Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead?

The Resurrection is the key event of Christianity. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then Christianity simply wouldn’t exist as a religion. I have elsewhere discussed the contradictions in the crucifixion narrative and how claiming Jesus died for our sins doesn’t make any sense, so today being Easter Sunday, I thought I’d investigate whether the core of Christianity is actually true. Did Jesus really rise from the dead or is it just a myth?

One thing I don’t understand is the reason for the resurrection. What was God or Jesus trying to prove? What was the point? He supposedly died for our sins (something which makes no sense), but why rise? Does that defeat the whole point of his sacrifice? You can’t claim to have died for humanity if you didn’t actually die. There is a second problem in that Lazarus supposedly also rose from the dead, which takes away a lot of the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. Is Lazarus the Son of God? Also according to Matthew 27:52-3, when Jesus died, many saints apparently also rose from the dead and “went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” If loads of other people also rose from the dead, what’s special about Jesus? This zombie apocalypse isn’t mentioned anywhere else, which makes me think that Matthew had no clue what he was talking about.

If the resurrection was true, it would be one of the most important events in world history, so you’d expect God to provide some convincing evidence. In fact, the evidence is incredibly weak and crumbles after the slightest of nudges. The main problem is that there are no eye witness accounts to the actual event, a detail you’d think would get more notice. The Bible is our only source, yet we don’t know who wrote the Gospels. There were compiled decades after the event by unknown authors, which isn’t the best of starts. It is generally acknowledged that whoever wrote the Gospels did not personally witness the events but rather wrote down oral stories (that had presumably changed over the years with telling). The other source is the letters of Paul, yet he never even met Jesus and his claim that Jesus appeared before 500 people is not mentioned by anyone else, making me think it never happened.

We cannot trust whoever wrote the Gospels, because they contradict each other frequently. In fact there is hardly a single part of the story that the Gospels agree on. How many women went to the empty tomb? According to John it was only Mary Magdalene, according to Matthew it was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, Mark says it was the two Marys and Salome, while Luke claims it was the two Marys, Joanna and other women. What did they see there? According to Matthew it was an angel, Mark writes it was a young man, Luke says it was two men, while John says it was two angels. Now this may sound like minor details, but it is actually important. You see, not all accounts can be right, they contradict themselves so much, that at least three must be wrong. These three must not have reliable sources, but instead be recording stories distorted over time. This means that if they are wrong about one part, then they are probably wrong about other parts.

A strange thing about the Bible is that although the resurrection is so obviously important, it gets barely any mention. Matthew, Mark and Luke spend only a page describing the most crucial event in Christianity. Most of this page is spent describing an empty tomb; the resurrection gets a tiny notice as though it was almost a footnote. What is strange is that they don’t describe Jesus doing anything special, he simply appears and that’s it. He barely even speaks. No lesson, words or explanations, nor any talk of where he went. Not even an explanation of why he rose from the dead. Only John gives any details, which for some reason the other Gospels don’t seem to know anything about. When someone claims to have seen something that no one else (not even the people who were there) mentions, it makes you think that maybe they’re wrong when they claim to be a witness.

The Gospels radically contradict each other on what Jesus did when he rose (the one part of the Bible Christians would want to be coherent). According to Matthew, all he did was appear and say two lines and then the story ends (no mention of an ascension). Mark claims little more, in his version Jesus appeared and spoke 4 sentences before going to Heaven. He apparently said that believers will be able to “cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover”. Many Christians don’t believe this part to be true, so when you wonder why Atheists don’t believe the Bible’s story of the resurrection, it’s because Christians don’t either.

Luke is a little more detailed, in his version, two disciples were talking with a stranger all day without realising it was Jesus (maybe it wasn’t?). Suddenly they realised it was him and Jesus “vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24:31). Huh? Since when did Jesus have the power to make himself invisible or teleport? This is part of the reason why I’m so sceptical of the claim that Jesus physically rose from the dead. These two disciples ran back to the rest of the disciples and in the middle of telling them, Jesus suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Honestly, this sounds more like an apparition or a spirit rather than an actual resurrection, but Jesus ate food and showed his wounds which convinced the disciples. He then ascended to Heaven. So far a common theme is that the resurrection is completely pointless. He has no special message or anything to say to the disciples, nor does he do anything. In fact, he only appears to the disciples and no one else. Surely, appearing to the whole city would convince a lot more people that he did rise from the dead. By doing nothing in front of his die hard supporters before mysteriously disappearing, the story lacks credence and, well, any point.

John’s version is similar and it also makes it sound more like the ghost of Jesus, rather than a physical human brought back to life. While the disciples are hiding in locked rooms, Jesus appears to them, calms them and disappears. So basically Jesus only appears when there are no independent or credible witnesses. Not whole cities, but only a handful of people who already believe him and worship him. Why? John further tells a story of the disciples fishing and Jesus appearing (though they don’t recognise him initially) and using his powers to help them catch fish. This is the most productive thing Jesus does after the resurrection, which makes it seem quite pointless. He then tells them his second coming will occur before they die, though no mention is made of the ascension. While this is the most detailed account, none of the other Gospels mention it the events, implying either John’s story isn’t true, the other Gospels didn’t witness the resurrection, or both.

The strongest evidence against the resurrection being true is the complete secrecy of it. Jesus only appears when there are no independent witnesses. If Jesus walked around Jerusalem thousands of people would instantly be convinced. Imagine if he appeared before Pontius Pilate, not even a skeptic could deny that. The Romans would naturally be interested in the fact one of their prisoners who they executed was still alive and were Jesus to appear before them, they would be convinced and Christianity would spread throughout the Empire. Instead there is complete secrecy, which seems to negate the point of the resurrection. Jesus rises from the dead but doesn’t want people to know about it.

