Solid Evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection:
“Apparently So” is Craig Harris’ column which runs in the HERALD-PRESS (Palestine, Texas). Today, a Mesora reader wrote in questioning Mr. Harris’s arguments claiming “solid evidence” for Jesus’ resurrection. In response to our reader, I will quote the author’s arguments, and respond intermittently.
“Craig Harris: Today is Easter Sunday - the day we Christians celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But did he really rise again? If he didn’t, then he was a liar — or a madman. If he didn’t rise again, then our faith is useless and there is no life after death. The whole Bible is a lie, in fact, if Jesus didn’t rise again. So, is there any real evidence that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened – or is it just a myth? I want to share some of the solid evidence that Jesus’ resurrection really did happen: First, the reliability of the Scriptures. Did you know that we have more than 25,000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament? That is a huge amount. Some manuscripts date to within 100 years of the autographs (the original writings) and all agree with each other. (Yes, there are minor differences, but there are so many copies available we can look at them and get a very accurate picture of what the New Testament writers said.) What this means is that the Bible is extremely reliable as a historical document.”
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Would Christians then agree that since the Koran is also widely published, therein claiming responsibility for Jesus’ existence, that such popularity sufficiently validates that claim? Certainly, Christians view the Koran’s words as lies; thereby contradicting their very own argument, that “widespread acceptance” of a story is validation.
In truth, the widespread nature of any “belief” cannot render that belief into “fact”; as we said, Islam’s claim of responsibility for Jesus is equally widespread. What then is the formula for validating historical claims as 100% truths? It is this: historical claims are validated as absolute truth when in the record itself, masses are recorded as having attended that event. If however with regards to stories as these, masses are not part of the account, then, numbers of manuscripts are irrelevant: for someone merely fabricated an event, and over the years, many others accepted it as fact and republished it. We must also not succumb to the human frailty of accepting “historic works”. The age of a document in no way validates what is written thereon. In 5000 years, an ancient fairy tale about Snow White remains a fiction.
But be clear: mass ‘acceptance’ does not equate to mass ‘attendees’ at the original event. Mass acceptance and proliferation does not validate any historical account as true. It merely teaches us how emotionally appealing the story is, and thus, masses desired to believe it, and proliferate it.
Mass silence is also a matter of which to take note. The Jewish Bible (Torah) does not hide the greatness or purported wonders of our oppressors: the Egyptians and their magicians. We have no history of selective recording; all true histories are equally transmitted in all Jewish Bibles, be they positive or negative. Had Jesus performed any wonders, certainly the people, who supposedly witnessed his feats, would have recorded them. But such unanimous silence – at the very least – should make an honest person question the claims of Jesus’ miracles: why do the Jews have no record? Why were no records in existence until 100s of years later? Why do the Gospels contradict one another? Honesty demands that these questions be addressed.
Judaism bases its historical truths on the identical methods used to determine any history: religion is no less subject to validation, than world history. Now, world history is verified by mass attendees at a given account, say for example, Caesar’s rule. Without resorting to artifacts, relying only on the current history texts, we are 100% convinced of Caesar’s existence and rule. The reason is because it would be impossible that the entire world would transmit a similar claim regarding some man being emperor, in a certain region and for a specific duration…had it been lies. Masses have no motive to conspire and fabricate a false history. A few of Jesus’ followers are different, as their love for him propelled them to deify him, a phenomenon seen in many religions. But human nature is such, that masses cannot possess the identical motive, therefore, masses cannot lie about an event, but they can “believe” en masse, as with Hitler’s Big Lie, and in the belief that Jesus saves: these are not “events.” Thus, when a story of such proportions such as Caesar’s reign reaches us today, where masses attest to a set of identical facts, names, places and dates…the story must have transpired. Certainly, if it did not, 1) we would not be in receipt of such a story, and 2) there would be in existence a second, “true” account of that region’s history. But as the story has reached the entire globe, it was transmitted by masses; and as there is no alternative account of that era, we arrive at 100% conviction. But keep in mind, we are addressing “witnessed events” not beliefs, the latter is what Mr. Harris addresses.
