The Resurrection of Jesus: Literal or Symbolic?

by Matt Slick

This dialogue was initiated after I was in a Christian IRC chat room. Shirley and I were in a private chat room--at her request. It began with her sending me a link to a porn site. Of course, I did not look, and I initiated a dialogue on why she would do something like that. Our conversation continued for a while until I discovered she lived in Belgium and was a Catholic.

Now, I in no way want to imply that her behavior is the result of Catholic teaching. I am simply stating the facts. She said that the Catholics there do not believe the Bible is literal. I replied that it was. What followed is this dialogue:

Shirley: So why do you take the Bible so literally? I think it should be taken symbolically.

Matt: The Bible is accurate, truthful, prophetically precise, the manuscripts copies are 99% pure, and it is archaeologically accurate, too.
Shirley: Perhaps. But there is one mistake you made. It's IMPOSSIBLE.
Matt: Why is it impossible?
Shirley: Dead is dead.
Matt: You aren't making sense . . . please explain.
Shirley: A dead man cannot relive his life in the same body!!!
Matt: Then you mean that Jesus did not rise from the dead?
Shirley: No He didn't!!!  That's just a symbol.
Matt: Then you mean to tell me that all the people who saw Him alive were mistaken?
Shirley: They were hallucinating or on drugs.
Matt: So, you are presupposing that the resurrection cannot happen. Why?
Shirley: Well, ask any scientist . . .
Matt: Many scientists believe it could indeed happen.
Shirley: Yeah, true. But I see it as untrue until proven otherwise.
Matt: But the Biblical evidence is that the tomb was empty, Jesus appeared, showed people His wounds, and that at least 500 others saw Him. Why can you not believe the facts of what they attested to?
Shirley: I don't believe the Bible literally. I like to see the symbolic use of it. Like 'just be good'. Look inside yourself to find the best in yourself.
Matt: So then, you are not basing your opinion on the facts but simply out of a desire, a whim, to NOT believe the Biblical evidence. Is that wise? Can it lead to truth?
Shirley: I hope so, or else my life would be useless.
Matt: Very true. Then you are risking a great deal by looking within yourself. You assume too much. You assume you have the natural ability to know truth simply by looking into yourself.
Shirley: I assume all. I try to figure everything out for myself. I don't believe other peoples opinions.
Matt: If you assume all, then you should also assume that the people who knew Jesus were telling the truth when they said that He rose from the dead. If that is true, then you have no logical right to deny the resurrection, and it is definitely possible. If it is possible, then you need to examine the evidence. If the evidence is there, then Jesus rose from the dead. If He did, that is utterly significant. No one else has done that. Therefore, what Jesus said must be true.
Shirley: But the Bible has changed.
Matt: The Bible is textually reliable, and it was written by eyewitnesses. Jesus said that He would rise from the dead (John 2:19-21). He did.
Shirley: He said nice things, good things. If we would all live by His word, this would be a better world.
Matt: True. But you are not believing what He said.
Shirley: Jesus said he would rise from the dead, but so does my father . . . (really).
Matt: Has your father walked on water? Read the hearts of people? Calmed a storm with a command? Fed 5,000 people with a few fish? Raised others from the dead? Healed people? You see, there is more to it than just making a claim. Jesus backed it up with what He did.
Shirley: I believe what he said when he was talking about good and bad. I do not believe him when he said he would rise from the dead.
Matt: But if He said it and you don't believe Him, then you are calling Jesus a liar. He is the one who walked on water, claimed to be God (John 8:58), and said that He would rise from the dead (John 2:19-21).
Shirley: I do not believe he walked on water, etc. I only listen to his words, and I extract the things from it that I find useful.
Matt: On what basis do you do this extraction of yours?
Shirley: On the basis of what I consider to be right or wrong?
Matt: Then you set yourself to be the final judge of right and wrong. Have you raised others from the dead, walked on water, healed people, fulfilled prophecy? Why should I believe you over Jesus?
Shirley: You shouldn't. You should believe anything you like. You should believe anything that makes you feel better. that's what faith is all about.
Matt: Sorry, I disagree. That is not what faith is about. Faith is only as good as whom you put it in. Are you your own savior?
Shirley: Yes, I hope so.
Matt: I'll trust Jesus, His resurrection, His truth, etc. It was nice chatting with you.

The dialogue ended there since it was late.

As you can see from this dialogue, Shirley has no reason for her method of determining truth, let alone determining the veracity of Jesus' claims. The resurrection was attested to by eyewitnesses.  The Bible is reliable and trustworthy. For her to arbitrarily deny the veracity of Jesus' resurrection is illogical and contrary to the evidence.



About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.