Jesus Christ: His person--His authority--His work (Volume 3) online

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life, even of a corpse in process of decom-
position, seemed a very possible thing.
In our days, to the report of such an
event, every one, no matter who, would
unquestionably oppose an immediate ne-
gation, without asking for proof, or even
consenting to an attempt to bring proof.
Such things do not happen; the refusal
to believe in such a thing in our epoch is
imperative, but formerly it was not so.
Therefore when the rumor of the resur-
rection of Jesus began to be spread
abroad, it at once met persons who put
faith in it. A few indeed said, it is a
story ; but they did not long say so, they
only asked to be allowed to believe it.

No doubt even then a resurrection was
a very extraordinary miracle, the most
extraordinary of all miracles, but it was
in no sense impossible. Sheol was less
rigorously closed for the Jews than the
tomb is for us. In speaking of St. Paul
and the Pharisaic beliefs of his time we
said that the expectation of a general
resurrection made men anticipate the
time, in the case of certain great person-
ages. People said, They are returned to


life in advance, before the great day.
Antipas said of Jesus Christ, "It is the
Baptist arisen from the dead." ^ The
people had taken Jesus to be "Jeremiah
or one of the prophets " returned to life.^
Certain saints were raised from the dead
at the death of Jesus. ^ The Apocalypse
speaks of the resurrection of the witnesses
of Jesus.^ A resurrection from the dead
was then always possible ; and if it is
pointed out that we have not for the first
day a single eye-witness, that John him-
self (assuming that it was the Apostle
John who wrote the Fourth Gospel with
his own hand) saw nothing but the empty
tomb, was this sight not enough to lead
some one, no matter who, who had the
idea of a resurrection, to at once admit it
as possible, and very soon after, as cer-
tain ? And as for this first idea, was not
the view of the empty tomb enough to
suggest it?

Let us add to this that the religious
necessity of a resurrection was impera-
tive ; he must have risen again. God was
bound to give this proof of the Messiah-

1 Mark vi. 14. 2 Matt, xvi. 14.

8 Matt, xxvii. 52. * Rev. xi. 3-12.


ship of Jesus. We have said that at this
epoch a miracle was the sign of a direct
mission. The apologetic proof drawn
from miracles has no proving force in our
day, but it had enormous force in the
first century.^ Everything was proved by
miracles. Paul reminds the Corinthians
that to prove to them that he was indeed
an apostle, he had performed miracles
among them, and had never wearied of
performing them, renewing this demon-
stration with untiring kindness and pa-
tience.2 Therefore that God should raise
up Jesus and give this proof of his Mes-
siahship was in the order of things.

Finally, is not the testimony of Paul
himself subject to caution ? Did not Paul
also have an ecstatic vision on the road
to Damascus? Was he not subject to
ecstasies? Might not an ecstasy also ex-
plain the over-excitement of Mary Mag-
dalene after the prostration of those first
days, of Peter, of all the others, affected
by the contagion? What one saw and
heard they would all very soon see and

1 1 Cor. i. 22, ii. 4, 5 ; 2 Cor. xii. 12; 1 Thess. i. 5 ;
2 Thess. ii. 9 ; Gal. iii. 5 ; Kom. xv. 18, 19.

2 2 Cor. xii. 12, 13.


hear. Does not the miracle of Pentecost
make evident that they were ecstatics ?
Cases of this kind are known to history.
After the unjust martyrdom of Savona-
rola, after the assassination of Thomas
a Becket, their disciples could not believe
them to be forever departed, could not
resign themselves to their overtlirow, ex-
pected to see them again in life.

Observations of this sort are certainly
very interesting, and such analogies as
these are most alluring. Notwithstanding
which, we believe that the scrupulous and
impartial historian requires other demon-
strations than mere curious resemblances
before accepting such a thing. He must
take into consideration all the facts. Now
we have these ascertained facts. The
vision of Paul on the road to Damascus
is expressly distinguished by himself from
his moments of ecstasy, and from this
vision he emerged a Christian; that is
to say, changed, transformed, converted.
Let the exterior fact which took place on
the road to Damascus be explained by
ecstasy, by bewilderment, by a lightning
stroke, we must nevertheless admit the
interior fact which took place in the soul


of St. Paul. Saul was thrown to the
ground a Pharisee, and uprose a Cliristian,
because " it pleased God to reveal his
Son in him." ^ We may perhaps blot out
other facts of history ; but what fact is
more authentic than the conversion of St.
Paul? The impartial, just, unprejudiced
critic will never blot out this fact.

