The proposal that someone can resurrect after being dead for three days is often a very tough product to sell in todays’ westernized self-proclaimed intellectual culture, which is primarily dominated by naturalists who claim that nothing can occur outside of the laws of nature. Of course, we Christians firmly hold to the idea that our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, rose from the dead three days after being crucified. Some of us place faith in this fact solely based upon the reading of the Bible and others have read the Bible and have gone the extra mile to confirm the historical credibility of such a claim. Regardless of how you came to your faith in Christ and his resurrection, it is important that we assess our own beliefs by objectively viewing the facts to see how they reinforce or contradict our worldview.
In the defense of the skeptic, Christians are making a gigantic claim. You would be somewhat skeptical if you heard your friend say, “You are not going to believe this but Bob (who died three days ago) is now alive and talking to everyone in front of the mortuary. You should stop by and see him!” You would likely think your friend was crazy and would not seriously consider the notion that Bob could resurrect from the dead because it is believed that once a living organism dies, it remains dead.
However, imagine if you started getting text messages from multiple friends saying something like, “Did you hear? Bob is back from the dead and he is in front of the mortuary! You should come down!” If you are anything like me, you would probably come to the conclusion that your friends are playing a distasteful joke on you and would dismiss the text messages as foolish. After receiving the texts, pretend you turned on your computer and logged into Facebook only to find that there are pictures of Bob in front of the mortuary on some of your friend’s profiles with posts stating, “Bob is back from the dead! He says Jesus brought him back!” Now, you are starting to become a little less skeptical of your friends’ wild and seemingly impossible claims. Even though you went to Bob’s “showing” earlier that same day and intended to go to his funeral the following day, the evidence is compiling high enough to compel you to investigate the evidence to its conclusion.
With this newfound evidence, you jump into the car and drive hurriedly to the mortuary to see if these claims are genuine rather than some morbid prank. You get to the mortuary only to see Bob surrounded by a group of ecstatic people who are as shocked to see Bob as you. The seemingly impossible claims were truthful. Bob’s claim that Jesus raised him from the dead validated the existence of the Christian God because you recognize that a corpse does not naturally rise from the dead without divine intervention. This divine intervention can now be attested to by Bob, you, and all of those who also witnessed Bob back from the dead. Those that do not believe in this event can view the evidence for themselves however their non-belief would be contrary to the evidence provided by the eyewitnesses.
Using this illustration, we can identify the natural absurdities of what Christians are asking skeptics to believe. However, using the same example, we can recognize that if we follow the evidence to where it leads, we will discover our Savior as long as the investigation is approached with the commitment to accept the logical conclusion of the available evidence. However, imagine that the evidence was never followed. Bob being raised from the dead by God would have been dismissed due a failure of being ideologically accepting of supernatural occurrences. If presuppositions are devastatingly devout to a naturalistic worldview, even the strong evidence as the one presented in this example could potentially be disregarded or easily dismissed as a hoax. The truth is plain to see in the case of Bob and Jesus but the lack of openness to the supernatural hinders people from discovering the truth in both stories.
This illustration does not serve the purpose of portraying an exact parallel to Jesus’s resurrection. The point behind this example expresses how dogmatic naturalistic ideologies keep some people from accepting the logical conclusions that are founded on objective evidence. The facts contained within the minimal facts argument are accepted by a large majority of New Testament scholars, which include believers and skeptics. While everyone may not find the Bible to be a reliable authority, these facts that are being presented are historically reliable and can be attested to by scholarly skeptics and believers alike. As you read, allow yourself to objectively weigh the resurrection hypothesis versus all naturalistic hypotheses and let the evidence dictate your conclusion, not your ideology.
The Minimal Facts
To preface the remainder of this article, it is important to lay out the facts that serve as the foundation for the minimal facts argument. They are as follows…
1. Jesus died by crucifixion
2. The disciples of Jesus were sincerely convinced that he rose from the dead and appeared to them
3. Paul (aka Saul of Tarsus), who was a persecutor of the Christians, suddenly changed his beliefs towards Christianity
4. James (brother of Jesus), who was a skeptic of the Christian faith, suddenly changed his beliefs towards Christianity
5. The Tomb of Jesus was found empty three days after the crucifixion of Jesus (Habermas and Licona 2004, 48-76)
These are the facts that a majority of New Testament scholars consider to be historically accurate. As stated before, these scholars are not solely believers of Christianity but also include skeptics who aggressively question the notion that the resurrection actually happened. However, their skepticism of Jesus’ resurrection does not prevent them from acknowledging that there are certain facts that can be known regarding the life, ministry, crucifixion, and post-death happenings of Jesus.
