Sunday, March 4, 2012

Evidence for Jesus's Resurrection

Here is a video from William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith Tour. Here he presents some of the evidence scholars use for why Jesus's Resurrection really happened. The video is an hour and a half long but the talk itself is only about 40 minutes with the rest being a Q&A period. I've been trying to study the evidence for Jesus and the resurrection lately and I'm posting this video as an introduction to the evidence for those who are also curious.

Here's another Quote on Christ:

“Do you believe in the existence of Socrates? Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? If historicity is established by written records in multiple copies that date originally from near contemporaneous sources, there is far more proof for Christ’s existence than for any of theirs.”
- Dinesh D’Souza


  1. My abbreviated reaction is that he overlooks the issues that any skeptics would have and bases his explanations on a belief that the Bible is 100% historically valid because the Bible says so.

    Here's a text version of the talk for reference sake:

    Fact #1: Jesus was buried in the tomb.
    All the sources are Biblical sources. Does this mean they're true or false, valid or invalid? Nope. But we know that the writer's were biased and had a message they wanted to promote - the message being that Jesus was the messiah. So to treat it as 100% historically accurate would be rather presumptuous. Again, this doesn't mean it isn't accurate...

    Also, there are other burial possibilities:

    Fact #2: Jesus' tomb was found empty.
    Again, found empty according to the Bible. And the Jewish allegations that the Christians stole the body, which WLC uses to affirm that the body was truly missing -- again, only found in NT Bible stories... not backed up by Jewish or other independent historical literature.

    Fact #3: People Experienced Jesus Alive
    I don't want to keep repeating the same arguments. So I'll pick on one point that won't be redundant. WLC says "there is no reason to thik that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus family had they been faithful followers all along". Ummmm...yes. The writers wrote these stories after Jesus' death - so a story saying "Jesus' brothers never believed, but NOW they believe because of the resurrection" would be hugely beneficial.

    Fact #4: The Disciples Believed He was Risen
    I remember Bart Ehrman pointing out that one of the stories regarding the disciples meeting Jesus was added to a later manuscript and not part of the original gospel story. But I don't have time to cite that right now. Anyways, the disciples may have believed or they may not have believed but wanted others to believe in order to grow their religion that they were already quite committed to. You see this sort of thing happen in religions all the time.

    I just don't think we can draw the conclusion that WLC thinks we should draw based on the arguments he has presented. Also, keep in mind that there are conflicting accounts in all the gospels regarding these events:


    And going into the Dinesh D'Souza quote would be a whole other rebuttle. But basically... we know there was a historical Jesus - or at least we have good evidence to believe such a thing. But this does not mean that all the stories about Jesus and the supernatural claims are true.

  2. Hey Chad thanks for the response and thanks for taking time to watch the video. As I’ve said lately I’ve begun looking into the historicity of Jesus and the resurrection and it’s been interesting so far. If you feel like this is a topic that interests you too I recommend getting a copy of Habermas and Licona’s book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. It goes into the issues a lot more than WLC does in his video and they focus on a “minimal facts” approach, which I’ll summarize when I finish the book and write a review.

    Anyway I’ll comment on Fact 1 and 2 together since if a tomb was found empty then obviously Jesus was buried in a tomb. First I’ll just make a comment that Habermas and Licona devote a chunk of their book to the opposing burial theories and why they don’t stand up. What I can remember off the top of my head is that while we can come up with opposing theories for the burial of Jesus in the tomb and the finding of an empty tomb these theories fail to explain other historically accepted facts like the sudden change in the disciples beliefs, the conversion of Paul, and of James.

    Now the main issue is that WLC only mentions a Biblical source that the body was missing and that the Jewish leaders claimed that the disciples had stolen the body. And it is true that Matthew does state that this is what the Jewish leaders were saying of the burial and subsequent empty tomb. First off if the body was not missing or was buried in some other location, the Jewish leaders would easily be able to show the people Jesus’ body and prove that Jesus was still dead. Secondly, if the disciples had stolen the body it doesn’t explain the other three historically accepted facts mentioned in the above paragraph. Now to comment on the Matthew reference, the author of that gospel also states that the belief was still circulating among Jewish authorities to this day. So if the Jews had an alternate theory for the empty tomb they never wrote it down or voiced it and anyone who read Matthew or wondered about what the Jews thought could go ask them and Matthew’s account would have been discredited. And in fact Matthew is not the only source stating that the Jew’s story was that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus, this belief can also be found in the writing of Justin Martyr, Typho 108, Tertullian, De Spectaculis 30. Plus historians have good reasons to believe that the disciples sincerely believed Christ had risen from the dead as evidenced in early writings and all their willingness to die. I forget who said this but, “liars make terrible martyrs.”

