Proof of the Resurrection – Corroborating Evidence

Sounds like a TV crime show, doesn’t it?

Corroborating evidence is evidence that tends to support a proposition that is already supported by some evidence. For example, W, a witness, testifies that she saw X drive his automobile into a green car. Y, another witness, testifies that when he examined X’s car later that day he noticed green paint on its fender.

There are Secular sources that corroborate the Biblical account of the resurrection :

Tacitus senator and historian of Rome (56-117 AD)

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…” (Tacitus, Annals, 15.44).

What do we learn from the above excerpt from Tacitus’ Annals?

1. Christ existed

2. Christ was crucified

3. Christians followed Him

4. During reign of Tiberius

5. Pontius Pilate Existed

6. Resurrection mentioned (mischievous persistent ‘superstition)

Titus Flavius Josephus (Joseph son of Matthias)

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” (Josephus, The Antiquities, 18.63-64).

Phlegon and the Darkness on the day of Christ’s Crucifixion

Phlegon wrote Olympiads which chronicles the Greek games from 776 B.C. to 137 A.D. in 16 books. He also wrote of the darkness and earthquake that occurred on the day Christ was crucified recorded in Matthew 27, Luke 23, and Mark 15.

This phenomenon, evidently, was visible in Rome, Athens, and other Mediterranean cities. According to Tertullian…it was a “cosmic” or “world event.” Phlegon, a Greek author from Caria writing a chronology soon after 137 A.D. reported that in the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad (i.e., 33 A.D.) there was “the greatest eclipse of the sun” and that “it became night in the sixth hour of the day (noon) so that stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia, and many things were overturned in Nicaea” (Paul Maier, Pontius Pilate, 101).

That darkness occured is not in question. What exactly it was became a question, solar eclipse being a common and still held belief. Wikipedia actually had an interesting article about the events that includes the statement”

“. . .it was known in medieval times that a solar eclipse could not take place during Passover when there is a full moon, it was considered a miraculous sign rather than a naturally occurring event. The astronomer Johannes de Sacrobosco wrote, in his The Sphere of the World, “the eclipse was not natural, but, rather, miraculous and contrary to nature”.


NOTE: The above is only a sample of corroborating evidence from secular sources for the Biblical accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I hope it has aroused your curiosity to find more!

Proof of the Resurrection of Christ – Motive

The simple Gospel Message that the Apostle Paul preached:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” – 1 Cor 15:3-8

The previous post, concerning the motive of Jewish followers of Christ,  asked the question: 

Why would so many Jews follow a crucified man?

Those to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection that are mentioned by Paul was merely the beginning of a ‘religious’ movement that turned the world upside down. History books are full of the accounts of of those who have been martyred simply because they believed in and proclaimed as Savior and Lord the One who died for their sins and was raised up again, according to Scripture. Perhaps more significant to a discussion of motive are not those who were Jesus’ constant followers during His life, but those who did not believe, but having seen Him after His death and resurrection, they came to belief. Two are mentioned in the 1 Corinthians passage; James and Paul himself.

James was one of Jesus’ half-brothers, who did not initially believe in Him as Messiah (John 7:5). Josephus records that the same James, the brother of Jesus, was put to death by Annas and the Sanhedrin during the reign of Nero (62 AD). (Antiquities, book 20, chapter 9) In James’ instance, we have the Biblical record and a bit of reputable historical record that a man who before the resurrection did not believe Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, and came to believe exactly that after seeing the risen Christ, and was martyred for his belief.   

What accounts for the change?

Then we have Saul, who became Paul after his Damascus Road experience. it is important to note that six major things separated the Jews from other segments of society (pagans as well as believers in Christ): the Sabbath, circumcision, sacrifices, dietary laws, Messiah of Glory (non-suffering Messiah), and monotheism

Later, after his conversion and encounter with the risen Christ, Saul became Paul and had these things to say:

Colossians 2:16-17 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a feast day or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

1st Corinthians 1:23 …but we preach Christ crucified….

Philippians 3:4b-7 If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

What accounts for the change?

The change from a position of non-belief (James and Paul), and even from being a persecutor of Christians to becoming one (Paul), are effects pf a cause. In this case, the cause is having seen the risen Lord!

