Christian Clark, BC ’09 and Harvard Law ’16, returned to Boston College on March 31 to present a lecture titled “Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection: A Lawyer’s Analysis.” Held at McGuinn 121 Auditorium, the event was sponsored by the Sons of St. Patrick, a group of Catholic men from British Columbia, and consisted of a closing argument by Clark followed by an opportunity for questions.
“I don’t think there is a bigger question in human existence,” Clark began. “Did Jesus rise from the dead or not? As other apologists have said, “Was he God or was he mad?” ”
Clark, now a Manhattan attorney, then presented a legal basis to his audience to preface his approach to the resurrection issue. He explained the two types of cases in the American legal system, criminal cases with their standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” and civil cases with their standard of “preponderance of the evidence…more likely unlikely, 51%”. Clark explained that he would focus on the preponderance standard to argue for resurrection.
“Why speak of the Resurrection? Clark offered while making his opening statement. “It spearheads the Christian message, both theologically and historically.”
“As sublime as the moral teaching of Jesus was…it’s not really what caused people around the Mediterranean to get up from their seats and risk their lives recounting what they saw – it is this belief that a man whom they have seen die, they have seen risen.”
However, Clark acknowledged, some people would immediately oppose his plan to present evidence of the resurrection.
“I heard a pious objection,” Clark said. “Why would you try to prove part of faith when faith is a gift?” Plus, there’s a “skeptical objection to a project like this…obviously you can’t prove something like that scientifically or mathematically, so don’t waste our time.”
Clark then grounded his project by quoting the words of British scholar NT Wright: “Historical argument alone cannot force anyone to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, but historical argument is remarkably effective in clearing the undergrowth behind which hide skepticism of all kinds.
Moving on to the evidence, Clark laid out three key facts.
“[T]e first fact: Jesus lived, died and was crucified in the first decades of the first century,” Clark said. In doing so, he cited the historians Tacitus, Lucian, and Josephus, each a “non-Christian source, not relying on the Gospels…a secular historian placing Jesus in that time and place.”
Clark then stated the second fact: “The apostles sincerely believed that Jesus had been raised bodily and had appeared to them. Clark first referenced the story of Paul, who “has a total of 180… passes from the persecution of Christians and has this experience [of encountering the Risen Jesus]and then all of a sudden he’s the leader of the Christian movement.
Clark also mentioned James, part of Jesus’ family group who were “skeptical of him.” [Jesus] …Later James had to turn around because he becomes the head of the church in Jerusalem with Peter, then again from a source completely outside the Bible, we know from Josephus that James, the brother of the Lord, was stoned to death by the Sanhedrin.
“These people genuinely believed they had seen the resurrected Jesus, otherwise you can’t explain these transitions,” Clark claimed.
Clark then turned to 1 Corinthians, a letter accepted by believing and unbelieving scholars alike as actually written by Paul himself.
There’s “broad consensus that it’s written around AD 50, AD 55…Paul is testing his experience of Jesus against that of Peter,” Clark said, inferring what Paul must have done during his visits to Jerusalem. “He [Paul] elsewhere says that once he was preaching, Peter and James approved of Paul’s message. And so we know they’re all on the same page, and we know that from Paul’s authentic letters.
Continuing with his last fact, Clark describes it bluntly: “The Empty Tomb.”
He recalled circumstantial evidence of “a really interesting line in the Gospel of Matthew, it’s kind of disposable, and he says there’s a rumor going around among those who have remained Jews and haven’t not joined the Christian message that the disciples stole”. the body of Jesus… What does that suppose?
“Why the hell would he [Matthew] actually include that unless it’s a rumor going around he should include something that undermines his own case for free [for Jesus’s resurrection].”
Then comes another piece of the Gospels: “The four Gospels are not always unanimous on everything, but they are unanimous on this: that the empty tomb was discovered by women.
“Josephus tells us that women could not testify in court…women were considered inherently unreliable,” Clark said. “If you’re concocting a fable and trying to create a new sequel, the craziest thing you can do in 33 year old culture in the Near East is pin the biggest claim on a group of women… scholars call this the embarrassment principle, that people don’t tend to include embarrassing details unless they’re true.
Moving on to his closing argument, Clark touched on alternative resurrection theories.
Responding to the theory that the Resurrection is a conspiracy concocted by the Apostles, Clark reasoned, “You end up with some kind of miraculous conspiracy, don’t you? You end up with a conspiracy unlike anything anyone has ever seen in the world in the past 10,000 years…might as well believe in the resurrection right now.
If the Resurrection is just the lie found at the end of a “telephone game…the gap between Jesus and the first generation and then the subsequent generations, it’s just too tight for the legend to grow “Clark explained, citing recent studies. in dating New Testament texts, such as the oral tradition found in 1 Corinthians that New Testament scholar Gary Habermas dates to the 30s AD.
“I think everyone in the world should hear the evidence of resurrection,” Clark concluded. “I think it’s an easy preponderance case to win in court.”