First, I would like to thank mkmasn for having this debate with me. Here is what we agreed to as to the rules of the debate:
10 rounds (5 rounds each)
2500 word limit per post
5 day response deadline
We will use guidelines used by secular historians
This debate is to be a discussion between myself and mkmasn. Neither of us will respond to other posts in the peanut gallery.
I believe that the Resurrection of Jesus is a historical event that probably happened. It is impossible to reach 100% certainty. However, that should
not detract from the discussion since that is the way it is in all of history. One can only prove what probably happened. The historical methodology
used to ascertain whether something is to be considered a historical fact is the same that secular historians use, is whether the reasons for
accepting it outweighs the reasons for rejecting it.
A position is demonstrated, when the reasons for accepting it significantly outweigh the reasons for not accepting it... A finding of
historicity is essentially a default position, meaning that we have no other reasonable way to account for the presence of a story in the
-Robert Miller, "Historical Method and the Deeds of Jesus: The Test Case of the Temple Demonstration." Forum 8 (1992): 5-30
Others include Principle of Embarrassment, Enemy Attestation, Multiple Attestation, etc. Also if the theory explains the facts more so than
alternative theories, then according to historical methods, it probably happened. Therefore the Resurrection stands on good ground. Take crime scene
investigation for example. One collects all the facts, then has to come up with a theory as to what happened. The theory that takes into account all
the facts without adding one theory upon another and that far outstrips alternative theories, then it is reasonable to believe that such and such
happened. The reason why I used crime scene investigation is that because they use many of the same guidelines as historians do. For both are trying
to discover what happened in the past. As law professor at New York Law school says:
The accuser can meet the burden of proof by offering a certain quantum of evidence, which varies depending upon the nature of the accusation, for
example-in the context of legal disputes-proof beyond a reasonable doubt for criminal charges or, for civil charges, proof that makes the truth of an
accusation more probable than not.
-Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An AMerican Controversy (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia 1997)
As historian C. Behan McCullagh says in his book Justifying Historical Descriptions:
If the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any
competing explanation, then it is likely to be true.
For evidence, my case is cumulative. IF Jesus was crucified, IF his disciples honestly had what they considered to be experiences of the risen Jesus,
IF it can be demonstrated that Paul had suddenly converted, IF James who was skeptical brother of Jesus suddenly converted, and IF the tomb was found
empty, and IF the alternative theories are not able to provide an adequate answer for the aforementioned facts, that lends strong evidence for the
Resurrection. It is my contention that each of these are indeed facts. In fact, they are admitted by most if not nearly all scholars both believing
and skeptical to be historical events. It is also my contention that there are no alternative theories that can adequately account for the facts as
well as the Resurrection. Therefore, the reasons FOR the accepting the Resurrection outweigh the reasons for rejecting it and thus meet the
requirements for historicity, which is called argument to the best explanation.
As for naturalistic theories I will not comment on them as yet. I want to know what my opponent thinks happened. How does he account for those facts?
I don't want to waste time and refute something that he himself might not believe in. However, whether my opponent wishes to discuss the particulars
in the above mentioned facts or just go ahead as discuss what alternative he thinks is a better explanation, he too, according to historical
methodology has to provide evidence. As historians admit:
Third, evidence must always be affirmative. Negative evidence is a contradiction in terms--it is no evidence at all. The nonexistence of an
object is established not by nonexistent evidence but by affirmative evidence of the fact that it did not, or could not exist.
-Hackett, Historians' Fallacies, Harper: 1970 p.62
That means that if someone wants to posit that something else happened, either alternative theory, or say that, for example that Jesus wasn’t
crucified, but instead murdered, then the burden is also upon him to provide historical evidence for that.
It is my contention that:
1.Jesus was indeed crucified and buried. This is attested to not only in the Gospels, but also by Paul and extra-biblical sources. And is admitted to
as fact by almost all scholars.
2. Jesus' disciples believed that He rose from the dead and appeared to them. This is attested to by the fact that they willingly suffered for that
message. That is accorded to in Acts, as well as extra-biblical sources and is also accepted as historical fact by nearly all scholars.
3. Paul, who was an enemy of the church suddenly changed. This is stated by Paul himself in a number of N.T. texts and have claimed to have seen the
risen Christ. Usually people will convert on the word of someone else, that is a secondary source. But Paul's conversion is due to something that he
himself experienced. That is a primary source. Again, almost all scholars accept this as fact.
4. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly changed. This is attested to in the Bible, and extra-biblical source reports that he was a strict
Jew. The Bible also testifies that after the Resurrection, James became a leader of the church.
5. The tomb was found empty. This is accepted by the majority of scholars also (Gary Habermas did a study on the state of scholarship to date. He
reports that 75% of scholars agree that the tomb was indeed found empty).
I do not want to get into the specifics right away as to exactly why these are facts or not. I do not want to waste my time in doing so if my opponent
is going to agree to them. First I will see what my opponent has to say before responding.
So, the historical question remains. What happened that fateful Easter morning? What happened that could make disciples believe something so much that
they willingly suffered and died for? What happened that changed the enemy of Christians (Paul) to suddenly convert without any prior motive to? What
could have happened that changed the once skeptical brother of Jesus (James) into becoming a leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem? What
happened at the tomb that emptied it?
It is also my contention that since there are no naturalistic explanations that can account for the above facts, the only explanation left is that
Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead and therefore it is reasonable to believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. And why is it
important? Because it establishes the truth of Christianity.