Introduction on arguments for Christ's Resurrection.

rakovsky

Member
Last year I introduced myself in the Introductions section and summarized my discussion on the topic. A few people replied and then the forum crashed. So I want to repost our discussions that we had in the old "Introductions" thread.

I wrote:
Hello, I have been thinking about the arguments for Christ's Resurrection because it is a central topic in Christianity. I made a thread in the Apologetics section listing the major Evidence for the Resurrection and asking which one forum users considered to be the strongest. The most common response, chosen by three people, was that the apostles must have met Jesus after His resurrection because most of the disciples were killed for their beliefs.

In order to evaluate this evidence, I considered the possibility of whether they could have mistakenly believed that they saw Jesus, ie. that they envisioned an unreal experience. So I made a thread in the Apologetics section asking whether a group of people could realistically hallucinate a figure having physical interactions:
Could 11 people have a group hallucination with seemingly physical characteristics?

Three people responded. One assertedthat they couldn't have hallucinated Jesus' presence because it had physical interactions. The second person (Gary Mac, apparently a JW) didn't believe that Jesus' physically resurrected and that only "What they saw of these was the same Spirit in these who was in Christ Jesus". In other words, the witnesses didn't see Jesus' physical body risen, they just saw Jesus' Spirit acting in other people.

Eik replied:
I don't think hallucination is a topic worthy of discussion, given that Jesus was seen by numerous different people, five hundred at one point, over a period of time in many different settings. BTW Mormonism wasn't built on hallucinations. I don't think anything is built on hallucinations excepting occultism, which is heavily into drugs. To be frank, I am bored stiff by such hypotheses that come without a shred of evidence for them.
I replied to Eik:
In the thread "Could 11 people have a group hallucination with seemingly physical characteristics?", I got into issues similar to those that you raised about Jesus' manifestations being hallucinations. For instance, the Virgin Mary is seen by numerous different people, including thousands at Fatima, over centuries in many different settings, from South America to Egypt. But non-Catholics tend to be skeptical about those mass sightings of Mary.

There are several basic issues worth considering for the hypothesis that the witnesses were confused or mistaken about what they saw:
1. Could a group of 11 people hallucinate or mistakenly believe that they were viewing a figure with physical characteristics?
A. Are there other possible instances where groups mistakenly believe to witness objects with physical characteristics? (eg. Charismatic Christians' group visions)
B. Are there natural explanations for why groups of people might mistakenly believe that they were witnessing real figures (eg. physical exhaustion, lack of food and sleep)

2. Did the Resurrection appearances have features that could match such mistaken group visions?

A. Did the Resurrection witnesses share characteristics with the groups above that could cause them to have mistaken group visions? (eg. were they Charismatic-type believers?)
B. Did the conditions during the appearances match potential causes of mistaken group visions (eg. had the witnesses been lacking food due to fasting?)
C. Did other circumstantial or direct evidence suggest they were visualizing something that lacked physical reality (eg. why was Stephen the only one who saw Jesus in the sky when the synagogue elders mobbed around him?)

3. What arguments could Christian apologists make to show that the manifestations were physical? (eg. the women held his feet, which suggests that the feet had physical form)
A. What replies could Skeptics make to those arguments (eg. could someone envision themselves holding something that did not in fact exist)?
B. How could Apologists respond to those replies (eg. a person normally should know the difference between something real and imagined)?
 

rakovsky

Member
Next, Eik wrote:
Sounds like a "conspiracy theory" to me (I think there is such a forum). Hallucinations are being wrongly elevated by the OP to the level of "argument" (re "I would like to discuss these kinds of "arguments" for the Resurrection").

Any "argument" needs relevant facts as a foundation. Otherwise it is mere sophistry, conjecture, unsubstantiated opinion or froth. Argument becomes conspiracy theory when it doesn't have provable facts to support it, excepting a hypothetical possibility that something ocurred. The more improbable it is, the greater the imperative to label it as a conspiracy theory.

