A Short Defense of the Resurrection of Christ

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Just as we test the historicity of any event, not through emotional conviction, but with historical evidence, I would like to devote some time to laying out a brief historical case for the Resurrection of Christ, the central issue of the Christian faith.

Here is what we need (the tools of the trade):

1. Internal Evidence: Evidence coming from within the primary witness documents, the New Testament.

2. External Evidence: Collaborative evidence coming from outside the primary witness documents.

Internal Evidence:

  • Honesty
  • Irrelevant Details
  • Harmony
  • Public Extraordinary Claims
  • Lack of Motivation for Fabrication

The entire Bible records both successes and failures of the heroes. I have always been impressed by this. It never paints the glorious picture that you would expect from legendary material, but shows them in all their worst moments. The Israelites whined, David murdered, Peter denied, the apostles abandoned Christ in fear, Moses became angry, Jacob deceived, Noah got drunk, Adam and Eve disobeyed, Paul persecuted, Solomon worshiped idols, Abraham was a bigamist, Lot committed incest, John the Baptist doubted, Abraham doubted, Sarah doubted, Nicodemus doubted, Thomas doubted, Jonah ran, Samson self-served, and John, at the very end of the story, when he should have had it all figured out, worshiped an angel (Rev 22:8). I love it! (ahem).

And these are the Jews who wrote the Bible!

In addition, the most faithful are seen as suffering the most (Joseph, Job, and Lazarus), while the wicked are seen as prospering (the rich man). In the case of the Gospels, the disciples who recorded it claimed to have abandoned Christ and did not believe in His resurrection when told. Even after the resurrection, they still present themselves as completely ignorant of God’s plan (Acts 1:6-7). Women are the first to witness the resurrection which has an element of self-incrimination since a woman’s testimony was not worth anything in the first century. If someone were making this up, why include such an incriminating detail? (I am glad they did—what an Easter message this is for us today!)

Irrelevant Details:
The Gospel writers (especially John) contain many elements to their story that are really irrelevant to the big picture. Normally, when someone is making a story up, they include only the details that contribute to the fabrication. Irrelevant details are a mark of genuineness in all situations.

Notice this small segment of the Gospel of John 20:1-8 (HT: Gregory Boyd, but modified):

“Early on the first day of the week (when? does it matter?), while it was still dark (who cares?), Mary Magdalene (an incriminating detail) went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one who Jesus loved (John’s modest way of referring to himself—another mark of genuineness) and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have taken him!” (note her self-incriminating lack of faith here). So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. They were running, but the other disciple out ran Peter and reached the tomb first (who cares who won the race? a completely irrelevant detail). He bent over (irrelevant, but the tomb entrance was low—a detail which is historically accurate of wealthy people of the time—the kind we know Jesus was buried in) and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in (why not? irrelevant detail). Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb (Peter’s boldness stands out in all the Gospel accounts). He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head (irrelevant and unexpected detail—what was Jesus wearing?). The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen (somewhat irrelevant and unusual. Jesus folded one part of his wrapping before he left!). Finally the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went inside (who cares about what exact order they went in?)

The four Gospel writers claim to have witnessed the resurrected Christ. The same is the case for most of the other writers of the NT. The four Gospel writers all write of the same event from differing perspectives. Although they differ in details, they are completely harmonious to the main events surrounding the resurrection, and all claim that it is an historical event. Many people are disturbed by the seeming disharmony among the Gospels since the Gospel writers do not include all the same details. However, this is actually a mark of historicity since if they all said exactly the same thing, it would be a sign that they made it up. However, the Gospel writers contain just enough disharmony to give it a mark of genuine historicity.

Public Extraordinary Claims:
The Bible records that the resurrection of Christ happened and gives the time, place, people involved, and it names many of the witnesses. In other words, the extraordinary claims were not done in secret as would be the case if it were fabricated. Look to all the ancient myths and you will see how obscure the mythology has to be in order to claim historicity. Why? Because if you give too many details of times, people, and places it can be easily disproven. If it was a fabrication, the author should have said only one person knew about it. He should have said it happened in a cave or a place no one has ever heard of. We have those type of stories that start religions.

