Tish Harrison Warren interviews an Anglican bishop who says the Resurrection was real, and he has evidence

April 9, 2023 • 9:30 am

In today’s Easter edition of the NYT, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren interviews the Jesus expert and Anglican bishop, N. T. Wright, introduced this way:

Perhaps no one on earth has studied that event [the Resurrection] and the subsequent responses to it more than N.T. Wright. He serves as senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and is emeritus professor of New Testament at the University of St. Andrews. He has written over 80 books focused on Jesus and his first followers. He is also a Christian and a former bishop of Durham in the Church of England. One of his books, “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” is an exhaustive dive into the scholarship and debates around the resurrection of Christ. I asked Wright to speak with me about his research and this baffling, world-altering claim of resurrection. This interview has been edited and condensed.

So what about the Resurrection? Did it happen, or is it only a metaphor? (We’re leaving aside the dubious claim that a Jesus person ever existed). Click to read.

What’s printed below is from the emailed newsletter I got—for some masochistic reason I subscribe to Warren’s lucubrations—so it isn’t yet up on the NYT site. When it appears, I’ll attach the piece to the screenshot below. This also explains the weird spacing below.

While Warren makes no statement about her own belief in a real Resurrection (I’m betting she’s a believer), she draws out Bishop Wright, who absolutely believed it happened. Although in his youth he was a doubter, he got convinced that Jesus really did rise from the dead by none other than that Theologian for the Masses, C. S. Lewis. That tells you something about the nature of the “evidence” for this miracle.  And although the entirety of Wright’s “evidence” rests on conflicting stories within a single book, the New Testament, that doesn’t daunt the man at all.  He’s a diehard Anglican to the point where he might as well be a full-on Catholic.

The first exchange dispels the Sophisticated Theologians’™ claim that the Resurrection really wasn’t a miracle but a metaphor. For those atheist-butters or accommodationists who argue that religion isn’t really about empirical claims, but morality and a sense of community, this will make them sit up. Warren’s questions are in bold, Wright’s answers in plain type. Text from the article is indented, text that is flush left is mine.

There’s a funny line where you write, “The discovery that dead people stayed dead was not first made by the philosophers of the Enlightenment.” That’s obvious, of course, but we sometimes assume that skepticism is a recent phenomenon. How would ancient Jewish audiences and Gentile audiences think about the apostles talking about the resurrection?

Early Christianity was born into a world where everybody knew that its central claim was ridiculous, and the early Christians knew it themselves. It’s not that they thought resurrection might just happen to a few people here and there. But they said it had happened in this case.

This claim seemed absolutely crazy. Ordinary, sober people knew perfectly well that dead people don’t get raised up again.

Many Jewish people for two centuries before Jesus and on for at least the next century believed that in the end, all God’s people would be raised because they believed that the God of Israel, the Creator God, would remake the whole world. But this is about one person being raised from the dead ahead of everybody else.

In the non-Jewish world, there is no evidence that anyone is expecting dead people to come back again. There’s lots of speculation about other places they might go. The Platonic speculation about going off to the Isles of the Blessed and having lovely conversations about philosophy all day. The Stoics believed that there would be a great Phoenixlike conflagration and the whole world would then be reborn.

But most people knew that when you died, that was basically it. That’s why when Paul, in Athens, said this had happened, most of them laughed at him. It didn’t fit their worldview. That’s crucial because you can’t fit the resurrection into the existing worldviews that we’ve got. The resurrection brings its own worldview with it and says, if you’re going to understand the way things are, you start with this and work out. If Jesus really has been raised, then everything is different.

Got that? Note that yes, he thinks it really happened. Later Wright says this, which he realized after reading C. S. Lewis:

But the truth of the resurrection is a truth about something that actually happened in history.

So much for Gould’s NOMA hypothesis that religion is about morality, not empirical claims of truth.  Certainly there are many Christians that do take the Resurrection as a metaphor, but surely many (perhaps most) do. For without it, the possibility of salvation—the culmination of the whole Jesus story—disappears. I don’t think a lot of people who buy Gould’s separation of the religious from the empirical magisteria realize how important it is for many believers to accept that religious claims about empirical truths are really held deeply. If they weren’t, and everything’s a metaphor, you might as well be a secular humanist.

