In this article I will summarize, as briefly as possible, fourteen evidences for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The summaries of each point are deliberately brief and undeveloped. No pretense is made here of having anticipated every response that skeptics might make. Nor is this an exhaustive list of evidences. Rather, it is a simple overview of many of the factual elements that contribute to the historical case for Jesus’ resurrection. No one point is by itself absolute proof that Jesus rose from the dead, but the evidence is cumulative (that is, each piece adds further weight to the total) and integrative (that is, the various facts fit together in a meaningful whole). The result is a very strong case that Jesus (a) died, (b) was buried, (c) rose from the dead, and (d) appeared alive to a variety of persons (1 Cor. 15:3-8). At the end of this article is an annotated bibliography of 14 books that examine in great detail the issues touched upon in the list of 14 evidences.



  1. JESUS’ EXISTENCE. That Jesus was a historical individual is granted by virtually all historians and is supported by ancient Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources. Yet modern skeptics often feel that their best strategy for denying the evidence of his resurrection is to deny that he even existed.
  2. JESUS’ DEATH. The most popular counter to the Resurrection in non-Christian and heretical beliefs is to deny that Jesus died on the cross (e.g., this is the position of Islam). However, historians regard the death of Jesus by crucifixion as ordered by Pontius Pilate to be as historically certain as any other fact of antiquity.
  3. CRUCIFIED MESSIAH. Crucifixion was a horrible, shameful way to die, so much so that it would never have occurred to anyone in the first century to invent a story about a crucified man as the divine Savior and King of the world. Something extreme and dramatic must have happened to lead people to accept such an idea—something like his rising from the dead.
  4. JOSEPH’S TOMB. All four Gospels agree that Jesus’ body had been buried in the rock tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish high council (the Sanhedrin). This is an unlikely Christian fiction because Christians blamed the Sanhedrin for their role in having Jesus executed.
  5. WOMEN WITNESSES. The four Gospels all agree that the first persons to find the tomb empty were Jewish women, including Mary Magdalene. It is very unlikely that anyone would make up such a story, since women’s testimony was devalued compared to men’s and since Mary Magdalene was known as a formerly demon-possessed woman. If the empty tomb story were fiction, one would expect that Joseph of Arimathea, already identified as the tomb’s owner and a respected male leader, would be credited with the discovery.
  6. ANCIENT THEORIES. The earliest non-Christian explanations for the origin of the Resurrection belief (mentioned in John and Matthew) were that the body had been taken from the tomb—either moved to another burial place or stolen to fake the Resurrection. These explanations conceded three key facts: Jesus died; his body was buried in Joseph’s tomb; the tomb was later found to be empty.
  7. TOMB WAS GUARDED. Critics routinely dismiss Matthew’s story about the guards being bribed to say that they fell asleep, giving the disciples opportunity to steal the body (Matt. 28:11-15). But Matthew would have no reason to make up the story about the guards being bribed except to counter the story of the guards saying they fell asleep (see v. 15). Either way, the guards were there: the body had been in the tomb, the tomb had been guarded, and the body was no longer there.
  8. PAUL AND LUKE’S INDEPENDENT ACCOUNTS. Paul’s list of resurrection witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 coincides with Luke’s account at several points, but in wording and in what is included Luke’s account is clearly independent of Paul. For example, Paul calls Peter by his Aramaic nickname “Cephas,” not Simon or Peter; he refers to “the twelve,” Luke to “the eleven”; Luke does not mention the appearances to James or the five hundred. Thus Paul and Luke give us independent accounts of the appearances they both mention.
  9. CLOPAS AND THAT OTHER GUY. Luke gives the name of one of the two men on the road to Emmaus who saw Jesus (Clopas) but not the name of the other man. If he was making up names he would presumably have given both of the men names. The fact that he identifies only one of the two men by name is best explained if that man, Clopas, was the source of Luke’s account. In short, this fact is evidence that the account came from an eyewitness.
  10. BROTHER JAMES. Although Luke does not mention the resurrection appearance to James (the Lord’s brother) mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6, Luke does report that James had become a leading member of the apostolic group (see especially Acts 15:13-21). Since Jesus’ brothers had rejected Jesus during his lifetime (John 7:5), Paul’s reference to Christ appearing to James is probably based on fact.
  11. JOHN’S EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT. The author of the Gospel of John emphatically states that he was an eyewitness of the death of Jesus, of the empty tomb, and of the resurrection appearances of Jesus (John 19:32-35; 20:2-9; 21:7, 20-25). Either he sincerely had these experiences or he was lying; appeals to legend or myth are out of the question here.
  12. ANCIENT SKEPTICISM. Luke reports the skepticism of the men disciples the morning the tomb was found empty (Luke 24:22-24), and John reports Thomas’s skepticism about Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:24-26). These accounts (see also Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 15:12) demonstrate that the perception of ancient people as gullible hayseeds who would believe any miracle story is a modern prejudicial stereotype.
  13. PAUL’S CONVERSION. Paul was a notorious persecutor of the early Christians prior to his becoming an apostle. His explanation, that Christ appeared to him and called him to faith and the apostolic ministry, is the only plausible explanation for his 180-degree change. Moreover, Paul’s experience was entirely independent of the experience of the other apostles.
  14. PAUL’S GENTILE MISSION. Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus did not result merely in him accepting Jesus as the Jews’ Messiah. Instead, he saw himself, a trained and zealous Pharisee, as commissioned by Jesus to take the good news of the Messiah to uncircumcised Gentiles. The fact that Paul embraced such a calling against his former passionate beliefs and training makes any appeal to hallucination or delusion implausible.

You won’t believe the scholars you can sit under today!



It would be easy to list fourteen books devoted explicitly to the topic of Jesus’ resurrection. The following list of fourteen references includes only five such books. I contend that the cogency of the case for the resurrection of Jesus is significantly improved when it is set within a broader context of substantial background knowledge on God’s existence, miracles, the Bible, and specifically the Gospels and the historical Jesus; hence the tilting of this bibliography to books that contribute to such knowledge.