Fact One – Jesus Died by Crucifixion
We can acknowledge that all four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, testify that Jesus was crucified (Habermas and Licona 2004, 48). These New Testament gospels were written roughly 30 – 50 years following the crucifixion of Jesus, which is considered a tremendously early source in the study of ancient antiquity. However, the Biblical sources are not the only sources for the historical fact that Jesus was executed by crucifixion.
There are multiple extra biblical sources for the crucifixion of Jesus. The first of them being Josephus, who was a Jewish historian, wrote concerning Jesus, “When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified” (Josephus 1981, Volume 9). The second source we have is Tacitus (56 AD – 117 AD), a senator and historian for the Roman Empire, who writes, “Nero fastened the guilt [of the burning of Rome] and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate” (Tacitus 115). The third source we have is Lucian of Samosata (125 AD – 180 AD), a Greek satirist and a skeptic of the Christian faith, who writes, “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account” (Lucian of Samosata Mid-second century, 11-13). The fourth source we have is Mara Bar-Serapion, who wrote to his son in 73 AD from prison with the following comments, “Or [what advantage came to] the Jews by the murder of their Wise King, seeing that from the very time their kingdom was driven away from them?” (Donaldson, Roberts and Coxe 1935-1952). As you may notice, the quote from Mara does not specifically reference the crucifixion; however it makes a specific reference to the “murder” of their “Wise King”.
Upon viewing the multiple sources of the crucifixion of Jesus, we can say with confidence that it is a historically reliable claim that Jesus was crucified during this time period of the first century. Outside of the few people in academia who venture to believe that Jesus never existed at all, most objective New Testament scholars acknowledge the solid foundation of reliable evidence for this fact, which leads them to the undeniable conclusion that Jesus was crucified in the first century.
Fact Two – The Disciples Sincerely Believed Jesus Rose from the Dead and Appeared to them
There are two major sub-facts that need to be viewed closely in order to truly appreciate the full impact of this second fact. The two sub-facts include the disciples making the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and had appeared to them and the second is that the disciples were radically transformed from being individuals who abandoned Jesus after his execution to intensely loyal advocates of Jesus’ gospel who courageously faced intense persecution, imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom (Habermas and Licona 2004, 50). These two facts that make up second fact of this argument, allow us to put ourselves in the disciples’ shoes and hopefully allow us to imagine how we would react in the same situation.
The disciples made the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and that he had appeared to them. The sources of this claim fall into three separate categories. The first is the testimony of Paul and the disciples. The second source is the oral tradition of the early church. The third and last source is the written works of the early church. These three sources are able to historically establish these claims as reliable historical fact (Habermas and Licona 2004, 51).
First, the testimony of Paul and the disciples serve as a valuable indication for what they actually believed. While that may be a rather obvious statement, it is essential that we are able to identify why it is monumentally important when discussing the resurrection of Jesus. Paul, who maintained that his authority was equal to that of other apostles, noted a specific verse containing his position on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:3 – 8 (NASB),
“3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
Paul made this personal claim that Jesus resurrected from the dead because he claimed that Jesus appeared to him along with Cephas, the twelve Disciples, five hundred brethren, James, the apostles, and then to Paul himself. Paul personally knew Peter, James, and John (Galatians 1:18 – 19; 2:2 – 20) and the Bible also states that Paul fellowshipped with the disciples (Acts 9:26 – 30; 15:1 – 35). This is also attested to by other early church writers that lived within one hundred years of Jesus (Habermas and Licona 2004, 51). Historically, Paul can confidently be classified as an early independent source.
