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Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

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Dave B
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#181 Post by Dave B » August 22nd, 2013, 10:00 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

By the way TV, and SKY in particular is an abomination
That's a bit harsh, Alan. It's mostly utter crap, yes, but are you actually disgusted by TV and have feelings of actual hatred towards it? Gets you that emotional does it? :D
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Alan C.
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#182 Post by Alan C. » August 22nd, 2013, 10:34 pm

Dave B wrote:
By the way TV, and SKY in particular is an abomination
That's a bit harsh, Alan. It's mostly utter crap, yes, but are you actually disgusted by TV and have feelings of actual hatred towards it? Gets you that emotional does it? :D
Well, not disgusted by it (I haven't watched any for the past 7 years) But I do think it's divisive, you know, wife in one room watching Zombie/vampire/Werewolf shite and me next door trying to stay in the real world. (via the interweb, which probably counts as ironic :wink: )

Edit to say.
I do watch the odd documentary/science prog on iplayer.
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etoile
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#183 Post by etoile » August 22nd, 2013, 11:49 pm

Alan C. wrote:
etoile
Maybe they'll have quotes and photos too.
Well photos would be a bit of a minor "miracle" But you would think he would have had something he thought worth writing down. Apparently not.
Or maybe he was illiterate like Mo and couldn't write.

By the way TV, and SKY in particular is an abomination :wink:
The ridiculous photo suggestion was kinda the point. They may as well have had a documentary about the influence of King Arthur and Merlin claiming video footage of actual events.
Dave B wrote:
By the way TV, and SKY in particular is an abomination
That's a bit harsh, Alan. It's mostly utter crap, yes, but are you actually disgusted by TV and have feelings of actual hatred towards it? Gets you that emotional does it? :D
isn't that like shooting the messenger or a workman blaming his tools or something? The ' telling box' is great with some good stuff. There was a great series on BBC4 'King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons' with an episode devoted to Aethelflaed you might like Dave B.

But I could probably concede that Sky is the spawn of SAtan Alan.

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animist
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#184 Post by animist » August 23rd, 2013, 5:55 pm

Alan C. wrote:Evidence for "Christs" Existence is what I'd like to see, (I wish I had a quid for every time I've asked for it and it's not been forthcoming) maybe then we can talk about the "supernatural" stuff.
well actually you and I and Compo have been over this. I think there is useful distinction between evidence and proof, and that you really mean "proof" when you say "evidence". Because it is so long ago and the only "evidence" for JC's mere existence are the four gospels which proclaim him to be God, it is a bit hard to separate the two out, but I think the mere existence of these gospels is some evidence that JC, or someone like him, existed. Plus that - but you know this already - there are a couple of non-Xian references to him, such as the historian Josephus. I've tried, but obviously unsuccessfully, to get over to you my take on this. I am not a conspiracy theorist and so I tend to dismiss claims that Xianity is some sort of hoax. I think there is a bedrock of truth in the gospels, and someone in Palestine during this time did give some pretty good sermons and parables - or else, where did these come from? He, probably, got a bit above himself (or maybe the claims of divinity really were later interpolations, I do not know) in claiming to be God, or the way to God, or whatever. But I don't think stuff comes from nothing, so if JC did not exist, I think someone or someones a bit like him did exist

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Alan C.
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#185 Post by Alan C. » August 23rd, 2013, 6:32 pm

animist
there are a couple of non-Xian references to him, such as the historian Josephus.
I'm sure I've pointed out before, the fact that even leading "theologians" accept that the mention of Jesus by both Josephus and Pliny the younger are probably forgeries added at a later date.
Even if their supposed writings were genuine it would be still just anecdotal as they were both born around 30 years post Jesus and never met him.
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Dave B
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#186 Post by Dave B » August 23rd, 2013, 7:36 pm

There was a great series on BBC4 'King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons' with an episode devoted to Aethelflaed you might like Dave B.
Saw it round a friends, thanks etoile.

Good stuff mostly but, as ever, made for TV. Michael Wood is now a TV celebrity more then an historian (like a lot of others) and what he did not say is that many of the accounts he quoted were written long after the events by people (monks mainly, possibly on commission) who were not exactly feminists. Bishop Asser's "Life of King Alfred", written as it was lived, barely mentions Aethelfaed at all, basically just as the eldest child. We know she played an important part in Mercia as much from the documents she signed, demonstrating her authority, as anything else. Geoffrey of Monmouth praised her high but said that her only fault was being a female!

