The Instigator
Bible-Defender
Pro (for)
Winning
94 Points
The Contender
TheSkeptic
Con (against)
Losing
90 Points

It is reasonable to believe that the Resurrection of Jesus is a historical event

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 35 votes the winner is...
Bible-Defender
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/20/2010 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 15,441 times Debate No: 11367
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (229)
Votes (35)

 

Bible-Defender

Pro

I contend that the Resurrection of Jesus is a historical event that probably happened. It is impossible to reach 100% certainty. However, that should not detract from the discussion since that is the way it is in all of history. One can only prove what probably happened. The historical methodology used to ascertain whether something is to be considered a historical fact is whether the reasons for accepting it outweighs the reasons for rejecting it. It is my contention based upon this that the Resurrection stands on good ground.

For evidence, my case is cumulative. IF Jesus was crucified, IF his disciples honestly had what they considered to be experiences of the risen Jesus, IF it can be demonstrated that Paul had suddenly converted, IF James who was skeptical brother of Jesus suddenly converted, and IF the tomb was found empty, and IF the alternative theories are not able to provide an adequate answer for the aforementioned facts that lends strong evidence for the Resurrection. It is my contention that each of these are indeed facts. In fact, they are admitted by most if not nearly all scholars both believing and skeptical to be historical events. It is also my contention that there are no alternative theories that can adequately account for the facts as well as the Resurrection. Therefore, the reasons FOR the accepting the Resurrection outweigh the reasons for rejecting it and thus meet the requirements for historicity, which is called argument to the best explanation.

As for naturalistic theories I will not comment on them as yet. I want to know what my opponent thinks happened. How does he account for those facts? I don't want to waste time and refute something that he himself might not believe in.

It is my contention that:

1.Jesus was indeed crucified and buried. This is attested to not only in the Gospels, but also by Paul and extra-biblical sources. And is admitted to as fact by almost all scholars.
2.It is also my contention that Jesus' disciples believed that He rose from the dead and appeared to them. This is attested to by the fact that they willingly suffered for that message. That is accorded to in Acts, as well as extra-biblical sources and is also accepted as historical fact by nearly all scholars.
3. Paul, who was an enemy of the church suddenly changed. This is stated by Paul himself in a number of N.T. texts and have claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Usually people will convert on the word of someone else, that is a secondary source. But Paul's conversion is due to something that he himself experienced. That is a primary source.
4. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly changed. This is attested to in the Bible, and extra-biblical source reports that he was a strict Jew. The Bible also testifies that after the Resurrection, James became a leader of the church.
5. The tomb was found empty. This is accepted by the majority of scholars also (Gary Habermas did a study on the state of scholarship to date. He reports that 75% of scholars agree that the tomb was indeed found empty).

I do not want to get into the specifics right away as to exactly why these are facts or not. I do not want to waste my time in doing so if my opponent is going to agree to them. First I will see what my opponent has to say before responding.

It is also my contention that since there are no naturalistic explanations that can account for the above facts, the only explanation left is that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead and therefore it is reasonable to believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for challenging me to this debate - hopefully we can have a great debate on our hands.

My opponent has proposed that the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is an accurate historical event, and in defense of this resolution he has purported to demonstrate that a certain list of facts are correct - ones that will be the focus of this debate. I will agree that if these facts are correct they demonstrate a powerful case for the resurrection of Jesus, but I deny their actual validity. To begin, he asks of me to comment on each fact he has supplied and demonstrate my naturalistic explanation. I will comply to such wishes but not go into too much detail.

===================
List of historical claims
===================

I will respond to each point according to the numerical order my opponent has employed:

1. I will agree that a man known as Jesus of Nazareth was likely crucified and buried. This fact in of itself is not unique in any significant way.
2. I will agree that it is likely that Jesus' disciples truly believed what they preached was true.
3. I will agree that Paul "suddenly changed", i.e. converted.
4. As I stated in #3, likewise for James.
5. It is generally accepted that the gospels claim the tomb is empty, but it is another thing to claim that this point lends credence to Jesus' divinity. You will have to demonstrate what is unique and true about this contention.

If you've noticed, it seems that I have conceded many of your points. This is simply because I find their acceptance to be distinct from proving your cumulative-case argument; I'll provide my alternative explanation in the next round. First, onto you.
Debate Round No. 1
Bible-Defender

Pro

I would like to thank TheSkeptic for taking the time to discuss this issue with me.

I also appreciate the fact that Mr Skeptic concedes most of my point and admits that if they are facts, then it does indeed provide strong evidence for the resurrection, he is right.

Yes, the gospels do claim an empty tomb. But I am not using the gospel accounts as evidence for the empty tomb. The empty tomb, like the rest is nothing extraordinary. No one is claiming that Jesus rose simply because of the empty tomb, not even the apostles!

However, taken together with the other already agreed upon facts, I do believe it is more evidence for the resurrection.

As I understand Mr Skeptics last response then, this is the only point of contention we have, as well as which explanation best accounts for what probably happened. Again the process that I use is the same ones that secular historians use. At one time the empty tomb was the scorn of the modern world has now become a generally accepted fact among the majority historians and scholars today.

So here are some of the evidences that lead critical scholars to conclude that the tomb was indeed found empty.

1. The Jerusalem factor. It is conceded by everyone that the disciples first started their preaching in Jerusalem, right where everything is said to have taken place. Since the resurrection is a bodily one (Jews who believed in a resurrection held that it was a bodily event to happen at the end of time). N.T. Wright, in his landmark study of what the ancient pagan and Jewish thought of the resurrection is that it is a bodily even. Pagans, both Hellenistic and/or Roman, believed that the spirit goes to the underworld, that there was no physical resurrection. The Pharisees believed in a bodily resurrection and the Sadducees didn't believe in it. All the cultures involved, then, both pagan and Jewish, held that the word for resurrection, meant a bodily one.. However, that being said, if the tomb was not empty, Christianity would be dead right out of the starting gate.