Lack of Motive for Fabrication:
There is no reasonable explanation as to why the Apostles (or anyone for that matter) would have made up such a story. They had no popularity, power, or riches to gain from it if it was a lie. They were in constant persecution because of their confession, and finally, most probably met a terrible death, sealing their testimony in blood.

Beyond this, it was culturally unacceptable at all levels to have a crucified and resurrected Messiah. The Jews certainly were not expecting their Messiah to be crucified or raised. The Greek world would have nothing but disdain for the idea of a bodily resurrection (yet Christ wants the his disciples to spread this message to the Gentiles! Acts 1). Therefore, for this idea to arise as a fabrication at this time in history would have been about the most counterproductive story anyone could have made up.

It could not have been an illusion, for illusions do not happen in mass over time. It could not have been a case of mistaken identity (i.e., they merely thought they saw Christ), since it is impossible to explain how this many witnesses could be mistaken about seeing someone dead and buried, and then seeing the same person alive three days later. It could not be that Christ did not really die, since the Romans were expert executioners, and many people helped in the burial process, wrapping Christ in burial cloths as was their custom. It could not have been made up since all the objectors (and there were plenty of them) had to do was to produce a body.

In the end, all other alternatives for the resurrection, while possible, are completely improbable and take a greater leap of faith than believing that Christ rose from the grave.

Now we move to 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.


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). Tim Kimberly has been covering this recently.

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).


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.

57 Responses to “A Short Defense of the Resurrection of Christ”

  1. This is your SHORT defense?!

  2. Well, let’s just say that your (and Greg Boyd’s) interpretation of the evidence is not seen universally in the same light. :)

  3. Did Boyd say that?

    A few comments on his:

    (1) ‘that something is irrelevant’ is purely his opinion. Irrelevant for what?

    (2) ‘that Peter had boldness to went into the tomb’ – why? because a tomb is spooky place? He came to the tomb to verify, didn’t he? Why Boyd has to read Peter’s boldness? Was everything Peter did with boldness?

    (3) John’s modest way of referring to himself—another mark of genuineness. – C’mon, he didn’t say that, did he?

    (4) Who cares about what exact order they went in – Well, Boyd doesn’t care, but all others do. The beloved disciple was some one who would belong to the Priests (he let Peter in) and would not want to go into the tomb with a dead body still there – (See Schonfield, the Original New Testament).

    (4) Who cares who won the race – a completely irrelevant detail – did they race? Why not read it as actual narrative – the Beloved Disciple may be much younger, etc.

    Sorry, I would strike out whatever Boyd said posing as any evidence for whatever.

  4. Oun,

    Boyd is not challenging the authority of the Bible. It is a simple fact that all true historical material can AND should contain irrelevant detail. Embellishments rarely have anything that is not integral to the story. That is a mark of embellishments.

    I think everything he said is valid and adds greatly to the historicity of John’s story.

  5. Hi CMP

    You’ve missed my points just as Boyd missed the finer points of the Gospel narrative to try to prop up his opinions as evidence for something to convice others.


  6. I forgot to ask: Were the bracketed phrases Boyd’s own or from CMP’s pen?

  7. Most of these arguments are old hat. I mean, William Ramsay died in 1939!

    Do we even need to address the Swoon Theory anymore? Replace that paragraph with one on Cognitive Dissonance.

    None of those external references really amount to much. They only report what Christians believed about Jesus, not what He actually did. Our earliest Christian source, Paul, already provides a clear indication of believe in the resurrection.

    As to the four gospels being eyewitness accounts, I don’t expect to sway you on this but Luke, at least, is in no way a witness (I know, I know, he interviewed billions of witnesses!) . For me the stumbling block to the witness claim is the undeniable (and I mean UNDENIABLE) evidence that Mark, Matthew and/or Luke was working from a written copy of one or more of the other synoptics. Dodgy practice for an eye-witness. Understandable for someone (Luke?) who has only scattered written and oral sources to work with.

