One feature of Scottish Criminal Law is the importance of corroborating evidence. This means that at least two different and independent sources of evidence are required in support of each crucial fact before a defendant can be convicted of a crime. So an admission of guilt by a defendant is insufficient evidence in itself to convict, because the evidence needs to be corroborated by another source.
Corroboration of evidence underpinned the Jewish legal system at the time Jesus lived. Paul, himself a legal expert, had to investigate some events in the church in Corinth, and he writes in 2 Corinthians Chapter 13 v 1, “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”
It is also likely that corroboration underpinned the Roman judicial system at the time of Jesus since legal documents from the Roman Empire gave clear instruction that “We plainly order that the evidence of only one witness shall not be taken.”
So can we find more than one witness, to corroborate that Jesus rose from the dead? Yes, we can! There is clear documented evidence of ten occasions where people testified that they saw Jesus alive after He had been crucified and buried.
- Mary Magdalene (John Chapter 20)
- At least three women (Matthew Chapter 28)
- Simon Peter (Luke Chapter 24)
- Cleopas and one un-named person (Luke Chapter 24)
- All of the disciples apart from Thomas (John Chapter 20)
- All of the disciples including Thomas (Mark Chapter 16, Luke Chapter 24 and John Chapter 20)
- Peter and other disciples fishing on the sea of Galilee (John Chapter 21)
- Over five hundred people at once in Galilee (Matthew Chapter 28 and 1 Corinthians Chapter 15)
- James (1 Corinthians Chapter 15)
10. The apostles on the Mount of Olives (Acts Chapter1)
But it was not just that the witnesses acknowledged seeing Jesus. Many could give a detailed account of the occasion they met Jesus, and the conversations that took place. In Luke Chapter 24, Cleopas and his un-named companion could recall that Jesus walked with them as they travelled to Emmaus, that He “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” and then He joined them in their home and had a meal with them. They could recall that “their hearts burned within them” as Jesus walked and talked with them on their journey.
In John Chapter 20, Thomas was very skeptical that the risen Jesus had appeared to the other disciples, and defiantly said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited Thomas to “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands, and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas could clearly recall that conversation, and his response, which was, “My Lord and My God!”
In John Chapter 21, Peter could recall that while he was out fishing, Jesus cooked breakfast on the beach for him and gave him instructions as to the best place to fish. Peter never forgot the detail of their conversation, which subsequently inspired his actions and preaching for the rest of his life.
So at least 520 witnesses gave account that Jesus was seen alive after He had legally been declared dead. Fine details of the places He was seen, and conversations that took place were recalled by those involved, and recorded. If there were such a legal case today, where the defendant could produce that number of witnesses, there could be no doubting the facts in the face of such persuasive and corroborating evidence.
The number of witnesses, and the persuasive and corroborative evidence is reason to believe that He is risen. Jesus is alive!