Sorry folks, running off at the mouth OT again!
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#187 Post by animist » August 23rd, 2013, 11:10 pm

Alan C. wrote:
animist
there are a couple of non-Xian references to him, such as the historian Josephus.
I'm sure I've pointed out before, the fact that even leading "theologians" accept that the mention of Jesus by both Josephus and Pliny the younger are probably forgeries added at a later date.
Even if their supposed writings were genuine it would be still just anecdotal as they were both born around 30 years post Jesus and never met him.
first point - I don't think that is true; on page 7 of this thread I printed out stuff about Josephus and Tacitus, and the Wiki article on the former says that his account is generally accepted as genuine just because it differs from those of the gospels; if the reference to Jesus had been a Xian forgery we would expect them to have made it more supportive of their claims
Second point - you can call it "anecdotal", and as you imply, it is certainly hearsay. But unlike the gospels, which are also hearsay (and BTW one of the brighter people among the Theologica lot, a lawyer, openly stated that as such they would not stand in a courtroom) Josephus merely refers to the persona of Jesus, not to the claims of miracles and resurrection. Surely you can at least allow that such a modest claim does count as evidence, albeit of modest quality? Tacitus in particular would have made many references in his histories to people he did not know personally, so do you disbelieve in their existence?

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Alan C.
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#188 Post by Alan C. » August 25th, 2013, 7:52 pm

animist
Tacitus in particular would have made many references in his histories to people he did not know personally, so do you disbelieve in their existence?
Many people write about historical figures that they did not personally know but they can and do reference things that were noted and written down at the time the historical figure "lived"
I maintain that if Jesus existed and was such a pain in the arse to the Romans that they crucified him, Someone at the time would have left a written record. Nobody did.

I would maybe be more inclined to believe he was a real guy in history if the founders of Christianity had not shamelessly portrayed him a clone of Mithra. (Do I need to point out the sameness's?)
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animist
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#189 Post by animist » August 27th, 2013, 11:02 pm

Alan C. wrote:
animist
Tacitus in particular would have made many references in his histories to people he did not know personally, so do you disbelieve in their existence?
Many people write about historical figures that they did not personally know but they can and do reference things that were noted and written down at the time the historical figure "lived"
I maintain that if Jesus existed and was such a pain in the arse to the Romans that they crucified him, Someone at the time would have left a written record. Nobody did.

I would maybe be more inclined to believe he was a real guy in history if the founders of Christianity had not shamelessly portrayed him a clone of Mithra. (Do I need to point out the sameness's?)
your first point - it's true that there is no extant contemporary written source of Jesus's life, but I am not sure why that would make a significant difference, as it would still be hearsay if the writer did not know him. I agree that the fact that the gospels were years later than JC makes them suspect as reliable sources, but I just think that it is more improbable that these people took the trouble to chronicle a non-existent person's life (why and how would they do this?) than that there was some individual to whom they referred. I have read that, despite the undoubted importance of Hannibal as a historical figure, there are no contemporary records of him. Even if that is not the case, it is certainly conceivable that an important historical personage might lack contemporary documentation: everything might have come down from one historian to another but the earliest, first-hand source might have been lost.

Your second point - I am not sure this is true; oddly enough, I have heard Xians make this type of assumption, ie that Jesus's crucifixion and its aftermath was regarded as a highly important event and controversial at the time, and use this to claim that Jesus must have been resurrected - because otherwise the Romans or Jews could have just found the body and so disprove the claims of his followers. I don't think that his death, given the conditions of the time and the number of crucifixions that occurred on a regular basis, was that big a deal to the Romans and certainly not worthy of official record (he did not start any sort of insurrection, after all); and though you mentioned that the Romans were meticulous record-keepers, I doubt that they were so by modern standards.

I have already pointed out the many difference between the Jesus and Mithras stories; anyway, this is a detailed refutation of the Jesus myth claim, which is generally rejected by historians, and the fact that the writer is presumably a Xian does not invalidate it:
http://www.bede.org.uk/jesusmyth.htm

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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#190 Post by Alan C. » October 2nd, 2013, 9:25 pm

Apologists for "Jesus" Or just the folk who say...Oh,,You know? there might have been a hippy kind of guy around at that time.
Please watch this video, then post what you think is inaccurate or false in the video and why.
Historical Jesus.
Cheers. :)
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#191 Post by Dave B » October 2nd, 2013, 10:10 pm

Haven't listened to the whole thing yet but get the impression the lecturer has an agenda, is maybe not fully objective, and thus his presentation is somewhat suspect.

That does not mean that I support the "historical Jesus" hypothesis it means I do not think it is possible to even hypothesise on this subject. Perhaps the lecture should start with, "The historical Jesus hypothesis cannot be supported nor denied conclusively from the evidence of the Bible and it is thus a waste of time attempting to do so." The rest would then be an examination of historical analysis to support that statement using the hypothesis merely as the example.

Even that has the smell of an agenda about it!

But then, looking at the other lectures in the series one would have to listen to them all to tell the lecturer's true intentions.

Deep in my mind I admit that I harbour the idea that there was a charismatic person who others used, without close conspiracy (hence the variations in the narratives), to propagate a new idea. Basic religion is an attempt to explain the forces of nature, mythology is often the attempted explanation of human psychology but there may be a basis for Christianity, it is "too late" in the story for it to be purely a con. Nothing supernatural about it, but possibly something human.
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#192 Post by Compassionist » October 8th, 2013, 11:20 am

Alan C. wrote:Apologists for "Jesus" Or just the folk who say...Oh,,You know? there might have been a hippy kind of guy around at that time.
Please watch this video, then post what you think is inaccurate or false in the video and why.
Historical Jesus.
Cheers. :)
Thank you very much for your link. There are many contradictory videos on YouTube about the historicity of Jesus. I don't know whether or not Jesus existed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaUd234Q3GU is a debate between William Lane Craig and Richard Carrier who have opposing stance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4woQwbsHVlE tried to prove the existence of Jesus using non-biblical sources.

How can know for sure what is true?

I love Daniel Dennett's appraisal of William Lane Craig http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wb10QvaHpS4

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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#193 Post by Alan H » October 8th, 2013, 12:34 pm

Compassionist wrote:How can know for sure what is true?
Start on the assumption that anything WLC says is wrong! :D

Seriously, it's not so much a matter of what is true, but what is more likely to be true.
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#194 Post by Compassionist » October 9th, 2013, 1:43 pm

Alan H wrote:
Compassionist wrote:How can know for sure what is true?
Start on the assumption that anything WLC says is wrong! :D

Seriously, it's not so much a matter of what is true, but what is more likely to be true.
:pointlaugh: Indeed, we can use probability mathematics to find out what is more likely to be true.

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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#195 Post by draykorinee » October 9th, 2013, 2:06 pm

I quite like WLC, he puts up a better fight than most, sometimes/a lot of the time he talks utter tosh though.

I recently had a debate with someone regarding Jesus' divinity, he claimed that the shroud of turin and the eurachist miracle of buenes aries were proof of his divinity, I dont understand how, even if, the shroud was authentic, what does it show? Nothing, only a man's image on a shroud, it doesn;t prove resurrection, it doesn't even prove its jesus. The eucharist is just a con job, but even if it was a real story, and the piece of bread did become a slice of human heart, how does that prove anything except that god gives the most cryptic, nonsensical clues to his existence. It really frustrates me dealing with people like that.
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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#196 Post by Altfish » October 9th, 2013, 5:55 pm

draykorinee wrote:I quite like WLC ...... sometimes/a lot of the time he talks utter tosh though.
Understatement of the year, I find that most of the time I haven't a clue what he is talking about :laughter:

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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#197 Post by jaywhat » October 12th, 2013, 3:33 pm

'Evidence for' are the only words in the heading - the other things do not exist so, 'Evidence for' what?

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Re: Evidence (?) for Christ's Resurrection

#198 Post by Compassionist » March 13th, 2014, 5:05 pm

I am quoting from http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe ... ction.html
Question: "Why should I believe in Christ’s resurrection?"

Answer: It is a fairly well-established fact that Jesus Christ was publicly executed in Judea in the 1st Century A.D., under Pontius Pilate, by means of crucifixion, at the behest of the Jewish Sanhedrin. The non-Christian historical accounts of Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Lucian of Samosata, Maimonides and even the Jewish Sanhedrin corroborate the early Christian eyewitness accounts of these important historical aspects of the death of Jesus Christ.

