The Resurrection of Jesus: Evidence.
We believe there are good reasons to hold that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead by God if you’ve come to the conclusion that God exists. If you haven’t come to the conclusion God exists, the mystery of what happened to Jesus of Nazareth still stands as an event extraordinarily different in history that will point towards divine intervention. Throughout the article, the text in pink are links to larger articles if you desire to dig deeper into one particular area. I hope this helps you in your exploration!
- Opening questions
- Can we investigate this?
- five evidences
- 34 proposed theories
I mean Jesus died, was placed in a tomb and came back to life three days later in physical form. He could be touched and eat a fish or two. It was a physical resurrection, not resuscitation.
The Christian texts also testify Jesus ahead of time declared this would happen. That he would die and rise, so within the context, if God exists and Jesus is God, then such activity wouldn’t be out of the blue. It would be strange if Jesus never claimed to rise, but then later did so. This is attested in all four Gospel documents, which, even if you’re sceptical, there are still four documents that exist in history expressing the same historical details. It’s no one off telling.
Jesus rising, presenting himself to the disciples gave them the assurance that all he taught meant he wasn’t crazy, he had the authority to do so. It gave them hope and was what they needed to commission the mission of worldwide evangelism. This same hope is for us today, a hope that death is not the end, the promise that we can all be with God, and what it asks of us is so simple, yet life-changing. For Jesus to be in charge of death is a big deal for us, and Christianity without a resurrection is not Christianity as the Apostle Paul explains in a passage known as 1 Corinthians 15 in standard Bibles.
So Jesus claimed he would rise, he did rise and this is seen to be true by the first Christians and believed by the Christians that follow to this day,
Jesus presented evidence, he gave them ways they could investigate that he was physically there. They knew he died, that was one of the easiest things to attest to. You see Jesus left us with ways to investigate, the disciples and other followers made a point of their eyewitness testimony. We believe the beliefs of those first disciples who wrote down their testimony. They saw it happen in real time and that’s significant. So scripture tells us to give evidence, the apostles did not limit themselves to sharing Jesus’ teaching but what they knew to be true and what they saw with their own eyes.
How can we investigate Jesus rising from the dead? Isn’t that a problem completely?
Principle of testimony: Believe and value testimony if there is none to counter it (Like knowing Neptune exists without personally seeing it yourself)
Multiple independent sources: This is when an event or saying is testified by more than one independent source, you get a strong indication of historicity.
Enemy attestation: If testimony affirming an event or saying is given by a source who does not sympathise with the person, message, or cause that profits from the account, we have an indication of authenticity.
Embarrassing admissions: Embarrassing admissions are an indicator that an event or saying is authentic because the source would not be expected to create the story, because it embarrasses his cause and “weakens their position in arguments with opponents.”
Eyewitness testimony: Eyewitness testimony is usually stronger than a secondhand account. Historians must also consider testimony of secondhand witnesses as they attempt to arrive at a conclusion regarding what happened.
Early testimony: The closer the time between the event and the testimony about it, the more reliable the witness, since there is less time for exaggeration, and even legend, to creep into the account.
When assessing the evidence you have, there are philosophical principles for evaluating this data:
Historical Certainty level required: This would be where the evidence points to the conclusion, aligns with the facts and is the best explanation. You can’t be absolute unless you were there, even then your friends may doubt you.
Explanatory scope: A theories ability to account for all the relevant facts
Explanatory power: Accounting for all the relevant facts without forcing the data to fit
Illumination of history: offering insight into other areas of history (e.g. the origins of Christianity and belief of a physical resurrection)
Level of Ad hoc: The least amount of additional beliefs added is the least ad hoc and least contrived (e.g. assuming mass ecstasy in Jerusalem to explain all group hallucinations in and around Jerusalem for 40 days post Jesus resurrection).
Plausibility: Where the reasons for accepting the evidence far outweighs the evidence for rejecting the theory (Most reasonable, it may not be absolute as you weren’t there 2,000 years ago)
The criteria to hone in on just a case for the resurrection (This is different from making a case for the New Testament) is evidence that is well evidenced and a wide range of scholars in the relevant fields agree with the data. They have studied it themselves regardless of whether they are Christian, Jewish, Agnostic or atheist etc.
So when making this case there’s no need to talk inspiration of the Bible (we don’t need inspiration for a historical case), we’re using well attested facts sceptical scholars agree on, even critical scholars put the Gospels within the lifetimes of the authors that wrote them. Not every scholars agrees on every fact, opinion and bias can get in the way but I’m not intending to trick you, I’m presenting the evidence that’s agreed on with a high majority, nearly all of them have a 90%+ agreeal rate (that includes atheist scholars!)
