We enter the second Sunday of Easter and it is fitting to discuss the Resurrection. Christians celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus for good reason, since Jesus has risen we are no longer in our sins. However, not everyone believes the resurrection of Jesus is a fact which is sad. Are Christians missing the boat on this issue? Do we have a good reason to believe the resurrection actually happened? Some are afraid to really look into this matter because they are afraid of what the answer might yield. “Why rock the boat?” “This is an issue of faith not history.” But as Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 15:17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The resurrection of Jesus is not just a matter of faith, it is a matter of fact. The New Testament writers constantly appealed to the resurrection of Jesus as an historical event. In the Apostle Paul’s mind, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity is false, we will be judged by the true God, and Christians who have died are lost. It was never communicated as an event that could have possibly happened. It was communicated as an event that had happened and was witnessed. If it didn’t happen, then as Paul said, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Over these next weekly essays I hope to demonstrate how we can show the validity of the resurrection of Jesus using data even skeptical scholars will admit is true. In case you are asking, the answer is “Yes” I will use the Bible to demonstrate this. But this doesn’t negate the claim. We can look at the testimony of Scripture as what it is, historical books testifying of an historical event. There is enough evidence for rational person to be justified in concluding that Jesus’ resurrection was a real event in history.
According to Gary Habermas and Mike Licona in their helpful book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, there are five principles historians use to support historical claims:
- Testimony from multiple independent witnesses is better than one.
- A neutral or hostile source makes a statement to confirm the testimony.
- There are embarrassing details about the source of information.
- Eyewitness testimony is stronger than 2nd or 3rd hand information.
- Early testimony is better.
With these five principles as a guide, we can look at the historical accounts in Scripture and conclude that even on these terms, we have good reasons to conclude the resurrection of Jesus as an historical event.
Over the next few essays I will go into more details but for now here are the 4+1 points that even skeptics will agree to:
- Jesus died by crucifixion
- Jesus’ disciples believed that Jesus rose again and appeared to them
- A key persecutor of the Church (Saul of Tarsus) was suddenly changed and claimed to see the risen Jesus
- Jesus’ brother James was a skeptic who was suddenly changed and claimed to see the risen Jesus
- The Tomb is Empty
Again, in the coming weeks we will look into these in more detail. For now we can look at these four statements that have universal acceptance. The empty tomb, while lacking universal acceptance still has a majority opinion as an historical fact. (Habermas and Licona, p. 74) What is the best explanation to explain these events? The answer that seals the case is that Jesus died and resurrected as he predicted (Matt 12:38-40; 16:1-4, 21; 17:23; 20:19; Mark 8:31-32; 9:31; 10:33; Luke 9:22; John 2:18-21).