Historical Evidence For Jesus Resurrection


A common theme of the Old Testament is the prediction that the Messiah will be killed as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and then resurrected to validate His sacrifice three days later. There are 58 specific prophecies which describe the death of the Messiah in the Old Testament.

Psalms 2:7-8 “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.’

Psalm 2 is widely accepted by all credible scholars as Messianic. In the original Hebrews language that Psalm 2 was written, it is implied in the language structure of verse 7 that the Son who is Begotten will be killed and then resurrected from the dead in order to receive the kingdom which is promised to Him. The Hebrew word: yelidtika, “to bring forth”, from where the word “begotten” is translated in verse 7, in context with the Messiah, is defined as “to bring Him forth from the dead.”[1] This is confirmed by Paul in the New Testament, where he relates the second Psalm to Jesus and the term, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You,” as speaking of the Messiah being raised from the dead.

Acts 13:33-35 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” 34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”

It is clear from Acts 13:29-30 that Luke understood from Psalm 2:7-8 that the Messiah would be crucified and resurrected from the dead. This was necessary in order to have His sacrifice validated by God so that He was qualified to be the Savior of the world, and the future king over the whole earth.

Other Old Testament verses, such as Daniel Chapter 9:25-26 in which the Messiah is also spoken of as being cut off or killed, confirm the Old Testament position that the Messiah would be killed and then resurrected. See Prophecy 310.

Daniel 9:25-26 Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself…”

It was widely understood that the Messiah would receive an earthly kingdom as a continuation of David’s reign. It is generally accepted that Psalm 2 was written by David after his victory over the Jebusites, as described in 2 Samuel 5:7-9. As David went before the Lord, in 2 Samuel 5:17-19, the Lord assured David that he would have victory over the Philistines, Syria and Phoenicia.

2 Samuel 5:17-19 Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 19 So David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And the LORD said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.

Psalm 2 and specifically chapter 2:7-8 were written by David in response to this victory over the Philistines. David, also being a prophet of God, was writing concerning his future seed, that someday there would be king who would rule forever over the whole earth.

Confirmation of this fact is found in Acts 4, where Peter has been brought before Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, to be questioned about their declaration that Jesus was the Messiah.

Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, pointed to Psalm 2 as the confirming scripture for Jesus’ life and ministry as the promised Messiah.

Acts 4:6-8 …Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel…

Acts 4:25-30 “who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

Peter is quoting directly from Psalm 2 by the power of the Holy Spirit and it is certain that it was the intent of this Psalm when it was written by David, to describe the future Messiah. Although David was describing his own personal victory by the Lord against the enemies of Israel in Psalm 2, he was also acting in the capacity of a prophet of God in describing the future ministry and kingdom of the Messiah.

The reliability of the New Testament

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most substantially documented events of History. No serious historian today believes the false claim that Jesus of Nazareth is a myth or that the resurrection was a contrived story.[2] The New Testament has been proven to be a document of immense historical importance due to its stunning accuracy in describing the actual events of the period that it details.

See the chapter: “The Historical Record of Jesus Life from Secular Sources,” for more information.

The validity of the New Testament as a record of antiquity has been authenticated by scholars, scrutinized by critics, and examined by some of the best and brightest minds of the world. What we find is that the record of Jesus’ resurrection passes every test for authenticity, and there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to question the genuineness or reliability of the eye witnesses who recorded the events of the resurrection.

The false claim that the manuscripts we have in our possession today are not reliable because they were written at too great a distance from the events they describe, is simply not true. What we find is that these original accounts of Jesus’ resurrection were so widely copied by the first century Christians and redistributed to other churches and Christians, that we have close to 24,000 copies today of the New Testament, many of which include the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.[3] All of these documents agree with each other in the same basic tenets of the resurrection. Not one of these records contradicts the facts that Jesus died on a cross, rose from the dead three days later, and was seen alive by hundreds of witnesses for more than a month after He rose from the dead. These facts are incontrovertible and beyond impeachment.

