Dr. Simon Greenleaf was professor of law at Harvard and wrote a textbook to train lawyers that was used for over a century there. Greenleaf believed that lawyers have a responsibility to evaluate the evidences of the Christian religion using the standards of evidence demanded in their professional lives.  Greenleaf was initially a skeptic of Jesus’ resurrection, but followed the principles of courts in proving things true and came to believe that Jesus’ really resurreected. He detailed the results of his own investigation in an 1846 work titled An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists, by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Justice. With an Account of the Trial of Jesus.

Some of the principles Dr. Greenleaf and courts around the world use are these:

Dr. Greenleaf starts with the core principle of truth.
“In examining the evidences of the Christian religion, it is essential to the discovery of truth that we bring to the investigation a mind freed, as far as possible, from existing prejudice and open to conviction. There should be a readiness, on our part, to investigate with candor, to follow the truth wherever it may lead us, and to submit, without reserve or objection, to all the teachings of this religion, if it be found to be of divine origin. (p. 21)

2) INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY: The standard of courts and historians as well is that witnesses and their testimony are considered innocent and true until proven guilty. Skeptics do the reverse, but this would eradicate most of the books of history from study.

“In the absence of circumstances which generate suspicion, every witness is to be presumed credible, until the contrary is shown; the burden of impeaching his credibility lying on the objector.”

The only way for humans to gather evidence is through our experiences and senses and that of others. So every court on earch considers testimony to be evidence.
“A witness may testify to a matter only if evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter. Evidence to prove personal knowledge may consist of the witness’s own testimony.”   Rule 602. Need for Personal Knowledge,

See also:

[Evidence can include oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs and depositions (testimony under oath taken before trial)…It also includes so-called “circumstantial evidence” which is intended to create belief by showing surrounding circumstances which logically lead to a conclusion of fact….

“oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs and depositions”

“Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise.” ― Simon Greenleaf, An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists, by the Rules of Evidence administered in Courts of Justice


But what is proof? Legal scholars at places like Cornell Law School and many other law schools and legal/academic say that there are 3 kinds of proof. In most cases, proof is when 50% or more + of the evidence is one side. In a few cases, such as capital crime cases, proof may require 90 or 95% of the evidence to be on one side in order to avoid making a tragic mistake.

There are many fields in academia where far more than 50% of the evidence is on the side of God’s claims and some where 90-100% of the evidence is on God’s side.  That is what constitutes proof. No ideology or worldview has anything close to the proof that the God of the Bible has demonstrated to the world in many ways, least of all atheism.

There are actually three primary standards of proof: beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence and clear and convincing evidence…

Different Standards of Proof

“the burden of proof is met when the party with the burden convinces the fact finder that there is a greater than 50% chance that the claim is true.”   “preponderance of the evidence” Cornell Law School.

Preponderance of Evidence requires that the evidence be “more likely than not” to prove the matter at hand.  In other words, evidence only needs to be greater than a 50% likelihood of being true under the preponderance of evidence standard. Under the clear and convincing standard, the evidence must be substantially greater than a 50% likelihood of being true.

The preponderance of evidence standard comes into play when the plaintiff satisfies the burden of proof by offering evidence that demonstrates their claims have a greater than 50% chance to be true. In other words, if a claim can be demonstrated to be more likely to be true than not true, the burden of proof is met…preponderance of evidence requires a mere 51% or greater probability…

The clear and convincing evidence standard has a higher standard of proof than preponderance of evidence, but lower than proving beyond a reasonable doubt…the clear and convincing standard needs to demonstrate that fault is ‘highly’ and ‘substantially’ more probable to be true than not true…

beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof within the American judiciary system. This standard requires the prosecutor to provide sufficient proof such that no other plausible account or conclusion is possible, except that the defendant is guilty…  beyond a reasonable doubt requires closer to 100%.

How do we know Jesus’ resurrection is proven truth as the Bible claims (Acts 1:3, 9:22)? Many careful scholars from various worldviews like Dr. Simon Greenleaf, Dr. Mike Licona, Dr. Gary Habermas have compiled over 3,000 peer reviewed scientific articles about Jesus’ resurrection. The vast majority agree that these claims from the Bible and historical sources are facts:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion and was buried. 
  2. The tomb was empty on the 3rd day! Romans and Jewish leaders couldn’t disprove the resurrection with a body.
  3. Women, Jesus’ disciples, over 500 people and skeptics believed and testified that Jesus rose and appeared to them!
  4. Jesus’ disciples were fearful and humiliated before the resurrection. After it they sacrificed money and homes, and were tortured and died to proclaim their certainty in the truth of the resurrection!
  5. Skeptics like James (Jesus’ brother who knew him intimately) and Paul (who was killing Christians) converted to believing Jesus was God because of seeing the risen Jesus and later were martyred for their belief!
  6. Jesus’ resurrection was proclaimed in Jerusalem where it and the early church could have been most easily stopped. But it flourished there first. 
  7. Jesus’ resurrection was the center of the gospel and explains the dramatic increase of Christianity as well as the passion, love and sacrifice of countless Christians which has turned the world upside down!
  8. Experiences and dreams of Jesus (such as dreams of Isa) have brought millions of people in non-Christian cultures to belief in Jesus!
  9. Belief in Jesus’ resurrection has inspired millions to sacrifice and pioneer almost all human rights in history!
  10. People across the world experience Jesus transforming their lives now and you can too!

