Is the Resurrection of Jesus a Real Historical Event? – Fact 2

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail

Is the Resurrection of Jesus a Real Historical Event?

Two weeks ago I laid the groundwork for examining the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and  now I’m presenting the five minimal facts that are so well historically confirmed that they are accepted by nearly every scholar, even the skeptical ones.  Last week we looked at the first fact, Jesus died by crucifixion.  This week we build upon that with the second fact.

4-5 resurrection investigate

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

appearanceThere 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 1) the disciples themselves claimed that Jesus had risen and appeared to them, and 2) after they said that they saw the risen Jesus, they were radically transformed from fearful cowards who denied and abandoned Jesus at his arrest and went into hiding — to bold and brave men who proclaimed the good news of the risen Jesus in spite of the imprisonment, torture and death that that brought.

Let’s look at the evidence for each of these point.

1) They claimed it

What if someone says, “I don’t believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and I’m not sure the four gospels were written by the alleged authors.”?  Some say that the resurrection and Jesus’ miracles are legends that were added much later.  So how do we trace these claims back to the disciples themselves?  There are nine early, independent sources, in three categories, that show that Jesus’ disciples themselves claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.

First, Paul confirmed that the disciples made this claim. Paul wasn’t with the twelve disciples when Jesus was here.  He joined the church later, after persecuting it, but he got to know the original disciples personally (this is confirmed by sources both inside and outside of the Bible) and he confirms that they proclaimed that Jesus appeared to them 1 Cor 15:11.

Second, while I don’t have the space to go into the details, early oral tradition, that came before the writing of the New Testament, takes the proclamation of Jesus’ resurrection appearances back to within five years of the event and back to the disciples themselves.

Third, early church fathers, including Clement and Polycarp, who were students of the disciples themselves and knew them personally, confirm that they claimed and proclaimed the appearances of Jesus, risen from the dead.

2) They believed it

The disciples’ radical transformation into bold proclaimers and their willingness to suffer and even die for their claim shows that they believed it.  Sources outside the Bible, as well as those within, report the persecution, suffering and even martyrdom of the original disciples and Paul as well.

Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius Tertullian, Origen and others report the disciples’ willingness to suffer for their beliefs.  They report their suffering and martyrdom for their claims.  Origen wrote that the disciple’s devotion to the teachings of Jesus “was attended with danger to human life”.  Further, he said, “Jesus, who has both once risen himself and led his disciples to believe in his resurrection, and so thoroughly  persuaded them of it’s truth, that they show to all men by their sufferings how they are able to laugh at all the troubles of life, beholding the life eternal and the resurrection clearly demonstrated to them both in word and deed.”

The evidence is clear that the disciples believed that the risen Jesus appeared to them and they were willing to suffer and even lose their lives for those claims.  Atheistic New Testament scholar, Gerd Ludemann concluded, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”  This doesn’t mean that he believes that Jesus rose from the dead but it’s clear to him that the disciples believed it.

So What?

So they believed it, but don’t people die all the time for things they believe that aren’t true?  The 9-11 terrorists clearly believed in their cause and were willing to give their lives for their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean their beliefs were true.  So why is the disciples’ belief in the resurrection of Jesus such strong evidence that it actually occurred?

There is a significant difference between modern martyrs dying for their beliefs and Jesus’ disciples doing so.  Modern martyrs act on their trust in things that were taught to them by others.  The disciples, on the other hand, stood firm on their own eyewitness claims.  The disciples were in the position to know if their claims were true or a lie.  People die for a lie quite often but no one willingly dies for a lie that they know is a lie.

In a conspiracy someone always cracks to save their own skin.  And yet the disciples of Jesus were so certain that Jesus rose from the dead that every one of them continued to proclaim that, no matter what they were threatened with.  They never changed their story because the message of the Risen Savior meant more to them than their very lives.  I don’t know about you but I think that’s some testimony that’s worth listening to.

Come back next week for Fact 3:  The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.

Source: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona

Share this with your friends:FacebookTwitterGoogle+tumblrEmail
Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Evidence for the Resurrection

Comments are closed.