Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is There Any Evidence of Jesus' Resurrection?

Someone recently kindly suggested a debate on the topic of "whether there is any evidence for Jesus' resurrection." The most surprising thing to me is that anyone would think such a topic is debatable. Normally the question people have is over the weight or credibility of the evidence, not whether there is evidence or not.

There certainly is evidence. The most obvious evidence is the New Testament, which records a variety of testimony. That testimony includes purported eye-witness testimony of Jesus being crucified, dying, and rising again on the third day. Now, a skeptic may fail to accept the claims of this testimony, but that does not change the fact that the evidence is evidence.

The New Testament also records the miracles that accompanied the people who taught the resurrection, including those who were eyewitnesses of the resurrection but also those who were apparently not, particularly Paul. These miracles provided secondary evidence - evidence of the truthfulness of the witnesses, God using the sign gifts to show that they were divinely sanctioned.

The Old Testament also provides evidence of the resurrection. The form of this evidence is prophecy. In other words, the Old Testament prophesied that the Christ would rise again from the dead. For example:
Psalm 16:10
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
Is there any direct physical evidence of the resurrection? No. Things like the "Shroud of Turin" or the "Sudarium of Oviedo" are just pious frauds, like so many other supposed relics.

Is there any other extra-biblical evidence of the resurrection? Other evidence is very attenuated. There is evidence of the willingness of Christians to die for their faith, which included (and was based on) belief that Jesus rose and that all men will one day rise. This is evidence that the belief was sincerely held. But, of course, such sincerity is primarily of value with respect to the martyrdom of the eyewitnesses (such as James the brother of Jesus) and not so much of 2nd or subsequent generations of believers.

Indeed, there is evidence of the resurrection in a very attenuated way in the lives of believers (i.e. true Christians) today. Our lives show the work of the Spirit in our lives and confirm the truth of Scripture in a general way.

So, yes - there is evidence. For someone to argue that writings aren't evidence would seem to be absurd. So, I'm not sure that the topic (as proposed) is really a debatable.

A related question might be whether someone should believe that Jesus rose again based on the weight of the evidence. And of course, that question depends on a number of prior considerations. Given that the Scriptures are the inspired and infallible Word of God, they are the best possible evidence for anything. If it says it in the Bible, you can rightly trust that it is true. That's a higher level of reliaiblity than something as otherwise reliable as radiometric dating, DNA testing, polygraph, or eyewitness testimony. God's word is even more reliable than your own senses.

Of course, a skeptic may refuse to accept that the Scriptures are the Word of God, but that does not change the objective reality that they are. It just means that the skeptic is shutting himself off from the most reliable evidence.


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