When we decide to believe that an event has happened, that it is a historical fact, we do so based on probabilities. This applies not just to the resurrection claim of Christians but to every other historical assertion of Antiquity, as we do not have audio and video of the event.
Even today when someone tells us that such and such an event has occurred, we believe this person based on probabilities. And very importantly, the less probable the claim made by that person, the more evidence we demand to believe his claim.
1. If someone told you that he saw a red car on the highway yesterday, you would probably take his word for it, unless you knew that he is a pathological liar or mentally ill.
2. If the same man told you that he saw a herd of buffalo on the highway yesterday, unless you live in South Dakota or Wyoming, you probably will not believe him unless you see it in the newspaper or on the internet.
3. If the same man tells you that he saw a group of ten foot tall, one-eyed, green Martians on the highway yesterday, I’m sure you would not believe him unless you had seen them yourself or if there is verified audio and video of the event.
So let’s imagine that someone tells us that he was traveling on a highway yesterday and that Abraham Lincoln appeared to him and had a ten minute conversation with him. No matter how honest and well-respected this man is, I am not going to believe him because the probability of his story being true is very, very low. I would need to have seen this event myself or be provided with verifiable audio and video to believe it. I would bet you would demand the same.
Probability would favor that he had an hallucination, a dream, a delusion, was in a psychotic trance, drunk, drugged, or even that he is lying. The very least likely probability is that he really did see Abe Lincoln on the highway yesterday. Do you see my point? Would you think I was being unreasonable for refusing to believe this man’s “Abe Lincoln story” based on zero evidence but his word?
This is why I do not believe Paul of Tarsus’ story that he saw a resurrected Jesus on the highway to Damascus. He claimed a highly improbably event occurred and the only evidence that we have for this claim is his word, and Paul is dead. We can’t even question him like we could the man with the Able Lincoln story. Just as I would not believe that Martians were on the highway yesterday or that Abraham Lincoln had appeared to our well-respected friend on the highway yesterday, just based on one person’s word, neither can I believe that a dead man appeared on the Damascus Road based on the word of one man, regardless of his integrity.