The Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection

I am not one who believes the Christian faith or, namely, the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be proved or disproved in the way that one can attest Isaac Newton’s laws of motion (physics).  However, I do believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ…and I believe there are credible reasons for such faith.

Here is what Richard B. Hays has to say about the resurrection:

“The character of the event itself hardly falls within ordinary categories of experience.  Still, something extraordinary happened shortly after Jesus’ death that rallied the dispirited disciples and sent them out proclaiming to the world that Jesus had risen and had appeared to them.  Reductive psychological explanations fail to do justice to the widespread testimony to this event within the original community and to the moral seriousness of the movement that resulted from it.  The best explanation is to say that God did something beyond all power of human imagining by raising Jesus from the dead.”  (The Moral Vision of the New Testament, p. 165-166)

With that in mind, here is something the Apostle Paul says… “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3.10-11, NRSV).

18 responses to “The Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection

  1. jacob schmidt

    I’d like to learn more!

    • Jacob,

      What would you like to know…perhaps I can help. If you’d like, send me an email with your mailing address and we could converse that way.

      Grace and peace,


  2. The Shroud of Turin is a powerful end of time word of God to the veracity of the Resurrection.

    I LIKE the verse you put at the end of this meditation. Justification by Faith is a Life Lived and not so much a decision that is made. We live crucifixion with Christ, as we take up the crosses He sends our way. Such crosses unite us mystically to Christ’s efficacious and once-for-all work on the Cross. How? Because in Baptism we were ontologically united to Him, being buried with Him by baptism into death…. Romans 3, and Romans 6, and Romans 8 are all a Unity.

    • Ben,

      You’ll get no arguments from me on this one. I think more of Western Protestant Christianity is beginning to realize through the work of guys like E.P. Sanders, James D. Dunn, N.T. Wright, and Richard Hays that salvation is not just a one-time event but a journey with a beginning point and a goal (telos)…which if I understand correctly, is a view that has always been held in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

      Grace and peace,


      • Yes. However, while I am involved in the process, if you will, and see such a vast distance between me as I am now and the Christ into whose likeness I am to become, I rest wonderfully in Western metaphors of imputed righteousness. Florovsky said to my relief, that we need the Tradition of east and west to have fully Catholic Christianity. “If thou O Lord would mark iniquities, who would stand, but with Thee is propitiation.” comes to mind from one of the Matins Psalms.

      • Yes..that is some of what theologian Veli-Matti Karkainen seems to be getting at in his book “One With God: Salvation as Deification and Justification” in which he lays out the doctrine of theosis and then traces the doctrine of justification in different Christian movements, showing why the East and West need to be in conversation with each other. Very informative book…you can check it out here on the Amazon link:

        Grace and peace,


  3. We must not confuse justification with the fruit of justification (or, the fruit which proves justification). Sanctification is the goal of the once-for-all justified. I am, today, a justified sinner. Nothing will change that. The fruit of my life as such a person (I hope) will bear witness to that. If not, I only prove to be an unjustified liar (claiming Christ yet walking in darkness).

    Christ not only died the death I should have died, but He also lived the life I should have lived. Sanders, Dunn, Wright, are deeply flawed in this area and seem to, with political motivation, bring us more legalism and religion. The Gospel (that is, the objective completed work outside of ourselves) gets warped from what Christ has done to what we do.

    If one only believes Jesus died the death s/he should have died; that is He died for their sins and paid their penalty; that leaves people on their own. It clears the deck and puts them in a right relationship with God but they must stay in that relationship with a pretty good life. And therefore in a certain sense they are still maintaining their salvation by works and there is no joy in that. There is no life transforming joy in that. There is no identity transforming or shifting behavior joy in that.

    But if you realize He lived the life you should have lived as well as died the death you should have died, then not only were your sins put on Him but his perfect righteousness and record was put on you as well. So there is no condemnation and there can’t be a condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

    We must not confuse the root of justification with the fruit we bear (the life we live) as those who are justified.

    Grace to you –

    • Why is it that Snaders, Dunn, Wright, etc…are flawed? Could people like Piper, Grudem, etc…not flawed in their exegesis/theology?

      I realize that nothing we say here is going to solve the exegetical/theological questions surrounding the Pauline epistles as it relates to justification. But it is interesting that many want to claim justification as an event in the sequence of salvation rather than an ongoing process when one of the hallmark chapters on “justification” is employing present tense verbs and not past (Aorist, Perfect) tense.

      Romans 3.24 “They are BEING JUSTIFIED freely by his grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus.”

      Romans 3.26 “in the forbearance of God, to show his righteousness in the present time, in order to show he is just and the one who IS JUSTIFYING the one [who has][the] faith in/of Jesus.”

      I don’t know everything about the whole issue but I did write a paper for NT Theology on Justification in the book of Romans for Dr. Oster and the present tense language – which suggests in this passage that justification is not an event but an ongoing process we are on (still God’s work and not ours, in my view) – helped shift my view on the entire issue.