That mass hallucination occured: you'd have to theorize they'd all taken something quite strong.

Reminds me of a book I once had, "The sacred mushroom and the cross" by John Marco Allegro. The book cost him his university position. I guess the academics have spoken on this one then.

Wiki: Philip Jenkins writes that Allegro was an eccentric "scholar" who relied on texts that did not exist in quite the form he was citing them, and calls the Sacred Mushroom and the Cross "possibly the single most ludicrous book on Jesus scholarship by a qualified academic"

I replied to Eik:
Let me provide background on why I focused on the Hallucination / mistaken vision theory.
First, I asked what the best approach is to analyzing religious claims: One based on emotion or personal appeal or an approach that aims at an objective analysis:
An Objective Approach and Strategy to Analyzing Miracle and Religious Claims
I invite your feedback. People seemed inclined to answer that it's best to first rule out natural causes.

So next, I made a thread to consider what the strongest arguments are for Christ's Resurrection, along with counterarguments and responses to those counterarguments:
A List of the Strongest, Most Direct Evidence for Jesus' Resurrection

The most common response was that the strongest evidence was the apostles' testimony of witnessing the resurrection, since they wouldn't risk deadly persecution for a lie. As I see it, this argument is made of three basic COMPONENTS:
(1) The apostles taught that they saw Christ resurrected physically. This was a collective teaching that they were all saying.
(2) The apostles must have known whether they were seeing Jesus resurrected physically. It wasn't something that they were confused about or misinterpreted.
(3) The apostles could not have knowingly lied about it. Why? Because:
(A) they knowingly risked death for their claims, and
(B) they wouldn't lie about something that they risked death for.

For COMPONENT #1, it does look like they were collectively teaching this. Matthew's, Luke's, and John's accounts were authoritative for the early Christian community, and they each ascribe physical qualities to Christ's Resurrection appearances. A Skeptic could argue that we don't have individual testimonies- for instance, we don't have a "Gospel of Andrew" narrating his witness of the Resurrection Appearance, and whether he saw the same thing that Matthew or John narrated. But nonetheless, the Gospels that we do have look like a "collective" narrative endorsed by the Church community. And further, if we are going to theorize that Matthew or John had mistaken accounts of the appearances, then we have to deal with Components 2 and 3.

So next I moved on to consider COMPONENT 2, and the issue of the whether the apostles could have been confused or mistaken about what they witnessed. If the apostles had been mistaken, we would be dealing with a mistaken vision. It certainly can't be a case of an imposter pretending to be the risen Jesus. This is because they didn't just see a figure looking like Jesus, but one who vanished and appeared, passed through walls, and ascended into heaven as they watched.

For this option you wrote that a "hallucination theory" would require that the people were taking drugs and the theory would also need relevant facts to be a real argument. You are correct that drug intoxication would prove a hallucination theory. But in fact this is not the only cause for hallucinations. Charismatic Christian groups have visions like gold dust falling and then vanishing after their meetings even though non-Charismatics are very skeptical about those visions. Natural factors like mental illness, lack of sleep, lack of food, prolonged over-exertion, and the power of suggestion can naturally lead to visions. Schizophrenics are prone to hallucinations.
Further, you are right that relevant facts are important to building a strong case. And in the resurrection appearances there are facts relevant to this issue. You can start with Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out seven demons and who saw Christ twice after the Resurrection. Some Reformed Protestants theorize that "demoniacs" in the Bible suffered from mental illness. So if Mary Magdalene suffered from mental illness, she could be prone to hallucinations. But I feel that this fact is not enough to solidly prove that she was just hallucinating. After all, we don't know what the mental state was of the other 4 Myrrhbearing women who saw or touched Jesus' feet.

Still, the full relevant facts aren't necessary to raise doubts or give realistic alternative explanations. This is because when we are talking about Arguments FOR the Resurrection, the burden is on the arguer to present a strong case. And the strongest argument that people find for the resurrection is that the apostles couldn't have been hallucinating and that they couldn't have been lying, and so therefore their report must be accurate. So it is the burden of the proponent of the arguer to rule out those alternative arguments, rather than the person raising those doubts.