2 There is no historical evidence whatsoever that those who opposed Jesus produced a body, which again would have destroyed their preaching.

3. The testimony of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul mentions the crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Since, according to ancient Jews who believed in a resurrection, it is a physical, bodily event. Therefore, since Paul, an enemy of the early church, clearly believes in a resurrection, it implies an empty tomb. Therefore we have a first century historical witness, even before the gospels!. Why is that? Paul himself states that what he is passing on he received, from the apostles. It is universally accepted that the apostles preached the resurrection. Since that is so, it again implies an empty tomb.

4. The testimony of the women. Female testimony in the first century was not considered entirely trustworthy. Especially in matters of great importance. Again most scholars who comment on this state that if they were making it up, they would not have used women as the first witnesses. This is called the principle of embarrassment.

5. As my opponent already admitted, the apostles really did believe in the resurrection. But, to proclaim a resurrection is to admit an empty tomb. And they were in a position to know (right place, right time) if indeed the tomb were empty or not. If not, then they would have been found liars, but, as my opponent admits they were sincere, therefore not conscious liars. This leads to my next clue.

6. The earliest polemics against the Christians from their opponents admit and empty tomb. From Matthew (Matthew 28: 12-13) to Justyn Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho) to Tertullian (De Spectaculis 30), we know that the Jewish opponents were, for over two centuries, trying to explain the empty tomb. Which means that they too believed it to be empty.
Therefore, since there are reasons leading to the fact of the empty tomb, and no historical evidence against it, it is reasonable to believe that it was indeed empty, as the majority of critical scholars admit.

However I do believe my opponent made an error. He said: "but it is another thing to claim that this point lends credence to Jesus' divinity." I am not making that claim. I am not saying that the empty tomb alone gives credence to Jesus' divinity. However, if there was a resurrection, THEN that (the fact of the resurrection) would lead to Jesus' divinity, since he himself said that would be the proof of His divinity. However, we are not discussing Jesus' divinity. We are trying to see if it is reasonable, on historical grounds, to believe that the resurrection did in fact happen.

Like I said, there is nothing extraordinary of the empty tomb in and of itself.

So what do we have so far? Well, Mr Skeptic admits that Jesus did die by crucifixion and was buried.
He admits that the disciples really believe in what they preached. Question is, why did they come to believe?
He admits that Paul suddenly converted. But why did he convert?
He admits that James, the skeptical brother of Jesus while alive, suddenly converted. Again why?

What happened that can account for those facts? And if the tomb is admitted to be reasonably a historic fact, then what accounts for that?

As for the tomb, we have early testimony from those in a position to know if there was an empty tomb. We have early enemy attestation from Paul, who himself preaches a physical resurrection, thereby implying an empty tomb. Paul also states that the apostles also preach the same thing, who were indeed in the right place and right time to know. We have the testimony of the women, whose testimony if anything, would only weaken the cause of the earliest Christians, therefore would not have been included if they had been lying (principle of embarrassment). We have the fact that everything started in Jerusalem, including the empty tomb, which if false would have been easy to prove, just go to the tomb and drag out a body. This coupled with the fact that there is no actual historical evidence to the contrary makes it reasonable to believe that the tomb was indeed found empty.

So, if you would, provide actual historical evidence that the tomb was not empty. If not then we can go on and see which explanations best accounts for the given facts.
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for his response and case - I've come across this formulation (or something similar) before and I'm glad to finally debate an opponent who has at least a coherent grasp over it. As noted in the first round, this case is a historical and cumulative case for the resurrection of Jesus. For purposes outside of this restricted resolution, this is ultimately to demonstrate the divinity of Jesus Christ and the truth of Christianity.

As seen by my first round, I seemingly conceded to 4/5 of these historical claims. My reasoning is that these claims have a much simpler explanation than the one my opponent gave - ones that do not point to a resurrection at all. If we were to give a cumulative case for the resurrection of an individual, then we would expect to find at least some significant differences from any other case of alleged divinity. At most, there could be another argument to demonstrate Jesus' resurrection but this is the one in focus and my denial of it will succeed my win for this debate.

====================
Alternative stories
====================

As any good new historian knows, two major components to history is getting the right facts, and having an accurate interpretation. Interpretation is highly important, which is why we tools like the historical method. My case here, then, will be in a similar vein; I will simply provide alternative stories to the one's my opponent has given. I will give a complaint here though: I'm not sure where my opponent's points in his first round completely line up with the ones he has supplied here, most prominently given that one has 5 and the other 6. I want to cover all points but at the same time be concise. I will therefore respond to his points broadly in these following points.

1. Jesus was indeed crucified and buried.

An alternative explanation, and one that upon thinking of is quite simple, is that Jesus was a normal man who was made out to be something he isn't. He was "mythologized". It is uncontroversial that ancient Palestine was present to many professed prophets, so the story of Jesus being blown out of proportion isn't too hard to believe (for what reason this was done so, doesn't matter much). Simply because the enemy found an empty tomb does not lead to the conclusion that they too believe Jesus physically resurrected - maybe the just DIDN'T FIND HIS BODY.

"There is no historical evidence whatsoever that those who opposed Jesus produced a body"
----> Which is of no significance.

I could have actually objected to this on historical factual grounds alone, given compelling reasons due to Romanic traditions (non-burial is considered part of the shame of crucification)[1], but I will demonstrate that even with a similar batch of historical facts I can provide a rational alternative.

