Posted on / by Ben Jones

Resurrection of Jesus

Is there real evidence to support this historic event? Why does it matter? Read this article in PDF format.

by Ben Jones

Page References are from “The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell

Jesus’ Credentials that He was and is the Messiah, the Son of God:

  1. impact of life, through miracles & teaching
  2. fulfilled prophecy in life
  3. resurrectionProof of Jesus’ Death
  4. Look at previous Secular and Christian documentary evidence from earlier studies

that mention and verify Jesus’ death

  • Pilate required certification of Christ’s death before giving body to Joseph of Arimethea (Mark 15:42-45). The punishment for the Roman soldiers being mistaken in thinking Christ was dead would be execution. Roman soldiers had lots of experience in knowing whether someone was dead or not- this was their job.

·      John 19:32-35:

  • Soldiers pierced Jesus’ side because He was already dead
    • The separation of “blood and water” flowing from Jesus’ side is a medical condition that could only have been present in someone who had already died.

Importance of Resurrection

All but four major world religions are simply ways of thinking (philosophical propositions). Christianity relies on historical fact. None claim resurrection.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-22 (hangs Christianity by a thread, a titanium thread)
  • If resurrection is not a historic fact, the power of death remains unbroken, and we are still in our sins.
  • How does the resurrection prove that Jesus was the Son of God? (i.e. Lazarus, little girl rose from the dead) Difference is He rose by His own power. He had power to lay down His life and power to take it up again.
  • Jesus referred to rising again 16 times in the NT. When He told His disciples that He would be crucified and on the third day rise again… he said something only fool would say if He expected longer the devotion of the disciples—unless He was sure He was going to rise.
  • quote, Craig (pg. 205): “Without the belief in the resurrection the Christian faith would not have come into being. The disciples would have remained crushed and defeated men. Even had they continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, his crucifixion would have forever silenced any hope of his being the Messiah. The cross would have remained the sad and shameful end of his career. The origin of Christianity therefore hinges on the belief of the early disciples that God raised Jesus from the dead.”
  • quote, Green (pg. 208): “Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenets of belief. Without faith in the resurrection there would be no

Christianity at all. The Christian church would have never begun; the Jesus- movement would have fizzled out with His execution. Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once disprove it, and you have disposed of Christianity. Christianity is a historical religion. It claims that God has taken the risk of involving Himself in human history, and the facts are there for you to examine with the utmost rigor. They will stand any amount of critical investigation.”

We know more specifics about the death of Jesus than any man in the ancient world, and the nature of his burial: Quote, Wilber (pg. 229)

Acts 1:3 – “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God (“tekmerion” = “demonstrable proof”)

-quotes: pg. 216, Thomas Arnold, “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead”

“When an event takes place in history and there are enough people alive who were eyewitnesses of it or participated in event, and when information has been published, one is able to verify the validity of an historical event”

[Circumstantial Evidences

Frank Morison (started anti-Christian)- “Who Moved the Stone?”

Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853)- famous Royall Professor of Law at Harvard University, Dane Professor of Law. Wrote “An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice”

Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton- “Observations on the History and Evidences of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1747)

Ignatius’ Gospel

Epistle to the Corinthians (Clement of Rome) Justin Martyr

Apostles’ Creed

Polycarp- “Epistle of S. Polycarp to the Phillipians” (quote, pg. 220 bottom) Long quote? Pg. 217]

Specific Evidences

Matt. 27:62-66

Lengths to which people went to stop resurrection serves to help prove resurrection

The Stone (Golel):

Large, heavy disc of rock; used for protection against men and beasts (this one probably larger). Takes many men to move it.

Codex Bezae in Cambridge Library- addition in margin of Mark 16:4 (20 men could not roll stone away)

All gospels refer to greatness of stone

{see illustration}

The Seal:

Cord stretched across stone, sealed on each end and had Roman Stamp/Seal. Seal made in the presence of 10-30 Roman Guard.

This was an Imperial Seal of Rome, it affixed in wax the official stamp of the procurator himself.

A Roman seal must be broken before writing could be inspected- same with tomb. To open tomb, one must break seal, incurring the wrath of Roman Law

{see illustration}

[Roman Guard or Temple Police?

  • Indicative- “Ye already have…” (Temple Police)
  • Imperative- “Take a guard” (Roman Guard)

Reasons for Roman Guard:

  • “echete koustodian”- “have a guard”- present imperative
  • Romans probably would not have allowed Jewish Temple Police to discharge duties outside precincts, especially to guard a Roman Imperial Seal
  • Why would they have gone to Pilate if they had a guard already?
  • “koustodia”- “a guard composed of soldiers”
  • If Pilate had told them to use temple police, they would have been responsible only to chief priests; but if Roman Guard, then responsible to Pilate. Look at Matt. 28:11, 14. They came to chief priests for protection. They knew that they would be immediately executed if they went straight to Pilate, and they knew chief priests held sway over Pilate (as had been evidenced in crucifixion)]

The Roman Guard:

Quote, Roper (pg. 235)

  • Punishment for quitting post was death. Roman Antiquities, Polybius VI (prestigious author of time). This makes for faultless attention to duty.
  • 18 individual offenses punishable by deathà leaving night watch was one, or falling asleep on duty. (Dig. Justinian Digest)
  • Power of Rome was built upon strict discipline of soldiers.
  • 4 People in a Roman Guard
  • They would have guarded the tomb just as strictly and faithfully as they had executed the crucifixion. Their sole purpose was to rigidly perform their duties as soldiers of the empire of Rome. The Roman seal affixed to the tomb was the most sacred thing in the world to them. These cold-blooded soldiers with full armor and weapons are not ones to be taken down by a few timid disciples from Galilee. And they certainly aren’t going to risk execution by sleeping at their posts!

Grave Clothes: Bound, cemented together with myrrh- would have been very difficult for someone to have unwrapped Him

Women’s Testimonies: If this was made up, would not have used women’s testimonies. At this time, a woman’s testimony was virtually worthless. A woman was not allowed to give testimony in a court of law. No one would have invented a story and made women the first witnesses to the empty tomb. In fact, the presence of the women was more of an embarrassment (that’s why Paul didn’t mention the women in 1 Corinthian and Acts), but the gospels wanted to tell it like it actually happened. No other explanation for this fact.

Non-biblical Sources: Many refer to a ‘curious mystery/rumor’

Change in disciples:

  • Disciples were running scared, hiding in upper room, disheartened, all of them deserted their savior when He was arrested, Peter denied Him three times à confident saints, world-changing missionaries, courageous martyrs, traveling ambassadors for Christ
  • First of all, the disciples had nothing to gain by lying and starting a new religion.

Why would these defeated men suddenly decide to perform this massive hoax. By doing it, they faced hardship, ridicule, hostility, and martyr’s deaths. In light of this, they could have never sustained such unwavering motivation if they KNEW what they were preaching was a lie…

  • Now, you could say, well, people die for their faith all the time. We see that when the terrorists flew into the Twin Towers. No, this is different. They died for what they believed to be true. If the resurrection didn’t happen, the disciples would have been tortured and died for something they KNEW to be a lie that they have made up!
  • Not only this, but the disciples took convincing that the resurrection had even taken place. In Luke 24:21, a couple of disciples are talking and they say “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” Some didn’t believe the women at first, so they ran to the tomb to see for themselves. Thomas wouldn’t believe until he saw Jesus for himself. We see Jesus going out of His way to convince the disciples that He was the real risen Jesus.

Jews silence concerning the empty tomb:

  • Disciples belief in resurrection would have been easily discredited since the location of tomb was close and well-known. Jerusalem was the starting place of Christianity. The Jews would have easily produced the body to suppress Christianity and stop its spread before it even started.
  • In fact, they never once argued against the empty tomb. They actually acknowledged it by trying to give reasons why the body was not there
  • Many hostiles believed in Jerusalem after resurrection, who didn’t believe before it. (Paul, James, others)
  • Empty tomb never mentioned in Acts because it was never disputed or even an issue. The importance was placed on the meaning behind the resurrection.

The Appearances: The empty tomb itself does not tell of the resurrection. Over 500 people personally witnessed Jesus alive after the resurrection, and before the ascension.

(1 Cor. 15:6). That’s what Paul was saying… “if you don’t believe me, ask one of the 500 other people who saw Him over a 40-day period.”

“People don’t reject the resurrection because of the lack of evidence; they deny it in spite of the evidence!”

Alternative Theories

The Swoon Theory- Christ never died, only swooned. When placed in the tomb, he was actually alive. After several hours, he was revived by the cool air, arose, and departed.


  • Witness of everyone that He was dead, including soldiers whose life depended on it
  • All corresponding contemporary documents tell of Christ’s death (Christian and secular)
  • Spear in the side instead of breaking bones because He was already dead
  • With no medical attention, he revived? And survived for three days in that condition with no food or warmth?
  • He had to unwrap Himself from the tightly-bound grave clothes which were cemented around Him
  • He had to roll away the huge stone covering the tomb, and in His condition
  • He had to roll away the stone without disturbing the guards. OR He had to fight off the whole Roman guard in His state (and naked.)
  • Blood and water could not have flowed (medical condition in only dead people)
  • No one saw Him dragging out of the tomb, there were no signs of physical weakness, then walk seven miles to Emmaus.
  • Jesus would have to be a liar

The Theft Theory- The disciples came during the night and stole body (Matt. 28:11-15). Most popular of the time. Actually helps because it asserts the empty tomb.

