By John Sanidopoulos
It may come as a surprise that one of the most reliable testified events in the ancient world is the resurrection of Christ, recorded in writing within a generation after the event (see 1 Corinthians 15) and fully testified within two generations while the majority of the witnesses were still alive. To understand how rare this is in the ancient world, one need only look at such a historical figure as Alexander the Great, whose earliest biography was not written until about 400 years after his death and even after the earliest written testimony for Jesus.
Twelve Resurrection Appearances in the New Testament
There are twelve indisputable resurrection appearances recorded in the New Testament which spanned a time period of forty days (except the 12th) following the event of the resurrection. They are to the following people:
1. Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18)
2. The Myrrhbearing women (Mt. 28:9-10)
3. Two disciples going to Emmaus (Mk. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-32)
4. Peter (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:4)
5. Ten disciples (Lk. 24:36-43; Jn. 20:19-25)
6. Eleven disciples (Mk. 16:14; Jn. 26-29)
7. Seven disciples (Jn. 21: 1-23)
8. Eleven disciples on the mountain (Mt. 28:16-20)
9. Over five hundred disciples (1 Cor. 15:6)
10. James, the brother of our Lord (1 Cor. 15:7)
11. All the Disciples in Bethany at the Ascension (Lk. 24:50-53; Acts. 1:2-12)
12. Paul (1 Cor. 15:8)
We should mention that Acts 1:3 records Jesus appeared many times over a forty day period following his resurrection from the dead, so the appearances are not limited to only twelve.
How many saw the resurrected Christ?
Over a period of forty days Christ rarely appeared to only one individual disciple. Usually many were present, and he gave ample evidence that his resurrection was in his physical body (they touched his wounds and saw him eat). From the testimony in the New Testament, we know that well over five hundred people saw the risen Jesus, usually in groups, and there are no contradictions in the accounts nor recorded disputes about these appearances by those who saw him. This fact eliminates the notion that these appearances were hallucinations.
When did they see the resurrected Christ?
Interestingly, all the resurrection appearances occurred either during the day, afternoon or towards evening. Never is a resurrection appearance recorded at night, lest it be confused with a dream or nocturnal vision.
Where was the risen Christ seen?
The risen Christ appeared in many different areas, both indoors and outdoors. He was seen:
- Near his tomb
- On a well travelled road
- The seashore
- Inside a home
- A mountain
- A city
How did they see the risen Jesus?
- The appearances of Jesus were not passing visions, but they lasted over many hours to people of different backgrounds and occupations, where he would eat with those he appeared to and have conversations with them. None of them had previously believed that he would rise from dead, so initially the appearances confirmed the event and clarified teachings they may not have understood. If anything, the expectations of his disciples were for a secular Messiah that would restore Jerusalem to the Jews immediately.
- The Apostle John writes in 1 John 1:1-4 that they heard, they saw, and they handled the risen Christ.
- The Apostle Peter says in Acts 10:41 that they ate and drank with the risen Christ.