Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Why Nothing is More Important
If True, it is the Single Most Important Event in History! If this is true, then all of the claims made by Jesus of Nazareth should be taken very seriously. The resurrection of Jesus Christ underscores the fact that all other religions are hopeless attempts to reach God; that only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. On the other hand, if there was no resurrection of Jesus, then everything about Christianity is a lie, and no one should follow this Way!
Why the Resurrection of Jesus is So Crucial
The Apostle Paul lays out in his first letter to the Corinthians why Christ’s resurrection is so central to the “Good News” of Christianity. Why everything stands or falls on this one claim:
1 Cor 15:12-16: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith. In that case, we are also exposed as false witnesses about God. For we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead, but He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
The Evidence is Clear: Jesus Christ Has Risen!
According to the Bible, and the words of Paul the Apostle, Jesus of Nazareth appeared in bodily form to individuals and groups of people after His resurrection from the tomb:
1 Cor 3: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.
After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. And last of all He appeared to me also, as to one of untimely birth.
Four Reasons Why the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is So Pivotal
So what is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ so pivotal?
FIRST, the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves the claims He made about Himself are true. He made claims that set Him apart from any other person in history, including Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, etc.
- He claimed to be God in human form: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30); “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9); “If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7). His coming was foretold in hundreds of Old Testament prophecies about a coming Messiah who would be “God with us” (in Hebrew, Emmanuel).
- Jesus predicted numerous times that He would be betrayed, killed, and rise again (see details on this later in this article).
- Jesus declared that He was “the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet he shall live. And he that lives and believes in me shall never die” .(John 11:25).
SECOND, if Jesus Christ rose, then this fact sets Jesus apart from all the other “holy men” of history — including Buddha, Mohammed, and all the rest. These spiritual leaders are all still in the tomb, proving they were but men. Only the tomb of Jesus remains empty, proving He was who He claimed to be.
THIRD, if Jesus Christ has risen, and is who He claimed to be, then we had better pay attention to all of the things He said –– our eternal destiny hangs in the balance. For example, Jesus claimed:
- That “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) He didn’t claim to be one of many ways to the Father. He claimed to be the ONLY Way.
- That those that believe in Him and follow Him have eternal life: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish”. (John 10:27-28).
- That He was and is “the Door” for the sheep (John 10:7), not “a door” to the Father. He is the only Door by which we may enter and be saved (John 10:9).
FOURTH, because He rose from the grave, we can be assured that one day He will cause all those who trust in Him to rise also. This is the “blessed hope” that the scripture speaks of. From Genesis to Revelation, the central message of the Bible is God’s plan of redemption. Through Adam sin entered the world, and man put his will above the Lord’s. As a result “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Our Creator is perfect, holy, just and merciful. Because He cannot deny Himself, He must punish sin.
But due to His great love for His creation, He formulated the ultimate, fail-save plan. He Himself, the eternal Word of God, would “become flesh” and dwell among men (John 1:14), lead a sinless life, and become the unblemished “lamb of God who takes way the sins of the world” (John 1:29-32). He would take the penalty for all of mankind – past, present and future. He would make the ultimate sacrifice, and be judged and die in mankind’s place. Jesus. as the ultimate sacrifice, paid the price for all our sins. And as predicted, He did “not suffer His Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). God raised up Jesus Christ, His one and Only Son, just as He had predicted. The resurrection of Jesus crushed the head of the serpent — forever.
The Compelling Case for the Resurrection of Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth was not a Myth. He was a REAL PERSON in History.
He was no myth or fictitious person, but a real person in history. Many skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus feel that their best strategy for denying the resurrection is to deny that Jesus ever existed. Yet the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical person is supported by multiple credible sources: ancient Christian, Jewish, and secular historians.
Consider the written historical evidence of Jesus from these varied sources …
- Non-Christian, non-Jewish sources (principally Roman, Greek). These consist of the writings of a number of Greek or Roman historians, and refer to the history of Jesus because of the trouble the Christian movement was causing in the Roman empire at the time. The records are normally antagonistic, since they have nothing to gain by admitting the historicity of the events.
- Jewish sources – Josephus, the Talmud. Josephus, a Jewish aristocrat turned politician, was recruited by the Romans during the first Jewish revolt to act as a mediator and write a historical record of events at the time. He records that Jesus was a wise man that did many wonderful works, and that many people – both Jews and Gentiles – followed after him. The Talmud, written by Jewish sources at the time, is (not surprisingly) unfriendly toward the founder of Christianity. The important point, however, is that Jewish sources do not deny that Jesus was a real historical figure — they only promote a different interpretation of of his conception.
