In this article I will summarize, as briefly as possible, fourteen evidences for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The summaries of each point are deliberately brief and undeveloped. No pretense is made here of having anticipated every response that skeptics might make. Nor is this an exhaustive list of evidences. Rather, it is a simple overview of many of the factual elements that contribute to the historical case for Jesus’ resurrection. No one point is by itself absolute proof that Jesus rose from the dead, but the evidence is cumulative (that is, each piece adds further weight to the total) and integrative (that is, the various facts fit together in a meaningful whole). The result is a very strong case that Jesus (a) died, (b) was buried, (c) rose from the dead, and (d) appeared alive to a variety of persons (1 Cor. 15:3-8). At the end of this article is an annotated bibliography of 14 books that examine in great detail the issues touched upon in the list of 14 evidences.

 

14 EVIDENCES

  1. JESUS’ EXISTENCE. That Jesus was a historical individual is granted by virtually all historians and is supported by ancient Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources. Yet modern skeptics often feel that their best strategy for denying the evidence of his resurrection is to deny that he even existed.
  2. JESUS’ DEATH. The most popular counter to the Resurrection in non-Christian and heretical beliefs is to deny that Jesus died on the cross (e.g., this is the position of Islam). However, historians regard the death of Jesus by crucifixion as ordered by Pontius Pilate to be as historically certain as any other fact of antiquity.
  3. CRUCIFIED MESSIAH. Crucifixion was a horrible, shameful way to die, so much so that it would never have occurred to anyone in the first century to invent a story about a crucified man as the divine Savior and King of the world. Something extreme and dramatic must have happened to lead people to accept such an idea—something like his rising from the dead.
  4. JOSEPH’S TOMB. All four Gospels agree that Jesus’ body had been buried in the rock tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish high council (the Sanhedrin). This is an unlikely Christian fiction, because Christians blamed the Sanhedrin for their role in having Jesus executed.
  5. WOMEN WITNESSES. The four Gospels all agree that the first persons to find the tomb empty were Jewish women, including Mary Magdalene. It is very unlikely that anyone would make up such a story, since women’s testimony was devalued compared to men’s and since Mary Magdalene was known as a formerly demon-possessed woman. If the empty tomb story were fiction, one would expect that Joseph of Arimathea, already identified as the tomb’s owner and a respected male leader, would be credited with the discovery.
  6. ANCIENT THEORIES. The earliest non-Christian explanations for the origin of the Resurrection belief (mentioned in John and Matthew) were that the body had been taken from the tomb—either moved to another burial place or stolen to fake the Resurrection. These explanations conceded three key facts: Jesus died; his body was buried in Joseph’s tomb; the tomb was later found to be empty.
  7. TOMB WAS GUARDED. Critics routinely dismiss Matthew’s story about the guards being bribed to say that they fell asleep, giving the disciples opportunity to steal the body (Matt. 28:11-15). But Matthew would have no reason to make up the story about the guards being bribed except to counter the story of the guards saying they fell asleep (see v. 15). Either way, the guards were there: the body had been in the tomb, the tomb had been guarded, and the body was no longer there.
  8. PAUL AND LUKE’S INDEPENDENT ACCOUNTS. Paul’s list of resurrection witnesses in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 coincides with Luke’s account at several points, but in wording and in what is included Luke’s account is clearly independent of Paul. For example, Paul calls Peter by his Aramaic nickname “Cephas,” not Simon or Peter; he refers to “the twelve,” Luke to “the eleven”; Luke does not mention the appearances to James or the five hundred. Thus Paul and Luke give us independent accounts of the appearances they both mention.
  9. CLOPAS AND THAT OTHER GUY. Luke gives the name of one of the two men on the road to Emmaus who saw Jesus (Clopas) but not the name of the other man. If he was making up names he would presumably have given both of the men names. The fact that he identifies only one of the two men by name is best explained if that man, Clopas, was the source of Luke’s account. In short, this fact is evidence that the account came from an eyewitness.
  10. BROTHER JAMES. Although Luke does not mention the resurrection appearance to James (the Lord’s brother) mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6, Luke does report that James had become a leading member of the apostolic group (see especially Acts 15:13-21). Since Jesus’ brothers had rejected Jesus during his lifetime (John 7:5), Paul’s reference to Christ appearing to James is probably based on fact.
  11. JOHN’S EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT. The author of the Gospel of John emphatically states that he was an eyewitness of the death of Jesus, of the empty tomb, and of resurrection appearances of Jesus (John 19:32-35; 20:2-9; 21:7, 20-25). Either he sincerely had these experiences or he was lying; appeals to legend or myth are out of the question here.
  12. ANCIENT SKEPTICISM. Luke reports the skepticism of the men disciples the morning the tomb was found empty (Luke 24:22-24), and John reports Thomas’s skepticism about Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:24-26). These accounts (see also Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 15:12) demonstrate that the perception of ancient people as gullible hayseeds who would believe any miracle story is a modern prejudicial stereotype.
  13. PAUL’S CONVERSION. Paul was a notorious persecutor of the early Christians prior to his becoming an apostle. His explanation, that Christ appeared to him and called him to faith and the apostolic ministry, is the only plausible explanation for his 180-degree change. Moreover, Paul’s experience was entirely independent of the experience of the other apostles.
  14. PAUL’S GENTILE MISSION. Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus did not result merely in him accepting Jesus as the Jews’ Messiah. Instead, he saw himself, a trained and zealous Pharisee, as commissioned by Jesus to take the good news of the Messiah to uncircumcised Gentiles. The fact that Paul embraced such a calling against his former passionate beliefs and training makes any appeal to hallucination or delusion implausible.

 

14 REFERENCES

It would be easy to list fourteen books devoted explicitly to the topic of Jesus’ resurrection. The following list of fourteen references includes only five such books. I contend that the cogency of the case for the resurrection of Jesus is significantly improved when it is set within a broader context of substantial background knowledge on God’s existence, miracles, the Bible, and specifically the Gospels and the historical Jesus; hence the tilting of this bibliography to books that contribute to such knowledge.

  1. Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006. Advances in significant ways the case for the origins of the Gospels in eyewitness accounts.
  2. Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues & Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002. Since John is the one Gospel writer who explicitly claims to have been an eyewitness, a defense of his Gospel’s historical credibility is of great value to a defense of the Resurrection.
  3. Boa, Kenneth D., and Robert M. Bowman Jr. 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists: Discover Why Believing in God Makes So Much Sense. Colorado Springs: Cook, 2005. Chapters 13-17 present an easy-to-read, popular-level presentation of evidences for Jesus’ existence, death, and resurrection. However, the rest of the book is also relevant, as the other chapters establish a context for believing the truth about Jesus in background knowledge about God’s existence, the reliability and inspiration of the Bible, and the transforming power of the message of Jesus Christ.
  4. Burridge, Richard A. What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography. SNTSMS 70. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 2nd ed., Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Dearborn, MI: Dove Booksellers, 2004. Important contribution to Gospel scholarship, proving that the Gospels belonged to the genre of ancient biographies, not fairy tales, legends, or myths.
  5. Chapman, David W. Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2010. Thorough study of the subject, complementing Hengel’s by focusing on the Jewish background and the early Christian church.
  6. Copan, Paul, ed. Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. Moderated by William F. Buckley, Jr. With responses from Robert J. Miller, Craig L. Blomberg, Marcus Borg, and Ben Witherington III. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998. An interesting published debate on the resurrection of Jesus; Craig and Crossan are leading defenders of their positions.
  7. Craig, William Lane. Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity, Vol. 16. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989. Still one of the very best studies of its kind.
  8. Eddy, Paul R., and Gregory A. Boyd. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007. Powerful refutation of the Jesus myth theory and a strong defense of the historical value of the Synoptic Gospels as sources of information about the historical Jesus.
  9. Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne, 2012. Tell anyone who claims Jesus never existed to read this agnostic’s critique of the Jesus myth theory and then call you in the morning.
  10. Habermas, Gary R., and Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004. Two of the leading scholars on the Resurrection teamed up to produce this readable, solid defense of its historicity.
  11. Hengel, Martin. Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977. Comparatively short but extremely informative study, demonstrating that no sane people living in the ancient Mediterranean world would ever have concocted the story of a crucified man as the central figure of their religion. Focuses largely on the pagan Greco-Roman cultural perspective.
  12. Keener, Craig S. Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. 2 Vols. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. Massive tour de force case against Hume’s assumption that miracles are so scarce in the modern world as to be ipso facto lacking in credibility.
  13. Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. Published doctoral dissertation, raising the level of sophistication for the “minimal facts” Resurrection apologetic by a couple of notches.
  14. Quarles, Charles L., ed. Buried Hope or Risen Savior: The Search for the Jesus Tomb. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008. Scholarly, well-done essays refuting the “Jesus family tomb” hypothesis and in the process giving good evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.

 

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Robert Bowman
Robert Bowman

Robert M. Bowman Jr. (born 1957) is an American Evangelical Christian theologian specializing in the study of apologetics.

    142 replies to "14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References"

    • cherylu

      Thanks for this post Rob, and for the resource list. It is such a very skeptical world we live in. This type of apologetic is so necessary.

    • Staircaseghost

      Suppose I were to rustle up 14 “references” to the biological and medical literature to the effect that three-day-old corpses do not return to life.

      Would you then say that our cases perfectly cancel each other out?

      • C Michael Patton

        Stair,

        I suppose the answer is yes, so long as those evidences were in reference to this particular case. But the generic nature of such evidences would prove nothing other that normally people don’t rise from the grave. That is why this would be referred to as a miracle.

        Now, of course, one could comcede that this might be an anomaly in which case the concession of a miracle would be suspended. That would at least deal with the evidence with more intellectual honesty. At least, that is my opinion.

    • Michael T

      There is a difference between saying that something is not possible according to the laws of nature (which is what medical literature would show) and saying that something is metaphysically impossible (which is what one would need to show in order to indubitably prove that the resurrection did not occur since we are positing supernatural intervention).

    • Staircaseghost

      @C Michael Patton you say, “[t]hat is why this would be referred to as a miracle.” That sort of illustrates the problem with the whole enterprise of resurrection apologetics. All of the above “evidences” assume, at least as a methodological principle, no miracles. I.e. the (alleged) eyewitnesses’ memory was not miraculously altered, the texts recounting the (alleged) events were not miraculously tampered with, the body was not miraculously teleported out of the tomb etc. etc. etc. You are assuming that prior experience is a reliable guide to novel experience. But what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You then must ask the question what is more well-established in experience: that corpses do not reanimate, or that people in alien cultures do not behave in ways that we find difficult to understand? Especially when people behaving in certain odd ways is made improbable by past experience, whereas violations of laws are made nomologically impossible by past experience!

      @Michael T I do not claim that a resurrection is metaphysically impossible. But don’t you see how the goose/gander problem is even worse for the proposer of miracles? To fairly evaluate alternate hypotheses, you have to prove that it’s “metaphysically impossible” for the disciples to have miraculously hallucinated, or for the body to have miraculously teleported away, etc. If miracles really are, as I’m told “unique”, “anomalies”, and “inscrutable”, then by definition you must treat all of these miracles as equally likely.

    • vinnyjh57

      Regarding the women as witnesses: What makes anyone think that the story of the empty tomb was created for an audience of Jewish males? We know from Paul’s letter to the Romans that there were many prominent Christian women there. Surely no one in a community of pagan converts where women played active roles would have been put off by having the women the first ones at the empty tomb even if they had been aware of the status of women under Jewish law.

    • mbaker

      @Michael T,

      Welcome back brother. It has been a long time. I have missed your comments.

      Blessings.

    • Staircaseghost

      @vinny indeed, what makes anyone think the story of the women at the tomb was concocted for the purpose of “giving evidence” at all, when clearly their mythemic function is as ritual mourning laments?

      It’s like saying an episode of Law & Order from season 12 must be factual, because no one would make up a story where cliffhangers occur in 10 minute increments, since people would dismiss them as just like the previous 11 seasons. Of course they would, because that’s what the commercial structure of the storytelling medium demands.

      Your comment brushes up against a deeper structural flaw in the OP: it uncritically treats the NT documents as some kind of “cameras rolling” journalism where the burden of proof for a skeptic is to explain how this footage could possibly have been faked. Why should I uncritically swallow as eyewitness testimony the story of the high priest bribing the guards, especially considering the only possible eyewitnesses would ex hypothesi never have told the story to someone like the author of Matthew!

    • mbaker

      Staircaseghost,

      Just wondering are you same as greg? You are are sure similar in your wording and writing. Are we getting duplicate posts here, which to me really dilutes the blog. I’m hoping that isn’t the case but that CMP can smoke you out if you are.

    • Staircaseghost

      Honestly, greg who?

      No, I don’t sockpuppet, and I especially don’t nymshift to avoid bans, if he’s banned, which I wouldn’t know, since I don’t know who that is. And since I only post from my apartment, then unless greg is my upstairs neighbor who shares our wifi, I’d be surprised if our IP addresses were even in the same state.

    • Alex Bryce

      Borrowed from Arif Ahmed…
      Let’s suppose (even though it’s not true) we have evidence that is:
      – contemporary written testimony
      – from unbiased witnesses
      – sceptical witnesses
      – highly educated witnesses

      1.
      P1 We’ve never observed a 3-day old corpse reanimating
      P2 We’ve frequently observed educated, independant witnesses testifying to something that didn’t happen.
      P3 On the basis of prior observations, it’s more likely the witnesses got it wrong that then the resurrection occurred.

      Let’s suppose (even though it’s not true) we have conclusively ruled out EVERY naturalistic explanation for the evidence we have re. the resurrection
      2. P1 There are many examples of things that have been explained by new theories that we once did not know.
      P2 In all other cases where all known natural explanations have been ruled out, we have discovered that there was a then-unknown natural explanation, rather than a supernatural explanation
      P3 Therefore on the basis of prior observations, it’s more likely there is a currently unknown natural explanation rather than the supernatural one.

      Let’s suppose we rule (though it isn’t true) that we’ve proved conclusively that no natural explanation could EVER explain the resurrection
      3. P1 If we’re allowed to suspend natural assumptions/laws such as that the truely dead don’t come back to life after 3 days, then there is no reason in principle not to ditch other natural patterns of observation/laws
      P2 If we are allowed to ditch laws based on previous observations re. dead coming back to life, we can just as legimiately assume a supernatural mass-hallucination to explain all the post-resurrection appearences, or a supernatural intervention from another demon, the devil for example that fooled everyone into thinking jesus had been resurrected when he hadn’t.
      P3 Once you are allowed to use supernatural explanations, there are literally 1000s you could make up and all have as much reason to believe them as…

    • mbaker

      Well, i sure hope not, but I do think that sometimes in order to get their point across people do appear as several different persons. Pretty shabby in my book.

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      You wrote:

      “All of the above ‘evidences’ assume, at least as a methodological principle, no miracles. I.e. the (alleged) eyewitnesses’ memory was not miraculously altered, the texts recounting the (alleged) events were not miraculously tampered with, the body was not miraculously teleported out of the tomb etc. etc. etc. You are assuming that prior experience is a reliable guide to novel experience.”

      Your argument here mistakenly assumes that if one accepts any miracle report then one must uncritically accept all hypothetical miraculous explanations even where there has been no report of a miracle. If I accept the numerous reports of Jesus’ postresurrection appearances, this does not commit me to accept as equally likely that your posts are being written by the demon Wormwood. That Jesus rose from the dead is not a guess or an ad hoc hypothesis; it is a historical claim made by individuals who claimed to be eyewitnesses of postmortem appearances of Jesus alive and well. That the eyewitnesses’ memories were miraculously altered is an ad hoc hypothesis proposed purely for the sake of argument, a hypothesis for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

      It is not news to Christian thinkers that miracle reports are embedded in a broader context of natural physical events and human actions. The Christian worldview regards miracles as exceptional events displaying a form or mode of divine action that is different from and more overt than God’s common providential governance of history in and through the natural processes that can be described in terms of physical laws and human behavioral patterns. The Bible teaches us not to accept uncritically even all miracle reports, let alone to invent miraculous explanations for events that obviously need none.

