Evidences Jesus is ALIVE

My guest on the radio program today was Dr. Tim McGrew, Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University.  He provided five lines of evidence that Jesus is ALIVE:

 A         Appearances to his followers (1 Cor 15, Mt 28, Lk 24, Jn 20-21, Acts 1, Josephus and others)

 L          Low status of women in first century Judaism (criterion of embarrassment; Mt 28, Mk 16, Lk 24, Jn 20)

 I           Immediate proclamation of the resurrection in Jerusalem (Acts 2)

 V          Voluntary sufferings undergone by the first witnesses (Acts, Josephus, Tacitus and others)

 E          Empty tomb (Mt 28, Mk 16, Lk 24, Jn 20, 1 Cor 15, and others)

Click on Radio Program at left after Sunday to hear the show.  As you listen, you will see that we were not begging the question by saying that Jesus rose from the dead merely because the documents say so.  Listen to two previous shows with Dr. McGrew in the archives from July 30, 2011 and August 11, 2011.  There he provides some very insightful details external and internal to the New Testament documents that show beyond any reasonable doubt that those documents are historically reliable.

For more from Dr. McGrew, including downloadable PowerPoint Presentations, go here.

Blessings this resurrection Sunday.  He is risen!

Free CrossExamined.org Resource

Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.

Powered by ConvertKit
17 replies
  1. Toby says:

    What leads us to believe that the “non-biblical sources” were not just quoting from biblical texts? It’s not like someone like Josephus, living in Rome when he wrote his histories, had a cell phone to call and talk to people in the homeland.

    “criterion of embarrassment” is an embarrassment. How can anyone argue this is a valid method of validating anything? It’s practically unused outside of biblical study.

    Given that there’s really no way to know that the nonbiblical accounts of jesus weren’t just rehashes of NT writings or word of mouth, how does one justify verifying the veracity of the bible (or any book) with the itself? In 3000 years people could conclude that Huckleberry Finn was a real person (assuming lots of knowledge was lost on Sam Clemens) and verify his existence with the book bearing his name. Hey, even got strung along by the Duke and the King . . . that’s embarrassing, why would he write about that unless it’s true?

    Reply
  2. Toby says:

    Yes, I did. Twice actually. I don’t find these convincing arguments at all. The embarrassment in particular. You even call it circumstantial evidence during the discussion. There is one example of non-biblical use of embarrassment . . . and it’s once again used by a to verify a religion, islam in this case. Historians don’t use this constantly as is said. The historicity argument is very highly speculative.

    Reply
  3. Toby says:

    I’d go with acronym rather than acrostic. You might even consider calling it an initialism. Initialism. Who knew? Hurray for the internet.

    Reply
  4. Robin Lionheart says:

    This outline calls “witnesses” Josephus and Tactius, who when the Resurrection allegedly took place, had not yet been born.

    That gives me very low expectations for McGrew’s scholarship.

    Reply
  5. Stephen B says:

    Regarding ‘criterion of embarrassment’, when faced with a Gospel account that strikes us as embarrassing to the first person subject, there seem to be several possibilities:

    1) The author revealed details he found embarrassing about himself
    2) He MADE UP details he found embarrassing about himself
    3) True or not, he didn’t personally find the details embarrassing
    4) Someone else entirely wrote the account from the point of view of the Gospel writer, and hence was unaffected either way by whether the details might have been embarrassing to the supposed author.

    Now, if you’re going to argue that people are unlikely to reveal embarrassing details about themselves, then logically the ‘criterion of embarrassment’ argument points should be used as evidence for the fourth option, especially given the lack of evidence that the Gospels were written by their purported authors.

    Even if one dismisses that, option 3 is still a possibility – from wiki:
    “In one [Infancy Gospel] account, a very young Jesus is said to use his supernatural powers first to strike dead, and then revive, a playmate who had accidentally bumped into him. If this tradition had been accepted as worthy of inclusion at some key juncture in the formation of the Christian Bible (and hence integrated in one way or another among the Canonical Gospels), arguably many modern Christians would find it quite embarrassing — especially, strict believers in biblical inerrancy; but apparently, as is strongly suggested by the mere existence of this early non-canonical pericope, it must not have been embarrassing to at least some early Christians.”

    And even if one rejects that too – why assume that if someone reveals something embarrassing, it’s more likely to be true? If you tell a story that reflects badly on you, then you must believe that telling it is more important than your embarrassment. But that goes whether the story is true or not.

    And finally, any minor embarrassment in the details of the Gospel writers’ stories must be set against the fact that the Disciples have been revered for almost 2,000 years since Jesus’ death. Why not reveal a few details that reflect badly on you, even if untrue, if the end result is to be thought of so highly for millennia after your death?

