Public message # 4096 CULT_WATCH ECHO Entered 15:58 Thursday 16-May-91
From: James Robert Pierce on 8:7000/27
Evidence That Demands a Verdict?
The Christian invertibly remarks that the "eyewitness"
testimonies contained in the four gospels concerning the
resurrection of Jesus constitute evidence which demands a
verdict. Is this true; should a verdict be given concerning
the testimony of Jesus' resurrection?
First, let me make it clear, this post doesn't prove
that Jesus didn't rise from the dead! This post considers
the nature of evidence and testimony as it applies to the
The testimony of an individual always involves the
inference of that individual, i.e. testimony will always
include what the witness inferred to be the case from
his/her own experience, or point of view. However, for
testimony to count as evidence it must be of such a nature
that it is restrained to just the facts of any case.
Furthermore, the testimony, in order to be considered
evidence, must refer to matters of fact of common and
If a witness testifies to experiencing event A at 10:00
AM, then testifies of experiencing event C at 10:30 AM, but
doesn't experience event B at 10:15 AM; can such a witness
be in a position of making a valid inference? In fact, it is
the case that any statement concerning event B will be a
inference from events A and C where B is associated with
events A and C. That is, any inference of B is valid if and
only if it is the case that it is associated with A and C
and B follows from the evidence contained in testimony
concerning A and C.
The above assertions can be validated through several
examples. Let A = Jones walking his dog, and let C = Jones
returning home from walking Fido. B is an "open" event (an
open event is one which you do not experience, or is outside
your pool of knowledge) to any eyewitnesses involved with
events A and C since none of them witnessed B. Now, Jones
walked Fido and returned. Upon his return (event C) he tells
you that while he was in the woods he was accosted by
several women at once, this is event B. Suppose further that
Jones shows you what appears to be finger nail marks upon
his skin and lipstick on his collar. You are of the opinion
that Jones is an ugly man; so who would accost him? But, you
know that such an inference is not based upon fact. You are
driven to believe his testimony as true in so far as you had
witnessed both events A and C. However, you also know that
you cannot affirm event B as an actual occurrence as told by
Jones, i.e. you have no reason disbelieve Jones, but you are
restricted to drawing inferences from your pool of knowledge
which doesn't include event B; therefore, you can't claim
that Jones had actually been accosted: you can only infer
that he was.
What has been demonstrated this far? Event B has only
been made known to you through the testimony of the man who
claimed to have been accosted: you can only infer that what
he has said is true in so far as events A and C show that he
did walk Fido and return; however, you couldn't draw the
inference that event B actually occurred as stated by Jones,
since you, the witness, are constrained to keep your
inferences within the limits of your own pool of knowledge
Another example. Let A = Jesus' death on the cross. Let
C = Jesus' appearances after his death. It is clear from the
gospel narratives that event B, in this case, was not
witnessed by any of the disciples of Jesus. Event B is the
actual resurrection of Jesus. Can a resurrection be validly
inferred from the disciples' experience of events A and C?
The disciples could hold any opinion they thought valid. If
they had seen Jesus die, and if they had seen Jesus
alive latter, then they could come to believe that he had
"risen from the dead." At this point the Christian may think
that I have proven the resurrection to be the case. Do not
be deceived! If you agree this far, then look out!
The Christian is constrained by what can be advanced as
"proof" in this case. The disciples were free to form any
opinion as to what best explained their alleged experiences.
We can trust that if their motivations were not directed
through a self claim, right, or share in the resurrection of
Jesus, then their inferences become stronger. Furthermore,
we can trust that if their testimony is not extraordinary,
then their inferences become stronger. But notice, if their
testimonies are "interested" and are extraordinary, then we
have reason to doubt the reasonableness of their inferences.
We are not in a position to claim they had actually seen
Jesus nailed to a cross; nor, are we in a position to claim
that they had actually seen Jesus after his death: we are
the modern day bystander.
Furthermore, the disciples were not in a position to
claim that Jesus had actually risen from the dead, since
they didn't witness the actual occurrence. They could only
infer his resurrection from their experience of his alleged
death and his alleged appearances after death.
Just as in the case with Jones above, the disciples
were constrained to appeal to evidence within the range of
their experience and knowledge; they were constrained to
appeal to evidence which was not extraordinary and within
the common experience of every person. The upshot of all of
this is that the disciples could only maintain that they had
seen the man Jesus die. As far as the resurrection is
concerned, the disciples didn't witness it and thus were not
in a privileged position to claim it had actually occurred.
Due to the extraordinary nature of the alleged "appearances"
of Jesus after his death, the disciples were constrained to
admit to nothing beyond common experience. That is, their
opinion that Jesus had risen from the dead was valid if the
evidence was such that suggested he had actually died and
risen from the grave. However, if seeing angels and men
walking through walls can be considered beyond common
experience, then such experiences are doubtful and are not
considered to be valid evidence in support of an experience.
At best, the disciples could not claim that Jesus had
actually risen from the dead: they could only give what was
their best opinion, from their knowledge and common
experience, as to what had actually occurred concerning an
event they didn't witness.
Furthermore, due to the fact that the synoptic gospels
are hearsay in nature, and due to the fact that all evidence
of the resurrection of Jesus is provided through individuals
who held interest in his resurrection and his teachings, and
due to the fact that any "resurrection" should be considered
an extraordinary event; we are constrained to not accept any
opinion of the resurrection as true. We can expect that
there was a Jesus who lived and died; a Jesus who had many
followers, but this is as much of the truth we can
reasonably hold concerning what has been said about Jesus.
As bystanders to the alleged resurrection we cannot claim
that the resurrection is a historical fact; that is an
actual occurrence in time. We can form a opinion from the
gospels as to the possibilities of the claims given to us,
but our opinions must be constrained by reason and common
experience. In short, there is no evidence surrounding the
resurrection which demands a verdict!