Did Jesus Christ Really Rise From the Dead?
On Easter Sunday, more than 1 billion Christians across the world will celebrate a pivotal historical event from the first century A.D. Christians believe that after being crucified on Good Friday, Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, proving that He was the Son of God and giving hope to his disciples. But did this really happen?
Christian apologetics cannot prove that the Resurrection happened, but it can present evidence to make it plausible and counter the arguments against it.
There are three major objections to the Resurrection — that the Bible's accounts are unreliable, that Jesus did not really die on the cross, and that there is a better explanation for early Christianity besides Jesus' rising from the dead.
1. Are the gospels reliable?
Debates about the historicity of Jesus' life often boil down to whether the New Testament is considered to have reliable historical documents or is mere Christian propaganda. Apologists like Lee Strobel note that the Greek New Testament has 5,843 preserved manuscripts, while the only other ancient text to come close is Homer's Illiad, which has only 1,565 surviving copies. The oldest manuscripts are mere fragments, but they trace back to the second century A.D. There is also evidence of Jesus from non-Christian sources.
But perhaps the best evidence for the New Testament is internal.
The gospels mention small details — like the five porticoes of a pool in Jerusalem by the sheep gate (John 5:2) — that suggest a very early composition. John could not have written his gospel after 70 A.D., because the sheep gate, along with the rest of Jerusalem, was destroyed at that time. Furthermore, all of the gospels record Jesus prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, but not a single one records this as history.
Furthermore, the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles make claims that effectively welcome correction. They mention eyewitnesses to the Resurrection and Jesus' appearances afterward, and encourage readers to seek out these eyewitnesses to confirm their testimony.
The gospels are chock full of references to specific historical people — rulers like Quirinius the governor of Syria, King Herod the Great, and Pontius Pilate. They do not read like modern history texts, but they were written to record historical events — that is what their authors intended them to do.
2. Did Jesus die on the cross?
In his book No God But One: Allah or Jesus? A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam & Christianity, former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi investigated the historical claims for Islam and Christianity. He found the arguments against Jesus' physical death wanting.
The Quran explicitly denies the death of Jesus (Surah 4.157), with some saying Jesus seemed to die on the cross but really survived, with others argue that another person, likely Simon of Cyrene, was made to appear like Jesus and died in his place.