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Evidence for the Resurrection: Part 2 – External Evidence

In the previous blog on the resurrection, I spoke about the internal evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Now I want to look at the external evidence.

External Evidence

While the internal evidence looks to the evidence coming from within the primary witness documents, the external evidence seeks to find collaborative evidence coming from outside the primary witness documents.

For the resurrection of Christ, I submit this line of external evidence:

  • Preservation of the Documents
  • Archeology
  • Extra-biblical Attestation
  • Survival in a Hostile Environment

Preservation of the Documents:

This has to do with the manuscript evidence of the New Testament, the primary source documents concerning the resurrection. While we don’t have any of the originals in our possession (nor should we expect to), the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is very strong. According to top text critic Daniel Wallace, “We have an embarrassment of riches.” Not only do we have hundreds of manuscripts that date before the fifth century (some into the second and third), but we have many quotations from the early church fathers that alone could be used to reconstruct most of the New Testament. All of this tells us that the accounts that we read are essentially the same as the accounts that were originally given. While there are some differences among the manuscripts, even Bart Erhman, former Fundamentalist, text critic, and critic of Christianity, says that no major doctrine is effected by the differences and that most are very insignificant.

In addition, and very significantly, the manuscript evidence tells us that the Gospel accounts of the resurrection were all written within a generation of the events which they record, giving evidence for their claims of eye-witness testimony. Therefore, there is no time for legendary material to arise.

Archeology:

The witness of archeology has continually confirmed the scriptural data. When there has been doubt in the past about the Gospel accounts (e.g., the date of the census in Luke and the reign of Quirinius, Governor of Syria, date of the Gospel of John, etc.), later archaeological and historical finds seem to always confirm the Scriptures to be historically accurate.

Jewish Archaeologist Nelson Glueck says this about the Bible: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.” (Nelson Glueck Rivers in the Desert; History of Negev [Philadelphia: Jewish Publications Society of America, 1969], 31).

Sir William Ramsay is regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists ever to have lived. As an atheist, he set out to dis-prove the historical accuracy of the Scriptures. However, after researching the writings of Luke (Luke-Acts), he changed his mind. He became a firm defender of Christianity and the historical accuracy of the Gospel accounts. About Luke he wrote: “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”

As well, it cannot be overlooked that Christ’s remains were never found. This is an issue of archeology. Combined with the understanding that Christianity arose very early under the claim of Christ’s resurrection and that there were many detractors, the archaeological evidence of the historically empty tomb is important. Those who denied the resurrection in the first century could not produce a body, nor can those who deny it today. This is a necessary precondition to collaborate the evidence of such a belief.

Extra-Biblical Attestation:

Over 39 extra-biblical sources attest to more than 100 facts regarding the life and teachings of Jesus. Besides all of the early Apostolic Fathers (whose witness cannot be dismissed simply because they believed that Christ was the Messiah) are the Jewish and Roman historians.

There are numerous first and second-century extra-biblical writings that witness to the fact that Christians believed that Christ did extraordinary things, died on a cross, and rose from the grave: Josephus, Clement, Papias, Didache, Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Hermas, Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria.

In reality though, “extra-biblical attestation” is not really the best word for this line of evidence. Really it should be “collaborative attestation” since it is not attestation that is outside the Bible or even the New Testament that we are looking for, but collaborative evidence outside the respective document that is under historical investigation. Therefore, the New Testament itself provides more than enough collaborative support for the events of the resurrection since each of the twenty-seven documents must be seen as pieces of individual evidence that stand on their own. There is no reason, at this point, to put them together in a single corpus called “The New Testament” and say that the corpus must find its own collaborative support. Mark supports Luke. John supports Matthew. Paul supports Acts. The point is that every New Testament book individually provides very strong collaborative evidence for the historicity of the resurrection.

As a side note, I am often humored by those who say that Christians must produce “secular” support for the resurrection, defining “secular” as those who are not believers. It is as if those who believed in the resurrection have less credit than those who did not believe in it. It would be like saying that in order for me to believe in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I have to have evidence from those who do not believe that he was assassinated and that those who do not believe it are more credible than those who do. However, as in the case of the resurrection, if it truly happened, then we would expect the closest people to the evidence to believe it rather not believe it. Therefore, to deem “secular” or “skeptical” support as necessary and more trustworthy evidences is a bias that is too bent to come to objective conclusions.

Survival in a Hostile Environment:

The very fact that Christianity could have survived with such public and extraordinary truth claims is offered as a line of external evidence. That Christianity had its hostile objectors is supported by all the evidence, internal and external. The objectors of Christianity had every opportunity to expose the fabrication of the resurrection if it were truly a fabrication. The fact that those who were hostile to Christianity did not put forth a substantial or unified case against it adds to its historicity.

According to Gregory Boyd,

“Christianity was born in a very hostile environment. There were contemporaries who would have refuted the Gospel portrait of Jesus—if they could have. The leaders of Judaism in the first century saw Christianity as a pernicious cult and would have loved to see it stamped out. And this would have been easy to do—if the ‘cult’ had been based on fabrications. Why, just bringing forth the body of the slain Jesus would have been sufficient to extinguish Christianity once and for all. In spite of this, however, Christianity exploded. . . . Even those who remained opposed to Christianity did not deny that Jesus did miracles, and did not deny that His tomb was empty.” (Gregory Boyd, Letters from a Skeptic [Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communication Ministries, 2003], 85-86).

Conclusion

Considering the internal and external arguments for the resurrection of Christ, I don’t ask anyone to look to one of these lines of evidence alone, but to consider the cumulative case. It is very impressive. If the resurrection indeed occurred, it would be hard to expect more evidence. In fact, what we would expect is exactly what we have.

