This talk on the resurrection of Jesus was presented at Anointed Faith Family Church on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. What was interesting about this talk is that we were able to open it up to Q&A afterwards. Getting the opportunity to share this kind of information with other Christians is exactly what my ministry is all about. Feel free to check out the talk and share any thoughts or comments.
I write out my talks in full and use the transcript (included below) as a guide during presentation. Feel free to read or watch (or both).
Before I begin, I’d like to make some preliminary remarks. This will help contextualize what you’re about to hear. First, I am very open and honest about the fact that my profession is photography. I can tell you all about cameras, lighting and posing, but when it comes to the Resurrection, I rely on the work of experts in that field.
Second, so you know I won’t be making all this stuff up, I’m going to be citing a lot of people that argue this and that. I would suggest that if you are taking notes, try and remember to jot some of the names you’re hearing down.
Third, when we talk with a non-Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, anyone that isn’t already a Christian, they aren’t going to grant that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. They aren’t going grant that the Bible is divine revelation. Just like we as Christians don’t grant that the Koran is the word of Allah.
So when we talk with people that don’t already believe like we do, we’ve got to find common ground and then work from there. The Christian philosopher William Lane Craig says it like this: “In giving a sound apologetic, you want to appeal to commonly accepted facts.” So for the purpose of this talk, we aren’t going to assume the Bible is inspired. We’ll be treating the New Testament documents as ordinary historical sources.
Today I’ll be discussing the historical evidence for the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. I’ll be breaking my talk down into 3 parts. In Part 1 I will argue that, as believers, we above all should value the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. In part 2 I’ll move on to the historical evidence for the Resurrection. I will cite both biblical and non-biblical sources in support of this. And then in Part 3 I will argue that several alternative theories to explain the evidence fail. And then I’ll argue that the Resurrection is the most likely explanation of the facts.
Let me begin with a story. Right after High School I somehow convinced my parents to let me go to Bible School. Several months into the program I’m beginning to have serious doubts about the Bible. I wondered, you know, what if all this stuff I’m reading was just made up? What if these stories about Jesus were complete lies? Right about the time it was getting serious, one of my teachers mentioned in class that Christianity is a historically grounded religion. She then went on to tell us briefly about Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian who, writing in the 1st century AD, mentions Jesus in his writings. Learning this information felt like a handful of sandbags had been lifted off my chest (photography analogy for anyone following). There’s no telling where I’d be today if I hadn’t encountered this evidence as a young person.
I want you to think about this for a second. What would you say to a young person going through similar doubts? If you were asked to give an evidential basis for the truth of Christianity, what would you say? Would you be able to provide persuasive historical evidence for the Resurrection?
The heart of the Christian claim is the bodily Resurrection of Jesus. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthian church that if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is in vain. Basically, if the Resurrection didn’t happen, Christianity is a complete waste of time.
Jeremiah J. Johnston puts it like this: “As followers of Jesus, all of us— not a select few professors or popular Christian authors— have to prepare ourselves, as the early church did, to persuasively explain why Jesus’ resurrection is not a myth, legend, or fairytale, but rather a datum of historical fact.”
We need to do better as a church equipping our young people with reasons and evidence for the truth of Christianity. But more than that we need to have a Resurrection-centric faith as the early church did. Every sermon recorded in Acts discusses the Resurrection. Resurrection is not only the heart of the Christian faith, it’s also our hope for the future. We believe as Christians that we will one day be Resurrected as Jesus was. That is something no other religion in the world can offer. We don’t have to live in fear of death and disease. Through Jesus we have a real hope for the future.
The Resurrection Argument
In my research, I’ve discovered two kinds of arguments for the Resurrection. Some philosophers, like William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas, argue that the Resurrection of Jesus is the Best Explanation of certain facts about history. It’s the same sort of reasoning used in medicine. For instance, suppose that you’ve got a sore throat, cough, and runny nose and decide to go to the doctor. In this case, the doctor infers that a “cold” best explains the symptoms. So she prescribes you some antibiotics and rest and sends you on your way. This is first type of argument for the Resurrection. It’s called an inference to the Best Explanation. It seeks to establish the Resurrection as the best explanation of certain historical facts.