Is this proposed proof of the resurrection of Jesus completely irrefutable by those who do not want to believe it? No, but it should give a person cause to at least think about it and ask the question:


How Reliable are Biblical Accounts of Christ’s Resurrection?

One of the reasons we can trust the reliability of biblical accounts are supernatural acts of God (miracles) that are not only recorded in Scripture, but that also have historical and archeological evidence. The intent of this blog post is to peak your interest and encourage personal Bible study and research. In addition to increasing personal confidence in the truth of Scripture, such endeavors will serve to equip the believer for conversation/debate with non-believers.

There are two events in the Old Testament that are significant examples; the fall of the walls of Jericho, and the defeat/destruction  of  Sennacherib’s army, which had beseiged Jerusalem. I’ll leave further investigation to those interested in history and archeology, and ask that research be done without any agenda (pro or con). So if you are curious, go for it! You can just perform an online search for “historical/archeological evidence of ___________” for either, and have a lot of information to filter through and research.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is second of three events recorded by Paul as integral to the Gospel message:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” – 1 Cor 15:1-8

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was raised according to the Scriptures, and was seen by many after the resurrection. The first two events were prophesied in previously recorded Scripture, and the third provides evidence that the first two had to be either a hoax or a supernatural miracle.

Three possible proofs for a supernatural act of God are these:

1. Motive: Why would so many Jews follow a crucified man?

2. Corroborating evidence of gospel accounts: If all other historical facts prove to be true, why not the resurrection?

3. The empty tomb: Even the greatest antagonists to the resurrection of Jesus affirm His tomb was empty!

All three possible proofs fall into the arena of human logic. At the same time, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so critical to our Christian faith, that Paul emphatically declared in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15, that if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not true, our faith is in vain!

Does this writer have a personal opinion? Of course, but his ‘opinion’ is not the issue. As open, professing believers in Christ, we eventually are engaged in discussion about the genuineness and reality of our faith, with other believers, as well as non-believers (unless we are ashamed of the gospel).

Such discussions with non-believers are more than just ‘words’ deep, they are engagements in spiritual warfare and opportunities to present logical intellectual arguments to those who ostensibly appeal to logic and rational thinking in order to prove our faith illogical and irrational.

Hopefully the next few posts will encourage greater development of the Christian ‘mind’ and equip readers to defend their faith on the enemy’s terms.

If you are reading this, stay tuned for separate posts addressing the aforementioned proposed proofs of the Resurrection!

The Clarity of Scripture

I have been struggling lately with something I have taken for granted for a few decades that no longer seems to be accepted fact in much of today’s evangelical Protestant Church. If you are not sure exactly what that is, from the title of this blog post, it’s that Scripture , in and of itself, is not very clear!

I’m won’t get into the various manifestations of what I’m talking about there; some who I am certain will read this would take it as personal criticism, although I assure you that is not the case. Instead, I would like to offer the following introduction to a longer article on the perspicuity (clarity) of scripture, after which is a simple chart showing biblical teaching about the clarity of scripture.

The following is excerpted from an article in The Master’s Seminary Journal published in the fall of 2004:

The Perspicuity of Scripture

Larry D. Pettegrew
Professor of Theology

The perspicuity or clarity of Scripture in its relation to almost all areas of systematic theology is affected by postmodern hermeneutics that fail to respect the
authority of Scripture. The doctrine raises a number of questions difficult to answer in a brief span, but two very basic issues are the meaning of the doctrine of perspicuity and the long-range historical context in which the doctrine has arisen.

The basic doctrine means that the Bible can be understood by people through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and that people need to search the Scripture and judge for themselves what it means.

Scripture itself attests its own perspicuity, but not to the point that it cannot be misunderstood or is in every point equally simple and clear. The doctrine does not rule out the need for interpretation, explanation, and exposition of the Bible by qualified leaders.

The doctrine does mean that Scripture is clear enough for the simplest person, deep enough for highly qualified readers, clear in its essential matters, obscure in some places to people because of their sinfulness, understandable through ordinary means, understandable by an unsaved person on an external level, understandable in its significance by a saved person through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and available to every believer whose faith must rest on the Scriptures.

