Let me first state that I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. But I just want to present the facts as I have read and studied them. You are free to walk away with your own conclusions. I have gathered my data from various sources on the internet and from books. By no means do I propose that this is my work but just a gathering of the evidence.
Evidence and Proof
The Uniqueness of
Proven Bible Evidence
Christianity is the only belief system massively supported by historical evidence that can be objectively verified. It has the only set of 'scriptures' in the world filled with real places, real people, real historical accounts, and real scientific claims that are proven accurate when critically investigated. The Bible is also the only record that had a significant amount of future prophecy when written. Man-made religions don't come close to matching up to the overwhelming and flawless physical evidence that has been thoroughly examined and verified from the Bible.
The Legal Perspective of Jesus Christ's Resurrection and Character
Simon Greenleaf was Royal Professor of Law at Harvard and a main founder of the Harvard Law School. He wrote the famous legal volume A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which many consider to be the greatest legal volume ever written. Greenleaf was a skeptic firmly set against Christianity, and taught his students Christianity was false. When one of his students challenged him to investigate evidence for Christianity for himself, he set out to disprove the Biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Greenleaf was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all myths at the heart of Christianity, and disprove it once and for all. However, this legal scholar concluded Bible eyewitnesses were reliable, and that Christ's bodily death and resurrection were objective fact. If anyone should be qualified to state the reliability of Christ's resurrection as an actual historical event according to the laws of legal evidence, it is Greenleaf. After years of exhaustive research and analysis, Greenleaf concluded
“ The foundation of our religion is a basis of fact - the fact of the birth, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection by the Evangelists as having actually occurred, within their own personal knowledge ... it was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually rose from the dead, and had they not known this fact as certainly as they knew any other fact. ” Simon Greenleaf, LL.D., The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence, Grand Rapids, MI, Kregel Classics 1995.
Regarding the character of Jesus Christ portrayed by the Evangelists, Greenleaf determined:
“ the great character they have portrayed is perfect. It is the character of a sinless Being ; of one supremely wise and supremely good. It exhibits no error, no sinister intention, no imprudence, no ignorance, no evil passion, no impatience; in a word, no fault; but all is perfect uprightness, innocence, wisdom, goodness and truth. ” Simon Greenleaf, LL.D., Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists, by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice
Eyewitnesses to the Resurrection and Miracles of Jesus Christ
The entire framework of the Bible is based on reliable eyewitness accounts, which are the strongest form of legal evidence. These accounts include multiple eyewitness testimonies of the unique birth, life, miracles, death, bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Eyewitnesses included many people who knew Christ face to face for three years, such as the Apostles, so they could not have mistaken His identity. They saw, heard, touched, ate and drank with Christ after His bodily resurrection for 40 days. This overwhelming physical evidence overcame their initial incredulity and disbelief. They were so sure of their experience that they were also willing to die for what they knew to be true. People may sometimes die for a lie, but for a large group of individuals to all willingly endure severe persecution throughout their lives and die torturous deaths for something they know to be a lie (which they certainly would have known), doesn't happen.
There are many miracles recorded in the gospel records, but not a single conflict in prepositional logic among the accounts. Therefore, there is no logical or historical reason to consider these accounts as invalid (barring devotion to the atheistic/naturalistic ‘religious’ assumption that miracles are impossible). As expected with genuine eyewitness accounts, and as I have personally witnessed in jury trials, different witnesses in the Bible's Gospel records naturally focus on different people and events. If the Gospel accounts matched exactly, this would make their independence suspect, and they would be less credible from a legal perspective.
Even Christ’s disciples had a very hard time believing His resurrection, though He specifically predicted this and told them in advance. In fact, they rejected it over and over until they saw Him with their own eyes, heard, touched and ate with Him. Their initial skepticism is understandable, but they were finally overwhelmed by verifiable evidence. The reactions of people recorded in the Bible seem very natural, and add credibility to the accounts.
