Is there any proof for Jesus' resurrection?

Jesus' resurrection is possibly the most important part of Christianity. If Jesus didn't resurrect, then the entire doctrine of Christianity becomes false - it is not a minor issue. Many people today try to deny that Jesus actually came back to life after he was crucified, and make up all sorts of excuses for why it didn't happen. However, if we look at these arguments, they can all be refuted. The only solution is that Jesus really did come back to life, and that Christianity is true.

Why is the resurrection so important?

Many non-Christians might not realize how important Jesus' resurrection is to the foundation of Christianity. If Jesus did not die, and didn't come back to life, then all of Christianity is false. Listed below are some of the very important implications of Jesus' death and resurrection.

It shows our sins are forgiven

"Unless Christ was raised to life, your faith is useless, and you are still living in your sins. And those people who died after putting their faith in him are completely lost. If our hope in Christ is good only for this life, we are worse off than anyone else." (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). "All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins. God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life's blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God." (Romans 3:23-26) "The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work." - C.S Lewis [1].

It shows we will be resurrected

"If we preach that Christ was raised from death, how can some of you say that the dead will not be raised to life? If they won't be raised to life, Christ himself wasn't raised to life. And if Christ wasn't raised to life, our message is worthless, and so is your faith. If the dead won't be raised to life, we have told lies about God by saying that he raised Christ to life when he really did not. So if the dead won't be raised to life, Christ wasn't raised to life." (1 Corinthians 15:12-17). "Just as we will die because of Adam, we will be raised to life because of Christ. Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us. But we must each wait our turn. Christ was the first to be raised to life, and his people will be raised to life when he returns." (1 Corinthians 15:21-23)

It shows Jesus told the truth

Many times Jesus prophesied that he would die and come back to life. If he didn't come back to life, then it would make him a liar and would make suspect everything else he taught. See some examples below of Jesus telling the disciples he would die and rise again:

  • "But after I am raised to life, I will go ahead of you to Galilee" (Mark 14:28)
  • "We are now on our way to Jerusalem where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses. They will sentence him to death and hand him over to foreigners, who will make fun of him and spit on him. They will beat him and kill him. But three days later, he will rise to life." (Mark 10:33-34)
  • "Jesus left with his disciples and started through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know about it, because he was teaching his disciples that the Son of Man would be handed over to people who would kill him. But three days later he would rise to life. The disciples did not understand what Jesus meant, and they were afraid to ask." (Mark 9:30-32)
  • " 'Destroy this temple,' Jesus answered, 'and in three days I will build it again!' The leaders replied 'It took forty-six years to build this temple. What makes you think you can rebuild it in three days?'. But Jesus was talking about his body as a temple. And when he was raised from death, his disciples remembered what he had told them. Then they believed the scriptures and the words of Jesus." (John 2:19-22)

The "Swoon" Theory

This theory says that Jesus only fainted on the cross, and was taken down and later woke up in the tomb, and somehow exited the tomb and convinced everyone he was alive again. However, there are many serious problems with this theory. Jesus was wounded far too seriously to have recovered without medical help. He had been beaten 39 times with a roman whip (40 times was known to kill a person), further tormented with a crown of thorns and beaten, forced to drag a heavy cross through the steeply inclined streets of Jerusalem, then crucified and stabbed with a spear in the side. Plus, then according to Jewish burial rites, his body was wrapped tightly in 75 lbs of strips of cloth and spices [2 p.111]. How could a person who was this severely injured be able to unwrap himself, stay 3 days in a tomb without food or water, roll away a huge 1-2 ton stone in front of the tomb, defeat the Roman guards posted there, and appear to be well enough to convince his followers (who had spend the last 3 years observing him closely) that he had come back to life? Also, people in the first century AD did not mistake a fainted person for one who was dead (death was an everyday occurrence), and the guards who performed the crucifixions would have seen many hundreds of people die. The Romans were very thorough in their executions, and would not have let someone who was merely unconscious be taken away. If they had any doubt they would have broken his legs like they did to the other two thieves on the crosses, just to be sure (this was known to kill a crucified person within minutes), but did not because he was clearly already dead (John 19:33).

The Disciples Made It All Up

Some people claim that the disciples decided to lie and say that Jesus came back from the dead. However, this theory doesn't work for many reasons.

  1. The disciples were Jewish, and Jewish beliefs stated that the only resurrection that would happen would be at the end of the world, and would happen to everyone simultaneously. They would have never expected Jesus to come back to life before then. [2 p.84]. They can't have been influenced by Christianity, because Christianity didn't exist at that point.
  2. Even though Jesus had prophesied that he would die and come back to life, it seems many times that the disciples did not understand what he meant (Matthew 16:21-22, Matthew 17:9,22-23, Mark 9:32, Mark 9:9-10, Luke 18:34). This is why they weren't celebrating after Jesus died, but were scared and hiding together in a locked room (John 20:19).
  3. Most of the disciples died for their faith in Jesus [3]. No one would be willing to be crucified or tortured for something that they had lied about and invented.
  4. The disciples were very skeptical that Jesus had come back to life. Many of them didn't believe until they had seen Jesus personally, and had verified he wasn't a ghost. Jesus later criticized them for not believing he would come back to life (Matthew 28:17, Luke 24:25-27,38,41, John 20:24-27) [2 p.82]. This shows they were not expecting Jesus to come back to life, and did not just easily accept rumors as the truth. It is also interesting that Luke 24:36 when Jesus appeared to the disciples it says they were "frightened and terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost". So they were more likely to believe in ghosts than to believe in a person rising from the dead.
  5. If they did collaborate and invent the stories about Jesus resurrection, they would have written a more believable story. In the culture at the time, women could not be witnesses in court because they were not considered reliable. However, the authors of the gospels wrote that the first people who reported Jesus had come back to life were women (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24,). If they were going to write a fictional account, they would have chosen the first witnesses to be male to give them additional credibility. [4 p.213]
  6. If they had made it up, and Jesus body was still there, it would have been quite simple for the Roman authorities or the Temple priests to have gone and found it and paraded it around the streets to show everyone the disciples were lying.

Dr. Norval Geldenhuys said: "It is historically and psychologically impossible that the followers of Jesus, who at His crucifixion were so completely despondent and perplexed, would within a few weeks thereafter enter the world (as they did) with such unheard of joy, power, and devotion, if it had not been for the fact that He had risen from the dead, had appeared to them, and had proved that His claims to be the Son of God were genuine."[2 p.85].

The Disciples Stole the Body

The problem is that the disciples would have had to overcome the guards who were placed at Jesus' tomb by the Temple priests. Some sources have estimated that this was not just one or two soldiers, which would make it relatively easy for a group of disciples to overcome or sneak past them, but possibly as many as up to 30-50 guards [5]. And Roman guards were not known to be lazy or careless - there were severe penalties, or even death for a guard that failed his duties [6]. There may have been a seal put on the tomb as well (Matthew 27:66), and breaking a Roman seal was a very severe crime [6]. The stone was probably quite heavy and needed levers to move, and it is doubtful that the effort to open this would be unnoticed by the guards even if they were asleep. John 21:4 reports that the stone had been not just pried slightly away from the entrance, but was "rolled up(hill) and in a place by itself", which is far more effort than a group of disciples would have gone to if they were attempting a rescue.

Matthew 28 explains what happened to the guards at the tomb. "It was almost daybreak on Sunday when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Suddenly a strong earthquake struck, and the Lord's angel came down from heaven. He rolled away the stone and sat on it. The angel looked as bright as lighting, and his his clothes were white as snow. The guards shook from fear and fell down as though they were dead." (Matthew 28:1-4). Later it says "Some soldiers who had been guarding the tomb went into the city. They told the chief priest everything that had happened. So the chief priests met with the leaders and decided to bribe the soldiers with a lot of money. They said to the soldiers 'Tell everyone that Jesus' disciples came during the night and stole the body while you were asleep. If the governor hears about this, we will talk to him. You won't have anything to worry about. The soldiers took the money and did what they were told.' (Matthew 28:11-15). Also, even if the guards did desert the tomb because of an earthquake and the disciples disposed of the body, then one must deal with all the issues in the previous section relating to why the disciples would lie that Jesus had risen.

The Hallucination Theory

This theory states that all the witnesses to the resurrected Jesus merely saw hallucinations. This could perhaps be acceptable if only one or two people had seen Jesus, but the Bible records hundreds of eyewitnesses to Jesus being alive after he was crucified. Jesus appeared to Mary at the tomb, the disciples, 500 people at once, and even more when he ascended to heaven. John Ankerberg and John Weldon in [2 p.113] note that "all of the known characteristics of hallucination are entirely absent from the Gospel accounts of the encounter of Jesus' followers with the risen Christ.". Also, it would not fit with the accounts of Jesus letting his disciples physically touch his wounds to prove it was really him.

Other Evidence for the Resurrection

There are many other arguments discussing more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus being a real historical event. The books referenced below in [2] and [4] are quite good sources for additional information about the historical reliability of the Bible, arguments against Christianity being influenced by other pagan cults to create the story of Jesus' resurrection, as well as a few more obscure theories that are not discussed here. I would highly suggest that you start with these two books if you want to do a more in depth study of the resurrection. A few more good internet sources can be found here [7] and here [5].


Based on the analysis here, it seems very unlikely that any of the alternate theories to explain Jesus' resurrection are true. They all have holes or require much more complicated theories than to just believe that Jesus really did come back to life. And it is important to remind Christians that all our faith depends on this one event. If we ignore the resurrection, then we ignore the need for Jesus to die for our sins, and the Bible just turns into some interesting stories to tell children on Sunday. Plus, we need to remember to look forward that we will one day see Jesus alive and in person, and to be sure we are ready to give Him an account of our lives. Jesus' resurrection gives us the same hope Job had when he stated "I know that my Saviour lives, and at the end he will stand on this earth. My flesh may be destroyed, yet from this body I will see God." (Job 19:25-26).


[1] C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity
[2] John Ankerberg, John Weldon (1997) Handbook of Biblical Evidences. Harvest House, USA.
[3] Fate of the Apostles
[4] Timothy Keller (2008) The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Riverhead Books, USA.
[5] - How Many Guards at Jesus' tomb?
[6] Josh McDowell - Evidence for the Resurrection
[7] CARM: Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry - The Disciples Stole Jesus' body and faked the resurrection.