I have attempted to reduce Ken Smith's arguments against the resurrection into five basic categories. Most of the rhetoric has been cut and the basic argument preserved. The following are Ken's arguments against the resurrection as I have re-ordered them.
It is not the skeptic's burden to prove the Resurrection accounts false. To point out inconsistencies in the testimony, and refuse to rest unless and until they are satisfactorily explained. To incorporate our knowledge of human behavior -- Man's quest for immortality, his desire for importance, and even his capacity for fraud and self-deception -- into the analysis. And like the defense attorney, to raise "reasonable doubt."
It is Christian's burden to prove the Resurrection accounts true.
Remember that the appearance to the men was of particular evidentiary significance, as women were not regarded as reliable witnesses.
In the Matthew account, the disciples were told to go to Galilee (Matt. 28:10). Jesus' disciples didn't have a reason to go to Galilee. The disciples could not have left Jerusalem for at least eight days, on account of the purported appearance to Thomas (Galilee being ~100 miles away). If they did make the alleged trek to Galilee that Luke fails to mention, it could not have taken place until at least nine days after the first alleged appearance. And, after they had traveled a hundred miles just to see this guy again, and he miraculously showed up at the appointed time and place, they worshipped him, but "some doubted" (Matt.28:17)? Why Matthew didn't even make an allusion to the two Jerusalem appearances to the assembled disciples?
In the Luke account, we are told that they stayed continually at the temple (Lk. 24:53), and to stay in Jerusalem (Ac. 1:4). There is not even a suggestion in the Luke-Acts tale that the disciples ever made the 150+ mile journey to Galilee and back or for that matter, ever had a reason to. What's more, once they returned to Jerusalem, they didn't just stop in at the Temple to pay their tithes -- they stayed there "continually" (Gk: dia pantos).
If John is to be believed, the disciples not only saw him once before, but at least twice and even three times. What's more, they heard of more appearances.
I have maintained that if anyone could show me evidence for the Resurrection of similar quality and quantity as I have been able to present with regard to Bob Larson's moral transgressions, I would repent and relent. But if the Gospel accounts are historically accurate, it is beyond any semblance of reasonable dispute that the evidence for the Resurrection that was presented to the disciples (including not one, but several in-person appearances; see Question 6 below) was far more compelling than even the evidence against Bob Larson. In an Anglo-American courtroom, there is no way you could prove the facticity of the Resurrection, due primarily to the fact that the Gospels would be inadmissible hearsay. We both agree that the evidence against Bob Larson is absolutely compelling -- more than sufficient to convince the average person of his litany of moral transgressions beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, you openly admit that the best evidence you have for the Resurrection is substantially inferior to that, both in terms of quality and quantity. And I'm sure, Doug, that you can produce these witnesses in court ... or at least have their sworn depositions handy? Paul claimed in I Corinthians that there were 500 others who could corroborate the story, but Paul never claimed to be one of the 500 in question, nor were any of the 500 named. That's simple hearsay, and has no probative value whatever. We can therefore reasonably infer from the text of Matthew that the writer was reporting what he believed to be the first legally significant (in terms of Jewish law) post-Resurrection appearance.
And if I had seen Jesus raise the dead, turn water into wine, and make blind men see -- and see him in the flesh, not once but several times, after I had personally witnessed his arrest and crucifixion, I submit that I would be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt. So, why did they doubt? According to John (20:25), the disciples came to Thomas and told him that they had seen the Lord (as opposed to "We think we have seen the Lord"). No evidence of doubt there. And "doubting Thomas," when confronted with the evidence (as is alleged by John 20:28), openly acknowledged him in the second appearance. No evidence of doubt there, either. So, where _did_ this alleged "doubt" come from? If they saw Jesus in their room in Jerusalem -- not once, but twice! -- they should have gotten the picture before they started off to Galilee. There is no evidence of doubt as to the validity of the Resurrection -- in either the Lukan or Johannine accounts -- after the Jerusalem appearance(s). To suggest otherwise is eisegesis. Matthew 28:17 doesn't refer to the Great Commission, or what was "going to happen," either directly or by implication. It merely refers to the disciples seeing Jesus, and worshipping him. But some doubted. As I see it, the only way that Matthew 28:17 can plausibly be explained is if we take the text at face value. If you saw Jesus -- alive -- for the first time after you saw him die on a cross, a measure of doubt could not only be forgiven but understandable. But by the third or fourth appearance, any doubts should have expired long beforehand. On the one hand, if you insist that the disciples were justified in doubting, even after seeing Jesus turn water into wine, raise the dead, and even being present at several post-Crucifixion appearances, then you must concede that you cannot PROVE to the average person beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. Conversely, if you concede my point that the doubt referred to in Matthew was not only inexplicable but absolutely inconceivable, you necessarily must concede my thesis.
That was also the strength of Scientology, the Book of Mormon, the Branch Davidians, (insert any religious cult you want, with the possible exception of Urantia) at the time, it was believed. It is a ridiculous argument to begin with, when you realize just how many kooky cults have been started, even in our Information Age. It is not enough that it was believed -- remember, the folks at Jim Jones' compound in Guyana drank their Kool-Aid. "One may be unaware of the other appearance?" That constitutes an admission that the Gospel of Matthew is a psuedonymic work. In layman's terms, a forgery. If Matthew did not write the Gospel which bears his name, then it has no credibility whatever. So much for the inspiration of the Bible.... And of course, you have absolutely NO doubt whatsoever that Joseph Smith received the Golden Plates from the angel Moroni? We have the testimony not only of Smith but also eleven other witnesses. Moreover, we know something about the witnesses' character and their reputations for honor and integrity. For instance, David Whitmer was respectable enough to be elected the town mayor, and Oliver Cowdery (admittedly, a lawyer, but we won't hold that against him) was respectable enough to have run for state assemblyman. The Book or Mormon witnesses were the kind of people you'd find at your local Jaycees. By stark contrast, for all we know, the apostle Paul could have had the personal integrity of a David Miscavige or a David Koresh. If we are to trust the Four Gospels implicitly, why should we not also believe the Book of Mormon? If respectable men like Cowdery and Harris could engage in such a fraud, then why couldn't the authors of the Gospels? A skeptical public couldn't stop the Mormons, or even the Church of Scientology ... why couldn't the early Christians pull the same kind of stunt? Simon Greenleaf's attempt to bolster the credibility of the Four Evangelists can also be applied to David Whitmer: If it were morally possible for him to be deceived in the matter [Joseph Smith's discovery of the Golden Plates], every human motive operated to lead him to discover and avow his error. To have persisted in so gross a falsehood, after it was known to him, was not only to encounter, for life, all the evils that man [or, more to the point, the LDS Church] could inflict, from without, but to endure also the pangs of inward and conscious guilt; with no hope of future peace, no testimony of a good conscience, no expectation of honor or esteem among men, no hope in happiness in this life, or the world to come. [Cf., S. Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists, as reprinted in J.W. Montgomery, The Law Above the Law, p. 119.]
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