- Early Christian sources – the Gospels, early church fathers and historians. The four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are judged by most scholars to be reliable, historical testimony of eye-witnesses. These gospels, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, the letters of Paul and the other Apostles, are judged to have been written from 40 A.D. to 100 A.D. — all within a few decades of the life of Jesus. The early church fathers were the leaders and teachers in the church who followed the apostles – many were also disciples of these same apostles.
To read about the history of Jesus of Nazareth, who really lived, really did many astounding things, was really tortured and crucified, and then really rose again: https://evidencetobelieve.com/history-of-jesus/
Jesus Repeatedly Predicted His Death and Resurrection, and Shared that with His Followers.
The gospels document that Jesus repeatedly predicted that he would be taken by force, tortured, be put to death, and then rise the third day. Keep in mind God tells us that one of His unique characteristics is telling of something before it happens, so that we will know the thing is of Him. Here are just a few examples of His predictions before the event:
Matthew 17:22: “Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them: ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful.”
Matthew 20:18: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and to crucify, And the third day He will rise again.”
Matthew 26:2: “You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son on Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
Matthew 14:27-28: “At the Passover meal before He was taken prisoner, Jesus said to His followers: “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”
The gospels record that Jesus was scourged by Roman guards prior to His crucifixion. The instrument used to inflict the whipping was called a “flagrum”, and was composed of leather strips, with pieces of bone and metal at the ends. According the Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, church historian of the 3rd century, the sufferer’s “veins were laid bare, and …the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.”
Crucifixion was a type of killing perfected by the Romans, inflicted on those that deserved the most severe punishment. This form of torture was so horrible to the people of that day that Cicero, the famous Roman orator, said: “Even the mere word cross must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero, Pro Rabirio, V, 16). The gospels all record that Jesus was crucified by the Romans after being tried illegally several times by the religious leaders of that day. Scourges from Herbert Haag and Adrian van dem Born, Bibel-Lexikon (Einsiedeln, Benziger, 1956), p. 527. For more detailed information, see ASOR.org; https://www.asor.org/anetoday/2018/12/What-Do-We-Know-About-Scourging-Jesus/
The Shroud of Turin, which many — including me – believe to be the actual linen burial cloth of Jesus, shows a crucified man who has been severely beaten on the front and back side with many many wounds. When one gazes at the image on the Shroud of Turin, there is no mistaking that it is the image of a man, beaten head to toe, front and back, pierced in the hands and feet, with evidence of a crown of thorns about the head:
- Mature in age, about 6′ 2″” in height
- With shoulder length hair, a beard, a moustache and a ponytail
- Who has undergone a great deal of physical injury.
- There is evidence of blood marks and punctures about the head
- A cheek appears to be swollen
- The image shows evidence of a wound at the side
- The entire figure, both frontal and dorsal sides, shows evidence of scourging
- Nail wounds are apparent in the wrists and in the feet
Jesus Really Died on a Cross, of a Broken Heart.
Skeptics will put forth multiple theories that Jesus really didn’t die, but that He only nearly died, or fell unconscious. But multiple lines of evidence support the fact that He really did die on the cross. He did not “pass out” or fall asleep. All the evidence points to the fact that He really died.
John’s gospel records that Jesus died just after He had received something to drink from the Roman soldiers:
“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said: ‘It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30)
Ignatius (A.D. c. 50-115), Bishop of Antioch and pupil of the Apostle John, wrote:
“He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. .. at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried.”
The gospels record that the Roman guards broke the legs of the two other criminals, to ensure their death (the breaking of the legs prevented the individuals from propping themselves up in order to continue to breath; with their legs broken, they soon suffocated). But when they got to Jesus, John’s gospel records: “…when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.” (John 19:33)
From modern medical science, we have an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association regarding the certainty of Jesus’ death:
“Clearly the weight of historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to His side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear, thrust between His right ribs, probably perforated not only the right lung, but also the pericardium and heart and thereby ensured His death. Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.” (Edwards, PDJC, 1463).
Alternative Explanation: Jesus didn’t die, he Passed Out and “Swooned”
The Swoon Theory, first proposed in 1828 by H. E. G. Paulus, a German theologian and critic of the Bible, claims that Jesus did not die. Rather, suggested Paulus, Jesus merely fainted on the cross, from pain, shock, and loss of blood. Jesus was then mistakenly buried alive.
