Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection

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The “minimal facts approach” to the resurrection question is an approach that focuses on the lowest common denominator of agreed upon facts. For the most part, all facts presented within this approach meet two criteria: “they are well evidenced and nearly every scholar accepts them” (Habermas & Licona, 2004, p. 44). This approach only considers strongly attested historical data. So strongly in fact, that they are almost universally granted by nearly every scholar, both the skeptical and believing. The basic premise of this approach follows the presentation of five facts. Acceptance is almost universal for the first four facts whereas the fifth fact, although it has a preponderance of evidence in its favor, does not enjoy the same consensus.

The first fact is that Jesus died by crucifixion. Josephus, a Jewish historian; Tacitus, a Roman historian; Lucian, a Greek satirist; Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher; and the Jewish Talmud attest to it historically. All of these sources are non-Christian and should be viewed with a higher degree of authenticity because they are unbiased (Habermas & Licona, 2004).

The second fact is that Jesus’ disciples believed that He rose and appeared to them. What could transform a group of “fearful, cowering individuals who denied and abandoned Him [Jesus] at His arrest and execution into bold proclaimers of the gospel of the risen Lord” (Habermas & Licona, 2004, p. 50)? These men had nothing to gain from their claims. In fact, they remained consistent with their beliefs even in the face of beatings, torture, imprisonment, and their own martyrdom. Nine early and independent sources confirm that the disciples claimed the resurrection. These fall into three categories: the testimony of Paul about the disciples, the early church’s oral tradition, and the written works of the early church. Succinctly put, even when merely viewing the New Testament as an ancient collection of writings, there is strong evidence to assert...
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