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The Resurrection Hypothesis
by Randy Everist
The Resurrection Hypothesis (RH) is that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” RH is used to explain the evidence surrounding Jesus of Nazareth’s death. Some of the evidences are: the empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, the post-mortem sightings experienced by the disciples and others, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in the Resurrection.
RH is used as an inference to the best explanation. This means that no matter how probable or improbable it or its competing hypotheses are, RH is the most probable of them. Probability is judged on background knowledge, and specifically what the probability of the evidence being present is if a hypothesis is false. William Lane Craig wrote recently, “Rather what’s crucial is the probability that we should have the evidence we do if the extraordinary event had not occurred. This can easily offset any improbability of the event itself” (emphasis in original) Let’s call this, for this article only, the “absence test.”
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Historians and skeptics alike have tried for quite some time to come up with a plausible hypothesis that accounted for all of the evidence and that would be just as probable or more so than RH. The problem is that the proffered hypotheses just did not make any sense. Virtually no one (in fact, no one I have ever heard of who lives today) advocates the Swoon theory as such an alternative, because it is medically certain that Jesus died. It holds the necessary explanatory scope (over all of the evidence), but not the same power (Jesus would have been dead, unable to escape a guarded tomb [or really any sealed tomb at all], the disciples would hardly have been roused to belief in a half-dead, but somehow Resurrected and triumphant, Messiah, etc.). So it is with varying other hypotheses.
But what if one came up with a plausible, yet naturalistic, hypothesis for each of the facts? What then? If each of the facts were to be explained, then the entirety of the evidence will have been explained without resort to God, and hence RH is not the best explanation after all…
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