  1. Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006. Advances in significant ways the case for the origins of the Gospels in eyewitness accounts.
  2. Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues & Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002. Since John is the one Gospel writer who explicitly claims to have been an eyewitness, a defense of his Gospel’s historical credibility is of great value to a defense of the Resurrection.
  3. Boa, Kenneth D., and Robert M. Bowman Jr. 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists: Discover Why Believing in God Makes So Much Sense. Colorado Springs: Cook, 2005. Chapters 13-17 present an easy-to-read, popular-level presentation of evidences for Jesus’ existence, death, and resurrection. However, the rest of the book is also relevant, as the other chapters establish a context for believing the truth about Jesus in background knowledge about God’s existence, the reliability and inspiration of the Bible, and the transforming power of the message of Jesus Christ.
  4. Burridge, Richard A. What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography. SNTSMS 70. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 2nd ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Dearborn, MI: Dove Booksellers, 2004. Important contribution to Gospel scholarship, proving that the Gospels belonged to the genre of ancient biographies, not fairy tales, legends, or myths.
  5. Chapman, David W. Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010. Thorough study of the subject, complementing Hengel’s by focusing on the Jewish background and the early Christian church.
  6. Copan, Paul, ed. Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Moderated by William F. Buckley, Jr. With responses from Robert J. Miller, Craig L. Blomberg, Marcus Borg, and Ben Witherington III. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998. An interesting published debate on the resurrection of Jesus; Craig and Crossan are leading defenders of their positions.
  7. Craig, William Lane. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity, Vol. 16. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989. Still one of the very best studies of its kind.
  8. Eddy, Paul R., and Gregory A. Boyd. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. Powerful refutation of the Jesus myth theory and a strong defense of the historical value of the Synoptic Gospels as sources of information about the historical Jesus.
  9. Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne, 2012. Tell anyone who claims Jesus never existed to read this agnostic’s critique of the Jesus myth theory and then call you in the morning.
  10. Habermas, Gary R., and Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004. Two of the leading scholars on the Resurrection teamed up to produce this readable, solid defense of its historicity.
  11. Hengel, Martin. Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977. Comparatively short but extremely informative study, demonstrating that no sane people living in the ancient Mediterranean world would ever have concocted the story of a crucified man as the central figure of their religion. Focuses largely on the pagan Greco-Roman cultural perspective.
  12. Keener, Craig S. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. 2 Vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. Massive tour de force case against Hume’s assumption that miracles are so scarce in the modern world as to be ipso facto lacking in credibility.
  13. Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. Published doctoral dissertation, raising the level of sophistication for the “minimal facts” Resurrection apologetic by a couple of notches.
  14. Quarles, Charles L., ed. Buried Hope or Risen Savior: The Search for the Jesus Tomb. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008. Scholarly, well-done essays refuting the “Jesus family tomb” hypothesis and in the process giving good evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.


Robert Bowman
Robert Bowman

Robert M. Bowman Jr. (born 1957) is an American Evangelical Christian theologian specializing in the study of apologetics.

    142 replies to "14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References"

    • vinnyjh57


      You are certainly entitled to disagree with whatever views you wish to disagree with, but that does not justify statements like “in the case of at least two individuals we have explicit assertions by the authors of the texts themselves that they had such experiences.” On its face, John 21:24 is an assertion that someone other than its author had the experience and wrote about it and John 1:14 is anything but explicit concerning what the writer is claiming to have experienced.

      Personally, I find the evidence that the fourth gospel was written by an eyewitness to be not the least convincing and I did not find Bauckham to be persuasive.

    • Staircaseghost

      Well, that was a fun coast-to-coast road trip. Where was I?
      Oh yeas: I have given you the sloganized distillation of my method many times now.

      You even quoted it in your reply to me complaining I’ve never given it!

      I construct the model with maximum expected predictive capacity compatible with the maximally compressible (i.e. lowest Kolmogorov complexity) string capable of recovering prior observation. Just as you do, every minute of every day, except you apply it inconsistently.

      Note also the slippery move between my request (still unanswered, and both temporally and logically prior to your question) for a method to distinguish between miraculous hypotheses and the stock apologetic tactic of claiming the doubter must be biased agains any miracles.

      How can I be biased against miracles when I am the one advancing a hypothesis that a miracle occurred?

      I’m not too particularly concerned by the supermarket label of whether something is a “miracle” under someone’s preferred technical construal of the term. I’m more concerned with whether something HAPPENED than any abstruse ontological statements you want to make afterward. It should be enough for you to convince me (as I am open to be convinced) that X happened, and that Yahweh was causally responsible for X, and that he did it for reasons A, B, and C.

    • Staircaseghost

      It could have turned out that Yahweh makes his presence visually and audibly known with at least the frequency that, say, the president makes his existence known. He could do a weekly call-in show giving calm, well-reasoned answers to people having problems with this or that doctrine. It could have turned out that (say) all ordained Catholic priests, and only Catholic priests, had the power to perform routine healings, with the severity of the the medical conditions increasing linearly with rank; and any excommunicated member could instantly lose such powers. Resurrections could be a routine occurrence, with clearly discernible rules for whom Yahweh will or will not raise. So let’s not hear any more knee-jerk responses about how “hyperskeptics will never accept any evidence that a resurrection occurred”.

      (make a note in the margins here: if you believe Yahweh was causally responsible for X, then by definition you believe there are laws governing the relation of his actions to the results of those actions, just as there are laws governing the relation of human fingertips and the prints they leave on things they touch. And these laws must be independent of him, therefore any miracle claim in a very important sense entails naturalism.)

      “No report to the contrary has come down to us from within even three centuries or more of the time that event reportedly occurred.”

      What on earth are you talking about? What kind of “report” would one reasonably expect in the year 250 C.E. about the status of the corpse of a near-anonymous cynic-sage?

