The Resurrection of Jesus is discussed in Chapters 22-23 of Greg Koukl’s book (The Story of Reality). (If you are new to this series, check out the first post and the intervening posts to put this in context.)
Bedrock Facts of the Resurrection
If you consider only those facts that are granted by virtually 100% of all scholars who have studied the subject, a very strong historical case for Jesus’ resurrection can be made’. Those kind of facts are called ‘bedrock’ because any responsible reconstruction [hypothesis] of the historical Jesus must use these facts as the foundation upon which that reconstruction is built. Otherwise, it’s almost certainly mistaken.
These bedrock facts are:
- Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross, died, and was buried in a tomb.
- The tomb was empty on the third day afterwards.
- Numerous witnesses testified that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.
- James (Jesus’ skeptical brother) and Saul of Tarsus (a mortal enemy of these early witnesses) both claimed to see Jesus, converted, and were martyred.
There are many alternate hypotheses that avoid the supernatural resurrection of Jesus.
- Stolen body / Conspiracy
- Apparent Death
- Wrong Tomb
Inference to the Best Explanation
The supernatural resurrection of Jesus from the dead satisfies all the bedrock facts (explanatory scope) and the bedrock facts are exactly what we would expect to follow from this event (explanatory power). Although resurrections are not plausible by natural means, the additional reputation that Jesus worked miracles of healing, his frequent references to his impending death on the cross, and his prediction that his body (the temple) would be destroyed and raised in three days stand in tension without the resurrection and are confirmed and expected with his resurrection. Jesus’ prediction of his resurrection removes the ad hoc-ness from the use of a resurrection to explain the bedrock facts. In fact, the Jews worried about the resurrection (or a claim of resurrection) so they asked Pilate to post guards at the tomb. Finally, the resurrection offers great illumination to many of the sayings of Jesus as outlined in the following section.
It is very clear (to me) that the resurrection of Jesus has great support as the inference to the best explanation of the bedrock facts.
Read more about the other theories here…
Purpose found in the Scriptures
The resurrection was not just a magic trick. It has a purpose, just as Jesus’ death had a purpose. Jesus referred to resurrection often, and the disciples and Paul explained the meaning of the resurrection in their writings. Here are several examples:
13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” [Luke 14:13-14 ESV]
26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. [John 5:26-29 ESV]
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11:23-26 ESV]
14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. [Paul in Acts 24:14-15 ESV]
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, … 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. … 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. [1 Corinthians 15:3, 5-8, 12-15 ESV]
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. [Philippians 3:8-11 ESV]
The above verses imply that we will also experience a resurrection, either to life or to judgement. The implications are that we are everlasting beings who will either spend eternity with or without God.
The next several verses discuss that the resurrection was an ACTUAL EVENT, not merely a spiritual experience or enlightenment. Paul and the others actually believed Jesus bodily rose from the dead, and they were persecuted for their stubborn insistence.
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. [Acts 1:21-23 ESV]
31 [David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. [Acts 2:31 ESV]
1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. [Acts 4:1-4 ESV]
33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. [Acts 4:33 ESV]
18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”–because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” [Acts 17:18-20 ESV]
31 [The Father] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” [Acts 17:31-32 ESV]
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks. 11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” 12 When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. [Acts 23:6-13 ESV]
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, [Romans 1:1-4 ESV]
Now we finish with an interesting connection of the death and resurrection of Christ to the practice of baptism in the church. This sheds new light on Christ’s teaching that we should take up our cross daily and follow him. We follow him into death in baptism, and we rise to newness of life.
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. [Romans 6:3-5 ESV]
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV]
21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. [1 Peter 3:21-22 ESV]
Lastly, as this next verse reveals, the teaching of the resurrection was seen as an elementary doctrine from the earliest history of the Church. It was not something new invented years later.
1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. [Hebrews 6:1-2 ESV]
So let us rejoice with Paul that “as we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” [Romans 6:3-5 ESV]
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