Evidence for the Resurrection

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?

Eyewitnesses to Jesus’ Resurrection
  • “Without question, the amount of testimony and corroboration of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances is staggering. To put it in perspective, if you were to call each one of the witnesses to a court of law to be cross examined for just 15 minutes each, and you went around the clock without a break, it would take you from breakfast Monday until dinner on Friday to hear them all. After listening to 129 straight hours of eyewitness testimony, who could possibly walk away unconvinced?” (Lee Strobel, p.320)
  • The largest group of eyewitnesses at one time is reported by the Apostle Paul:
  • 1 Corinthians 15:6 - [Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
  • Notice that Paul, in effect, invites them to verify this event by citing the fact that most of the witnesses are still available!
  1. 1.To Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9, John 20:14)
  2. 2.To women returning from the tomb (Matthew 28:9-10)
  3. To Peter later in the day (Luke 24:34, 1Corinthians 15:5)
  4. 4.To the  Emmaus disciples (Luke 24:13-33)
  5. 5.To the apostles without Thomas (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-24)
  6. 6.To the apostles with Thomas present (John 20:26-29)
  7. 7.To the seven by the Lake of Tiberias (John 21:1-23)
  8. 8.To a multitude of 500-plus believers (1Corinthians 15:8)
  9. 9.To James (1Corinthians 15:7)
  10. 10.To the eleven (Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14-20, Luke 24:33-52, Acts 1:3-12)
  11. 11.At the ascension (Acts 1:3-12)
  12. 12.To Paul (Acts 9:3-6, 1Corinthians 15:8)
  13. 13.To Stephen (Acts 7:55)
  14. 14.To Paul in the temple (Acts 22:17-21, 23:11)
  15. 15.To John on Patmos (Revelation 1:10-19)
The Disciples Died for Their Beliefs
  • “When Jesus was Crucified, his followers were discouraged and depressed. They no longer had confidence that Jesus had been sent by God, because they believed anyone crucified was accursed by God. They also had been taught that God would not let his Messiah suffer death. So they dispersed. The Jesus movement was all but stopped in its tracks” (Dr. J.P. Mooreland quoted in The Case for Christ, p.332)
  • Matthew 26:31- Then Jesus told them [on the night he was to be crucified], "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”


  • “Then after a short period of time, we see them abandoning their occupations, regathering, and committing them selves to a very specific message – that Jesus Christ was the Messiah of God who died on a cross, returned to life, and was seen alive by them.
  • And they were willing to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming this, without any payoff from a human point of view. It’s not as though there was a mansion awaiting them on the Mediterranean. They faced a life of hardship. They :
    • Often went without food
    • Slept exposed to the elements
    • Were ridiculed, beaten, imprisoned
    • Most of them were executed in tortuous ways
  • For what? Good intentions? No, because they were convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had seen Jesus Christ alive from the dead.
  • What you can’t explain is how this particular group of men came up with this particular belief without having had an experience of the resurrected Christ. There’s no other adequate explanation." (Dr. J.P. Mooreland quoted in The Case for Christ, p.333)

    Objection: Yes, they were willing to die for their beliefs. But so have many Muslims and Mormons and followers of Jim Jones and David Koresh. This may show that they were fanatical, but let’s face it: it doesn’t prove that what they believed is true.

    Response: Think carefully about the difference.
    Muslims might be willing to die for their belief that Allah revealed himself to Muhammad, but this revelation was not done in a publicly observable way. So they could be wrong about it. They may sincerely think it’s true, but they can’t know for a fact, because they didn’t witness it themselves.
    However the apostles were willing to die for something they had seen with their own eyes and touched with their own hands. They were in a unique position not to just believe Jesus rose from the dead but to know for sure. And when you’ve got eleven credible people with no ulterior motives, with nothing to gain and a lot to lose, who all agree they observed something with their own eyes – now you’ve got some difficulty explaining that away.”
    Most people will die for their religious beliefs if they sincerely believe they’re true, but people won’t die for their religious beliefs if they know their beliefs are false.
    While most people can only have faith that their beliefs are true, the disciples were in a position to know without a doubt whether or not Jesus had risen from the dead. They claimed that they saw him, talked with him, and ate with him. If they weren’t absolutely certain, they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to be tortured to death for proclaiming the resurrection had happened. (The Case for Christ, p.333-334)


The Conversion of Skeptics
There were hardened skeptics who didn’t believe in Jesus before his crucifixion – and were to some degree dead-set against Christianity – who turned around and adopted the Christian faith after Jesus’ death. There’s no good reason for this apart from them having experienced the resurrected Christ.


James, the Brother of Jesus
  • James Before Christ’s Resurrection:
  • Did not believe in Jesus and on at least one occasion publicly challenged Jesus (John 7:2-5)
  • James After Christ’s Resurrection:
  • Paul called him a “pillar” of the church (Galatians 2:9)
  • Was a leader in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13)
  • Wrote the New Testament letter that bears his name
  • Josephus records that James was martyred around A.D. 62 (The Antiquities 20.200)

Why Did James Life Change?

Paul tells us: the resurrected Jesus appeared to him (1Corinthians 15:7). There’s no other reasonable explanation.
The Apostle Paul
  • Paul Before Christ’s Resurrection:
    • As a Pharisee, hated anything that disrupted the traditions of the Jewish people
    • Considered the new Christian countermovement to be the height of disloyalty
    • Worked out his frustration by executing Christians when he had a chance

  • Paul After Christ’s Resurrection:
    • Became the chief proponent of the Christian faith
Why Did Paul’s Life Change?

Paul tells us in the Galatian letter was caused him to make this 180-degree turn. By his own pen he says he saw the risen Christ and heard Christ appoint him to be one of his followers.  (Galatians 1:12-16)

Objection: If you count Paul’s conversion as being evidence for the truth of the Resurrection, you should count Muhammad’s conversion to Islam as being evidence for the truth that Jesus was not resurrected, since Muslims deny the Resurrection!
Response: It is not the simple fact that Paul changed his views. You have to explain how he had this particular change of belief:
  • Paul saw the risen Christ in a public event that was witnessed by others (Acts 9:1-9).
  • Paul’s conversion went completely against his upbringing.
  • Paul performed miracles to back up his claims of being an apostle. In a public letter (2Corinthians 12:12) Paul reminded the people in Corinth that he had performed miracles when he was with them earlier.


  • Claims he went into a cave and had a religious experience in which Allah revealed the Koran to him. There’s no other eyewitness to verify this.
  • Muhammad offered no publicly miraculous signs to certify anything.


Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
"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." (Thomas Arnold, Oxford University)