Fact 1: After His crucifixion, Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb.
Fact 2: On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus' tomb was found empty by a group of His women followers.
Fact 3: On multiple occasions, and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups saw Jesus alive after His death.
Fact 4: The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe Jesus was risen from the dead, despite having every disposition to the contrary.
This week, we concern ourselves with the question, "How do we decide the best explanation for these facts?"
Theologian and philosopher William Lane Craig writes:
"In his book Justifying Historical Descriptions, historian C.B. McCullagh lists six tests historians use to determine the best explanation for a given body of historical facts. The hypothesis given by the eyewitnesses- 'God raised Jesus from the dead'- passes all these tests:
1. It has great explanatory scope. It explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw postmortem appearances of Jesus, and why the Christian faith came into being.
2. It has great explanatory power. It explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people repeatedly saw Jesus alive despite His earlier public execution, and so forth.
3. It is plausible. Given the historical context of Jesus' unparalleled life and claims, the resurrection makes sense as the divine confirmation of those radical claims.
4. It is not ad hoc or contrived. It requires only one additional hypothesis: that God exists.
5. It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis 'God raised Jesus from the dead' does not in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people do not rise naturally from the dead. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead.
6. If far outstrips any of its rival theories in meeting conditions 1 through 5.
Down through history, various alternative explanations of the facts have been offered-the conspiracy theory, the apparent death theory, the hallucination theory, and so forth. Such hypothesis have been almost universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. No naturalistic hypothesis has, in fact, attracted a great number of scholars."1
Courage and Godspeed,
Article: Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead? by Mike Licona
Book Review: The Fate of the Apostles by Sean McDowell
What about the Differences in the Resurrection Accounts?
1. William Lane Craig, "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?," The Apologetics Study Bible, p. 1729-1730.