and Lord.  Take over the throne of my life.  Change me from the inside out."  The last thing I prayed was just "Thank you for coming into my life by faith."  Not faith based upon ignorance, faith based upon God's work and evidence of the facts of history.

Bob: Well, that's part 2 of a message from Josh McDowell on the evidence for the resurrection, and it's not just historical evidence but, for Josh, it's personal evidence that has a personal implication.

Dennis: And we've aired this because we want you to know the same Jesus Christ who rose from the dead on that Easter morning.  He is alive, the tomb is empty, and you can pray the same four things that Josh McDowell did.  Number one, thank you for dying on the cross for me; number 2, I confess my sins, and I ask for Your forgiveness, God; number 3, I trust You, I believe in You, I cling to You as my Savior and Lord.  Take over the throne of my life; and, number 4, I thank you, God, for coming into my life by faith based upon Your Word and what Josh has presented here – the facts of history.

 You know, we're not talking about some kind of object that you place your faith in that is not personal.  It's not a chair that you're placing your faith in, it's a person.  The person of the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.  He makes an offer to you to give you eternal life, to forgive your sins.  He offers to come into your life and make you a new creation, to give you purpose and meaning, and to give you His Holy Spirit.  I would just encourage you, if you have never made that decision, if you've been on the outside of the church and of Christianity looking in, now is the day, and if you've been on the inside of the church and have been religious with the best of them but have never made this commitment, now is the day for you as well.  Simply take Christ at His Word and pray these four things.

Bob: Jesus has been revolutionizing lives like Josh's life, like your life, like my life, for the last 2,000 years, and that offer, that opportunity to revolutionize your life is still valid.  If you want to find out more about what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, contact us, and we'll send you a free book – no obligation, no cost.  It's called "Pursuing God," and it lays out the claims of Christ, the fact of our need for Him, and the reality of what He did to make a relationship with God possible.

 Again, the title of the book is "Pursuing God."  You can request one at no cost when you call 1-800-FLTODAY.  There is also information about the book available on our website, and we're hoping this weekend that more than 1 million children will hear the message of Easter, the story of Jesus' death, His burial, and His resurrection in the World's Largest Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt.  I know many of you are planning to host one of these Easter egg hunts in your backyard or in a neighborhood park or at a local church.  If there is still anything you need to make this event successful, get in touch with us here at FamilyLife or stop by your local Family Christian Store.  They are the Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt headquarters, and if you need a set of Resurrection Eggs for this weekend, you will find those at Family Christian Stores, also at Wal-Mart stores all across the country, and we're anxious to hear how your hunt goes in your neighborhood when it's all over this weekend.  So drop us a note and let us know how everything went, will you?

 And, finally, when you do get in touch with us, if you are able to help with a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, that's what makes this radio ministry possible, and if God is using it in your life, we'd like to ask you to consider making a donation, either online on or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY and partnering with us in this endeavor to provide practical, biblical help for your marriage and for your family so that together we can have an impact on this culture as our families are changed, one home at a time.

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 Well, tomorrow we're going to talk about how the reality of the resurrection ought to cause all of us to live with an eternal perspective.  I hope you can be back for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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