If the resurrection is a myth, then where did it come from? Were the disciples lying? What probably happened was that the disciples believed that though Jesus was dead, his spirit lived on. This is the equivalent of the revolutionaries claim that “You can kill me, but you cannot kill the revolution”. The disciples believed that though Christ was dead, Christianity was not. It reminds me of the song “Joe Hill”, where union organiser Joe Hill is executed, only to appear to a friend in a dream claiming he never died. The song does not mean that Joe Hill rose from the dead, rather that his spirit, the spirit of unionism, lives on. This is probably how the disciples viewed it and passed on the story orally. As it was decades before the Gospels were written down, the story got changed over time with details added like a game of Chinese Whispers. This is why the Gospels contradict each other and why the later Gospels are more boastful than the earlier ones, the myth grew larger over time.

So no, Jesus did not rise from the dead. The weak evidence in the Bible as well as the numerous contradictions discredits it as a reliable source. It quickly becomes clear that the resurrection was originally meant as a metaphor to inspire hope in the fledging Christian movement, it was only later that this story got exaggerated until people started thinking it was a literal physical resurrection. Were the Mormons to claim that Joseph Smith rose from the dead, no non-Mormon would believe them. No Christian believes that Mohammed rode a winged horse despite what the Koran says. If we apply the same level of critical thought and scepticism to the resurrection, we find that it too, did not happen.

44 thoughts on “Did Jesus Really Rise From The Dead?”

  1. And when you add that many Christians believe in the Trinity, that Jesus was God himmself, it creates an even weaker argument for the resurrection being anything real (in their worldview). Well argued and from a different viewpoint than I have seen argued anywhere else. A real contribution, young man. Keep up the good work!

    1. surely if people responsible for “fabrication” in the bible, were in some way trying to dupe us all, into believing all this, they would just have got the 4 “witnness” accounts to say the same things, then for maximum effect, say that the resurection took place in an arena filled with 10,000 people.
      Then most of your points would be impotent….to me that fact that most things are a bit contradictory in some ways makes it all more authentic.In fact, if you think that the whole thing is fabricated, it doesnt matter what it says surely, as there can only be recorded evidence passed down through the years, and no hard evidence;to wit, arguing about it would simply be a waste of time.

      1. Wait so the worse the evidence for it, the more convincing it is? All the contradictions make it more convincing? Do you realise the problems with your argument? If the more unconvincing something is, the more you believe it, then that shows you are such an ideologue that you will believe regardless of evidence.

    2. This entire complaint is subtle in deceiving, taking everything out of context. You’re foolish. As a scholar, I recommend one spends more time studying quietly before running a rant and exposing themselves to be such a fool. It’s a fool’s errand to try and discredit the faith of many who simply desire justice, mercy, and freedom from pain and weakness, and death. Go away, and never talk about things you don’t have any knowledge of, ever again, or else be damned for your folly and let a worse thing come upon you for your ignorance.

  2. Lol, the bible has been read as metaphor up until The Enlightenment period of history. God is not a literal guy up on a cloud. He is shorthand for the divine, for what one cannot express in the limits of language, not a guy that steps in and saves people from bad things happening to them. Why do you think Christ spoke in parables all the time? Why do you thing that stuff like The Book of Five rings is written the way it is.

    I would consider myself an atheist as well, but this is a bizarre understanding of God that goes against men like Aquinas and Augustine, men far smarter than both you and I.

    Are you going to write something on Islam?

    1. “this is a bizarre understanding of God”
      I’m not sure why you think so, as I barely mention God in the post, but rather focus on Jesus. It is also the Christian view of God, something I find bizarre but it is no strawman.

      I do plan to write something on Islam eventually, but seeing as only a tiny proportion of Ireland and the English speaking world (in other words everyone I have contact with) is Muslim, it isn’t a high priority. Seeing as Christianity is the dominant religion, I will naturally focus on it.

      1. But that’s the thing. You’re talking about The Resurrection as if it was a puzzle, a problem to be solved. Your criticisms are valid, but The Bible was never, ever meant to be literal, and to think otherwise, creationists or whatnot, is simply incorrect. The Kingdom of God is this world, The Resurrection is an answer to death in all its shite. Think about it like this. Can you tell me what the feeling sadness is without using metaphor or simile? Pretty hard ken, that’s one of the reasons for the story of The Resurrection. The Gospels were all written in response to a different group in society, I think Luke’s one was written for gentiles for example, so that isn’t entirely fair either.

        1. “The Bible was never, ever meant to be literal”
          I’m pretty sure every Christian will disagree with you. The foundation of Christianity is the resurrection, its not an obscure minor passage we’re dealing with. If the resurrection isn’t real, then neither is Christianity.

          “Think about it like this. Can you tell me what the feeling sadness is without using metaphor or simile? Pretty hard ken, that’s one of the reasons for the story of The Resurrection.”
          I have no idea what you mean.

          “The Gospels were all written in response to a different group in society”
          Actually they’re supposed to be for the whole world, but even if they were for different groups, that wouldn’t the excuse numerous contradictions.

        2. so Francis if the bible is metaphor, why then do we need it? Why is so much attached to it? What makes it a better metaphor than the stories of Troy, of Apollo of Jupiter?
          So if as you say the bible has been metaphor, then creation in 6 days metaphor, Adam/Eve metaphor, sin metaphor, slavery in Egypt metaphor, Jesus dying metaphor, please tell me what is left.
          The above post doesn’t talk about god but the story of the resurrection so where do you make the god connection you are referring to and how is god to be understood. How did Augustine and Aquinas understand god?
          So if each gospel was written for different audiences, is it asking too much that it be coherent internally?

