Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead ?

The short answer:  YES !!!!    (Hallelujiah!)

Now, you didn’t really expect a different answer, did you?   After all, you’re reading something written by a Christian, and the resurrection of Jesus is our most central belief.  But for the moment, let’s pretend that we’re not Christians committed to the testimony of Scripture and look outside of the Bible for evidence.

Now, the first thing we need to be clear about is that we’re not going to find historical proof of this event.  Think about how much disagreement there is about even important contemporary events such as what happened at an accident scene or what a public figure actually said or did.  Now magnify that challenge many thousand-fold when you go back to ancient times where few things were written down, original documents deteriorated or were destroyed over the course of millennia, and what reports we do have could be biased.  That’s why scholars can argue endlessly!

Secondly, academic historians aren’t ‘allowed’ to consider the miraculous in their reconstruction of events.  Though many historians are people of faith, their profession, like science and engineering, requires them to assume that the ordinary laws of nature aren’t violated, and that automatically precludes a finding that something as unprecedented as a resurrection actually happened.  And for that reason they also discount the Bible as a historical source since it describes many supernatural occurrences.

If we look for first-hand secular writings that speak of Jesus in any detail or describe His resurrection, we find there aren’t any.  That shouldn’t be a surprise because apart from the couple years of His public ministry, Jesus lived a rather obscure life and His death was that of a common criminal: a commonplace and shameful execution that by all rational standards should have ended any ‘delusions’ of greatness harbored by His followers.  But it didn’t, and that’s one of the key facts that historians struggle to explain.

You may have heard claims that there isn’t any historical evidence that Jesus ever existed or died the kind of death described in the Bible.  That isn’t true:  though sparse, there are credible non-Christian accounts that confirm the basic facts about Jesus’ life and mode of death.  But what happened next is a huge puzzle!  Even skeptical historians agree that something quite remarkable must have happened on Easter morning or thereabouts.  How do you explain how a small and motley group of devout Jewish followers were suddenly transformed into fanatical evangelists who endured persecution and death for no personal gain, other than to proclaim their ‘heretical’ belief in their dead leader as the living Son of God?  What could account for such unshakeable dedication to a ‘lost cause’?

Another big puzzle for historians is why the Jewish and Roman authorities didn’t simply quash these crazy stories by producing Jesus’ corpse.  Other than wild conjecture, there is no historical refuting or explaining of the claim that the tomb was empty on Easter morning.  And then there’s the unshakeable belief of His followers that they had seen Him alive. Theories that Jesus hadn’t really died don’t survive critical analysis – the Romans were expert executioners and in any case, a half-dead survivor of torture and a botched crucifixion wasn’t the sort of figure that would inspire His followers to desire the same fate!  Similarly, the idea of a mass delusion of the disciples is discredited by the reality that entire groups of people just don’t go collectively ‘bonkers’ with the same crazy idea – SOMETHING was behind it.  The notion that this was some kind of mass “wish fulfillment” doesn’t explain why a committed opponent like Paul was suddenly transformed into a fanatical adherent.   No matter how you roll the skeptical theories, they just don’t adequately explain the historical facts.

Though skeptics will continue to disdain the Gospels’ accounts of the resurrection, they simply haven’t been able to offer a credible alternative explanation of the historical fact of Christianity’s remarkable origin.  And they never will, because the resurrection actually happened!  Only when Christ returns in power and majesty (Mark 14:62) will the true facts be proven to everyone’s satisfaction (and sadly, the despair of many).

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