      Hard naturalism is not a “methodological principle” by which the resurrection of Jesus is recognized as a miracle. It is a methodological principle by which no amount of evidence may ever be regarded as admissible in regards to a miracle—a principle by which evidence is made entirely irrelevant.

      You would do well to study Keener’s work on miracles, cited in my bibliography.

    • mbaker

      Rob,

      Please excuse me for having to address this side issue on your post.I certainly didn’t mean to take anything away from it.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      All four Gospels agree that women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb. This includes Matthew, whose original readership was predominantly Jewish, not pagan. (Virtually all NT scholars agree that Matthew was a Jewish-Christian who wrote in Syrian Antioch or in Galilee or somewhere near those locations.) Yet Matthew not only repeats Mark’s account of the women’s discovery of the empty tomb, he also reports that the women were the first persons to see the risen Jesus (Matt. 28:9-10). Thus Matthew’s account, written for a predominantly Jewish community, actually heightens the importance of the women’s testimony as compared to Mark. Why would he do this, if he were making it up? He wouldn’t. Evidently this is what actually happened.

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      No one is suggesting you should “uncritically swallow as eyewitness testimony the story of the high priest bribing the guards.” Be skeptical about it, by all means. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Matthew could not really have known that such a thing occurred and that he made it up as an apologetic device. Now, why does he do that? This is what my evidence #7 invites skeptics to consider. The only plausible answer to the question is that if Matthew made it up, he did so to rebut the claim that the disciples stole the body despite the presence of the guards. As William Lane Craig argued years ago, the passage reflects a polemical exchange between Jewish Christians and Jewish opponents of Christianity that can be schematized along the following lines (my paraphrase from memory of Craig’s presentation):

      Christians: The tomb is empty; Jesus rose from the dead!
      Non-Christians: The disciples stole the body from the tomb.
      Christians: They couldn’t, the tomb was guarded.
      Non-Christians: The disciples were able to steal the body because the guards fell asleep.
      Christians (Matthew): The chief priests bribed the guards to say that.

      You are skeptical of Matthew’s claim, and that’s fine. I’m not, but I can understand why you would be. But as the above schema shows, Matthew would have no reason to make the claim unless the non-Christian Jews in his community were asserting that the disciples were able to steal the body from the tomb because the guards had fallen asleep. Hence we must conclude that non-Christian Jews in Matthew’s time and place were acknowledging that (a) Jesus had died, (b) his body had been buried in a tomb, (c) the tomb had been guarded, and (d) the tomb turned up empty. Keeping in mind that these Jewish opponents of the Christian message lived in Galilee or Syria, their concessions of these facts would seem to be pretty significant evidence.

    • Rob Bowman

      mbaker,

      No problem.

    • Staircaseghost

      @#12 “Your argument here mistakenly assumes that if one accepts any miracle report then one must uncritically accept all hypothetical miraculous explanations even where there has been no report of a miracle.”

      Incorrect. You are focusing on conclusions when what I am trying to focus on is a consistent method for reliably obtaining conclusions.

      All of these “evidences” rely on prior experience (of the sorts of reports humans would or would not generate) to evaluate the probability of an additional experience (the veracity of these reports). It is therefore a per se contravention of this principle to allow random inscrutable deviations from the pattern.

      If you want to say that your interruption of randomness enjoys higher epistemic status than my proposed interruption of randomness, then what is your method for evaluating the relative probabilities of the hypotheses, and how is it different from “inductive generalization form prior experience”?

      What I am attempting to elicit from you through the practice of Socratic midwifery is the realization that you are either 1) implicitly relying in circular fashion on the very Christian theology telling you what sorts of miracles Yahweh would or would not perform in order to conclude that the core proposition of Christianity is true or 2) you have some systematic record of observations of what Yahweh does and doesn’t do, from which any reasonable party would conclude that a miraculous resurrection would be more likely than a miraculous deception.

      A miraculous deception (miraculous hallucination, miraculous bodysnatching, miraculous text corruption etc.) an “ad hoc hypothesis proposed by no one, with no evidence”? For my evidence I submit exactly the same 14 facts as the OP, and for advocates I present the world’s billion or so Muslims.

      What’s that you say? One can dismiss Muslim claims out of hand because they assume an entire theological framework?

      Bingo.

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      The world’s billion Muslims are not reporting a miracle. They are accepting a theological reinterpretation of what happened to Jesus that originated centuries after his death.

      Also, Muslims do not accept the same 14 points of evidence. They reject most of it. As I noted with evidence #2, Islam officially denies that Jesus died or that he was crucified at all (thus also they reject #3). They also, of course, on that basis reject the burial and the empty tomb (##4-7). Islam also rejects John’s eyewitness account (#11).

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      Please address the point I made in my first reply to you: Your argument amounts to the view that no amount of evidence could ever substantiate a miracle report, and actually means that evidence is irrelevant in such cases.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      Matthew didn’t make it up. As you note, he repeats Mark’s story. The question is whether the author of Mark would have been deterred from making up the story by the lowly status of women under Jewish law or whether he might have invented the story despite it. If he were writing for a community of pagan converts in which women played a significant role, he might well have thought it perfectly natural to place women in that role.

    • Staircaseghost

      @#15 Matthew would have no reason to make the claim unless the non-Christian Jews in his community were asserting that the disciples were able to steal the body from the tomb because the guards had fallen asleep.

      Contrast the operation of the verb phrase “were able to” with “could have been able to” and you can watch this argument crumble before your very eyes.

      “Even if Santa could make all those toys, he could never deliver them all in one night.” “Ah ha! Why would Jewish a-santa-ists be calculating how fast toys could be delivered unless they already admitted he could make all those toys!”

      Or, the Matthean author just anticipated that someone might make those objections — some sixty years after any body, if there ever was any body, would have decomposed.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      As I showed, Matthew not only didn’t flinch from repeating Mark’s version with the women, he reported the women having an even more significant role as witnesses to the resurrection. Your supposition that Mark made up the story of the women finding the tomb empty doesn’t account for Matthew’s additional evidence.

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      I’m still waiting for a response as to whether any type or amount of evidence could ever make a miracle credible.

      Matthew would have had no need to anticipate the objection that the disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep unless the Jews were saying so as a rebuttal to the Christian claim that the disciples could not have stolen the body because the tomb was guarded. That’s the point.

      Your Santa analogy doesn’t work because it involves Santa skeptics posing a hypothetical objection, not countering one alleged factual report with another alleged factual report. The Jews who rejected Jesus’ resurrection were not asking abstract skeptical questions like how Jesus’ molecules could have reassembled or why God would raise Jesus but not Hillel. They were repeating the story that the guards had fallen asleep outside Jesus’ tomb as an explanation for how the disciples could have taken the body from the tomb. If no tomb had ever been involved in the first place, for example, one would think that Jewish opponents of the gospel would have simply asserted that the empty tomb story was a total fabrication. Evidently they didn’t feel they could do that.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      I don’t suppose that Mark invented the story of the women finding the empty tomb. I simply recognize that there are perfectly good reasons why someone might not consider the lowly status of women under Jewish law to be a deterrent to inventing such a story. It is a separate question whether someone else might embellish the story by adding an appearance to the women. I certainly can’t see that Matthew had any qualms about adding details to Mark’s story. If it is already accepted that women found the empty tomb, I can’t see adding an appearance as all that big a deal.

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      The claim that Matthew wrote “some sixty years” after Jesus’ body would have decomposed assumes the latest possible date for the Gospel of Matthew. A number of leading Matthean scholars have marshaled good arguments for dating Matthew in the 60s, about thirty years after Jesus’ death, possibly even in the late 50s (e.g., Blomberg, Gundry, France, Turner, Carson, Osborne, and Evans).

      Your aside “if there ever was any body” reveals that your skepticism runs so deep that you are questioning facts conceded by virtually all historians. Skepticism about the historicity of Jesus and of his death by crucifixion is not a reasonable stance.

      • C Michael Patton

        “Your aside “if there ever was any body” reveals that your skepticism runs so deep that you are questioning facts conceded by virtually all historians. Skepticism about the historicity of Jesus and of his death by crucifixion is not a reasonable stance.”

        Stair, I believe Rob is right. I normally ask people like you if you think that the historicity of the resurrection is at least reasonable, even if they don’t think it is reasonable enough. Only the hyper-skeptic would say that it is not reasonable at all. They have either bought into some of the propaganda pith forth by the emotionalism of the New Atheists or they are surrounding themselves with people who sustain such a stance through their collective emotional conviction.

        Let me tell you this: it is reasonable. Is it reasonable enough? I think so. However, I think the issue you have is that you won’t allow yourself to stand under the cross and see your sins on Christ. Stair, Christ is for you. This is not about winning an argument, it is about putting our arms around you and saying our hope is yours. Christ has risen and he has risen for you. I want you to break these ties that you have and look at the Cross fresh right now. What is holding you back? I know that it is not that the cross and resurrection are irrational. What is it?

    • vinnyjh57

      I would also note that Matthew reduces the importance of the women as witnesses by having the guards also witness the angel of the Lord descending and rolling the stone away. Matthew also describes an appearance to men so there is nothing that depends on the uncorroborated testimony of women.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      Your original objection was that the story of the women finding the empty tomb might have been invented for a pagan audience or readership, thus avoiding the problem I raised about how such an idea would play in a Jewish cultural context. I have shown that your objection ignores the fact that Matthew repeats the same story and even adds enhancing details to it despite the fact that his original readers were Jewish. That’s a problem for your objection.

      Another problem is that there are other reasons, independent of the issue of the women’s testimony, to consider the report of the empty tomb to be historical (evidences ##4, 6, and 7 in my article). In this context the fact that all four Gospels report women as the first witnesses to the empty tomb augments or supplements other evidences; the argument is cumulative in nature.

      Finally, you have not yet touched on the point made in my article, under the evidence #5 under discussion here, that the four Gospels all report Mary Magdalene as the lead female witness to the empty tomb, despite the fact that she was a former demoniac (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9 [in the Long Ending of Mark]). Even pagans in Rome would have found this a demerit against the story. Again, the best explanation for this testimony being included in all four Gospels is that the early church was stuck with it: that’s what actually happened.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      Your comment #26 is a better attempt to rebut the argument. However, Matthew’s reporting of the guards witnessing the angel of the Lord does nothing to diminish the importance of the women, who still function as the first witnesses among the believing community, and whom Matthew even reports were the first persons to see Jesus alive. If Matthew had wanted to diminish the women’s importance he could have omitted their encounter with Jesus and gone straight to the experience of the men. He may well have wanted to give male testimony to both the empty tomb and the appearances so that the women’s testimony would have male corroboration, but if so this again would underscore that the role of the women was a historical datum for Matthew. Adding corroboration from male witnesses does not diminish the women’s testimony at all, but rather confirms and supports it.

    • BERRY

      I love what this is doing but is there any way to only get attachments? I get 100 emails a day where I have to individually open attachments and print them. Looking for a workaround.

    • MW

      I didn’t read the other comments, so forgive me if this was already said…. The so-called “evidences” 1, 2, and 4, while interesting, can hardly be considered evidence for the resurrection. If those were evidence for a resurrection, then anyone who has ever lived and and now dead and buried in a tomb is resurrected. The others are interesting, and you may be able to make a case out of them (doubtful), but probably not with ridiculous ones in there that clearly beg the question.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      One of the things that makes Jesus such a revolutionary figure in the first place is that he overturns the social conventions of the day and raises the dregs of society to positions of prominence. He dines with tax gathers, speaks to Samaritan women, and touches lepers. If any of the gospel authors had been as concerned about the tender sensibilities of respectable Jewish males as you suggest, they never would have written about him in the first place.

      The issue I was addressing was whether the fact that women were not considered competent witnesses under Jewish law would have been a deterrent to anyone inventing the story of women finding the empty tomb. I think I have offered a perfectly plausible reason why this would not be so. It is not necessary that this reason explain everything that is found in every gospel. Each author had his own reasons for writing the story the way he did.

      However, once the story is accepted and circulated, the calculus for all subsequent writers changes. Even if Matthew might not have thought to put women in such a prominent place, the story already existed and he could see that it was an effective evangelizing tool. He needed have no concern that people wouldn’t accept women in such a role because he knew that they already had.

      I can’t imagine why anyone would ever invent as silly a story as Joseph Smith’s encounter with the Angel Moroni and the discovery of the Golden Plates since I wouldn’t have guessed that anyone in their right mind would ever believe it. The idea of an illiterate bumpkin expanding the canon was deeply offensive to most nineteenth century American Christians. Nevertheless, enough people bought it so that there are fourteen million Mormons in the world today. I suspect that every religion starts with some story that most people find ridiculous.

    • […] 14 Evidences for The Resurrection of Jesus Christ-and 14 References  Tomorrow is Easter, one of the most cherished holidays on the Christian calendar. It is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this event really took place, no one should ignore it. If this event really took place it changes everything about life and living. In this post Rob Bowman outlines some solid reasons to believe. […]

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      Your point that the Gospel writers clearly had no problem with Jesus overturning social conventions of his Jewish culture is well taken. This is one of those facts about Jesus that virtually all historians accept as historically beyond reasonable doubt. The point still remains that the Gospel writers, or their sources, had no need to make women the primary witnesses of the empty tomb or the first witnesses to see the risen Jesus. If the story was a fiction, one still may ask why the author of the fiction would choose women, and especially Mary Magdalene, for these important roles in the story. The authors may have had no problem with Jesus’ social radicalism, but they also had no problem reporting that Jesus was buried in the tomb of a socially respected member of the Sanhedrin (evidence #4). So all things being equal, if they wanted to make up a convincing sounding story about Jesus’ resurrection, one would think they would have had Joseph of Arimathea (a rather obvious choice) or some other respectable male find the tomb empty or be the first to see Jesus alive. And Mary Magdalene would seem to be the worst possible choice for a fiction designed to persuade or assure readers that Jesus really had risen from the dead.

      With regard to Joseph Smith, his claims actually made a lot of sense to many people in the culture of his day. Restorationist hopes for latter-day revelations were at a feverish pitch; the belief that the Bible had been corrupted was widespread; stories of buried treasure abounded; many individuals reported having dreams and visions, including Joseph’s own parents. The LDS Church’s rhetoric today typically suggests that Joseph was from the beginning culturally and religiously radical, a humble boy daring to think God would answer his prayer (supposedly in a culture where such a belief was revolutionary), boldly claiming that God had spoken (supposedly in a sea of religious traditionalism that rejected the very idea). Such a picture is historical balderdash. Yes, Joseph was sharply criticized by many, but for many others he seemed to be just what they were seeking. It was only after Joseph began thinking of himself as the Prophet, teaching polytheism and instituting polygamy, that he became culturally and religiously out of sync with the dominant beliefs of his time.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      In other words, a story that might seem culturally absurd to many at the time might still be invented and might still be effective. The fact that the belief is revolutionary within the culture may be part of the reason for its success.

    • Michael T

      “I do not claim that a resurrection is metaphysically impossible. But don’t you see how the goose/gander problem is even worse for the proposer of miracles? To fairly evaluate alternate hypotheses, you have to prove that it’s “metaphysically impossible” for the disciples to have miraculously hallucinated, or for the body to have miraculously teleported away, etc. If miracles really are, as I’m told “unique”, “anomalies”, and “inscrutable”, then by definition you must treat all of these miracles as equally likely.”

