In the little book Finding the Real Jesus: A Guide for Curious Christians and Skeptical Seekers, investigative journalist and former atheist Lee Strobel argues that Jesus really did resurrect. (Significantly, Strobel's conversion story has just been released as a movie, named after one of his several other books: The Case For Christ.)
Strobel first dismantles some popular claims that purport to cast doubt on the Jesus described by the New Testament (e.g., claims from the Qur’an that Jesus wasn’t killed, claims from the scholar Bart Ehrman that the New Testament can’t be trusted, claims from others that the later Gnostic gospels are more reliable than the New Testament).
Ably sweeping away the skeptical confusion, Strobel then sets out a historical case for Jesus’ resurrection, a case that consists of (at least) five facts.
Fact 1: Jesus was killed by crucifixion.
Fact 2: Within days of Jesus’ death, Jesus’ disciples believed that He physically rose and appeared to them.
Fact 3: Paul, a former foe of the early church, claimed he saw the resurrected Jesus.
Fact 4: The skeptic James (Jesus’ half-brother) believed Jesus resurrected.
Fact 5: Jesus’ tomb was empty.
Strobel points out that the vast majority of New Testament scholars, whether skeptical of Jesus’ resurrection or not, concede the historicity of these facts.
Also, Strobel defends each of the above historical facts, emphasizing that the witnesses not only suffered immensely for the alleged truth of their belief but also knew, because they claimed to be eye witnesses, whether their belief was true or not.
Strobel’s conclusion: the best explanation of the evidence is Jesus’ miraculous resurrection.
I think Strobel is right.
Because of what we know about dead bodies (e.g., irreversible cell death and decay), a resurrection, if it happened, would be best explained as supernaturally caused.
Moreover, the witnesses’ declarations concerning Jesus’ resurrection should be taken seriously. As New York Law School professor Annette Gordon-Reed points out (in a different case), “Declarations against interest are regarded as having a high degree of credibility because of the presumption that people do not make up lies in order to hurt themselves; they lie to help themselves.”
All this counts in favour of taking the resurrection reports handed down to us via the historical facts as truthful.
- Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
- Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament
- William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith
- William Lane Craig, On Guard
- Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus
- Sean McDowell, The Fate of the Apostles
- Hendrik van der Breggen, Miracle Reports, Moral Philosophy, and Contemporary Science