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

    • Al George
      March 30, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Paul Carter – I’m a retired lawyer with some 40 years as a litigator analyzing evidence. My own faith is grounded in what I identify as 34 elements of direct and inferential evidence, upon which I’ve spoken at a number of churches, seminaries in Pakistan and Kenya, and taught at a Crossroads Bible College for five years. I’d be pleased send to by email extensive additional hard evidence beyond what is treated here, to use in discussions with your relative. If you are interested, you may contact me at algeor07@gmail.com.
      Al George

      • March 30, 2017 at 11:15 am

        For an extensive scholarly work on the resurrection of Jesus (more than 700 pages), see The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach by historian Michael R. Licona.

      • Paul A. Carter
        March 30, 2017 at 5:27 pm

        Thanks, Al. I will indeed contact you. While I agree with Ken that the Bible is completely trustworthy, I think that sometimes people who don’t believe the Bible may be open to other lines of evidence. Once they begin to see the truth, they may then become open to investigating the Bible.

      • March 30, 2017 at 5:35 pm

        Paul:

        All the direct evidence for Jesus’ resurrection comes from the New Testament documents. Extra-biblical sources mention Christians believing in the resurrection but the eyewitness testimony is apostolic and reflected in the epistles and Gospels.

        Ken Samples

    • donald keyes
      April 4, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      I myself practice saying :”in the record of scripture” as opposed to saying the”bible” since all of scripture is a record of experiences of the Lord with humanity, in order to maybe trigger a mental move away from the word “book”. notice that the Lord said tat they shall know you are my disciples by the love you have one toward another and they shall know the doctrine: whether it be of men or of God. in both cases there is a bear on the character of the kingdom as expressed through human agents that testified to being identified as being of the “kingdom of God that is within you”. and this also under Paul’s hand through the Holy Spirit that: “we are living epistles known and read of all men”. I do accept that historical validations of scriptural events exist that have support value. even the Lord himself said that his presence testifies that the world and its works were evil—again character representation was the emphasis

      • April 4, 2017 at 5:28 pm

        One key is to understand that the New Testament is composed of writings from numerous people, sort of like a collection of letters, essays, four short biographies by four different eyewitnesses, on of whom also wore down what God started doing thru the group of followers after the Founder ascended.

  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

  5. Jasmine
    April 4, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Well, to answer the question in the Reflections section, I think the resurrection is very critical o to the truth of Christianity because if the resurrection did not happen, all the the prophecies would have been invalid and we would have no reason to believe anything that’s in the Bible because that would mean the prophecies were not accurate. Also, not only does the fulfillment of prophecy show God’s supernatural power, but the fact that he was resurrected from the dead shows that as well. If he just died, there is nothing supernatural about dying, but the resurrection shows that there was some supernatural power working in Jesus therefore making his claims to be the Son of God believable if they weren’t before.

    • April 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      Thank you, Jasmine.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

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