Historically, debates about perspicuity have related to Marcion’s attack on the OT, the fathers’ denial of OT perspicuity, covenant theology’s subordination of the OT to the NT, and the medieval church’s attack on biblical perspicuity. The Reformers, the Protestant scholastics, and the German pietists supported the doctrine which is of primary importance for the practice of contemporary Christians.

Scripture is clear because: Scriptural Reference:
Scripture is light. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105).“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place . . .” (2 Pet 1:19a).
Scripture is profitable. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Scripture explains salvation. “. . . the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15b).
Scripture is addressed to common people, not religious experts. “Hear, O Israel” (Deut 6:4).“The common people heard Him [Jesus] gladly” (Mark 12:37, NKJV).“to the saints who are in Ephesus” (Eph 1:1).“with all those who in every p lace call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:2).
Parents can teach scripture to their children. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6:6-7).
Even a child can understand Scripture’s message. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings. . . ” (2 Tim 3:14-15a).
Scripture tests the accuracy of religious ideas. “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if tese things were so” (Acts 17:11).

What Does Scripture SAY About Tradition?

This is intended to be nothing more than an objective look at scripture in order to extract from inspired scripture, what scripture actually says or strongly and justifiably infers concerning religious traditions. How does scripture treat the religious traditions of men, in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament?

This is not intended to be an argument for or against tradition, but only to find out what scripture says about it. Does scripture speak favorably and/or unfavorably about tradition, and what does it say of either/both?

Is tradition subservient to, on par with, or elevated above scripture? When we find out what scripture actually says about it, we should be able to assign tradition in it’s proper place in our lives as professors of Christ as Lord and Savior.

Once scripture has defined the proper place of tradition in our Christian walk and experience, we need only to obey.

By scripture I mean the contents of the NT and OT Canon, minus the apocryphal writings. I mean no disrespect. I merely want to narrow our objective analysis.

Truth, Lies and Horseback Riding

You are probably thinking that’s a rather silly title for a blog post. Maybe, maybe not. If it stimulated your curiosity to the point you are actually reading this, it accomplished the desired goal of the author. Therefore, it makes at least a little bit of sense. Agreed? No on to the point. . .

Months ago, maybe even years ago in some cases, while studying various aspects of Christianity in light of scripture (a favorite pastime of mine), I began to see beliefs in Christendom that had little or no scriptural support, and that some of those questionable beliefs had achieved the status of ‘doctrine’, and to disagree with them was labeled minimally as growth hindering misunderstanding of scripture, and blasphemy deserving of Hell at the other end of the ‘error spectrum’.  I had then, and then still have now, a soul deep conviction that God wrote the Book and therefore what was taught as truth, but didn’t agree with the context of scripture, was wrong or false in some measure and in some cases, was an outright lie.

The unavoidable question brought to this inquiring mind was, “How did these falsehoods and lies end up so widely believed by professing Christians? The answer arrived at after a considerable amount of studying scripture, researching a range of historical resources, and comparing them both to widely held beliefs of professing believers was. and IS, precisely this:

The ‘accepted’ lie always rides in on the back of truth. Without an element of scriptural truth upon which to hitch a ride, the lie never survives.

A prime example from the early church would be the Pelagian heresy that denied any adverse effect of Adam’s sin on the rest of mankind that was birthed after the Fall. That lie didn’t get very far and was condemned as heresy. the ‘Semi-Pelagianism that followed acknowledged that Adam’s sin affected of us, but man is still able in and of himself to cooperate with God in the salvation of his soul . That was also condemned as heresy (at the Council of Orange), but is in fact alive and well in both major camps of Christianity. No segment of Christianity has ever admitted to being Semi-Pelagian, although a synergistic Gospel is by nature, exactly that.

There you have one man’s explanation of the connection between truth, lies, and horseback riding. The initial lie, without an element of truth, failed. The second lie, while admitting ‘some’ truth, made a modified version of the first lie perfectly acceptable, and even pleasing to human sensibilities.

