Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

Evidence for the resurrection of JesusThe Resurrection of Jesus is the center of the whole Christian faith!  This is BIG!  After all, Buddha did not rise, nor did Confucius, Mohammad, the Dali Lama, Socrates, or any other religious leader.  But Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is alive.  This shows that He is above all others before Him and after Him, and it authenticates His teachings.  Some people don’t believe that He rose, yet the evidence for the resurrection is much stronger than anything opposing it.  It’s the best explanation of the facts.

So, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead… what happened to Him?  Here are the most common alternatives and objections:

  1. Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross.
  2. He did die but His body was just thrown to the dogs as was common in that day.
  3. He did die but never rose again.  The body isn’t there because someone stole it. (The Apostles or grave robbers are usually suggested).
  4. He never rose but the Apostles thought He did because they wanted so badly for Him to be alive.  This caused them hallucinate and think that they saw Jesus.
  5. He never rose… Jesus’ Apostles invented the story.

Answer for #1.  Jesus really did die on the cross.  That is a historical fact that’s not disputed.  The Romans were experts at Crucifixions and nobody survived, especially someone beaten as badly as Jesus.  Confirming this too was the spear that they jammed through His side causing blood and water to flow out.  This shows that his lungs had collapsed and filled up with fluid.  This is known as asphyxiation, and it’s what happens to people on the cross.  All the evidence we have, and all history books confirm that Jesus died.  There is no good evidence to the contrary.  A mostly dead person could not have rolled away a one-ton stone and overcame armed Roman soldiers.  Thus, this is not a good objection.

Answer for #2.  Some people claim that dead people were often thrown into pits where dogs ate their bodies.  In this case though, there are several independent sources who all communicate that Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for Jesus’ body.  Pilate gave him permission, and Joseph buried it in his private tomb.  Since there are no stories or sources of historicity to the contrary, this objection doesn’t hold weight either.  So, perhaps being thrown into a pit in Jesus’ day was common, but in this case, eye-witnesses who were there tell us different.  Therefore, people who hold to this theory must have a LOT of evidence to overcome it.   That evidence doesn’t exist.

Answer for #3.  Some people assert that the Apostles or grave robbers stole the body.  But, neither grave robbers, unarmed Apostles, or anyone else could have overcome armed Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb.  Could the soldiers have fallen asleep?  Not likely considering the penalty was death.

Also, this hypothesis makes no sense on another level.  Grave robbers stole garments, jewels, and other things that were worth money.  But, in this story, they only stole the body which was worthless.  Moreover, they left all the garments behind (which people found later) which were the only items worth anything.  It makes no sense that they would have taken the body and left the garments.  Again, this objection does not hold weight and has no evidence.

Answer for #4.  Could the Apostles have hallucinated?  Philosopher Peter Kreeft answers this saying that hallucinations only happen to individuals… not whole groups!!  So no.  Secondly, hallucinations happen only once and only for a few seconds or a few minutes.  Jesus appeared to all of the Apostles multiple times, spending large amounts of time with them, eating with them, and teaching them.  That is not how hallucinations work, and therefore the hallucination myth is just that… a myth.  Additionally, Jesus appeared to over 500 people who saw Him at different times.  So, this argument is false.

Answer for #5.  Some people just throw out the claim that the story of the resurrection was just invented but without any evidence whatsoever.  They state it with such conviction and yet most have never even studied history.  So we wonder: If someone made it up, when did the myth start?  What year?  Who was the person who started it?  For what reasons?  People who intend to deceive others have motives for doing so.  So, what were their motives? Fame?  Money?  Women?  Power?

The Apostles were willing to be persecuted, exiled, tortured, and killed for this truth.  The Apostles were not sitting in castles with hoards of money laughing at the poor people who actually believed their story.  If this was the case, then yes, there could possibly be a case made.  But the opposite is true.

The Apostles not only preached the resurrection with words, but they lived it with their lives.  They loved their enemies.  They served the poor.  They helped those in need.  They turned their cheeks, and they gladly died for this message they knew was true.  The resurrection of Jesus is the only plausible explanation which explains the complete transformation of these cowardly and uneducated fishermen .  They were transformed overnight and emerged as passionate, dynamic, and authoritative witnesses who could work miracles and did not fear death.  This is the reason Christianity went from being a spec on the map to the largest religion in the world because the message spread like wildfire!  This is proof that their claims are true and debunk the myth that they invented the story.

Evidence for the resurrection of JesusEvidence for Jesus’ Resurrection

Since none of the other claims above hold any weight, now we look to some evidence for Jesus’ resurrection in brief:

1.  The tomb was found empty.  His body was not there.  If His body was there, then the Jews could have just provided the body and end of story.  Yet, this never happened.  So, the tomb was empty.

2.  It wasn’t just the Apostles who saw Jesus but over 500 other people saw Him at various times, including many women.  Thus, many people claimed to see Jesus.  Now, if this story was being invented, women would never be mentioned because the testimony of a woman in court in those days was worth nothing.  No one would believe them and it would have actually discredited the story.  It’s much more reasonable to believe therefore, that the writers just wrote down the facts that they saw and heard.

3.  Jewish belief did not hold the possibility that someone would rise from the dead by their own power.  Therefore, the Apostles would not have even conceived of an idea like this since the resurrection from the dead would not happen until the end of time.  Therefore, this wasn’t something they would have invented because nobody would have believed it without evidence.  In those days, to invent a lie that a poor carpenter was God almighty who died and rose from the dead would have been the world’s stupidest conspiracy.  They would have received exactly what they got: torture, persecution, and death.

4.  The historical resurrection can be believed by the fact that the written accounts were penned by eye-witnesses (or people who knew the eye-witnesses).  Look closely at their mention of dates, famous people and leaders that they mention by name, along with places and locations, knowledge of first century Jerusalem, and many other intricacies.  That’s not the sign of myth.  Rather, these demonstrate that their accounts were knowledgeable and accurate, not invented at a later date.

Think about it, since everyone was alive at this time when these Gospels were being written, everything written about Jesus could have been verified… or … shown to be false! But, this did not happen.  There were no other competing resurrection stories or any competing stories at all.  Therefore, it’s far more believable to believe the people who wrote about it rather than the people who say it’s a myth but have no good evidence or specifics.

5.  If people assert that the Apostles merely invented the story, or that mythical layers were added on later, then critics need show who did it, when, how, and why.  If they don’t have evidence, then their critiques are baseless.  One needs a good deal of time for myth and legend to develop, and there was not enough time for this to happen especially since everything could be verified with the names, dates, locations, and people who were still alive, etc.

The resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of the facts.  The eye-witness testimonies hold infinitely more weight than baseless conspiracy theories presented by modern doubters centuries and centuries later.  The Resurrection is true.  Jesus is alive, and He is still working today!

(If you would like more information on the authenticity of the Bible, check out my two blogs, How do we know the Bible is true? and How do we know the Stories of Jesus are true?  If you would like more info on the Resurrection, see the book, “The Handbook for Christian Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft, or articles by William Lane Craig.

About Bryan Mercier

Bryan Mercier is a thirty-eight year old speaker and retreat leader. He has spoken to adults and teens for the last fifteen years on a wide variety of topics; ranging from catechetics and faith formation, to morality, spirituality, and apologetics. He has spoken at youth and adult retreats, workshops, seminars, Catholic schools, parish missions, local, regional and national conferences. He has spoken in front of crowds ranging from thirty to three-thousand and has been aired on both TV and radio in different states. Bryan also runs the R.O.C.K. (Revival Of Catholic Kids) Ministry Team that puts on all-day retreats for teens. He is going for his Masters in theology and working on writing numerous books and tracts.
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6 Responses to Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

  1. gary says:

    For every other alleged historical event we determine its historicity by examining contemporaneous, corroborating, independent testimony from two or more known sources along with any available archaeological evidence.

    The Resurrection of Jesus has no such supporting evidence. To believe that this supernatural event occurred, one must suspend belief in the laws of nature and in the rules of evidence to believe it.

    This alleged event can only be believed by faith.

  2. The problem here is that you are starting from the point that the supernatural cannot happen instead of looking at the evidence itself and seeing where it leads. I understand how we determine historical events, and yet, the Bible does have supporting evidence from more than independent sources. Furthermore, there are no other burial stories of the day which contradict this one. Anyone interested in more information can check out William Lane Craig for more info or watch one of his many debates. http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-resurrection-of-jesus

  3. gary says:

    Every time I request the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus from a Christian blogger or pastor, the first thing they do is refer me to some apologist’s book. Dear Christian friend, if it takes an entire book to prove that your first century miracle happened, it most probably didn’t.