    Reply
  6. Tim says:

    Toby asks:

    *****
    What leads us to believe that the “non-biblical sources” were not just quoting from biblical texts? It’s not like someone like Josephus, living in Rome when he wrote his histories, had a cell phone to call and talk to people in the homeland.
    *****

    Josephus grew up in Jerusalem, not in Rome, and was probably in his twenties or thirties when the Synoptic Gospels were written. The Testimonium Flavianum, in the non-interpolated (Arabic) text, shows no signs of quoting the Gospels. Tacitus’s account in Annals 15.44 may at some points be dependent on Josephus; it shows no signs of being dependent on any part of the New Testament and is, in fact, quite hostile toward Christianity.

    *****
    [The] “criterion of embarrassment” is an embarrassment. How can anyone argue this is a valid method of validating anything? It’s practically unused outside of biblical study.
    *****

    The criterion makes sense whether or not it is widely used outside of biblical studies. All else being equal, a writer is less likely to invent a detail that is embarrassing to him or to his cause than he is to invent one that is creditable to him or to his cause. Mechanical application of the criterion would, of course, yield silly results, but it was never intended to license the deductive inference: “X is embarrassing; therefore, X must be true.” We are talking here about the weighing of probabilities. And in that context, embarrassment is a significant consideration.

    *****
    Historians don’t use this constantly as is said. The historicity argument is very highly speculative.
    *****

    Gibbon’s use of the criterion of embarrassment in connection with the Qur’an does come up in the interview. In the legal literature, it is well established that testimony against a witness’s interest is of particular value. The use of the criterion of embarrassment, properly understood, is simply a special case of that observation.

    If the objection is that the criterion is not used widely in historical scholarship, then it should be pointed out that many biblical scholars are historians, so the distinction is invidious. The text of scripture has been subjected to an unparalleled scrutiny; it is not surprising that methods have been developed and widely applied there that are used less often elsewhere, where the crazier sorts of skepticism are largely kept in check by the common sense of the scholarly community.

    Robin Lionheart Says:

    *****
    This outline calls “witnesses” Josephus and Tactius, who when the Resurrection allegedly took place, had not yet been born.

    That gives me very low expectations for McGrew’s scholarship.
    *****

    Where does the outline call Josephus and Tacitus witnesses of the resurrection? Josephus, in the famous Testimonium Flavianum, reports that the disciples claimed that Jesus appeared to them alive after his death. Tacitus reports that the “most mischievous superstition” broke out again in Judea after Jesus’ death. That’s all.

    Stephen B Says:

    *****
    Regarding ‘criterion of embarrassment’, when faced with a Gospel account that strikes us as embarrassing to the first person subject, there seem to be several possibilities:

    1) The author revealed details he found embarrassing about himself
    2) He MADE UP details he found embarrassing about himself
    3) True or not, he didn’t personally find the details embarrassing
    4) Someone else entirely wrote the account from the point of view of the Gospel writer, and hence was unaffected either way by whether the details might have been embarrassing to the supposed author.

    Now, if you’re going to argue that people are unlikely to reveal embarrassing details about themselves, then logically the ‘criterion of embarrassment’ argument points should be used as evidence for the fourth option, especially given the lack of evidence that the Gospels were written by their purported authors.
    ****

    Given the strong evidence that the Gospels were written by their purported authors (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gldvim1yjYM), the fourth option is not particularly germane here. But if it were, one must take into account the fact that a good deal of authority in the early church was conferred by selection to offices of importance by the leaders of the previous generation, a consideration that would itself mitigate the force of option 4.

    *****
    Even if one dismisses that, option 3 is still a possibility – from wiki:

    “In one [Infancy Gospel] account, a very young Jesus is said to use his supernatural powers first to strike dead, and then revive, a playmate who had accidentally bumped into him. If this tradition had been accepted as worthy of inclusion at some key juncture in the formation of the Christian Bible (and hence integrated in one way or another among the Canonical Gospels), arguably many modern Christians would find it quite embarrassing — especially, strict believers in biblical inerrancy; but apparently, as is strongly suggested by the mere existence of this early non-canonical pericope, it must not have been embarrassing to at least some early Christians.”
    *****

    The Protoevangelium of James is a mid second century document that has no claims to authenticity; it was never a serious contender for a record of the actual life and doings of Jesus. Beyond this, the criterion of embarrassment is not an inference ticket; it is one consideration that must be laid in the scales among others. The details considered here, particularly with respect to the status of women, were obviously problematic for the purposes of proclamation of the Gospel to the unconverted — so much so that they were omitted from the creed in 1 Corinthians 15.

