A Dozen Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus
by Kenneth Samples
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 a dozen 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 Gospels,1 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 letters 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 touched) and not purely spiritual or ghostlike. The resurrection appearances were also diverse and varied in that Jesus appeared to men and women, to friends and enemies, to single individuals as well as to 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 makes it extremely improbable, if not impossible, to account for these encounters in terms of hallucinations…