Tag Archives: Apostle Paul

Can Historians Even Talk About the Resurrection?

ResurrectionWhen it comes to studies of the historical Jesus, many historians end their inquiry at the crucifixion and burial. It is argued that the resurrection of Jesus is the topic for theologians and not historians. Studying the resurrection of Jesus is outside the expertise and responsibility of historians.

Is this true?

I wrote an article for the journal Studies in Religion that touched on this subject. I argue that there is a place for historians to talk about the resurrection without stepping on the feet of theologians.

What historians can do is talk about the crucifixion of Jesus and determine that he indeed died on the cross. Historians can also talk about the fact that there were numerous witnesses who claimed to have seen Jesus alive after the third day. This is historical inquiry.

The Apostle Paul passed on this early tradition with his own comments:

For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Here Paul lists eyewitnesses of the risen Jesus. He states that there are hundreds of witnesses and basically challenges the Corinthians to go to Jerusalem and ask around. This is an invitation for historical inquiry.

What historians cannot do is to make theological conclusions. Historians cannot determine that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity or that he was Israel’s Messiah. All the historian can say is that one day Jesus was dead and that there is evidence that a couple of days later he was alive.

So yes, historians can speak about the resurrection, as long as they don’t make any theological conclusions about the event.

Two books I would recommend on this topic are:

5 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the Apostle Paul

Apostle PaulThe Apostle Paul is one of the most influential thinkers and writers in the history of Christianity. It could be argued that his impact is second only to Jesus.

But how well do we really know him?

Here are five things you may or may not have known about the Apostle Paul.

  1. Paul never mentions his original name of Saul or his hometown of Tarsus in his letters.
  2. Paul’s letters were written earlier than the Gospels.
  3. Paul was not the first to preach to the Gentiles. It was actually Peter.
  4. Paul’s letters are not arranged chronologically in the New Testament but from longest to shortest.
  5. Paul never mentions hell in his letters. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t believe in some sort of judgment, but he never calls it hell.

Episode 10 – The Apostle Paul

History of ChristianityIn this episode, we look at the life of the Apostle Paul. We examine his beginnings in Tarsus as a faithful Jew to his death in Rome as a follower of Jesus.

For More Information:

Recommended Book: