Scholar Dr. Robert Greg Cavin doubts there is sufficient historical evidence to establish the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He states that “even on the assumption (the New Testament Easter traditions) of their complete historical reliability,” those testimonies are not enough to establish historical fact.1
He believes that the only way to prove something happened is to appeal to experience. The problem here lies in how historical proof is determined.
Dr. Michael Licona, in his groundbreaking book on the historiographical approach to the resurrection, states “our only link to the past is through the eyes of someone else.” 2
History, therefore, is subjective and cannot be disproven based on methods used in other fields. Nevertheless, Cavin uses “inductive logic,” arguing that for anything to be trustworthy, it needs to be repeated. This uses a scientific method of proving historical events. N.T. Wright calls this attempt at discrediting the resurrection “a rash dismissal of an important question.” 3 This indicates history cannot be known unless we can repeat it.
Cavin continues by trying to define what an actual resurrection body would be like (i.e. it teleports, has superhuman powers, etc.), and what evidence is needed to validate it. He states plainly that a supernatural body which is immortal is a “very bold universal generalization,” and believes it to be a constituent of a dispositional proposition. Cavin said that since Jesus’ resurrected body was never exposed to things like “mustard gas,” or wasn’t seen again after the appearance to Paul, there was no genuine test to prove his body could ever age, get sick or die again. If Jesus‘ body was poked and prodded more would Cavin then give the resurrection credibility?
What has been established by the majority of historians in pertaining to the fate of Jesus? Here are three facts, known as the “historical bedrock”: 1) He was killed by crucifixion; 2) He appeared to disciples after his death in some form; and 3) persecutor Paul was converted. 4
Given the influence of scholars’ personal biases, there will never be a consensus among them on what these facts ultimately conclude. What we are after, however, is a “high probability” for bodily resurrection by examining all the possible explanations and how well they explain the phenomenon. Examining the eyewitness accounts, one must consider the disciples’ claims are true for several reasons: they did not have a motive to lie for any financial gain, were not lured into making false claims by promises of hedonistic pleasures, and did not gain any power politically or otherwise by making such statements. In any court of law, the jury would have to agree these testimonies were authentic. 5
It appears there is enough historical evidence for a verdict that a miracle occurred in an isolated resurrection event that changed the course of history.