    Open your eyes, friends. You wouldn’t read a Mormon apologist’s book to decide whether or not to believe Joseph Smith’s supernatural claims. You wouldn’t read a Muslim apologist’s book to decide whether or not to believe Mohammad’s supernatural claims. And you wouldn’t read a Hindu apologist’s book to decide whether or not to believe the supernatural claims of the Hindu gods.

    Nope. You would expect the person making the supernatural claim to give you sufficient evidence within a five minute conversation…unless that supernatural claim is YOUR supernatural claim…then you expect us all to read your apologist’s book to believe it.

    Something’s fishy, folks.

  4. gary says:

    News Alert: Scientists have proven the Bible False

    And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. –the Bible

    The ancient Hebrews and therefore the early Christians believed that above the earth, God had created a “firmament” or domed ceiling, upon which he hung the sun, moon, stars, and planets. Heaven was directly above this “ceiling”.

    Let’s now look at the story of the Ascension of Jesus:

    When he (Jesus) had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” -The Bible

    If you lived in the first century AD and believed that heaven was just on the other side of the firmament or “ceiling” above the earth, then it would be very consistent with your worldview to believe that if Jesus was going to return to heaven, all he had to do was to ascend past the clouds and he would soon reach the “ceiling” of the firmament, to which are hung the planets, the sun, and moon, and he then would pierce the firmament to enter heaven. And if one can look up and see the planets and stars, then these heavenly objects must be within a day’s travel time. You would know this by common sense: if you can see a mountain in the distance, chances are you can reach it in a day’s time. So believing that Jesus could ascend to heaven, at a speed slow enough for his disciples to watch him ascend into the clouds, would be completely consistent with this world view.

    The problem for the Bible, and for Christians who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of the Creator, is that this worldview has been proven absolutely false by modern science. There is no firmament. Jesus could not have reached the outer reaches of the universe to enter heaven moving at a speed at which humans could watch him ascend. Scientists have demonstrated that for a rocket or space ship to reach the next closest galaxy to our own, the Andromeda Galaxy, it would take two million LIGHT YEARS to get there!

    Unless Jesus entered a tractor beam once he got into the clouds, a tractor beam that “beamed him up” to heaven like Captain Kirk would regularly do on Star Trek…Jesus…at this very moment…is in outer space, putting along, somewhere between earth and the Andromeda Galaxy. Bombshell! Jesus hasn’t made it to heaven yet! Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God the Father as the Bible claims.

    Thus, scientists have proven the Bible false.

    Trust science, my friends, not the scientifically ignorant superstitions and legends of ancient peoples, nor their holy books, full of preposterous supernatural claims.

  5. BRYAN MERCIER says:

    Gary – First, I didn’t recommend you a book to read above, only a short article which sums everything up. The book I recommended has only only one chapter on the resurrection and so is short and to the point. Second, I gave ample evidence in this post, and then recommended an article from an expert on the subject. Thus, I did not just recommend a book to you as you assert, and nobody else here did either.

  6. BRYAN MERCIER says:

    Gary – regarding science, you make it seem like it’s either religion or science, that the Church only had beliefs and then science came along and updated us into knowledge. However, you forget that science only came along because of the Catholic Church. It was Catholics over centuries who developed, progressed, and advanced science. It was Catholics who discovered many of our greatest scientific discoveries. A Catholic priest discovered the theory of the Big Bang. 36 craters on the moon are named after Catholic priests because they dominated the study of Astronomy for over a 1000 years through the Middle Ages. We have science today because of the Church. So the dichotomy you create between the two is a false one. The Catholic Church has always worked hand in hand with science and believes science and religion can work together. So, please don’t pit them against each other.

    Especially since Genesis is not a literal or scientific account of what happened or how the world was created. Everything you said above is just a straw man argument. Also, you may want to know that in the Bible, there are different meanings and understandings for the word “Heavens.” In Hebrew, the word generally refers to the “heights” above the Earth or anything above the earth. “As such, there are three particular applications of the word in Scripture. There are the atmospheric heavens (Jeremiah 4:25), the sidereal heavens (outer space) where the planetary bodies reside (Isaiah 13:10), and the heaven of God’s own dwelling place.” (Hebrews 9:24). So it depends on the context and the word firmament may be used in reference to any one of these three places. For example, birds are said to fly in “the open firmament of heaven” (the atmospheric heavens, Genesis 1:20).

    So again, science doesn’t disprove the Bible, especially when the first 11 chapters of Genesis are not scientific accounts of what happened but spiritual stories to communicate spiritual truths.

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