Five Facts for the Resurrection of Jesus

The minimal facts approach seeks and succeeds to undermine the arguments used against the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This approach “considers only the data that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones.”[1]  Simply put, “They are well evidenced and nearly every scholar accepts them.”[2]  Taken as a historical document, and not an inspired text, the historian can use this approach with their best effort to objectively “determine which scenario best explains the data.”[3] Out of the twelve historical facts Gary Habermas documents about the resurrection,[4] the “focus will just be on a few of them.”[5]  For the historian concerned with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, their task is to ascertain whether there is a reasonable number of facts that can allow a plausible certainty for the event to have occurred.[6]  The minimal facts approach to the resurrection of Jesus is able to provide the historian a confidence  that Jesus did in fact rise form the dead. 

The first fact was that Jesus died by crucifixion.  Because “crucifixion was a common form of execution employed by the Romans to punish members of the lower class, slaves, soldiers, the violently rebellious, and those accused of treason.”[7]  In the Gospels this was well documented as well as in secular sources during the first and second century.  From the Talmud, to Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian, and Tacitus and Cicero, Lucian of Samosata, and Mara Bar-Serapion, to a good portion of Sanhedrin 43a of the Talmud, dedicated to describing the brutal form of punishment inflicted on Jesus Christ of Nazareth who “on the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged.”[8]  John Dominic, the dubious critical scholar of the Jesus Seminar, writes, “ That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”[9]

The second fact is that Jesus’ “disciples really believed that he appeared to them risen from the dead.”[10]  When Jesus was arrested the disciples “were cowering individuals who denied and abandoned him at his arrest and execution,”[11] hiding in fear for their lives and about to give up all hope from their the now deceased leader.  When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them, and then ascending into Heaven with a promise and pledge (Acts 1:1-11), the disciples were transformed “into bold proclaimers of the gospel of the risen Lord.”[12]  Paul cites a number of witnesses for the resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) from Peter, to the Twelve disciples of Jesus, to the five-hundred, to James, to all of the apostles, and finally to the appearance of Saul, himself, at his conversion.  These men and women suffered persecution, death, to relentless and unwavering steadfastness for the truth claims of the risen Jesus.  Moreover, this was also documented well within the works written by the early church fathers, all attesting that the disciples and apostles suffered extreme persecution for their faith in the resurrected Jesus.

The third and fourth fact is the conversion of Paul and James, who both were dedicated Jewish men of faith and became unmistakable leaders for the first century Christian church.  Paul was transformed from “being a skeptic who believed that it was God’s will to persecute the church to becoming one of the most influential messengers.”[13]  Like the disciples of Jesus, Paul belief in the risen Christ was fundamental to his entire existence, and “was willing to suffer continuously for the sake of the gospel, even to the point of martyrdom.”[14]  James was a devout Jew whereby “the Gospels report that Jesus’ brothers, including James, were unbelievers during his ministry (Mark 3:21, 31; 6:3-4; John 7:5).”[15]  Just as the impossibility for Paul to have been transformed into a believer without seeing something as the resurrection of Jesus, James is “another skeptic converting to Christianity based on what he perceived was a personal experience by the risen Jesus.” [16]  Jesus’ brother James’s conversion “ from skepticism and his elevation to the pastorate of the church in Jerusalem,”[17] is just another remarkable facet that proves these men did in fact see something that changed their lives profoundly.

The final fact is the empty tomb of Jesus.  Because this fact is not “accepted by nearly every scholar,”[18] there is substantial evidence that His tomb was in fact empty.  Jesus’ “resurrection appearances and empty tomb were first proclaimed”[19] in Jerusalem.  If the empty tomb wasn’t really empty, it “would have been impossible for Christianity to get off the ground.”[20]  Jewish leaders claimed that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, thus affirming that the tomb was empty, as well as the testimony of women, fulfilling the criterion of embarrassment “that could be perceived to be an embarrassment to early Christians, to the disciples, or even Jesus.”[21]  Because the Jewish view of women in that period was not unique,”[22] and were regarded as “not nearly credible as a man’s,”[23] it is unlikely that with these facts, it is plausible that the tomb was empty.  Habermas summarily says that “what is helpful in remembering our argument for the empty tomb: the Jerusalem factor; Enemy attested, and the Testimony of Women,”[24] whereby “the majority of scholars still clearly seem to think that it is probably a historical fact.”[25]


[1] Habermas, Gary, R. and Licona, Michael, R., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, (Grand rapids, Kregal Publications, 2004), 44.

[2] Ibid., 44.

[3] Ibid., 32.

[4] Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus, (Joplin, College Press, 1996), 158-167.

[5] Habermas, Gary, R. and Licona, Michael, R., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, (Grand rapids, Kregal Publications, 2004), 48.

[6] Ibid., 33.

[7] Ibid. 48.

[8] Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a.

[9] Crossan, Dominic, Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography, (San Francisco, Harper Collins, 1991), 145; see also 154, 196, 201.

[10] Habermas, Gary, R. and Licona, Michael, R., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, (Grand rapids, Kregal Publications, 2004), 49.

[11] Ibid., 50.

[12] Ibid., 50.

[13] Ibid., 64.

[14] Ibid., 65.

[15] Ibid., 68.

[16] Ibid., 68-69.

[17] Ibid., 68.

[18] ibid., 69.

[19] Ibid., 70.

[20] Ibid., 70.

[21] Komoszewski, J. Ed, Sawyer, M. James, & Wallace, Daniel B., Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss The Real Jesus And Mislead Popular Culture, (Grand Rapids, Kregal Publications, 2006), 46.

[22] Habermas, Gary, R. and Licona, Michael, R., The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, (Grand rapids, Kregal Publications, 2004), 72.

[23] Ibid. 73.

[24] Ibid., 74.

[25] Ibid., 74.