Joshua Swamidass, a frequent contributor here, was featured on the Veritas Forum, listing reasons to believe the Easter account. Great list, any anyone else would add?
Wow! … just Wow!
Thank you for this very well-written and almost certainly Spirit-inspired piece, Joshua. This link is going to make its way (one way or another) into the awareness of many of my own students and acquaintances. This is a powerful testimony and very clear articulation of our faith. Thanks again for this!
Greetings, I would like to address the question from an atheist perspective. I don’t think there is credible evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. For instance, we know that people made claims of Resurrections back in antiquity and even in the past century, Look into, for instance, Sai Baba resurrection claims
Therefore, it’s established that people make wild claims that are not necessarily true.
However, if we accept that Resurrections are possible, then Jesus stops being unique. Resurrection happened to Jesus, and to a bunch of other people throughout antiquity and even modern times also. So, a Christian faces a catch 22 situation. Either Resurrections are possible, and all claims for a resurrection is evidence of that fact, and Jesus was Resurrected from the dead, one among dozens. OR, Resurrections are highly improbable, which then casts Jesus’ own resurrection in doubt.
In addition, IF Resurrections are true, then they are proof of the existence of not well understood forces/phenomenon. In that case, mass hallucinations and other naturally less plausible phenomenon suddenly becomes more plausible.
Lastly, here is a response from Richard Carrier about Christian origins being too improbable to be false.
It is certainly beyond dispute that people make many wild claims. Nothing to disagree with there. But it doesn’t follow that therefore nothing extraordinary ever happens. It just means that any extraordinary claim may need a bit more to go with it before we should find it compelling. You don’t think such compelling evidence exists – fair enough. Many here disagree, and many books are written laying out various forms and lines of evidence. N.T. Wright, among others, makes for excellent reading on all this, and usually with the understanding that they are presenting evidence – not proof. There is always room for the doubter.
But Jesus resurrection is unique. None of the other candidates (even those spoken of in the New Testament itself) are seen as pre-empting Christ’s resurrection. So his resurrection is special, indeed unique; and I would also go on to say impossible short of God’s special action. So yes – from a scientific perspective such things may well be impossible. That’s why we call them miracles. Explaining why the texts refer to so many others coming back from the dead (the 500 saints mentioned by Matthew — but amazingly not mentioned by anyone else – same thing about Lazarus told only by John); since we don’t know (in scientific terms) what resurrection is, we probably aren’t going to tease apart in those same terms how Lazarus’ coming back was different than Jesus’ Easter event. But it was different – that much the Bible seems to make clear. Lazarus ostensibly dies again. Jesus does not. So in that sense there is no catch-22. The resurrection, if we Christians are right about it, was unambiguously unique and extraordinary.
You are right to be skeptical about such things. The original disciples certainly were. It is their collective testimonies added then to the many others to follow that grew into that ‘cloud of witnesses’ that so many of us find compelling (and have personally tasted of, participated in, and been transformed by) ourselves. Thanks for your conversation.
It is my view that challenging the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is outside the scope of the discussions on these boards. It would be like a stranger visiting a debate between Orthodox and Reform Jews, and interrupting their proceedings with an ardent call to become Mormon!
There are many groups you can visit who want to discuss the evidence (or lack thereof) of his resurrection.
However, if you would like to pursue the logic of the triune godhead using Evolution to populate the Earth with diverse lifeforms, your conversation will fit right in.
Thanks Mervin. However, the Gospels also state that Jesus was thought to have been the resurrected John the Baptist
Matt. 14:1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2 and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
I think GMatthew here is correcting GMark, who says that it was the people who were claiming that John the Baptist rose from the dead in the person of Jesus
Mark 6:14 And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are at work in Him.”
All three Synoptic Gospels later confirm that the people consider Jesus the risen John in what is called “Peter’s Confession”
Luke 9:18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20 And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying,…
So, we have Christian Gospelers claiming that Jesus was thought to have been John the Baptist, raised from the dead, and… very strangely, in all three Gospels Jesus tells the disciples NOT to talk about him!
I find this very suspicious. It’s as if the Gospels were written with an idea that whoever would be researching Jesus would not find him, but should expect “confused” local populace who know about John the Baptist, but not Jesus.