  3. thank you for your well thought out look at the flip sight of Christian belief. Its rare that I read a line for line rebuttal to all of the arguments that the believers in the faith take a fact. I applaud your efforts.

  4. I think your reasoning of the arguments is well stated and written. Many of us are familiar with the contradictions and unreasonableness. Some may wonder why you or anyone continues to write about them. Hasn’t it all been said time and time again?
    I think it should be stated over and over and over. Perhaps someone new will take notice. Or perhaps reading it one more time will be all it needs for someone new to finally drop the myth. 🙂

  5. “One thing I don’t understand is the reason for the resurrection.”

    This falls into the category of Hebrew canon. The Jews used to have to make animal sacrifices over and over again to appease God for their sins, so they could both, continue to receive blessings, and get into heaven. Apparently, God felt this was tedious and so used his divine power to manifest himself in the form of a human being, called it his son, and put him up for a permanent, eternal lasting sacrifice…hence the “lamb” metaphor. Thus, instead of having to continually perform animal sacrifices, one could simply “believe” in Jesus to have their sins cleansed. That he was resurrected means that he defeated death, which means believers could also get into heaven.

    In anthropological studies the notion of sacrifice is powerful. When a tribe saw a violent animal they had trouble contending with, at times a member of the tribe might get eaten, thus pacifying the animal so that the other tribe members could get away. In those days, animals were considered a part of the supernatural realm. As religion became modernized over the millennia, it’s easy to see how mutations in thought and cultural patterns could evolve into something sophisticated like Old Testament sacrifice, which ultimately led to the myth of the resurrection of Jesus.

    The problem with the whole thing nowadays is that people don’t understand, it’s all part of a different epoch of thought that no longer pertains to modern modernity. It all speaks to the power of myth making.

  6. ….so when you wonder why Atheists don’t believe the Bible’s story of the resurrection, it’s because Christians don’t either.
    That’s a gem Robert.
    On to other matters, I think the stories don’t agree because it is legend. You have a motif and develop it as best as you can. I don’t think each scribe had in his wildest dreams the writings would be collected to make a single book.
    Paul writes most of the letters of the NT, in fact he writes before the gospels are written but I don’t think he quotes Jesus anywhere.

  7. There is a somewhat ridiculous but also really very, very good podcast that (I think is now shut but still available for download) is based out of Stanford called “Entitled Opinions” and there is a guy who went on there a couple of times to talk about the “real, historical Jesus” and what we know of his life and there was an episode specifically focusing on the issue of the Resurrection. You may find it interesting.

  8. The 4 gospels are not the only account on Jesus, I read all the heretical gospels around 1972, the account of Jesus is very different from the 4 gospels, and also the gospels have a significant difference from each other, The gospel of Thomas is popular I believe.
    As one of the commentators wrote the gospels are not as a literal narrative as for instance turning water into wine is the vessel holding the water is stone, the Jewish law is written in stone, as on the tablets of stone, as Moses wrote the commandments on stone, the idea of Jesus was to interpret the old testament of a “eye for a eye” to a transformation to turning the other cheek, in other words his path was forgiveness, so the water turning to wine is the fermentation of transformation, its a sort of metaphor, I mean you cannot say to some one hit me again its OK because they do not get the context.
    The Jews reacted to Jesus because he was not a warrior in the sense of a fighter, for the Jewish cause, they were being oppressed, naturally to have this guy who was a Jew come along with his idea of “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” so he was a sort of outsider and the rest is history, including the Jews are still awaiting for the Real Messiah!
    Ever since Jesus came their has been a lot of blood spilt as the true interpretation, also the same with Mohamed, the Sunnis and Shias are in the same existential quagmire as to how to interpret Mohamed’s doctrine.

  9. I have always found the differences between the Gospels fascinating. Why have three synoptic and then John? It just baffles me. Have you considered the role of Mary Magdalene? I’d like to read your views on her. Very well put together Robert!

  10. Hi Robert. This is a brilliant piece that rose fair objections and doubts to whether Jesus rose from the dead.

    I think your case would be powerful for those who are unfamiliar with historical facts that both none Christians and Christians historians agree surrounding the the resurrection, the probability of resurrection hypothesis, and biblical criticism. I will explain why:


    B= Background knowledge
    E= Specific evidence (Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, postmortem appearance, conversion of skeptic James and enemies Saul of Tarsus,the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection. e.t.c)
    R = Resurrection of Jesus

    Now the probability of the resurrection can be calculated as follows:

    Pr(R/ B&E) = [Pr (R/B) x Pr (E/B&R) / {[Pr (R/B) x PR (E/B&R] + [Pr (not-R/B) x Pr (E/B &not-R)]}

    Given that you grant the empty tomb, I think Pr(R/ B&E) > 0.5 thus it is more likely that Jesus rose again.

    Contradiction in the Gospel objection, I believe, misses the point. One could agree that their are contradiction, but that does not follow that therefore the account did not happen. Example there are contradiction account on how Titanic sank, but it would be unreasonable to conclude that Titanic did not sink. All the gospel has a primary story the death of Jesus by crucifixion, empty tomb, and appearance. This is all a historian needs.

    Actually the prima facie contradiction increases the probability that the count is true than false since if they were exactly the same, we would doubt that they conspire or wrote their accounts from the same source.

    Moreover, when looking at resurrection, one does not even have to look at the gospels which came late but Saul of Tarsus account which historians place it closer than the gospels. Saul who was called Paul record an early Christian(known as the Way then) in his letter 1 Corinth 15:3-5. Some historians places this creed close to 3-5 years after the death of Jesus.

    Let me know your thoughts before I address other objections you rose.


    1. The thing about contradictions is that they underminbe the reliability of the witness. The first thing any historian must consider is how reliable is the source? Are they biased, did they witness the events, can they tell a coherent account? For the reasons I mentioned above, I don’t believe the Gospels are reliable.

      Its strange that you use the Titanic as an example as there is physical evidence for its existence. Even if there wasn’t a single witness, we would still know it sank. Plus there are thousands of witnesses, not just 4.

      The quasi mathematical equation is unnecessary and doesn’t really show anything. Also I don’t think your “specific evidence” is that convincing. All you really have is the disciples belief, a feature common to all religions. Muhammad’s friends believed him, yet you don’t accept that argument as convincing (at least I presume you don’t.)

      Actually I don’t grant the empty tomb as if it was real, wouldn’t it be on display? Surely that would be a great conversion tool. “Don’t believe in Jesus, follow me and I’ll show you the tomb.” Yet none of the disciples never did this. Likewise surely the Romans would be very interested and do a check of the tomb as they would have records. Yet the resurrection account never mentions the Romans as if they were unconcerned one of their victims was still alive.

      I’m not sure why you include Saul/Paul when he admits he never met Jesus, but only saw a bright light. As he’s not a witness, his account isn’t valid.

    2. Thanks Robert for your response. I know there other more brilliant things you could be doing than answering my thoughts.

      I believe you missed my point on contradictions and my Titanic example. The point I was making is that even if there are contradictions, we cannot conclude that the event did not happen. So arguing that there are contradictory accounts therefore the resurrection not true arguments are based on folly reasoning.

      What historians looks for as a criteria of authenticity Roberts are:

      1. Semitisms: traces in the narrative of native languages (in Christianity it would be Aramaic or Hebrew)

      2. Independent, early attestation: The event appears in multiple sources which are near to the time at which that event is deemed to have occurred and which depend neither upon each other nor a common source.

      3. Dissimilarity: The event is unlike antecedent ancient group thought-forms and/or unlike subsequent group thought-forms.(ancient would be Judaism for example in the case of Resurrection, and subsequent group Christianity)

      4. Embarrassment: The event is counter-productive for the persons who serve as the source of information for that event.

      5. Historical congruence: Does the event align with known historical facts concerning the context in which that even is said to have occurred.

      6. Coherence: The event is consistent with already known facts about a certain figure (e.g. Jesus).

      Prima facie contradictions shows that the gospels are independent early attestation thus increases, unlike you thought, the authenticity of the event.

      Robert it does not matter if you think the “specific evidence[s]” are that convincing. What matter is that almost all historians both agnostics, skeptics and Christians agree that:

      1. Jesus’ burial account
      2. empty tomb account
      3. postmortem appearance account
      4. the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection account.

      These facts are agreed by the majority of scholars in this field. What they differ is what hypothesis explains it. Christians claim the resurrection is the best explanation while the critics deny.

      So if we use probability Pr(R/ B&E) = [Pr (R/B) x Pr (E/B&R) / {[Pr (R/B) x PR (E/B&R] + [Pr (not-R/B) x Pr (E/B &not-R)]} with that historians gives as I think the case for resurrection is very plausible.

      Let me know your thoughts.

      1. Its funny that you list these tests because Christianity fails almost all of them.

        1. The Gospels were originally written in Greek, which is unusual seeing as none of the disciples would have been able to write let alone in Greek.

        2. The Gospels were written decades after the events and contain elements that were copied from each other, particularly in the case of Mark and Matthew.

        3. Pretty much every detail of the Jesus story has been found in other cultures from the virgin birth to the resurrection.

        4. This is the only case where Christianity passes the test. It is embarrassing that your saviour was crucified and didn’t vanquish his foes like other Gods. Particularly Jesus’ original last words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” count as embarrassing. Of course later Gospels removed this and presented a much more heroic view of the crucifixion and resurrection.

        5. The Gospels are in contradiction with historical facts such as the details of the supposed Roman census at the time of the Virgin Birth. Also details of the crucifixion don’t fit such as the punishment for blasphemy was stoning not crucifixion. For more see my post here https://robertnielsen21.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/crucifixion-contradictions-or-how-did-jesus-really-die/

        6. The contradictions in the Gospels mean we do not have a coherent picture of Jesus.

        I’m not sure why you think contradiction increases the likelihood of it being true. Surely the best way to find out how reliable a witness in a trial is, would be to examine how coherent their story is. There is a difference between various viewpoints and contradictions. For example if we both witness a car crash, our accounts should differ, but not contradict each other. If you say it was a blue Ford that crashed into a wall and I say it was a yellow Toyota, this contradiction doesn’t make it more likely that we saw the same event, it significantly diminishes the likelihood.

        Appeal to experts isn’t the best tactic as the field is dominated by evangelical scholars. After all why would you devote your life to Bible studies unless you really liked it? There are few exceptions. Scholars agree that those four pieces of evidence were claimed by early Christians, there is not proof that they existed/occurred. Scholars agree that early Christians believed in the empty tomb story, they do not agree if it was real.

      2. Hi Robert,

        Thanks for a brilliant response. You sadly and commonly fell into a negative-usage of the criteria of authenticity mistake, like Bart Ehrman.

        These criteria can only be use to increase authenticity. Even though a document does not have these elements it does not follow that the absence of these criteria decreases authenticity.