Skeptics have proposed alternative hypotheses. But only a genuine resurrection explains these facts above. For reasons above and others, many scholars have said that Jesus’ resurrection is one of the most proven facts in history!


1) Conspiracy excuse: The disciples stole his body.

Problem: Jews didn’t believe in a resurrected Messiah. 2nd, People aren’t willing to die for something they KNOW isn’t true. So no scholars defend this idea now.

2) Apparent Death excuse: He faked his death.

PROBLEM: Roman soldiers were professionals at killing people. A half-dead man crawl out of a tomb wouldn’t inspire disciples to sacrifice everything and die themselves. No New Testament historians defend this excuse.

3) Displaced Body excuse: Someone moved Jesus’ body.

Problems: First, Jewish laws prevented moving a corpse. Second,  the person who moved the body could have stopped Christianity by just telling everyone what he did. And a missing body isn’t proof of resurrection and can’t people to give their lives.

4) Hallucination excuse: The disciples didn’t really see Jesus alive after His death. They just hallucinated that they saw Him.

PROBLEM: Jesus appeared many times, in several places, to over 500 people, both believers and non-believers. There is no hallucination like this. This also doesn’t explain the empty tomb.

So the alternatives just don’t explain the facts and evidence well.

Dr. Simon Greenleaf was the acclaimed Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University. He was one of the most celebrated legal minds in American history with one of his works, Treatise on the Law of Evidence, still being considered “the greatest single authority on evidence in the entire literature of legal procedure”. He investigated the evidence for the resurrection carefully. He concluded that Jesus’ resurrection must be a fact. Why? One reasons was because Jesus’ disciples students went through so much suffering and kept believing. Nobody goes through so much suffering for things they have seen firsthand, unless they are true.“The great truths which the apostles declared, were, that Christ had risen from the dead, an  that only through repentance from sin, and faith in him, could men hope for salvation. This doctrine they asserted everywhere, not only under the greatest discouragements, but in the face of the most appalling terrors that can be presented to the mind of man. Their master had recently perished…The laws of every country were against the teachings of his disciples…they could expect nothing but contempt, opposition, revilings, bitter persecutions, [beatings], imprisonments, torments & cruel deaths. Yet this faith they zealously did propagate; and all these miseries they endured…rejoicing.

As one after another was put to a miserable death, the survivors only prosecuted their work with increased vigor & resolution. The annals of military warfare afford scarcely an example of the like heroic constancy, patience & unflinching courage…It was therefore impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead.”[1]

Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) is considered one of the most important figures in the development of Christian apologetics, specifically legal or juridical apologetics and said:

“For many years I’ve made the evidences of Christianity the subject of close study… According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.” Greenleaf, S. 1874. Ibid.

Many other elite lawyers and historians have said that Jesus’ resurrection is one of the most proven events in all history.

Sir Lionel Luckhoo was knighted twice by Queen Elizabeth and Guinness Book of Records lists him is the world’s most “successful” lawyer because he won 245 consecutive cases. When he was ~64 he investigated the claims of Jesus and experienced a conversion. He became a Christian and later wrote:

“I have spent more than forty-two years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”[2]

Lord Caldecote, lord chief justice of England, observed that an
“overwhelming case for the resurrection could be made merely as a matter of strict evidence” and that”His resurrection has led me as often as I have tried to examining the evidence to believe it as a fact beyond dispute…”[3]

There are many other prestigious professors of law, lawyers, and judges who say that the evidence for Jesus resurrection makes it one of the most solidly proven facts of history:

Craig Parton (an experienced trial lawyer and an expert in the laws of legal evidence), explains how the resurrection of Jesus is based on solid objective facts and how we can defend it to secular minds.

Montgomery has 11 earned degrees in multiple disciplines including philosophy, librarianship, theology, and law. Montgomery’s journey to faith begun when, while an atheist, he met a fellow student by the same of Herman Eckelman, “He witnessed to students and presented a strong apologetic for the Christian faith and he got me on the subject of religion and he had a fine library and he loaned me books and my questions and objections were trivial in comparison to the answers that were available and so by the end of my freshman year I was converted” (5).

There is much more than this (more links will be here soon). But this alone shows that Jesus’ Resurrection is based solidly on proof, way beyond reasonable doubt.


[1] An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice”, p.52-53. p. 21***.

[2] What is Your Verdict? (Fellowship Press, 1980), p. 19. or Handbook of Biblical Evidences, pg. 106.

[3] Handbook of Biblical Evidences, pg. 102.