Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus: Reasonable Conclusion or Religious Conviction?

Recently I read the book “Cold Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace.  The author is an experienced “cold case” criminologist, and applies techniques of his trade to assess and evaluate the accuracy and authenticity of the biblical claims of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Evidently, this book is a popular read among those who maintain that there is actual evidence to sustain the claim that the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historic event.  Having given the book a serious read, I wish to offer my thoughts regarding.

I was for the most part impressed with his call to logic and appeal to reason as a means to conduct a homicide investigation. I love reason and logic, and as the author  worked in the profession of criminal investigation, then certainly a careful, disciplined, and systematic approach to every case he encountered must have been paramount in order for him to arrive at the truth as to “who dun it” (I simply LOVE “who dun its”; I am a sucker for a detective flick!!!)

That said, I was impressed with his use of logic relative to his profession as recorded in each respective example which opened every chapter. I did see the connection between logic and deductive reasoning as applied to any such circumstance involving witnesses, claims, and conclusions. His principles are logical and practical, and can be exercised efficiently in any situation which involves claims and necessary conclusions. Frankly, since I work in the automotive field myself, I likewise utilize these very principles on a daily basis as I attempt to interpret and evaluate a car owner’s claims about what his/her vehicle is doing relative to finding the cause for such claimed activity.

Now, I do take respectful issue with two particular lines of reason employed by the author relative to how he connects his numerous cold case murder scenes with an interpretation of New Testament writings:

1. The author builds a case on the concept of witnesses, yet among the New Testament writers, there are few who claim to be actual witnesses of any of the events which they recorded. It is of course true that the New Testament writers claim the validity of certain events, yet they do no claim to be witnesses of such. They merely claim the validity of such events.

I will elaborate more on this below, but for now I merely wish to assert my disapproval at building a case on the concept of witnesses where folk make very few such claims. It seems to me that the New Testament writers are for the most part merely “claimants” in that they make claims of the certainty of events, yet for the most part they are not “witnesses” for they did not witness such events (nor do they claim to have witnessed such events). This is particularly the case with reference to claims of the resurrection.

2. The author criticizes skeptics with reference to not allowing the possibility of supernatural explanations, yet I know full well that he would not for even a moment give the concept of a supernatural explanation serious consideration while attempting to solve a crime. And since he bases the very concept of the entire book on alleged similarities between solving cold case crimes and interpreting the New Testament writings, I find this particular element of his book somewhat inconsistent, to say the least.

Having so evaluated the book in general, I wish now to offer thoughts as to why I maintain that it is not reasonable to believe in the actual historic resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. More specifically, I maintain that there is not sufficient evidence with reference to the resurrection of Jesus to warrant the conclusion that he actually arose from the dead. In fact, to conclude that Jesus rose from the dead is to conclude the least likely possibility under the circumstances.

In so doing, it is not my intent to insult anyone’s intelligence or deny anyone’s right to private opinion.  I do however wish to assert my thoughts that a belief in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is by no means a reasonable conclusion based upon actual evidence.  Rather, I wish to suggest that belief in the actual resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead is a religious conviction based upon gradual indoctrination, which is not to be confused with a reasonable conclusion based upon actual evidence.

That said, these are my thoughts as to whether it is reasonable to conclude that the supposed resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historic occurrence:

Firstly, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus rose from the dead because there are no known statements made by actual witnesses that the alleged event actually took place.

Now, there are many statements made by claimants well after the alleged resurrection supposedly took place, but even these make no claim to be eyewitness accounts of the alleged event. There are furthermore many statements made by claimants as to there having been witnesses of the alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. But there are simply no known statements made by actual eyewitnesses of the alleged event itself.

Secondly, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because the claims themselves that the event actually took place and that there were witnesses of an allegedly resurrected Jesus are by no means contemporary to the supposed resurrection itself. In fact, the earliest known statements by claimants that such occurred are not made until at least 20 years after the event is supposed to have taken place, and even then, those claims are recorded by a man who never even knew Jesus at all. For the fact is that the earliest known references to the alleged resurrection of Jesus are the many references which are traditionally attributed to Paul, yet those claims themselves are no more contemporary to the supposed resurrection than 20 years afterwards.

Furthermore, the earliest known writings which describes the context itself of the trial, execution, burial, and sightings of an allegedly resurrected Jesus are no more contemporary to the supposed resurrection than some 40 years. Even then, the original writing of the earliest recorded descriptions; traditionally attributed to Mark, are by no means available to us today. In fact, the earliest known copy of that statement dates to some 80 years after the alleged event. Perhaps most disconcerting is that the earliest known complete gospel of Mark narrative dates to some 280 years after such narrative was originally written, which is over 300 years after the resurrection allegedly took place!

