This is [hopefully] my final transcript for our Cornerstone newsletter that comes out in October. Word limit is restricted so I had to do the best I could given that limitation. There are many arguments, and pieces of evidence not discussed in this treatment as a result of word limit. One is more than welcome to search the rest of my site for those. However, I hope this brief introduction piques some interest for seekers and inquirers.
As Christians we have good reasons for affirming Christianity’s truth on the basis of God’s resurrecting of Jesus from the dead. My purpose here is to make a brief evidential case in support of this claim.
New Testament Evidence.
Exegete Gary Habermas, having considered over 3000 academic articles on Jesus’ passion, discovered that the majority of scholars agreed on that  Jesus was crucified,  buried in a tomb,  that the tomb was found empty, and  that Paul, James and the disciples had resurrection experiences of Jesus (Habermas, 2004: 44). Historians widely attest to these facts from our New Testament sources. My contention is that the resurrection hypothesis best explains these facts. An empty tomb coupled with Jesus’ resurrection appearances to his earliest followers, skeptics, and enemies alike certainly favours the resurrection hypothesis.
Early and Independent Attestation.
An event in history attested to in two independent sources is given value among historians. The more independent historical sources affirming an event the more probable it is that it occurred. Therefore, turning to Jesus’ resurrection we have no less than eight (possibly nine if we include Josephus Flavius) early and independent sources testifying to this. We have attestation in Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Paul, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp. Of these eight sources two of them are very early: Paul’s creed (1 Cor. 15:1-11), and early Christian preaching (Acts 2). Moreover, all our New Testament sources (pluse Clement of Rome) provide 1st century witness to Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
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 (Bishop, 2015). 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 (Bishop, 2016). None, however, defected from this belief even when faced with stoning and crucifixion. 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). It would be unwarranted to doubt the sincerity of their belief.
The Dramatic Conversions of Paul and James.
Both Paul and James (Jesus’ brother) did not believe in Jesus’ message. Prior to his Damascus conversion Paul admits to persecuting early Christians (1 Cor. 15:9). He hated Jesus, and the blasphemous movement he founded since he saw a crucified messiah as a curse (Gal 3:13). However, Jesus appears to Paul on his voyage to Damascus (Acts 9:3–9) and, as a result, Paul incredibly converts and faces persecution in 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, Jesus appears to him and he is likewise radically 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 Jesus’ resurrection.
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 Jesus. Jesus 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, from Jesus an entire movement begins. What do the earliest witnesses tell us it was? The resurrection.
This is not all we could present but as a cumulative case the evidence reviewed is quite persuasive in favour of God’s resurrecting Jesus from the dead. The resurrection hypothesis boasts early and multiple attestation, captured the hearts and minds of Jesus’ 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).
Bishop, 2015. Resurrection Appearances to James, Peter, Paul & Disciples.
Bishop, 2016. On the Nature of the Resurrection Evidence.
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.