Along with Paul, the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) serve as an excellent source that is well-accepted to have been written within the first century (Habermas and Licona 2004, 53). Like Paul, each Gospel attests to the resurrection of Jesus. In addition to Paul and the four Gospels, we have the book of Acts, which was written as a sequel to Luke, falling in line with the claim of the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels and the Pauline writings were all considered to be written within the first century which makes them exceptionally early accounts. Given that these books were written by individuals that had been present at the recorded events or interviewed people who were eyewitnesses to the actual events, it would be reasonable to conclude that these writings reflected what they genuinely believed to be true.
Oral tradition was used to preserve the message being passed along. Clearly, they would not be able to record events in the same manner that we do today for obvious reasons. They could not whip out their smart phone in first-century Palestine and start recording things Jesus said or did. While this would be ideal for us moderns, those that existed in the first century had to work with the resources they had available to them. In the first century Jewish culture, an efficient way to preserve information was through the means of oral tradition. Oral tradition was a method of teaching others and it was frequently used in the form of creeds, hymns, story summaries, and poetry in order to more easily memorize the information being preserved (Habermas and Licona 2004, 52).
A good example that we can view in support of this oral tradition is viewing 1 Corinthians 15:3 – 5 (cited earlier). This scripture is identified as a creed that was used in the earliest traditions of Christianity and actually predates the writings of Paul. It is believed by many scholars that Paul received this creed from Peter and James while fellowshipping with them in Jerusalem (Habermas and Licona 2004, 52), which would mean that Paul would have learned this creed from the disciples directly within five years of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Lastly, the writings of the early church were written by the apostolic fathers, which were the individuals who succeeded the original apostles (Habermas and Licona 2004, 53). Some of these apostolic fathers could have spent a good deal of time with the apostles and could have possibly been appointed by them. However, the main takeaway from their writings should be that they are reflective of what the apostles thought and believed about the resurrection. It is important to study the apostolic writings in order to further evaluate the “bigger picture” of what the apostles believed about Jesus’ resurrection.
Apostolic Father Clement (referred to in Philippians 4:3) spent a good amount of time with the apostles, particularly Peter, according to early church fathers by the name of Irenaeus and Tertullian. They both wrote about Clement in the time period of the late second century – early third century and wrote about how Clement had direct interaction with the apostles and how Clement received first hand instructions and observed their early traditions (Habermas and Licona 2004, 54).
Now that we have multiple church leaders commenting on how Clement received specific guidance from the apostles directly, what does Clement actually say about the resurrection? Clement wrote,
“Therefore, having received the orders and complete certainty caused by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and believing in the Word of God, they went with the Holy Spirit’s certainty, preaching the good news that the kingdom of God is about to come” (First Clement 42:3)
What implications does this have in our investigation of what the apostles truly believed? This assures us that the apostles remained true to their belief that Jesus rose from the dead and that they had seen him after the resurrection. This further confirms the claims being made in the New Testament were not claims conjured at a later date by someone else completely disconnected from the original events.
Polycarp (69 AD – 155 AD), along with Clement, is another Apostolic Father who mentioned the resurrection of Jesus five times in his letters to the church in Philippi (Habermas and Licona 2004, 55). According to writers of Irenaeus and Tertullian, the content of the messages that Polycarp was sending derived directly from the original apostles because it was said that he was appointed to his position by the apostles, which wanted to preserve the Christian messages by providing their successors with all of the correct information and doctrines. Polycarp ultimately was martyred in Smyrna at the age of 86 in 160 AD (Habermas and Licona 2004, 55).
After the claims of the resurrection of Jesus were made and the ultimate determination is made that this is what they sincerely believed, how did this belief actually affect their lives? There are several resources that we can look to in order to gather an insight into how their lives were transformed. All the resources that are currently available reinforce the fact that these apostles were willing to suffer for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
A good place to start for this insight would be the book of Acts. However, there are other sources that can be found in the early apostolic writings. Clement wrote about the sufferings and the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul,
“Because of envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars have been persecuted and contended unto death. Let us set the good apostles before our eyes. Peter, who because of unrighteous envy endured, not one or two, but many afflictions, and having borne witness went to the due glorious place. Because of envy and rivalries, steadfast Paul pointed to the prize. Seven times chained, exiled, stoned, having become a preacher both in the East and in the West, he received honor fitting of his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, unto the boundary on which the sun sets; having testified in the presence of the leaders. Thus he was freed from the world and went to the holy place. He became a great example of steadfastness” – First Clement 5:2 – 7
Polycarp, in the same spirit as Clement, wrote the following to the Philippians that reinforced Clement’s message regarding the suffering of Paul and the rest of the apostles, “They are in the place due them with the Lord, in association with them also the suffered. For they did not love the present age…” (Polycarp n.d.) Polycarp’s testimony granted us an insight into the sufferings the apostles went through.