Why the “Swoon” theory fails on several counts:
- Jesus could not have survived Roman crucifixion. The Roman procedures ensured the person was dead, and if a soldier bungled a crucifixion, he was sentenced to death. .
- The soldiers did not bother to break the legs of Jesus. Why? It was obvious to them He was already dead. (John 19:31-33).
- An eye witness saw blood and water come out of the side of Jesus when a Roman soldier pierced His side with a spear (John 19:34-35). This indicates, according to medical experts (see the quote from the AMA above), that the spear punctured not only his lung, but probably his heart also, ensuring death.
- The body was totally enclosed in a linen sheet and set in the tomb (John 19:38-42).
- How would the Roman guards, whose lives depended on Jesus saying in the tomb and staying dead, have been over-powered by a half-dead, swooning corpse? Or by unarmed, common fishermen?
- How could a half-dead, swooning man move the massive stone from the mouth of the tomb? The Roman guard certainly would not have moved it. The disciples were in no position to move it. So who moved it but an angel of the Lord, as the Bible claims.
Jesus was Buried in the Tomb of a Wealthy Person. Evidence of the Tomb Exists Today.
Josephus, noted historian of the time, makes these remarks in the ‘War of the Jews‘ concerning the practice of the Jews to remove the bodies of those crucified so they might be buried: “...the Jews used to take care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.”
Matthew 27:57-60: “Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body be given to him. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.”
The two Marys sat at the tomb just after the burial took place: “And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.” (Matthew 28:61).
In fact, we know more about the burial of Jesus Christ than any other single character in history:
A. We know who took His body down from the cross
B. We know of His body being wrapped in a linen cloth, with spices
C. We know the very tomb in which His body was placed, and how it was cut
D. We know the name of the man who owned the tomb
E. We know that the tomb was located in a garden near the place where He was crucified, outside the city walls
The Tomb of Jesus Christ was Found EMPTY. No Body Could be Produced to Falsify the Claim!
Although made secure by a Roman guard, the tomb of Jesus was found empty by several of the women disciples, then shortly later by several of His closest followers.
The Jewish religious leaders were strongly opposed Jesus and His teaching, and were prepared to go to any length to see that He did not rise, and that His body remained in the tomb:
Matthew 28:62-66: “..the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying “Sir, we remember, while was still alive, how the deceiver sad, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore, command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead’. So the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.”
The next verses in Matthew record Mary Magdalene and the other Mary coming to the tomb on the first day of the week, with the intention of anointing the body with spices. To their surprise “…there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door.” The angel recounted to the two Marys how that Jesus had risen, just as He had said.
The disciples preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ first in Jerusalem, not in some far off land. If the tomb had NOT been empty, they would never have been able to pull this off. Adversaries would simply have pointed to the tomb and the body within it and rejected their message.
In new testament writing there are many references to the fact of the resurrection, but NONE defending the empty tomb. Why? The answer should be obvious: this was not a point of contention — everyone, friend and foe, KNEW the tomb was empty.
The Jewish leaders and the Romans tried in vain to produce the body of Jesus – but they couldn’t. If they had been able to recover the body, then the new movement would have been proven false right from the start. Since Jesus has predicted His rising from the dead several times, if He didn’t rise, then the body would have shown He was a false prophet. They were never able to recover a dead body. In fact, as we show below, people started seeing Jesus alive, speaking and meeting with them, on multiple occasions during a period of weeks after the resurrection.
Alternative Explanations Fail to Explain the Empty Tomb
Alternative Naturalistic Explanation: that the disciples “Stole the Body”, lacks credibility. Here is how Matthews’s gospel records events:
Matt 28:1-4:“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.”
Matt 28:11-16: “While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.”
This alternative explanation, “The Body was Stolen”, fails on several counts:
- Roman soldiers don’t sleep while guarding. First of all, if a Roman guard was sleeping while he was supposed to be guarding the tomb, he would face the death penalty. No Roman guard would have fallen asleep, on pain of death.