The second type of argument for the Resurrection is a bit more technical. This one involves what is called Bayesian probability. This one says that basically, we start with what we know about how likely the Resurrection of Jesus is before looking at the evidence, and then update this probability after we take the evidence into account. So there are two steps to this version. First we need to see how likely the Resurrection is before looking at the evidence. Maybe we’ll calculate this based on how likely it is that God exists and whether He would have reason to raise Jesus from the dead. Once we have that figure in mind, we then look at the evidence and update our probability. If the evidence strongly favors the Resurrection, then our final analysis will result in a high likelihood that the Resurrection actually took place. Richard Swinburne and Timothy McGrew use this kind of argument in their work.
So those are the two methods used by the experts. Now, as with most things, not everyone is in agreement on which type is best. To make everyone upset, I’m going to cut it right down the middle and use a little of both.
Now, I happen to think that God’s existence plays a crucial role in the argument. If God does not exist, then the laws of nature ultimately determine what happens. There are no miracles or anything like that. Since a dead body coming back to life would be a paradigm example of a miracle, it seems impossible to argue for the Resurrection if miracles are impossible and God does not exist.
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to defend the existence of God. Marc didn’t give me 5 hours, he gave me 40 minutes. However, it just so happens that I recently published a very lengthy article defending God’s existence. If you are interested in that, go check it out on my blog. It’s called “An Updated Contingency Argument.” I’m also happy to talk more about that with you in person or online, just search me out and we can discuss the evidence for the existence of God.
Two last notes before moving on to the evidence for the Resurrection. First, we need to establish what Richard Swinburne calls the “Principle of Testimony.” He argues that we should believe what others tell us they have done or perceived–in the absence of counter-evidence. Without this principle of testimony we would have very little knowledge about the world. By show of hands, how many of you have looked through a telescope and seen the planet Neptune for yourself? So then how do you know it exists? If we must go out and personally verify everything we hear, we have very little knowledge about the world. To avoid this we should adopt Swinburne’s very plausible Principle of Testimony.
Second, we should define what we mean by Resurrection. First, Resurrection is physical. It’s not the immortality of the soul. It’s a physical thing. This is why Jews place their bones in ossuaries, little boxes for their bones. They believe their physical bones and their entire physical body will be resurrected. Second, Resurrection is also not resuscitation. A resuscitated person can still die. Resurrected bodies do not die. The Christian view of Resurrection is that when God brings an end to the world, He will raise up all those that have died and reconstitute them with glorified physical bodies. Jesus was the so-called first-fruits of the Resurrection.
The Origin of Belief in Jesus’ Resurrection
In setting up the argument, we first need to kind of set the scene. All of this took place 2000 years ago in a culture far removed from our own. They had different beliefs, different way of speaking, they were actually shorter back then, and so on. To really appreciate the Resurrection, we’ve got to do our best to get in the mind of a 1st century Jew.
As New Testament scholar N. T. Wright notes, Jews living in the first century AD had no concept of a dying and rising messiah. The Jewish messiah was supposed to crush their enemies, which at the time was the Roman Empire. Jews did not expect him to die humiliatingly on a cross. Deuteronomy 21:22 says quite explicitly that anyone hanged on a tree is cursed. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples had every reason to simply go home and start over. Their leader was dead, and according to the Old Testament he was literally a cursed heretic.
Moreover, no Jew in that region (neither Pharisee or Sadducee) believed in Resurrection prior to the end of the world. Nor did they believe in the Resurrection of one individual instead of all people. The German New Testament scholar Joachim Jeremias put it like this:
“Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event of history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return of the earthly life. In no place in the late Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to Glory as an event of history.”
Given all these facts about Jewish beliefs in the 1st century, we wonder where Christian belief in the Resurrection of Jesus came from. We’ll begin to answer this question as we move along.
Not only is Jesus’ death recorded in virtually every document in the New Testament, the crucifixion is also mentioned in several non-biblical sources. Remember the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus my Bible teacher told me about? In one of his works he mentions that Jesus was crucified by Pilate. Jesus’ crucifixion is also mentioned by a Syrian writer in about 73AD by the name of Mara bar Serapion. Writing to his son he mentions that the Jews suffered terrible loss after killing their “Wise King.” This terrible loss he’s referring to was of course the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD. Moreover, Tacitus, a Roman historian writing in 116AD mentions Christ and His crucifixion. All of this evidence is available for anyone to see, if you’re listening to this on a computer, feel free to pause this video and look up any of these names.
