Handling a Rabbi’s Objection About The Resurrection of Jesus

Dan Cohn-Sherbock, a well-known rabbi of Reform Judaism, and Jewish theologian has given some of his reasons for rejecting the resurrection of Jesus.  He says:

“As a Jew and a rabbi, I could be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, but I would set very high standards of what is required. It would not be enough to have a   subjective experience of Jesus. If I heard voices or had a visionary experience of  Jesus, this would not be enough. Let me sketch the kind of experience that would be necessary. If Jesus appeared by hosts of angels trailing clouds of glory and   announcing all for His Messiah ship to see, this would be compelling. But it  would have to take place in public domain. Such an event would have to be witnessed by multitudes, photographed, recorded on video cameras, shown on  television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Jesus appearance would have to be a global event, televised on CNN, and other forms  of the world’s media. Further, if as a consequence of his arrival, all the prophecies   recorded in scripture were fulfilled; the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of  the Temple, the resurrection of all those who died, the advent of the days of the  Messiah, final judgment-I would without a doubt embrace the Christian message and become a follower of the risen Christ.”-Gavin D’ Costa, Resurrection Reconsidered, pgs, 198-199.

The comments by  Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock demonstrate the attitude among many in the modern world today. He also raises some objections based on another traditional role of the Messiah in Judaism.  However,  there is not one messianic expectation in Judaism. Also, whether or not certain  passages are clearly Messianic depend upon what the preconceived idea of the  reader. What do they believe the Messiah is supposed to do? If a traditional  Jewish person says the Messiah cannot suffer and die, how would we expect them  to interpret the Messianic passages?  It is also quite obvious that Cohn-Sherbock has unrealistic explications for the evidence for the resurrection. If I applied the same criteria to the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we could never know that happened as well.  After all,  the giving of the Torah was  not witnessed by multitudes (they saw Moses after he received it),  photographed, recorded on video cameras, shown on  television, and announced in newspapers and magazines worldwide.

So the giving of the Torah and the resurrection of Jesus should be treated the same way anything else would in antiquity.  Of course, the resurrection took place in the public domain.  As Paul says, the events were ” not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). But even though the events were done in public, it is in the past.  Gary Habermas writes:

“The occurrence of past events can usually be discovered (within a certain probability) by a careful investigation of the facts. These former events are only accessible by a study of the available historical evidence. Although the historian usually did not personally participate in what he is studying (assuming he wasn’t originally there), he can inspect the relevant data such as the eyewitnesses, written documents, and various other records, structures, and archaeological finds. Upon such confirmation the historian must build his case. Such tools comprise the working principles of historical research. “- Gary Habermas, “Appendix One: Historiography,” in The Historical Jesus (Joplin, MO: College, 1996), 270.

Rabbi Cohn-Sherbock needs to realize that his expectations for evidence for the resurrection of Jesus would not hold up for the central event in Judaism which was the giving of the Torah.  Hence, we need to be consistent in what we  we consider to be evidence for something in the past.  I guess Sherbock will have to wait for the return of Jesus.  I will be praying for him.


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