Is the Resurrection of Jesus a Real Historical Event? – Fact 4

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Is the Resurrection of Jesus a Real Historical Event?

Were any skeptics of Jesus won over by seeing him after his resurrection?  We’ll explore that as we continue to examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, using the Minimal Facts Approach.  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.  With the first two facts we saw that Jesus died by crucifixion and his disciples believed that he rose again and appeared to them.  The last three facts support the first two.  Last week we saw that the persecutor of the Church, Paul, was suddenly changed.  Now we move onto fact 4.

4-5 resurrection investigate


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, James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, plus unnamed sisters.  Josephus, the Jewish historian mentions, “the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, whose name was James.”

So what did James think of Jesus during his life?  How do you think you would react if your brother started claiming he was God?


We don’t have as much historical information on James as we do on Paul, but the gospels report that Jesus’ brothers, including James, were unbelievers during Jesus’ ministry.

Mark 3:21 says that his family “went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”

John 7:5 says, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

So James was a skeptic of Jesus and his claims but then something happened that changed that.  What appears to be one of the earliest church creeds, found in 1 Corinthians 15 says, “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 Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James”


His appearance to his brother James is singled out.  That’s because it brought about a dramatic and sudden change in James.  After the risen Jesus appeared to him, James became a believer and became a leader of the church in Jerusalem.

Acts 15 identifies James as one of the leaders at the Jerusalem council.

Galatians 1:19 refers to “James, the  Lord’s brother” as an apostle.

And not only did James become a believer, he also became willing to suffer and even die as a martyr for his new belief in the risen Jesus, just as the other disciples did.  James’ suffering and martyrdom for his faith in the risen Jesus is reported by multiple sources: Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (we no longer have these writings by Hegesippus and Clement, but the church historian Eusebius quotes them).  This means we have both Christian and non-Christian sources for this.


So what explains such a dramatic change for James, that he went from not believing in his brother at all to becoming a leader in the new Christian church and, what’s more, becoming willing to give his life for his belief?  What could explain this if not,  as is reported, that Jesus appeared to his brother after he died and rose again?  Then you just might believe your brother is God, right?

Come back next week for Fact 5: The tomb was empty.

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

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

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