I like to look at the evidence for the resurrection in four categories. The first one is: Did Jesus die on the cross? Was he dead? Virtually every scholar on planet earth concedes that Jesus was dead after crucifixion. We have no record of anyone anywhere ever surviving a full Roman crucifixion. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association published a peer-reviewed scientific medical study of the evidence for the death of Jesus and said clearly the weight of the evidence indicates that Jesus was dead even before the wound to his side was inflicted. Even the atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann says “historically, it’s indisputable that Jesus was dead.” So Jesus was dead.
The second category of evidence is the early accounts we have for the resurrection. In other words, I used to think as an atheist that the resurrection was a legend and that took a long time to develop in the ancient world. But what I learned is that we have preserved for us a creed of the earliest Christian Church, a creed that is an eyewitness-based report of the resurrection of Jesus. Now this creed has been dated back by scholars to within months of the death of Jesus. Within months – that is historical gold – so we’ve got a news flash from ancient history on the resurrection.
Third category of evidence is the empty tomb and the best evidence for that is even the opponents of Jesus implicitly admitted the tomb was empty because when the disciples began proclaiming that Jesus had risen, what the opponent said was “Oh well, the disciples stole the body. Now they’re conceding the tomb is empty, they’re just trying to explain how it got empty so everybody was condeding the tomb was empty. How did it get empty is really the issue and that goes to the fourth category of evidence which is Eyewitnesses.
You know, for most of what we know about ancient history, it comes from one or maybe two sources of information and yet for the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the resurrected Jesus, we have no fewer than nine ancient sources inside and outside the New Testament confirming and corroborating the conviction of the disciples that they encountered the risen Christ. That is an avalanche of historical data so you put all that together and you have a really good case for Easter.