Is the resurrection of Jesus a hoax?
This is a good question. Are Christians believing in a myth? Is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth the biggest lie of all time? Here, we’ll attempt to answer that critical question historically.
A few years ago, a Christian uploaded a video attempting to persuade atheists that an infinite God exists and Jesus of Nazareth historically rose from the dead. He structured his introduction well, he spoke confidently. But then, he did something that resulted in him being ridiculed - he used the Bible to support his arguments. Dozens of atheists mocked him relentlessly. While their comments were extreme, it made sense why they reacted this way.
Here was a group of atheists, who do not believe in the existence of god/s and reject all religions, and here was a Christian trying to show God is real and the Christian faith is true by using a religious book, the very thing they reject. To them, it would have been like trying to prove Peter Pan is real simply because a Disney book says so.
The fact is, is Jesus of Nazareth actually rose from the dead, then he is who he claimed to be - the promised Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God (Mark 14:61-62). On the other hand, if the resurrection never actually happened, then Jesus was nothing more than a liar, a lunatic, and certainly not a “good teacher.”
The answer to this critical question, “Did the resurrection of Jesus really happen?” will not be, “The Bible says so” - that may not be helpful to you if you are a sceptic. Instead, the answer to this question will include well-established historical, archaeological, and textual forensic facts, along with 32 verifiable references.
Before continuing, it’s important to understand facts are independent of human opinion. They exist regardless of how we feel or think about them. Facts logically can’t be rejected nor be swayed by majority vote - they are objective and exist whether we like them or not. So, either the facts will confirm Christians are believing in a myth and the resurrection of Jesus is the biggest lie of all time, or the facts will confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth historically rose from the dead, is who he claimed to be, and what that would ultimately mean.
God is the best explanation for the historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Why?
For example, there are five well-established historical facts regarding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth  :
1. The first is that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical person and died by crucifixion on the orders of Pontius Pilate in AD 30.
2. The second is on the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion, a group of women followers found his tomb empty (tomb of Joseph of Arimathea).
3. The third is various groups of individuals experienced seeing Jesus after his crucifixion on twelve separate occasions in a variety of settings to different people over a forty-day period at the same time, including a group of over 500, which led to mass conversions and martyrdoms.
4. The fourth is that Jesus’ half-brother James (‘James the Just’ as Catholics say) was a sceptic of Jesus being the Messiah, called him mad and mocked him with his family, yet later became the leader of the Jerusalem church and was martyred for his testimony he saw the risen Christ.
5. The fifth is Paul (previously Saul of Tarsus) was a renowned Rabbi who was an expert of biblical law and dissecting scripture. Paul was an enemy and hater of the Christian faith, responsible for imprisoning and murdering Christians, yet later converted to the Christian faith, wrote nearly half of the New Testament and was martyred for his testimony, “I saw the risen Christ” 
At this point, it would be normal, and recommended even, to be skeptical to not immediately take these historical facts on board and accept them as gospel, no pun intended. If we’re honest, some part of you may not want it to be true. Instead, some ignorant sceptics may sweetly lay their head on the Islamic claim that Jesus didn’t die nor was crucified as clearly stated in the Quran’s Surah An-Nisa 4:157, cuddle the sceptical stolen body theory along with the mass hallucination theory, and rest on the non-evidence-based claims that the New Testament had been corrupted, it was written too long after Jesus’ life and the Bible’s New Testament writers simply copied ancient myths and lied about the resurrection. However, by following the evidence where it leads, these non-evidenced based sceptical claims fall at the feet of the well-established facts.
The Islamic claim that Jesus didn’t die nor was crucified, stated in Islam’s Quran’s Surah An-Nisa 4:157-159, was shown to be historically false by the historical, archaeological, and textual forensic facts.
For example, there are ten 1st-century and 2nd-century non-Christian sources that mention Jesus of Nazareth as a historical person and died by crucifixion with all sources been written within 150 years of his life, most of which were haters of the Christian faith . Jesus’ death by crucifixion is mentioned by renowned first-century Roman-Jewish historian and sceptic of the Christian faith, Josephus [5. Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by first-century Jewish historian, atheist and hater of the Christian faith, Thallus . Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by first-century Roman historian and hater of the Christian faith, Suetonius. Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by first-century philosopher, Mara Bar-Serapion . Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by second-century Roman politicians and haters of the Christian faith, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger . Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by second-century Greek writer and hater of the Christian faith, Lucian . Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by second-century Roman lawyer, Tertullian . Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by second-century Greek historian, Phlegon . Jesus’ crucifixion is mentioned by second-century Greek Philosopher and hater of the Christian faith, Celsus , and the Jewish Talmud .