Well firstly if God exists, and he is all powerful, then surely the ability to make a universe and a human race justifies quite possibly that he might be able to raise the odd guy or two. But if you don’t come with a pre-understanding God might exist then lets look at the claim:
So lets look at the claim: Miracles cannot happen because uniform human experience shows miracles don’t exist, therefore all reports of miracles must be false. This argument is actually identical to the Bible is true, because it is authoritative, therefore we should trust the Bible. Both are circular arguments. Just because miracles haven’t happened to you doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Cavemen in Africa had never seen ice, you don’t conclude therefore ice doesn’t exist because it’s outside of human experience! (John Earman, an atheist scholar wrote a book called Hume’s Abject Failure addressing this in more depth)
So logically there’s no reason to think they can’t happen unless you presuppose they can’t happen. The thinker must remain open minded to the prospect, especially if they’re open to the existence of God.
As for miracles today, 94 million americans believe they happen (Yeah I’m sure not all of them too, but it only takes one to be true), a national survey of 1,100 physicians, conducted by HCD Research and the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies in New York City, found that 74% of doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 73% believe that they still occur today. The poll also indicated that American physicians are surprisingly religious, with 72% indicating they believe that religion provides a reliable and necessary guide to life. Doctors would not be considered nonintellectual to say the least. There are even cases presented in medical journals for example one of Gastroparesis healing, instantaneous resolution of juvenile macular degeneration blindness after proximal intercessory prayer and plenty more at 1C15 website. For a scholarly work containing over 1,000 miracles, see Craig Keeners 2 volume work on documented Miracles.
If God exists, presupposing miracles can’t happen for a powerful God who clearly cares for a universe such as our own (he’s fine-tuned it for productive life, a universe that sustains us etc.), if you don’t believe God exists then ruling out miracles from the get go also isn’t logical. Evidence must be evaluated on a case by case basis and modern miracles give us an insight into the possibility.
What’s the evidence for the resurrection?
There are many known essential facts scholars of all stripes, many of the most critical will grant you 12, I’ll work with just five, and they’re big enough.
First it is widely accepted that Jesus died by crucifixion.I should note his existence is only doubted by fringe scholars. Crucifixion is a known practice, we have archaeological evidence of this, it’s multiply attested in Christian and non-christian sources like Josephus, Lucian of Samosata, Tacitus, Mara-Bar Serapion the Talmud, none of which are sympathetic to the Christian cause.
Scholars have a bunch of discerning principles to further distinguish Jesus’ crucifixion from the New Testament documents such as Jesus Wasn’t expected, Jews expected a conquering king not a suffering Messiah so he wasn’t written to make the Jews happy, Jewish sources generally hate Jesus post-death. As well as this, the character of Jesus is also unappealing to a secular world. The background of Jesus was antithetical to a world that desired to leave this world for the spiritual, Jesus says we will stay in this world for eternity one day with human form.
Top critical scholars like John Dominic Crossan, EP Sanders, Bart Ehrman and many more sceptics attest the Crucifixion of Jesus historically. Modern medical reports like the ones from Journal of the Medical Association also confirm Jesus undoubtedly died from crucifixion and likely quickly.
The second fact:
Jesus’ disciples believed that they saw a physically risen Jesus before them three days after he had died. He then appeared multiple times to multiple people in multiple locations over an extended period of time. ~The disciples were willing to die for that truth.
How have 90% of relevant scholars come to a conclusion on this? Let me breeze through the reasons.
Scholars like the Apostle Paul, his works and letters and even the most critical scholars accept 7-8 of his letters as genuine honest testimony such as Galatians, Romans, 1 Corinthians and more. Paul reported on the disciples, James and others saw the risen Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15. So scholars trust Paul genuinely believed he was recording historical testimony of the first disciples who claimed to be eyewitnesses.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Is believed to be an ancient creed (Like a little poem designed to be read, remembered and shared like a news headline) and this creed says Jesus died, was buried and rose, then appeared to the disciples, James and even Paul. Critical scholars put this 3-6 years from the cross event, with some leading scholars like the recently deceased Lary Hurtado and James DG Dunn dating it from months to possibly days after the resurrection event. There are many others which will go back just as close. Their reasoning? Well apart from complicated arguments, in a nutshell, the Jesus movement needed to get the story started, it had to start from somewhere and scholars are satisfied with this being part of what was there at the beginning.
Scholars also like the sermon summaries in Acts, seeing them as oral traditions passed down and pasted in by Luke when compiling his document.
The church fathers who wrote in the decades immediately after the first Christians attest to the apostles testimonies also including disciples of these disciples and we have the testimonies of their disciples and on and on it goes through the first, second and third centuries! Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and so on!