    All in all, this is pretty much apologetic boilerplate as mine is atheist boilerplate, I suppose. Even so, at times you do such a good job, Michael, of recognizing the places where traditional Christian thought is insufficient that it is disappointing to read.

    Update: Had the wrong William Ramsay in my original post

  8. Defending the resurrection is likely of more value to those who believe it than to those who don’t.

    Some of the points were new to me. ScottF, there is not much that is new, most things are just regurgtated for those who have yet to hear it. Quite a few people have been born after 1939 :) I mean really what else would you like for Michael to come up with? I would think there is little else to add and still you don’t believe it.

  9. “completely harmonious to the main events”
    I guess these words leave some wiggle room, but I have to ask, What about the location of the first resurrection appearances?

    Mark records a “young man” saying to the 3 women, “tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him” and records no actual appearances. Matthew records a similar statement by an “angel” and adds the disciple’s traveling to Galilee and their encounter with Jesus there. Interestingly, Luke seems to have modified the statement in Mark to, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee…” Luke retains the reference to Galilee, but instead of being the intended meeting location, it is now a historical reference to Jesus’ earlier teaching. Luke then continues to tell of the appearances in and around Jerusalem (~40 miles from Galilee). The location of the resurrection appearances would seem to be a “main event” in the resurrection story, and the accounts are not “completely harmonious”, to say the least.

  10. I believe you stated that archeology has shown that there isn’t a problem with the date of Jesus’s birth. What is that evidence exactly? I didn’t realize that problem had been solved.

  11. Hello, CMP.

    I think that, in the parts of the excellent document above where you use the word “collaboration” you mean, in its stead, “corroboration”. I know; they are faux amis, so I bet safely that you are erring.

  12. Well done, Mr. Patton. This piece will suit your audience well. Its interesting to me that Sir William Ramsey’s study of the narrative in Luke’s Acts and his observations of the wind currents in the Mediterranean confirmed the shipping lanes and their weather harzards – just to mention one historic detail.

    The historical and archaeological investigations of the 18th-21st centuries have yielded a weath of evidence to validate the historical accuracy of the biblical narrative. But, like one of your commentators observed, this evidence is really only edifying for God’s elect. Even Schweitzer missed the boat in his conclusions drawn in his study Von Reimarus zu Wrede.

    Bart Ehrman’s admissions are of no weight. He is out of the loop and quite abberant in his conclusions. Westcott and Hort already informed him along these lines. They told him so.


  13. CMP,

    I like what you’ve done. I have a couple of suggestions for improvement. The sentence “Irrelevant details are a mark of genuineness in all situations” is a little too absolutist. I suggest a revision along the line of “The inclusion of irrelevant details is consistent with an accurate report.” Also, given the importance of this section, it would be beneficial to support this statement with citations from historians.

    Thanks and keep up the good work.


  14. Michael, I’m a little confused about how believing in the death of JFK helps the argument for believing in the resurrection. Witnessing the death of JFK and Jesus would be evidence they are both dead. Viewing their dead bodies would also be evidence. The fact that no one could produce Jesus’ body (the Romans may have not felt any need to) certainly helps the case for the resurrection but I would hardly call it evidence. For many, the fact that there were witnesses to Jesus’ appearances is about as impressive as witnesses to JFK’s or Elvis’ appearances!

    You said, “It is as if those who believed in the resurrection have less credit than those who did not believe in it.”

    They do have less credit. Since human resurrection wasn’t exactly a daily occurrence the burden of proof strongly lies with those who claimed he rose from the dead.

    I guess I wish Jesus had make his appearances in Jerusalem and to more people.

    I hope I didn’t miss your point.

  15. Scott F wrote:

    “For me the stumbling block to the witness claim is the undeniable (and I mean UNDENIABLE) evidence that Mark, Matthew and/or Luke was working from a written copy of one or more of the other synoptics. Dodgy practice for an eye-witness. Understandable for someone (Luke?) who has only scattered written and oral sources to work with.”