      Let’s concede this for a second – you are still left at the very least with god existing.

      Now that being said as a mere matter of probability, given the evidence, it would seem much more likely that explanation for multiple people seeing someone who had been crucified alive and well in multiple different places is that the person was actually alive. In fact one could argue that any other explanation, including the one you offer, requires multiple and much more complex miracles thus violating Occam’s Razor.

      Now could there be other explanations as a practical matter? Of course!! Jesus could have actually been a super-powerful alien who just appeared human, but could actually heal himself through some advanced biological processes. The thing is all of these are far more far fetched then resurrection. Especially if one has concluded independently that a god as generically understood must exist.

    • Staircaseghost

      @#18 “The world’s billion Muslims are not reporting a miracle. They are accepting a theological reinterpretation of what happened to Jesus that originated centuries after his death.”

      But I am not reporting a miracle, and neither are you. I am giving a possible interpretation of what happened to Jesus centuries after his death, and so are you, sir.

      “Here is an argument.”
      “But no one makes that argument!”
      “Er, I just did. Where does it go wrong, factually or logically?”
      “No one takes that argument seriously!”
      “But what is wrong with it?”

      @#23 “Matthew would have had no need to anticipate the objection that the disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep unless the Jews were saying so as a rebuttal to the Christian claim that the disciples could not have stolen the body because the tomb was guarded.”

      I simply refuse to believe that “anticipating objections beforehand and incorporating answers to those objections into one’s writing” is a foreign concept to you. To anticipate means you expect something might happen, not that it already did!

      “If no tomb had ever been involved in the first place, for example, one would think that Jewish opponents of the gospel would have simply asserted that the empty tomb story was a total fabrication.”

      Some people asserting that it is a fabrication is not incompatible with some other people taking the story at face value and offering a mundane explanation, or with some people taking it at face value only arguendo.

      1) The author of Matthew anticipating objections to the story could account for #7.
      2) People accepting the story arguendo and making the objection could account for #7.
      3) People accepting the story at face value, from christians, 60 years later and making the objection could account for #7.

      These are three extremely plausible and mutually compatible scenarios, none of which requires the existence of an empty tomb. Seriously, pull…

    • […] 14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References | Parchment and Pen. […]

    • Staircaseghost

      “I’m still waiting for a response as to whether any type or amount of evidence could ever make a miracle credible.”

      We appear to have been composing at the same time, since I explained the issue at length in #17.

      I am the one, remember, asking you, on bended knee, for a consistent, reliable method for when miraculous events are plausible or implausible. I have already given you my method: parsimonious induction from prior experience with maximal predictive capacity. I noted in my very first comment that your “evidences” all seemed to rely on this method, which seems to assume that gratuitous intrusions of randomness are disallowed, and therefore your preferred conclusion — a maximally gratuitous, maximally random intrusion into the pattern of experience — is unreachable thereby.

      “Your aside “if there ever was any body” reveals that your skepticism runs so deep that you are questioning facts conceded by virtually all historians. Skepticism about the historicity of Jesus and of his death by crucifixion is not a reasonable stance.”

      I am sure — just sure — that you consistently advocate this same epistemic deference to professional consensus when it comes to global warming, common descent of all life by nonrandom selection of randomly varying phenotypes, and the effects of Obama’s economic stimulus.

      I find pure mythicism cogent and plausible, but ultimately less parsimonious than the cynic-sage + heavy mythologizing hypothesis, if that makes you feel any better. I think he lived, so obviously I trivially think he died. I have no firm view on how.

      I also note the slipperiness of your phrasing “all historians” where you should be saying “NT historians.” And please see this very thorough explanation for why browbeating skeptics with alleged “consensus” does not help the cause of resurrection…

    • Staircaseghost

      Interesting; the blog software appears to be both truncating my comments and removing the links. Here is an attempt to repost the important one from #39 above, along with a money-quote:

      http://evaluatingchristianity.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/why-the-minimal-facts-model-is-unpersuasive/

      “Worse, Habermas also concedes that for the linchpin ‘fact’ in his argument — the empty tomb of Jesus — the level of agreement among his sources is not 95% but only 70%. Think about that for a moment. What Habermas is really saying is that, among Christians who have dedicated their lives to studying the Bible, nearly one in three denies the empty tomb!

      Isn’t that staggering?? I mean, if three out of every ten biologists denied the common descent of all living animals from a last universal common ancestor, then the creationists would really be on to something. Imagine if three out of every ten cosmologists thought it was possible that the universe was 6,000 years old instead of fourteen billion, or if three out of every ten astronomers thought that the Moon landing was faked, or… you get the idea.”

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      I had written:

      “I’m still waiting for a response as to whether any type or amount of evidence could ever make a miracle credible.”

      You replied:

      “We appear to have been composing at the same time, since I explained the issue at length in #17.”

      Nope. I wrote the above after reading your comment #17. That comment does not answer my question. You still have not said whether evidence could ever be sufficient (qualitatively or quantitatively or both) to warrant belief that a miracle had occurred.

      Until you answer this question, and unless you can agree that belief in a miracle might be reasonably supported by evidence (however you think that might be done), debating the specifics of the evidence any further is obviously a wasted effort.

      I won’t let you deflect the question by your retort that you were asking me for my method. I already explained that my argument does not, as you claimed, presuppose a methodological naturalism. I also explained the difference between assessing the credibility of a miracle report and inventing a supernatural explanation ad hoc. So I have addressed the methodological question in at least those two ways. You have yet to tell me if you think ANY method might ever yield the conclusion that a miracle had occurred.

    • mbaker

      To all,

      Have a blessed Easter. The resurrection and the Life is what gives us all hope who believe.

    • Staircaseghost

      “However, I think the issue you have is that you won’t allow yourself to stand under the cross and see your sins on Christ.”

      My two decades as a Christian allow me to laugh this off with aplomb, so don’t worry about me feeling insulted.

      What I would be worried about is the undeniable fact, whether you choose to admit it or not, that these ad hominem slanders do your faith, your ministry, and yourself no favors. In that order. So spare everyone else the sour grapes psychoanalysis and actually deal with the arguments being presented.

      If you like, you can consider me a shaman, a demon-worshipper of that eternal enemy of religion, Objective Reality.

      Where David was equipped with only a sling against the mighty warrior Goliath, it was the power of his Patron Spirit which allowed him to defeat what was a manifestly objectively superior foe. Just as the power of The Spirit allowed the disciples to magically convert hundreds with a single sermon. Shouldn’t the fact that not only do the evidence and arguments here clearly make me a Goliath to resurrection apologetics’ David, but also the continued victory of my patron Spirits of Objective Reality over my soul against the power of your patron Holy Spirit to convert me tell you something? Aren’t you supposed to have the power to cast out devils?

      Now, I am a disciple of Believing True Things And Disbelieving False Things, and my creed is Follow The Evidence Wherever It Leads. So if your desert spirit is real, evidence and arguments should be able to convince me, and it won’t damage my ego in the slightest. Whereas if you admit my argument technology is more powerful, as Goliath’s military technology was more powerful, you still have the option of retreating to “faith”, not changing your beliefs one iota. So you can see which party in this exchange is really coming to the table with an open heart.

    • Staircaseghost

      @MichaelT “Let’s concede this for a second – you are still left at the very least with god existing.”

      Not my problem, sir. As I’ve explained, at length and in detail, I’m here to find out what’s true. And one finds out what’s true by applying a consistent method most likely to separate truth from falsehood, irrespective of what those ultimately turn out to be. (Notice how this keeps coming up?)

      It makes no difference to me whether the answer is “no gods”, “biblegod”, “trickster god Loki”, or anything else, since I want to follow the evidence wherever it leads. Whereas if your proposed METHOD leaves Loki and Yahweh as equally probable, this is a huge problem for you.

      “Now that being said as a mere matter of probability, given the evidence, it would seem much more likely that explanation for multiple people seeing someone who had been crucified alive and well in multiple different places is that the person was actually alive.”

      Couldn’t agree more. Just as the more likely explanation for that person being alive is that he was never dead, since dead people do not (according to my method, and the method you use for everything else in your life except for your pet religious belief) come back to life.

      “In fact one could argue that any other explanation, including the one you offer, requires multiple and much more complex miracles thus violating Occam’s Razor.”

      For the record, are you now agreeing that this is a valid METHODOLOGICAL principle? That’s what I’ve been trying to get an answer on since my very first comment.

      “The thing is all of these are far more far fetched then resurrection. Especially if one has concluded independently that a god as generically understood must exist.”

      Incorrect and incorrect. Powerful aliens violate no laws where a miraculous resurrection does, and “generic gods” are at least as likely to be noninterfering deist gods, or Hindu gods, or Mormon gods, or etc. etc. etc.

    • Staircaseghost

      Correction to #45:

      What I should have said is, “if your proposed METHOD leaves Loki and Yahweh as equally probable, this is a huge problem both for your faith and for the prospect of any reasonable person sincerely trying to distinguish hypotheses.”

      There is, in principle if not in practice, a way of settling difficult questions like the precise date of the NT documents. But if there is in principle no way to tell two supernatural hypotheses apart, except by appeal to prior theological commitments held on nonevidential grounds, then the responsible stance for everyone to take is agnosticism, not belief.

      Notice that the “principle” part of the phrase “in principle” is synonymous in every respect with “methodological principle”.

    • mbaker

      Staircase,

      I guess I have to wonder here if it is evidence you are going on here to support your claims, or faith as defined as in Hebrews?

      No one of of us knows for sure this side of heaven, but does not Hebrews say it is the evidence of faith NOT seen? Are you so sure regarding that?

    • Nazam Guffoor

      “JESUS’ DEATH. The most popular counter to the Resurrection in non-Christian and heretical beliefs is to deny that Jesus died on the cross (e.g., this is the position of Islam). However, historians regard the death of Jesus by crucifixion as ordered by Pontius Pilate to be as historically certain as any other fact of antiquity.”

      But does this really contradict the Quranic statement that it appeared to them so (that Jesus was crucified)

      Historically it is very difficult to dispute the Quranic verse since presumably it would not be possible for observers at the time to tell the difference between Jesus being crucified and his only appearing to be crucified

    • mbaker

      Nazam,

      Only as as a Muslim.

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      I see that you are refusing to answer my direct question, put to you twice, whether any evidence might in your view make it reasonable to conclude that a miracle occurred. This makes it difficult to take at face value that you are simply looking for truth whatever it might be, though I hope that you really mean it.

      You wrote:

      “I am the one, remember, asking you, on bended knee, for a consistent, reliable method for when miraculous events are plausible or implausible. I have already given you my method: parsimonious induction from prior experience with maximal predictive capacity. I noted in my very first comment that your ‘evidences’ all seemed to rely on this method, which seems to assume that gratuitous intrusions of randomness are disallowed, and therefore your preferred conclusion — a maximally gratuitous, maximally random intrusion into the pattern of experience — is unreachable thereby.”

      And I have already refuted that mistaken view of my method. I can agree, in some sense, that “gratuitous intrusions of randomness are disallowed.” That is, I certainly agree that we should not gratuitously (i.e., ad hoc) posit some purely random, non-evidenced occurrence as an explanation for people behaving in generally typical or commonly observed ways.

      Let’s start with a trivial example. I put gasoline in my car today, and after I did, the needle on the dashboard moved from indicating nearly empty to indicating full. It would be absurdly ad hoc to claim that one gremlin siphoned off the gas as it was leaving the pump while another gremlin manipulated the needle to make it appear that gas had gotten into the tank, and that yet another gremlin pushed the car for the next thirty miles. There’s no reason to suggest such an explanation; it may seem to “explain” all of the facts but it does so in an obviously ad hoc and implausible way.

      To take a more serious example, Jewish and Gentile Christians, Jews, and Romans in the first and early second century all reported that Jesus of Nazareth was put to death by crucifixion. No report to the contrary has come down to us from within even three centuries or more of the time that event reportedly occurred. It is therefore utterly implausible to claim, as many Muslims do, that God created an illusion to make everyone think that it was Jesus on the cross while all along it was Judas Iscariot or Simon of Cyrene. Such an “explanation” is nothing more than an ad hoc attempt to explain away the reports that we have. The problem with the Muslim explanation is not merely that it is miraculous; the problem is that it is entirely ad hoc.

      Take out the word “gratuitous” from your principle that “gratuitous intrusions of randomness are disallowed” and the naturalist tiger loses its teeth. Your claim that my “preferred conclusion” is “a maximally gratuitous, maximally random intrusion into the pattern of experience” is quite erroneous. If we have witnesses attesting that they saw a miracle, concluding that a miracle occurred is not gratuitous. Perhaps the miracle didn’t occur, but gratuitousness is not a problem in such an instance. For example, six witnesses claimed to see the Virgin Mary repeatedly and regularly at Medjugorje. I don’t think they really saw Mary, but it would be a mistake for me to claim that explaining their reports as supernatural visions is ad hoc.

      I don’t think I would or could describe my method as “parsimonious induction from prior experience with maximal predictive capacity.” Knowledge of the past cannot be limited to what can be known by such a method without precluding the possibility of learning of things that happened out of the bounds of my own personal “prior experience.” This is why I asked you whether any sort of constellation of evidence might ever be adequate by your epistemological standard for concluding that a miracle occurred. It seems that the answer to that question, which you have so far ducked, is No. Allowing that miracles might have occurred in history is incompatible with a method that prizes “maximal predictive capacity” over maximal discovery. If you were to admit that God raised one person from the dead, you would be admitting that you have no way of predicting, based on “parsimonious induction from prior experience,” whether he might or might not raise anyone else from the dead in the future. However, the assumption of naturalism as an epistemological or methodological principle, carried through with rigorous (inflexible) consistency, leads unavoidably to metaphysical naturalism because it smuggles that worldview into the method itself. In short, the method you propose begs the question; it presupposes that God does not exist (or at least does not get involved overtly in the world) and that miracles do not happen. A worldview in which God does not exist and all dead people necessarily stay dead is a “simpler” worldview and in that respect naturalistic explanations for any resurrection reports seem more “parsimonious” by definition, but to get this greater parsimony you must forfeit any claim to be pursuing the evidence wherever it might lead. Instead you must lead the evidence, if you pay any attention to it at all, to force it to go where naturalism assumes it belongs.

      In comment #17 you suggested that I might be “implicitly relying in circular fashion on the very Christian theology telling you what sorts of miracles Yahweh would or would not perform in order to conclude that the core proposition of Christianity is true.” That isn’t correct, but as I have just shown, it appears that you are implicitly relying in circular fashion on metaphysical naturalism telling you that miracles never happen in order to conclude that the Christian miracles never happened.

      If I have a “method” (I am dubious about claims that there can be only one correct method for all people with regard to all types of knowledge acquisition), it is to seek the best explanation for all of the available evidence as best I can. Putting it that way implicitly acknowledges that the pursuit of knowledge involves the knower (me) and that I am neither omniscient nor perfect in intellectual ability or reasoning capacity, yet at the same time asserting that I do have the ability to know some things and to pursue the truth. In my article here I emphasized that the evidence pertaining directly to the issue of the resurrection of Jesus is best approached in a broader context of knowledge with regards to the evidence pertaining to God’s existence, the historical reliability of the Bible, and specifically the historical facts concerning Jesus himself. I seek to chart a course between the two extremes of uncritical naturalism and uncritical supernaturalism (a point discussed in my book 20 Compelling Evidences that God Exists, listed in the above bibliography).

      I would be happy to discuss these issues with you further, but it is already very late. This will have to do for the moment.

    • Peter

      I have never had the experience of walking through someone’s desire to be convinced by human logic to accept the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. I would just say keep meditating on the things of God and He will be faithful.