Sure, many people do die for what they believe to be true, If I die for Christianity I would die for my belief that it was true. But here’s the difference, I die for what Peter the disciple saw, only Peter died for what Peter saw. Those disciples died for what they knew to be true, no one dies for a lie they know to be false.
It should be granted that again critical scholars like EP Sanders, Bart Ehrman, Rudolf Bultmann, Gerd Ludemann and even Paula Fredriksen grant that the disciples experienced something that transformed them, many of these scholars also say something happened to Jesus, they just don’t know what.
His conversion is discussed in 1 Corinthians, Galatians & Philippians and this is also attested in Luke’s history of Acts. So there are two lines of history for his conversion and scholars like Paul and the way he writes with honesty.He is also attested by church fathers immediately after by Clement of Rome, Ignatius and Polycarp who are all willing to say he died as a believer who was once a persecutor. Again many critical scholars like Ehrman, Evan Fales, Gerd Ludemann and great former atheists like the late Antony Flew grant this fact as well!
Is this cheating? actually no. In the New Testament he’s a known sceptic, he even considers his half brother, Jesus a heretic. Subtleties in the Gospels pass James and Jesus’ mother to John the disciple, why not his family? Well they all think Jesus and his mother Mary is a heretic, in fact no one in Mary’s family can be trusted, thus a non relative like John the disciple is given to protect the mother as is Jewish a tradition.
Also, in the non-christian historians work, Josephus records James’ death for dying as a Christian, not only that, he ascended to the head of the Jerusalem church with Jewish enemies taking him out as someone who betrayed the Jewish teachers of the law. Most importantly, he died as someone who believed he saw the risen Jesus. Such facts are attested by follow on church fathers like Clement of Alexandria and Hegesippus.
It is also attested by historians Like Hegesippus, subtle statements in the book of Acts, the nature of the book of James in the New Testament that point to a legalistic Jew, very rule based (read the book of James, you’ll see his character resonate).
Firstly, five reasons why Jesus was buried
- The disciples would never of preached Jesus had risen if they hadn’t seen the body buried (and then later risen). To have a risen Messiah (Jesus) you need a dead and buried Messiah.
- In the early creed of 1 Corinthians 15 “he was buried” implies just that, Jesus was laid in a tomb. Acts 13 describes the same sequence of events also.
- Most critical scholars concede Mark is an early Gospel and see this burial in a tomb as part of the passion narrative that was floating around the community which he used.
- Embarrassing: The disciples had their lord buried by a Pharisee (Joseph of Arimithea), the people who Jesus fought with, what’s more they fled and John, one who remained couldn’t afford to bury him. Only with the intervention of seeker Joseph of Arimethea did Jesus receive an honourable burial in a tomb as opposed to a bonebox buried elsewhere.
- The burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea is likely historical, I give 10 reasons in this article.
Secondly, 11 reasons was the empty tomb is true:
- Pauls statement in the creedal statement in 1 Corinthians 15 “and he was raised” implies an empty tomb. The word used in the greek here means to awaken from death in the proper context.
- Most critical scholars concede Mark is an early Gospel and see this empty tomb as part of the passion narrative that was floating around the community which he used.
- Mark’s empty tomb is simple and doesn’t look embellished. A critic might question the angel, but other than that, the story is very simple and plain with a tomb being empty, nothing overly dramatic. Critics like Rudolf Bultmann affirm the reservedness of Mark where he could’ve easily chosen to be more dramatic, alas he appears to be recording without excessive drama.
- Women’s testimony supports the empty tomb. There are multiple Jewish and Roman accounts devaluing the status of women in antiquity especially with regards to the value of their testimony. Embarrassingly in Luke 24:11 we see the disciples initially dismiss their testimony. The status of women is further discussed throughout the New Testament since culture had lowered women to almost second level citizens in many cases.
- The tomb was in Jerusalem, it was known, anyone could find it, especially if it was a new tomb by a Jewish leader who was in league with an army of Jewish leaders who despised Jesus. Whose going to proclaim Jesus has risen from the dead in Jerusalem if they can go over and check the tomb? If you’re going to start a cult, like Joseph Smith, do what he did and take your disciples miles away and start it away from where people know you and the direct events, that way they can’t be investigated as easily!
- We have enemy attestation: In Matthew’s gospel we hear of the Jewish leaders claiming the body had been stolen! This honest fact could easily lead people into doubt, so why did Matthew include it? Because truth is important
- Historically, the church of the Holy Sepulchre has a credible claim to be the empty tomb of Jesus with records going back to the 3rd and 4th century. Archaeology sees that a temple was built around this tomb prior to 200AD (Hadrian’s temple)
- Jews saw the holy land of Jerusalem as sacred and to not bury someone was madness, even for a heretic, they didn’t want their body defiling their holy land. Josephus confirms crucifixion victims were allowed proper burials. Also archaeology has given as a crucified person with the nail still embedded in their heal found in a tomb. So even criminals were not to defile their holy land.
