Board index Resurrection of Christ

The resurrection of Christ is the fulcrum of everything we believe, and a turning point in history, no matter what you believe. If it's real, the implications are immense. If it didn't happen, the implications are immense. Let's talk.

What evidence do you have for the resurrection?

Postby Russell » Thu Aug 30, 2018 12:10 pm

What evidence have you examined that brings you to the conclusion that the resurrection is true?

Re: What evidence do you have for the resurrection?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:24 pm

First let's talk about facts we know specifically. Here are some of them, to get us started:

1. Jesus was crucified and buried. Historians, both Christian and non-Christian, admit the evidence is strong of the historicity of his death and burial. Tacitus (AD 55-120): "Cristus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate..." Jesus' death under Pilate and his burial are attested enough in outside sources to make it reasonable, credible, and virtually assured.

2. The tomb was empty and no one ever produced a body. The easiest way to squelch the stories of alleged resurrection would be to produce a body. That was never done. The site of his tomb was known to Christians and non-Christians alike. If the tomb had not been empty, it would have been impossible for the movement called Christianity to explode into existence in the very same city in such a short time.

3. The lives of the people who claim to have seen Jesus in a resurrected form after his death were radically changed. Of the ones we know by name and about their lives, there was a distinctive difference in them after the "resurrection". We have seven ancient sources that the disciples lived lives of deprivation, persecution and suffering for their stance on the resurrection. We also have no evidence that the apostles were considered to be dishonest or mad.

4. The Church (Christianity) grew after the alleged resurrection, and it even began in the city of Jesus' execution. The people who turned to Jesus (to Christianity) would have been the same ones who had been exposed to his person and teaching while he was alive, and it's reasonable to assume that many of them had been witnesses to his death, since there were great crowds in Jerusalem at Passover.

Those are things we know for sure. What about the written records of the resurrection. We have about 8 that are reasonable:

1. Clement of Rome, in about AD 95, wrote, "[The apostles were] fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ." It's true that the apostles taught with confidence that Jesus had risen from the dead.

2. Polykarp, writing in about AD 125: "The one who raised Jesus from the dead will raise us also." It's an extrabiblical reference to the resurrection.

3. We have the gospel of Mark. Though skeptics question its author, its date of writing is generally admitted to be quite early (possibly late 50s-early 60s). Papias, in about AD 120, says that Mark wrote the memoirs of the apostle Peter. Most historians, even critics, agree with this assessment. There is evidence that Mark got his passion narrative from an earlier source that was written in the late 30s, just four years after Jesus' resurrection.

4. The gospel of Luke. Most scholars agree that he got his information from primary sources and was a traveling companion of Paul's. He records the resurrection, and his gospel is thought to be written in the late 50s.

5. The Gospel of Matthew. Though some scholars question his authorship (I think the evidence is in Matthew's favor), there is eyewitness testimony in the book.

6. The Gospel of John. Evidence is strong that it was written by John. There is an abundance of eyewitness testimony in the book.

7. The apostle Paul, a one-time hostile persecutor of Christians and a non-believer, converted to faith in Christ after claiming to see the risen Christ in a vision. He is a very early source to the resurrection narrative, and he knew Jesus' disciples.

8. Josephus (end of the 1st century): "...for he appeared to them alive on the third day..."

Or, to look at it from another angle, there are hypothetical reasons for why the resurrection might not have happened, and that's another side we must deal with. We're dealing with a cold case here, and we must approach it like cops, realistically—cops and detectives, lawyers and scientists (you probably watch some of the forensics shows on TV, as many do). We have some alleged eyewitness testimony that we have to evaluate, and some material evidence.

First, what do we have to know?

1. Was he alive at point "A"? Virtually every scholar believes that Jesus was a live human early in the 1st century.

2. Was he dead at point "B"? For Jesus' death we have 5 ancient sources outside the Bible corroborating the historicity of his death. The death of Jesus on the cross is one of the best-attested historical events of the ancient world. The weight of the historical and medical evidence is that Jesus was dead even before the wound to his side was delivered. Jesus’ death is practically indisputable.

3. Was he alive again at point "C"? There are several strands of evidence:

a. His tomb was empty. The site of his tomb was known to friends and enemies. If the tomb wasn't empty, it would have been an impossible story to maintain in the city where the death and burial occurred.

b. Women were the first to witness and report the resurrection. This is the last thing a fiction writer would want to claim in their culture. It would just ruin the credibility of their story.

c. Enemy attestation. The opponents of Jesus and his followers admitted the body was gone.

d. The disciples were absolutely and passionately committed to the conviction that Jesus had risen, and were willing to suffer for their story

But now we're left to try to explain it. Were they wrong? Lying? Delusional? Fooled? Influenced? Distorted? Or accurate?