And by the way, there’s loads more evidence for the crucifixion, there are other non-biblical sources and then I haven’t even mentioned the New Testament documents.
The fact of Jesus’ crucifixion as a matter of history is so uncontested that even the liberal scholar John Dominic Crossan writes, “Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”
The evidence we have of Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is staggeringly good; it’s beyond historical doubt.
Calum Miller has argued that, from non-Christian sources alone, it is almost historically certain that Jesus would have been buried in a known tomb. Throughout the Old Testament there is an imperative to bury the dead. The primary reason for this was because the Jews considered the land sacred. Leaving a body out in the open air, or in a mass grave, would defile the land. Given the burial protocols laid out in Jewish sources, we have ample reason to believe that Jesus would have been buried in a tomb. In addition to this we have archeological evidence of the remains of a crucified man from the first century in a tomb. So we know that Jewish criminals were still allowed to be buried in tombs. I’ll talk more about this when we get to the Swoon Hypothesis. We could stop there but I’ll mention 2 additional reasons to think Jesus was buried in a tomb.
First, the burial of Jesus is mentioned in at least two different early sources. Paul quotes a very early tradition in his first letter to the church of Corinth. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. I want us all to go there to see this.
“3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
Historians have noted that the structure of these verses shows that Paul himself didn’t write this. Paul likely received this tradition during his fact finding mission to Jerusalem in 35 or 36AD (Galatians 1:18). So this tradition he received dates to within 5-6 years of the crucifixion. Some date it to within 3 months. And it’s sitting right here in your Bible!
In addition to Paul’s source, we’ve got the very old source used by Mark’s gospel. The Gospel of Mark is already estimated to be the earliest of the gospels, and so any source Mark used for his burial account must date even earlier. Thus, we’ve got Paul’s very early tradition and the very early source used by Mark. These two sources together establish what historians call multiple attestation. That is, two or more independent historical sources that affirm the same event. Historians are very lucky to have this sort of thing.
The second reason is that no other burial story exists. Basically, if some other burial account were true, we would expect to find mention of it somewhere. But instead the only burial account that shows up is the one involving Joseph of Arimathea who many argue was unlikely to have been invented by the early Christians. Joseph of Arimathea was part of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the group responsible for Jesus’ death. It’s unlikely Christians would have invented this historical person that honors Jesus by having him buried in his own tomb.
There are additional arguments for the burial but we don’t have time to discuss them here.
The next historical fact is the empty tomb. Recall that we’ve already established on good historical grounds that Jesus was buried in a tomb; it’s unthinkable that the disciples would stake their life on a claim of Resurrection without having checked the tomb for themselves. Surely they would have gone to check and see if the tomb were empty. Recall that during this time in history, Resurrection for the ancient Jews was a corporeal (or bodily) event. They believed that the existing bodily remains would be reanimated and come back to life. The ancient Jews weren’t dumb, they knew what ghosts were. They had terms for ghosts. But when Jesus came back from the dead, they proclaimed Resurrection, not merely that His ghost had come and was floating around without a body.
But then think about this. If Jesus’ body were still in the tomb, the disciples never could have believed that Jesus resurrected, nor would anyone believe them. They knew what Resurrection was, it involved bodily remains coming back to life. So the tomb must have been empty. That’s the only way belief in Resurrection could have come into being.
So the burial account itself supports the empty tomb. In addition to the support from the burial account, I’ll give 2 reasons to think Jesus’ tomb was found empty.
First, every Gospel account records that it was women that originally discovered the empty tomb. The reason this is so significant is because the testimony of women in ancient Jewish culture was regarded as almost worthless. We see hints of this in the work of Josephus and other ancient writers. If the gospel writers were simply making up the story, then surely they would place Peter or James as the discoverers.
Second, the empty tomb account is multiply attested by all of the Gospel writers and implied by Paul in the early tradition he quotes. No gospel account of the empty tomb contains theologizing. The Gospel writers aren’t giving scriptures why this and that happened, they seem to be giving a straightforward account of what occurred. Around the third century a few authors wrote the fictional gospel “The Ascension of Isaiah.” In chapter 3 verse 16, Jesus comes out of the tomb sitting on the shoulders of the angels Michael and Gabriel. None of the Gospel accounts contain this kind of theologizing when it comes to the empty tomb. The empty tomb accounts are just very straightforward, historical accounts of what took place.
