A Lawyers Look At The Resurrection


Simon Greenleaf, L.L.D
SIMON GREENLEAF, L.L.D., whose “Laws of Evidence” was the standard textbook in the English speaking law-schools of the world for many years, tells why he believes.

Former U. S. Supreme Court Justice Brewer said: “The existing evidence of Christ’s resurrection is satisfactory to me. I have not examined it from the legal standpoint, but Greenleaf has done so, and his is the highest authority on evidence cited in our courts.”

WHY I BELIEVE HE AROSE! By Simon Greenleaf, L. L. D.

The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon, first, their honesty; secondly, their ability; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience; and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstance.

Let the evangelists be tried by these tests.

And first to their honesty. Here they are entitled to the benefit of the general course of human experience, that men ordinarily speak the truth when they have no prevailing motive or inducement to the contrary. This presumption is applied in courts of justice, even to witnesses whose integrity is not
wholly free from suspicion; much more it is applicable to the evangelists, whose testimony went against all their worldly interests. The great truths which the apostles declared were that Christ had risen from the dead and that only through repentance from sin and faith in Him could men hope for salvation.

This doctrine they asserted with one voice everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man. Their Master had recently perished as a malefactor by the sentence of a public tribunal. His religion sought to overthrow
the religions of the whole world. The laws of every country were against the teachings of His disciples. The interests and passions of all rulers and great men of the world were against them. Propagating this faith, even in the most inoffensive and peaceful manner, they could expect nothing but contempt and
opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, stripes, imprisonments, torments and cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured undismayed, nay, rejoicing. One after another was put to death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor and resolution.

The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic stance, patience and unblenching courage. They had every possible motive to review carefully the grounds of their faith, and the evidences of the great truths which they asserted; and these motives were pressed upon their attention with the most melancholy and terrific frequency. It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact. If it were morally possible for them to have been deceived in this matter, every human motive operated to lead them to discover and avow their error. To have persisted in so gross a falsehood, after it was known to them was, not only to
encounter, for life, all the evils which man could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope of happiness in this life or in the world to come.

Such conduct in the apostles would, moreover, have been utterly irreconcilable with the fact that they possessed the ordinary constitution of our common nature. Yet their lives do show them to have been men like all others in our race; swayed by the same motives, animated by the same joys, subdued by the same sorrows, and subject to the same passions, temptations and infirmities as ourselves. And their writings show them to have been men of various understandings.

If then their testimony were not true there was no possible motive for this fabrication. It would have been irreconcilable with the fact that they were good men. But it is impossible to read their writings and not feel that we are conversing with men eminently holy, and of tender consciences, with men acting under an abiding sense of the presence and omniscience of God, and of their accountability to Him, living in His fear and walking in His Ways. Now, though in a single instance, a good man may fall
when under strong temptation, yet he is not found for years persisting in deliberate falsehood, asserted with the most solemn appeals to God, without the slightest temptation or motive, and against all the opposing interests which reign in the human breast.

If, on the contrary, they are supposed to have been bad men, it is incredible that such men should have chosen this form of imposture, enjoining, as it does, unfeigned repentance, the utter forsaking and abhorrence of falsehood and every other sin, the practice of daily self-denial, self-abasement, and self-
sacrifice, the crucifixion of the flesh with all its earthly appetites and desires, indifference to honor and hearty contempt of the vanities of the world; and inculcating perfect purity of heart and life and intercourse of the soul with heaven.

It is incredible that bad men should invent falsehood to promote the religion of the God of truth. The supposition is suicidal. If they believed in a future state of retribution, a heaven and hell thereafter, they took the most certain course, if false witnesses, to secure the latter for their portion. And if, still being bad men, they did not believe in future punishment, how came they to invent falsehoods, the direct and certain tendency of which was to destroy all their prospects of worldly honor and happiness and to insure their misery in this life?  From these absurdities there is no escape but in the perfect conviction and admission that they were good men, testifying to that which they had carefully observed and considered and well knew to be true.

Edited by D. Moore

Computers for Christ – Chicago