During the lifetime of Polycarp, he had forwarded on his apostolic teachings to many people, including Ignatius. Ignatius wrote seven letters recording the information he was given by Polycarp regarding the teachings he received directly from the original apostles. He wrote about how the disciples were strengthened by Jesus, which led them not to fear death, but rather they believed that through death “they are found” (Habermas and Licona 2004, 57).
Along with Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius, we can also look at the writing of Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius as resources for the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul and we can use Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement as sources for the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus (Habermas and Licona 2004, 59). These sources that are being evaluated are not found in the Bible and are considered legitimate historical references to people who actually lived and died. They corroborate the message of the Bible.
Given the testimony of Paul, oral tradition, and the written tradition, we can feel confident in proclaiming that we know that the disciples believed Jesus rose from the dead and that Jesus appeared to them. It is a reasonable assumption that these apostles believed in the resurrection with so much certainty and sincerity that they were willing to die a martyr’s death.
Fact Three – Paul dramatically changed his stance on Christianity in a very short period of time
Paul the apostle was once known as Saul of Tarsus. Prior to Paul seeing the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, he was a devastatingly loyal persecutor and murderer of Christians. The actions of the pre-Christian Paul are described in the book of Acts. Given all of the good things that were done by Paul after his conversion, it is hard to imagine that he could have done all of those horrible things to Christians. Prior to becoming a Christian, Paul’s reputation was specifically known for being a persecutor of Christians. It almost seems as though he is a transformed person after the appearance of Jesus.
Paul wrote a narrative about his conversion to Christianity, so the notion that we should question his own testimony regarding his experience seems to be unnecessary. In addition, we have multiple attestations regarding his strong belief that he did see the appearance of the Lord along with independent attestation for the suffering of Paul by the apostolic fathers who mentored under Paul. The significant amount of attestations to the fact that Paul was a transformed person after the appearance of Jesus is notable in a historically investigation like this one.
In this case, we are not solely relying upon secondary evidence. We have primary evidence directly from the source. Paul’s own writings exemplify his persecutory pre-Christian lifestyle along with how his life was completely transformed because of Jesus appearing to him. After Paul gives his testimony through his writings, we have further corroboration through the apostolic fathers of his beliefs along with the experiences of suffering and ultimate martyrdom he was put through for his unfailing belief in the resurrected Jesus. Ultimately, this builds a strong case for Paul’s life being completely transformed because of his claim that Jesus appeared to him after the crucifixion.
Fact Four – James dramatically changed his stance on Christianity in a very short period of time
The story about the conversion of James and subsequent transformation is not as well documented as what we have for Paul, but there is certainly enough evidence to establish that James was a skeptic prior to the crucifixion and a believer in resurrection of Jesus after he had an appearance of Jesus alive after the crucifixion. There are multiple sources that confirm the fact that James was once a skeptic before his belief in the resurrected Jesus and multiple sources for the fact that the appearance he had of the risen Jesus transformed his life to the point to where he was willing to be martyred in order to remain loyal to the belief that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
The Gospels record that Jesus’ brothers, who included James, did not believe Jesus and the message of his ministry. Below are three scriptures that depict the nonbelief of friends and family,
“21 When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”” – Mark 3:21 (NASB)
“3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. 4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.”” – Mark 6:3 – 4 (NASB)
“5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him” – John 7:5 (NASB)
Given these particular scriptures, we are confident that James was not a supporter of Jesus. However, the transformation in James’ life began when James saw the appearance of Jesus. As was noted earlier in the article, one of the earliest creedal materials that are currently known is 1 Corinthians 15:3 – 7, which indicates that Jesus had appeared to James.
