Recent research on the resurrection of Jesus points to the historicity of the events surrounding His resurrection. These results decidedly support the belief that Jesus’ resurrection was a real event in human history.
Lee Strobel, in his book “The Case for the Resurrection: A First-Century Reporter Investigates the Story of the Cross,” shared the results of research done by Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Michael Licona, two experts on the resurrection of Jesus.
Dr. Habermas researched more than 2,200 written works regarding the historicity of the resurrection, written in French, German and English between the years 1975 and 2009. The writers of these sources included Christians as well as skeptic non-Christian scholars. According to Habermas, the findings from these 2,200 sources strongly support the case for the historicity of the main facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection.
According to Dr. Licona in Strobel’s book, the majority of scholars today agree on the historicity of five events that took place near the time of the resurrection of Jesus:
- Jesus was killed by crucifixion.
- The disciples of Jesus really believed that Jesus had resurrected and appeared to them in a resurrected body. (This testimony was preserved in the earliest writings of the Apostle Paul, in the oral traditions of the first-century church and in the Christian writings from late in the first century and into the second century).
- The conversion of Paul, which took place just a few years after the resurrection of Jesus; Paul had been a fierce persecutor of the Christians.
- The post-resurrection conversion of James, the brother of Jesus, into a believer in Jesus. Before the resurrection of Jesus, James and the other brothers of Jesus had been skeptic about His claims.
- The empty tomb of Jesus.
Licona emphasized three historical factors that give strong evidence in support of the empty tomb:
- The Jerusalem factor: The empty tomb was in Jerusalem, the same place where the first disciples preached about Jesus’ resurrection; if anyone had shown the dead body of Jesus, it would have stopped the message of the disciples of Jesus.
- The attestation of the enemies of Jesus saying that the body of Jesus had been stolen: This is proof that the body of Jesus was no longer in His tomb.
- The testimony of women about seeing the resurrected Jesus: In Jewish and Roman society of the time, the testimony coming from women was questionable and yet the Christian report included the testimony of women.
Licona cited the testimony of scholar William Ward of Oxford University, who had concluded that the historical evidence is in favor of the empty tomb of Jesus. Ward had written (as cited in Strobel’s book): “All the strictly historical evidence we have is in favor [of the empty tomb], and those scholars who reject it ought to recognize that they do so on some other ground than that of scientific history.”
While Christians believe in Jesus’ resurrection by trusting the record of the New Testament, they are encouraged by the findings of the research that point strongly to the historicity of those events as recorded in the Gospels.