One of the most frequent objections made by Christian apologists to a natural explanation for the resurrection of Jesus is that a natural explanation requires a chain of multiple very rare events all added together to create a possible explanation for all the facts. Such a very, very improbable combination of events is just not plausible, they say.
It’s a matter of several necessary components that would all need to line up in order for the “resurrection of Jesus” story to have taken place. —Christian
Yet these people believe that the resurrection of a dead body is plausible???
The odds of winning the lottery is 1 in 13,000,000. We nonsupernaturalists believe that winning the lottery at these very long odds is much more probable than the resurrection of a dead body. But even more, we non-supernaturalists believe that the odds of winning the lottery ONE HUNDRED TIMES in a row is much more probable than the resurrection of a dead body.
The fact that several improbable natural events must be added together to arrive at a natural explanation for the early Christian resurrection belief does not change our view in the slightest that even a long series of very rare, very improbable natural events is much, much more probable than the resurrection of a dead corpse.
This is why it is a complete waste of time for supernaturalists (ie. Christians) and non-supernaturalists to discuss plausibility and probability when discussing the alleged resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Our polar opposite worldviews do not give us a foundational truth upon which to have a rational conversation. In order to have a rational discussion on this issue, one or the other side must move to the position of the other regarding the reality or non-reality of the supernatural.
End of post.
19 thoughts on “A Natural Explanation of the Resurrection requires a Combination of Multiple Rare Events. Isn’t a Resurrection More Probable?”
Gary: But even more, we non-supernaturalists believe that the odds of winning the lottery ONE HUNDRED TIMES in a row is much more probable than the resurrection of a dead body.
Me:I dunno about this Gary. I have no idea what the probability of the resurrection is because I have no way to reproduce it. We have claims about resurrections, but none that we’ve ever substantiated. I’ll grant that the probability of the resurrection is probably very low (given that we never see them happen), and may even be 0, but I have no real way to determine what the actual probability is.
If we want to talk about things that are, as far as we understand the world, completely impossible, then talking about them in terms of probability is pointless. Until we have some way to confirm even a single resurrection, talking about it in terms of probability has put the cart before the horse. Demonstrate for me that resurrections happen and then we can start talking about probability.
“One of the most frequent objections made by Christian apologists to a natural explanation for the resurrection of Jesus is that a natural explanation requires a chain of multiple very rare events all added together to create a possible explanation for all the facts.”
I’ve seen these types of arguments made, but, I myself don’t buy into them.
But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a chain of multiple very rare events and/or conditions that needed to either happen or be in place to create a possible explanation for all the facts.
HOWEVER – this is EQUALLY true for “naturalistic” explanations.
Case in point: Ehrman believes that Jesus’ body was either left on the cross until it was totally picked apart by birds and scanvegers, or, it was at least left on the cross for many days, and then, the remains thrown into a fabled “communal burial pit”. (this theory is found in ‘How Jesus Became God’)
I reminded Erhman of an inconvenient fact, which he had not even touched on in his book: Jerusalem, less than a square mile in size, was surrounded by (a reasonably estimated) 250,000 Passover pilgrims that were there for the week, camping out all over the place (which is exactly what Jesus and his bunch were doing on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane).
Doing the math, that amounts to 10 people for every linear foot of wall. Of course, they didn’t all camp up against the wall, but, it gives one the idea of the general density.
Ehrman made a point of mentioning that the Romans specifically crucified Jesus in a place that was the most visible. What he DOESN’T mention is that it would have been the most visable to 250,000 people.
What I told Ehrman is that out of 250,000 people, there were bound to be some – maybe hundreds – maybe even a couple of thousand – that would have seen Jesus’ body hanging on the cross all week. And ANY of those people could have refuted the disciples later stories of Jesus being resurrected after three days.
Now, MOST people would agree — It’s problematic. 250,000 people camped around an area less than one square mile, a crucifixion in the most visible place possible — and — for MOST people, it’s danged easy to imagine that somebody who stayed for the Week of the Passover (which is what the pilgrims did) was bound to notice that those guys that were crucified, going into the Passover, were still there when they left. Wouldn’t even matter if they knew who they were. Somebody was bound to remember that.
Ehrman? His response: “I have a hunch nobody noticed”.
People can’t drive by a car accident without slowing down and taking notice.
My point? For Ehrman’s theory to REALLY work, he’d HAVE to account for 250,000 possible “viewers”, any number of who might well remember that the Romans crucified (presumably) three guys, right at the start of Passover – the most important Jewish holiday on the books.
But, he doesn’t account for it at all. He totally avoids it in his book, making no mention whatsoever of the “logistics”. Why? Because it is very, very clearly one of those things that HAS to be accounted for in order to make his theory work, AND HE CANT ACCOUNT FOR IT.