    • Staircaseghost

      “It is therefore utterly implausible to claim, as many Muslims do, that God created an illusion to make everyone think that it was Jesus on the cross while all along it was Judas Iscariot or Simon of Cyrene.”

      I think you are having some trouble with the operation of the word “therefore”. Suppose the crucifixion or the resurrection were illusions created by an omnipotent being. What kind of “contrary reports” would you expect to see given that he has an infinite capacity to create verisimilitude?

      “Such an “explanation” is nothing more than an ad hoc attempt to explain away the reports that we have. The problem with the Muslim explanation is not merely that it is miraculous; the problem is that it is entirely ad hoc.”

      It is not ad hoc relative to the background belief that Islam is the true religion. It is just the sort of thing one would expect. An ad hoc explanation is bad because it is unparsimonious, but not all unparsimonious explanations are ad hoc. The problem with the “it all really happened” explanation is that once you start saying laws can be suspended, you are left with no non-theological method for saying which laws those will be.

      “Your claim that my “preferred conclusion” is “a maximally gratuitous, maximally random intrusion into the pattern of experience” is quite erroneous. If we have witnesses attesting that they saw a miracle, concluding that a miracle occurred is not gratuitous.”

      Your understanding of gratuity in the context of the formal definition of that term is erroneous. By definition, nomological discontinuities exhibit maximum incompressibility in the data string. They are, formally speaking, the most gratuitous possible kind of claims.

      One might ask, is there any claim you wouldn’t believe if an author said 1st century Jewish women were the first witnesses? I mean, we’re already up to “resurrection of the dead”.

    • Staircaseghost

      “For example, six witnesses claimed to see the Virgin Mary repeatedly and regularly at Medjugorje. I don’t think they really saw Mary, but it would be a mistake for me to claim that explaining their reports as supernatural visions is ad hoc.”

      Not ad hoc. Unparsimonious. It requires more incompressible description in exchange for zero increase in predictive capacity.

      And it is very, very promising that you seem now to understand that it is not “ad hoc” to search for explanations of reports of dead people walking around which do minimal violence to background beliefs.

      “Knowledge of the past cannot be limited to what can be known by such a method without precluding the possibility of learning of things that happened out of the bounds of my own personal ‘prior experience.'”

      Incorrect. It can be and it is. Remember that knowledge is not merely true belief, but justified true belief. Omphalism may be true, but it does not follow that it can be known even if true.

      “Allowing that miracles might have occurred in history is incompatible with a method that prizes ‘maximal predictive capacity’ over maximal discovery.”

      I don’t know what you mean by “maximal discovery” and I doubt you do either. But there is a difference between what is true and what can be known to be true, and it is hardly my problem that the theist again and again and again makes claims which he could not possibly be in a position to justify. And so we get unbearably lame arguments like “women couldn’t testify in civil cases” as though this were sufficient warrant for concluding that a rupture in the space-time continuum must have occurred. Yes, that is a much more likely explanation of the reports…

    • Staircaseghost

      “A worldview in which God does not exist and all dead people necessarily stay dead is a “simpler” worldview and in that respect naturalistic explanations for any resurrection reports seem more “parsimonious” by definition, but to get this greater parsimony you must forfeit any claim to be pursuing the evidence wherever it might lead.”

      Incorrect. Parsimonious induction is constitutive of rational thought. Abandoning it means abandoning the very concept of anything being evidence at all. Try it. Try consistently denying it for five minutes and tell me how you did.

      The key phrase in the above, as it has been since my first reply, is “consistently”.

      If I have a “method” (I am dubious about claims that there can be only one correct method for all people with regard to all types of knowledge acquisition), it is to seek the best explanation for all of the available evidence as best I can.

      This fails to satisfy the definition of “method” because it lacks content. Or do you think “cook the best food” constitutes substantive advice for someone aspiring to become a chef?

      Do you know (without googling it) how the levitating lady trick is done, where they pass the rings over the whole body to prove there is neither a table nor strings? (If you do, I’ll pick another example.) How does your “method” handle cases like this?

    • Robert Bowman


      You wrote:

      “Oh [yes]: I have given you the sloganized distillation of my method many times now. You even quoted it in your reply to me complaining I’ve never given it!”

      I never complained that you never gave me a description of your method. Perhaps you should review the comments. The question you had not answered was “whether any evidence might in your view make it reasonable to conclude that a miracle occurred.”

      You wrote:

      “Note also the slippery move between my request (still unanswered, and both temporally and logically prior to your question) for a method to distinguish between miraculous hypotheses and the stock apologetic tactic of claiming the doubter must be biased agains[t] any miracles. How can I be biased against miracles when I am the one advancing a hypothesis that a miracle occurred?”

      You have not advanced a hypothesis that a miracle occurred. You have rather attempted to render any and all miraculous explanations epistemologically off-limits by claiming that we have no rational basis for preferring the miracle claim that Jesus rose from the dead to the miracle claim that the disciples’ minds were demonically deceived into thinking that Jesus rose from the dead (or whatever). This is not advancing a hypothesis that a miracle occurred; it is a reductio ad absurdum objection to belief in the miracle of the Resurrection or in any miracle. And I have already given a methodological account for why one should rationally prefer the Resurrection explanation to the disciples’ demonic deception explanation: the latter is completely ad hoc. More fundamentally, there is no reason even to take seriously an explanation that no one is actually advancing. If I met someone who sincerely thought the disciples were demonically deceived, I would offer arguments against their claim. That is not the case here.

      You refer disparagingly to the assessment that “the doubter must be biased agains[t] any miracles” as a “stock apologetic tactic.” This is a rhetorically nice way of misstating the issue. I don’t consider all “doubters” biased against all miracles. However, if someone makes it clear that he considers the evidence irrelevant to the question of whether a miracle occurred, then I conclude that such a person is indeed biased against miracles. By the way, is it not a stock atheist polemical tactic to claim that Christians are biased in favor of miracles, or at least biased in favor of the biblical miracles? Why, I think it is.

