How Do We Know that Jesus Rose from the Dead?
If asked how we know Jesus is risen from the dead, the essential Christian answer is: “I know Him personally by His Spirit who lives in me.” We can, however, present historical evidence: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). The following brief summary presents some of the Resurrection evidence which even the majority of non-Christian scholars now recognize as true.
- In the last half century, the New Testament documents have become widely accepted as very early, i.e., the first century. Thus the NT gospels are the best and earliest written records of the historical Jesus. One may choose to reject them due to philosophical reasons, but not because they are written far after the events occurred. We also have non-Christian sources from the period which confirm that the early Christians believed, lived and died for what is written in the Gospels.
- Scholars overwhelmingly accept that Jesus was really dead when removed from the cross. Abundant evidence from that era confirms the Romans knew how to execute the condemned. A 1968 archaeological discovery reveals their cruel crucifixion proficiency. A first-century ossuary contains the bones of a man (Yehohanan) whose feet had been nailed together but torturously bent to the side. Both legs were gruesomely fractured, almost certainly from a devastating blow to hasten his death.
- That Jesus was placed in a tomb later discovered empty is also the scholarly majority view today. Unlike the well-kept tombs of other Jewish holy men still containing their remains, early Christians eventually “lost” the burial cave of Jesus because it was empty. Not until the fourth century did the mother of the emperor Constantine, Helena, search for the empty tomb.
- Also widely accepted today is that early disciples experienced postmortem appearances of Jesus. Not only did they believe this occurred on multiple occasions, but the Church confirmed women as the first witnesses of the resurrected One. Because women were not then regarded as reliable witnesses, this early incidental report confirmed the appearances.
- And without any doubt, the disciples were dramatically changed after they believed Jesus risen from the dead—inaugurating the most influential movement in history. Their Jewish religious practices were changed (the day of worship moved to resurrection day), and baptism and the Lord’s Supper became their central ordinances that proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection. These Christians were radically willing to die for their resurrected Lord, even though they had nothing to gain in this life.
Of course, Christians should not be surprised that those not personally knowing the Savior produce “counter-theories,” ways to counter the above evidence. But these theories do not handle well the above evidence. And in the end if one’s mind and heart is not closed, it seems so much easier to believe He is Risen. Indeed.