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Is the Resurrection of Jesus historically probable?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/22/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 708 times Debate No: 21397
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
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NOTE: I asked an admin to remove an identical debate challenge to this but I accidentally linked him to the right one instead of one where a person already answered but responde on the round itself that he wasn't interested in debating after all, so to whoever it was who accepted the challenge and found it was deleted, my bad! If you are still interested I'd love to debate you on this!

FORMAT: Round 1 is their intro and their initial arguments followed by rebuttals in the following rounds ending with conclusions in the last round.

For Christians perhaps nothing is quite as important to their theology as the resurrection of their figure, Jesus. Apologists such as William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas argue that the event is historical and under the historical method it should be taken as the most plausible and probable explanation for the events that transpired during the times that eventually lead to the rise of one of the biggest religions in the world. But is it? If there could be a scenario that fits the accepted facts by the majority of historians (empty tomb, women witnesses, Joseph of Arimethea entombing Jesus in their family tomb, the changes in the apostles etc) that in fact does not require a supernatural explanation, doesn't this therefore invalidate the resurrection?

Before we begin it's worth pointing out that the supernatural explanation is the least revelatory and the least probable explanation due to its vague nature as well as the fact that it is invoked in the violation of natural laws. Though this does not exclude the possibility of the supernatural, it also does not allow it to trump natural explanations since thus far there are no real ways to evaluate the probabilities of the supernatural explanations.

So, are there any arguments against Jesus's resurrection? If so, is there another scenario that could explain the events without recalling a bona fide resurrection?

Argument against Resurrected Jesus
1. Rotting corpse
Perhaps one of the most overlooked evidence against the resurrection is one of science. Dead people don't come back from the dead- of course, this is accepted as being normally true, but since it's a miracle invoking the supernatural that's not an issue. But what about a corpse that's been decomposing for 72 hours in the Palestinian heat is harder to buy, especially when it's one that's been flayed to a pulp. At that stage of putrefaction the brain is effectively mush- even if the body could've somehow had life breathed back into it, there's no way it could be that it was functional in any way. It's one of the reasons why zombies would not be particularly anything like what the silver screen portrays.

2. The fallibility of memory/problem of eyewitness testimony
This argument ties closer with a Humean point. Is it not more probable that the person simply perceived or remembered an event wrongly? This problem is in fact highlighted by Laura Engelhardt in her commentary of talk by Barbsts Tversky and George Fisher in the article "The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony" in which they are quoted as saying:

"The process of interpretation occurs at the very formation of memory—thus introducing distortion from the beginning. Furthermore, witnesses can distort their own memories without the help of examiners, police officers or lawyers. Rarely do we tell a story or recount events without a purpose. Every act of telling and retelling is tailored to a particular listener; we would not expect someone to listen to every detail of our morning commute, so we edit out extraneous material. The act of telling a story adds another layer of distortion, which in turn affects the underlying memory of the event. This is why a fish story, which grows with each retelling, can eventually lead the teller to believe it." [1]

So we have established that memories are fallible and that recounting their story in fact changes their memory often without them recognizing it. Well, what prevents this from being the case with the apostles?

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?
In the synoptic Gospels- known as the earlier renditions of the narrative than the much more Grecian and gentile Gospel of John provides several examples of the sightings of Jesus. Keep in mind, the sightings are really what the resurrection idea was driven by. In Luke 24:13-24 they recount a story known as the Road to Emmaus in which close figures to Jesus- two of his disciples purportedly met a figure on the road and had a theological discussion. They had dinner together, and it was then that "then their eys were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight." In Mark 16:12 it is quoted as saying: "Afterwards Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country". How could this be? How could people who had spent 3 years together living with him and essentiallly having him within their sights for the whole time suddenly not recognize him? Was he a shapeshifter like Mark seems to suggest? Is there another explanation?

The alternate possible scenario:
so what's the other explanation, then?

Well here's one which I believe is more probable:

After jesus was crucified he was taken down (after being confirmed dead, maybe he wasn't but it's not important because the romans were very good at killing people so even if he wasn't dead he was very soon after) to follow the tradition of no desecrating the body during passover and joseph of arimethea provided a temporary tomb for the time. after 3 days the arimethea simply remove the body since it is after passover and bury him in a common grave, putting a messenger to let them know the body wasn't there anymore (it was removed). women come to take care of the body, and sees an empty tomb. they mistake what the messenger tells them and becomes convinced that jesus had risen. When other disciples find the empty tomb they reach a similar conclusion and by talking amongst themselves through confirmation bias they claim they've seen jesus here and there, much like how people claim they saw elvis. Some remember eating dinner with a religiously bent figure (maybe another messiah type, they were common during those days) mistakenly later on as having dinner with jesus. Through retelling their anecdotes the story grows and exaggerates. pretty soon, convinced that jesus was alive again they begin forming a rudimentary set of oral traditions- collection of saying, the basic narrative, etc. To "set it in stone" if you will. Meanwhile the body is beyond recognition and jesus is simply another anonymous corpse in the sea of corpses.

