Gary, by the tone and content of your comments, I would gather there is really little, if anything, that would meet your standard of proof for a traditional understanding of the reliability of scripture witnesses to Jesus. If you are willing to consider another viewpoint, I refer you back to Richard Bauckham’s book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2007). Bauckham is a well known and reputable scholar.
I’m not concerned to change your mind on specific topics, but, if you really want to have a serious conversation, you have some work to do, otherwise you stab yourself with your own shabby thinking. In these last two comments, you’ve strung together a number of easy generalizations that are actually pretty shaky, using your own way of arguing. One example: you are right that we don’t find anyone else in the New Testament besides Paul making reference to Jesus’ appearance to “more than 500 believers.” To use that fact as support for the belief that Paul is either a little wacky or just making up stuff is plainly an argument from silence. You literally make something of nothing. Silence is not evidence against. It’s just silence.
I know you see me as ill-informed and poorly equipped to debate someone like yourself regarding the central teaching of Christianity, the Resurrection. But I would like to point this out to you: Is it really necessary to have an advanced degree in the supernatural…to disprove a supernatural claim?
Let me give some examples:
1. Imagine that you are having a conversation with a Muslim cleric regarding the central claim of Islam: that the angel Gabriel appeared and gave the true word of God, the Koran, to Mohammad and that Mohammad flew to Heaven on a winged horse. You question this claim and ask for proof that this event occurred. What would be your reaction to the Muslim cleric if he said this:
“You are in no position to question the claims of the Koran. What do you know about the Koran? Are you a cleric of the Muslim faith? Are you a certified scholar of Islam and the Koran? Of course you are not. Therefore you have no business questioning the supernatural claims of Islam. If you want to understand how a man can fly on a winged horse to heaven, you must read Muslim scholar X’s book.
2. You are having a conversation with someone who believes in spaceships and extra-terrestials. When you tell him you do not believe in either of these supernatural claims, he is insulted and scoffs at your ignorance. “Do you have an advanced degree in Extra-terrestials?” Do you have an advanced degree in outer space and flying saucers?? Well, if you want to understand these facts, you must read the latest research in flying saucers. Go read flying saucer expert, Mr. Y’s book.
You would laugh at these people (maybe not to their faces, but you would laugh). You don’t need to read anyone’s book to know that horses do not have wings; that neither horses nor men fly; or that flying saucers and Martians are not real.
Dear Pastor: I don’t need a divinity degree nor do I need to read some Christian apologist’s book to know that the chances that a dead man, 2,000 years ago, walked out of his grave after decomposing for three days, walked through locked doors, ate a broiled fish lunch with his friends, and then levitated into outer space, is just as improbable, and just as ridiculous, as flying horses and flying saucers! If this event really happened you should have convincing evidence that you can rattle off in two or three paragraphs. If you need an entire book to explain how horses fly, Martians exist, or zombies can walk out of their graves, there is something very fishy about your belief!