The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity. If it is true
then the claims of Jesus Christ to be the Son of God have to be taken very seriously.
If it is not true that Jesus rose from the dead then Christianity has failed entirely.
There is, however, considerable evidence to show that the resurrection really did
take place and that Jesus did rise from the dead.
The first item of evidence is the detail of the practice of crucifixion. In crucifixion
a human being is attached to a cross and allowed to hang there. There were several
different available shapes of cross. It has been said that there were several different
methods of attaching a victim to the cross, but evidence on this is sparse. Bones
discovered in a tomb near Jerusalem and now in the Israel museum included the heel-bone
of a crucifixion victim with the nail still embedded in it. This shows that victims
were nailed to crosses at least part of the time.
Death from crucifixion can occur by a number of different mechanisms. Stress on the
chest muscles causes body fluid to leak into the lungs. This can lead to a loss of
lung function, or to congestive heart failure or to hypovolemic shock, any of which
would lead to death. Experiments carried out in conjunction with a Television series
showed that if a human being is suspended entirely from their arms then they are
likely to die within 20 minutes. This would happen to anyone who fell unconscious
on a cross. Jesus was on the cross for long enough to ensure his death.
The Empty Tomb
Jesus was buried in a tomb near to Jerusalem. On the third day after the crucifixion
this tomb was empty. The evidence for this is extremely strong. Christianity started
to spread from Jerusalem and thousands of people were baptised there. It would have
been impossible for anyone to believe that Jesus had been raised if his body was
still in the tomb. The authorities were keen to undermine the new Christian community.
They could have destroyed it completely by producing the body, which means that it
was no longer in the tomb and the authorities did not know where it had gone. Finally,
Jewish sources were arguing that the disciples of Jesus stole the body for several
generations afterwards. This would have been laughable if the body had been in the
The Human Witnesses
After his resurrection, Jesus was seen alive by a large number of people. The list
includes over five hundred people, of whom the majority were supporters of Jesus,
but some of them were hostile before they met Jesus. The fact that all witnesses
who met Jesus alive after his resurrection became Christians simply shows that the
meetings of Jesus were real.
Those who proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus were subjected to persecution almost
immediately. In Jerusalem. The persecution forced Christians to move to other cities,
and at the end of 65AD a major persecution was started by the Roman state under the
The evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming. There is physical evidence (the
empty tomb) and there is the witness of human eyewitnesses (the hundreds of people
who met the risen Jesus). The opponents of Jesus were still attempting to explain
the empty tomb in the second century and the witnesses were prepared to suffer unpleasant
deaths in the arena rather than to deny the resurrection.
There is only one possible conclusion: Jesus is Alive!