2. About the apostle's belief

The argument that a group of people whole-heartedly believe in a story that would compel many others to not (for whatever reason, such as being the enemy of the church) is completely unconvincing given humankind's noted history for having a notable percentage of idiots. What about the Branch Davidians[2]? What about the Heaven's Gate Cult[3]? What about the hundreds upon thousands followers of Sathya Sai Baba[4]?! These are all well known, current-day circumstances of people believing in what is obviously false. If we apply your same reasoning, these followers are believing in something true because of what they believe...obviously not.

3. The women

A common limitation for the criterion of embarrassment is that it perhaps masks a bigger embarrassment...like perhaps Jesus never resurrecting? To aid this point is the fact that there is an inconsistency of how many women were present at the tomb from John, Mark, and Luke. The first cites one, the second cites three, and the third cites many.

====================
Further reasons to doubt
====================

There are more reasons to doubt my opponent's case, here is a short list:

1. Accounts of the resurrection weren't written down until at least several decades after the alleged event. Until then, the story could only have traveled via oral traditions which we know to be VERY SUSPECT at distorted stories.

2. Don't you think a supernatural event would take more than just testimonies of eyewitnesses?

---References---
1. http://www.infidels.org...
2. http://en.wikipedia.org...
3. http://en.wikipedia.org...'s_Gate_(religious_group)
4. http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
Bible-Defender

Pro

Again thanks goes to Mr Skeptic for his timely response. What my opponent has to do to win this debate is to show that something else, naturalistically, happened that accounts for the facts given.

I have laid out five facts that are agreed upon most if not nearly unanimously by critical scholars that have studied the issue. My opponent is confused on one thing that I want to clear up. My first post I listed five historical facts that lead scholars agree upon. My second post, since the only fact that my opponent has an issue with, is 6 reasons why most scholars accept the historicity of the empty tomb (my fifth historical fact in my first round). Since he has an objection to the empty tomb I supplied 6 reasons why the tomb is a historical fact.

One thing is right, if the resurrection did occur, then that would provide the validity of the Christian faith.

"If we were to give a cumulative case for the resurrection of an individual, then we would expect to find at least some significant differences from any other case of alleged divinity."

Indeed, the resurrection DOES separate Jesus from others. However, this debate isn't about Christian's claims of Jesus' divinity.

My opponent already accepts the historicity of Jesus' death and burial. Enough said. I am not claiming anything other than he died and was buried. I am not claiming anything other than He died and was buried.

The Empty Tomb:

My opponent admits to the empty tomb by trying to say that they just didn't find his body. Correct. The question is what happened to it? WHY is it empty?

"I could have actually objected to this on historical factual grounds alone, given compelling reasons due to Romanic traditions (non-burial is considered part of the shame of crucification)[1], but I will demonstrate that even with a similar batch of historical facts I can provide a rational alternative."

Then why didn't you? Not only that but you ALREADY accepted the fact that Jesus was buried. Not only that but you would have to provide historical evidence that Jesus wasn't buried. That means some sort of document from the first century perhaps. What you are doing is a logical fallacy known as Appeal to Common Practice.

My opponent then goes on to question one of the reasons I gave for the empty tomb, that there is no evidence that the opponents of Jesus produced a body and says that it is of no significance. But that is untrue, given all of the reasons, especially since the disciples started preaching right in Jerusalem, where he was crucified and buried. If the disciples were lying, then all one would have to do is produce a body from the tomb and Christianity would have been aborted in the womb. And given the enemy attestation that my opponent concedes as well, then it is reasonable to believe that the tomb was indeed found empty. All we have is positive reasons for it and none against it.

In fact, one group that my opponent so fondly references has this to say concerning the empty tomb: "While I tentatively agree with Craig that Joseph of Arimathea's tomb--in which Jesus was presumably interred--was empty" (1)

So, as far as I can tell, my opponent has failed, and even implied consent to the empty tomb.

But there is one thing: NO ONE is claiming that Jesus is divine or even the resurrection occurred just because the tomb was empty. Not even the apostles.

Now about the apostles belief. I totally agree in one aspect. There are people today who will die for something they BELIEVE to be true.

But there is one big difference. The apostles died for something that they KNEW to be true or false. So, is my opponent saying that they were liars? The question remains, WHY did they come to believe in something as to willingly die for? My opponent hasn't answered that question.

Then there is the objection to the women. But again my opponent's objection doesn't meet the criteria for historical investigation. For example, if the apostles want to make something up, such as the empty tomb, then why even use women as the first eyewitnesses to the empty tomb in the first place? Why not use men, whose testimony would have had greater weight. My opponent says that there should be doubt as to how many women were at the tomb. However, any historian, or lawyer for that matter or even crime scene investigator, will tell you that discrepancies in details isn't to be taken automatically as a contradiction, they could be complimentary. Not only that but it still doesn't negate the fact that there were women there.

Then my opponent alludes to legendary development. However if you were to read Paul's letter to the Corinthians you can find otherwise. Here is 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

"For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: 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, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time, most of whom remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me."

Most scholars put the death of Jesus around 30 A.D. Paul was converted about 5yrs later. But notice what he says. "For I passed on to you as most important what I also receive…"

That is a Jewish phrase for passing on of a tradition. That means that this tradition was in existence before Paul received it. And notice it is already in a formalized format before Paul's conversion. Most scholars put this creed within months after Jesus was crucified. And also what Paul says in verse 11: "Therefore, whether it is I or they, so we preach and so you have believed." In other words, the resurrection is what the apostles also preached and was always part of the story. Therefore there is no time for mythological/legendary development to occur. And not only that but 1 Corinthians itself predates the gospels possibly decades before!

But my opponent offers no evidence for legendary development in his rebuttal. Just claiming something is suspect is not the same thing as proving it. How does my opponent KNOW that the oral traditions concerning Jesus' resurrection is suspect/distorted?

Then there is this puzzling statement: "Don't you think a supernatural event would take more than just testimonies of eyewitnesses?" Huh? What more could you want? Any historian would welcome eyewitness testimonies… (2)

So to sum up my opponent argued that it is legendary/lies told on the part of the apostles. For if they were "blowing the story of Jesus out of proportion" then they would either be consciously lying or sincerely mistaken.

