16 Facts Relevant to the Resurrection

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It’s often claimed that there is no historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus: it’s just a matter of blind faith. The interesting thing is that historians know a lot about Jesus’ life and events relating to and following his crucifixion. Here is a list of 16 well-supported facts[1]:

1. Jesus was put to death by crucifixion.

2. His body was buried in a tomb.

3. The tomb was found to be empty a few days later.

4. The discovery of the empty tomb was made by a group of women followers of Jesus.

5. The disciples were not expecting Jesus to be resurrected.

6. Multiple appearances took place in which many people who had known Jesus well believed they had seen him alive again.

7. Paul, who initially persecuted the early Christians, became a follower of Jesus as a result of believing he had seen the risen Jesus.

8. James, the brother of Jesus, who was not a follower of Jesus before the crucifixion became a follower afterwards. He also became a leader in the church in Jerusalem and was put to death for his faith.

9. The Christian movement started in Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified, shortly after the crucifixion.

10. The message of the early Christians focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

11. The early Christians met on the first day of the week.

12. The early Christian church had a highly exalted view of Jesus.

13. The early Christians were willing to die for their faith.

14. The Jews had various ways of envisaging life after death, but the early Christians claimed that Jesus had been resurrected, which was supposed to happen to the righteous at the end of history, not to the Messiah in the middle of history.

15. Later Jewish apologetic, which claimed that the disciples stole the body, agreed that the tomb was identifiable and empty.

16. The early church grew in a Hellenistic context that would have been hostile to the idea of bodily resurrection.

Simply stating these facts doesn’t prove the resurrection, of course, but a very strong case can be made that the resurrection provides a much better explanation of these facts than any purely natural explanation.[2]

[1] Of course, there are some people who dispute some of these facts, but they find wide support amongst historians.

[2] For more discussion, see chapter 10 of Atheism’s New Clothes.

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