Evidence of the Empty Tomb: Part 3: Corroborating Letters and the Early Church

A fourth category of corroborating evidence of the resurrection story is the surviving letters from people mentored by the very disciples of Jesus. One of these is Ignatius of Antioch, who sat under St. John and possibly St. Peter.

Ignatius wrote seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor while en route to his martyrdom in Rome (ca. AD 108). His extant letters (preserved through other writers like the church historian Eusebius) firmly endorse the resurrection.

While still bishop of Antioch, one the Roman Empire’s three largest cities and where Jesus followers were first called Christians, Ignatius vehemently defended the narrative of the gospels. He labelled “heretic” anyone who claimed Jesus was not fully human.

Why? Because there would be no resurrection. No crucifixion. No immaculate conception. In essence, no Gospel.

A fifth historical event in favor of the historicity of the resurrection is that the Christians began to meet on the first day of the week instead of the seventh.


The late Gordon H. Clark, former Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Butler University, gives the following answer:

“These Christians claimed—their claim cannot be denied—that they did these things because Christ had conquered death, had risen from the tomb, and had been seen by five hundred of them. If now these claims are not true, in what manner may the undeniable history be accounted?” He concludes, “If the Gospel narratives are accepted as true, then (1) we have a self-consistent story. (2) the subsequent events are satisfactorily explained, and (3) redemption has been accomplished by Jesus Christ the Lord. Otherwise our faith is vain and we are yet in our sins.” (Christianity Today, April 15, 1957.)

Hmmm. Sounds like Ignatius.

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.