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.

Subjects: Apologetics, Jesus Christ, Resurrection

Check out Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.



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