How do we know that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead?

Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Click here to read about what happened. (illustration copyrighted - God's Story)

The most powerful sign of all that Jesus is who he claims to be, namely the Son of God, is his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). This is a question with huge implications: Did it happen? Is the Resurrection story the great exception to the "usual dreary end of human life?" Many now consider the Resurrection to be one of the most sure and certain events of history. A critical debate on the question "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" took place recently between world-renowned atheistic philosopher, Dr. Anthony Flew, and New Testament scholar and Christian, Dr. Gary Habermas. A panel of five philosophers from leading universities judged the outcome. What was the conclusion? Four votes for Habermas. None for Flew.[1] And one draw. Flew was judged to have retreated into philosophical sophistry while evading the widely-acknowledged historical facts cited by Dr. Habermas.

Twelve Widely-acknowledged Historical Facts

These facts (per Habermas) include:[2]

  1. Artist's conception of Jesus' body about to be prepared for burial at the tomb.

    Jesus died due to the rigors of crucifixion.

  2. Jesus was buried.

  3. Jesus' death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

  4. Many scholars hold that Jesus' tomb was discovered to be empty just a few days later.

  5. At this time, the disciples had real experiences that they believed to be literal experiences of the risen Jesus.

  6. The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify with Jesus, to bold proclaimers of his death and resurrection, even being willing to die for this belief.

  7. The resurrection was central to their message.

  8. The resurrection was proclaimed in Jerusalem where the empty tomb was. As a result…

  9. The church was born and grew…

  10. …with Sunday the primary day of worship.

  11. James, Jesus' skeptical brother, was converted by the resurrection. [See: “James” in the WebBible Encyclopedia]

  12. Paul, the great persecutor of Christianity, was converted by the resurrection (Acts 9:3-9, 17; 1 Cor. 15:8; 9:1)

So momentous was this single event in the First Century that its effects have been described as a "widening circle of ripples" from a "boulder crashing into the pool of history."[3] In one of the oddest turns in history, a message centering on a dead “criminal” (1 Corinthians 1:23) came to be proclaimed as “good news.” Equally amazing was the extent of the Empire-wide transformation following its proclamation. The impetus for this message was the conviction that the same Jesus who was crucified was now alive again. These facts are admitted even by knowledgeable skeptics.[4]

The Resurrection story of course has had its critics, even from the very beginning. From the account of the first guards in Matthew 28:11f, all the way to the present, there have been efforts to explain away his resurrection. Each new attempt, however, is more perverse than those which came before,[5] while still failing to account for the range of indisputable facts.

Let us now consider…

Here are the SIX SKEPTICAL OBJECTIONS most frequently used by critics of Christ's resurrection. Click on each to learn more.

  1. Christ's resurrection was a myth, not history.

  2. The Resurrection stories full of contradictions.

  3. Miracles are not possible.

  4. The body was stolen.

  5. Jesus only fainted and then recovered from his wounds.

  6. The witnesses were just “seeing things.”

Author: Rev. Gary W. Jensen, M.Div. Editor: Paul S. Taylor, Christian Answers. Used by permission.

Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus
See our special Web site on Jesus Christ's death and resurrection

References and Footnotes

  1. Gary R. Habermas and Anthony G.N. Flew, Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?—the entire transcript, Terry L. Miethe, editor (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), p. XIIIf. [up]

  2. Ibid. pp. 19-20. [up]

  3. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man (Harper, 1957), p. 63. [up]

  4. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III (Simon and Schuster, 1972), p. 553f. [up]

  5. John Shelby Spong argues that Peter felt so bad about Jesus' death he imagined him back to life. [John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994), p. 255.]

    Dr. Cavin of U.C. Irvine argues that Jesus had an unknown identical twin brother who began a hoax about the resurrection. [R.G. Cavin in William Craig vs. Robert Greg Cavin. Dead or Alive? A Debate on the Resurrection of Jesus. (California: Simon Greenleaf University, 1995).]

    Barbara Thiering argues that the Gospels are in “coded” language which she has cracked through her reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Her bizarre theory says Jesus was drugged, crucified by the Dead Sea, yet he survived. He married Mary Magdalene, and then another woman, and died of old age. Notice the ludicrous improbability here: The entire early church is alleged to have been completely fooled, while Thiering, 20 centuries later, gets it right. [Barbara Thiering, Jesus The Man: A New Interpretation From the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Doubleday, 1992).]

    C.S. Lewis exposes such pretentious absurdities in C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 191f.[up]

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