Zacharias Ursinus

Thoughts on the Resurrection

Blog Post by Paul Perkins

AP 646/846 Apologetics and Mass Communication


The Gospels have abundant testimony to the resurrection of Christ (see Matt. 28:1 – 20; Mark 16:1 – 8; Luke 24:1 – 53; John 20:1 – 21:25). In addition to these detailed histories in the four gospels, the book of Acts is a story of the apostles’ proclamation of the resurrection of Christ and of continued prayer to Christ and trust in him as the one who is alive and reigning in heaven. The Epistles depend entirely on the belief that Jesus is a living, reigning Savior who is now the exalted head of the church, who is to be trusted, worshiped, and adored, and who will someday come back in power and great glory to reign as King over the earth. Grudem notes that the book of Revelation again and again shows the risen Christ reigning in heaven and predicts his return to conquer his enemies and reign in glory. Thus, the entire New Testament bears witness to the resurrection of Christ.[1] In this paper, we’re going to look at a few areas in which the resurrection is demonstrated to be an actual historical event. Also, along the way there will be sufficient devotional material by consequence.

Multiple Appearances

Also, we take note of the fact that there are (not counting Paul), eleven recorded times that Jesus appeared to people proving that He was resurrected. These appearances were to: men and women, individuals, couples, groups, and at least one crowd. The appearances were inside and outside, in different locales, and at different times of the day. He was physically touched, audibly heard, visually seen, and He ate food in the presence of witnesses. None of these witnesses believed that Jesus would rise from the dead before He rose from the dead. All of them knew him before His death, so they knew He was the same Jesus who died on the cross.

The multiple appearances of Jesus are a fact of history that are attested to by the fact that if it were a hoax then it would have easily been refuted by multiple witnesses doing the refuting not the defending. This has weight because if it were a lie, that Jesus was raised from the dead, then easily people could have come out and spoken against that lie. People could have come out and said that this never happened. The contrary is the truth. The people in Jesus as they didn’t come out against the fact of the resurrection they came out in support of the resurrection.

Hundreds of Witnesses

As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15, one of the most convincing arguments for the truth of the Resurrection is that Jesus was seen by hundreds of witnesses—and that this confirmation of Christ’s victory over death literally transformed their lives. Immediately after reporting seeing Jesus alive, the previously heartbroken, even faint-hearted, disciples turned into passionate messengers of the Gospel. Nothing they experienced—prison, persecution, imminent death—got them to deny they had seen Jesus alive. Many doubters became Christians after Jesus’ resurrection, including both James and Paul—with Paul apparently needing some intense personal attention from the Risen Lord on the way to Damascus. What happened to change the minds of unbelievers? Simply put: They had encountered the living Christ! Ask your kids this question: “Would you be willing to be persecuted or killed for something you knew was a lie?”

Thiselton points out that belief in the resurrection of Christ is no mere “Pauline” invention. It is expressed as part of the pre-Pauline bedrock of Christian faith, as a creed or confession of faith, which both declares a content of truth (belief  that) and is like nailing one’s colors to the mast as a self-involving “Here I stand.” These words serve in effect as terms for the reception and transmission of a prior, given tradition that is to be guarded and preserved. It is on this apostolic tradition that believers in Corinth have taken their stand. As an article of faith this very early creed ranks as first and foremost: it has first importance. It is misleading to suggest that only in the later Pastoral Epistles does Paul (or a later writer) show a concern about holding fast to gospel truth or Christian doctrine..[2]

Not a Random Event

The death and resurrection of Jesus was not a random event. Jesus predicted that He would die by crucifixion, be buried, and rise from the dead. His prediction that He would die from crucifixion is very significant. He could not control that. Crucifixion was a means of death reserved to the imperial Roman authorities. Jesus claimed, reasonably, that His death by crucifixion and His resurrection on the third day would be a “sign” that vindicated who He was, what He taught, and what He would accomplish by His death and resurrection.

When an event or saying is attested by more than one independent source, there is a strong indication of historicity. It is important to determine whether the source is really independent. Suppose a friend told you of a crime he had witnessed. You told someone else, who in turn told a third person. There would not be three independent sources for the accident, but one. However, if your friend and his brother both witnessed the crime and both told you about it, you would have two independent sources.[3]

[1] Grudem, Wayne . Systematic Theology (p. 608). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

[2] Anthony C. Thiselton. 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary (Kindle Locations 3566-3570). Kindle Edition.

[3] Habermas, Gary R.; Licona, Michael R.. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (p. 37). Kregel Publications. Kindle Edition.

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