What specific details of the resurrection accounts in the Gospels can be examined historically?

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There are a few historical ways to examine certain details and aspects of the resurrection as described in the Gospels. One is the empty tomb. Shortly after the death of Jesus, his disciples began preaching in Jerusalem. Since Jesus was entombed in a prominent place within the surroundings of this city, it would be necessary that the tomb be empty for them to gain more followers and to authenticate their claims. For people to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, his body could not still be in a nearby tomb. It is certainly plausible that the body was stolen or removed. It may never have been entombed in the first place, as burial was not commonly done after a crucifixion. Resurrection or not, it is very likely that the historical tomb mentioned in the Gospels was empty shortly after Jesus' death.

We can also look at historical documents. The Jewish historian Josephus also records some evidence relating to the resurrection. Keep in mind that there is the possibility that his accounts may have been altered by Christians in later centuries, that Josephus was born after the events he describes, and that he was prone to embellishment. However, it is fascinating to read his accounts and compare them to details in the Gospels. In Antiquities 18:63, Josephus makes a reference to Jesus as part of his description of Pontius Pilate:

And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross; those that loved him at the first did not forsake him. For he appeared to them alive again, the third day: as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.

This is the only non-biblical account of its time to mention the resurrection. If it can actually be attributed to Josephus as it is written, then it is a significant secular historical source relating to the resurrection.

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