Occams Razor

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Category: Resurrection evidence

Occam's Razor is a principle attributed to the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham. It forms the basis of methodological reductionism, also called the principle of parsimony or law of economy.

In its simplOccamest form, Occam's Razor states that one should make no more assumptions than needed. Put into everyday language, it says

The simplest explanation is the best.

When multiple explanations are available for a phenomenon, the simplest version is preferred. For example, a charred tree on the ground could be caused by a landing alien ship or a lightning strike. According to Occam's Razor, the lightning strike is the preferred explanation as it requires the fewest assumptions.

The principle is most often expressed as Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, or "Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity".

Occam's razor - a widely accepted principle - would actually seem to support the historical resurrection of Christ. That Jesus actually did rise from the dead and appear to His disciples is a very simple and complete explanation for the complex series of events that followed including the empty tomb and the series of appearances. It also explains the actions of the disciples in preaching the gospel and suffering martyrdom, the rapid rise of Christianity in Jerusalem and beyond, and the phenomenon of the Christian Sunday. The resurrection of Jesus is an easy and simple explanation of a very complex series of events. Any alternative explanation of this series of events will, of necessity, involve a large number of different happenings and coincidences. It is just far simpler to believe that Christ really did rise from the dead.

Did Grave Robbers Remove Jesus' Body?

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Category: Resurrection evidence

Did Grave Robbers Remove Jesus' Body?

The empty tomb requires an explanation. It is clear that neither Jesus' friends nor His enemies removed His body. Is it possible that someone who was neither His friend, nor His enemy stole His body? Is it possible that in the two nights that Jesus' body lay in the tomb someone came along and stole His body - carried it to a distant location and dumped it for it to rot or be eaten by animals?

Even nowadays this is a view held by some. However, it fails to come to terms with a number of facts.

1) The tomb was under official guard for the two nights that Jesus' body lay there.

2) The stone covering the tombs entrance was extremely large and would have been difficult to remove.

3) The tomb was sealed under Roman Authority. Breaking the seal would have meant certain death for any grave robber. Why risk this when there was nothing of any value to steal?

4) In Israel touching a body was banned by their law. Under Levitical law contact with a human corpse, human bones, or a grave (Num 19:11, 13, 16), constituted a person to be ceremonially unclean. A ceremonially unclean person was barred from the sanctuary or Temple (cf. Lev 12:4; Num 19:13, 20), and might not touch any sacred object for the duration of his uncleanness (cf. Num 19:22). The only way to make purification was through the sacrifice of a red heifer. (Num 19).

5) Why try and steal Jesus' body? It was not worth anything. Jesus was not wealthy and was not buried with any riches. Who would have wanted his body? It is perhaps conceivable that loyal supporters (such as the disciples) may have wanted the body - but why would strangers want it? There would have been no financial reward and much danger in stealing a corpse. It just doesn't make any sense.

6) Grave robbery is extremely uncommon even now. What is the likelihood that in the two nights that Jesus' body lay in the tomb it would have been taken? Very long odds indeed.

So if Jesus' friends didn't remove His body, His enemies didn't remove His body and graverobbers didn't remove His body - what am I supposed to believe? It just got up and walked out?

"We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." 
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), "The Adventure of Bruce-Parting ton Plans"

The Resurrection story is a myth?

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Category: Resurrection evidence

The Resurrection story is a myth?

It can be shown, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the resurrection of Christ was neither a hallucination nor an elaborate deception. However, is it not possible that the resurrection stories are just legends or myths that developed over time before being written down?

Carl Jung wrote "The Osiris myth was clearly superseded by the Christ myth." The Osiris myth lasted for 4500 years in Egypt. The idea is that the resurrection of Christ is just a continuum of ancient stories about a dying and rising god.

Is the Christian belief in the resurrection just such a myth?

This is a popular idea with those who reject any supernatural explanation of the events of Easter Sunday. However, it only has any credibility as long as it is not considered in any depth.

