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Pro (for)
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Is the Resurrection of Jesus Historically Probable?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/7/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,155 times Debate No: 22193
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (2)




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.



I would like to thank Con for issuing this debate.

He is correct when he states that nothing is quite as important to Christian theology as the resurrection of Jesus. As the apostle Paul once wrote, if Christ never rose from the dead then our preaching is empty, and our faith is empty (1 Corinthians 15:14).

However, he is incorrect when he states that if he can offer an alternative explanation that has nothing to do with the supernatural, then that would be more plausible than the supernatural event of the Resurrection. First, he would have to have evidence that his explanation happened (especially in light of the evidence for the Resurrection). Second, he is begging the question. His reason for offering an alternative explanation is because he is starting with the premise that miracles don't happen. There is a common atheistic slogan that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This is not true. Extraordinary claims require ordinary evidence, like anything else. If the evidence points to a Resurrection, then there is no reason to doubt it happened.

He claims that the Resurrection is vague when, in fact, it is quite specific as to what happened. I would ask Con to justify his claim that it is a vague historical account. The Resurrection account does trump natural explanations because every natural explanation ever offered has serious flaws. The explanations that Con offered aren't even the strongest that I have seen as a Resurrection alternative.

1. Rotting corpse.

Con offers no evidence to back up his claim that a body would have decayed after 72 hours in the Palestinian heat. As such, this argument should be rejected as a baseless assertion unless Con can back it up. The Romans and Jewish spiritual leaders were obviously expecting to see the body again. In fact, the reason they allowed Joseph to bury Jesus was so that the disciples *couldn't* steal the body and claim Jesus rose again.

2. The fallibility of memory/problem of eyewitness testimony.

At first glance, this argument seems to have at least some merit. However, this was a major event. Con must explain how the disciples could see their Rabbi nailed to a cross through the wrists and ankles and hung there to die, then buried in a tomb and disappeared after three days, and completely remember these events incorrectly. We might possibly expect them not to remember whether or not the soldier who hung Jesus had dark hair, but they would certainly remember their spiritual guru was crucified and was gone from his tomb three days later.

Additionally, these were not events that happened, then some twenty years later a few guys decided to write about them. These events were talked about constantly, passed down orally until they were finally committed to scroll.

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?

Regarding the passage in Luke, the passage also says that their "eyes were restrained," which was obviously a supernatural experience so that they would not recognize Him. Jesus just rose from the dead. Restraining their eyes so they would not recognize Him would be child's play in comparison. If the Resurrection account is accepted, this is not a leap at all.

Regarding Mark 16:12, this does not indicate Jesus was a shapeshifter. In John 20:15, we see that Jesus appeared to Mary as a gardener. He did something similar to the two men on the way to Emmaus.

Con has offered no necessity to supply an alternate scenario.

Con's alternate scenario.

This scenario has many flaws. First, Jesus was most definitely dead. The Roman solders were experts at killing, and a spear was even thrust into his side, and water and blood poured out. Even if Jesus hadn't been dead yet, He certainly would have bled out then. Con even concedes this point.

Now, Joseph of Arimathea couldn't have taken the body because no one knew about it. First, he couldn't have rolled away the stone on his own. Second, there was a massive event that caused the guards great fear (the quake, the stone rolled away, and the angels). Joseph would not have caused fear in these soldiers, and they may have even allowed him to remove the body, since the grave was his. But remember that after the fact, the guards told everything to the chief priests, and the priests bribed the guards to spread the lie that the disciples stole the body (Matthew 28:11-15). This would have been unnecessary if Joseph had simply relocated the body. In fact, it would have been ridiculous for the Jews to start proclaim Jesus' resurrection in the very location that it was claimed to have happened if Jesus didn't really rise. All that would have had to happen was someone (such as Joseph of Arimathea) could produce the body and show that it was a lie. But this never happened.

No, it seems that the most plausible explanation is that Jesus rose from the grave, as the Gospels show. There are several reasons for this:

1. Jesus was actually dead. Con even concedes this point so it seems unnecessary to support it.

2. The empty tomb. Again, Con concedes this point so it is unnecessary to support it (though as I have shown, the argument that Joseph relocated the body is baseless).

3. Appearances. Post-resurrection Jesus appeared to many people. He appeared to the women at the tomb, to the aforementioned pair of men on the road to Emmaus, to the ten disciples (sans Thomas and Judas, who hanged himself after Jesus' crucifixion), to the eleven disciples (Thomas included), and even to 500 people all at once.

4. Testimonies. The disciples were cowards. Peter denied Jesus three times. They hid when he was captured. They were uneducated and had low social standing. Yet after Jesus rose, they were suddenly bold and empowered. They were willing to die for what they believed (and most of them did). This dramatic change in their character is only explained by the Resurrection.

5. Low status of women. If the disciples had wanted to make up the resurrection event, they wouldn't have used women (Mary, Mary Magdalen, Salome, and the other women with them) as the primary witnesses as the event due to the fact that women were not considered reliable witnesses. The best explanation is that they were actually the primary witnesses to this actual event.