      It is no accident that you are drawn to this sight and the things of God. I honestly pray that you will be shown the truth miraculously.

    • vinnyjh57

      Evidence is an effect from which we infer a cause. Therefore, we need to understand the process of cause and effect in order for anything to be evidence of anything. Fingerprints on a knife may be evidence of who used that knife because we understand the process by which the patterns on the human finger come to appear on other objects. If we thought such patterns appeared randomly or by divine fiat, fingerprints wouldn’t be evidence of anything.

      I don’t see how we could claim to have evidence of miracles when they don’t follow the processes of cause and effect that we observe and understand. The problem isn’t one of presupposing miracles don’t occur. The problem is that our method of drawing inferences from evidence depends on the consistent functioning of cause and effect.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      You wrote:

      “Evidence is an effect from which we infer a cause. Therefore, we need to understand the process of cause and effect in order for anything to be evidence of anything.”

      That isn’t so. I need to have some understanding of the concept of cause and effect to infer a cause from an effect, but I don’t have to understand the process of the specific cause-and-effect event in each case in order to infer a cause from the effect.

      I walk into a room in my house. I see that a picture that hung on the east wall is now hanging on the west wall. I infer that someone moved the picture. I do not need to know who moved it, how many people participated, how long it took, or any number of other things one might ask about the process of the event, in order to infer that someone moved the picture.

      I am very sick. The doctor prescribes a pill. I take the pill and I quickly start to feel better. I don’t know anything about how the pill works, but I infer that the pill caused something to occur in my body that is alleviating the symptoms.

      Of course, these are natural occurrences. I know even less about what might be involved in God causing something to happen. But as the above examples show, I don’t really need to know much or anything about the specific process of causation to infer a cause.

      You wrote:

      “Fingerprints on a knife may be evidence of who used that knife because we understand the process by which the patterns on the human finger come to appear on other objects. If we thought such patterns appeared randomly or by divine fiat, fingerprints wouldn’t be evidence of anything.”

      As I have explained in my previous comment, explaining as purely random occurrences or as miracles of divine fiat patterns that occur in predictable ways with regularity (such as fingerprints) would be unacceptably ad hoc. By contrast, explaining a resurrection from the dead as a miracle caused by God is not ad hoc.

      It is important here to distinguish between the event and the cause. Jesus was crucified. His body became dead. It was buried in a tomb. On the third day the tomb was discovered empty. The body was no longer there. That same day, several persons independently had experiences they reported to have been encounters with Jesus, very much alive, speaking with them and performing various actions in their presence. These are events. The causes are something else; for example, that Jesus’ body died from a combination of the injuries he had sustained and asphyxiation is a causal explanation for the fact of his death on the cross. This explanation may or may not be precisely accurate, but the fact remains that Jesus died on the cross and that we can know this to be true even if we are unsure of the best medical description of the process by which his body came to die. Analogously, we can know that Jesus was brought back to life even if we are unsure of how this might have been done—even if we do not understand the process by which his body was reanimated.

      That having been said, the conclusion that God raised Jesus from the dead is not an abductive guess from mysterious reports of “Jesus sightings” following his death and burial. The events of Jesus’ appearances came with the explanation that God had raised Jesus miraculously from the dead as part of God’s redemptive plan. One may accept this explanation or reject it, but it is an epistemological error to maintain that the explanation is unknowable merely because we lack understanding of how God does miracles.

      You wrote:

      “I don’t see how we could claim to have evidence of miracles when they don’t follow the processes of cause and effect that we observe and understand. The problem isn’t one of presupposing miracles don’t occur. The problem is that our method of drawing inferences from evidence depends on the consistent functioning of cause and effect.”

      I hope I have satisfactorily answered this objection. One marvelous capacity of the human mind is its capacity to learn not just new facts of the same kind it has previously acquired but to learn new categories of understanding, to recognize not only the predictable but also the unpredictable, to be able to think outside the box of what the person has previously experienced. Our knowledge of the consistency of natural cause and effect is precisely what enables us to recognize events for which no natural cause is adequate. Knowing that dead bodies do not spontaneously come back to life, it is perfectly reasonable to accept the resurrection of Jesus as the explanation for the available evidence despite our ignorance of the “process” by which God would perform such a miracle.

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      In regards to your comment #41, the empty tomb is not the “linchpin” fact of his minimal-facts apologetic. Indeed, it isn’t one of the “minimal facts” in his argument. The same is true for Michael Licona’s doctoral dissertation advancing the minimal-facts argument (The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach). See Habermas’s article from 2012 on the minimal-facts argument, in which he specifically comments on this issue: http://www.garyhabermas.com/articles/southeastern_theological_review/minimal-facts-methodology_08-02-2012.htm.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      The important distinction to make is between the evidence and the cause. The evidence in this case is the stories that have come down to us. The events that you describe are the causes of the evidence that you infer. You infer from the appearance stories that someone had an experience which they interpreted to be an encounter with the risen Christ. You infer that such an event is the cause of the story which is the evidence. All those events you cite are explanations of the evidence.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      You’re close to exactly right in what you say. But that people had experience which they interpreted to be encounters with the risen Christ is not only an inference, except insofar as accepting someone’s statement to be honest is an inference. In the case of at least two individuals we have explicit assertions by the authors of the texts themselves that they had such experiences: John and Paul. These two men definitely claimed to have had experiences that they interpreted as encounters with the risen Christ. Either they made it up, or they were deluded, or they misinterpreted their experience, or they really saw Jesus Christ alive from the dead. So what we have is not limited to stories about such experiences, but first-hand testimonies from individuals reporting such experiences. In addition, of course, we also have third-person accounts of other individuals reportedly having such experiences and reportedly interpreting those experiences in the same way.

      In any case, your general point is correct, but so is mine: the conclusion that people had experiences they sincerely understood to be resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ is one that can be reasonably accepted even though we are unable to describe the “process” by which God would perform such a miracle. And in fact nearly all historians who have commented on the matter agree on at least that modest conclusion, even if they are agnostic or noncommittal on whether it really was Jesus risen from the dead:

      “That the experiences did occur, even if they are explained in purely natural terms, is a fact upon which both believer and unbeliever can agree.”—Reginald H. Fuller

      “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgement, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.”—E. P. Sanders

      “It is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.”—Bart Ehrman

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      I am aware of Paul’s claim that Jesus appeared to him in I Cor 15. I am not aware of anywhere where someone identifying himself as John makes so explicit a claim. Unfortunately, Paul tells me virtually nothing about what that experience entailed so I don’t see how acknowledging that he claimed to have such an experience really gives me anything upon which to base any further conclusions.

      I think that delusion, invention, and misinterpretation are all possible causes that have to be acknowledged just as they are all possibilities when it comes to Mohammed and Joseph Smith. I am not aware of any principled basis for concluding that someone’s claim to have encountered a supernatural being is really the product of an actual encounter with a supernatural being.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      As you know, the Fourth Gospel has been attributed to John since the early second century, and while the author does not name himself (in keeping with the practice of the other three Gospels) he was clearly known to his original readers and tells us a lot about himself so that the identification is really not that difficult. I realize that creative scholars in recent years have taken an “anyone but John son of Zebedee” approach to the question but I see no good reason for it. In any case the author explicitly identifies himself as an eyewitness and gives plenty enough details about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection appearances.

      At the end of the day, my contention is that the case for the resurrection is best made as part of a holistic case for the basic elements of the Christian faith: that there is a God who made the world and who can do and has done miracles, that Jesus Christ died on the cross, and that he rose from the grave. Such a holistic case involves evidence pertaining to the origins of the world and of life, to miracles modern and ancient, to the Bible, to the historical Jesus, and to the early church, and not narrowly to the empty tomb and the appearances alone, as important as those are. This was the point of the second part of my article. The first part of the article is really more of a “cheat sheet” of brief summaries of some of the evidences that pertain more narrowly to the historicity of the Resurrection, for the convenience of those who would like to see a simple overview of such evidences. Of course, I am happy that those brief summaries have been as provocative as the comments here reflect, but I don’t see those evidences carrying their full force if treated abstractly apart from the broader worldview and biblical issues.

    • Rob Bowman

      Greg,

      I can “know” something without knowing it with absolute “certainty.”

    • Rob Bowman

      Greg,

      Brother, I’m sorry to have to say this, but you’re not helping.

      If it were necessary for me to have absolute certain knowledge of everything in order to know anything, then I would not know anything. Happily, this epistemological burden is not mine. God has absolute certain knowledge of everything, and I trust whatever he says; but such absolute certain knowledge of everything is simply beyond my capacity. God is not uncertain about anything; you’re right about that. But we creatures do not have God’s omniscience. God graciously enables us as creatures made in his image to know some things, and what we know we know, but (1) we do not know in the same way that he knows, (2) we do not know as much as he knows, and therefore (3) we do not know everything with the same absolute certainty that God has in knowing everything.

      It is also possible for human beings to “know” something with a kind of certainty, or perhaps certitude would be a better word for it, that goes beyond what they can show by argument. This kind of subjective certitude that transcends empirical evidence or rational demonstration is especially relevant to personal, relational knowledge. One can thus know that what God says is true and have a kind of certitude about it based on one’s confidence in God even if the subject matter is such that humans do not have access to “evidence” that would decisively prove what they believe. But in order to have this certitude one must first have come to the point of accepting God’s revelation in Scripture. People get to that point in various ways; I’m not of the view that there is only one right way to come to such faith. But for those who are not there yet, it is perfectly legitimate to provide pointers to the truth using arguments that do not pretend to yield absolute certain knowledge. That is essentially what apologetics does.

    • mbaker

      Greg,

      You are too funny! Nothing would please me less than having a Christian brother “thrown out” as you put it, and knowing Rob as the biblical scholar he is, I very seriously doubt he would either.

      However, you keep talking about epistemology so please define for us, especially and exactly where you differ. That would be much more helpful and positive to this discussion in understanding your position.

    • vinnyjh57

      I am unaware of any identification of John as the author of the fourth gospel prior to Irenaeous late in the second century. I am aware of John 21:24, which seems to be a note added by someone other than the writer who describes the appearances. This leaves me with 1 Cor. 15:8 as the only identifiable eyewitness claim.

      Once again, most of your “evidences” are not evidence. They are explanations or conclusions or interpretations based on the evidence. How can we ever have any more confidence in the explanations than warranted by the evidence underlying the explanations? In this case, the evidence consists of a collection of ancient supernatural stories composed decades after the fact by mostly unidentified authors based on mostly unknown sources which were themselves removed an indeterminate number of times in the oral tradition from anyone who might have been an eyewitness to the relevant events.

      Apologetic arguments like these seek to sidestep the problematic nature of the sources by extracting some intermediate facts based on the consensus of scholars and then using those facts as the premise of a further argument. However, the strength of an historical argument derives from its ability to explain the evidence, not on its ability to explain other explanations of the evidence. That many scholars agree with those intermediate facts as explanations doesn’t warrant any more confidence in them than the evidence will support.

      I would liken it to trying to draw conclusions from the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. No matter how much we slow it down or blow it up, we cannot turn a grainy home movie into a high definition video. Even if experts agree about what it it seems to show, we are limited by the quality of the images. I think that any fact derived solely from the New Testament is as problematic as any fact concerning Joseph Smith that derives solely from his most devoted followers writing decades after the fact.

    • Rob Bowman

      Greg,

      I responded to your earlier comments by offering you a direct response that specifically addressed your criticisms of my argument. You then responded by asserting that I “have clearly NOT thought this through… AT ALL.” You are entitled to your opinion, but you have done nothing to SHOW what is wrong with what I said, let alone that I have not thought through the matter at all (!).

      Have you read my book Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending the Christian Faith? It is a book of over 650 pages that addresses the issues of faith, reason, certainty, etc., in relation to apologetics. I don’t mind someone disagreeing with me, but I frankly find it humorous to be told that I haven’t even thought through an issue when in fact I have both studied and taught on the subject at the graduate level and spent several years writing a major textbook on the subject. http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Has-Its-Reasons-Integrative/dp/083085648X/

    • R David

      Vinnyjh57 #69-

      Although I think Rob’s points are valid, I do agree that we need to look at other, non-NT aspects. I particularly think the ancient credal traditions, and the related Regula Fidei, add important support.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      My statement on the origin of the earliest testimony to John’s authorship of the Fourth Gospel was imprecise. Irenaeus’s Against Heresies and the Muratorian Canon, both in the late second century, are our first written texts referring to the author of the Fourth Gospel as John. However, Irenaeus’s information appears to have come from Polycarp, a Christian bishop in the first half of the second century (see Against Heresies 2.22.5; 3.1.1; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.23.3-4; 4.14.3-8; 5.8.4; 5.20.4-8).

      Your claim that John 21:24 “seems to be a note added by someone other than the writer who describes the appearances” assumes that the “we” in that verse is distinct from the writer. This is probably incorrect. The author of the Gospel of John and of 1 John routinely uses the first-person plural in reference to or at least inclusive of himself as an eyewitness:

      “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
      “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life. The life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us. That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:1-5).
      “And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
      “I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing in spreading false charges against us…. Everyone has testified favorably about Demetrius, and so has the truth itself. We also testify for him, and you know that our testimony is true” (3 John 9-10a, 12).

      In the light of the above passages, the first-person plural in John 21:24-25, which forms a rather clear inclusio with 1:14, should probably be understood to include the disciple:

      “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:24-25).

      Even if the “we” here is an editorial postscript by an associate of John or a later editor, which I don’t think is correct, this verse explicitly claims that it was the disciple who “wrote these things.” The Gospel of John thus claims to be the writing of an eyewitness who personally witnessed Jesus’ death (John 19:26-27, 35), empty tomb (20:2-8), and resurrection appearances (20:19-31; 21:7, 20-25).

    • Rob Bowman

      Greg,

      You asked, “How long would it take for someone who has both studied and taught on the subject at the graduate level and spent several years writing a major textbook on it to spin together a few paragraphs?” Greg, I did so in comment #66.

      You wrote that “what you say even further reinforces my assertion that not only have you not thought epistemology through, but you don’t even know what it is.” Bold words from someone who does not even use his full name and who has offered no explanation of what he thinks epistemology is.

      You also assert, “You have NOT addressed my contention (which I am not so arrogant as to think that you are somehow obligated to do) because you have not yet understood what my contention is.” Well, I addressed what you said as best I could, and you have now TWICE asserted that my response was inadequate without offering any explanation for HOW it was inadequate.

      Sometimes it is best to give a person what they appear to be begging to be given. I grant your request and prohibit you from posting further comments in this thread, unless you choose to address what I said in comment #66 in a substantive and respectful manner or unless you post a sincere and unqualified apology. If I see any other further comments from you here I will unashamedly delete them.

    • […] Evidences & Resources – Fourteen concise descriptions of evidence of Christ’s resurrection. […]

    • C Michael Patton

      Hey Greg,

      You said the EXACT same thing to me: “what you say even further reinforces my assertion that not only have you not thought epistemology through, but you don’t even know what it is.” Or close 🙂

      Now I don’t feel special. 🙁

      Rob, Greg is a crazy ol’ chap. I vouch for his deep hearted intentions and his very unique style in pushing things. He doesn’t like my theology much about certainty and you wrote just about the exact thing I have written. So my friend Greg is jumpin’ on you for this epistemology crush he has.

      Greg, down boy, down!

    • C Michael Patton

      Well, I say this for you. At least you are encouraged by the one like! I suppose that I could get one like from saying I believed that Rob was an alien from outer space. Let’s try.

    • C Michael Patton

      Rob is an alien from outer space.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Greg my man.

