“(Jesus) was seen by Peter, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brothers and sisters at once…After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Here, Paul lists the names of the witnesses—most of whom were still alive. If the resurrection had not occurred, why would he give specific names? He would immediately lose all credibility with such an obvious lie. Understand that at that time, if you could produce two witnesses to an event, it was accepted as true. There were over five hundred who witnessed Jesus alive. Not one of them claimed that Paul was lying.
Jesus appeared to them, alive and well and in bodily form. He was not a zombie. He was not a mummy. He was not a ghost. He ate with them (Luke 24:41-43). They touched Him (John 20:24-28). The biggest question in history is…How is this possible?
Hallucinated:Believe it or not, one of the popular beliefs today is that Jesus was a hallucination. Some people claim that the disciples were so saddened over the crucifixion that their desire to see Jesus again caused a mass hallucination.
This theory is adamantly dismissed by psychologists, who point out that hallucinations are individual occurrences. One person may have hallucinated Jesus, but not over five hundred at the same time. Furthermore, the person would need to be in a frame of mind where they wanted to see that person. Paul had no desire to see Jesus. In fact, until he saw Jesus alive, it was his job to catch Christians, arrest, and sometimes kill them. Seeing the physical body of Christ alive changed him.
Legend:legend (n): A story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true.
Some skeptics claim the resurrection story is nothing more than a legend. Basically, they’re saying that over time, the story would have grown and been embellished as it was passed on. There are two major problems with this theory:
First, you can historically fact-check the events of Christ’s resurrection. You cannot do that with a legend.
Second, legends simply do not develop while multiple eyewitnesses are alive to refute them. Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi: “The scriptures of Buddha, who lived in the sixth century B.C., were not put into writing until after the Christian era, and the first biography of Buddha was in the first century A.D. Muhammad lived from A.D. 570 to 632, yet his biography was not written until 767” (The Case for Christ). Within weeks of it happening, the disciples were preaching the resurrection. Within 2-8 years, the story was written down. Historians say that it takes 100-200 years for a legend to develop…not 2-8. The resurrection news spread too soon and too quickly for it to have been a legend.
A German theologian named Julius Muller issued a challenge in 1844. He dared anyone to find a single example of a legend developing this fast anywhere else in history. In the 170 years that have followed, not one person has provided a response (The Case for Christ).
Lie:One weak argument is that the disciples were flat-out lying. First, the disciples shared this story in the very city Jesus was murdered and buried. It would have been impossible for them to preach this message for a single hour if people knew and could prove that it was a lie (John Piper).
Also, no one has ever explained why the disciples would have been willing to die for a known lie. The Jewish and Roman leaders did not want this story told, so they arrested, tortured, and executed those who did. To be a willing martyr for a known lie is insanity. Men will die for what they believe to be true. They do not, however, die for what they know is a lie (Matt Perman).
Conversion of Skeptics:This change in the disciple’s behavior is arguably the biggest proof of the resurrection. Remember…at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, these guys ran and hid. Within a short time, however, we see a dramatic change. They begin speaking to large crowds and openly declaring that Jesus had risen from the dead. They defied orders threatening them with imprisonment if they continued to speak about Jesus. They courageously faced beatings and death threats because they preached that Jesus was alive and was the Messiah (Jesus Christ: The Real Story by The United Church of God). This change has stumped historians, psychologists, and skeptics alike: How these eleven former cowards were suddenly willing to suffer humiliation, torture, and death (Perman).
It wasn’t just the transformation in the disciples either. Those who screamed for Christ to be crucified began worshipping Him as God. Jesus’s own brothers (James and Jude)—who previously believed Him to be a fraud His whole life—began worshipping Him as God. Again—Paul was arresting and murdering Christians until he saw the resurrected Jesus—and he went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament.
No one has ever been able to explain these sudden changes.
They saw Jesus Christ alive after they knew He was dead. They spoke with Him. They touched Him. They ate with Him.
Bottom Line:Experts say that the theory that best explains the evidence is the most likely to be true. Christ rising from the dead is the only theory that has ever been offered that explains all of the evidence. If one denies the resurrection, they must come up with three independent natural explanations with documented evidence to support all three, not just one (Perman). Due to that, biblical and skeptical scholars agree: The resurrection of Jesus was a real event in history, not some myth or story. Christ’s risen appearances are as well authenticated—proven as fact—as anything in history.
Next post: What it all means.