6. Immediate proclamation. The Jews started proclaiming Jesus immediately, in the city in which He was said to have risen. They would not have done this if Jesus hadn't actually risen. If Jesus didn't actually rise from the dead, the body could have been produced and the new movement of believers would have been crushed right then and there.

I think it is quite obvious that the resurrection happened and that no alternative explanations are sufficient. Con has so far failed to meet his burden of proof.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting the debate and for providing his defense of the resurrection hypothesis.

However, his defense suffers from several problems. The first of this is his claim that I have to provide evidence that mine IS the right answr- that it IS what happened. However, my scenario does not need to be shown to be true, since that is not my intent. Rather, it is to weed out the least probable scenarios- to show what DIDN'T happen at least by the standards of history. In the presence of a more probable scenario, the more IMprobable scenario is of course discarded. The Con also makes the mistake of assuming that I begin from the proposition that "miracles do not occur". No- I begin from the standard historical approach that miracles are the least probable explanation, not that they do not occur. If miracles WERE probable explanations they of course woudn't BE miracles, would they?

In fact, Oxford Dictionary[1] defines miracle as:
  • a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency: the miracle of rising from the grave
  • a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences: it was a miracle that more people hadn’t been killed or injured

The latter highlighting the very improbable nature that is inherent with the word. My opponent further states erroneously that the statement "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" to be an "atheist slogan" (is this a poisoning the well or a guilt by association fallacy you are committing here?) and instead claiming that it's not true- that extraordinary claims can be determined by ordinary evidence. But this is obviously false. My opponent wouldn't believe that someone had seen the loch ness monster simply because he was provided with a pond sample and a map pointing to the loch ness would he? Or what if someone said "I always lose my keys. that darn key gnome!"? Would my opponent accept that ordinary evidence and therefore believe in the existence of key gnomes?

I've further pointed out it wasn't resurrection specifically itself that was vague but the very supernatural itself that suffers from being nebulous at best. How would one know which supernatural explanation is right? what if jesus's resurrection was an apparition by a trickster djinn? Or what about jesus really being an alien who had to "die" to return to its mothership by sheddig its "human form"? The possibilities are endless, and in accepting ordinary evidence for resurrection one would not be able to rationally deny other such explanations while supporting the resurrection.

1. Rotting corpse

The con states the fact of body decomposition at the point of 72hours to be unsubstantiated. However, according to the J.M. Tawes Technology & Career Center page it states that:

"Chronology of Postmortem Decomposition Under "usual" conditions at around 24-36 hours after death, blue-green discoloration of the lower abdomen is visible. This is followed by marbling, which derives its unique pattern from the blood vessels of the skin. Blood in the vessels breaks down and seeps out into the surrounding tissues, resulting in the complex, branching pattern. At 36 to 48 hours after death, bloating of the face and trunk may be evident. The whole body will show decomposition change at 60-72 hours after death." [2]

This, topped with the fact that Jesus was a flayed and crucified corpse with many open wounds means it would only speed up the rate of decay.

2. fallibility of memory/problem of eyewitness testimony

My opponent is under the mistaken impression that faulty memory requires a total fabrication of the mind by the disciples when clearly I've shown this was unnecessary. Furthermore, my opponent cites the Matthew story of Roman Guards- a clear fabrication since the authors could not have had any way of knowing the guards would even be there to begin with, not to mention the fact that a. the Pharisees and the Sadduccees did not have the power to order around their superiors- the Roman Guards, and b. they did not even have a reason to considering a resurrecting messiah was not part of the messianic prophesy. Of course the final clincher to this is of course that this little tidbit is not mentioned by anyone. No other sources, biblical or otherwise state such important points.

What they could have misremembered are easier to understand. Details. For example, take the story of road to Emmaus- is it more probable that disciples who spent 3 years living with their messiah would somehow suddenly not be able to recognize him for hours until the last minute as he does something that reminds them of someone they've been walking and talking with, or could it be instead that they misremember the man who they did not know- possibly another wandering prophet who they later misremember as being Jesus- a misremembering that is further confirmed as they talk amongst themselves, in fact prodding subconscious details to creep into their memories? My first post in fact refutes this directly.

In fact, that they talked amongst themselves add to this case of unreliable memory since they would naturally talk amongst themselves, feeding their confirmation bias and thus further distorting their memories unconsciously.

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?

My opponent in providing further supernatural possibilities for the events only highlight and undermine his own argument. He quite simply piles on more supernatural assertions at every turn in order to make critical inquiry all but impossible. If it were possible that Jesus did in fact suernaturaly forbid them from recognizing him (why and how is another question, considering Jesus would have wanted them to spread the word!) why not go further? why not have Jesus simply be a ghost who appeared before them? Or what about Jesus not having risen at all, and a demon simply created the mirage of Jesus and deceived them?

