How do we know the resurrection was real?

Nick Charalambous

Before I became a Christian, I spent a dozen years as a journalist — collecting differing and sometimes opposing viewpoints on certain events; weighing truth and falsehood; and doing my best to offer an objective account of what had happened.

But even when emotions were high and opinions sharply divided, not once did anyone try to criticize me for making up the actual event I was supposed to be reporting on.

An Incredible Claim

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is incredible, no matter what intellectual jujitsu you use to explain it.

One of the most powerful and true things we can say to non-Christian friends is, "You’re right, a dead man coming back to life is really, really hard to believe.”

But hard to believe or not, that doesn’t mean the gospel accounts themselves lack credibility. In fact, the kitchen-sink detail with which Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record the events in Jerusalem dare the reader to disprove something so audacious.

Disbelieving the resurrection may require more faith than believing the resurrection itself.

To fake actual events 2,000 years ago — not just to argue about their interpretation — was as implausible then as it is implausible now. 

When we look at the top four arguments against the resurrection alongside the observations of historians and scholars, we find that disbelieving the resurrection may require more faith than believing the resurrection itself.

Debunking the Top 4 Arguments Against the Resurrection

1. Jesus never really died.

Much medical and historical scholarship has established that the Romans were experts in crucifixion, so it should be compelling that the guards declared Jesus dead on the cross following the scourging alone — the use of a cat-o’-nine-tails of rock, bone and glass to rip the flesh off a victim down to the bone. The Romans didn’t think it was necessary to break Jesus’ legs to suffocate Him as they routinely did. 

Instead, they plunged a spear into Jesus’ side to prove He was dead, and the "blood and water" that poured out would have been consistent with water collecting around the heart and lungs because of shock from the loss of blood.

Just from a common-sense perspective, someone abused so brutally would require supernatural power indeed to survive and then have the physical strength to roll away a large stone and walk out of His own tomb within three days.

2. The disciples stole His body.

Why would someone expose themselves to almost certain death because of a lie? The disciples had nothing to gain and everything to lose by advancing a theory that would be preposterous if it weren’t true. But why get that overarching? 

To steal the body in the first place would have required overcoming a large Roman military force at the tomb, along with a massive boulder, at a time when everyone was on high alert for the body to be stolen for proof of Jesus' God-status. The leading disciples, as revealed in the scriptures they wrote, demonstrate none of the courage and daring such a mission-impossible would require. When Jesus is under arrest, Peter is afraid of being implicated by two teenage girls!

3. The gospel writers made a mistake.

The four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — sometimes offer differing perspectives on events they record, but that is a long way from recording a whole string of mistakes.

Theories that they all failed to see the body inside the tomb, that they all misidentified someone else as the resurrected Jesus, or simply that they all experienced a "mass hallucination" lack plausibility in the context of the whole Jesus story, which is recorded in contemporary historical documents.

4. The Bible records a legend.

Scholars agree the earliest New Testament writings and gospels date to within 20 to 50 years of Jesus' death, meaning some of the 500 eye-witnesses were likely still alive. If the Jesus story had been fabricated or grossly exaggerated, these accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection wouldn't have gotten a foothold in Israel at a time when the apostle Paul was on a murderous rampage against the faith and when there were no cultural supports or rewards for Christian belief. 

Together with the long list of specific prophecies of Jesus' birth, death and resurrection in historical Old Testament accounts, which are corroborated by archeology, you would have to be bold indeed to declare it all an elaborate myth. 

We can’t argue someone into faith. What we can do, with reason, is destroy the sometimes silly arguments our secular culture uses to ridicule the resurrection as fiction. 

Our modest goal as believers is to clear the smokescreen and provide space for someone to deal with the real issue at hand: What is my personal response to Jesus’ words if the simplest explanation is that the resurrection actually happened?

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