As a detective, I am impressed with cases when they are evidentially diverse. Two witnesses to the same event are better than one. In a similar way, three witnesses are better than two, especially if they agree on their observations in spite of their individual peculiarities or differences. When I have multiple witnesses from diverse ethnic, social, economic or demographic backgrounds and these witnesses generally agree on what they say occurred, I reasonably adopt a higher level of confidence in their testimony.
That’s why the diverse accounts related to the Resurrection of Jesus are particularly important in assessing the validity of these claims. Take a look at a brief list of the Resurrection sightings:
1. Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden shortly after His Resurrection. (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18)
2. Jesus appeared to the women returning from the empty tomb. (Matthew 28:8-10)
3. Jesus appeared to two disciples (Cleopas and another) on the road to Emmaus. (Mark 16:12,13; Luke 24:13-35)
4. Jesus appeared to Peter. (Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
5. Jesus appeared to his disciples, in Jerusalem, while Thomas was absent. (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23)
6. Jesus again appeared to his disciples, in Jerusalem. This time Thomas was present. (John 20:24-29)
7. Jesus appeared to his disciples (Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons and two other of his disciples), on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:1,2)
8. Jesus was seen by 500 believers at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:6)
9. Jesus appeared to James. (1 Corinthians 15:7)
10. Jesus appeared to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee. (Matthew 28:16-20)
11. Jesus appeared to the believers in Jerusalem for forty days after the Resurrection. (Acts 1:1-11)
12. Jesus appeared to His disciples, blessed them, and ascended into heaven. (Luke 24:50-53)
13. Jesus also appeared to Paul, on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8)
If you examine these accounts closely, you’ll be impressed by the diversity of the claims:
Jesus Appeared to Groups of Diverse Size
Jesus appeared after the Resurrection to single eyewitnesses, to small groups and to huge crowds.
Jesus Appeared at Diverse Locations and Times
Jesus appeared in enclosed rooms and open areas; in the region of Jerusalem, Galilee and well beyond. He appeared at night and at various times of the day.
Jesus Appeared to People of Diverse Status
Jesus appeared to people he knew well and to people he didn’t know well at all. He appeared to those in His inner circle, to those less connected and to complete strangers (Paul). Some were devout followers, some were more skeptical (James) and some were in complete denial (Paul). These witnesses were from nearly every social / economic group.
Jesus Appeared for Diverse Purposes
Jesus appeared for a variety of purposes. To many He simply wanted to demonstrate His Deity and Resurrection power. With others He ate a meal or had an important conversation. He appeared to Peter to comfort and challenge him and to Paul to call him away from his murderous mission.
Jesus Appeared for Diverse Periods of Time
Jesus appeared and stayed with the eyewitnesses for different lengths of time. Some of his appearances were little more than a few minutes, others for hours. He stayed with the believers in Jerusalem for forty days.
Jesus’ Appearances Were Recorded By Diverse Authors
Jesus’ Resurrection appearances were recorded by people from a variety of backgrounds. Two were direct eyewitnesses, two were close associates of the eyewitnesses. Some were better educated than others. One was a doctor, one a tax collector, one a fisherman.
The diversity of the Resurrection appearances ought to give us confidence in their reliability. The Resurrection is not a work of fiction written by a single author or observed by a single witness in a single location at a single time of day or night. Instead, the appearances were recorded by a variety of authors and occurred in front of a diverse set of eyewitnesses in assorted locations and times. The expansive and differing aspects of these sightings ought to give us increased confidence in the authenticity and reliability of the accounts. This list of appearances and evidential properties is available as a free downloadable Bible Insert. You can download it, along with all our free Bible Inserts, from the link in the right toolbar on the homepage at ColdCaseChrstiainity.com.
For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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