6 Signs of Historical Reliability in the Resurrection Accounts

By Carey Bryant

In addition to showing that the Gospels are historically reliable as a whole, New Testament scholars also use six “Indications of Authenticity” to determine the historicity of specific sayings or events in Jesus’ life.

Using William Lane Craig’s definitions of these six criteria, let’s apply them to the biggest event surrounding the person of Jesus: his resurrection.

(1) “Historical congruence: S fits in with known historical facts concerning the context in which S is said to have occurred.”

If details of an event line up with what we know about the culture at that time, then that event is more likely to be historical. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ burial align perfectly with the burial practices in the first century, such as his body being wrapped in linen and his body being prepared with various oils and spices.

(2) “Independent, early attestation: S appears in multiple sources which are near to the time at which S is alleged to have occurred and which depend neither upon each other nor a common source.”

The more early, independent sources you have for an event the more likely it is to be historical. If you agree with the scholarly majority today, Mark was written first and was used as a source by Matthew and Luke. So Mark and John are independent sources. Content found in Matthew’s account (M) or Luke’s account (L) but not in Mark’s account is considered to be from a separate source (obviously if you don’t think the Gospels copied from one another then they are all separate sources). Finally, Paul’s account in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is also independent. All five sources were written in the first century. At worst we have three independent sources (Mark, John, and Paul) and at best we have five (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul)…

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