Public Survey on the Believability of the Resurrection of Jesus

Many Christians believe that the evidence for the bodily Resurrection of Jesus is so strong and so convincing that this evidence alone will convince the average person of the veracity of Christianity.  I don’t think so.  I believe that the overwhelming majority of conversions to Christianity today are for emotional reasons, not due to the strength of evidence for a miracle claim that occurred twenty centuries ago. 

I have challenged the Christians on Theology Web, specifically, Christian apologist Nick Peters, son-in-law of evangelical Christian apologist, Mike Licona, to come to an agreement with me on the evidence for the Resurrection (as agreed upon by the majority of scholars).  I have then said that I will conduct a random, non-scientific survey using that agreed upon evidence to get a sample of public opinion on the internet, in the United States and in other countries, asking people if the evidence supports the miracle explanation of Christianity or is a more naturalistic explanation more probable.

I need your help!

I and the Christians on Theology Web have agreed to the accepted evidence for the Resurrection and the Christian interpretation, however, they are suspicious of the survey because I cannot guarantee that it will be asked in a scientifically precise manner.  However, that was not my intention.  It is simply a sampling of random people.

Dear Readers:  please copy the survey below and conduct a random survey of people in your town or online.  Please avoid surveying only people who agree with your position on this issue.  Leave your survey results below this post in the comment section.  (Please be honest!)

It is my bet that the only people who will believe the miracle claim of the Resurrection will be persons who were raised Christians.


Dear _____________. This survey asks your opinion regarding the central alleged historical event of the Christian Faith: The Resurrection of the Dead Body of Jesus of Nazareth. We will present you with the evidence surrounding this event as agreed upon by the majority of historical experts. We will then present the Christian explanation for that evidence. At the end of this survey, we will ask you whether or not you believe that the preponderance of the evidence points to a miracle as described in the traditional reading of the Christian Bible, or whether you believe that the preponderance of the evidence can be explained by a more probable, naturalistic explanation.

The majority of scholars/experts believe that Jesus of Nazareth was executed by the Roman Empire, by crucifixion, in Jerusalem, Palestine, in circa 30 AD. In addition, the majority of scholars/experts agree on the following as historical facts regarding Jesus’ death, burial, and the period of time shortly after his death:

1. Public execution.
2. Public burial.
3. Sealed tomb.
4. Guards at the tomb for most of the period of time in question.
5. Empty tomb, three days and two nights later, with stone rolled away. (No known witnesses to the body leaving the tomb, however)
6. Post-death sightings of the resurrected body, sometimes by hundreds of people at once.
7. Dramatically changed behavior of disciples.
8. Very shameful, very strange new belief system in an Honor-Shame society.
9. A belief never heard of in Judaism, yet believed by several thousand devout Jews.
10. Rapid spread of Christianity.
11. Willingness of thousands of Christians to be persecuted, tortured, and painfully executed for their beliefs.
12. The apostles of Jesus believed in the bodily resurrection and preached it.

Christians claim that this evidence points to the following miracle, as described in their holy book, the Bible, and that this miracle is the best explanation for the evidence:

— the dead man, Jesus of Nazareth, was brought back to life by the Jewish/Christian God, Yahweh (his Father),
—exited his sealed tomb by some manner other than moving the stone,
— appeared in a body—that could walk through locked doors and appear and disappear in a matter of seconds—to hundreds of disciples and family members on multiple occasions,
— and then, forty days later, after a final meeting with this disciples, he ascended into the clouds,
— and after ascending into the clouds, he entered his home, “heaven”, a place of unknown location,
— and once Jesus arrived there, he sat on a throne next to his Father, God the Father, where he still sits today, ruling from his throne as the all-powerful, all-knowing Ruler of the Universe.

Question: Do you believe that this miracle explanation of Christianity is the most probable explanation for the evidence above, or, do you believe that there are other more probable, naturalistic, explanations for this evidence?

Please select one of the following by marking with an X:

Miracle explanation more probable: ______
Other naturalistic explanation more probable: _____

Are you religious: ____ If so, are you: Christian: ____ Muslim: ____ Hindu: ____ Buddhist: ___ Other religion: ___

Not religious: ___

Thank you for participating in our survey!

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4 thoughts on “Public Survey on the Believability of the Resurrection of Jesus

  1. I am in the Christian community and was raised Christian. Strictly speaking and only looking at the facts below as if they are proven, you asked the best explanation:

    1. Public execution.
    2. Public burial.
    3. Sealed tomb.
    4. Guards at the tomb for most of the period of time in question.
    5. Empty tomb, three days and two nights later, with stone rolled away. (No known witnesses to the body leaving the tomb, however)
    6. Post-death sightings of the resurrected body, sometimes by hundreds of people at once.
    7. Dramatically changed behavior of disciples.
    8. Very shameful, very strange new belief system in an Honor-Shame society.
    9. A belief never heard of in Judaism, yet believed by several thousand devout Jews.
    10. Rapid spread of Christianity.
    11. Willingness of thousands of Christians to be persecuted, tortured, and painfully executed for their beliefs.
    12. The apostles of Jesus believed in the bodily resurrection and preached it.

    In truth, it is objectively very hard to decide what would happen.
    On one hand, normally people think that resurrections don't happen, that they are flatly impossible.
    But on the other, you have given very strong signs of it having happened, if the body disappeared, you have so many persevering witnesses, etc.

    So one explanation could be that Jesus survived execution, based purely on the “proven” facts above – that the apostles believed he rose and saw him, and the body was missing even though they put a guard. Revivals of people do happen and people have survived crucifixion. And _normally_ large groups of people know whether they are seeing something real or not.

    This is strictly going only on the “facts” that you have given me and only if they are proven.

    I could also agree with the conclusions you gave to fit my “answer”, but I would have to “reinterpret” them.

    For example, you ask “— appeared in a body—that could walk through locked doors and appear and disappear in a matter of seconds”? i would have to take that to mean that He APPEARED to the apostles to do this, and then use the word “Appeared” in a rather loose way.

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  2. Gary,
    Let's say Jesus got killed and was alleged to have risen in 33 AD. That means there were people who were 15 years old then and heard Jesus and the apostles' stories of the appearances firsthand. They would have been born in 18 AD, so in 75 AD they would be about 57 years old. I think that there would be not a few people 57 years old or older who had grown up hearing these stories from the apostles.

    Besides that, if Peter and James got killed in 60-70 AD and John died later in 80-90 AD, the apostles' circle and associates would still be around about the same time or not too long before the first gospels were recorded.

    Like

  3. In any case, I don't think my answer relies on the apostles being alive in 65-75 AD.

    You just gave me some “proven facts” and then asked on their basis what my best guess would be. If we are just stuck with an event someplace in the world that includes “proven facts” of empty tomb, guards there most of the time, and numerous close friends believing they met him resurrected bodily afterwards (not a ghost), I would normally think in real life that the person revived naturally.

    Of course, if I threw in other “facts” and removed others as no longer “proven”, that picture could change.

    Like

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