Are There Any Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus?
A Historical Perspective
The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been a long debated issue. Even though Americans in droves rush to the stores each year to stock up on the bunny costumes and caramel-filled chocolate eggs, few seem to give any thought to the history behind the festivities. However, at the root of this old and dearly beloved holiday is a profound claim of a historical man actually rising from the dead. This bold claim states that three days after being brutally beaten, crucified, removed from the cross after death, and placed in a stone tomb, this man actually miraculously got up and walked away. This is why around Easter time many people pack into their cars and drive out to participate in what’s often called Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday services.
But is there really any sensible evidence behind all this? What would have led anyone to come up with such an account in the first place? After all, it’s not like you see people just popping up and walking around a few days after you attend their funerals. The thought of it sounds really far-fetched. As a matter of fact, history has seen its fair share of notable people who have had issues with this idea and have taken it to task. Probably one of the most notable and academically respected of our time is Anthony Flew. Anthony Flew, a preeminent philosophical atheist, vigorously debated Christian scholar Dr. Gary Habermas on the topic “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” In this debate, Anthony Flew presented his arguments as to why Jesus did not rise from the dead. The problem, however, was that four out of the five judges, all independent philosophers representing different universities, formed the conclusion that Anthony Flew clearly lost the debate on the grounds of all the evidence provided by the two debaters. The fifth judge actually said the debate was a draw.
Another notable example is Dr. Simon Greenleaf. He was Harvard University’s Royal Professor of Law and wrote what is arguably the standard legal volume called, ‘A Treatise on the Law of Evidence.’ He set out to outright disprove the resurrection from a careful examination of the existing evidence and ended up writing a booked called, ‘An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice’ in which he boldly admitted that Jesus Christ had to have risen from the dead.
These two outcomes, though surprising to many who have not seriously studied the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, is not uncommon in situations where the evidence is examined from a historical and academically rigorous perspective. There are actually some strong historical arguments for the case of the resurrection.
The evidences or arguments presented for the case of the resurrection usually include the following at a minimum:
- The Apostles of Jesus would not be willing to die for what they knew to be a lie. People might die for false information if they were convinced it was actually true, but they would not be willing to die for something they knew to be a lie. The Apostles of Jesus were going around insisting that they had seen Jesus alive after his death. They said they even saw the scares that he had acquired as a result of the crucifixion. Keep in mind that this was about 2,000 years ago, long before the sophisticated smoke screen tricks we see in movies today. According to history, almost all of the Apostles were killed because of preaching this message. It would be crazy for them to go to their deaths unless their message was indeed true.
- How could Jesus’ disciples have stolen His body? This is extremely unlikely because the disciples were already afraid for their lives and basically hiding themselves. Furthermore, harming a Roman soldier would result in death and if the Roman guards ever fell asleep on duty and allowed the body to be removed from the tomb, they would be put to death themselves according to Roman law.
- Why would the disciples record their weaknesses in the Gospel records? The gospels are full of clumsy and cowardly acts by the Apostles of Jesus. Examples include Peter often making foolish statements that result in him being rebuked by Jesus, the Apostles running away in fear after Jesus was ceased by the Roman soldiers to be taken away to judgment, Peter denying that he knew Jesus after Jesus was captured, the Apostles being cooped up in hiding after Jesus was crucified, and on and on. It would make no sense for the Apostles to record these things if their goal wasn’t to just be brutally honest.
- What would be the point of them creating a story about the resurrection of Jesus if Jesus didn’t end up rising from the dead like He said He would? Since Jesus kept telling them that He was going to rise from the dead after three days, if it ended up not happening, why would they want to keep giving their allegiance to Him after the big let down? His inability to rise from the dead would just prove that He was not who He said He was and so everything He taught them to put their hopes in would at best be suspect. Claiming to be a follower of Jesus at that time would most likely mean being an outcast for a Jew (of which they all were). This would be tantamount to willingly having their lives ruined in society with no side benefits in sight, all for the sake of preaching the cause of some guy that apparently didn’t know what he was talking about. This drastic and persistent life change would make no sense unless they had seen Him resurrected from the dead.
- Why would Saul of Tarsus go from killing Christians to not just becoming a Christian himself, but the famous Apostle Paul who spread the message of Jesus to much of the then Roman empire? This is very difficult to imagine under normal circumstances, but it becomes very plausible if he actually saw the risen Jesus like he said he did.
There are MANY more strong historical facts and supporting arguments for the resurrection of Jesus than the ones listed above. Whether you are a hardened skeptic or a studied believer there are excellent resources that can really help you learn more about the supporting evidences that exist. Some definitive works are just bursting at the seams with historical facts that you probably didn’t even know existed. So, the next time that you bite into one of those oval chocolate goodies oozing with rich, sweet, caramel delights, remember that it’s all somehow tied to a very real event that happened about 2,000 years ago that has altered the course of human history. This event is none other than the resurrection of Jesus the Christ.