Note above that, in the last big of the first long quote, Wright’s evidence comes close to Tertullian’s claim, “I believe it because it is impossible.” Here’s what he says in response to Warren’s second question:

So we have another reason to accept the Resurrection: because it makes everything “different”. That is, it buttresses what Bishop Wright wants to believe.  But let’s give the man a bit more credit, he immediately adduces two pieces of “evidence”—both from Scripture, of course—that the testimony of the disciples about the Resurrection really was true:

You spend time in the book looking at Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in the Gospels. It seems that the disciples’ testimony about seeing Jesus matters to you. Why do you trust their testimony?

If you understand how people thought about death and life after death in the ancient world, you will need two strands of converging evidence.

On the one hand, there are extraordinary reports about people going to the tomb of Jesus and finding that there was no body in it. In that world, grave robbery was a common occurrence, so an empty tomb by itself says, “This is odd,” but we can tell some stories about this that are much more credible than the idea that he’s alive again.

However, if at the same time this person turns up and is seen and felt to be bodily alive and speaks to people and cooks breakfast by the shore, then that is totally unexpected as well. Those two things kind of interpret one another.

You need those two bits of evidence put together and then the testimony makes sense. Otherwise, empty tomb? Somebody has taken the body. That’s what Mary Magdalene thought. Appearances? “Oh, yeah, we know about those. Just go and check in the tomb. You will find there’s still a body there.” But if there isn’t, then we are into something different. So that’s why that evidence is so important.

The bishop’s “evidence” here seems to consist of this: “if two unexpected things occur but don’t comport with each other and also imply something weird, that weird thing must be true.” But that, of course, is hokum. What Wright’s really saying here is simply that if Jesus was crucified, his body put in a tomb, but then he reappears as a living person, then the Resurrection MUST have happened. But all he’s doing is re-describing the Resurrection story, pretending that there’s some train of logic in it, and then saying that this constitutes “evidence.” The man has no conception of what empirical evidence really is, so strong is his will to believe.

Finally, when Warren asks him why it’s so important that Jesus rose from the dead, Bishop Wright again emits nonsensical theobabble. He doesn’t mention that Jesus says in the New Testament that some of his contemporaries would still be alive when he returned, but of course he hasn’t. This occurs three times (all translations below are from the King James version):

Mark 9:1

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Mark 13:30

Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

Matthew 10:23

But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

This look as if either Jesus was lying, made a mistake about the date of his return (off by two millennia!), or most likely, he never said this stuff but it was made up by the men who wrote the Scriptures. I’ll leave you to choose what is most likely.

Finally, Bishop Wright is asked about what I see as the Achilles heel of Christianity:  Why the world is still in bad shape, full of the suffering of innocents, if Jesus rose and was going to save people? Here’s a bit of his answer to Warren’s question (notice that, of course, she doesn’t press him on any of this):

Let’s say that what the Gospels claim is true: Jesus is risen. It seems that the world keeps going and there’s still oppression, suffering and grief. There’s still death. So what difference does it make that Jesus is raised from the dead?

. . . People regularly say, if there really was a God, if he really wanted to sort the place out, then he would come and, bang, it would be done. He would send in the tanks — metaphorically speaking, or perhaps not — and sort out the evil and wickedness in the world. But the Sermon on the Mount says that when God comes to sort out the world the Jesus way, he doesn’t send in tanks. He sends in the poor and the brokenhearted and the hungry-for-justice people and the meek and the people who are ready to suffer for getting the world sorted out. The way the Sermon on the Mount works is exactly the same way that the gospel of the resurrection works. Jesus, risen from the dead, is the planting of that great seed. And now the plant has spread in all directions.

Obviously bad things happen. Bad things happen in and through the church. We all know that. I know that as well as anyone. But all sorts of great and good things do happen. Healing happens, hope happens, and ultimately it all goes back to this single seed of the raising of Jesus from the dead.