Such defense is therefore why the supernatural explanation has no merit, especially when considering ultimately the argument assumes its own conclusion- in order for the resurrection to occur it must be done supernaturally- in fact it is necessary. However, there is no evidence of supernatural to begin with, unlike the natural. In fact I did not once assume supernatural to not exist or to discount it simply because it was supernatural. I did point out that supernatural explanations are naturally less probable than the natura explanations. If one were to treat them equally my opponent would then have to assume every time he lost a key it disappeared with an imp who liked shiny things is as valid as simply misplacing it or dropping it along the way. This is WHY extraordinary evidence is required for extraordinary claim.

4. Alternate Scenario

My opponent begins by pointing out things I've already conceded, that Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. He however then claims that Joseph of Arimethea could not have taken the body becaue nobody knew about it. This simply points to me that he had not read the very source he attempts to defend. Joseph of Arimethea was explicitly stated in Matthew 27:57-6 which immediately refute his point. This figure of course is listed in all synoptic gospels and hence has more weight than the fictional guiards which I've delineated why they were fabricated above, hence why him moving the body is not surprising or even particularly noteworthy. One may ask "why didn't Joseph say anything?" First of all, how could one find a particular rotting corpse in a sea of anonymous graves? Furthermore, why could he not have believed Jesus rose, simply not from the tomb?

In short, each of his defenses have come short.






I thank Con, again, for issuing this challenge.

As Con did not respond to a single one of my arguments supporting the Resurrection of Jesus (found at the end of my first round argument), I extend them all into the next round.
When I said that Con has to provide evidence that his is the right answer, it was to indicate that he has to provide solid evidence that we should accept his interpretation as the superior one. He has to provide evidence why we should accept his interpretation. I have provided solid reasoning as to why we should reject his interpretation, and I will defend it again at the relevant part of this rebuttal. Again, his only reason to reject the Resurrection account is that miracles can't happen. He is still begging the question. He has not proven that they can't.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of miracles Con has provided is problematic. C.S. Lewis once wrote, "I use the word Miracle to mean an interference with Nature by a supernatural power." [1] In fact, miracles are explicable by natural laws. God works within nature to produce seemingly supernatural results (e.g. God didn't just part the red sea for Moses, He sent a mighty wind to part it; Jesus wasn't just born of a virgin, God created a spermatozoan and impregnated Mary with him, etc.). God works within natural law to produce what we perceive as miraculous results.

I was not poisoning the well with my statement about the statement I made. It's simply not true. For example, if I told you I have a brown dog with four legs and a long tail, you would likely not question me at all. This is because you have seen many dogs before and know that it is probable that I have such a canine. However, if I told you I had a purple dog with six legs and two tails, you would rightly require evidence. What evidence? All I would have to do is show you the dog. You would require the same kind of evidence as if I had a normal dog. Extraordinary claims require ordinary evidence, just like everything else. If I lost my keys due to a key gnome, all you would have to do is see the key gnome to know it exists.
Again, the supernatural account is not nebulous at all; it is quite specific. If there are any other religions claiming a supernatural Resurrection, then they should be given the same scrutiny as the Biblical account of the Resurrection. However, the Biblical account holds up historically. There is no reason to reject it out of hand unless you begin by begging the question, that miracles can't happen.

1. Rotting corpse.

We know from the Scriptures that Jesus' wounds were not healed when He rose. After all, when He met the disciples in the upper room, He allowed Thomas, who doubted Christ actually rose, to see the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side where the spear pierced him to make sure he was actually dead. It is not clear if any of the other wounds He suffered prior to being crucified were healed or not. It certainly would be within His power to heal them if He can make Himself rise again. However, there is no reason from the texts (that I can recall) that states any of his other wounds were healed. Claiming that Jesus' body had started to show signs of decay doesn't discredit the Resurrection account. In fact, the Jewish leaders expected to see Jesus' body again. They had allowed Joseph of Arimethea to hold the body in the tomb for three days so the disciples couldn't steal the body and claim that He rose. They would have a body to produce if anyone tried to claim that.

2. Fallibility of memory/problem of eyewitness testimony.

Con is under the mistaken impression that Matthew's account of the Resurrection is a clear fabrication. It is not. A) The Jewish leaders did not order Pilate around. Joseph asked for the body and Pilate gave it to him. The Jewish leaders called Pilate "sir" and asked for someone to guard the tomb, and Pilate gave it to him. B) They absolutely had a reason to. The reason is made clear in the text: "Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first" (Matt. 27:63-64).

Many extrabiblical writers mention Jesus, and some even talk about the crucifixion. "The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property." [2]

Again, the events recorded in Scripture were passed down and orally given so that they would not be forgotten until they were finally committed to scroll. They were not simply recounted twenty or so years later. Additionally, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God. God would not have allowed the events to have been remembered incorrectly. Of course, one can only accept this if you accept the existence of God, but if the Resurrection account is true (as historical scrutiny shows is very likely), then the existence of God naturally follows.

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?

