Why We Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most well documented events in history. 

Evidence from the Bible that Jesus died
The Bible writers told us plainly that Jesus died.

(John 19:30 NIV) When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

(Luke 23:46)  Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

In Acts 2:23, Peter said, "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Peter gave a similar testimony in Acts 4:10, "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead."

His death was verified by a Roman soldier.

(John 19:32-33) The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. {33} But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

His death was also verified by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who prepared his body according to Jewish burial customs.

(John 19:38-40) Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. {39} He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. {40} Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

Jesus himself prophesied that he would die

The teaching that Jesus died and rose from the dead is not the teachings of Jesus’ misguided followers. Many times, Jesus Himself taught that He would die and rise from the dead.

(Mark 8:31)  He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

MK 8:31 Kemudian mulailah Yesus mengajarkan kepada mereka, bahwa Anak Manusia harus menanggung banyak penderitaan dan ditolak oleh tua-tua, imam-imam kepala dan ahli-ahli Taurat, lalu dibunuh dan bangkit sesudah tiga hari.

(Mat 17:22-23)  When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. {23} They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life."

MT 17:22 Pada waktu Yesus dan murid-murid-Nya bersama-sama di Galilea, Ia berkata kepada mereka: "Anak Manusia akan diserahkan ke dalam tangan manusia

MT 17:23 dan mereka akan membunuh Dia dan pada hari ketiga Ia akan dibangkitkan."

Jesus not only taught that He would die, He also taught that His life would become a ransom for us.

(Mark 10:45 NIV)  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

(Mat 20:28 NIV)  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

After Jesus’ death, he proclaimed that he had died.

Rev  1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.

1:18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Even though this was the revelation of angel so is the Quran.

luke 24:46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,

24:47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

It was prophesied in the Old Testament that Jesus would die.

(Isa 53)  Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (See John 12:38-47) {2} He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. {3} He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. {4} Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (See Matt 8:17) {5} But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. {6} We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. {7} He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (See John 1:29) {8} By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. {9} He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (See Matt 27: 57-60) {10} Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. {11} After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. {12} Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (See Luke 22:37)

Evidence from non-Biblical sources that Jesus died

The resurrection accounts of Jesus were not only from Christian writers; they were also from non-Christian writers.

Tacitus, the Roman historian, who was born between AD 52 & 54 wrote about the reign of Nero. "Nero.....punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate...."

About A.D.52, a writer named Thallus wrote a history of Eastern Mediterranean world. The work has been lost but excepts from it have been used by another historian, Julius Africanus, who lived in the early part of the third century. Julius Aficanus describes the earthquake and the darkness that appeared suddenly during the death of Christ as an eclipse of the sun.

Evidence from the Bible that Jesus resurrected

Historical records show us that Jesus did not die and remain dead; He was resurrected.

The first person Jesus appeared to after He resurrected was to Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18). In a male-dominated first century Jewish culture, a person inventing a story would never have suggested that Jesus first appeared to a woman. A woman’s testimony was not even accepted in the courts at that time.

Jesus appeared to many people from that day onwards. He appeared to Cephas, James, the disciples, the two men on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-15), even to more than 500 people at one time (1 Cor 15:3-7).

Evidence from non-Biblical sources that Jesus resurrected

Not only was the resurrection accounts of Jesus recorded in the Bible, it was also substantiated outside the Bible.

A first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day…”

Quality of the Biblical evidence

The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in the Bible were based eyewitness testimonies.

(Luke 1:1-2)  Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, {2} just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

The records in the Bible about Jesus’ resurrection were not based on hearsay but eyewitness testimonies. The testimonies or eyewitnesses are highly valued in any court of law.

Dr Simon Greenleaf, a Harvard Professional of Law, concluded that the resurrection of Christ was one of the best-supported events in history, according to the laws of legal evidence administered in courts of justice.

The New Testament accounts about the resurrection were written so soon after the death of Jesus that it could not have contained falsehood or myths.

