Unfortunately, many unbelievers seem to be unreasonably skeptical concerning the resurrection. For them, things that would never come under scrutiny in other circumstances suddenly become dubious and conspiratorial. One such skeptical claim is that there is no eyewitness testimony for the resurrection. For this objection, consider these two questions:
What Qualifies as Eyewitness Testimony?
Sometimes the bar for eyewitness testimony is set so high that nothing could qualify. Maybe the skeptic will only consider testimony that can be cross-examined, or only what is not biased. But if this is one’s standard, it would throw nearly all of human history into skepticism. Good eyewitness testimony simply comes from one who was there, who is accurate, who does not have a motivation to lie, and who hopefully has independent verification.
Do We Have Eyewitness Testimony?
- The Gospels. At least the synoptic gospels were likely written well within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. Luke claims that he received information from eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2), and Mark was writing before Luke. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason in Luke himself to doubt his statement. Further, there is no competing view from any ancient writer concerning the identity of the gospels’ authors. And even if their authorship was fabricated, we wouldn’t expect them to select such obscure figures as Matthew, Mark, or Luke.
- Paul’s Letters. Paul himself claimed to be an eyewitness of the resurrection (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8; Gal. 1:13-17). These statements are corroborated in Luke’s second volume (Acts 9, 22, 26).
- Those that Paul associated with. Paul says that the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church added nothing to his doctrine, indicating they were preaching the exact same message of resurrection (Gal. 1:18-19; 2:7-9). He goes on to record that others, many of whom he had met, had also witnessed the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:5-8). There is simply no good reason to think that Paul was being dishonest.
In short, the claim that no eyewitness testimony for the resurrection exists can only be sustained despite the evidence, not because of it.
Wallace, Warner, J. Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels (Colorado Springs CO: David C Cook, 2013), pp. 71-74.