The resurrection of Jesus Christ is key to all Christian doctrine and fundamental understanding of the Gospel. The Oxford Dictionary validates this point, “The conviction that God not only sent His Son into the world but also vindicated Him after His death upon a cross, is fundamental to the NT witness and the corner-stone of Christian faith and theology.”1 Jesus was born a virgin birth as the Blessed Son of God, both fully man and fully God. Jesus lived a sinless life and was crucified dead and buried, and rose again on the third day to sit at the right hand of God. If any of these facts are deleted or altered in anyway, the Gospel is distorted. According to Dr. Willmington, there are ten appearances or validations of the resurrected Christ2 that form the proof of this key doctrine. The proofs that exist are mainly Biblical, but evidence exists outside of this key source of all knowledge to assist in establishing this truth.
In order to frame the resurrection properly, visitation of the some events that led up to the cross are important to establish. Jesus started his 3 year ministry at about 30 years of age. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present a history of these days. These four Gospel accounts, “… are selective in the events they report surrounding the resurrection. Each emphasizes the empty tomb, but each is somewhat different in the post resurrection appearances recounted.3 All the Gospels are in concordance, but would have been specific to the intended audience. Jesus moved about the region of Israel and its neighbors preaching the Word of God and teaching a large number of people the truth in the word of the Old Testament recording. Jesus taught to Jew and non-Jew the love and supremacy of His Father, Yahweh. The leaders of the day, namely the Pharisees are grossly offended by His message and sought to destroy and later kill this man, our Jesus. The Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus; this referenced in Matthew 12:14, “But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”(NIV) The plans of the Pharisees are coordinated through the betrayal of one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot; the trial of Herod and Pontius Pilate; and finally the walk down the Via Dolorosa to the place called Calvary to be hung on the Cross of Crucifixion.
Jesus is hung on the cross on Friday at 9:00 am. The Messiah hangs there until about 3:00 pm that same day, at which time the Christ cries out, Tetelestai, “it is finished”. Jesus is taken down from the cross and the body is claimed by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to be placed in a new tomb. The Pharisees concerned about the body being taken, arrange with Pontius Pilate to have the tomb sealed with a large stone and the entranced guarded by soldiers. During the night “Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; and other women sit near His tomb, viewing the tomb in silent sorrow.”4 It is during this very night that our Lord is risen.
Ten different appearances of our risen Christ are recorded in the New Testament. They are as follows:
“(1.) To Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre alone. John (20:11–18
(2.) To certain women, “the other Mary,” Salome, Joanna, and others, as they returned from the sepulchre. Matthew (28:1–10
(3.) To Simon Peter alone on the day of the resurrection. Luke 24:34
(4.) To the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection, recorded fully only by Luke 24:13–35
(5.) To the ten disciples (Thomas being absent) and others “with them,” at Jerusalem on the evening of the resurrection day. John (20:19–24).
(6.) To the disciples again (Thomas being present) at Jerusalem. Mark 16:14–18; Luke 24:33–40; John 20:26–28)
(7.) To the disciples when fishing at the Sea of Galilee. John (21:1–23
(8.) To the eleven, and 500 brethren at once, at an appointed place in Galilee (Matt. 28:16–20).
(9.) To James, but under what circumstances we are not informed (1 Cor. 15:7).
(10.) To the apostles immediately before the ascension. They accompanied him from Jerusalem to Mount Olivet, and there they saw him ascend “till a cloud received him out of their sight” (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50–52).”5
These appearances form the basis of proof for the resurrection of the Messiah. These passages are supported in full by the knowledge gained from 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness….” (NIV)
There are also a few non-Biblical accountings to support the evidence of Christ’s resurrection. Including the Shroud of Turin, writings from Josephus, the Roman Historian Tacticus, and writings of Roman Governor Phiny the Younger. The Shroud of Turin according to the research of experts is possibly evidence of a man raising from the dead due to absence of decomposition, lack of unwrapping, possible markings of a dead body. The Shroud also notes abnormalities with the recorded history of Jesus’s crucifixion; such as head wounds, lack of broken bones; and a post mortem chest wound.6 The writings of the aforementioned Roman Tacticus discusses the “Christus” suffering at the hands of Pontius Pilate; and Phiny the Younger writes of the actions of Christians in about 112 A.D.7 These sources that support the proof of Christ bring to validation the existence of Christ, therefore providing credibility to the Bible and the fact that is it all truth. Since these writing support the same facts and agree with the Scriptures, it is viable to conclude that the Bible is truth, as the other writings are valid.
In fact, an article presented by GotQuestions.org five additional arguments are presented. These are as follows:
- Secular response to the stated events—non-Christians believed that Christians acted a particular way because of the crucifixion of Christ.
- Eyewitness accounts are recorded in the Scriptures and verifiable by various outside sources
- The conversion of noted skeptics, notably Paul and James
- Enemy attestation to the empty tomb and the validation of location of the event
- The culture fact that women are used as eyewitnesses in a culture that was very masculine in nature and authoritativeness.8
These additional arguments are supportive in nature and provide a foundation to build the very conclusive statements that Christ was the Messiah and through prophesy and recorded history support the claim of resurrection.
Christians today need to understand the facts and the Biblical and non- Biblical evidence that Christ is the Son of God and that the Bible is the final authority in life. A believer today needs to understand the foundation or doctrines of faith in order to defend the beliefs, inherent to our religion. Christ is the Messiah, He died on the cross for payment of our sins, so that all who believe would have everlasting life, through relationship with Jesus Christ. Amen.
Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England, Steve Bond, E. Ray Clendenen, Trent C. Butler, and Bill Latta, eds. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.
Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Easton, M. G. Easton’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893.
Gleghorn, Michael. 2015. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” Probe Ministries. Accessed February 13, 2016. http//:www.probe.org/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian-sources-2/
GotQestions.org, 2015. “Why Should I Believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” Accessed February 14, 2016. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html.
Willmington, Harold. Great Truths from God’s Word. Forest, VA: Bible Institute Network, 2011.