The Minimal Facts
As stated by Habermas and Licona (2004), “the minimal facts approach considers only those data that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones”. Why is this method important, and what does it mean for those who are attempting to share the gospel with a lost world? First we must understand what this method actually means. According to Habermas and Licona (2004), the minimal facts approach takes facts and verifies that 2 criteria are met, first the facts must be highly evidenced, and second, they need to be accepeted by nearly every scholar. Why is this important and how does this aid in sharing the gospel and the resurrection. Taking this approach helps keep the conversation on track, it keeps the discussion to one topic instead of getting sidetracked on defending the inerrancy of the Bible, or the different views and traditions of different denominations and allows for a strong argument to be made. Now that there is a groundwork and foundation of understanding, lets take a look at the minimal facts for the resurrection. There are 4 main minimal facts for the resurrection as stated by crossexamined.org (n.d.) they are as follows, 1. the death of Jesus by crcifixion, 2. the empty tomb, 3. the post-resurrection appearances, and 4. the origin of the Christian faith. Lets look at each of these and break them down, starting with Jesus death by crucifixion. Crucifixion was a well known form of execution within the Roman empire to punish the poor, rebellious, soldiers, and anyone accused of treason according to Habermas and Licona (2004). Josephus recorded that during the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. the Roman soldiers had such a hatred for Jews that they crucified “a multitude” of them in different postures (Habermas and Licona). Crucifixion was called a horrendus torture and the most extreme penalty by those who employed it. “Perhaps no other fact surrounding the life of the historical Jesus is better attested to than His death by crucifixion”, that is how CrossExamined.org (n.d.) begins when stating the evidence for Jesus crucifixion. They go on to list many sources, biblical and extra biblical, that attest to the death of Christ through crucifixion. Not only do all four gospels have accounts of the crucifixion but multiple non christian writers recorded it as well. Sources such as Josephus, a Jewish writer, Tacitus, a Roman historian, Lucian of Samosata, a Greek writer, Mara-Bar Serapion, a Syrian philosopher, and the Talmud all record the event of Jesus crucifixion. We can take from this that crucifixion was a well known, often used, and feared form of execution, that being said it is completely likely that Jesus was crucified, in fact the highly critical scholar of the Jesus Seminar, John Dominic Crossan, writes, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”Next is the empty tomb. The one surefire way to completely stop the wave of Christianity and silence the men who were spreading the word would be for someone to simply show the body of Christ. The Jewish leaders could have ended this before it began, but they could not because there was no body to show. This fact alone should be enough evidence to validate the empty tomb, but there is more. According to CrossExamined.org (n.d.), Not only was Jesus publicly executed in Jerusalem but “His post-mortem appearances and empty tomb were first publicly proclaimed there.”This would have been impossible with a decaying corpse still in the tomb”. Second the fact that the empty was found and reported by women makes it highly unlikely that it is false. The low status of women in the culture of the time and their inablity to even act as witnesses or testify, had this been a hoax, those perpatrating it would have used men as they are credible and women are not. Finally CrossExamined.org (n.d.) points out that Historian and skeptic Michael Grant concede that “the historian… cannot justifiably deny the empty tomb” since applied historical criteria show “the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty.” After the empty tomb is the appearences, this one is self explanitory. Jesus firs appeared to His followers in the upper room and then to many more. Lasly we have the origin of the Christian faith. The growth and spread of the Christian faith could only come from an event with the magnitude of the resurrection. Habermas and Licona (2004) explain that After Jesus’ death, the lives of the disciples were transformed to the point that they endured persecution and even martyrdom. Such strength of conviction indicates that they were not just claiming that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them in order to receive some personal benefit. They really believed it. Skeptics may argue that quite possibly the disciples and believers were killed and tortured even though they recanted, which is a reasonable question, but when faced with the reality that torture and possible death were a common end to preaching the gospel, if there was no actual death, resurrection, and appearance experienced and witnessed by those preaching, they would most likely have not been so eager to spread the word for fear of being tortured and killed for something they were not sure was true. Overall as a logial and pointed approach to making a case for the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, this is a well thought out, and easliy implemented argument, defense, and presentation for the death and resurrection of Christ and the formation of the Christian faith.
Habermas, G. R., & Licona, M. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (1st ed.). Kregel Publications.
StackPath. (n.d.). Crossexamined.Org. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://crossexamined.org/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/