Unbelievable? Chapter 6

Facts that only fit the resurrection.

If you have been reading apologetics, you have heard of the minimal facts argument for the resurrection advanced by Licona and Habermas. These facts are

  1. that jesus died by crucifixion
  2. there was an empty tomb
  3. people reported meeting the risen Jesus (Paul has 500 of them. And I just want to know the names of two of these people)
  4. conversion of skeptics
  5. the growth of the christian church

It’s interesting to note here that this was a tactical change in approach by the Christian apologists. When it was no longer tenable to demonstrate the existence of Jesus, they felt if an argument can be made for the death and resurrection, then it follows that for a person to die, he must have lived.

We know that before the edicts making Christianity the religion of the empire, it existed as an underground cult. And two, growth of a religion does not attest to the truth of its claims. The skeptics referred to here are Paul and James the brother of Jesus. Paul tells us he was a persecutor of the Jesus sect. Paul tells us he is the foremost evangelist. I have seen many of this type. May the real Paul stand up!

It is curious that Jesus after resurrecting, chose to appear to 500 anonymous people who only Paul knows but never once do we hear he was seen by the skeptics in the town or even paying a courtesy call to Pilate just for laughs. All who saw him were his followers. I could concede that he didn’t want to be crucified a second time, but this just doesn’t sell.

Here, and here are interesting reads on the resurrection. Thomas Pain also said something about the resurrection.

Walter Cassels again

[..]The actual occurrence of the Resurrection and ascension, however, is certainly a matter of evidence and, to retort, it is scarcely decent that any man should be required to believe what is so opposed to human experience, upon more imperfect evidence than is required for the transfer of land or the right to a title, simply because ecclesiastical dogmas are founded upon them, and it is represented that unless they be true our hope is vain.

[..] Proportionately, it should be as unparalleled in its force as those events are in fact.

Did Jesus rise from the dead

Jesus waited three days to come back to life. It was perfect! If he had only waited one day, a lot of people wouldn’t have even heard he died. They’d be all, “Hey Jesus, what up?” and Jesus would probably be like, “What up? I died yesterday!” and they’d be all, “Uh, you look pretty alive to me, dude…” and then Jesus would have to explain how he was resurrected, and how it was a miracle, and the dude’d be like “Uhh okay, whatever you say, bro…” And he’s not gonna come back on a Saturday. Everybody’s busy, doing chores, workin’ the loom, trimmin’ the beard, NO. He waited the perfect number of days, three. Plus it’s Sunday, so everyone’s in church already, and they’re all in there like “Oh no, Jesus is dead”, and then BAM! He bursts in the back door, runnin’ up the aisle, everyone’s totally psyched, and FYI, that’s when he invented the high five. That’s why we wait three days to call a woman, because that’s how long Jesus wants us to wait…. True story

Barney Stinson

In his post Robert claims to have provided enough evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. It is taken for granted that Jesus lived, a question that I will say hasn’t been settled and unless the fellow shows up holding his mother’s hands will not be settled conclusively.

He tells us our sources of information will be

  1. The four Gospels in the New Testament – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  2. The New Testament letters.
  3. Material predating the New Testament letters.

While Robert believes the business here has to be left to the investigative journalist only, I disagree with him. I will bring the scientist, the philosopher and the historian to give their expertise on this question. It isn’t the greatest question of all time, there are greater questions to be answered.

The gospels are not reliable as eyewitness accounts nor as historical accounts. We do not know their authors, their motives and what they knew. Because the gospels are anonymous and later works, they are inadmissible in the case. I will add they are further inadmissible because the believers claim they are divinely inspired. If their divine authorship cannot be demonstrated, they have no standing whatsoever. They remain what they have always been, the works of overzealous and credulous, superstitious people and nothing more.

It is important to note here in passing that for most of the 1st and 2nd century, what we have as the NT wasn’t considered as authority and many of the church fathers referring to scripture at this time meant the OT. To the unknowing, it is important to remind you there were several gospels written at the same period that didn’t make it to the canon.

Paul, nowhere quotes Jesus. And those who read my post on Paul know that even back then questions were raised about him that I need not repeat here. The claim by Robert that

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15 is evidence in support of his assertion is easily demonstrated as false. Paul claims he has received whatever he writes directly from a god. He nowhere pretends to know anything about other extant writings. The appearance to the 500 is not known by the synoptic writers. It only appears in his writing. His writings are unreliable as evidence.