For instance, let's say that eleven people in a sect believed that a religious figure or angel was appearing to their group on regular intervals, or that they experienced other miraculous events. If they want to advance their claim, then it's their burden to prove this. They would want to show that they were of sound mind and were honest. Let's say that they passed several lie detectors. You would still want to consider whether they could have been honestly believing that they were having group visions and yet been mistaken in their beliefs. You would want to consider whether other religious groups had mistakenly believed that they had witnessed supernatural miracles or whether it is possible for natural causes to lead groups of people to mistakenly believe that they witnessed things. If we know that such hallucinations happen, then the argument that the apostles couldn't have been mistaken in their belief of what they witnessed becomes weaker.
 

rakovsky

Member
Getting back to the main topic of arguments for Christ's resurrection, I wrote that this is partly a Theology issue, because the topic has to do with the basis and operation for either faith or knowledge regarding a particular key topic of Christianity.

For instance, is the teaching of Christ's Resurrection someone that people are to basically (A) have "faith" in or "believe" in their hearts, eg. their moral and emotional sympathies, (B) mentally accept as a purely intellectual postulate, or both (A) their heart's appeal and (B) their intellect?
 

rakovsky

Member
Some forum users suggested that this line of discussion dealt with Atheism. I replied that "Atheism" seems like a tangential, separate topic. I added:
Unless someone wants to argue that Christ must not have resurrected and that His lack of Resurrection serves to prove Atheism, an evaluation of whether Jesus resurrected is not inherently a sub-topic of Atheism.
I explained that this is because on one hand, an atheist who believed in the supernatural could think that Jesus had supernatural miracles and re-enlivened after death, even though the atheist didn't believe in God. For instance, there is a tradition of Buddhists who reject belief in God yet who believe in supernatural beings and in supernatural miracles.

Conversely, even if Jesus did not resurrect, this non-occurrence would not necessarily be a corrollary of Atheism. There have been writers like Thomas Jefferson who believed in God but did not believe in major supernatural miracles. And Jewish rabbis generally accept belief in God while denying belief in Jesus' Resurrection.
 

rakovsky

Member
MartialApologist commented on the Hallucination theory:
If it was a hallucination shared by even 2 people it would be the first and only time recorded in history. Shared by a dozen-ish? On multiple occasions? That's harder to believe than anything the Bible says.
...
If it were a one off momentary thing it wouldn't be a hard stretch, but again, it was multiple people over a period of weeks and months sometimes all at once, and sometimes separated from the larger group. Nothing in psychology can account for that.

I replied:
Sure Matialapologist, I agree that a one-time hallucination is more likely than a repeated one, but repeated mistaken visions are also understandable and appear to occur in the real world. A key issue is whether the same factors are present in the follow-up instances as were present in the initial one. So for instance if a group of thirsty travelers in the wilderness sees a lake one day, and then continues on their journey on another day and sees a lake again, and this happens on multiple occasions, then one can explain psychologically that natural causes led them to have group hallucinations.

Now a difference between the lake mirages and the Resurrection appearances is that in the case of the lake mirages, the travelers would realize that there was no lake or town when they finally got to the spot where they saw the lake. This would clearly disprove the lake's existence to their minds. They would realize that they had seen a mirage and would be less likely to be mentally susceptible in the future. But in the case of Christ's appearances, the apostles did not come away with a clear disproof of what they had seen. Jesus had died and His body was gone, and He had predicted His own Resurrection, so in the minds of the faithful, there would not be an easy way to definitively disprove those appearances in the same way that one could disprove the existence of a lake to a tired traveler.

An example of real world repeated mistaken visions are those of Charismatic groups that have gold dust fall at their meetings and the gold dust vanishes from the floor afterwards.

