The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of Christianity. Historically the evidence for the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ has been demonstrated with proof from first century eyewitnesses, Messianic prophecies, extra biblical evidence with historians such as Josephus Flavious, Cornelius Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian of Samosata, Babylonian Talmud 43a, church fathers, Archeologists, Bible scholars, and more. For Christians the Jewish Passover and Easter are connected to the death of Jesus upon the cross and His resurrection, but Easter does not biblically represent the gospel message. I prefer not to use the word Easter because of it’s pagan origin and how many things celebrated in it misrepresent the gospel of Jesus Christ, His death upon the cross as atonement for sin, and His resurrection according to the Bible and Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament Scriptures. I prefer Happy Resurrection Day!
The evidence for Jesus Christ death upon the cross is not debated as historical facts and documents from historians, archeologists, Bible scholars, and other sources provide sufficient proof that Jesus existed and died. There are many Jews who believe Jesus is the true Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, according to Messianic Jewish prophecies. There are also many Jews who believe He is false Messiah, and believe that He did not fulfill the prophecies accurately.
Extra Biblical Sources That Prove Jesus Existed and Died
Historian Cornelius Tacitus wrote in the Annals of Tacitus about Christians who were being tortured and killed for being followers of Christus during A. D. 62-65 under the Emperor Nero in Rome. What is recorded is evidence that Jesus lived in Judea and existed during the reign of Tiberius, was crucified under the procurator Pontius Pilatus (Pontius Pilate). This is not a biased source, but a historical proof that Jesus existed and died upon the cross as the New Testament eyewitnesses recorded.
“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 Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Cornelius Tacitus, Annals Book 15, 15:44, time frame A. D. 62-65).
Pliny the Younger Governor Letters to Emperor Trajan A. D. 112
Governor Pliny the Younger wrote asking for advice on how to deal with Christians who followed Christ (Jesus), who worshipped Him as a god, and were willing to die for the Christian faith. Pliny stated that the Christians who there were not doing anything wrong other than being depraved in their superstition. Pliny demonstrates that there was someone named Christ who had followers known as Christians, and that they were killed for being Christians.
“Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.
Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.
They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.” (Pliny the Younger, Governor of Pontus in Rome, Letters to Emperor Trajan, A. D. 112).
Emperor Trajan reply to Pliny: “For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance.”
Emperor Trajan affirms that there were Christians during that time who believed in Christ (Jesus). If people denounced their faith in Christ and was able to prove it they were not to be punished or killed.
Lucian of Samosata A. D. 115-200 The Passing of Peregrinus 11-13
Lucian mocked Christians and Christ (Jesus). Lucian observed that Jesus was followed and revered, worshipped and believed by Christians to be Deity (God), prophet and lawgiver. According to Lucian Jesus was crucified in Palestine, a cult leader, and persuaded Christians to turn from the Greek gods and live repentant lives doing good.
“11. “It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine. And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He inter preted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom11 they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.
12. “Then at length Proteus was apprehended for this and thrown into prison, which itself gave him no little reputation as an asset for his future career and the charlatanism and notoriety-seeking that he was enamoured of. Well, when he had been imprisoned, the Christians, regarding the incident as a calamity, left nothing undone in the effort to rescue him Then, as this was impossible, every other form of attention was shown him, not in any casual way but with assiduity, and from the very break of day aged widows and orphan children could be seen waiting near the prison, while their officials even slept inside with him after bribing the guards. Then elaborate meals were brought in, and sacred books of theirs were read aloud, and excellent Peregrinus—for he still went by that name—was called by them ‘the new Socrates.’
13. “Indeed, people came even from the cities in Asia, sent by the Christians at their common expense, to succour and defend and encourage the hero. They show incredible speed whenever any such public action is taken; for in no time they lavish their all. So it was then in the case of Peregrinus; much money came to him from them by reason of his imprisonment, and he procured not a little revenue from it. The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody; most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver12 persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once, for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence. So if any charlatan and trickster, able to profit by occasions, comes among them, he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing upon simple folk.” (Lucian of Samosata, Passing of Peregrinus 11-13).
Historian Josephus Flavius A. D. 37-101 Jewish Antiquities Book 18 Chapter 3.3
The Jewish Antiquities of Joseph Flavius have debates upon references with Jesus being the Christ and resurrected from the dead. Below is from the Shlomo Pines Arabic translation from the 10 century which is not considered biased, forged, fabricated, but is considered to be accurate. What this provides as evidence and proof is that Jesus did exist, Jesus was condemned under Pontius Pilate, Jesus was crucified and died. It also states the disciples, Christians, were testifying that Jesus appeared to them alive 3 days after His crucifixion. It also states that Jesus is perhaps the Messiah concerning the prophets. This does not mean Josephus was a follower or a Christian, just that this is what he wrote that took place.
“At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” (Antiquities of the Jews Book 18 Chapter 3.3, Josephus Flavius, Shlomo Pines Translation, 10th Century Arabic Text)
Antiquities of the Jews Book 18 and Book 20 Prove Existence of James brother of Jesus and John the Baptist
Josephus Flavius also wrote about James the brother of Jesus, who is called the Christ, and John the Baptist. These also give proof to the fact that Jesus lived, died, and rose again according to the New Testament eyewitness accounts recorded.
“So he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, whose name was James: and some others; [or, some of his companions.] And when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned. But as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done. They also sent to the King [Agrippa,] desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more: for that what he had already done was not to be justified.” (Antiquities of the Jews Book 20 Chapter 9.1, Josephus Flavius).
“Now some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod’s army came from God: and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the baptist. For Herod slew him [About Feb. A.D. 32.]; who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue; both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God; and so to come to baptism. For that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away, [or the remission] of some sins [only,] but for the purification of the body: supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crouds about him; for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words; Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people might put it into his power and inclination to raise rebellion: (for they seemed ready to do any thing he should advise:) thought it best, by putting him to death, to prevent any mischief he might cause; and not bring himself into difficulties by sparing a man who might make him repent of it when it would be too late.” (Antiquities of the Jews Book 18 Chapter 5.2, Josephus Flavius)
Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 43a Evidence Jesus Crucified
Below is from a Jewish link that proves from a non-Christian source that Jesus existed, was crucified on a cross (hung on a tree) on the eve of Passover, and was believed to be a sorcerer and enticer to Israel leading them astray. These demonstrate evidence that Jesus lived and was crucified as the New Testament eyewitnesses have testified to.
“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practised sorcery and enticed Israel to apostacy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.” (Babylonian Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin 43a)
The New Testament declares that there were first century eyewitnesses who died teaching that Jesus was raised from the dead (Psalm 2; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Luke 24:44-46; Acts 2:14-36; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 1 John 1:1-4). There are Atheists, Muslims, Jews, non-christians who do not accept the evidence of Jesus being raised from the dead, but the evidence is not complicated through eyewitness testimonies and an empty tomb for the last 2000 years which gives proof to consider.
Please watch our YouTube video that explains why there is no doubt that Jesus existed, lived, was crucified upon the cross, and there is evidence to believe in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead according to the Scriptures and eyewitnesses.
Berean Perspective Apologetics