      But, in truth, let me give you a bit of feedback so that you don’t feel like you are talking to the wind. When I hear something like “Could you please write a post on epistemology?” that is like saying “Can you please write a post on theology?” or “Could you please write a post on Soteriology?” You might just write me an email and tell me more specifically what it is you want me to write in the increadibly broad area of epistemology. But that will not mean 1) that I am qualified to write on such a subject (I don’t just write on anything just because someone asks…there is a whole lot about epistimology I have written on, especially the issue of certainty, but I have to feel like I have something to say and I am qualified before God to write such an article) and 2) it is an area that is relevant to this blog. Hope that makes sense.

    • Rob Bowman

      Greg,

      You asked me if I disagreed with anything in the chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith that you quoted. No, I don’t disagree with any of it. In fact, it agrees with the very point I made in comment #66, a point you have yet to address. The WCF states: “In his [God’s] sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain.” Please note the words I have emphasized here, In HIS sight, i.e., in God’s sight, everything is open and manifest and HIS knowledge is infinite and infallible. As a consequence or implication of this theological truth, it follows, according to the WCF, that nothing is uncertain TO HIM. However, since we do not have this attribute of seeing all things clearly and knowing all things infallibly, some things are uncertain TO US.

      Greg, I did not throw my credentials at you to impress or intimidate you. I cited them to refute your ridiculous claim that I have never thought through the epistemological issues and don’t even know what epistemology is. The fact that I might have the temerity to disagree with your epistemological position is not proof that I don’t know what epistemology is or that I haven’t thought through the issues; even if you’re right, it simply shows that knowledgeable Christians can and do disagree. The reason why this happens is that we are still finite creatures who do not know everything and do not understand fully even everything we do know. God blesses us with knowledge, but we ought to hold this knowledge with humility, acknowledging the imperfection of our grasp of his truth even as we confess the perfection and certainty of God’s knowledge of the truth.

    • C Michael Patton

      Greg, I don’t know if you have ever heard of The Theology Program. It is really what my ministry is all about (at least from the standpoint of the “what do you want us to do at your minstry?” standpoint. It is the most popular theological curriculum there is out there (granted, there is not that much!). It is in over two thousand churches and has been endorsed everyone from John Frame to J.P. Moreland. The first course, prolegommena, is devoted almost entirely to building a Christian epistemology. You can get it here: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/what-we-do/the-theology-program/

      It is very expensive but you can get it on your iPhone for just 6.99 for the whole thing! Or, if you want, you can get the course on DVD. You can also have free access to it all, sreaming, if you become a member of Creo House (https://www.reclaimingthemind.org/members/). Either way, if you want to know what I know about epistemology, that would be a great place to start.

    • C Michael Patton

      And, btw, Rob’s book is hands down the best apologetics book I have ever read. I deals with methodology rather than just defending the faith. Such good stuff. It is why I have Rob bloggin’ here.

    • Andrew

      Rob Bowman,

      You keep mistakenly referring to theologians as “historians.”

      While history does factor into the study of religion, it is not the primary interest of the authorities you cite. Most or all of them have divinity degrees and work for seminary schools or solely within the field of biblical studies. They are scholars of religion.

    • Andrew

      “That Jesus was a historical individual is granted by virtually all historians and is supported by ancient Christian, Jewish, and pagan sources. Yet modern skeptics often feel that their best strategy for denying the evidence of his resurrection is to deny that he even existed.”

      Many, many figures that were well-attested in antiquity with multiple sources are now regarded as legendary, or hopelessly buried under myth. Given the extremely cultic, derivative, and mythical nature of much of the source material surrounding Christianity, it is reasonable to question whether a figure depicted as the constellation Aries (Rev 5:6) actually lived on the earth. “The Epistle to the Hebrews” is not the least bit concerned with what a humble rabbi said or did to some people in Galilee.

    • Rob Bowman

      Greg,

      Sorry, I’m going to have to come down rather hard on you.

      Once again, your response to me doesn’t respond to the substance of what I said. Your own quotation from the Westminster Confession of Faith proves that absolute certainty about everything is beyond the capacity of human beings, since such knowledge is an aspect of the incommunicable attribute of divine omniscience. I don’t understand why you won’t engage this simple point: God has absolute certainty about everything; man does not. Calvin himself taught that the human mind is simply incapable of fully grasping God as he is in himself. According to Calvin, it “is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out…. And as Augustine teaches elsewhere, because, disheartened by his greatness, we cannot grasp him, we ought to gaze upon his works, that we may be restored by his goodness” (Inst. 1.5.9). I would also point out to you that Calvin grounds the subjective certainty of believers not on an epistemology but on the testimony of the Holy Spirit to and in Scripture (1.8.4).

      I knew Van Til was going to get dragged into this sidebar/derailment of the thread at some point. On the other hand, I have no idea why you started arguing against Frame, who has not been mentioned here.

      In case it means anything at all to you, I got an “A” in a doctoral course I took on Van Til — at Westminster Theological Seminary (in Philadelphia). So apparently my professor (Robert Knudsen), who had known and worked with Van Til for years, thought I had at least a decent grasp of Van Til’s position. But I’m guessing that Knudsen wasn’t purist enough in his epistemology for you.

      I asked you in comment #70 if you had read my book Faith Has Its Reasons. You have so far not answered that question. Have you read it? I have read practically everything Van Til ever wrote (as one can see by reading my discussions of Van Til in that book). But you haven’t read my book dealing with the same subject, have you? You don’t say, but either way you clearly have not understood my views on epistemology, based on the criticisms you have expressed here. Not that I am anyone important, but you are attacking my epistemology apparently without first doing the due diligence to understand it. What would you say to someone who claimed to be able to refute Van Til without reading him? I know what Scripture says about people who criticize others before understanding them (Prov. 18:13).

      My earlier decision to prohibit you from further diversionary posts in this thread went unheeded. I would really have preferred that the discussion remain on topic, dealing with the evidence for the Resurrection. I will wait and see what you say in response, but if it is more of the same, I will ask to have action taken to make it the last such comment.

    • Laurie Trlak

      It seems to me that one key point has been overlooked: Let’s assume for a moment that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul all made up or imagined what they report in the Bible. Considering that Christians were persecuted, pursued, imprisoned, and executed for following Christ, why would any of them do so in light of said persecution? No evidence exists that any of them recanted, which would be a reasonable expectation if they were lying.
      Could they have hallucinated the whole thing? I supposed anything is possible, but on what is such an assumption based? Raising such objections is fine as long as evidence is presented to support the objections, but when the evidence is lacking, as is the case with the multiple theories which skeptics have put forth, one is well-advised to stick with the simplest explanation.

    • Rob Bowman

      Andrew,

      You wrote:

      “You keep mistakenly referring to theologians as ‘historians.’ While history does factor into the study of religion, it is not the primary interest of the authorities you cite. Most or all of them have divinity degrees and work for seminary schools or solely within the field of biblical studies. They are scholars of religion.”

      No, I meant what I said. Virtually all historians agree that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person, that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and that he was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate. Religion scholars also agree with these statements, but you can leave them out and consider only academic historians who do not work in religion, biblical studies, or theology departments and my statement is accurate. The historians who are not part of such schools or departments but who are likely to comment on such matters would generally be historians of the ancient Mediterranean world, classical scholars, and archaeologists. Of course, scholars trained in historical studies have also contributed heavily to biblical studies and religious studies, and I see no reason to exclude them from my statement. Many “religion scholars” are trained historians whose work in “religion” is primarily in the history of religion. There is no reason to exclude them from the category of “historians.”

      Furthermore, my statement encompasses scholars of varying religious and irreligious perspectives. Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman, Paula Fredriksen, Amy-Jill Levine, Burton Mack, E. P. Sanders, Geza Vermes, and many other scholars are hostile to orthodox Christian beliefs but have no trouble acknowledging that Jesus was a real person who was crucified under orders from Pontius Pilate.

      You asserted: “Many, many figures that were well-attested in antiquity with multiple sources are now regarded as legendary, or hopelessly buried under myth.” Examples, please. Since you know of “many, many” such figures, please give us two examples that are comparable in terms of how well attested they are but that are now regarded as legendary or mythical.

      You wrote: “Given the extremely cultic, derivative, and mythical nature of much of the source material surrounding Christianity, it is reasonable to question whether a figure depicted as the constellation Aries (Rev 5:6) actually lived on the earth.”

      Your statement here is so embarrassingly wrongheaded that the only difficulty is knowing where to start. First, Revelation 5:6 does not depict Jesus as the constellation Aries. The vision depicts Jesus as a lamb, drawing on Jewish religious imagery and associations (most prominently, the Passover lamb and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 who goes to his death as a lamb to the slaughter). It has nothing to do with Aries.

      Second, even if Revelation 5:6 did have some connection with Aries, it would mean nothing so far as the historicity of Jesus is concerned. It would simply mean that some later literature portrayed Jesus using the imagery or symbol of Aries.

      Third, Revelation uses apocalyptic imagery; the images are symbolic. It uses a variety of such images to portray the significance of Jesus in Christian belief, such as its reference to Jesus as “the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16). It is hermeneutical folly to confuse apocalyptic imagery with mythology; the two are simply different genres of literature. Apocalyptic depicted real people, nations, and places in highly symbolic visions; mythology personified forces or aspects of nature as typically anthropomorphic deities.

      Using Revelation 5:6 to question the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is about as bizarre an argument as I’ve seen in a long time.

    • Rob Bowman

      Greg,

      It is unacceptable for you to make baseless accusations irrelevant to the subject of the article here and then claim that I am somehow responsible for derailing the thread by responding to those baseless accusations.

      Please do not post any more messages in this thread.

    • Andrew

      Rob,

      Thanks for your reply.

      You assert:
      “Many “religion scholars” are trained historians whose work in “religion” is primarily in the history of religion. There is no reason to exclude them from the category of “historians.”
      Furthermore, my statement encompasses scholars of varying religious and irreligious perspectives. Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman, Paula Fredriksen, Amy-Jill Levine, Burton Mack, E. P. Sanders, Geza Vermes, and many other scholars are hostile to orthodox Christian beliefs but have no trouble acknowledging that Jesus was a real person who was crucified under orders from Pontius Pilate.”

      I was mainly going by your list of references, which, as far as I can tell, almost exclusively draws upon some of the most conservative theologians out there, several actual working as ministers. You still haven’t actually listed any historians of the Greco-Roman world.

      I’ve read Michael Grant, and his best reason for asserting that the historical Jesus must have existed is your #3. “Nobody would have made it up” is not a criteria normally used in historical studies to establish facts. This is the only time I recall Grant using that line of argument in his many books.

    • mbaker

      Rob,

      Thanks for this post and the references. I am always looking for these to convince my non-Christian friends. I know these last few comments have somewhat derailed this post, but i hope you will keep on keeping on with this type of thing.

      God bless.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,
      I can see from 1 John 1 that the author uses “we” when he means “we,” and he uses “I” when he means “I.” I cannot see anywhere where he uses “we” to refer to himself alone. (Interesting, where he seems to use “I” the most is in sentences beginning “I am writing.”) I particularly do not see anything that would lead me to believe that he was in the habit of referring to himself by the royal “we” in the same sentence where he referred to himself in the third person. I am not as concerned with what “the gospel” claims as with what the writers claim, and in this case, I don’t think that the writer who describes the appearances is making the claim that he is an eyewitness.

      As far as Irenaeous’s source appearing to be Polycarp, I don’t see how you get there other than by question begging. You want Polycarp to be Irenaeous source, but your only reason for thinking that Polycarp knew John to be the author of the fourth gospel is by inferring it from Irenaeous. If we had some independent means to establish John’s authorship, it would be perfectly reasonable to infer the link to Irenaeous through Polycarp, but we can’t just assume it because it’s convenient.

    • Andrew

      Rob, in reply to this:

      “Many, many figures that were well-attested in antiquity with multiple sources are now regarded as legendary, or hopelessly buried under myth.”

      You asserted:
      Examples, please. Since you know of “many, many” such figures, please give us two examples that are comparable in terms of how well attested they are but that are now regarded as legendary or mythical.”

      We have actual letters written by Attis, not to mention statues and inscriptions. Should we accept those letters as authentic?

      Plutarch’s “Life of Romulus” seeks to portray an actual historic figure. True, the author was hundreds of years removed from the events, but the point is, Plutarch and the culture of his time didn’t think it was just a myth.

      Just about all of the Greek heroes were historicized and rationalized by one historian or another at the time. The surviving fragments of Diodorus’s Biblioteca bear this out.

      “The Life of Apollonius of Tyana” is one of the longest surviving biographies from antiquity, full of actual towns, historic figures, etc. Should we therefore believe his miracles?

      I wouldn’t say Jesus was “well-attested.” Citations in Suetonius, Tacitus, Lucian, and possibly Josephus are certainly important, but not really much different from similar statements made about Apollonius or Romulus.

    • Andrew

      Rob:

      “Your statement here is so embarrassingly wrongheaded that the only difficulty is knowing where to start. First, Revelation 5:6 does not depict Jesus as the constellation Aries. The vision depicts Jesus as a lamb, drawing on Jewish religious imagery and associations (most prominently, the Passover lamb and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 who goes to his death as a lamb to the slaughter). It has nothing to do with Aries.”

      Really? That’s not what New Testament scholar Bruce J. Malina writes in his book and commentary on Revelation.

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/Genre-Message-Revelation-Visions-Journeys/dp/1565630408/ref=la_B000APRY4A_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1365036541&sr=1-16

      “Using Revelation 5:6 to question the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth is about as bizarre an argument as I’ve seen in a long time.”

      You obviously are unfamiliar with the extensive use of Hellenistic astrology permeating virtually every chapter of Revelation. Absolutely nothing in Revelation even hints at the author being concerned with the earthly biography of a recently living rabbi in Galilee.

    • C Michael Patton

      Malina also seems to think the sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus represents a comet. Very bizzare stuff that I don’t think I have ever seen anyone actually reference.

      You must understand that there are people who from the world of unorthodox scholarship present some novel theories that are not unlike the DaVinci sources. Do you know of anyone else who presents this cosmological interpretation of Revelation and their sources?

      Being a student of church history makes these type of interpretations as far out there as anything I have ever seen. But, if this is your source, I suppose that one has to deal with it.

    • Rob Bowman

      Andrew,

      Perhaps you missed Bart Ehrman’s book on my list of 14 references. Ehrman is an agnostic professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His book specifically makes the case for Jesus’ historicity against the Jesus myth theory. According to Ehrman, Jesus “certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees, based on clear and certain evidence” (Forged: Writing in the Name of God, 256-57). In the book I listed above he points out that “the view that Jesus existed is held by virtually every expert on the planet” (Did Jesus Exist, 4). Acknowledging that scholarly consensus is not to be confused with proof, Ehrman goes on to present the proof. And again, he is a rank unbeliever.

      Yes, most of the books I listed were written by conservative Christian scholars. I did not list them to document the consensus of academic historians that Jesus existed. I listed them to provide what I consider to be well-done references that provide details supporting the 14 evidences I listed in the first half of the article.

      Sorry, but I’m not going to shoulder the burden of proof to demonstrate that historians of ancient Greco-Roman civilization who do not work in the fields of biblical studies or religious studies have acknowledged the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. (After all, what I said was “historians,” a true statement that cannot be negated by narrowing the relevant pool in that way.) Rather, I’m going to put the burden of proof on you and anyone else who claims that a significant number of academic historians deny Jesus’ historicity.

      However, I will cite an example for you. A. N. Sherwin-White was an Oxford professor of Roman history, and most of his scholarship was in that field (Roman Citizenship; Ancient Rome; The Letters of Pliny; etc.). However, he also wrote Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, in which he examined the historical narratives in the NT in the light of his expertise on Roman law and culture. Sherwin-White demonstrated in that book that much of the modern scholarly skepticism about specific elements in the NT, particularly in the trial narratives, was unfounded.

