SUPERNATURAL: What proof do we have that the historical accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are real, and not myths invented by men?

Far, far more than you might think! Generations of historians, biblical scholars and experts have viewed the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and many concur that it is a real historical event with very credible evidence. All four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, report the resurrection, each adding to the main facts several different nuances from their own perspectives. These nuances are the very sort of “irrelevant detail” that characterize true eyewitness accounts. (While composed fictional stories contain details designed to move the narrative forward or a convey the message the author intends, eyewitnesses record many details simply because they remember them.)


These Gospel accounts also bear the marks of legitimacy by which other ancient literature is weighed: They are written early, at least within the same generation as the event itself, meaning their construction would have relied on these eyewitness accounts, and on oral traditions established at the time of the event and passed along. They do not contradict each other in the main facts. They echo the theology of Paul, who wrote of the resurrection just a few short years from its occurrence in 1 Corinthians 15. They introduce an unprecedented (and dangerous) idea: that a man who was beaten nearly to death before he was crucified, whose body was nailed, pierced and manhandled, who was proclaimed dead and whose burial was witnessed, came back to life. Not even his disciples, writes N. T. Wright, “expected Jesus to be raised from the dead, all by himself in the middle of history.”[1]


Not only do we have reports that claim Jesus came back to life, we’re told he was seen by many people, over a period of time. He appeared first to several women, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James. He appeared to Simon Peter. He appeared to two of his followers, traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus following his crucifixion. He appeared to all of his disciples at different times, including Thomas, who needed a little extra help believing it was really him! He even appeared to large crowds at once, showed up in locked rooms, and presented himself to the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus after his ascension.[2]


The idea that these accounts are myths created by men is improbable. The early disciples were so convinced of the resurrection of Jesus that they suffered persecution and death to proclaim it. The various hypotheses offered as alternate explanations—that Jesus’ body was stolen and then privately buried by his apostles; that Jesus only “swooned,” was buried alive, recovered, and then exited the tomb by moving his own gravestone; that hundreds of people hallucinated his appearance at the same time—are nearly as hard to believe as resurrection itself. Theologian Michael Licona argues that “if a context exists where there is reason to believe God may have entered the equation, the chances that we have a genuine miracle on our hands may be greater than they are for naturalistic theories such as myth, dream or hallucination.”[3]


Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. He worked miracles before many. He acted and spoke in ways that fulfilled God’s prophecies of the coming Messiah, and many believed that is exactly who he was. There was ample evidence God “entered the equation” of his life and death, and so good reason to believe in the “genuine miracle” of his resurrection from the dead.


[1] Surprised by Hope, p. 60

[2] 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8

[3] The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Michael R. Licona (IVP Academic, 2010), p. 146.


Supporting Scripture  

1 Corinthians 15:3-8 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”


Mark 16: 9-14 “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.  She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.  Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”


Additional Resources to Explore


>>Go to the Supernatural episode