      Grace and peace,


  4. The Eastern Tradition to which I am a convert does not sunder justification and sanctification as many in the West are wont to do. I am on risky ground here, and may need corrrection, but the Scripture that is translated ‘being justified by faith we have peace with God’ seems to be a Greek tense that speaks to a state of being that is on-going more than a once-for-all event in the past. Christ’s atoning work is once for all, but as was noted in the Phillipians passage, the apostle Paul was wanting to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, if by any means he might attain to the resurrection of the dead.’

    I may have to recant some of this because this is uncharted thought for me to some extent. But the peace of God is not static; is it with you; it is not fixed regardless of my behaviors. and so the peace of God that is the fruit of ‘being justified by faith’ must not necessarily be a static event in the past, but a dynamic one, a life lived by the faith of Christ ‘and the life I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’ as Paul states. If we have faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, then we live a life that is being continually crucified and resurrected, and is expressed in a peace that is the effulgence of that life lived by faith.
    Orthodox oppose as foundational an extrinsic justification, being made righteous. we believe it is an imparted, an instrinsic righteousness, an ontological change and not a change in our legal standing with God. We tend to reduce the legal language that Scripture and especially Paul has to a metaphor with some usefulness needing clarification, as Peter warned about Paul’s writings. The imparted righteousness of Christ is a living Thing and must be allowed to grow, or as St. John says, that it must overcome, be an overcoming life , in order to find ones name in the Book of Life (First three chapters of Revelation). So that our future ‘well-done’ is not based merely on a past act of faith by which we are justified once and for all, but is secured by growth in Christ and the works that the Spirit brings forth in us, so ‘making our calling and election sure’, securing our calling election. So we are certainly justified by faith but not by faith alone. And I speak as one who knows the on-going Peace of God and also the digressions, when I fail to trust and obey. (for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, and, in the end, saved).

    So Theosis is cool but if it is only the doctrine of Theosis and not the pursuit of our lives, then we shall find ourselves, someday, of all men, most miserable. Let us not then talk about Theosis only, but pursue unceasing prayer, unceasing memory of God, to the end that we may be glorified with Him, in the vision of the Uncreated Light.

  5. Jr points out a basic understamding of God’s saving work in Christ that Orthodox find quite unScriptural.

    This link touches on it. Christ didn’t come to take a punishment that God was contrained to give us as punishment for our sins. Such a view has Christ fixing something in God; but God is not our problem, as this view expresses. We don’t need to be saved from God; we need to be saved by our problem of alienation from God.

    Christ’s death is for us, then, and not but not in our stead.

    This link above argues this from the hands of an eminent Orthodox Biblical Scholar.

  6. Salvation and Tenses and Lex Orandi Lex Credendi
    in a similar vein of thought, in the Orthodox Liturgy, one is not spoken of as having been saved, until immediately after baptism. After baptism the pastor says ‘you are justified’.
    Most of the time the word salvation is used in the future tense, Lord save our souls, as is also the case in Scripture. The past tense with the word salvation is used dynamically as assurance of being saved is dynamic. We sing after Communion ‘who has saved us.’ This presupposes participation in the process – a life lived, confessions made, forgiveness granted, and the Body and Blood received renewing us Ontologically and secondarily in the ‘covenant’.
    WE are spared the onerous burden that the Reformed revivalists of the 18th and 19th centuries put on evangelicalism of having a one time experience where one’s election was assured, and thus one’s salvation, irrevocably fixed. Finney, who upset many churchmen with this view, looked in the latter part of his life upon his mission field and said ‘where is the fruit?’ Lord have mercy on us all.

  7. A Holy God punishes sin. This is what Rom 3:21-26 is partly about. If God had not punished sin for those with faith in Jesus (like He will on That Day for those in unbelief) then He would have been proven unrighteous and unjust. Unrighteous against His Holiness. Unjust because He had “passed over” sins of the past (prior to Jesus).

    Do you not believe that we need to be saved from the wrath of God?
    “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom 5:9).
    “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not a see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

    Yes, we are saved from the wrath of God. The wrath that is due by a righteous and just God against those things that are unrighteous and unjust. This does not mean that “God is our problem.” What it means is that we have a sin problem and Jesus rescues us from that problem and the just punishment due to it (for He took it on Himself).

    And of course we are also saved TO God, as it is written “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:10). This doesn’t mean that God has no punishment against ungodliness.

  8. “Saved from wrath”. The phrase communicates some information but must be treated apophatically since we are dealing with something in God as it were, and, as the classic teaching on God’s nature is that God does not have passions. When one speaks of wrath then, the Orthodox teaching, best as I can present, it is that it is a word that describes an experience of God phenomenologically. But God’s wrath must be understood, not to be vengeance, not to be something about which God is very ticked off, and definitely not a case where, though he is Love, he is bound by a higher necessity of justice, specifically retributive justice. God’s means that none of these is true, and because God is love we must understand wrath in the light of that. What God’s wrath is is God’s love giving us over to the natural consequences of our willful rejection of His Life. It is God’s love respecting our personhood and giving us over to what we have determined in our heart what we want, even though it is not God’s will, and extricates us out of the Grace that is His deifying energies.