One principle historians use to determine whether a record is authentic is to determine the time span between the time of the event and the recording. Generally, the shorter the interval between the event and the time of writing, the more likely an account is true. For example, an account’s accuracy is doubtful if it was written 1,000 years after the event. How can we be sure that the writer has written accurately since he was not even present at the incident? Furthermore, what he wrote couldn’t be refuted by people who read it because the readers were also not at the scene of the incident.

We can trust in the reliability of New Testament because they were circulated only shortly after the death of Jesus. There is strong evidence that the gospels were written within only 30 years after His death. 

This means that the New Testament accounts had been tested by being circulated during the lifetimes of those alive at the resurrection. The writers cannot afford to report falsehoods because the readers could contradict their testimony if they were not accurate. For instance, if we all witness a murder and a week later the police report turns out to be full of lies, we as witnesses can refute it. Furthermore, the accounts were circulated during the lifetime of those who were extremely hostile to Jesus, who even crucified him. Would these people have allowed false statements to pass as facts concerning events that they themselves were witnesses to?

In 1 Corinthians 15:3­8, when Paul talks about the resurrection of Jesus, he appeals to the audience's knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time after his death. Paul reminds them that the majority of these people was still alive (vs.6) and could be questioned. Paul was in effect saying, "If you don't believe me, you can ask them."

In Acts 2:22, Peter said, "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God perform through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know."

The life of Jesus’ disciples is testimony that they have witnessed their risen Master.

After Jesus’ death His disciples were scared, scattered, and sceptical. Only one, John, was at the crucifixion (John 19:26-27). The rest fled (Matt 27:58). The disciples doubted the reports of the women (Luke 24:11). A few weeks later these very same men and women who had huddled in secret (John 20:19) were fearlessly and openly proclaiming the resurrection of Christ before the religious council, Sanhedrin, that was responsible for Christ’s death (Acts 4 – 5).

The skeptic Strauss, in the following vigorous language:

"It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life-an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such resuscitation could only have weakened the impression that He had made upon them in life and death.... It could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, or have elevated their reverence into worship."

Not only were the lives of Jesus’ disciples totally transformed after they saw their resurrected Master, these disciples were even willing to die for their belief in the resurrection. History tells us that out of twelve disciples, eleven died as martyrs testifying to the resurrection of Jesus. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: "Who is willing to die for a lie?" It is true many people died for something that is not true, but they died thinking it was true. It would be hard to find eleven people in history that died for a lie, knowing it was a lie.

There is no better way to interpret the historical facts than by Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

What else could have happened if Jesus did not rise from the dead? How plausible are the alternative arguments? It is easy to criticize an existing hypothesis, like the Resurrection, but what is needed is an alternative hypothesis that accounts for all the facts in a logical and consistent manner. Below we will examine some of the alternative explanations and see if there is any logic to their arguments.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

This theory suggests that Jesus was not crucified but somehow, someone else was crucified and killed on the cross, which everyone has mistaken to be Jesus. It speaks of the direct intervention of God in the situation to make people believe that it was Jesus when it actually wasn't. This view is held by many Muslims based on the following verses.

They said "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God," but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts with no certain knowledge, but only conjecture to follow. For a surety they killed him not: Nay, God raised him up unto Himself, and God is Exalted in Power, Wise (Surah 4:157-158).

Refutation

How could so many people be mistaken about Christ's death? A centurion was there to check that Jesus was really dead. Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of Jesus for burial and must have realised if it wasn't Jesus. When he laid Jesus in the tomb, Mary Magdalene and the mother of Jesus were there to witness. Could all these people including Jesus' mother have made a mistake thinking it was Jesus when it was someone else?

This mistaken identity could only have happened if that person, who wasn't Jesus, was made by God to look exactly like Jesus. "but so it was made to appear to them" is interpreted by Muslims to mean that God made someone else look like Jesus and this person was crucified instead. I find this interpretation not consistent with the character of God. Why does God not think it fraudulent to misrepresent one man as another? We consider it a felony to forge a signature on a check or to impersonate another person. Would God rely on trickery and deceit to accomplish His purposes. If the Qur'an says that such deception of the honest seekers of truth is part of the character of Allah, then I do not know on what basis I can trust the rest of the Qur'an. If God ever did deceive those who desired to know and follow him, how can I have any assurance he did not do it again and the Qur'an is not part of this deception?