But this fails on a number of grounds as a historical explanation. Here is why.
It takes into account Jesus' death and burial.
It tries to account for the apostles belief. But it fails because as my opponent conceded already, that they really believed that they had what they believed are experiences of the risen Jesus.
It completely fails to take into account Paul's conversion. Even if the disciples were making it up, Paul, an enemy of the disciples (who at the time was throwing them in prison) would want to convert in the first place.
It fails to take into account James' conversion. Before Jesus death, he thought Jesus was nuts. Jesus' death would have confirmed that rationale.
It also fails to account for the empty tomb. If they were making stuff up, then what happened at the tomb? Where is the body?

On the other hand, the resurrection can account for all of the above. So according to historical methodology, the hypothesis that best account for the accepted facts is the one that probably happened.(3) So far, the resurrection wins out.
Referrences:
1. http://www.infidels.org...
2. R. J. Shafer A Guide
3. C. Behan McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions p.26
TheSkeptic

Con

It's evident that one of my opponent's major criticisms is his belief about the sincerity of the disciple's belief in Jesus' resurrection. By exposing the relevancy of this claim, I can effectively dismantle the rest of his argument. To support my opponent's argument would be sociological suicide.

====================
The Empty Tomb
====================

I want to thank my opponent for clearing that up - it makes much more sense given his revelation.

First and foremost, I want to make clear that for the purposes of this debate I will accept the claim that Jesus was killed and buried. I did give a side note about challenging all the details of your position, but it was simply food for thought - there is no need to expand on this. If you actually read the sentence, I added the coordinating conjunction "but" to denote an exception. It would be a waste of time to reply to retorts you made about this dead point.

1. The sincerity of the believers

"If the disciples were lying, then all one would have to do is produce a body from the tomb and Christianity would have been aborted in the womb...The apostles died for something that they KNEW to be true or false. So, is my opponent saying that they were liars? The question remains, WHY did they come to believe in something as to willingly die for? My opponent hasn't answered that question."

----> The reason I cited other well documented examples of people believing and dying for idiotic beliefs is to point out that humanity can believe in utterly idiotic beliefs, whether they were manipulated or simply naive. In fact, the Indian guru I cited is quite an impressive example given that many of his feats are similar to the ones Jesus performed -- this, coupled with the relatively poor and underdeveloped conditions the majority of his followers live in create a clear analogy to the historic Jesus.

Essentially, it doesn't matter why the disciples believed Jesus was divine. Sure, we can both agree that they wholeheartedly believed and died for Jesus' cause, but this does NOT indicate a reliable reason to then conclude Jesus resurrected. If this was so, by your own token of reasoning we would have to believe aliens existed (and that the world we live in is actually destroyed - it'd be interesting how you would explain we are still living).

Given this point, a majority of my opponent's case crumbles. He can't rely on the ardent sincerity of the apostles to reinforce his case. In fact, in many ways it can weaken his position by demonstrating the tendency for humans to believe in false claims without rational caution (I'd highly doubt reason was a popular tool back then). Sure, he can cite James or Paul as examples of people even less likely to believe in Jesus' divinity but this proves nothing -- again, these are simply examples of people who we would think are much less likely to believe. And yet, in stark contrast are examples of many people believing in the most idiotic ideas conceivable.

====================
Further reasons to doubt
====================

1. Vulnerability of oral traditions

My opponent utilizes a Jewish phrase to pin down the accuracy of Paul's statements. This is quite the interesting claim, but it doesn't do much to move away from my point.

Traditional oral phrases can likely survive for quite some time, given that the focus is on repeating them verbatim. Memorizing a certain prayer or saying has a large focus on memorizing it's words, for that is the main appeal of it. However, repeating actual stories or accounts is somewhat different. While it should be obvious that remembering what actually happened is important, people often overlook that - or it get's confused in the process.

2. The weight of eyewitness testimonies in supernatural matters

My opponent professes confusion, finding it "puzzling" given that any historian would welcome eyewitness testimonies. Well of course, but are historians primarily dealing with supernatural issues? I'd doubt that. Instead, what you are claiming is something that will be of quite monumental scientific and philosophical consequence. I find it highly suspect that such a spectacular event would be supported simply by eye-witness testimonies, especially in the light of human culpability.
Debate Round No. 3
Bible-Defender

Pro

Well, to start off with, what my opponent is doing is a logical fallacy known as a straw man. I am not arguing for Jesus' divinity. I am arguing for the historical probability of Jesus' resurrection on historical grounds using historical guidelines that secular historians use. In order to use the resurrection as evidence for Jesus' divinity, I would have to first provide evidence for the resurrection! I have stated this repeatedly.

Also, my opponent already conceded that the apostles really believed in what they preached. They preached having experiences of the risen Jesus.

The disciples' sincerity:

It matters a great deal as to why they came to sincerely believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I recently stated that unlike others that die for something that they believe is true, it is another thing with the disciples. They died for something that they KNEW was either true or false. And any psychologist will tell you, lairs make poor martyrs. And my opponent agrees as to their sincerity. So the question remains historically, what accounts for the sincere belief in the resurrection of Jesus by the disciples? Is there some naturalistic explanation or is it that they really had experienced the risen Jesus?
Instead, my opponent simply tries to shrug off the fact and simply say in effect, "people will believe in the craziest things."

My opponent has offered no historical evidence to account for their sincerity of their belief in the resurrection.

So, just to making comments that people will believe in the most wild things is not a substitute for a historical argument.

I think my opponent is starting to grasp at straws. First my opponent tries to disprove the empty tomb, but offers no historical evidence to disprove the empty tomb. Now my opponent tries to attack a point that he already conceded.