Even if we assume the Gospels are true, then we still are faced with a very gullible populace, willing to believe in John’s resurrection without evidence (i.e Jesus was a different person from John and could not have been risen John the Baptist).
Note to the mods, I’m just offering my opinion on the matter with full understanding that these are Christian forums. Feel free to delete this post if you feel I’m breaking the rules or decorum. I mean no disrespect, but I do like to argue sometimes.
Paul’s letters are dated before the gospel accounts. In 1 Corinthians 15, he gives his synopsis of the gospel, a summary that is remarkably similar to later church creeds. Verses 5-7 says, “He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.” In other words, at the time Paul’s letter was written, there were plenty of eye-witnesses around to corroborate the account of events, and Paul is basically saying, go ask them if you think I’m making this up. The gullible populace wasn’t basing their beliefs on the gospels, they were basing them on eyewitness testimony, and on the visitation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost which brought with it signs and healings. The Gospels were compiled after AD 70; Christianity had already spread enough in the Roman empire that Nero was persecuting Christians in 64-68.
I don’t really see how Jesus’ instructions at a specific point in his ministry when he was in danger from local religious authorities relates to the later spread of Christianity.
Thanks Christy, but I find this is a bad argument for a bodily resurrection because Paul saw a visitionary Christ, after Christ’s supposed assention!
Also, Paul in Galatians claims that his gospel (i.e the gospel he preaches) was not received from any man, but by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 1:11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul himself here contradicts the notion of tradition. He boasts in having directly received the Gospel from a revelation! To me, this is no different than Joseph Smith receiving a special revelations (difference in minor details) and starting a movement (Mornonism) that is thriving today.
Also, it’s not clear how contentious the issue of Christ’s bodily resurrection really was.
Galatians 5:11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.
Also, there is the curious issue of the amnesia of the Pharisees in Acts
Acts 23: 6 But perceiving that one group were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul began crying out in the [Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!” 7 As he said this, there occurred a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 And there occurred a great uproar; and some of the scribes of the Pharisaic party stood up and began to argue heatedly, saying, “We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
What? How quickly did these Pharisees forget that they had to pay the bribes to keep the news of Jesus’ resurrection a secret, and now they acknowledge the resurrection? To me, this all sounds as stories. These things were not considered by the authors but must now be dealt with by Christian apologists.
And, lastly, I feel that Jesus (if he is real) is very unfair. Paul, who lived very close to the time of Jesus, perhaps being a contemporary of Jesus, gets an appearance of the risen Jesus. For Paul, the resurrection is true because Jesus appeared to him. And yet, Jesus stopped appearing. Why did he appear to the guy who had much more historical data available to him (i.e. Paul could interview eyewitnesses of Jesus, interview guards, the centuriions, etc… He could visit the tomb, speak to the apostles who were alive and get their story. And interview Thomas as well). And yet, THIS guy gets a personal visit, while we, living thousands of years later, must comb through history with a fine tooth comb, learning the ancient languages few understand today. Why this inconsistency?
But this is the curious thing (to me). Jesus says to not tell this to anyone. With some instructions, he said to not tell this until such and such happens. This particular point (namely that he is the Christ, who is a special person and not the risen prophet) is to be kept a secret indefinitely. No conditions are specified (for us). And we never have quotes by the disciples to the effect of… “Hey, this guy was not the risen John the Baptist, he was his own person”.
The Gospel story is very weird (looking at it skeptically now). The people are flocking to see Jesus preach, but they don’t bother clarify his identity, thinking he is a risen prophet.
Also, they worship him as a king (Hosanna in the highest, etc…) and then want him killed just a few days later? It’s stories like these that give me pause. Someone was writing a narrative, perhaps intending this to be an allegory and nothing else.
You have missed @Christy 's point. Paul referred to people alive as witnesses … not that he was a witness.
And so with hundreds of witnesses… most of them still alive… the support for the resurrection is much higher than usually calculated.
I know. But all the other people he cited as witnesses did not claim to have seen a visionary Christ, they claimed to have seen a resurrected Christ who ascended bodily into heaven. (I think that’s why he cites them as witnesses, for all the skeptics who don’t really buy the road to Damascus story.) You don’t have to find their witness compelling, I just thought you should represent the facts better. You made it sound like all believers came to faith in the resurrection simply on the basis of reading the Gospel accounts. That’s just not true. Plenty of them were friends and associates of Peter, Mary Magdelene, John, James, and company. It is a historical fact that Christianity was well-established before the biblical accounts of Christ existed.
