Gary Habermas: five reasons to believe Jesus rose from the dead

Greg West, who runs The Poached Egg, found this article by Dr. Gary Habermas in the left-wing Washington Post, of all places.

Habermas tries to make his case based on the “minimal facts” about Jesus that virtually all historians will admit to, regardless of where they line up theologically.

Here are his five minimal facts:

(1) Most scholars agree that Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty shortly afterwards. With almost two dozen reasons favoring this report alone, what best explains this? Other hypotheses do not account for all the data.

(2) Many eyewitnesses assert that they saw the risen Jesus, both individually and in groups. Even apart from the Gospels, we can establish this totally from just two passages in Paul’s “undisputed writings”:

  • Paul told the Corinthians that he had received the Gospel resurrection report from others (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
  • The consensus critical view is that Paul probably obtained this material in Jerusalem, when he visited the eyewitness apostles Peter and James, the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:18-24).
  • Paul returned to Jerusalem 14 years later and specifically checked out the nature of the Gospel message, again with eyewitnesses Peter, James, and now John (Galatians 2:1-10).
  • All the apostles agreed that Jesus appeared to them after his death (1 Corinthians 15:11).

(3) Further, critical scholars also agree that Paul received this material from the other apostles at an exceptionally early date-only about five years after the crucifixion. But since the others knew the reports before Paul did, we are right back to the events themselves. Even the best-known critical scholar today, non-Christian specialist Bart Ehrman, dates several Christian traditions as early as just a year or two after the crucifixion!

(4) But why should we believe that these eyewitnesses were being honest? We have first century sources that the three apostles mentioned above were all martyred: Paul, Peter, and James the brother of Jesus. Of course, people die for all sorts of ideas, but only for what they are convinced is true. But unlike others, the apostles were in a position to know whether or not they had seen Jesus Christ alive after his death. By being willing to die, scholars agree that they were convinced that Jesus had indeed appeared to them. At the very least, this addresses their honesty and conviction.

5) Of these eyewitnesses, Paul was a persecutor of the early Christians, and James was an unbeliever. Skeptical scholars accept this in both cases. But why did they become believers? Again, they were certainly in a position to know whether the risen Jesus had appeared to them.

This might be a good one to forward along to your skeptical friends, because of where it was published. It’s probably review for most Christians, but to someone who is new to historical Jesus studies, this might be a good conversation starter. What are the “undisputed” parts of the Bible, and which are the facts virtually everyone admits to? How did historians decide which books and which facts were more verifiable by historians, and which were not? Are the minimal facts enough to warrant the belief that Jesus rose from the dead?

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