William Lane Craig, “The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus”

William Lane Craig is an impressive man, a philosopher and theologian, and a professor at Houston Baptist University and Biola University. I’ve read his book Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, liked it very much, and have been eager to read the book here.

I’m glad I did: The title describes accurately the focus of the book, and it’s persuasive and powerful. It’s a compact and closely argued 156 pages; he’s written two more detailed books on this topic: The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus and Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.


Here are the headings of the book, which provide a good outline of its contents (let me acknowledge here the assistance I received from this website in preparing it [link: https://vialogue.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/the-son-rises-notes-review/] and note that this website provides some additional notes and commentary):




  1. Commit suicide.
  2. Ignore the whole thing.
  3. Affirm the absurdity of life and live nobly.
  4. Challenge the world view of modern man.

Chapter 2. SOME BLIND ALLEYS [What the author does in this chapter is demonstrate that no serious scholar any longer endorses the “conspiracy” (i.e., the disciples stole the body), “apparent death” (i.e., that Jesus was crucified but somehow wasn’t killed), or “wrong tomb” (i.e., that women in the Gospel accounts who discovered an empty tomb had gone to the wrong one) theories. The only explanation of the empty tomb now offered is that the Gospel accounts were no more than “unhistorical legends” — to which the book then turns.]







  1. The historical reliability of the account of Jesus’ burial supports the empty tomb.  a. Paul’s testimony provides early evidence for the historicity of Jesus’ burial.  b. The burial account was part of the source material used by Mark in his description of Jesus’ sufferings and death and is therefore very early.  c. The story itself is simple and lacks signs of significant legendary development.  d. The burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea is probably historical. e. Jesus’ burial in a tomb is probably historical. f. Jesus was probably buried late on the day of preparation. g. The observation of the burial by the women is historically probable.  h. No other burial story exists. i. The graves of Jewish holy men were always carefully remembered and honored.  j. The Shroud of Turin confirms Jesus’ burial [since (1) The Shroud has marks of being authentic, (2) A forger would probably not have produced such a shroud, and (3) There are no known means of producing the image on the Shroud]. [N.B.: The author, in light of additional carbon-14 evidence, now says that “one can’t say that the shroud is authentic” — link: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/jesus-of-nazareth/forum-on-the-resurrection-with-william-lane-craig/ .]
  1. Paul’s testimony guarantees the fact of the empty tomb.
  2. The account of the empty tomb was part of the source material used by Mark in his description of Jesus’ sufferings and death and is therefore very old.
  3. The expression “the first day of the week” instead of “on the third day” proves that the empty tomb account is extremely old.
  4. The story itself is simple and lacks signs of significant legendary development.
  5. The discovery of the empty tomb by women is highly probable. 
  6. The investigation of the empty tomb by Peter and John is historically probable.
  7. It would have been impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty.
  8. The earliest Jewish propaganda against the Christian believers presupposes the empty tomb. 
  9. The fact that Jesus’ tomb was not venerated as a shrine indicates that the tomb was empty.




  1. The testimony of Paul demonstrates that the disciples saw appearances of Jesus. a. The appearance to Peter. b. The appearance to the twelve. c. The appearance to the five hundred. d. The appearance to James. e. The appearance to all the apostles. f. The appearance to Paul.
  2. The gospel accounts of the resurrection appearances are fundamentally reliable historically. a. There was insufficient time for legend to arise. b. The controlling presence of living eyewitnesses would prevent significant accrual of legend. c.The authoritative control of the apostles would have kept legendary tendencies in check.
  3. The resurrection appearances were physical, bodily appearances. a. Paul implies that the appearances were physical. b. The gospels prove that the appearances were physical and bodily. 
  4. Specific considerations make individual gospel appearance stories historically provable. a. The appearance to the women is historical. b. The appearance to Peter is historical. c. The appearance to the Twelve is historical. d. The appearance by the Lake of Galilee is historical. e. The appearance in Galilee mentioned by Mark is historical.



