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Evidence for The Resurrection

The existence of Jesus is agreed upon by all major historians, including ancient and modern secular historians.  His death by way of execution can also be just as supported when looking at ancient writings from non-christian sources closest to the event.  We can deduce from the preponderance of evidence that Jesus existed, was crucified, and the tomb he was buried in was later found empty. What is the evidence and reasoning for this and what leads us to know he resurrected from the dead?

Also read Modern Secular Historians and The Bible

  1. Cornelius Tacitus - (56-120AD) - "a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of ... Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition"  
    1. the extreme penalty is a death by Roman crucifixion.
    2. the 'mischievous superstition' is that he rose from the dead after it.
  2. Mara Bar-Serapion  - around 70AD (~35 years after Jesus) - "Or the Jews by murdering their wise king?
    1. The Jews did not have a king because during this time of writing, they were still under Roman rule and Serapion would have known this. 
    2.  The jews were blamed for Jesus' death.  Regardless who was blamed, it is clearly stated that he was killed.
  3. Flavius Josephus - 37-101AD; wrote ~45 years after Jesus - "When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified"
    1. Some sections of his writings are mostly agreed upon that later christian imputations occurred but this statement would have came from a historian recording what happens to the subject that he is writing about.  Thus Josephus, a Jew, records the fact that Jesus was crucified. 
  4. Lucian of Samosata - (120-180AD; ~115 years after Jesus)  - "The Christians. . . worship a man to this day - the distinguished personage who introduced this new cult, and was crucified on that account
    1. Lucian explicitly states that the man the Christians worship, was crucified.
  5. The Jewish (Babylonian) Talmud - written around 375 to 427 AD - "he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!
    1. This passage was talking specifically about Jesus and then makes the explicitly statement, from the Jewish authority in the Talmud, that he was killed. 
Given these 5 sources of non-Christians we can come to know that Jesus existed and was killed.  The big question then becomes; what happened after he was killed?

Since The Bible states Jesus was crucified which is supported by non-Christian sources along with modern historians admitting to the Bible's historical reliability; we can analyze some key details about Jesus' crucifixion and compare them to the historically known cultures surrounding the event.

Also read Early Accounts of Christianity from Non-Christians  |  Did the Apostles distort what Jesus taught?  |  Why The Disciples of The Apostles Matter Today  |  Has The Bible Changed?


The beating and scourging. 
Jesus would be suffering from broken and fractured bones around his face and ribs. The scourging would have opened up his skin down to his muscles in and around his back causing severe bleeding and nerve damage. Then he would have to carry his heavy wooden beam to the crucifixion site.

Jesus' legs were not broken
the Roman procedure for hastening death. Jesus was already understood to be dead by the Roman guards.  They would be sure of this because Roman law laid the death penalty on anyone who bungled an execution. At this point they would stab him in his side and puncture his heart to be absolutely sure for their own well being.

Jesus was validated as dead
Someone (Joseph of Aramethia) asked for Jesus' body.  Pilot was surprised with the earliness of his death (see #1).  Pilot wanted to make sure he was dead.  Jews warned Pilot of a plot to tamper with his body.  Roman guards were sent to make sure he was in fact dead and ready for burial.  They would be sure of this because Roman law laid the death penalty on anyone who misleads a Roman Governor.  As a normal practice, Romans would leave the bodies hanging on the cross but the bible records Pilot did not think Jesus was guilty.  This is why he allowed someone to take down Jesus' body and bury it.

Burial and the body. 
Jewish culture required decent burial as it was seen as a curse to be buried in other ways.  Cremation was not practiced by Jewish culture. Joseph of Aramethia used his family tomb for Jesus' body.
Buried bodies would be covered in myrrh and frankincense would be used to cover the smell of the dead body during the burial prep and mourning periods.  the same gifts given to Jesus by the wise men at his birth*  Jesus' lifeless body would have been covered in myrrh and completely wrapped with burial cloths.   A person who was still living who was only thought to be dead or simply unconscious, would have been suffocated.  Jesus' lifeless body may have also been covered in frankincense since it was known to have healing properties in hopes it preserves his body for when the rose from the dead as he said he was going to*

The Blocking stone.
Wealthy grave owners during this period used blocking stones.  Circular rolling stones were very rare and uncommon so a more common and for wealthy owners would use a cork blocking stone.  Joseph of Aramethia was described as wealthy so he would have had a stone to block the tomb to prevent grave robbers.

Seal over the tomb
Jesus' was a controversial figure buried in a wealthy tomb.
Jews told Pilot their concerns that his followers would come and steal the body.  To appease the Jewish leadership and prevent any riots it is recorded that he had the tomb sealed.  Soft clay imprinted with the roman seal on a rope that connected the blocking stone to the tomb.
Violators of breaking this Roman seal would face the death penalty.