In other words, people suffer because the Bible says that suffering people will usher in the return of Jesus. But I have news for Bishop Wright: people have been suffering for two millennia, and yet Jesus hasn’t come back! Where is he? Two millennia of starvation, war, the Black Death, kids with cancer, earthquakes, and all manner of suffering. For crying out loud, how much suffering does it take before the Jesus seed sprouts?


As a palliative, I recommend this free article from Michael Shermer at his Substack site Skeptic (click to read).

Shermer dismantles all the mythology around Jesus’s life and resurrection, and then raises what I call The Argument from the Jews:

. . . . . a challenge to the resurrection miracle that I often employ is that Jews do not accept it as real, neither in Jesus’ time nor in ours. Think about that: Jews believe in the same God as Christians. They accept the Old Testament of the Bible like Christians do. They even believe in the Messiah. They just don’t think Jesus of Nazareth was him. Jewish rabbis, scholars, philosophers, and historians all know the arguments for the resurrection as well as Christian apologists and theologians making the arguments, and still they reject them. Why? If the arguments and evidence for the resurrection is so solid, in time the community most expert in that field would reach a consensus about it. They haven’t. Christians believe it. Jews don’t.

He then refers to an interview he gave to Ben Shapiro, which I haven’t watched, to explain why Jews don’t accept the Resurrection:

Ben Shapiro explains why here, in our conversation on his Sunday Special show.

Happy Easter!

37 thoughts on “Tish Harrison Warren interviews an Anglican bishop who says the Resurrection was real, and he has evidence

  1. I second Jerry’s recommendation of Shermer’s piece on Substack.
    And again I ask the NYT, where is the article by a rabbi meditating on the grace of Passover or by an imam extolling the virtues of Ramadan?

  2. I think Wright is over-stating the sober rationality of people at the time, and for obvious reasons. People then were not rationalists or deists who dismissed miracles. The Jews and the pagan religions of the time all embraced wondrous events, and there was a belief in an afterlife. Several ancient religions, such as the Greek, featured resurrections. Jesus himself is claimed to have resurrected people.

  3. The thing that strikes me about the apologists is that they don’t seem to consider that
    thousands of years of history in the middle east passed where the multitude of
    religions stole or borrowed from one another. Christianity really has nothing new in it.
    Look at Egyptian and Mesopotamian mythologies and you see that it’s all there:
    virgin birth, resurrection, miracles, etc etc. All religions are conditioned by ideas
    passed from one civilization to another.

    1. On the contrary! This post and the NYT column made me laugh and laugh. The literalist project by Warren & Wright to extract meaning from the absurdity of the world is doomed. But we can find ways to laugh at this absurdity while also remembering our shared humanity with theologians and other sincere people who say and do ridiculous things. One way I like is to imagine the Chris Traeger character from “Parks and Recreation” saying something like “Jesus lit-tra-ly rose from the dead to absolve you of your sins Anne Perkins!” Makes me feel like there’s hope for us. Happy Easter y’all!

  4. Wright’s entire case seems to depend on believing that what the Gospels say is true. Where is his evidence? The Gospels are not reportage, nor are they history. Experts on the literature of the time suggest that they most resemble contemporary novels, or perhaps pseudo-biographies of fictional characters such as Aesop. How can Wright have written over 80 books about early Christianity without paying the slightest attention to alternative explanations of what was going on?

    1. The Gospels are not reportage, nor are they history.

      To put that somewhat into context, if we had a Gospel-quality treatment of the Second world War, we’d now be getting the first drafts of the “Gospel of WW2”. Complete with the Holocaust-deniers, neo-Nazi resurgence and everything. We wouldn’t be getting any vaguely “Authorised” version until the late 2270s. And trying to predict what the equivalent of a Vulgate or KJV in about 3500 is really a game for a random number generator and a box of quotes from Conservapedia.

  5. This guy’s mind is a muddle.

    “Early Christianity was born into a world where everybody knew that its central claim was ridiculous, and the early Christians knew it themselves.”

    If the statement above is true—and some of today’s correspondents say that it is not—they should have left well enough alone 2000 years ago. But, nooooo. They had to make up a bunch of nonsense and force it down everyone’s throats. Millions died as a result—and none of them rose from the grave.