If we look back at the early tradition quoted by Paul, we notice the words “on the third day.” The third day must have carried significance to make it into the creed. Experts argue it’s highly probable that this third day refers to the day that Jesus’ tomb was found empty. It also explains why the day of rest moved from Saturday to Sunday in early Christian culture.
And again I’ll note that there are many other arguments in support of the empty tomb, but I don’t have time to go through all of them.
All of this leads the atheist historian Michael Grant to say, “If we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was, indeed, found empty.”
The Appearances of Jesus
The next fact we’ll establish is the fact of the appearances. The early disciples, various individuals, and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus risen from the dead. Before looking at the New Testament we are on extremely good grounds for supposing the early disciples had some sort of transformative experience that lead them to begin preaching and evangelizing. Without it we simply can’t explain the rise of Christianity. The disciples would have remained crushed, defeated men and the Christian religion never would have come into being.
Let’s turn back to that early tradition quoted by Paul and see what other information we can pull from it. This time we’ll look at verses 5-8.
“He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” 1 Corinthians 15:5-8
As Richard Swinburne points out, we can judge the character of Paul simply by reading his letters. If you’ve read the Pauline epistles, you’ll agree that Paul comes across as a totally honest person. So if Paul endorses the tradition quoted above, he must have himself believed it.
The appearance to the Twelve (Twelve meaning twelve disciples) is mentioned in the early creed quoted by Paul and we know from Paul’s letters that he was in personal contact with the disciples. So he would have confirmed with them personally that they had experiences. The appearance to the Twelve is also multiply attested by both Luke and John (Luke 24:36-43, and John 20:19-20). What’s really important about the accounts in Luke and John is that they provide details about the nature of the appearances to the disciples. The account in Luke has Jesus asking for food to eat. This all ties back into how Resurrection is defined, it’s a physical thing. The disciples had experiences of a physical Jesus.
One of the appearances I find most interesting is the appearance to the 500. Note how Paul adds his own personal note that most of the 500 are still alive. The only reason for including that kind of comment would be to let people know they are there to be questioned. He’s basically telling the Corinthians, here’s the evidence, go check it for yourself.
The appearance to James is also very interesting. What makes this so incredible is that all of Jesus’ brothers–including James–were skeptical of Jesus’ divinity during his lifetime (Mark 3:21,31-35; John 7:1-10). Despite this, we have ample evidence that James played an important role in the Christian church very early on. The ancient historian Eusebius writing in the 4th century tells us that Jesus’ brothers performed missionary work in Galilee and Syria.
Think about this. What would it take for you to be convinced that your brother was the Lord? Put yourself in James’ shoes. You’ve been skeptical that Jesus is actually the Messiah your entire life. You witness his crucifixion and know that He was buried in a tomb. What would it take for you to become convinced at this point that He was the messiah?
All of this leads the atheistic New Testament historian Gerd Ludemann to write, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”
Let’s quickly review where we’ve gone and what we’ve established. So far we’ve established 5 historical facts. (1) The origin of belief in the Resurrection of Jesus, (2) Jesus’ crucifixion, (3) that Jesus was buried in a known tomb, (4) Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers, (4) individuals and groups experienced appearances of Jesus, and (5) the origin of belief in the Resurrection. Given these 5 facts we now want to compare and contrast the various explanations for them. We want to do what the doctor did in explaining the symptoms.
Any good doctor is going to pick a diagnosis that explains all the symptoms, not just a couple. We need an explanation that explains all the facts, not just one or two of them. The explanation can’t be just obviously made up. A good doctor isn’t going to invent a new disease to explain a sore throat and runny nose. Likewise, we aren’t going to invent an explanation like aliens coming down and stealing Jesus’ body just because we want to avoid a conclusion. That’s not going to work. So let’s move on to discussing some popular explanations that have been offered over the centuries.
Refuting Rival Hypotheses
This is the theory that the disciples stole the body. Remember, this is the theory that the Jews were accusing the disciples of when they began preaching Resurrection. This theory is rejected by every New Testament scholar alive today, including secular ones. It was wrong in Jesus’ day and it’s wrong today.
