Today’s skeptics of Jesus’s resurrection sometimes state that religious people are too quick to accept reports about miracles. Those who doubt the miraculous often insist that miracle claims aren’t usually sufficiently questioned. But was this the case among Jesus’s apostles concerning the resurrection?

In part 1 and part 2 of this series, I briefly addressed three evidences for Jesus’s resurrection. In this article I’ll present one more reason in our series of 12 evidences for believing in the truth of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

4. Extraordinary Transformation of the Apostles

The New Testament describes a remarkable and enduring transformation of 11 of Jesus’s disciples. These frightened, defeated cowards after Jesus’s crucifixion soon became bold preachers and, in some cases, martyrs. They grew courageous enough to stand against hostile Jews and Romans even in the face of torture and martyrdom. Such amazing transformation deserves an adequate explanation, for human character and conduct does not change easily or often. Because the apostles fled and denied knowing Jesus after he was arrested, their courage in the face of persecution seems even more astonishing. The disciples attributed the strength of their newfound character to their direct, personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus. In Jesus Christ’s resurrection, the apostles found their existential reason to live—and die.

According to the earliest reports concerning Jesus’s resurrection, three of the men Jesus appeared to were either initially highly skeptical of the truth of the resurrection or adamantly opposed to Jesus’s claims to be the messiah. Those three were Thomas, James, and Saul (who would become Paul), all of whom were predisposed to dismiss the truth of the resurrection. Since Paul’s conversion will be addressed later, let’s consider the stunning impact Jesus’s resurrection had on Thomas and James.

Thomas the Doubter

While Thomas was one of the original 12 apostles, he was not among the first of Jesus’s followers to see the risen Christ. Upon hearing the report from his fellow disciples concerning Jesus’s bodily resurrection, he doubted its truth. The Gospel of John conveys Thomas’s skepticism: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

Though a follower of Jesus, Thomas was highly skeptical and needed direct, empirical evidence of Jesus’s actual bodily resurrection before he would believe the claim of his fellow disciples. Thomas demanded evidence of a concrete, empirical nature. He demonstrated tough-mindedness when it came to claims of the miraculous, even when the testimony came from his close friends and associates. Yet according to John’s Gospel, Thomas soon had an encounter with the resurrected Jesus that more than satisfied his doubts:

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26–28)

If the resurrection was merely a concocted mythical story, it is highly unlikely that it would include the claim that one of the original 12 disciples seriously questioned Jesus’s resurrection.
James the Family Skeptic
The Gospels convey that prior to the resurrection, Jesus’s brothers were highly dismissive of his messianic claims (see Mark 6:3–4 and John 7:5). In fact, Jesus’s family viewed him as suffering from mental delusion (Mark 3:21, 31–35). Yet the early creed that Paul had been given by the apostles (which included James) reported that Jesus had appeared to his brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7). James then became one of the critical leaders of the early Christian church, even holding unique authority at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:12–21). Sources in church history convey that James was later martyred for his belief in Jesus Christ.

What accounts for James’s amazing change of heart from undoubtedly being deeply embarrassed by his brother’s claims to becoming a distinguished leader in the early church, and finally to even undergo martyrdom? The resurrection seems to best account for this radical transformation in James’s understanding and perspective. James claimed to have seen his brother alive after his public execution, and that event changed everything.

So it appears that Thomas and James seriously questioned the actual truth of Jesus’s resurrection, the way skeptics demand.

Reflections: Your Turn

Of Thomas and James, whose transformation seems more remarkable? Why? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.


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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