There have been other examples of lies riding in on the back of truth, some with a longer history of ‘acceptance’ than others. The two most damaging to both the cause of Christ and the souls of men are 1) that Christ established a single religious organization as the only true church with an ‘infallible’ human as head of that church and 2) that God ‘accepts’ us unconditionally, WITH our sin.

Both have a segment of truth. Christ did declare he would establish His church on earth. God does LOVE unconditionally – it’s His nature and one of His divine attributes.

The church that Christ established is made up of those persons for whom he died, from every tongue and tribe and nation – those whom He purchased with his own blood. We weren’t put on layaway!

If God could ‘accept’ us into His Kingdom WITH our sin, His Son died in vain. The first point of the Gospel is that Christ DIED for our sin!

"A Spoonful of sugar. . .

. . .helps the medicine go down”

Sugar with medicine is intended to prevent the recipient of the medicine from spitting out that which he/she needs.

Too much sugar might counteract some of the healing benefits contained in the medicine.

All sugar and no medicine is nothing more than a placebo without the ability to assist in healing the body.

Think about that axiom again in the context of speaking truth with love . Compare ‘sugar’ with love and ‘medicine’ with the truth of scripture.

I know, pretty sophomoric comparison, but maybe it makes a point.  I can’t get it out of my head. Maybe it’s the Reader’s Digest version of the Al Mohler article I read recently.

Carpe diem, preacherdude!

That’s actually the title of a Dan Phillips post over at Pyromaniacs that begins with this:

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in an assembly and thought this, in the past 35+ years since my conversion: Dude, this critical moment, with these assembled people, on this your one shot — and you do THAT with it?” (Emphasis mine)

Dan Phillip’s blog focused on the Apostle Paul’s charge to young Timothy. . .

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom. . . 


(2 Tim 4:1-2a)

. . .and the lack of the Word in much of today’s preaching.

I had a similar moment this last Sunday morning visiting a small church in my neighborhood. The preacher however, didn’t use irrelevant humor, just have a chat, tell stories, or “weave a blurry tapestry of vague, gauzy religious sentiments”, as described in Dan’s blog. In fact he delivered a sermon based solely on scripture, a genuine exposition (rare these days) of a passage in Colossians.

My “you did WHAT” moment came near the very end of the service. After a soundly scriptural sermon, after telling us that God sent His Son to die for our sins, the preacher told us that all we need to do is “fall in love and say I Do”. At the most critical moment of the morning service, an invitation to receive come to Christ, the preacher told these assembled people” that ALL they need to do is “. . .fall in love and say “I DO”?

I wasn’t just sad that I had just heard a lie, I just sat there, absolutely crushed. It wasn’t my place to address the Pastor, so all I could do was pick my heart up off the carpet and leave.

But this post isn’t about what was wrong with the preacher’s invitation – it’s about the solemn charge to “PREACH THE WORD!”. That’ the charge to pastors, preachers, teachers, and ordinary folks like you and me, even here in Blogland. In other words, if it’s NOT the revealed written Word, or if it’s not directly supported by the revealed written word, don’t go there!

I’m not bashing opinions here – opinions are great and they’re the meat some really great discussions. But they don’t amount to lot to God, in fact I remember a couple of passages that say man’s wisdom is pretty much foolishness to God.

Those of us who would dare call ourselves ‘teachers’ of sorts, especially if there is a genuine gifting to teach, had best heed the charge to “PREACH THE WORD!”, for we will be judged even more severely. We need to be about what has been written and revealed in scripture, not personal opinion, or fanciful ideas unsupportable by what has already been written.

We are to interpret and teach Scripture in the immediate and larger contexts in which it was written, not develop and ‘share’ our own ‘”new/fresh insights” (vain imaginings) that serve no practical purpose other than to build “self-exalting structures”. In fact, we are be about the business of “casting down everything that would exalt itself above the knowledge of God” (1 Cor 10:5).

Does what I say/write/teach point people to me and my ‘coolness’ or to Christ and His Word. If it’s the former I need to shut up and shut down this blog.

As Dan Phillips fitly concluded in his post:

“Once again: it is a crucial moment. Vast ages of eternity hold their breath.

What do you do with it?

Preacherdude: best to ask yourself that question now, before it is asked of you on that Day.”

Carpe Diem!