Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? A Historian, an Atheist, a Skeptic, a Theologian, and an Ex-Con Weigh In
It's that time of year again—the time when Christians come together to celebrate the pinnacle of our faith, the resurrection of Jesus. It's also the time when news outlets like Time, the Discovery Channel, and Newsweek unleash their skepticism about Christianity, the Bible, and the resurrection. It can be confusing to wade through the various historical evidences, personal beliefs, and opinions floating around in scholarship and the blogosphere. Here are quotes from several sources who all have unique qualifications and an interesting take on the evidence:
1. The Historian
Gary Habermas is an American historian, and the Distinguished Research Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy at Liberty University. He is considered to be one of the foremost scholars on the resurrection of Jesus. While researching the resurrection, he combed through the works of both secular and Christian scholars. He wrote:
2. The Atheist
Gerd Ludemann is a German New Testament scholar, historian, and atheist. He was once a professing Christian, but walked away from his faith when he became convinced that very little of what is contained in the New Testament is historically reliable. Even so, he wrote:
3. The Skeptic
Bart Ehrman is the Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is one of the most respected scholars in the field of New Testament studies—and he is agnostic. About the resurrection of Jesus, he wrote:
In a recent blog post he wrote:
4. The Theologian
The type of historical evidence above caused leading New Testament scholar, historian, and theologian N.T. Wright to conclude:
5. The Ex-con
Charles Colson, who once served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon, famously went to prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal in the early 70's. He became a Christian in 1973, largely due to the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. One detail regarding Watergate was similar to the resurrection: in both cases, 12 men claimed something that would affect world history. In the case of Watergate, it only took two weeks for them to crack under pressure:
Even the atheists and skeptics confirm that Jesus' disciples claimed and believed that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead. History tells us that they were willing to suffer and die for that belief. It's reasonable to confidently agree with what the church has affirmed over the centuries—"Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!"
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(1) Gary R. Habermas & Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2004) p. 60 (Emphasis mine)
(2) Ibid., p. 49
(3) Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995) p. 80
(4) Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford, 2004) p. 234 (Emphasis mine)
(5) Bart Ehrman, "Questions on the Resurrection and My Personal Spiritual Experiences: Readers' Mailbag" www.ehrmanblog.org, March 24, 2017, accessed April 6, 2017
(6) N.T. Wright, "The New Unimproved Jesus," Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26 (Cited by William Lane Craig, "The Resurrection of Jesus" www.reasonablefaith.org, accessed April 6, 2017)
(7) Charles Colson, "An Unholy Hoax?" www.epm.org, March 29, 2002, accessed April 6, 2017.
(8) John 11:25-26
4/11/2017 09:14:19 pm
Most who don't believe are doubting Thomases. They won't believe until they see, hear, feel, etc. By then it may be too late.
4/14/2017 02:29:45 pm
It's been my experience. Not that people DON'T believe. Rather they WON'T believe.
4/17/2017 08:53:05 pm
I don't see your argument as especially convincing. The non-Christians don't think that Jesus rose from the dead.
4/20/2017 07:24:08 pm
Hello Ms. Childers,
3/28/2021 02:53:21 am
I would recommend you to have a dialogue with J. Warner Wallace. He probably has more experience than you do in eyewitness testimonies. He used to be an atheist himself until he realized that the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact. He is the one who can correct you about your wrong assumptions. Scepticism does not prove a thing by the way. God bless you. (A believer)
3/28/2021 10:50:01 am
Have you read Warner's books? I have. The mistake Warner makes is to assume that the Gospels ARE eyewitness statements. He makes this huge assumption simply because that is the position of evangelical scholars. Evangelical scholars are a minority of Bible scholars. The majority of scholars doubt the eyewitness or even the associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. Therefore, Warner's entire argument is based on minority scholarly opinion. Imagine going to court when the success of your case depends on getting the judge or jury to side with the minority opinion of experts. Not good.
4/16/2022 05:55:14 pm
Barry, you spend an awful lot of precious time trying to convince people that the resurrection of Jesus didn't happen. Why? I understand people desperately trying to get people to believe in the resurrection of Christ - because if it's true, it's eternally important. If it were untrue, it would not matter what anyone believed. If I didn't believe in and trust in Jesus, I sure wouldn't waste my breath trying to debate it with people who did believe it. Seems like a colossal waste of time. What's your desire in preaching this anti-gospel? Is it a desire to steal people's faith from them? What good would that do? Or are you simply hoping for a platform to be famous or feel important? I just don't get it.