 

1) Firstly, and fatally for the myth theory, there was just not long enough for a myth to develop. Myths take hundreds or even thousands of years to develop. The original `demythologisers` argued strongly for a late second century date for the writing of the gospels. This would have allowed several generations to have passed before the account was put to paper and mistakenly taken as fact rather than myth. However, there is constantly increasing evidence for a very early date for the writing of most of the gospels. John Robinson has suggested that the gospels were written as early as 40 or 50AD; just 20 years after the resurrection and well within the lifetime of most of the witnesses. Even those who dispute such early dates for the gospels are very unlikely to dispute that Paul's letters were written in the first century and well within the lifetime of witnesses to the events described. Myths require several generations to build up - but in the New testament there was not room for even one generation.

Julius Muller wrote;

"One cannot imagine how such a series of legends could arise in an historical age, obtain universal respect, and supplant the historical recollection of the true character [Jesus]....if eyewitnesses were still at hand who could be questioned respecting the truth of the recorded marvels. Hence, legendary fiction, as it likes not the clear present time but prefers the mysterious gloom of gray antiquity, is wont to seek a remoteness of age, along with that of space, and to remove its boldest and most rare and wonderful creations into a very remote and unknown land."  (The Theory of Myths in Its Application to the Gospel History Examined and Confuted [London, 1844], p. 26)

 

2) The plain fact of the matter is that the gospels read nothing like a myth. They keep referring to eye witnesses and to history. The style of the gospels is radically different from all ancient myths.There are also telltale marks of eyewitness description, like the little detail of Jesus writing in the sand when asked whether to stone the adulteress or not (Jn 8:6). No one knows why this is put in; nothing comes of it. The only explanation is that the writer saw it.

Firstly, in myth psychological depth is unimportant. In myths spectacular events happen to make it more interesting. However, nothing seems to happen in the gospels without meaning or forming part of a greater `whole`.

Secondly, myths are extremely verbose and read at great length. The gospels, however, are concise and describe great events with a minimum of words.

To get a feel for the difference between the plain factual and historical writing of the gospels and the rather more fanciful and spectacular writing of myths and legends read the following from the so-called Gospel of Peter, a forgery written in Peter's name, around 125 AD. William Craig Lane summarises it thus;

"In this account, the tomb is not only surrounded by Roman guards but also by all the Jewish Pharisees and elders as well as a great multitude from all the surrounding countryside who have come to watch the resurrection. Suddenly in the night there rings out a loud voice in heaven, and two men descend from heaven to the tomb. The stone over the door rolls back by itself, and they go into the tomb. The three men come out of the tomb, two of them holding up the third man. The heads of the two men reach up into the clouds, but the head of the third man reaches beyond the clouds. Then a cross comes out of the tomb, and a voice from heaven asks, 'Have you preached to them that sleep?' And the cross answers, 'Yes.'"  (Apologetics, p. 189)

One of the best anti-demythologizing essays is written by CS Lewis in "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism" (in Christian Reflections and also in Fern-Seed and Elephants).

 

(3) The myth theory has two layers. The first layer is the historical Jesus, who was not divine, did not claim divinity, performed no miracles, and did not rise from the dead. The second, later, mythologized layer is the Gospels as we have them, with a Jesus who claimed to be divine, performed miracles and rose from the dead. The problem with this theory is simply that there is not the slightest bit of any real evidence whatever for the existence of any such first layer. The two-layer cake theory has the first layer made entirely of air—and hot air at that.

William Lane Craig summarizes situation as follows:

"The Gospels are a miraculous story, and we have no other story handed down to us than that contained in the Gospels....The letters of Barnabas and Clement refer to Jesus' miracles and resurrection. Polycarp mentions the resurrection of Christ, and I eus relates that he had heard Polycarp tell of Jesus' miracles. Ignatius speaks of the resurrection. Puadratus reports that persons were still living who had been healed by Jesus. Justin Martyr mentions the miracles of Christ. No relic of a non-miraculous story exists. That the original story should be lost and replaced by another goes beyond any known example of corruption of even oral tradition, not to speak of the experience of written transmissions. These facts show that the story in the Gospels was in substance the same story that Christians had at the beginning. This means...that the resurrection of Jesus was always a part of the story."  (Apologetics, chapter 6)

 

4) The New Testamen elf clearly refutes that it is a myth. See 2 Peter 1v16. Since it claims not to be a myth then there are two logical possibilities. One is that it is a myth and therefore this claim not to be a myth is a deliberate lie by the writers. If this is the case then we are back to the conspiracy theory with all its related difficulties. If it is not a myth then it is history as it claims to be.