As for His resurrection, there are several lines of evidence which make for a compelling case. The late jurisprudential prodigy and international statesman Sir Lionel Luckhoo (of The Guinness Book of World Records fame for his unprecedented 245 consecutive defense murder trial acquittals) epitomized Christian enthusiasm and confidence in the strength of the case for the resurrection when he wrote, “I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

The secular community’s response to the same evidence has been predictably apathetic in accordance with their steadfast commitment to methodological naturalism. For those unfamiliar with the term, methodological naturalism is the human endeavor of explaining everything in terms of natural causes and natural causes only. If an alleged historical event defies natural explanation (e.g., a miraculous resurrection), secular scholars generally treat it with overwhelming skepticism, regardless of the evidence, no matter how favorable and compelling it may be.

In our view, such an unwavering allegiance to natural causes regardless of substantive evidence to the contrary is not conducive to an impartial (and therefore adequate) investigation of the evidence. We agree with Dr. Wernher von Braun and numerous others who still believe that forcing a popular philosophical predisposition upon the evidence hinders objectivity. Or in the words of Dr. von Braun, “To be forced to believe only one conclusion… would violate the very objectivity of science itself.”

Having said that, let us now examine the several lines of evidence which favor of the resurrection.

The First Line of Evidence for Christ's resurrection

To begin with, we have demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony. Early Christian apologists cited hundreds of eyewitnesses, some of whom documented their own alleged experiences. Many of these eyewitnesses willfully and resolutely endured prolonged torture and death rather than repudiate their testimony. This fact attests to their sincerity, ruling out deception on their part. According to the historical record (The Book of Acts 4:1-17; Pliny’s Letters to Trajan X, 96, etc) most Christians could end their suffering simply by renouncing the faith. Instead, it seems that most opted to endure the suffering and proclaim Christ’s resurrection unto death.

Granted, while martyrdom is remarkable, it is not necessarily compelling. It does not validate a belief so much as it authenticates a believer (by demonstrating his or her sincerity in a tangible way). What makes the earliest Christian martyrs remarkable is that they knew whether or not what they were professing was true. They either saw Jesus Christ alive-and-well after His death or they did not. This is extraordinary. If it was all just a lie, why would so many perpetuate it given their circumstances? Why would they all knowingly cling to such an unprofitable lie in the face of persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death?

While the September 11, 2001, suicide hijackers undoubtedly believed what they professed (as evidenced by their willingness to die for it), they could not and did not know if it was true. They put their faith in traditions passed down to them over many generations. In contrast, the early Christian martyrs were the first generation. Either they saw what they claimed to see, or they did not.

Among the most illustrious of the professed eyewitnesses were the Apostles. They collectively underwent an undeniable change following the alleged post-resurrection appearances of Christ. Immediately following His crucifixion, they hid in fear for their lives. Following the resurrection they took to the streets, boldly proclaiming the resurrection despite intensifying persecution. What accounts for their sudden and dramatic change? It certainly was not financial gain. The Apostles gave up everything they had to preach the resurrection, including their lives.

The Second Line of Evidence for Christ's resurrection

A second line of evidence concerns the conversion of certain key skeptics, most notably Paul and James. Paul was of his own admission a violent persecutor of the early Church. After what he described as an encounter with the resurrected Christ, Paul underwent an immediate and drastic change from a vicious persecutor of the Church to one of its most prolific and selfless defenders. Like many early Christians, Paul suffered impoverishment, persecution, beatings, imprisonment, and execution for his steadfast commitment to Christ’s resurrection.

James was skeptical, though not as hostile as Paul. A purported post-resurrection encounter with Christ turned him into an inimitable believer, a leader of the Church in Jerusalem. We still have what scholars generally accept to be one of his letters to the early Church. Like Paul, James willingly suffered and died for his testimony, a fact which attests to the sincerity of his belief (see The Book of Acts and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews XX, ix, 1).

