According to the historical record, after Jesus’ death on the cross and his subsequent burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea, he appeared alive to more than 500 people, on twelve (12) separate occasions. All but one of the appearances (the appearance to Paul fka Saul) occurred within the first 40 day period following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus also appeared to at least two skeptics, James the Just and Paul fka Saul.

As summarized in the chart below, on all twelve (12) occasions Jesus was seen and he was probably heard. Jesus offered for his body to be touched at least three times and he was definitely touched twice.  Jesus showed witnesses the scars from his crucifixion on two occasions and ate food with his disciples 3 – 4 times. In four instances, witnesses responded to their encounter with Jesus by worshiping him.

 

Index of the Eyewitness Accounts of Jesus’ Post-Death Appearances

People Jesus
Appeared to

Bible
References

Peoples’
Reactions

Day / Time

Jesus was Seen

Jesus was Heard

Jesus’
Physical Nature

1.

To the women after they had been to the empty tomb

Matt. 28:1-10

They worshiped him.

Sunday a.m.

Jesus was touched.

2.

Mary Magdalene

Mark 16:9-11; John 20:10-18

Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until he spoke her name then she clung to him.

Sunday a.m.

Jesus was touched.

3.

Simon Peter aka Cephas

Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5

(Not reported)

Sunday afternoon

(Not reported)

4.

Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus

Luke 24:13-35; Mark 16:12-13

They went back to Jerusalem to report that they had seen Jesus.

Sunday afternoon

They walked and ate with Jesus.

5.

Ten disciples and others (not including Thomas aka Didymus)

John 20:19-23

They rejoiced after Jesus showed him his hands and feet.

Sunday night

Jesus’ wounds seen; may have eaten food (Acts 1:4)

6.

Eleven disciples (including Thomas aka Didymus)

John 20:26-28; Luke 24: 36-49; Mark 6:14-18

Worshipped him; startled, frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit.

A week later

Jesus’ wounds seen; text implies Thomas touched the wounds.

7.

Seven disciples while fishing

John 21:1-14

Peter jumped out of the boat and swam to shore.

Within 40 days

Jesus may have eaten food (Acts 1:4)

8.

Apostles on a mountain in Galilee

Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18

Worshiped; some were doubtful

Within 40 days

(Not reported)

9.

James (a skeptic)

1 Cor. 15:7

(Not reported)

Within 40 days

(Not reported)

10.

Apostles on the Mount of Olives

Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:4-9; Mark 16:19

(Not reported)

Within 40 days

Jesus ate food.

11.

500 believers

1 Cor. 15:6

(Not reported)

Within 40 days

(Not reported)

12.

Saul (a skeptic) on the road to Damascus

1 Cor. 9:1, 15:8; Acts 9:1-6; 22:3-16, 26:12-18

Fell to the ground and said, “Who art Thou Lord?”

After the 1st 40 days

(Not reported)

[See, Norman Geisler, The Battle for the Resurrection, pg. 141 (1984); Norman Giesler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, pg. 655 (1999); John Ankerberg & John Weldon, Ready with an Answer, pg. 81 (1997); Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman, 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists, pg. 253 (2002); Lee Strobel, The Case For Easter, “Interview with Gary Habermas, Ph.D., D.D.”, pg. 72 (1998)]

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul fka Saul reported the resurrected Jesus had appeared to Peter aka Cephas, then the 12 disciples, then more than 500 brethren most of whom who were still alive and could be questioned, James (Jesus’ half-brother who was still alive and had been a previous skeptic) and finally to Paul himself (a Pharisee and a man who persecuted Christians until he had a face-to-face encounter with the resurrected Jesus).

The apostle Paul made this claim to people living in Corinth knowing they could easily investigate the truthfulness of his claim because they lived in the area where the events occurred and eyewitnesses to the events were still alive and could be questioned. As pointed out by Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, even Gerd Lüdemann, a skeptic and New Testament scholar, agrees Paul’s confessional statement recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 dates back to within two years of Jesus’ death. [See, Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman, 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists, pg. 232 (2002)] Notwithstanding the fact the apostle Paul knew his claims could be and most probably would be investigated, he stated he was passing on the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection as a matter of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). [See, Kenneth Boa & Robert Bowman, 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists, pgs. 251-252 (2002)]

In response to the assertion that the resurrection best explains the multiple post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus, skeptics offer a variety of alternative explanations to attempt to explain away the appearances.  However, as set forth in the linked-articles below, Christian apologists maintain none of the alternative explanations are rationally compelling because none of the explanations adequately explain the totality of the evidence in the historical record:

  1. The witnesses were hallucinating (here>>)
  2. The witnesses were victims of group thinking or wishful thinking (here>>)
  3. The witnesses were lying (here>>)
  4. The witnesses were mistaken (here>>)
  5. The appearances of the resurrected Jesus were telegraphed images (here>>)
  6. The appearances of the resurrected Jesus were spiritual in nature, not physical (here>>)
  7. The appearances of the resurrected Jesus were visions (here>>)
  8. The appearances of the resurrected Jesus are a part of a later developed myth or legend (here>>)
  9. Someone else was substituted for Jesus before the crucifixion and the real Jesus appeared to the witnesses after the substitute’s body was buried (here>>)
  10. Jesus conspired to fake his death, or he otherwise survived the crucifixion (e.g., the Swoon Theory) and then subsequently appeared to the witnesses in a non-resurrected body (here>>)

Since there are good reasons to believe God exists (more>>) and, therefore, could have supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead, and since none of the proffered alternative explanations adequately explain the historically documented accounts of Jesus being seen alive by multiple eyewitnesses after he had been crucified and buried, Christian apologists maintain it is reasonable to look for an explanation that does adequately explain all of the historical evidence, including the explanation that God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead.  

In sum, Christian apologists candidly concede that if God does not exist, then Jesus was not resurrected from the dead and Christianity is mere foolishness (more>>). However, Christian apologists confidently maintain there are good reasons to believe God exists (more>>) and the following seven independent lines of evidence reasonably establish God did, in fact, supernaturally raise Jesus from the dead:

  1. The resurrection best explains the historical evidence of Jesus being seen alive in a resurrected body on at least twelve (12) separate occasions by more than 500 witnesses, including at least two skeptics (James the Just and Paul fka Saul) (See article above)
  2. The resurrection best explains why the tomb Jesus was buried in was found empty within days of his crucifixion and burial (here>>)
  3. The resurrection best explains why Jesus’ disciples were transformed from fearful deserters to faithful followers who endured great persecution and became martyrs for their faith (here>>)
  4. The resurrection best explains why even Jewish leaders and skeptics converted to Christianity after Jesus was crucified, even though Christianity was foundationally centered on Jesus’ resurrection
  5. The resurrection best explains why there is no evidence any site was ever venerated as Jesus’ burial site even though it was common practice to venerate the burial sites of religious and political leaders
  6. The resurrection best explains why the early Church centered its teachings and practices around a supernatural event like Jesus’ resurrection instead of something less controversial like Jesus’ moral teachings
  7. The resurrection best explains the sudden rise and expansion of Christianity so soon after Jesus death even though he had been crucified by the Romans as a political traitor and declared a religious heretic by the Jewish religious leaders

Indeed, following a two day debate over the evidence of the resurrection between Dr. Gary Habermas and well-known skeptic, Dr. Anthony Flew, a panel of five philosophers from American universities (including the University of Virginia, James Madison University and the University of Pittsburgh) voted 4 to 1 in favor of the case for the resurrection, with 1 judge voting the debate was a draw. After listening to both sides of the debate, one of the judges concluded the historical evidence of Jesus’ resurrection was “strong enough to lead reasonable minds to conclude that Christ did indeed rise from the dead.” [Ankerberg & Weldon, Ready With an Answer, pgs. 132-133 (1997) citing to Terry L. Miethe (ed.), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, pg. xiv (New York Harper & Row, 1987)]. Another of the judges stated:

Since the case against the resurrection was no stronger than that presented by Dr. Flew, I would think it was time I began to take the resurrection seriously.

[Ankerberg & Weldon, Ready With an Answer, pgs. 132-133 (1997) citing to Terry L. Miethe (ed.), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, pg. xiv (New York Harper & Row, 1987)]

For information on how to know God personally, go here.



© 2012 by Andrina G. Hanson

Published: June 1, 2012 / Last Updated: Feb. 20, 2013

QUICK LINKS TO SOURCES REFERENCED OR RELIED ON IN THIS ARTICLE

John F. Ankerberg and John Weldon, Ready With an Answer, pgs. 94-139 (Harvest House Publishers, 1997)

Douglas K. Blount, The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe, “Can Naturalistic Theories Account for the Resurrection?” pgs. 1621-1622(Holman Bible Publishers, 2007)

Kenneth D. Boa and Robert M. Bowman, 20 Compelling Evidences That God Exists: Discover Why Believing In God Makes so Much Sense, pgs. 219-283 (River Oak Publishing, 2002)

William Lane Craig, Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection: Our Response to the Empty Tomb(Servant, 1988)

Norman L. Geisler, BAKER ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS(Baker Books, 1999)

Norman L. Geisler, The Battle for the Resurrection: Updated Edition(Wipf & Stock Publishers; Updated Edition, 2004)

Frank Morison, Who Moved the Stone?(Zondervan,1958)

Lee Strobel, The Case for Easter: Journalist Investigates the Evidence for the Resurrection (Zondervan, 2004)

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