Challenging Eyewitnesses of the Resurrection

EYEWITNESSLast year I wrote a post regarding the irony of rejecting the eyewitness accounts to Jesus’ resurrection. I received the following challenge that attempts to undermine the reliability of eyewitnesses and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since the Christian faith is grounded on this unique event in history (1 Corinthians 15), the challenge must be addressed. Here it is:

“Regarding eyewitness being good evidence. True, the further we go back in history, the more we have to rely on eyewitness testimony. However, the likelihood of an event occurring significantly affects the credibility of the eyewitness. If there was an eyewitness to a car crash, the car crash event itself does not diminish credibility, because those happen all the time. But if there was an eyewitness to extraterrestrials, or ghosts, or godzilla, or someone rising from the dead, it significantly diminishes the credibility of the eyewitness testimony because the possibility that the eyewitness was mistaken or lying increases. Do you see the difference?”

My goal with this post is to present four responses to this challenge, that combined will render it untenable to maintain. [Read more...]

On Miracles and Historiography: Can The Supernatural Ever Be The Best Explanation?

Anyone who has engaged in or interacted with any public discourse on the subject of miracles in the New Testament (especially the resurrection) will have encountered this objection: How can an historian infer that a miracle is the best explanation of historical data, given that supernatural phenomena are, by their very nature, extremely improbable? One might grant that the mass hallucination hypothesis as an explanation for the purported postmortem sightings of Jesus is immensely improbable — but surely it has to be less improbable than the proposition that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. Thus, it is argued, any hypothesis which purports to explain the pertinent evidence, no matter how improbable, is a better explanation than invocation of the supernatural.

In his book Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them), the agnostic textual critic and notorious critic of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, summarizes the problem (pp. 174-175): [Read more...]

God in History

With Easter just a few days around the corner, I believe it is important that we remember the greater historical reality this day points to: that God became man, “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:7) and remained obedient to death – “even to death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). This postulate (“God became man”) has incalculable historical, political, social, and even existential implications for our lives. Several reasons for this emerge.

To start, the nature of belief – when understood provisionally in terms of the human understanding – is a troubling notion to those who regard it in our modern age as a mere “holding of tradition,” a (1) trusting of that which is not visible and (2) an attitude towards things that don’t seem to really progress a rational society. The Christian in his attitude of the credo (“I believe”) – that unifying instant where his “I” matches the object of his “believe” – is going against his natural inclinations of the “visible”, but of course not contradicting them. As Pope Benedict XVI nicely explained it:

[Believing] means that man does not regard seeing, hearing and touching as the totality of what concerns him, that he does not view the area of his world as marked off by what he can see and touch but seeks a second mode of access to reality, a mode he calls in fact belief, and in such a way that he finds in it the decisive enlargement of his whole view of the world. [1]

[Read more...]

The Resurrection of Jesus: A Look at the Evidence

Resurrection-soldiers at the tomb

I can’t lay claim to being great at planning, as I had intended to finish this series some time ago. But with it being Holy Week, and with Easter just around the corner, it seemed a perfect time to conclude by looking at the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. [Read more...]

What Did the Disciples See?



When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Explanations try to show how something happened. That is, what is the cause for something that has happened. As I have noted elsewhere, the resurrection story started very, very, early. Also, there is an excellent post on the empty tomb issue over at Wintery Knight’s blog.

Anyway, let’s take a look at what explains the resurrection appearances. First, let’s observe the list of appearances:

• Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, shortly after his resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18)
• Jesus appears to the women returning from the empty tomb (Matthew 28:8-10)
• Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12,13; Luke 24:13-35)
• Jesus appears to Peter ( Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5)
• Jesus appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. (Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-23).
• Jesus again appears to his disciples, in Jerusalem. At this time Thomas is present (John 20:24-29).
• Jesus appears to his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 28:16; John 21:1,2)
• Jesus is seen by 500 believers at one time (1 Corinthians 15:6)
• Jesus appears to James ( 1 Corinthians 15:7)
• Jesus appears to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20).
• He appeared to his disciples (Luke 24:50-53).
• He appeared to Paul on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8).

I will go ahead and offer some comments from various scholars and what they say about the appearances and the experiences of the disciples: [Read more...]