Blog

14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References

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

 

14 EVIDENCES

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

 

14 REFERENCES

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

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

 

142 Responses to “14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References”

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

  2. Staircaseghost March 29, 2013 at 1:06 pm

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

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

    • Stair,

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

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

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

  4. Staircaseghost March 29, 2013 at 3:19 pm

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

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

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

  6. @Michael T,

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

    Blessings.

  7. Staircaseghost March 29, 2013 at 6:42 pm

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

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

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

  8. Staircaseghost,

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

  9. Staircaseghost March 29, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Honestly, greg who?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  12. Staircaseghost,

    You wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

  13. Rob,

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

  14. Vinny,

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

  15. Staircaseghost,

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

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

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

  16. mbaker,

    No problem.

  17. Staircaseghost March 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bingo.

  18. Staircaseghost,

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

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

  19. Staircaseghost,

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

  20. Rob,

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

  21. Staircaseghost March 29, 2013 at 8:55 pm

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

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

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

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

  22. Vinny,

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

  23. Staircaseghost,

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

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

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

  24. Rob,

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

  25. Staircaseghost,

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

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

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

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

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

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

  27. Vinny,

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

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

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

  28. Vinny,

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

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

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

  31. Rob,

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

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

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

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

  32. Vinny,

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

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

  33. Rob,

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

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

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

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

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

  35. Staircaseghost March 30, 2013 at 3:11 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  36. Staircaseghost March 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  37. Staircaseghost March 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

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

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

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

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

  38. Staircaseghost,

    I had written:

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

    You replied:

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

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

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

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

  39. To all,

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

  40. Staircaseghost March 30, 2013 at 6:09 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

  41. Staircaseghost March 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  42. Staircaseghost March 30, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Correction to #45:

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

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

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

  43. Staircase,

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

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

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

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

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

  45. Nazam,

    Only as as a Muslim.

  46. Staircaseghost,

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

    You wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  49. Vinny,

    You wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

    You wrote:

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

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

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

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

    You wrote:

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

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

  50. Staircaseghost,

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

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5 for Leadership (3/30/13) - March 30, 2013

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

  2. 14 Evidences for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ—and 14 References | Parchment and Pen | Simple Profundity - March 30, 2013

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

  3. Bits & Pieces (4/2/13) | nawinter.com - April 2, 2013

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

  4. Just a question - Christian Chat Rooms & Forums - August 11, 2013

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

  5. He has risen « Defy The Narrative - September 25, 2013

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

Leave a Reply