Using the very early Christian writings as reliably historical records only and not inspired texts helps us to show that our belief in Christianity is not based solely on a book by on a man, a God-man Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
There is evidence that Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ. We find in 1 Cor 15:3-8 an ancient creed spoken by Paul to the Corinthians>
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor 15:3-8 NIV)
This creed is generally agreed that Paul received it from Peter and James between 3 and 5 years after the Crucifixion. Since they are the ones who gave the creed to Paul, Jewish Scholar Pinchahs Lapide says this creed “may be considered the statement of eyewitnesses.” Here’s something more to consider that is often overlooked from this passage. The large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning, over 500 people is another statement worthy of consideration. Paul reminds them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned. He says in effect, ‘If you don’t believe me, you can ask then.’ Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago.
Just because the disciples think they say Jesus though, doesn’t mean they really did. There are three possible alternatives.
1. They were lying
2. They hallucinated
3. They really saw the risen Christ
Which of these is most likely? Were they lying? If they were lying, it meant that the disciples knew that Jesus had not really risen, that they made the story about the resurrection. But then why did 10 of the disciples willingly die as martyrs for their belief in the resurrection? People often die for a lie they believe is true. But if Jesus did not rise, the disciples knew it. They wouldn’t have just been dying for a lie they mistakenly believed was true. The disciples were willing to give up their lives for a lie they KNEW was a lie. Ten people will not all give up their lives for something they know to be a lie.
To suggest that the disciples were lying is considered today by all prominent New Testament scholars as an absurd theory. We can see why almost all scholars today admit that, if nothing else, the disciples at least believed that Jesus appeared to them. But to believe something does not necessarily make it true. Maybe the disciples were wrong and had been confused by an hallucination.
The theory of mass hallucinations is another attempt at explaining the claims of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection. The disciples record eating and drinking with Jesus, as well as touching him. This cannot be done with hallucinations. Hallucinations are highly individual, and not group projections. And what about Paul’s conversion? Was Paul, the persecutor of Christians, so hoping to see the resurrected Jesus that his mind invented an appearance as well?
Since the disciples could not have been lying or hallucinating, we have only one possible explanation left: the disciples believed that they had seen the risen Jesus because they really had seen the risen Jesus. So the resurrection appearances demonstrate the reality of the resurrection. And the proof in the claim that Jesus Called Himself God (John 8:58 referencing Exo 3:14) is found in the Resurrection. He is Risen!