The Third and Fourth Lines of Evidence for Christ's resurrection

A third line and fourth line of evidence concern enemy attestation to the empty tomb and the fact that faith in the resurrection took root in Jerusalem. Jesus was publicly executed and buried in Jerusalem. It would have been impossible for faith in His resurrection to take root in Jerusalem while His body was still in the tomb where the Sanhedrin could exhume it, put it on public display, and thereby expose the hoax. Instead, the Sanhedrin accused the disciples of stealing the body, apparently in an effort to explain its disappearance (and therefore an empty tomb). How do we explain the fact of the empty tomb? Here are the three most common explanations:

First, the disciples stole the body. If this were the case, they would have known the resurrection was a hoax. They would not therefore have been so willing to suffer and die for it. (See the first line of evidence concerning demonstrably sincere eyewitness testimony.) All of the professed eyewitnesses would have known that they hadn’t really seen Christ and were therefore lying. With so many conspirators, surely someone would have confessed, if not to end his own suffering then at least to end the suffering of his friends and family. The first generation of Christians were absolutely brutalized, especially following the conflagration in Rome in A.D. 64 (a fire which Nero allegedly ordered to make room for the expansion of his palace, but which he blamed on the Christians in Rome in an effort to exculpate himself). As the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus recounted in his Annals of Imperial Rome (published just a generation after the fire):

“Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” (Annals, XV, 44)

Nero illuminated his garden parties with Christians whom he burnt alive. Surely someone would have confessed the truth under the threat of such terrible pain. The fact is, however, we have no record of any early Christian denouncing the faith to end his suffering. Instead, we have multiple accounts of post-resurrection appearances and hundreds of eyewitnesses willing to suffer and die for it.

If the disciples didn’t steal the body, how else do we explain the empty tomb? Some have suggested that Christ faked His death and later escaped from the tomb. This is patently absurd. According to the eyewitness testimony, Christ was beaten, tortured, lacerated, and stabbed. He suffered internal damage, massive blood loss, asphyxiation, and a spear through His heart. There is no good reason to believe that Jesus Christ (or any other man for that matter) could survive such an ordeal, fake His death, sit in a tomb for three days and nights without medical attention, food or water, remove the massive stone which sealed His tomb, escape undetected (without leaving behind a trail of blood), convince hundreds of eyewitnesses that He was resurrected from the death and in good health, and then disappear without a trace. Such a notion is ridiculous.

The Fifth Line of Evidence for Christ's resurrection

Finally, a fifth line of evidence concerns a peculiarity of the eyewitness testimony. In all of the major resurrection narratives, women are credited as the first and primary eyewitnesses. This would be an odd invention since in both the ancient Jewish and Roman cultures women were severely disesteemed. Their testimony was regarded as insubstantial and dismissible. Given this fact, it is highly unlikely that any perpetrators of a hoax in 1st Century Judea would elect women to be their primary witnesses. Of all the male disciples who claimed to see Jesus resurrected, if they all were lying and the resurrection was a scam, why did they pick the most ill-perceived, distrusted witnesses they could find?

Dr. William Lane Craig explains, “When you understand the role of women in first-century Jewish society, what's really extraordinary is that this empty tomb story should feature women as the discoverers of the empty tomb in the first place. Women were on a very low rung of the social ladder in first-century Palestine. There are old rabbinical sayings that said, 'Let the words of Law be burned rather than delivered to women' and 'blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female.' Women's testimony was regarded as so worthless that they weren't even allowed to serve as legal witnesses in a Jewish court of Law. In light of this, it's absolutely remarkable that the chief witnesses to the empty tomb are these women... Any later legendary account would have certainly portrayed male disciples as discovering the tomb - Peter or John, for example. The fact that women are the first witnesses to the empty tomb is most plausibly explained by the reality that - like it or not - they were the discoverers of the empty tomb! This shows that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded what happened, even if it was embarrassing. This bespeaks the historicity of this tradition rather than its legendary status." (Dr. William Lane Craig, quoted by Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998, p. 293)

In Summary

These lines of evidence: the demonstrable sincerity of the eyewitnesses (and in the Apostles’ case, compelling, inexplicable change), the conversion and demonstrable sincerity of key antagonists- and skeptics-turned-martyrs, the fact of the empty tomb, enemy attestation to the empty tomb, the fact that all of this took place in Jerusalem where faith in the resurrection began and thrived, the testimony of the women, the significance of such testimony given the historical context; all of these strongly attest to the historicity of the resurrection. We encourage our readers to thoughtfully consider these evidences. What do they suggest to you? Having pondered them ourselves, we resolutely affirm Sir Lionel’s declaration:

“The evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.”

