Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead?
The Bible tells us that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then our entire belief is all in vain.
“and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:14
Obviously this is a very big deal and one that evidence must bear out so that our faith is based on fact and not wishes.
The first pieces of evidence we can turn to is the actual witness testimony. As mentioned earlier, written testimony came years later so we have to determine if the testimony is still reliable. One of the prominent myths is that the Bible is just one book. However, the New Testament contains 27 different books written by at least eight different authors which were all combined together to form a single ‘New Testament’ within the Holy Bible.
When determining whether a witness is telling the truth, we must look at their credibility and the reliability of their testimony.
There are many ways to determine the credibility of a witness. One way is to determine if they had reason to lie. This tends to be something that unbelievers zero in on because they believe that witnesses would have been biased and therefore unreliable. But we all know that witnesses are not invalidated simply because they have a position. Instead, you have to weight their position with the evidence at hand to determine if they were telling the truth.
For the Gospel writers, one might believe they had reason to lie to assume power, fame, or fortune. To a degree, they may have gained influence through evangelism but did that constitute power, fame or fortune? When we study their lives, the answer is no. All of the witnesses either lived a life of poverty or volunteered to live a life of poverty after their conversion.
When looking at whether they gained power, the answer is that they actually went the complete opposite direction of gaining power. Instead they were frequently thwarted and threatened by powerful people. They each spent parts of their ministry being beaten and put in jail for their beliefs.
Ultimately, all by John were executed because they refused to deny Jesus’ deity and continued to preach the Gospel. If the Apostles were promoting a grand conspiracy or preaching a lie, they would have most certainly given up on that lie to spare their own lives and gain their freedom. But they didn’t. This speaks volumes to their credibility.
How do we know if we are looking at the actual eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ death and resurrection? There are a few ways we have to tackle this.
First we must date the written testimony. We tackle a little bit of this in the article “Did Jesus Really Exist? but we will go ahead and revisit it. One thing that helps us date the scriptures is by identifying the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament text. The earliest known manuscript is a fragment from the Gospel of John and is dated between 100 A.D. and 200 A.D. (probably closer to the latter). A great resource that shows some of the earliest forms of manuscripts can be found on the Christian Apologetics Research and Ministry website.
Another way you can date scriptures is by looking at whether other early people quoted those scriptures. From this you can get a sense of how widely accepted the scriptures were by that time which would indicate that it existed earlier and potentially much earlier.
The early church father, Irenaeus, referenced the New Testament scriptures in the mid 100’s A.D. Ignatius of Antioch also quoted New Testament scriptures around 100 A.D.
Witness Testimony is Both Compelling and Reliable
We can rest assured that we are looking at the actual testimony of eyewitness accounts and that what they were telling us was worth dying for. They didn’t die for a lie that they knew to be a lie. They died for something they witnessed and held steadfast that it was a miracle of heavenly proportions.