Evidence for the Resurrection

The great lineage of Jesus Christ is recorded at the beginning of Luke. The names of all these men are historical facts, even the census that Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to take was registered in the king's census (Luke 2:1-5). Thousands upon thousands of witnesses not only knew Jesus by sight, but they acknowledged that He was the Messiah and related to King David’s lineage (Luke 1:1-10, 18:35-43). Even the Chief Priests, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees said as much and that Jesus told the truth. Many of these religious rulers knew He was from God but for fear of losing their authority and positions, conspired to kill Him anyway (Luke 20:20-26, 19:28-40, 20:20-26).

In any court of law, witnesses are invaluable. In the whole of Judea and Samaria, there were several hundred of witnesses who saw Jesus before and after His crucifixion (Luke 24:15-24, Act 1:3-4, 2:31-32, 9:3, 17, I Cor 15:4-8, 9:1, II Pet 1:16-21, Jhn 3:2, 15:27, I Jhn 1:1-3, 14). Hundreds more saw the empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, which Joseph had given for Jesus’ burial site.

The knowledge of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection was so important to the early church within three to eight years after His death, a Creed was created. The Creed’s purpose was intended to protect these eye witness’s accounts and codify their testimonies accurately, both for present and future generations. Within a few years, some churches had already been infiltrated with other doctrines like the Gnosticism. The Gnostics felt it was through knowledge that salvation comes and was only for a special few. The Creed announces to everyone publicly that the only way to salvation is only through Jesus. The Creed has grown in two thousand years, yet its basic tenets have not. It has grown only to resist un-sound doctrines and so has acted as a hedge against heresy and other (false) gospels. The Creed was not written from a blind-faith perspective or suppositions, but from witnesses who have seen proof with their own eyes. Most people would live for a lie, few would die for one. Especially one that they knew was not true.

One of the world’s foremost experts in lines of evidence was Simon Greenleaf, an American attorney and jurist (1783-1853). In his book the “Testimony of the Evangelists”, he views the multiple eye-witness accounts of Jesus and His death and resurrection (in the New Testament) as valid lines of evidence that would be admissible in a court of law. They meet or exceed evidential requirements, so much so that Greenleaf saw the “martyrdoms, exponential church growth and the persistent-through-persecution faith of the believers (often, even up to death), as solid as evidence that there can possibly be.  And in the legal process, there is no statue of limitations for murder.

The world’s most famous ex-atheist is Antony Flew, a leading British philosopher, who after 50 years of atheism, came to the conclusion that God must exist, saying “The evidence for the resurrection alone is better than for claimed miracles of all other religions.  There leaders are buried and still in their graves.  Jesus tomb was found empty!

Dr. Thomas Arnold, 19th-century history professor at Oxford, said, “I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer…”.  Scholar Gary Habermas has pointed out that five historical facts about Christ, agreed to by nearly all ancient Historians that He was crucified, buried and was seen again afterward.  Even Jewish authorities acknowledge the empty tomb in their histories, particularly Josephus‘ Antiquities of the Jews. 

Discovery Channel’s 2007 special “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” by director James Cameron and presented by Simcha Jacobovici, a Jewish investigative journalist, drags up thirty-year-old news in declaring this “find“. The Princeton Theological Seminary’s Bible scholars flatly rejected the claims that an ossuary found in Jerusalem in 1980 is that of Jesus and His family. Those scholars, archaeologists and epigraphers who presented papers on the Talpoit Tomb all declare that this is not Jesus tomb. Both conservative and liberal theologians and scholars agree that His tomb was commonly known to have been Joseph of Arimathea’s. All of the symposium’s participants, including its organizer, signed this statement to show their full rejection of the Talpoit Tomb as Jesus’. Something the Discovery Channel left out of this program, alone with other important facts.

But faith rests on a solid-as-a-rock foundation. It is not a blind faith, but one that is grounded in evidence. The old designer of the Golden Gate Bridge is long since dead, but even though he is no longer around, the bridge provided ample evidence that he did exist. We can have faith in that. These same principles are what the vast majority of theologians, scholars, historians and archaeologists, both liberal and conservative, use in considering the resurrection. Nearly all believe that the resurrection did occur and that Jesus was raised from the dead. They realize that the testimonies of several hundred eye witnesses of these events can not be treated as inadmissible evidence. That many witnesses simply can’t get it all wrong, nor would they be willing to suffer persecution, ex-communication from family and friends, even death, for something that never happened.

God-defined faith is in Hebrews (11:1) as being the “substance (literally “grounded confidence“) of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things not seen (Jesus’ and the Passion)”. Webster’s dictionary definition of human faith seems perfectly fitting: “allegiance to duty or a person… loyalty”, “belief and trust in God”, “confidence in something/someone”. Faith involves an act of the will. Faith is a verb (action) not a noun. The tight-rope walker acts on his own belief that he can make it across. This faith is so simple a child can follow it. It is not blind faith, but faith that has proof, evidence, substance, certainty and confidence.

To know how certain and secure one can be in relationship to Him, simply read John 10:28-29. It is a faith that is so priceless, so valuable, that no money could buy it, yet incredibly it is absolutely free for the taking. For anyone, anywhere, at anytime. He will turn no one away. If you receive Jesus, some day your resurrection will be a fact too. That is abundantly evident.

Ravi Zacharias [rzim.org] said “…the fact is the resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that in history — and in empirically verifiable means — the Word of God was made certain“. Otherwise, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration would have been good enough. But the apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:19: “We have the Word of the prophets made more certain … as to a light shining in a dark place.” He testified to the authority and person of Christ, and the resurrected person of Christ, being an eyewitness.  And Christ told Peter and all who would believe, that they too will be resurrected some day, for if God has said it, that settles it (I. Cor. 6:14).

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