What did the writers of the New Testament mean when they claimed that Jesus Christ was resurrected?
It certainly was not that he only appeared to be resurrected when in fact it did not happen. That is, resurrection to these writers did not mean that he appeared in some apparitional way, or some imaginary way, or some spiritualized way similar to the kind of thing a person might say about a deceased relative (i.e. “Mother is here with us whenever our family comes together.”).
Nor was Jesus merely resuscitated having only come close to death. Nor was he only reportedly resurrected as a intentional deception, meaning that though he was in fact not resurrected some persons stole his body away and then spoke as if he had been raised, perhaps in order to justify claims made by Jesus before he died.
No. What the Bible writers were saying was that Jesus had fully died, having completed the three day period believed by Jews to be the time needed for absolute certainty. Then, having died, he was raised from the tomb in a body. It was a recognizable body, but was glorified.
In this body, he then appeared to his apostles on multiple occasions. They were so sure of this that almost all of them suffered physical death as martyrs largely because they claimed his resurrection as fact. He appeared to others, such as James, who are listed. At one time he appeared to over 500 people in this glorified body. These appearances occurred for many days until the time of his ascension, which was witnessed by his closest followers. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact shall be established.”
This is what we celebrate—the true bodily resurrection of Christ.
He is risen indeed!
(Copyright 2/10/20 Jim Elliff, revised 3/31/21)