Just The Facts On Jesus' Resurrection n

It seems like Christmas has just passed, and already we are just weeks away from celebrating Easter. I always marvel at the quick turnaround from celebrating Jesus’ birth to the somber remembrance of his death on the cross. The days from Advent to Christmas, and Lent to Easter fly by rapidly.  

Josh and Sean McDowell

Is the Resurrection Important?

One of the cornerstones of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, Paul states as much in 1stCorinthians 15:13-14. 

 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.”[1]

And just a few verses later we get this somber prognosis: 

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” [2]

According to Paul and the other New Testament authors our entire case for Christianity hangs on the resurrection.  Whats the point the New Testament authors are trying to make? According to Paul, if the resurrection didn’t happen, we have in essence waisted our lives.

Attempts To Refute The Resurrection Account

J. Warner Wallace

It’s unsurprising then that the first area most people try to attack in Christianity is the resurrection. Authors like Lee Strobel, C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell and J. Warner Wallace were all skeptics that came to trust in Jesus by examining the evidence for the resurrection.  I myself came to Christ in the same way.  

C.S. Lewis

What is the Minimal Facts Approach?

The most popular and effective way to counter challenges to the resurrection is to use an approach known as the “Minimal Facts” argument.  Minimal facts are those that are accepted by most New Testament Scholars, even skeptical ones.  The idea is that while some of these scholars may deny the resurrection happened, they do agree on this list of facts and events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus.  

Several versions of the minimal facts for the resurrection of Jesus exist.  Michael Licona and Gary Habermas use the 4+1 method in their excellent book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus”.  I’m going to go with a version put together by Craig Hazen, the head of the Apologetics program at Biola University.  Dr. Hazen’s list is more expansive, and I think gives us a clearer picture of the events surrounding the resurrection.  Here are Dr. Hazen’s 12 facts. 

What Are The 12 Minimal Facts?

The facts:

  1. Jesus died by Roman Crucifixion.
  2. He was buried, most likely in a private tomb of Joseph of Arimathea
  3. Soon afterwards, the disciples were discouraged, bereaved, and despondent having lost hope.
  4. Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his burial
  5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
  6. Due to these experiences, the disciple’s lives were thoroughly transformed, to the point of being willing to die for this belief. 
  7. The resurrection message was the center of preaching in the early church.
  8. This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before.
  9. As a result of this preaching, the church was born and grew.
  10. Sunday became the primary day of worship.
  11. James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he believed he saw the resurrected Jesus.
  12. A few years later, Paul became a Christian believer due to an experience which he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus. 

The Plan Going Forward

In the weeks leading up to Easter, we’ll begin looking at the facts themselves.  After explaining how we know these facts are valid, the next step will be to look at different theories about the resurrection. We need to ask a question about all the theories that will be put forth. Do they actually account ALL of the facts that appear on out list?  This is a crucial step we can’t miss. If the proposed theory cannot account for all the facts, we will have to discard it.  I’ll end the series with the final theory, that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.   

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[1]The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Co 15:13–14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2]The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Co 15:17–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.