Friday, August 7, 2015

Evidence of Jesus' Resurrection #3: The Historical Record

The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.
And when he is killed, after three days he will rise
” (Mark 9:31,

The main written record of the Resurrection is contained in the four Gospels of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Most accounts are found in Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20-21. In Acts 2, the apostle Peter preaches a sermon to gathered crowd of thousands in which he attests to the Resurrection of Jesus.

Later, the apostle Paul, who began as one of the religious leaders (ex-Pharisees) who persecuted Christians before his conversion (became an apostle), gave his testimony to the truth of the Resurrection. He writes: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NIV).

But what about secular sources? Can we find any proof of the Resurrection of Jesus in sources other than the Bible? Beyond the Bible, there are more than 20 non-Christian sources written between 30 and 130 AD that refer to Jesus of Nazareth as a historical figure. Twelve mention his death and provide details on how he died. Ten of these refer to his Resurrection.

Thallus, a Samaritan historian, who wrote around 25 AD, explained the darkness that occurred during the Cruxification as a solar eclipse. According to modern astronomy, there was no eclipse at that time, but Scripture tells us “from the sixth hour until the ninth hour, darkness came over all the land” (Matthew 27:45). Thallus’s account was referenced by Julius Africanus.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who lived in the second half of the first century, wrote that the disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead: “And there was about this time Jesus a wise man if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was the achiever of extraordinary deeds and was a teacher of those who accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When he was indicted by the principal men among us and Pilate condemned him to be Crucified, those who had come to love him originally did not cease to do so; for he appeared to them on the third day restored to life, as the prophets of the Deity had foretold these and countless other marvellous things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, has not disappeared to this day” (Antiquities 18:63-64).

Another historian during that time period was Cornelius Tacitus, (55 AD – 117 AD), a Roman historian. He writes, “Christus, from whom the name [Christians] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition… broke out not only in Judea, the first source of evil, but even in Rome…” The “mischievous superstition” most likely referred to the spread of the news of the Resurrection. The spread of the Resurrection account throughout the known world spawned the growing movement of the new sect: “Christians.”  Their willingness to risk persecution and join the unpopular movement of Believers demonstrated that the Early Christians believed the first-hand reports of eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus still living at that time.

To consider the skeptics that say the Resurrection was a legend, Dr. William Lane Craig, Christian philosopher and theologian, says “the short time span between Christ’s Crucifixion and the composition of this early Christian creed [of the death and Resurrection of Christ] precludes the possibility of legendary corruption.” Taken together, the historical sources (such as from Samaritan historian, Jewish historian and Roman historian above) that mention Jesus and the Resurrection provide substantive evidence that the event was real. This amount of written testimony for any event in history in those early days is almost impossible to find. Yet, the Resurrection of Jesus has multiple sources of documentation. Cumulatively, these accounts add authenticity that the Resurrection is a factual historical event rather than a legend fabricated and passed down over time.


1) Ralph O. Muncaster, What Is the Proof for the Resurrection? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2000), p.16.
2) Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case of the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004), p.44-45.
3) Dr. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 285, as cited by Hank Hanegraff, Resurrection (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2000), p.39. Best Blogger Tips

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