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The Twelve Undeniable Facts About the Resurrection

These 12 undeniable facts are statements about the resurrection that are agreed upon by historical scholars, secular and Christian alike. 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion

  • He was buried

  • His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope

  • The tomb was empty (the most contested)

  • The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof)

  • The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers

  • The resurrection was the central message

  • They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem

  • The Church was born and grew

  • Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship

  • James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic)

  • Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic)

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"If the resurrection did not take place, our faith is meaningless."

In our new series, “Did Jesus Literally Rise from the Dead?”, Dr. Gary Habermas, the world’s foremost authority on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, discusses his research featuring the strongest evidence in defense of the faith. He shares 12 key historical facts accepted about Jesus, including the crucifixion, death, empty tomb, and early growth of Christianity. This is evidence from within the first five years after the resurrection that supports the teachings of the New Testament regarding Jesus.

The Timeline of Jesus' Resurrection

  • Mar 30, 2020

    AD 30

    Jesus is crucified.

  • Mar 30, 2020

    AD 30-32

    Eyewitness testimonies become standardized into a creedal form. 

  • Mar 3, 2020

    AD 32

    Paul is converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-43 , Acts 26:1-32).

  • Mar 30, 2020

    AD 35

    Paul meets with Peter and James during his first visit to Jerusalem and receives the creed mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15 (Galatians 1:18-19).

  • Mar 30, 2020

    AD 46 or 49*

    Paul visits Jerusalem a second time (Galatians 2:1-10). He meets with Peter, James, and John to confirm that he was preaching the same message as them. He reports, “They added nothing to me” (Galatians 2:6). 

  • Mar 30, 2020

    Late AD 40s or early 50s

    Paul writes Galatians. 

  • Mar 30, 2020

    AD 51 or 52

    Paul visits Corinth and verbally gives the Corinthian church the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3.

  • Mar 30, 2020

    AD 55

    Paul writes 1 Corinthians and reminds the Corinthian church of the creed he gave them when he visited them a few years ago, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. 

*[The reason these dates vary is because it is uncertain what Paul is referring to when he mentions, “after fourteen years.” It is either 14 years after his conversion (AD 32) or 14 years after his first trip to Jerusalem (AD 35).]

One of the criticisms raised against the historic validity of Jesus, His crucifixion, and resurrection is that after Jesus’ time that legend crept into the stories about Him and corrupted the true accounts of His life. If that is so, then the earlier we can find information concerning the events of Christ’s crucifixion, the less likely error and legend are a valid explanation and the more believable it will be.

1 Cor. 15:3-5 is considered by many scholars to be a very early creed of the Christian church. A creed is a statement of belief. In 1 Cor. 15:3-5 we see that Paul says that he received this information:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Cor. 15:3-5, NASB).

Interested in the Resurrection? Dive Deeper with these Articles and Videos.


When were the four Gospels written? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are noted as the four books that authoritatively describe the life, ministry, and resurrection of Jesus. However, these writings have often come under attack by those who doubt their accuracy, authorship, or time of composition. The following brief discussion offers basic information to support the time of authorship for each Gospel, along with a summary of why these dates matter today.

Matthew

Matthew is one of two Gospels written by an apostle (along with John). It is cited in ancient writings such as the Didache and Clement’s letter to Rome (also called 1 Clement) that likely date from the late first century. The first manuscript fragments of Matthew are found in the second century.

Since Matthew describes events from the ministry of Jesus, including His death and resurrection in either 30 or 33, his Gospel was certainly written after this time and before being cited by others in the last decade of the first century. Another factor that many researchers note is Matthew’s usage of Mark, indicating it was likely written after Mark, a writing in existence by no later than around 70 and more likely by the 60s (discussed further in the section on Mark).

The one other major consideration is whether Matthew was written before or after the fall of Jerusalem in 70. Since Matthew includes a prediction by Jesus regarding the fall of this city, skeptics have often dated the writing to a post-70 date. However, since the fall of Jerusalem was likely “in the works” in the years leading up to its destruction, this is not sufficient justification for changing its date, especially if one allows for predictive prophecy.

Though there is no single consensus among scholars regarding Matthew’s date, most estimate a date between the mid-60s to around 80. My estimate is for a date no later than the early 70s, since I would argue Matthew wrote without knowledge of Luke, a writing in existence prior to this time (as they offer much different outlines of the birth and early life of Christ). This date would also only be about 40 years from the described activities, during which Matthew was still at a prime age to record the events.

Mark 

Mark has often been neglected as the shortest Gospel whose contents are largely repeated in Matthew and Luke. However, the past 200 years of scholarship have shown the tremendous importance of this Gospel. Why? Mark likely served as the earliest Gospel, with Matthew and Luke using it as one of their sources.

This is demonstrated by showing how the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke follow Mark, yet vary slightly, usually to emphasize a point for a different audience or to provide additional clarity. It is highly unlikely Matthew or Luke were written followed by Mark condensing their work into a shorter, more ambiguous text. Further, Luke was a contemporary of Mark in Rome during the 60s, even specifically claiming to use other written sources in writing the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1-4).

