Should You Believe in Jesus Christ’s Resurrection? Consider the Following Purported Evidences


[Note: This essay was penned for a newsletter and therefore is confined to a strict word limit. It cannot look at all the purported evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.]

Christians should have good reasons for affirming Christianity’s truth on the basis of God’s resurrecting of Jesus Christ from the dead. The purpose here is to make a brief evidential case in support of this claim.

New Testament Evidence

Historian Gary Habermas, having examined over 3000 academic articles on Christ’s passion, discovered that the majority of scholars agreed that [1] Christ was crucified, [2] buried in a tomb, [3] that the tomb was found empty, and [4] that Paul, James and the disciples had resurrection experiences of Christ (Habermas, 2004: 44). Historians widely attest to these facts from the New Testament sources. Christian contend that the resurrection hypothesis is what best explains these facts. For example, an empty tomb coupled with Christ’s resurrection appearances to his earliest followers, skeptics, and enemies alike would seem to favour the resurrection hypothesis.

Early and Independent Attestation

An event in history attested to in two independent sources is given value by historians. The more independent historical sources affirming an event the more probable it is that it occurred. In respect to Christ’s resurrection the historian has no less than eight independent (and often early) sources attesting to it. There is attestation in Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Paul, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp. Of these eight sources two of them are early: the pre-Pauline creed (1 Cor. 15:3-8), and the Gospel of Mark.

Willingness to Suffer and Die.

11 historical sources testify to the willingness of the apostles to suffer and risk their lives for their belief in the resurrection. Professor Craig Keener explains, “These disciples plainly believed that Jesus had risen; and not only that, but that they had seen him alive” (Keener, 2012: 342). Nine of these sources specifically attest to their resurrection proclamation. None, however, defected from this belief even when faced with stoning and death. According to Habermas “The apostles died [and suffered] for holding to their own testimony that they had personally seen the risen Jesus” (Habermas, 2004: 59). Scholar Sanders says “They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it” (Sanders, 1993: 279-280). There is not good reason to doubt the sincerity of their belief which was that Christ had been raised from the dead.

The Dramatic Conversions of Paul and James.

Both Paul and James (Christ’s brother) did not believe in Christ’s message. Prior to his Damascus conversion Paul admits to persecuting early Christians (1 Cor. 15:9). He hated Christ, and the blasphemous movement he founded since he saw a crucifixion as a curse from God (Gal. 3:13). However, Christ appears to Paul on his voyage to Damascus (Acts 9:3–9) and, as a result, Paul converts and later faces persecution while leading the very movement he tried to exterminate. Moreover, James, according to gospel traditions, rejected his brother’s message (Mark 3:21; 6:2-4, 6; John 7:5; 19:25-27). However, Christ appears to him and he is likewise converted. Both Paul and James end up leading the early church and both die as martyrs. What can account for their radical change? According to them it was Christ’s resurrection.

Resurrection Conception.

Jewish beliefs about the afterlife excluded anyone rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the general resurrection at the end of the world (Craig & Armstrong, 2003: 24). Thus, it is rather odd that the earliest disciples, Paul and James, all of whom were Jews, end up proclaiming this very thing. They were proclaiming a single resurrection of a single man in the middle of history, an antithetical concept to Jewish thought. What accounts for this radical change? Our best evidence, and their own testimony, says it was the resurrection.

The Uniqueness of Jesus’ Resurrection.

When a Jewish rebel (seen as a messianic figure by Jewish followers as one who would vindicate Israel from foreign rule as prophesied in the Old Testament), with a following, was crucified the followers either disbanded the cause and searched for another Jewish rebel to follow or, alternatively, they died alongside their leader because of fighting the Romans. Either way the movement died. As far as we know this happened to Theudas, Simon ben Giora, Athronges, Bar Kockbar, John of Gischala, and others. However, this is what should have happened to Christ. Christ should have been crucified and his movement obliterated like everyone else’s. The disciples and earliest followers should have, judging from history, disbanded and gone looking elsewhere. However, the opposite seems to have happened as from Christ an entire movement begins. What do the earliest witnesses tell us it was? The resurrection.


The abovementioned is not all one could present in favour of the resurrection hypothesis. However, as a cumulative case the evidence reviewed appears to provide an impressive case for God’s resurrecting of Christ from the dead. The resurrection hypothesis boasts early and independent attestation, captured the hearts and minds of Christ’s earliest followers (disciples), enemies (Paul), and non-believers (James). Couple this with its unlikely Jewish conception and its radical uniqueness “it may,” explains historian Gerd Ludemann, “be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’s death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ” (Ludemann, 1995: 80).


Craig, W. & Armstrong, W. 2003. God? A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist. Oxford University Press.

Habermas, G. & Licona, M. 2004. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Michigan: Kregel Publications.

Keener, C. 2012. The Historical Jesus of the Gospels. Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing.

Ludemann, G. 1995. What Really Happened? Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press

Sanders, E. 1993. The Historical Figure of Jesus. New York: Penguin Books.


4 responses to “Should You Believe in Jesus Christ’s Resurrection? Consider the Following Purported Evidences

  1. There are far simpler explanations for the “evidence” you present.

    1) Nearly all of the resurrection experience stories are hearsay, written decades after their supposed occurrence. We have more compelling eyewitness testimony that Elvis rose again. These stories amount to nothing more than the eventual recording of urban legends. Modern experience tells us that urban legends routinely grow more fanciful with each retelling. There is no reason to assume that ancient storytellers were immune to this.