- The disciples were all stricken with fear. They all ran away and left Jesus alone to die on a cross. They were hardly in a position to sneak up and overpower armed Roman guards to steal the body. Not credible. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew records in V26:56: “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled“. Simon Peter, who told Jesus he would never deny Him, turned his back on Jesus and denied Him three times once they had laid hold of his master (Matthew 26:69-74). Once Jesus was buried, the apostles and disciples secreted themselves in their lodgings and nothing more is heard of them until news of the resurrected Christ is brought to them by the two Marys on the morning of the third day. Even at this news, only two – Peter and John – ventured out to investigate this report. Note the attitude and demeanor of Christ’s followers: cowering, frightened, totally focused on their own self-preservation. They would hardly have the courage to sneak out to a guarded tomb at night, and try to do battle with Roman soldiers, and subdue them. They were scared fishermen.
- The disciples would not have been physically able to move such a large stone. It would take a number of very strong men to budge such a large stone.
Jesus Was Seen Alive by Many Over a Period of Weeks, in Various Places.
It was Jesus Christ’s post-resurrection appearances that assured His followers that He had indeed risen from the dead. After He arose the Bible reports He was seen by …
- The women as they returned from the tomb, after having seen the angel (Matthew 28:1-10)
- Mary Magdalene at the tomb, during her second visit to the site (John 20:10-18, Mark 16:9-11)
- To Peter the day of the resurrection (Luke 24:34)
- To two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35, Mark 16:12-13)
- To ten of the apostles the evening of Easter Sunday (Luke 24:36-40, John 20:19-23,
- After eight days to the eleven apostles, including Thomas (John 20:26-29)
- To some of the disciples fishing at the sea of Galilee (John 20:20-28)
- To all of the apostles on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20)
- To James (1 Cor: 15:7)
- To all of the apostles on the Mount of Olives (Luke 24:50-52; Mark 16:19)
- To 500 additional believers at one time (1 Cor. 15:6)
- To Paul on the road to Damascus (1 Cor.15:8)
All of these people were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. They saw Him, touched Him, ate with Him, and spoke with Him. Its important to note that these appearances of Jesus were reported to be both physical and bodily in nature (he was seen, heard and touched) – the reports were not of a ghost-like figure, or apparition. Although it is reported in the gospels that Jesus suddenly “appeared”, and “disappeared” from their sight (perhaps evidence of a supernatural body?), the records also make a point of Jesus having bodily form, and able to be touched, handled, and sharing food with the disciples.
Luke 24:36-42 – “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.”
John 20:19-20: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
The Bible records that Thomas, one of the disciples, would not believe unless he put his hands into Jesus’ side, and hands. He was supposing that Jesus was a ghost. But the Bible records in John 20: 24-29 the following…
“But he (Thomas) said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
“A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus also appeared to two followers while they were on their way out of the city. At first, they did not recognize Him, but then later, as He was eating with them and breaking bread, “their eyes were opened”, and they recognized Him:
Mark 16:12-13: NLT “Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them.”
Luke 24:28-31 “So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.
The evidence suggests that Jesus had and has a “resurrected body“, what the Bible calls the “first fruits of a new creation“. This body was not like the old, mortal body, but a radically new type of body, one that had extra-ordinary powers. The evidence shows that Jesus, after His resurrection could:
- Appear and disappear at will; yet be touched and handled physically
- Pass through locked doors, appear and be present physically for a period, and they depart the same way
- Appear to disciples in a “different form”, then later be recognized through familiar actions
- Start a fire and eat fish with His disciples
- Ascend to Heaven after the conclusion of His appearances.
The Lives of the Disciples Were Radically Transformed.
The lives of the disciples were radically transformed, from cowering followers who abandoned Him to bold proclaimers of the good news of the gospel. Nearly ALL his apostles were killed for their faith as a result. And millions of early Christians were persecuted for proclaiming Jesus as Lord.
“This scared, frightened band of the apostles, which was just about to throw away everything in order to flee in despair to Galilee; when these peasants, shepherds, and fishermen, who betrayed and denied their master and then failed him miserably, suddenly could be changed overnight into a confident mission society, convinced of salvation and able to work with much more success after Easter than before Easter; no vison or hallucination is sufficient to explain such a revolutionary transformation.” – Jewish Rabbi Pinchas Lapide
After the disciples had received the Holy Spirit in the upper room in Jerusalem, they began to share the good news of the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and that whosoever would repent, believe on Him, and receive Him into their heart could be saved and have eternal life. The Acts of the Apostles, written by the disciple Luke, records how that Peter – who had shortly before denied three times that he ever knew Jesus – was transformed into an articulate, bold proclaimer of the good news of Jesus the Messiah:
Acts 2:14: “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. …”
Acts 2: 22-24: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[b] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
The Short Timeframe Between the Resurrection of Jesus and the Spreading of the Message.