Of course, alternatives too each one of these could be and have been offered. Alternatives to many well established historical events have been offered as well, including the Holocaust, the landing on the moon, and the death of Elvis. However, in most cases the alternatives go against the obvious. The simplest explanation is always the best. The simplest explanation to the data here is that Christ did rise from the grave. Those who deny the resurrection do so not on the basis of the evidence, but because they have other presuppositions that won’t allow them to believe. The evidence is simply too strong.

I believe that any objective historian must look to the evidence for the resurrection of Christ and concluded that he is indeed risen.

Happy Easter.

86 Responses to “Evidence for the Resurrection: Part 2 – External Evidence”

  1. CMP:

    Well stated and succint. Thank you for your insights and a delightfuly cogent argument.

  2. CMP,

    Thank you for these two articles. May you and your family have a blessed celebration of the Resurrection!

  3. “As well, and very significantly, the manuscript evidence tells us that the Gospel accounts of the resurrection were all written within a generation of the events which they record”

    I hope we’re not talking about Papias, here

  4. And this would have been easy to do—if the ‘cult’ had been based on fabrications.

    Experience tells me that this claim is absurd. In our present day, there are Holocaust deniers, moon landing deniers, birthers, 911 truthers, and a host of other people who believe wildly implausible theories despite the fact that overwhelming evidence against their positions is available at the click of a mouse. Fanatics are remarkably impervious to logic and evidence. I do not for a minute believe that the first Christians would have packed up their bags and gone home at the sight of a skull.

  5. If part of your audience for these proofs is the non-believer, you might appreciate some reflections on your evidence:

    “Mark supports Luke. John supports Matthew. Paul supports Acts.”

    If, as is abundantly clear, Mark, Matthew and Luke share a literary relationship then we can’t say that any supports the others. It is unclear what Luke’s sources are for Acts (did he have Paul’s letters) so I think you jump the gun on that one.

    Your best collaborating documents are Paul’s letters – most likely the earliest documents and reinforcing important information such as the existence of Jesus and principle apostles, an early last supper tradition, the crucifixion and appearances. I give points in favor of accepting those points.

    “As well, it cannot be overlooked that Christ’s remains were never found.”

    Neither were the remains of Simon Magus. There is no indication that anyone ever looked for the remains, either. Not that there would have been much left to look at by the time Pentecost came around and the apostles started making noise. Of course, some have claimed the fact that no one bothered to look PROVES that there was no body to look for but it may just as easily show that they didn’t know where the tomb was or they assumed that Jesus’ spiritual body would have left its husk in the tomb. A non-conclusive argument.

  6. “There are numerous first and second-century extra-biblical writings that witness to the fact that Christians believed that Christ did extraordinary things, died on a cross, and rose from the grave: Josephus, Clement, Papias, Didache, Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Hermas, Tatian, Theophilus, Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria.”

    Even Eusebius considered Papias a gullible moron. Do we accept the tale of a grossly swollen Judas being unable to squeeze through the city gates? The earliest of these get points for demonstrating that Christians believed these things in the first 100 years but Paul already gives us that and is our only undisputed eye-witness. I would award half a point here with the caveat that Christians believed all sorts of things during the first and second century that we would think absurd today (see the Gnostics and Papias, above)

  7. Vinny #4

    “Fanatics are remarkably impervious to logic and evidence”. This can be (but it not always) true, but name for me another fanatical cult that has survived for 2000 years on lies.

    All of the cults you name are isolated and without credibility because as you rightly state, “…overwhelming evidence against their positions is available at the click of a mouse”.

    The ancient world ‘clicks of the mouse’ are testimony, eye witnesses and extant documents.

    The christian movement went through the gauntlet of Jewish persecution, Roman persecution, Muslim persecution. That type of pressure tends to strip away falsehoods. Who would be prepared to give their life for a lie? No rational, sane person I would submit.

    I am off track a little…one of the main points Michael wroter earlier was: …”I don’t ask anyone to look to one of these lines of evidence alone, but to consider the cumulative case”

  8. Michael,
    I guess it will not surprise you that I think your arguments are very weak.

    (1) The Preservation of the Documents : You say: the manuscript evidence tells us that the Gospel accounts of the resurrection were all written within a generation of the events which they record, giving evidence for their claims of eye-witness testimony.
    Can you please cite the various mss. that show the gospels were written within a generation? To my knowledge, the earliest mss. is p52 which is a fragment of a few verses from John 18 and at the very earliest dates to 125 CE and probably more like 150 CE.

    Then you say: Therefore, there is no time for legendary material to arise. How long do you think it takes for legendary material to develop? A great example in the 20th century of legendary development is the Roswell UFO story.

    (2) Archeology: You say: it cannot be overlooked that Christ’s remains were never found. That doesn’t prove he was raised; it just proves that no one ever dug him out of his grave. You also say: the archaeological evidence of the historically empty tomb is important . What archeological evidence? Are you going to maintain that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the location of the tomb of Jesus?

    (3) Extra-Biblical Attestation : You say: Over 39 extra-biblical sources attest to more than 100 facts regarding the life and teachings of Jesus . These are not independent sources. They are simply quoting from the canonical gospels or in the case of the secular historians contain a few sentences at the most mentioning that there were people who believed Jesus was the Messiah and believed he was raised.

    (cont.)

  9. That would be no different than a historian today saying that people believed that an alien spacecraft crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947. The fact that some people believe that does not make it a fact.

    Then you say: It would be like saying that in order for me to believe in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I have to have evidence from those who do not believe that he was assassinated . I am not aware of anyone who does not believe he was assassinated. Its a well established fact. A more accurate analogy would be to have a person who did not believe in the alien spacecraft crashing in 1947 writing about the seeing a spacecraft but then explaining it away as something else.

