Evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead
See also Did Christ really  Rise From The Dead?

and

Believe and Share Jesus' Victory Over Death

A. Introduction:

One of Jesus' disciples, Thomas has been nicknamed doubting Thomas because of the following verses.

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." (John 20:24-25 NIV)

Are you a doubting Thomas? Do you have trouble believing what the Bible says about Jesus coming to life again after being dead for three days? Do you have trouble answering others questions about the truth of the resurrection of Jesus?


Why is this question so important?

1 Corinthians 15:17 states that "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins". (NIV)
Why is this so? Jesus many times said he would rise from the dead (Matthew 12:39-40; 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Luke 9:22,44; John 10:17-18; 12:32-33). If Jesus did not rise from the dead then it makes Him a liar or madman and His claims to be God and to provide forgiveness for our sin is a lie as well.
 

How would you answer someone who said that they did not believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead (came alive again after he was buried)? People have given various reasons why they do not believe in Jesus' resurrection from the dead. In this study we will consider some of the explanations and try to show how they are wrong and that what the Bible says is the truth.

B. The Evidence

  1. If Jesus' resurrection is not a historical fact, how do we account for the fact that the Christian church historically began in AD 32 with the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus?  This occurred in the city where he died and this only 50 days after his resurrection, (Acts 2:32). For background see Acts chapter 2

     

  2. How do you account for the changed lives of Jesus' followers after his death?  What changed Peter the coward (John 18:25-27) to Peter the brave preacher less than 2 months later (Acts 2:14-40). What changed Paul the persecutor of the Christians to a promoter of Christianity who died as a result of preaching about the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 26:1-18).

     

  3. How do you account for the early church, which was primarily Jewish, changing their centuries old day of worship from Saturday to Sunday (1st day of the week)? cf. John 20:19,20

     

  4. How do we explain the many eyewitnesses, who stated they had seen Jesus after his death, (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 )? Most of these witnesses were still alive when Paul wrote these words and could easily have challenge him if his claim was not true.

     

  5. Some of the authors of the New Testament books state that they were eyewitnesses of the resurrection (the disciples Matthew in Matthew 28:16-20 and John in John 21:14 and Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 15:8). Were they liars or madmen?

     

  6. How do we explain the empty tomb were Jesus was buried (John 20:1-9)?

     

C. The proposed explanations examined

I. The Empty Tomb

  1. Some have said that the disciples stole the body. This was the first explanation presented (Matthew 28:11-15).

Can you think of at least three reasons why the disciples could not have stolen the body of Jesus? Matt. 27:57-66; Mark 14:48-51; 66-71; John 20:19


Answer:

  • If the guards were sleeping how did they know what happened.
  • Disciples lacked the courage to attempt this.
  • What would they gain by promoting a lie that would result in the death of thousands including themselves. People are not willing to die for a lie.
  • If Jesus was dead, how do we explain the accounts of his appearances.
  1. Some have said that either the Jewish or Roman authorities moved the body.


How can you show that this idea could not be true (cf. Acts 4:1-2,18-19 for the Jewish authorities response to the problem of the resurrection).
 

Answers:

  • Why bother to put guards and seal the tomb if they were going to remove the body.
  • If they did remove the body, why didn't they produce the body to stop the disciples teaching about Jesus' resurrection.
  1. Some say that the women went to the wrong tomb on the resurrection morning and had just imagined that Christ had risen from the dead. 

How would you show that this could not be true? cf. Matthew 27:57-61
 

Answers:

  • If this was true again why didn't the authorities produce the body?
  • The women had been at the tomb when they buried Jesus.
  • It was a private personal tomb of Joseph of Arimathea he could have lead them to the right one.
  • Why would Peter and John make the same mistake and go to the wrong tomb?
  1. Some theorize that Jesus had not really died but had revived himself in the tomb and came out and the disciples thought he was resurrected.
     

How would you show that this theory is impossible?  cf. John 19:38-40; Mark 16:1-4; Luke 24:13-15 for some suggestions.
 