        I would love to address point by point but it would be a too long comment. I will pick the most important.

        You are correct that the Gospels were written in Greek, disciples used scribes. Remember in ancient time it is the scribes that wrote. Plato, Aristotle, Cicero et cetera did not write with there hands, they dictated for the scribes. So even if none of the disciples could write Greek, it does not follow that they did not write the Gospels. Example Mark was known as Peter’s scribe.

        When I say historian looks for semitisms I meant words that you find in Greek manuscript like Abba, eloi eloi lama sabachthani, talitha kum, ephphatha et cetera These semitisms increases the authenticity.

        The theory that “pretty much every detail of the Jesus story has been found in other cultures from the virgin birth to the resurrection” is an internet popular but historically and logically false. Many atheists commend other atheists not to use this claim because it make atheism look lame. I will point to skeptics and atheists who refute this claim: http://conspiracies.skepticproject.com/articles/zeitgeist/part-one/

        Robert you are not correct that the appeal to experts isn’t the best tactic as the field is dominated by evangelical scholars. This points are agreed by members of Jesus seminar who are not friends of Christianity.

        Just to make you know the experts that agree Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, postmortem appearance, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection account, here is the list of the name and book page(s) that you could see who they are for your own research if you dare know what historians, and philosophers who study this field think:

        1. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 1:44-46, 52, 60, 80-83.
        2. Tillich, Systematic Theology, 2:153-58.
        3. John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 171-77.
        4. Bornkamm, Jesus of Nazareth, 179-86.
        5. Koester, Introduction to the New Testament, 2:84-86, 100.
        6. Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 4, part 1, 334-36, 351-53.
        7. Emil Brunner, Dogmatics, 3 vols., trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950-79), 2:363-78.
        8. Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 165-66, 172, 197-202.
        9. C.H. Dodd, “Appearances of the Risen Christ,” 124-25, 131-33.
        10. Perrin, Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 78-84.
        11. Robinson, Can We Trust? 113-29.
        12. Fuller, Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, 27-49.
        13. Grant, Jesus, 174-79.
        14. Pannenberg, Jesus: God and Man, 88-106.
        15. Wilckens, Resurrection, 6-16, 112-14.
        16. Jeremias, “Easter,” 300-311.
        17. Werner Georg Kummel, The Theology of the New Testament: According to its Major Witnesses: Jesus—Paul—John (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1973), 102-5.
        18. Brown, Virginal Conception, 80-82, 128.
        19. Goppelt, “Easter Kerygma,” 35-37, 43-53.
        20. Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), 3-12.
        21. Marcus Barth and Verne H. Fletcher, Acquittal by Resurrection (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964), part 1 (Barth), 11-15, 37-39.
        22. Paul Van Buren, The Secular Meaning of the Gospel: Based on an Analysis of its Language (New York: Macmillan, 1963), 126-34.
        23. Wand, Christianity, 51, 59, 84, 93, 108.
        24. Hunter, Jesus: Lord and Saviour, 98-107.
        25. Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ, 35-45.
        26. W.T. Jones, A History of Western Philosophy, 5 vols, 2nd ed., (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969), 2:34-35, 39.
        27. Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection, 36-43, 93, 109-11.
        28. Daniel Fuller, Easter Faith and History (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1965), 208-29
        29. Thielicke, “The Resurrection Kerygma,” 59-62, 86-91.
        30. Osborne, The Resurrection Narratives, 231-33, 276-77, 281-88.
        31. Perkins, Resurrection, 84-95, 196-210.
        32. Kee, What Can We Know?, 1-2, 21-23, 60-61, 85-86, 90.
        33. Lapide, Resurrection of Jesus, 91-99, 125-31.
        34. Sheehan, The First Coming, 101-18.
        35. Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History, 115-34, 159-61.
        36. Craig, Assessing, 36-38, 53-82, 163-96, 379-420.
        37. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 10-13, 125-26, 133-36, 277-81.
        38. O’Collins, Jesus Risen, 99-147.
        39. Johnson, The Real Jesus, 110-22, 133-36.
        40. Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? 47-56, 239-43, 255-60.
        41. Drane, Introducing the New Testament, 77-107.
        42. Funk, Honest to Jesus, 33-40, 260, 267-75.
        43. Murray Harris, Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983), 5-11, 60.
        44. Ludemann, What Really Happened to Jesus, 9-17, 102-5, 125-34.
        45. Lorenzen, Resurrection and Discipleship, 131-36, 141-44, 184-87.
        46. Clark, Interpreting the Resurrection, 89-101.
        47. Maier, In the Fullness of Time, 164-88, 204-5.
        48. John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991), 372-75, 397-98.
        49. Crossan, Jesus, 135, 145, 154, 165, 190.
        50. Davis, Risen Indeed, 15, 177-85.
        51. Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 227-31.
        52. Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:67-71, 146-47, 234-35, 251-52, 625.
        53. Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection, 4-15, 47, 113-17, 188.
        54. Wright, The New Testament, 111, 353-54, 400-401.
        55. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 109-12, 480, 487, 551-52, 659.”

        So from a scholarly view, I think the five facts cannot be dismissed. I think resurrect explain them best. You do not have too.

        Sorry for a long list and comment.

        1. Ok, I obviously cannot match 50 sources. But do they just say that the tomb was empty? (I haven’t read them) If so, there are multiple other explanations, all more likely than Jesus returning from the dead. presume (again I haven’t read them) that their main source is the Gospel? Do they add anything to it or just confirm them? If so then the flaw of the Gospels still stands. It is an enormous jump to go from empty tomb = resurrection and I don’t believe there is the evidence to do so.

