Evidence That Jesus Was Resurrected

By James L. Morrisson


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4.  The apostolic preaching of the resurrection

     The Book of Acts is our primary historical record of the early church. Its author, Luke, focuses his attention on two men, Peter and Paul. He gives summaries of sermons and speeches by both. All of Peter’s speeches, and a number of Paul’s, assert and emphasize the resurrection of Jesus. I think we can assume that most of the early apostolic teaching had a similar emphasis. Indeed, Acts 4:33 says, "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." This historical record of the early church shows over and over the importance which the disciples gave to the fact of the resurrection which they had witnessed. Jesus had given them "many convincing proofs that he was alive" (Acts 1:3), and on the basis of that conviction they all went forth boldly proclaiming the gospel and testifying to the resurrection of Jesus which they had witnessed.

     The first thing the disciples did after the ascension of Jesus was to choose a twelfth disciple to take the place of Judas Iscariot. Peter insisted that he must be one who was with them when "Jesus was taken up from us" so that he could be "a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:22). From the very start, the disciples stressed the importance of their witness to the resurrection.

     Ten days after Jesus was taken up into heaven, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came on the disciples in power. There was a sound of a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire appeared on the disciples’ heads, and they spoke in other tongues. A large crowd gathered and Peter addressed them in the first sermon recorded in the Book of Acts. In his sermon Peter relied heavily on the resurrection to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed Lord and King. He said to the people of Israel, "You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead." He pointed out that David is dead and in his tomb, but "God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact." "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." Following this sermon, 3,000 were added to the body of believers in Jesus Christ. (Acts chapter 2).

     Some days later, Peter and John, going to the Temple, met a beggar who had been crippled from birth. Peter commanded him to walk, in the name of Jesus; the man was completely healed and went about "walking and jumping and praising God." Peter then preached another sermon, in which he pointed out "you killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." As a result, 5,000 more were added to the body of believers. The priests and Sadduccees "were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead." They put Peter and John in jail and summoned them before "the rulers, elders and teachers of the law" to say by what authority they had done this. Peter replied, "It is by the name of Jesus, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed... Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." The Jewish leaders "commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus" but Peter and John refused, saying, "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." After this, Acts records, "With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 3 and 4).

     The apostles "performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people." The high priests and Sadduccees, "filled with jealousy" arrested them again and put them in jail. An angel released them, but they voluntarily appeared before the Sanhedrin (the ruling religious and civil body of the Jews). The Jewish leaders again told them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Again Peter and the others said, "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things..." "When they heard this [the Sanhedrin] were furious and wanted to put them to death" but they had them flogged and let them go, ordering them not to speak in the name of Jesus. And the disciples left, "rejoicing that they had been found worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name." (Acts 5).

     Somewhat later Stephen was stoned to death and "a great persecution broke out." Christians were put in prison and Saul (Paul) threatened to kill them (Acts 7-9). Paul tells us that, before his conversion, he "persecuted" the church intensely and "tried to destroy it" (Galatians 1:13).

     Peter preached about Jesus to the household of a centurion named Cornelius, saying, among other things, "They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him up from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen - by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead" (Acts 10).

     In every sermon or speech by Peter of which we have record, the resurrection of Jesus, and the fact that the disciples were witnesses to it, played a major part in Peter’s presentation.

     Paul also preached about the resurrection of Jesus. He said of his preaching, "we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:15). On his first missionary journey (about 47-48 A.D., some 15 years after Jesus’ death) Paul preached that Jesus was crucified and buried, "But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people." He pointed out that David was buried and his body decayed, "but the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay" (Acts 13). In Thessalonica, Luke reports, "As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead." At Athens "Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection". At the Areopagus Paul said, "He has given proof of this to all men by raising [Jesus] from the dead" (Acts 17). For Paul, also, the resurrection was of primary importance, as we shall see even more clearly when we come to his epistles.

     When Paul was attacked by a mob in Jerusalem and taken into custody by the Romans, he spoke of the resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent hoped-for resurrection of all men. When brought before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem he said, "I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 23:6). In his trial before Felix he said "I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" (Acts 24:15). In his hearing before King Agrippa he said, "Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?" and "I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen - that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and the Gentiles" (Acts 26:8,23).

     Some final comments about this early history of the church: 

(1)   At the crucifixion the disciples were totally demoralized. They scattered, as Jesus had predicted they would. Peter, perhaps the strongest of them, denied Jesus three times. Fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost, and from then on, they appear as strong, united, totally undeterred by threats, beatings and persecution. This small group changed the world. What accounts for this remarkable change? The best and most obvious explanation is that it was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which they had personally witnessed, and which demonstrated that he was the Son of God, demonstrated his Deity, and affirmed his lordship. As Peter said, "God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact." "We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." I think it is a fair reading of the Book of Acts to say that these two statements are a summary of the early apostolic preaching.

