No other event in history has been the object of as much scrutiny and
criticism as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Christ is
the basis upon which all Christianity stands. If the resurrection never
happened, then there would be no Christianity, as the Apostle Paul says in 1
Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless
and so is your faith.” This is why opponents of the Christian faith have tried
to attempt to discredit the Biblical account of the resurrection. Of the many
theories of the resurrection, the Biblical account is the only historically
reliable and possible explanation of the resurrection.
The historical reliability of the Bible is the first matter that needs
to be discussed. There are three criteria that the military historian C.
Sanders lists as principles for documentary historical proof: the
bibliographical test, internal evidence test, and the external evidence test
(McDowell 43). The bibliographical test is the examination of text by the
documents that have reached us. The reliability of the copies of the New
Testament is tested by the number of manuscripts (MSS) and the time intervals
between the time in which the piece of literature was written and our earliest
copy. There are more than 5,300 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and
10,000 Latin vulgate manuscripts, not to mention the other various translations.
Totally there are around 24,000 total MSS for the New Testament. The next
closest document in respect to MSS is the “Illiad” by Homer, with 643
The textual reliability then continues with respect to the time interval
between the original and the first known manuscript. The shorter the interval,
the more reliable the text is. Homer’s “Illiad” was written in 900 BC and the
earliest copy was found in 400 BC. This is compared to the New Testament that
was written from 40-100 AD. The first known manuscript of the New Testament
was found in 125 AD. This twenty-five year gap is very impressive as compared
to the Illiad’s five hundred year span (McDowell 45). This first test has
basically shown that the text which people have in their possession is
essentially the original text.
The second test is the internal evidence test. The internal evidence
test proves whether or not what was recorded is credible and to what extent. Dr.
Louis Gottschalk, former professor of history at the University of Chicago,
states the ability of the writer to tell the truth is helpful in determining
credibility. The “ability to tell the truth” is related in two ways. They are
the witness’s nearness chronologically and geographically (McDowell 51-52). The
New Testament accounts were written by men who were eyewitnesses or related the
story from eyewitness accounts. Chronologically speaking, the Gospels were all
written while people, other than Christians, who had been eyewitnesses to the
life of Christ were still alive. For the most part the non-Christian
eyewitnesses were opponents of the faith. The resulting effect of this would
be the necessity for the disciples to relate the life of Christ accurately due
to the fact that any inaccuracies would have allowed opponents to discredit
Christianity right from the beginning (McDowell 52-53).
The third test to prove historical reliability is that of exterior
evidence. Gottschalk defines external evidence as “conformity or agreement with
other known historical or scientific facts…(McDowell 54).” Other writers are
a great source of exterior evidence. The writings of historian Eusebius, and
Iraneous, Bishop of Lyons, have confirmed the writings of the Apostle John.
These men did their historical writing between 130 and 180 AD. They researched
scrolls from the time of Christ. Archaeology also provides exterior evidence.
Archaeologist Joseph Free states, “Archaeology has confirmed countless passages
which have been rejected by critics as unhistorical and contradictory to known
facts (McDowell 54).” A wonderful example of this is found in Paul’s letter to
the Roman’s. In this letter he makes reference to the city treasurer, Erastus.
A pavement fracture was found during the excavations of Corinth, in 1929, on it
was inscribed the words: “ERASTVS PRO:AED:P:STRAVIT (‘Erastus, curator ofpublic
buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense.’)(McDowell 110)”
Archaeologist F.F. Bruce states that this man and the man Paul refers to are one
in the same (McDowell 110). These three tests when applied to the Bible show it
as the most historically reliable text known to man, thus the events found upon
the pages of the Bible are actual historically proven events.
In light of these facts there are still many theories other than that of