This is one of the most important questions of all of history. If Jesus arose from the dead, then what he said about himself is true. If he did not arise from the dead, then what he said about himself is not true. Jesus claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6). He claimed to be able to forgive sins (Luke 5:20). He also claimed to be divine (John 8:24; 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). Therefore, his extraordinary claims are tied to his resurrection.
Of course, it is one thing to "say" that Jesus arose from the dead, it is another thing to prove it. But the problem is we cannot prove that he rose from the dead. The reason is because the documents that describe Him are 2000 years old. At best, all we can do is look at those documents to determine if they are reliable and accurate. If they are, then we simply need to look at what they say in order to see if they support His resurrection or not. It is then up to the individual to accept or reject the claims thus presented.
This becomes an important issue because a person's presuppositions will govern how he interprets the data. If a person presupposes that God does not exist, or that miracles cannot happen, then it would be virtually impossible to convince such a person that the resurrection of Jesus occurred. On the other hand, if a person presupposes that there is a God and that miracles can happen, then it would be easier to convince a person that the resurrection of Jesus did happen. So, what are your presuppositions? Do your presuppositions allow you to objectively look at the evidence in order to make an "unbiased" conclusion about it?
In my paper Can we trust the New Testament as a historical document? I cover the information necessary to validate the New Testament documents as being accurate and reliably transmitted to us today. If you are interested in reading a more detailed examination of this, please click on the link above. Nevertheless, I will review the information in brief here.
The New Testament is reliable
First of all, the New Testament documents have a greater reliability to them in any other set of ancient documents in existence. The New Testament documents are 99.5% textually pure. This means that there is less than 1/2 of 1% of all the 26,000 copies we have of the various documents included in the New Testament. Added to this the incredible redundancy of copies, and their almost 100 percent agreement, and we can easily conclude that the transmission of the documents to us has been extremely reliable. If anyone were to dismiss the New Testament documents by saying that they are corrupted, then he must also throw out all other ancient documents including those of the writings of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, and many others because none of them come close to approaching either the number of manuscripts in existence, their reliability, or the accuracy of the copies that exists in the New Testament documents.
Second, since the documents are reliable then we must look at them to determine whether or not the content supports the resurrection of Jesus. At this point, it becomes very easy to demonstrate this since the Bible definitely teaches that Jesus rose from the dead. There are many scriptures that teach Jesus' resurrection. Following are three of them.
- Luke 24:5-6, "and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 "He is not here, but He has risen..."
- John 2:19-22, "Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20The Jews therefore said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken."
- 1 Cor. 15:3-4, "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."
Did Jesus rise from the dead? According to the Bible, yes He did.