There was insufficient time for a legend or myth to develop as the basis for Christ’s resurrection. The eyewitness testimonies as documented in the gospels, and the news of the resurrection as reported by followers, was spreading like wildfire soon after the events happened.
- In the Book of Acts, written by Luke, the apostle Paul writes that he saw the resurrected Christ on his way to persecute followers of the new sect, called “the Way”:
Act 9:1-6: “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
How early was the Book of Acts written? “The best answer is sometime between AD 62 and 63. (The Blue Letter Bible)
- One of the earliest “creeds” in Christianity is documented in a letter of Paul’s to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 15:3). In this passage, Paul is repeating what he himself has heard, and is passing on to the churches – that is, that Christ died, was buried, and rose on the third day (photo by Arthur Ogleznev, Pexels.com):
1 Cor 15:3-7: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that He appeared to Cephs [Peter] and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
According to scholars, this passage reads like a “credo” statement, and recounts key facts about what followers of the Way were to hold on to (the core belief of their faith). This evidence shows that this proclamation was born and being passed on very near to Jesus’ death and resurrection – probably within months. or at most a few years.
When was 1 Cor written by Paul? According to Creation.com, “Many scholars believe that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians around AD 55, or about twenty-two years after the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, a wide range of scholars believes the earliest Christian creed was formulated and taught less than five years after the death and Resurrection of Jesus.” (see Creation.com – Date of the Creed)
News of the Resurrection of Jesus was First Proclaimed in Jerusalem – Not in Some Far off Land.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was first proclaimed right in Jerusalem, where the trial and crucifixion took place — NOT in some far off distant land.
The disciples began preaching the message of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection in the very place it had happened — not in some distant land. If Jesus was still in His tomb, they simply could not have done this — no one would have believed them. But as Peter began preaching, “over 3,000” souls were saved that day. The Bible records Peter’s speech in Acts 2:
““Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
Peter was addressing a huge crowd who had assembled in Jerusalem for a festival. The Holy Spirit had just fallen and filled the disciples in the upper room there, and they were all transformed into bold proclaimers of the good news of Jesus Christ. The thousands who had assembled were not “ignorant” of the things of which he spoke. May of them were witnesses to the miracles, signs and wonders that Jesus had done. They knew Peter was speaking the truth, and so that day “over 3,000 souls” were saved and entered the Kingdom of God.
Roman and Jewish Historians Wrote About the Spreading News of the Resurrection of Jesus.
Third party historians and writers who lived at the time referred to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a fundamental belief of the Christian movement. Josephus ben Mattathias (c. 37/38 A.D.- sometime after 100 A.D.) was a Jewish aristocrat, a priestly politician, and a reluctant commander of rebel troupes in Galilee during the first Jewish revolt against Rome (66 – 73 A.D.), He wrote the following about Jesus and the “tribe of Christians”: Parts of this passage have been disputed by some, based on the contention that Josephus, being a Jew, would not have said some things in the passage. There is some evidence that later scribes elaborated on the original text. I have bolded in red the sections which are not in dispute by scholars, and italicized the ones that are in dispute, so that the reader can clearly see those sections which are agreed by most scholars to be the historian’s original words
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (Antiquities, XVIII, 3, 3).2
Other historians, Roman officials, and Jewish leaders who wrote about the growing Christian movement and the resurrection of Jesus include the following (visit the Jewish Roman World of Jesus by Dr. James Tabor for details on the writings of the people below)
- Suetonius, Life of Claudius xxv 4 (Cf. Acts 18.2)
- Suetonius, Life of Nero xvi — “Christians, a set of men adhering to a novel and mischievous superstition; [the resurrection]”
- Tacitus, Annales, xv. 44 – “Christus, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Checked for the moment this pernicious superstition [the resurrection] broke out again…”
- Pliny, Letters to Trajan, X, 96. (Re: Christians in Bithynia; Province in Asia Minor)- “For this contagious superstition [Christ’s resurrection] is not confined to the cities only, but has spread through the villages and rural districts”.
- Trajan – 97 (Trajan’s reply)
- Lucian, Perigrinus, 11ff.- “The poor wretches have convinced themselves first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody, most of them.“
- Galen, De pulsuum differentiis, ii & iii
- Galen, fragment in Arabic quotation
The Resurrection of Jesus Birthed Sunday as a Day of Worship.
