Does resurrection contradict science?

April 19, 2011 • 5:08 am

You’d think so, right?  After all, in the last several thousand years there’s been a single dubious report of someone coming back to life after having been dead for several days. Other than that, bupkus.

Ah, but you’re neglecting the enormous creativity of accommodationists, especially Matt Rossano, a psychology professor at Southeastern Louisiana University (we’ve we’ve encountered him before).   Over at PuffHo, Rossano tries to show that the resurrection and science are indeed compatible.   The deed of reconciliation is accomplished by making two claims:

1.  It was more than just a “dead person coming back to life.”

Rossano gets a little help here from Pope Ratzi, who in a new book (where does a sitting Pope get time to write a book?) interprets the resurrection of Jesus for his flock. Ratzi says this:

“Anyone approaching the Resurrection accounts in the belief that he knows what rising from the dead means will inevitably misunderstand those accounts and will then dismiss them as meaningless” (p. 243).

Rossano concurs:

In fact, if Jesus’ Resurrection were “merely” coming back to life in any way that we might comprehend, then it would be of little significance. . .

[He quotes Ratzi]: “Jesus had not returned to a normal human life in this world like Lazarus and the others whom Jesus raised from the dead. He has entered upon a different life, a new life — he has entered the vast breadth of God himself…” (p. 244).

. . .Because it is something entirely new, it cannot represent a violation of natural law as understood by science. . .

. . . Thus, in this view, Resurrection (as with all true miracles) is not contrary to science, but an indicator that science does not (yet?) describe the full expanse of reality.

Note the sleight of hand here.  The question has changed from “did it really happen?” to “given that it happened, what did it mean?”

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but what about this isn’t a violation of natural law?  Dead is dead.  And if you expand our idea of biology and physics so that resurrection does become a “natural law,”—just one that we’ve not yet grasped—how come the law was enacted only once?  Of course any miracle can be reinterpreted as natural law, but when you do that it’s no longer a miracle, which I thought was the suspension of natural law by God.

Rossano concludes:

For a moment, let us entertain the possibility that Resurrection is as Benedict interprets it: not a violation of natural law but an indicator of something beyond our scientific understanding of the universe. This has interesting implications for understanding how believers and skeptics approach the issue. If Resurrection does not violate science, then science does not necessarily constitute an impediment to accepting the reality of Resurrection.

2.  There is actually pretty good evidence for the scientifically acceptable Resurrection.

Rossano asks a good question,  “Now, what convinces the believer that Resurrection merits such authority when other imaginative possibilities such as extraterrestrial life or time-travel do not?” Rossano  considers one answer: historical commitment. “There’s no record of people committing themselves to the point of martyrdom to other imaginative possibilities as they have to Resurrection.” But he discards it, as well he should, because that’s not evidence for anything. Lots of people have committed themselves to dubious claims: Scientologists and Mormons are only two recent examples.  Commitment says nothing about reality.

So a key question regarding the interpretation of Resurrection is this: Is the post-crucifixion history of Christianity extraordinary? Does it compel the dispassionate observer to concede that a categorically unique event could plausibly be its best explanation?

He clearly sees the answer as “yes”.  But what’s the difference between the “extraordinary post-crucifixion history of Christianity”, which after all is precisely the “historical commitment” of its followers, martyrdom, and the like.   And if those aren’t convincing to the skeptic, neither is the “historical” argument.  And, after all, the post-Mohamed history of Islam is also extraordinary, as is the post-Xenu history of scientology and the post-Joseph-Smith history of Mormonism.  All this shows is that credulous folks can commit themselves to an incredible idea.  As for the best explanation for this “categorically unique event,” I defer to Hume.

Based on this mush-headed argument, Rossano calls for comity between skeptics and believers:

There’s a message here, one quite in keeping with the Easter season when the notion of something radically new breaking through is uppermost in our minds. It ought to be upon questions such as those above that skeptics and believers respectfully engage one another, rather than the simplistic and often acrimonious sloganeering that has increasingly become the norm.

How can one engage this kind of slippery non-evidence “respectfully?”  The proper response is say “dead is dead” and ask for more evidence.

146 thoughts on “Does resurrection contradict science?

  1. I don’t know if this is altogether true. I really don’t. However, I do know that about 90% of the world isn’t the way that I think it is. History is written by the victors, the past is dead and gone and forgotten. Maybe we can learn from the past. Thanks. Keep Blogging, Keep Writing. A quote:

    There are no unnatural or supernatural phenomena, only very large gaps in our knowledge of what is natural.
    Edgar Mitchell
    Apollo 14 Astronaut

  2. For me, the question was never “does the resurrection contradict science?” Rather, the question was “what actually happened?” It seemed to me that the accounts in the Gospels were hopelessly vague.

    1. As you say, it’s not only science that makes the “resurrection” seem impossible; historical investigation shows it to be extremely unlikely as well.

      1. I think we can quite safely use the “impossible” tab there, exactly as one would for any of the other contemporary gods of the Mediterranean.

        After all, the area was crawling with literate chroniclers of current events on the lookout for exactly this sort of thing. There’s the unprecedented cache of original documents in the Dead Sea Scrolls, written by Jewish millennialists in Jerusalem in the first half of the first century; there’s Philo, King Herod Agrippa’s brother-in-law and the Jewish philosopher who first incorporated the Logos (the “Word” in John 1:1) into Judaism; there’s Pliny the Elder, who was fascinated with all things supernatural; there’re all the Roman satirists whose stock in trade was the sorts of political humiliation Jesus visited upon both the Jewish and Roman authorities, and on and on and on and on.

        And let’s not forget that, far from being in any way unique or original, every element of Jesus’s story — especially including the Resurrection — was a well-worn trope even at the time. For all the sordid details, read Justin Martyr’s laughable defense of Christianity.

