A Comparison of Two Supernatural Tales: the Raising of Lazarus and the Resurrection of Jesus

Ok, so let’s do a comparison of the Raising of Lazarus story with the Resurrection of Jesus story.  Let’s compare the strength of the evidence and the strength of the attestation.

Raising of Lazarus:

Evidence:

1.  Witnessed death.
2.  Witnessed burial.
3.  Known tomb location.
4.  Sealed tomb
5.  Stench of death present.
6.  Four days pass between burial and raising from the dead.
7.  Multiple witnesses (including skeptics) see Jesus come to the tomb.
8.  Multiple witnesses (including skeptics) see the removal of the stone.
9  Multiple witnesses (including skeptics) see the corpse of Lazarus walk out of the tomb at Jesus’ command.
10.  Jewish authorities in Jerusalem notified of miracle.

Attestation:

Only one source for the story, written many decades after the alleged event.  Most scholars believe that the source was not an eyewitness to the events described in his gospel, including this event.

Analysis:  Great evidence, poor attestation.

Imagine if multiple gospel authors had mentioned this story.  Imagine if Paul had mentioned this miracle in his epistles, and, mentioned the astonishment of his fellow Pharisees to it.  But more importantly, imagine if a miracle of this magnitude was recorded by non-believers such as Josephus, or a statement by a Roman official, such as Pliny:  “…This ‘Christ’ is the same guy who raised the Jew Lazarus in Palestine from the dead back in the 30’s; an event that shocked our Roman officials in Judea.”

Such evidence and attestation would be very convincing for the historicity of this story!  But, no such luck…

The Resurrection of Jesus

1.  Witnessed death.
2.  Witnessed burial.
3.  Known tomb location.
4.  Sealed tomb.
5.  Guards at tomb for majority of time.
6.  Three days and two nights pass between burial and alleged resurrection.
7.  Multiple witnesses to the stone being moved away by supernatural beings.
8.  NO witnesses to the corpse exiting the tomb.
9.  Multiple witnesses to the empty tomb.
10.  Multiple witnesses to the presence of one or more supernatural beings inside or outside of the tomb, depending on source.
11.  Jewish authorities notified that supernatural beings appeared at the tomb; guards passed out; body gone.

Attestation:

Five sources:  The authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke/Acts, John, and the Apostle Paul.  However, none of these sources state that they witnessed the body exit the tomb.   Most scholars do not believe that any of these sources were eyewitnesses to any of the events described above.  If however, we allow for the assumption that the Gospels were written by their traditional authors, only ONE of them, John, would have even seen the empty tomb.  But the story never indicates he saw the angels.  Only the empty tomb.  Empty tombs have many potential explanations.

The stories in the five sources have many variations/discrepancies.  One account says there was one young man inside the tomb while another claims that there were two supernatural beings outside the tomb.  Imagine two witnesses to a car accident involving a vehicle running into a tree:

Witness One:  I saw the accident as it happened.  I immediately ran over to the vehicle and found one man sitting in the car.

Witness Two:  I saw the accident as it happened.  I immediately ran over to the vehicle and found two men sitting outside the car in bright white garments.

One or both witnesses has a problem with his or her memory.  But remember, these accounts were not written down by the witnesses themselves.  These accounts were written down by people allegedly hearing the stories from the witnesses or quite possibly from third, fourth, etc.-hand sources.

Analysis:  This story has a lot of loose ends and discrepancies.  And the attestation is poor because NO ONE witnessed the corpse exit the tomb.  The empty tomb has multiple possible natural explanations, and the multiple alleged post-death sightings of the dead man in question is a very, very common phenomenon even today.  This story is poor and the attestation is poor.

Bottom line:  If believers in the supernatural are going to insist that very rare, supernatural events like these two stories happen, they need to have excellent stories with air tight evidence AND excellent attestation from multiple, reliable sources.  These two supernatural stories have neither of these criteria.

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