“3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles” – 1 Corinthians 15:3 – 7 (NASB)
After viewing the scriptures that present the facts that James was indeed a skeptic as well as the scripture that stated that Jesus appeared to James, how can we be certain that James actually martyred himself for the belief in the resurrection of Jesus? As discussed in the “Fact Two” section of this article, Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement are sources for the martyrdom of James (Habermas and Licona 2004, 59). The idea that James can transform from a skeptic to a full-blown martyr for the belief system that he was originally skeptical of is nonsensical without something radical occurring in his life. In this case, given the circumstances behind what was going on in James’ life at that period of time, are we to believe that James abandoned his skepticism of Jesus without having believed in the resurrection? What else could possibly explain James’ devout loyalty to Jesus after having been skeptical his whole life of him?
Fact Five – The Empty Tomb
This is a fact that is not supported by the overwhelming majority of New Testament scholars as the other four facts are, however it is still considered to be historically reliable by 75% of New Testament scholars (Habermas and Licona 2004, 70). While this is not an overwhelming percentage, it is still a rather high percentage. There are good reasons for why three out of four scholars advocate for this fact. The evidence for why the tomb was empty on the third day is certainly compelling enough to still be considered a fact for this minimal facts argument.
There are three arguments in favor of Jesus’ tomb being empty on the third day. These three arguments are the Jerusalem factor, enemy attestation, and the testimony of the women. These three arguments in support of the empty tomb give us confidence that we can validly claim the tomb was empty as fact. After viewing all of them, it will be clear that there is substantive reasoning behind the idea of the empty tomb.
The Jerusalem factor is the theory that Christianity would have not expanded in the manner that it did if the body would have been present in the tomb in Jerusalem, which is where Jesus was crucified, buried, and where he first appeared after the crucifixion. The reason why Christianity would have become a complete flop if Jesus had remained in the tomb is because everyone in Jerusalem would have heard about it. In fact, if the body of Jesus was still present in the tomb when the claims of his resurrection were being made, the Romans and Jewish leadership would have publicly displayed Jesus’ corpse to show everyone to prove that Jesus was undeniably dead. If this would have happened, the power of the resurrection claim would have completely lost all power and the movement would have likely failed (Habermas and Licona 2004, 70).
According to the book of Acts, the public Christian ministry began fifty days after the crucifixion of Jesus. There is no record of any exhumation of Jesus’ body at this time by anyone. You would think that the local leadership would want to stomp out this claim in any way they could. Despite the decomposition of the corpse after fifty days, the arid climate would allow for the corpse to keep certain distinctive physical qualities such as hair, stature, and wounds, which would have identified the identity of the highly decomposed corpse (Habermas and Licona 2004, 70).
Not only would the leadership of Jerusalem been happy to provide a possibly identifiable corpse, they would have gladly produced any corpse! The enemies of Jesus would have been happy to see any corpse as long as it was from the tomb of Jesus. In addition to that, the believers of Jesus would have been dissuaded from believing in the resurrection of Jesus if they had seen a slightly recognizable corpse being publicly displayed in Jerusalem. The confidence of the resurrection of Jesus would have been extinguished dramatically because of the public display of the corpse, which would have had disastrous repercussions on the expansion of the early Christian church (Habermas and Licona 2004, 71). Given these observations, along with the fact that there is no record of any exhumation occurring in Jerusalem, it is a reasonable assumption that the tomb was empty on the third day after the crucifixion using the Jerusalem factor.
The second argument for the empty tomb is that there was enemy attestation. This argument illustrates that the individuals who opposed early Christianity admitted to the tomb being empty. The most popular citation of this argument would be found in Matthew 28:12 – 13 (NASB),
“12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’”
While this may be the most cited, there are other sources to look to for a similar message. These messages can be found in the writings of Justin Martyr, Trypho 108; Tertullian, and De Spectaculis 30 (Habermas and Licona 2004, 71). At that time, the Jews would have no incentive to admit that the tomb was empty unless it actually was. In fact, it would have been more convenient for them to have found the corpse of Jesus in his tomb because they could have easily stomped out the early Christian movement, which they considered blasphemous. As stated in Matthew 28:12 – 13, they concocted the theory that Jesus’ disciples had taken the body, which would inevitably mean that the tomb would be empty.