      You suggest that if God really existed he could provide evidence sufficient to convince skeptics like you by performing miracles on a regular basis: “He could do a weekly call-in show,” empower all Catholic priests and only them to perform healings routinely, and even enable them to resurrect people routinely according to clearly delineated rules. And just how would this prove to you that a supernatural being was responsible? Why not, in such a scenario, hypothesize that a super-intelligent being from an advanced race of extraterrestrials harnessing extraordinary technologies unknown to us is communicating through his appointed earthly representatives, has given them access to some of his planet’s technology to perform the healings and resurrections, and is deceiving them and us by claiming to be a supernatural deity? Wouldn’t this explanation be epistemologically preferable, in your view, to the explanation that it was really God? There actually are groups that believe something like this, by the way.

      You claimed, “if you believe Yahweh was causally responsible for X, then by definition you believe there are laws governing the relation of his actions to the results of those actions, just as there are laws governing the relation of human fingertips and the prints they leave on things they touch. And these laws must be independent of him, therefore any miracle claim in a very important sense entails naturalism.” This argument suggests that you have not grasped the meaning of theism. The belief that God can be causally responsible for a particular event in no way entails that there are laws of God-world relations that are independent of God, for the simple reason that, since God brought the world into existence ex nihilo according to his design, whatever such “laws” might be exist by his choosing.

      I’ll have to stop for now. If I have time later I will respond to more of your comments.

    • mbaker


      Thanks for a good post, one we Christians can actually use for a change, complete with references. I will bow out now and just say thanks again.

    • newenglandsun

      If the women being recorded at the tomb is proof of the resurrection due to the embarassment factor, then all this proves is that the Bible is sexist and is worthy only to be scoffed at.

    • Robert Bowman


      Not quite. It proves that Jewish men during biblical times were sexist, not that the Bible is sexist. You can scoff at the sexist men of the time, but they admitted that the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women, an admission that, given the sexist values of the time, is good evidence that the tomb was in fact empty.

      So, would you care to engage this evidence directly?

    • newenglandsun

      Yeah but Rob, according to you, the Bible was written by God and not man. So I guess I’ll be burning in Hell forever for choosing to stand up for human rights that stand in contradiction to this God. What an ogre you serve!

      Oh, and I was meaning to comment on your blog on whether or not forbidding gay marriage is in opposition to gay rights. It is. Even if you allow gay people to marry into a heterosexual relationship, it’s still a hindrance to them. People marry for companionship. Or are you a sex-crazed sexist like your ogre deity?

    • newenglandsun

      Oh, and additionally, if the Bible is not sexist, then the people writing the Bible (God according to you) were not sexist and this really isn’t an embarassment factor and therefore, not proof of the resurrection.

      Okay, number 5 down, 13 to go. I’m on a roll!

    • newenglandsun

      1. Jesus’s existence is still debatable. As to whether or not he actually existed, idk. I find it highly imaginable that people could have invented him like they did Apollonius but even if he did exist, does not mean that the Biblical writers used tall-tales to exaggerate the story a bit. Remember Davy Crockett killed a bar when he was only three.
      2. Is what we assume to be true. What a majority of historians believe does not mean it actually happened. The nature of the inquisitions and the witch-craft trials are also debated within historical research. It is likely that a look-a-like could have fooled everyone and died instead of Jesus.
      3. Or something as minor as reinterpreted prophecies from the great storyteller Matthew. You would have to analyze Jewish commentaries on Hebrew Bible prophecies before making this assumption. I think I’ll trust the Jews!
      4. So? They could have just said that for poetic drama, you don’t know that for fact.
      6. The earliest statements on Jesus from non-Christian scholars were from the second century C.E. Hardly reliable information there. Unless you want to accredit the Gospel of Thomas as written in 50 C.E. as a non-Christian writing.
      7. You give credence to two arguments here. A pro-resurrection argument and a con-resurrection argument. Nuff said.
      8. Paul also wrote 1 Cor. 15 to refute heresies in the church. Reliable theologically, but not historically. Was writing for theological and not historical purposes here. Probably made up the 500, who knows.
      9. Huh? Clopas isn’t mentioned in Luke. Sorry.
      10. Only probably based on fact? Not entirely confident?
      11. Well John is primarily theological in nature. I mean seriously, God incarnated in human flesh? I like how you just dismiss your opponents without giving credence to them. Your lack of confidence is revealed.
      12. That there was skepticism proves that this is a religious experience. Not an historical experience.

    • newenglandsun

      13. Paul did convert. This is a fact. Did he actually experience a vision of Christ? Who knows.
      14. Actually, I think sociologically, conversion experiences, whether they be real or not, tend to change the nature of someone. See also, Muhammad.

    • Robert Bowman


      I don’t believe that God “wrote” the Bible. Therefore, your objection proceeds from a false premise. God inspired the biblical writers to write truth, but they remained human beings with personal limitations and failings. And if the Gospel writers overcame their sexist cultural values and had high esteem and respect for the testimony of women, that in itself requires some explanation.

      The issue of Hell is irrelevant here, as is the issue of same-sex marriage. Please keep your comments focused on the issue of the thread. Emotive rantings against the character of God, and insulting comments directed at me, only make your position look even weaker than it is.

    • newenglandsun

      Oh, now I see. You meant Cleopas.
      Yeah, storytellers don’t have to make up names for their characters either. Want proof?

    • newenglandsun

      “The issue of Hell is irrelevant here, as is the issue of same-sex marriage.”
      Well, you know, according to that Joan Osborne song, believing means we have to believe in the whole package.

    • Robert Bowman


      1. You haven’t engaged the point I was making here, which is not merely that most historians acknowledge Jesus’ historical existence. Still, if you don’t know whether he even existed then you have some historical catching up to do. The genre of “tall tales” really doesn’t do anything to address the historical issues here either.

      2. It’s been a while since I heard someone defend the lookalike explanation for Jesus’ crucifixion. If you’re right, apparently no one was fooled more than the lookalike who got himself crucified! What, he couldn’t yell, “It isn’t me! My name is Fred, not Jesus!”?

