Did Jesus’ Resurrection really happen?
“When we turn to the Gospels, we find multiple, independent attestation of this burial story, and Joseph of Arimathea is specifically named in all four accounts. On top of that, the burial story in Mark is so extremely early that it’s simply not possible for it to have been subject to legendary corruption. When you read the New Testament, there’s no doubt that the disciples sincerely believed the truth of the resurrection, which they proclaimed to their deaths. The idea that the empty tomb is the result of some hoax, conspiracy, or theft is simply dismissed today.” -Dr. William Lane Craig, Theologian and Philosopher
I once heard Dr. Craig in a debate with a well-known atheist. I had never been to a debate and I was captivated. What I observed was a studied, articulate and fair-minded Christian man who gave fact after fact in support of the historicity of the resurrection. The atheist was winsome and funny, but seemed to dodge the direct topics, he gave antidotal accounts and made assertions like: “Jesus didn’t really die, the disciples lied, the Biblical accounts are legends,” and so on. What struck me as odd was that he did not give any evidence for his statements whereas Dr. Craig gave specific details and facts to support his claims like a lawyer would do in a court of law. It then occurred to me that this is exactly what happens in everyday ‘water cooler’ conversations. People hold beliefs and make declarations about things they have heard without any thought of backing it up with evidence. Christians often find themselves in a corner when confronted, especially on the topic of the resurrection. Here are five things you can share with someone who might ask…
- Jesus was tried and executed by crucifixion on a Roman cross—death was certain
- The type of beating and torture he endured before the crucifixion was so brutal it brought him to the brink of death before being placed on the cross.
- Crucifixion requires struggling to push upward as they hang there to get every breath, and he did this for hours.
- The certainty of their victims’ death is required of Roman soldiers as professional executioners.
- The soldiers pierced his side and water came out (pericardial fluid) indicating death.
- Heavy burial spices were applied to the body before wrapping and being placed in the tomb.
- The people of the day were experts on death as they were responsible for burying their own; they knew he was dead.
- The tomb was found empty on the third day
- The location of the tomb was well known and documented as belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.
- The women disciples were the first to find the tomb empty and if the story had been made up in that culture they would never have claimed the women were first.
- No one would have anything to gain, and everything to lose, in stealing or hiding the body.
- Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb and agreed it was empty because they had to create a lie so they would not be killed for dereliction of duty.
- The disciples went to their deaths for claiming Jesus’ resurrection, if they had stolen the body someone would have recanted.
- The body was never recovered or found in another location.
- There were multiple eyewitnesses who saw Jesus alive
- Over 500 eyewitnesses on multiple occasions, and independent of each other, saw Jesus after his death. This discounts any claim that it was contrived or a hallucination.
- The disciples left the crucifixion as scared and dejected followers who went into hiding, but within a matter of days they became visible and outspoken defenders of Jesus and his resurrection—only the confidence that they saw and spoke to Jesus could have produced that kind of change.
- The resurrection was reported and recorded early and in various accounts—this does not allow any time for legend to occur.
- Impossible converts to the Christian faith
- Paul, a Pharisee, persecuted the believers. He had everything to gain as a political and religious leader but he gave all that up to become a believer at the cost of torture, imprisonment and eventual martyrdom. Why? The only answer is that he saw the risen Christ.
- James, Jesus half brother, mocked him and did not believe in him, but he then became the leader of the early Church under heavy persecution and eventual martyrdom. Why? The only answer is that he saw the risen Christ.
- Many of the early Christians went to a martyr’s death. People will not die for a known lie; none of the disciples or future disciples would denounce Jesus and His resurrection because, as witnesses, they knew it was the truth.
- There are non-Biblical sources to the claims of the Gospel records
- The four Gospels are very early eyewitness accounts that did not have enough time to be created from legend—all of the people who would be primary witnesses were still alive when they were written.
- There are numerous sources outside the Biblical accounts that speak to the events and life of Jesus and the resurrection, here are just five: Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Mara Bar-Serapion, The Jewish Talmud.
“Even the more skeptical historians agree that for primitive Christianity…the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was a real event in history, the very foundation of faith, and not a mythical idea arising out of the creative imagination of believers.” –Carl Braaten, Historian
Result = changed lives:
After Jesus’ resurrection, and his giving of the Great Commission, the Apostles began preaching to the crowds in Jerusalem and performing many miracles in the name of Jesus. These miracles included healing lepers, curing the crippled, casting out of evil spirits, and even raising people from the dead. As a result, thousands converted to Christianity and were baptized. (Acts 2:14-47, 3:1-18) And this continues today!
This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” – The Apostle Peter in Acts 2:32-36
For further reading I highly recommend: “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona; “Evidence for the Resurrection” by Josh and Sean McDowell; “The Case for the Real Jesus” by Lee Strobel; and “Cold Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace.
Join us next week as we continue to examine A Case for Christ, Part 4: Are the Gospel accounts eyewitness accounts?
Let me know what you think: How does Jesus’ death and resurrection affect you personally?
Over the next several blogs I am going to continue to present logical reasoning and sound scientific evidence not found in the public school textbooks.
Always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have in Christ Jesus as Lord.
1 Peter 3:15
This blog is part of a series. You can start the series by going back to the September 1, 2014 Introduction called A Case for Christianity: Why do we need one?