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postheadericon Biblical arguments to support the Resurrection of Jesus

Biblical arguments to support the Resurrection of Jesus

Bible scholars widely agree on the following three points regarding the resurrection of Jesus:

  1. Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his death by crucifixion.
  2. Shortly after this claims started that Jesus was alive.
  3. Within weeks the disciples were proclaiming the Gospel message, based on a sincere belief that God had raised Jesus from death in accordance with Old Testament prophecies.

These three points are widely acknowledged to support the resurrection as an historical event. This note briefly outlines some of the supporting arguments.

  1. The Empty Tomb

The ‘empty tomb’ is noted several times in the New Testament. Matthew 28 gives one reason: the tomb guards were bribed to say Jesus’ disciples stole his body. This shows there was an empty tomb soon after the crucifixion, and it was not denied by the authorities. In all four Gospels women are the first to discover the empty tomb. Much is made about this as in first century Jewish society women were treated pretty much as second class citizens and would not be seen as reliable eye witnesses, particularly for something so significant. It is suggested that if the empty tomb story was a later legend, it would be more likely to feature the disciples.

Jesus’ crucifixion was a very public event and the location of the tomb would have been known, and checked. This appears to be the case from Peter’s address to the crowd in Acts 2, a few weeks after

Jesus’ resurrection on the Day of Pentecost, when he refers to the empty tomb and that his audience were aware of this. Peter also states Jesus‘ body would not see decay in keeping with Old Testament prophecies. Finally, in a 2006 survey of over 2,200 publications on the resurrection since 1975, 75% of scholars accepted the historicity of Jesus’ empty tomb. The evidence is so compelling that even a number of Jewish scholars are convinced that the tomb was found empty‘.

  1. The Resurrection Appearances

Paul wrote about Jesus’ resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15. These can be summarised as: Jesus died, was buried and raised on the third day; he appeared to Peter; then ‘The Twelve’; to 500 at once; then James, then all the Apostles and then to Paul.

Appearance to Peter: Galatians 1 states that Paul visited Peter in Jerusalem after his Road to Damascus conversion. This may be the earliest New Testament writing from around 48AD. So, when Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians (around 54AD), that Jesus appeared to Peter, he presumably got that from Peter himself.

Appearance to the ‘Twelve: it is thought that Paul is referring to the disciples here (less Judas), with ‘The Twelve’ being the group’s collective name, some of whom Paul had personally met.

Appearance to the ‘500’: Paul must also have known some of the ‘500‘, as he states most of them are still alive (1 Corinthians v6), so presumably they could have confirmed what Paul was saying. These witnesses may have been questioned during one of Paul’s trials for his claims about the resurrection of Jesus (see Acts).

Appearance to James: This is the brother of Jesus. According to Mark 3 and John 7, none of Jesus’ brothers believed in him while he was alive. However, Acts 1 states they were with the disciples in Jerusalem following his Ascension, and that they were ‘joined together constantly in prayer’. In Galatians 1 Paul states that he stayed with Peter and ‘saw none of the other Apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother’. So a few years after the resurrection, James was being named among the Apostles. In Galatians 2 Paul states he visited Jerusalem again 14 years later, and this time he met with James, Peter and John, who were ‘reputed to be pillars’ of the church in Jerusalem.

In Acts 21 Raul returns to Jerusalem during his third missionary journey to visit the church leaders (some 20-25 years after the resurrection). This time Paul ‘went to see James, and all the elders were present’. Some commentators state James was by then the leader of the church in Jerusalem.‘ How can we explain James’ transformation from non -believer during Jesus’ lifetime to head of the church in Jerusalem? Paul suggests the answer in 1 Corinthians 15: James had met the risen Jesus.

Appearance to Paul: Paul‘s ‘Road to Damascus’ experience is recalled three times in the Book of Acts and also referred to in his letters. This transformed Paul from committed Pharisee and persecutor of the early church, to a life of poverty, suffering and ultimately execution. Clearly something signi?cant happened that day – like James, Paul met the risen Jesus.

  1. The origin of the Christian Faith

Even sceptical New Testament scholars generally agree the disciples were convinced that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and that the origin of the Christian faith was based on this core belief . This conviction was vital as they faced considerable opposition to their claims about the resurrection from Jew, Roman and pagan.

From the outset the disciples openly accused the Jewish leaders of being complicit in Jesus’ death (see Acts 2). There would also be the threat from the Roman occupiers, who would have brutally put down any unrest, or anything standing against their authority, and they would have seen the ‘Kingdom of God‘ as an earthly kingdom and therefore a rival. The disciples, being Jews, would have no concept of a suffering Messiah, who would be crucified then raised from the dead, so it is unlikely the resurrection accounts were based on existing Jewish beliefs. Following Jesus’ death it seems likely that belief in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah would have ended without the resurrection.

Finally, had there been no resurrection it is difficult to imagine how a small group, whose leaders included uneducated fishermen, could have devised and established a new world religion, which spread with extraordinary speed across a very large area within the space of a few years.

Reference: Reasonable F aith; Christian Truth and Apologetics (Third Edition). W. L. Craig. Crossway


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