I have not been asserting anything. If the Resurrection happened (a miraculous event), then it is altogether likely that other supernatural happenings occur. I repeat that Con is begging the question. Also, when Jesus left their presence, He did reveal Himself to them. So his argument about Jesus wanting them to spread the word is irrelevant, because they knew they had been visited by Jesus when He left. Also, Jesus was not a ghost. He ate solid food in their presence and offered to let Thomas touch His wounds. A demon did not create the mirage because we know that Jesus' body was gone -- no one was able to produce the body to quash the new Christian movement. The Resurrection happened.
Con is simply talking in circles when he claims not to discount the supernatural from happening. He claims supernatural events are less likely because they are supernatural, but offers no evidence that supernatural events don't occur. He is using circular reasoning. I have shown, historically, why the Resurrection account is historically valid.

4. Alternate scenario.

It is actually Con who has likely never actually read the source I am defending (earlier he claimed the Jewish leaders would have had no reason to place a guard at the tomb of Jesus -- clearly false). Also, in Matt. 27, we see that Joseph asks Pilate for the body of Jesus and then buries it in the large tomb, supporting my case and not Con's. Joseph left the body in the tomb; he didn't relocate it without telling anyone. The guards are mentioned just a few verses later at the end of the chapter.

I have provided evidence that the Resurrection is historically reliable which Con has not refuted. I have also refuted all of Con's alleged evidence. It is clear that the Resurrection of Jesus is a historically probable event.

[1] Lewis, Clive Staples, Miracles, p. 5.
[2] Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, 1113, in The Works of Lucian of Samosata, transl. by H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1949), vol. 4, as cited in Habermas, Gary R., The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, (Joplin, MO: College Press Publishing Company) 1996.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent charges that I haven't answered a single argument from him, and yet he either evades or miscomprehends each and every point I've made. The fact is that given the natural explanations for the evidence present, the supernatural is the lesser probable and thus discarded. I don't have to prove my scenario is what actually DID happen- that I don't believe we can even know for sure. What we CAN however determine is what DIDN'T- or at the very least what is the least probable explanation which means the resurrection would not be historically supported. He still claims that I have said miracles cannot happen when not once have I made such a claim. It is a fact however, that miracles are not common- otherwise they'd be everyday occurrences. Would one consider walking a dog a miracle? Supernatural is, however, an unproven entity- one my opponent has to assume for the resurrection. He essentially switches from it bing possible to it being necessarily existing for his argument to work- a switch that is entirely unwarranted. Given its unproven nature as well as the fact that miracle is by definition the least probable given the fact that if it were probable and common occurrences then we wouldn't be having this conversation. If miracles were common then bodies would be resurrected from the graves after 3 or however many days. Of course we don't see that. In fact we understand the biology through scientific means that in fact point to such things being impossible.

In his contention against my definition of miracles (which are by Oxford) he claims they are explicable. He posits other biblical claims to support his point, though he doesn't realize that none of his examples show natural miracles, but supernatural. It doesn't help either, that his examples are also myths.

I do think that our contention on "extraordinary evidence" is more of a semantic than significant disagreement. I would consider a six-legged, 2 tailed dog to be extraordinary evidence, and this would go along with an actual key gnome. However, the key point is that we don't have that same level of evidence for resurrection. My opponent has, in his defense of resurrection from other religions and other supernatural clams has switched to resurrection specifically to make it seem as if the claim has enjoyed such extraordinary evidence that other religions do not have for their supernatural claims. It seems he is doggedly sticking the strawman of "miracles can't happen" on me.

1. Rotting corpse.

Quite simply, he doesn't address the core problem that the argument points out, and instead argues that this is not a problem since Jesus would have the power to do so. What he doesn't realize is that an argument that essentially presupposes its conclusion for it to hold up does not make it a good argument. To one who does NOT assume the supernatural but allows its possibility without making it a necessary feature, seeing such a dimension being abused as such strikes me as a cop-out than an actual rebuttal.

2. Fallibility of memory/poblem of eyewitness testimony
My opponent doesn't seem to understand the inherent flaw in holding such a clear fabrication of the Roman guards by Matthew. He charges that A) they did not order Pilate around, and B) he had said he would. However the problem is of history. The entire point of crucifying an insurrectionist is to put down the movement. If it were so easily deflected as Matthew claims the process would not been implemented to begin with. Not to mention a resurrection was not part of the Messianic prophesy. Then there's the problem of history. Just exactly how would have Matthew, or any of the disciples known of this meeting? In fact, how would they have known the Roman guards fled in terror, or that that later they were paid off to keep quiet, or of anything regarding the roman guards or of the pharisee involvement therein? The fact is that the Roman guards do not appear in any other sources. Not in anything by St. Paul, considered one of the earliest Christian writings, or in any of the gospels. In fact, the roman guards only appear in Matthew. In history this fails to meet the criteria of independent corroboration. On the other hand we also have a clear motive for Matthew in fabricating such evidence to in fact combat the claims of stolen body.

That being said, he uses my contention with matthew to pretend as if the crucifixion and Jesus himself were not independently corroborated when clearly this is clearly not the case.