    (4) Survival in a Hostile Environment I will let you have this one but I don’t think it proves that Jesus rose from the dead anymore than the survival of Mormonism in a hostile environment proves that Joseph Smith really received golden tablets from Moroni.

    In your conclusion, you say: If the resurrection indeed occurred, it would be hard to expect more evidence . No it wouldn’t. I would expect more evidence if it truly happened. I would have expected Jesus to appear to Pilate, Herod or the High Priest and for the account to have been passed down. I would have expected the empty tomb to have been venerated from the time it was discovered so that there would be true archeological evidence of it today. There is much more that could be expected.

    You say: Those who deny the resurrection do so not on the basis of the evidence, but because they have other presuppositions that won’t allow them to believe. The evidence is simply too strong . I strongly disagree. I do not rule out the possibility of the supernatural but I would demand stronger evidence than what you have presented to believe it. Then you say: I believe that any objective historian must look to the evidence for the resurrection of Christ and concluded that he is indeed risen . So, do…

  10. So, do you really think that the fact that the great majority of historians do not accept the resurrection is due to just plain bias?

  11. Hi Ken,

    I just have one quick thought I want to throw out. You said, “I would have expected Jesus to appear to Pilate, Herod or the High Priest and for the account to have been passed down.”

    We have no record that I can recall of Jesus appearing willingly before any of these people before His death. We have no record that He went before any of them to “prove” His miracle working power or to teach. Why then would you think that He would chose this way to “prove” His resurrection? It would certainly be out of character for Him, would it not?

  12. I don’t know. I’ve always thought that the apologetics for the resurrection are some of the strongest in Christianity, but not all arguments are created equal.

    The biggest problem with most of the things you mention here is that none of them have any direct bearing on the resurrection.

    The preservation of the documents isn’t really an issue since no one is suggesting that the resurrection was a detail added later to documents that did not original include it. This argument belongs in a different discussion. The manuscript evidence points to the largely accurate preservation of the documents, not to the historical accuracy of those documents themselves.

    The archaeological record also has nothing to say about the resurrection. In fact, it has little to say about anything to do with the gospels. The gospels contain very few historical details. Who was governor of what and when are pretty much the only data that you can subject to archaeological or historical verification. The rest of the gospels contain information that would not have been likely to leave its mark on archaeology at all, mainly the life and sayings of Jesus.

    As far as the claim that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference… well that’s simply not true. In fact, the archaeological record is one of the biggest challenges to the historical accuracy of large chunks of the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch and Joshua. I don’t know as much about the New Testament, but as I said, I don’t see very much in the New Testament that could subject itself to such verification. Not only that, but unlike the Old Testament, in which its early accounts are believed to have been written centuries after the fact, it is hardly a surprise that the New Testament authors were familiar with their own setting and recent history.

    (cont.)

  13. Glueck overstates his case. All that can be said is that there are historical details in some Biblical books that, though previously doubted, have been subsequently confirmed. You cannot then go back to the archaeological evidence that does seem to contradict the Bible (and there is plenty of it) and jejunely assume that some evidence will similarly come along to clear up those contradictions. That’s just not good scholarship, or good apologetics.

    Also (and this is a quibble) there is no archaeological evidence of an empty tomb, there are only textual accounts. This is a confusion of disciplines.

    The fact that extra-biblical writings attest that Christians believed what is written in the gospels is… well… duh. If they didn’t believe it, we wouldn’t have gospels telling us about it. There are also plenty of documents that witness to Christians who believed things that are contrary to the gospels. That documents attest to the existence of certain beliefs says nothing about the truth of those beliefs.

    As far as secular support for the resurrection goes, you are half-correct, I think. The testimony of a believer is certainly not worse or less historically valuable than that of a non-believer or a detractor. However, it may be fairly said that if we were to find independent, secular confirmation of a historical claim made by the gospels, would that not drastically increase your confidence in the account? Why do you think Christians tampered with Josephus?

    I disagree that Christianity’s detractors had every opportunity to expose the resurrection as a fabrication. A body that is missing for whatever reason (resurrected, stolen by night, buried in a common, unmarked grave) cannot be produced as evidence for or against anything, and Jesus was only said to have appeared to the faithful.

    I’m not going to try to offer alternative explanations here, but I simply don’t think that most of these lines of evidence actually bear upon the thing you…

  14. Mike B,

    What would you, in your opinion, give as stronger apologetics for the reality of the resurrection then the ones CMP has given here? I think from what you said that you believe there are others?

    If you have time, I would appreciate if you would share them with us.

  15. I am enjoying this debate …. I’m with Mike B though, the archaeological record has nothing to say about the resurrection. If it points to Jesus having lived and also having died – this does not mean it points to Him having risen.

  16. Ken P,

    I agree with you the evidence presented here 4 the resurrection is weak. I believe Jesus rose because he appeared to my mom. He answered my prayers and many people attest each and every day in churches of answered prayer. A dead guy or a guy resurrected spiritually in ones heart cannot appear before people or answer prayers.IMHO

  17. While there are a number of questionable beliefs in existence from Elvis being alive to the moon landing was faked. The question is whether one can seriously believe such things could go beyond being something which the vast majority of the people simply roll their eyes at. It might be possible that some hard core of fanatical followers would continue to believe in the resurrection even if the body was produced, but it is doubtful that they would gain many new converts. Many of the arguments against the resurrection seems to assume the opponents of Christianity were complete idiots who were incapable of checking out a story or investigating a tomb. I see no evidence that is the case.

  18. Ken #10-

    Of course bias plays a role, as everyone is impacted by presuppositions. As N.T. Wright states:

    “By no means all historians today believe that they are ‘objective’ or ‘neutral’, attaining fixed and unalterable results by supposedly scientific means. On the contrary, I myself stand in a line of historians who have explicitly renounced that pseudo-objectivity and have instead argued for a form of ‘critical realism’ in which the interaction between the historian and the subject matter is fully allowed for.”

