Jesus’ death is among the best-attested facts in ancient history. But what about his resurrection? Believe it or not, this issue doesn’t require a blind leap of faith. Rather, Christianity’s central claim is a historical one. Namely, that a real guy did real things in history. And this affects you in the most personal way imaginable. Jesus was crucified, then seen alive again three days later. Not once upon a time. But in real human history. Therefore, it can be investigated like any other historical event.
Investigation must precede conclusion. For example, why do you believe Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater on April 15, 1865? Because someone told you, or you read it on the internet? For trained historians, that’s not enough. Historians must apply objective methods to the events in question to determine their reliability. Apply these same objective methods to Christianity’s claim and see what happens. Although space prohibits a detailed and documented citation of these claims, the argument follows a logical step-by-step process (Not, “God says so, I believe it, end of story.”).
- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are reliable primary source documents. Begin by treating them as ancient sources not books of the Bible. These books were written by eyewitnesses, or close associates of eyewitnesses and have been reliably transmitted over time. This is historical gold: four biographies about the central figure traceable back to his contemporaries. No ancient historical figure has such thorough documentation. Moreover, many non-Christian historians confirm events recorded in the Gospels, and archaeology substantiates many of these claims.
- In these primary source documents, the central figure, Jesus of Nazareth, claims to be God in human flesh. This is the primary charge against Jesus in the trial preceding his crucifixion.
- Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead proves his deity. When someone says, “I don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead,” I ask, “What happened to his body?” I’ve heard numerous theories, but none comport with the evidence acknowledged by a vast amount of scholars. The best explanation that takes all the facts into account is that Jesus rose from the dead.
- If Jesus is God, whatever he says is true. Normally, dead people don’t rise from their graves. But if Jesus rose again, he’s in the best position to tell us what his resurrection means. Jesus proclaims that he has power over his death and yours. Therefore, his promise to give you eternal salvation is also trustworthy.
For more information: www.garyhabermas.com. The next column we’ll examine specific historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.