For the Pharisees and Sudducees “resurrection” did mean Jesus’ resurrection per se, it was a politically-charged theological concept that was a bone of contention between the two parties, one that Paul was well aware of and was exploiting to his advantage in the situation you cited.
Says you. People have reported visitations of Jesus for centuries in dreams or visions for centuries. You don’t believe them. It is a relatively common way for believers in the Muslim world to come to faith. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/january-february/insider-movement-islam-wheres-jesus.html
People tried to throw him off a cliff for what he was preaching. There’s the whole “my time has not come” thing. His life was in danger in certain places throughout his ministry. At another point he sends out his disciples into the Gentile region to preach the “good news of the Kingdom,” and then there is the Great Commission, so it obviously wasn’t a prohibition for all time and places.
Um… Peter in Matthew 16:16, the uncorrected high priest in Matthew 26:63, Martha in John 11:27. The identity as “Messiah, Son of the living God” was definitely clarified, and why Jesus got crucified.
It’s a misconception that these two groups were the same people. (See number 3, here.)
I believe Paul is considering himself a witness also. He makes no distinctions between Jesus’ appearance to the 500 and to himself
1 Cor. 15: 3 For I delivered to you [b]as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as ]to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
Note, Paul makes NO distinctions between appearances to the 500, the twelve, to James and to himself. As far as he was concerned, Jesus appeared to them all as he did to Paul.
How well established are those facts? We know of them from the Gospels, which are recorded by anonymous sources. We don’t know what Peter or Jesus really said. We know what anonymous Gospeler said Peter said.
Regarding Pharisees and Sadduceed resurrection theories, I think I may not have been clear. How likely were the Pharisees to forget Jesus’ resurrection that they found NOTHING wrong with Paul’s teachings?
Yes, I’m aware of the visionary appearances claims, however, we know that people have Mary appearing to them and the Protestants don’t believe that Mary can appear. I remain a skeptic because I don’t find appearances credible. Certainly, they are not a proof of a resurrection from the dead in my opinion.
here is a CNN article describing a person having a conversation with someone who died before their conversation took place. Is this a proof of a modern day resurrection? I don’t think so and doubt that you do also.
Matt. 16:16 is Peter’s confession. Martha can be part of the group of the disciples. And as far as Jesus’ confession, I’m unimpressed by the cryptic admissions.
And, I find the Gospels contradictory. They present unrealistic picture. For example, in Luke, Joseph and Mary must travel to Judea/Bethlehem to take part in a Census (presumably Roman) because David, their ancestor happened to live there. Huh??? Yet, this is the Gospel narrative.
You may find people admitting Jesus is the Christ, but you also find verses that I pointed out. Peter’s confession is clear. Jesus was thought to be the risen John the Baptist and Jesus is not seen correcting anyone on that point. But is telling people to not tell anyone about him.[quote=“Christy, post:10, topic:35602”]
It’s a misconception that these two groups were the same people. (See number 3, here.)
Says that lone author.
First, it is not entirely clear that the “Hosanna!” crowd acclaiming Jesus’ triumphal entry is the same group of people as the “Crucify him!” crowd gathered before Pontius Pilate. The former seem to be mainly pilgrims from Galilee along with Jesus’s disciples, while the latter seem to be largely those from Jerusalem.
It’s not entirely clear these were different crowds either. I don’t get how the author can conclude the triumphal entry crowd to be mainly pilgrims from Galilee. Both evens take place in Judea.
Ultimately, there will never be enough hard evidence to convince skeptics of the resurrection of Christ. It becomes a faith decision. The recent movie The Case for Christ spent most of the time going over the search for evidence, but ultimately, the decision had to be made on faith, even though the movie glossed that over a bit.
Agreed 100%. Hence, the resurrection cannot be a ‘scientific’ claim. It’s a faith claim. The problem for me, is that faith is the least reliable way to determine truth. Because by faith, anything can be accepted and believed.
Ahh – you begin to see the light. I don’t think anybody here was trying to make the resurrection about science or some kind of scientific claim. That would only be … you.
But then you go on to say …
There’s your problem. You want faith to have the same agenda as science – a search for truth, and a very narrow conception of what all qualifies as truth at that.