This does not include the abundance of first-century Christian historical witnesses who wrote about Jesus of Nazareth, including the eyewitnesses .
The Islamic claim that Jesus didn’t die nor was crucified, stated in Islam’s Quran’s Surah An-Nisa 4:157-159, is historically false and violates one of the objective laws of logic, the Law of Noncontradiction (a contradictory claim cannot be true). Also, it doesn’t explain the empty tomb.
Renowned New Testament Scholar, textual critic and atheist, Bart D. Ehrman stated, “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate” .
The stolen body of Jesus theory was historically discredited and logically impossible.
First, it is logically impossible for an unconscious individual or group to know a real event took place when they’re asleep, so how did the Roman soldiers know Jesus’ disciples stole his body when they were sleeping . The sceptical stolen body theory refutes itself and violates one of the objective laws of logic, the Law of Noncontradiction (a contradictory claim cannot be true).
Second, the criterion of embarrassment confirms the historical credibility and probability of the group of women followers finding Jesus’ tomb empty on the Sunday after his crucifixion. The criterion of embarrassment is a type of critical analysis of historical accounts used by Biblical scholars to determine the historical credibility and probability of an event, in which a historical account is deemed likely to be true as the author would have no reason to invent a historical account which would embarrass them .
Yet, the 1st-century culture at the time treated women like second-class citizens, so much so that their testimonies were considered worthless and irrelevant which couldn’t be held in a court of law. For example, the Jewish Talmud states, “Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer)” (Rosh Hashana, 1.8c), and renowned first-century Roman-Jewish Historian, Josephus states that the testimony of women shouldn’t be allowed into a court of law . Due to this, it is completely illogical that the New Testament gospel writers would admit women were the first key witnesses of the empty tomb unless it’s what actually historically happened. In fact, the New Testament writers record after the apostles abandoned Jesus and hid like cowards, it was women that boldly went to the tomb and discovered the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth empty. And when the women came back and reported the tomb was empty to the apostles and all the others, “they thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:9-12). The historical event that a group of women followers found Jesus’ tomb empty on the Sunday after his crucifixion passes the criterion of embarrassment.
Third, the stolen body theory simply doesn’t explain how a few spineless fishermen cringing in fear for their lives sneak past a bunch of well-armed, professional Roman guards, roll away a 2-tonne stone without waking them, steal a body, then hid it from a city swarming with people trying to find it. The stolen body theory is logically impossible, historically discredited and violates the objective Law of Noncontradiction.
Renowned New Testament scholar and historian, N. T. Wright stated, “That is why as a historian I cannot explain the rising of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again leaving an empty tomb behind him .”
The mass hallucination of the risen Jesus theory crumbled against the psychological facts as hallucinations are subjective experiences that cannot be shared. They cannot explain real events because they relate to what is in the mind. It follows that groups of people cannot share such personal experiences . If hallucinations were all that were involved in the post-resurrection sightings of Jesus of Nazareth, the disciples could not have collectively shared in the same inner psychological experiences . Since it is impossible that one person could somehow induce a hallucination in somebody else and since a hallucination exists only in a subjective, or personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it .
Meaning the mass hallucination theory is logically and scientifically impossible and violates one of the objective laws of logic, the Law of Noncontradiction (a contradictory claim cannot be true). Also, it does not explain the empty tomb.
Renowned New Testament scholar, historian and atheist, Gerd Lüdemann stated, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ .”
The claim that the New Testament had been corrupted pointed directly away from the textual forensic facts.
For example, the average Greek New Testament manuscript is about 400 pages in length. There are currently 5,850 Greek New Testament manuscripts (oldest copies of the New Testament) with up to 400,000 total variants. Meaning that there are roughly 2,240,000 pages of manuscripts – averaging only 1 variant for every 5.6 pages inside the New Testament manuscripts . In fact, the breakdown of all textual variants inside the New Testament manuscripts is 75% are due to spelling errors, over 25% is the result of word order and synonyms, and less than 1% of all textual variants are meaningful variants that do not impact essential Christian beliefs – 0.2% to be exact .