Vulnerability of Traditions:

My opponent actually makes a case for my point. The disciples' story ALWAYS held to the resurrection. In other words there is no time for legendary tales to develop. Indeed, we have a steady chain of custody, if you will, right from the first disciples onward. What my opponent has failed to do is provide historical evidence that this oral tradition was indeed changed over time. All my opponent does is imply that since it is something supernatural (however that is what we are trying to discover, if something naturalistically occurred or supernatural), it is automatically a-priori discounted as a historical event. He is predisposing his naturalistic worldview.

Eyewitness Testimony:
Again imposing a-priori a naturalistic worldview. First, in order to imply that the supernatural cannot happen, is to KNOW that there is no God. However, no atheist has ever disproven the existence of God or the supernatural. Also an event that happened on earth, in time is an historical event regardless if its' supernatural implications or not. And having eyewitness testimony is the same.

"I find it highly suspect that such a spectacular event would be supported simply by eye-witness testimonies, especially in the light of human culpability"

And why is that? What if the witnesses were found to be trustworthy? And what would my opponent expect in the first century? Camcorders? I wonder what my opponent would take as valid evidence for something that happened in the first century? How about the 17th century? It seems you are committing special pleading by implying that eyewitness testimony is good enough for "secular" events but not for "supernatural" ones. You also show your anti-supernatural bias by stating that no eyewitness testimony would be good enough if the event happens to be supernatural. But that is what we are trying to discover isn't it? Is there any naturalistic explanation that accounts for the accepted historical facts? So far, what you have given so far fails as a more plausible historical theory compared to the resurrection. Because what you have given so far doesn't account for the facts as well as the resurrection.

"Instead, what you are claiming is something that will be of quite monumental scientific and philosophical consequence."

This is something I can agree with. But we aren't even there. What we have to do is see if there is a naturalistic theory that accounts for the accepted facts as well as the resurrection. If something other than the resurrection has occurred that too has great implications. Likewise if the resurrection did occur, like you said, the implications are great.

Again what do we have so far?

My opponent and I agree on the following facts:
1 Jesus was crucified, died and was buried.
2 The disciples had what they really believed was experiences of the risen Jesus.
3 James, the skeptical brother of Jesus suddenly converted.
4. Paul, the enemy of Christians suddenly converted.

Nothing in these events is supernatural in and of themselves. I am not saying that Jesus is divine just because the disciples believed in the resurrection or Paul converted etc.

The problem is what accounts for those facts? WHY did the disciples come to believe in the resurrection? WHY did Paul suddenly convert as did James? WHY was the tomb found empty? THAT is the historical question at hand.

The only contention we had is the empty tomb. Nevermind the fact that an empty tomb itself doesn't Jesus' resurrection nor divinity for that matter. The historical question is WHY is it empty? My opponent tried to say that it wasn't empty but hasn't provided any historical evidence that it wasn't or that something naturalistic happened. In fact I gave a series to reasons why most scholars consider the empty tomb a fact. But here are others.
1. The gospels are unanimous on the fact. Now this could go either way. If all four gospels are independent of each other, then we have four independent early historical sources. However, if you want to say that Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark then you still have two (Mark and John which no one says they borrowed off of each other).
2. Then you have Paul.
3. You have the other enemies of Christianity all stating an empty tomb. All together you have, conservatively, six early historical sources that point to an empty tomb. And to my knowledge, there have been no historical discoveries against it. According to historiography, something can be considered a historical fact when the evidence for an event outweighs evidence against it. So far my opponent has not given anything. So, my fifth fact, the empty tomb still stands.

And so as my opponent already stated: "if these facts are correct they demonstrate a powerful case for the resurrection of Jesus." Well since my opponent has so far failed to provide any evidence that these are not facts (especially since he conceded 4 out of 5 and has as yet to disprove my fifth), I'd say I have a pretty good case.

Here is why.
So far my opponent has only put forth a scant theory, that apparently the disciples made exaggerations.
However this fails on many points. The first being that my opponent already conceded that the disciples were sincere in their belief that they had experiences of the risen Jesus.
The second is that it fails to account for James' sudden conversion.
The third it fails to account for Paul's conversion.
And lastly it fails to account for the empty tomb.

However, the resurrection accounts for the death of Jesus and burial, it accounts for the disciples belief in the risen Jesus experiences. It also accounts for James' and Paul's sudden conversions and takes into account the empty tomb. So according to historiography, the explanation that best accounts for the accepted facts is the one that probably happens. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened.
TheSkeptic

Con

Ironically, my opponent's entire position rests primarily on strawmen. While he would accuse me of misrepresenting his argument, I have clearly understood them - it seems that if any, the culprit for misunderstanding is my opponent himself. For example, in his opening paragraph he accuses me of targeting claims about Jesus' divinity and not his resurrection. My response should be obvious -- of course I know that, but I never implied that the resolution of this debate is about Jesus' divinity (though I do note that it if the resolution is true, it would easily lead to such a conclusion).

Since the main point of contention is the disciple's sincerity, I will again dedicate a section on it:

====================
Disciple's sincerity
====================

My opponent has claimed that all I've is claim "people will believe in the craziest things", and that thus I have evaded the issue at hand by attempting to substitute a "historical argument". My opponent can't be more wrong.

First, the accusation that my argument isn't a historical one is quite silly. In many regards it is, given that a crucial part of history is INTERPRETATION/ANALYSIS. If history was simply just recording facts and repeating them to the masses, then such a job would be much easier than it truly is. Rather, historians often spend their time arguing about how certain events were started (usually by drawing a casual chain preceding such events).