Traditionally, Mark served in Rome with Paul and Peter in the 60s, later traveling to Alexandria in Egypt where he was martyred in 68. If Mark is the authentic author of this writing, it was written by 68 at the latest. Further, if used by Luke, it was written prior to Luke and Acts. Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome in 62. Though Luke may have ended Acts without information on Paul’s later ministry, he would have most likely published it differently if Paul had already died, indicating composition by the mid-60s.

Based on these factors, Mark was most likely written between 60-68. I personally estimate its composition around 61-62, prior to Luke, when Mark was in Rome (1 Peter 5:13).

Luke

Luke was the only Gentile (non-Jewish) Gospel writer. He served as a medical doctor and later became a missionary worker with Paul. He wrote Luke-Acts as a two-part work for an unknown person named Theophilus (Acts 1:1). 

Luke begins by noting his dependence upon multiple eyewitness sources (Luke 1:1-4). He records himself in Israel in the late 50s during the “we” section of Acts, offering him access to eyewitnesses near the events. In addition, his travels with Paul would have connected him with other early Christian eyewitnesses. He is even noted with Mark during Paul’s house arrest in Rome sometime between 60-62 (Philemon 1:24) and was mentioned again to, “Get Mark and bring him with you,” during Paul’s second Roman imprisonment in 2 Timothy 4:11 around 65.

Because Luke ends Acts with Paul under house arrest in Rome in approximately 62, it was not written before this time. It also ends with Paul still alive in Rome. Some argue Acts was written in or near 62 very close to these events. However, others argue Luke left an open-ended conclusion to show the gospel message had traveled to the ends of the earth, focusing on Paul’s role in Rome.

Personally, I do not see Luke concluding Acts with Paul alive if he had already passed away. If so, this would narrow the writing of Luke-Acts to between 62-65, though some suggest a date in the 70s.

John

John has been the most difficult of the four Gospels to determine regarding its date. He is also known as the author of 1-3 John and Revelation, with Revelation traditionally written near the end of his life on the island of Patmos in about 95-96 (though some argue Revelation was written prior to 70). If this date is accurate, this tradition places the date of John before this time. Regardless, the earliest New Testament fragment is from John 18, dated to the first half of the second century.

Two factors are often noted in determining the date of John. First, John’s language seems to reflect a time when Domitian was emperor of the Roman Empire. John focuses on Thomas’ response to Jesus as, “My Lord and my God,” a phrase used of Domitian who ruled from 81-96. Second, John likely wrote after the other three Gospels, indicating a time after about 70.

If so, this would place John between the 70s and mid 90s, with a preference for the 80s based on internal considerations. While still a relatively wide estimate, the lack of other internal and external data provide evidence likely pointing to a time in the 80s. As John was traditionally the youngest of the apostles, perhaps a teenager around 30, John would have been in his mid-60s to 70s at that time.

Why Do the Dates of the Gospels Matter?

While the dates of the Gospels may offer insight regarding historical matters, many question how they are relevant for today. Several observations can be noted.

First, the Gospels were written within the lifetimes of the noted authors. This factor supports the accuracy of the traditional authorship of the four Gospels. While some skeptics argue these titles and names were added much later, their names would have been known to the earliest writers and audiences listening to the Gospels.

Second, the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or those with access to eyewitness accounts. Matthew and John were apostles who walked with Jesus. Mark has traditionally been associated with his role in working with the apostle Peter. Luke used multiple sources, including written documents from within the first 30 years after the events, as well as eyewitness testimony. The fact that Luke used sources existing prior to his time, perhaps from the 50s or earlier, point to a time very close to the events that lacked the legendary expansions of later gnostic writings in the second century and beyond.

Third, the enemies of Christianity were also alive when the Gospels were written. Despite much opposition to the early followers of Jesus, these four writings both outlasted critics and recorded information other early documents did not adequately refute.

Fourth, the Gospels were written close enough to the actual events to provide a high level of trust and accuracy. For example, skeptics now argue eyewitness testimony was not sufficient, as people can easily misremember past events. However, the four Gospels offer four unique perspectives concerning key events that took place within the lifetimes of those involved. Still today, most people can easily recall the main facts related to key past events from 30 or 40 years ago with a high degree of accuracy. To dismiss this evidence would require dismissing the accuracy of any past event lacking direct video evidence.

The Gospels are early, accurately preserved writings based on the life and ministry of Jesus. However, it’s not sufficient to know they are important. We are also called to study them—and live them—to continue extending the teachings of Jesus to others today.

Take a look at what's in the series,

Did Jesus Literally Rise from the Dead?

Who is Dr. Gary Habermas?

