How do we know that Jesus Rose from the Dead?
The short answer to the question is that we have the historical testimony of many reliable witnesses to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. The fact that Christ rose from the dead was not the product of the faith of Christ’s followers, rather, it was the cause of their faith. The Apostles knew by actual experience that Christ had risen, as we know from history, of which the Apostolic Tradition and Scriptures are a part (the inspired nature of the Scriptures is a separate issue). The New Testament cannot be dismissed as myth misinterpreted and confused with fact because it specifically distinguishes the two and repudiates the mythic interpretation (2Pet 1:16, 1Cor 15:17-19).
The faith of the first community of believers is based on the witness of concrete men known to the Christians and for the most part still living among them. Peter and the rest of the Twelve are the primary witnesses to his Resurrection (Acts: 10:41). The fact that the disciples were able to proclaim the Resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of their enemies a few weeks after the crucifixion shows that what they proclaimed was true, for they could never have proclaimed the Resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances had it not occurred.
But they were not the only witnesses. In one of his letters written about A.D. 56, St. Paul speaks clearly of more than five hundred persons to whom Jesus appeared on a single occasion (1Cor 15:4-8) inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses. He could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true, and no one disputes that Paul’s letters were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Christ. St. Paul could hope to gain nothing in this world or the next by lying. His doctrine led to his martyrdom in this life, and nothing proves sincerity like martyrdom, and he himself taught that God’s wrath awaits liars (Rom2:8).
The often repeated hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus. This faith has been handed on to us by the Apostles and their successors and will continue to be preached by the all the successors of Peter. Resurrexit sicut dixit! He is Risen as he said, Alleluia!