    For Fact 3 I’m sorry I’m not sure what you mean…? It’s is a pretty well established historical belief that James the brother of Jesus was a pious Jew who was a member of the Sanhedrin before Christ’s death and then after Christ’s death became a believer because he claimed he had an appearance and he ended up being killed in the temple for this belief. And again this story comes from the Gospels, Paul, and other historical writers such as Josephus, Hegesippus, Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius. So it is HIGHLY unlikely that this is a fabricated story written by the gospel writers or Paul about James.

  3. For Fact 4 You are right that people changed religions all the time but I’m not sure we can say for sure that the disciples were quite committed to their religion to the point of fabricating this big story and ending up dying for it. This is a big topic in Habermas and Licona’s book. One point would be that as Jews they believed that the Messiah would not die a death like crucifixion. And we both know that were a lot of false messiahs especially in that time period so once Jesus had been put to death the disciples would have most likely have realized they were following a false messiah and would have moved on. In fabricating a story about a false messiah they would have been knowingly giving up their hope for eternal life and soul (based on their Jewish beliefs). Not to mention that the gospels record that after the crucifixion the disciples ran and hid and denied knowing Jesus. Then all of a sudden we get a complete turn around where they preach the belief that Jesus was risen to the point where they all were killed or exiled. Even then the change in the disciples wouldn’t explain the conversions of Paul or James.

    And also yes we have discrepancies between the gospel accounts but they are pretty small and not beyond reconcile. Not to mention that they are accounts by different authors written sometime after the event took place so unless they were all copying from each other we would expect some minor discrepancies. For example if you and I saw a car crash we could all sorts of small details differing, like how many cars didn’t stop, how many people witnessed it, was one speeding or both, but this doesn’t change the fact that an accident took place. So basically the minor discrepancies at most only call into question inerrancy of the Bible, and I don’t know many Biblical scholars who actually hold that view, that’s more of a fundamentalist thing I think.

    Anyway sorry for the long response, I would ask that if you have anything further to add or questions to ask please try and keep it short as this is the week before exam week and I can’t afford to take another 30-40 minutes. Though if you don’t mind waiting till Saturday or possibly 2 weeks from now be my guest to write as much as you want. Hmm two weeks…that sounds like enough time to read Habermas and Licona’s book!

  4. Sorry man... that comment was rushed. I'll try to clarify/respond better later. No rush on this end either as I have a lot going on as well.

  5. Hey Ryan... just a few quick comments.

    Keep in mind all of these "historical facts" such as the conversion of Paul and James and the empty tomb are only historical in the Biblical sense. Are there extra-Biblical sources to verify any of these claims? I'm not asking for extra-Biblical sources that offer opposing claims, but rather ones written prior to the Gospels or at the time of Jesus' death that confirm the claims of the New Testament. Don't give me Josephus or other writer's who wrote way after while reflecting on the NT. You mention Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hegisippus, Clement of Alexandria who were ALL 100-200+ years after the fact - so they cannot be counted as reliable, independent historical sources regarding the events (that would be like writing about WW1 and using me as a source).

    Conviction doesn't equate belief. Liars may make terrible martyrs, but I'm not insisting that the disciples are lying. There are a number of other possibilities that don't lead to the claims of Jesus being true. 1) They believed the stories of Jesus based on poor evidence (just as how other people believed in other messiah's and false prophets) and lived their lives accordingly. 2) The religion was created not for the purpose of truth, but rather for social and political motivations and they were willing to die for this cause. Of course, you're working from the paradigm that the Bible stories are true and I am not, which is a huge difference. Of course if the disciples lived with Jesus they would believe in Him - if all the stories were true then the miracles he performed would be more than enough evidence. But if you consider the stories could have been fabricated and approach it that way then you run into all sorts of other possibilities. Of course, I don't know if they are true or not. But I don't think you believe all the claims of other religions are true either - yet people were converted by those stories and willing to die for many of them throughout history as well.

