Can it be proven that Jesus rose from the dead? What evidence is there for Jesus’ resurrection?
Sin Couldn’t Hold Him
Clearly, Jesus lived a sinless life and so when He was crucified and declared to be dead by the Roman guard, He was legally pronounced dead but since the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) and Jesus was sinless, it was impossible for death to hold Him. In fact “God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). Jesus was so sure that death could not hold Him that He told the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). That very day Jesus was with the thief on the cross because the thief knew that this was the Son of God and sinless declaring “this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41b). Even Pontius Pilate declared Him innocent (Luke 23:13-22). For those of us who are sinful (Rom 3:23) the sinless One “Who knew no sin because sin for us so that we might be declared the righteousness of Christ” (2 Cor 5:21). That is why Jesus died, dying for us while we were still yet sinners and His enemies (Rom 5:8, 11). Our sins had separated us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) but His atoning death was the propitiation (or satisfaction) of the wrath of God (John 3:36b), saving us for eternal life in His presence (John 3:16-17).
The Shroud of Turin
The Shroud of Turin has been scientifically examined and the conclusion was that whoever it was had been badly scourged, and was crucified, but it appears there was some sort of crown of thorns, and that there was a stab wound in the side. A retired professor from Duke Medical Center, Dr. Alan Whanger, spent nearly his whole life studying medicine and since 1978 has spent years studying the Shroud of Turin. Initially, he may have studied it to debunk the idea that it was genuine and might have hoped to provide evidence that it was a fake, however the more he studied it using scientific methods, the more he became convinced that it was real.1 Dr. Whanger states that this is the single, most studied object in human history. Unlike paintings which are two-dimensional, the image of the Shroud is three-dimensional. Several findings indicated that the Shroud’s images were from Israel and apparently in the spring of AD 30 due to the identification of 28 species, 20 of which grow specifically in Jerusalem and the other 8 within a 12 mile radius of Jerusalem, and with a common blooming time of March and April which would have been around the Passover, the time that Jesus was crucified.2
In 2010, the History Channel investigated and used computer technology to add a third dimension and with generally accepted color schemes for the body: hair, eyebrows, and even the bloodied body and they concluded that the image on the Shroud was not painted, nor was it dyed, nor made by any human effort.3 Ray Downing was the computer artist who helped to create the image using powerful computer imaging and he says that this is about as close as you can get to it actually looking like the very person that was wrapped in the shroud. The Shroud was transformed by computer imaging and color scheme graphics or digital artists to produce a 3-D image from the 2-D image contained within the Shroud. The Shroud of Turin is only one of the many threads of methods which we can examine.4
Flavius Joseph (AD 37 c. 100) who was a professional Romano-Jewish historian wrote “About this time appeared Jesus, a wise man…And when Pilate, at the denunciation of those that are foremost among us, had condemned Him to the cross, those who had first loved Him did not abandon Him (for He appeared to them alive again on the third day, the holy prophets having foretold this and countless other marvels about Him.) The tribe of Christians named after Him did not cease to this day.” (Jewish Antiquities, 18.3.3 §63). Paul writes that “he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:6). Luke, the author of the gospel that bears his name and who also wrote the Book of Acts declared that Jesus appeared to the apostles many times over a period of 40 days, after which He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:3-12). There can be no doubt that His appearance in Luke 24:36-49 occurred the day of Jesus’ resurrection and the Bible itself claims that Jesus appeared to many over a period of 40 days after His death and resurrection. Since God declares that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21) and that “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16) we have no reason to not believe what the Bible records about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and His appearance to many after His resurrection.
The non-Christian historical accounts of Josephus do not stand alone but we also have historical writings that confirm Jesus’ resurrection from Lucian of Samosata, Cornelius Tacitus, Maimonides and what is most amazing is that even the Jewish Sanhedrin corroborated the eyewitness accounts of early Christians. If Jesus wasn’t really crucified and died on the cross, this would be the most remarkable of all historical cover ups in all of human history. The Romans were professional executioners and estimates were that over thirty-thousand crucifixions took place every year in the Roman Empire. The victims were crucified by roads that came into and out of Jerusalem and since Jesus’ crucifixion took place at Passover, there were millions of Jews who came to Jerusalem for the most important of all the Jewish festivals. Paul said told King Agrippa about this and said that “the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).
Lines of Evidence
Simon Greenleaf was one of the greatest experts in lines of evidence for jurisprudence and in his book the “Testimony of the Evangelists,” Greenleaf looks at the hundreds of eye-witness accounts of Jesus after His resurrection as nothing short of admissible evidence that would even be allowed in a court of law today and considered as valid lines of evidence and since there is no statute of limitations on murder, an eye-witness or eye-witnesses’ testimony can never expire with time. Does time diminish actual evidence? No more than time diminishes facts. Something that was factual that occurred yesterday will be no less factual than it will be a thousand years from today. Greenleaf sees these eye-witness accounts as meeting or exceeding evidential requirements in a court of law today, particularly if the person who committed the crime was still at large. They would be no less guilty whether it was last week or in the last millennium. Both conservative and liberal theologians and scholars agree that Jesus tomb was commonly known to have been Joseph of Arimathea’s.
Clearly to believe is a choice. Even the Devil and the demons believe but that doesn’t mean that they received salvation. A person who believes will obey what they have been taught, otherwise they really don’t believe. Faith must have feet to it and to repent and trust in Christ and then obey Him means that you have a living, active faith that proves that you are born again (1 John 3). We understand that “The heavens declare the glory of God [and] the skies proclaim the work of His hands (Psalm 19:1) and “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom 1:19-20). If you do not believe that Jesus lived a sinless life, that He died for sinners, that He rose again on the third day, and is presently seated at the right hand of God the Father, then you are making a choice to not believe. To believe is a choice of the will. You will either believe and be saved (John 3:16) or choose not to believe and if so, you are “condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18b).
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon
- Dr. Alan and Mary Whanger. The Shroud of Turin: An Adventure of Discovery, Franklin, Tenn.: Providence House Publishers, 1998.
2. Council Study for the Shroud of Turin! “People/Duke The Shroud: Research by Dr. Alan and Mary Whanger.” http://people.duke.edu/~adw2/shroud/whanger.htm (accessed August 9, 2014).
3. History Channel. “The Real Face of Jesus?” http://www.history.com/shows/the-real-face-of-jesus (accessed August 9, 2014).
- Ovi Magazine. “Is this the Real Face of Jesus? The History Channel Investigates. http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/5654 (accessed August 9, 2014).