Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Multi-Faceted Evidence For Jesus' Resurrection

The evidence for the resurrection is often framed in terms of the testimony of the resurrection witnesses and the empty tomb, as if any hypothesis about what happened only has to address those two lines of evidence. Sometimes the empty tomb isn't even included. We should keep in mind that there's a lot more involved, though. The New Testament documents often refer to the resurrection as a fulfillment of prophecy and refer to how the apostles were empowered to perform miracles by the risen Christ, for example. Then there's extra-Biblical evidence, like the Shroud of Turin. Jesus' resurrection not only is a good explanation of the testimony of the resurrection witnesses and the empty tomb, but also is a good explanation of Paul's acquisition of the ability to perform miracles, the image on the Shroud of Turin, and other evidence that isn't mentioned as often. The same skeptic who has to find a way to dismiss the testimony of resurrection witnesses like Peter and Paul and dismiss the empty tomb also has to find a way to dismiss the other lines of evidence. There are more than two lines to account for here. I believe most people who follow these issues closely are aware of that fact, but it's not acknowledged enough, and we need to keep it more at the forefront of our thinking. The resurrection evidence is broader and deeper than we often make it out to be. There's merit to taking something like a minimal facts approach toward the resurrection in some contexts. That approach can be taken too far, though, and can leave people with a false impression about how much evidence we have for the resurrection.


  1. I believe in the resurrection because of the self-attesting evidence of Scripture and the personal witness and testimony I receive from the Holy Spirit. This evidence is unimpeachable.

    1. Ed,

      Jesus, the apostles, and other early Christians frequently appealed to extra-Biblical evidence to support their claims, including their claims about the resurrection. They used forms of argumentation commonly accepted in their day, including their culture's historiographic standards. God can work in people's lives through other means, such as by transforming a person's heart independent of historical argumentation. But that's God's work, not ours, and he often uses means such as historical argumentation rather than working independently of such means. We have a responsibility to use the mind God has given us to reason with people. The appeal to "the self-attesting evidence of Scripture and the personal witness and testimony I receive from the Holy Spirit" can be, and often is, used as a cloak for laziness and anti-intellectualism.

    2. In his legal defense, Paul appeals to extrabiblical evidence as well as biblical evidence, so there's nothing improper about invoking extrabiblical evidence:

      4 “My manner of life from my youth, spent from the beginning among my own nation and in Jerusalem, is known by all the Jews. 5 They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest party of our religion I have lived as a Pharisee...26 For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner” (Acts 26:4-5,26).