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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Don Stewart :: What Historical Facts Are Undisputed about Jesus and His Resurrection?

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What Historical Facts Are Undisputed about Jesus and His Resurrection?

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Question 4

There are certain undisputed facts that both believers and unbelievers can agree upon when it comes to examining the case for Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. They include the following.

1. Jesus Christ Existed

Jesus was a historical figure who lived two thousand years ago. The primary source for His life and ministry is the New Testament. Eyewitnesses, as well as people who recorded eyewitness testimony, wrote these documents. There is no doubt about His existence.

2. Jesus Performed Miracles

Another historical fact about Jesus is that He was a miracle worker. Both friend and foe testify to this fact. Indeed, in the first five centuries of the Christian era, every report that has come down to us about Jesus, whether from friend or foe, has Him working miracles. There is no doubt that miracles were a central part of His ministry.

3. There Was No Idea of a Dying Redeemer in First Century Judaism

Another fact beyond dispute is that the disciples of Jesus were not prepared for His death. First-century Judaism had no concept of the Messiah dying and then coming back from the dead. The disciples were not expecting the resurrection of Jesus because they were not expecting Him to die. Indeed, they thought He was to bring God’s kingdom to them when He arrived.

4. Jesus Died on a Cross in the City of Jerusalem

Another fact that is beyond dispute is the manner of death of Jesus; He died on a cross. All four gospels make it clear that Jesus Christ was crucified in the city of Jerusalem. The testimony of the Book of Acts concurs as do the writings of Paul. Jesus was executed by means of crucifixion in the city of Jerusalem during the week of the Passover celebration.

5. Jesus Was Buried

The New Testament also states that Jesus was buried after His death. All four gospels testify to this fact as well as Paul’s statement. He wrote to the Corinthians:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4 NKJV)

His body was not burned or left to the elements.

6. The Tomb Was Empty on Easter Sunday

A further fact is that the tomb of Jesus was empty on Easter Sunday morning. Had the body of Jesus remained in the tomb, it would have been a simple thing for the authorities to remove the stone and produce it.

The Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, itself testifies that the tomb was empty. They concocted a story in which they commanded the soldiers to repeat thereafter to explain how the tomb became empty—the body was stolen by the disciples. There is no report anywhere from the ancient world that said Jesus’ tomb was occupied. Everyone agreed the tomb was empty.

7. Jesus Was Reported to Have Risen

The New Testament is unanimous in the fact that Jesus’ disciples claim that they saw Him after His death. This was the message they brought to the world—Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and we have seen Him! Unbelievers also acknowledge that this is what Christians believed about Jesus; that He had risen from the dead and appeared to His disciples. Again, no one denied the first Christians held to this belief.

8. The Message Was Preached in the City Where the Events Took Place

When the account of the resurrection was first proclaimed, it occurred in the city of Jerusalem—the same city where Jesus Christ was crucified and buried. The disciples did not go away to some distant place where it would have been hard to check out the facts. They began in the very city where all the events took place. If their testimony were not true, then their enemies would have promptly corrected them.

9. The New Testament Writers Believed Jesus Had Risen from the Dead

When the New Testament was committed to writing, it was from the perspective that Jesus had risen from the dead. All of the New Testament writers believed the resurrection occurred. Obviously something led them to that belief. The question, of course, is, “What made them believe?” This question must be answered.

In sum, there are a number of facts that both friends, as well as reasonably foes of Jesus, can agree upon. This should be our starting point in attempting to determine what really happened that first Easter.

Summary – Question 4
What Historical Facts Are Undisputed about Jesus and His Resurrection?

There are a number of facts about the life of Jesus that are not in dispute. Jesus existed. There is no reason at all to doubt this fact. Also during His earthly ministry Jesus reportedly worked miracles. This is the consistent portrait of Jesus. In addition, we know that His disciples were not prepared for His death—they were expecting the Messiah to bring in God’s kingdom. They were certainly not looking for a resurrection because they were not expecting Him to die. It is also clear that Jesus was dead and buried—all sources testify to this fact. Yet it is also clear that the tomb was empty on Easter morning. The disciples of Jesus testified they saw Him alive after His death. They began by proclaiming the message of the resurrection in Jerusalem—the very city where all the events took place. Finally, all the New Testament writers believed the resurrection was a reality. They wrote from the perspective that Jesus had risen. These are all reliable historical facts that friend and foe can agree upon. There are a number of facts about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that are not in dispute. We can sum them up as follows.

Jesus existed. There is no reason at all to doubt this fact. In fact, no serious scholar rejects the fact of Jesus’ existence.

Also during His earthly ministry Jesus Christ reportedly worked miracles. This is the consistent portrait of Jesus from both friends and foes alike.

In addition, we know that His disciples were not prepared for His death—they were expecting the Messiah to bring in God’s kingdom. They were certainly not looking for a resurrection because they were not expecting Him to die.

It is also clear that Jesus was dead and that He was buried—all the firsthand sources testify to this fact. This includes the four gospels as well as the writings of the Apostle Paul.

Yet it is also clear that the tomb which Jesus occupied was empty on Easter morning. This is another historical fact which is beyond all doubt.

The disciples of Jesus Christ testified they saw Him alive after His death. This was their consistent message as long as they lived.

These same disciples began by proclaiming the message of the resurrection in Jerusalem—the very city where all the events took place. This allowed the events to be investigated by those who were on the scene.

Finally, all the New Testament writers believed the resurrection was a reality. They wrote from the perspective that Jesus Christ had risen. Obviously something caused them to hold that belief.

These are all reliable historical facts that friend and foe can agree upon.

What Precautions Were Taken to Keep the Tomb of Jesus Secure? ← Prior Section
To Whom Did Jesus Appear after His Death? Next Section →
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