The Historical and Rational Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

One of the greatest historians of all time who interviewed the eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus, said that Jesus showed Himself to them after His sufferings, by many convincing proofs (Acts 1:3). These proofs are still there to be examined by those today who are willing to lay aside their prejudiced presuppositions and examine the evidence.
A Harvard Law Professor is Convinced
Dr. Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was the Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University and one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School. He authored the famous three-volume work, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which is still considered one of the greatest single authorities on judicial legal procedure. Greenleaf originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, believing that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would reveal the myth at the heart of Christianity. Instead, this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen. As a result he became a believer and wrote a book entitled, An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. Greenleaf concluded that, according to the jurisdiction of legal evidence, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best-supported event in all of ancient history.
A British Lawyer is Convinced
A brilliant young British lawyer, Frank Morrison, decided that he would write a book showing that, based on the testimony of the eyewitnesses, Jesus Christ could not have risen from the dead. Unfamiliar with the earlier work of Greenleaf, Morrison’s plan was to examine and compare the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the same way he would examine and cross-examine the testimonies of witnesses in a court of law. He felt confident that by doing so he would be able to show that their testimonies could not be corroborated.
Morrison’s book was never written for in the process of examining the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection and the questions raised by such an examination, he too became convinced that Jesus did, indeed, rise from the dead. Instead of a book disproving the resurrection he wrote a book entitled, Who Moved the Stone?, demonstrating, from a lawyer’s perspective, convincing proof that Jesus did rise from the dead.
Morrison discovered that the differences in the accounts of the four Gospels, instead of being problematic, are exactly the sort to be expected in four different eyewitness accounts. He points out that if, in a court of law, four different eyewitnesses describe what they saw in the same exact detail, they immediately come under suspicion of having concocted together on how to present their witness. The four different Gospel accounts, he says, have differences, but they are precisely the sort of minor differences to be expected by four different eyewitness accounts.
Luke Affirmed as a Reliable Historian
It was Luke, the author of the third gospel and Acts, who declared that Jesus showed Himself alive by many convincing proofs. His status as a careful historian of detailed accuracy was confirmed by the agnostic professor and archaeologist, Sir William Ramsay. Ramsay believed and taught that the New Testament was a 2nd century document filled with myths and embellishments and not a reliable source of history. However, his view of Luke and the New Testament was transformed after spending several years retracing Luke’s account of Paul’s travels in the Book of Acts. He acquired a very high regard for Luke as a historian and wrote,
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment”.15
If Luke was this careful to get his facts right about names, places and dates, can we not be confident that he was also careful to get his facts right concerning the more important things about which he reported, such as the Resurrection of Jesus. We can be confident that if there had been any smell of conspiracy or hallucination from these eyewitness accounts, Dr. Luke would have detected it.
Not a Myth
Some, of course, refuse to accept the historical facts and claim that these stories are myths fabricated by followers of Jesus who wanted to deify Him. This reminds me of C.S. Lewis, an agnostic professor of Renaissance Literature at Oxford University, who exposed the shallow claims concerning the mythological character of the New Testament. Lewis was an expert in mythological literature and he tells of his astonishment the first time he read the Gospels. His surprised response was, “This is not myth!”
Lewis, of course, became a believer and an astute apologist for Christianity. It was at this time that higher criticism was being popularized in seminaries in Germany and certain theologians, such as Rudolph Bultmann, were claiming that the New Testament accounts of Jesus, His miracles, and His resurrection were myths created by His followers. Lewis challenged these claims, saying, “I would like to know how many myths these people have read!” Lewis went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt, “And the gospel story is not myth!”
A Solid Foundation for Faith
Ours is not a blind leap of faith into the dark. Our faith is based on solid historical evidence. But even greater evidence is the transformation of millions of lives throughout the centuries who have chosen to believe the Gospel account and put their faith in the risen Christ. Yes, the evidence is there for anyone who will take the time, with an open mind, to examine the many convincing proofs.