Consider the alternative: had Moses and the 600,000 male Jews never witnessed the specific miracles in Egypt and at Sinai, how would we explain the world’s acceptance of these Biblical accounts as truths today? Would it be possible for a Moses, a lone individual, to fabricate such a story, locate masses, convince them all to believe that they all descended from an Abraham? Would these masses accept Moses as a leader, abandon their true history, and then transmit to their children a new history full of Egyptian miracles and travels to Sinai, a mountain ablaze, a voice that made them feel they were dying…all which they never witnessed? It is ludicrous to entertain such a possibility, that if it had not occurred, that a man could convince masses of such lies. Truthfully, these masses would view Moses as insane and evict him form their territories. Moses stories would not survive a single day, let alone 3318 years. It is clear: the Jews transmitted these Biblical accounts en masse only because they did in fact witness these real events and miracles; and they did descend from Abraham. This is why we accept Caesar and Alexander’s rule, the Egyptian Plagues, the Exodus, and God’s revelation at Mount Sinai as absolute truths regardless of artifacts. This is also why we dismiss all New Testament claims: masses of witnesses are absent.
We arrive at our litmus test for verifying historical accounts as truths: masses must have attended the purported events. Conversely, since Greek gods and Jesus’ miracles contain no stories of actual accounts with masses of witnesses, these gods were never accepted in any historical age as “truths”, but rather, as tales; and Christianity was then built on “blind faith”.
“Craig Harris: Second, we have writings of historians outside the Bible that corroborate the stories within it. These historians, like Pliny the Younger, Ptolemy, Tacitus and Josephus, not only mention kings, governors, dates and places found in the Bible, they also mention the disciples and Jesus himself. Third, the empty tomb. The Gospel writers all mention that the tomb was empty Easter Sunday morning. If there had been a body there, the Romans or Jewish leaders could have shown it and that would have ended Christianity right then and there. Remember, the tomb was well guarded. Also, in the Bible, women saw the empty tomb first — that would never happen in Jewish fiction of that day, so it must have been true.”
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: As to this response, we do not debate that a person might have lived at a certain time, if masses at his time are recorded as attesting to this. But we must distinguish between documentation of a man’s existence, and between documentation of “miracles”, which do not exist. This second argument fails to validate Jesus or Christianity as divine, or that any miracle or resurrection transpired.
It is also essential to distinguish between a purported resurrection of Jesus, and the miracles in Egypt and Sinai. Why do we accept the later only? It is because masses witnessed actual “events”…and did not make claims based on “deductions”, as is the case with Jesus’ empty tomb. To claim a “resurrection” occurred because of circumstantial evidence, or actually, lack thereof, the story becomes riddled with questions. Furthermore that “evidence” of a resurrection itself a story written 100s of years after the purported “account”. Any intelligent person would claim such a story validates nothing. But as you will see from Mr. Harris’ final argument, he is not working with methods of reason, but with psychotic delusions.
So be clear: Jesus’ resurrection is arrived at by an unverified story about an empty tomb. In stark contrast, the Torah’s historical accounts are based on, 1) 600,000 men plus an equal number of women and even more children…not few disciples, and 2) actual eyewitnesses of real events, not deductions.
“Craig Harris: Fourth, Paul wrote in First Corinthians that 500 people saw Jesus after his resurrection. Paul wrote this about 20 years after the resurrection and points out that most of them were still alive and could verify what they saw. No one disputes the validity and historicity of Paul or First Corinthians, and 500 people do not have the same hallucination.”
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Paul may have written something, but the absence of those 500 purported witnesses, and also, that it was not written until years “later” is false, for mass silence is not viable.
