Where, other than the bible, do you find evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?
I have been exploring Christianity and have one major question/problem.
How, besides the Bible do we know that Christ did rise from the dead? Since reading the Bible and exploring resources like Campus Crusade for Christ, I have become more accepting of the Christian viewpoint, and at time am convinced that it is correct. However, I would like to know what sources outside the Bible point to Jesus’ resurrection and haven’t been able to find this.
Thanks in advance,
Thanks for your question; it is a really important one. Establishing the truth of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is vital (see 1 Cor 15:17) and I’m really glad you are thinking through it.
Outside of the Bible, there is almost no direct evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. That might not be as surprising as it seems, because from the Bible’s record of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he seemed to have shown himself mainly to believers. For example, he showed himself to the disciples in the first week (John 20), and to more than five hundred of disciples (1 Cor 15:6). In Acts 1:1-3, Luke indicates that Jesus appeared mainly to the apostles during the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension to heaven. If Jesus did indeed rise but showed himself only to believers, it follows that the main witness to his resurrection will be in the Bible rather than outside the Bible.
So I will propose another way to think through this question. This approach centers on the empty tomb of Jesus. Although there is no direct evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, there is evidence for the empty tomb of Jesus. Most historians do not dispute the fact that the tomb of Jesus was empty and that his body was never found. Therefore the pertinent questions we should ask is now: why is the tomb empty? There have been various alternatives put forward to explain this, some of which are:
(1)Jesus did not die: he only fainted. Considering what we know about the Roman world in the first century (the soldiers are highly trained and they faced severe penalties if they did not execute their tasks), it is not very plausible that they would make a basic mistake such as not finishing the job of crucifying Jesus on the cross. Moreover, even if Jesus did not die on the cross, it is unlikely he was able to, in his weakened state, roll the stone of the tomb away (Matt 27:60) and fight away the Roman soldiers guarding the place (Matt 27:65)
(2)The resurrection appearances to disciples are their hallucinations. The main problem with this thesis is that these supposed hallucinations appeared to many different people, over different times and in different locations. Medically, it is hard to conceive of such an overwhelming uniform hallucination happening to so many.
(3)The disciples went to the wrong grave. However, even if they did go to the wrong tomb the first time, it is unlikely that all the others who subsequently investigated the matter would have gone to the wrong tomb. This is especially as the Jewish and Roman authorities then were extremely keen for the “lie of the resurrection” to be put to rest: they could easily just have gone to the right tomb, retrieved the body and exposed the lie of the disciples! But over 2000 years, there haven’t been any one who could produce the “right tomb” or body.
(4)Someone stole the body. Firstly, it is extremely difficult to steal the body, with the stone and the Roman guard. Secondly, there aren’t many groups with the incentive to do it: the Jews and the Romans vehemently wanted the body to stay where it was (see above). The most likely possibility would be the disciples: see next point:
(5)Disciples stole the body. This is by far the strongest alternative theory to the resurrection. However, it has a fatal flaw. If the disciples were the ones who stole the body and make the false claim of resurrection, what did they gain from it? Most of the disciples were persecuted and died horrible deaths. They died for their belief that they saw Jesus’ die and rise again. It is unimaginable that they would die willingly for something that they know to be a lie (this is different from someone dying for something they believe in without knowing it to be a lie eg cult suicides).
As we think through the puzzle of the empty tomb, it appears that the best conclusion is the resurrection. The main objection people have to that is that miracles like that don’t happen. However, if there really is a God who is sovereign over the world he has created, it will be a small thing for him to give life to the dead. Thus this objection does not stand. We can thus have confidence in the Bible’s witness to the resurrection of Jesus. The Bible’s reliability is again underpinned by the disciples’ willingness to die: they used their lives to certify that what they are writing down, they have truly seen (but to fully expand on this aspect is the scope of another question!). So even though there is no corroboration from other sources, I believe we can fully rely on the Bible’s witness to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au