          1. They all agree, in the page(s) I provided:

            1 Jesus’ burial account
            2. empty tomb account
            3. postmortem appearance account
            4. the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection account.

            Those who deny resurrection, like John Dominic Crossan, Bart D. Ehrman etc offer multiple explanations, like the dogs might have eaten the body, thieves might stole the body e.t.c. The problem is, even if true, their explanations only explain some of the facts.

            Remember Robert the best explanation has to have a great explanatory scope and power to explain all 4 facts. It must be plausible, and not ad hoc, and has more strength than its rival hypothesis.

            I find resurrection the best explanation because it explain all four facts I mention above. If you think I am wrong, then try to give even low values for Pr (R/B) and use the formulator:

            Pr(R/ B&E) = [Pr (R/B) x Pr (E/B&R) / {[Pr (R/B) x PR (E/B&R] + [Pr (not-R/B) x Pr (E/B &not-R)]}

            and you will see that Pr(R/ B&E) > 0.5 which makes resurrection hypothesis more likely.

            I think it is fine and understandable to reject this hypothesis if one has a prior commitment to a worldview that cannot allow such a hypothesis even before examining the evidence, e.g. atheism or naturalism, because if one accept it then his worldview would be necessarily false. But for agnostics or a person who dare follow were the evidence points, I think they would be more open consider all options.

            My aim, Robert, is not to convince anyone that Jesus resurrected but to show that it is reasonable or intellectually warranted to accept resurrection hypothesis as the best explanation to the five facts that both unfriendly to Christianity, and Christian scholars agree.

          2. Hmmm. If 100, hell, 1000 sources, agree that the gospel accounts are true, but in reality, they were embellished or even mostly fictitious, then I suppose they become true by consensus. I guess that’s how it works.

  11. This would be a great discussion to have in person. Unfortunately, most of your assertions are based on decades of hardened presuppositions which are based on little knowledge of the bible, its author, or Christian history. I pray for a knowledgeable, compassionate Christian who will cross paths with you and help you see through the fog of misunderstanding.


    1. Well considering I’m only 21 and have only been an Atheist for 18 months I wouldn’t say its based on “decades”. Secondly, as I was raised a Catholic it is hardly “presuppositions”. Finally seeing as you make no attempt to engage in debate and fail to point out a single flaw or error in my post, I think the problem might be at your end than mine.

      1. In regards to “decades” I don’t just mean your life (although I did think you were older) but you’re taking a good deal of your “proofs” from ideas that have surfaced in the last 50-100 years (i.e. the Jesus Seminar); those years really just exposed the thinking which turned during the Enlightenment.

        Also, we ALL have presuppositions. I’m not surprised to hear you have a religious background, as many atheists I know have similar experiences.
        Personal dialogue is extremely important because no one is going to be convinced by three comments on a comment board.

        However, if you wish, I will point out several problems with your thinking.

        One of your presuppositions which obviously interferes with your “investigation” is the purpose of the resurrection.
        You admit that as you started out, you didn’t understand the point of the resurrection. You then proceed to take some shots at it BEFORE you even examine the historical narrative. Shouldn’t some who writes on a historical perspective understand the theological implications?
        You then proceed to the gospels which “contradict” each other and are ‘obviously untrustworthy.’ You take this from the decades of teaching before you and beg the question.

        In this entire process, you did not examine one historian who lived during those years or the century afterwards (Tacitus, Josephus etc.)
        The FIRST thing someone should do in investigating whether something actually happened is to look at the historians. I’m not talking about someone living in the twenty-first century. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t want anyone living in the year 4,000 to write about my life or claim that I never did anything. Now, we have very little evidence that Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte existed, less than Jesus’ life actually, but we accept their lives by faith and as a historical fact despite the fact that I have never seen anything about them that wasn’t in a history book.

        You end your article boldly asserting that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but nowhere within did you present any evidence or logical construction which would persuade someone WHO DID NOT ALREADY BELIEVE WHAT YOU ARE PREACHING. You’re just preaching to your own choir. If that was your purpose in this blog post, you succeeded, but you definitely did not answer the question “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” satisfactorily.

        Why didn’t Jesus parade around the streets of Jerusalem like a freak show? The same reason he didn’t parade around as a freak show before his death.
        Luke 16:27-31 clearly states that the resurrection does not create faith, it only solidifies it. The miracle of the resurrection vindicates the teaching and divine authority of Jesus Christ. If you examine many of Jesus’ parables and statements, he drives away followers because he is sifting out those who only want to believe in him for the wrong reasons. He died to give us salvation from our sins and to restore our relationship with God. If he really wanted to make the biggest following of disciples ever he wouldn’t say this: “drink my blood and eat my flesh.” (Jn. 6:52-66).

        Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples after his resurrection to train them for the coming task and to tell them what the future held for them (Acts 1), he saw their spiritual development as more important than being a freak show for the city of Jerusalem, although the Bible says that he appeared to 500 witnesses at one time, which was certainly a sizable group in that day.

        In any case, my point is that you have some great questions but you certainly need someone help you find the answers. My advice: take a close, close look at the disciples of Jesus Christ. How in the world could those cowardly men take such a bold stand in the cities and die for their faith if they never actually saw Jesus and touched his wounds?

        If anything I said sounded like a harsh attack, I apologize that was not my intent. I also hate comment board discussions but I felt the pressing need to point out some problems here. I am praying for your spiritual journey and salvation.