Witnesses who saw Christ alive and well after His death and resurrection were numerous at the time these events were recorded, and they were certainly carefully examined at the time. If these eyewitnesses were not credible, Christianity would have stopped before it started, since Christianity is foundationally based on the divine identity, physical death and bodily resurrection of Christ. When one examines evidence objectively according to standard application of the mature science of legal and documentary evidence, the resurrection of Christ is shown to be one of the best proven facts of history.
Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam all hold to the miracle of God's special creation of the universe and life, but only Christ proved He is the Creator and Messiah by His well authenticated miracle of bodily resurrection from the dead. All leaders of 'religions' are dead and buried, but as Creator, Christ alone was victorious over physical death, and is the only One we must follow.
Historical and Archeological Accuracy of Old and New Testaments
Nelson Glueck was one of the greatest modern archeologists, an ordained Rabbi, and former president of the Hebrew Union College and Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. He personally discovered over 1,000 ancient sites, including the copper mines of King Solomon and the ancient sea port of Ezion Geber. After studying archeological evidence for the Bible for decades, he said: “ It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. ” Dr. Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert: a History of the Negev, New York, New York: Farrar, Strous and Cudahy 1959, p. 136.
The renowned Sir Frederic Kenyon was a leading authority on the reliability of ancient manuscripts, and is considered to have been one of the greatest Directors of the British Museum. He drew this conclusion: “ The interval then, between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established. ” Kenyon, F. G., The Bible and Archaeology, New York and London: Harper 1940, pp. 288, 89.
Sir William Ramsey, an eminent British scholar and archaeologist, was a Professor at both Oxford and Cambridge. He was raised as an atheist and skeptic and was convinced the Bible was fraudulent. He believed Luke's writings were not historically sound, and that travels of the Apostle Paul recorded in the book of Acts were the weakest part of the New Testament. Therefore, he set out to dispove the book of Acts by personally tracing the Apostle Paul's journeys, spade in hand. However, his own extensive 15-year field investigation of Near East archaeology in Bible lands forced him to completely reverse his position. He stated: “ I set out to look for truth on the borderland where Greece and Asia meet, and found it there. You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment. ” “ Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of facts trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense ... In short this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians. ” Sir William Ramsey, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, pp. 81, 222.
Of Ramsay's book, Josh McDowell, Christian author and former skeptic, writes: “ The book caused a furor of dismay among the skeptics of the world. Its attitude was utterly unexpected because it was contrary to the announced intention of the author years before ... for twenty years more, book after book from the same author came from the press, each filled with additional evidence of the exact, minute truthfulness of the whole New Testament as tested by the spade on the spot. The evidence was so overwhelming that many infidels announced their repudiation of their former unbelief and accepted Christianity. And these books have stood the test of time, not one having been refuted, nor have I found even any attempt to refute them. ” Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Historical Evidences for the Christian Faith, San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life Publishers 1972, p.365.
The Mature Science of Documentary Evidence
The mature discipline of documentary evidence is to determine whether recorded events are credible. It demands one look for things mentioned in documents that can be objectively verified, such as names of cities, cultural practices, names of people, and well known historical events.
The Bible has been intensely investigated in this area probably more than any other book, in no small part due to intense desire of skeptics to disprove it, but much also by people who are objective researchers and those who wish to further substantiate it. New Testament accounts are precisely true according to this rigorous and objective science, despite unfounded objections of skeptics.
Precise Bible Accuracy
Evidence for accuracy of the Bible is overwhelming, the greatest of all ancient books. There are over 40,000 extant New Testament manuscripts for comparison as of this writing, and less than .0015% statistical chance of textual errors This amounts to a few verses maximum, and none of those are direct statements of Jesus or change any basic tenets.
William Albright was a Biblical and archeological scholar who mastered more than 26 ancient and modern languages. He stated: “ The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phrases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history. ” Albright, William F., The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, Ada, MI: Revell 1935, p. 127.