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?
My opponent has yet to actually argue against the meat of the argument, instead of clinging unwarrantedly onto the belief that the gospels are to be accepted uncritically as robust, offering such examples as the Doubting Thomas story. Again historically this suffers from it being the only account that purports this tale. There is also the problem of it being from the gospel of John- the latest and thus the least reliable of the gospels. My opponent charges that I claim "supernatural events are less likely because they are supernatural, but offers no evidence that supernatural events don't occur". However, this is simply attempting to shift the burden of proof. It is up to my opponent to prove the supernatural exists, and that it DOES happen not for me to disprove a mere possibility that I recognize. The fact is that his defense of the resurrection includes anecdotes and stories that are either explainable through natural means, or they are fabrications or tales created or theological reasons.

4. Alternate scenario
Pro has quite simply failed to meet the historical criteria and instead attempts to shift it onto me. The fact is that the entire roman guards plot involves such contrivances do not help his case whatsoever. To further put the nail to this myth is the disciples' reactions to Jesus's apparition; Luke 24:37. Why would those who expected jesus to rise from the dead become "started and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost"? My opponent's defense of the resurrection simply fails at every point. On the other hand, he has failed to even address the question of faulty memory. To further emphasize my opponent's failure to address my scenario is his claim that it's simply people recounting stories 20 years later, in my opening post I stated that "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."



Con continues to ignore my arguments in support of the Resurrection. As such I extend them forward. As a reminder, the evidences I provided in the very first round are: Jesus was actually dead, the empty tomb, appearances, testimonies, low status of women, and immediate proclamation, all of which continue to go un-challenged.

Con continues with his question-begging defense of his naturalistic explanation. What's worse is that Con doesn't even realize he's begging the question. The evidence points to the Resurrection occurring, and his reason for denying it is we should come up with an alternate explanation because a supernatural explanation makes it the least likely occurrence. This is begging the question that miracles or supernatural events cannot occur. Con has yet to show that they can't. The historical evidence supports the Resurrection so anyone interested in pursuing truth should accept the probability that it actually occurred.

Con asserts that if miracles were to be believed, they should be common occurrences. But this would negate the power of miracles. Miracles don't happen every day; they are special occurrences. But miracles being rare does not mean they don't happen. In fact, if you don't believe in God, then you believe in the largest miracle of all. Namely, that this universe and humanity can arise through natural processes which is a mathematical impossibility. The odds against evolution happening by pure chance are 1 by 3 million zeros (which fills fifteen pages with zeros). [1]

His assertion that the parting of the Red Sea, and Jesus being born of a virgin, are myths further illustrates his question-begging against miracles. They are, however, poignant evidence that Oxford's definition of miracles do not line up with the Bible's depiction of miracles.

There seems to be no winning with Con. I have illustrated that extraordinary claims require ordinary evidence. The same evidence given to support an ordinary claim can be used to prove extraordinary claims. In this case, historical scrutiny to prove the Resurrection.

1. Rotting corpse.

It is irrelevant that Con doesn't accept my answer. The fact of the matter remains that a God who can bring a man back from the dead can certainly keep the body from seeing decay. In fact, we are told at other points in Scripture (e.g. Acts 2:31) that Christ's body did not see decay. Con again begs the question regarding miracles.

2. Fallibility of memory/problem of eyewitness testimony.

I thoroughly explained how Con's assertions about Matthew are mistaken in my previous round. Con did nothing to support his assertions in this round. Jesus was not crucified to quash a movement. The Christian movement had not yet begun. Jesus was crucified because of blasphemy. He was crucified because He claimed to be God, and the Jews sought to kill Him at other times but had to settle for waiting for the crucifixion. The Resurrection was part of Messianic prophecy (see Psalm 2:7 and 16:10, cf. Acts 2:30-31, 13:35; Psalm 2, cf. Acts 13:33-34, Hebrews 1:5). Con continues to show his ignorance of that which he is attacking. Perhaps he should start approaching the Scriptures with an open mind instead of making his mind up and approaching the Scriptures with bias already in hand.

There is another document that recounts the guard at the tomb, the pseudepigrapha Gospel of Peter. [2] However, even if only one document claims this, it doesn't make it false. None of the other Gospels directly contradict this account.

There could be many explanations for how Matthew knew about the conversations he wasn't directly privy to. Of course, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, so one answer is that God inspired the words of Matthew just like he inspired Moses to write the book of Genesis, which are events that Moses didn't witness. However, it is obvious that this explanation won't convince someone who doesn't believe in God. There are natural possibilities, as well. For example, perhaps Matthew interviewed those in question as to what actually transpired. Perhaps some who were present later became believers. I don't think we can know for sure. But the fact is they are there, and the events can be historically shown as probable. Historical scrutiny reveals that the Resurrection is a historically probable event.

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?

Con completely ignores the facts that the Gospels were either written by eyewitnesses (Matthew and John), or close associates of eyewitnesses (Mark and Luke). John is not an unreliable Gospel, despite being the last written, because he was an eyewitness to these events.

