Thursday, November 18, 2010

Resurrection Debunked in Eight Easy Steps? Part 3

Longtime reader “Tophet” sent me some interesting notes from the perspective of legal apologetics that I’d like to edit and offer as a further discussion point on Hallquist’s 8-step argument. Tophet’s special interest is in legal apologetics, and his observations relates to jurisprudence (the branch of science that examines the veracity of human testimony, and the presentation of facts and prood, as part of the study of law). For today, we’ll share Tophet’s observations on the first four points. (I’ll also have a note in close answering a reader query.)

There is no evidence for the resurrection outside the Bible.

Yes, there is. It's called the empty tomb. We can also added the existence of the Christian movement as a whole (which is part of my TIF thesis). Perhaps if this means, “there is no literary evidence” it is correct (and also, if it expands “Bible” to mean also “Christian testimony,” eg, the church fathers).

Of course, the Skeptic will have alternate explanations for these things, but properly speaking, they are called into court as “evidence” for the Resurrection in any case made for it. The critic must also deal with the fact that hostile parties do not testify against the Resurrection: By this summary point, “there is no evidence against the Resurrection in any text” is just as strong an assertion.

There is little evidence that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, or based directly on eyewitness accounts.

The “eyewitness” appeal has an inherent self-refutation: The critic is not an eyewitness to the composition of the Gospels and is therefore not in a position to dictate what happened 2000 years ago. The only alternative is to loosen the stringent demand for “eyewitness” testimony as the only valid form of testimony.

Relatedly, the critic here is using the word “anonymous” to describe the Gospels. Since the authors are named on the documents, and by others, the word they really want is “pseudonymous”.

This means that the Gospels can’t be trusted as evidence for miracles.

By the standard of law, however, guilt must be proven and innocence presumed; without testimony or evidence to the contrary, those who claim the miracles can be trusted. The first two points were of course an effort to prove guilt, as it were.

It is also said that “the stories could just be legends.” But allegation is not proof. The critic can cite no one, alive at the time, who claimed the evangelists reported legends.

One of Paul’s letters provides evidence that a number of people claimed Jesus had appeared to them after his death. But this isn’t proof of a miracle.

But again, what this requires to move beyond bombast is evidence of falsity. None is presented in this summary point. All that is presented is an analogy to the Mormon church which tries to impose upon the presumed bias of the Christian against Mormons.

Other points that could be developed: The alleged miracles (or the golden plates?) were not done in the presence of hostile eyewitnesses, as in the case of the miracles performed by Christ and His apostles. The Book of Mormon alsofails the Ancient Documents Rule and is therefore unacceptable as evidence in a court of law.

We’ll offer reflections from Tophet on points 5-8 tomorrow, but I wanted to close with an answer to a reader inquiry. It was noted that I had said in an earlier post here:

In the case of the Resurrection, it is not hard to see why it would not be reported by non-interested parties. A historian like Tacitus, with his prejudices against Jews and Christians, upon hearing the story would dismiss it as superstitious nonsense – with no further investigation warranted. Note that this would be his reaction whether the Resurrection had truly occurred or not. The same could be said of other potential witnesses whose works are left to us, like Lucian.

However, in my article on Tacitus’ testimony to the existence of Jesus, I said:

First, a likely cause for investigation erupted right in Tacitus' backyard, so to speak, in Rome c. 95 A.D. Emperor Domitian's niece Domatilla, and her husband Favius Clemens, were accused of "atheism," related to "being carried away into Jewish customs." Judaism of course was a recognized religion, so it is quite likely that the "Jewish custom" referred to is Christianity [Benk.PagRo, 15-16] . Here, then, was a perfect motive for Tacitus to investigate the movement historically: Some of Rome's highest-placed people seem to have joined the movement.

I know of certain shallow atheists who will claim this is contradictory, but it needs to be kept in mind that this is a matter of scale. In the latter instance I am only talking about Tacitus investigating enough to satisfy honor, so to speak – to be sure that Jesus existed, led a movement, and was executed. There is nothing in these basics that would offend his sensibilities as a Roman, in contrast to the Resurrection.

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