Eusebius, an early church historian writing in the 4th century, refutes the Conspiracy Theory with this funny story:
“Let us band together,” the speaker proclaims, “to invent all the miracles and and resurrection appearances which we never saw and let us carry the sham even to death! Why not die for nothing? Why dislike torture and whipping inflicted for no good reason? Let us go out into all the nations and overthrow their institutions and denounce their gods! And even if we don’t convince anybody, at least we’ll have the satisfaction of drawing down on ourselves the punishment for our own deceit.”
This satirical story really shows how silly this theory is. But we can go further. Here are two additional reasons to think the Conspiracy Theory fails.
First, the disciples were willing to go to their deaths defending what they preached. Think about it. People aren’t willing to go to their death for a lie. The fact the disciples were willing to go to their deaths shows that they sincerely believed that Jesus rose from the dead.
Second, the disciples were simple, ordinary people. Fishermen. They weren’t brilliant conmen. They had absolutely no material gain by preaching this doctrine. Instead they had a great deal to lose. It simply makes no sense that a group of ordinary men with nothing to gain in this world would make up such a story.
So, as I said, no one accepts this hypothesis today.
Wrong Tomb Theory
This theory says that in the dusk at night, the women went to the wrong tomb. The Wrong Tomb Theory was originally proposed in the early 1900’s. It’s also rejected by virtually every scholar. So what can we say about this one?
First, Luke (23:55) makes it clear that the women paid very close attention to where Jesus was laid. Given the Principle of Testimony we went over earlier, we can’t arbitrarily exclude this kind of information. If the women knew where his tomb was, then of course they’d go back to the correct tomb, or if anything a later check would have revealed the error at once. This theory would have us believe that no one bothered to check the tomb after the women proclaimed it was empty. Now, I’ve been to Jerusalem, it isn’t a huge place. One can walk wherever they need to go in under a couple hours. They would have found the correct tomb.
So again, this theory isn’t taken very seriously.
The Swoon theory is sometimes called the Apparent Death Theory. Muslims like this theory. This hypothesis says that somehow Jesus survived his short stay on the cross, despite the fact the Romans were professional executioners, somehow mended his wounds while in the tomb, and very soon afterward came out and convinced the disciples that He was the risen Lord, conqueror of death and the grave.
In response to this theory, the 19th century German New Testament scholar David Strauss wrote this: “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still at least yielded to his sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry.”
This alone is enough to put the swoon theory to bed. However, in addition we have archeological evidence of a crucifixion victim in the 1st century by the name of Yehohanan. The victim’s heel still has a nail embedded through the heel bone. There’s pictures of it online. There’s even remains of wood left on the nail as it pierced flesh, bone, and wood all in one swing. Now think about this for a moment. Does it seem at all plausible that Jesus could have done much of anything on his own after sustaining wounds this terrible? Even if he were able to remove the nail from his heel, would he have been able to walk, let alone convince the disciples he had conquered death?
Moreover, the Romans that oversaw Jesus’ crucifixion were professional executioners. They would have gotten in trouble had they not been certain he was dead prior to being taken down.
For these and other reasons, the Swoon theory is just incredibly implausible.
This is the theory that the disciples had hallucinations or visions of Jesus’ resurrection. That they didn’t actually see Jesus, they hallucinated visions of him. I’ll again cite two reasons to think this theory false.
First, it’s difficult to explain the diversity of the appearances. Not just one person saw Jesus, but multiple people. They didn’t only see him once, but several times. Not only at one location and one circumstance, but at many locations under many different circumstances. The hallucination hypothesis simply can’t be reasonably stretched to accommodate this kind of diversity.
Christian philosopher Tim McGrew says it like this, and I’m paraphrasing, a hallucination of Jesus to just one disciple would represent a very serious mental illness. And once we take into account that each disciple experienced appearances, we’re talking about several people all coming down with a serious mental illness all at one time. But then it didn’t just happen once, Jesus appeared the disciples over the course of 40 days. So this mental illness left everyone as suddenly as it came.
Moreover, the hallucination hypothesis doesn’t explain all 4 of the facts we established. It doesn’t explain why the tomb was found empty. Nor does it explain why the disciples would hallucinate such a thing. Recall what N. T. Wright has said, there simply was no Jewish expectation of a rising and dying messiah.
So this hypothesis fails on multiple levels as an adequate explanation of the facts.