        1. “you did not examine one historian who lived during those years or the century afterwards”
          Of course I didn’t, I don’t have a huge interest in ancient classics nor am I doing a massive project. I will say that the historians you mentioned did not believe Jesus rose from dead nor did they provide any evidence. Rather they simply mention the existence of Christians, a not very surprising fact. There are also many scholars who completely ignore Jesus http://www.holysmoke.org/sdhok/jesus5.htm

          “we have very little evidence that Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte existed,”
          I’m sorry but what? We have an enormous range of sources and thousands of witnesses to prove Napoleon existed. You completely defeat your arguement here.

          “less than Jesus’ life actually, but we accept their lives by faith and as a historical fact despite the fact that I have never seen anything about them that wasn’t in a history book.”
          I don’t think you understand what the word faith means and seem to think the Bible is the same as a history book.

          “Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples after his resurrection to train them for the coming task and to tell them what the future held for them (Acts 1),” That detail is not given in the Gospels. The account that is given (as I said above) is surprisingly vague.

          “the Bible says that he appeared to 500 witnesses at one time,”
          Now 500 witnesses is pretty good, but why then did none of the disciples mention it? Why did none of the witnesses record it or tell others? How do you know it actually happened seeing as it is only mentioned by Paul who never even met Jesus?

          “My advice: take a close, close look at the disciples of Jesus Christ. How in the world could those cowardly men take such a bold stand in the cities and die for their faith if they never actually saw Jesus and touched his wounds?”
          Do you realise how little that proves? Every religion has its loyal believers prepared to die for it. So does every ideology and charismatic leader. None of that proves it was true.

          Thanks for your prayers, but as we both know they don’t/won’t work. Thanks for your comment but you still haven’t wrestled with the key points of my post.

  12. Nice post. I’m a Christian who is having some serious doubts about what I’ve been forcefed my entire life. I stopped going to church because it felt like the people there were only going so they could look good while doing it, and I never felt comfortable enough talking to any other Christians about my doubts becasue they always would give me the crap about blind faith and believing is a big part of it, etc. I had always thought about the translations and passing-down could bring some huge differences in what actually happened, but it seems like none of my other fellow-Christians ever have doubts and if they do, they certainly don’t talk about them. I have read the New Testament, I don’t think I was interested enough to get through the Old. Every year at Easter I’m just like, seriously how did the guy rise from the dead? I don’t think that makes me a very good Christian honestly LOL! Also, I’ve always wondered and asked people how can Jesus BE God, what is the reasoning, how did it happen, why isn’t he here today then?, and why do I have to have a route THRU him in order to get to God? I never get very clear answers and people always return to the “it’s just a part of faith and believing”. Which to me is a very bad answer for something you’re going to hold so fast to. I don’t know…just all seems a bit fishy. I truly and honestly LOVE the teachings of Jesus and can totally back them and try very hard to be more like him in every way, the way I treat people and the way I live my life but I’m just not sure if he’s the SON OF GOD and therefore Somehow GOD HIMSELF.

    1. Well you’re right, a lot of it doesn’t make any sense. I remember when I was going through the same phase and how none of it seemed to add up. Its riddled with contradictions. I’m not going to tell you what to think because it is better that you make up your own mind. I’d encourage you to read some blogs and watch some videos and generally research the issue. Whatever conclusion you come to, make sure it was evidence that brought you there.

  13. Hi, Mr. Nielsen. I am writing to say how much I enjoyed your article. I am looking forward to reading the ensuing discussion. Thank you and have a nice day.

  14. Hello Mr. Nielsen. In short I agree with you. No one has ever risen from the dead and the bible is a great story, nothing more. if it helps people then fine but history is replete with examples of human suffering caused by religion…all religions.

    1. Although, many parts of the doctrine and story of Jesus are questionable and seemingly fanciful, some of the theme of what was attributed to Jesus, in parts are to my mind pertinent, even if this was a contribution by a alien to Jesus, but attributed to him, and not endorsed by him, the contribution is significant.

  15. I have a friend who said, “I don’t know if Jesus turned water into wine, I just know he turned my Seagrams into furniture.” Miracles, like the resurrection will always be under scrutiny. I get that. We weren’t there, so how do we know if it really happened? For me, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus because of how he has filled my heart with his love. He must be alive to do that. I can’t prove it and I don’t feel a need to. I just know the love he has for me he has for you and everyone else who denies his reality.

    That said, even though I don’t make a practice to push back on other’s sincerely believed atheistic ideas, I just couldn’t let your ill-founded propositions go unchecked. I’m no scientist or philosopher so I can’t debate on that level, but I do know some things about the Bible. Since your post denying the resurrection is based on the Bible’s account I felt I had to respond on the basis of that same source. I mean no disrespect or intend to come across argumentative. I simply wanted to offer some friendly push back on your interpretation of the biblical record of Jesus’ resurrection.

    OK, so why did Jesus rise from the dead and how is it so different from other “risings” in the Bible? Theirs (Lazarus, a couple different widows’ sons, etc) were never called “resurrections,” because they were gonna die again. Theirs might be called resuscitations. Jesus was raised and never died again (Romans 6 and other places state this). So, his resurrection was different in terms of permanence. But the main difference is that since his death was a payment for people, his resurrection was the receipt that the payment was received in full. The Father was indicating that Jesus’ sacrifice paid the whole debt so those who take advantage of the payment don’t have to make payments on it forever. It’s always good to keep your receipts so that no one can repossess what’s already been paid for.

