The Resurrection:  The Body of Evidence

What is the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead? by Major Nigel Bovey

It is a storyline familiar to fans of the “CSI” (Crime Scene Investigation) franchise. A body is found,the police are called and a team of latex-gloved forensic investigators arrives at the scene. Job done, they return to their lab with photos, swabs, samples and prints to begin the painstaking work of piecing together the evidence that will hopefully bring the perpetrator to justice. On screen and in real life, when a defendant faces trial, prosecuting and defense counsel state their cases according to evidence. Guilt must be established beyond reasonable doubt. Often, there is no smoking-gun revelation that conclusively proves innocence or guilt. Rather, like a jigsaw puzzle, a case is built on fitting together separate pieces of evidence. 

So what about the events surrounding the most famous death of all time – that of Jesus of Nazareth? What is the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead? 

Eyewitness accounts

Many cases never get to court because of a lack of witnesses. When it comes to the case of the Resurrection, there is no lack of witness to the risen Jesus. All four Gospel writers cite occasions when people met with Jesus after He had been raised. The Apostle Paul calculates that Jesus appeared to at least 519 people, 13 of whom are identified (1 Corinthians 15:5-7). 

The question is: Why dismiss the word of so many people who say they saw the risen Jesus?

Oral evidence

Many legal cases depend upon what somebody says under oath. Three times, Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus as saying that He would be betrayed, killed and rise again. Even among non-believers, Jesus is widely regarded as a great – the greatest, even – moral teacher. 

The question is: How can Jesus be the revered moral teacher if He is lying about being raised to life?

Evidence tampering

At Pentecost, just 40 days after the death of Jesus, the disciples told thousands of people that the once-dead Jesus was now alive. 

The question is: Given the volatile security situation His executioners faced, why didn’t the authorities end such wild talk there and then by producing His body?

Witness intimidation

According to Acts, some of Jesus’ followers, including Stephen and James, were put to death because they refused to stop preaching that Jesus was alive. New Testament Scholar, Sean McDowell, in his authoritative study, “The Fate of the Apostles”, concludes, “We have convincing evidence Peter, Paul, James, the son of Zebedee, and James, the brother of the Lord, died as martyrs.” In “The Historical Jesus of the Gospels”, Craig S. Keener argues: 

“The disciples’ testimony was not fabricated. Ancients also recognized that the willingness of people to die for their convictions verified at least the sincerity of their motives, arguing against fabrication. People of course die regularly for values that are false; they do not, however, ordinarily die voluntarily for what they believe is false. Intentional deception by the disciples is thus implausible.”

That the disciples would die for the gospel would appear to verify the sincerity of their beliefs. As Keener notes, it is not extraordinary that people would die for their beliefs. It is extraordinary that the disciples would die for an event they knew had not happened at all.

The question is: Who would knowingly and willingly die for a lie?

Forensic evidence

The Gospels record that, after His crucifixion, Jesus was placed in an unused tomb. Jesus was its first and solitary occupant. The tomb was sealed with a stone. The stone was then sealed. The Roman authorities placed the tomb – and the dead Jesus – under 24/7 armed guard.

On Sunday morning, some of His followers went to the tomb to anoint His body. They found the stone rolled away, the guards in a state of shock and the tomb empty. The grave clothes in which Jesus had been wrapped were left, folded, in the tomb.

Two questions: Who folds discarded grave clothes? Who moved the stone?


When confronted with a particularly puzzling case, fictional detective Sherlock Holmes resorted to a singular line of enquiry: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This is a form of deductive logic subsequently employed and enjoyed by players of Clue.

The players on Easter morning are the soldiers – now under sentence of death for losing the body, three grief-stricken women, including Jesus’ mother, Mary and Peter, the disciple who, hours earlier, was guilt-ridden for denying ever having known Jesus. Could these witnesses, as some claim, have been accomplices? 

The question is: How did any of them have the means, motive and opportunity to overcome the guards, break the seals on the stone and on the tomb and remove the body without being detected?

Put-up job

Another objection to the Resurrection is that although crucified at the hands of expert executioners, Jesus did not die but merely passed out. The theory runs: despite being severely injured, and suffering from blood loss and heat exhaustion, in the cool of the tomb, Jesus recovered, released the sealed stone, overcame the armed guards and escaped.

The question is: If this were the case, how did He avoid immediate re-arrest and why has His body never been found? 

The Resurrection – the foundational and distinctive belief of Christianity – is either the greatest mass deception of all time or history’s greatest truth.

The evidence points to one logical conclusion. The Resurrection was an act of God. Today, millions of people worldwide can give testimony to the change that knowing the risen Jesus has made to their lives.

The question is: Are we among them?

Major Nigel Bovey is the author of “Browsing the Bible,” published by Shield Books, London.

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