Faith Encouragement: Evidence for Jesus' Resurrection

Evidence for Jesus Resurrection
and Alternate Theories 


Jesus Christ Was Killed

  • He was scourged and crucified, dying of shock/heart failure confirmed by chest piercing with sword. There is no record of survival from this type of full crucifixion.
  • Execution of Jesus was documented by non-Christian (Flavius Josephus, a Jew) as well as Christian (Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman) historians.  (McDowell J: A Ready Defense. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1993, pp. 198-199)
  • There were thousands of witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus would could have denied the information about the scourging, sword in the side, or full crucifixion. No one has done so in the historical record.


Jesus Christ Was Buried With No Potential for Mistaken Identity

  • Jesus was buried in typical Jewish fashion, wrapped with about 75 pounds of graveclothes, with a separate headpiece used, allowing easy identity confirmation.  (McDowell J: A Ready Defense. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1993, pp. 225-226)
  • Jesus was wrapped by his family and close friends who could not fail to recognize him.  (ibid.)
  • A Roman seal was applied to prevent tampering. The head of the guard would check the body to ensure it was Jesus’ body, by simply removing the headpiece.  (ibid, p. 230)



Christ Was Buried With No Potential for Mistaking Tomb Location

  • Guards in charge of the Roman seal faced penalty of burning alive if they made an error in identifying or securing the tomb. The grave was hewn out of rock in a well-known location, with a number of mourners expected (grave donated from a wealthy local, one of his family grave sites) Grave was close to the city. (Two women named Mary walked from Bethany, about 1 mile from Jerusalem, and 2 disciples ran back when they heard of the empty grave.


Jesus’ Tomb Was Heavily Guarded and Sealed with Threat of Crucifixion

  • The guards of tomb numbered 4-16 (if a "Roman Guard") or 10 (if a "Temple Guard").
  • Breaking a Roman Seal brings death by upside down crucifixion.
  • No one discounted the gospel accounts with many witnesses that a guard was placed on the tomb and that it was sealed. Jesus has caused quite a stir in life, and caution by the Jewish authorities to avoid his followers claiming he raised from the dead is understandable.


Grave Was Empty on 3rd Day

  • If mistake in identity of Christ or location of tomb was made the correct body would have been produced and guards likely executed. No body was produced.
  • The rumor that was circulated that the guards fell asleep strongly indicates tomb was empty. If guards really fell asleep they would have been executed and Jewish authorities would demand such to publicize the theft of Jesus’ body. No such execution is noted. 4 out of 16 in a Roman Guard were awake at all times McDowell J: A Ready Defense. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1993 Pg 232
  • Also consider that the rumor that was spread that the body was stolen is evidence that the tomb was empty. This, coupled with the impossibilities of either stealing the body or Jesus not dying indicate quite strongly that Jesus was indeed resurrected. Thus the reasons why Christians can say, "We serve a living Savior."


Alternate Theories

"Swoon Theory"

This theory that states that Jesus did not really die, but just fainted.

The probability of this will be estimated at:: 1/1000000000000000000000000.

This theory requires that Jesus survive flogging which often kills (1/4), a spear in the side which would cause a large pneumothorax or hemothorax, (1/1000) and crucifixion itself which has not reportedly been survived (1/1000). Then, after doing so, he would have to play dead while wrapped with 75 pounds of wrapping which would constrict his breathing (1/50), then unwrap 75 pounds of wrapping (1/50), roll away the stone (1/50), overpower the guards (1/1000), appear to 500 plus people over days (1/1000), pretend to be resurrected (1/1000), pretend to ascend into clouds (1/1000), and hide himself never to be heard from again (1/1000).  Chances against this are too small to calculate. A generous estimate would be less than 1/1000000000000000000000000.


"Disciples Stole The Body"

This theory states that the disciples stole Jesus’ body so they could claim he rose from the dead.

The probability of this will be estimated at: 1/10000000000000.

This requires that those who fled when Jesus was captured changed their mind about being frightened (1/10) and decided to a man to risk upside down crucifixion (1/100) by attacking and overcoming 10-16 heavily armed and trained guards without any bloodshed. (1/10,000 -- no disciples bodies were produced and crucified publicly for stealing a body and being caught). They then rolled the stone away, carried away the body with 75 pounds of wrapping, hid the body somewhere else never to be found (1/1000), trained someone to imitate Christ to more than 500 people (1/1000), and then went to their deaths along with many of their family members proclaiming a falsehood despite crucifixion for many of them. A generous estimate of this probability would be less than 1/10000000000000.



"Vision Theory"

This theory states that the disciples and others saw a vision of Jesus, not a resurrected Jesus. Visions have not been heard to occur in multiple settings by multiple individuals, including many skeptics who need to feel the nail marks. Jesus was felt, he was not just seen. This still does not account for why the body was not produced by the Romans or Jewish authorities.


The Facts Speak for Themselves

Dr. Simon Greenleaf, Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University, one of two men responsible for the rise of Harvard Law School to its eminent position wrote the following: "According to the laws of legal evidence used in the courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history."


Primary Reference for this section was: McDowell J: A Ready Defense. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1993 Pg 225-231


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K. Dean Reeves, M.D. is a physician and medical researcher in the area of pain caused by arthritis, chronic sprains and chronic strains. His private practice is located in the greater Kansas City area of Roeland Park, Kansas.  He collaborates in research with other locations across the country and internationally, and is licensed in the states of Kansas and Missouri.

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Dr. K. Dean Reeves

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