I welcome any challenge to my argument against the resurrection of Jesus.




The thing I don't like about this debate is that it is all based off religion and beliefs. It is hard to find true facts and evidence on this debate.

It is historically probable for Jesus to resurrect from the dead because many people would of had to make up the story if it was not true. How could so many people just go along with him raising from the dead? There are many eyewitnesses of this event. Also, if people believe in god how could they not believe in Jesus and the things that occurred? If people did believe in god why wouldn't they believe in Jesus because god is made out to be exactly what Jesus is.

Again I am not a big fan of debating things like this because it is all based off beliefs and religion.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting this debate and rising up to the challenge despite pointing out his lack of expertise in the said subject.

My opponent asked "How could so many people just go along with him raising from the dead? There are many eyewitnesses of this event." which I've actually addressed in my opening statement, but I'll expand upon it by providing possible motivs.

Confirmation bias is a powerful thing. They already had spend 3 years with the man they believed was the Messiah- the Savior of the People. Upon his crucifixion and death, given the understanding of human psychology, is it not at least possible that given the right trigger- an empty tomb perhaps- lead to what they normally would have accepted as human error as a possibility of the risen figure due to them wanting to believe their last few years wasn't a total loss? We have a similar case to this, though perhaps not quite to this degree. Take the doomsday predictions by the Watchtower organization. Each prediction date of the end of the world passed by and yet its followers did not dissipate- in fact their faith grew stronger.

With regards to many eyewitnesses, my argument was directly about the eyewitnesses- that they misremembered events in their past and/or perceived things mistakenly as Jesus. This is further supported by the fact that the synoptics speak of the disciples meeting the risen Jesus- the main they lived with for 3 years, and not recognizing him. In Luke's Road to Emmaus, they walked and talked with him for hours, and dined with him. It wasn't until the figure blessed the bread that they suddenly recognized him. In Mark Jesus was said to have "appeared to them in different form". Given such testimony, what is more probable? That Jesus was some magical shapeshifter, or that they simply misremembered meeting another person as Jesus by whatever theological ent and bias that creeped into their memory due to their environment and predisposition?


I ask my debater: what would the eyewitness have saw if it never happened? Also, people believe god can do this kind of stuff and Jesus is the same as god. So, if you believe in god why wouldn't you believe in Jesus?

In response to that the disciples had false memory's: They would of needed something to trigger the so called "hallucination" or whatever. What could that possibly be? It would have to be something so big to create that big of a solid story with no holes or uncertainties in the story and have none of the disciples slip up and tell false information.
Debate Round No. 2


To answer my opponent I must in turn ask him a question. Has he ever walked down the street, let's say, and thought he saw somebody he knew only to later see that it had been trickery, or a passing glimpse one may never truly know? Perhaps my opponent has seen a person disappear into the crowd who my opponent thinks MAY have been somebody he knew. Or perhaps he remembers telling a story repeatedly in which afterwords he finds he has unsubconsciously distorted his own memory via a third perspective- un unbiased observer? Or perhaps he remembers meeting someone in the past who he remembers as one person but has turned out to be another person entirely.

My argument is essentially that such common occurrences could indeed be the source of "evidence" for resurrection. It's especially possible given their theological bent providing a strong confirmation bias and a subconscious motive- a desire to believe and to affirm themselves and assure themselves. It's not an intentional fabrication but simply mistakes that are encouraged in such an environment.

So what could've triggered them? My scenario provided in the opening statement posits a possibility of the empty tomb. It's entirely possible that the "angel" the women saw at the tomb was simply a messenger that Joseph of Arimethea (who, according to the Gospel of Matthew) had posted to let the followers of Jesus know that he wasn't at the tomb at that point (meaning, he was buried in a common grave). The disciples themselves go to confirm the empty tomb which, sparked by the women who mistook the messenger for telling them Jesus was not there as equal to saying Jesus was among the living they start misremembering details of their recent past as being Jesus visitations/encounters.

I would hazard that such postulations would be more probable than a rotting shapeshifting corpse walking about Jerusalem.


Billybobish forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by biblibobish 4 years ago
gosh this is a bad debate
Posted by Billybobish 4 years ago
But, what the heck, I'll give it a try, but I don't think I will be very good at debating this topic.
Posted by warpedfx 4 years ago
LOL you better be kidding.
Posted by Billybobish 4 years ago
I did not mean to accept this! I am deeply sorry!
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