The Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus

The Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus

Some Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

1 Cor. 15:14

As we approach Easter, I thought it would be appropriate to publish a blog about the historical resurrection of Jesus. Interestingly, Christians (and others) may not know that there is an abundance of research and peer-reviewed publications about this miraculous event.[1] Specifically, scholars and laymen have assessed the New Testament scriptures, and other extrabiblical sources, to determine if Jesus did in fact exist, was crucified, and if he rose from the dead. This blog will briefly introduce the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus by examining it through the lens of Gary Habermas’ minimal facts approach.[2]

The minimal facts approach is a method by which Habermas has reduced the many historical facts about Jesus’ resurrection to merely three historical facts, which are then utilized to defend the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. The three facts are chosen because of the strong supporting evidence of those facts and the strong majority scholarly acceptance of those facts. The three facts that have strong supporting evidence and are accepted by the nearly unanimous consensus of scholars are: (1) Jesus’ death by crucifixion; (2) the disciples had experiences shortly after Jesus’s death, which led them to believe and declare the resurrected Jesus; (3) Paul converted to Christianity after experiencing what he believed to be a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus.[3] This blog will briefly examine some supporting arguments and evidence used to establish the above as historical facts.

Historical Fact Number One: Jesus’ Death by Crucifixion

  1. Several early independent attestations: All four Gospels and the early epistles of Paul speak on the crucifixion of Christ.
  2. Several early extrabiblical sources report the death of Jesus: Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, and the Talmud. Additionally, Mara Bar-Serapion claims that Jesus was murdered. Lastly, A slew of early apocryphal and noncanonical literature records Jesus’ crucifixion.[4]
  3. Low Probability of survival: It is unlikely that Jesus would have survived Roman crucifixion.

Historical Fact Number Two: Disciples had Experiences Shortly after Jesus’ Death, which led Them to Believe and Declare the Resurrected Jesus

  1. Several early independent attestations and eyewitnesses: The location of the Empty Tomb is known and is attested by all four Gospels. An early sermon received by Paul, 1 Cor. 15:3-8, presupposes an empty tomb. Moreover, (some) eyewitnesses listed in this sermon were alive and could have been questioned about what they saw.
  2. Several early independent attestations and the principle of embarrassment: All four Gospels record women witnessing the empty tomb and reporting it to the disciples.[5]
  3. Conversion of James: James’ conversion from skeptic, to church leader, to martyr of the Christian faith.

Historical Fact Number Three: Paul Converted to Christianity after Experiencing what he Believed to be a Postresurrection Appearance of Jesus

  1. Paul, or Saul, began as a Pharisee who persecuted Christians. Additionally, he was expert and student of the law under the well-respected teacher, Gamaliel.[6]
  2. Paul saw and heard the light, which was revealed to Paul as a postresurrected Jesus, and then he converted to Christianity.[7]
  3. Paul’s known role in persecuting Christians and the converting to Christianity was spoken about in Judea.[8]
  4. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 depicts some of Paul’s sufferings as a Christian convert: imprisonments, beatings (to include being lashed a few times and stoned), he was shipwrecked three times, lived in grave danger constantly, and at times was tired, hungry, and cold.[9]
  5. Paul is eventually martyred for his Christian faith: multiple independent sources such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Dionysius of Corinth, Origen, cite Paul’s martyrdom.[10]

Once again, the above are some supporting arguments and evidences. There are many more to include supporting arguments and evidences. Hopefully, this blog encourages you as you continue to grow in Christ.

Joshua Pelletier

Joshua Pelletier

Joshua is a member of Gethsemane Baptist Church. He holds a Master of Arts in Apologetics from Houston Baptist University, and he is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Apologetics and Philosophy at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary.

[1]. Personally, I never heard of such historical evaluations or publications until I was an undergrad around 2015 (29-years-old).

[2]. Habermas is considered the leading scholar on the resurrection of Jesus (over 50 years of study and research).

[3]. Note: The number of minimal facts and known and accepted facts that Habermas defends in his publications vary. The specificity in numbering is “arbitrary.” See Gary R. Habermas, On the Resurrection, Volume 1: Evidences, (Brentwood, TN: B&H Academic), 2024 p146-149. I’ve categorized the minimal facts in the above manner due to space and simplicity of this blog post.

[4]. As an example, The Gospel of Peter.

[5]. Simplified: Reporting about the women and disciples in this sense would have been an embarrassing remark. This is in part because of the low view of women (the low view of women is multiply attested in Jewish sources). If the disciples were trying to lie about the empty tomb, it would have been better for the disciples to use men. This means that the embarrassing record of events makes the event more likely to have happened.

[6]. Acts 22:3.

[7]. His companion saw and heard the light, too. Acts 22:8-9.

[8]. Gal 1:12-16; 1 Cor 15:9-10; Phil 3:6-7; 1 Tim 1:13; Acts 7:58; and more.

[9]. Some other sources that depict Paul’s sufferings: Eph 6:20; Phil 1:7; Col 1:24; 1 Thess 1:3-4; 2 Tim 1:8; Philem 10.

[10]. The church traditions are consistent with Paul’s belief that he was not going to be around much longer: 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 21.

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