And this story of Paul is only a repro-
duction (by one detail) of the great fact
that Chi'istianity was born at that mo-
ment. The Christian Church was born
of the certitude of the Resurrection. It
is the foundation on which the apostles
built. Thomas a Becket and Savonarola
brought no new idea into the world when
they reappeared to their disciples. Jesus,
when he reappeared, brought the Church
into the world; his cause has triumphed
because he has arisen from the dead.
Otherwise it would behoove us to say.
His cause triumphed because the Sanhe-
drin stole away his body.

To him who believes that God works

in history the resurrection of Jesus is an

indisputable fact. Let us compare the

first Good Friday on the one side and

1 Gal. i. 15.


the preaching of the first Pentecost on
the other ; what took place between those
two clays ? The former is marked by a de-
feat which seems entirely final ; the latter
is the magnificent dawn of the history of
the Church. Between the two something
certainly transpired which transformed the
apostles ; we call this event the Resurrec-
tion of Jesus Christ.^

A fraud on the part of the disciples is
as absurd a supposition as the mere vision
of a phantom created by their own imag-
inations is impossible.

The Resurrection did take place. It
brought about the birth of a new world.
Jesus is alive ; he is alive indeed ; he will
die no more. This brilliant sun still en-
lightens the world ; the third day after
the crucifixion a new horizon was un-
folded, a new world was begun.

God has intervened to give us in the
course of human generations him whose
pure and holy life would be inexplicable
without this intervention. He has like-
wise intervened by a sovereign act to

1 We do not speak of the theory of a syncope, followed
by apparent death, occurring during the crucifixion ;
it has no value whatever.


give us a Risen Christ, without whom
the development of Christianity in history
would certainly not have occurred.

All trace of the ignominy of Good
Friday has disappeared ; and not only has
it disappeared, but ignominy itself has
been changed into glory, defeat into vic-
tory, and the salvation of the world has
been wrought by the cross.

Let it not be forgotten the Christian con-
sciousness was then born ; it is not simply
that the disciples believed in the Resur-
rection, — the Resurrection transformed
them. It cannot be said they thought
they saw Jesus but were mistaken, for the
transformation which took place in them
cannot be denied, and the transformation
consists in this : it is no more they who
live, but Jesus Christ who lives in them.^

To use the language of the schools, the
Resurrection of Jesus was at once objective
and subjective. Objective, for " it pleased
God " to do it : it was not the apostles
who created the vision of the Risen Lord,
it was God who raised his Son. Subjec-
tive, because it was '^ in them," in his
apostles, that it pleased God to reveal his

1 Gal. ii. 20.


Risen Son. The passage, Galatians i. 15,
is of inexorable clearness in this respect.

The Resurrection of Jesus in the souls
of his apostles is the certain proof of his
Resurrection in history.

The Resurrection of Jesus was a creative
act of the living God, of the Father in
whom he had believed without a shadow
of wavering all his days, and into whose
hands, in breathing out his last breath, he
had committed his spirit.-




T"\ JE have not in the least undertaken
in the preceding chapters, and in
the long discussions upon which we have
entered weighing the pros and cons, to
prove the resurrection of Jesus Christ
historically, to establish by trustworthy
statements che miracle of the return of
Jesus to life. If this had been our design
it would have been very chimerical, and
we should never have succeeded in it.

A miracle is not to be demonstrated ; it
does not even vouch for its own miraculous
character. History can vouch for only the
facts by which the miracle was manifested.
When it goes back to its causes it cannot
grasp them; it remains face to face with
manifestations that are not to be explained.