Recommended Resources: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Logos Bible Software.
What do you think? Here is the opposing view: http://godlesshaven.com/he-is-risen-res ... repancies/
He is Risen? Resurrection Discrepancies

April 3, 2010, In: Christianity

Tomorrow morning millions of faithful men and women will pile into churches around the globe to hear the familiar Easter story of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Crucified under Pontius Pilate, buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, only to be discovered missing on the third day, with the stone rolled away from the entrance. The women and apostles express their shock and perhaps mourn what they perceive to be a cruel joke. Then Jesus began appearing before his followers, telling them that his body had not been stolen, but resurrected by god. This message of resurrection became the good news (or gospel) which is arguably the most important element at the heart of the Christian faith today.

But what if this message is an unreliable one? It goes without saying that there have been false messages spread by persistent individuals. The best way to determine fact from fiction is to consider the evidence and keep in mind where the burden of proof lies. Many Christian apologists seem eager to offer the gospels themselves as evidence, triumphantly stating that unless you can disprove the resurrection, you have no reason to doubt it. We need not transport these people back in time to the tomb in order to expose their flawed reasoning. All we really need to do is examine the evidence they present, to see if it holds up. And as the title of this article has already given away, there are holes to be found in the gospel stories of the resurrection.

I. Four Very Different Accounts

The resurrection account variations chart viewable here: http://godlesshaven.com/he-is-risen-res ... repancies/

The chart above illustrates just a few ways that the gospels differ from each other in their descriptions of the events surrounding Jesus’ empty tomb and resurrection. Are these all minor differences, as some Christians may assert? Not necessarily. Every gospel lists a unique headcount of those who arrived at the tomb, and while most of us might think that the first people to see the risen Jesus were the women who found the tomb (since three gospels state this), Luke’s gospel contradicts such a notion. Each gospel also has something different to say on who was found at the tomb; Mark has one young man, Luke has two men, Matthew has one angel, and John has two angels. All these variant accounts can’t all be correct, can they?

Actually, when discrepancies like these are found in the bible, Christians appear to have no trouble reconciling them by basically blending the variant readings together into ‘what probably happened’. For example, one apologetics website deals with the disparate accounts of the women at the empty tomb by explaining that, “no one account speaks of the ones listed as being the only ones who went to the tomb.”1 This may seem sensible to believers, but it still faces a problem. Most Christians who use this reasoning to explain away seeming contradictions believe the gospel authors wrote under the inspiration and influence of god. If this is the case, why couldn’t god have guided them all to list the same, correct number of individuals at the tomb?

As the New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman has pointed out,
To understand what each author is trying to say, we have to look at the details of each account – and by no means treat one account as if it were saying the same thing as another account. John is different from Mark on a key, if seemingly minor, point. If we want to understand what John is saying about Jesus, we cannot reconcile the discrepancy, or we miss his point.2

It is nothing but an article of faith to suppose that the gospel authors chose not to list all who were present at the tomb, because they intended their writings to be read along with the other gospels. The fact is that each gospel gives a very different account of who first saw the resurrected Jesus, who went to the empty tomb, who they found at the tomb, and what followed afterward. If four different individuals each told you of the same purported alien encounter, with varying details on who was with them at the time, how many aliens they saw, and what the reactions were, would you not be the least bit skeptical of their tall tale? Now imagine these four accounts were not delivered by eye witnesses, but were written down anonymously, as in the case of the gospels. Would you be willing to assume all four authors were factually relating the same event from different angles?

II. The Devil’s in the Details

The differences in the gospel resurrection accounts don’t end there, however. In Mark, Luke and John, the women arrive to find the stone already rolled away from the tomb entrance. Matthew’s gospel not only describes the women witnessing an angel descending from heaven to roll away the stone, but it associates the event with an earthquake that is not mentioned in the other gospels (Matt. 28:2). Matthew is also the only text to mention guards at the tomb, whereas the women in Mark, Luke and John seem to approach and enter the tomb with no concern or notice of any guards. A lot of these may seem like minor details, but after so many differences and discrepancies among the texts, one can’t help but question the accuracy of the authors.

