Whether you’re a Christian or not, it’s important you know the real facts about Christianity. In this post, I share a few of those facts, and give you an idea of what I think to be the best explanation of those facts. Let’s dig in.
First of all, it needs to be said that Jesus actually existed. It might seem like a silly thing to say, but unfortunately some people would like you to believe otherwise.
Fortunately, this small group of people have no real credentials; they are basically internet atheists who have no real background in studying the historical Jesus. Almost every scholar in the field believes that Jesus did exist, even the skeptical ones.
Not only do the scholars believe He existed, they also believe that He performed miracles. Not that they believe in miracles themselves, but that they believe Jesus was know for performing miracles; that Jesus claimed to have performed miracles. This is a well-established historical fact that the vast majority of critics agree on.
What’s more, is there is more information written about the person of Jesus than any other person in human history.
Almost every scholar believes that the historic Jesus was a real person. Even skeptical scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, believe that Jesus existed because the evidence is well-established and historically reliable.
However, there are always those outliers. I think there may be two or three that disagree with the evidence, but their work has been universally rejected by the vast majority of scholars in that field.
Scholars Reach a Consensus
Not only is it a fact that Jesus existed, but scholars have also reached a consensus on certain facts concerning Jesus’ life and ministry, including His death and burial. Those facts are His honorable burial, the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and the disciples belief in the resurrection. Let’s take a look at each.
Burial of Jesus
It is a well-established fact that Jesus of Nazareth was killed by way of Roman crucifixion. Not only that, but scholars accept as fact that Jesus was given an honorable burial by a man named Joseph of Arimathea.
Empty Tomb of Jesus
It is also a well-established fact that Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of His women followers.
Women were not who you would expect to have discovered the empty tomb if such event did not happen; men would have certainly been the witnesses here. The mere fact that women were the ones who discovered the empty tomb, speaks volumes to the reliability of the account.
Notice that this fact alone, not only entails the that Jesus existed, but also that He was crucified and buried. There would obviously be no talk of an empty tomb if it weren’t for a death and burial to accompany it.
Post-Mortem Appearances of Jesus
It is a well-established fact that people claimed to have experienced the risen Christ.
There are several accounts of people who experienced this, not only on an individual basis, but also in groups as well.
There were over 500 people who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus, and these were not always isolated events; they were often group events. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, he made it known that many who experienced the risen Christ were still alive. These testimonies could have easily been refuted if they were not indeed true.
Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus
Scholars have been amazed at how the disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus because they really had no predisposition to.
No Jew believed in a “dying messiah,” much less a dying messiah that would be resurrected prior to the resurrection at the end of the world.
“Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”” – John 11:23-24 NIV
Clearly, Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead, but this would occur once at the end of the world. No Jew would have ever believed that a resurrection happened prior to the end of the world unless it actually happened – as is the case with Jesus.
Not only did the disciples believe that a resurrection did occur with Jesus, they were willing to die for that fact as well, and almost everyone one of them did. This was even after all the disciples denied Him during His trial in fear of their own lives.
Nobody would die for something they knew didn’t happen. The disciples were sincere because they truly did experience the risen Christ, and that is why scholars cannot understand the rise of Christianity unless Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.
The disciples were sincere; they suddenly believed in a resurrected messiah, despite every predisposition not to. As a result, it has become a well-established fact among scholars that the disciples, as well as many others, sincerely came to believe that Christ was raised from the dead.
What we have here is a consensus of the facts from credible scholars, including skeptical ones. Virtually all scholars believe the facts mentioned above: the burial, the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and the belief in the resurrection. Almost no scholar denies these facts.
What we want to know then, is what is the best explanation of those facts? We’ll look at that next.
What’s the Best Explanation?
The facts are the facts. There’s no good reason to deny them, either. The only reason I think people do so is to avoid the obvious conclusion that Christianity is true. But that’s unreasonable! Those kinds of people are not genuine seekers of truth. Genuine seekers of truth look at the evidence, look at the facts, and follow it wherever it leads. The only reason someone would fight against that is to avoid its conclusion, and that’s exactly what I find in most atheist circles.
Now, let’s assume for a moment that we are dealing with a genuine seeker of truth, and they seem to accept all the facts, but are willing to offer up an alternative explanation of those facts. And people have tried to do this with various hypotheses, but they all seem to fail for one reason or another.
For example, some have tried to explain the post-mortem appearances by saying everyone was hallucinating. Or, take the empty tomb, for example, they say that the disciples stole the body. Or, the disciples lied about everything. Or, worse yet, Jesus never really died on the cross, He was only severely injured and managed to escape death, the tomb, and convince everyone He had risen.
Now, these hypotheses have been universally rejected for various reasons.
Take the hallucination hypothesis, for example. Even if it sounds possible, it’s not really reasonable. Not only does it not explain other facts, like the empty tomb, it forces us to think that hallucinations can occur among groups of people at the same time. Nowhere has that ever been the case that groups of people can have the same hallucination. Hallucinations are always isolated events with individual persons. Why would anyone think that groups of people experienced the same hallucination when it came to Christ, especially since it wouldn’t even explain the other facts?
What about the hypothesis that the disciples stole the body? Sure that’s possible, but it, too, fails to explain other facts, like the post-mortem appearances.
What about the hypothesis that the disciples lied about everything? Again, that explains almost nothing. What was their motive for lying about everything? What about the appearances experienced by everyone else, the rise of Christianity in an environment that was hostile to it, and the fact that the disciples ended up being martyred for what they believed. You don’t die for something you know to be a lie; it just doesn’t make sense.
What about the hypothesis that Jesus never died? Sure that would explain the appearances and the empty tomb, but it wouldn’t explain the fact that He actually did die! No scholar thinks that Jesus would have survived Roman Crucifixion; the Romans perfected this practice. Even if it were the case that Jesus somehow survived, how did a severely wounded and nearly dead Jesus manage to pretend to be dead, get buried, escape, and somehow convince everyone that He had risen from the dead? Could you imagine a half dead person, fighting for their life, being able to convince you that they had risen from the dead? Not a chance.
The fact of the matter is that these hypotheses are weak and fail to account for all the facts. Perhaps they are possible, but they are far from reasonable, I think. In fact, I think that it is far more reasonable to believe the hypothesis that the disciples actually gave, namely that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Admittedly, this is a supernatural explanation; indeed, it’s a miracle! But it can only be ruled out if someone presupposes that miracles can’t happen, or that the supernatural doesn’t exist. However, what justification do we have for believing that? What evidence do we have that God does not exist? If God does exist, it’s certainly possible that this explanation is the best there is. That is to say, that it’s also the most reasonable. And in 2000 years, there hasn’t been any good naturalistic explanation that comes close.
If God exists, it’s certainly possible that He raised Jesus from the dead, and it best explains all the facts concerning Jesus; not just one or two of them.
So, the best explanation of the facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead. But if that’s the case, then Christianity is true.