Martialapologist replied, referring to modern Charismatics' supposed "gold dust" "miracles":
On the other hand no one seemed to try just point to Jesus' body. The only good reason for that can be because no one could produce it. It's not impossible for it to have been stolen successfully, but then you have the problem of multiple people dying for a charade when they knew it was one.

The gold dust in hands thing doesn't strike me as a mirage either since there is video of it: there's more to that shenanigans even though it is a hoax.

Regardless, none of the follow-up appearances of Jesus seem very much like any of the initial couple. Then there's Saul of Tarsus. Nah, I am closed to that option completely. It's absolutely ad hoc.
In this last response, Martiialapologist actually referred to two other argument issues other than the Hallucination theory, which was the issue of what happened to Jesus' body and the problem of the apostles being persecuted if they knew it was a lie.

In his second paragraph, Martialapologist said that the gold dust must have physical reality even though it's a hoax, because of photos of the dust. My response to Martialapologist is that in some cases sure, you have photos showing physical dust, so in those cases you can theorize a physical trick. But there are other cases where you have bystanders seeing no dust and after the event ends there is no dust left of the carpet after other people present saw it falling. So in those cases you don't have objective physical evidence and in fact you have other witnesses whose testimony suggests that there was no physical gold dust present.

Regarding MartialApologist's last paragraph about the differences between the appearances, one can consider that conceivably group hallucinations or visions could in fact differ. So for instance 11 Charismatics could imagine a figure eating something on one occasion, and then a few years later a different person could be going along a road in the desert and imagine a figure belonging to the same person whom they had been thinking of.
 

John t

Active member
Hello, I have been thinking about the arguments for Christ's Resurrection because it is a central topic in Christianity. I made a thread in the Apologetics section listing the major Evidence for the Resurrection and asking which one forum users considered to be the strongest. The most common response, chosen by three people, was that the apostles must have met Jesus after His resurrection because most of the disciples were killed for their beliefs. <SNIP>

Pardon if we ignore your insipid attack on the Bible. Your position is illogical, and is assuming without ant evidence that the accounts in the Bible are unreliable. Here is why your approach is illogical.

It fails to discuss that the Bible actually says
You see, you are failing to account for what the Bible says in its context. According to debating practices, it is your first obligation to provide evidence for what you infer: The Scriptures err in what they say. Your say-so is irrelevant, and inadequate.

It fails because you provide ZERO textural evidences of your claim
You must first demonstrate that you know what you are posting about. , and you must deal with the original texts in their original language to do that. If you want to start off on your "alternative theories", collectively our reaction is "Ho Hum, another atheist with nothing to offer."

If you want to allege that the documents of the New Testament are "corrupted" the same academic rigors apply. Demonstrate the "corruptions" or else we laugh you away

Any discussion of events 2000 years old must be seen in that time frame

In other words, you cannot sensibly include a reference to holographic imaging to any of the over 500 different men (women were not counted then) who saw Jesus Christ in His resurrected state. Your "theory is an open attack on what the Scriptures say elsewhere. Look at the confirmed witnesses:

  1. First Peter (Cephas)
  2. The Twelve disciples.
  3. then 500 people at a large gathering , most of which were living when Paul wrote his Epistle
  4. His half brother, James, the first Bishop of Jerusalem
  5. Then the rest of the Apostles
  6. last to Paul
So your "theory" is attempting to make liars out of these important people in the first century

1 Corinthians 15:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,​
4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,​
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.​
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.​
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.​
8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.​
9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.​
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.​

So you are attacking without cause all of those mentioned, saying that in effect they all smoked Peyote or took LSD in order to make the claim they saw Jesus alive resurrected from the dead. That is unconscionable, based on nothing more than unbelieving hubris instead of facts.