- What is also clear is this is the only burial account recorded. No sceptic, nor Jew, nor Gnostic or Roman have created any other parallels. The burial was not up for debate.
- The Nazareth inscription: an archaeological find following years after Jesus ministry banning grave robbing (nothing unusual so far), except the punishment was now death! Check the Roman records, generally grave robbing was a lighter punishment, but with this discovery in Nazareth, there seems to be a reaction to what happened at a tomb, perhaps referring to Jesus’ tomb? What else would strike up an infamous law which is in timing with Jesus’ ministry?
- If you go to Jerusalem today, you will see millions of boneboxes all facing the Temple Mount because a physical resurrection was expected at the end of time and thus the preservation of bodies together. Jesus was the firstfruits of this, catching everyone off guard.
Why make such a case for the 5th fact? Well the first four are agreed across the board (Jesus Crucifixion, Disciples, James & Paul believed they saw the risen Jesus), the empty tomb obviously is where the fight is because it implies resurrection for many, yet in antiquity this is the first fact agreed upon by the Jewish sceptics who never denied there was something special about Jesus, they just assumed it was demonic. But here are the reasons for establishing this 5th fact which still gets a 70-75% scholarly agreement. I would bet higher, however conceding all five facts makes it really difficult to get out of the conclusion. That God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead (Some make the case on just the first 4 or with a 5th potentially the sheer unusual growth of the Christian movement).
There’s an easy acronym to remember this evidence by: JESUS
Jesus died by crucifixion
Earliest disciples saw the risen Jesus
Unusual conversion of a brother
Sunday Empty Tomb
I’ll admit, it’s probably not what comes to mind when you hear the word Jesus! (I’ll think of a better one eventually!)
Best we real through these quickly, all detailed responses are avaliable here.
- The resurrection can be traced to the real experiences of the original apostles by the disciples of the discples and the disciples of their disciples.
- Secular sources makes reference to ‘worshipping a dead God like he’s still alive’ such as Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, the Jewish Talmud and Lucian of Samosata.
- Paul came to Christ through an experience of seeing the risen Jesus. Historians are confident his works were indeed written in the late 40’s, early 50’s on into the 60s.
- James’ sceptical brother came to Christ through seeing the risen Jesus. He’s attested externally historically. He needs to be explained.
- Assertions are not evidence. You need to show evidence for such an assertion. If John is a later Gospel and thus supposedly more embellished, why are there so many miracles and dramatic events in Matthew and Luke? And many miracles in early Mark? The logic just doesn’t follow.
No, the disciples did not intend a fable.
- Scholars like Richard Burridge concluded the Gospels were written in a biographical genre, he initially set out to disprove this hypothesis but was overwhelmed by the evidence.
- It cannot account for the empty tomb. Fable or not, you could check the tomb.
- A fable or story would not have convinced Paul that Jesus rose from the dead.
- The same applies to James, a pious Jew we know even after becoming a Christian was well respecting and knowledgeable of Jewish law (Hegesippus refers to his character).
- If educated people knew about non-historical genre then they would’ve known about historical. Relating to point one, they could tell the difference. Aesop’s fables is quite different from how a Luke is written which is riddled with historical testable details.
- The New Testament documents have serious indicators that this was to be taken literally, not mythically. “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod Tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip Tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” Luke 3:1. You can test that passage and take it to the bank.
- The early church and critics understood this information as historical. We see this with critic Celcus and Origen’s dialogue for example.
So what? Ok well
- Most of these accounts are unclear. The first clear account of a dying and rising God appears 100 years after Jesus’ resurrection. The Pagan copies of these tales also date after Christ as an almost “counter-movement” to the resurrected Christ. This involves padding out old pagan figures stats with a resurrection in mind
- Accounts of miracles and rising gods in other religions lack evidence and can easily be accounted for by opposing theories. Just having a claimed miracle doesn’t disprove the resurrection. They need better evidence than what they have
- The clearest miracle parallel is Apollonius, 200 years later after Christ and gets important historical details terribly wrong.
- Other Miracle claims don’t disprove all claims. obviously…
- A prior claim doesn’t make the later claim non-existent. A book about a boat named Titan described a ship going down with similar details to the Titanic written a generation before it went down, coincidence? The same is said comparing 9/11 and the plane B-25 in 1945 that went into the Empire state building at a similar height. There’s a collection of these parallels, some have done it with coronavirus outbreak and certain books/tv series! Similar doesn’t mean false, it means if there were any it might just be similar. But there really aren’t
- Disciples really believed they had seen the risen Jesus, they were not lying. Scholars agree with this that they believed they saw something
- Paul the church persecutor was convinced based on the appearance of the risen Jesus
- The conversion of the sceptical brother James was convinced based on the appearance of the risen Jesus
- Paul and James would have favoured the fraud theory in their scepticism to Christianity
- This is rejected by every New Testament scholar alive, whether sceptic or not
No to this also, why would anyone care?
