12 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus, Part 1

The risen Jesus comes out of the grave.

Jesus’s resurrection is at the very heart of historic Christianity. In fact, the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is both a central doctrinal belief of the faith and the primary evidence for the truth of the religion itself. Given the importance of Easter for Christians, it is appropriate for us to consider 12 evidences for the resurrection of Jesus. For greater depth on these points, see the recommended resources at the end of the article.

1. Jesus’s Empty Tomb

According to the Gospels1, after Jesus succumbed to death through crucifixion some of his followers prepared his lifeless body for burial and placed it in Joseph of Arimathea‘s tomb. Three days later the tomb was discovered empty, for Jesus’s body had vanished. The empty tomb is a critical part of the resurrection account, for if Jesus’s body had been recovered then Christianity would have been falsified right as it had just begun. Since Jesus predicted his resurrection (Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22), if he didn’t rise from the dead he would be a false prophet.

The report of Jesus’s empty tomb rings true, for the account emerges very early from a number of sources and there is no good reason to doubt any of the people mentioned in the story. Furthermore, the tomb was owned by a particular person so there is no good reason to think that Jesus’s followers had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. Also, the Jewish and Roman authorities had the resources to search thoroughly for the actual burial place had the empty tomb been a mere problem of mistaken identity.

It should also be recognized that the first alternative naturalistic explanation for the resurrection presupposed the truth of the vacated tomb. The Jewish authorities insisted that the tomb was empty because they planned to tell people that Jesus’s followers had come in the night and stolen the body (Matthew 28:13).

2. Jesus’s Postmortem Appearances

According to the apostle Paul’s letters2 as well as the four Gospel accounts, Jesus appeared alive after his death on numerous occasions. These appearances of Jesus were reported to be both physical and bodily in nature (he was seen, heard, and touched3) and not purely spiritual or ghost-like. The resurrection appearances were also diverse and varied in that Jesus appeared to men and women, friends and enemies, to single individuals as well as small and large groups of people, to some persons on a single occasion and to others more than once, during the day and the night, as well as indoors and outdoors.

It is this diverse and varied nature of the appearances that make it extremely improbable, if not impossible, to account for these encounters in terms of hallucinations. It may have been possible that the women who first encountered Jesus at the tomb succumbed to immense grief and experienced some kind of purely subjective and thus false vision of Jesus. But a purely psychological explanation is extremely implausible in the case of James the brother of Jesus who was highly suspicious of his brother’s claims and even thought that Jesus suffered from mental delusion. And in the case of Saul of Tarsus the hallucination theory is flatly impossible. Saul was an enemy of primitive Christianity and sought to imprison and even have Christians executed. Acting in a dismissive and violent manner against the early Christians and their beliefs, there is no way that Saul was susceptible to a false psychological experience.

It is also important to note that if one rejects the miraculous explanation of Jesus’s appearances, then two naturalistic alternative explanations are required—one to explain the empty tomb and another to explain the numerous appearances. But the more complex these alternative theories are, the less likely they are to be true and viable.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series as we continue briefly considering 12 evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Reflections: Your Turn

Why is the resurrection of Jesus so critically important to the truth of Christianity? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

  1. I address the resurrection of Jesus in two of my books, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (see chapter 10) and 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas (see chapters 1 and 2).
  2. I also recommend The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona and Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection: Our Response to the Empty Tomb by William Lane Craig.

Endnotes

  1. The four New Testament Gospels and various New Testament Epistles convey the historic Christian narrative concerning Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection (see Matthew 26:47–28:20; Mark 14:43–16:8; Luke 22:47–24:53; John 18:1–21:25; Acts 9:1–19; 1 Corinthians 15:1–58).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.

  One thought on “12 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus, Part 1

  1. Paul A. Carter
    March 14, 2017 at 6:05 am

    Ken, these are great reasons to believe in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, but only if one believes in the truth of the Bible. I have a relative who does not. Are there any sources that can be used, other than the Bible, to substantiate the truth of the resurrection?

    • March 14, 2017 at 10:00 am

      Paul:

      The New Testament documents are reliable and trustworthy historical records regardless of whether one accepts biblical inspiration. The writings of ancient non-biblical authors which testify to hearing the Christian claim that Jesus rose from the dead aren’t nearly as rich or as reliable. If one rejects all of the New Testament as unreliable then it would be hard to take any of ancient history seriously. We have good reasons to take the New Testament gospels and epistles as serious history and therefore affirm the truth of the resurrection.

      Ken Samples

  2. March 14, 2017 at 6:25 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

    • March 14, 2017 at 10:01 am

      Vincent: Thanks for the reblog.

      Ken Samples

      • March 14, 2017 at 11:10 am

        You’re very welcome Ken and God bless you 🙏

  3. Bob Sherfy
    March 14, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Skeptics will argue that all these proofs of Jesus’ resurrection are only based on the Bible, which they reject as being truthful. Are there writings of secular contemporaries, such as Josephus, that support Jesus’s resurrection?

    • March 14, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Bob:

      The New Testament documents are reliable and trustworthy historical records regardless of whether one accepts biblical inspiration. The writings of ancient non-biblical authors which testify to hearing the Christian claim that Jesus rose from the dead aren’t nearly as rich or as reliable. If one rejects all of the New Testament as unreliable then it would be hard to take any of ancient history seriously. We have good reasons to take the New Testament gospels and epistles as serious history and therefore affirm the truth of the resurrection.

      Ken Samples

      • Bob Sherfy
        March 14, 2017 at 10:07 am

        Thanks

    • March 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

      Thanks for the link, Stephen.

      Ken Samples

  4. March 16, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Great post Ken, I look forward to the rest of the series! I find it interesting that people still use the “It’s in the Bible, so it cannot be trusted” response. As you said, these are documents that we come to like any other ancient documents. Just because they were later compiled into the New Testament in the Bible doesn’t mean we just throw them out wholesale! I’ve always loved how Christianity is based on historical events that were reliably recorded for us in the New Testament documents. God bless you and your ministry!

    • March 16, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks, Carey.

      I appreciate your points.

      Ken Samples

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