October 9, 2020

Staples offers tips to prove Resurrection at catechetical event

Tim Staples makes a point during the archdiocesan Gathering of Disciples event on Sept. 12, held virtually due to the coronavirus. (Screenshot by Natalie Hoefer)

Tim Staples makes a point during the archdiocesan Gathering of Disciples event on Sept. 12, held virtually due to the coronavirus. (Screenshot by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

For Christians, faith in the Resurrection is a given. In fact, there would be no Christian faith without belief in Christ rising from the dead.

But how does a Christian convince a non-believer of the Resurrection?

Simple, according to Tim Staples—just look at history, because the Resurrection “cannot be understood as anything other than an historical fact.”

Staples is an author, speaker and the director of apologetics and evangelization for the media ministry Catholic Answers. He was the keynote speaker for the archdiocesan Office of Catechesis’ “Gathering of Disciples” event on Sept. 12, held online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The theme was “Christ is Alive!”

“We are engaging a culture that’s becoming increasingly antagonistic to our Catholic faith and to Christianity in general,” he said. “And there’s no more important place to start than the apologetic defense of the Resurrection.”

‘No other explanation makes sense’

Catechists from around central and southern Indiana watched and listened online as Staples laid out arguments for defending the reality of the Resurrection.

He pointed to the many “eyewitness accounts” of Christ after his resurrection, most notably his appearance “to more than 500 brothers at once” (1 Cor 15:6).

For those who claim the Apostles were hallucinating or that they stole the body, said Staples, “You don’t have 500 people hallucinate the same thing. And if you’re going to do a major fraud, you’re going to involve as few people as possible to keep the story straight, not 500.”

The Apostles’ own lives, ministry and death is further proof of the reality of the Resurrection, said Staples.

“All but one of the 12 Apostles were martyred for their faith,” he noted. “No explanation makes sense other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because that’s the reason they gave for their own transformation, and went to their death rather than deny it.”

‘It doesn’t fit’

The explanation that Christ’s disciples stole his body from the tomb (Mt 28:11-13) is easily dismissed, said Staples.

“We’ve got a crack troop of Roman soldiers guarding a sealed tomb … and a massive stone, and you’re going to move that and break the seal—and the guards are still asleep?” Staples scoffed. “That’s almost proof for the Resurrection!”

Even an acclaimed Jew, 19th-century scholar Joseph Klausner, refuted this theory in the 1800s, he said.

Klausner proposed that “when you look at the lives of the Apostles, it’s absurd to say that they would facilitate such a grand fraud,” Staples said. “It doesn’t fit what we know of their lives.”

Nor is there any logic in the “swoon theory” that Jesus never died but merely fainted, he said.

“He’s in the tomb, he wakes up—how does he get out of the tomb, especially after being beaten?” Staples asked. “How does he get by the centurions? … And the sword would have gone through the sac around [Christ’s] heart in order that blood and water poured out—it’s ludicrous to say he swooned!”

‘He became Christian in the process’

For skeptics who will not accept any Scriptural proof of the Resurrection, said Staples, “You always begin with manuscript evidence.”

The fact that there are more than 5,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, “either complete or partial, written by hand before the advent of the printing press, … some fragments dating to within 10-40 years of the Resurrection,” he said, can only point to the impact of an actual historical event.

“This is unprecedented when you consider [there are] only nine manuscripts [about] the Gallic Wars” that occurred just 50 years before Christ’s birth, he said. “And [no more than] 20 manuscripts for other major events.”

He also suggested pointing to second- and third-century Christian historians who wrote of historical accounts of the Resurrection event, including St. Irenaeus, Tertulian, Origen and Eusebius.

And there is the “test of skeptics throughout the centuries who investigated the facts of the Resurrection and ended up Christian,” Staples said. One such example is Sir William Ramsey, an acclaimed late-19th century scholar.

“He set out to disprove Acts,” said Staples. “Not only did he find [the book] to be historically accurate—he became Christian in the process.”

‘So inspiring’

Breakout sessions on four additional catechetical topics were also made available during the Gathering of Disciples event, as well as time for virtual eucharistic adoration and songs of praise.

“I am always inspired and motivated by others who witness and live a strong faith,” said participant Gayle Schrank, pastoral associate for parish ministry at St. Mary Parish in Navilleton. “Being so isolated this year, I was anxious to have this opportunity to gather in some way. I have had to cancel retreats I was scheduled to attend, and this was one way to be with others.”

She found Staples’ “passion and knowledge so inspiring, and his love for God is contagious.”

Schrank has previously participated in—and presented at—the Gathering of Disciples. She finds the annual event “very reflective, educational and enriching. I am thankful to have this opportunity each year.”

This year was the first time Daniel Brock participated in the event. The prayer group leader from St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville is passionate about apologetics, and he appreciated Staples’ talk.

“It was very interesting,” he said. “I really found it fascinating. I think it’s great that the archdiocese does this to help people increase their knowledge about their faith.”

Schrank agrees.

“We live in a hurting world, and we need to grow in our ability to talk about God and share what we know about our Catholic faith.”

(Contact your parish catechetical leader for information on how to view the recordings of the Gathering of Disciples presentations.)

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