        I think you’d be comfortable in saying that it’s historically impossible for a flying saucer to have landed on the White House lawn in 1963, leading to national panic followed later by the signing of the first interstellar arms reduction treaty. This is no different.



        1. …not to mention the impossibility of afterward having a hole in his side with which he could allow an apostle or two to fondle his intestines.

      2. “As you say, it’s not only science that makes the “resurrection” seem impossible; historical investigation shows it to be extremely unlikely as well.”

        And before we can treat it as “an indicator that science does not understand the full expanse of reality” we must first be sure that it even happened.

    2. I’m currently reading “Forged” by Bart D. Ehrman, to to say that the “Gospels were hopelessly vague” is to cut them far too much slack.

      The words we are looking for are fraud, deception and outright lies.

      1. I’m reading that, too. I’m familiar with the material, and Ehrman’s is his usual dense and dry stuff.

      2. Ehrman has a section on the alleged resurrection in his ‘Jesus, Interupted’ too. He points out quite rightly that Christians don’t believe in the resurrection because of historical evidence; they believe out of faith. Whereas:’Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past, and be definition, miracles are the least probable of occurrences.’

        Believers ought to stick to basing their claim on faith, on believing things blindly and unconditionally. Because when they attempt to justify their beliefs on something other than faith, they make themselves look even more foolish than they do already.

    3. i think people who seriousely try to “accomodate” religion just want to be in the spotlight

      and since the spot on the side of science is already taken by sam harris, jerry coyne and others they simply put their name to the “reconciliation” project

      it is really a shame that those people would be so vain as to trade intellectual honesty for the spotlight and opportunity of being talked about

  3. “Anyone approaching the Resurrection accounts in the belief that he knows what rising from the dead means will inevitably misunderstand those accounts and will then dismiss them as meaningless” (p. 243).

    Does the pope know what rising from the dead mean? Then he must misunderstand it. But if he misunderstands it, why is he explaining what it means? It just drives me nuts that people take this seriously.

    1. I hereby conclude that you have certainly misunderstood Ratzi’s words. He just explains in clear words his deep misunderstanding of the issue at question.

      “If you think you understand it – you don’t understand it” (R. Feynmann)

  4. “There’s no record of people committing themselves to the point of martyrdom to other imaginative possibilities as they have to Resurrection.”

    Guess he must have forgotten about 9/11 then.

    1. Excellent point. It is a sure sign of delusion when someone abandons both logic (see the point above about “misunderstanding” the Resurrection) and the obvious lessons of history. These folks constantly use a facade of reverence and awe and pseudo-intellectual arguments to hide the fact that they are essentially defending leprechauns and tooth fairies.

    2. …and Heaven’s Gate, and the wacko from Waco, and Jim Jones — and that’s just the last 50 years!

      If early Christian martyrs prove that Jesus is real, then Sumayyah bint Khayyat proves that he wasn’t resurrected and that Muhammad was a more important prophet than Jesus. And Obi-Wan Kenobi proves that Annakin Skywalker brought balance to the Force.



  5. Once you have studied biochemistry and cell biology you tend to see life as an interacting series of complex chemical reactions. Every cell in your body has multiple necessary events occurring that keep it functioning and alive. All those cells require energy and oxygen and when these are deprived the cells undergo an irreversible process of necrosis or apoptosis. They basically self destruct in a controlled or incontrolled manner and all their internal order and structure is gone.
    To ‘resurrect’ a dead body would mean reversing these irreversable processes in each and every cell.
    It is like unbaking a cake.
    To the religious the idea of life is more like a spark that can be switched on and off – like Frankenstein did with his monster. If you think of life like that it seems almost simple to bring someone back from death – rather than complicated and thermodynamically impossible.

    1. Weren’t you paying attention? The Resurrection represents a new dimension of reality breaking through into human experience. I thought that was perfectly clear. Sheesh.

    2. like unbaking a cake

      Must remember that one!

      To the religious the idea of life is more like a spark that can be switched on and off – like Frankenstein did with his monster.

      Truly. I guess the story would work better if Jesus was thought to have been the first android, but so many Christians tend to think that all humans are like that instead of limiting that on/off quality to Jesus.

  6. As you know, Christians will not, can not give up the resurrection because if they do, the whole house of cards comes down. If that’s bullshit, then everything else becomes bullshit, as it already has for thinking people.

    1. People talk a good deal about Jesus, even if he’s not divine, being the best of all teachers. And perhaps the Gospels do have some good ideas, but I don’t really feel like crediting them to Jesus, since they were written decades after him, likely through the lens of the various Christian controversies at the time, and the teachings of Paul. They’re not really consistent, and I think there are plenty of other philosophers that did a much better job of producing a good, generous world view since.

      1. Jesus is pure evil.

        I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to put it.

        Let’s even ignore, for a moment, the fact that — according to Christian dogma — Jesus is the one who signs the orders for everybody who is to be subjected to infinite torture. Even if he only had one single soul subjected to infinite torture, that would be plenty to condemn him as horribly evil, but the official line is that 99.999% of all who ever lived (everybody not a member of the One True Branch of Christianity, whatever that is) will be tortured infinitely, and only the vanishingly-small remainder (all of 100,000 male Jewish virgins according to one account) will escape his wrath.

        In his own words in the Gospels, Jesus came not to bring peace but to bring a sword; he came to set families against each other and rip them apart; and the only way to Heaven is to love him — and the only way to love him is to hate your family and yourself. He commanded his followers to make human sacrifices of all who reject his tyranny, to bring us before his altar and bleed us dry at his feet. And on and on and on and on.

        And these aren’t random isolated incidents that I’m taking out of context. Even in the famed Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns to Hell every man who’s ever looked at a woman, silently thought to himself, “Yeah, I’d tap that,” and failed to immediately gouge out his own eyes and then chop off his own hands. The shit just don’t stop.

        Truly, I do not exaggerate when I write that the Bible is far more toxic than Mein Kampf. The only thing the Bible has going for it is that it’s purest fantasy — even if it’s vile and disgusting snuff porn fantasy of the worst kind.



      2. Hell, Epicurus wrote several hundred years BEFORE Jesus. And Paul was probably familiar with his work.

  7. I don’t see why we should take non-naturalist claims seriously. We all know that it’s make-believe and mythology with a political purpose behind it. Going back to discussing belief vs. non-belief is old school atheism.

    Accommodationists don’t view the world the same way we do. They still cling to authority and traditions, and doing so gives them a sense of identity and purpose above us. They’re not using their reason, but instead wish to persist and associate with the inequalities and respect given to religious power.

    There is no longer any point in engaging with accommodationists on a rational level, they are our political enemies.

  8. So no one knows what rising from the dead means – therefore it is meaningless!
    “For a moment, let us entertain the possibility that Resurrection is as Benedict interprets it” – yes, for a moment, & then dismiss it as utter tosh.
    “There’s a message here, one quite in keeping with the Easter season when the notion of something radically new breaking through is uppermost in our minds.” Yes folks, it’s the Easter Bunny!
    If the resurrection is supposed not to be a mere reanimation of dead flesh that has not decayed after death by some zombification process (so an abnormal suspension of cellular breakdown & oxygen starvation), & is not because Jebus is not ‘pure god'(because he has to be a man to suffer for us etc) then what on earth or in heaven is it???

    By the way – bupkus is not in the Yiddish Dictionary Online – they have it as “bubkes (or) bopkes”…

    1. My sis and her friend were over here visiting and while riding around on the train one day in Tokyo, went past a christian church. Easily distinguishable as such because of the big cross on top (not too many of those hereabout)… and since it was April, it was adorned (I swear I am not making this up) with a giant Cute Bunny, in the Japanese Kawaii style. Bend ye the knee before Cute Bunny Crucified! Hallelujah and Hosanna in the highest– Cute Bunny is Risen from the Dead! They looked at each other, then looked away quickly so they wouldn’t collapse into undignified laughter on the floor of the train…. We decided that there was something seriously amiss with the understanding of Doctrine at that church… ;-))

  9. I don’t even think we have to draw comparisons to Islam, etc., to undermine this nonsense “extraordinary post-crucifixion history of Christianity” argument. It is true that there has been an “extraordinary post-crucifixion history of Christianity,” in a way that there has not been in regards to Mormonism or Scientology (though there has been with Islam, but put that aside for a moment).

    So? All that tells us is that something remarkable happened, but why would that have to be the resurrection? Especially since the remarkable stuff took a few hundred years? Could the “something remarkable” by any chance be a confluence of social and geopolitical events which caused a relatively small group of zealots to make so much noise in a declining empire that Constantine wound up “converting”, thus making Christianity the state religion of one of the largest empire’s of all time?

    Nah, that’s crazy talk. Far more plausible is that everything we know about biology, chemistry, and physics was momentarily suspended so that a megalomaniacal psychopath could sacrifice himself to himself so he could forgive his own creations for problems that he caused himself.

    Also, World War I was caused by tiny polka dotted elves. These fantasy explanations are so much less exhausting than understanding the complex interweaving threads of actual history!

  10. Perhaps the target isn’t really moving, it’s just displacing itself in some new way to avoid being hit.

  11. I fear I would be remiss if I were to fail to point out that Rossano is unambiguously arguing that Jesus was a zombie.

    What else are we to call the corpse of a dead man who did “not [return] to a normal human life in this world”? And let’s not forget the Christian fascination with the undead Jesus’s unhealed wounds — the holes in his hands and feet, and the gaping chest wound through which one could just barely glimpse the glistening guts that Thomas couldn’t wait to grope.



      1. Ha! Cats have far more taste than to eat a Jesus. When was the last time you saw one taking communion?

        Nah, it clearly makes him dog food. They’ll eat anything



        1. Well, one of my cats will sit and pray for hours for fresh water. Her god usually delivers in mysterious ways that involve me cleaning and refilling the water bowl.

          1. My cat must be an atheist.

            When his water bowl is empty, he tells me about it. Loudly. Using his claws for emphasis.

            1. LOL! Does he go and find you anywhere in the house? My one cat won’t. When she is praying for “Fresh! Fresh!”, woe be it to anyone who tries to use the bathroom where the water bowl is located. She won’t claw you, but your legs will not be unmolested. I’ve taken to calling her the Bathroom Troll for that reason.

              1. Yes, any time he finds his water or food bowl to be less full than he cares for, he comes and finds me and proceeds to yowl at me and claw my pants until I follow him to the bowl and fill it. Also, he doesn’t like eating by himself and insists that you stand there and watch him. If you try to leave, he goes and gets you again and won’t stop until you come back.

    1. Dang. I should have kept reading before I posted. I had thought for a moment that you had forgotten about the holey grope.

      1. ‘Sokay. The more the merrier. If it gets to the point that nobody can mention the Resurrection without everybody in earshot making snide remarks about Jesus’s perforated proctological preference, my mission will have succeeded.



  12. “Is the post-crucifixion history of Christianity extraordinary?”

    If one starts from the assumption that the resurrection happened, then yes, it is absolutely extraordinary. After all, this supposedly world-shattering event took place in about the early thirties CE, but nobody could be bothered to write down anything about it until the early seventies CE. And then it was only written down by a member (“Mark”) of a secretive cult which kept the story from the world for a few decades more. Everybody else seems to have forgotten all about it. Incredible.