      3. Huh? Matthew made up the crucifixion of Jesus? You’ll trust the Jews regarding what? I can’t make any sense out of your comment here.

      4. Another mystery comment. The Gospels made up Joseph of Arimathea as a poetic device?

      5. Discussed above.

      6. I was citing Matthew and John, not non-Christian writers. Your response here is a total whiff.

      7. I don’t think you even tried to understand the argument here, which reasons _arguendo_ that even if one is skeptical about Matthew’s explanation the evidence shows that his opponents conceded the empty tomb.

      8. Another complete miss of the target. Do you understand the concept of independent testimonies?

      9. Luke 24:18. (“Clopas” and “Cleopas” are alternate spellings of the same name, though how the name was spelled or who precisely the man was is irrelevant to my argument.)

      10. Probability is a regular part of historical reasoning and knowledge.

      11. Another attempt to change the subject.

      12. Begging the question.

      13. Paul says he did. That is a piece of evidence that needs to be fairly considered. “Who knows” is not an answer.

      14. Another complete miss. Paul says he saw Christ. Was he lying, deluded, hallucinating, or what? And Muhammad experienced no dramatic conversion.

    • Robert Bowman


      Your new comment on Cleopas still doesn’t engage the issue. Your example of the Clint Eastwood character is irrelevant because in that instance the central character is deliberately nameless for dramatic effect. In Luke, Cleopas’s companion is a minor figure, and his being nameless has no dramatic or artistic significance.

    • vinnyjh57

      The author of Matthew claims that opponents conceded the empty tomb. How is that any more persuasive that Mormons who claimed that their opponents conceded the “Reformed Egytptian” writings?

    • Robert Bowman

      Vinny, to what exactly are you referring? I can only guess you are referring to the Anthon affair. Joseph Smith claimed that Charles Anthon, a classics scholar, told Martin Harris that the characters on the paper Joseph had given Martin were authentic ancient characters and that the translation was correct. In this case there are three huge problems: (1) Anthon contradicted Joseph’s account. (2) Joseph’s account cannot be true because (a) supposedly Reformed Egyptian was an unknown form of Egyptian that no one could have read without supernatural guidance and (b) at the time Martin visited Anthon no scholar in America could read any form of ancient Egyptian! (3) The Anthon transcript (the paper Martin showed Anthon) has been found, and the scribbles on it are not Egyptian and the paper contains no translation.

      Nothing like these defeaters obtain in the case of Matthew’s report concerning the guards at the tomb of Jesus.

      There is much more that could be said, but the above should at least be helpful.

    • vinnyjh57


      We know about these defeaters because we have lots of primary source material from outsiders regarding early Mormonism. We have many accounts written by non-Mormons who dealt with the Latter Day Saints and ex-Mormons who left the fold. Imagine trying to write the story of Joseph Smith if your only sources were composed by his most devoted followers thirty to sixty years after his death. You might not end up thinking that Smith was a faithful husband of one wife as polygamy was not openly proclaimed until the Mormons reached Utah.

      If I had a nickel for every time someone in a discussion of early Christianity claimed that an opponent had conceded a vital point, I would only drink bourbon that’s older than my cat. It is the most common rhetorical trick in the book and counts for nothing.

    • Robert Bowman


      You were the one who made the comparison between Joseph Smith’s story about Anthon and Matthew’s story about the guards (apparently I guessed right). I simply explained why the comparison is awfully weak. It’s true that we have Anthon’s own testimony to counter Joseph’s, whereas we don’t have anything from the guards or the Jerusalem authorities. But suppose we didn’t have Anthon’s own testimony. As I explained, we would still have two very strong reasons for rejecting Joseph Smith’s claim. So I don’t need written testimony from the opponents to assess Joseph’s story, although we happen to have some and it adds further evidence against his claim.

      The literature produced by the Mormons themselves, less than the lower range of thirty years after Joseph you stipulated, freely acknowledge that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. From purely pro-Mormon sources published within thirty years of his death, one can mount an impressive case against his claims to be a prophet. In fact, one can do so using only sources written by Joseph himself.

    • vinnyjh57

      Even today, there are Mormons who claim that it was Brigham Young rather than Joseph Smith who introduced the practice of polygamy. Moreover, that is far from the only point upon which early Mormon accounts are problematic. Do you think historians would have an even remotely accurate picture of the Kirtland bank fraud, the Missouri conflicts, or the Mountain Meadows massacre if the only accounts came from devoted Mormons thirty years after the fact? Why should we think that the Gospel writers were not similarly inclined to massage the facts for apologetic purposes?

      BTW, the fact that Smith claimed that the characters couldn’t be translated without supernatural guidance wouldn’t be any reason to reject Harris’s account of Anthon’s statements. Smith could simply have been mistaken on that point.

    • Robert Bowman

      Vinny, my post gives several reasons to think that the Gospel writers were not inclined to massage the facts for apologetic purposes. Points #4 and #5 are especially relevant in that regard.

      Furthermore, my argument to which you are responding, point #7, is that “Matthew would have no reason to make up the story about the guards being bribed except to counter the story of the guards saying they fell asleep.” You haven’t addressed the substance of that point at all. My reasoning is that even if we suppose that Matthew was inclined to make things up for apologetic purposes, those apologetic purposes must have been purposeful. So what was Matthew’s purpose in inventing (for the sake of argument) the claim that the guards were bribed to say they fell asleep? Answer: to counter the claim by critics of the Resurrection that the disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep. And why would critics make that claim? Answer: that was their response to the Christian claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, leaving the tomb empty. Thus, this passage attests to the fact that Jewish opponents of Christianity in the first century argued that the disciples faked Jesus’ resurrection by stealing the body from the tomb. And, as I show in my post, this is just one of several lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that indeed Jesus’ body had been buried in a tomb and that the tomb was shortly thereafter found to be empty (in addition to #7, see ##4, 5, 6, and 11).