    Anyways... I will have to read the book. But I have a feeling that my response will be much like some of the one-star reviews on Amazon:

    Not that it's a fair approach, but I would be shocked if there was enough evidence to really make an impact.

  6. Ok I think we should take a second to realize that the history of the gospels, and of what Paul wrote that is included in the Bible, is all very historically accurate with perhaps some minor discrepancies (as seen in any ancient works). The only debatable history is the supernatural claims contained therein. Like did the resurrection actually happen because God raised his son, or is there an alternative explanation for the life of Jesus and subsequent events after his death. Not all the authors I gave you were reflecting on the New Testament, some were actually trained by the apostles and Paul and passed on what they were told, what they read, and so on to further generations of early church leaders (people like Polycarp, Eusebius, Origen, Ignatius, Irenaeus are in addition to the ones I mentioned in my earlier post and there’s more too).

    It’s not even close to compare your knowledge of WW2 with the New Testament eyewitness accounts and the knowledge possessed by early church leaders and early historians who recorded the events. I think it would be a pretty big mistake to say that the accounts we have from Biblical sources and extra-biblical sources are unreliable based on them being written between 50 AD and 200 AD. In fact Biblical history (as pertaining to the New Testament anyway) is some of the best documented and most reliable we have. Pretty much all of our knowledge of history comes from writings of events 100+ years after events took place.

    Let me illustrate by pointing out that Tiberius Caesar was the emperor at the time of Jesus ministry and death. Tiberius is mentioned by 10 different sources within 150 years after his death. In comparison Jesus is mentioned by forty-two sources in that same length of time. However, you may point out many of the sources for Jesus were Christian believers, but even if we only looked at secular sources then both are tied with 9 non-christian sources each.

  7. Plus another thing you have to keep in mind is the Jewish culture was an oral traditional culture and so writing the events down at the exact moment wasn’t the norm. In fact Biblical scholars generally agree that much of Paul’s writings contain early creeds that were part of the oral culture and can trace the style back to within 5 years of Jesus death.

    Lastly, on the disciples, and I’ll just keep this point short. It’s a pretty well established historical fact that they were at least sincere in their beliefs, even if it didn’t actually happen and almost no doubt that they weren’t lying or making the story up. Here’s a quote I read a while back on whether or not the disciples were motivated by anthing less than the truth: “The reality is that the disciples had nothing to gain except criticism, ostracism, and martyrdom. They certainly had nothing to gain financially. If anything, this would have provided pressure to keep quiet, to deny Yeshua, to downplay Him, even to forget they ever met Him - yet because of their integrity and love for Him, they proclaimed what they saw, even when it meant their own terrible suffering and death.”

    Anyway we could keep debating this or not, it doesn’t matter to me as I will be posting my review or the evidence and reasons to accept them after I finish the book once test week is over. I realize there are competing theories and I plan to explore as much as I can before I say the evidence is super conclusive that Jesus rose from the dead. But so far it doesn’t seem impossible and to the contrary seems like one of the more probable theories. And don’t read the book if you don’t want to, especially if you are going to read it with your mind already made up about their conclusion. Well have a good one, I’ll see you in a couple weeks! Take care man.

  8. Oh also let me say that one thing that separates Christianity apart from say Mormonism or even Islam is that in Christianity you have multiple attestations to a risen Jesus from different sources (the disciples, Paul, James, the 500, and the women, the first three examples of whom were killed for not backing down from their belief in the resurrection) whereas with Mormonism you have the word of Joseph Smith, and with Islam the word of Muhammed. So yes people are converted to different religions and who's to say ones right over the other if any are at all, but I think that is where following the evidence comes in. Just because people accept or come to believe opposing belief systems doesn't mean they're all without truth. You wouldn't hold creation and evolution on the same level as a science based on the evidence and yet people come to believe in one or the other all the time thinking that they have evidence to back it up, doesn't mean they're both wrong.

    Also sorry for my long replies...I tried to keep it as short as I possibly could. I feel like I could go on and on with regards to this topic.