    1. …and let’s not forget that the whole reason for Jesus’s visit was to spread the “Good News” about his message. His believers are universally exhorted to convince the whole world of the truth of their claims.

      So remind me, again, why it is that Jesus did all this in a backwater hick town on the edge of the Empire; that he chose to do it in a fantastic way that couldn’t be better calculated to convince that he was just another mythic hero; that he simultaneously turned the establishment on its ear and yet was of no interest to anybody who owned a pen and knew how to use it; that it took several generations for his disciples to decide that maybe they should get off their asses and start spreading the news; that he relied on word-of-mouth and never bothered to write anything down (or even to dictate anything); that he neglected to create any permanent physical artifacts (such as some stone tablets) as backup insurance…?

      If Jesus was real, he was the most incompetent omnipotent idiot in all of imagination.



      1. But you have to admit that, in the long term, the “Good News” did take remarkable hold. I really wish there was a more formal science of memetics that could explain how that happened, given some of the issues you note.

        1. On the face of it, I agree that it’s quite remarkable.

          But scratch the surface…and it’s no more remarkable than how every other religion has taken hold, or how Madoff made his millions, or how Ponzi plundered the poor, or how any other scam has become popular.

          Humans have an amazing faculty for latching on to stories that they wish were true and then going to great lengths to convince themselves that they really are true.

          Cognitive Dissonance Theory is the best explanation for how and why this is that I’ve come across, by far.

          As to how this particular scam became so popular…well, a Roman emperor fell for it at the tail end of the empire, and the parasites were able to leverage the power thus gained to great effect. If it weren’t for Constantine’s conversion, we’d probably be having similar discussions today about Zeus and Dionysus.



          1. it’s no more remarkable than how every other religion has taken hold, or how Madoff made his millions, or how Ponzi plundered the poor, or how any other scam has become popular

            I don’t completely disagree, although given the size of Christianity there must be some features of it, and/or some aspects of history, that caused it to be so much more successful than other religions existing at that time. (For example, Judaism is far older, but far smaller today, and the Roman religion is completely gone from active practice.)

            I think in general that the human cognitive OS must have a fairly fundamental bug that these viruses are exploiting. I think understanding what that bug is might go some way to developing inoculation strategies.

            1. Its also important to realize that Christianity as it is today, is a layering of improvements made on the original. Jesus’s oral teachings were spread by Paul, who wrote them down and ignored the parts he didn’t like (like following the Torah Law). Then the Gospels came along and modified Paul’s legacy and put written words into Jesus’s mouth, and stories for his life. Further on still, Paul’s teachings of a physical resurrection within his own lifetime was replaced by forgers pretending to be Paul, who advocated a more spiritual afterlife. And so on from there.

              I’m sure the current Christianity would be barely recognizable to the historical Jesus (if he existed at all).

              1. Paul never even claimed to have heard Jesus speak – stop making crap up. Thanks.

              2. To yesmyliege, I don’t think Sajanas claimed that specifically, although it is easy to see how one could come away thinking that. Sajanas says that Paul spread Jesus’s oral teachings, not that Paul heard Jesus speak.

              3. “I’m sure the current Christianity would be barely recognizable to the historical Jesus (if he existed at all).”

                Remember that there isn’t just one “current Christianity” but many. They have evolved and especiated, adapting to their environments. What does Japanese crucified bunny-worship have to do with Nigerian Anglican homo-hatred or Alabama megachurch gimmegimme, for example?

                Whenever I see a convocation of Cardinals in their sea of red, the Pope being carried or wheeled through them in his spledid robes and hat past the works of Bellini and Michaelangelo, I like to imagine a dirty, emaciated, longhaired wretch in a loincloth staggering up the aisle behind him. When he reaches the Chair of Peter he croaks,

                “Me? This is all for Me?”

              4. @yesmyliege

                Paul spent a lot of time before his conversion persecuting Christians… one would presume he at least knew generally what those teachings were.
                Though interestingly, his revelation came ‘direct from Jesus’, so he probably added on quite a bit to it… its hard to say how much since we have no direct record of Jesus’s actual teachings at all.

              5. @Shuggy
                True enough, but Christians certainly pretend that there was only one religion, at least until the point where their denomination branched off, and ignore the fact that there *never* was one, even in the early church, and that Jesus’s teachings are filtered through these early conflicts, even in the “orthodox” church.

        2. One has to concede that as a new religion, Christianity hit on a completely novel concept.

          Up until that time, only gods lived in “heaven”. Virtually everyone else went to Hades — a dour, joyless place. Only a very select few (emperors) could count on being elected a god and sent to heaven.

          Then Christianity came along and said “We know your life is complete crap — but just believe this myth, and you get to go to heaven, too!”

          I mean, who wouldn’t jump at the chance?

          It was completely original — the concept of universal heaven for all believers. Hence, its popularity.

          Christianity also added the stick — hell was converted not just into a dour place where everyone went (at least it was egalitarian). It was now a place of torment — for the sin of not believing.

          So, carrot and stick working together in harmony. You can either join Jesus in heaven or you can be eternally tormented in hell. All for the small price of getting on your knees (and 10% of your income).

          It’s no wonder it succeeded.

            1. With respect, Ben, the Elysium and Valhalla were reserved for the noble and heroic. Valhalla was only for those who died in battle.

              No, this was different. Heaven for the poor, the slave, the downtrodden, the pig farmer, the prostitute.

              Different. WAY different.

              A brilliant proposition. One must give the religion its props. It would not have succeeded without this invention.

              1. So a rewarding afterlife is only for a select few. Christianity just introduced new selection criteria.

              2. @truthspeaker.