  6. I ‘believe’ Jesus walked around the Holy Land in clown sandals. It’s so weird it must be true…

  7. Bishop Wright’s approach to evidence avoids considering the physical nature of the claim, but instead concentrates on interrogating the text. Why, the good Bishop would be right at home in a postmodernism symposium. By the same tactic, interrogating the text of Joshua:12 and its context proves that the sun moves around the earth. In like manner, Wokely believers prove claims such as “sex is a spectrum” from the way words are put together. Conflating word-salad with evidence is the stock-in-trade of both old-fashioned Theology and its newer,
    Woke version.

    We used to think this was a harmless affectation of an obscure corner of the Humanities—but then they started coming for STEMM. Lawrence Krauss reports that an Astrobiology conference has “resolved that it was appropriate to forbid the use of the word “intelligence” in the name “Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” as it is a “white construct.” “

    1. I think you’re so right, sadly. When arguments center on interpreting human-generated text, nothing tethers them to reality. The fantasies have no bounds other than the limits of human imagination.

  8. Thanks to Mr C Hitchens, talk of resurrection always reminds me of Matthew c27: v52-53. Demonstrating that Jesus’ resurrection apparently wasn’t particularly special.

  9. Ooh — there’s so much wrong with this I hardly know where to start! I could write a book about this! [Oh, I sort of did.]

    I’ll just address the largest of the elephants in Wright’s room. Pastor Tish asks him “It seems that the disciples’ testimony about seeing Jesus matters to you. Why do you trust their testimony?”, and he really should have stopped her right there. He seems to think it’s axiomatic that the gospel accounts are to be taken as historically accurate. But he has to know what a stretch that is! I presume he has at least read the gospels — they are not eyewitness accounts, and they don’t even cite eyewitness accounts. They are filled with supernatural events and depend on fundamentally erroneous assertions about historical and geographical facts and Jewish law. They also contradict each other. The earliest one, Mark, ends with the discovery that Jesus’ tomb is empty, that those who discovered this told no one about it, and Jesus is never seen or heard from again. Later writers — and now we’re nearly a century later than the supposed event — added wildly embellished and contradictory material. And this is his evidence? It has to be, because it’s all we have!

    If I heard some guy say he’d had breakfast in Mars that morning, having flown there in his Tesla, I’d want pretty good corroborating evidence before I started writing books interpreting that story under the assumption that it had actually happened. And at least Mars, breakfasts, and Teslas are real! Wright and Harrison want us to believe that someone who had been dead for a day and a half somehow came back to life, (still bearing his fatal wounds, at least according to the gospel of John). Okay guys, the ball’s in your court! Why should we believe it? I don’t think they’re even being honest about why they believe it.

  10. Tangential: I recently reread a book that jolted me upright decades ago (circa 1980) for conveying a systematic, calm, devastating refutation of the most important arguments for the existence of God. I was able to read faster now, since I’ve lived with the arguments for thirty years.

    Atheism: The Case Against God
    George H. Smith

    Available at Amazon. Note: 74% five-star out of 336 review is high, however what is more impressive for a radical position of a politicized and hot-blooded cultural subject … not a single 1-star review.

    I believe Professor Coyne noted this book favorably once upon a time.

    1. Yeah, I would like to read that book. I seem to remember the author using the weak definition of atheism (to change the playing field).

      Over the last ten years or so when I come across an old dictionary I look up to see if they use a strong or weak definition. Prior to 1980, the strong definition seems prevalent.

      My 1990 Concise Oxford also used a strong definition for atheism.

      1. “Strong” atheism is a huge error. I dearly wish people would shove it off the table forever. It is a disaster for reason and reality.

        And for what? You don’t need to prove God does not exist, nor claim that God does not exist. To do either makes all Theists smile. They won. They seduced you into a world of fallacy, starting with getting you to assert and prove a negative, which leaves their worldview seem plausible (although not really.) They framed the debate and controlled you. They get to say, “see, he could not prove God does not exist! Halleluiah.”

