At least eleven events are considered to be knowable history by virtually all scholars, and a twelfth event is considered to be knowable by many scholars. Whatever school of thought, liberal or conservative, atheist or theist, literalist or not, critical historians, philosophers, theologians, and scripture scholars who address the subject of Christ’s resurrection accept the following as factual history.
1) Jesus died due to the rigors of crucifixion;
2) He was buried;
3) Jesus’s death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope;
4) Many scholars hold that Jesus was buried in a tomb that was discovered to be empty just a few days later;
5) At this same time, Jesus’s disciples had real experiences that they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus;
6) Because of these experiences, the disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of His death and Resurrection, even willing to die for this belief;
7) This message was central to the early church preaching;
8) This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem;
9) The church was born and grew;
10) Sunday became the primary day of worship for these believers;
11) James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed he saw the resurrected Jesus;
12) A few years later, Paul, the persecutors of the Christians, was also converted by an experience he believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.
These historical facts are crucial to any investigation of Jesus’s Resurrection. Except for the empty tomb, virtually all critical scholars who deal with this issue agree that these are the minimum known historical facts regarding this event. Any conclusion concerning the historicity of the Resurrection should therefore properly account for this data.
Because these core historical facts have been established by critical and historical procedures, no one should reject this evidence simply by referring to “discrepancies” in the New Testament or to its general “unreliability.” These facts are attested to be true by virtually everyone. It can be demonstrated even when the minimum number of historical facts are utilized.
In short, instead of stating what cannot be believed concerning the Gospel accounts, skeptics would do well to concentrate on what they admit to be known about the texts.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead then what happened on that first Easter morning?