The resurrection of Christ is vitally important to Christianity. The Old Testament goes into great detail to say that the Messiah die and rise three days later (Isaiah 25:8, Isaiah 53:5, Psalms 16:10, Psalms 22:21). Even if Christ still completed his earthly ministry and was crucified if he did not resurrect then he is not the Christ. If Christ did not resurrect then Christianity is false, we are false witnesses, our faith is futile, and we are still in our sins . In fact Christianity is probably the easiest religion in the world to prove false. All skeptics have to do is show us the bones and we would be living a lie. Therein lies the problem for they have not been able to do that.
There are many historical facts about the death of Christ. We read in the Gospel accounts that there were witnesses, including Jewish leaders and Roman executioners who were present, at the death of Christ. We have writings from non-Christian historians such as Josephus and Philo that document it. Nobody has every challenged their writings, in fact they are looked at as invaluable guides to Jewish history. After the crucifixion Jesus was placed in a physical tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea. This is important because the burial site of Christ was then known to the community as Joseph was a very prominent individual . Roman soldiers were placed as guards of the tomb to ensure his body was not stolen. In one of the Gospel accounts we read that the Jewish leaders told the soldiers to tell their superiors that the body was stolen. It is doubted that the soldiers followed this order as it would have ensured their own deaths. In those days if you were guarding someone or something you died if was taken or compromised. There is also no other burial tradition that exists. This would help us conclude that the burial site is legitimate. If it is legitimate and there is no body, and no roman soldier testimony of theft then we have some proof of the Christian account. We also have well documented, twelve cases in fact, of a resurrected Christ appearing to Christian believers. In one case he appeared to five hundred disciples as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:6. He appeared more than to his inner circle of earthly friends. All of those who saw him testified to it, and many suffered martyrdom for it.
Another proof is the transformed behavior of the disciples. We read after the crucifixion about depression like symptoms that ran through most of the disciples. Their teacher and friend had just died and was not coming back. After the resurrection there was a fire in them as witnessed in Act chapter two. They left the comforts of home and went around the known world spreading the Gospel. The resurrection gave them assurance that Christ was the son of God and fulfilled scripture. Eleven of the twelve disciples died a martyrs’ death. This is something people would not do if the body was simply stolen and hidden. People do not die for a lie. Christianity spread very rapidly despite fervent persecution from Jewish and Roman authorities. Despite this Christianity flourished and took over the know world. Again this would not have happened had the resurrection been a lie.
There are many alternative naturalistic theories out there and one of them is hallucination. It states that the disciples were hallucinating. This is unlikely because hallucinations only happen to individuals . It is highly unlikely that a group of people would have the same hallucination, and then go on to describe this hallucination in the Gospels. Another theory is that Christianity is the greatest deception of hour time. It was a conspiracy from the disciples deceit the masses. There is a few problems with this theory. The Christian movement is still going strong today. Surely in 2,000 years of the church someone would have stood up to say this whole thing was a hoax and have evidence to prove it. Secondly there is no evidence to prove this hoax, and thirdly the disciples lost friends, family, were persecuted, and killed for there faith. People don’t do this for a hoax. In the case of Paul he was a persecutor of Christians and had his resurrection encounter separate from the other Apostles. The brother of the Lord, James, did not believe he was the Messiah until after the resurrection. The third theory is mentioned in the Gospels and is that of a corpse heist. Perhaps the tomb was robbed by grave robbers which were common at the time . Grave robbers focuses on graves of the wealthy. Jesus was not a wealthy man on earth. We read in the Gospels that he have nowhere to rest his head. Grave robbers do not rob graves of those who have nothing. Even if they tried they would have to contend with the roman guards who most likely would have slaughtered them to preserve their own lives. The same goes for the Apostles, if they were the robbers they would have to contend with the guards, but I have discussed this already. Lastly Jesus is regarded as a highly ethical teacher, not only in scripture, but in extra biblical sources. Why would his disciples, who are grieving, break the command of their beloved teacher? It does not make sense to think that they would dishonor someone whom they cared about so deeply.
The resurrection is vital because it encompasses Christianity. Without the resurrection Christianity would cease to exist, and Jesus would be just a good teacher. The good news is that the resurrection is a real historical event that was witnessed by many people and never refuted. Many had their chance, but have not been able to prove otherwise. Take heart that our savior lives!
1. Douglas Groothius. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive case for the Biblical Faith. (Downers Grove, Il., IVP Academic, 2011), 529.
2. Ibid, 543.
3. Ibid, 556.
4. Ibd, 560.