      Your comments exemplify the truth of the observation I make in my evidence #1, which is that “modern skeptics often feel that their best strategy for denying the evidence of his resurrection is to deny that he even existed.” To put the matter another way, the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person who was crucified by order of Pontius Pilate is an inconvenient truth for many skeptics. While I am happy to meet the challenge of providing evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, the skeptic must meet the challenge of providing evidence that Jesus never existed. In fact, simply pointing out that Jesus clearly did exist goes a long way toward meeting my challenge, because once it is admitted that Jesus was a real person, skepticism is forced to look for ever smaller windows to escape from the building.

    • mbaker

      Andrew,

      You are obviously arguing from a position of non-faith primarily. Suppose for a change you try to convince of us YOUR position, giving US evidence?

    • C Michael Patton

      It also frustrates the situation for Christians as they are required to support a wholistic Christian theology in every book the references Jesus or that document either has no relevance or, worse, actually argues against the orthodox positions. But what an odd situation we would have if every mention of Christ made by the first century writers did reform an entire biography of Christ. At this point we would find the faith being legitimately attacked based on overstatement of that which it claims (a common characteristic of fabrications).

      So be careful that you gain some perspective and find that you might be unable to ever find evidence that satisfies. This is simply the position of the hyper-critic. As such, one should not fool themselves into believing it is the most intellectual position to take. I think they have pills for this. 🙂

    • mbaker

      Michael,

      You said:

      ‘I think they have pills for this’.

      Would that we did! Wouldn’t that make this business of ‘proving’ Christianity so much easier?

    • Rob Bowman

      Andrew,

      You had claimed that “Many, many figures that were well-attested in antiquity with multiple sources are now regarded as legendary, or hopelessly buried under myth.” So I asked for “two examples that are comparable in terms of how well attested they are but that are now regarded as legendary or mythical.” You gave me Attis and Romulus!

      I’m almost speechless.

      First of all, so far as I am aware no one ever thought Attis was a human being.

      Second, we have no texts mentioning Attis from the same century as when he would have existed, or even from the same MILLENNIUM.

      Third, I admit you’ve stumped me about these alleged letters written by Attis. I may not be as up on ancient Greek and Roman mythology as you. So, when did these letters first show up in history and where might one consult these texts? All I know is that they must have originated sometime in the first millennium AD, well over a millennium after the Attis mythology began to develop.

      Fourth, “statues and inscriptions” of a Greek or Roman god are not attestations of their historical existence as mortal human beings.

      Fifth, I asked for examples of figures as well attested as Jesus. Your examples don’t come within hailing distance. The earliest stories about Romulus and Remus date from at least three CENTURIES after the time-frame of the foundation-myth about them. The earliest literature about Jesus dates from less than three DECADES after his ministry and death.

      Sixth, there is the whole matter of the historical quality of the primary sources. Sober scholars of all backgrounds have examined the Gospels thoroughly and even if they regard the supernatural elements as questionable are convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical individual and that many significant facts about him can be known.

      You also brought up Apollonius of Tyana. We have ONE account about him, written by Philostratus, who wasn’t even born until about 75 years after Apollonius died. He evidently finished his book about Apollonius roughly 125 years after Apollonius’s death. That having been said, scholars generally agree that Apollonius was a real historical person. So this example doesn’t do anything to address my objection to your claim.

      Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus all wrote within less than a century after Jesus’ death, and this is in addition to the NT writings which originated 25 to 65 years after Jesus’ death and several apocryphal Christian texts that probably originated in the early second century and that attest to Jesus’ existence as a historical figure. Nothing even remotely comparable to this attestation is available for any of the figures you mentioned.

    • Carrie Hunter

      Rob, excellent job here engaging folks.

      I would like to point out the sharp contrast between your gracious approach to dialog and other believer’s combative, bombastic tactics.

      We are to be salt and light. And you Rob, carry yourself in a way that reflects that. You always have, to the glory of God.

      Carry on brother!

    • Rob Bowman

      Thanks for those generous and encouraging words, Carrie. One nice thing about writing is that I can censor myself! 🙂

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      I don’t understand how John 21:24 could be any clearer on the point at issue. It says expressly that the person who wrote the things the reader is reading is “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who was an eyewitness to the events where the text says he was present. If the “we” is a group of people and not just John, it is probably inclusive of John, and even if you wish to dispute that interpretation, the text is still explicit that the disciple who was part of the events narrated wrote them down.

    • Rob Bowman

      Andrew,

      One other corrective. You wrote:

      “I’ve read Michael Grant, and his best reason for asserting that the historical Jesus must have existed is your #3. ‘Nobody would have made it up’ is not a criteria normally used in historical studies to establish facts. This is the only time I recall Grant using that line of argument in his many books.”

      This characterization of Grant’s argument is inaccurate.

      First, Grant does not argue “Nobody would have made it up, therefore Jesus existed.” What he says is that the Jesus-myth theory that asserts that the story of Jesus was taken over from pagan myths of dying and rising gods is flawed because the earliest Christians were traditionalist Jews whose religious thought was steeped in the Jewish Scriptures and traditions, not in tales of Osiris and Mithra. “In the first place, Judaism was a milieu to which doctrines of the deaths and rebirths of mythical gods seems so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its midst is very hard to credit” (Jesus: An Historian’s View of the Gospels [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992], 199). Put simply, the Jesus-mythers are misidentifying the soil in which the Jesus story originated.

      Second, this is not Grant’s only or even his main point. He immediately goes on to say:

      “But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned. Certainly, there are all those discrepancies between one Gospel and another. But we do not deny that an event ever took place just because pagan historians such as, for example, Livy and Polybius, happen to have described it in differing terms. That there was a growth of legend round Jesus cannot be denied, and it arose very quickly. But there had also been a rapid growth of legend round pagan figures like Alexander the Great; and yet nobody regards him as wholly mythical and fictitious. To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars’. In recent years ‘no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus’ – or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary” (199-200).

      Please note that Grant rejects the supernatural and especially the divine claims of the Gospels for Jesus as legendary, but he still concludes that Jesus was a real historical person and rejects the Jesus-myth position as not even a serious option in scholarship. According to Grant, the historicity of Jesus must be acknowledged because the consistent application of the same historical methods that historians use in other matters to the study of the Gospels clearly leads to that conclusion. In short, the Jesus-myth position is a case of special pleading by skeptics.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      Might it not be a little clearer if John wrote “I am that beloved disciple who bears witness, and I have written these things to you so that you may know that my testimony is true”?

      I would remind you of the statement you made: “In the case of at least two individuals we have explicit assertions by the authors of the texts themselves that they had such experiences: John and Paul. These two men definitely claimed to have had experiences that they interpreted as encounters with the risen Christ.” I will agree as to Paul, but regarding John, reasonable minds can and do differ. One of the reasons that I tend not to take Christian apologetics seriously is that words like “definitely” are so frequently used about matters that are anything but.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      I can take what you say without challenge and the fact remains that we still have texts from two different authors who state explicitly that they had saw the risen Christ. Stipulate if you wish that it is not explicit that the author of the Fourth Gospel was John, he claims to have been a companion of Jesus during his ministry, to have seen him crucified, to have seen the empty tomb, and to have seen him alive from the dead. Alongside this testimony we have the testimony of Paul, who undoubtedly wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      No. The point is that the writer who describes the appearances does not claim that he was an eyewitness to those appearances. Someone else makes the claim that the writer who describes the appearances was an eyewitness. At least that’s the conclusion of enough scholars that you cannot justifiably use words like “definitely.”

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      There’s no evidence of two different writers for the Gospel of John, any more than there is in 1 John, which nearly everyone agrees was written by the same author as the Gospel of John. And the author of 1 John claims to have seen and touched Jesus Christ. Especially in this light, but even without it, the “we” of John 1:14 is clearly the same “we” as in John 21:24.

      I realize that most scholars deny that the Gospel was written by an eyewitness, but the reason is the Gospel’s attributing to Jesus such clear claims to be divine. As it stands, the text claims to be the work of an eyewitness.

      Richard Bauckham has done a good job addressing the evidence for the Gospel being written by an eyewitness in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (listed above).

    • Rob Bowman

      By the way, Vinny, thanks for hanging in here with me and sharing your viewpoint and objections so thoughtfully. I appreciate it!

    • vinnyjh57

      I am not an expert on the subject, but from what I have read, it seems to me that there is legitimate disagreement among reasonable scholars on the question of whether John 21 was written by someone other than the author of John 1-20. If that is the case, it is meaningless to speak of what “the text claims” as opposed to what the particular writer of a particular passage claims.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny, I disagree with the view that John 21 was written by someone other than the author of John 1-20 (again, Bauckham has a good discussion of this theory), but let’s suppose that was the case for the sake of argument. The author of John 1-20 claims to have been an eyewitness of Jesus (John 1:14). The author of John 21 claims that the disciple whom Jesus loved is the disciple who wrote “these things” (21:24), which I suppose you might suggest refers only to John 21:1-23 (does that make three different writers?); but that still would make John 21:1-23 written by an eyewitness.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      You are certainly entitled to disagree with whatever views you wish to disagree with, but that does not justify statements like “in the case of at least two individuals we have explicit assertions by the authors of the texts themselves that they had such experiences.” On its face, John 21:24 is an assertion that someone other than its author had the experience and wrote about it and John 1:14 is anything but explicit concerning what the writer is claiming to have experienced.

      Personally, I find the evidence that the fourth gospel was written by an eyewitness to be not the least convincing and I did not find Bauckham to be persuasive.

    • Staircaseghost

      Well, that was a fun coast-to-coast road trip. Where was I?
      Oh yeas: I have given you the sloganized distillation of my method many times now.

      You even quoted it in your reply to me complaining I’ve never given it!

      I construct the model with maximum expected predictive capacity compatible with the maximally compressible (i.e. lowest Kolmogorov complexity) string capable of recovering prior observation. Just as you do, every minute of every day, except you apply it inconsistently.

      Note also the slippery move between my request (still unanswered, and both temporally and logically prior to your question) for a method to distinguish between miraculous hypotheses and the stock apologetic tactic of claiming the doubter must be biased agains any miracles.

      How can I be biased against miracles when I am the one advancing a hypothesis that a miracle occurred?

      I’m not too particularly concerned by the supermarket label of whether something is a “miracle” under someone’s preferred technical construal of the term. I’m more concerned with whether something HAPPENED than any abstruse ontological statements you want to make afterward. It should be enough for you to convince me (as I am open to be convinced) that X happened, and that Yahweh was causally responsible for X, and that he did it for reasons A, B, and C.

    • Staircaseghost

      It could have turned out that Yahweh makes his presence visually and audibly known with at least the frequency that, say, the president makes his existence known. He could do a weekly call-in show giving calm, well-reasoned answers to people having problems with this or that doctrine. It could have turned out that (say) all ordained Catholic priests, and only Catholic priests, had the power to perform routine healings, with the severity of the the medical conditions increasing linearly with rank; and any excommunicated member could instantly lose such powers. Resurrections could be a routine occurrence, with clearly discernible rules for whom Yahweh will or will not raise. So let’s not hear any more knee-jerk responses about how “hyperskeptics will never accept any evidence that a resurrection occurred”.

      (make a note in the margins here: if you believe Yahweh was causally responsible for X, then by definition you believe there are laws governing the relation of his actions to the results of those actions, just as there are laws governing the relation of human fingertips and the prints they leave on things they touch. And these laws must be independent of him, therefore any miracle claim in a very important sense entails naturalism.)

      “No report to the contrary has come down to us from within even three centuries or more of the time that event reportedly occurred.”

      What on earth are you talking about? What kind of “report” would one reasonably expect in the year 250 C.E. about the status of the corpse of a near-anonymous cynic-sage?

    • Staircaseghost

      “It is therefore utterly implausible to claim, as many Muslims do, that God created an illusion to make everyone think that it was Jesus on the cross while all along it was Judas Iscariot or Simon of Cyrene.”

      I think you are having some trouble with the operation of the word “therefore”. Suppose the crucifixion or the resurrection were illusions created by an omnipotent being. What kind of “contrary reports” would you expect to see given that he has an infinite capacity to create verisimilitude?

      “Such an “explanation” is nothing more than an ad hoc attempt to explain away the reports that we have. The problem with the Muslim explanation is not merely that it is miraculous; the problem is that it is entirely ad hoc.”

      It is not ad hoc relative to the background belief that Islam is the true religion. It is just the sort of thing one would expect. An ad hoc explanation is bad because it is unparsimonious, but not all unparsimonious explanations are ad hoc. The problem with the “it all really happened” explanation is that once you start saying laws can be suspended, you are left with no non-theological method for saying which laws those will be.

      “Your claim that my “preferred conclusion” is “a maximally gratuitous, maximally random intrusion into the pattern of experience” is quite erroneous. If we have witnesses attesting that they saw a miracle, concluding that a miracle occurred is not gratuitous.”

      Your understanding of gratuity in the context of the formal definition of that term is erroneous. By definition, nomological discontinuities exhibit maximum incompressibility in the data string. They are, formally speaking, the most gratuitous possible kind of claims.

      One might ask, is there any claim you wouldn’t believe if an author said 1st century Jewish women were the first witnesses? I mean, we’re already up to “resurrection of the dead”.

    • Staircaseghost

      “For example, six witnesses claimed to see the Virgin Mary repeatedly and regularly at Medjugorje. I don’t think they really saw Mary, but it would be a mistake for me to claim that explaining their reports as supernatural visions is ad hoc.”

      Not ad hoc. Unparsimonious. It requires more incompressible description in exchange for zero increase in predictive capacity.

      And it is very, very promising that you seem now to understand that it is not “ad hoc” to search for explanations of reports of dead people walking around which do minimal violence to background beliefs.

      “Knowledge of the past cannot be limited to what can be known by such a method without precluding the possibility of learning of things that happened out of the bounds of my own personal ‘prior experience.'”

      Incorrect. It can be and it is. Remember that knowledge is not merely true belief, but justified true belief. Omphalism may be true, but it does not follow that it can be known even if true.

      “Allowing that miracles might have occurred in history is incompatible with a method that prizes ‘maximal predictive capacity’ over maximal discovery.”

      I don’t know what you mean by “maximal discovery” and I doubt you do either. But there is a difference between what is true and what can be known to be true, and it is hardly my problem that the theist again and again and again makes claims which he could not possibly be in a position to justify. And so we get unbearably lame arguments like “women couldn’t testify in civil cases” as though this were sufficient warrant for concluding that a rupture in the space-time continuum must have occurred. Yes, that is a much more likely explanation of the reports…

    • Staircaseghost

      “A worldview in which God does not exist and all dead people necessarily stay dead is a “simpler” worldview and in that respect naturalistic explanations for any resurrection reports seem more “parsimonious” by definition, but to get this greater parsimony you must forfeit any claim to be pursuing the evidence wherever it might lead.”

      Incorrect. Parsimonious induction is constitutive of rational thought. Abandoning it means abandoning the very concept of anything being evidence at all. Try it. Try consistently denying it for five minutes and tell me how you did.

      The key phrase in the above, as it has been since my first reply, is “consistently”.

      If I have a “method” (I am dubious about claims that there can be only one correct method for all people with regard to all types of knowledge acquisition), it is to seek the best explanation for all of the available evidence as best I can.

      This fails to satisfy the definition of “method” because it lacks content. Or do you think “cook the best food” constitutes substantive advice for someone aspiring to become a chef?

      Do you know (without googling it) how the levitating lady trick is done, where they pass the rings over the whole body to prove there is neither a table nor strings? (If you do, I’ll pick another example.) How does your “method” handle cases like this?

    • Rob Bowman

      Staircaseghost,

      You wrote:

      “Oh [yes]: I have given you the sloganized distillation of my method many times now. You even quoted it in your reply to me complaining I’ve never given it!”