In fact, we can be confident that the early Christians who wrote, wrote truthfully and made sure not to include any false information in their writings. After all, they included many unflattering things about themselves and the disciples in the books. They were not exaggerating matters. They wrote things as they happened. If your contention is that they didn't remember things correctly, it will require actual evidence. Not just an assertion that it "could have" happened, but you have to show that it did happen. By methods of historical scrutiny, the Gospels are reliable and show that the Resurrection did, in fact, happen.

4. Alternate scenario.

I guess credit should be given to Con for sticking to his guns despite the overwhelming evidence against his view. First, I have not shifted the burden of proof. The burden of proof was his to begin with. He has not met his burden of proof and has failed to show any reasonable alternative to the Resurrection account.

Con is partially correct. No one was expecting Christ to rise, not even the disciples who walked with Him for three years. This is why they didn't believe at first, and Thomas said he wouldn't believe unless he saw the holes in his hands, feet, and side. However, he did see and believed. This just goes to show their unbelief, and the misunderstand of the Messianic prophecies relating to Christ's resurrection. However, this is also support for the Resurrection as I contended in the first round and Con did not refute. The change in attitude of the disciples after seeing the resurrected Christ is strong support for the fact that it actually happened.

In fact, in this round Con seems to have dropped his contention that Joseph of Arimathea moved the body (which has no basis in history or reason). As such, I think it can be safely shown that the Resurrection happened, and Con has severely failed to meet his burden of proof.

I look forward to our last round.

[1] Huxley, Julian, Evolution in Action, p. 46. Note that Julian Huxley is an arch-defender of Evolution.
[2] So B. A. Johnson, 'The Empty Tomb in the Gospel of Peter Related to Mt. 28.1-7' (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1966), p. 17.
Debate Round No. 3


My opponent continues to charge me as aving ignored his argument for resurrection all the while ignoring the impetus of my argument that is evidence have natural alternative explanations than one he attempts to buttress. Jesus being dead followed by the empty tomb resulting in appearances and testimonies and the proclamations do not in fact narrow the possibilities down to resurrection alone. It is simple fact that human perception as well as the limit of history itself does not and cannot establish such a wild stance.

The Pro continues to erroneously accuse me beginning with the position that the supernatural does not exist/that miracles cannot happen. However, I've consistently denied this and in fact only pointed out that they are by definition improbable- a fact my opponent both denies and affirms. What's more, my opponent attempts to shift the burden of proof with regards to the existence of the supernatural upon me instead of bearing his burden that he bears upon claiming its existence. I have not denied its existence and have stated it to be a possibility even if it were less probable than natural occurrences. This he implicitly agreed with upon claiming that "[c]on asserts that if miracles were to be believed, they should be common occurrences. But this would negate the power of miracles. Miracles don't happen every day; they are special occurrences." Of course they are special occurrences. Of course they're rare- and that's the point! That is WHY they are deemed in lower probabilities than natural occurrences and explanations!

My opponent further digs himself in a whole by throwing about strawman of evolution and cosmology by throwing about ridiculous numbers regarding them and thereby showing their improbabilities. Not only is this a red herring, they are clearly false given not only the scientific consensus evolution enjoys despite being one of the most tested of theories, his numbers are based on dishonest basis of picking odds of all events of evolution occurring exactly at such a point to lead to this exact point- something that no evolutionary biologists posit and no biologists even purport to be necessary. The fallacy in tat reasoning lies in the sense that it makes every action or event statistically impossible. One would have to have woken up at that exact time to have done this exact thing followed by other such exact action to have flipped that exact card- breathed the exact air etc. which would similarly derive such absurd conclusions. What is most important with regards to this is that in the end it's nothing more than a red herring argument that obscures the weak foundations of the resurrection hypothesis.

My opponent claims that my calling the parting of red sea and the virgin birth to be myths to be simply me question begging, when in reality they are not supported by history. My opponent claims to have demonstrated that ordinary evidence can be used to demonstrate an extraordinary claim. In previous rounds he demonstrated "ordinary evidence" to be the likes of a key demon for evidence of key demons stealing keys. Where where is it equivalent for the resurrection? Where is the living Jesus?

1. Rotting corpse
My opponent consistently fails to note the extra suspension of disbelief one has to go through for us to believe in a walking corpse. He simply hand-waves away this problem without so much as a blink the same way a comicbook handwaves away a superhero's vulnerability.

2. Fallibility of memory/proem of eyewitness testimony.
My opponent has consistently failed to address the problem of Matthw's clear fabrication of the Roman Guards being placed at the tomb, from him or his anonymous sources clearly being impossible to have caught such a clandestine meeting between the Pharisees and Pilate, to the illogic and ultimately contradictory point of the placement of the guards (if the pharisees knew Jesus were to be resurrected and Jesus had said so himself, why didn't his own disciples know?). Having a more detailed account by a pseudepigrapha written over a century later doesn't change this core fact. Gospels agree the first to see the empty tomb would be the women who in the gospels happen upon the stone rolled away. My opponent agrees that he doesn't know how Matthew or Peter could have known such information, so instead he simply asserts more supernatural inspiration, then simply claiming this to be historically rigorous. This isn't a defense but assertions after assertions which he simply makes all the while assuming the supernatural which he now all the more needs for his hypothesis to work- the same supernatural which he has not once demonstrated to exist. I have not denied it- I have simply rationally placed it as being improbable, not impossibe. This fact he conceded in calling it rare events.