For thousands of years, the Hebrew people worshipped on the Sabbath, which is the 7th day of the week – or Saturday, Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus, his disciples and followers (which were nearly ALL Jewish) also began gathering together very early in the morning on the first day of the week – which was Sunday – to worship. Photo by Rachel Claire, Pexels.com.
Acts 20:7 NLT “On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight.”
1 Cor 16:2 NLT “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.”
Rev 1:10 NLT “It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast.” (the first day of the week became known as ‘The Lord’s Day’)
Around A.D. 150 Justin Martyr wrote: “On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read. … Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead” (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 67; ANF 1:186).
Why did the early church start meeting early on Sunday morning (often when it was still dark)? It was because Jesus rose very early in the morning on the first day of the week – that is to say – Sunday. Except for the resurrection of Jesus, there was no compelling reason to consider Sunday a day of worship. For the early church, Sunday morning arose as the time to gather, since it was the day and time their Lord rose from the dead – changing everything. Give them new hope, new life, and the promise of everlasting life in the Kingdom of God.
Its important to realize that the first believers were also Jewish, and so the likely also continued to meet on the Sabbath – Friday evening evening to Saturday evening – to honor the Sabbath as God had commanded, and to commemorate God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from the hands of the Egyptians. So for Jewish Christians, both the Sabbath was honored, as well as gathering with the whole assembly of the church – Jews and Gentiles – on Sunday morning, to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection,- the key fact that set their faith apart from all others.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was Absolutely Central to the Early Church, Which “Turned the World Upside Down”.
In fact, this single event “turned the world upside down” and split history in half – A.D. and B.C. Despite nearly three centuries of severe persecution, the early Christian church grew like wildfire due to their rock-solid belief in the resurrection. No wonder — no one could refute it. The Jewish leaders couldn’t produce the body, and neither could the Romans. Everyone knew where the tomb was, and it was found empty by many eye-witnesses. And with hundreds of people alive who had SEEN Jesus after His resurrection, it was hard to argue this miracle of miracles.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians about how Christ’s resurrection from the dead was the foundation of their faith. That is this were
not true, as the apostles and disciples affirmed, then their faith was useless, and in vain. But then Paul closes by stating the “in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead”:
1 Cor 12-20 NLT: “But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.”
20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.”
Believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ was fundamental to salvation. Paul writes in Romans that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved:
Romans 10:8-9: NLT “But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.…”
The “Shroud of Turin”: Mounting Evidence that it May Indeed Be the Burial Cloth of Jesus
There has been much controversy about the famous Shroud of Turin. I doubt that anyone could argue that it is a most remarkable cloth – there is nothing like it anywhere. When one gazes at the image on the Shroud of Turin, there is no mistaking that it is the image of a man, beaten head to toe, front and back, pierced in the hands and feet, with evidence of a crown of thorns about the head:
- Mature in age, about 6′ 2″” in height
- With shoulder length hair, a beard, a moustache and a ponytail
- Who has undergone a great deal of physical injury.
- There is evidence of blood marks and punctures about the head
- A cheek appears to be swollen
- The image shows evidence of a wound at the side
- The entire figure, both frontal and dorsal sides, shows evidence of scourging
- Nail wounds are apparent in the wrists and in the feet
The famous shroud is housed in a church in Italy, and is put on display every few years. Millions come to see it, and are fascinated by the image on the cloth. It is like any other relic on the face of the earth.
I went to see it personally a few years ago, and was awe struck when staring at this amazing piece of cloth – to think that I was gazing at the very burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, my Lord, the Savior of the world. Had He indeed left this behind, guided its way from Jerusalem to Italy over hundreds of years, protected it from fire and destruction, so that those in the last days might look upon this astounding piece of evidence – of a man scourged from head to toe, pierced through the hands and feet, a spear wound showing at his side, and marks from a crown of thorns about His head?
Recently there have been many attempts to discredit its authenticity, but all have ultimately failed. It was claimed to be a painting – yet no paint pigment is found on the cloth. It was claimed to be a fake painted by Da Vinci, but evidence shows it was on display before Leonardo’s time. Radio Carbon Dating supposed showed that it was created in the 1500s, but it has now been proven that that dating test was faulty (read more about this at https://evidencetobelieve.com/shroud-of-turin/).
CBN has released an article and video about even more evidence that the Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus. In their article they point out:
- “A new scientific procedure dates fabric from the Shroud to roughly 2,000 years ago. That Italian study is just the latest in a long series of scientific testing, including studies of pollen plucked from the Shroud with a scientific tape dispenser. The pollen samples that were gathered they, a lot of them are from plants that are native to not just the Middle East, but specifically the area around Judea, Palestine, and Syria and stay where it was in that time period.”