- Paul the church persecutor was convinced based on the appearance of the risen Jesus
- The conversion of the sceptical brother James was convinced based on the appearance of the risen Jesus
- Disciples really believed they had seen the risen Jesus, they were not lying. Scholars agree with this that they believed they saw something
- At best, this theory only questions the cause of the empty tomb, the tombs still empty.
Not even close…
- First, even if the disciples went to the wrong tomb, this does not account for their belief that they had seen the risen Jesus.
- Second, the testimony of the Gospels is that the empty tomb convinced no one but John.
- Third, the church persecutor Paul converted based on the appearance of the risen Jesus, not on an empty tomb.
- Fourth, the skeptic James would not have been convinced merely by an empty tomb. Like Paul, James was convinced by an appearance.
- Fifth, no sources support the wrong tomb theory.
- Sixth, the evidence suggests that the tomb’s location was known, because a well-known man, Joseph of Arimathea, buried Jesus in his own tomb.
- The women paid close attention to where the body was laid.
This was only popularised much later long after crucifixion was made illegal and in the Arabic world (thus the connection to Islamic origins).
- The Journal of the American Medical Association’s study came to 2 clear conclusions which if anyone disagrees with is at odds with modern medical knowledge: A) Asphyxiation was the main problem, it would be incredibly difficult to keep breathing with all the nails, nevermind the extensive prior whipping which could kill some people. B) The spear wound of water and blood coming out medically aligns with the piercing of the pericardium by the heart. C) Crurifragium would’ve killed Jesus anyway even if he survived D) The prior whipping to almost death guaranteed death upon a cross with less time.
- D.F. Strauss’ critique of the swoon theory is brutal and condemns the common sense reality of it actually happening and how it would not affect the actions to follow it that we know from history (disciples bravery, Paul’s conversion, James, the 500 etc.).
- Paul experienced the glorious Christ, a killer of Christians would suspect a trick so it must’ve been quite something.
- We have archaeological evidence of a crucified victims foot, with or without the nail, your feet are pretty useless afterward.
No they don’t…
- Hallucinations are not group occurrences, you cannot join one like a dream, nor have they ever happened in history. Psychology also does not claim such events can happen
- Hallucinations do not account for the tomb being empty, The Romans could just bring out the body unless you’re claiming the whole of Jerusalem and more hallucinated an empty tomb
- Paul would not suffer hallucinations with no reason to
- James saw his brother as a heretic and a proud Jew, it’s highly unlikely that a man not haunted by Jesus’ death likely would not have hallucinated a glorious vision of his brother.
- There are many variances, many occasions and many different testimonies scattered throughout. Like seeing a crime scene from varying angles. To claim that 10+ mass hallucinations of different types all happened, even two, would be far beyond anything known in human experience.
- Hallucinations were not down to excitement like land on the horizon, the disciples lack prior excitement.
No they don’t…
- Delusions do not explain why Paul converted, he was killing christians and was undeterred
- Delusions do not explain the conversion of sceptic James, he was a pious Jew without any positive affirmation towards his brothers Messianic claims
- The tomb is still empty, and is in any psychological theory.
- The critic must define what they mean by visions, feel free to give them the 3 definitions to help them out.
- Vision genre would only arise the legend theory, we now know scholarly the bible was not vision literature but Greco-roman biography genre.
- Objective visions would suggest Christ really appeared physically!
- Subjective visions are basically hallucinations in disguise, they suffer the same five pitfalls.
- Visions also do not account for an empty tomb for all to see.
- Paul describes a bodily nature of Christ so for those who say it was just experiential, they are picking and choosing from the text.
- CD can only account for the single appearance to Paul
- This does not explain the appearance to James
- CD cannot account for why the tomb was empty
- Paul doesn’t fit the description of someone likely to experience conversion psychosis
- Paul doesn’t fit the description of someone likely to experience conversion disorder
- CD. Cannot account for Paul’s other details of Paul’s account of the Risen Jesus
- Requires an additional auditory hallucination that we can refute with hallucination theory
- It also requires him to have a Messiah complex
- Requires multiple explanations to account for the event as a result which makes this extremely Ad Hoc, manufactured to make things fit your story. We don’t do this with real life, except when we lie to cover something up generally.
