"Once upon a time . . ." or "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . ." are how fairy tales typically start. If you grew up in or around the church, you have probably heard the story of Jesus, how He was God's son, how He died on the cross, and how He rose from the dead on the third day. Christianity itself rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. More than traditions, creeds or even ancient texts, the event of the resurrection itself is the lynchpin upon which everything else rests. As the Apostle Paul put it himself, "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile" (1 Corinthians 15:17). Paul knew that if the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax, a legend or even just a fairy tale to inspire future generations, the rest of Christianity would crumble, like a skyscraper built on sinking sand with no foundation. It's all about the resurrection of Jesus.

So how can we today have faith that Jesus' resurrection actually happened, that the story of the resurrection isn't just another fairy tale that we grew up with as a child but have begun to outgrow? No one alive today was alive back then, so we have to examine the historical evidences, not just inside but outside of the Bible. For a generation of people skeptical of the Bible or religion in general, saying "for the Bible tells me so" doesn't cut it. Here's what we can prove from history, and the evidence points to a world-altering event that happened 2000 years ago.

Non-biblical sources confirm Jesus at least died.

If you were taught to be skeptical of anything you read in the Bible, there are multiple historical sources outside of the Bible that document the death of Jesus of Nazareth. One such example is Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in the first century and wrote a history of Judaism around AD 93. In his history he twice mentions Jesus of Nazareth by name. Additionally, as former atheist Lee Strobel writes, "We not only have multiple, early accounts of Jesus' death in the New Testament, but we've also got five ancient sources outside the Bible that confirm his execution. No wonder the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association concluded: 'Clearly, the weight of the historical and medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted.'" One thing that is agreed upon is that a man named Jesus of Nazareth lived and died in the first century.

The news of Jesus' resurrection spread too quickly to be a legend.

Again, from Lee Strobel, "Famed classical historian A.N. Sherwin-White of Oxford said it took more than two generations in the ancient world for legends to develop and wipe out a solid core of historical truth." An excellent example of this is the legend of King Arthur, an English king who supposedly lived around AD 500. The first stories of King Arthur didn't appear until 300 or 400 years after he supposedly lived, long enough for anyone who could have contradicted the legend to die off. So if the stories of Jesus rising from the dead would have appeared 100 years or more after the resurrection took place, enough time would have passed so that church fathers could rewrite history. However, the letter Paul wrote to Corinth (known in the New Testament as 1 Corinthians) is dated to the 50s AD, a mere twenty years after the resurrection. 1 Corinthians makes definitive claims about the resurrection, while countless people who could have disproven it would have still been alive. Jesus' resurrection was not a legend claimed centuries later but an eyewitness account documented within the lifetime of everyone who experienced it.

The tomb of Jesus was empty.

The easiest way to disprove the resurrection of Jesus would be to produce a body, but no one ever did. Even the opponents of early Christianity, the Jewish leaders who had so much to lose if Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead, could not point to a body. An eyewitness account states, "When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "You are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So, the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day." The body of Jesus was never produced by the opponents of early Christianity, either the Jewish leaders or the Roman government.

We have eyewitness accounts of people seeing Jesus alive after His death.

Again, from former atheist and now Christian apologist Lee Strobel, "While we only have one or two sources for much of what we know from ancient history, we have nine ancient sources –inside and outside the New Testament – confirming the testimony of the disciples that they encountered the resurrected Jesus." One undeniable thing is that numerous people claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus, including over 500 people at one time. A mass hallucination like that is not possible. Reports of multiple people hallucinating (either from drugs or extreme stress) have been documented, but in every case, each person claimed to have seen something completely different. You do not have a mass of people all hallucinating about the same thing, yet hundreds and hundreds of people all claim to have seen the risen Jesus.

The earliest disciples died for their claim of a resurrected Jesus.

If the resurrection of Jesus were a hoax, the disciples would have been the ones to make it up. They would have known (even if no one else did) that the whole thing was a lie. And yet they allowed themselves to be arrested, tried, tortured and executed for their claims about the resurrection. And think about it from what you know about human nature: you'll die for the truth. You'll die for a lie that you believe to be the truth.

But you won't die for a lie that you know is a lie. If it were a lie, the disciples would have been the ones to create it and spread it. And yet they endured untold suffering and pain for their claim, and so did hundreds of other eyewitnesses who suffered at the hands of early Jewish and Roman persecution. Their lives and ultimate deaths are perhaps the most remarkable testimony to the fact that the resurrection of Jesus really did happen.

You can believe that the resurrection of Jesus is just another fairy tale, but the evidence overwhelmingly points to the opposite conclusion. Or, to put it another way, it takes more faith to believe the resurrection of Jesus never happened than to believe what the evidence points to. Jesus of Nazareth indeed rose from the dead, and eyewitness accounts still testify to that event thousands of years later. And since Jesus really did rise from the dead, everything changes! Nothing in history can ever be the same again. Jesus is the Son of God!

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