There are three main areas of evidence required to build a rational case for the resurrection of Jesus, for the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead (GRJ):
I. General Background Evidence
II. Prior Historical Evidence
III. Posterior Historical Evidence
A key claim that Christian apologists need to support in relation to Prior Historical Evidence is that Jesus was a true prophet (JTP). But the evidence we have, on the assumption that the Gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, clearly supports the OPPOSITE conclusion, namely that Jesus was a false prophet (JFP). If I am correct that the Gospels provide evidence that makes it very probable that Jesus was a false prophet, then the Prior Historical Evidence part of the case for the resurrection of Jesus is a failure, and thus it will NOT be possible for Christian apologists to build a good case for the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead (GRJ).
1. Jesus claimed to be a prophet.
2. Jesus was not a prophet.
3. IF a person P claimed to be a prophet but was not a prophet, THEN person P was a false prophet.
4. Jesus was a false prophet.
5. IF a person P was a false prophet, THEN it is not the case that God raised person P from the dead.
6. It is NOT the case that God raised Jesus from the dead.
I have dropped explicit references to probability, but the premises are not necessary truths nor is the truth of the premises certain, with the exception of premise (3), which I believe to be an analytic truth. We don’t know with certainty that Jesus claimed to be a prophet, because there is NOTHING that is certain about Jesus. Even the existence of Jesus is subject to reasonable doubt. But to be generous towards the Christian viewpoint, I will grant, for the sake of argument, that the Gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus. Given that assumption, it is very probable that Jesus claimed to be a prophet.
Given the assumption that the Gospels provide reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, there are six reasons supporting premise (1):
(i) Jesus said things that clearly implied he was a prophet:
- Mark 6:1-6 (see also: Matt. 13:56-58, Luke 4:23-24)
- Luke 13:32-34
- Matthew 10:40-42
- John 7:14-17
- John 8:23-28 & 39-47
- John 12:44-50
- John 17:1-19
(ii) Jesus made several bold and confident predictions about the future, speaking as though he was a prophet:
- Mark 1:14-15
- Mark 9:30-32
- Mark 11:1-3
- Mark 13:1-8 (see also Luke 19:41-44)
- Mark 13:9-23
- Mark 13:24-31
- Mark 14:12-14 (see also Luke 22:7-13)
- Mark 14:17-21 (see also Luke 22:19-23)
- Mark 14:26-31 (see also Luke 22:31-34)
- Mark 14:61-65
(iii) During his ministry, some of his fellow Jews characterized Jesus as a prophet, and Jesus never objected to this:
- Mark 6:14-16
- Luke 7:11-17
- Matthew 21:10-11
- Matthew 21:43-46
- John 7:40-52
- John 9:16-18
(iv) Jesus was aware that some of his fellow Jews viewed him as a prophet, and Jesus never objected to this view:
- Mark 8:27-28
- Matthew 16:13-14
- John 4:16-26
- John 6:13-15
(v) Some of Jesus’ disciples called him a prophet:
- Luke 24:13-24
(vi) The author of the Gospel of John viewed Jesus as a prophet:
- John 3:31-36
The book of Acts is not a gospel, but it was a companion volume to the gospel of Luke, written by the same author. So, if we assume that the gospel of Luke provides an historically reliable account of the life of Jesus, then it would be reasonable to assume that the book of Acts was also historically reliable. According to the book of Acts, Peter, one of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, characterized Jesus as a prophet (Acts 3:11-26).
Assuming the historical reliability of the Gospels, it is very probable that Jesus claimed to be a prophet.
One more reason….
(vii) Like many of the O.T. prophets, Jesus called his people to repent:
- Mark 1:14-15
- Mark 6:7-13
- Matthew 4:12-17
- Matthew 11:20-24
- Matthew 12:40-42
- Luke 5:31-32
- Luke 10:12-14
- Luke 11:31-32
- Luke 13:1-5