I wasn’t able to get from his post what he meant by materials predating the NT.

I could end this post here. The materials that were present before the court are wanting. They instead of helping the defence give credence to the prosecution’s case that there was no resurrection. But I will oblige Robert and consider what else he brings to the court’s attention.

  • The tomb was empty

This isn’t new evidence. It is from the material we rejected as evidence. It is useless in supporting the story.

Postscript: There is a big gaping hole in the empty tomb as evidence. Mathew who alone writes about it says

“When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[a] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.”[b] 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”
—Matthew 27

which means there was a hell lot of time for a grave robber to take Jeebus away among other possibilities.

  • Resurrection appearances

These suffer the same fate. It isn’t new evidence. It is from the claims of the biographers and their claims were already shown to be unacceptable.

  • Origin of church’s belief in the resurrection

It is impossible to separate the history of the church and the resurrection. In this case, I don’t think it is possible to tell which gives birth to which. They are intertwined at the umbilical cord. The idea of resurrection isn’t a new thing, not in Jewish history and the only difference in the case of Jesus isn’t that he brought himself back to life but that god did so without the help of another prophet. It is not a special event. It would be a special event were there no such reported cases of people being brought back to life.

  • Sunday becoming the day of worship

I have no idea and I would like to know. The two articles I have read on this matter do not give me much to go with. More here. However, I don’t think this is evidence of anything. The Jews have honoured the Sabbath and the Passover and we now have every reason to believe Yahweh does not exist and that there was no Passover, the two events being related.

  • The changed life of the first disciples

That there have been ascetics isn’t proof of the truth of their beliefs. If their lives changed and we have only the claims of the gospel writers, we have nothing great to go on.

  • Conversion of Paul

Paul claims he saw a light. Paul claims he saw Jesus. Who tells us this? Paul. Does Paul quote Jesus anywhere in his writings? He doesn’t. Does Paul quote the synoptics? He doesn’t. His conversion claim is just that. It is not evidence in support of our query.

Whereas Robert thinks the following

  1. Jesus’ tomb was found empty by women.
  2. Multiple people on multiple occasions were convinced they’d seen Jesus alive.
  3. The early church suddenly believed in a resurrection contrary to prevailing expectations.
  4. Sunday becoming the day of worship contrary to Jewish custom.
  5. The lives of the first disciples were changed in a manner consistent with such a dramatic event.
  6. Paul, the great opponent of the Christian faith, was converted.

must be explained before we dismiss the claim in the resurrection, I submit that this is starting the investigation from the wrong end. The question we must answer if we are to help the believer are

  1. Is there evidence for divine revelation? And how can we know it?
  2. Are miracles credible?

By answering the two questions conclusively, the question of the virgin birth and later resurrection can then be sensibly answered. And I must say here that I don’t think the questions are answerable conclusively. The ongoing investigations by apologists is really like examining whether Thor really does have a big hammer. They ignore the central issue to the religious problem.

I conclude there is no reason to believe in the resurrection and until scripture can be shown to be divinely revealed, we will be wasting time.

The Easter myth

In my list of people occupying the lowest rank in society, the so called scum of society, I have politicians, police and pastors. I find pastors with access to the internet the worst type of persons. They are likely to have read volumes of tracts showing the impossibility of the bible narratives but still spread them as truth, gospel truths.

Pastor James Miller in his recent post has decided to convince his followers and anyone who happens on his site that the story of Jesus is factual.

He starts by telling us

Years ago I made an intentional exploration of the question of whether or not God was real.  I made a point of studying everything I could about it.  I read the holy books of many different religions with only one question in mind – could any of this be true?

and it is only fair for us to ask what were his findings.

Without giving us an answer for the above story, he moves on to write

One of the tests scholars may use to evaluate the validity of a historical claim is called “the criterion of embarrassment.” They say that if a story from history is embarrassing to the author or to the hero of the story, it is probably true.

and I guess you know where this is going.

I will not venture to quote the rest of his balderdash but I would like to offer a counter explanation. One, if the story of Jesus was meant to fulfill prophesy as the christian claims, then descriptions of a humble background are not embarrassing but actually buttress the story they are spreading. Lookie, he was a humble prince, he is the son of god, you know the nonsense.

In the case of Jesus narrative, we can safely say he doesn’t know what is being written about him. He has no room to be embarrassed.

It is also untrue that the criterion of embarrassment is always true. Reading about the saints, one gets the feeling that they took pride in some things that most of us would be ashamed to accept in public. There are instances you read of saints who didn’t shower or other things that a modern day pastor would be embarrassed to write about themselves.

