Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus Sighting
The Christian faith rests squarely on Jesus is rising from the dead. According to the Apostle Paul, if this is not true, “we are to be pitied more than all men” (I Corinthians 15:19) for spreading such a falsehood and misleading so many people. Can we rely on the account in the Bible of the resurrection? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” There are many reasons why we can rely on the account. Here are just a few:
Authenticity of the Account
The account in the Bible just rings true. If you were going to rewrite the account to embellish it, wouldn’t you start with disciple leaders, like Peter or John, and write about their meeting the risen Christ? But no, the account of who met the resurrected Jesus starts with a former demoniac, Mary Magdalene, and lists Mary the mother of James and Salome, two women who we aren’t even sure who they are. Why even mention them? Women were inconsequential in the 1st Century, barely above the status of property. According to Josephus, their testimony was considered worthless in a court of law.
Now, consider what newspaperman Henry Stanley wrote after his famous eight month search in Africa for the missing missionary, David Livingstone. He found Livingstone in Ujiji, a small village on the shore of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871. He writes, “…I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs, in the front of which stood the white man with the gray beard…. walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’(1). He didn’t write, “…I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs. There was Rahib, and Hassan, the father of Ali, and Ahmad, the uncle of Abdullah…” He goes right to the quick. He doesn’t provide inconsequential details.
Multiple Eye Witness Attestations
Dr. Gary Habermas, distinguished professor at Liberty University provides the following list of people to which Jesus appeared:
- Mary Magdalene (John 20: 10-18)
- Other women (Matthew 28: 8-10)
- Cleopas and another disciple on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-32)
- Eleven disciples and others (Luke 24:33-49)
- Ten apostles and others with Thomas absent (John 20: 19-23)
- Thomas and the other apostles (John 20:26-30)
- Seven apostles (John 21: 1-14)
- Disciples (Matthew 28: 16-20)
- Apostles at the Mount of Olives before his ascension (Luke 24: 50-52 and Acts 1: 4-9)
In a court case usually one or two witnesses are required. Here we have over 500 witnesses most of whom were still alive when the account was written. In addition we have Paul, who was most certainly a hostile witness and chief opponent of Christianity, reporting that Jesus appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15: 8)(2).
Site of the Tomb
According to Dr. William Lane Craig there are no other competing burial traditions about Jesus, and most New Testament scholars today agree that Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb (Mark 15:43-47). Joseph was in fact a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. Why would somebody make up something so implausible and refutable if it were not true? In addition, the site of the tomb was well known. Mary Magdalene and several other women knew where it was. It was certainly known to the Romans who posted a guard there (Matthew 27: 62-66). Since Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent man, many people probably knew where it was. Therefore it is highly unlikely that people went to wrong tomb!(3)
The account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Bible is reliable. The account rings true and appears not to have been embellished because of the inconsequential details that appear. There are multiple eyewitness accounts that were written during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses and certainly could have been refuted. There is the empty tomb itself owned by a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, a most implausible owner, and certainly an account that would not have been recorded if not true. Therefore, the facts would indicate that the tomb was empty and that Jesus had risen from the dead. Now it’s up to you.
To Read More
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus(Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998)
- “Stanley Finds Livingstone, 1871″, EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2004)
- Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998), 234.
- Ibid, 210.