    • vinnyjh57

      As grave robbing was a known phenomenon in the ancient world, I’m sure that it would occur to almost anyone who heard the story of the empty tomb that someone had stolen the body even if they knew nothing at all about what happened in Jerusalem. That objection might well have been raised every time that the story was told to a new group of people so I don’t find anything at all improbable about someone deciding/inventing that the Romans must have posted guards in order establish that it didn’t happen. This of course requires an explanation for why the guards never said anything so, voila, they must have been bribed. That’s how stories grow over time and it’s the most natural thing in the world (and in apologetics I might add).

      We’ve already discussed at length why someone writing to a community of pagan converts where women played a prominent role needn’t have been deterred by the status of women under Jewish law.

      As to Joseph of Arimathea, anyone inventing the story of the empty tomb would need to be able to explain how a condemned criminal came to receive an honorable burial rather than being left on the cross to rot as was the usual Roman practice. Obviously the character responsible is going to have to be someone who had sufficient influence to obtain such a favor from the Romans. That Joseph is a necessary plot point is more than sufficient to explain why he might have been invented.

    • Christian Mom

      In the world we live in today, we are encountering a lot of skeptics who does not fully understand how God is awesome. Who can comprehend the way the flowers bloom, the sun rises and the morning dew? One cannot fully grasp the wonders of God’s love, but we can acknowledge Him, His creations and His presence.

      For skeptics out there, check this book collections I came across with.

      ‘Am still praying for a copy of one or two of these books. Have a blessed day to you all!

    • Robert Bowman


      You wrote:

      “As grave robbing was a known phenomenon in the ancient world, I’m sure that it would occur to almost anyone who heard the story of the empty tomb that someone had stolen the body even if they knew nothing at all about what happened in Jerusalem. That objection might well have been raised every time that the story was told to a new group of people so I don’t find anything at all improbable about someone deciding/inventing that the Romans must have posted guards in order establish that it didn’t happen. This of course requires an explanation for why the guards never said anything so, voila, they must have been bribed. That’s how stories grow over time and it’s the most natural thing in the world (and in apologetics I might add).”

      I have several comments in response.

      1. Matthew says that there was a story circulating among the Jews that the disciples had stolen the body and that the guards had been bribed to say so (Matt. 28:15). This comment frames the account as a response to specific Jewish polemic against the Resurrection, not to general objections of grave-robbing as a plausible explanation.

      2. The probable origin of the Gospel of Matthew adds weight to the position that Matthew is countering a specific story circulating among Jews who had access to information about what non-Christian Jews in the Jerusalem area had been saying about the Resurrection. Almost all Gospel scholars agree that the Gospel of Matthew was written by a Jewish Christian who was part of a community of Jews (probably some of whom were Christians and some of whom were not) in Galilee or Syria. (A few have even suggested that the Gospel was written in or around Jerusalem itself.) Geographically, then, Matthew’s community was in a place where rumors or stories originating in Jerusalem were likely to reach (whereas, for example, Rome, where Mark probably wrote his Gospel, would be less likely of a place for such stories to reach).

      3. The guards were probably Jewish temple guards, not Roman guards. Pilate’s comment to the Jewish authorities was, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how” (Matt. 27:65). (By “a guard” is meant a small detachment or unit of guards, cf. 28:4, 11.) After the incident at the tomb, the guards went to report to the chief priests, not to Pilate (28:11), and they were bribed by the chief priests (28:12-15). The guards evidently then were accountable to the Sanhedrin, not to Pilate, and so were Jewish temple guards, not Roman soldiers. The only possible indication that they were Romans is the statement by the chief priests that they would keep the guards out of trouble should the matter come to the attention of Pilate (28:14). Yet this verse can be taken as further evidence they were not Romans, since if they were nothing the chief priests could do would keep them from suffering military discipline. Falling asleep on the job could get a Roman soldier executed.

      4. Matthew’s account about the guards (Matt. 27:62-65; 28:11-15) appears to come from a pre-Matthean source. One evidence for this conclusion is the high number of words found only here in Matthew: “next day” (epaurion), “Day of Preparation” (paraskeuen), “deceiver” (planos), “make secure” (asphalizo), “deception” (plane), “guard” (koustodia), “sealing” (sphragizo), “out of trouble” (amerimnos), and “spread abroad” (diaphemizo). That’s eight hapax legomena in eight verses, a fairly high rate. By comparison, there are only seven such words in the other 15 verses of Matthew 28. Five of these are in Matthew 28:1-3: “after” (opse), “dawning” (epiphosko), “roll away” (apokulio), “appearance” (eidea), and “snow” (chion). The other two are in Matthew 28:16: “eleven” (hendeka) and “designated” (etaxato). While some hapax legomena are naturally the result of unusual subject matter, at least half of them are not (“next day,” “deceiver,” “deception,” and “spread abroad”).

      5. Matthew’s is not the only early account of the tomb being guarded. The Gospel of Peter, probably an early second-century text that attests in places to sources independent of the canonical Gospels, also has such an account, but verbally and in some substantial matters is very different from Matthew’s account. The Gospel of Peter explicitly has the guards be Roman guards, and even gives one of them a name (Petronius); the guards report the Resurrection (which they witnessed) to Pilate, who told them to say nothing. This account appears to be literarily independent of Matthew’s account, and therefore provides independent testimony to the presence of a guard as historical.

      6. There was no polemical need for Matthew or his source to invent guards or to claim that the guards were bribed to keep silent. This is clear enough from the fact that Luke and John do not include these elements (and everyone agrees John was written later than Matthew). Matthew has already provided a sufficient and plausible (both psychologically and historically) refutation of the claim that the disciples stole the body: they were cowards who had run away and even denied knowing Jesus when challenged (Matt. 26:56, 58, 69-75). The story of the guards did not need to end with the bribe: if Matthew or his source was inventing the story, for example, he could have claimed that the guards became believers and testified to Jesus’ resurrection, or he could have claimed that the guards told others about the strange earthquake and the angel. Matthew has already reported the centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion affirming that Jesus was truly the Son of God (27:54); why not have the guards give similar testimony, if all of this is fiction anyway?