        So-called “weak atheism” is the real power. It leaves the theist naked, with the full burden on them. When they start to dole out their “proofs” of the existence of God, you have to do absolutely nothing except point out their fallacies. That is the power and strength of standing firmly in reality the better for all others to see the magic and mysticism of Theism.

        I reject the false dichotomy of “weak” vs “strong” atheism.

        1. “Strong” atheism is a huge error. I dearly wish people would shove it off the table forever. It is a disaster for reason and reality.


          Depends on what position we are talking about. I find that often “strong” (or ‘postitive’) atheism is somewhat strawmanned.

          So for instance if asking “do you think God exists?” the right question is “which God?” If we are talking about the Christian God I can quite sensibly answer “I believe that God is imaginary = does not really exist.” This doesn’t require Absolute Certainty. We never have that. It just requires good reasons for the conclusion. The Biblical God has all the earmarks of being dreamed up by ancient humans. It’s like someone claiming Donald Trump is a Supreme Being, All Knowing, All Loving, All Powerful. Well…is that something one really has to remain agnostic about? Of course not. All the evidence suggests he’s merely a human moron, and parsimony does away with supernatural claims that are merely consistent with Trump being a God. Likewise with the Biblical God.

          Or, putting aside the Christian God in particular, what about the generic “Omni God?” There again I see little problem concluding “That god does not exist” given the world provides mountains of evidence against the proposition. Does this require omniscience or Absolute Certainty? No. No more than concluding Donald Trump is mere human being not a God. Even though, strictly speaking, one could be wrong about that.

          Nobody has to fall for being “seduced” by Christians in to making a bad argument about this. One can first be clear about the terms and claims, and then make the case, rather than having to defend some strawman (of the type “since you can’t Prove Without A Doubt God Doesn’t Exist then you have no grounds to conclude a God doesn’t exists! Ha!” It can be pointed out that is simply using the concept of God to special plead. We don’t make omniscient demands on any of our conclusions. Propositions about a God don’t get some special pass regarding this.

          1. In order to say “God does not exist” you have to “point to” the concept “God”, and then prove the negative of it as an existent in existence. All of that is in service to theists, as I described.

            What is your reason for not simply saying “I don’t believe in God,” and walk away? Or ……. stick around while the theist begins to prove the existence of God, and then you point out their fallacies.

            I’m doubling and tripling down on my claim that saying “God does not exist” in any form is a tragic error.

            1. Of course a specific God concept has to be referenced. That’s what I said.

              That is the case for either “I believe X God does not exist” or “I don’t believe in God.” Well…what God don’t you believe in? What is God?
              In either case a theist may offer you a concept of God to consider. You don’t escape this problem by re-phrasing it as you have done.

              I’m doubling and tripling down on my claim that saying “God does not exist” in any form is a tragic error.

              Does that go for Santa? Fairies in your garden? Zeus? If you were pressed to answer whether those entities likely exist or not…would you really feel it impossible to say?

              Take Santa: He is supposed to be Good Being who has apparently supernatural powers, knows what kids are doing, able to distribute presents around the world on Christmas night.

              There are a lot of people (children) who believe Santa exists. The characteristics associated with Santa would have certain predictive characteristics: If Santa was good and cared about children equally, then we should see an equitable distribution of presents on Christmas night.
              But that’s not what we see. Rich kids seem to get more elaborate presents, poor kids cheaper presents, and some don’t even get presents from Santa (which is why people organize toy drives).
              Children in entire countries don’t get presents from Santa.

              Which conclusion fits the observation better?

              Santa is Real.
              Santa is imaginary

              Are you ready to say that a conclusion “Santa is imaginary?” is out of bounds? That would be mighty strange. And “I don’t believe in Santa” isn’t really an answer to the problem. When you start trying to justify it, you’ll end up making essentially the arguments that lead to Santa being imaginary.

              Yet the same type of case can be made for a Christian’s God, which has the characteristics of “being made up by human beings = imaginary” and also to a degree for an Omni God (where, if such a God existed we should not see, for instance, the suffering and evil we do in the world).

              Again, it’s not a claim to Absolute Knowledge, just the most reasonable conclusion based on the evidence we have. So, I think you are off the mark.

