Hi friends, a quick update with two photos from the class:
We had about forty people come out - we needed to bring in extra chairs to accommodate everyone in the room where we meet. It was an incredible opportunity to interact with Mike in such an intimate environment. There were a few skeptics in attendance and many Christians who have close family members who don’t know Christ. I was also encouraged that teenagers and senior adults were involved in the discussion.
Mike’s argument was “so simple you can put it on a napkin.” You can see the picture above. So that you can share this with friends, someone you meet on a plane, etc… in brief, here’s how he developed the argument:
When I decided to investigate the resurrection, I had a problem. I was so biased to find evidence that it was true. So how could I reduce my bias? I decided to only work from facts that nearly every non-Christian historian of Jesus accepted. One fact that commands almost universal consent is that the original disciples of Jesus repeatedly, publicly claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Just like there are a handful of historians who deny the Holocaust, there are a handful of people who will even deny that Jesus existed. But they aren’t taken seriously by the vast majority of professional historians.
The disciples made this claim either because Jesus had appeared to them or he had not appeared to them. That captures all the possibilities.
If Jesus did not appear to the disciples, then two other options: either the disciples believed
he had appeared to them or they did not believe that Jesus had appeared to them.
If they believed that Jesus had appeared to them, this would be a hallucination. Mike carefully defined a hallucination as the perception of something that is not present. For instance, if you think your cellphone is vibrating in your pocket, but it isn’t - that’s a tactile hallucination. Importantly, like dreams, hallucinations are not contagious. The problems with this hypothesis:
A. The disciples claimed Jesus appeared risen to them in groups, but hallucinations are an individual experience.
B. Too high a percentage of people claimed that they had appearances of Jesus. Less than half of senior adults have a hallucination of their dead spouse, but in this case, 100% of the original disciples claimed to have seen the risen Jesus (when he was in fact, according to this theory, dead).
C. Paul also claimed to have had an appearance of the risen Jesus, but he was not psychologically motivated to be grieving the loss of Jesus. He was a proud Pharisee who saw his opposition to the followers of Jesus as a good religious duty.
If the disciples did not believe that Jesus had appeared to them, then either they were lying or were speaking of his resurrection metaphorically.
A. But, it does not make sense that they were lying. Liars make poor martyrs. We don’t have historical evidence that all of the disciples were martyred for their public witness to the resurrection of Jesus, but we do know that they did experience continual suffering for their claims.
B. Nor is it reasonable to understand that they meant ‘Jesus is alive’ in a metaphorical sense. A careful reading of, for instance, 1 Corinthians 15 demonstrates that Paul and the earliest followers of Jesus meant that Jesus was bodily risen.
If Jesus did appear to the disciples, then that is possible either because he never died or because he did die and then was bodily risen from the dead.
A. The possibility that Jesus survived crucifixion is extremely low. On one occasion, when Josephus asked Titus to prematurely remove three of his friends from crucifixion, and they were given the best medical care available, two of them still died. To imagine that Jesus, having been scourged, forced to carry the cross, impaled upon it, speared in the side, and buried without food or water, still survived the crucifixion is not historically reasonable.
B. The only reasonable option left is that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead.
I hope this is helpful to you! There are many rabbit trails and further conversations to be had from this summary. For instance, Mike pointed out he didn’t even include the evidence for the empty tomb, and how this supports the resurrection, because a near complete consensus doesn’t exist among historians that the tomb was found empty.