(2)   The apostolic preaching was very much "in your face." Over and over Peter said, in effect, "You put him to death but God raised him from the dead." The Jewish leaders were furious. They tried to stop the disciples from preaching. They imprisoned them, threatened them and beat them. They persecuted them and killed some of them. If they could have disproved the resurrection they would have. (Matthew 28:13 tells us that they tried to bribe the guards to give a false report). The fact that they were unable to disprove the resurrection of Jesus is strong evidence that it did occur.

(3)   Even if we did not have the gospel accounts of the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances, these numerous references in the Book of Acts, the historical record of the early church, to the resurrection of Jesus as something the apostles had witnessed and felt compelled to testify to, would be persuasive evidence that it occurred.


5.  The Epistles

     We find references to the resurrection in 11 of the epistles, some written as early as 48 and 50 A.D., less than 20 years after Jesus’ death. (See Appendix). Many of these refer to the resurrection of Jesus as a fact that had been well-accepted and understood, and a teaching that had been consistently taught, for some time before the epistle was written. They show not only that the resurrection of Jesus was accepted as a fact and taught as a standard teaching of the church, but that it was seen as the essential basis for a number of basic teachings by the early church.

     Paul, echoing Peter’s preaching, wrote that Jesus "was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). For Paul, the resurrection is the conclusive and irrefutable proof of who Jesus is.

     In a letter written in 48 A.D, 15-18 years after Jesus’ death, Paul identifies himself as "an apostle, sent not from man nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Galatians 1:1). From the way this is phrased it would seem that the fact of Jesus’ resurrection was well-known and well-understood at the time Paul wrote. In another letter written in 50 A.D. Paul referred to Jesus "whom [God] raised from the dead" (1 Thessalonians 1:10). To the Corinthians he declared, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead" (1 Corinthians 15:20), and "We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:14). He told the Corinthians that they "should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:14). To the Romans he declared, "Christ died and returned to life, so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:9).

     Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to" many (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). He wrote his protege Timothy, "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering, even to the point of being chained like a criminal" (2 Timothy 2:8-9). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an essential part of the gospel which Paul consistently preached. It is of "first importance"; indeed, it is his gospel.

     Paul wrote that his greatest desire was "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings" (Philippians 3:10). And he wrote, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Corinthians 15:14).

     The author of Hebrews prayed, "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will" (Hebrews 13:20-21).

     In Hebrews 6 the author says he wants to take his readers beyond the "elementary teachings about Christ" to a place of greater maturity. One of these "elementary teachings" is "the resurrection of the dead" (Hebrews 6:1-3). I think we can assume from this that the resurrection of the dead was one of the standard teachings of the early church.

     If the only evidence we had of the resurrection of Jesus consisted of these and other references in the epistles, that much alone would, I submit, be persuasive evidence that it did occur.

     Let us look at how these early writers related the resurrection of Jesus to other aspects of church teaching.

(1)   Salvation.  Paul wrote, "If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17). Peter wrote that water baptism "saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand - with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him" (1 Peter 3:21-22). Paul declared that God will credit righteousness "for us who believe in him who raised Jesus from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Romans 4:24-25; see also 5:10). The resurrection of Jesus, and our belief in it, are essential to salvation and justification.

(2)   Hope.  Peter wrote that God "has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3). Our new birth and our hope depend on the resurrection.

(3)   Faith.  Paul wrote, "we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence" (2 Corinthians 4:14). Peter wrote, "Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God" (1 Peter 1:21).

(4)   New life.  Scripture makes it clear that, when we become saved, we should become a new creation, we should put off the old self and put on a new self, we should be transformed (metamorphosed) by the renewing of our mind (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24; Rom 12:2). Paul, in Romans 6-8, discusses this at length and makes it clear that our ability to change in this way depends on the resurrection of Jesus and the power which it gives us. He says, "Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:3-4; see also 6:8-10 , and 7:4). "If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through his Spirit who lives in you" (Romans 8:10-11; see also 2 Corinthians 4:11; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:4; John 3:14).

The key to being able to live this new life, Paul says, is to "set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).

(5)   Power.  Paul often wrote about the power (dunamis) that comes to those who believe. He emphasized that his gospel "came to you not simply with words, but also with power" (1 Thessalonians 1:5). He told us to "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10). He said that God is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). He said that he will boast about his own weaknesses "so that Christ’s power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9). He said. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). And he made it clear that this power is directly related to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He prayed that the Ephesians might know God’s "incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 1:19-20). In another letter he spoke of a time when he almost despaired, and says "But this happened so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:9).