What my counterexamples demonstrate is that there is nothing out of the ordinary in people believing ardently in claims that can be false, since obviously if my opponent were to accept such a reasoning then he would find himself in a logically contradictory position (there are fanatics for both Muslims and Christians, but this doesn't make both sides correct). What this tells us is that there is nothing of important from noting the disciple's sincerity, UNLESS my opponent can supply adequate evidence to show us otherwise. He hasn't - he's still stuck in the muck of "they believed in Jesus with so much faith."

"My opponent has offered no historical evidence to account for their sincerity of their belief in the resurrection."
----> What? This is the premise that I assumed for your benefit.

"I think my opponent is starting to grasp at straws. First my opponent tries to disprove the empty tomb, but offers no historical evidence to disprove the empty tomb. Now my opponent tries to attack a point that he already conceded."
----> I'm conflicted...do you actually read my rounds? Nowhere did I ever claim to disprove the tomb, nor have I attacked a point I conceded. Agreeing that the disciples were sincere but attacking the relevancy of this point is NOT a fallacy.

Simply put, my opponent offers absolutely nothing except the pure fact that the disciples believed. This itself is weak evidence in the face of my counterexamples -- if we were to follow his reasoning, then we would be damned with logical contradictions. He can claim certain conditionals (like saying the disciples met Jesus in person), but until he explains why such conditions are qualitatively important (i.e. so what if they saw Jesus), he has no case.

====================
Vulnerability of oral traditions & Eyewitness testimonies
====================

While I won't bother exploring historical evidence for any changes in this particular oral tradition (though there were competing versions of Jesus' ascension), I can simply use the same line as reasoning as I did with the sincerity of the disciples. Given that we know many oral traditions have been tainted due to human error and time (look at your common old wives tales, or stories about mythical creatures), it is reasonable to assume this is the case for the disciple's stories UNLESS conflicting evidence is provided...which you haven't done.

Now, onto the point of me supposedly unfairly assuming a naturalistic world view. I am in NO way guilty of this. This is such a simple blunder I'm not sure how you committed it:

If you claim that there was an event in which someone resurrected, then by the current laws of science this is either supernatural or INCREDIBLY improbable (the definitions debacle can be left aside). There is no assumption of a certain world view: it's clear that redirections is not a common fact of human biology, so any historical event claiming to include a genuine example must have ample evidence. You claim that I am raising the bar too high, but this is a red herring.

It's stemming from parismony that the bigger your claims are (i.e. the more it assumes, or in other words the more ontologically complicated theories) the more evidence it will need.

====================
Conclusion
====================

Unfortunately, my opponent's round is littered with errors, misunderstandings, and the like. My arguments here were quite simple -- given many examples affirming X to be a natural occurrence, my opponent would have to demonstrate why the story of the resurrection of Jesus is any different (obviously in terms of evidence). My opponent has supplied none and except reverberated the point that the apostles believed.
Debate Round No. 4
Bible-Defender

Pro

I'd like to thank TheSkeptic for his time and effort in debating this important issue. Here is my final rebuttal for the debate.

"My response should be obvious -- of course I know that, but I never implied that the resolution of this debate is about Jesus' divinity (though I do note that it if the resolution is true, it would easily lead to such a conclusion)."

Then why did you bring it up? (round 1 and 2) The issue here is whether the it is reasonable to believe that the resurrection is an historical event. Never once did I argue for the implications of that event. The debate is simply to see if it happened. In fact you will look long and hard for one historical piece of evidence the he presented that accounts for the accepted facts of the debate.

"Rather, historians often spend their time arguing about how certain events were started (usually by drawing a casual chain preceding such events)."

Exactly, just how and why did the disciples come to believe in Jesus' resurrection? Now I do agree with my opponent in some respects. Just because they are sincere doesn't mean that they were right. All I can say historically is that they were sincere. However, as I stated in my opening round, my evidence is cumulative.

We agree that Jesus died. We agree that the disciples were sincere in their belief in that they had experienced the risen Jesus. We agree that James' suddenly converted. We agree that Paul suddenly converted. And I guess we agree that the tomb was found empty. Nothing in and of themselves is out of the ordinary.

Question is historically, what accounts for all of these facts? So far my opponent hasn't accounted for all of the facts. All he has done so far is say "yup they believed, so what"? My opponent hasn't put forth a theory as to why they believed that is contrary to what they preached, AND accounts for Paul converting and James' and why the tomb was found empty. If the disciples were wrong in their belief, the how do you account for the empty tomb? How did it get that way? How do you explain Paul's conversion and James'? Did they hallucinate? What is the historical evidence for that? And still how do you account for Paul and James', not to mention the empty tomb. THAT is the kind of explanations that I have been looking for. But alas none has been forthcoming.

You see even what you have given doesn't account for all of the facts. However the resurrection does and according to historiography, the theory that can account for all of the facts is the one that probably happened.

There is another point to be made. My opponent's examples of OTHERS coming to believe and dying for their beliefs are quite different than the disciples. You see, today a Christian or Muslim or whatever will die for what they BELIEVE to be true even though they might be wrong. However, the disciples, as well as James and Paul died for what they KNEW to be true or false. They didn't believe simply because someone else told them, they themselves claim to have witnessed the risen Jesus.

If you want to say "sure, they really believed that they had experienced the risen Jesus, but that doesn't mean that they were right", that is fine and dandy, however you still have to come up with a reason as to WHY came to believe that, and still account for the rest.

As for what I put forth. We already agree upon the facts! Why would I have to go into more detail if both sides agree that they are facts?

So, I must say that I am disappointed here. I put forth that this was to be a debate on the historical probability that the resurrection did occur or that something else happened that accounts for the facts agreed upon. Not the interpretation of those facts or it's implications etc. In fact, as you yourself stated in the first round, "I will agree that if these facts are correct they demonstrate a powerful case for the resurrection of Jesus". Well, we have agree so far as to all of the facts bud. In order to have disprove the resurrection, you would have to give evidence that Jesus' wasn't crucified and buried, or the disciples weren't sincere, or James and Paul were somehow mistaken/liars and/or the tomb wasn't found empty or something else happened to empty it. But nothing has been brought forth.