    To say that God is under a ‘higher necessity’ to exact retributive justice, is a reversion to paganism. for the exalted Christian undertanding of God’s nature is that He is free, not bound by something above Him or over Him. Historically I understand that such an idea, alien to Christian thought for a thousand years, entered through Anselm who projected the notion of a Fuedal Lord on the nature of God. Such a God was infinitely ticked off with our rotten sinful selves and just felt the need to fry us retributively for our waywardness. This is not the Faith Once Delivered. All wrath language must be understood in the light of the revelation of the love of God in Christ.
    There are bunches of good articles that develop this idea.

  9. This article goes into more detail in my posting about understanding God’s wrath, both apophatically, and in the light that He does not have passions, and is Ontologically Free.

    This is the Faith of the Apostles. We must have the Tradition of the Apostles to rightly divide the Word.

  10. Ben: You have introduced numerous straw men into the argument. In peace I write:

    Straw Man 1) I did not say God’s wrath was separate from His love.
    Straw Man 2) I did not say God’s wrath was Him answering some higher necessity (above Himself that is).
    Straw Man 3) I did not say God’s wrath should be interpreted anthropomorphically.
    – but may I add here, neither should God’s “love.”

    When I use the term “wrath” for God I use it analogously, not equivocally or univocally. I would also do that for “love.” We don’t fully know what “love” is transcendentally so that too must be defined by analogy and not univocally. I will resist forcing God to abide by an immanent definition. All descriptions of God in the Bible must be taken as analogy.

    I would be the first to agree with you and defend the notion that God’s wrath is in His love: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The Scriptures here are partly defining (again, analogously) ‘love’ through an act of ‘wrath’ upon Jesus “for our sins.”

    As the Scriptures say, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9:22). What we know is that Christ’s blood was for the forgiveness of sins and it is effectual for those who receive the gift of faith.
    And again, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17).

    What I think we are missing here is an understanding of God’s Holiness. It is something He will defend, for it is Him (not anything above Him). He is Holy. And the Word tells us that all unrighteousness will be punished; for as those who believe in Jesus, our unrighteousness was put upon Jesus and He took our punishment (“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” -Rom 5:8).

    The “cup” Jesus drank was the cup of suffering and wrath. See Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17,22; Jeremiah 25:15-17,28-29, 49:12; Revelation 14:10, 16:19.

    For one: “he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb”

    While I don’t fully know what this means, it hardly seems like God simply letting someone “stir in their own juices” (as your article said).

    Grace to you –

  11. Jr,

    Grace to you.
    There is a fundamental mystery to the gift of God in Christ Jesus. I present you the Tradition of my Church which I have taken as my own. It is what I believe because I believe in “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.’

    There is more than one way to state the mystery. But because I am under constraint of love to be of one mind and one heart with the undivided Church of all the ages, and to speak the same thing, I use the propositions, figures of speech and so forth that have come to me in the Tradition of the Church.

    The Principle of the Visible Church is historically the basis of Unity of the Christian people, in the Holy Spirit. Without it you have cacaphony of thousands of different takes on Scripture. Protestantism has no principle of unity, because it has opted in favor of the novel doctrine of the invisible Church.

    Love to all with no rancor.

  12. The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Told with Posts-Anselmian Propitiation

    While the Prodigal son was feeding the husks to the swine and starving himself he came to himself and decided to return to his father’s house, in hopes of working as a hired servant.
    When the father got wind that his younger son was returning, his sense of justice flared up in him, and so he said, out of the love that demands justice, and would require me to slay my younger son with the piercings of a thousand arrows for his debauched wasting of his inheritance, I will therefore, take the older son, who did not so to me, and have him skinned alive and then drawn and quartered to satisfy my sense of justice and wrath.

    So the father’s offended sense of justice was satisfied and the elder son was ignominiously destroyed . The word was sent to the younger son that it was now safe to return home, and he said, with love like that my chances are better with the swine; at least they will rend me only if I they are hungry, but this sense of justice of the Father scares me to death, for he kills an innocent with great torture, so that I might come home in peace; this sort of love makes me want to run. Give me the swine.

  13. from a paper on the spirituality of Francis of Assissi

    According to the Orthodox, the Cross was not a necessity imposed on God, nor was the blood of the Only-begotten Son a source of satisfaction to God the Father, as the Latin Scholastics teach. The matter of “satisfying the Divine Justice of God” is a phrase nowhere to be found in the Scriptures, nor in the writings of the Church Fathers, but was a fabrication of Anselm of Canterbury (ca 1100) which was developed by Thomas Aquinas to become the official soteriological doctrine in the Latin West. (compare this with Athanasius the Great, The Incarnation of the Word of God).

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