by Chris Hallquist
Among Evangelical Christians, it’s become popular to claim that Jesus’ resurrection can be proved with historical evidence. This is nonsense. Here’s why:
1. There is no evidence for the resurrection outside the Bible. Non-Christian historical references to Jesus don’t occur until about six decades after the time when Biblical scholars think he probably died. When these non-Christian sources refer to Jesus’ miracles, there’s no reason to see them as anything more than a report of what Christians of the time believed.
2. There is little evidence that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, or based directly on eyewitness accounts. Most of what the Bible says about Jesus’ life and supposed resurrection is in the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, (a.k.a. the Gospels). But Biblical scholars now agree these books were originally anonymous, their names added later. The traditional Christian claims about who wrote them is now widely doubted by scholars.
3. This means that the Gospels can’t be trusted as evidence for miracles. Imagine someone trying to convert you to another religion based on the “proof” of the miracles worked by the religion’s founder... in the form of a handful of anonymous tracts recounting his life. Would you accept that “proof”? Of course not. Among other things, the stories could just be legends.
4.One of Paul’s letters provides evidence that a number of people claimed Jesus had appeared to them after his death. But this isn’t proof of a miracle. The passage is 1st Corinthians 15:3-9, and most Biblical scholars agree it was really written by Paul. But again, would you accept similar evidence in favor of another religion’s miracles? The Mormon church has statements signed by several people attesting to miracles that are supposed to confirm the truth of the Book of the Mormon, but you probably won’t convert to Mormonism based on that. Also, Paul doesn’t tell us how he knows about all these appearances, so we can’t be confident his report is accurate.
5. Reports that Jesus’ disciples were martyred prove nothing. Reports of the martyrdom of Jesus' disciples do not occur in this historical record until long after their deaths would have occurred, and accounts sometimes conflict with one another. It could be that most, even all, of these stories are legends. In any case, not only do people sometimes give up their lives for delusions, even outright charlatans have been killed for their claims. Joseph Smith was probably a charlatan, but he died at the hands of a lynch mob. So we can’t rule out deception among Jesus’ followers.
6. Claims that this or that individual couldn’t possibly have hallucinated are nonsense. Even apparently sane people hallucinate for a wide variety of reasons and under a wide variety of circumstances. We can’t rule this out for people who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.
7. Even if there were several people in Paul’s day who would have claimed to have all seen the risen Jesus at the same time, their testimony might not have stood up to scrutiny. There have been cases where a group of children have claimed to see the Virgin Mary, and been taken seriously by adults who should have known better. In many of these cases, the children were questioned individually and their descriptions of what they saw didn’t match, suggesting deception or delusion.
8. That’s it. Part of me thinks that what I’ve said in this one page is all that needs to be said on the subject. But if you want to know how I back up these claims, you can get my book UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God: Debunking the Resurrection of Jesus. The book also includes a crash course in New Testament scholarship, discussions of faith healing and Biblical prophecy, and plenty of tidbits about the strange beliefs people have had throughout history. It’s available on Amazon, and there’s more information, including links to reviews, on my website, UncredibleHallq.net.