His theory REQUIRES the ASTRONOMICALLY UNBELIEVABLE “happenstance” that “nobody noticed”.
With “naturalist” explanations like that, hey, who thinks miracles are unbelievable?
In the minds of skeptics, it is still much, much more probable that someone moved the body of Jesus even if 1,000,000 people were camped out on the hills around Jerusalem than the resurrection of a brain-dead corpse.
The body could have been place into a horse drawn cart in the cover of darkness, in the cover of the “garden” with trees and shrubs, covered with straw, and no one would have known any better as the cart accompanied by a few men slowly moved away from the tomb on Saturday night. Improbable, maybe; impossible, no; still much more probable (in our minds) than a supernatural event.
What we really should be discussing is the evidence (if it exists) that the supernatural operates in our world. I assert that even if a Creator created the universe, he (she/they/ or it) established the laws of physics shortly thereafter and decreed that they would NEVER in the future be violated. That is what the evidence demonstrates to me, despite millions of unsubstantiated claims of “miracles”, made mostly by poorly educated, hyper-religious (superstitious) people, predominately occurring for some strange reason, in third world countries where the education level is low and the people are poor and highly superstitious.
You’re making a huge argument from silence.
Even if there were 250,000 extra people in and around the city, it was supposedly seven weeks after the events that anybody started proclaiming that Jesus was resurrected. How many of those people would still be in the area, let alone been able to connect the dots between the ravings of some people (who were now claiming a resurrection) with that dude who was left on the cross? Even if they did, I doubt most of them would care. Even if they did care, it’s not surprising that history doesn’t record their objection.
Very true. I believe that “ft” is reading into the historical facts (the very few that exist) that Jesus was the big deal the Gospels make him out to be. In reality, Jesus was probably a nobody during his life, whose execution and death attracted little attention. No contemporary author mentions Jesus of Nazareth in his (or her) writings.
Are we really to believe that great throngs of people turned out on the streets of Jerusalem during the Passover festival in 30 (or 33) CE to welcome their new Jewish king…but no Jewish author (or anyone else) on the planet bothered to mention this fact?
LikeLiked by 1 person
“Are we really to believe that great throngs of people turned out on the streets of Jerusalem during the Passover festival in 30 (or 33) CE to welcome their new Jewish king…but no Jewish author (or anyone else) on the planet bothered to mention this fact?”
Which I think is made very strange by reading John 18 and 19. Jesus somehow goes from being exalted and welcomed into the city to suddenly being a pariah.
Right. These are theological stories, not historical accounts, perfectly acceptable in first century Greco-Roman biographies.
I think both Gary and Lehman miss my point:
If there was potentially anybody (maybe 3 or 4? 50 or 100? 1500?) that could have testified that Jesus’ body was NOT taken off the cross and buried, but rather, was just left hanging on the cross (as Ehrman insists), then that potential, by itself, was going to keep anyone from claiming, factually, that “Jesus has risen from the dead”, because their story could potentially have been refuted by any number of witnesses – especially among those who lived in Jerusalem.
I also thing you’re both missing another point: My example was a refutation of EHRMANS view. It was not at all some kind of “proof” that a resurrection happened.
And, a final point which I think you have both missed: Every “naturalist” theory out there has it’s own peculiar, and particular “chain of events” that must have happened, in order for the theory to work at all. Ehrmans theory was merely a case in point. But, the point being: It’s hardly just “apologists” who make claims about an “improbable chain of event”. Naturalists do the exact same thing. Ehrman, like all naturalists, merely invented his own, and made it “work” (sort of) by simply dismissing the strong possibility that Jesus’ body was likely to have been observed as still on the cross for days after the events. Heck, it’s certainly no problem to imagine Caiaphas himself having seen Jesus’ body still on the cross. His house is less than a quarter of a mile away from Golgotha, and just walking up the main route from Caiaphas’ house to get to the Temple puts you squarely looking in the direction of Golgotha.
But this? I got NO IDEA where this comes from:
Gary: I believe that “ft” is reading into the historical facts (the very few that exist) that Jesus was the big deal the Gospels make him out to be. In reality, Jesus was probably a nobody during his life, whose execution and death attracted little attention.
Where the heck does that come from? I never said Jesus was the “big deal the Gospels make him out to be”. Nope, never said it. And, I didn’t say Jesus’ execution attracted a great deal of attention.
All I said was “for MOST people, it’s danged easy to imagine that somebody who stayed for the Week of the Passover (which is what the pilgrims did) was bound to notice that those guys that were crucified, going into the Passover, were still there when they left. Wouldn’t even matter if they knew who they were. Somebody was bound to remember that.”
See there? Those last two sentences? “Wouldn’t even matter if they (onlookers) knew who the (crucified guys) were. Somebody was bound to remember that.