"Given that we know many oral traditions have been tainted due to human error and time (look at your common old wives tales, or stories about mythical creatures), it is reasonable to assume this is the case for the disciple's stories UNLESS conflicting evidence is provided...which you haven't done."

Really, it is reasonable to ASSUME that? This is a debate about historical evidence. Not assumptions. If you make a claim, then it is incumbent to put forth evidence. Here is my evidence that the tradition of the resurrection has been kept. As I already stated in a previous post, We have the writings of Paul. 1 Corinthians was written BEFORE the gospels. He himself stated that he experiences with the resurrected Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 15, he uses a phrase for the passing on of a tradition that he himself received. And then mentions who he got that tradition from. He also states the disciples and Paul were preaching the same message – the resurrection of Jesus. That tradition can be traced therefore to the original disciples. Therefore there is no time for legendary material to creep into the tradition.

"While I won't bother exploring historical evidence for any changes in this particular oral tradition (though there were competing versions of Jesus' ascension)".

Then why even bring it up, hmmmm? You have had four rounds to do so. And the ascension is different from the resurrection. So I have provided evidence for the integrity of the oral tradition, all you have done so far is to assume that the tradition is erroneous.

As far as parsimony is concerned, parsimony is the use of the simplest or most frugal route of explanation available. Mine is quite simple, the resurrection. It explains all of the accepted facts. What is yours? You have as yet to up with one. Stolen body won't do, while it tries to explain the empty tomb, it fails to account for the experiences of Paul and James and the disciples. Hallucinations won't do, it fails to account for the experiences and the empty tomb, spiritual resurrection doesn't account for Paul nor the empty tomb. In order for those theories to be affective, you have to combine them. However that goes against parsimony, and historiography, it is ad hoc. And just combining theories doesn't make them more probable, but more improbable. The resurrection is the simplest theory and the one that takes into account all the facts. Therefore according to the historical guidelines it is what most likely happened.

You claimed that I charged you with misrepresenting my position and then say it is wrong. Here is how I understood your position. I do apologize if I got things mixed up, but I don't think so.
In your own comments you stated that "The resolution is of whether or not Jesus resurrected". That is exactly right. But then you turned right around and instead "attacked it's validity" by attacking the implications of the resurrection. But what implications arise from the resurrection is not the topic of this debate. I agree with you. If, IF the resurrection occurred as a historical event, then Christianity is true. If it didn't then there are other implications. However, before that, we have to see if the resurrection is the most probable explanation. So I think I am correct in my charge. And likewise, since I NEVER in this debate talked about Jesus' divinity etc. To say that this is what I am debating is indeed a straw man.

So, according to historiography, my theory outstrips everything you put forth, it accounts for all the facts and is simple, therefore it is more reasonable to believe that it actually happened. And what is that? Exactly what they said happened.
TheSkeptic

Con

I thank my opponent for this debate and his professionalism. It was a great debate and I hope we can have more in the near future.

Before I begin, I want to address one thing. The issue of whether or not Jesus is divine is rightly another issue (though most would agree that if Jesus did resurrect, he is likely divine), but it's a mistake on my opponent's part for accusing me of tipping it off. Sure, I mentioned it but in no way did I make it out more than it was supposed to be. If you read any of my arguments, they don't give any particularly special attention if I were to shift the resolution from Jesus resurrection to Jesus' divinity - highlighting my opponent's faulty claim.

====================
Disciple's sincerity -- Issue of my historical explanation
====================

I see now. My opponent claims that I haven't accounted for the list of historical facts -- and in fact, he is correct that I haven't explained what happened in particular to James, Paul, or the disciples. I haven't cited an explicit historical explanation for their conversions or ardent beliefs. Likewise, it would be historically pertinent to figure out why they did. What makes his argument so abhorrent in it's entirety, it's essentially an argument from ignorance. Simply because I can't give an explicit historical account for Jesus' resurrection, he assumes that his explanation -- which isn't more than an interpretation based on assumptions yet to be validated -- is correct. My argument, which he hasn't accurately responded to, is that my failure to answer such questions does not negate my position.

True, if I were to give an accurate historical explanation for the resurrection story than it would make it easier for everyone. However, given that history isn't that simple, we must work off what we can. My argument, then, is that there is nothing historically significant to point out Jesus' resurrection. Why is this so? Because the events recounted in Jesus' resurrection IS NOT UNIQUE IN ANY RELEVANT SENSE. Obviously, this is why I listed examples of groups of people believing in crazy ideas.

====================
Disciple's sincerity -- Other examples
====================

"You see, today a Christian or Muslim or whatever will die for what they BELIEVE to be true even though they might be wrong. However, the disciples, as well as James and Paul died for what they KNEW to be true or false. They didn't believe simply because someone else told them, they themselves claim to have witnessed the risen Jesus."

----> This is probably one of the worst misuse of words I've seen in awhile. By definition, to believe is to hold a certain claim to be true. Conventionally, to know something is to believe something to be true, to be justified in believing it, and to be correct about it (justified true belief, though Gettier problems challenge this conception).

I agree that religious believers now believe in God. However, for you to emphasize the disciples "KNOWING" Jesus rose is an abuse of words. Strictly speaking, if they knew Jesus resurrected this would be circular (since you are essentially claiming that Jesus did resurrect) - rather, I'd take it you mean they believed Jesus resurrected but had MUCH MORE confidence in it given that they had a first-hand experience. Indeed, this seems like the correct interpretation since you added believers now never witnessed Jesus rising but heard it from some other source.

