From the series, Ten Turning Points That Make All the Difference
Easter is just over a week away, and the question comes up, is there evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection? The answer is absolutely, undeniably, yes, there is. Is there proof? The answer is an equally strong no.
Much of the time we talk about evidences and proof without thinking about what the words mean. My opening sentence here sets the stage for that discussion. What is proof, first of all? It’s any set of information, evidences, reasoning, logic, etc. that leads to one unassailable conclusion. That’s familiar enough. Some people say there are really no proofs except in mathematics and logic, for in real life there’s always an out; but practically speaking we can speak of everyday proofs. If I hear the water running in the shower, that’s proof enough that one of my family members is out of bed in the morning, even though it could be that Captain Kirk was beamed in there instead.
The definition I prefer for “evidence” goes like this. Some information f is evidence for the truth of some possible conclusion c, if knowing f is true makes it more likely that c is true. The question often raised in our home is whether the dishes in the dishwasher were washed. The possible conclusion c would be that the dishes were washed. Evidence (f1, f2, …) for that conclusion might be that all the dishes appear clean, that there is water standing on top of the inverted cups, that the “done” light is blinking. If we know any or all of those to be true, that increases for us the likelihood that the conclusion is true and the dishes are clean.
So is there evidence for the resurrection of Christ? Yes. There are things we know to be true that speak in favor of the truth of the resurrection, that makes its truth more likely than if we did not know those things to be true. Obviously one of them is that there is a claim that Jesus was resurrected. That’s weak evidence. It gets better than that.
I’ve been reading Habermas and Licona’s The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus this week. It’s an excellent book that I can recommend to you heartily. They explain that there are at least four, maybe five facts that are known to be true with a high degree of confidence, which increase the chances that the Bible’s resurrection accounts are true. They are:
- Jesus was crucified
- The disciples believed that Jesus appeared to them after his death
- Paul (Saul) was converted to faith in Christ after Jesus’ death
- Jesus’ half-brother James was likewise converted to faith in Jesus after the crucifixion
- The tomb in which Jesus was buried was empty that first Easter morning
How do we know these things with high confidence? There are two kinds of answers to that question. The first is by appeal to those who know what they’re talking about. The first four of these facts are agreed to be true, by virtually every scholar in the field. The fifth has widespread agreement but not as unanimous as the first four. Skeptics agree to their truth. Believers agree to their truth. Knowledgeable historians have consensus on these facts.
But this is not just an appeal to authority (though if it were, it would not be the fallacious kind of appeal in this case). Habermas and Licona detail the multiple independent sources attesting to these facts. They are not just in the Bible. (There are other, additional reasons historians take them as true which I will set aside for later.)
Knowing these facts to be true makes Jesus’ resurrection more likely to be true than if we did not know them to be true. How much more likely? That’s for the next post in this series.