Can you list the strongest, most direct pieces of evidence for the Resurrection? I am listing the ones that come to mind, along with counterarguments and counter-counterarguments.
- The Old Testament predicted that the divine Messiah would be crucified in the 1st century and resurrect in 3 days (eg. Daniel 9, Psalms 16 and Ps. 22, Isaiah 53, Hosea 6), which corresponds to the Gospels' story.
Counterargument: It could have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. People expected the Messiah to come in that era, so Messianic contenders arose then, and were killed by the Romans. Response to the Counterargument: The coincidence between the prophecy and its fulfillment is still significant, since the OT predicted a Messianic figure who world spread the knowledge of Israel's God around the world, and Jesus in particular fulfilled the goal of the Tanakh's Messiah while also fulfilling the prediction about a crucified Messiah. And his reported Resurrection follows from the OT prediction as well.
- Believers' feelings and instincts: They feel an intense personal connection to Jesus, and feel God's presence and encouragement when they pray to Him. Their instincts tell them that these relationships and Christianity are true.
Counterargument: People can be misguided in imagining personal relationships (like with a celebrity who gets tons of fan mail) and in their instincts, like whether they will win the lottery. Response: feelings and instincts are still a personal compass helping to guide a person toward a truth or goal.
- The Shroud of Turin apparently comes from Levant region, and is said to depict Jesus and have been created miraculously. Scientists apparently haven't shown how it could naturally or artificially have been made.
Counterargument: John's gospel said that Jesus was buried with a huge amount of aloes, yet such an amount of aloes doesn't appear to be present in the shroud. Response: This seems like a technical issue that a shroud expert could address. eg. Maybe the image was made, then the shroud was removed, then the aloes were put on the body and a different cloth was put on instead.
- Christianity spread from being a tiny, persecuted, pacifistic religion around a shamefully killed leader to the world's largest religion.
Counterargument: the growth can be explained rationally as its teachings like morality, overcoming death, and salvation are appealing. Response: A belief's successful spread across such a great territory and number of people despite adverse circumstances is at least a sign that the belief is correct.
- God needed to come to earth to be killed for humanity's sins in order to atone for the latter, to ransom people from death, and raise them by dying and rising Himself.
Counterargument: This sounds abstract. Since God is all-powerful, maybe He could think up some other way to deal with the problem of humanity's sins. Response: The compelling need and reasoning involved serves as a sign that this kind of event probably would happen
- Miracles in response to prayers. eg. People ask for a sign and see Jesus' shape in the clouds or they have a premonition and avoid an accident. Or they pray for healing and they have a vision of Jesus while successfully recovering from their illness.
Counterargument: Other religions make similar miracle claims of visions and healings. Response: The phenomenon is still a sign that prayer can be effective, so that the people asking for guidance are on the right track. Not all religions claim miracles, so those with the miracles in response to prayer are the ones more likely correct.
- C.S. Lewis' Lord, Liar, or Lunatic Trilemma: (A) It doesn't make sense that Jesus lied about Himself and His miracles in order to gain a cult following, because He taught extreme morality and He knew that His mission would lead to the Cross, and it doesn't make sense that His disciples would lie about seeing Him because He would choose followers as honest as Himself, and they risked persecution. (B) Jesus' teachings and intelligence show that He wasn't a lunatic. It doesn't make sense that the disciples would be so confused to imagine that they saw the risen Jesus eat with them as a group. (C) Therefore, since they were neither Liars nor Lunatics, their accounts must be honest and accurate.
Counterargument: The truth could have been a mix of both: ie. they disciples might have been visionaries who imagined that they saw Jesus, and the disciples or the other apostles whom they told about the visions might have exaggerated the accounts. Plus, Jesus might not have known whether the Crucifixion was going to take a literal form, since the Gospels note that the apostles themselves didn't know how to interpret the prophecy of rising from the dead until it happened. Response: The alternative picture, whereby the apostles were preaching extreme morality while also preaching a resurrection that they should have realized was an exaggerated account, still does not make sense. ie. It doesn't make sense for them to act that way. Plus, it seems that Jesus meant His prophecies of Crucifixion literally, like with the parable about the grain dying and rising. So His actions don't make much sense unless He believed in His mission.
- The apostles wouldn't lie about seeing Jesus after He resurrected because they preached extreme morality faced severe persecution - they were killed or exiled for their beliefs, and they wouldn't be confused about whether they saw Jesus resurrected because they described him as being in the flesh, like when he ate fish in John's and Luke's gospels. This argument is basically restating C.S. Lewis' Trilemma, but whereas C.S. Lewis aimed it at evaluating Jesus' veracity in presenting Himself and His mission, this argument is aimed at evaluating the apostles' veracity (and I included it in the Trilemma). Counterargument: We are relying on Church tradition and on the implication of statements in the Bible in order to conclude that all the apostles were killed or exiled. Response: The Talmud mentions 5 of Yeshua Ha Notzri's (Jesus the Nazarene's) disciples being killed. Suetonius mentions the killing of Christians under Nero, which matches the Tradition about the deaths of Peter and Paul. Josephus records the stoning of Jesus' brother James, whom Paul describes as leading the Church..
- The apostles went from being in hiding and scared when the Crucifixion happened to boldly preaching when the resurrection occurred. An extreme event like the resurrection must have happened to change them and make them so bold and give them faith.
Counterargument: Maybe they were afraid after the crucifixion, but not so afraid that they couldn't preach after a few days of recovering from the shock. Response: It's natural that they felt major fear in the wake of the Crucifixion, and it's agreed that some time afterwards they were openly preaching the Resurrection despite facing ongoing repression.
- The Romans posted guards to the tomb according to Matthew, but the tomb was found empty on Sunday. No one had a motive to take the body, so the empty tomb was probably a miracle.
Counterargument: There are alternative explanations besides a miracle. (A) The story of the guards could have been invented, (B) people could have overpowered the guards, (C) they could have removed the body Friday night and the guards could have failed to check whether the body was still inside, (D) they could have bribed the guards, (E) they could have taken the body after the guards left on Sunday night and then embellished the empty tomb story as if it happened on Sunday morning. Response: None of these alternatives is without problems. For instance, if Matthew's source made up or embellished the empty tomb story and the early Christian leaders accepted the embellisment (alternatives A or D) then the embellishment incurs the challenge of argument #8 above. Namely, that the gospel writer, his pro-Christian source, or the apostles were lying in their story while simultaneously preaching radical morality and risking persecution.
- Hateful, harmful, dishonest forces are more likely to lie against a holy, salvific event like the resurrection if it were real, so the existence of lies against aspects of it from hateful forces as evidence in favor of its occurrence. This argument can take on a spiritual dimension, proposing that the Devil would deliberately want to lie against such an event.
Counterargument: Hateful, harmful forces could argue against holy, potentially spiritually liberating or inspiring events whether the events occurred or not, so the existence of the lies from the hateful forces is not in itself a strong argument that the event occurred. It could be that the hateful forces would lie against any holy event, whether it occurred or not. Reply. The existence of the lies is still a feature of such an event and sign that the event qualifies. Hateful, harmful forces would tend to be more perturbed if in fact the event were real, and thus they would be more likely to attack it.