 

5) The evidence that the New Testament as we now have it is written by eyewitnesses to the facts they report is as follows:

a) The style of the gospels is alive and dynamic. What would be expected of eye witnesses - not ancient mythological stories passed down from generation to generation.
b) It is agreed by virtually all scholars that Acts was written before the death of Paul - as it fails to mention his death. But Luke must have been written before Acts as they are clearly by the same author. Therefore Luke must have a very early composition date indeed - which means its author probably did, as he claims, consult with all the relevant witnesses and make painstaking research before writing the document.
c) All the gospels show an intimate knowledge of Jerusalem before its destruction in 70AD - which demonstrates a likely early date for them all.
d) The gospels relate that the disciples were weak, human, slow on the uptake, doubters, deceivers, etc. All such facts seem to attest to their accuracy.
e) The gospels do not contain any anachronisms. In other words the authors do really appear to have been first century Jews.
f) If Jesus was a real person then surely the disciples would have left some writings? If so - where are they if they are not the gospels?
g) The extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors: the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, Theophilus, Hippolytus, Origen, Puadratus, I eus, Melito, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Tatian, Caius, Athanasius, Cyril, up to Eusebius in A.D. 315, even Christianity's opponents conceded this: Celsus, Porphyry, Emperor Julian.
h) The testimony of the resurrection goes back to the original experiences. Remember the eyewitness creed of 1 Cor. 15? That is the first-hand testimony of Peter and James. So it is not the case that the resurrection belief evolved over time.

 

6) The myth theory cannot account for the empty tomb.

 

7) The myth theory cannot explain the sudden conversion of Paul to Christianity. Would he really have been convinced by a myth? His conversion was much too early for any myth to have developed by then.

Did Jesus Enemies Removed the Body?

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Category: Resurrection evidence

 

Did Jesus Enemies Removed the Body?

Who were Jesus' enemies?

1) The Jewish authorities - including the Sanhedrin, priests and Pharisees all had their grievances against Christ. He had overturned tables in the temple. Blasphemed by claiming to be God Himself. Broken the sabbath. Conducted Healing and miracles and was generally drawing a bigger crowd than they were. They wanted Him removed from the picture altogether, and according to the gospels it is they who called for the Romans to crucify Him.

2) The Roman occupiers. The Romans could have seen Jesus as a potential revolutionary bringing political instability to the region. It was quite common for them to crucify such political figures. This was why Jesus' claims to be the true `King` were seen as so dangerous by the Romans.

Whether the Jews or the Romans took the body is of very little consequence. The main point is this - once the gospel started being preached and being believed by the masses why didn't the authorities simply produce Jesus' body and put an end to the matter? Why go through hunting down, beating, imprisoning and killing Christians when you can put an end to the whole business by just producing His body? It would be the ultimate refutation of the whole gospel message. Peter's first sermon on Pentecost was founded on the principle that Jesus had risen from the dead - if it could have been easily proved that he was talking nonsense at this point then Christianity would have been finished before it was started.

Why didn't this happen? For the simple reason that they did not have the body. The body wasn't in the tomb and nor was it available to the authorities. It was gone. There was no way for them to refute the resurrection.

But perhaps the authorities didn't have access to Jesus' body because it was taken by grave robbers.


Old Testament Prophecies Relating to the Crucifixion of Jesus.

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Category: Resurrection evidence

Old Testament Prophecies Relating to the Crucifixion of Jesus.

 

The trial, torture and crucifixion of Jesus was foretold in remarkable detail in the Old Testament.

Jesus Himself repeatedly appealed to the scriptures in support of His claims. See for example Luke 24v25-27;"He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Did not the Christ] have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."

All the New Testament writers also consistently appealed to the Old testament in support of their claims about Jesus. See for example Acts 17v2,3; "As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament), 3explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ" he said."

In the Old Testament there are agreed to be 60 major prophecies relating to Christ, but some believe as many as 270 in total. A great many of these relate to the death of Jesus.

What follows is a brief summary of some of the major prophecies relating to His final few days in Jerusalem.