                Yes. Opened the gates to the masses.

                Every other religion held heaven apart for a select few — warriors, heros, emperors, mythical half-gods who performed marvelous feats and were rewarded.

                If you want to know why Christianity took hold — this is it. Universal salvation.

                Complete nonsense, of course. But brilliant and in the context of the times, as believable as anything else out there.

              3. While it’s certainly true that Heroes were pretty much guaranteed passage to Elysium, I’ve always understood that to be exemplary, not restrictive.

                Pindar would seem to agree:

                And those that have three times kept to their oaths,

                Keeping their souls clean and pure,

                Never letting their hearts be defiled by the taint

                Of evil and injustice,

                And barbaric veniality,

                They are led by Zeus to the end [….]

                And Tertulian also asserted that there was a direct parallel between the Pagan and Christian afterlives:

                By the award of the judgment, we say that the wicked will have to spend an eternity in endless fire, the pious and innocent in a region of bliss. In your view likewise an unalterable condition is ascribed to the respective destinations of Pyriphlegethon and Elysium. Now they are not merely your composers of myth and poetry who write songs of this strain; but your philosophers also speak with all confidence of the return of souls to their former state, and of the twofold award of a final judgment. (Ad Nationes, Book I, Chapter XIX)

                I can’t find any original references offhand, but I’ve always heard the end of the Orpheus story as being along the lines of, “…and if you live your life as Orpheus did his, you will one day find yourself in the Elysian Fields where you’ll be able to hear his sweet melodies still issuing from his severed head.”

                That is, it’s the same plan as for Christianity: with good deeds and devotion to the gods, eternal bliss will be yours.

                Dante blatantly modeled his Inferno after the classical Greek afterlife.

                So…I’m afraid I’ll be sticking to my guns. The Christians stole their afterlife from the Pagans and did little more than change the names. Philosophically, they’re indistinguishable.



          1. This concept (both heaven and hell) was already in Zoroastrianism at least three centuries before Jesus. In no way was it original to Christianity.

            (Oddly enough, the word “paradise” comes from Avestan.)

      2. that he relied on word-of-mouth and never bothered to write anything down…

        Do we know if Jesus was even literate?

        1. No, we don’t. There’s literally nothing we know about him that wasn’t second or third hand information by the time it was recorded, making it impossible to say what, if any, information is actually true.

  13. I would argue that the switch actually weakens their claims.

    When they try to move from simple resurrection to something entirely new and unknown to science, it definitely becomes an even more extraordinary claim, requiring even more extraordinary evidence to back it up.

    All this does for me is move it from fantastically improbable, to unimaginably improbable. If the existing evidence isn’t enough to back up the existing extraordinary claim, then it is of even less weight in backing up the new, more extraordinary claim.

    Oh, and the first quote from Ratzi is of course, our old favourite, the Courtiers Reply.

  14. “. . .Because it is something entirely new, it cannot represent a violation of natural law as understood by science. . .”

    Since a miracle is defined as a violation of natural law, Rossano is saying here that the Resurrection was not a miracle.

    Yet he also says “. . . Thus, in this view, Resurrection (as with all true miracles). . .”

    How can you meaningfully argue with someone who redefines common words at will?

  15. I figured out how he did it when I saw the movie “The Prestige”. Jesus was a twin! His brother was crucified, he pulled a switcheroo and then he emerged triumphantly from the tomb – ta daaaa!

    Of course, The Prestige was just a made up story…

  16. What does the Bible say about the crucifixion of Jesus?

    Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus. He found no fault with Jesus and three times suggested to simply chastise him and release him. He reluctantly allowed the crucifixion to proceed.

    The actual crucifixion was supervised by a Centurion who was apparently also sympathetic towards Jesus – perhaps even a follower.

    After Jesus had been on the cross for about six hours he cried “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (which some interpreted as ‘he calleth Elias’) At this point a mystery person ran up with a sponge soaked in “vinegar” on a reed which Jesus drank. Shortly after he “gave up the ghost”

    The Romans wanted to speed the death of the crucified and so broke the legs of the robbers (crucifixion is a slow death, breaking the legs cases rapid death by asphyxiation) A Roman soldier stuck a spear into the side of Jesus and seeing bleeding but getting no reaction, declared him already dead, so they did not break his legs.

    Joseph of Arimathea petitioned Pilate for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised, “marveled”, that he was dead so soon, so he questioned the Centurion who confirmed his death.

    So Joseph was permitted to take the body away and place it in his personal “tomb”. Shortly after Nicodemus went to the tomb with healing herbs -myrrh and aloe.

    Three days later Jesus was seen alive.

    What else do we know about crucifixion in general?

    It is survivable:
    Joesphus Flavius wrote:
    “I was sent by Titus Caesar with Ceralius and a thousand riders to a certain town by the name of Thecoa to find out whether a camp could be set up at this place. On my return I saw many prisoners who had been crucified, and recognized three of them as my former companions. I was inwardly very sad about this and went with tears in my eyes to Titus and told him about them. He at once gave the order that they should be taken down and given the best treatment so they could get better. However two of them died while being attended to by the doctor; the third recovered.”While unusual this is not an isolated incident: St. Andrew apparently survived for two days, preaching all the while.

    What conclusions can be drawn?

    You don’t have to be very skeptical to question whether Jesus in fact did actually die on the cross. The sponge drink did not refresh Jesus – if anything it seemed to hasten his death. The sponge could easily have contained drugs such as opium, belladonna and hashish – all known then and easily available. Both the Centurion and Pilate were sympathetic to Jesus and the Centurion was the only person to actually confirm his death – shortly after having said “Truly this man was the Son of God” or “Certainly this was a righteous man” – how unbiased can he be thought to be.