Nope, similar problems arise:
- There’s not a shred of evidence Paul’s actions in the book of Acts suggest he experienced guilt while conducting his persecution.
- Paul’s own testimony is the very opposite.
- Even if guilt could account for Jesus’ appearance to Paul, it doesn’t account for his appearance to others like James and the disciples
- The above counts as 2 reasons…
- Still got an empty tomb!
This ones terrible, life’s pretty grim for at least the first few hundred years!
- Paul’s actions indicate no chase for power. According to Paul’s own testimony, after 17 years, he only returned to Jerusalem to check with the apostles if the gospel he was preaching was correct. He wanted to ensure his labours had not been in vein.
- Why didn’t Paul search for power with his Roman citizenship within Roman government? Much more power there.
- Pauls entire life was hard from the moment of conversion and he died surrounded by his Roman persecutors. Plenty of time to turn back but he never did.
Not a chance…
- It does not account for Jesus’ appearance to James
- It does not account for the empty tomb at all
- Critics of Christianity claim literal body, never appealed to epiphany as it didn’t make sense (they assumed a physical body existed and was stolen)
- Paul’s experience of Jesus happened post-ascension which explains the glorified experience
You realise this just turns a historical project into a game right? Try and fit the right peices regardless of the evidence?
- Combinations generally lead to higher improbability, not a more probable solution
- While combination theories do a better job of accounting for more of the data, many of the problems that are present when considered individually remain when considered together
- It ends up really Ad Hoc
- Even if no problems remained and there was no ad hoc component present, the mere starting of an opposing theory does nothing to prove that this is what really happened. You need evidence for the claims.
This was one I only heard recently, it’s very specific, but it’s flawed.
- No external sources or other Christian sources suggest any such TLE or psychological issues with Paul
- The passage in question (Paul’s conversion) doesn’t support TLE
- TLE blindness is short
- The soldiers saw/heard it too (either embellishment or combining theories again)
- Paul had scales on his eyes formed by the event
- Paul elsewhere grants that Jesus physically rose from the dead
- The ancient world were very familiar with the difference between visions and reality
- Even if it was a pure vision of even TLE, could God not use this as a means?
- Again, what motivation would Paul have to make this up?
- Doesn’t explain the empty tomb
- Doesn’t explain the appearances to the disciples
- Doesn’t explain the appearances to James
I get this, but it’s not an issue. There are no discrepancies, but that’s a larger case (See New Testament sections on the site)
- At most this challenges inerrancy, not the event itself
- Historians do not see discrepancies as problems for their conclusions. They can establish a basic layer of historical truth
- Differences indicate independent accounts, avoiding conspiracy
- These discrepancies can all be answered with a sound study of the texts in context
- Paul’s testimony is stronger than that of a neutral witness of the risen Jesus, since his bias ran in the opposite direction
- The bias of James, brother of Jesus also ran contrary to Christianity.
- Bias does not automatically mean distortion of the facts
- If we reject testimony of interested parties, we have to throw out most of our standard historical sources.
- The sceptic must be cautious not to commit the genetic fallacy
- The sceptic must also avoid arguing ad hominem, a tactic that focuses on the person rather than on the content of the argument being considered.
Well, he made a pretty stunning impact then, nevermind the billions of Christians today….
- People did not have access to all our convenient ways to record and preserve the facts about an event.
- What about the Lost works? Who knows how many more we’d have
- We have many early Christian writings
- We have an impressive amount of early evidence for Jesus, even outside of Christianity (42+ sources in the first 2-3 centuries. Far more than the majority of Caesars! Not bas for a preacher from little old Nazarene)
Doesn’t answer the question…
- This response is a rejection of the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead, rather than a rejection of the evidence
- It is what we do know about the resurrection, not what we don’t
- The religio-historical context increases likelihood of the resurrection.
Well, the heavenly realms I suppose count as another dimension of sorts?
- The alien theory does not deny the resurrection, only God as the cause of it
- The supposition that life exists outside of this earth is questionable and is no where ear concrete
- It is frequently stated that there must be life somewhere else in such a vast universe. Even if cosmic constants require that a planet meet an extremely narrow range of conditions to support life given the immensity of our universe and the number of planets, wouldn’t the existence of life elsewhere be probable?
Not really an argument, more a claim…
- Really this is a sign of a sceptics frustration
- No one else credible claimed they raised Jesus
- Jesus said he would rise from the dead
- Never claimed science raised Jesus from the dead. His resurrection was by God
Yup, lets go there….
- While all the apostles were willing to suffer and die for their beliefs, 6 of the 11 witnesses to Joseph Smith’s golden plates left the Mormon church.
- Even if several persons did see gold plates, this says absolutely nothing about the viability of their content.