3.Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?
My opponent continues his tradition of assertions in claiming the gospls were written by close associates of eyewitnesses or eyewitnesses themselves, and in doing so ignoring the vast majority of historical consensus on the issue. John was written at the earliest in 90AD which makes him over 100 years old at the time of writing. That makes him old in today's rate of life expectancy- a day and age firmly ensconced in the great escalation of longevity which human history has only experienced in recent times. He also ignores various other critical scholarship between the interdependence of texts of the synoptic gospels that point to Matthew, Luke and John essentially containing large chunks of each other in their works. In arguing that I require evidence of faulty memory- a common occurrence- my opponent not only ignores the crux of my argument but also applies an absurd double standard in his defense. He doesn't require an ounce of evidence for even the existence of supernatural, but requires one for something that occurs so often that it is a problem as outlined by Stanford Journal of Legal Studies that I've outlined in my opening post. The fact that my opponent has not once been able to accurately address my scenario as well as the objections outlined only proves to be his undoing, not mine.

4. Alternate scenario.
My opponent claims I've failed to bear my burden of proof when any burden I did have, I bore. I did not make the claim that my possible scenario is what happened- rather that it provided an alternate explanation to how the events could have transpired. My opponent on the other hand continues his assertions after assertions with the rigour of a bad comic book simply waving a magic wand of supernaturalism at every objection. In this case, why couldn't it be that the whole thing was a trick of memory by an evil demon? Jesus died, but his body was destroyed by the demon who took his form and tricked everyone they encountered. Therein lies the problem of supernatural and of his attempt at defending the resurrection.

He further contradicts himself in that apparently the pharisees and the Roman authorities knew of Jesus resurrecting (should he have in fact said it) while his closest confidantes did not. It's puzzling that my opponent does not question one iota of his own sources while applying much to my objections. He further misunderstands my position in claiming that I've dropped by contention of Joseph of Arimethea moving the body. I have not. My opponent has simply failed to apply the same rigour with regards to the Roman Guards which I've refuted.

All in all my opponent has simply made assertions to support his position of resurrection. My opponent failed from a historical view.


Once again, I thank Con for this challenge and interesting debate.

As this is our last round, I will not make any new arguments. I will simply rebut any remaining arguments.

First, let me reinforce my own. I have mentioned several times that he completely ignores my arguments supporting the resurrection of Christ. He has failed to meet his burden of proof in this debate. I will remind you of my arguments.

1. Jesus was actually dead. Con conceded this point.

2. The empty tomb. Con again conceded this.

3. Appearances. Con has not responded to this. The fact that Jesus appeared to over 500 people, and 500 of those people were all at the same was not a coincidence, and anyone who remembered things incorrectly could surely be set straight.

4. Testimonies. Con did not respond to this at all. The fact that there was a drastic life change in the disciples supports the resurrection occurred and that Jesus, post-resurrection, appeared to His disciples.

5. Low status of women. Con did not respond to this at all. The fact that women were not reliable witnesses and yet were mentioned as the first witnesses to this event proves that events happened as recorded. If they wanted to strengthen their case, they would have written that men were the primary witnesses.

6. Immediate proclamation. Con barely responded to this, and his ad hoc response was thoroughly unconvincing. Joseph of Arimathea did not move the body, and the disciples couldn't have stolen it. The fact that the disciples immediately started proclaiming Jesus' death and resurrection in the same city He was crucified in proves the resurrection happened. If it didn't, the Jews or Romans could have produced the body to quash Christianity before it began.

The resurrection is a historically probable event. Con has done nothing to disprove my arguments, and his arguments against the resurrection are sketchy, at best.

I have continually pointed out and shown that Con is begging the question by claiming another explanation is more probable. He starts from the premise that miracles can't happen, which he illustrates in his stance that a naturalistic explanation is more probable simply on the basis that it's naturalistic. On top of that, his "naturalistic" explanation just doesn't fit the facts.
I will finish by responding to Con's remaining arguments.

1. Rotting corpse.

This does not require a suspension of disbelief. If a supernatural event occurred and Jesus rose from the dead, it is not a stretch to believe that Jesus' body was kept from decaying any further than it had when He died.

2. Fallibility of memory/problem of eyewitness testimony.

I have not failed to address any problem in Matthew's account. In fact, I have shown how it is probable. The problem results in the fact that Con has no evidence to the contrary, he is merely asserting that they could have remembered things incorrectly. This is merely an assertion, especially since the major facts are all attested to in multiple Gospel accounts.

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?

It is possible that John was written in 90 AD, but this shouldn't matter. If John had been written that late, that in itself would not make it unreliable. It is not uncommon for other records from antiquity -- which critics accept -- to be written centuries after the events about which they speak (e.g. the earliest life of Alexander the Great was written 200 years later, yet it is used by historians as a reliable source of information).

