How We Know Jesus Really Rose Again

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How We Know Jesus Really Rose Again

As we come upon another Easter celebration I wanted to once again share some of the strong historical evidence that Jesus did indeed actually rise from the dead. Christians who believe in the resurrection don’t do so just because that’s what we’ve been told and because it makes us feel better. That need not be the case anyway. There’s solid historical evidence that you can know and share with others. So whether you’re a Christian or someone who thinks that there’s no way Jesus actually rose, let’s take a quick look at the evidence and then if you want to dig deeper you can read some of my earlier posts.

Minimal Facts Approach


I’m going to be presenting the Minimal Facts Approach developed by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. This means considering only those facts which are so strongly verified historically that they are accepted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones.  This is presenting the case with the “lowest common denominator” of agreed-upon facts.  Sharing the evidence with this approach, someone who doesn’t even accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God can see the strength of this case on the historical evidence alone.

There are five minimal facts, or what Haberman and Licona call 4+1 facts.  This is because the first four are accepted by nearly every scholar and the fifth one is accepted by an impressive majority of scholars, though not by nearly all.

Fact 1 : Jesus Died By Crucifixion

Not only do the four New Testament gospel writers record that Jesus died by crucifixion but so do several non-Christian sources. The highly critical Jesus Seminar scholar, John Dominic Crossan, who doesn’t accept a lot of what the Bible says about Jesus, however acknowledges,  “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.” You can read more about this fact here.

Fact 2 : Jesus’ Disciples Believed that He Rose and Appeared to Them

There is a virtual consensus among scholars who study the resurrection that after Jesus died by crucifixion, his disciples really believed that he rose from the dead and appeared to them.  This is because the evidence shows that the disciples themselves claimed that Jesus had risen and appeared to them, and after they said that, they were radically transformed from fearful cowards who denied and abandoned Jesus to bold and brave men who proclaimed the good news of the risen Jesus. And they did that in spite of the imprisonment, torture and death that that brought. You can read more about this fact here.

Fact 3 : The Church Persecutor Paul was Suddenly Changed

Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul, was a devout Jew who believed it was God’s will for him to persecute and imprison members of the new Christian church.  He was going about doing that when he suddenly changed and became one of the church’s most influential messengers and leaders. Why?  Both Paul himself and Luke report that it was because Paul firmly believed that he had an encounter with the risen Jesus. So the resurrection of Jesus is testified to by both his friends and an enemy.  And this sudden change came at a great cost to Paul. You can read more about this fact here.

Fact 4 : The Skeptic James, the Brother of Jesus, was Suddenly Changed

The gospels report that Jesus had at least four brothers, or rather half-brothers, including James.  Josephus, the Jewish historian also mentions James. So what was James’ opinion of Jesus? What would you think if your brother started claiming to be God? Before the resurrection James didn’t believe in him, he thought he was out of his mind. After the resurrection James was one of the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem. So why the sudden change? The New Testament says that the risen Jesus specifically appeared to James. If your brother died and rose again and appeared to you, that might change your mind too. It seems that’s what happened for James. You can read more about this fact here.

Fact 5 : The Tomb was Empty

This fifth fact doesn’t have as wide an acceptance among scholars as the previous four but still an impressive majority of about 75% accept it.  What’s more there is strong evidence for it. If the tomb wasn’t empty his enemies in the Jewish leadership and Roman government would have only had to exhume the body and display it to bring an end to it all.  But there is total silence from Christianity’s critics who would have jumped at this sort of evidence.  They even indirectly confirm it by coming up with the story that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body. You can read more about this fact here.

Putting it All Together

Put together, the five minimal facts make a strong historical case. Alternate, opposing theories have been come up with to explain away these facts but while they may account for one or more of the facts, they fail to explain all five put together. You can read more about this here. For me, the explanation that Jesus actually rose from the dead clearly makes the most sense of all the evidence that has been left for us. I don’t just believe it because it’s a nice story and it gives me hope, I believe it because God has given us considerable historical evidence that deserves serious consideration by all of us.

As it did for the disciples, Paul, James, and so many others since, the evidence of the Risen Jesus, who died for my sins, has changed my life, and definitely for the better. My life has never been the same since I came to understand his amazing love and acceptance for me, shown in the cross and the empty tomb. It is my hope that if you have not yet come to know the Risen Jesus personally, that you will. May you find and accept this great gift this Easter.

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Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Evidence for the Resurrection

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