What happened in the gap between the death of Jesus on the cross and the explosion of the early church? Christians, of course, will say it was the resurrection of Jesus, but skeptics will naturally question that answer.
Most western skeptics doubt (or are convinced) that miracles (like rising from the dead) simply do not happen. Most skeptics dismiss the New Testament accounts out of hand. Fifty years ago, skeptic scholars were convinced that the resurrection idea developed as a legend over time, generations after Jesus died.
Thus, an appropriate question as we approach another Easter is this: what accounts for the rapid spread of the following of a man who, by all legitimate accounts, died a cruel, shameful and certain death?
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