     The source of this power is the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Jesus told us that anyone who has faith in him will do the things he did, and greater things, "because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12). He said "It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you" (John 16:7). The sequence was: Jesus died. He was resurrected. He ascended to heaven. He sent the Holy Spirit in power. It was because Jesus was resurrected and taken up into heaven that we could receive the Holy Spirit’s dunamis power.

(6)   Intercession.  A big part of what sustains us in our Christian walk is that Jesus Christ is always making intercession for us. This, too, rests on the resurrection. "Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Romans 8:34). "Because Jesus lives forever... he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:24-25).

(7)   The Second Coming.  Before his crucifixion Jesus told us that he will come again in glory (e.g. Matthew 24:30, 26:64; Luke 18:24). This is possible because of his resurrection and ascension. When he was taken up into heaven the angels said, "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Paul, describing this second coming, said, "We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him" (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Because Jesus died and rose again, he is able both to come and to resurrect those believers who have died.

(8)   Resurrection of all mankind.  Scripture teaches that all mankind will be resurrected, some to eternal life and some to eternal condemnation. This was prophesied by Daniel (Dan 12:12) and by Jesus (John 5:28-29). Hebrews 6:1-3 refers to it as an "elementary teaching". Paul devotes an entire chapter to it. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-28 Paul makes it absolutely clear that the resurrection of other humans depends on the resurrection of Jesus. (See also 1 Corinthians 6:14).

(9)   Jesus is exalted.  Paul tells us that Jesus was obedient to death on the cross, and that then "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father" (Philippians 2:8-11). God "raised him [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet" (Ephesians 1:20-22). It was the resurrected Jesus who declared, "all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matthew 28:18).It was because of the resurrection that Jesus could take his exalted place, "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given."

(10) Jesus lives.  An essential part of the teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ lives forever. He is the living one, who was dead and is alive for ever and ever (Revelation 1:18). He lives because of the resurrection. "Since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God" (Romans 6:9-10). Jesus "has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). He is "the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us" (1 John 1:2). It is the living Christ who keeps everything going; "In him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17), he sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3). He is the "living stone" on which our spiritual habitation is based (1 Peter 2:4). "Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living" (Romans 14:9). "He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

     Jesus, anticipating his resurrection, said, "Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19). It is because he lives that we can abide in him and he in us, which is the essential precondition for all fruitfulness (John 15:5). It is because he lives that we can "in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). It is because he lives that the resurrected Jesus could promise, "Surely I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). It is because he lives that we can know the "mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27. It is because he lives that Paul could say "I no longer live but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). It is because of the empty tomb, and the resurrection of Jesus, that all this can be true.

(11) General.  Peter wrote that the prophets predicted "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Peter 1:11). It was because the sufferings of Christ on the cross were followed by the glories of the resurrection and ascension that the early disciples had the faith, hope and conviction that enabled them to stand firm against persecution and proclaim the gospel of the risen Lord. They had witnessed these glories, and, as Peter said, "we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

     John’s first epistle begins, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared, we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us" (1 John 1:1-3). Part of what John saw and touched was the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus. It is because of the resurrection that John could call him "the word of Life" and could proclaim "the eternal life." The whole gospel rests on the premise that Jesus’ death on the cross was only temporary, that he was resurrected, and that he now lives. Because of the resurrection, because the tomb could not hold him, Jesus is the victor, he is triumphant, he has defeated the enemy, and we can have hope and confidence.

     Paul wrote the Galatians to express his horror that they were "turning to a different gospel - which is rheally no gospel at all"; he said anyone who preaches such a "different gospel" should be "eternally condemned" (Galatians 1:6-9). He warned the Corinthians against receiving a different Jesus or a "different gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:4). A fair reading of all of Paul’s epistles (and of his teachings as reported in Acts) compels the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus is such a central theme in Paul’s teaching and thinking, and is so fully interwoven into everything he says, that he would regard any teaching that denied the resurrection of Jesus as a "different gospel" which he would vehemently reject. If the resurrection of Jesus is one of three elements in the gospel which Paul considered to be "of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:34), how could Paul possibly accept a "gospel" which denies or ignores the resurrection? Indeed, resurrection is such an integral part of the teaching of the early apostles that it is historically inconceivable to think of a gospel that does not include it and rest upon it.

6.  Summary

     I believe the Scriptural record is remarkably extensive and remarkably consistent. It tells us that:

(1)   Jesus repeatedly predicted his own death and resurrection.

(2)   When the women came on Sunday morning they found an empty tomb, and angels who said "He is risen."

(3)   The resurrected Jesus appeared to many, on different occasions. He spoke with them, often at length. He ate food with them, gave them food, and allowed them to touch him.

(4)   The resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples over a period of forty days, teaching them about the kingdom of God. Then he was taken up into heaven. Not long after, Stephen saw the heavens open up and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

(5)   On the day of crucifixion the disciples were scattered, discouraged and demoralized. Fifty days later, on the Day of Pentecost, and from then on, they were united, full of confidence and bold in the face of persecution, threats and beatings. The most likely explanation for this dramatic change of heart is that they had seen the resurrected Jesus.

(6)   The records we have of the apostolic preaching show that, beginning a few days after Jesus’ crucifixion, they repeatedly asserted and emphasized the resurrection of Jesus as the proof that he was indeed the Son of God.

(7)   The Jewish leaders did everything they could to prevent the spread of Christianity, including threats, beatings and persecution. If they could have discredited the disciples’ preaching by disproving the resurrection they would have been delighted to do so. But they could not.

(8)   The epistles contain numerous references to the resurrection. They rest many doctrines of the early church on the fact that Jesus was resurrected. Paul declares that, if Jesus was not resurrected, his gospel is vain, their faith is vain and they are still in their sins.

(9)   Paul (then known as Saul) was a comer in the religious society of Jerusalem. He was a man of impeccable credentials, full of zeal, and "advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age" (Galatians 1:14). He was a student of the most celebrated teacher in Judaism, and had the favor of the Jewish leaders. Some 2 or 3 years after Jesus’ death he gave all this up, deeply alienated all his former friends and patrons, and became the greatest Christian missionary and teacher. What caused this dramatic change in his life? Part of the answer is the extraordinary encounter with the living Jesus which he had on the road to Damascus, which he considered a resurrrection appearance. Part also is the conviction, breathed all through his sermons and his epistles, that Jesus had indeed been resurrected from the dead and that by that resurrection he was "declared with power to be the Son of God" (Rom 1:4). It was because Christ was resurrected that Paul could declare that "we are more than conquerors" (Romans 8:37).

     I want to emphasize one thing. Some have tried to explain away the resurrection appearances as ghostly apparitions, things imagined by emotionally upset people, etc; or to spiritualize the resurrection as a symbolic or metaphorical event; or to psychologize it as an inner change of attitude in the disciples. A fair reading of all of the Scriptural passages shows beyond any possible question that they are talking about a physical resurrection - a very specific, definite, dramatic physical occurrence whose nature was unmistakable. They are not talking the language of apparition, metaphor, symbolism, inner awareness, spiritualized meaning, or anything like that. When Jesus, before the crucifixion, said "that he must be killed and on the third day raised to life," "destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days,"and "I lay down my life, only to take it up again," he was talking about a physical resurrection. When the gospels and Acts report that Jesus appeared, walked with them, broke bread, broiled some fish, ate some fish and ate with them they are talking about a physical resurrection. Thomas put his finger in Jesus’ wounds; it was this very physical action that changed him from doubt to triumphant belief. Jesus said, "Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see. A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." How could anything be more clear? "Touch me and see." It was because the disciples could touch and see that they became convinced that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, and that they went out proclaiming that astonishing fact at every opportunity.

     The disciples had witnessed an extraordinary and unmistakable physical event. They simply could not "help speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

     When the disciples wanted to choose another who could be "a witness with us of his resurrection," they were talking about witnessing a very definite, physical event. When Peter said, "God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact" he was talking about a very definite physical fact that he and others had seen and observed. Both Peter and Paul contrast Jesus and David. Although David’s memory and influence live on, his body decayed, but, in Paul’s words, "the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay." When Paul wrote "Christ died and returned to life" (Rom 14:9) he was talking about a return to physical life. When he declared that Jesus "was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4) he is referring to an incontrovertible physical event as proof of who Jesus is.

     To be true to the Biblical accounts we must say that the resurrection was a very definite, specific physical event which the disciples witnessed and testified to.

     We have four accounts of finding the empty tomb. We have 10 accounts of resurrection appearances, the statement in Acts 1 that he appeared to the disciples over a period of forty days, and Paul’s statement that the resurrected Jesus appeared to over 500 people, many of whom were still living. We have references to the resurrection in 17 different documents by 7 different authors, including one written about 15 years after the event. And we have no hard evidence that contradicts these accounts. If this were any other kind of fact in ancient history, historians would consider it established by overwhelming evidence. By the ordinary standards of historical research and documentation, it would be hard to find any fact of ancient history that was as thoroughly and convincingly proved by the available documents as is the resurrection of Jesus. Nevertheless, there are many who assert that it did not occur. In the next section I shall look briefly at the reasons they give.


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Copyrightę 2001 by James L. Morrisson