- “British filmmaker David Rolfe: “You realize that the cloth is a vessel that’s containing Christ’s blood. I mean, there it is, and it is blood, and not only is it blood, it is type AB, which is the type that’s consistent with Palestinian Jews.”
- “There is no paint on this cloth, and there are no brush strokes, and there’s another mystery: it’s a 3-D [image]. Scientists using an image analyzer revealed decades ago that the lights and darks of the Shroud image translate into dimensional shapes. In his fourth film on the subject, “Who Can He Be,” Rolfe, the director, released previous footage showing image analyzing tests. An expert in the film said, “A normal photograph records only variations in light and does not record information about the distance the camera was from the subject.”
- Rolfe contends that, “the only way that the image could’ve got on to that cloth is a miraculous one. A miracle that emanated from the body with unbelievable amounts of energy but within an infinitesimally short space of time.”
The Evidence is Compelling for the Resurrection of Jesus. What Will be Your Decision?
So what will be your decision? If Jesus did rise, then it follows that all the other things He said are true as well. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is unique in history. No other “religious” leader made the claims of Jesus, and no other man rose from the dead. All the other so-called “holy men” are still in the ground. Only the Lord Jesus conquered death, arose, ascended into heaven, and is coming back once again to claim His church, and judge those that are alive and have passed at His coming.
Of course, the proof is substantial, but not without the possibility of entertaining one of the alternatives. But what takes more faith? To believe in one of the alternative explanations, or in the resurrection of Jesus?
- To believe Jesus never existed? The evidence is clear that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person in history. His life has been attested to not only by the Bible, but by numerous extra-biblical sources.
- To believe that he really didn’t die, but was just wounded, then awoke in the tomb, rolled back the stone, and walked out in the presence of the Roman guards? Not possible. The evidence argues against this.
- To believe that there was no such tomb? You can visit what is likely this very “Garden Tomb” tomb today, just outside the walls of Jerusalem.
- To believe that the disciples all saw a hallucination, and then lied about it? For what reason? They had nothing to gain, and by demonstrating faith in the risen Lord, they were putting their lives at risk.
This single event “turned the world upside down”, from Jerusalem to the far corners of the earth. Frightened followers were transformed to brave proponents of the “good news” of Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection, and eternal life to anyone who would believe.
What takes more faith? To believe none of this happened, or to believe, based on the weight of evidence, that Jesus really did live, really was crucified, died, and was buried, and rose again? After Jesus rose from the tomb, He told His disciples that he would go away, but send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with them, in them, and to lead them into all truth.
Why not give Jesus a chance? Pray a simple prayer and ask Him, if He is who He claims to be, to come into your life by His Spirit and make you the person you were made to be. He created you, after all, so why not give Him a chance to give you the best He has to offer? Here is a link that can show you how…
>> Go to Steps to Peace with God ==> http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp
- Mere Christianity, by C.C. Lewis – Mere Christianity is a 1952 theological book by C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford during the Second World War. Wikipedia
- Evidence for the Resurrection: What It Means for Your Relationship with God – a Book by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell
- Reasons to Believe – “A Dozen Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus”, by Kenneth Samples, Mar 27, 2018 – https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/reflections/a-dozen-evidences-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus
- Christianity.com – What is the Proof and Evidence of the Resurrection: https://www.christianity.com/jesus/death-and-resurrection/resurrection/what-proof-is-there-of-the-resurrection-of-jesus.html
- Reasons to Believe – A Dozen Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus by Kenneth Samples March 27, 2018 – https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/reflections/a-dozen-evidences-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus?utm_source=olnagoog&utm_medium=cpc&kw=&mt=&loc=9031563&n=g&d=c&adp=&cid=16461196296&adgid=135895667277&tid=dsa-1813826340708&gclid=CjwKCAjwg-GjBhBnEiwAMUvNW3GuOEWT77dtEHDonbgFBhJeLi1zMph5tYrc60evRc3XwGTdaZsrXxoCt4UQAvD_BwE
- The Blue Letter Bible: https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/intros/acts.cfm
- Answers in Genesis https://answersingenesis.org/jesus/resurrection/the-sequence-of-christs-post-resurrection-appearances/:
- Peter Kreft – Resurrection Evidence: https://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/resurrection-evidence.htm
- Jewish Roman World of Jesus by Dr. James Tabor
- Life, Hope and Truth: https://lifehopeandtruth.com/bible/10-commandments/sabbath/early-christians-sabbath-sunday/
- Creation.com “Easter’s Earliest Creed” – https://creation.com/easters-earliest-creed
- Scourges from Herbert Haag and Adrian van dem Born, Bibel-Lexikon (Einsiedeln, Benziger, 1956), p. 527.
