The Resurrection of Jesus and Historical Knowledge

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Think Apologetics. Tabernacle of David considers this resource trustworthy and Biblically sound.


Here is a chart on apologetic issues and the resurrection of Jesus. As you can see in many of the objections here, many of them deal with historical methodology.  I expand on several of these issues in my book  “The Resurrection of the Jewish Messiah.”  It is available on Amazon. 

Remember, proof, evidence, and knowledge are important terms that need defining. First, ‘proof’ is specifically a logical term, but people often use it as a synonym for evidence. A logical proof is a series of assertions listed as premises which provide a conclusion, whether deductive (certain) or inductive (probable). Second, evidence’ is related to induction in that it gives us knowledge of things that are probable. There are two types of evidence that are important for our discussion: direct and circumstantial. In a court of law, both are considered viable in establishing a case for a particular claim. If you have proof something is real, this means you are satisfied with what the evidence tells you. This brings us to our third term, ‘knowledge’. The theory of knowledge, epistemology, is part of a discussion in philosophy which reaches back thousands of years, and we have no space for delineating its meticulous varieties here.

How many times have we committed to things with neither exhaustive knowledge nor absolute certainty? When people take a job, pick a spouse, move to a city, or vote for a specific candidate, they all have limits to their knowledge. Despite this, they say, “I know this is the right job for me” or, “I know this is the right spouse for me.” Philosopher Paul Copan has wisdom here: “We can have highly plausible or probable knowledge, even if it’s not 100% certain. We can know confidently and truly, even if not absolutely or exhaustively.[1]

Almost all historical inquiries, as well as cold case investigations are built on indirect or what is called “circumstantial evidence.” In a court of law, both are considered viable and good. Furthermore, a large majority of science, history, and cold case investigations involve making inferences. Historians collect the data and draw conclusions that provide the best explanation that covers all the data in what is called “Inference to the most reasonable explanation” which never leads to absolute certainty or exhaustive knowledge. The process of finding the best explanation involves applying standards such as explanatory power and scope to the different theories on offer. Explanatory power is how well an explanation explains; explanatory scope is how much an explanation explains. [2] While some skeptics will say they don’t absolute certainty for the resurrection of Jesus, many people choose to stay in a stubborn agnosticism simply because they claim they haven’t found the level of certainty that they need.

History has a variety of definitions. The word “history” (derived from the Greek historia, historeō) originally referred to “learned” or “skilled” inquiry or visitation with the purpose of coming to know someone. In many cases “history” is used to distinguish reality from myth or legend, that is, whether something really happened.  History is seen as the study of the past. Historians are not primarily interested in “what happens” or in establishing rules that govern the present and the future One thing for sure: historians are concerned with causality—the examination of cause and effect. Thus, they ask cause and effect questions. Let’s expand on this issue and look at cause and effect questions that relate to how the first century Jesus movement started and expanded from a Jewish sect to a large Gentile based religious movement.

1. Effect #1: A new Jewish sect starts in first-century Jerusalem that proclaims that their leader, Jesus who had been crucified had now risen from the dead.

2. Effect #2: Paul, once an active persecutor, comes to faith in Jesus. He says Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus road (Acts 9).

3. Effect #3: A group of Jews, who are staunch monotheists begin to worship and call a man “Lord.” The only person they had been allowed to pray to and worship is the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

4. Effect #4: The early followers of Jesus are seen actively preaching Jesus as Lord in the public square.


[1] P. Copan, How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong? Responding to Objections That Leave Christians Speechless (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 25.

[2] D. Baggett, and M. Baggett, The Morals of the Story: Good News About A Good God, (Downers Grove: IVP Academic. 2018), 51.


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