Maybe they were wrong, and Jesus never died. Jesus had been beaten and scourged, too weak to carry his own cross. Then crucified. The soldiers didn't bother to break his legs, but they spear his side, bringing blood and water. he had circulatory shock, where the result is either pericardial effusion or pleural effusion—a sure sign of death. Joseph and Nicodemus wrap the body, working with it to prepare it for burial. With all this time they would have seen the mortis triad: algor mortis, rigor mortis, and lividity mortis. Is it reasonable to assume Jesus is not dead? No.

Maybe they were lying, and it was a vast conspiracy. A successful conspiracy needs factors of a low # of co-conspirators, only a short time to hold the conspiracy together, excellent communication between conspirators, strong relationships, and little or no pressure to confess. But in this case there were 11+, holding the conspiracy for 60 years, with little communication between them, unrelated to each other, with huge pressure to confess. A conspiracy is not reasonable.

Maybe they were delusional, and were subject to hallucinations or mass hysteria, as you suggest. Well maybe Mary Magdalene and Peter really really wanted a resurrection to happen, but what of James, Jesus' brother? What about Saul/Paul—did he want to see Jesus? Were the two on the road to Emmaus expecting to? The 10 disciples? The 500? It's not reasonable to assume mass hysteria or group hallucinations.

Maybe they were fooled, a look-alike walking around pretending it was Jesus, pulling off a grand fraud.If you're playing a character, you need to know more about the topic than the person you are trying to con, and fool the people who know him best. And you still have to be able to do miracles, like ascend into heaven. Would that play well in Jerusalem? Not reasonably so.

Maybe they were swayed. Mary and Peter got caught up in their hallucinations, and influenced the others. Are you kidding? Was Mary that influential in the group? Not likely. And Peter was NEVER alone in his sightings. Paul? Paul influences the 12? They didn't even TRUST Paul.

Maybe they were distorted. Maybe it's a legend that grew over time, or making it all up. That doesn't make sense given that it's historically verifiable that these stories were widely circulating within just a few years, and we have a chain of custody about the story.

Well, maybe it's just accurate, and the truth. Granted, this theory has a HUGE liability. It requires that supernatural things are reasonable. So the core under investigation is: Are supernatural events possible? If you are honestly investigating it, you can’t start with the presupposition that there is no such thing. If you start with “supernaturalism is not possible”, then no evidence will convince you. It’s called circular reasoning, when you are committed to your position before the investigation begins. There are only two choices: either Jesus rose from the dead, or he didn’t. But if your presupposition is that rising from the dead is impossible, then evidence never matters. The resurrection hypothesis is significantly stronger than competing hypotheses. Historical investigation will never give you 100% certainty, but it does give reasonable certainty. Historians must choose the most probable explanation. The story of Jesus' bodily resurrection was circulating very quickly after the alleged event, and it can be virtually confirmed that it was a consistent narrative within a very short period of time.

When it comes down to it, I have examined the evidence in great detail and found it to be convincing.
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Re: What evidence do you have for the resurrection?

Postby Russell » Thu Aug 30, 2018 2:29 pm

I appreciate you composing this. (I hope it’s copy & pasted). But you are just weakly stringing together events that have little, to no, actual supporting evidence. You’re entire argument hinges in the reliability of the gospels. Anonymous hearsay, written decades after the alleged events. Most people would agree that there was a man named Yeshua lived and was likely executed. But it stops there. There’s no evidence of an empty tomb. It’s likely that Jesus’s body was thrown in a common grave. If you’re primary evidence is the biblical record, just believe what the bible says and accept the claims. There’s no need for an “investigation”. The only thing apologetics like this are worth, is shoring up the faith of doubting believers, and hawking shitty books like those shysters Turek, McDowell, and Strobel make millions off of.

Re: What evidence do you have for the resurrection?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:18 am

Yeah, I did copy and paste from something I wrote a little earlier to someone who had asked the same question.

The argument does hang on the reliability of the Gospels, but on examine I have reason to believe the Gospel accounts. They are written by sincere and stable men out to tell the story of a man that changed not only their lives but the cities and regions around them, and making inroads to changing an entire empire and the world.

> Anonymous hearsay

There are reasons not to accept this criticism.

1. Josephus records several pieces of the Jesus story in agreement with the Gospels, though Joe was not a follower.

2. A bowl recently discovered in Alexandria, Egypt, dates from about 125 BC to the first century AD. The engraving reads (in Greek) "dia chrstou o goistais," translated by the excavation team as "through Christ the magician." It is speculated that a first-century magician used it in the work he was doing to invoke the name of Jesus, showing from an extra-biblical source that Jesus was known for His miracles.

Now, I'll grant you that's only 2 pieces of evidence, but in contrast there is ZERO evidence of anything to contradict the New Testament accounts. Not a single item. There is no evidence that the Gospels are unreliable. In addition, the Gospel writers are faithful and accurate in their portrayal of the history, culture, religion, and politics of the region and era. There is reason to consider their accounts as reliable.

> There’s no evidence of an empty tomb.

