Back to the list

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?


One of the most common arguments by skeptics against the validity of Christianity surrounds the death and resurrection events of Jesus. If indeed there was evidence that could dismantle the claim that Jesus died on the cross and rose to bodily life three days later, it would dismantle all of Christianity. The Truth of Christianity hinges on these two events, Jesus’s death and his resurrection. In his blog, skeptic Bradley Bowen lays out two arguments against the resurrection of Jesus. He asserts that the evidence for the resurrection fails on two accounts. First, he says, that the evidence for Jesus’s body rising to life is weak. Second, he claims that even if we suppose the resurrection were true, the evidence for Jesus actually dying on the cross is also too weak and insufficient to be able to affirm his bodily resurrection. 


 In his two-pronged assertion, Bradley believes for starters, that the evidence of Jesus actually dying on the cross is “rather weak” saying that "if Jesus was buried in a stone tomb before sunset on Friday evening, as the Gospels report, then he might well have been observed for only an hour after his alleged death. Once his body was inside the tomb, no one could observe whether or not he was breathing or had a heartbeat". Another reason he gives is that "modern medical science would not make an appearance for well over a thousand years, so there was no scientific medical expert available to verify that Jesus was truly and completely dead....and we don’t know how crucifixion causes death. However, arguments from historians and medical experts who’ve actually studied the details of this particular event, as well as the well-known practice of roman crucifixion, come to the opposite conclusion considering the widely available documentation on both the general practice of crucifixion in Roman times, but more specifically, the crucifixion of Christ. 

First off, findings from crucifixion accounts from ancient Roman times, together with archaeological/medical evidence from corpses of crucifixion victims from antiquity, give substantiative evidence to conclude that crucifixions were designed to cause maximum pain for a prolonged period while ensuring ultimate death. Victims were first scourged before being crucified. They were stripped naked, tied to a post, and whipped across the back, buttocks and legs with a flagrum, a whip made of leather bands embedded with sharp pieces of bone and metal that would tear the skin off the victim, often exposing bone, muscle and organs. It was not unusual for victims to die even at this stage. After flogging, the victim was taunted and forced to carry the crossbar of the cross to the place of execution. When on the cross, feet and wrists were usually then nailed to the cross as they suffered a slow and excruciating death. 

 In the case of Jesus, historical records reveal that death came in a matter of hours after he was crucified. Pontius Pilate, the governor that ordered the death of Jesus at the request of Jewish leaders, demanded certification of Jesus’ death. It was only after four Roman executioners certified that Jesus was indeed dead, that Pilate allowed for his body to be removed from the cross. In addition, Roman soldiers had to make certain Jesus was dead, because if not, they themselves, would have been executed. Could Jesus have suffered all this and survived? Most medical experts and historians say no. 

There are also many compelling facts surrounding the event of Jesus’s resurrection that counter Bradley’s second claim regarding a lack of evidence for what he calls the “Physically impossible” event of the resurrection. (if God can create the universe from nothing, then a bodily resurrection would be child’s play don’t you think?). The discovery of the empty tomb has never been satisfactorily explained. The historical fact of an empty tomb is accepted by historians as it appears in several, unconnected Christian and non-Christian accounts from within the time of eyewitnesses to these events. The first to discover and report of the empty tomb is made by women. This would be highly problematic if the disciples were to be believed, as a woman’s testimony would be completely disregarded and seen as unacceptable in court due to their low status in society. Jewish authorities resorted to making up explanations for the empty tomb, saying that Jesus’s followers had stolen his body, thereby admitting that the tomb was empty. Lastly, Jesus appeared to more than 500 eyewitnesses after his resurrection, including a former Jewish leader responsible for the persecution, imprisonment and death of Christian men, women and children and whom after an encounter with the resurrected Christ, suddenly became a Christian himself and went on to write nearly half of the New Testament.The truth claims surrounding this monumental event in history matters. 

If Christianity isn’t true, then there is no ultimate hope…. sure, people can sincerely believe in something that soothes their souls. However, if it’s ultimately not true, faith in a fickle story we know to be false, will ultimately show its cracks when the things most precious to us are threatened…family, or even one’s own life, like it was for the apostles of the first century and the millions since who’ve suffered, lost loved ones and died in the name of Christ.