You don’t think that if somebody dropped dead in the stadium seats at a football game, that nobody would notice? No, people would notice, even if they had no idea who the guy was. And, they’d remember that they saw a guy drop dead in the stadium.
Or, you don’t think you’d remember if you saw a public hanging? Seriously? Like, you’d just sort of forget about it?
If crucifixions were rare events, then, yes, people might remember. If they were common events, then, no, most people would not remember.
re: “The body could have been place into a horse drawn cart in the cover of darkness, in the cover of the “garden” with trees and shrubs, covered with straw, and no one would have known any better as the cart accompanied by a few men slowly moved away from the tomb on Saturday night.”
I very very seriously doubt you actually read my post. VERY serious doubts about that.
Because, if you had, you’d have no reason at all to even be posting this “scenario”.
I’ve got no idea what the heck you’re even talking about here…
I’ve heard your arguments before.
You believe that it is implausible that someone moved the body from the tomb between Friday at sunset and Sunday morning because of so many people camped out around Jerusalem. I’m giving a hypothetical which disproves that claim.
re: “Even if there were 250,000 extra people in and around the city, it was supposedly seven weeks after the events that anybody started proclaiming that Jesus was resurrected. How many of those people would still be in the area, let alone been able to connect the dots between the ravings of some people (who were now claiming a resurrection) with that dude who was left on the cross? Even if they did, I doubt most of them would care. Even if they did care, it’s not surprising that history doesn’t record their objection.”
You’re asking me “how many would still be in the area… [connecting] the dots…?”
THAT’S THE POINT. That’s exactly what the disciples would have to ask themselves before they started telling a story about some guy being “raised from the dead”. They’d have to be playing the odds that nobody in Jerusalem would still remember that Jesus was left hanging on the cross all that time. But if he WAS left hanging on the cross, as Ehrman says, then there is NO WAY they could know who would, or who would not remember. And, again – THATS THE POINT. YOU can speculate, EHRMAN can speculate, but YOU DON’T KNOW. And, neither could the disciples have known. There could have been nobody that remembered, OR, there could have been 1000 that did. I think it would be highly likely that CAIAPHAS would have remembered, along with the other Jewish leaders that recommended to Pilate that Jesus should be executed.
Besides, it’s not ME who’s making an “argument from silence”. It’s EHRMAN that is. We’re talking about HIS theory, not some theory of mine.
I really have to wonder if both you and Gary have serious reading comprehension disabilities. Do you? If you do, then, I can try to accommodate you. Just let me know how. Shorter posts? Don’t quote other people? (perhaps that’s confusing to you?) Just let me know how I can help.
How do you know that the story in Acts of Pentecost, Peter’s sermon in the Temple, and the conversion of thousands of devout Jews even happened? How do you know that the Resurrection Story didn’t start in Galilee and only spread to Jerusalem a couple of years later? If crucifixions were common and Jesus was a nobody, who would remember the events surrounding his execution two to three years earlier?
LikeLiked by 1 person
“How do you know that the story in Acts of Pentecost, Peter’s sermon in the Temple, and the conversion of thousands of devout Jews even happened? ”
Based partly on this paper, I’m partly inclined to believe that the mission to convert Jews was an abysmal failure. The author speculates that there were probably less than 1000 Jewish converts by the end of the first century:
Does the article infer that it was ONE THOUSAND Jews in Palestine alone or in the entire Empire?
The author’s conclusion is as follows:
“It was argued that the numbers of native-born Jews in this movement probably never exceeded 1 000 at any time. The Law-observant mission of the Jerusalem church, despite the witness of Acts, was hardly a success. … Its numbers were probably never more than 500. … One can only conclude that the Christian mission to the Jews was a dismal failure (Jervell 1984:26).”
The author is fairly clear that he’s talking about the entire Christian movement, and not just within Jerusalem, although Jerusalem is where the main conversion efforts would have happened.
He does address the problems the claims of Acts that thousands of people joined the Church, but states that “Most scholars tend to dismiss them as Lucan exaggeration (Haenchen 1971:188-189; Conzelmann 1973:62-63; Lüdemann 1989a:47, 56, 77, 232).”
The reasoning goes as follows:
“Often the reason cited is that Jerusalem in the early first century, according to the calculation of Jeremias (1969:84), had a population of no more than thirty thousand. If this figure is correct, then Luke does present the rather improbable proposition that between a third and a half of Jerusalem’s population became Christian in the first few years of the movement’s existence and that almost the entire population of the city was converted within three decades”
“Josephus never remarks that the Christians were a significant force in Jerusalem.“
Very interesting. Thanks.
I personally believe that the Empty Tomb makes the most sense. I don’t believe that Jesus was left on the cross to be picked apart by scavengers. Here is my hypothetical scenario.
5, Jesus was crucified.
And the Resurrection Belief was born.
LikeLiked by 1 person