    Would this ‘miracle’ convince anyone today?

    Death is not as simple as “Dead is dead”. We resuscitate ‘dead’ people all the time now. A body can appear completely dead, no heartbeat, cold – and yet be resuscitated.

    The story of the crucixion and ressurection, even taken at face value, has a far simpler, non-miraculous explanation

    1. That only works if you take the Gospel accounts at face value, when they really were looking to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus.

      Pontus Pilate was a violent, brutal ruler. I can imagine he wouldn’t have thought twice about executing someone who said he was the son of God, or the Messiah. The Romans practically made a sport of Messiah killing later, during the Jewish revolt. He would not have been sympathetic to Jesus, and he would have never, never let a crowd boss him around. In fact, an actual historical account had showed that he authorized soldiers in plane clothes to infiltrate a crowd and attack them with knives.

      The story of Jesus is one of the saddest stories ever told, in my eyes. A man considered himself a prophet, and saw himself as the most important person in the world, and was casually eliminated by authorities that didn’t care about him, and his followers were so enraptured with him that they could not accept the fact of his own death and spun stories that flatly denied it.

      1. Doesn’t the sympathetic Pilate story only date back to the Middle Ages anyway? Prior to that I’d heard that the story was that the Romans executed him as an insurgent and the change was made around the 11th century as part of a rise in antisemitism going on at the time.

        1. I just finished Ehrman’s book Forged, and there is a small section on letters and books forged in the name of Pilate and Herod to support Pilate’s innocence and the guilt of the Jews, and a lot of them were from early Christian times, though they remained popular throughout the Middle Ages.

      2. That only works if you take the Gospel accounts at face value
        Yes – that is exactly what I was doing. Even when you , and that was my point. If you take the Gospel accounts as – well Gospel – the story points more towards a resuscitation than a ressurection.

        Crucifixion is not necessarily lethal. That’s the whole point of crucifixion. A slow, tortured death that can take days – unless the legs are broken.

        Every year in Iztapalapa, Mexico and in the Philippines, people volunteer to be crucified, many come back year after year and keep the holes open.

        The whole account could be fiction, part fact or completely factual – the explanation that best fits the accounts is not miraculous.

        1. I see what you’re saying, Quidam, and find it valuable as yet another reason to claim ‘absolutely no miracles necessary.’

    2. Care to explain, then, how every single contemporary chronicler of the time — from the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls to Philo to Pliny the Elder to the Roman satirists — managed to overlook these most remarkable events?



    3. “A body can appear completely dead, no heartbeat, cold – and yet be resuscitated.”

      That’s not true. By the time a body has lost enough temperature to be “cold”, it is too late to be resuscitated, even with a defibrilator and a team of EMTs and MDs.

      1. I’m not an expert, but I think you are wrong.

        Hypothermic drowning victims have been resuscitated even after many minutes under cold water

        Nine hypothermic drowning victims, comprising five boys and four girls, with a median age of 3.8 years (range, 1.5–10 years). The median submersion time was 38 min (range, 5–75 min) and the median water temperature was 6.5 °C (range, 0.2–16.5 °C). The median core temperature was 21.9 °C (range 17.7–32.8 °C) at arrival to the hospital. All nine children were able to be weaned from CPB. Only one child, with mild to moderate neurological deficit, became a long-term survivor. She was slowly rewarmed up to 33 °C with CPB and kept in mild hypothermia for 48 h.

        Doctors are now cooling surgery patients to 20C to induce hypothermia.

        But those extremes are not neccessary. A body can feel ‘cold’

    4. Miracle Max: See, there’s a big difference between mostly dead, and all dead. Now, mostly dead: he’s slightly alive. All dead: well, with all dead, there’s usually only one thing that you can do.

      Inigo: What’s that?

      Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

      1. “As Coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her.
        And she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”

        1. While it’s safe to say that an autopsy has never been completed on a live person, some have been started on one.

    1. What makes you think the stupid git could find room 12A next door even if it were framed in neon lights and had dancing girls on elephants pointing to it?

      Besides, I think he secretly comes here for the abuse, anyway. Christians tend to be into that sort of thing.



  17. “It ought to be upon questions such as those above that skeptics and believers respectfully engage one another,”

    Yeah, they hate it when we try to engage them on questions they don’t have good answers for, so instead they’d like us to engage them on silly, meaningless questions.

    1. Besides which, how is one supposed to “respectfully engage” somebody whose precis is that an ancient Jewish zombie wandered around downtown Jerusalem looking for braaaaaaiiiiinnnnzzzz?


  18. “Jesus had not returned to a normal human life in this world like Lazarus and the others whom Jesus raised from the dead.”
    They say it’s scientifically possible because Jesus did not return as/in a genuine human body. Telling so, they admit that Lazarus’ resurrection is scientifically impossible. (The poor man was already stinking!)
    What a strange idea to undermine their main argument: believers are sure that Jesus would be able to resurrect the dead because he would have done so already.

    1. Not just Jesus. In Acts, Paul raises a man from the dead as well.

      “Dead … you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  19. Rossano and Benedict’s explainations only raises more questions than ever. Their convoluted answers only sow more confusion amongst the credulous.

  20. Of course, both Mr. Ratzinger and Prof. Rossano are coming extremely close to engaging in a heresy.

    Christian churches teach that Jesus was fully human (and fully god), and it was as a fully human person that Jesus was resurrected.

    Ratzinger and Rossano are coming extremely close to claiming that Jesus was resurrected as “something else” … which would have to be something supernatural (since it evades our science, and I’m pretty sure we teach classes on ‘dead’).

    That’s a very old Gnostic heresy of docetism — Jesus didn’t bodily resurrect himself, but appeared as a spirit. Thousands of people were executed for believing in this version of the story.

    Ratzinger should submit himself to the Inquisition for questioning.

  21. wow, seems like the usual old William Lane Craig crap has risen its head again with the same lies and nonsense. I am wondering, since so many people are willing to die for Islam, does that make it even more “truer” than Christianity? With no evidence for any magical “creation” by a god, there is not needed any magical “resurrection” or “salvation” either.

    1. The “die for a lie” meme is not Craig’s. Craig has never come up with an original argument in favor of his god — he merely recycles and occasionally polishes the turds.

      The original context was with regard to the apostles — all of whom allegedly “saw” Jesus alive, dead, and then alive. And then went on to preach the word, and allegedly all suffered violent deaths as a result.

      One small problem. Not one of the apostles’ deaths (aside from Peter) is recorded in confirm-able history. They’re all legends.

      And yes, the Heaven’s Gate folks sort of puts that entire proposition into a cocked hat, as it were. As does the death of Joseph Smith and his brother (killed by an angry mob). And on and on.

  22. I guess this is picking nits, but I don’t think the question of the resurrection is unscientific. You have a model where there’s an omnipotent being that can operate outside our limits (like when the Sphere nudged the Square’s insides in Flatland). So, this being could make a body come back to life. So, if that’s your model, you go looking for evidence to confirm or deny it, such as credible eye witnesses. If there were enough evidence indicating that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, then I think that ‘scientifically’, we would have to say that was the best explanation for the gospels. It’ just that there really isn’t any good evidence for the Resurrection (nor for that omnipotent being). So, the Resurrection doesn’t automatically conflict with science just because it requires an omnipotent being, it’s just that in practice, there’s nothing to back it up, so it makes more sense to assume it’s a legend.

    1. Any explanation of any phenomenon that requires invoking unknown beings capable of breaking the natural laws that govern how the world works is unscientific.

    2. You have a model where there’s an omnipotent being that can operate outside our limits […] if that’s your model, you go looking for evidence

      But an omnipotent being could tamper with the evidence as well, no? Indeed, how else do we address the scientific impossibility of the resurrection except through the “evidence” of biology?

      Once you allow for omnipotence, all bets are off, and you might as well be living in the Matrix — no empirical conclusion is safe.

    1. Erm…you do know that JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis were bosom buddies united in their Christian faith, no?

      Tolkien’s tales of his Middle-earth are every bit as much Christian morality plays as Lewis’s tales of Narnia, and equally unabashedly so. It’s just that Tolkien was such a better writer that he didn’t have to hit you over the head nearly so forcefully to make his points.

      In short, Gandalf is Jesus. Jesus died, went to Hell, conquered Death, and returned to bring salvation to the world before leading the way to Heaven. Gandalf died, went to the depths of the mines of Moria, conquered the Balrog, and returned to bring peace to Middle-earth before leading the way to the Undying Lands.



      P.S. Aslan is Jesus, too. b&

      1. It’s a little more involved than that – Frodo is also Jesus, and Gollum is Judas. Tolkien’s expressed distaste for allegory, but fondness for “applicability”, comes into play here.

    2. The whole of LOTR takes place in a mythical world with creator god and two tiers of other lesser entities, similar to Archangels and Angels, which are all named in the Simarillion, if you can read it without falling asleep.

      Gandalf is one of the second tier angel entities (or one of their creations), as are all the wizards, and, I believe, Sauron, while the bad guy from the Silmarillion was a rebel Archangel. Essentially when Gandalf died, the immortal part of him went back to where-ever it normally hangs out, his boss told him he messed up, learn to play, and sent him right back with better powers.

      Not *exactly* like Jebus, but it certainly uses the same themes. Its just that Gandalf was not unique, as there were lots of other wizards, and I doubt that the high creator god, or even the Archangel entities would have taken his calls. Aslan, however, was totally Jesus, in a way that I find noxious, since he is so *good*, but never actually around when evil is setting up its big fortresses and kingdoms.

      1. Aslan manages to never be around to stop trouble from happening, yet always shows up right at the big climax to prevent the protagonists from getting the credit.

      2. Thanks! There’s some Middle Earth-y wiki with the names of all the stuff mentioned. My eyes did gloss over the pages of The Silmarillion years ago, and I maintain that the most significant contribution from all of the Middle Earth stuff is lending its names to weapons in the video game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Hehe.

      3. I will never understand why people keep making the Gandalf/Jesus analogy. They have exactly one thing in common:

        Gandalf (ambiguously) died and was brought back to life by the middle earth god.

        Nothing else is the same.

        For instance, Gandalf is – as you point out – a kind of angely thing, emphatically not the ‘only son’ of the creator.

        He doesn’t die to absolve everyone vicariously of sins, he dies trying to protect his friends from a balrog, albeit as part of a higher purpose (which does not have anything to do with forgiving people vicariously for sins).

        He isn’t sacrificed by the ruling body, he’s killed in combat with a big naughty demon thing.

        Gandalf’s beard is grey and later white, whereas Jesus’ is toast-coloured, as seen on toast around the globe.

        Gandalf isn’t much cop at healing. He certainly can’t bring people back from the dead, walk on water, make food appear or anything like that. He can set stuff on fire and do all lightening. He can inspire people to great deeds, but he seems to need the elven ring for that.

        His mother wasn’t a virgin, his father wasn’t a ghost.

        Gandalf isn’t a christ figure at all. He died and came back. Can you think of *one* comic book character that hasn’t pulled off the same trick at least once? Are they all christ figures too?

        1. Besides, Gandalf dying was simply a plot device: a necessary part of the story. The fellowship had to be broken, which meant getting rid of Gandalf and Aragorn. Aragogn was easy to get rid of since he never intended to go to Mordor anyway.

          Gandalf would have gone with Frodo to Mordor and would have broken the actual theme, which is of little, simple people triumphing when they are forced to.

  23. . . Thus, in this view, Resurrection (as with all true miracles) is not contrary to science, but an indicator that science does not (yet?) describe the full expanse of reality.

    So what? Is there anything at all that can’t be said to be beyond “current” science? Homeopathy, ghosts, magical correspondences, vitalism, angels, God? Testable in theory; tested in reality; results denied in practice — with the complaint that it just needs “more study” or a “different method” or both. After all, in order for science to begin to work all you need are some observable regularities that can be objectively confirmed.

    Science doesn’t study only nature — it studies whatever is real. The “supernatural” is rejected because there’s no good reason to think it exists — no, not even in the “full expanse of reality.” And it won’t work to redefine all the so-called supernatural phenomenon as natural phenomenon that just works in a really different way than all the other natural phenomenon but we’re not there yet. Yet … or never?

    I think this is all just a fancy way of restating the religious mantra that “anything is possible.” Trouble is, science takes that and says yeah — but we can narrow those probabilities down quite a bit, you know.

    1. I think this is all just a fancy way of restating the religious mantra that “anything is possible.”

      Exactly, and if Christians get to argue that for the resurrection, then Scientologists get to argue that for thetans in volcanoes, and Raelians get to argue that for alien cloning, and theosophists get to argue that about the reptile people of lost Lemuria. Let’s have no special pleading here — if the resurrection is on the table, then all religious wackiness is on the table, and Christian theology doesn’t get a free pass by itself.

  24. Isn’t it worse for Christianity if the resurrection were scientific? Then someone could say, “I have a naturalistic explanation for what happened! We don’t need God to explain this.” If Christianity is true the resurrection would have to be a miracle and therefore unscientific.

    1. If science finds God, then supernatural explanations like miracles would be scientific.

      Believers really don’t care if God or God’s actions are labeled “supernatural” — or if they’re labeled “natural.” Those are terms. They just really want the God part.

    2. Matt: if there was one shred of credible evidence that the myths told in the bible were true … then “faith” would be a mortal sin. And there would only be one “true” church — and I would be a member of it; as would you and everyone else on the planet.

      It’s only because there is no evidence, no logic, no “there” there that theologians have to invoke faith.

      1. Kevin,

        I think you have it exactly the wrong way round. The requirement for faith is the *whole point*. It’s an act of submission that results in a significant emotional investment. How else could you engender generations of cognitive dissonance? How else do we end up with scientists who abandon their standards of evidence when they leave the lab AND DON’T SEE ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT?

        Once you have a bunch of supporters, the more fantastic and unsupported the tale you spin, the better. People won’t be fanatical about obvious truths.

  25. It will be interesting to see if this is an individual aberration or a trend among accommodationists, to stride into theology and hence irrelevance.

    the simplistic and often acrimonious sloganeering that has increasingly become the norm.

    *** Error 001 thrown in accommodationist core routine, self-referential conclusion detected as ( Error 001 thrown in accommodationist core routine, self-referential conclusion detected as ( Error 001 thrown in accommodationist core routine, self-referential conclusion detected as (

    /// *** accommodationist core routine timeout – unable to salvage status ***

    how come the law was enacted only once?

    Contingency can take a pathway through a unique state. But when we need a theory of a process (pathway dependence) or law (state description) that can be tested on other states. A good example of both kinds would be cosmologies and their laws.

    1. Oops, I’m tired. It was supposed to end something like:

      “Single observations (which of course we don’t even have here) isn’t enough for this.”

    1. Oh, that was…interesting! Great quote mine material, too:

      . Intelligence is not a prerequisite for being pope, or even to be a bishop or priest — evidence abounds!

  26. I don’t see any reason to even ask the question. The fact that we’re willing to entertain the idea as an intellectual exercise speaks volumes about religion’s influence even on those of us who’ve trained ourselves to recognise and correct for it.

    The problem is, of course, that we *have* to engage. Bah.

  27. where does a sitting Pope get time to write a book?

    Well, he isn’t spending time stopping paedophiles…

  28. Did he just say that the resurrection of Jesus is logical because it wasn’t like the resurrection of Lazarus? And therefore resurrection is perfectly consistant with natural laws.

  29. And by the way, I do believe that evolution is the process God used to create life. I believe Christians have spent too much time arguing from a misunderstanding of the Biblical text which is neutral on “how” we were created. So, my comments about the resurrection above are rooted in my faith but my faith hasn’t blinded me to other truth.

  30. Ratzi should demote himself back to Cardinal and writing Canon Law because there is still abuse and it will not stop even under denial of a Pope, so they are going to need further legal expertice. He knows a lot about this but draws a zilch from me on ressurection of a person who never existed. He should let the revelations of Augustine et al stand, at least catolics still believe them. They will have a hard time SWALLOWING this further rationalization that jesus was not a real person, ever.

  31. LOL Dead is not dead, although our egos may see it like that. I’m trying to wrote a paper on this. I cant see resurrection contravening science.

    Quantum Archaeology suggests resurrection is a science fact as it already happens in Nature. For man it will depend on computing power being enough to track back past events then robotically reassemble people from the data we calculate.

    I’ve tried to keep religion out of the paper although that’s where resurrection is covered in most detail so far.

    Grateful for any views:

      1. well I take your point, but we are talking about the planck scale and quantum just means scale pocket

  32. Resurrection from the dead answers are here!
    Read “The Present” at for the latest, most accurate concentration of the truth about life, death and how we must know the truth in order to make the next step in human evolution. Science and meaning are finally coming together to make sense out of life.

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