In the discussions with the religious leaders of the time, Jesus is said to awe them with his wit, from a young age. In what parallel world would this be embarrassing to someone’s hero.

The christian cannot say the hanging on a cross is embarrassing to their hero. Did they want it written he was killed by the firing squad? Or killed by the guillotine as they used to do in France? The cross instead of embarrassing their hero or them, actually gives them a lot of pride. They like it, wear them everywhere. They claim it is a sign of great sacrifice, they would not want it any other way.

That women were the first at the tomb, instead of being embarrassing is to be seen as a welcome message to women that they too can be leaders and members of the church. There is nothing in Jesus story that can be interpreted as embarrassing to the authors of the story or to the hero of the story. It fits smugly with what they wanted to achieve. They wanted a humble, ass riding, virgin born, cross dying king and that is what they bequeathed the world. To think otherwise, is as my friend would say, to be full of shit.

I contend therefore that the criterion of embarrassment doesn’t in anyway lend support to the Jesus story and in fact destroys it.

The eyewitness question

We had posted this but with inspiration we received from this post there can be no better time to have a rerun.

The following conversation takes place between us and the apostles.

We ask

How long have you known Jesus?

I have known him for one year.

And I for two.

And I for three.

Has any of you known him for more than three years?


Was he with his apostles for one year or for three?

For one.

No, for three.

You are not certain, then, how long Jesus was with his apostles.


How old was Jesus when crucified?

About thirty-one.

No, about thirty-three.

No, he was much older, about fifty.

You cannot tell with any certainty, then, his age at the time of his death.


You say he was tried and crucified in Jerusalem before your own eyes, can you remember the date of this great event?

We cannot.

Were you present when Jesus was taken down from the cross?

We were not.

You cannot tell, then, whether he was dead when taken down.

We have no personal knowledge.

Were you present when he was buried?

We were not, because we were in hiding for our lives.

You do not know, therefore, whether he was actually buried, or where he was buried.

We do not.

Were any of you present when Jesus came forth from the grave?

Not one of us was present,

Then, you were not with him when he was taken down from the cross; you were not with him when he was interred, and you were not present when he rose from the grave.

We were not.

When, therefore, you say, he was dead, buried and rose again, you are relying upon the testimony of others?

We are.

Will you mention the names of some of the witnesses who saw Jesus come forth from the tomb?

Mary Magdalene, and she is here and may be questioned.

Were you present, Mary, when the angels rolled away the stone, and when Jesus came forth from the dead?

No, when I reached the burying place early in the morning, the grave had already been vacated, and there was no one sleeping in it.

You saw him, then, as the apostles did, _after_ he had risen?


But you did not see anybody rise out of the grave.

I did not.

Are there any witnesses who saw the resurrection?

There are many who saw him after the resurrection.

But if neither they nor you saw him dead, and buried, and did not see him rise, either, how can you tell that a most astounding and supposedly impossible miracle had taken place between the time you saw him last and when you saw him again two or three days after? Is it not more natural to suppose that, being in a hurry on account of the approaching Sabbath, Jesus, if ever crucified, was taken down from the cross before he had really died, and that he was not buried, as rumor states, but remained in hiding; and his showing himself to you under cover of darkness and in secluded spots and in the dead of night only, would seem to confirm this explanation. You admit also that the risen Jesus did not present himself at the synagogues of the people, in the public streets, or at the palace of the High Priest to convince them of his Messiahship.

Do you not think that if he had done this, it would then have been impossible to deny his resurrection? Why, then, did Jesus hide himself after he came out of the grave? Why did he not show himself also to his enemies? Was he still afraid of them, or did he not care whether they believed or not? If so, why are _you_ trying to convert them? The question waits for a reasonable answer; Why did not Jesus challenge the whole world with the evidence of his resurrection? You say you saw him occasionally, a few moments at a time, now here, and now there, and finally on the top of a mountain whence he was caught up in a cloud and disappeared altogether. But that “cloud” has melted away, the sky is clear, and there is no Jesus visible there. The cloud, then, had nothing to hide. It was unnecessary to call in a cloud to close the career of your Christ.The grave is empty, the cloud has vanished. Where is Christ? In heaven! Ah, you have at last removed him to a world unknown, to the undiscovered country. Leave him there! Criticism, doubt, investigation, the light of day, cannot cross its shores. Leave him there!