The Resurrection of Jesus: The Historical Record

August 24, 2020

How do we know the resurrection really happened? There is the historical record. How do we know that anything ever happened before our lifetime? Well, we know what happened because people who lived in the past wrote these events down and passed those records on to us. That’s what history is. We know that there was a Greek Empire and that Alexander the Great ruled it because of the writings of past historians.

We believe Julius Caesar was murdered amidst the Roman Senate. We believe that George Washington was the first president of the United States of America. We believe that Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. We don’t believe because we were there when these things happened, but because people recorded these events throughout history. Likewise, the New Testament is a history book. It’s the history of the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ.

Eyewitness Testimony

This record is based upon eyewitness testimony. It’s come down to us through people who were there. John, for instance, writes, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). John was saying, “I saw Him with my own eyes. I heard Him with my own ears. I touched Him with my own hands.”

In a court of law, an eyewitness as good as seals the deal. If there are two or more witnesses, there’s no dispute whatsoever. In this case, we have several eyewitnesses (See 1 Corinthians 15:3–8). But some would argue that these men made this story up. When asked what advantage they might have gained by fabricating such a tall tale, the usual answer is that they did it for the money. Well, you know what? That’s impossible because there wasn’t any money available to pay them off! St. Peter’s Basilica didn’t exist in Rome, nor did St. Paul’s in London. There was no Cathedral of Notre Dame. There was no financial, social, or cultural advantage whatsoever in becoming a Christian. You would have been an absolute idiot to join this sect if the resurrection was false, because there was nothing to it in the material sense.

Willing To Die

Others say that these men simply made the story up to save face. Realistically, do you think they would have made up a lie and then died for it? These men were martyred holding firm to their claim that Jesus had risen from the dead and was therefore Lord of all.

One keen observer of human nature said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:4). Think about it, if the disciples made this story up, when it came to giving their lives for their claim that Jesus rose from the dead, at least one of them would have said, “Listen, I’m going to tell you the truth, we lied. The resurrection didn’t really happen.” At that moment, the whole thing would have been blown apart. Christianity would have died in that instant. But none of them did that. They all sealed their testimony with blood.