5 Reasons to Believe Jesus Christ Rose from the Dead

What? Are you serious? Who’d believe this in our modern world? You’d have to think the gospels are inspired by God or something like that, and they’re a bunch of myths!”

To the contrary, I will assume nothing special about the New Testament writings whatsoever. I will use only the historical information that is accepted as historical by virtually all scholars who have studied this material today — no matter how skeptical or liberal they are. That means, for example, that I will only cite New Testament passages, ones that pass the customary skeptical standards and are recognized as such.

Using only these “minimal facts,” I will still maintain that Jesus’ resurrection is the most likely explanation for what we know.

Consider just the following details that the vast majority of skeptical scholars allow:

1. Most scholars agree that Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty shortly afterwards.

With almost two dozen reasons favoring this report alone, what best explains this? Other hypotheses do not account for all the data.

2. Many eyewitnesses assert that they saw the risen Jesus, both individually and in groups.

Even apart from the Gospels, we can establish this totally from just two passages in Paul’s “undisputed writings”:

–Paul told the Corinthians that he had received the  resurrection report from others (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

–The consensus critical view is that Paul probably obtained this material in Jerusalem, when he visited the eyewitness apostles Peter and James, the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:18-24).

–Paul returned to Jerusalem 14 years later and specifically checked out the nature of the Gospel message, again with eyewitnesses Peter, James, and now John (Galatians 2:1-10).

–All the apostles agreed that Jesus appeared to them after his death (1 Corinthians 15:11).

Are you a church leader? Reach more newcomers on FaithStreet.

3. Scholars also agree that Paul received this material from the other apostles at an exceptionally early date — only about five years after the crucifixion.

But since the others knew the reports before Paul did, we are right back to the events themselves. Even one of the best-known critical scholars today, non-Christian specialist Bart Ehrman, dates several Christian traditions as early as just a year or two after the crucifixion!

4. But why should we believe that these eyewitnesses were being honest? We have first century sources that the three apostles mentioned above were all martyred: Paul, Peter, and James the brother of Jesus.

Of course, people die for all sorts of ideas, but only for what they are convinced is true. But unlike others, the apostles were in a position to know whether or not they had seen Jesus Christ alive after his death. By being willing to die, scholars agree that they were convinced that Jesus had indeed appeared to them. At the very least, this addresses their honesty and conviction.

5. Of these eyewitnesses, Paul was a persecutor of the early Christians, and James was an unbeliever.

Skeptical scholars accept this in both cases. But why did they become believers? Again, they were certainly in a position to know whether the risen Jesus had appeared to them.

But aren’t the gospels full of myths? I don’t think that claim can be substantiated at all, but that’s another subject. Notice that we didn’t use the gospels here. We only used texts that are accepted by virtually all scholars who have studied these events in detail. As Ehrman points out, the pagan dying and rising gods motif has many serious problems and cannot be used to argue some sort of copycat theory by the early Christian apostles.

Altogether, these five reasons are each based on a well-evidenced foundation, built on texts that are accepted as historical by virtually all scholars, whatever their religious persuasion. Readers who choose to reject them must consider whether they are doing so for other than factual reasons.

Continue Reading --->

Local Knowledge of Jesus’ Empty Tomb, Question of the week by Dr. Craig

Greetings Dr. Craig!
I read some of your articles addressing the resurrection of Jesus and wanted to thank you first of all for your great work and effort.
Yet I noticed that - at least in the works I read - a specific argument was seemed not to be addressed, which my New Testament professor, who does not believe in the empty tomb, once used against a bodily resurrection of Jesus. The argument was: If the location of the tomb of Jesus was known to the disciples, it would have been remembered and would have likely become some sort of an early pilgrimage destination. Yet there is no evidence for any such thing, thus, it is unlikely that the disciples knew the tomb, therefore, they could have not known whether the tomb was empty or not.
So what is your take on this?
Thank you very much!
Simon
Germany


Click HERE to read Dr. Craig's answer


The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus

William Lane Craig

An examination of both Pauline and gospel material leads to eight lines of evidence in support of the conclusion that Jesus's tomb was discovered empty: (1) Paul's testimony implies the historicity of the empty tomb, (2) the presence of the empty tomb pericope in the pre-Markan passion story supports its historicity, (3) the use of 'on the first day of the week' instead of 'on the third day' points to the primitiveness of the tradition, (4) the narrative is theologically unadorned and non-apologetic, (5) the discovery of the tomb by women is highly probable, (6) the investigation of the empty tomb by the disciples is historically probable, (7) it would have been impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty, (8) the Jewish polemic presupposes the empty tomb.

Source: "The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus." 

New Testament Studies

 31 (1985): 39-67.

Until recently the empty tomb has been widely regarded as both an offense to modern intelligence and an embarrassment for Christian faith; an offense because it implies a nature miracle akin to the resuscitation of a corpse and an embarrassment because it is nevertheless almost inextricably bound up with Jesus' resurrection, which lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. But in the last several years, a remarkable change seems to have taken place, and the scepticism that so characterized earlier treatments of this problem appears to be fast receding.

2

 Though some theologians still insist with Bultmann that the resurrection is not a historical event,

3

 this incident is certainly presented in the gospels as a historical event, one of the manifestations of which was that the tomb of Jesus was reputedly found empty on the first day of the week by several of his women followers; this fact, at least, is therefore in principle historically verifiable. But how credible is the evidence for the historicity of Jesus' empty tomb?

In order to answer this question, we need to look first at one of the oldest traditions contained in the New Testament concerning the resurrection. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (AD 56-57) he cites what is apparently an old Christian formula (

1 Cor 15. 3b-5

), as is evident from the non-Pauline and Semitic characteristics it contains.