Frankly, not only is the case of “did Jesus actually rise from the dead” a cold case investigation, even the statements made by the claimants are “cold claims” in that the statements themselves are by no means contemporary to the alleged event itself. I daresay even the most experienced and the most capable of cold case criminologists would be hard pressed to definitively solve a case when there are no known statements made by actual eyewitnesses, and even the earliest statements made by claimants attempting to describe the alleged crime scene itself are not made until some 40 years later.

Thirdly, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because the statements made by the claimants are not consistent with each other. The accounts of the alleged resurrection differ as to several details, including what day he was executed, what time he died, what the final words of Jesus were before he died on the cross, who buried his body, how many women visited the tomb after the alleged resurrection, what the women saw when they visited the tomb, what the women did after visiting the tomb, the order of alleged appearances by Jesus after he supposedly rose from the dead, and even whether he ascended back to heaven within a day after he supposedly rose from the dead, or whether the ascension took place over a month later!!! And these are merely some of the contradictions of some of the claimants who assert that Jesus actually rose from the dead!!

Now, do these contradictions of the various statements of the various claimants discredit the claims themselves that Jesus actually rose from the dead?

In my opinion, these contradictions do not in and of themselves discredit the claim that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. In fact, it seems unreasonable to presume that a number of different claimants of any alleged occurrence would actually recollect all events the same. Furthermore, since there is no way of knowing whether ANY of the claimants who assert that Jesus was resurrected from the dead actually saw or even knew him personally, it would seem unreasonable to expect these accounts to be consistent as to specific details. Frankly, the conflicts and inconsistencies as to specific details relative to their claims are only natural. But therein lies the issue: These accounts were ONLY NATURAL!

In other words, whereas the contradictions and inconsistencies as to certain details relative to the statements of the various claimants do not in and themselves discredit the claims, nonetheless such contradictions and inconsistencies do in fact discredit any claims that the claimants themselves were writing under the influence of divine inspiration. If further follows then that these contradictions and inconsistencies likewise discredit any claims as to the inerrancy of such claims themselves.

Such being the case, then these claimants are only human, and are therefore given to the natural tendencies and limitations of all such beings. Furthermore, the written claims themselves being the product of natural claimants as opposed to being the product of divine inspiration, then it subsequently follows that the claims themselves are open to inconsistencies and errors.

Such is only natural. For the claimants themselves are but natural humans, and their written claims are but natural human writings. That being the case, then it is only reasonable that their written claims should be evaluated naturally, and the process of assessing any conclusions from such should likewise be in accord with any other such natural conclusions. Which leads to my fourth and conclusive thought regarding whether to conclude that the alleged resurrection of Jesus actually took place or not.

Fourthly, and finally, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because the claim itself is simply not credible.

When dealing with natural circumstances the very concept of supernatural involvement should logically be regarded as the least credible of all possibilities and consequently the last of all possible conclusions. So much so in fact that in any cold case crime investigation, supernatural involvement as to the actual cause would not even be given serious consideration. And with good reason. Regarding supernatural involvement in any situation as being the least credible and the last of all logical conclusions is simply reasonable and rational.

Frankly, supernatural claims require supernatural evidence in order to be given any serious consideration. In any natural situation.

In conclusion, I maintain that it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus actually rose from the dead because:

1. There are no statements from eyewitness to confirm the claim.

2. There are only claims, and none of those are contemporary to the alleged event.

3. There are multiple contradictions and inconsistencies between the claimants.

4. The claim is not credible in and of itself.

That said, I maintain that belief in the resurrection as a matter of faith and religious conviction is certainly a prerogative open to anyone.  However, that right acknowledged in no way gives credibility to the claim that Jesus actually was raised from the dead.  In fact,  there is simply no evidence sufficient to warrant the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus was an actual historic event.

Thus I conclude and unequivocally maintain that  it is simply not reasonable or logical to conclude that Jesus actually was raised from the dead.

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One thought on “Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus: Reasonable Conclusion or Religious Conviction?

  1. I think firstly one needs some sort of definition of just what do you mean by “raised from the dead”. I have personally met a girl in a remote Indian village who was “raised from the dead” following prayer, after she had drowned in a cattle trough in the centre of the village. In this case, the question obviously arises of just what you mean by dead. If one takes the kind of definition of dead that would be current in such a remote and unsophisticated village, then yes, she was dead. If one takes the criteria that would be applied in a Western University Hospital, then who knows?
    But in such a situation I think it’s perfectly reasonable to take the natural understanding of dead that holds good in that village.
    If you want to talk of Jesus being raised from the dead I think it’s equally reasonable to use the kind of definition of dead that would have been used in Palestine at that time.

    Second point: whatever it was that actually happened, it seems historically undeniable that Jesus’s disciples did actually genuinely believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. He didn’t make it up, they really did believe it. Very very hard to make a case for suggesting otherwise.

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