    St Paul was doubtless an eyewitness, yet his presentation of the gospel to the Jerusalem apostles (also eyewitnesses) and their subsequent “right hand of fellowship” conclusion is not apparantly something inconsistent with eyewitness testimony (cf. 2 Pet 1:16ff and 3:15ff). Such is in fact the analogia fidei and its abiding validity is evident even unto today among believers.

    16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,i with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

  16. Can anybody tell me how the different dates for Jesus’s birth got resolved?

  17. Lynn wrote:

    “Can anybody tell me how the different dates for Jesus’s birth got resolved?”

    What exactly is your understanding of a discrepancy in the narrative – scholar’s evaluation or the biblical data?


  18. Vladimir,

    If i understand Lynn correctly, the problem is summarized by Andrew from the blog “evaluatingchristianity”:

    “Luke 2:1-2 claims that Jesus was born while Quirinus was governor of Syria, and pursuant to a census that we know from the historian Josephus could have only taken place after Herod the Great died, and after his successor, Archelaus, was deposed. But Matthew 2:1-3 claims that Jesus was born when Herod the Great was still alive — possibly two years before he died. (See also Matthew 2:7-16).

    Since Quirinius was not governor until 6 CE, and Herod died in 4 BCE, these two passages seem to contradict each other. (I note also that Josephus dates the census, under Quirinius, to 6 CE.)”

  19. Though I cannot direct you to the place right now, from what I understand the Quirinius issue is not really an issue any longer seeing as how he was gov. twice.

  20. Thanks to everyone who gave info on the date of Jesus’s birth. It seems to confirm what I’d read awhile back-that the matter cannot be resolved, and that you cannot conclude that Quirinius was governor twice. Michael, you might want to study further the supposed evidence that some coin cleared it all up.

    And I say that respectfully. To me, that conclusion fits in with my experience of having people explain away Bible problems and the hearers just accept what’s being told to them. But when you investigate on your own, you find out different. This is one of my biggest beefs with people explaining what the Bible means. You should not just accept what a preacher or whoever tells you. Just because they say archeology or whatever backs them up-that’s not necessarily true.

    My point is to investigate these things for yourself. I’ve heard too many pat answers at church that turned out to be wrong.

    And again I appreciate the feedback.

  21. Thank you CH for the website. Very informative.

  22. Lynn,

    While you are correct “to investigate things for yourself,” the fact the PRWTH is used implies that there is more than one census under Quirinius. The alledged discrepency is resolved. Whether one wishes to accept it or not is another story. Michael is correct.


  23. Vladimir,

    What is “PRWTH?” So you’re saying that that shows that there were two censuses under Quirinius and that causes Matthew, Luke, Josephus to all agree?

  24. Vladamir: Michael is correct.
    So Dr. Wallace is wrong? (Did you read the article posted by CH?)

    THIS ought to be interesting….

  25. Who is the author of the article posted by CH?

    If it is listed on that page, I have missed it.

  26. Lynn,

    PRWTH is the Greek ordinal number “first”. The biblical text witnesses to a census by Augustus while Quirinius was governor in Syria. There are no textual variants. When one tolds in “healthy tension” all the data from the various sources the true historical sense and chronological retracing can be attained.

    An easy way out to any difficulty is to lessen one’s fidelity to the (full) plenary verbal inspiration of scripture. The internet (but not exclusively) is full of shoddy scholarship. I have not read Dr. Wallace’s essay.


  27. Vladimir,

    Thanks for answering, but I honestly don’t know what you are saying. Could you put it very simply for me and tell me why there is not actually a problem after all?

  28. Lynn is correct – it’s foolish to believe something just because some “preacher” says it is so. But it’s equally foolish to believe something just because some “teacher” says it’s so. IOW, bias is just as likely on the secular side.

    I wonder why secular scholars choose to view Josephus’ writings as authoritative, but not the gospel accounts. Josephus says the census happened in 6, well, then, everything is settled!