4

 The fact that the formula recounts, according to Paul, the content of the earliest apostolic preaching (

I Cor 15. 11

), a fact confirmed by its concordance with the sermons reproduced by Luke in Acts,

5

 strongly suggests that the formula originated in the Jerusalem church. We know from Paul's own hand that three years after his conversion (AD 33-35) at Damascus, he visited Jerusalem, where he met personally Peter and James (

Gal 1. 18-19

). He probably received the formula in Damascus, perhaps in Christian catechesis; it is doubtful that he received it later than his Jerusalem visit, for it is improbable that he should have replaced with a formula personal information from the lips of Peter and James themselves.

6

 The formula is therefore probably quite old, reaching back to within the first five years after Jesus' crucifixion. It reads:

. . . hoti Christos apethanen huper ton hamartion hemon kata tas graphas,

kai hoti etaphe,

kai hoti egegertai te hemera te trite kata tas graphas,

kai hoti ophthe Kepha, eita tois dodeka.

Continue reading --->

The Lost Tomb of Jesus: A Response to the Discovery-Channel Documentary Directed by James Cameron

by Dr. Gary R. Habermas and Colleagues

Jesus Burial Tomb?

Recently, questions have been raised regarding the historicity of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  These issues emerged from the directorial genius of 

James Cameron and is entitled, "

The Lost Tomb of Jesus

." This new Hollywood-quality documentary is set to air March 4th, 2007 on the Discovery Channel. However, this documentary is poorly supported by the historical and scientific data, regardless of how well the film has been made.

Good TV, Bad History & Science

"[The Lost Tomb of Jesus] will make good TV but involves a bad critical reading of history. Basically, this is old news with a new interpretation. We have known about this tomb since it was discovered in 1980. There are all sorts of reasons to see that this is much ado about nothing much."

-

Dr. Ben Witherington, New Testament professor at Asbury Theological Seminary and author of 

What Have They Done With Jesus?

An incredible number of problems are present in the recent claim that Jesus' grave has been found.  In the end, the time-honored, multi-faceted evidence for the Gospel data of the Deity, death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus are more convincing than ever. Even the early opponents of the Christian message acknowledged that Jesus' tomb was empty. 

And the evidence for Jesus' bodily resurrection appearances has never been refuted

.

I've known about "The Lost Tomb of Christ" and the story behind it for quite some time.  Last summer (2006), I interviewed James Tabor, the main scholar involved with "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" project.  James was very helpful in answering my questions about the Talpiot site and we have become friends.  Still, I am convinced that he is mistaken at virtually every evidential turn in the road.  

There is no way this should challenge a Christian's faith

.

  • The tomb was discovered in 1980; it is a very old story and it did not take anyone by surprise.
  • The BBC did a documentary on the tomb in 1996.
  • ... So why is this situation suddenly getting media attention?

Continue reading --->

The Resurrection of Jesus

William Lane Craig

Examines the historical grounds for belief in Jesus’ resurrection, focusing on the empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

I spoke recently at a major Canadian university on the existence of God. After my talk, one slightly irate co-ed wrote on her comment card, “I was with you until you got to the stuff about Jesus. God is not the Christian God!”

This attitude is all too typical today. Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus. What justification can Christians offer, in contrast to Hindus, Jews, and Muslims, for thinking that the Christian God is real?

The answer of the New Testament is: the resurrection of Jesus. “God will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (

Acts 17.31

). The resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus’ radical personal claims to divine authority.

So how do we know that Jesus is risen from the dead? The Easter hymnwriter says, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!” This answer is perfectly appropriate on an individual level. But when Christians engage unbelievers in the public square—such as in “Letters to the Editor” of a local newspaper, on call-in programs on talk-radio, at PTA meetings, or even just in conversation with co-workers—, then it’s crucial that we be able to present objective evidence in support of our beliefs. Otherwise our claims hold no more water than the assertions of anyone else claiming to have a private experience of God.

Fortunately, Christianity, as a religion rooted in history, makes claims that can in important measure be investigated historically. Suppose, then, that we approach the New Testament writings, not as inspired Scripture, but merely as a collection of Greek documents coming down to us out of the first century, without any assumption as to their reliability other than the way we normally regard other sources of ancient history. We may be surprised to learn that the majority of New Testament critics investigating the gospels in this way accept the central facts undergirding the resurrection of Jesus. I want to emphasize that I am not talking about evangelical or conservative scholars only, but about the broad spectrum of New Testament critics who teach at secular universities and non-evangelical seminaries. Amazing as it may seem, most of them have come to regard as historical the basic facts which support the resurrection of Jesus. These facts are as follows:

FACT #1: 

After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 

This fact is highly significant because it means, contrary to radical critics like John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, that the location of Jesus’ burial site was known to Jew and Christian alike. In that case, the disciples could never have proclaimed his resurrection in Jerusalem if the tomb had not been empty. New Testament researchers have established this first fact on the basis of evidence such as the following:

1. Jesus’ burial is attested in the very old tradition quoted by Paul in 

I Cor. 15.3-5

:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:

. . . that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

and that he was buried,

and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

Paul not only uses the typical rabbinical terms “received” and “delivered” with regard to the information he is passing on to the Corinthians, but vv. 3-5 are a highly stylized four-line formula filled with non-Pauline characteristics. This has convinced all scholars that Paul is, as he says, quoting from an old tradition which he himself received after becoming a Christian. This tradition probably goes back at least to Paul’s fact-finding visit to Jerusalem around AD 36, when he spent two weeks with Cephas and James (

Gal. 1.18

). It thus dates to within five years after Jesus’ death. So short a time span and such personal contact make it idle to talk of legend in this case.

2. The burial story is part of very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel.

Continue reading --->