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The Historicity of the Resurrection

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The Historicity of the Resurrection

I Corinthians 15:1-20

INTRODUCTION:   Christianity is a historical religion.  If you take Confucius from the pages of history, Confucianism could still exist. If Buddha  were to be removed from history books, Buddhism could still exist. If Christ, however, were to disappear from history, Christianity would crumble. Our faith rests squarely on the historical fact of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A.                 If Christ is not risen then our preaching is vain v. 14

B.                 If Christ is not risen then our faith is in vain v. 14

C.                 If Christ is not risen then we are false witnesses v, 15

D.                 If Christ is not risen then we are still in our sins v.17

E.                 If Christ is not risen then the dead have perished v. 18

F.                 If Christ is not risen then we have no hope for a future life v. 19

I.          The Claims of Christ

There is no real doubt that Christ anticipated His own resurrection At first He only used vague terms, such as, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'  But later on He spoke plainly and whenever He mentioned death.  These references are too numerous to be overlooked in any proper treatment of the gospels, a very important part of the claims made by Jesus Himself. Either they are true or not true.

John 2:18-22      Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign show thou unto us, seeing that thou do these things?  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?  But he spake of the temple of his body.  When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

Matthew 12:38-40   Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.  But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale=s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

Mark 8:31  And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 14:58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.

His integrity was at stake if He did not rise.  Surely if Jesus said He would rise then His words must be given due credence.  We must face the fact that Jesus was no ordinary man and that a claim to rise from the dead is not an ordinary claim.  But a resurrection of Jesus from the dead is fitting for a man whose life and character had been truly unique and for whose shameful death there was no explanation. What difference does it make whether or not Jesus was really raised? a. If not, then He is a liar; b. If not, then He cannot be the Son of God  (Rom. 1:4)\\

II.         The Testimony of Historians, Writers, and Critics

   A.    Historians of that Time Period

1.   Thallus, a Greek writer from around 50 AD talks of the Crucifixion, and even mentions the darkness and earthquakes which followed it.

      2.  Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in Rome around 93 A.D., mentioned not only Jesus's death but the work of John the Baptist and Jesus's brother, James.

      3.  Tacitus, a Roman historian in 115 A.D., speaks of the Crucifixion of Jesus

            4.  Justin Martyr details how the Jews in the diaspora were fomenting the story that the empty tomb was caused by the disciples of Jesus who stole the body. They wouldn't need the story if the tomb hadn't been empty.

B.         Professor Simon Greenlee wrote the Laws of Legal Evidence and was the number one interpreter of legal evidence. The supreme court accepted his testimony as the law of the land. His axiom was that no one dismiss the testimony of another until it had been examined. One of his students challenged him to apply this to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He became a Christian and wrote a book entitled The Testimony of the Four Evangelists.

C.        Frank Morison  B  Who Moved the Stone, First chapter entitles "The Book that refused to be Written"

III.       The Testimony of the Scriptures

A.        The Reliability of the Scriptures


1.         The Gospels have never been shown to contradict known history.

2.         For historians, any writing is considered reliable until proven guilty.

3.         The MS evidence for our NT is overwhelming.

Mss are judged by age, years between events and their record, and number of manuscripts.

Text Composed Extant Mss  Years Between
Caesar's Gallic War 58 and 50 BC 9 or 10 good mss 800
Livy (142 books; 35 known) 59 BC‑AD 17 20 mss 1- 4th c
Histories of Tacitus c. AD 100 2 mss 1 - 9th c.; 1 - 11th c.
History of Thucydides  c. 460‑400 BC 8 mss  c. AD 900
History of Herodotus c. 488‑428 BC 1,300 yrs
New Testament  c. 50-95 AD  > 5,000 20 - 75

Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.

IV.       The Possibilities Concerning the Body of Jesus             

            Only three theories have ever been proposed to do away with the evidence of the empty tomb: the swoon theory; the theft theory; and the wrong tomb theory. All are incredible, fantastic. The only acceptable position is that the tomb was empty.