Dr. Gary Habermas is a distinguished research professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University. He has spent the last 40 years following the research and writings of 4,000 leading New Testament scholars and tracking their research and beliefs. He has found that the historical evidence for the events surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus have become so established that virtually every scholar concedes certain facts. “Did Jesus Literally Rise from the Dead” is a compelling series where Dr. Habermas shares these 12 key historical facts accepted about Jesus, including the crucifixion, death, empty tomb, and early growth of Christianity. This information also highlights important discoveries regarding Pre-Pauline sources. This is evidence from within the first five years of the resurrection that support the teachings of the New Testament regarding Jesus. With Dr. Habermas’ easy to understand approach, this DVD series is like watching your favorite college professor explaining the facts you need to better defend your faith. As the world’s leading expert on the evidence for the resurrection, he is extremely knowledgeable, yet explains the facts in an attainable way.

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The Resurrection: Accurately Recorded and Reported

By: Dr. Dillon Burroughs  |   © 2020

Skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus typically attack two key areas: the accurate recording of the New Testament accounts and the accurate reporting of these accounts. In this article, we’ll take a brief look at these two areas to show the evidence strongly supports the traditional beliefs of Christianity. What are the facts about the resurrection? ...Full Article Below

The Resurrection Accounts: Accurately Recorded

While the second area addresses the accuracy between the first written copies of the Scriptures and the copies we have today, the area of accurate reporting address whether the information was true from the start. In other words, how do we know the Gospel accounts are real history rather than religious fiction? Two areas to consider include the number and quality of the sources used in the New Testament accounts, particularly in the four Gospels.

The Number of Sources

How many sources do we have in the Gospels? At the very least, we have four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In the cases of Matthew and John, these two men were direct disciples of Jesus and could have primarily relied on their own testimonies.

For Mark, early church traditions associate his writing as recording the teachings of the apostle Peter. If so, this would include at least a fifth person involved in the sources used in the four Gospels.

For Luke, his opening four verses indicate the use of many additional sources:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Researchers typically note Mark as one of Luke’s sources. Other sources may have included those Luke interviewed during his years in Palestine when Paul was held in prison. Based on his reporting from the perspective of Mary, some argue Mary the mother of Jesus served as one of Luke’s sources.

Luke’s use of “Many have undertaken to draw up an account,” reveal multiple written sources existed by the time he wrote in the 60s (or possibly 70s), just 30 years after the events. At least some of these included “eyewitnesses” (v. 2).

In addition, many New Testament scholars suggest a common written source used by both Matthew and Luke referred to as the Q document. Though a written Q source has never been discovered, there are many parallel passages in both Gospels that are close enough in wording to suggest a common earlier writing known to both authors.

Wrap Up On Facts About the Resurrection

In summary, we are uncertain the true number of sources were involved in the composition of the four Gospels. We may estimate sources in the double digits (10 or more), but can only speculate on exact numbers. However, the case for their accuracy is strengthened by multiple attestation. When at least four writers speak on the same topic or theme without collusion and report the same essential message, these accounts help strengthen the likelihood the information is true.

The Quality of Sources

The number of sources are only as strong as the quality of the sources involved. As noted, two of the four Gospels are traditionally attributed to those who lived and served with Jesus. No true alternative candidates as the authors of these writings exist, though some continue to argue Matthew and John were written by others or were at least anonymous.

In addition, Mark’s Gospel is associated with an apostle of Jesus. Further, Mark was noted by Luke as a leader in the early church based in Jerusalem who would have had direct access to several of the apostles and first Christians. He also served with Paul and Barnabas, and was even known to Luke.

Luke was the only Gospel written by a non-Jew. Luke was a Gentile doctor by trade who came to faith in Jesus and later served as a missionary associate of Paul. He wrote Luke and Acts, two of the longest New Testament books, offering an account of Christianity through about 62 for a person named Theophilus (Acts 1:1).

The Resurrection Accounts: Accurately Reported

While the quality of the Gospel accounts regarding the resurrection reveal numerous eyewitnesses and multiple quality sources, the information must also be accurately copied from its earliest form until today to claim accuracy in reporting. For the New Testament, we have copies of portions from the first half of the second century, within less than 100 years of the original writings.

By the fourth century, we have two full copies of the New Testament. Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in a monastery and is dated to the first half of the fourth century. Codex Vaticanus is housed at the Vatican Library and is dated to the same period. Studies of these two manuscripts provide fascinating insights regarding the state of the text in this early stage and can be compared with earlier fragments and manuscripts for additional study. Overall, the text of the New Testament has remained highly stable.

The number of copies provides our final aspect of encouraging data. With nearly 6,000 Greek manuscripts and thousands of additional early copies in Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and other ancient languages, the New Testament far exceeds the early copies of any related work. While the sheer number of copies naturally leads to more overall variants, these numerous manuscripts offer more than adequate support to best determine the earliest readings.

Do the New Testament Gospels provide adequate evidence to support their claims? The answer is yes! They offer far more copies and high-quality sources than any ancient document. Because they deal with supernatural claims, we must continue to emphasize the role of faith. Salvation is by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. However, this is not a blind faith, but a decision based on information strongly attested in historical writing we can investigate still today.

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In our new 5 program series, we discuss the 12 Historical Facts of the Resurrection. 
In addition, we detail the discoveries regarding Pre-Pauline sources. This is evidence from within the first five years of the resurrection that support the teachings of the New Testament regarding Jesus.

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