What did the disciples do after Jesus’ resurrection? In Mark 16:6-8, the young man in the tomb instructs the women to tell the disciples that they are to go to Galilee, where they will see Jesus. However, frightened and confused, the women run away and “[say] nothing to anyone”. In Matthew, an angel and Jesus both tell the women to let the disciples know they are to go to Galilee, and in this case they obey (Matt. 28:5-10,16). Interestingly though, Luke’s gospel does not include any command to go to Galilee. Instead, they meet Jesus in Bethany, where he ascends into heaven, and after which they return to Jerusalem (Luke 24:50-52). Many scholars think the book of Acts was written by Luke’s author, which makes it intriguing to note that the disciples are actually forbidden to leave Jerusalem in Acts 1:4. Galilee, Bethany and Jerusalem are markedly not the same region. John’s gospel gives no instruction whatsoever about going or staying anywhere.

It should be noted, though, that the four gospels are not the earliest accounts of the resurrection. According to the overwhelming majority of New Testament scholars, Paul’s epistles predate the gospels, and unfortunately for biblical inerrantists, there are still more discrepancies from these additional accounts. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 gives a string of details that further disagree with the four gospels, such as Jesus appearing first to Peter (no mention of women at the tomb is made), and then to over 500 believers later on. That last bit about the 500 ‘witnesses’ is favored by a lot of apologists as evidence of the resurrection, but nothing of the sort is described in any gospel, and it’s only in 1 Corinthians that we find such a large number.

Paul’s epistles also reflect a belief in a more spiritual resurrection, as opposed to the physical resurrection taught in the later gospels. In 1 Corinthians 15:46, Paul says that the “spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.” Four verses later, he goes on to say that, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” According to Paul, Jesus was “revealed in the flesh, [and] was vindicated in the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16 – NAS translation); he “became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). 1 Peter 3:18 also says Christ was “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit”. Among all these early accounts of the resurrection, you will not find the depth of detail contained later in the gospels. There is no story of the empty tomb, only brief and casual mentions of postmortem appearances.

When we turn to the later gospels, however, we find a much more ‘fleshed out’ tale of the resurrection, including the development of a belief in a bodily resurrection. Luke 24:36-43 plainly states that the disciples were afraid when Jesus appeared to them, because they “thought that they were seeing a spirit.” Jesus then actually encourages them to dispell this notion, saying “touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” The resurrected Christ goes on to eat a piece of broiled fish before his followers, further demonstrating his physical, bodily resurrection. In John 20:27, Jesus instructs Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

Every resurrection account in the New Testament has areas of disagreement with the other accounts. While these disparities do not disprove the resurrection itself, they certainly cast suspicion on the reliability of the New Testament authors and the accuracy of their reports. For the sake of thoroughness though, it’s important to not only examine the textual conflicts in the Easter story, but also the historical conflicts. Apologists like Josh McDowell are fond of stating that the resurrection is historical fact,3 but are they correct?

III. History’s Silence

There is a peculiar silence in the historical record on the matter of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The crucifixion was allegedly marked by an earthquake that opened graves and resulted in zombies scattering through Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51-54), and the resurrection was also supposedly marked by an earthquake (Matthew 28:2) and witnessed by over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6). With this in mind, it is striking to notice that the earliest non-biblical reference to Jesus comes approximately 64 years after his alleged death and resurrection, in Josephus’ Antiquities. As if this weren’t questionable enough, the passage relevant to Jesus is one widely disputed by scholars, with many considering it an interpolation.4

But the more important point to recognize here is that even if the passage were authentic, it still raises doubts, because Josephus was not alive in time to have witnessed any of Christ’s life. This is the situation for all other non-biblical sources too, like Tacitus, Suetonius, Lucian, and so on. Without knowing where their information came from, it is not clear that they reported anything historical. It is far more likely, especially after closely reading these passages, that they simply report on the beliefs of the regional Christians, not the actual events that unfolded involving Jesus around 30 CE. I deal more with these extra-biblical accounts in my article, The Extrabiblical Sources on Jesus, so I will not pursue them any further here.

Why can’t the gospels be counted as historical evidence? Christians often seem quite confused when I treat the gospels as anything less than picture-perfect historical records, but there are good reasons for viewing them with a critical and skeptical eye. Aside from the very numerous discrepancies among them that I’ve already pointed out, the gospels (and indeed all books of the New Testament) express a clear theological message. They are littered with miracle stories, religious doctrines, claims of prophecy fulfillment, and descriptions of other resurrections in addition to that of Jesus. The purpose of the gospels is not to report history as objectively as possible, but to communicate certain concepts about god, humanity, morality, and other subjects. You may find some bits of historical information in them, yet that does not make them historical records anymore than a reference to Troy makes The Iliad a historical record.