Answers:

  • If Jesus really was only unconscious, how could he survive all the physical abuse of the whipping, the thorns, the nails, the crucifixion. Then after 3 days in a damp tomb, how could he then have the strength to unwrap himself with all the 75 lbs. of  spices (John 19:38-40), roll back the big stone (Mark 16:3), overpower the Roman soldiers, walk to Emmaus and back to Jerusalem a total of 14 miles (Luke 24:13-15) and appear to the disciples and convince them he had defeated death? Impossible! This argument would be laughed out of any court of law.

     

  • If this was true, then Jesus himself was involved I promoting a lie which is totally out of character.
  1. A Muslim explanation is that God replaced Jesus with someone else on the cross that looked like him for they say God would never let his prophet be dishonoured by the crucifixion.

Possible responses

If this was true what does this say about God and his messenger in view of the many statements Jesus made about dying and rising again on the third day (Matthew 12:39-40; 16:4,21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; 26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; Luke 9:22,44; John 10:11, 17-18; 12:32-33)?  

Note also "Islam" means "obedience, submission". Does this suggest another response to the above argument.  Consider Christ's submission and exaltation (Philippians 2:8-9).

 

Additional related question: Some Muslims argue that the Bible was corrupted or altered after the writing of the Koran to account for the disagreements between the Bible and the teaching of Mohammed in the Koran. 

Answer: Some of these texts that we have copies of today are very old and predate the writing of the Koran . One of these papyri known as P52, contains fragments of St John's Gospel. It has been dated as 130 AD, which means that this copy of the Gospel was written hardly forty years after the original. Another famous example is the Codex Sinaiticus, which was written in about 350 AD in Egypt. 347 of its leaves have been preserved which cover practically the whole New Testament. Both of these documents are copies that existed before the Koran was written. Both are in agreement with newer documents dating much later in time and much later than the time of Mohammed. This evidence shows that copies of the Bible that was available before and at the time of the writing of the Koran are in agreement with those we have today. The Bible has not been altered from its original form as first written.  See additional resources on this issue.

Conclusion: The best explanation is that Jesus body was not in the tomb because God had raised him from the dead as the Bible states.

II. How do We Explain the Resurrection Appearances?

Some claim they were hallucinations, wishful thinking.

If this were true then the situation must fit with what psychology tells us about Hallucinations.

  1. They occur generally in people who have vivid imaginations and of a nervous makeup. Is there any evidence that the people involved were like this?


     Answer: The appearances where to over 500 people of various types.

     

  2. They are extremely individualistic.  We would not see a number of different people have identical hallucinations. Was this the case (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)?
     

Answer: Christ appeared to individuals but also to groups of people. Note also that at the time of Paul's writing, most of the witness where still alive. He was in effect saying "why don't you go and ask them if you don't believe me".
 

  1. They usually occur at particular times and places. Again, was this the case?
     

    Answer: No, they appeared indoors, outdoors, morning, afternoon, and evening, in Jerusalem, on the road to Emmaus and in Galilee beside a lake.
     

  2. In order to have an experience like this, one must so intensely want to believe that he projects something that really isn't there. Where the followers of Jesus expecting him to rise from the dead ( Mark 16:1-4; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:13-18; John 20:24-29 )?
         

    Answer: The above verses indicate that they had to be convinced that Jesus really was risen, although he had said he would rise from the dead,  they still didn't understand and were not expecting it.

D. Summary conclusion

 
Lives were changed because of the resurrection of Jesus. Peter from denying Jesus then 50 days later risking his life by preaching that he had seen Jesus risen from the dead. He preached this in Jerusalem where Jesus had been crucified and where his claim could have easily been shown false.
 

Jesus Christ is alive today and changes the lives of those who invite Him into their lives. We have the ongoing testimony of millions through the centuries whose lives have been changed by Jesus Christ. Are you a doubting Thomas? Why not respond the way he did to the evidence.

John 20:27-31

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.    (The New International Version)

Additional Resource: For comparison prepossess you may want to study the chart of the different passages about the events of Jesus last days on earth.

Additional study: You may also want to look at the chart of the appearances of Christ after His resurrection listed Chronologically with the Bible references.

For help with questions contact dbuchner@uoguelph.ca