A.        Objection one: Jesus Christ never really died (Swoon Theory)

           1.         Statement: Jesus went into shock as a result of the crucifixion. Everyone thought He died, but the cool rest of the tomb and the reviving efforts of the spices brought Him around.

2.         Refutation

a.         Precautions

Death by crucifixion B 

Beaten B 

Crown of thorns B 

Crossbar B

Nails B 

Breaking of the legs B

Spilling of blood and water B (John 19:34‑35)

Efficiency of the Romans in certifying the death of their enemies (Mark 15:44-5)

Solid rock tomb B

Burial preparations of the Jews B

Large stone B

Roman guard and the Jews B (Matt. 27:62-66)

Roman seal B

b.         Historical Facts

The broken Roman seal

The empty tomb

Stone moved

Roman guard

Grave clothes

B.         Objection two: The disciples stole the body (Theft Theory)

                        1.         Statement: In order to get the Christian Church off the ground, the disciples needed something dramatic, so they stole the body and started the resurrection rumor.

2.         Refutation

a.         The manner of burial (John 19:40)

b.         The stone: Specifically to stop theft; required several men to move it

c.         The guard (Matt. 27:65)

d.         The psychology of the disciples: They were afraid for their lives; men do not ordinarily die for what they know to be a lie

C.        Objection three: Wrong Tomb Theory

1.         Statement: The women, frightened and confused, went to the wrong tomb;

subsequently, everyone else made the same mistake.

2.         Refutation

a.         Joseph and Nicodemus surely know the correct tomb

b.         The stone was moved to let the women IN (Matt. 28:2)

c.         The presence and the position of the graveclothes convinced John (John 20:5‑8)

D.        Objection four: Hallucination Theory

1.         Statement: The disciples so much wanted to believe in the resurrection that they conjured up visions of Jesus of their own accord.

2.         Refutation

a.         Hallucinations are always individualistic

b.         Hallucinations are usually restricted as to time and place

c.         Hallucinations occur regularly for a long time and then gradually fade

d.         No one has ever seen a hallucination eat bread and fish (Luke 24:41‑43)

V.        The Post Resurrection Appearances (The evidence of the resurrection appearances)

A.        The focus of the NT is here, not the empty tomb. In all, the NT records 12 resurrection appearances (including Paul on Damascus Road). On Easter Day there were five: Mary Magdalene, the women, Simon Peter, Emmaus Road; upper room (Thomas absent).

            B.         The appearances are all short, sudden, and mysterious. Jesus did not return to normal life. He didn't live anywhere. He chose to appear as not strikingly different from other people. He was touchable, ate food.

C.        The appearances:

Mary Magdalen   John 28:14, Mark 16:19

Women returning from the tomb   Matthew 28:9,10

Peter later in the day   Luke 24:34, I Corinthians 15:5

Emmaus road disciples   Luke 24:13ff

Apostles [Thomas absent]   Luke 24:36ff, John 20:19ff

Apostles [Thomas present]   John 20:26ff

Seven by the Lake of Tiberias   John 21:1ff

Multitude of 500 plus believers on a Galilean mountain I Corinthians 15:6

James, His half‑brother   I Corinthians 15:7

Eleven disciples   Matthew 28:16ff, Mark 16:14ff, Luke 24:31ff, Acts 1:3ff

At the ascension   Acts 1:2‑12

Paul   Acts 9:3ff, I Corinthians 13:8

Stephen   Acts 7:55

Paul in the temple   Acts 22:17ff, 23:11

John on the isle of Patmos   Revelation 1:10ff

VI.       The Existence of Christianity and the Church

Changed lives of men and women throughout the last two thousand years are the testimony of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


We have the witness of the empty tomb, of the resurrection appearances, of the transformed lives of the Disciples, and of the existence of the Church. What is the evidence of history? HE IS RISEN INDEED!

To those without Christ B Acts 17:30-31 To those who claim Christ B Rejoice

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