The evidence for Easter

If you think politicians make outlandish claims, consider what Christians celebrate at Easter. They believe a man named Jesus was brutally tortured, murdered and buried for three days before rising from the dead. Furthermore, they assert this man was also fully God and that your belief or lack of belief in him determines your eternal destiny.

Christians have no video evidence or DNA tests to prove this. That’s understandable because Christians say the event Easter celebrates took place almost 2,000 years ago.

Americans can’t even agree on things that happened two weeks ago. Isn’t Easter an ancient example of “fake news,” a myth propagated by people putting faith over historical realities?

It’s a valid question. The answer starts with looking at the books of the New Testament. How can you determine if what you read today is what the author wrote 2,000 years ago?

That question isn’t unique to the Bible. There are no original copies of any ancient work. Historians use a twofold test to determine how accurately copyists transmitted a manuscript throughout the ages. Scholars look at how many copies exist and the number of years between the original and the earliest surviving copy.

For example, Julius Caesar fought and won a series of battles against the Gauls from 58 to 50 B.C. He chronicled his conquests in “On the Gallic War.” Historians have 251 manuscripts of this book, and the earliest is from the ninth century, a gap of more than 850 years.

Plato was one of the most important ancient philosophers. He wrote a series of dialogues before he died in 348/347 B.C. Scholars have 210 manuscripts of those writings. The oldest is from 895 A.D,. a gap of more than 1,200 years.

Aside from the Bible, the ancient work with the greatest number of copies is Homer’s “Iliad,” created around 800 B.C. There are more than 1,800 copies of it, and the earliest is from around 400 B.C., a gap of just 400 years.

The books of the New Testament were written between 50 and 100 A.D. There are more than 5,800 New Testament manuscripts in Greek and more than 18,500 New Testament manuscripts in other languages. The time gap between authorship and the earliest manuscript is just 50 years. All statistics are from a 2014 review by Josh McDowell and Clay Jones.

Try telling a history professor that there isn’t enough historical evidence to confirm Julius Caesar conquered the Gaels or that Plato wrote philosophy. Yet there is a much greater track record for the accurate transmittal of the books depicting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

An accurate transmission doesn’t mean what is written is true. The “Iliad” is, after all, a work of fiction. A key group, however, did believe the events recorded in the writings that became the New Testament — its authors. Some even explicitly emphasized that their writings were trustworthy and accurate recordings. It wasn’t just idle talk. Their actions changed, too.

Jesus’ disciples abandoned him when he was arrested. Within weeks, however, those cowards became bold preachers of a gospel message that would transform the world. They didn’t get preachy to get rich. Rather, their preaching led to imprisonments and executions.

Faith doesn’t mean turning off your brain. Rather, having faith can be the step one takes based on the evidence, including the historical documentation of an empty tomb.

Happy Easter.

Listen to Victor Joecks discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

Life Videos
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Army medic’s Afghanistan story told in new book
The graphic novel “Machete Squad” is based on journals written by Las Vegan Brent Dulak.
Las Vegas man talks about losing his wife
Dwayne Murray, 37, lost his wife, LaQuinta while she was at Centennial Hills Hospital. A jury awarded him $43 million last week after it said the hospital failed to perform the standard of care in administering a drug for her sickle cell disease.
Barber sets up shop in grandfather’s old shop
Andres Dominguez’s new barber shop is filled with memories of his grandfather, who ran the El Cortez landmark for more than 30 years. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Life and times of a 90-year-old horse player
Leo Polito of Las Vegas describes meeting legendary jockey and trainer Johnny Longden on the beach at Del Mar. Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Learning the history of singing bowls
Presentation at Summerlin Library teaches residents about the history of singing bowls (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learning live-saving techniques in Stop the Bleed class
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to control bleeding during a Stop the Bleed course at the Summerlin Library. The class is designed to teach anyone how to control and stop life-threatening bleeding. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing