Christian apologist Walter Martin used to say that the real death rate is one per person, meaning that each person’s death is a matter of when, not if. Therefore, because we are mortal creatures and thus stalked by death, if Jesus Christ actually conquered death through his resurrection, then this is the most important news for all human beings to hear and to reflectively consider. The inevitability of death should motivate Christians to share the message of the resurrection.

In part 1 of this series, I briefly addressed two evidences for Jesus’s resurrection. In this article I’ll present one more reason in our series of 12 evidences for believing that Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead actually happened.

3. Short Time Frame between Actual Events and Eyewitness Claims

Support for the factual nature of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead comes from eyewitness testimonies that were reported soon after the events happened. The apostle Paul claims both that he saw the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:1–1922:6–1626:12–23) and that others witnessed the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3) prior to his personal encounter. Paul asserts in his writings that he received the firsthand testimony from Jesus’s original apostles who were witnesses of Jesus’s resurrection even before him. 

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he employs a creedal statement1 about the resurrection that dates to the earliest period of Christianity. This creed is believed even by critical scholars (those who doubt the supernatural) to be part of the original Christian kerygma (“proclamation”—representing the earliest preaching and teaching message of Christianity). This early statement of faith that Paul relays mentions by name two of Jesus’s apostles who said they had seen the resurrected Christ. These two apostles are Peter (one of the original 12 apostles and principal spokesperson of primitive Christianity) and James (the brother of Jesus who was also an early apostolic leader).

Here is that early creedal statement as the apostle Paul weaved it into his first Corinthian epistle:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

– 1 Corinthians 15:3–7

Paul’s statement gives us a fourfold formula of the primitive Christian proclamation as it relates to Jesus’s death and resurrection:

1. Christ died.
2. He was buried.
3. He was raised.
4. He appeared.

This time frame evidenced in the early creed places the original proclamation by the first apostles about Jesus’s resurrection very near to the time of Jesus’s death and resurrection. This development has led even critical New Testament scholars to be amazed at the early and reliable testimony evident in Paul’s writings. In fact, distinguished New Testament scholar James D. G. Dunn states, “This tradition [of Jesus’s resurrection and appearances], we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’s death.”2

Therefore, given the short interval of time between the early eyewitness testimonies about Jesus’s resurrection and the actual event itself (a mere matter of months), these accounts must be considered historically credible. There was clearly no time for myth, legend, or embellishment to accrue around the initial resurrection reports.

Watch for the next article in this series as we continue briefly considering 12 evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Reflections: Your Turn

Since death is one of the big questions of life, doesn’t that make the message of Jesus’s resurrection a topic relevant to all people? Is this a probative philosophical way of approaching evangelism? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Endnotes

        1. For more about these primitive Jewish-Christian creeds, see Ralph P. Martin, New Testament Foundations: A Guide for Christian Students, vol. 2 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1999), 268.
        2. James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 855.

Subjects: Bible, Faith, Faith & Reason, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Resurrection

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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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