    *****
    And even if one rejects that too – why assume that if someone reveals something embarrassing, it’s more likely to be true? If you tell a story that reflects badly on you, then you must believe that telling it is more important than your embarrassment. But that goes whether the story is true or not.
    *****

    The point is that the detail or story is more likely to be invented if it is not embarrassing to the author or his group than if it is.

    *****
    And finally, any minor embarrassment in the details of the Gospel writers’ stories must be set against the fact that the Disciples have been revered for almost 2,000 years since Jesus’ death. Why not reveal a few details that reflect badly on you, even if untrue, if the end result is to be thought of so highly for millennia after your death?
    *****

    Because they were writing for people of their own times, not for people living nearly two millennia later.

    Reply
  7. Stephen B says:

    “Because they were writing for people of their own times, not for people living nearly two millennia later.”

    How do you know who they were writing for? Here’s the options facing them:
    1) Tell a story that involves their faith in Jesus being validated by Him being the son of God, and them being one of His chosen few disciples, with a few embarrassing details about them. Or
    2) Don’t tell the story and have their contemporaries see them as the 12 idiots who followed that would-be messiah who got humiliatingly executed.

    Given that, the former is less embarrassing, regardless of whether it is true, and regardless if some elements ate embarrassing. Why include those bits at all? To make the whole more believable to people like you who trusts the criterion of embarrassment!

    I’ve not checked your link, but the authorship of the Gospels is certainly not a settled argument.

    Reply
  8. Stephen B says:

    “The Protoevangelium of James is a mid second century document that has no claims to authenticity”

    That’s completely irrelevant to the point, which is that though the story seems embarrassing to modern readers, it apparently didn’t seem so to 2nd Century readers. Thus one can see that ideas of what is embarrassing does change.

    Reply
  9. Stephen B says:

    “The point is that the detail or story is more likely to be invented if it is not embarrassing to the author or his group than if it is.”

    One could equally argue the exact opposite -that the story is more likely not to be written by the first person narrator if the story has embarrassing elements than if it does not.

    Reply
  10. Tim says:

    Stephen,

    You ask:

    “How do you know who they were writing for?”

    Are you seriously asking whether a first century writer was deliberately sabotaging his own case with his contemporaries in order to look more plausible to a hypothetical audience twenty centuries later?

    “[I]deas of what is embarrassing [do] change”

    Sure they do. But we have lots of direct evidence of the fact that women were second class citizens in first century Judaism. We don’t have anything similar about little boy wizards who slew (and then resurrected) their playmates.

    The point about the date of the Protoevangelium of James is that it wasn’t written even to try to be an historical account of the early life of Jesus.

    Reply
  11. Tim says:

    “One could equally argue the exact opposite -that the story is more likely not to be written by the first person narrator if the story has embarrassing elements than if it does not.”

    There is some point to this observation for cases where we know little or nothing about the author. But if we already have strong, early, consistent evidence for the authorship of the kind that we have for the four canonical Gospels, then that alternative doesn’t really gain any traction.

    Reply
  12. Stephen B says:

    “Are you seriously asking whether a first century writer was deliberately sabotaging his own case with his contemporaries in order to look more plausible to a hypothetical audience twenty centuries later?”

    No, that’s not really what I said.

    Reply
  13. thom waters says:

    With regard to the historical reliability of the New Testament documents, I would like to raise a question.

    No less an authority than William Lane Craig has said that no well-regarded New Testament scholar accepts the guard story in Matthew as historically reliable. When admissions of this sort are made, doesn’t it cast a rather dark shadow on the entirety of the documents? Isn’t this especially true when dealing with the many other stories in these documents that appear in only one account, thus eliminating the criteria of multiple attestation? Seems like you’re left with not much to stand on. Even the “minimal facts” are left open to scrutiny and argumentation and they become much less than “facts”.

    For example, what convincing or compelling evidence do you have to support the minimal fact that one Jesus died by crucifixion? Here I’m not talking about the act of a crucifixion, but rather the expected end, which would be a death. What compelling evidence do we have that attests to such a “fact”. Beyond these documents saying that he died, which might be more a “belief” than a “fact”, what evidence is there that attests to this? I’m stumped. It seems like the whole house of “minimal facts” begins to crumble, unless you simply stand on the old argument that, “The Bible says it, so I believe it.”

    Thanks.

    Reply
  14. Maryann Spikes says:

    L Low status of women in first century Judaism (criterion of embarrassment; Mt 28, Mk 16, Lk 24, Jn 20)

    Would be better to clarify this with, “Even so, women are the first witnesses to the resurrection,” somewhere in there.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *