Is There Compelling Evidence That Jesus Was Raised From The Dead?

 Apologist Mike Licona shared this short 3 minute video yesterday arguing Jesus rose from the dead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YQjfzwOEqQ

At issue here is the earliest account of Jesus's resurrection appearances in the creed/poetry that Paul apparently quotes and expands on that says:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Of course, if I was to go to my father's grave and found it empty and then I thought I saw him, I wouldn't conclude from this that God raised my dad from the dead, since there are any number of other explanations.  My friend's mom "heard" her husband in the house after he died, for instance.  It is commonplace for the mind to hallucinate all manner of experiential oddities when one is in bereavement:  https://academic.oup.com/schizophreniabulletin/article/46/6/1367/5939754

It's not at all clear that the resurrection "appearance" reports referred to something visible, as opposed to an inner mystical experience, because "see" can be used metaphorically in the New Testament.  So, we read:


Carrier comments:

Paul says apostles saw Jesus “inside” themselves (Gal. 1:16), in “revelations,” visions, not, he specifically says, “with flesh and blood” as depicted in the Gospels (Gal. 1:11-12). And his experience was the same as everyone else’s, excepting only in being last in order (1 Cor. 15:3-81 Cor. 9:1; see OHJ, Ch. 11.4).  See https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12263

In any case, we can imagine the distraught Cephas/Peter experiencing a weird hallucinatory event, and his hysteria/experience spreading to the rest of the grieving disciples.  Similarly, the experiences of the disciples could have primed the 500 to experience what they did, like the children's prediction resulted in the mass hysteria of the Fatima sky miracle/hallucination:

 The Miracle of the Sun (PortugueseMilagre do Sol), also known as the Miracle of Fátima, is a series of events reported to have occurred miraculously on 13 October 1917, attended by a large crowd who had gathered in Fátima, Portugal, in response to a prophecy made by three shepherd children, Lúcia Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto. The prophecy was that the Virgin Mary (referred to as Our Lady of Fátima), would appear and perform miracles on that date. Newspapers published testimony from witnesses who said that they had seen extraordinary solar activity, such as the Sun appearing to "dance" or zig-zag in the sky, careen towards the Earth, or emit multicolored light and radiant colors. According to these reports, the event lasted approximately ten minutes. (Wiki)

As for Paul, there's no reason to suppose there is anything miraculous in his experience of Jesus, since Paul was certainly prone to weird experiences.  He also may have been under cognitive stress because he was persecuting a movement who had Paul's family members as prominent figures.  See:  https://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionprof/2021/04/paul-and-his-relatives.html

It's also not clear Paul envisioned an empty tomb scenario, since he doesn't mention one.  Some readers propose that Paul envisions the old body being left behind for a new resurrection body: https://jamestabor.com/why-a-spiritual-resurrection-is-the-only-sensible-option/  The empty tomb story may have been a later apologetic invention dreamed up to counter opponents who were saying the disciples were just hallucinating out of grief: Jesus is given a dishonorable burial in Mark, but surprise the last becomes first, and he escapes the tomb!  

Also, a case can be made that the disciples stole the body and invented the appearance stories to continue the movement, since such cults often died out with the death of the leader: https://infidels.org/library/modern/john-macdonald-justified-lie/

So, the post-mortem appearance stories about Jesus can be explained in a completely mundane way, and so there is no reason to invoke an inherently less plausible supernatural explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead..

Comments

  1. I would also point out that Matthew 1:20 says that "an angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream." From that we can infer that it was accepted that a dream experience could be a genuine appearance of a supernatural being. It seems likely that every one of Jesus' followers probably dreamed about him at one time or another after the crucifixion, which could have fueled the idea of multiple appearances once the first claim was accepted..

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    1. One issue I think is often overlooked is that if we take a particular story unit about Jesus, how do we know whether it has its origin in a first hand accurate observation of Jesus, a second hand rumor, a dream, a hallucination, a lie/exaggeration, etc. I think we have to assume a lot when we simply take for granted that the story core has its origin in an accurate observation.

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    2. Although I will say ἐφάπαξ in 1Cor 15:6 doesn't sound like dreams. I think it's more like the Fatima mass hallucination.

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