The problem with such an argument is that basically, the only significant difference believers now and disciples back then is a degree of belief. I agree that a firsthand experience would likely make you much more confident in a belief, but this doesn't preclude those without such an experience having an the same or more degree of confidence. Many people can have a lower emotionally threshold to believing in claims (we call these people gullible), so even in the most ridiculous situations they can deceive themselves of something to be true. Therefore, your insistence on the disciple's first-hand experience is novel but inapplicable.

====================
Other points
====================

1. Oral traditions

"Really, it is reasonable to ASSUME that? This is a debate about historical evidence. Not assumptions. If you make a claim, then it is incumbent to put forth evidence."

----> You have this odd habit of completely abusing words. Obviously, my assumption about the vulnerability of oral traditions was backed up in, literally, the SAME SENTENCE. So before you claim that it's incumbent for me to put forth evidence, I'll counter that it's incumbent for you to actually read my arguments. Likewise, your repetition of your argument doesn't escape my criticisms.

"Then why even bring it up, hmmmm? You have had four rounds to do so. And the ascension is different from the resurrection. So I have provided evidence for the integrity of the oral tradition, all you have done so far is to assume that the tradition is erroneous."

----> The contraction won't is will not, which means when I include "I won't bother...", it means exactly that. Your attempts to put words in my mouth isn't too convincing.

2. Parsimony

No, you've got it all wrong. What we mean by parsimony commonly refers to ontological parsimony[1], which means T1 entails less entities than T2, all else being equal. You're explanation entails a complete rethinking of many philosophical and scientific issues in the face of a religious factor, meaning it's less parsimonious (and thus meaning you need a strong case).

====================
Conclusion
====================

History is as much about facts as it is about interpretation. What I've attempted to do in this debate is to show that I can easily discount the story of Jesus' resurrection without toiling over facts -- rather, I can demonstrate the superiority of a naturalistic explanation from simple facts we know about today's world. My opponent hasn't done anything to dispel my case by consistently failing to address it properly.

---References---
1. http://plato.stanford.edu...
Debate Round No. 5
229 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Bible-Defender 3 years ago
Bible-Defender
The topic would be It is historically probable that Jesus rose from the dead.
Posted by Bible-Defender 3 years ago
Bible-Defender
Well hello, it has been a while since I have been here. I have debated on onlinedebat.net (a better site in my opinion).
I noticed SoSilly and Step 93 are pretty adamant in your positions. So, instead of just throwing stones and making claims, why don't you sign up for a debate?

I suggest going to onlinedebate.net (better moderation and more flexibility there). Please send me a message to my email if you are interested.
Posted by SoSilly 3 years ago
SoSilly
His body may have moved, but only an idiot would assume it was because of resurrection. LOL
Posted by Ste93 3 years ago
Ste93
How on Earth can you consider it reasonable to believe something which contradicts the laws of physics? There is zero evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, indeed there is a lot of evidence to suggest this is impossible. Why would you feel the need to believe something on insufficient evidence?
Posted by Mattsterpiece1993 4 years ago
Mattsterpiece1993
Unfair representation of atheist historical arguments?

You mean when I pointed out when you in particular decided to distort historical methodology by insisting that the Gospels are "too late". I'm really curious as to where I oversimplified.

Anyway, you're on.
Posted by TheSkeptic 4 years ago
TheSkeptic
Technically not everything you said, but the vast majority of your rebuttals do take form of a strawmen, i.e. unfair representation of atheist historical arguments. I enjoy your pompous demeanor, but it isn't amusing in the least.

"Did Jesus rise from the grave?"

Most debates concerning the historicity of Jesus Christ have this as the focus - I'll take that.
Posted by Mattsterpiece1993 4 years ago
Mattsterpiece1993
The fact that you're resorting to simply branding my entire response as a strawman just speaks volumes of the desperation. Surely you don't honestly think that.

I can already tell that I wouldn't enjoy the debate in the least, but I suppose I'd be up for it. First, I wanna make sure that we're hitting the right topic.

Possible debate topics would be:

Are the Gospels authentic?

Did Jesus rise from the grave?

and so on. What should we debate?
Posted by TheSkeptic 4 years ago
TheSkeptic
Challenge me to a debate, I have little patience to deal with petty strawmen in the comment sections.
Posted by Mattsterpiece1993 4 years ago
Mattsterpiece1993
//However, the Gospels portray stark differences in many instances; enough to call into question the divinity of such scripture.//

Yeah, I've heard this before. Usually a background knowledge alleviates these supposed contradictions. For example, a difference in the time of the crucifixion. This contradiction is resolved by simply noting the different systems of time being used. Fact of the matter is, a lot of skeptics are simply lazy.

//Further, can you demonstrate how I just "made up" mine?//

One, you can't insist that historical methodology precludes the divine. That's presupposing naturalism. All we're doing is finding out what explanation has the best explanatory power and scope.

Now, to address your question...A difference in the number of women referred to? This is the distinction that blows the fish out of the water? And the embarrassment behind this would be that Jesus resurrected? The very fact that the disciples, and everyone for that matter, had every predisposition to the contrary of his resurrecting goes against your implication that it would be something conjured up arbitrarily for convenience sake.

And then you insist that the documents are too late? Who are you kidding? Just how familiar with ancient documents anyhow? Most come hundreds of years after the events. The works of Tacitus' weren't even attributed to him until centuries later, and it wasn't even by name.

Moreover, as A. N. Sherwin-White has explained, a professional historian of the times predating Jesus of Nazareth and contemporaneous, two generations are not short enough of a time span for legendary accounts to form.

- [A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), pg. 188-191]

We have multiple attestation, which is major, and all are early by ancient standards. The Corinthian Creed is only a couple years older.
Posted by gogenhwang 4 years ago
gogenhwang
it is not a historical event because you have no evidence that he was resurrected. Even if he was not in the cave anymore how do you not know that someone stole his body. There is no actual evidence he was resurrected.
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