The 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:
- Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross.
- He did die but His body was just thrown to the dogs as was common in that day.
- He did die but never rose again. The body isn’t there because someone stole it. (The Apostles or grave robbers are usually suggested).
- 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.
- 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.
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.