- There is no evidence the Book of Mormon is true
- There is evidence that the Mormon documents are not true, including the lack of archaeological evidence, where it should be and problems with the book of Abraham.
- We have no evidence to justify digging up Elvis
- Elvis never claimed to be coming back, and therefore no religio-historical context
Elvis never claimed divinity — Jesus did; Elvis did not perform miracles — Jesus did; Elvis never predicted a/his resurrection — Jesus did
This is a favourite amongst online trolls…
- We believe we have strong evidence to satisfy such a requirement. Remember our facts, none of the opposing theories are even close to satisfying our requirements.
- The requirement for extraordinary evidence cuts both ways. The Historical Jesus needs to be explained, verbalising a theory doesn’t work in any other field of study. You need evidence for such a claim. And we have
Can that statement be scientifically proven?
- Science has limits, it tests natural matter
- This statement is self-refuting, since this position can’t prove itself
- To require historical events to be predictable or repeatable is self-refuting
- Science cannot measure God’s activity
When did it work that one out? Since it’s not a natural event but a supernatural one?
- What science has shown is that a person cannot rise from the dead through natural causes
- The resurrection is not an isolated event, it occured in context. Whereas if my dad named Bob rose from the dead and he made no claim, then it would be even stranger
How about consciousness? It’s got no hope in solving that problem (ask the experts!)
- God of the gaps explanations in the past no more undermines current arguments for God than discarded scientific theories and medical beliefs undermined today’s science and medicine
- The criticism that God is simply a way to explain unknown phenomena commits the informal logical error known as the genetic fallacy
- What we already know from respected disciplines like medical science, history and psychology is precisely what renders the conclusion of Jesus’ resurrection so compelling.
- It’s an unjustified leap to claim that science will find an answer for the resurrection of Jesus.
But where did the laws come from? Who installed them?
- Where do these questioners receive their information?
- If God created the universe, including the natural laws that govern it, what would prohibit such a being from suspending or temporarily overriding those same laws to perform a miracle?
- Jesus’ resurrection is an excellent reason for concluding that God not only could act miraculously in the world, but that he actually did!
Where is that written for all time? Who decided that? That’s a bit of a blind leap…
- Although natural causes should be considered first, a supernatural cause may be considered when all naturalistic theories fail, and there is credible evidence in favour of divine intervention
- The laws of nature would be no match for an omnipotent God who chooses to act by superseding those laws
- Certain miracles have characteristics to show that they actually are interferences with the laws of nature
- When a naturalist insists on assuming that all events must be interpreted naturally, or that nature must always be made to allow only for natural events, he is arguing in a circle
Again, quite an assumption…
- If God exists, then we have a good reason to consider a link between some events and a divine cause
- Signs exist that identify an act as a miracle.
- Expanding the laws of nature in order to eliminate the miraculous nature of data surrounding Jesus’ resurrection creates more problems
Why can’t other supernatural events happen outside of Christianity? Our worldview entirely accounts for spiritual activity!
- Genuine miracles could happen among non-believers and still be entirely compatible with Christian belief, thus the Christian has no obligation to disprove miracle claims in other religious traditions
- Miracles in other religions are poorly attested
- Miracles in other religions usually can be dismissed with a plausible opposing theory
- If the sort of God described in the Christian scriptures exists, there is no reason to reject the possibility of miracles as the explanation of well-attested events for which no plausible natural explanation exists
- To say that we should deny the resurrection, no matter how strong the evidence, is to be biased against the possibility that this could be the very case for which we have been looking
- The entire foundation for which this objection is based is fatally flawed.
- Bayes theorem scores the resurrection as probable considering the evidence.
We’ve got our five evidences, but to drive home the strength of this case I’ll throw in the other seven critical facts scholars grant and a handful of historical facts agreed on about the historical Jesus to help paint the full picture (There are plenty more of these but remember, I’m only using well attested facts critics of core Christianity accept):
- Jesus died by crucifixion
- The disciples truly believe they saw the risen physical Jesus
- James believed he saw the risen physical Jesus
- Paul believed he saw the risen physical Jesus
- Jesus was buried and the tomb was empty on the third day
The other 7:
- His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope
- The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers
- The resurrection was the central message
- They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem
- The Church was born and grew
- Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship
- His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope
The additional 18 historical Facts you can see gleaned in the book “Jesus, Skepticism & the Problem of History” listed below:
- Jesus exists
- Jesus was born about 6 – 4BC
- He was a Galilean Jewish man
- He grew up in Nazareth
- His mother tongue was Aramaic but likely had the ability to speak Greek and Hebrew
- He was baptised by a wilderness prophet named John in the Jordan river shortly before John was arrested and executed by Order of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee
- Jesus conducted an itinerant ministry throughout Galilee and neighbouring regions
- He was followed by a group of disciples, both men and women
- He taught about the kingdom of God
- He often spoke in parables
- He was reputed to be a wonder worker who cast out demons and healed people
- He showed and preached compassion to people whom the Jews commonly regarded as unclean or wicked such as lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and Romans
- He engaged Pharisees in debate over matters pertaining to the Jewish Law (Torah)
- He went to Jerusalem at Passover, the week of his death
- He caused a disturbance in the temple in Jerusalem in a few days before his arrest
- He had a final meal with his inner circle of disciples that became the basis for the rite that Christians call the Last Supper
- He was arrested at the behest of the high priest in Jerusalem, the head of the Sandhedrin
- He was crucified just outside Jerusalem by the order of Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judea, in 30 or 33 AD
For many more, checkout the New Testament key article.
