This Sunday in my Easter sermon I will briefly mention four facts that support the contention that Jesus rose from the dead. I have taken these from apologist and philosopher William Lane Craig. When Craig debates the resurrection, he cites four indisputable historical facts that must be explained by any adequate historical hypothesis:
(1) Jesus was buried by Joseph in a tomb and this burial is attested to by multiple, early, independent sources. Joseph is unlikely to be an invention since he was a member of the Sanhedrin, the very council that sentenced Jesus to death.
(2) On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers. Not only is this, too, attested by multiple, early, independent sources (cited by the Gospel writers), but since women were not highly regarded in first-century Judaism, it seems unlikely that this account could be a fabrication.
(3) On different occasions and under various circumstances different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead. The Gospel appearance narratives provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances and Paul’s list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances guarantee that such appearances occurred.
(4) The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary. Not only was their leader dead, Jewish belief about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead before the general resurrection at the end of the world. So there really is no explanation for the rise of Christianity if Jesus did not rise from the dead and his resurrection appearances had a profound and transformative impact on his followers.
These four facts are agreed upon by a majority of scholars.
In his debates, Craig will conclude that the best explanation of these facts is that Jesus rose from the dead. He cites that fact that the eyewitnesses themselves gave this explanation and it is the one which passes all the standard criteria for being the best explanation. The various naturalistic explanations (conspiracy, hallucination, etc.), in the judgment of contemporary scholarship, fails to provide a plausible explanation of these facts.
So there is good historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection in these four facts and the best explanation of these facts is that Jesus rose from the dead.
I have taken these from the transcript of an excellent debate between Dr. Craig and Bart Ehrman (in which Ehrman’s performance was so embarrassingly poor that he refused to allow the video to be released; I think he underestimated Dr. Craig) go to the transcript on Dr. Craig’s website here.
Other transcripts of Dr. Craig’s debates are on the main debate transcript page here.