Guard Soldiers
Guards were assigned to watch the tomb for the time frame the Jewish leadership were concerned of Jesus' claims and the apostles coming to steal his body during that time.  Roman guards were disciplined in following commands of their Roman governors who is their proxy authority to Cesar himself.  Failing to guard the tomb would mean facing a death penalty for a Roman guard.

 When looking at Jewish, Roman, and reliable historical record we see that Jesus must have been dead and placed in a grave that was highly guarded against tempering.  His body was wrapped and placed in a tomb where a huge stone was moved to block the doorway.  A seal was placed on the stone connected the the door way and guards to stationed.  For someone to steal the body, they would have to get through the guards, break the seal, move the stone and drag his stale corpse with no witnesses.  But there is one fact that all ancient records indicate, even in the Jewish writings The Toledoth Jesu; the tomb was some how opened and empty.

Why is the lack of a presented body so important?  If the Jewish leadership could produce the body of Jesus, then all of Jesus' claims of being the Son of God who will rise from the dead 3 days later are proven WRONG.  All the claims of eye witness testimony of seeing him risen would be disproven! Furnishing a body would be the million dollar proof the Jewish leaders would want.  They never did.

Why is this such a debated, contested, and controversial topic?  It leads to ultimate implications

  • Did the Jews steal his body to prevent the apostles from getting it first?  No, because this would validate Jesus' claims. Secondly that is not what Jewish teachings record themselves.  Their claim is the apostles paid a gardener to steal the body in the middle of the night and bury it else where.  
    1. No gardener ever came forward
    2. No body was ever found
    3. All the apostles willingly died for what they saw.  They died for what they believed to be true, not that which they knew to be false.
    4. The Toledoth Jesu is a late writing (1000AD) far from the events it attempts to describe.
  •  Did the Apostles steal his body to validate Jesus' claims?  No, because they were still trying to take care of it and the tomb.  Not to mention being under watch of the Roman guards and surely the Jewish authority. 
    1. The tomb was sealed
    2. The tomb had a huge blocking stone
    3. Guarded by Roman guards
    4. Watched by Jewish leadership
    5. No witnesses are recorded in reliable records close to the event are found.
    6. No body was ever found.
  • Did Jesus not actually die, but woke up 3 days later and knocked on the stone and have the guards open it to let him out?  Given the evidences that lead up to his death and burial, he would have died from infections, blood loss, dehydration, and suffocation.  The guards would have reported this to Pilot and the Jewish leaderships would be been made aware.  
    • If they did, and Pilot just covered this up and hid it from the Jewish leadership; this would have worked against his interests in keeping peace with the Jewish leadership because all the followers of Jesus would do exactly what they did; told everyone he is alive.
    1. Jesus was beaten 
    2. Jesus was scourged; a whip with shards of iron ripping open his skin every time he was whipped. 
    3. Jesus' wounds were not treated; would have lead to infections
    4. Roman guards, experts at crucifixion, did not break his legs. Their expert opinion is that he was already dead.
    5. Jesus was stabbed on his side; releasing fluids and blood
    6. Jesus would have been severely dehydrated and losing a lot of blood. 
    7. Jesus would have suffocated with his face covered in myrrh and thick cloths and laying in a sealed tomb.
  • Did Jesus actually die, rise from the dead, and appear to people?  The preponderance of the evidence is absolutely in favor for this explanation.
    1. Recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 is written around 50AD, about 950 years before The Toledoth Jesu. The earliest composition of a Mark manuscript is around 70AD.
    2. The tomb was empty
    3. Guards were in shock by something extraordinary
    4. Jewish leadership did not see the apostles do anything
    5. No body was later found.
    6. No one recanted and confessed of any grave tampering
    7. Over 500 people saw Jesus later and there are no records of any refuting the eye witness claims.
    8. Witnesses were named by name in documents during their life time.
    9. The Apostles were willing to be tortured and die for what they had witnessed. 
    10. IF Jesus was the Son of God; Could God have raised him from the dead if he chose to?
      1. Could God move the stone?
      2. Could God break the seal?
      3. Could God shock the guards?
      4. Could God make 500 witnesses?
      5. Could God give life to a dead body?
 If Jesus did not rise from the dead; the Christian faith is vain.

If Jesus DID rise from the dead; there are serious eternal implications for all mankind.

Also read The Resurrection of Jesus Christ  |  Why "Good Friday" is so Good  |  By Christ's Work Alone  |  Jesus, The Son of God  |  DANIEL 9: Timeline To The Messiah

Jesus' prayer for The Apostles before his Crucifixion:

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by[d] the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

Jesus' prayer for All Believers:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

What is their message?

Jesus Christ died, and rose from the dead! He is the Son of God, God in the flesh.

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