The last argument for the empty tomb would be the testimony of women. It is a much different time in the 21st century western society than it was in first century Palestine. The woman’s testimony in today’s culture is accredited with just as much credibility as a man’s. However, this was not always so. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The quotes from that time period below illustrate how much credit was given to a woman’s testimony.
“Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women” – Talmud, Sotah 19a
“The world cannot exist without males and without females – happy is he whose children are males, and woe to him whose children are females” – Talmud, Kiddushin 82b
“But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or ear of punishment” (Josephus 1981)
“Any evidence with a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a women” – Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8
After reading these quotes, you may be taken aback. This is completely contradictory to what we currently believe of women. While this may be the case, this gives us a grander insight into how the testimony of women would have been perceived in the first century.
Do you think women would have been taken seriously in first century Palestine? Absolutely not! In fact, they would have been immediately disregarded as being a person you could not trust. For the New Testament writers to testify that the women were the ones to discover the empty tomb on the third day would have been viewed as an embarrassment. If the writers wanted to add credibility to their story, they would have manufactured a story about how the male disciples discovered the empty tomb because it would have been perceived as more trustworthy. Remaining loyal to the historical happenings despite cultural stigmas would be the most reasonable explanation for why the New Testament has the women discovering the empty tomb included, therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that their story is truthful rather than a fictional fabrication.
In the introduction of this article, a challenge was posed to the reader. It was to allow oneself to read through the facts and objectively analyze whether or not a naturalistic theory can be formulated that can explain all of the facts better than the resurrection hypothesis. Regardless of one’s ultimate conclusion, there should have undoubtedly been deep thought put into the potential possibilities of what best explains the facts.
The introduction also laid out a silly story about a friend coming back from the dead. In the story, there was a natural hesitancy of this outrageous claim until the evidence was presented and considered. Once the evidence was followed, it was discovered that Bob was raised from the dead at the hand of Jesus. In our case with viewing the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, every person is in this same circumstance on a much higher scale. However, the consequences are eternal in the case of investigating the resurrection of Jesus.
Investigation of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus should be done objectively. We should allow ourselves to become historians and dig for the truth! This article can serve as your launching pad! You may want to pick up the book, “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. After reading this book, you might find yourself knowing more than you ever thought possible about the resurrection of Jesus.
Those that reject the resurrection hypothesis do so on an ideological basis, not an evidential one. The basis for which we evaluate this evidence is not always empirical, but oftentimes circumstantial. Skeptics often reject circumstantial evidence, but they fail to realize that circumstantial evidence is the primary type of evidence that convicts murders and other types of criminals in a court of law. It seems as though circumstantial evidence is our greatest asset in most every other investigation, but somehow it is denied as untenable by the skeptic in this case. Or is it a mere failure to overcome ideologies that will not allow for supernatural possibilities? For skeptics who remain skeptical after thoroughly researching the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, there is a massive amount of reconciling the historical evidence to formulate a merely naturalistic conclusion. Naturalism simply does not simultaneously explain all of the known facts. The resurrection hypothesis best explains all five established facts better than any other naturalistic hypothesis anyone has ever came up with.
Writing from a personal perspective, the resurrection of Jesus is undoubtedly a historical event. When a historical event is true, the facts will always align with the truth. As Christians, Christ has laid out our historical case for us and we must be open to accept the conclusions of His evidence. No conspiracy theorist can mask the truth of the resurrection of Jesus without having manipulated truth along the way. Jesus grants us truth. Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” in John 18:37 (NASB). We must continue to follow His voice and align our worldviews with His. Only then will we be able to fully see the truth that He provides.
Donaldson, J., A. Roberts, and A.C. Coxe. The Babylonian Talmud. London, 1935-1952.
Haberman, Gary R, and Michael R Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004.
Hengel, Martin. Crucifixion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.
Josephus. Antiquities. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981.
Lucian of Samosata. The Death of Peregrine. Mid-second century.
Tacitus. Annals. 115.