      Bottom line: I think there is a pretty good case to be made that Matthew’s account of the guards (a) predated Matthew, (b) has some independent attestation in the Gospel of Peter, (c) was told to counter a specific Jewish story that the disciples had stolen the body, and (d) was not a necessary plot device. These considerations do not prove that the guards were historical, but they do provide good evidence supporting the historicity of the empty tomb.

      For more on this issue, see William Lane Craig’s article, “The Guard at the Tomb,” New Testament Studies 30 (1984): 273-81, online at

    • vinnyjh57

      The story that Matthew is claiming the Jews told is the one that the guards told about the disciples stealing the body when they fell asleep. The Jews wouldn’t have any reason to tell a story about how their leaders were responsible for bribing the guards.

      That the author would frame the account as a response to a specific polemic is not at all surprising. It happens to me frequently in discussions with apologists. I will raise a challenge only to be told that unbelievers have been raising the objection for years as well as the liberal scholar who first raised the objection, the implication being that the objection has already been thoroughly addressed. By framing the story of the guards this way, the author implicitly associates anyone who brings up grave robbing with the bribery perpetrated by the men responsible for crucifying Jesus.

      The question is whether the story of the guards serves a purpose such that someone might invent it. It is not necessary to establish that the purpose is indispensable to the plot nor is it necessary to establish that it is the only possible story that could have served the purpose. It is also not necessary to establish that it is the best possible story to serve the purpose. People often invent stories without realizing they have huge holes in them. I have no doubt that you can invent many alternative ways of telling the story of the guards, but your alternatives are not relevant to whether someone might have a motive to invent this particular story. The fact that someone had raised the possibility that the body was stolen is more than sufficient reason to put the guards in the story.

    • vinnyjh57

      I think it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that the account of the bribed guards predates Matthew, but that of course gives us no information about its original sources. We don’t know who Matthew was and we don’t who his sources were or how many times removed in the oral tradition they might have been from anyone with first-hand knowledge—assuming of course that the oral tradition actually started with anyone with first-hand knowledge. There are many possibilities, but declaring any of them to be probable strikes me as wishful thinking.

    • vinnyjh57

      BTW, WLC seems to have changed his mind about the historicity of Matthew’s guards.

    • […] Islam and the Crucifixion of Jesus | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry Resurrection 14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References | Parchment and Pen God Bless, Max Reply With […]

    • […] wind and believe in something based on a myth, legend, or lie. If you want to know more, here are 14 references you can read for yourself. 1.Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as […]

    • thom waters


      The weakness to your approach concerning the 14 evidences from the New Testament for the historicity of the Resurrection would appear to be two-fold:

      1–Some, if not all, of the evidences you list can be challenged at length from a historical perspective using the NT documents themselves;

      2–Your list suggests that the only evidences at our disposal serve to support the Resurrection Hypothesis and trhat there are none that challenge the historicity of the proposition. I believe this to be in error and would suggest that there are a substantial number of evidences that actually argue against the proposition. That you omit these suggests that it is a willful omission on your part since they would not promote the proposition, or it might simply be the case that you are not familiar with them or have never given them much thought or considertation.

      First to #1 and I begin by saying the following: It is often the truth portions of an effective falsehood that make the falsehood more pursuasive.

      Let us take your death by crucifixion evidence. I believe it is quite possible that you cofuse fact with belief. For example, it appears to be a fact that one Jesus was actually crucified. We even have non-bibilical references to this act. However, attestation to an actual death is something we do not have. Why is this important? It is important because to crucifiy someone as a means of execution is a process, from what little we know about such things. It would be the same as a stoning. To say that someone was stoned is different than to say that someone was stoned to death. For that you would need specific evidence, and even then such an act, the act of stoning someone, might be judged incorrectly. Such was the apparent case with the stoning of Paul in Acts 14. Such was his condition that he was assumed to be dead and dragged out of the city. HOwever, that was not the case, and the next day he traveled out of the city and began preaching again.

    • thom waters

      A crucifixion was a similar form of execution that required, among other things, that the process be completed. Usually this meant that the victim was left up for days and the final indignity was that scavenger animals often ripped the body apart. This we know was not the case with Jesus from the documents at our disposal.

      Let me express this idea another way. I give you three scenarios. One person is crucified, one person is stoned, and one person is beheaded. Which of these needs no further explanation regarding the desired end of the action? No inference is needed from a beheading. Death is certain. From the other two more is required.

      How might a person survive a crucifixion? This would be most easily accomplished by removing the element of Time from the process. If someone was crucified and removed from the cross after 5 minutes, could they survive? After 10 minutes? After 30 minutes? At what point is survival no longer an option or viable end? Of course that would depend on other variables, but the point is still the same. The process would need to be interrupted. This appears to be the case with Jesus. And the simple proclamation by a guard that the victim was dead seems to add little to the certainty of death. Especially is this true when it is acknowledged that such pronouncements were not normal with most crucifixions. This guard’s pronouncement, especially since he most likely had no background in such matters, could easily have been mistaken, as was the mistake made with Paul’s stoning in Acts 14.

      I’m not saying that one Jesus did not die, only correctly pointing out that his death is neither a “fact” or something that we can know to be true. Like much of Christianity this evidence that you give begins with and actually belongs to the realm of Faith. NOthing inherently wrong with that, but it is important to call it what it is.

      Again the question to be asked, What do we know to be true? What you choose to believe is…

    • C.J.

      Yur first two points are completely false.” There are zero “historians” that agree that JC existed. The supposed “historians” you speak of all all Christian apologetics. Try looking for a historian who isn’t trying to prove JC ever existed before he or she even starts and see how many you come up with. There is no mention outside of the bible of JC. (And don’t try to pass off the Joseph us quote that even Christian historians agree is fake.

      The point is that until you can prove he existed, anything else is just extraneous BS.