      I never complained that you never gave me a description of your method. Perhaps you should review the comments. The question you had not answered was “whether any evidence might in your view make it reasonable to conclude that a miracle occurred.”

      You wrote:

      “Note also the slippery move between my request (still unanswered, and both temporally and logically prior to your question) for a method to distinguish between miraculous hypotheses and the stock apologetic tactic of claiming the doubter must be biased agains[t] any miracles. How can I be biased against miracles when I am the one advancing a hypothesis that a miracle occurred?”

      You have not advanced a hypothesis that a miracle occurred. You have rather attempted to render any and all miraculous explanations epistemologically off-limits by claiming that we have no rational basis for preferring the miracle claim that Jesus rose from the dead to the miracle claim that the disciples’ minds were demonically deceived into thinking that Jesus rose from the dead (or whatever). This is not advancing a hypothesis that a miracle occurred; it is a reductio ad absurdum objection to belief in the miracle of the Resurrection or in any miracle. And I have already given a methodological account for why one should rationally prefer the Resurrection explanation to the disciples’ demonic deception explanation: the latter is completely ad hoc. More fundamentally, there is no reason even to take seriously an explanation that no one is actually advancing. If I met someone who sincerely thought the disciples were demonically deceived, I would offer arguments against their claim. That is not the case here.

      You refer disparagingly to the assessment that “the doubter must be biased agains[t] any miracles” as a “stock apologetic tactic.” This is a rhetorically nice way of misstating the issue. I don’t consider all “doubters” biased against all miracles. However, if someone makes it clear that he considers the evidence irrelevant to the question of whether a miracle occurred, then I conclude that such a person is indeed biased against miracles. By the way, is it not a stock atheist polemical tactic to claim that Christians are biased in favor of miracles, or at least biased in favor of the biblical miracles? Why, I think it is.

      You suggest that if God really existed he could provide evidence sufficient to convince skeptics like you by performing miracles on a regular basis: “He could do a weekly call-in show,” empower all Catholic priests and only them to perform healings routinely, and even enable them to resurrect people routinely according to clearly delineated rules. And just how would this prove to you that a supernatural being was responsible? Why not, in such a scenario, hypothesize that a super-intelligent being from an advanced race of extraterrestrials harnessing extraordinary technologies unknown to us is communicating through his appointed earthly representatives, has given them access to some of his planet’s technology to perform the healings and resurrections, and is deceiving them and us by claiming to be a supernatural deity? Wouldn’t this explanation be epistemologically preferable, in your view, to the explanation that it was really God? There actually are groups that believe something like this, by the way.

      You claimed, “if you believe Yahweh was causally responsible for X, then by definition you believe there are laws governing the relation of his actions to the results of those actions, just as there are laws governing the relation of human fingertips and the prints they leave on things they touch. And these laws must be independent of him, therefore any miracle claim in a very important sense entails naturalism.” This argument suggests that you have not grasped the meaning of theism. The belief that God can be causally responsible for a particular event in no way entails that there are laws of God-world relations that are independent of God, for the simple reason that, since God brought the world into existence ex nihilo according to his design, whatever such “laws” might be exist by his choosing.

      I’ll have to stop for now. If I have time later I will respond to more of your comments.

    • mbaker

      Rob,

      Thanks for a good post, one we Christians can actually use for a change, complete with references. I will bow out now and just say thanks again.

    • newenglandsun

      If the women being recorded at the tomb is proof of the resurrection due to the embarassment factor, then all this proves is that the Bible is sexist and is worthy only to be scoffed at.

    • Rob Bowman

      newenglandsun,

      Not quite. It proves that Jewish men during biblical times were sexist, not that the Bible is sexist. You can scoff at the sexist men of the time, but they admitted that the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women, an admission that, given the sexist values of the time, is good evidence that the tomb was in fact empty.

      So, would you care to engage this evidence directly?

    • newenglandsun

      Yeah but Rob, according to you, the Bible was written by God and not man. So I guess I’ll be burning in Hell forever for choosing to stand up for human rights that stand in contradiction to this God. What an ogre you serve!

      Oh, and I was meaning to comment on your blog on whether or not forbidding gay marriage is in opposition to gay rights. It is. Even if you allow gay people to marry into a heterosexual relationship, it’s still a hindrance to them. People marry for companionship. Or are you a sex-crazed sexist like your ogre deity?

    • newenglandsun

      Oh, and additionally, if the Bible is not sexist, then the people writing the Bible (God according to you) were not sexist and this really isn’t an embarassment factor and therefore, not proof of the resurrection.

      Okay, number 5 down, 13 to go. I’m on a roll!

    • newenglandsun

      1. Jesus’s existence is still debatable. As to whether or not he actually existed, idk. I find it highly imaginable that people could have invented him like they did Apollonius but even if he did exist, does not mean that the Biblical writers used tall-tales to exaggerate the story a bit. Remember Davy Crockett killed a bar when he was only three.
      2. Is what we assume to be true. What a majority of historians believe does not mean it actually happened. The nature of the inquisitions and the witch-craft trials are also debated within historical research. It is likely that a look-a-like could have fooled everyone and died instead of Jesus.
      3. Or something as minor as reinterpreted prophecies from the great storyteller Matthew. You would have to analyze Jewish commentaries on Hebrew Bible prophecies before making this assumption. I think I’ll trust the Jews!
      4. So? They could have just said that for poetic drama, you don’t know that for fact.
      6. The earliest statements on Jesus from non-Christian scholars were from the second century C.E. Hardly reliable information there. Unless you want to accredit the Gospel of Thomas as written in 50 C.E. as a non-Christian writing.
      7. You give credence to two arguments here. A pro-resurrection argument and a con-resurrection argument. Nuff said.
      8. Paul also wrote 1 Cor. 15 to refute heresies in the church. Reliable theologically, but not historically. Was writing for theological and not historical purposes here. Probably made up the 500, who knows.
      9. Huh? Clopas isn’t mentioned in Luke. Sorry.
      10. Only probably based on fact? Not entirely confident?
      11. Well John is primarily theological in nature. I mean seriously, God incarnated in human flesh? I like how you just dismiss your opponents without giving credence to them. Your lack of confidence is revealed.
      12. That there was skepticism proves that this is a religious experience. Not an historical experience.

    • newenglandsun

      13. Paul did convert. This is a fact. Did he actually experience a vision of Christ? Who knows.
      14. Actually, I think sociologically, conversion experiences, whether they be real or not, tend to change the nature of someone. See also, Muhammad.

    • Rob Bowman

      newenglandsun,

      I don’t believe that God “wrote” the Bible. Therefore, your objection proceeds from a false premise. God inspired the biblical writers to write truth, but they remained human beings with personal limitations and failings. And if the Gospel writers overcame their sexist cultural values and had high esteem and respect for the testimony of women, that in itself requires some explanation.

      The issue of Hell is irrelevant here, as is the issue of same-sex marriage. Please keep your comments focused on the issue of the thread. Emotive rantings against the character of God, and insulting comments directed at me, only make your position look even weaker than it is.

    • newenglandsun

      Oh, now I see. You meant Cleopas.
      Yeah, storytellers don’t have to make up names for their characters either. Want proof?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_with_No_Name

    • newenglandsun

      “The issue of Hell is irrelevant here, as is the issue of same-sex marriage.”
      Well, you know, according to that Joan Osborne song, believing means we have to believe in the whole package.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4CRkpBGQzU

    • Rob Bowman

      newenglandsun,

      1. You haven’t engaged the point I was making here, which is not merely that most historians acknowledge Jesus’ historical existence. Still, if you don’t know whether he even existed then you have some historical catching up to do. The genre of “tall tales” really doesn’t do anything to address the historical issues here either.

      2. It’s been a while since I heard someone defend the lookalike explanation for Jesus’ crucifixion. If you’re right, apparently no one was fooled more than the lookalike who got himself crucified! What, he couldn’t yell, “It isn’t me! My name is Fred, not Jesus!”?

      3. Huh? Matthew made up the crucifixion of Jesus? You’ll trust the Jews regarding what? I can’t make any sense out of your comment here.

      4. Another mystery comment. The Gospels made up Joseph of Arimathea as a poetic device?

      5. Discussed above.

      6. I was citing Matthew and John, not non-Christian writers. Your response here is a total whiff.

      7. I don’t think you even tried to understand the argument here, which reasons _arguendo_ that even if one is skeptical about Matthew’s explanation the evidence shows that his opponents conceded the empty tomb.

      8. Another complete miss of the target. Do you understand the concept of independent testimonies?

      9. Luke 24:18. (“Clopas” and “Cleopas” are alternate spellings of the same name, though how the name was spelled or who precisely the man was is irrelevant to my argument.)

      10. Probability is a regular part of historical reasoning and knowledge.

      11. Another attempt to change the subject.

      12. Begging the question.

      13. Paul says he did. That is a piece of evidence that needs to be fairly considered. “Who knows” is not an answer.

      14. Another complete miss. Paul says he saw Christ. Was he lying, deluded, hallucinating, or what? And Muhammad experienced no dramatic conversion.

    • Rob Bowman

      newenglandsun,

      Your new comment on Cleopas still doesn’t engage the issue. Your example of the Clint Eastwood character is irrelevant because in that instance the central character is deliberately nameless for dramatic effect. In Luke, Cleopas’s companion is a minor figure, and his being nameless has no dramatic or artistic significance.

    • vinnyjh57

      The author of Matthew claims that opponents conceded the empty tomb. How is that any more persuasive that Mormons who claimed that their opponents conceded the “Reformed Egytptian” writings?

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny, to what exactly are you referring? I can only guess you are referring to the Anthon affair. Joseph Smith claimed that Charles Anthon, a classics scholar, told Martin Harris that the characters on the paper Joseph had given Martin were authentic ancient characters and that the translation was correct. In this case there are three huge problems: (1) Anthon contradicted Joseph’s account. (2) Joseph’s account cannot be true because (a) supposedly Reformed Egyptian was an unknown form of Egyptian that no one could have read without supernatural guidance and (b) at the time Martin visited Anthon no scholar in America could read any form of ancient Egyptian! (3) The Anthon transcript (the paper Martin showed Anthon) has been found, and the scribbles on it are not Egyptian and the paper contains no translation.

      Nothing like these defeaters obtain in the case of Matthew’s report concerning the guards at the tomb of Jesus.

      There is much more that could be said, but the above should at least be helpful.

    • vinnyjh57

      Rob,

      We know about these defeaters because we have lots of primary source material from outsiders regarding early Mormonism. We have many accounts written by non-Mormons who dealt with the Latter Day Saints and ex-Mormons who left the fold. Imagine trying to write the story of Joseph Smith if your only sources were composed by his most devoted followers thirty to sixty years after his death. You might not end up thinking that Smith was a faithful husband of one wife as polygamy was not openly proclaimed until the Mormons reached Utah.

      If I had a nickel for every time someone in a discussion of early Christianity claimed that an opponent had conceded a vital point, I would only drink bourbon that’s older than my cat. It is the most common rhetorical trick in the book and counts for nothing.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      You were the one who made the comparison between Joseph Smith’s story about Anthon and Matthew’s story about the guards (apparently I guessed right). I simply explained why the comparison is awfully weak. It’s true that we have Anthon’s own testimony to counter Joseph’s, whereas we don’t have anything from the guards or the Jerusalem authorities. But suppose we didn’t have Anthon’s own testimony. As I explained, we would still have two very strong reasons for rejecting Joseph Smith’s claim. So I don’t need written testimony from the opponents to assess Joseph’s story, although we happen to have some and it adds further evidence against his claim.

      The literature produced by the Mormons themselves, less than the lower range of thirty years after Joseph you stipulated, freely acknowledge that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. From purely pro-Mormon sources published within thirty years of his death, one can mount an impressive case against his claims to be a prophet. In fact, one can do so using only sources written by Joseph himself.

    • vinnyjh57

      Even today, there are Mormons who claim that it was Brigham Young rather than Joseph Smith who introduced the practice of polygamy. Moreover, that is far from the only point upon which early Mormon accounts are problematic. Do you think historians would have an even remotely accurate picture of the Kirtland bank fraud, the Missouri conflicts, or the Mountain Meadows massacre if the only accounts came from devoted Mormons thirty years after the fact? Why should we think that the Gospel writers were not similarly inclined to massage the facts for apologetic purposes?

      BTW, the fact that Smith claimed that the characters couldn’t be translated without supernatural guidance wouldn’t be any reason to reject Harris’s account of Anthon’s statements. Smith could simply have been mistaken on that point.

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny, my post gives several reasons to think that the Gospel writers were not inclined to massage the facts for apologetic purposes. Points #4 and #5 are especially relevant in that regard.

      Furthermore, my argument to which you are responding, point #7, is that “Matthew would have no reason to make up the story about the guards being bribed except to counter the story of the guards saying they fell asleep.” You haven’t addressed the substance of that point at all. My reasoning is that even if we suppose that Matthew was inclined to make things up for apologetic purposes, those apologetic purposes must have been purposeful. So what was Matthew’s purpose in inventing (for the sake of argument) the claim that the guards were bribed to say they fell asleep? Answer: to counter the claim by critics of the Resurrection that the disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep. And why would critics make that claim? Answer: that was their response to the Christian claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, leaving the tomb empty. Thus, this passage attests to the fact that Jewish opponents of Christianity in the first century argued that the disciples faked Jesus’ resurrection by stealing the body from the tomb. And, as I show in my post, this is just one of several lines of evidence supporting the conclusion that indeed Jesus’ body had been buried in a tomb and that the tomb was shortly thereafter found to be empty (in addition to #7, see ##4, 5, 6, and 11).

    • vinnyjh57

      As grave robbing was a known phenomenon in the ancient world, I’m sure that it would occur to almost anyone who heard the story of the empty tomb that someone had stolen the body even if they knew nothing at all about what happened in Jerusalem. That objection might well have been raised every time that the story was told to a new group of people so I don’t find anything at all improbable about someone deciding/inventing that the Romans must have posted guards in order establish that it didn’t happen. This of course requires an explanation for why the guards never said anything so, voila, they must have been bribed. That’s how stories grow over time and it’s the most natural thing in the world (and in apologetics I might add).

      We’ve already discussed at length why someone writing to a community of pagan converts where women played a prominent role needn’t have been deterred by the status of women under Jewish law.

      As to Joseph of Arimathea, anyone inventing the story of the empty tomb would need to be able to explain how a condemned criminal came to receive an honorable burial rather than being left on the cross to rot as was the usual Roman practice. Obviously the character responsible is going to have to be someone who had sufficient influence to obtain such a favor from the Romans. That Joseph is a necessary plot point is more than sufficient to explain why he might have been invented.

    • Christian Mom

      In the world we live in today, we are encountering a lot of skeptics who does not fully understand how God is awesome. Who can comprehend the way the flowers bloom, the sun rises and the morning dew? One cannot fully grasp the wonders of God’s love, but we can acknowledge Him, His creations and His presence.

      For skeptics out there, check this book collections I came across with. http://booksforevangelism.org/category/resources/skeptics/

      ‘Am still praying for a copy of one or two of these books. Have a blessed day to you all!

    • Rob Bowman

      Vinny,

      You wrote:

      “As grave robbing was a known phenomenon in the ancient world, I’m sure that it would occur to almost anyone who heard the story of the empty tomb that someone had stolen the body even if they knew nothing at all about what happened in Jerusalem. That objection might well have been raised every time that the story was told to a new group of people so I don’t find anything at all improbable about someone deciding/inventing that the Romans must have posted guards in order establish that it didn’t happen. This of course requires an explanation for why the guards never said anything so, voila, they must have been bribed. That’s how stories grow over time and it’s the most natural thing in the world (and in apologetics I might add).”

