Reason # 3: You don’t make this kind of thing up
Some have suggested that the resurrection narratives in the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John must have been developed long after the events themselves. They say the two main evidences for the resurrection, the empty tomb and the eyewitnesses, were fabricated stories passed on by well intentioned, yet naïve individuals. Could that be true?
First off, the earliest accounts of the empty tomb and the eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus are not found in the gospels. The apostle Paul in his various letters to early Christian churches is the first to make mention of these proofs. One of the most compelling texts is found in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
Most scholars agree that Paul is quoting a popular Christian liturgy that was developed some time before the writing of this letter. He says it was “passed on” to him. The letter to the Corinthians was written sometime around 52-55AD, around 20 years after the death of Jesus. In reality, this saying could very likely have developed within 5 years of Jesus death, but no later than 20 years. That’s a profound thought considering within this liturgy Paul mentions Jesus death, burial, the empty tomb and many eyewitnesses who could easily be asked to verify the information. To be honest, the argument that the resurrection story was fabricated at a much later date doesn’t hold water. There are simply too many people, contemporary to the date and time it happened, who could expose the whole story as a lie.
This presents another conundrum if we are looking to disprove the resurrection. Why would Paul claim the empty tomb is evidence if there wasn’t an empty tomb? Think about it. The Jewish leaders were incensed over the spread of Christianity. They were willing to hunt down and kill the early church leaders. If they could put the rumors of Jesus’ resurrection to rest by producing a corpse, wouldn’t they have been quick to do so? If the tomb where Jesus was buried really contained his body, there is no way Christianity could have experienced the growth it did in the very city where these events were said to have transpired – Jerusalem.
What about the eyewitnesses? If the story were a fabrication, then why would Matthew, who was writing his gospel to an intended Jewish audience, claim that the first eyewitnesses to see the resurrected Jesus were women (Mt. 28:1-10)? Each gospel tells us the first eyewitnesses to the resurrection were women. A woman’s low social status within the Jewish culture meant their testimony was not admissible evidence in court. If the gospel writers were merely fabricating a story, why would they include these details? It could only have undermined the credibility of their testimony. It makes no sense. Unless… well, you get the point. It’s true!