  • Matt. 28:13- See a problem?
  • If they were asleep, how did they know it was the disciples?
  • The disciples had to have rolled the massive stone away without waking up the guards
  • Guards would have never admitted this unless given protection/impunity by the chief priests
  • Every measure was taken so disciples couldn’t steal the body -> guard, seal, and stone
  • Grave clothes still there. Disciples would have had to take the time to unwrap the body which would have been difficult and steal the body naked? Why would they do that?
  • Disciples’ depression and cowardice! 3 days earlier they fled from Jesus and were running scared. Now they are going against a Roman Guard?
  • Disciples took convincing that Christ was alive
  • Disciples willing to face arrest, prison, beatings, and death for something they knew to be a lie- hypocrites and martyrs are not made of the same stuff
  • The Roman guards story was never questioned, it was accepted as being entirely true, they knew the guard had no reason to lie
  • Could someone else have taken the body?
  • Disciples- no power!
  • Jews- What motive?? And when the resurrection started to spread, why didn’t they produce the body?
  • Romans- The whole reason Pilate allowed Jesus to be crucified was to create peace! The guard certainly had no motive. They would had to break their own Roman seal which went against everything they stood for.
  • What is left? It was a divine work. Simply the most logical.

Hallucination Theory- Christ’s post-resurrection appearances were only supposed, they were actually hallucinations

  • Does not explain the empty tomb
  • The entire church is built upon the credentials of the apostles having seen Jesus and been eyewitnesses to the fact. This would mean that the entire Christian church is founded on a hallucination experience of a few people in the 1st century!
  • 500 people of average soundness of mind, at all times, in different places should experience audio, visual, and even physical interaction with a hallucination
  • Groups of people saw Him at once- Visions or hallucinations are very individualistic and subjective. Even 2 at a time is unlikely.
  • Certain mental/psychological states must be present in every person, which is not so
  • Experiences were prolonged- road to Emmaus. Hallucinations are short or at least in one sitting.
  • Disciples took convincing. It was forced upon their minds from without rather than from within
  • The hallucination, on 3 separate occasions, wasn’t recognized as Jesus
  • Reaction of women and disciples because unexpected
  • Vision suddenly came to an end for everyone

Women and Everyone Else Went to the Wrong Tomb- There were lots of rock tombs, and they went to the wrong tomb. A young man guessed what they were doing and pointed them to the correct tomb. Embarrassed at their mistake, they fled. In the actual story, an angel tells the women, Mark 16:6- “He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”

  • Visit to the tomb is well-documented.
  • Matt. 27:61- “sitting opposite tomb”
  • Mark 15:47- “observed where He was laid”
  • Luke 23:55- “observed tomb and how He was laid”
  • Would they forget where they laid their son and loved one only 72 hours before?
  • Peter and John made the same mistake?
  • No one suggested that it was a gardener instead of an angel until the 20th century
  • Jews would have gone to the correct tomb to produce the body
  • Joseph of Arimethea would have cleared up the misunderstanding- it was his tomb!
  • If young man, what was he doing? Suggest a gardener, but it would have been too dark for a gardener.

The theory that the women were approaching the wrong tomb has no evidence, it only arise from a disbelief in the possibility of the supernatural emptying of the Lord’s tomb.

“Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in the court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to rigorous cross- examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.

I hope you’ve seen how much evidence there is to back up Christianity, who Jesus was, and who He is. But when you are presented with Truth, you have to personally decide what you will do with it. If you are a Christian, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Thinking about your faith, and being able to defend why you believe it. But some of you haven’t yet accepted Christ as your Savior. And for you, I could give you all the evidence in the world, but you have to step out on faith to put your whole life in God’s hands. He’s given us every reason to believe in Him, and He wants so badly to save you, to give you security that you will find nowhere else, to give you a joy and fulfillment that nothing else can provide, and to give you a spot in heaven.

John 3:16. When Jesus died on that cross, he died for you. And if you were the only person on the planet, He still would have died for you. And if you place your trust in Him, then all your sins are put on Him and they are paid for. He took your place. Then when He rose from the dead, He showed us that He has conquered death itself.

All God asks is for us to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, that He died for our sins and rose again, to trust Him as the Lord of our lives, and to live for Him rather than for ourselves. It will be the most important and best decision of your life.

Jesus says that “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”