Evidence of the Empty Tomb: Part 2: New Testament Texts

We have hundreds of early pieces of the other New Testament texts beyond the gospels, with over two hundred references to a crucified and/or risen Christ in the full New Testament collection.

There are not two or three generations after the events before the narrative was written, usually considered the time for legends to develop. These were eyewitness accounts, and/or accounts by those in contact with eyewitnesses.

One of many examples is in Acts 7, which includes the testimony of Stephen. He is one of a litany of people close in time to the event who believed in it enough to give their lives for Jesus. They demonstrated a passionate belief in eternal salvation through it.

Stephen recounted Jewish history for the religious leaders about to stone him, and how they had missed the prophecies about the Savior from Galilee who had been in their midst. Then the writer records that Stephen saw Jesus “standing at the right hand of God.” He had risen indeed according to our first recorded martyr—one willing to die as a “witness” to the validity of the Christ story.

Early remains of Acts date also to the second century, part of the A. Chester Beatty Papyri in Dublin, Ireland (it’s the famous P45, or papyrus 45). We have a full copy of Acts in Codex Sinaiticus (in Greek dating to AD 350, on display in the British Library). People believed and recorded these early events, and churches—even through times of massive persecutions—preserved these accounts.

Both the gospels and the other New Testament books, all written within a century of Christ’s resurrection, hold to the resurrection’s historical veracity. Edward Gibbon recognized this, though otherwise unfriendly to Christians and blaming the collapse of Western society on their rise. One of the reasons he gives for Christianity’s “triumph” in his classic Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776) is Christians’ passionate belief in the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.

Written by:

Jerry Pattengale, Author of dozens of books, including Inexplicable: How Christianity Spread to the Ends of the Earth—and co-author of the accompanying TBN docu-series. Also, the inaugural University Professor, Indiana Wesleyan University, and a founding scholar of the Museum of the Bible (DC).

Read the rest of the “Evidence of the Empty Tomb” series.