The Minimal Facts of the Resurrection in 1,000 Words
by Aaron Brake
This essay originally appeared in a series entitled “Is Christianity True?” Visit Apologetics 315 to read all the contributions and download the audio versions.
“The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity.” — Antony Flew
The truth of Christianity stands or falls on the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Paul himself said, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”1 Here the Apostle provides an objective criterion by which to judge the legitimacy of the Christian worldview. Show that Christ has not been raised from the dead and you will have successfully proven Christianity false. Consequently, it is entirely appropriate that a positive case for “Why Christianity is true” focus on the most central truth claim of the Christian faith: the Resurrection.
The Minimal Facts Approach
The approach I will take in this essay is commonly referred to as the “minimal facts approach.” This method “considers only those data that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones.”2 It should be noted this approach does not assume the inerrancy or divine inspiration of any New Testament document. Rather it merely holds these writings to be historical documents penned during the first century AD.3 Though as many as 12 minimal facts surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ may be examined,4 the brevity of this essay limits our examination to three: the crucifixion, the empty tomb,5 and the post-resurrection appearances. I contend that the best explanation for these minimal facts is that Jesus was raised bodily from the grave.
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Fact #1 – The Crucifixion of Jesus
Perhaps no other fact surrounding the life of the historical Jesus is better attested to than His death by crucifixion. Not only is the crucifixion account included in every gospel narrative6 but it is also confirmed by several non-Christian sources. Some of these include the Jewish historian Josephus, the Roman historian Tacitus, the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, as well as the Jewish Talmud…
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