4/24/2017 04:03:34 pm
"Even the atheists and skeptics confirm that Jesus' disciples claimed and believed that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead."
4/24/2017 09:32:40 pm
Hi Barry, I believe there are a couple of problems with your Mary analogy. First, the people claiming to have seen a vision of her weren't eyewitnesses of her actual life. Also, to my knowledge, they weren't claiming that Mary had come back to life, risen from the dead—they were visions. Even if they actually did have visions, it wouldn't prove anything about Mary's life. However, in the case of Jesus, those who knew him and walked with him claimed he came back to life, was seen by over 500 witnesses and stayed with them for forty days. That is a much bigger claim than to simply have seen a vision—and one that could have been easily disproven if it wasn't true.
4/25/2017 04:50:12 pm
4/25/2017 09:17:04 pm
Barry, you seem well-versed in Christian apologetics, as I am in the common atheist objections that you have written at-length on many of my posts. Since you are familiar with the arguments, I simply don't have time to re-hash each one of them here.
4/27/2017 01:09:31 pm
I have no blog yet, but will set one up.
4/27/2017 10:55:43 pm
I'm happy to tell you the circumstances under which I first drew the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. I was 5 years old. I was compelled by Christ's love and drawn by the Holy Spirit. I believed God's Word, and put my trust in Jesus, and as it says in Romans 8:16, His Spirit joined with my Spirit to affirm that I was God's child. Of course, as I grew up and encountered intellectual challenges, I had to dig deeper and face some doubt. But you asked about when I first drew the conclusion, and that's my honest answer.
3/16/2018 11:24:29 pm
attention: (BARRY ) I don"t believe in atheists!!! God says everything in His creation cries out to you and all of us, that there is a Great Designer, leaving us and you, without an excuse, YOU have a conscious, given to you by God himself, and YOU have a lot of intelligence given to you by God as well, you can avoid this inner- voice and search for other alternatives, as I DID ,for many years, but I found that GOD IS REAL!!!! HIS NAME IS JESUS,HE LOVES YOU DEEPLY,MORE THAN YOU OR I CAN COMPREHEND!!!! You may be angry with Him, I was angry with Him for awhile too ,but it was one of the worst mistakes I ever made !!! God really cares , the one thing I have learned is, this planet we live on ,IS NOT HEAVEN !!! Lots of bad stuff happens here ,because of SIN, but God sent an antidote for sin, HIS SON, JESUS, my prayer is that you too find the antidote and find the your way to HEAVEN!!!!! God longs for, and yearns for your presence there, it won"t be the same without you, barry !!!!!
4/14/2019 07:48:03 pm
As far as the resurrection is concerned - Jerusalem was "Ground Zero". This was where most of the eyewitnesses - who say they saw the resurrected Jesus - lived. When Paul and Luke went to Jerusalem they visited the one person on planet earth who would have known for sure whether or not Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead - his 'brother' James! James was the one person who could have brought Christianity to its knees by emphatically stating Jesus was dead and stayed dead. Instead - Josephus says in a statement that most historians believe is authentic - that James the brother of the 'so-called Christ' was executed by the Jewish religious authorities by stoning in the year we now call AD 62. The million dollar question is WHY was James executed? The answer is rather obvious - but apparently too difficult for Atheists and Muslims to accept - James was executed because he had become a Jewish Christian after seeing the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth.
Richard Jude Woerner
4/22/2019 10:37:21 am
One of the most common arguments about the resurrection is that no historian ever wrote about the resurrection or even the life of Christ. One question I ask is, when the letters of the N.T. were in circulation and were known where the churches were founded, more specifically Rome, why isn't there any writings by anyone in the 1st or 2nd centuries that refute the writings of the N.T.? Reason is simple, there aren't any. But then along comes Richard Carrier and he writes as if he has some insight that no one before ever had.
6/7/2020 10:12:17 am
Since Jesus "resurrection" is the only which allegededly happen in human history it is difficult to accept such claim.
4/1/2021 12:54:30 pm
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