Perhaps the most important question of the entire Bible is the question of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. To put it plainly: Did Jesus rise from the dead? If Jesus was crucified, in reference of history, and he died, and was placed in a tomb, and he simply stayed dead, then Christianity is nothing. But if Jesus was crucified, buried, but after three days he physically resurrected from the dead, then Jesus was really God on Earth. And everything he said and did matters infinitely.
Verified historical sources tell us that Jesus was a real person who was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Galilee. Historians also tell us that Jesus spoke, and lived, and was crucified under the Romans, probably around the age of 30-33. History also records that Jesus died, and was placed in a particular tomb, the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. History also tells us that the tomb was found to be empty. We will examine, briefly, several prominent views of the historical fact of the empty tomb, and how to explain it historically. We will then examine which view is most accurate given history. Then we’ll consider the positive evidence.
Jesus is mentioned as a historical person in multiple sources, such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, the Babylonian Talmud, and Lucian among others.
But the New Testament Scriptures are themselves more historically attested to than any of these sources, with 5,868 ancient Greek manuscript copies. The accuracy of these manuscripts when compared to one another are 99.5% accurate. The only differences between these manuscripts are minor spelling and grammar errors that don’t impact the meaning substantially. Therefore, I would make the contention, as is the general consensus in history, that the New Testament documents are historically reliable and outside historical sources prove beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth did exist, was crucified, and his tomb was found to be empty.
Now the real question is, did Jesus rise from the dead? The tomb was empty, that much is historically known. So how do historians explain the empty tomb? The most direct explanation would be that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead. Christianity spread quickly after the crucifixion. In fact, each of Jesus’ disciples aside from John were martyred for their faith. History records that each of them died proclaiming that Jesus had risen from the dead. Why would they die for something that wasn’t true? In fact, there are historically recorded events in which Jesus appears to people after his death, including at one point when he appeared to over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6). The best answer is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
But there are other arguments that are put forward as possible alternatives to this hypothesis. Some would contend that the disciples of Jesus went to the tomb and stole the body, and then proclaimed that Jesus had resurrected. That’s one theory. Another theory is that Jesus’ disciples were so devoted to him and wished so greatly for their master to still be alive that they hallucinated seeing Jesus. Still another theory is that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. He was only injured, or drugged, and later he recovered from his injuries and appeared as if he had resurrected. They call this the “Swoon theory.” Additionally, there are several other less prominent theories, such as the women went to the wrong tomb or the Roman authorities themselves removed the body of Jesus, but these theories are quite unlikely, so we will not explore them further here. Instead, we will look at the three main counter theories, the stolen body theory, the mass hallucination theory, and the swoon theory.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Justin Steckbauer