Discussing the Resurrection with a Skeptic

Recently on The Faith Explained, a listener asked Cale what he thought were the top arguments for the Resurrection, and how specifically he would use those arguments to discuss it with someone who was skeptical of it.

As some of you might know, this issue is very important to Cale because it was the Resurrection that ultimately convinced him to become a Christian after many years of living as an agnostic.

“If Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith…If at Ephesus I fought with beasts, so to speak, what benefit was it to me? If the dead are not raised: ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (1 Corinthians 15:14,32)

So, while we were not present at the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead, nor were we present for His appearances before the apostles, we can look at the surrounding evidence that points to the divinity of Jesus and the reason we can absolutely believe in His victory over sin and death.

Cale referenced a study conducted by Gary Habermas, an American historian and New Testament scholar, that was based on a bibliography he compiled. In the bibliography was a comprehensive list of almost 3,500 works that were written on the topic of the Resurrection. And within those 3,500 works, he came to the conclusion that virtually every author, regardless of their religion, philosophy, or belief system, agreed on five things.

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
  2. Jesus’s tomb was found empty on what Christians refer to as Easter Sunday.
  3. Jesus’s disciples believed that He rose from the dead physically and He appeared to them alive after His death.
  4. Paul, formerly known as Saul, underwent some type of extraordinary conversion.
  5. Jesus had a very skeptical relative, James, prior to His death. After Easter Sunday, James not only became a believer but ended up becoming the bishop of Jerusalem and a martyr to the faith.

Given that information, Cale then pivoted to the five criteria that historians use to determine whether something is accurate or deemed to be “historical”. Coupling these criteria with the five “minimal facts” as Habermas called them, we can fully reconcile our belief in the resurrection of Our Lord.

  1. Multiple Attestation – When something or someone historical is recorded in more than one source. Something that is recorded in two or more sources, completely independent of one another, is considered more reliable.
  2. Enemy Attestation – When hostile sources can corroborate something historical taking place.
  3. Embarrassment – When part or all of a document portrays the author in a foolish way or bad light.
  4. Eyewitness Testimony – When somebody who witnessed the historical event take place live can testify to its legitimacy.
  5. Testimony of Temporal Proximity – When documentation of the historical something or someone was written close to the time that the event happened, or the person was alive.

We know that Jesus existed from all of the above, and we know that crucifixion was an execution method used by the Romans because we have the remains of crucifixion victims, including those in possession of Professor Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University. He has evidence, the remains and metal nails/spikes, of the executions of men named Johanan and Antigonus II Mattathias. Josephus, Tacitus, and Mara bar Serapion, all pagan historians around the time of Jesus, attested to the death of Jesus by crucifixion. John Dominic Crossan, an ex-Catholic priest who doesn’t believe in the Resurrection even said, “The fact that Jesus was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”

And of course, within the Bible, we have four distinct accounts that feature eyewitness testimony and embarrassment that were written just after the time of Jesus. Combined with the enemy attestation of pagan historians, that undeniably verifies that Jesus Christ not only existed but died by Crucifixion, thereby solidifying the first step towards His resurrection.

Tune in to The Faith Explained at 12:30pm CT to hear the rest of Cale’s discussion on the truth of the Resurrection.

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.