Faith involves trust (which certainly does include conceptions of truth – and large overlap with science in that regard), as well as the way one lives their life which often transcends (sometimes even contradicting) their words to reveal where their trust really is. But your assertion that people using faith accept and believe anything is simply false. Nor can you convince me that you have no faith.
People have looked into them quite extensively and academically. For example one recent work is Michael Bird’s The Gospel of the Lord.. My point being, if the evidence is not compelling to you, fine. You are free to pick your narrative. But the idea that Christians are just gullible people who mindlessly swallow a completely fictitious bunch of malarkey because their Bible tells them so is not an accurate picture either. That’s all I’m trying to point out.
I don’t get where you are coming from. It really doesn’t matter what Paul thinks he saw … if we have the majority of over 500 people still alive and available when Paul writes.
Please remember, I myself am a Unitarian. Paul is not someone I personally rely upon. But from the perspective of those who are skeptical about the testimony regarding the resurrection, it is the majority of the 500+ that is relevant.
@Mervin_Bitikofer (finally figured out how tagging works). Thanks.
Well, of course. How else are we going to know whether something is true? In science, a DNA paternity test for my child would show 99.9% probability that my child is my own. So, you are right in that there is an element of faith involved, and there is a little ambiguity (i.e the DNA could be contaminated, errors during comparisons, etc…). I will grant you that.
However, I would argue that you don’t have just faith to trust a paternity test. You have reliable scientific methods that have proven themselves over the years, so 99.9% confidence is pretty much 100% guarantee.
But resurrection is nowhere near the same level of certainty. I’d place the resurrection on the par with the Santa Claus and the tooth fairy.
@gbrooks9, we don’t have the 500 witnesses. We don’t know their names or even what they saw. We have a claim, allegedly made by Paul, that such witnesses do exist. But they are, as Paul claims, a claims of Jesus’ appearance to them, who also appeared to Paul. Nothing more, nothing less.
The 15th appearance (4 March)
Over 9,000 people were present.
The third time I went to see M. le Curé, to tell him that a Lady had ordered me to go and say to the priests that they were to have a chapel built there, he looked at me for a moment, and then he said to me in a rather gruff tone, ‘Who is this lady?’ I answered that I did not know. Then he commissioned me to ask her name and to come and tell him. The next day when I arrived at the grotto I recited my rosary and then asked her, from M. le Curé what her name was, but all she did was to smile. When I got back I went to M. le Curé to tell him that I discharged his commission, and her only response was her smile; then he said she was laughing at me and that I would do well not to go to her again. But, I could not help going.
I came back for a fortnight. The vision appeared every day, except one Monday [22 February] and one Friday [26 February]. She repeated to me several times that I was to tell the priests they were to build a Chapel there, and I was to go to the fountain to wash, and that I was to pray for sinners. During this fortnight, she told me three secrets which she forbade me to tell anyone. I have been faithful until now.
Does the above prove that Mary rose from the dead? 9000! people saw Mary appear to them.
@Christy, I don’t think we can assume that the 1st century people were not gullible. I started my response with the common claim (as alleged by the Gospelers) that John the Baptist was raised from the dead in the person of Jesus. This is not what Christians believe, but, allegedly, this is what the people among the Christians believed.
Note also, their education levels were far below ours and the Gospels don’t tell how they concluded X was true. They were wrong to believe John the Baptist rose from the dead, so why should I believe them when they (or their contemporaries) claim that Jesus now truly did rise? Paul flat out tells us that he knows Christ has risen because Christ appeared to him (presumably, in a vision). Sorry, I’m not impressed. But, if it convinces others, that’s fine with me.
Lastly, note that even in our times, within the last 100 years, there have been claims of resurrections. Do we believe them?
Dr. Gokak’s Endorsement:
Amongst innumerable miracles which have emanated from Bhagavan all these years, the following are worth recording.
During the latter part of the year 1953 Bhagavan brought back to life one V. Radhakrishna, a well-known citizen of Kuppam, whose body had started decomposing at Prasanthi Nilayam.
Note, per the above, a Doctor (a guy with presumably lots of schooling!) testifies to a resurrection of a well-known citizen! This is better than what the Gospelers provide. So, do we believe Sai Baba raised people from the dead last century? Help me understand your skepticism on this one please.