God Raised Jesus from the Dead
Now let’s contrast these theories with the one the original disciples gave, namely that God raised Jesus from the dead.
It nearly goes without saying that this hypothesis guarantees all the facts we’ve established so far in flashing colors. It explains why the tomb was found empty the Sunday after his crucifixion and why the disciples experienced appearances of Jesus. It explains the conversion of James, the brother of Jesus, who previously wasn’t buying that Jesus was the Messiah. It explains why Christians were saying that a Resurrection happened before the end of the world. It explains why the disciples were willing to go to undergo intense persecution and even death for the claims they were making.
Remember the two different types of Resurrection arguments I mentioned earlier? Well, one thing both can agree on is that refuting rival explanations plays a huge role in getting a high likelihood that the Resurrection took place. However, as we’ve just seen, none of the most popular naturalistic theories come close to adequately explaining the 5 facts I’ve mentioned. The Resurrection hypothesis fairs much, much better than the alternatives.
What can the Skeptic do at this point? Well, I think their only recoil is to try and argue that God’s existence is incredibly improbable. Note that this move isn’t available to people that already believe in God, like Muslims and Jews. They can’t dismiss this argument with an appeal to the non-existence of God.
So how can we respond to the Skeptic that responds to this argument by saying it’s very, very improbable that God exists? There’s two responses I think we’d give at this point.
First we might respond by arguing that God’s existence is actually quite probable given the evidence. I noted earlier how this goes beyond the scope of this talk, so we can’t go into detail on that. Suffice it to say, there are very good reasons to think that God exists. If you want more on that, get with me after the talk, either in person or online.
The second response would be to say that the evidence for the Resurrection is actually so good that even if we thought God’s existence was super unlikely prior to looking at the evidence, once we take the evidence into account it still ought to convince us that God raised Jesus from the dead. This is where the second kind of argument, the Bayesian version, comes into play. We don’t just say that the Resurrection is very unlikely and then stop, we’ve got to look at the evidence and come to a final probability given everything we know. We have to take everything into account. And once we do that, the evidence for the Resurrection is so good that the Resurrection still comes out on top.
This is actually precisely what Timothy McGrew argues. He says that the evidence is so confirmatory of the Resurrection that even if the prior probability of God raising Jesus from the dead were 1 in a billion, the strength of the evidence would still end up confirming the Resurrection in excess of .9999999999999…. basically, .9 with 34 9’s behind it. That should help us get some perspective on how strong the evidence is.
I’ll end with a quote from Christian Philosopher William Lane Craig: “In an age of religious relativism and pluralism, the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus constitutes a solid rock on which Christians can take their stand . . . The rational man can now hardly be blamed if he believes that, on that first Easter morning, a divine miracle has occurred.”
I’m curious as to how can the accounts in Luke and John be so physical in their descriptions while Paul, who writes firsthand, merely says Jesus “appeared” to him (this experience happened while Jesus was in heaven – Gal. 1:16) and he places this experience in parallel with the “appearances” to the others in 1 Cor 15:5-8. Without knowledge of the later accounts in the gospels, you’d really have no reason to assume Paul was talking about anything other than spiritual/mystical experiences. So from a historical perspective this creates a problem because the data is consistent with legendary development. Assuming… Read more »
Thanks for your comments, Bob. From a historical perspective, arguments from silence are pretty problematic. Not much follows from the fact that Paul isn’t more explicit about the nature of the appearances to him (he’s even less detailed in his own letters). Maybe he left out those details on purpose (e.g.,the primary concern of his letters was correcting particular erroneous theologies). Moreover, I disagree that without the gospels there’s no reason to think Paul had in mind a physical resurrection. Seems to me the opposite is true. If anything, the creed in 1 Cor 15 implies an empty tomb and… Read more »
“From a historical perspective, arguments from silence are pretty problematic. ” Correct but it seems both sides must argue from silence. Paul doesn’t mention it (when we’d expect it). Therefore, it’s still true? “Not much follows from the fact that Paul isn’t more explicit about the nature of the appearances to him (he’s even less detailed in his own letters).” The problem is the wording “Jesus appeared to them and appeared to me, too” in 1 Cor 15:5-8 is consistent with him saying they were the same type of appearances i.e. spiritual encounters from heaven. So how do you know… Read more »
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