    But, as far as I am concerned, the historian may and must say that all other explanations for why Christianity arose, and why it took the shape it did, are far less convincing as historical explanations than the one the early Christians themselves offer: that Jesus really did rise from the dead on Easter morning, leaving an empty tomb behind him. The origins of Christianity, the reason why this new movement came into being and took the unexpected form it did, and particularly the strange mutations it produced within the Jewish hope for resurrection and the Jewish hope for a Messiah, are best explained by saying that something happened, two or three days after Jesus’ death, for which the accounts in the four gospels are the least inadequate expression we have.”

    He goes on:
    “Of course, there are several reasons why people may not want, and often refuse, to believe this. But the historian must weigh, as well, the alternative accounts they themselves offer. And, to date, none of them have anything like the explanatory power of the simple, but utterly challenging, Christian one. The historian’s task is not to force people to believe. It is to make it clear that the sort of reasoning historians characteristically employ — inference to the best explanation, tested rigorously in terms of the explanatory power of the hypothesis thus generated — points strongly towards the bodily resurrection of Jesus…”

  19. thinker of things April 2, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Scott F:

    I think you’re right that sometimes evangelicals overstate evidence towards the resurrection (but of course, in most theological arguments that often happens). It’s quite possible to see the gospel accounts simply as the progression of legends across the decades… initially Jesus was spiritually raised and honored by God for his faithfulness in martyrdom (pre-Gospel period), to bodily resurrection and the empty tomb with no appearance implying an immediate ascension unattested by anyone that is to usher in the immediately impending eschaton (Mark), to Jesus appearing to people and the spread of the message of Jesus (Matthew and even John), to Jesus ascending after appearing to people and the establishment of the church in this world (Luke-Acts), to further legends in second century literature.

    But to me, the main hitch to all of this, as you alluded, is the testimony of Paul (and for me, especially in 1 Cor 15:3-8). That’s early testimony (written ~54-55 AD, but he’s quoting tradition that’s earlier than that), it’s considered authentic by critical scholarship (even Tubingen), it mentions burial and resurrection appearances, and it’s quite independent from the material in the gospels. And even more intriguing is that Paul was not initially a follower of Christ (but of course, some think maybe Saul prior was internally conflicted about Jesus and just finally “came out of the closet”). Anyway, for me, it’s the testimony of Paul in 1 Cor 15:3-8 that is the most intriguing evidence for the resurrection.

  20. Scott F,
    This is off topic, so this will probably be all that I say…although I think you and I would agree it does little to support/work against Michael’s argument above. Anyways, maybe he’ll allow a little leeway for this one comment?

    Eusebius never claims Papias was gullible, but “an idiot.” A few years back, I thought this basically discredited Papias, but have come around. The structure of the passage in Greek, context, etc. make it where I can no longer believe that Eusebius was referring to Papias in general, but in regards to his specific premillenial beliefs. It would be similar to someone calling Dawkins an idiot based on his philosophy/theology, but still respecting him as a biologist. I’m considering publishing a paper on this very topic in the future, so when (if) I ever finish, I’ll try to remember to send you a copy at your site.

    The early church quoted Papias rather frequently, which seems to be saying that they valued his writings. Even Eusebius considers him a worthy source on some topics. After all, why would he make reference to him on the topic of authorship (to support his views) if he considered him to be “a gullible moron?” The fact is that he did consider him important on this topic, but incorrect theologically. Of course, he’s important because he’s writing in the early second century about memories that go back to the end of the first century. That’s valuable. It’s the same reason that Papias gets referenced by Iranaeus. They trusted his information on this topic, but Eusebius obviously disagreed with his premillenial perspective.

    He may have been a nut and recounted all types of legends (the most obvious being the Judas legend…which may or may not be authentically Papias), but in regards to the discussion of gospel origins, he seems to have been highly valued then and has made a huge resurgence recently among historians and NT scholars (which began with M. Hengel’s outstanding work on the topic, which I highly recommend).

  21. I do not want to divert this to a discussion on Mormonism but since it was brought up I do think there is an instructive contrast here. The arguments against Joseph Smith are readily available (and in my opinion convincing). There are also from very early standard arguments against Christianity (the Passover Plot, the disciples stole the body etc.). But many of the modern theories such as the disciples had a mystical experience that became a physical explanation later or the idea grew up slowly over time are things that could have been easily determined at the time, but no one mentions. It is like saying Joseph Smith never claimed to see an angel with golden plates. They do not work.

  22. Damon,

    Islam seems to be holding up quite well.

    I am happy to look at all the lines of evidence; however, if one of the arguments is untenable, we can eliminate it.

  23. “Preservation of the Documents: This has to do with the manuscript evidence of the New Testament, the primary source documents concerning the resurrection. While we don’t have any of the originals in our possession (nor should we expect to), the manuscript evidence for the New Testament is very strong. According to top text critic Daniel Wallace, “We have an embarrassment of riches.” Not only do we have hundreds of manuscripts that date before the fifth century (some into the second and third), but we have many quotations from the early church fathers that alone could be used to reconstruct most of the New Testament.”

    Pardon me but yes you can not only expect to find the originals you must consider the fact that since you haven’t any originals that it disproves the source materials by that fact alone. Second of course the other documents you mention are traceable to the sources since they were completely drawn from them and intended to bolster them by the written copying, so what else did you expect from the supporters!

    To state or imply that the copies were made by a supporter and then propose that the supporter would not support the source is ridiculous.