    2. I remember enjoying JL Mackie’s The Miracle of Thesism although I think it may be out of print now.

    1. It’s actual fiction from history that was fiction, that we know is true, not that it was a true event, but true history of an event that was fiction.

      Like real magic that magicians do – not magic as in levitation. But levitation like the magicians do.

      Make sense?

  11. Egads. N.T. Wright again.

    Anyway, take this whopper:

    N.T. Wright: At the beginning of the 15th chapter of Paul’s First Letter to Corinth, he mentions the people to whom the risen Jesus appeared. To Peter and to the rest of the apostles, and various others. And then he says that Jesus appeared to 500 people all at once. And most of them are still alive. The implication strongly being: “You go and ask them. You find out what they saw.” In other words, they can’t all be just making it up or all be deluded.

    Cool! On that note: Yesterday I attended a local fair and levitated in the air, flew around unaided, in front of “500 people all at once.” The implication strongly being: “You go and ask them. You find out what they saw.” In other words, they can’t all be just making it up or all be deluded.

    Well, that certainly raises the credibility of my claim to fly, right? That’s how this works? How about: When N.T. Wright produces his 500 witnesses, I’ll produce mine.

    We have better evidence, more and more detailed eyewitness testimony, to the existence of witches during the Salem Witch trial, but you don’t see Wright applying the same credulity at that, of course.

    Notice that apologists will often stake the credibility of the Jesus story on the “radical nature” of it’s claims, and Jesus’ teachings, given the opposing belief system at the time. Yet when it turns to “why didn’t God tell people not to own slaves?” the excuse comes “Slavery was too much part of the culture at the time, people needed to be eased out of it slowly…it would be Too Radical for God to just tell people to stop it all together!!”

    Arguing out of both sides of their mouths.

    The N.T. Wrights of the world stake so much on the inference that the claims made in the gospels were too improbable, too radical, given what X person *most likely* would have believed and how he would have behaved. It could not be more ludicrous to leap from “it’s SO improbable we have to invoke the supernatural!.” Literally every day every year there are some people making life-changing commitments or changes in view that are “improbable” if you looked at what one might have expected. Someone raised in an atheist community converting to a religion, someone raised in an evangelical community converting to atheism, Moslem converting to Christianity, Christians converting to other belief systems that were anathema in their community, otherwise normal people going down rabbit holes to flat earth, Qanon belief systems, converts to alien cults…you name it! This idea that adopting a new belief, or belief system that goes against prevailing norms is “so improbable we have to turn to supernatural explanations” is beyond ludicrous.

    1. Yes, we don’t have 500 witnesses, we only have one guy’s report about 500 witnesses. But it’s worse than that — after listing all these witnesses to the risen Christ, Paul says that in the end he appeared to him also, and it’s clear what he meant by that: it was revealed to him in some kind of mystical experience. Which means that Paul was saying that these other appearances were of the same telepathic or hallucinatory or merely metaphorical nature. Which isn’t very impressive.

      Also note that according to Paul, this all took place after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul knew nothing about the gospel stories about Jesus’ earthly parentage, ministry, disciples, miracles and healings, or anything he said or did on Earth. And Paul’s letters are the earliest surviving “evidence” for Jesus — the gospel stories weren’t written until decades later. Almost as if the first Christians worshiped some kind of angelic being who had been “made” (Paul never says “born”), been executed, and resurrected, all in a remote celestial realm, finally delivering his messages to a few intuitives. Paul does indeed say that Jesus will shortly be coming to set things right on Earth, but he never says Jesus will be returning!

  12. If there was a real person that died at the cross as described, well, many died that way. In the narrative he ‘died’ very quickly, within 6 to 8 hours or so. Most crucified died after much longer periods, like 24 hours or more. So after 8 hours or so he was laid in a grave. And after less than 36 hours he ‘resurrected’. I think that (if we accept the story at face value) this guy was in a coma. There have been many reports (I’m not sure how reliable) of ‘dead’ climbing out of their caskets (or more sinister, tried but could not, scratches on the inside of the coffin). So if the story is true, I do not think this man actually rose from the dead, but just recovered from a coma. It is rare to recover from a coma without medical help, but it is not unheard of.
    All this is according to the story, of course.

