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Did hundreds of people see the resurrected Jesus?

Okay, so I was debating religion for the first time ever. The major point I had trouble arguing against was that “Hundreds of people saw Jesus’ resurrection.” I tried to counter this with saying how unreliable eyewitness accounts can be and about how initial “fact” can be warped into rumors and wild accounts of certain happenings. The teacher I debated with essentially believes in the whole thing due to this one account where there were supposedly 100’s of eyewitnesses.

I also thought it was odd that my teacher got into this discussion. She talked about her three years of theological studies and how she’s basically “correct” because I haven’t studied religion for multiple years. In my opinion, rational analysis does not require years of studying. What would be your reply to this type of slight?

Thanks for helping me. I’m hoping to get in some more intense debate tomorrow!

Posted: March 25th 2008

Eric_PK

Well, first of all, there are lots of incidents in which lots of people have seen something that wasn’t there, as part of a mass delusion. There’s a good overview of some of the more notable ones here

So, just because a group of people all say they saw something does not mean that it’s true.

Second, what we have is not hundreds of eyewitness reports about Jesus’ resurrection. We have one report that is claiming that there were hundreds of eyewitnesses, but clearly that has no more weight than a single report. I can write that 30 people saw me teleport at lunch today, but would you believe that? Or, to put it another way, if it is true, one value report is enough.

Interestingly, I did find that there is another historical figure that has eyewitness sightings that number in the thousands after his untimely death, providing much better evidence than that for the resurrection of Jesus.

He also has a vast legion of followers, some of who refer to him using the term “King”.

But though it is of higher quality, I don’t find the evidence for his resurrection particularly compelling.

Posted: March 27th 2008

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SmartLX www

The primary purpose of the Bible is to convince people that God and Jesus existed. Anything else it tries to do (moral advice, condemnation of figures like Herod) requires the authority it gains if you believe that basic point. It doesn’t automatically follow that all claims in the Bible are fabricated to support the point, but it’s always a possibility.

Paul says five hundred people saw Jesus after his death. Who were they? Whose “brethren” were they? Were they interviewed? How many people nowadays have seen Elvis after his death?

Was it really Jesus? How many of the five hundred had seen Jesus before and would have identified an impostor?

Some people accept that Jesus was resurrected simply because they’re told (or they read) only that. Some people go one step further and accept it based on parts of the Bible which corroborate the story. This isn’t much better, because it means they accept the other parts just as quickly. (In this case, Paul is used to support John, Luke et al, but who supports Paul?) A lot of people accept the resurrection without any support and then go looking for Biblical backup when they want to convince other people.

It all depends on acceptance of the truth of a single compilation of 66 like-minded stories, which were culled from over 400 potential “books”. The editors would have made darn sure that they back each other up. The real question is what credibility any of them has.

Posted: March 27th 2008

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George Locke

You write, “She talked about her three years of theological studies and how she’s basically “correct” because I haven’t studied religion for multiple years. In my opinion, rational analysis does not require years of studying. What would be your reply to this type of slight?” She’s assuming the stance of an argument from authority (see here). It’s a common ploy. The strength of her position is essentially that she has seen more of the evidence. The best response is to ask to see the evidence so that you can make your own analysis and confirm hers.

Teachers are commonly treated as reliable sources of information, rightly so in most cases, and it stands to reason that your teacher might expect to have her words taken 'on faith’. Nevertheless, there are many authorities who believe that Jesus never even existed, and she can’t simply demand that you accept her authority over theirs.

It’s true that eyewitness reports are often inaccurate, but what’s much more prone to error is hearsay as to what others have seen. If you had hundreds of definitely attributed eyewitness accounts that would be much more convincing. Whatever the 'one account’ was, before its claims may be assessed you should also establish the provenance for the document itself.

Posted: March 27th 2008

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bitbutter www

I suppose your teacher is referring to what Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians.

After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

Here Paul appears to be claiming that there are still many living eye witnesses who saw the resurrected Jesus. Unfortunately we only seem to have his word for it, we have no independent records from any of these witnesses.

Perhaps your teacher will insist that Paul (or whoever wrote this passage attributed to Paul) is likely to have been telling the truth because if those eye witnesses were still alive, then his story could be checked by asking those witnesses about it.

This objection doesn’t work though, because Paul does not specify who the witnesses are. So even if a Corinthian did make the long journey (about a thousand kilometers) to Jerusalem to check the claim, when he arrived he still would not be able to verify it.

Posted: March 27th 2008

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themodestagnostic

I often point out that Thomas got to see Jesus even though he was a disciple, had served with him for three years and had been witness to all sorts of miracles in that period.

It seems strange that the contemporaries of Jesus get personal visitations, but those of us born thousands of years after these events must rely on the dubious testimony of credulous and superstitious people. Although, I agree with you that the “witness” of the ancients is near useless when it comes to the miraculous, accept it at face value and then try and turn the “positive” on its head. Paul, Thomas and 100’s of others get a personal introduction to Jesus divinity, why can’t I, why can’t your teacher?

There is no biblical prohibition against this, just some general observations about it “being more blessed to believe without seeing”. Handy that:-/

Posted: March 27th 2008

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