    Show some not connected proof from sources of secular entities at the time that proves your claims, if you find anything then it would be unbiased proof that something happened instead of relying entirely upon a work that was strictly compiled to convince people that something happened when nothing from official sources mention nothing. Josephus is not valid, nor anything not contemporary from secular sources since those sources have nothing to prove or support in your claims and would be far better evidence then what you list.

    TFR

  24. Ken,
    Couple issues with your case. I’m referring to your Roswell thing here as well.

    1. As you are aware there is some disagreement about when to date the various books of the Bible. Some of the reasons given for a later date with some books is ultimately because of a anti-supernatural bias. So for Mark contains a passage predicting the destruction of the Jewish temple. If you have a anti-supernatural bias this means that Mark MUST have been written after the destruction of the temple. Presuppositions and contentions such as this make some of the datings highly suspect.

    2. Your time frame is off even if you accept secular historians datings. 1 Corinthians was, according to almost all historians sacred and secular, written in the early-mid 50’s and it already contains a fully divine Jesus who rose from the dead and is worshiped as God. It is also clear here that Paul (who almost all agree wrote this Epistle) is communicating things which were believed before he believed them. Thus given the date of 30-33 AD for Jesus’ death we are talking about 20-25 years between death and 1 Corinthians, and far less than that for the actual legendary development to occur. As Greg Boyd accurately points out the legendary hypothesis really bleeds into the lie hypothesis at that point.

    3. I think your being rather intellectually dishonest when you criticize the manuscripts available for the Bible while not admitting that every single ancient document fairs FARRRRRR worse when it comes to the number of manuscripts available and the dates of those manuscripts in relation to the actual date of publication or the event being recorded. To call into question the Bible purely on the date and number of manuscripts is to call into question every last historical document ever written.

    4. To compare the social environment of mid-20th Century America to early 1st Century Palestine is laughable.

  25. Alockslee,
    I almost laughed out loud when I read the burden of proof you propose. Show you a contemporary secular source who supports the resurrection. It’s a completely illogical thing to expect. Someone who believed the resurrection occurred would not be a secular source anymore. By it’s very definition a secular source is someone who is non-Christian which means they obviously don’t believe the resurrection occurred. Your expecting there to be some white-coat non-interested source who can objectively tell you what really happened. Nothing like that existed then and nothing like that exists now. You are either interested in proving or disproving Christianity period. White-coat historians are a figment of the modernist imagination.

  26. Michael

    Thousands of historical novels containing factual data exist and only prove that the facts were known by the author at the time of the writing.

    To claim the NT stands alone because of some data is nonsense since other proven works exist without needing to be anything beyond a novel with data as part of the material

    You insult the intelligence of the reader in this poor attempt of trying to argue an negative as if it proves anything whatsoever beyond just a another piece of written material and nothing else. It doesn’t prove a thing beyond the existence of another fictionalized account from a writer period. If people are gullible enough to believe it beyond that then look at the person and don’t proclaim it to be something it certainly is not.

    TFR

  27. I find the fact that repeatedly believers have so much trouble when asked to prove their beliefs and then when they find nothing supports their beliefs the result is always circular reasoning and arguments that amount to nothing beyond that.

    Extra-biblical references??? Please lets see some of these and at the same time produce all the secular source material that is among this collection.

    The problem is quite obvious since no secular material exists that is both contemporary or does anything outside that based upon the very NT is ever brought up and then defended so poorly that it is embarrassing to the supporter of this belief system and they only grow more so when the discussion builds exposing it for the fallacy it is and ever will be.

    This demands to be written since those who claim to be a follower simply refuse to accept the obvious facts that continue to disprove the material form the very material that is said to be the word of god!!!

    Please! It is nothing but a an exercise in complete futility by any believer in an attempt to argue the existence of a deity that is nothing more than a compilation and combining of previous existing deities of the times, nothing more.

    So again please list the source documents you claim exist and to make it easy only the secular supporting evidence that bolsters this religious belief system.

    No offense meant here, just tired of reading and discussing the topic with people who claim this to be factual truth and then fail or refuse to produce anything to back up these claims.

    TFR

  28. Alocksee,
    You’re argument was completely unresponsive. My contention is that the burden of proof you are presenting (secular sources supporting the resurrection) is a logical contradiction. It is ultimately your reasoning that is circular. You ask for support for a religious belief from individuals who are hostile to that belief and then are shocked when you find none (why doesn’t Paul count btw – was he just lying when he claimed to have persecuted Christian’s and then converted, something the vast majority of historians agree on?). If someone believes the resurrection to have actually occurred they aren’t going to be a secular source anymore. This seems blatantly obvious. Someone who believe Christ rose from the ground is (with very few exceptions even 2000 years later) going to be a Christian or at least a Christian sect. Ultimately you’re saying that anyone who believes the resurrection occurred is untrustworthy. It is simply your presuppositions and biases playing themselves out. I openly admit I have biases and presuppositions. Will you admit yours?

    Also nowhere in this post or the previous post did CMP claim anything about the Bible’s place as the Word of God. He has for the most part merely treated it as a historical document.

    Finally who do you consider contemporary?? When looking at most ancient documents secondary sources within 100-200 years would be considered contemporary and most are far worse then that. If you are expecting something within say 20 years of Jesus’ death you’re asking for something that is not expected of any other ancient historical event which is believed to have occurred. Again your presuppositions playing themselves out.