Theologian Norman Geisler mentions: " testimonial or documentary evidence contradicts the explicit claims to be an eyewitness of what Jesus said and did. John records: "This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true." (John 21:24). In context the statement clearly identifies the author as the apostle John. There is no evidence to the contrary, so the prima facie case for an authentic gospel is strong. [1]
I have not used a double standard. There are other arguments used to prove the probability of the supernatural. That was not the focus of this debate. The focus of this debate is whether or not the resurrection of Christ is historically probable. It clearly is.

4. Alternate scenario.

I have already shown how Con's alternate scenario has serious problems. While it showed a possible scenario, it wasn't a very good one and it certainly didn't live up to the facts. The resurrection of Christ clearly has greater explanatory power than Con's alternate scenario did.

Just one further clarification before I close. The disciples knew that Jesus claimed He was going to rise again. But they didn't believe it, because Jewish faith didn't believe in a resurrection. Christ surprised them by resurrecting. But because Jesus had made an earlier claim, that "in three days I will destroy this building and raise it up again" (referring to His body, His death and resurrection), that statement was used against Jesus at His trial. Then, so that the disciples wouldn't steal His body and claim a resurrection, Pilate allowed the tomb to be sealed with a giant stone and a Roman guard to be placed there. Nothing contradictory in my argument.

It is clear that the resurrection of Christ is a historically probable event. Not only has Con thoroughly failed in rebutting my argument laid out in round one, he has failed to meet his burden of proof in spades. I would urge the readers to vote based on the arguments and rebuttals presented, not on your own personal biases.

[1] Geisler, Norman L., The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 389.
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
so about the roman guards...
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
//The point pro was making was that it was too heavy for one person to lift by himself. He had to have some help (presumably from the guards).//
there were no guards. he has no way of knowing except by of course "supernatural means" which points out how he uses it as a cop-out than an actual defense. Besides, it was his tomb he could have gotten his helpers or something. he was known to be one holding a high position.
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
I didn't refute them because I didn't need to. They don't add up to a resurrection and my alternate scenario were to point out how all of the 5 points could have had natural and therefore more probable causes and explanations.
Posted by Microsuck 6 years ago
//2. He could not have rolled away the stone;//
//why not? it was his own tomb.//

The point pro was making was that it was too heavy for one person to lift by himself. He had to have some help (presumably from the guards).
Posted by Microsuck 6 years ago
Pro's arguments were equally non-compelling. He offered several proves to give proof that Jesus rose from the dead:

1) The empty tomb
2) Appearances
3) Testimonies
4) Low status of women
5) Immediate proclamation

I have read the debate and con did not refute ANY of these arguments. This should immediately lose him the debate for that fact there.
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
//1. Joseph couldn't have taken the body because no one knew about it;//
actually I did address it. Joseph knew about it because he asked for the body and it was his tomb.

//2. He could not have rolled away the stone;//
why not? it was his own tomb.

//3. There was a massive event that caused the guards great fear--it seems unlikely that he would have brought fear.//
I pointed out the guards were demonstrated to be fabrications with no historical backings.
Posted by Microsuck 6 years ago

3. Con's alternate scenario.

This is the only scenario which I find somewhat compelling. Con points out several holes in this argument:

1. Joseph couldn't have taken the body because no one knew about it;
2. He could not have rolled away the stone;
3. There was a massive event that caused the guards great fear--it seems unlikely that he would have brought fear.

Con did not attack point 2-3; just point 1 which looses him the point.

Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
but that is simply assuming something he has not proven. in fact his whole argument hinges on this very assumption which he simply glosses over as an obvious truth which he has not validated.
Posted by Microsuck 6 years ago
This debate has been an interesting read; though I think pro wins the debate on arguments alone.

Con's main arguments were as follows:
1. Rotting corpses

I do not find this argument convincing. For one, if God were to be all powerful, he can simply preserve the body of Jesus for the resurrection day. Pro ignored this fact at first, which was a shame. However, in the end he notes: "If a supernatural event occurred and Jesus rose from the dead, it is not a stretch to believe that Jesus' body was kept from decaying any further than it had when He died." Pro wins this point.

II. Fallacy of Testimony
This argument shows that testimonies are generally invalid. I also do not find this argument convincing for, if the Bible is inspired, then it doesn't matter whether or not testimonies are fallacious. Con points out that it was such a huge event that it almost seems impossible to have many independent claims of Jesus' appearance proving the resurrection.

--To be continued--
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
i hate it when i run out of room
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Microsuck 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Sorry con, though I agree with you; pro wins the debate. I'll analyze in comments.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: CON used a large portion of his argument on alternative scenarios, which where proven by PRO to he highly flawed and false, unlikely, etc. CON kept trying to dodge PRO's arguments on the corpse, PRO at least tried to argue with CON's response, hence pro wins here too. The fallibility argument was tied, both seemed to do well here. The argument by con (3) was flawed as if one miracle occurs, as pro shows, it is likely other ones happen too, pro wins the point. PRO won the debate.