Renowned New Testament Scholar, textual critic and atheist, Bart D. Ehrman wrote on page 55 of his 2006 paperback book, Misquoting Jesus, “Far and away most changes [in the New Testament] are the result of mistakes, pure and simple—slips of the pen, unintentional gaps, accidental additions (e.g., the the), misspelled words, accidental blunders of one sort or another” . And in the Appendix on page 252-253, “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscripts of the New Testament” .
The sceptical claims such as, “The New Testament is unreliable as we don’t have the original manuscripts” or “It’s written too long after Jesus’ life”, was shamefully defeated by the archaeological facts.
For example, we do not have original manuscripts from any ancient writings, including the New Testament, as the material they were written on (papyrus) decays quickly. Due to this, in ancient times, groups of Scribes were employed to mass-produce identical copies of the originals . Second, the earliest sources we have for Alexander the Great is over 450 years after it was originally written, around 330 BC, and we have 123 copies. The earliest sources we have for Julias Caesar is 950 years after it was originally written, around 50 BC, and we have 10 copies. The earliest sources we have for Aristotle is 1400 years after it was originally written, around 350 BC, and we have 49 copies. And yet, the New Testament was written from AD 45 up to AD 100 and the earliest sources we have is 25 years after the last book was originally written, and we have 24,000 copies in Greek, Hebrew and Latin, identical to the 6 billion translated copies in the world today . This does not include the early creeds that date back to the resurrection event confirming these historical facts were common knowledge .
Distinguished New Testament scholar, James D. G. Dunn states, “Historically speaking, given the short interval of time between the early eyewitness testimonies about Jesus’ resurrection and the actual event itself, these accounts must be considered historically credible. There was clearly no time for myth, legend, or exaggeration to arise around the initial resurrection reports [as the generation who knew Jesus was still alive]” .
Finally, the sceptical claim that the New Testament writers copied ancient resurrection myths and lied about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth fell at the feet of the historical and archaeological facts.
For example, the first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, over a hundred years after the rising of early Christianity (AD 30) . The only known account of a god surviving death that predates Christianity is the mythological Egyptian god, Osiris. In this myth, Osiris is cut into fourteen pieces, scattered around Egypt, then reassembled and brought back to life by the goddess, Isis. However, Osiris did not actually come back to physical life but becomes a member of a shadowy underworld. This myth is far different than Jesus’ historical crucifixion, burial in a Jerusalem tomb (i.e., tomb of Joseph of Arimathea), bodily resurrection on the third day, was seen by various groups of people on a dozen separate occasions over a forty-day period at the same time, that resulted in mass conversions and martyrdoms . Also, it does not explain the empty tomb.
So, logically if there was any influence of one on the other, it was the influence of the historical event of the New Testament on mythology, not the reverse. Meaning, since the facts show the reliability of the New Testament manuscripts, it confirms beyond a reasonable doubt that the words, actions, and events detailed in the New Testament are reliable, including the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
This inevitably leads to one uncomfortable yet undeniable conclusion. By comparing the well-established historical, archaeological, textual forensic facts, along with a logical interpretation of the facts, it confirms beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus of Nazareth historically rose from the dead, and thus reveals what this actually means. Jesus is who he claimed to be - the promised Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God (Mark 14:61-62).
Since Jesus is who he claimed to be, the God of the Bible exists, and since the God of the Bible exists, then all of mankind is accountable to him. Furthermore, since while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8), then we are in fact sinners. In James 2:10 it reads, “For whoever keeps all of God’s law and yet breaks one is as guilty of breaking all of God’s laws.” And in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
No amount of effort, no good deeds, no money, no talent, no achievements are enough to take away this guilt (Isaiah 64:6). And yet, we see throughout the Bible that God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ was laid out before He created time. (Titus 1:1-2, 2, Timothy 1:8-9, Ephesians 1:4-6, Revelation 13:8).
Rather than let us be condemned to Hell as the sinners that we are, which would be just, God would rather crush him who knew no sin than to crush us who do. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).
So, is the resurrection of Jesus a hoax? No. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is not a blind faith but is reasonable, rational and reliable. Christians believe in the Bible because it’s a reliable collection of historical documents written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They reported supernatural events that took place in fulfilment of specific prophesies and claimed their writings are divine rather than human in origin. It’s supported by well-established historical, archeological and textual forensic facts that through a logical interpretation of the facts, confirms beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus is the Son of God and Christianity is objectively true.
The Christian faith is not a blind faith; on the contrary, the Christian faith is a fact-based faith.
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5. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, AD 93, chapter 3
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