I wanted to stack the evidence even further before we drive the point home.
Remember this methodology we talked about at the beginning? Turns out the resurrection is the only hypothesis that checks every box with no additional hypothesis even close.
See the website articles for how I breakdown three popular opposing hypotheses.
The resurrection theory has vastly greater explanatory scope than some rival explanations like the hallucination theory by explaining all five of the main facts at issue, whereas these rival theories explain only one or at most two poorly.
This is perhaps the greatest strength of the resurrection hypothesis. The conspiracy hypothesis, for example, just does not convincingly account for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances, and origin of the Christian faith; on these theories the evidence (for example, the transformation of the disciples) becomes very improbable. By contrast, on the theory of Jesus’ resurrection it seems extremely probable that the tomb should be empty, that the disciples should see appearances of Jesus alive, and that they should come to believe in His resurrection.
Illumination of history
If Jesus rose from the dead the origins of Christianity are explained; The disciples’ willingness to die for truly believing they saw the risen Jesus; Paul’s evangelism all across Europe and the modern belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead all makes sense under this hypothesis.
Less ad hoc
The resurrection hypothesis requires only one new supposition: that God exists which there are at least good reasons for. Rival hypotheses require many new suppositions. For example, the conspiracy hypothesis requires us to suppose that the moral character of the disciples was defective, which is certainly not implied by already existing knowledge; the apparent death hypothesis requires the supposition that the centurion’s lance thrust into Jesus’ side was just a superficial poke or is an unhistorical detail in the narrative, which again goes beyond existing knowledge; the hallucination hypothesis requires us to suppose some sort of emotional preparation of the disciples which predisposed them to project visions of Jesus alive, which is not implied by our knowledge. Such examples could be multiplied.
Moreover, for the person who already believes in God, the resurrection hypothesis doesn’t even introduce the new supposition of God’s existence, since that’s already implied by his existing knowledge.
There is firmly little chance of any of the rival hypothesis ever exceeding the resurrection hypothesis in fulfilling the above conditions. The bewilderment of contemporary scholarship when faced with the facts of the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith (plus the rest) suggests that no better rival is anywhere on the horizon. Once you give up the prejudice against miracles, it’s hard to deny that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of the facts.
I can’t think of any accepted beliefs that disconfirm the resurrection hypothesis—unless one thinks of, say, “Dead men do not rise” as disconfirmatory. But this generalization based on what naturally happens when people die does nothing to disconfirm the theory that God raised Jesus from the dead. We may consistently believe both that men do not rise naturally from the dead and that God raised Jesus from the dead. In contrast, rival hypothesis are disconfirmed by accepted beliefs about, for example, the instability of conspiracies, the likelihood of death as a result of crucifixion, the psychological characteristics of hallucinatory experiences, and so forth, as we have seen.
We are able to come to the conclusion that God raised Jesus from the dead as it is the most plausible, not ad hoc, makes the most sense of history and has explanatory scope and power to explain all events regarding the relevant facts. The facts imply that God raised Jesus from the dead and no opposing theory to the contrary even comes close to doing a better job.
I’ll end with words of professor William Lane Craig who did his PhD on the Resurrection and has debated countless academics on the topic states that we can say “In an age of religious relativism and pluralism, the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus constitutes a solid rock on which Christians can take their stand… The rational man can now hardly be blamed if he believes that on that first Easter morning, a divine miracle has occurred”.
So what next? If you’ve read the prior articles on God’s existence, the reliability of the bible and suffering and now this then I want to challenge you: Could Christianity be true? Could it? Is it worth investigating? Is it worth making a commitment to explore more? You may not be ready to become a Christian by reading these articles, but at the least I hope to provoke investigation.
If you’re willing you’re certainly free to ask God to help you, why not? If you have nothing to lose, ask God to help you in your explorations if Christianity could possibly be true, we as Christians believe he does help us. So take the next step, what have you got to loose?