All other documents of ancient history which are considered validations of events that took place in the distant history of the world were written much farther from the actual events than those of the New Testament.[4] Scholars and experts of history today consider these as validations of those events, without controversy. Only the New Testament falls under this prejudicial scrutiny without any substantial evidence to the contrary. The reason for this biased view of the New Testament is surely due to the danger that the Gospel of Jesus Christ presents to the world. If the accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection are validated by secular scholars, then the whole world will fall under the condemnation of sin and be accountable to God.

Reliability NT Chart[5]
See the chapter: The Resurrection of Jesus

Jesus’ death and resurrection transmit the clear message that all people are sinners and in need of a Savior. The New Testament documents the fact that God has sent us a Savior to die for the sins of the whole world and then validated His entire ministry by raising Him from the dead. This is a dangerous truth that the secular world will never validate, no matter how substantial the evidence is.

When the facts are examined, there is no question that the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection are a true and accurate record of what actually happened in history.

The first Apostles’ creed speaks of the resurrection as being the foundation for the Christian church. The text from 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 has been dated by scholars as written just 3 to 7 years from the death and resurrection of Jesus.[6]

1 Corinthians 15:3-9 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

The very first letters which Paul sent to the churches in Asia have been accurately dated to within 25 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.[7] When we compare these early copies of the letters that Paul wrote, with the Bible which we have in our possession today, they are virtually identical in every essential doctrine of the Christian faith.

One of the often overlooked proofs for the resurrection of Jesus is the current tradition of worship on Sunday instead of the traditional Sabbath. The reason that the early church began to worship on Sunday was in response to a foundational event which took place on Sunday, the first day of the week:

Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene…

Within a short period of time after Jesus was raised from the dead, the Christian church began to worship on Sunday, not Saturday. Justin Martyr, considered to be the foremost authority on the Word of God in the second century, and early church historian, records that the Christian church was already worshipping the Lord early in the first century in celebration of His resurrection.[8]

If Jesus had not risen on the first day of the week, there would not be a church today that is known by His name, much less a day of worship which has been set aside on Sunday to acknowledge His resurrection from the dead. These two important points are a record of history which add to the massive amount of evidence that would lead any intelligent person to only one conclusion: Jesus of Nazareth died and rose again three days later, as recorded by the New Testament.

NEXT: See the following articles which continue your discover of the facts regarding Jesus of Nazareth and the certainty that He lived, died, and rose from the dead.

The Historical Record of Jesus Life from Secular Sources
Historical Evidence For Jesus Resurrection
The Overwhelming Empirical Evidence for Jesus Death and Resurrection
The New Testament Passes Every Literary Test of History
Empirical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Empirical Integrity of the New Testament

[1] Strongs Hebrew Concordance, Word #3205e
[2] Michael Grant writes, “Modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory [Osiris, Mithras, etc.]. It has again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars.” [Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (Scribner’s, 1977), p. 200
[3] F.F. Bruce; “The New Testament Documents, are they Reliable?” Publisher: Wilder Publications (September 8, 2009) ISBN-10: 1604598662 SBN-13: 978-1604598667
[4] Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Published by HERE’S LIFE PUBLISHERS. INC. P.O. Box 1576 San Bernardino, CA 92402     ©1972, 1979 Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc. All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America     ISBN 0-918956-46-3
[5] (63 A.D.) 1. Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, the director of the Institute of Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany
2. Thiede, Carsten Peter & D’Ancona, Matthew, The Jesus Papyrus, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996.
(24,000) 1. F.F. Bruce; “The New Testament Documents, are they Reliable?” Publisher: Wilder Publications (September 8, 2009) ISBN-10: 1604598662 SBN-13: 978-1604598667
2. Ibid, Data for this chart from Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
[6] Reginald Fuller, Foundations of New Testament Christology (Scribner’s, 1965), p. 142
[7] See Frederick Fyvie Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), pp. 11f, 14f.
[8] 1.Rokeah (2002) Justin Martyr and the Jews p.22.
2. Martyr, Justin (1997). Trans. Leslie William Barnard. ed. The First and Second Apologies. New York: Paulist Press.

Categories: Reliability of the Bible, The Historicity of Jesus, The Resurrection of Jesus

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