  1. The hypothesis shatters on points 2, 3, and 4, just discussed.
  2. The number and various circumstances of the appearances make hallucinations an improbable explanation.
  3. The disciples were not psychologically disposed to produce hallucinations.
  4. Hallucinations would never have led to the conclusion that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
  5. The hallucination hypothesis fails to account for the full scope of the evidence.

[Veridical visions?:]

  1. There is no comparable case to Jesus’ resurrection appearances.
  2. The number of occasions on which Jesus was seen over so long a time is unparalleled in the casebooks.
  3. Veridical visions cannot explain the physical, bodily nature of Jesus’ appearances.
  4. Veridical visions of dead persons only occur to individuals who are unaware of the person’s death.
  5. The hypothesis fails to account for all the evidence.





[Jesus’ resurrection has these “three profound consequences for us today”:]

  1. The resurrection of Jesus was an act of God.
  2. The resurrection of Jesus confirms His personal claims.
  3. The resurrection of Jesus shows that He holds the key to eternal life.

[“But the question now becomes, How am I to appropriate the immortal life God offers?”:]

  1. God loves you and created you to have a personal relationship with him.
  2. Man’s own evil has broken the personal relationship between God and man.  [So:] a.  Man stands morally guilty before God. b. Man’s personal relationship with God is broken. c. Man is spiritually dead.
  3. Through Jesus man’s personal relationship with God is restored. 
  4. We may come to know God personally by receiving Christ as our Savior and Lord.

[Three consequences of sin that are removed “when a person receives Jesus”:] 

  1. He is forgiven of all his sin.
  2. His personal relationship with God is restored. 
  3. He is born again to new spiritual life.


At the end of the fifth chapter (134, emphasis in original), Craig draws this conclusion:

First, we have seen that ten lines of historical evidence support the fact that Jesus’ tomb was found empty. We further saw that no natural explanation has been offered that can plausibly account for the empty tomb. Second, we have also seen that four lines of historical evidence support the fact the on numerous occasions and in different places Jesus appeared bodily and physically alive from the dead to different witnesses. We found that no natural explanation, either in terms of hallucinations or veridical visions, could plausibly account for those appearances. Finally, we have seen that the very origin of the Christian faith depends on the belief in Jesus’ resurrection and that this belief cannot be plausibly explained in terms of natural causes. Each of the three great facts — the empty tomb, the appearances, the origin of the Christian faith — is independently established. Together they point with unwavering conviction to the same unavoidable and marvelous conclusion: Jesus actually rose from the dead.

So that’s a good summary by the author of chapters 3-5; the sixth chapter is forthright evangelism, urging the reader to accept Christ.

I’ll note finally that the text of the whole book, albeit in a not particularly readable version, seems to be here [link: https://dokumen.pub/the-son-rises-historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection-of-jesus-1579104649-9781579104641.html].


Bonus discussion: While reading chapter 4 of the book, this question occurred to me: Why is there so much about Peter in John’s Gospel, and so little about Peter in Mark’s Gospel, regarding the discovery of the empty tomb and, following that, Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances? That is, if John Mark (the author of Mark) had as a key source Peter himself, as is often thought, then wouldn’t we expect there to be more about Peter in that Gospel?

I think one lesson here is to be careful about treating John Mark as simply Peter’s scribe. John Mark may have known Peter and gotten a lot of information from him, but he wasn’t simply taking dictation.

A pastor/chaplain friend of mine notes the urgent immediacy of Mark’s text, that Mark is insistent on getting to his main point, namely the crucifixion of Jesus for our sins. Once he’s done that, he feels that he’s finished.

And indeed it should be borne in mind that what a writer will include is what he thinks is important, in light of his concerns and the concerns of his day, which may or may not be the principal concerns of people 2000 years later. And so there’s this:  The early challenges by the Jewish leaders to the Resurrection claimed, not that the tomb wasn’t empty, but that the disciples had stolen the body.  So in that case, John Mark might have reasoned: (a) pointing out witnesses in addition to the women who saw the empty tomb would have been unnecessary; and (b) what’s more, pointing out that a couple of disciples (Peter and John) were in the vicinity would have actually strengthened the Jews’ claim about a stolen body — since it identifies two people the Jews would assert were the likely thieves.  So why bother to mention it?