Looking at Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

The Importance of the Resurrection of Jesus

The resurrection of Jesus is probably the most important single event in the entire history of mankind. It fulfilled countless prophecies, some made over a thousand years earlier and some made by Jesus Himself. It was a demonstration that Jesus was who He said He was, and it provided the inspiration for the rapid growth of the early Christian church. In his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Wright comments, “the resurrection validates a ‘supernatural’ view of the world, it means there really is a ‘life after death.’”[1]

Old Testament Predictions of the Resurrection

The life of Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies.[2] One thousand years before Jesus was born, His ancestor King David wrote Psalm 16, where verse 10 prophesies the resurrection, “because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” Similarly, Psalm 22:22-24 and Isaiah 53:10-11 are widely regarded as predictions of the resurrection.

During His later Judean ministry, Jesus compared the “sign of Jonah” to Himself as a sign to the then-current generation, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”[3] This suggests that Jesus regarded His forthcoming crucifixion and resurrection experience as being similar, or analogous, to that of Jonah and the fish some eight hundred years earlier,

Jesus Prophesies His Own Fate

In addition to the Jonah reference, the Bible records that Jesus made many predictions of His crucifixion and resurrection, as in Matthew 20:17-19, the final sentence of which is “On the third day he will be raised to life!” These predictions stand up in the light of stringent historical examination, as Licona states in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, “it is my opinion that the strong case for the historicity of Jesus’ predictions of his passion and resurrection stands.”[4]

The Gospels: Eyewitness Testimony to the Resurrection

The four gospels provide the most comprehensive reports of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and between them, act as reliable, multiple, eyewitness reports. The truth of the gospels with respect to these events, which ultimately changed the lives and characters of the authors to the extent that they willingly endured martyrdom, carries with it the foundation of Christianity. After reviewing the “Story of Easter” in the gospels, Wright states, “This belief about Jesus provides a historically complete, thorough and satisfying reason for the rise and development of the belief that he was Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true lord.”[5]

In his book, Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels, J. Warner Wallace, a career cold-case detective, evaluated the truth claims of the gospels in a manner similar to his cold-case investigations. Using abductive reasoning, he came to the conclusion that “The most reasonable inference is that the gospel writers were present, corroborated, accurate, and unbiased. If this is the case, we can conclude with confidence that their testimony is reliable.”[6]

The Writings of Paul – as Early as A.D. 54?

In his book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Licona refers to Paul as “the earliest known author to mention the resurrection of Jesus” and that “Paul’s letters are the only verifiable reports by a verifiable eyewitness of the risen Jesus Himself.”[7] He further states, “Oral traditions played a large role in the Greco-Roman world, since only a small minority, perhaps less than 10 percent, could read and write.”[8] Using Romans 1:4, where Paul writes that Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead,” Licona refers to scholarly opinion that Paul was using an oral tradition that could go back to the early church in Jerusalem, and which would, in any event, predate the authorship of the book of Romans, itself “typically dated between A.D. 55 to A. D. 58.”[9] This demonstrates that Paul’s writings began as early as A.D. 54, less than 25 years after Jesus ascended, and answers suggestions that New Testament books were written much later than that.

For me, the fulfillment of many prophecies made hundreds of years earlier is evidence of a supernatural element in the life of Jesus. The truth of the gospels, demonstrated by experts in widely different fields, is confirmation that Jesus represents the truth behind our earthly lives.

[1] Wright, N. T., (2003-03-17). Resurrection Son of God V3: Christian Origins and the Question of God, (Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press, 2003) 722.

[2] According to the Scriptures, January 20, 2015, http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html, accessed November 27, 2016.

[3] Matthew 12:40, NIV.

[4] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2010), 300

[5] Wright, N. T., Resurrection Son of God V3: Christian Origins and the Question of God, (Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press, 2003), 681-682.

[6] Wallace, J. Warner (2013-01-01). Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (Kindle Locations 4548-4550). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

[7] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2010), 437.

[8] Ibid., (p. 220).

[9] Ibid., (p. 221).

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