1 Corinthians 15:1-8: Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. -- NET BibleThat was the teaching of the 1st Century church well within 20 years of Christ's death.
And its meaning was also clear to Paul, used to (as a Pharisee) arguing with the Sadducees (and apparently the Corinthians) over the resurrection of the dead:
1 Corinthians 15:12-19: Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone. -- NET BibleThat, of course, has been the view of the vast majority of the Body of Christ over the last 2000 years until now.
- N.T. Wright: "Jesus’ Resurrection and Christian Origins"
- Greg Herrick: "The Historical Veracity of the Resurrection Narratives"
Still, nearly all Christians outside the west, and most of them in the west, have staked their beliefs - like Paul above - on the Risen Christ; and Christ, of course, said we are blessed because we can believe this, even in this "Enlightened" age, without - like Thomas - having to put our fingers into the holes on His hands in order to believe.
So, whether it be Mahanoy or myself, Wink or Wright: we all come together on Easter - Resurrection Sunday - for the holiest day in the Christian calendar. Not the day He was born, not the day He died - although most celebrated both of those - but on the day He rose. And, around the world, someone will say to the assembled crowd: He is Risen . . .
And we will all answer: He is Risen indeed