THE RESURRECTION: A HISTORICAL EVENT AND AN AFFIRMATION OF FAITH
Christ's Resurrection is a truth documented by the new Testament and was a matter of supreme importance in the faith and life of the first Christian Communities.
The "Apostle's Creed" tells us "the third day He rose again from the dead". It is a dogma of the Christian faith, based upon a fact that historically took place and was verified. The oldest written testimony to Christ's resurrection is in the first letter (A.D. 56) of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: "Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day, He appeared to Cephas (Peter), and after that to the Eleven. Then He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time, many of whom are still with us... After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And last of all, ... He was seen also by me".(15, 3-8)
As is obvious, Paul speaks here of the living tradition of the Resurrection, which had come to his knowledge after his conversion on the road to Damascus. It is to be noted that Paul not only speaks of the Resurrection as having taken place on the third day, but at the same time he has recourse to EYE-WITNESSES, most of them still living in their midst.
The Resurrection cannot be presented as a "product" of the faith of the first Christian community, neither as a product of the faith of the Apostles. The shock occasioned by Christ's passion and death was so great that they did not initially believe the news of Christ's resurrection. The proof of that is found in each Gospel. At first it seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe it.
The episode of Thomas is well known. (see st.John's gospel, chapter 20,24-29).
"Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe". After 8 days, Jesus came again to satisfy the demand of "doubting" Thomas. Then Thomas professed his faith with the words "My Lord and my God".
Let us listen now to the testimony of St Peter. (see Acts.10, 39-41)
"We are witnesses of all that Jesus did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem; and yet they killed Him, hanging Him on a tree. But God raised Him on the third day and caused Him to be plainly seen... by us, who ate and drank with Him after He had risen from the death."
The faith of the Apostles in the resurrection comes from the direct experience of the reality of the risen Christ.