      Look up these gods that were being worshipped in the middle east around the same time: Horus, Mithra & Dionysus (just to name a few). Here’s an example of Horus’ life:

      Born of a virgin, Isis. Only begotten son of the God Osiris. Birth heralded by the star Sirius, the morning star. Ancient Egyptians paraded a manger and child representing Horus through the streets at the time of the winter solstice (about DEC-21). In reality, he had no birth date; he was not a human. Death threat during infancy: Herut tried to have Horus murdered. Handling the threat: The God That tells Horus’ mother “Come, thou goddess Isis, hide thyself with thy child.” An angel tells Jesus’ father to: “Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt.” Break in life history: No data between ages of 12 & 30. Age at baptism: 30. Subsequent fate of the baptiser: Beheaded. Walked on water, cast out demons, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind. Was crucifed, descended into Hell; resurrected after three days.

      Sound familiar? Even Kristina and Buddha have similar stories. None of JC’s story is new. It’s just the last in a long string of messiah myths.

    • Paul Stein

      This is a fairly persuasive list, but the story of the guard in Matthew is probably an apologetic device. It does not fit the “minimal fact” idea because it doesn’t appear in all Gospels.

    • gary

      I am a former Christian. I loved being a Christian. I loved Jesus and I loved the Bible. I used to love witnessing to non-believers and loved defending my belief in (the Christian) God and orthodox/conservative Christianity. Then one day someone challenged me to take a good, hard look at the foundation of my beliefs: the Bible. I was stunned by what I discovered.

      1. The Bible is not inerrant. It contains many, many errors, contradictions, and deliberate alterations and additions by the scribes who copied it. The originals are lost, therefore we have no idea what “God” originally” said. Yes, its true—Christians can give “harmonizations” for every alleged error and contradiction, but so can the Muslims for errors in the Koran, and Mormons for errors in the Book of Mormon. One can harmonize anything if you allow for the supernatural.

      2. How do we know that the New Testament is the Word of God? Did Jesus leave a list of inspired books? Did the Apostles? Paul? The answer is, no. The books of the New Testament were added to the canon over several hundred years. Second Peter was not officially accepted into the canon until almost the FIFTH century! So why do all Christians accept every book of the New Testament as the word of God and reject every non-canonical “gospel”? Answer: the ancient (catholic) Church voted these books into your Bible. Period.

      There is nowhere in the OT or the NT where God gives men the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word. If Second Peter was really God’s Word, the entire Church should have known so in the first century.

      3. Who wrote the Gospels? We have NO idea! The belief that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is based on hearsay and assumptions—catholic tradition. Protestants denounce most of the traditions of the Catholic Church but have retained two of the most blatant, evidence-lacking traditions, which have no basis in historical fact or in the Bible: the canon of the NT and the authorship of the Gospels.

      The only shred of evidence that Christians use to support the traditional authorship of the Gospels is one brief statement by a guy named Papias in 130 AD that someone told him that John Mark had written a gospel. That’s it! Papias did not even identify this “gospel”. Yet in 180 AD, Irenaeus, a bishop in FRANCE, declares to the world that the apostles Matthew and John and the associates of Peter and Paul—Mark and Luke—wrote the Gospels. But Irenaeus gives ZERO evidence for his assignment of authorship to these four books. It is well known to historians that it was a common practice at that time for anonymously written books to be ascribed to famous people to give them more authority. For all we know, this is what Irenaeus did in the case of the Gospels.

      The foundation of the Christian Faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If the story of the Resurrection comes from four anonymous books, three of which borrow heavily from the first, often word for word, how do we know that the unheard of, fantastically supernatural, story of the re-animation of a first century dead man, actually happened??

      Maybe the first book written, “Mark”, was written for the same purpose that most books were written in that time period—for the benefit of one wealthy benefactor, and maybe it was written simply as an historical novel, like Homer’s Iliad; not meant to be 100% factual in every detail, but a mix of true historical events as a background, with a real messiah pretender in Palestine, Jesus, but with myth and fiction added to embellish the story and help sell the book! We just do not know for what purpose these books were written!

      I slowly came to realize that there is zero verifiable evidence for the Resurrection, and, the Bible is not a reliable document. After four months of desperate attempts to save my faith, I came to the sad conclusion that my faith was based on an ancient superstition; a superstition not based on lies, but based on the sincere but false beliefs of uneducated, superstitious, first century peasants.

    • gary

      I am frequently advised by Christians that in order for me to see the truth about their claim of the supernatural resurrection of Jesus I must read a particular Christian apologist’s book. They tell me that if I read the Christian apologist’s book with a fair and open mind (praying to the Holy Spirit for “guidance” wouldn’t hurt either), I will see that the Resurrection really did happen, just as the Bible says it did.

      But, if someone told you that unicorns exist and that you should believe in them, would you need to read a “unicorn expert’s” book to know for sure that unicorns do not exist?

      If someone told you that leprechauns exist and that you should believe in them, would you need to read a “leprechaun expert’s” book to know for sure that leprechauns do not exist?

      If someone told you that ghosts, goblins, and ghouls exist and that you should believe in them, would you need to read a “ghost, goblin, and ghoul expert’s” book to know for sure that ghosts, goblins, and ghouls do not exist?

      If someone told you that a first century dead man was resurrected from the dead and walked out of his grave with a superhero body and that you should believe in him, would you need to read a “resurrected dead superhero expert’s” book to know for sure that superheroes do not exist nor do they walk out of their graves?

      If someone told you that, true, dead men do not walk out of their graves with superhero bodies, but ancient, middle-eastern gods can and have walked out of their graves with superhero bodies, would you need to read a “resurrected ancient middle-eastern god expert’s” book to know for sure that ancient, middle-eastern gods do not, and have not, walked out of their graves?

      Use your brain, folks.

      Of the thousands of supernatural claims that have been made in the entire history of mankind, not one supernatural claim has ever been substantiated with solid evidence, only with “faith”, which is just another word for…superstition!

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