Defending the Accounts of the Resurrection

Interview With Journalist Andrea Tornelli

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ROME, MARCH 23, 2005 ( What is true in the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Can the Shroud of Turin be considered one of these signs?

And what is the basis of theories according to which Jesus was buried in Kashmir or that he married Mary Magdalen, as Dan Brown states in his novel «The Da Vinci Code»?

Journalist and Vatican-watcher Andrea Tornielli tries to respond to these and other others in his book «Inquiry on the Resurrection: Mysteries, Legends and Truth: From the Gospels to the Da Vinci Code,» which is on sale at newsstands in Italy. The journalist for the newspaper Il Giornale spoke with ZENIT.

Q: How did this book come about?

Tornielli: It is a work that continues research on the signs of historicity contained in the Gospels. Too often today, also in the Church, the symbolic aspect or heart of the paschal message is underlined — and rightly so — but we must not forget that Christianity is a fact, an event that occurred in a well-determined moment of history.

And the Gospels do not contain a philosophy or sayings for good living, but recount how this event occurred. This is why historicity is important.

Q: What are the proofs and signs we have to illustrate Jesus’ resurrection?

Tornielli: The canonical Gospels, as opposed to the apocryphal, which are always imaginative and figurative, do not describe to us the moment of the resurrection, but they speak to us, through reliable witnesses, of the empty sepulcher and above all of the fact that Jesus made himself seen and touched by his disciples after the resurrection.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes that [Christ] even appeared to more than «five hundred brethren» at one time, «most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.» It’s as if the Apostle to the Gentiles said to us: You can check with them and ask them.

I am also very impressed by the fact that the first persons to see the risen Christ were the women who ran to the sepulcher. We find here another significant sign of historicity: Women, in fact, in the Jewish society of the time, were considered unreliable witnesses, who could not appear in court.

If, as some affirm, the Gospels were the pious invention of a group of possessed individuals who constructed a new religion in theory, why would witnesses, so little esteemed in the society of the time, ever have been chosen?

Q: What gives us the assurance that the apostles were not visionaries?

Tornielli: In them, exactly the opposite took place of what happens with visionaries. The latter are from the start convinced and enthusiastic. Then, little by little, they begin to doubt the vision they have had.

Jesus’ disciples, instead, doubted at the beginning: They did not believe in the resurrection immediately. Thomas did not trust the word of the others and wanted to touch the body of the risen Christ.

Look here, they were simple people, concrete and realistic. Most of them were fishermen, not visionaries or mystics. They were a vanquished group of people, terrified after Jesus’ death. They would never have convinced themselves of the resurrection. No, they bowed to concrete and tested evidence.

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