  29. Cheryl asked who wrote the article that CH linked to. It was written by:
    Dr. James F. McGrath
    Associate Professor of Religion
    Butler University
    4600 Sunset Avenue – Jordan Hall 202
    Indianapolis, IN 46208
    Tel. 317-940-9364

  30. Lynn,

    Augustus was Caesar from 27 BC to 14 AD. This is the time frame indicated by St Luke within which such a census transpired. This time frame is further tightened by St Luke “WHILE Quirinius was governor of Syria (Genitive absolute). Has St Luke just tightened the noose around his own neck and cut his own throat at the same time? Ha ha, not at all.

    BTW, I think Josephus who has shown himself unreliable on several occasions is not to be given preference over the biblical data. The value of Josephus here is the confirmation of what Michael affirmed already.

    Jesus was born in 4 BC.


  31. Perhaps some history in order to clarify.

    Herod the Great ruled all of Israel until his death in 4 BCE. At that time, the land was split into three (3) kingdoms, given to Herod’s three sons. Archelaus was king over Judea, Antipas over Galilee and Philip over the Golan Heights.

    During Herod’s reign, Israel was a tributary country. In simplistic terms, it was its own separate land, but in order to have Rome leave it alone, it would pay tribute. It is possible Herod the Great had a good enough relationship he did not have to pay this tribute for some time.

    Herod Archelaus (king of Judea only) was a terrible king. After ruling for 10 years, the Judeans asked Rome to depose him and that they become a province of Rome. Rome agreed and installed a prefect in Judea.

    Remember what a Census was for—to impose taxes. Under Herod (and Herod Archelaus) Judea was a tributary state—it paid a set amount regardless whether there was 1 person, 100,000 or 1 million people. However, once it became a Roman province, there was no longer a tributary requirement—the people were required to pay individual taxes. Hence the need for a census.

    This isn’t a matter of “Luke says this…” and “Josephus says that…” We have a significant change in the very government of the country requiring a census which coincides with 10 years after 4 BCE…or 6 CE.

    Further note that Galilee was not a Roman province! It was still under Herod Antipas. Therefore a Galilean such as Joseph wasn’t included in the census!

    Dr. Wallace cites I.H. Marshall with approval: “…only the discovery of new historical evidence can lead to the solution of the problem.”

  32. Though this has nothing much to do with the main issue,

    in reply to TDC #19

    4 BC as the year Herod died is a simple conjecture from the writing of Jewish historian Josephus. When the eclipse he mentioned is correctly identified, the year of his death was B.C. 1 and the year Yeshua was born was B.C. 3.

    There are materials on the web you can find without difficulties and be convinced of these conclusion as the most plausible dates.

  33. It seems like every week or two I hear some story about a man being released from prison because DNA evidence that wasn’t available at the time he was convicted now proves that he did not commit the crime. Often, the man had been convicted based on eyewitness testimony. Nevertheless, we know that the eyewitnesses are more likely to make a mistake than the science.

    If science can be trusted over direct eyewitness testimony in cases like this, why shouldn’t I trust science over ancient stories that were recorded after decades of transmission through oral tradition?

  34. Oun wrote:

    “4 BC as the year Herod died is a simple conjecture from the writing of Jewish historian Josephus….”

    Actually it is a logical inference, not a mere conjecture.


  35. Vinny,

    Eyewitness testimony is valid. Ask yourself why the next time you stop at a stop sign.

    But eyewitness testimony is also aligned with the credibility of the witness. Example: When Bill Crosby’s wife was giving birth to their first child and in the midst of great travail she told her husband Bill in no uncertain terms “You bastard.” Years later, Bill Crosby shared this little detail of the story to a larger audience – on national television!

    His son, up until that point, was unaware of this little detail. Bill’s comment to him: “It happened. You were born.”

    This may suffice to answer both your questions about oral transmission and the credibility of eyewitness testimony.


  36. This may suffice to answer both your questions about oral transmission and the credibility of eyewitness testimony.

    Not so far as I can tell.

  37. To Vladimir #37

    you say it’s a logical inference. sounds like oxymoron ;-) If proven, it may be logical, but when there is alternative, it cannot be claimed logical.

    At least, it can be said ‘plausible’ but not proven. To have it disproved, there are several resources you can tab (even on the web).