So if you want a reply from me, follow the sequence of steps you need to prove your unbelieving point. .
 

rakovsky

Member
John T,
Thanks for writing back. I gave you a Like because I am happy when people reply.
My general goal in the thread was to introduce the topic of arguments for Christ's resurrection, rather than to address the best approaches or give an overview of the arguments. I did that in other threads, including:

You write: "Demonstrate the 'corruptions' or else we laugh you away".
I take the NT stories to be generally not corrupted. One place where there could be a corruption is in the end of Mark 16, after verse 8. This is called the "long ending". Commonly modern Bibles have a footnote saying that scholars and theologians have long been uncertain about its authenticity or unreliability. Personally I don't have much opinion about it. Wikipedia notes:
  • Irenaeus (c. 184), in Against Heresies 3:10.6, explicitly cited Mark 16:19, stating that he was quoting from near the end of Mark's account. This patristic evidence is over a century older than the earliest manuscript of Mark 16.
Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, who was born in 65 AD when the Apostle John was still alive and died in c. 155 AD, so Mark's Long Ending was probably written at least within a generation of the apostles. Anyway, I consider Mark's Long Ending to be a good summary of ideas that can be found elsewhere in the NT.

You write: "So if you want a reply from me, follow the sequence of steps you need to prove your unbelieving point."
The term "unbelieving point" sounds like I am trying to advocate unbelief, but that is not my goal, which is rather to evaluate the arguments and evidence.

In your last message you suggested:
  1. Give evidence of the accounts' unreliability,
  2. discuss what the Bible says in context,
  3. provide evidence that "The Scriptures err in what they say",
  4. demonstrate that you know what you are posting about, and deal with the original texts in their original language to do that.
  5. Demonstrate corruptions, if any, using the methods above.
  6. Don't start off on alternative theories
  7. Don't use modern technology like holographs to explain things
  8. That my theory is an open attack on what the scriptures say when they list the appearances to the apostles and attempt to make them liars,
  9. That my theory is like saying that they took Peyote or LSD
It looks like you are suggesting that I lay out an academic "Contra" argument to the Resurrection. I feel like doing this deserves a separate thread because of the details that it would go into. In general, before doing that, one first must consider what method of evaluation to try to use: Inspirational/Emotional or Objective Analysis. Next, one must consider the Arguments for the Resurrection, because a theory or claim has the initial Burden of Proof. So I made two threads along those lines as I cited above.

I did make a thread on the "Group Hallucination" theory before the forum crashed. To address your first step: As I told Steve on the "Objective Approach" thread, the accounts have strengths and weaknesses in terms of reliability. One strength is that from one to or all four Gospels were written by witnesses or taken down by their audiences, like how John's Gospel was written by him or his disciples. A weakness in reliability is that we don't have direct firsthand reports by most witnesses to the events, nor do we have firsthand reports by neutral or opposing bystanders. We have what Matthew and the other writers said that the apostles saw. But we don't have firsthand accounts by each witness individually, or by the guards, or by anyone who saw the apostles walking to Bethany leading up to the Ascension. As a result, theologians are divided on whether a neutral third party or camera would see or record Jesus or anything unexplainable if trained on the Appearances.
 

John t

Active member
It looks like you are suggesting that I lay out an academic "Contra" argument to the Resurrection. I feel like doing this deserves a separate thread because of the details that it would go into. In general, before doing that, one first must consider what method of evaluation to try to use: Inspirational/Emotional or Objective Analysis. Next, one must consider the Arguments for the Resurrection, because a theory or claim has the initial Burden of Proof. So I made two threads along those lines as I cited above.
Correctly, you understood my intentions.

I did that because too often, ignorant posters propose that they can "prove Scriptures wrong" by offering a rebuttal that is as profound as saying "Nuh-Huh"

I did make a thread on the "Group Hallucination" theory before the forum crashed. To address your first step: As I told Steve on the "Objective Approach" thread, the accounts have strengths and weaknesses in terms of reliability. One strength is that from one to or all four Gospels were written by witnesses or taken down by their audiences, like how John's Gospel was written by him or his disciples. A weakness in reliability is that we don't have direct firsthand reports by most witnesses to the events, nor do we have firsthand reports by neutral or opposing bystanders. We have what Matthew and the other writers said that the apostles saw. But we don't have firsthand accounts by each witness individually, or by the guards, or by anyone who saw the apostles walking to Bethany leading up to the Ascension. As a result, theologians are divided on whether a neutral third party or camera would see or record Jesus or anything unexplainable if trained on the Appearances.

