Is there historical evidence for Christ and His resurrection?

It seems that every other month, a well-known figure steps away from Christianity. Every single person I’ve heard about does so for something that really isn’t essential to Christianity.The most essential aspect of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus. Belief in the resurrection of Christ is the most rational thing to believe in once we see the evidence. I’ve yet to see someone leave Christianity because they could disprove the resurrection.

Of all the major world religions, only Christianity claims its founder was resurrected from the dead. Only Jesus, the founder, claimed to be God and then proved it through His resurrection. If you want to disprove Christianity, all you have to do is prove the resurrection didn’t happen.
The historical facts surrounding the resurrection are overwhelming and often overlooked when presenting the gospel. I didn’t hear these things growing up, and most likely you didn’t either. Consequently, we were led to believe that Jesus was just a myth, a fairy tale, or some legend like the Loch Ness monster. I used to think that Jesus contradicted the world of science and reason—that you couldn’t believe in both. That’s simply not the case.

Here’s what we know from history: Jesus existed. Virtually no historian or scholar questions this. One of the leading Bible critics, who’s not a Christian, confirms this. And there are ten known non-Christian writers who mention Jesus within 150 years of His life. Most ancient historical figures only have two sources.

According to these ten non-biblical sources, here’s what we know: Jesus lived an upright life during the time of Caesar. He performed miracles and had a brother named James. He was pronounced to be the Messiah and was crucified under Pontius Pilate on the eve of the Jewish Passover. Both darkness and an earthquake occurred when he died. Following His crucifixion, His disciples believed He rose from the dead. Because of that belief, His disciples were willing to die, and eventually all but one were killed for their faith. As a result, Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome.

So we know all of that apart from what the Bible says about Jesus. It’s pretty remarkable to me that so much historical evidence about Jesus exists. We also know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus died. This is a historical fact that no scholar disputes. The Romans were experts at crucifixion, and Roman soldiers were threatened with death to ensure the criminal died on the cross. No record exists of anyone surviving a Roman crucifixion. The certainty of Jesus’s death has also been confirmed in an article by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

After Jesus’s death He was buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a leader of the Jewish people. It was a well-known tomb, so everyone knew the exact location. Shortly after the resurrection, a rumor was started (and it exists to this day) that His disciples stole the body. That provides further evidence that the tomb was empty. Not only that, but there were also guards, a stone, and a seal on the tomb.

As well, over five hundred eyewitnesses saw Jesus after His resurrection. We know that James, the brother of Jesus, was changed from a skeptic to a believer because of the resurrection. We also know that the apostle Paul was zealous about killing Christians and was changed because of his encounter with the risen Christ. Finally, before the resurrection, nearly all of Jesus’s followers had abandoned Him. But after the resurrection? All the disciples except John were killed for their faith in the resurrected Christ. Not one piece of evidence suggests that any of them recanted, meaning they all died believing that Jesus died and rose again.

The only explanation for the rise of Christianity in the first century is the resurrection of Christ. If Jesus had stayed dead, Christianity would be worthless. It all hinged on the resurrection.

Now, consider this. The Watergate scandal in the 1970s was a robbery that tried to cover up illegal activity by Richard Nixon, the president of the United States at the time. The five men involved in the theft were caught, and within two weeks, all five of them, as well as many others, testified against the president. They all recanted. They couldn’t keep a lie. Not even for two weeks.

Compare that to the apostles who believed in Jesus because of His resurrection. The apostles were stoned, beaten, and eventually killed, and they never recanted. They believed the truth about the resurrection until they died. They never denied Christ or His resurrection. Twelve people don’t give their lives for a lie.

Some people question the validity of a miracle like the resurrection since it seems to contradict the laws of nature. But when science cannot explain something, such as the beginning of the universe, the existence of dinosaurs, or some historical event, it looks to the evidence. In the scientific world this is called “inference to the best explanation.” The miracle of the resurrection doesn’t violate the laws of nature because it was God who supernaturally acted. If God really is the Designer of this universe, then God can intervene when He chooses. Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, John Lennox, illustrates it this way:

To argue that the laws of nature make it impossible for us to believe in the existence of God and the likelihood of his intervention in the universe is plainly false. It would be like claiming that an understanding of the laws of the jet engine would make it impossible to believe that the designer of such an engine could, or would, intervene and remove the fan. Of course, he could intervene. Moreover, his intervention would not destroy those laws. The very same laws that explained why the engine worked with the fan in place would now explain why it does not work with the fan removed.

Furthermore, science cannot account for everything, and science and God are not in conflict. Professor Lennox gives another illustration that goes something like this: If you stumble on a pot of boiling water in my house, you can give a scientific explanation for why it is boiling, but you can also give another explanation: I am making tea! These two explanations are not contradicting each other. Instead, they complement each other and actually give a fuller explanation about what is happening.

We simply cannot explain the sudden rise of Christianity except by pointing to the empty tomb. All the evidence is pointing to one thing: Jesus is alive.

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