      I have several comments in response.

      1. Matthew says that there was a story circulating among the Jews that the disciples had stolen the body and that the guards had been bribed to say so (Matt. 28:15). This comment frames the account as a response to specific Jewish polemic against the Resurrection, not to general objections of grave-robbing as a plausible explanation.

      2. The probable origin of the Gospel of Matthew adds weight to the position that Matthew is countering a specific story circulating among Jews who had access to information about what non-Christian Jews in the Jerusalem area had been saying about the Resurrection. Almost all Gospel scholars agree that the Gospel of Matthew was written by a Jewish Christian who was part of a community of Jews (probably some of whom were Christians and some of whom were not) in Galilee or Syria. (A few have even suggested that the Gospel was written in or around Jerusalem itself.) Geographically, then, Matthew’s community was in a place where rumors or stories originating in Jerusalem were likely to reach (whereas, for example, Rome, where Mark probably wrote his Gospel, would be less likely of a place for such stories to reach).

      3. The guards were probably Jewish temple guards, not Roman guards. Pilate’s comment to the Jewish authorities was, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how” (Matt. 27:65). (By “a guard” is meant a small detachment or unit of guards, cf. 28:4, 11.) After the incident at the tomb, the guards went to report to the chief priests, not to Pilate (28:11), and they were bribed by the chief priests (28:12-15). The guards evidently then were accountable to the Sanhedrin, not to Pilate, and so were Jewish temple guards, not Roman soldiers. The only possible indication that they were Romans is the statement by the chief priests that they would keep the guards out of trouble should the matter come to the attention of Pilate (28:14). Yet this verse can be taken as further evidence they were not Romans, since if they were nothing the chief priests could do would keep them from suffering military discipline. Falling asleep on the job could get a Roman soldier executed.

      4. Matthew’s account about the guards (Matt. 27:62-65; 28:11-15) appears to come from a pre-Matthean source. One evidence for this conclusion is the high number of words found only here in Matthew: “next day” (epaurion), “Day of Preparation” (paraskeuen), “deceiver” (planos), “make secure” (asphalizo), “deception” (plane), “guard” (koustodia), “sealing” (sphragizo), “out of trouble” (amerimnos), and “spread abroad” (diaphemizo). That’s eight hapax legomena in eight verses, a fairly high rate. By comparison, there are only seven such words in the other 15 verses of Matthew 28. Five of these are in Matthew 28:1-3: “after” (opse), “dawning” (epiphosko), “roll away” (apokulio), “appearance” (eidea), and “snow” (chion). The other two are in Matthew 28:16: “eleven” (hendeka) and “designated” (etaxato). While some hapax legomena are naturally the result of unusual subject matter, at least half of them are not (“next day,” “deceiver,” “deception,” and “spread abroad”).

      5. Matthew’s is not the only early account of the tomb being guarded. The Gospel of Peter, probably an early second-century text that attests in places to sources independent of the canonical Gospels, also has such an account, but verbally and in some substantial matters is very different from Matthew’s account. The Gospel of Peter explicitly has the guards be Roman guards, and even gives one of them a name (Petronius); the guards report the Resurrection (which they witnessed) to Pilate, who told them to say nothing. This account appears to be literarily independent of Matthew’s account, and therefore provides independent testimony to the presence of a guard as historical.

      6. There was no polemical need for Matthew or his source to invent guards or to claim that the guards were bribed to keep silent. This is clear enough from the fact that Luke and John do not include these elements (and everyone agrees John was written later than Matthew). Matthew has already provided a sufficient and plausible (both psychologically and historically) refutation of the claim that the disciples stole the body: they were cowards who had run away and even denied knowing Jesus when challenged (Matt. 26:56, 58, 69-75). The story of the guards did not need to end with the bribe: if Matthew or his source was inventing the story, for example, he could have claimed that the guards became believers and testified to Jesus’ resurrection, or he could have claimed that the guards told others about the strange earthquake and the angel. Matthew has already reported the centurion at Jesus’ crucifixion affirming that Jesus was truly the Son of God (27:54); why not have the guards give similar testimony, if all of this is fiction anyway?

      Bottom line: I think there is a pretty good case to be made that Matthew’s account of the guards (a) predated Matthew, (b) has some independent attestation in the Gospel of Peter, (c) was told to counter a specific Jewish story that the disciples had stolen the body, and (d) was not a necessary plot device. These considerations do not prove that the guards were historical, but they do provide good evidence supporting the historicity of the empty tomb.

      For more on this issue, see William Lane Craig’s article, “The Guard at the Tomb,” New Testament Studies 30 (1984): 273-81, online at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/guard.html.

    • vinnyjh57

      The story that Matthew is claiming the Jews told is the one that the guards told about the disciples stealing the body when they fell asleep. The Jews wouldn’t have any reason to tell a story about how their leaders were responsible for bribing the guards.

      That the author would frame the account as a response to a specific polemic is not at all surprising. It happens to me frequently in discussions with apologists. I will raise a challenge only to be told that unbelievers have been raising the objection for years as well as the liberal scholar who first raised the objection, the implication being that the objection has already been thoroughly addressed. By framing the story of the guards this way, the author implicitly associates anyone who brings up grave robbing with the bribery perpetrated by the men responsible for crucifying Jesus.

      The question is whether the story of the guards serves a purpose such that someone might invent it. It is not necessary to establish that the purpose is indispensable to the plot nor is it necessary to establish that it is the only possible story that could have served the purpose. It is also not necessary to establish that it is the best possible story to serve the purpose. People often invent stories without realizing they have huge holes in them. I have no doubt that you can invent many alternative ways of telling the story of the guards, but your alternatives are not relevant to whether someone might have a motive to invent this particular story. The fact that someone had raised the possibility that the body was stolen is more than sufficient reason to put the guards in the story.

    • vinnyjh57

      I think it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that the account of the bribed guards predates Matthew, but that of course gives us no information about its original sources. We don’t know who Matthew was and we don’t who his sources were or how many times removed in the oral tradition they might have been from anyone with first-hand knowledge—assuming of course that the oral tradition actually started with anyone with first-hand knowledge. There are many possibilities, but declaring any of them to be probable strikes me as wishful thinking.

    • vinnyjh57

      BTW, WLC seems to have changed his mind about the historicity of Matthew’s guards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=b8UMb7NlxkU

    • […] Islam and the Crucifixion of Jesus | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry Resurrection 14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References | Parchment and Pen God Bless, Max Reply With […]

    • […] wind and believe in something based on a myth, legend, or lie. If you want to know more, here are 14 references you can read for yourself. 1.Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as […]

    • thom waters

      Rob,

      The weakness to your approach concerning the 14 evidences from the New Testament for the historicity of the Resurrection would appear to be two-fold:

      1–Some, if not all, of the evidences you list can be challenged at length from a historical perspective using the NT documents themselves;

      2–Your list suggests that the only evidences at our disposal serve to support the Resurrection Hypothesis and trhat there are none that challenge the historicity of the proposition. I believe this to be in error and would suggest that there are a substantial number of evidences that actually argue against the proposition. That you omit these suggests that it is a willful omission on your part since they would not promote the proposition, or it might simply be the case that you are not familiar with them or have never given them much thought or considertation.

      First to #1 and I begin by saying the following: It is often the truth portions of an effective falsehood that make the falsehood more pursuasive.

      Let us take your death by crucifixion evidence. I believe it is quite possible that you cofuse fact with belief. For example, it appears to be a fact that one Jesus was actually crucified. We even have non-bibilical references to this act. However, attestation to an actual death is something we do not have. Why is this important? It is important because to crucifiy someone as a means of execution is a process, from what little we know about such things. It would be the same as a stoning. To say that someone was stoned is different than to say that someone was stoned to death. For that you would need specific evidence, and even then such an act, the act of stoning someone, might be judged incorrectly. Such was the apparent case with the stoning of Paul in Acts 14. Such was his condition that he was assumed to be dead and dragged out of the city. HOwever, that was not the case, and the next day he traveled out of the city and began preaching again.

    • thom waters

      A crucifixion was a similar form of execution that required, among other things, that the process be completed. Usually this meant that the victim was left up for days and the final indignity was that scavenger animals often ripped the body apart. This we know was not the case with Jesus from the documents at our disposal.

      Let me express this idea another way. I give you three scenarios. One person is crucified, one person is stoned, and one person is beheaded. Which of these needs no further explanation regarding the desired end of the action? No inference is needed from a beheading. Death is certain. From the other two more is required.

      How might a person survive a crucifixion? This would be most easily accomplished by removing the element of Time from the process. If someone was crucified and removed from the cross after 5 minutes, could they survive? After 10 minutes? After 30 minutes? At what point is survival no longer an option or viable end? Of course that would depend on other variables, but the point is still the same. The process would need to be interrupted. This appears to be the case with Jesus. And the simple proclamation by a guard that the victim was dead seems to add little to the certainty of death. Especially is this true when it is acknowledged that such pronouncements were not normal with most crucifixions. This guard’s pronouncement, especially since he most likely had no background in such matters, could easily have been mistaken, as was the mistake made with Paul’s stoning in Acts 14.

      I’m not saying that one Jesus did not die, only correctly pointing out that his death is neither a “fact” or something that we can know to be true. Like much of Christianity this evidence that you give begins with and actually belongs to the realm of Faith. NOthing inherently wrong with that, but it is important to call it what it is.

      Again the question to be asked, What do we know to be true? What you choose to believe is…

    • C.J.

      Yur first two points are completely false.” There are zero “historians” that agree that JC existed. The supposed “historians” you speak of all all Christian apologetics. Try looking for a historian who isn’t trying to prove JC ever existed before he or she even starts and see how many you come up with. There is no mention outside of the bible of JC. (And don’t try to pass off the Joseph us quote that even Christian historians agree is fake.

      The point is that until you can prove he existed, anything else is just extraneous BS.

      Look up these gods that were being worshipped in the middle east around the same time: Horus, Mithra & Dionysus (just to name a few). Here’s an example of Horus’ life:

      Born of a virgin, Isis. Only begotten son of the God Osiris. Birth heralded by the star Sirius, the morning star. Ancient Egyptians paraded a manger and child representing Horus through the streets at the time of the winter solstice (about DEC-21). In reality, he had no birth date; he was not a human. Death threat during infancy: Herut tried to have Horus murdered. Handling the threat: The God That tells Horus’ mother “Come, thou goddess Isis, hide thyself with thy child.” An angel tells Jesus’ father to: “Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt.” Break in life history: No data between ages of 12 & 30. Age at baptism: 30. Subsequent fate of the baptiser: Beheaded. Walked on water, cast out demons, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind. Was crucifed, descended into Hell; resurrected after three days.

      Sound familiar? Even Kristina and Buddha have similar stories. None of JC’s story is new. It’s just the last in a long string of messiah myths.

    • Paul Stein

      This is a fairly persuasive list, but the story of the guard in Matthew is probably an apologetic device. It does not fit the “minimal fact” idea because it doesn’t appear in all Gospels.

    • gary

      I am a former Christian. I loved being a Christian. I loved Jesus and I loved the Bible. I used to love witnessing to non-believers and loved defending my belief in (the Christian) God and orthodox/conservative Christianity. Then one day someone challenged me to take a good, hard look at the foundation of my beliefs: the Bible. I was stunned by what I discovered.

      1. The Bible is not inerrant. It contains many, many errors, contradictions, and deliberate alterations and additions by the scribes who copied it. The originals are lost, therefore we have no idea what “God” originally” said. Yes, its true—Christians can give “harmonizations” for every alleged error and contradiction, but so can the Muslims for errors in the Koran, and Mormons for errors in the Book of Mormon. One can harmonize anything if you allow for the supernatural.

      2. How do we know that the New Testament is the Word of God? Did Jesus leave a list of inspired books? Did the Apostles? Paul? The answer is, no. The books of the New Testament were added to the canon over several hundred years. Second Peter was not officially accepted into the canon until almost the FIFTH century! So why do all Christians accept every book of the New Testament as the word of God and reject every non-canonical “gospel”? Answer: the ancient (catholic) Church voted these books into your Bible. Period.

      There is nowhere in the OT or the NT where God gives men the authority to determine what is and what is not his Word. If Second Peter was really God’s Word, the entire Church should have known so in the first century.

      3. Who wrote the Gospels? We have NO idea! The belief that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is based on hearsay and assumptions—catholic tradition. Protestants denounce most of the traditions of the Catholic Church but have retained two of the most blatant, evidence-lacking traditions, which have no basis in historical fact or in the Bible: the canon of the NT and the authorship of the Gospels.

      The only shred of evidence that Christians use to support the traditional authorship of the Gospels is one brief statement by a guy named Papias in 130 AD that someone told him that John Mark had written a gospel. That’s it! Papias did not even identify this “gospel”. Yet in 180 AD, Irenaeus, a bishop in FRANCE, declares to the world that the apostles Matthew and John and the associates of Peter and Paul—Mark and Luke—wrote the Gospels. But Irenaeus gives ZERO evidence for his assignment of authorship to these four books. It is well known to historians that it was a common practice at that time for anonymously written books to be ascribed to famous people to give them more authority. For all we know, this is what Irenaeus did in the case of the Gospels.

      The foundation of the Christian Faith is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. If the story of the Resurrection comes from four anonymous books, three of which borrow heavily from the first, often word for word, how do we know that the unheard of, fantastically supernatural, story of the re-animation of a first century dead man, actually happened??

      Maybe the first book written, “Mark”, was written for the same purpose that most books were written in that time period—for the benefit of one wealthy benefactor, and maybe it was written simply as an historical novel, like Homer’s Iliad; not meant to be 100% factual in every detail, but a mix of true historical events as a background, with a real messiah pretender in Palestine, Jesus, but with myth and fiction added to embellish the story and help sell the book! We just do not know for what purpose these books were written!

      I slowly came to realize that there is zero verifiable evidence for the Resurrection, and, the Bible is not a reliable document. After four months of desperate attempts to save my faith, I came to the sad conclusion that my faith was based on an ancient superstition; a superstition not based on lies, but based on the sincere but false beliefs of uneducated, superstitious, first century peasants.

    • gary

      I am frequently advised by Christians that in order for me to see the truth about their claim of the supernatural resurrection of Jesus I must read a particular Christian apologist’s book. They tell me that if I read the Christian apologist’s book with a fair and open mind (praying to the Holy Spirit for “guidance” wouldn’t hurt either), I will see that the Resurrection really did happen, just as the Bible says it did.

      But, if someone told you that unicorns exist and that you should believe in them, would you need to read a “unicorn expert’s” book to know for sure that unicorns do not exist?

      If someone told you that leprechauns exist and that you should believe in them, would you need to read a “leprechaun expert’s” book to know for sure that leprechauns do not exist?

      If someone told you that ghosts, goblins, and ghouls exist and that you should believe in them, would you need to read a “ghost, goblin, and ghoul expert’s” book to know for sure that ghosts, goblins, and ghouls do not exist?

      If someone told you that a first century dead man was resurrected from the dead and walked out of his grave with a superhero body and that you should believe in him, would you need to read a “resurrected dead superhero expert’s” book to know for sure that superheroes do not exist nor do they walk out of their graves?

      If someone told you that, true, dead men do not walk out of their graves with superhero bodies, but ancient, middle-eastern gods can and have walked out of their graves with superhero bodies, would you need to read a “resurrected ancient middle-eastern god expert’s” book to know for sure that ancient, middle-eastern gods do not, and have not, walked out of their graves?

      Use your brain, folks.

      Of the thousands of supernatural claims that have been made in the entire history of mankind, not one supernatural claim has ever been substantiated with solid evidence, only with “faith”, which is just another word for…superstition!

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