What Do Scholars Think Of The Resurrection Of Jesus?
The New Testament provides multiple evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. It stresses that Jesus predicted His own resurrection (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34), that the Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb when Jesus arose from death (Matthew 28:11) and that Jesus appeared to many of His followers for over forty days until His ascension to heaven (Mark 16:9-18; Acts 1:3)… and that too was witnessed by many (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9).
But, how do Bible scholars, historians and lawyers consider the reliability of the evidence for the resurrection which is provided in the New Testament?
Professor Thomas Arnold, author of a famous three-volume History of Rome and once chair of Modern History at Oxford, was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. He says:
“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”
Do others agree with this opinion?
Simon Greenleaf was one of the greatest legal minds America has produced. He was the famous Royall Professor of Law at Harvard University and succeeded Justice Joseph Story as the Dane Professor of Law in the same university. While at Harvard, Greenleaf wrote a volume in which he examines the legal value of the apostles’ testimony to the resurrection of Christ. He observes that it is impossible that the apostles “could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact.” Greenleaf concludes that the resurrection of Christ is one of the best-supported events in history according to the laws of legal evidence administered in courts of justice.
British scholar Brooke Foss Westcott, who was a divinity professor at Cambridge University, says:
“Taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it.”
Dr. William Lane Craig concludes that “when you . . . [use] the ordinary canons of historical assessment, the best explanation for the facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead.”
Sir Lionel Luckhoo is considered by many to be the world’s most successful attorney after 245 consecutive murder acquittals. This brilliant lawyer analyzed the historical facts of Christ’s resurrection rigorously and finally declared, “I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”
Frank Morison, another British lawyer, set out to refute the evidence for the Resurrection. He thought the life of Jesus was one of the most beautiful ever lived, but when it came to the Resurrection, Morison assumed someone had come along and tacked a myth onto the story. He planned to write an account of the last few days of Jesus, disregarding the Resurrection. The lawyer figured that an intelligent, rational approach to the story would completely discount such an event. However, when he applied his legal training to the facts, he had to change his mind. Instead of a refutation of the Resurrection, he eventually wrote the best seller Who Moved the Stone? He titled the first chapter “The Book That Refused to Be Written.” The rest of the book confirms decisively the validity of the evidence for Christ’s resurrection.
George Eldon Ladd, professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, concludes: “The only rational explanation for these historical facts is that God raised Jesus in bodily form.” Believers in Jesus Christ today can have complete confidence, as did the first Christians, that their faith is based not on myth or legend but on the solid historical fact of the risen Christ and the empty tomb.
Gary Habermas, a distinguished professor and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University, debated former atheist and leading scholar Antony Flew on the issue “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” A professional debate judge who was asked to evaluate the debate had the following remarks:
“The historical evidence, though flawed, is strong enough to lead reasonable minds to conclude that Christ did indeed rise from the dead. . . “
Habermas does end up providing “highly probably evidence” for the historicity of the resurrection “with no plausible naturalistic evidence against it.”
Most important of all, individual believers can experience the power of the risen Christ in their lives today. First of all, they can know that their sins are forgiven (Luke 24:46-47; 1 Corinthians 15:3). Second, they can be assured of eternal life and their own resurrection from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:19-26). Third, they can be released from a meaningless and empty life and be transformed into new creatures in Jesus Christ (John 10:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
What is your evaluation and decision? What do you think about the empty tomb?
After examining the evidence from a judicial perspective, Lord Darling, former chief justice of England, stated that “there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”