  38. To CH #9

    You say:

    … Luke then continues to tell of the appearances in and around Jerusalem (~40 miles from Galilee). …

    Unlike Mt, and Jn, (implied in Mk), Luke somehow does not cover ‘post-resurrection Galilee pericope’.

    Lk 24:53 tells what the disciples were doing during the period after “40 days” (Acts 1:3). I wish I can locate the source which described it as ‘temporal collapse’ in Luke’s literary work.


  39. To Vinny #36

    As to ‘eyewitness’ and its validity.

    The word Lk 1:2 AUTOPTHS is not a simple ‘eyewitness’ who had a chance to watch the scene, so to speak.

    I may quote from Bauckham, *Jesus and Eyewitnesses* p. 117.

    “… the Greek word … does not have a forensic meaning, and in that sense the English word ‘eyewitnesses’, with its suggestion of a metaphor from the law courts, is a little misleading. The AUTOPTAI are simply firsthand observers of the events. (Loveday Alexander offers the translation: ‘those with personal/firsthand experience: those who know the facts at first hand.) …

    For me, even the phrase ‘firsthand observers’ fails to bring out the real picture since it might suggest more of ‘observing as bystanders’. No, the source Luke was referring was the people who lived with Yeshua and learned from Him and experienced love intimately for over three years through His ministry in Galilee and Judea.

  40. Oun,

    Bauckham notwithstanding, the “real picture” is far from clear. It could be that the real meaning of Papias, the real meaning of the names used by the evangelists, and the real meaning of inclusio escaped the church for 1900 years until Bauckham figured everything out, but it does not inspire my confidence. My point remains the same: if it is reasonable to prefer scientific conclusions over the testimony of disinterested eyewitnesses offered in court today, I think it is reasonable for to accept the conclusions of science over Bauckham’s speculations.

  41. Oun, I’d like to read up on this idea of using a ‘temporal collapse’ to harmonize Luke with Acts and the other Gospels.
    A straight-forward reading of Luke seems to indicate a continuous record of events without mention or or even time for a Galilean appearance.

  42. Oun,

    Without getting into “word battles” an inference can be logical – even more than plausible, although not proven absolutely.

    On another note, Ian Howard Marshall and Daniel B. Wallace have suspended for the time being their own position on the census due in part to prudence and their own academic and theological commitment to integrity as evangelicals (cf James 3:1). They stand at the door of absolute certainy and are knocking.


    I’m not quite sure how serious you are to know the truth. Is there a burr under your saddle about someone else in prison based on eyewitness evidence or do you really want to understand the oral/written transmission history of the scriptures and the dynamics of memory and the need for written preservation?


  43. Vladimir,

    No. I do not have a burr under my saddle about anyone in prison based on eyewitness nor do I understand why you would think that.

  44. Oun,

    One further remark about “certainty.” There are degrees of certainty just as there are degrees of probability.


  45. Vinny,

    Thanks for the clarification. Without answering why to your question might I refer you to serious material on the internet that will require diligence and attention to comprehend and appreciate. It is a book by Birger Gerhardson entitled Memory and Manuscript. He also has an essay or two on this subject matter. There are others as well who have followed suit.


  46. Vladimir,

    Can you tell me what I would get from Gerhardsson that I did not get from Bauckham?

  47. Vinny,

    The strength of Birger Gerhardson’s thesis is that it is an historical study. It delivers a real in touch analysis of just how and why, and if I may, human DNA (people) are so vitally dynamic and indispensible as well as reliable in this issue.

    The weakness of Gerhardson’s book, whether intended or not, is that the ultimate responsibility for the transmission of the NT historical and canonical message is God Himself.


  48. Vinny,

    Further, if I may:

    Gary Ridgeway, who was convicted of 50+ murders over a two decade period, was convicted neither on the basis of his own DNA or eyewitness testimony. It was paint residue on his own clothing that was found at some scenes that implicated him. He was a truck painter for Kenworth in Washington state.

    In the penal system everyone is innocent. But in reality only about 5% are truly innocent. The circumstances that placed them there are multifarious, but eyewitness testimony is doubtless prominent in the equaltion – even if it is in some cases mistaken or contrived.



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