Millar Burrows, renowned Professor of Archaeology at Yale University, exposed the cause of persistent unbelief: “ The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural. ” Burrows, Millar, What Mean These Stones? New York, NY: Meridian Books
First Century Eyewitness Manuscripts
Early manuscripts were written and distributed long before existence of the Roman Catholic Church, or Gnostic or Montanist counterfeit 'gospels' popularized in the fictional Da Vinci Code book and movie. Therefore, any supposed deviations would be revealed in extensive manuscript evidence.
Until a few years ago, the oldest assumed manuscript was the St. John papyrus (P52), housed in the John Rylands museum in Manchester, and dated at 120 A.D. (Time, April 26, 1996, p.8). Thus, it was thought the earliest New Testament manuscript could not be corroborated by eyewitnesses to the events. That assumption has now changed, for three even older manuscripts, one each from the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke have now been dated earlier than the Johannine account.
The Lukan papyrus, situated in a library in Paris, has been dated to the late 1st century or early 2nd century, so it predates the John papyrus by 20-30 years (Time, April 26, 1996, p.8). However, of even more importance are the manuscript findings of Mark and Matthew. New research has now been uncovered and published in a recent book The Jesus Papyrus by Matthew D'Ancona and Dr. Carsten Thiede, mentioning a fragment from the book of Mark found among the Qumran scrolls (fragment 7Q5) showing that it was written sometime before 68 A.D. It is important to remember that Christ died in 33 A.D., so this manuscript could have been written, at the latest, within 35 years of His death; possibly earlier, and thus during the time that eyewitnesses to that event were still alive!
The most significant find, however, is a manuscript fragment from the book of Matthew (ch. 26) called the Magdalene Manuscript. Using a sophisticated analysis of the handwriting of the fragment with a state-of-the-art microscope, Dr. Thiede differentiated between 20 separate micrometer layers of the papyrus, measuring the height and depth of the ink as well as the angle of the stylus used by the scribe. After this analysis Thiede was able to compare it with other papyri from that period; notably manuscripts found at Qumran (dated to 58 AD), another at Herculaneum (dated prior to 79 AD), a further one from the fortress of Masada (dated to between 73/74 AD), and finally a papyrus from the Egyptian town of Oxyrynchus. The Magdalene Manuscript fragments matches all four, and in fact is almost a twin to the papyrus found in Oxyrynchus, which bears the date of 65/66 AD. Thiede concludes that these papyrus fragments of St. Matthew's Gospel were written no later than this date and probably earlier.
This suggests that we either have a portion of the original gospel of Matthew, or an immediate copy which was written while Matthew and the other disciples and eyewitnesses to the events were still alive. This would be the oldest manuscript portion of the Bible in existence today, one which co-exists with the original writers! ref. Matthew D'Ancona and Dr. Carsten Thiede, The Jesus Papyrus, New York, New York: Galilee Trade, 2000.
An Avalanche of Evidence
There are even more manuscripts written in Latin and Syriac (Christian Aramaic), some of which were written as early as 150 A.D., such as the Syriac Peshitta (150-250 A.D.).
There are also over 32,000 quotations from the New Testament found in writings from before the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Quotations of the Scripture in the works of early church writers are so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament manuscripts. Sir David Dalrymple sought to do this, and from the second and third century writings of the church fathers he found the entire New Testament quoted except for eleven verses! Thus, we could throw the New Testament manuscripts away and still reconstruct it with the simple help of these letters, e.g. Clement (30- 95 A.D.), Ignatius (70-110 A.D.), who knew the apostles directly and quoted from 15 of the 27 books, and Polycarp (70-156 A.D.), a disciple of John.
The evidence at our disposal today provides us myriads of manuscripts with which to corroborate our current New Testament. The earliest of these manuscripts have now been dated earlier than 60-70 A.D., within the lifetime of the original writers, with an outside possibility that they are the originals themselves. On top of that we have 15,000 early translations of the New Testament, and over 2,000 lectionaries. Finally, we have scriptural quotations in the letters of the early Church fathers with which we could almost reproduce the entire New Testament.