We have to take a step back and consider how a movement like Christianity got started in Jerusalem (of all places, the center and hotbed of rabid Judaism) in a political volatile region and era if it were all fictional. It's like assuming a new religion could suddenly form in Mecca simultaneously among thousands of devoted Muslims. It's not reasonable unless there is a dynamic causal factor.

1. Early Christian beliefs rose out of the context of Judaism, but they are far from anything Judaistic (Trinity, no temple, no priesthood, no Mosaic law, no Sabbath, no circumcision). When asked to explain, their only and consistent answer is, "Jesus rose from the dead." They saw him, they say.

2. An empty tomb claim leads to nowhere except ridicule and persecution. Roman and Greek theology, nor even Judaism, had no theology of resurrection to this life. It was not part of anyone's religious context, belief, or expectation. Everyone knew such a thing was absurd and out of the question. Resurrection was not something anyone expected to happen to an individual while the world went on as normal. The disciples certainly weren't expecting it. No one was and no one would. It was not part of their theology or of their worldview.

3. Lots of people claim to have visions of the deceased, but this couldn't possibly have given rise to the stories of the Gospels. The disciples stubbornly claimed that these were not visions but the real deal. Maybe Paul was converted by seeing a vision, but he (as a persecutor of the church) new that the followers of Jesus claimed a physical resurrection and that the tomb was empty, a claim that had not been falsified.

These facts by themselves are still insufficient to justify Christian belief. In combination, however, they are sufficient. From everything we know about the context of Judaism and the beliefs of the disciples about Jesus and his mission, we can be confident that if they discovered the tomb was empty in addition to that they kept meeting him in ways that convinced them he wasn't a vision but rather actually alive, now we have a sufficient case for the rise of Christianity that no other theory rivals.

We know that not everyone believed, and this even bolsters the case. Obviously not everyone who heard about it was convinced. Those who saw Jesus were (duh). But the empt tomb and the appearances were sufficient for the belief to begin, and that's the point.

Four. But if these appearances and the empty tomb are sufficient, we must now ask if they are necessary? I would say yes. In both the Jewish and non-Jewish world, the meaning of "resurrection" was a spiritual existence after a time of being dead and NEVER a return to bodily life. The empty tomb and bodily resurrection were simply not on anyone's radar. We are left to conclude that the only way this story could begin and flourish in the context it did is the tomb was actually empty and Jesus was confirmably in the body.

Five. Is there anything else even remotely possible that could cause the rise of Christianity?

One such theory is that the disciples were suffering from cognitive dissonance. In their grief they failed to come to terms with reality but chose to live in a fantasy world. They wanted so badly to believe that they manufactured it. This is how people see flying saucers and dead relatives. The disciples then experienced social support and some success, and off it went!

The flaws in the argument are so serious as to sink the possibility. The conspiracy never faltered; the group identity remained strong; their mission didn't waver; their resolve never weakened. In truth, whatever it was that those first disciples were expecting, wanting, and hoping to happen is NOT the story they old. They were all on a completely different page, and they were on it together. Something concrete and empirical had happened, for sure. There were so many other messianic movements, but Christianity was the one to take off (and still growing).

Another such theory is experientialism: They had a mutual spiritual experience that they extrapolated to the historical realm. Jesus rose "in their souls." The tomb was subjectively empty. They saw Jesus "in their hearts." They sensed his divine presence. These yearnings eventually materialized into stories about physical resurrection and bodily appearances.

The theory falls apart in the context of 1st-c. Judaism. Many messiahs came and went with requisite visions and warm religious feelings. It's not a sufficient historical explanation for the rise of Christianity.

Instead, the literal empty tomb and the physical meetings with Jesus present the only sufficient and necessary conditions for the rise of early Christian belief.

1. They never incorporate the elements of Judaism, as previously stated, in Christianity.

2. They never venerate the tomb of Jesus (that happens centuries, if not a millennium, later).

3. There is never a question of anyone performing a second burial for Jesus, which would have been the case according to 1st-c. Judaism. After the flesh disintegrated the bones would be shlopped to the floor or put in an ossuary.

For all of these reasons, the objective historian, of whatever persuasion, has no option but to affirm both the empty tomb and the appearances of Jesus as historical events: they were real, significant, and (in the normal sense required by historians) provable. We cannot account for the origin of Christianity without them.

The idea that he was thrown in a common grave or fed to the birds. Had that happened, no matter how many vision the disciples had, they would not have concluded and boldly preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Such a theory seems to require that we suspend all reason. Frankly, it's an affront to our good sense. But look again at the message of the early Church. They were not of the opinion that it was bound to happen sooner or later. They were sure this was a once-in-history occurrence. Nor did they assume it was a freak lucky thing, like a monkey typing out "Romeo and Juliet." It's not a happy story, a clever monkey, or a religious expectation. They were not even saying the God in whom they believed decided to do something spectacular. Instead, they said it was something new, a new mode of existence, a new creation. Then they looked in their Scriptures and saw it EVERYWHERE, just like Rapuzel in "Tangled" (just a fun reference). They became radically convinced, in a context of radical monotheism, that Jesus was God.

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