The truth is that even if we had reliable historical records of the crucifixion and the empty tomb, that would still not be evidence that the resurrection really happened. Why? Because the resurrection is not a verifiable claim, and an empty tomb has many possible explanations aside from resurrection. In a response to William Lane Craig, Jeffery Jay Lowder proposes that a more likely alternative to resurrection is that Joseph of Arimathea, who was a pious member of the Jewish High Court, simply buried Jesus in his own grave temporarily, out of respect for the Sabbath.5 Once it passed, he returned the body to the authorities or to a mass grave, as was customary treatment for crucifixion victims. I strongly encourage my readers to check out Lowder’s article – it is far more thorough and convincing than the condensed format I have presented here, and it is certainly a more plausible explanation for an empty tomb than divine intervention.

Christ’s resurrection is a supernatural explanation to be taken on faith, not historical evidence. Resurrection is not the best or most common explanation for a missing body, or for postmortem appearances. The problem is even greater though, because we don’t have reliable reasons for thinking there was a body that went missing in the first place! As already stated, there are NO extra-biblical sources that reference Jesus prior to ~90 CE. All that we have to go on before that are theologically motivated texts, mostly written by anonymous authors. Faith is an essential component throughout every aspect of Christianity, not just to get one from bible to belief. There is no real evidence of Christ’s resurrection, in history or the bible.

IV. The Story Remains the Same

One of the most frequent objections given to the exposure of discrepancies in the gospel resurrection accounts, and the lack of historical corroboration, is that despite all these seemingly troublesome issues, the fundamental story of Jesus rising from the dead remains the same. This is somewhat of a comical response, in my opinion, because I’m not sure what its proponents would expect truly contradictory resurrection stories to look like. Perhaps in one gospel Jesus would rise from the dead and find himself walking out of the wrong grave? Maybe he’d appear to a disciple who mistakes him for a robber and sends him back to the dead with a knife in his chest? Or he returns only to terrify his followers so much that they run off and never tell anyone of his resurrection? Wait, that’s actually the original ending of Mark’s gospel.

Hopefully you get the point I’m trying to make. If there were not core elements of the story that stayed the same, they would not be considered the same story. Like I said, the gospels are theologically motivated texts, and part of the message they’re attempting to convey involves Jesus being the awaited Jewish messiah. A dead rabbi is no candidate for messiah though, so even if every gospel were full of blatant lies, we should expect certain aspects of the story to be identical, like the resurrection itself. There may also be another reason for these internal consistencies.

In the 19th century, New Testament scholars began to accept a view on the origins of the gospels known as the Two Source Hypothesis. According to this view, the authors of Matthew and Luke used the earliest gospel, Mark, as source material, in addition to another hypothetical document known as “Q” (considered a lost text of sayings, like the gospel of Thomas). This hypothesis is formed around noted similarities between the texts in grammar, language, diction, theology, omission, redaction, and many other criteria. Currently, the Two Source Hypothesis “commands the support of most biblical critics from all continents and denominations.”6 If the authors of Matthew and Luke were using Mark as their source, this easily explains why the basic story of the resurrection is fairly consistent in all three accounts. No miracles necessary.

I think it’s no exaggeration to say that, if presented with all this information, no jury of rational beings would find the Easter resurrection story convincing. There is no historical evidence, the New Testament accounts all clash on many details, there is very evident theological bias in the texts, and most of the common attempts at reconciling these problems amount to little more than empty justification for faith. To borrow and correct a title from Josh McDowell, the resurrection is a verdict that demands some evidence.


Sources:
1. Contender Ministries. Who was at the empty tomb? Bible Contradictions Answered. Retrieved Apr. 3, 2010.
2. Bart Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted (HarperCollins, 2009), p. 29.
3. Josh McDowell, “Although the resurrection of Jesus is much more than a historical fact, it is nothing less than one.” Evidence For The Resurrection (Regal 2009), p. 53.
4. Louis Feldman, Josephus, the Bible, and History (1989), p. 430.
5. Jeffrey Jay Lowder, Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story, The Secular Web (2001). Retrieved Apr. 3, 2010.
6. S.C. Carlson, The Two Source Hypothesis, Synoptic Problem Website (1999). Retrieved Apr. 3, 2010.

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