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Is the resurrection of Jesus historically probable?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/25/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,901 times Debate No: 21512
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (10)
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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.



1. Rotting corpse

i don't get it.

2. The fallibility of memory/problem of eyewitness testimony

this is a possibility but not reality. there is no evidence that such kind of thing happen to those guards.

3. Gospel evidence of sightings or trickery of memory?

this is i think it is possible if you bring supernatural to the picture.

all the gospel stories and resurrection is possible if you let supernatural power enter the picture because such thing is not possible naturally.

i don't find a reason why we should not bring supernatural to the picture.

science considers a possibility of existance of extraterrestrial beings (et). these beings according to science, have supernatural powers. if we substitute angels with et or if we consider angels = et, we can find meaning and the truth of resurrection event.

Gospel evidence of sightings may be true. it may also be done by an et with the help advance power they possess.

therefore the resurrection was done by ets and this event is true.

Debate Round No. 1


1. My opponent claims he doesn't understand the rotting corpse argument, but he doesn't clarify. What exactly doesn't make sense about it? The point was that it's another hurdle that my oppont must make in explaining not only a resurrected body but one that has been rotting for a while. It's another level of implausibility that my opponent needs to demonstrate as the most probable. Given such hurdles it's a difficult task- one my opponent evidently has not yet undertaken.

2. My opponent cites the Roman guards at the entrance of the tomb as claimed by Matthew. However, this little factoid has no basis in history since it is not mentioned anywhere else- biblical or not. In fact, Matthew is the only one who ever makes such a claim. Given his propensity to make up stories (the herod's killing of babies for example) and the motivation as way to counter the argument that the body was stolen, one could put this falsehood to bed. My opponent also concedes that it is a possibility which automatically puts it as at the very least a possible explanation. Given its natural status it is more probable than the supernatural which has no basis and yet is crucial for the resurrection.

3. My opponent claims there's no reason why we should not bring supernatural to the picture, which simply points to him not having read my post in which it states why: "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." He then claims that extraterrestrials are supernatural, but he simply claims this without support.

In the end he ultimately concedes that my arguments are quite possible, ultimately as outlined in my opening statement making it more probable than the supernatural.


bible is the only source of information about biblical event. you cannot judge biblical event without considering bible. so if you dismiss bible and yetto judge biblical event then this is a worthless debate.

besides supernaturals are against natural law, vague etc. how far science is able to understand nature? science does not know many mysteries on earth. it terms them as unexplained mystery. today science cannot understand supernatural, in future it will many scientific invention of today was a supernatural thing in yesterday ?

Debate Round No. 2


My opponent has failed to address any of my points and claims that I dismiss the bible. However, I have not done so. I take into account the bible and in fact most of my points in the alternate hypothesis is FROM the bible. My only contention is that its claim to supernatural is not in fact established and that to take that claim over the natural is folly.

What does science and technology leading to effects that, to those ignorant to it may seem supernatural have to do with the supernatural? In fact, his point supports mine, that they mistook a natural occurrence (misremembeing key details etc.) for a bona fide supernatural.


xxx200 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


warpedfx forfeited this round.


xxx200 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
oh I suppose that really helps with the whole point of Jesus showing his wounds to Thomas? You know, the whole point of it being where Jesus proved it was him by showing him the wounds he had suffered during the passion?
Posted by GenesisCreation 6 years ago
I had a good laugh reading this. Con is drawing a parallel between zombies and the resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus said:"Behold, I make all things new."

Con's argument is more like:"Behold, I return with a rotting meat-suit."

Christ said he would rebuild the temple, not slip back into a broken, bloated corpse.

Pro, you need to educate him with extreme prejudice. Our lord is far more precious than this base reduction.

Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
ya know really, that's not my problem. We have tons of people trying to use history to prove that the resurrection occurred. I've provided my reasons as to why history does not. History is dealt with terms of probability and plausibility. how do you ascertain that the supernatural is more probable than the natural? there is no strawman here.
Posted by Yep 6 years ago
Historic in nature but not scientific? Natural vs Supernatural is the basis of science, what is natural is proven, what is supernatural either has not been proven or seems too far-fetched to be applicable. How exactly do you justify if Jesus' resurrection is historically probable with no scientific evidence to back it up (from pro's stance)? Eye witness testaments from recent events have been lost, so expecting to find an "eyewitness" from two millennium ago is just plain ridiculous. Your first argument was a rotting corpse, historically speaking everything proven has been proven by science. As Genesis said, there is no absolute (in terms of history), and thus this debate strongly favors the negative. I feel bad for anyone who accepts this. Science, would be the absolute, but the there's two problems 1) Negative wins on scientific grounds automatically because nothing has been proven and 2) Negative contradicts himself by bringing science when con states quote "my argument is historical in nature not scientific" which once again makes no sense. Elaborate on these points and prove this debate isn't a straw-man, then maybe someone will accept.
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
logicrules history is evaluated based on probabilities, no?
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
GenesisCreation my argument is historical in nature not scientific. if there's a natural alternative explanation, even a possible one then the supernatural loses out automatically.

ReformedArsenal could you elaborate please?
Posted by logicrules 6 years ago
Historically probable? Amazing.
Posted by GenesisCreation 6 years ago
Strawman debate. There is historical evidence, but nothing that can be observed, tested and repeated. Of course nobody could prove this. Con is relying on the lack of absolution to gain an easy advantage. Strawman debate. Very weak.
Posted by ReformedArsenal 6 years ago
Are we accepting the general historicity of the New Testament?
Posted by Microsuck 6 years ago
Im tempted to play devil's advocate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: FF