    You say, “it is generally acknowledged that whoever wrote the Gospels did not personally witness the events but rather wrote down oral stories (that had presumably changed over the years with telling).” I guess that would depend on which Generals decide who generally acknowledges this. There are a couple of billion people who generally believe that the stories were generally written by the guys whose names are at the top of the page. Three of those guys (Matthew, Mark, and John) were “eyewitnesses” and Luke says he heard from other “eyewitnesses” about the resurrection and the rest of the stories he chronicled about Jesus.

    As for Paul, well, he did actually meet Jesus after the resurrection on the road to Damascus and it changed him so radically that he went from Christian killer to Christian lover overnight. As far as no one else mentioning Jesus’ appearance to 500 people making you think it never happened, one’s enough for me.

    No doubt the accounts of many of the stories are different… The four books about His life show him from four different vantage points, in four distinct offices. It’s like the Spirit photographed him from four different angles, viewing him in four different relationships. And each of the four selected their material based upon the particular purpose for their writing.
    Biographies of Abe Lincoln are many. One might write about Lincoln’s spiritual life. Another might focus on his homespun personality and backwoods heritage. Another could deal primarily with his political career. And still another hone in on his role in the Civil War and freeing the slaves. They’re all writing about the same man, but view him from four entirely different relationships. Each would select their material based upon the particular purpose for their writing. Each would include material based upon what was germane to his specific assignment. Each would also omit that which was irrelevant to that assignment.

    I think that’s what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did. They included from the plethora of information they had that helped them make the point they felt inspired by the Spirit to make. And they omitted anything that didn’t fit the assignment they’d been given. I think that’s one reason they’re not identical.
    When I first went to the Statue of Liberty I had to go all around it and take pictures of it from every side. I wasn’t content with only the front or the back; I wanted all the available views in my photo album. And when it comes to Jesus I want to see Him from every side. That’s what we have in the four Gospels – a good pensive gaze at Jesus from the north, south, east and west. I think that’s why their stories seem contradictory.

    Like witnesses to an accident whose accounts seems at first glance to be mutually contradictory, if they’re all truth-telling witnesses they’re just telling what they saw from their side of the street. They each fill in the details to which they were privy.

    As for the amount of material describing the resurrection, I’d say again, each of them had one vantage point to share. I wouldn’t call their treatment in five full chapters of their cumulative work “barely any mention.” As far as them not mentioning him doing anything special, I’d call appearing in locked rooms, having three-day old crucifixion scars that weren’t bleeding, miraculously filling Peter’s net with fish after a whole night of fishless fishing, teaching the disciples for forty days on the Kingdom of God, and ascending back up into heaven in front of them with angels attending some pretty special stuff.
    “Barely even speaks” is not accurate. His commission to the disciples is in all four accounts plus in Acts. It’s in Acts where Luke says he “showed himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” The things he taught them were left to at least two of the eleven (Peter and John) and then Paul to elaborate in their letters on those principles of the kingdom Jesus taught. They give “the explanation of why he rose from the dead” in their epistles (Romans 4, 1 Corinthians 15 and many other places).

    Your deduction that Christians don’t believe the bible’s story of the resurrection from the disputed text in Mark 16 is a leap. I won’t go into that passage per se, but whatever disagreements Christians may have about it, I don’t know any person or group of people who believe in Jesus that don’t believe the Bible’s story of the resurrection.

    When “did Jesus have the power to make himself invisible or teleport?” Answer: After he rose from the dead. He’s a resurrected Person at that point with those, and many other, capabilities I presume. And that he ate food and showed his wounds seems quite other than what apparitions or spirits are capable of.

    As for not appearing to the whole city and convincing more people, he didn’t rise from the dead to convince people to follow him. Miracles don’t usually convince people to love and follow Jesus. While his resurrection was for many, a life transforming reality, for others, who were actually there, it was something to suppress (both in the conscience and in the “media” of the day). The soldiers who witnessed the empty tomb first hand and were terrified to paralysis by the “tomb angels,” and instead of turning to God, they made up a lie about his disciples stealing his dead body! People being raised from the dead don’t always bring people to God.

    Real faith, which is more than intellectual assent to the facts about the story of God, is not generated by miracles. Miracles can only point, like signs, in the right direction, but they don’t produce a living faith.

    Though there were a number of people who believed in Jesus as a result of Lazarus “resuscitation,” there were others, who, though they admitted that Lazarus had actually been raised, plotted to kill him because his testimony was winning followers for Jesus! They didn’t doubt that it had actually happened. They believed the story, but basically didn’t want to follow the One who had raised him.

    In one of his parables, Jesus told about another “Lazarus” who died and went to heaven (Luke 16). A rich man also died, and because of his torment in hell, pled for Lazarus to be raised and sent back to earth in order to warn the rich man’s family about the consequences of living without God. He was told, “They won’t be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

    Like I said he didn’t appear to whole cities because viewing a resurrected Christ wouldn’t produce the kind of faith that changes people’s lives. He didn’t rise from the dead to gain a following but to pay for sin. He wasn’t’ trying to convince people, but to save them once they are convinced. I personally didn’t fall in love with him forty-three years ago because I first believed he rose from the dead. I met him, fell in love, and subsequently realized the story must be true.
    I don’t know the Joe Hill story or the song about him, but I’d be surprised if there was or ever will be billions who are convinced he’s alive and are willing to die for him. Since they all died excruciating martyrdoms the eleven disciples must’ve believed he was alive and not in the romantic sense of his message and spirit living on in the minds of people.

    I hope you’ll change your mind someday about Jesus. It probably won’t come from the kind of evidence you expect. Maybe you’ll meet him, fall in love, and then, even in the face of supposed evidence, will know he’s alive, not in the metaphorical sense, but in the realest sense you’ll ever know. God bless you.

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