I believe the answer is yes and I want to share the thoughts of others on this question and end with my own. At the time of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection, the common method of sharing an event was through oral repetition of the story as shared by direct witnesses. The common people of the era were typically illiterate and, therefore, the only means for most to share was through the spoken word. Such is the case of the sharing of the events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was shared from person to person and generation to generation as the teachings of the Pentateuch had been in Israel until the writing of the text in a later era.
We cannot understand the necessity of oral traditions and of the carrying of important facts through spoken word in our instant society that even allows us to speak words into our smart phones and create a written record. I believe this ability has decreased how we view the importance of the spoken word and come to see it as
temporary and unreliable. However, imagine how carefully we would be with spoken word if we did not have this ability. For example, in Alex Haley’s book Roots, we find Haley going to Africa to hear of his family, the story of Kunta Kinte. He is told the family storyteller will arrive and retell the history of his family. Haley asks him to go to a certain part of the story only to be told the story can only be told from the beginning, apparently to assure accuracy. We forget there are others for which the accuracy of the spoken word is essential to life and is for them reliable.
Let us look beyond my basic assumption that spoken language in certain societies is key to their transmission of information and is reliable to the specific topic at hand. N.T. Wright, theologian and professor at the University of Scotland, tells us, “There is no form of early Christianity known to us that does not affirm that after Jesus’ shameful death, God raised him to life again.” Wright holds the most widely held belief affirming that resurrection is the central tenant of the early church. Likewise, Paul writes, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” The event of the resurrection was the central focus of early Christians, it was the confirmation of who Jesus was; it was the event, which lead them to understand the life and teaching of Jesus as Messiah.
Third, we need to look at the Biblical statements of the presence of the resurrected Jesus in the world. In 1 Corinthians 15:6 Paul writes that Jesus appeared to over five hundred believers and that most of them are still alive. I realize we can claim an apparition based on the desire of the believers to hold on to Jesus but the number Paul states and the fact that many are still alive indicates there was a commonly held belief among persons who not only heard of the event but also were witnesses to the event. If there were any way, in which the ruling authority could have refuted and ended the telling of the event, surely they would have done so in order to destroy this subversive group that was drawing away its followers to a new understanding of God.
Fourth, let us examine human nature. Would you be willing to die for a lie? Would you continue to put forth a lie even though it caused you to become a political and religious enemy to the ruling powers of your culture and world? Chuck Colson, one of the Watergate conspirators, tells us that Watergate proves the resurrection. He says, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned, and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world—and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.” These twelve unlearned common men, former fisherman lived and died to share the message of the resurrection. I agree with Colson, even intelligent men with great power cannot keep a lie quiet for very long and certainly given the choice of being beaten and dying or recanting the story, they would have recanted, often this happens even if the story is true.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, is our own individual decision. Regardless of the evidence, we each make decisions daily as to what we will and will not accept as credible evidence of events. We can be presented with irrefutable facts on any number of events or possible future events and choose not to believe the evidence...instead choosing to believe the stories that whirl around us attempting to sway us to a side of the argument. Currently, we are dealing with the issues of immigration, climate change, abortion, marriage, vaccination of children, and many others. On these issues, the facts are rarely what causes us to choose which side we will support; rather our own hearing and emotional or spiritual understanding sway us to one side or the other. We are people who are often carried along more by our own desires and thoughts than by factual evidence. Ultimately, each of us has to decide whether to believe in the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus. We are presented with facts, arguments and counter facts and arguments, yet we have to decide what is real for us.
As for me, I have chosen to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as presented in the Gospels and recounted by Paul. I find comfort and hope in the resurrection. I trust that God is able to raise all people. Is it possible I am wrong? Of course it is, but, I still choose to believe.
I will leave you with the words of Joshua 24:14-15, “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now, if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
(New Revised Standard Version Bible 1989)
(Always Be Ready n.d.)
(New Revised Standard Version Bible 1989)