    2) Every religion has its martyrs. Martyrdom clearly provides no evidence for the veracity of beliefs.

    3) Paul’s conversion story is far more likely to have been the product of temporal lobe epilepsy. The different biblical accounts aren’t even consistent in their stories. But Christians believe it because they want to. If he had heard God telling him to keep up the persecution, Christians would surely chalk it up to either a lie, or to hallucinations. But they give it special credence because it fits their beliefs, in spite of the fact that SO MANY of Paul’s teachings are inconsistent with Jesus’ own teachings.

    4) Contrary to your arguments, there is ample evidence that resurrection was not a new concept in the Middle East at that time, and it’s not the least bit surprising that his followers would latch onto such an idea, following his death. There are a great many movements that persist in spite of all rational considerations. One need only look at Christian denominations such as the Seventh Day Adventists, that grew out of the Millerite Movement (whose adherents were CONVINCED that the 2nd coming would occur in toughly 1843). Fragments of that group persisted in spite of the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844. Shall we assume they were correct, based on their persistence?

    5) The only scholars who make claims such as yours, are Christian scholars. Claims such as those of Gerd Ludemann, are not accepted by the broader historical community, as they are greatly lacking in any sort of academic rigor.

    • 1 – I pretty much answer all these challenges in one article answering Matt Dillahunty:

      2 – I disagree. Martyrs who were previously convinced on the basis of experience (not tradition) provide excellent testimonial evidence. By your statement it is evident you aren’t able to distinguish between martyrs who are initial witnesses (disciples, Paul, James), and martyrs depending on traditions (Muslim extremists).

      3 – Clearly not. His Damascus episode was experienced not only by him but those around him too. He also had after effects of being blinded. Clearly that isn’t explainable due to “temporal lobe epilepsy.” If you retort by doubting Luke’s testimony in Acts then your simply motivated by your atheism. Biblical accounts don’t always have to be consistent in secondary details to be historical (history 101). I don;t believe it because I “want to” but because it best explains Paul’s motivations, conversion, experiences, and martyrdom. Regarding “that SO MANY of Paul’s teachings are inconsistent with Jesus’ own teachings” is a theological objection, and not a historical, evidential one for a theological rationalist like myself. Simply put: it doesn’t matter.

      4 – You miss my point. First you’d need to show that there is “ample evidence” of a physical, bodily resurrection in the ME like Jesus one was. Haven’t seen much myself nor have I seen scholars write not it and i’ve read widely. Secondly, it doesn’t matter. I was making a point about an antithetical concept of a resurrected messiah ’in’ Judaism. Your challenge misses the very point i was making. It remains a powerful piece of evidence best explained by the crucifixion.

  2. Pingback: Evidence For Why You Should Believe In Jesus’ Resurrection. — James Bishop’s Theology & Apologetics. | Talmidimblogging·

  3. 1) I previously responded to your earlier article. You have not (as yet) replied.

    2) Your original post, and your follow-up suggest that James and Paul were martyred explicitly for refusing to recant their stories on the resurrection. There are scant details in the case of James, but none of the accounts I’ve seen give any such suggestion. And in the case of Paul:
    A) if his account was a hallucination, I have no doubt he would have been convinced it was real, and therefore being a willing martyr is not surprising nor does it lend any veracity to the hallucination.
    B) the evidence that Paul was actually martyred is iself sketchy

    3) your assertion that any doubting of Luke’s account is motivated by atheism is a fallacious argument. Luke was written by an unknown author decades after the supposed events. No rational person would assume any special credibility, given that. Furthermore, there are numerous contradictions between Luke/ Acts, and Paul’s own writings, and as a result, many Christian scholars have significant doubts as to the accuracy of Luke’s account.

    Your claim that the secondary blindness is not explained by temporal lobe epilepsy is false. Postdictal blindness, lasting several days CAN occur.

    While I agree that the significant differences between Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings is a theological issue, your assertion that it doesn’t matter is bewildering. You argue that Jesus essentially anointed Paul as his prophet, yet this prophet’s teachings are inconsistent with his own. That contradiction should raise fundamental questions as to the accuracy of Paul’s claims.

    4) I did not miss your point, I found it to be a weak argument. Other stories of resurrection from the Middle East:

    So to argue that the idea of resurrection would never have occurred to them is simply not valid. And while I agree that the Jewish Messiah concept did NOT include the notion of death and resurrection, the same can be said for virtually every aspect of Jesus’ teachings – which is purportedly why the Jews conspired to have him killed, and why Jews even today have rejected Jesus as a messiah. This of course leads to the problem I’ve noted elsewhere, with arguments that “it must be true because it’s so unlikely”, which Christian apologists routinely intersperse with other arguments that something else must be true because it is so likely – in effect, they play both sides of the probability fence.

    While we’re on this subject, though – Christian doctrine explains the thousands of years between the Fall of Adam and Jesus birth, as being necessary to prepare mankind (ostensibly the Jews) for Jesus arrival. Therefore the rejection of Jesus by the Jews us a HUGE theological problem, as all that preparation of the Chosen People apparently went for nought. The savior who was sent was NOT the one they were told to expect.

Let me know your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s