Why? because this intangible cause of
miracle, if miracle there is, can be only


its first cause, and the first cause never
shows itself to us. To the mere man of
learning God remains a hidden God. He
may verify phenomena, he may discover
facts ; if he goes back to their causes, he
finds an interwoven chain of second causes.
The chain is endless, and the first cause
never appears. No one can ever say, "I
have seen God; he appeared to my eyes,"
or "He is proved to my reason." The
well-known utterance of Laplace, declar-
ing that in order to describe the celestial
mechanism there was no need of the
hypothesis of God, is not in the least an
atheistic proposition. The direct action
of God is the supernatural. The believer
testifies to the supernatural, but he testi-
fies to it by faith and not by sight. If he
prays God to heal a sick person, and the
sick person gets well, he will say that God
healed him, that his prayer has been an-
swered, and he will call this answer an act
of God, a miracle; but the learned man
will perhaps discover the second cause of
the recovery, will find it in such or such a
potent medicament, administered by a
clever physician at the opportune moment.
The discoveries of the learned man do not


rob him of his faith. They simply tell
him what means God is using to answer
his prayer and heal the sick person; and
whether or not he knows how God works,
whether or not he divines the secret of
God, he believes neither more nor less that
God was there and that he was working.
For him, God is not an unknown God.

It follows that the supernatural is not
to be demonstrated ; it is affirmed by faith.
The resurrection of Jesus is not to be
explained, but that matters little; if it
could be explained it would be none the
less a miracle to the Christian, and the
greatest of miracles.

The historian, who speaks only as a
learned man and not as a believer, asks
what took place on the third day. The
apostles saw Jesus Christ; he appeared to
them. Was he then truly arisen from the
dead ? To this question the historian con-
fines himself to saying, I do not know; I
do not understand; the data for solving
the problem are wanting. Renan one day
declared that for him to admit a miracle
it would suffice that it was sufficiently
attested. Let a body of learned men,
physicians, members of the Institute, attest


a resurrection from the dead, and it must
be admitted, said Renan. Well, no; even
that would not suffice ; Renan is mistaken
when he says that whenever a commission
of the Institute shall speak, declaring that
a resurrection has really taken place, we
must admit that supernatural events take
place. Never will one of our contempo-
raries, learned or otherwise, admit a super-
natural event. He will admit nothing
more than an unexplained, but not super-
natural, event. He will say. The expla-
nation escapes me, but there is one. I am
not in presence of a miracle.

If the attempted explanations are erro-
neous, untenable (fraud, illusion, lethargy,
etc.), it is because the right one has not
been found. But there is an explanation,
and it is natural. As for the believer, he
utters the word miracle^ and says God was
there. He says it by faith and not by
knowledge ; by moral, not by sensible evi-
dence. For him the apostles really saw
and heard their Master ; he really appeared
to them.

There is then proof of the resurrection
of Jesus, the religious proof; it is the
most precious of all, or rather it is the


only one that is worth anything, and it
has the double advantage of being within
the reach of the most humble, and of being

The true believer has no need of a
demonstration of the resurrection of Jesus
Christ by historic considerations, which
are always refutable; he knows with an
inward certainty that his Saviour has
vanquished death, and he says, "The
Lord is risen indeed." ^ The believer who
uses this language has faith in the Resur-
rection, and he alone has this faith.
Others may believe it; he has faith. Now
one may believe in the resurrection and
not be a Christian. One may find the
demonstration of the historic fact to be
sufficient and not be a Christian ; and con-
trariwise, one may not be able to resolve
a single one of the questions raised by the
Resurrection, may not be able to say what
became of the body, not be able to say in
what consisted the return of the Crucified
One to life, nineteen hundred years ago,
the third day after he was placed in the
tomb; in a word, one may not be able to
meet the objections to the resurrection,

1 Luke xxiv. 34.


and yet be a Christian, because he has
faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

For he alone is a Christian who has faith
in the resurrection of Jesus. The true
believer has experienced his Saviour's
return to life ; he knoAVS and he believes,
and his faith no man can take away from

Let us explain.

To demonstrate the reality of the Cruci-
fied Lord's return to life, to demonstrate
that there is sufficient documentary evi-
dence for the historic fact, is to demon-
strate that a historic event one day took
place; and to admit the authenticity of
this event is a matter of science and not of
faith. 1

Historic belief has no religious value,
and such a belief in this case is not the
same thing as faith in the eternally living
Jesus Christ.

Religious faith, the faith that justifies
and saves, cannot depend upon a historic
fact which may be submitted to a scientific

1 We refer to the remarkable words of M. Lachelier,
cited in our second volume (p. 94). "An historic event,
extraordinary or not, cannot be an object of faith, pre-
cisely because it is historic, and by this fact is an object
of knowledge."


examination, which can be arrived at only
by study, by the critical sense and the
intelligence. The results of criticism are
various and uncertain. As M. Lachelier
has lately reminded us, " A historic event
cannot be an object of faith, precisely
because it is historic, and by this fact is
an object of knowledge." What we have
already asked, ^ What could they do who
cannot study and who yet desire to be-
lieve, — the laborer, the working-man, the
man of no culture, — if, in order to have
faith in the Risen Christ they were obliged
to weigh arguments, discuss opinions, test
proofs ? What would happen then ? Hav-
ing a desire to believe in the resurrection
and being unable to pursue the necessary
studies, an uncultured man would admit
the historic fact, not because he has proved
it (for he is incapable of the study neces-
sary to prove it), but because he has need
of it. He decides in advance that it must
have taken place. The resurrection of
Jesus forces itself upon him a priori.
Thus men create the facts of history
before being taught by history that they
have taken place.

1 " Jesus Christ during his Ministry," p. 255, note.


We have already directed attention to
the strangeness of the fact that men thus
decide what must have taken place.

Concerning the resurrection of Jesus, if
a verification of the historic fact is pos-
sible, it is, in any case, a somewhat long
process, and when it is completed it re-
mains an intellectual belief. Even the
"he apx)eared unto me" (^fca/jiol w^Oif) of
St. Paul, which comes so straight to us,
is subject to criticism; for though the
First Epistle to the Corinthians is cer-
tainly from Paul, it is still necessary to
prove its authenticity, and to this end to
carry on scientific research. If, then,
belief in the historic fact of the resurrec-
tion of Jesus were necessary to a religious
faith in the Christ who ever lives and
reigns in his Church, it Avould be for
learned men to decide whether or not
Christians ought to believe in the resur-
rection of Jesus. Believers would then
be divided into two classes: first, the
learned themselves, whose intellectual
researches would lead them to believe;
second, the immense multitude of the
ignorant and unlearned, who would believe
blindly on the affirmation of the learned.


But thanks be to God, things are not
thus. Every Christian, the most humble
with the most learned, may have personal
experience of the life of his Saviour.
This personal experience cannot depend
upon historic research. Biblical criticism
is taking away those supports which our
fathers deemed indispensable ; woe unto us
if we think ourselves lost because we have
been robbed of these poor crutches I We
can walk alone because we are not alone ;
our Master is with us ; he is truly arisen
from the dead.

From what precedes, it results that one
may doubt the historic fact of the Resur-
rection, that one may find even the witness
of Paul insufficient; that with regard to a
question of pure historic knowledge in the
simple verification of a material fact, one
may be of those who are inclined to say
No, and still be a Christian, a true disciple
of Jesus. Let us suppose a person who
believes in Jesus Christ, who has faith in
him, who calls him God manifest in the
flesh, who has found in him his Saviour and
believes in the redemption from his sins
effected upon the cross, but who doubts
the reality of the resurrection, — shall we
say that this person is not a Christian ?


We have said, let us suppose; but this
suppositiou is a reality for a large number
of the members of Christian churches.
We are all of our own time; and in our
time it is more difficult than it was in the
time of St. Paul to admit the historic

Well, let us be reassured ; those who say
that Christianity stands or falls according
as the Resurrection is received or rejected
are certainly mistaken if they are speaking
of the historic fact. We have just shown,
and we cannot too much insist upon a
truth so elementary, that the faith that
saves does not depend upon scientific belief.
Jesus himself clearly showed this when he
did not condemn Thomas for asking to see
in order to believe. After his example,
let us not condemn those who doubt on
this point, and who, notwithstanding, love
Jesus and believe in him. One is not
master of this sort of doubt, which bears
upon facts of the past. To doubt a fact
because one cannot honestly admit it,
because material proof of it appears insuffi-
cient, this is not religious incredulity.^

1 We appropriate here the remarkable consideration
on this subject of Professor Eugene IMenc'goz. See
Un doute consolanf, Revue Chr^tienne, 1893.


He who thus doubts is not necessarily
a man without faith; he is a man who
does not give credence to a historic fact.
The true doubter is he who will not turn
from sin, will not humble himself and be
converted ; he is the hardened sinner who
is voluntarily hardened because he will
not break with evil.

We have shown how remarkable and
convincing is St. Paul's "he appeared
unto me"(/

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12

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