The New Testament writers claimed to be eyewitnesses to some extraordinary events. What did they see?
First, they saw Jesus die by being crucified. All four Gospels record this event. John adds the detail that blood and water ran out of Jesus’ body after a soldier verified his death by sticking a spear in his side (John 19:24). Doctors tell us that this detail means that Jesus died of a ruptured heart. The heart is surrounded by a sac of pericardial fluid. When the heart ruptures, the blood that was in it is released into this sac. This sac was pierced by the soldier’s spear, allowing the blood and the fluid, which looked like water to John, to flow out of the wound. This detail rules out the theory that Jesus merely passed out on the cross and was mistakenly buried, for no one survives a ruptured heart.
Second, they saw Jesus being buried in a tomb cut out of rock in a hillside. Following the customs of the day, the opening of this tomb, once the body was placed inside, was covered by a large round stone. Given the material available in that area and the size of the opening, this stone probably weighed 1.5 to 2 tons, which means that if Jesus had been buried alive, he would never have been able to get out of the tomb by himself.
Third, they saw Jesus alive again three days later. This was the event that led them to tell the world what they had seen and to eventually write down their testimonies.
The apostle Paul said that these three events were the Gospel that he preached: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). In fact, and this is an important point, Paul said that if these events did not actually occur in history, then Christianity is a worthless religion: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Cor. 15:17). The whole of Christianity rests on this one event. If Christ did not in fact rise again from the dead, as these witnesses say he did, then you can rightly reject Christianity.
But did these witnesses actually see what they say they saw? How reliable were they?…