    1. If he recovered from a coma, he must have been in terrible shape—holes in his wrists or hands, a stab wound in his side, internal bleeding, abrasions all over, puncture wounds in his scalp. He didn’t get far in that condition, and probably died nearby. What a crazy story. And to think that it founded a religion. Oy veh.

      1. That sounds like the typical reply from Christians to the Swoon Theory – that it’s so improbable that Jesus would have survived his attempted execution.

        For one thing, that is to accept all the biblical accounts (including the stabbing etc) of the details as true, none of which can be verified.

        Just put the claim in a modern context: Someone is claimed to have died…been dead for 3 days, fully deceased…but came alive again. What would a fully sober investigation, informed by all we have learned in terms of human fallibility and scientific inquiry, in to this look like?

        At the very least we’d be asking “Ok, WHO diagnosed this guy dead in the first place? What is the doctor or doctor’s name? What is their training and reputation?
        We would want to be able to question witnesses directly, including the people responsible for diagnosing the guy dead, to see how their stories hold up, or find problems. What one finds in investigating the supernatural is virtually ALWAYS, as in many court cases, the stories change or fall apart under DIRECT scrutiny where we have access to more direct evidence. And even IF we could speak to the medical personal involved in diagnosing the guy as dead, that would hardly suffice to believe “he rose from the dead” because even the best doctors make mistakes.
        That’s why we have peer review, attempts at replication, etc. We have NO such access to any of this in the case of claims in an ancient book.

        And all the speculation that “Jesus COULDN’T have survived his attempted execution” so it has to be supernatural is to ignore the countless instances of people surviving incredible stories and injuries. It happens every day.

        Here’s a bunch of people surviving terrible encounters with blades:


        This guy purportedly survived an entire firing squad:


        People have survived 16 story falls to concrete. Have been sole survivors of massive plane crashes. People have survived falling FROM AIRPLANES to the ground.

        There are tons of amazing survival stories from 9/11 alone.

        So this Christian refrain of “ha, it’s just too improbable that Jesus didn’t truly die on the cross” is totally, utterly naive.

        1. Doesn’t Josephus write about coming across an acquaintance who was on a cross, being given permission to take him down and nursing him back to health?

        2. I never got those ‘three days’: he ‘died’ Friday late afternoon, early evening, and his grave was empty Sunday morning. That is about 36 hours, a day and a half.

    2. (or more sinister, tried but could not, scratches on the inside of the coffin).

      Yeah. That always slightly bothered me.
      Under what circumstances would you be exhuming a coffin, then examining the inside carefully enough to see the scratches. Always assuming that the coffin maker did anything to tidy up the interior of the woodwork form the sawmill, instead of just gluing a sheet of fabric on, at most.
      Someone isn’t really thinking about the implications of their stories.

  13. A poster on MumsNet called sewexe described Christianity as:

    The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father and the son of a virgin can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree”.

    And yet our host and the other commenters here somehow continue to doubt… Repent, sinners! ;o)

  14. [A]nd a former bishop of Durham in the Church of England

    His predecessor, David Jenkins, was more honest, although also deluded (it goes with the job description):

    In April 1984, shortly after his appointment, David Jenkins said on ITV’s Credo programme that the story of the virgin birth had been added later by early Christians to express their faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

    “I wouldn’t put it past God to arrange a virgin birth if he wanted, but I very much doubt he would,” he said.

    He also said that the resurrection was not a single event, but a series of experiences that gradually convinced people that Jesus’s life, power, purpose and personality were actually continuing.

    He caused more outrage a month later when he said there was absolutely no certainty in the New Testament about anything of importance.

    The consecration [of Jenkins as a bishop] in York Minster was interrupted twice by protesters. Two days after the service, the Minster was struck by lightning and badly damaged by fire – an event some Christians believed to be a warning from God.

    He later joked that the Almighty had missed the target. “God was probably aiming at the General Synod, but he missed even that.”


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