“Craig Harris: Fifth, why would the early Christians have celebrated Communion and Baptism if Jesus had remained dead? History teaches that the Christians began celebrating The Lord’s Supper within 20 years of Jesus’ resurrection. Communion commemorates the sacrificial death of Jesus by celebrating the blood he shed and how his body was broken. Why would they do this if Jesus’ death had been meaningless? This would be like a John F. Kennedy fan club celebrating his death instead of his life and legacy. Further, the early Christians changed the meaning of baptism from a Jewish cleansing ritual to mean “buried with Christ and raised to life with him.” (Romans 6:4).
Moshe Ben-Chaim: This claim as well is based on the New Testament
accounts, stories with no validations, but mere beliefs.
“Craig Harris: Sixth, why would the disciples die for a lie? We see in the Gospels that they were basically cowards. Why did these timid lambs suddenly change into the lions of the faith? Yes, people die for what they believe is true, but people do not die for what they know is NOT true. History says all of the disciples died for their faith except John.”
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: As Mr. Harris says, “Disciples died for their faith”. Think over that statement…they died for something called “faith” which means lacking proof. A person’s act of martyrdom for anything, in no way proves a historical claim. Rather, it simply exposes the emotional level of the martyr, and his ability to overcome his fear of death due to his imagined good. Arab terrorists also imagine 70 virgins await them upon their martyrdom.
“Craig Harris: Seventh, the emergence and growth of the church. The church started with a small rag tag group of mostly poor people who were murdered and persecuted for their belief. Within two hundred years, it conquered Rome. We name our dogs Nero and Caesar and our children John and Paul. Thousands of churches and changed lives stand as a testament to the resurrection.”
Moshe Ben-Chaim: Again Mr. Harris resorts to his argument of “Popularity
Proves History” which is false. Popularity merely teaches us the appeal of a
notion. And the more popular a notion, the more widespread it becomes. A very
popular notion today is this: “Everything happens for a reason.” Yet, this has
not been proven: conversely, numerous occasions show the opposite to be true.
Nonetheless, masses echo this belief as it caters to some “guiding force” in
life, alleviating one’s responsibilities for poor decisions. The same is true
with regards to Mr. Harris’ seventh argument. Perhaps we shall also suggest
that the Church’s Crusades must be a “good”, since it too was widespread,
leading us to dangerous opinions about Hitler’s widespread machine. Mr. Harris
preaches a deadly theology, where the barometer of that which is good and true,
is simply how widespread a notion is.
“Craig Harris: Eighth, the conversion of skeptics. Scores of non-believers, including Jesus’ own brothers, Paul and atheists, have put their faith in Christ after seeing him alive or examining the evidence.”
Moshe Ben-Chaim: Same as above.
“Craig Harris: Finally, the ongoing encounters with Jesus today. Millions of us throughout history have had a conversion experience. We know Jesus is alive because we have felt, known and experienced him. This is the good news: that God came to earth, redeemed us and can be experienced by us. This Sunday morning, remember, we don’t celebrate the good life of a dead man, we celebrate the resurrection of a living Savior who made us, loves us, and wants to know us. Happy Easter from my family to yours.”
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim: Here, Mr. Harris reveals his deviation from reality, by claiming to have “experienced” a dead man.
It is an important lesson that multiple arguments defending a single position as Mr. Harris presents, imply the failure of each individual argument. For if someone possessed “solid evidence” as Craig Harris claims, he would not need to resort to more than one “solid” proof. However, Mr. Harris has exposed his arguments as invalid on a number of accounts, and then admits to living in a fantasy world, as he claims to have encountered a “dead man”, prohibited by his Bible in Deut. 18:11.
Since he has offered no proof, but in fact exposes Christianity’s arguments as false, Craig Harris is correct on one point, “If Jesus didn’t rise again, then his faith is useless” … “the whole New Testament is a lie, in fact, if Jesus didn’t rise again.” Mr. Harris should stand behind this opening remark of his, admitting that he has failed to verify the Resurrection. He must now abandon his religion.
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