Not only that, that person has to believe that he was Jesus as seen from the words spoken to Jesus' own mother.

(John 19:26-27) When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," {27} and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Therefore, not only were all the people deceived, even the person crucified in Jesus' place was deceived into thinking that he was Jesus.

If God chose to raise Jesus to heaven, why was it necessary for Him to satisfy the Jews by putting another person on the cross? Why would a fake crucifixion bring any glory to Allah? Especially if nobody knows about it until 600 years later?

If the man who was crucified was made to look like Jesus, and he even thought he was Jesus and talked like Jesus, can Christians be blamed for thinking that it really was Jesus?

We read in history that Jesus' disciples preached his death and resurrection everywhere they went and even died for what they believed in. But to what end? A deception by God? Surely we cannot believe this. The Quran teaches that God will not mislead His followers.

And God will not mislead a people after He hath guided them in order that He may make clear to them what to fear. (Surah 9:115)

It has also been said that God is sovereign and can do whatever He likes. But that truth cannot be carried beyond limits. We cannot have a statement "God can….." and feel free to put anything in the place of the dotted lines. God certainly cannot sin and He cannot lie or die. Why then do we use this argument and say that God can plot evil to deceive people.

The Quran did say that God is the best of plotters. But a plot is simply a secret plan. People, for example, may plot to overthrow an evil king. You can plot and still not sin. God certainly could plan in secret to achieve His purposes but plotting does not imply that it has to be evil. God is not capable of plotting evil

SWOON THEORY

This theory states that Jesus did not die on the cross but merely swooned (ie fainted). He later recovered and appeared to his disciples who thought he had resurrected.

I must add that not all Muslims hold on to this view. Its most outspoken proponent is Ahmad Deedat, a Muslim apologist.

Refutation

They said "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God," but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts with no certain knowledge, but only conjecture to follow. For a surety they killed him not: Nay, God raised him up unto Himself, and God is Exalted in Power, Wise (Surah 4:157-158).

But if we assume that Jesus was crucified, how could he have survived the ordeal of the crucifixion? Jesus was severely whipped and then nailed to the cross. Hanging by the arms after some time, the Romans further pierced his side with a spear. Now, having gone through whipping, where Jesus' back is almost laid open, having his arms and feet pierced, having a spear thrust in his side, being taken down and washed, then plastered with many pounds of spices, would Jesus still be alive?

But suppose for argument's sake that he was alive, do you really believe that lying for 3 days in the tomb with no medical attention would caused him to be revived? A healthy person could not survive 3 days in a tomb without food and water, not to mention a person who has gone through the sufferings that Jesus had.

Even if Jesus was revived in the tomb, Christ, in a weakened condition, would have to roll back the stone at the entrance of the tomb a feat historians say would take about 20 men step out of the tomb without waking any one of the soldiers (if we assume for argument's sake that they were asleep and we know they were not because of their strict discipline and training), step over the soldiers and escape.

Jesus' death was confirmed by the centurion who checked personally. The centurion had to be thoroughly sure because if he is wrong, he will pay with his life. We know how strict a disciplinary system the centurion were under when the sentries who were guarding Paul's prison drew out his sword to kill himself when he thought that the prisoners had escaped. (Acts 16:27). Death was preferable to subjecting himself to the terribly harsh discipline.

OTHER ARGUMENTS

Others have suggested that the disciples stole the body. We wonder how they could have rolled away the large stone and take the body away without alerting the Roman guards who were outside guarding the tomb. Still others say that maybe the women, overcome by grief, went to the wrong tomb in the dimness of the morning. But if this is true, why didn't the Pharisees go to the right tomb and produce the body? Surely this would kill Christianity in the cradle like they wanted.