You err on several levels here. First is that you propose that the three Synoptics and John contain errors. That is simply an "I say-so" declaration. (BTW I am not going to address the add-ons in Mark 16 because they are widely known, and the reality is that the stuff in those verses are not mentioned in the rest of the NT.)

Just like bank tellers are trained to spot counterfeit money by handling only genuine currency, we must insist on finding the earlier made, and later discovered manuscripts in order to see what each writer actually wrote. Of course, there are no autographs available, but we know from examining of the extant works of the Gospels that due to geographical distribution, meaning that a copy of a full Gospel, or a part of it found in the same area 50 miles away (as an example) will be exact copies.

A group of exact copies of a certain same segments of a Gospel is known as a "family". By using a "family tree diagram" and computer analysis (I am vastly shortening the process here) the next level up is called a group. Since there are over 6000 different known copies of different parts of the NT it is relatively easy to say that this copy is taken from that document, and to continue that same sort of analysis until the evidence is that Mark wrote this, and not that is easily established.

That is because if something is known, it can be analyzed and categorized. The amazing thing about statistics is that the more evidence one has, the easier it is to certainly determine what the original document stated.

Read the last three paragraphs again slowly if I confused you. They are essential to making my point.

But your error here is that you do not understand the strength of having multiple cohorts (samples) in a study. Therefore, your objection about "reliability" is very weak

The third level of error in your analysis is that just like you can expect about 10 murders in a James Patterson book (one of the reasons why I dislike him) every person who writes has a pattern of favorite words, or phrases. The Apostle John frequently uses the word "sign". Therefore, it is a distinguishing characteristic of everything else John wrote. It is called "pattern recognition and repetition". Your theory fails to consider that fact.

Paul states that pattern recognition and repetition are important in authenticating his writing as genuine:
Galatians 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.​
Therefore I am on solid ground in what I post.

Intentionally, or unintentionally, your original post did not come close to the standards I set forth to have a systematic discussion, and that is why I replied as I did.

..
 

rakovsky

Member
You err on several levels here. First is that you propose that the three Synoptics and John contain errors. That is simply an "I say-so" declaration. (BTW I am not going to address the add-ons in Mark 16 because they are widely known, and the reality is that the stuff in those verses are not mentioned in the rest of the NT.)
I feel like your discussion with me deserves a separate thread. For instance, I wrote that "I take the NT stories to be generally not corrupted. One place where there could be a corruption is in the end of Mark 16, after verse 8." In other words, the Gospels don't have errors except for the Markan ending or places like that.

But you wrote that "you propose that the three Synoptics and John contain errors." And then you basically took the view that this Markan ending has "add-ons" "not mentioned in the rest of the NT". This seems more critical of the NT than even I wrote. I don't even know if the Markan ending is an error - maybe Mark himself wrote it at some point.

Plus, you seemed to mistakenly think I was Atheist, because you wrote: "If you want to start off on your "alternative theories", collectively our reaction is "Ho Hum, another atheist with nothing to offer."
 

John t

Active member
Plus, you seemed to mistakenly think I was Atheist, because you wrote: "If you want to start off on your "alternative theories", collectively our reaction is "Ho Hum, another atheist with nothing to offer."

Well, if something waddles like a duck.........

But in not knowing you except for CARM, I do reserve the right to be wrong. :rolleyes:

This seems more critical of the NT than even I wrote. I don't even know if the Markan ending is an error - maybe Mark himself wrote it at some point.

The correct term is "variants" not errors. I have a very high view of Scripture, and FYI the "long ending of Mark" is not "stories".
 
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