Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead three days after His execution pumps the heart of the Christian gospel. Apologists through the centuries have reasoned from five basic strands of evidence to attest the historical and factual nature of Jesus’ resurrection.
1. The Empty Tomb
One of the most fully substantiated facts surrounding Jesus’ resurrection is the empty tomb. New Testament scholars widely agree on the authenticity of the gospel claim that witnesses found Jesus’ tomb empty on that first Easter morning. This report has a very early date and fits well with what is known of the times archaeologically and culturally. If the Jews or Romans had produced Jesus’ body, Christianity would have been disproved immediately; yet the resurrection was never challenged, let alone refuted, by Jesus’ contemporary enemies.
2. Post-crucifixion Appearances
Numerous accounts affirm that people had intimate, empirical encounters at various times and places with Jesus Christ after His death on the cross. Witnesses claimed to have seen, heard, and touched the resurrected Christ. These physical appearances were reported soon after the actual encounters and cannot reasonably be dismissed as mythical or psychological in nature.
3. The Apostles’ Transformation
The Book of Acts describes a dramatic and enduring transformation of eleven men from terrified, defeated cowards immediately after Jesus’ crucifixion into courageous preachers and, eventually, martyrs. Such radical and extensive change deserves an adequate explanation, for human character and conduct do not transform easily or often.
4. Emergence of the Christian Church
Within 400 years from the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, Christianity dominated the entire Roman Empire and, over the course of two millennia, virtually all of Western civilization. Christianity developed a distinct cultural and theological identity apart from traditional Judaism in a brief window of time—and amid intense, sometimes deadly, resistance. The fact of Jesus Christ’s resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the emergence of the unique Christian faith.
5. Sunday as a Day of Worship
The Jewish day of worship, or Sabbath, began at sundown Friday and ended at sundown Saturday. However, the early Christian church gradually changed the worship day. Sunday commemorated Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, an event that transformed worship and distinguished the Christian faith from traditional Judaism. Apart from the resurrection, no reason existed for early followers of Jesus to view Sunday as having any enduring significance.