- ASOR.org: What Do We Know About the Scourging of Jesus; https://www.asor.org/anetoday/2018/12/What-Do-We-Know-About-Scourging-Jesus/
- CBN News: Scientific Evidence Sheds Light on Ancient Mystery About the Shroud of Turin, by
GABE LAMONICA 04-05-2023 – https://www2.cbn.com/news/homepage/scientific-evidence-sheds-light-ancient-mystery-about-shroud-turin
4 thoughts on “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ”
The majority of Bible scholars do not believe that eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels. The only people who still believe that they were are evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants. If the Gospels are not eyewitness testimony, then the stories within them are nothing but hearsay. Is that really sufficient evidence to believe that a first century brain-dead corpse came back to life, exited its sealed tomb, and later flew off into the clouds?
Just because a “majority of scholars” believe something does not make what they believe or espouse correct. This is the error of believing “if everyone says it or does it, it must be right”.
An example is back about a hundred years ago, “most scientists” believed that the universe had always existed (this was commonly referred to as the “steady state” theory). “Most scientists” believed this and accepted it as fact. If you came along as a scientist in the early 1900’s and sought to propose something else, you were mocked – and could lose your position in the scientific community. Einstein was nervous about announcing his general theory of relativity, since it requires a beginning to time, space and matter. He even modified his theory, to try to make it compatible with the generally accepted steady state theory. But friends told him no – stick to your guns, and be truthful. So he did, and thus Einstein, Hubble, and others proposed a new theory of origins. Eventually the “steady state” theory was trashed, and “most scientists” now accept what is popularly called the “big bang” theory – the idea that all space, time and matter arose in a moment in a particular point some 14 billions years ago.
So bottom line – don’t believe something just because “most scholars say so”. Be open, investigate the evidence for yourself. And don’t put labels on people – that doesn’t help matters, and only serves to antagonize.
If you want a good treatment of whether or not the written gospel accounts are reliable evidence, written by eye witnesses, please check out “In Defense of the Gospels: The Case for Reliability” – by Dr. John Stewart, lawyer, author, and well know speaker. Here is a link to an overview: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38495791-in-defense-of-the-gospels
There is also “The Case for Christ”, by Lee Strobel, the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. The book served as the basis for a popular movie based on the same title”. Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VHhY9GEAWQ
Examine all the lines of evidence, and I think you will see that the gospels, or “good news” records, have a strong basis for belief in them as eye-witness testimonies.
This is simply not true. One of the most respected scholars of the bible – Richard Bauckham – wrote a volume entitled “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony”. It is extremely well documented and researched, well reviewed by peers, and he makes a very strong case for the gospels as being eye witness testimony. Here is the link to the book – read it: https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Eyewitnesses-Gospels-Eyewitness-Testimony/dp/0802863906
There is also another recent book written by lawyer and professor John Stewart, entitled “In Defense of the Gospels”: Here is the link so you can get this book: https://www.amazon.com/Defense-Gospels-Case-Reliability/dp/198358486X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538775269&sr=1-1&keywords=In+defense+of+the+gospels
There are many other scholarly books and articles I could name on the subject, but these are just two good ones I have read recently. So your assertion that “the only people that still believe this are evangelicals and fundamentalists” does not square with the facts. Don’t bank your eternal destiny on suppositions – check out the evidence. Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.
Gary – Matthew (a former tax collector) and John were both eyewitnesses – and they wrote the first (Matthew) and last (John) of the four Synoptic Gospels. Matthew became a missionary, traveled to Ethiopia, where he died as martyr by being impaled to the ground by spears and then beheaded (not exactly the course of action expected from someone if you thought they were faking it and following a mythical legend).
John was there as an eyewitness to both the crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus. John was later arrested in Ephesus for giving his testimony about Jesus. History records that they attempted to execute John by putting him in boiling oil – but he miraculously survived and was the exiled to the island of Patmos – where he wrote the Book of Revelation (last chapter of the Bible) before he died of old age – the only apostle not to die from violent martyrdom (excluding the suicide of Judas).