From a documentary standpoint, it is difficult to imagine how evidence for the life, miracles, physical death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ could be stronger. From a scholarly perspective, the default assumption of truth goes to the authors, and the burden of proof is on others to clearly prove why the consistent eyewitness accounts are not true based on fallacious internal or external evidence.
Skeptics almost always take an unscholarly approach, revealing extreme bias against the message, simply because they don't want to believe what God says in His Word. As of today, manuscript evidence is rock solid, so we definitely have in our hands what was originally written, and the Bible's consistent eyewitness accounts are worthy to be believed.
All evidence we could reasonably expect for the life, miracles, resurrection and deity of Jesus Christ is in our hands today. Credible eyewitnesses carefully recorded dates, times, and events, and these written records are supported by overwhelming manuscript evidence according to the reliable and mature discipline of documentary science. This evidence aligns precisely with well known historical events, further substantiating eyewitness testimony.
Now after all this how can anyone, who is intellectually honest, say there is not a shred of evidence? But I have more read on.....
FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
This fact is highly significant because it means, contrary to radical critics like John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar, that the location of Jesus’ burial site was known to Jew and Christian alike. In that case, the disciples could never have proclaimed his resurrection in Jerusalem if the tomb had not been empty. New Testament researchers have established this first fact on the basis of evidence such as the following:
1. Jesus’ burial is attested in the very old tradition quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15.3-5:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:
. . . that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
and that he was buried,
and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
Paul not only uses the typical rabbinical terms “received” and “delivered” with regard to the information he is passing on to the Corinthians, but vv. 3-5 are a highly stylized four-line formula filled with non-Pauline characteristics. This has convinced all scholars that Paul is, as he says, quoting from an old tradition which he himself received after becoming a Christian. This tradition probably goes back at least to Paul’s fact-finding visit to Jerusalem around AD 36, when he spent two weeks with Cephas and James (Gal. 1.18). It thus dates to within five years after Jesus’ death. So short a time span and such personal contact make it idle to talk of legend in this case.
2. The burial story is part of very old source material used by Mark in writing his gospel. The gospels tend to consist of brief snapshots of Jesus’ life which are loosely connected and not always chronologically arranged. But when we come to the passion story we do have one, smooth, continuously-running narrative. This suggests that the passion story was one of Mark’s sources of information in writing his gospel. Now most scholars think Mark is already the earliest gospel, and Mark’s source for Jesus’ passion is, of course, even older. Comparison of the narratives of the four gospels shows that their accounts do not diverge from one another until after the burial. This implies that the burial account was part of the passion story. Again, its great age militates against its being legendary.
3. As a member of the Jewish court that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. There was strong resentment against the Jewish leadership for their role in the condemnation of Jesus (I Thess. 2.15). It is therefore highly improbable that Christians would invent a member of the court that condemned Jesus who honors Jesus by giving him a proper burial instead of allowing him to be dispatched as a common criminal.
4. No other competing burial story exists. If the burial by Joseph were fictitious, then we would expect to find either some historical trace of what actually happened to Jesus’ corpse or at least some competing legends. But all our sources are unanimous on Jesus’ honorable interment by Joseph.
For these and other reasons, the majority of New Testament critics concur that Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. According to the late John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University, the burial of Jesus in the tomb is “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.”
FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. Among the reasons which have led most scholars to this conclusion are the following:
1. The empty tomb story is also part of the old passion source used by Mark. The passion source used by Mark did not end in death and defeat, but with the empty tomb story, which is grammatically of one piece with the burial story.
