“He is not here, for He has risen”

“He is not here, for He has risen”

The earliest literature mentioning Jesus’s resurrection is found in our New Testament. Although the New Testament is purchased as a single volume and often includes the Old Testament, it is actually a collection of 27 books and letters written by no less than nine authors within the first century of the Christian church.

The Jewish authorities did not deny the fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty; instead they entangled themselves in a hopeless series of absurdities, trying to explain it away. In other words, the Jewish claim that the disciples stole the body presupposes that the body was, in fact, missing. Therefore, we have evidence from the very adversaries of the early Christian movement for the fact of the empty tomb. Let’s look at the appearances.

The Gospels do not contain the story of Christ appearing to Peter. But it was included in the old Christian tradition passed on by Paul, which came out of the Jerusalem church (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Moreover, Paul himself vouches for it. We know from Paul’s letter to the Galatians 1:18 that three years after his conversion on the Damascus Road, Paul spent about two weeks with Peter in Jerusalem. So Paul knew whether or not Peter claimed to have had such an experience.

Moreover, the appearance to Peter is independently mentioned in another old Christian tradition found in Luke 24:34: “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” That Luke is passing on a prior tradition and not just composing freehand here is evident from the awkward way in which this saying is inserted into his story of the appearance to the Emmaus disciples.

So we have multiple, independent, and extremely early sources for the fact of this appearance to Peter. Therefore, virtually all New Testament scholars agree that Peter did see a post-mortem appearance of Jesus.

The next appearance mentioned was to “the Twelve,” undoubtedly the original group of twelve disciples who had been chosen by Jesus during his ministry— minus, of course, Judas, whose absence didn’t affect the formal title of the group. This is the best-attested resurrection appearance of Jesus. It is also a part of that very early tradition that Paul hands on.

Moreover, Paul himself had personal contact with members of The Twelve. In addition, we actually have two independent accounts of this appearance in Luke 24:36-42 and John 20:19-20. There can be little doubt that such an appearance occurred, for it is attested in the old Christian tradition, vouched for by Paul, and independently described by both Luke and John.

With regard to the appearance to the 500, the fact that the most of the 500 are still alive, which Paul is saying, in effect, ‘The witnesses are there to be questioned.’” Paul would not have said this if the event had not occurred. He wouldn’t have challenged people to talk to the eyewitnesses if the event had never taken place and there were no eyewitnesses.

Jesus’ post-mortem to his younger brother James is perhaps one of the most amazing of all, for it was apparent that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in Jesus during his lifetime (Mark 3: 21, 31-35; John 7: 1-10). They didn’t believe he was the Messiah, or a prophet, or even anybody special. By the criterion of embarrassment, the unbelief of Jesus’ own family is undoubtedly a historical fact.

After the resurrection, however, we’re surprised to find Jesus’ brothers among the Christian believers gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:14).

The incident on the Damascus Road changed Saul’s whole life. He was a rabbi, a Pharisee, a respected Jewish leader. He hated the Christian heresy and did everything he could to stamp it out.

He says in his letters that he was even responsible for the execution of Christian believers! Then suddenly, he gave up everything— including his position as a respected Jewish leader— and became a Christian missionary. He entered a life of poverty, labor, and suffering. He was whipped, beaten, and stoned; left for dead; shipwrecked three times; and remained in constant danger, deprivation, and anxiety.

Finally, he made the ultimate sacrifice and was martyred for his faith at Rome. And it was all because on that day outside Damascus, he saw “Jesus our Lord” (l Corinthians 9:1). To summarize, Paul’s testimony establishes historically that various individuals and groups of people on different occasions experienced appearances of Jesus alive after his death.

Even the skeptical German critic Gerd Ludemann is emphatic: “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” The evidence firmly establishes that on separate occasions, different individuals and groups had experiences of seeing Jesus alive from the dead. Scarcely any historical scholar today disputes this conclusion.

Craig, William Lane. Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? (Kindle). Impact 360 Institute. Kindle Edition.