Fact #2: Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them
To establish this fact I will use 3 lines of evidence; 1) Paul’s testimony about the disciples, 2) oral traditions passed through the early church, and 3) written works of the early church.
I will begin with looking at the writings of the Apostle Paul. Writing around 55 AD Paul says Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and then rose again on the 3rd day. He also gives an accounting of many witnesses (over 500) of the resurrection, including the disciples. He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (NASB) “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
Paul was teaching the Corinthian Church what had been passed onto him years earlier. Some scholars believe he received this information from Peter and James while visiting with them after his conversion. This would place these verses within five years of the crucifixion. Not only is this incredibly close to the actual event, it was probably given to Paul by eyewitnesses or others he deemed responsible. This adds to the credibility of the account. Even if it was a few years more than five, we still have an early testimony to the resurrection. In verses 8-12 we see Paul stating that he and the other disciples preached the resurrection of Jesus and this was the message the individuals in the church believed.
Secondly, we have additional oral traditions that attest to the resurrection. These oral traditions were later recorded by various authors. One of these authors was Luke. As a doctor, he thoroughly investigated the evidence prior to writing (Luke 1:1-4 & Acts 1:1 & 2). From the pen of Luke we read in the book of Acts a sermon preached by Peter about David, one time King of Israel, and Jesus. Acts 2:29-33 (NASB) “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 “And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.” What an incredible statement! Author Luke records a sermon by Peter where he stated David died, was buried and we know where he is today. However, he says Jesus died but his body never saw decay; that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. Noted historian William Ramsay, in his book St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, supported the accuracy of Luke and gave reasons “for placing the author of Acts among the historians of the first rank.” Not only do we get the testimony of Peter, an eyewitness of the resurrection, but he points to members of the listening audience, stating some of them were eyewitnesses. These traditions were orally passed down throughout the early church years before being recorded in written form.
In addition we have the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John concerning the resurrection of Jesus. All scholars date the Gospels within the 1st century. Based on the case I made earlier, we have good reasons to believe they were written before AD 70. When we compare these documents to other ancient literature, even dating the accounts after AD 70, these accounts are far closer than the vast majority of ancient historical manuscripts.
Third we have the apostolic fathers, some of which knew the disciples or were close to others who did. There is a strong probability their writings reflected what the disciples taught. One example was Clement. Early church father Irenaeus reports that Clement had conversed with the apostles. Tertullian, another early church father, said Clement was ordained by Peter himself. Clement in his letter to the Corinthian church, written in the first century, writes this about the disciples: “Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and establishedin the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.”
Early church father Polycarp was instructed by the apostles and had conversations with the apostle John. He writes to the Philippian Church in 110 AD and mentions the resurrection at least 5 times. He referred to the apostles when he wrote this: “For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.”
These accounts all confirm the fact the disciples had seen the risen Christ; they were eyewitnesses. If you read through the book of Acts you can see how the disciples were willing to sacrifice their lives spreading the message that Jesus had risen from the dead. All this is confirmed by the writings of the early church fathers.
Based on the extremely early writings of Paul, the testimony of Acts, the individual Gospels, and the writings of the early church fathers, we can have no doubt the disciples believed Jesus rose from the dead and that he appeared to them. It was this truth they were willing to die for. Some today are willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believe is the truth. The disciples would have known for certain their stories were fictional because they said they were eyewitnesses of the events. It is said, “Liars make poor martyrs.” No one dies for a lie, they know for a fact is a lie. The disciples died for the truth.
 Strobel, Lee, “The Case for the Real Jesus,” Zondervan, 2007 p. 115
 1Corinthians 42:3 Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ii.ii.xlii.html
 Philippians 9:2 Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.iv.ii.ix.html
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