1) He will enter Jerusalem riding a donkey (the colt of an ass) (Zechariah 9:9). Fulfillment: Matt. 21:5; Luke 19:32-37.

2) He will be hated for no reason (Psalm 69:4). Fulfillment: John 15:25.

3) He will be betrayed (Psalm 41:9). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:3-10.

4) More specifically, He will be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:3-10; 26:47-48.

5) The price of his betrayal will be thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:3-10.

6) The betrayal money will be cast onto the floor (Zech. 11:13). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:5.

7) More specifically, it will be cast onto the floor of the Temple (Zech. 11:13). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:3-10.

8) The betrayal money will be used to buy a potter's field (Zech. 11:13). Fulfillment: Matt. 27:6-10.

9) He will not open his mouth to defend himself (Isaiah 53:7). Fulfillment: Matthew 27:12.

10) He will be beaten and spat upon (Isaiah 50:6). Fulfillment: Matthew 26:67; 27:26-30.

11) He will be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). Fulfillment: Jesus was crucified as a criminal in between two thieves (Mat 27:38).

12) He will be pierced (Zechariah 12:10). Fulfillment: John 19:34

13) His hands and feet will be pierced (Psalm 22:16; cf. Zechariah 12:10; Galatians 3:13). Crucifixion foretold. Psalm 22 graphically prophecies the Messiah's manner of death. At the time the psalm was written (and long after), the penalty for blasphemy was stoning. Therefore, this prediction of crucifixion is particularly astonishing.

14) The Jewish Passover sacrifice and Jesus Christ's sacrificial death coincide exactly. The dates on which Jesus was taken by the Roman authorities, and then slain, also coincided precisely with the Jewish Passover. Jesus became the Passover Lamb, "without blemish." Just as the angel of death passed by those Israelites who put blood on their doorposts - so Jesus' sacrifical death also results in freedom from death and hell for those who accept His blood.

15) His bones will not be broken (Psalm 34:20; Exodus 12 states that the Passover Lamb's bones are not to be broken.). Fulfillment: John 19:33.

16) They will divide his clothing and cast lots for them (Psalm 22:18). Fulfillment: John 19:23-24.

17) He will be given vinegar and gall to drink (Psalm 69:21). Fulfillment: Matthew 27:34, 48.

18) He will say: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1). Fulfillment: Matthew 27:46.

19) He will be buried with the rich (Isaiah 53:9). Fulfillment: Matthew 27.

20) He will not decay (Psalm 16:10). Fulfillment: Acts 2:31

21) He will be resurrected from the dead (Psalm 16:10). Fulfillment: Acts 2:31, etc.

22) He will ascend into heaven (Psalm 68:18). Fulfillment: Acts 1:9.

 

These are a small selection of some of the prophecies relating to the death of Christ.

What is the likelihood that these prophecies would be fulfilled in one person unless He were the Messiah?

Objection! Such Fulfilled Prophecies are Coincidental.

It is frequently argued that it is mere coincidence that these Old Testament scriptures seem to bear a resemblance to the life and death of Christ. After all, it would be possible to find scriptures that seem to relate to the life of anyone; Tony Blair, the Queen or even you.

This, of course, is true. It is perfectly possible that it is coincidental. Possible.....but very unlikely.

If you tried hard you may be able to find a handful of prophecies that relate to Tony Blair. But you certainly could not find in excess of 60 that clearly match certain incidents in his life. The probability of so many prophecies getting fulfilled in one person by chance is hundreds of thousands to one. Professor Stoner says that by using probability theory in relation to just 8 of the prophecies related to Jesus "we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017. That is 1 in 100 000 000 000 000 000."

Objection! Jesus Himself tried to fulfill the prophecies.

This would seem to be plausible. For example, Jesus' last words on the cross were of His choosing. He clearly decided what to say so that it would fulfill the prophecies of Psalm 22.

True enough. But a great many prophecies were completely beyond His control. For example, Jesus had no say over how much silver was paid to Judas for his betrayal. What about the manner of His death? The reaction of the people? The mocking and the spitting? The casting die for his clothing? The non-tearing of His main robe?

More than 50% of the prophecies fulfilled in Christ were completely outside His power to influence one way or another.

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