  29. Rick–I agree with Wright that there is no true objective historian. Yet, Michael used that term implying that only those who are biased against the supernatural would deny the “strong” evidence for the resurrection. My point was the evidence must not really be that strong since most historians do not believe Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The fact is that Wright and Christians are very biased to interpret the evidence in favor of a bodily resurrection because of their prior faith commitment. I think the bias is far more evident on their side than it is on the non-believers side but yes there is no such thing as a truly objective historian.

    thinker of things-you say that 1 Cor. 15 is very significant for you in believing in the resurrection. Note that Paul uses the same word ὤφθη (ophthe) to refer to all the appearances including his own. He lines up in parallel form the appearances to Peter, to the 12, to the 500, to James, and to himself–implying that they were all of the same nature. Yet, what do we know about the appearance of Jesus to Paul? In Acts 9, 22, and 26 he describes only seeing a bright light and hearing a voice. He did not see a body. The people with him saw nothing and didn’t understand what they heard. If Paul is putting his “vision” on the same par with the earlier appearances, then why wouldn’t one think that the nature of both were the same? Especially since as you mention this is the earliest reference. The Gospel accounts may be embellished.

  30. Michael T.,
    1) Yes there are different views on the dating of the gospels but to say that only one side is biased is an example of bias itself. Everyone is biased in the sense that they interpret evidence based on their worldview. Its impossible to do otherwise.

    2) Regarding 1 Cor. 15, as I stated above , I recognize that the pericope is very early and that there was a belief in a risen Jesus. However, as I also noted above, Paul puts the appearance of Jesus to him on the Road to Damascus on a par with the appearances to Peter, the Twelve, etc. We know from Acts the nature of the appearance to Paul–he did not see a body. He didn’t even see a person but just a bright light. I believe that from these types of experiences, a legend developed which eventually included an empty tomb, Jesus in a body eating fish, etc.

    3) I was criticizing a particular assertion made by Michael in the OP–namely that “the manuscript evidence tells us that the Gospel accounts of the resurrection were all written within a generation of the events.” I don’t believe there are any mss. that date that early. I do agree that the mss. evidence for the NT is as you put it FARRRRRR
    superior to other ancient documents but that is beside the point.

  31. Michael T,

    4) It is laughable to compare the social setting of 20th century to the 1st century. In the 20th century we have mass communication, forensic scientists, etc. and yet IN SPITE of that the legends around the Roswell event developed. How much easier for legends to have developed in the 1st century?

  32. thinker of things April 3, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Ken Pulliam:

    Oh, I’m well aware of the issues of Acts 9, 22, and 26 and that’s why I didn’t even mention it since it’s greatly debated. And regarding the parallel usage of ὤφθη in 1 Cor 15… Paul never says it was “on the Damascus Road” (not even in Gal 1… that’s reading Acts into Paul). And in 1 Cor 15, he does put his experience as parallel to whatever was experienced by the “500 brothers at once, most of whom are still remaining”… whatever that’s describing. Again, this doesn’t prove an airtight case for resurrection, but I do find it intriguing evidence towards the resurrection.

    Happy Easter.
    (and I don’t mean that sarcastically)

  33. Ken-

    “The fact is that Wright and Christians are very biased to interpret the evidence in favor of a bodily resurrection because of their prior faith commitment. I think the bias is far more evident on their side than it is on the non-believers side but yes there is no such thing as a truly objective historian.”

    The Christian scholars (I am focusing on world class Christian scholars here) are “very biased”? Really? Scholars such as Wright have a high standing in the broad academic community, so that is quite a statement by you.

    Non-Christian historians are not “very” biased? Based on what? Keep in mind, we are talking about a one-time major, supernatural event. Most historians will agree that it was a major turning point in world history. But why was it? As Wright points out, the non-Resurrection explanations seem much weaker than the Resurrection reason. Again, that is where presuppositions may play a role- on both sides.

    And where does is it found that all historians, who are also Christians, had a prior faith commitment before believing in the Resurrection? Likewise, could such a faith commitment actually benefit the scholar by opening up his/her analysis to new possibilities? Could a lack of faith commitment possibly inhibit the analysis of the non-Christian scholar by limiting their scope?

    I think you ask good questions, but I just disagree with how you seem to come down to your concrete conclusions.

  34. “I find the fact that repeatedly believers have so much trouble when asked to prove their beliefs and then when they find nothing supports their beliefs the result is always circular reasoning and arguments that amount to nothing beyond that.”

    I find the fact that repeatedly UNbelievers have so much trouble when asked to prove their beliefs and then when they find nothing supports their beliefs the result is always circular reasoning and arguments that amount to nothing beyond that.

    To Ken:

    Until you understand the nature of ultimate beliefs and their complete control over evidence, i.e., issues we discussed before, you will continue to make nonsensical statements like this:

    “My point was the evidence must not really be that strong since most historians do not believe Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The fact is that Wright and Christians are very biased to interpret the evidence in favor of a bodily resurrection because of their prior faith commitment. I think the bias is far more evident on their side than it is on the non-believers side but yes there is no such thing as a truly objective historian.”

    Really? And how are you assessing this? Transcending space and time again and determining which group is closer to objectivity? Please, no more of these absurdities.

  35. Ken,
    Actually I think mass communications make it much easier for legends to be formed in a short period of time. A story will go around the world in days and be retold 100’s of times in an instant. Furthermore we live in a semi-superstitious culture that wants to believe in aliens and government cover-ups (just look at the JFK or 9-11 conspiracy theorists). In a very real way the Roswell legend reinforces something that is part of the American psyche and has been for a long time. I don’t think the same can be said for the Bible. A legend about God become a man and being the long awaited Messiah, but getting himself crucified and screaming “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” seems to be the furthest thing from reinforcing cultural beliefs which is what legends normally do. Israel expected a conquering king and Jesus was anything but. If the stories of Jesus are a legend it is certainly one of the odder legends of all time in terms of how legends normally function in relation to the culture they arise out of. Now of course some of this comes from C.S. Lewis. So maybe the respected Oxford professor who was an expert on myths and legends, was just biased and lying when he spoke of the function of legends, somehow I just don’t think so.

  36. Michael, don’t get upset just because it is pointed out that only the fictionalized accounts of the NT which rest solely upon to prove your theory fails when looked at without the tainted viewpoint of those under the fantasy of some alleged deity rises after being dead for 3 days!

    Look at the very account you use and then count the days which at the time were under the Jewish interpretation of sundown to sundown to count as a full day. If you take Friday (Passover) your version has him entombed before Passover starts at sundown on FRIDAY, then he is walking around on Sunday, again your version, that is at most 2 full days depending on which account of the contradictory ones in the 4 gospels then how do you get to 3 days?

    In reality that is actually less then 2 full days since he was allegedly shut up in a tomb on Friday evening and is walking around during the daytime or even the predawn period on Sunday!

    You don’t! The whole premise for this religion is faulty from the get go and I used only your version!

    So tell everyone here how this fiction is supposed to be taken seriously and look at the recent events with the whackos who want to kill police officers and then blow them up at the funerals. These folks are among the very believers who follow your religious ideology.

    So much for circular reasoning since I just deconstructed the entire Mythos in less than 2000 characters!

    TFR

  37. Michael, Again to claim my post is unresponsive and claim it is upon me to disprove something is requiring to prove a negative you haven’t overcome in your initial claims. I don’t have to prove or disprove a thing, I only have to wait until you and the rest of your fellow believers put up the real proof any of the stuff you hold to as factual really happened in the first place.

    Your religion is just the same as any other belief and since all you ever use for the foundation of your position is the NT which can’t even produce a single individual document outside itself to show that a reasonable person saw any of the reported miracles occurring then it is upon you to do so.

    It would be the same if someone said the moon of made of green cheese, they would have to produce the proof it was or be relegated as you are to the place where your fellow believers find themselves constantly in, that simply stated is always spouting something that is completely lacking is viable evidence outside your fiction based books.

    So if any of your claims did occur then someone somewhere who wasn’t a believer would have recorded it and asked about it, since the whole society would have offered explanation to explain it even if they didn’t agree on what caused it, they would at least have recorded it and speculated that one of their deities was the cause of the dead walking the streets or some other event related in your NT.

    At the very least it would not go unrecorded, unmentioned or unobserved as is the case with your claims form the NT and the materials written after that by overzealous people trying to build it up for power and economic control. That is exactly what you have in place today, with the various groups vying for control of the population and forcing their ideology upon the rest of us who don’t follow your fantasy lifestyles or want anything to do with your stupid and ridiculous assertions.

    which causes the need to constantly have to rebut and try to discuss the facts verses your fantasy of beliefs.

    TFR

  38. To Damon #7, who wrote”I am off track a little…one of the main points Michael wroter earlier was: …”I don’t ask anyone to look to one of these lines of evidence alone, but to consider the cumulative case”

    Yes Damon lets look at it and when you do without the blinders of forced conversion and outside of the preconceived limitations of your religious ideology, you find it to be simply fiction without any outside proof of the claims being supported or even talked about in the same manner as the NT has it down.

    the NT came about after the 2 councils of Nicea and even those tossed out much of th existing beliefs due to the far fetched nature of them.

    The attending persons ignored and then persecuted others who held to a religious doctrine they disagreed with, Gnostics for example or the Cathars. So when you bring up the position to look at the recornd in its entirety endeavor to include all of it and not just the portions of fiction while ignoring the true factual history as recorded by everyone and not all of them had an axe to grind with any cultist running around spouting Armageddon at every chance.

    Take care and remember to look at everything with an open mind as I have then allow your fantasy to be dealt with when you come to grips with the reality of what did and did not really happen.

    TFR

  39. Lets move onto why “christianity survived in a hostile environment” which it was the major force in creating it in the first place.

    Lets review the period of the Crusades where “christian”Europe joined together to invade the Middle East and kill wholesale men, women and children that were living there and prevented their complete takeover of a foreign country to force their beliefs upon those who wanted nothing to do with it!

    Lets look at the Puritans who came here when their original society rallied together to stop their ridiculous fantasy from infecting the rest of the country and they came here to keep their destructive practices against the Natives who had settled this land thousands of years before they and the church had landed to bring diseases and kill off the population.

    Lets look at the takeover of this country by the fundies who continue to lie everyday about whatever the followers will hear and act in complete lock step to today.

    The Fascist of Germany used the same techniques to enslave their people and exterminate anther group of non believers as well.

    The church eradicated whole villages during the middle ages of people who weren’t of their thinking or religious practices. Those survivors were forced to convert to this christianity and the efforts are even more apparent today with the vast amount of control over the population and even the influences upon our government and society.

    So lets all look at the totality of the evidence and then you Damon can begin defending your system and by doing so may recognize for the first time what you are spouting off about for the the first time.

    TFR

  40. Alockslee:

    Define the nature of reality without assuming a belief about the nature of reality.

  41. Alockslee,

    I would venture to say that you have not “proved” that the Bible is fantasy at all. You believe it to be so, but I don’t think you have in any way proved that what it says did not happen.

  42. The difference between the 1st century Roman Empire and the 20th century are vastly overdrawn. The main difference is technological. The Romans were as urbane and cynical as we are. They did not take their religion serious and had satire writers who poked fun at it. They had those who maintained the world was the accidental result of the movements of atoms. One of the first criticisms of Christianity was that it was against the laws of nature. The Romans had taken moral decadence to a level beyond ours. They even had their own off the wall beliefs (called mystery religions) which few took seriously and which vanished after the Empire fell. They were very similar to what we are. I agree mass communications aids the spread of questionable ideas. It means that both good information and bad information spreads faster and more people including questionable people have access to the communications process.

  43. There is absolutely not historical basis for the idea that either Council of Nicea had anything to do with determining the content of the New Testament. We have manuscripts of the New Testament books that predate Nicea. The New Testament books are sighted as authoritative by Christians prior to Nicea. There were councils after Nicea, Hippo and Carthage which put forth an official authoritative opinion on what books where should be in the New Testament. But they were not starting from ground zero but trying to give an official answer to a minority of the books which people had doubts about. The contention that Christianity survived despite opposition refers to the period prior to Nicea when Christians were opposed and persecuted.

  44. I have been hesitant to mention Roswell because it seems to be answering one can of worms with another. The question of UFOs is an interesting question and whether those who believe in they are utter crackpots (I am hesitant to simply write someone off, it makes it hard to communicate with them), reasonable people who are merely mistaken and whether there is even some possibility that they are alien spacecraft is arguable. I will admit in my high school days I did consider they might be aliens. I later accepted the Klass plasma hypothesis as better fitting the evidence. While I am not dogmatic about it I am still hesitant to accept the position that there is no real explanation and it is all in people’s heads. Roswell from what I can determine (I have not investigated it in detail) was the result of a real crash (lets accept the the official explanation it was a weather balloon) and witnesses who told stories that fit with a preexisting belief this does not fit the resurrection.

  45. One would not expect a secular historians to give aid and comfort to some strange sect by describing them and and the events surrounding them in detail. Nonetheless Christ or Christianity is mentioned in Lucian, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Galen (though only in passing), Josephus has been questioned as later Christian insertions but the references exist, Suetonius is based on the assumption of a confusion but is arguable. Frankly this is about what I would expect for secular historians dealing with a despised religion. If there was a detailed secular account of the origin of Christianity my first thought would be what Medieval monks forged this. May of the arguments given here would disprove 90% of all historical events.

  46. Hodge on 03 Apr 2010 at 2:08 pm #
    Alockslee:
    Define the nature of reality without assuming a belief about the nature of reality.
    cherylu on 03 Apr 2010 at 3:29 pm #
    Alockslee,
    I would venture to say that you have not “proved” that the Bible is fantasy at all. You believe it to be so, but I don’t think you have in any way proved that what it says did not happen.
    _______________________________________________
    In response: You both sound very frustrated with the fact your entire religion is without any substantial proof and totally rely upon something when called to task on it are unable to deal with defending it. So why is that? Why is the typical response to the question or discussion always to try to turn it into something else?

    The reason is quite simple, you know full well that you haven’t anything to show as tangible proof, nor do you ever admit to that fact and only avoid the issues of doing so.

    It is quite humorous and so predictable from an evangelical or fundie that you can just about set your watch by it. Nothing is ever discussed once the challenge is made to you types and you just continue to change or try to avert the discussion as if that will work and it never does. Why not discuss it and actually work you way through the factual reality for once. If is easy to do and then you will have actually dealt with the subject from a reality based not fantasy based position.

    The problem for you to do that requires that you have to think about the facts and that is troublesome because it completely does away with the fictionalized rhetoric you cling to to keep from accepting responsibility for your own life.

    Lets see you work through it for once and I will just keep reminding you till you finish the task given to you.

    TFR

  47. ALocksee,

    Someone mentioned above that many of the arguments used here would disprove 90% of all historical claims.

    Why is a much higher degree of “proof” required by you for something then would be required by people for other historical events? Don’t you believe other old historical documents when they speak of things having happened in the past? Do they all have to have multiple, multiple people telling the same thing for you to believe it?

    Or is it only when it has to do with something supernatural that you just can’t accept that something is any more than a “fantasy?”

  48. Alockslee:

    In other words, your guilty of the very thing of which you accuse Christians. I put a challenge to you and you cannot answer it.

    Your challenge itself proves my point. Christianity is internally consistent within its belief system at the very least. What you want us to do is assume atheism and prove Christianity from there. No thanks. Your belief system is self refuting, and its humorous to see the massive amount of posturing atheists have to do in order to back out of a challenge. I expect more name calling to commence at this point. As for me, I don’t care to discuss logic with those who claim to be the supreme overlords of it, but then completely deny it when they argue.

    BTW, no frustration here with Christianity. It’s the most logical belief in the world, and we don’t need to make fun of anyone or commit ridiculous ad hominems in order to ascend to that position. Faretheewell.

  49. Thinker—So you don’t think that Paul is referring to his Damascus Road experience in 1 Cor.15? That is a new one. So do you think that if he had seen Jesus like the disciples reportedly did in the gospels eating fish, etc. that he would not have mentioned it but instead only mentioned the vision in Acts 9, 22 and 26?

    Rick—You are the one who provided the quote from Wright saying there are no truly objective historians. He admits that we all are biased. I agree. My point was that I think Christians may be especially biased because of their prior religious experience or faith commitment.

    Hodge—Your beef is with CMP not me. He is the one who said: any objective historian must look to the evidence for the resurrection of Christ and concluded that he is indeed risen . I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “truly objective historian.” As for my saying that I think some historians are more biased than others–that is my opinion based on the evidence. Have you ever read a Mormon historian’s account of Mormon history? Just because I am not transcendent does not mean that I cannot recognize the heavy bias.

  50. Michael T.,

    Yes stories can be retold much faster now than they could have in the first century BUT they can also be checked faster, easier and scientifically now.

    I think that after Jesus died, the disciples had to rethink their concept of the Messiah and after some reported seeing Jesus after his death, they found OT passages that seemed to teach the Messiah would suffer and die. They then interpreted the sightings of Jesus after his death as proof that God had vindicated him. They believed that the last days had begun and that within their lifetimes Jesus would return and complete the day of resurrection. As their wait for his return continued, they began to systematize their theology and of course rival theologies (heresies) also developed.

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