2. The old tradition cited by Paul in I Cor. 15.3-5 implies the fact of the empty tomb. For any first century Jew, to say that of a dead man “that he was buried and that he was raised” is to imply that a vacant grave was left behind. Moreover, the expression “on the third day” probably derives from the women’s visit to the tomb on the third day, in Jewish reckoning, after the crucifixion. The four-line tradition cited by Paul summarizes both the gospel accounts and the early apostolic preaching (Acts 13. 28-31); significantly, the third line of the tradition corresponds to the empty tomb story.
3. The story is simple and lacks signs of legendary embellishment. All one has to do to appreciate this point is to compare Mark’s account with the wild legendary stories found in the second-century apocryphal gospels, in which Jesus is seen coming out of the tomb with his head reaching up above the clouds and followed by a talking cross!
4. The fact that women’s testimony was discounted in first century Palestine stands in favor of the women’s role in discovering the empty tomb. According to Josephus, the testimony of women was regarded as so worthless that it could not even be admitted into a Jewish court of law. Any later legendary story would certainly have made male disciples discover the empty tomb.
5. The earliest Jewish allegation that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body (Matt. 28.15) shows that the body was in fact missing from the tomb. The earliest Jewish response to the disciples’ proclamation, “He is risen from the dead!” was not to point to his occupied tomb and to laugh them off as fanatics, but to claim that they had taken away Jesus’ body. Thus, we have evidence of the empty tomb from the very opponents of the early Christians.
One could go on, but I think that enough has been said to indicate why, in the words of Jacob Kremer, an Austrian specialist in the resurrection, “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements concerning the empty tomb.”
FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:
1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.
2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.
3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?
Even Gert Lüdemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “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.”
FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary. Think of the situation the disciples faced after Jesus’ crucifixion:
1. Their leader was dead. And Jews had no belief in a dying, much less rising, Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to throw off Israel’s enemies (= Rome) and re-establish a Davidic reign—not suffer the ignominious death of criminal.
2. According to Jewish law, Jesus’ execution as a criminal showed him out to be a heretic, a man literally under the curse of God (Deut. 21.23). The catastrophe of the crucifixion for the disciples was not simply that their Master was gone, but that the crucifixion showed, in effect, that the Pharisees had been right all along, that for three years they had been following a heretic, a man accursed by God!
3. Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the general resurrection at the end of the world. All the disciples could do was to preserve their Master’s tomb as a shrine where his bones could reside until that day when all of Israel’s righteous dead would be raised by God to glory.
Despite all this, the original disciples believed in and were willing to go to their deaths for the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar from Emory University, muses, “some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was . . . .” N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, “that is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.”5
In summary, there are four facts agreed upon by the majority of scholars who have written on these subjects which any adequate historical hypothesis must account for: Jesus’ entombment by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.
Now the question is: what is the best explanation of these four facts? Most sholars probably remain agnostic about this question. But the Christian can maintain that the hypothesis that best explains these facts is “God raised Jesus from the dead.”
In his book Justifying Historical Descriptions, historian C. B. McCullagh lists six tests which historians use in determining what is the best explanation for given historical facts. The hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” passes all these tests:
1. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw post-mortem appearances of Jesus, and why the Christian faith came into being.
2. It has great explanatory power: it explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people repeatedly saw Jesus alive despite his earlier public execution, and so forth.
3. It is plausible: given the historical context of Jesus’ own unparalleled life and claims, the resurrection serves as divine confirmation of those radical claims.
4. It is not ad hoc or contrived: it requires only one additional hypothesis: that God exists. And even that needn’t be an additional hypothesis if one already believes that God exists.
5. It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis: “God raised Jesus from the dead” doesn’t in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don’t rise naturally from the dead. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead.
6. It far outstrips any of its rival hypotheses in meeting conditions (1)-(5). Down through history various alternative explanations of the facts have been offered, for example, the conspiracy hypothesis, the apparent death hypothesis, the hallucination hypothesis, and so forth. Such hypotheses have been almost universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. None of these naturalistic hypotheses succeeds in meeting the conditions as well as the resurrection hypothesis.
Still need more evidence?