Vince Bugliosi’s Strange Argument Against the Resurrection

by Brent Hardaway

Former L.A. County Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who was responsible for putting Charles Manson behind bars, dived into the realm of the Christian-Atheist dialogue about two years ago with his book Divinity of Doubt. The book is a justification of agnosticism, sometimes accepting the arguments of apologists on both sides. Almost needless to say, Bugliosi rejects Jesus’ Resurrection. I’d like to examine his reasoning, because as we strive to use the tool of inferring the best explanation of a body of evidence, we will sometimes encounter red herring arguments in the form of rather subjective objections that do nothing to make a skeptical explanation of the evidence more plausible. Bugliosi’s argument here is a good example of that.

Bugliosi finds the argument that Jesus’ disciples went out and accepted persecution and martyrdom to be the most compelling argument for the resurrection. However, “there are two reasons, among others, that militate somewhat against the resurrection.” (p. 143) (Emphasis mine). The “others” aren’t mentioned, so I can’t comment on them, and I presume that he’s using what he believes to be the strongest darts.

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But first, let’s deal with the “Somewhat.” The argument for the Resurrection may be summed up as follows; There are basic facts (empty tomb, changed lives of the disciples) that must be accounted for. The best explanation that accounts for these facts is that Jesus rose from the dead. All other hypotheses simply do NOT account for these facts, and are far more improbable. For example, the most common alternate explanation for the changed lives is that the disciples had a mass hallucination or vision.

However, for reasons that have been written about at length (see here for a refutation), this hypothesis is extremely unlikely. To put this in Shorthand, if R is the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and H is the claim that the disciples experienced visions of some sort, we can describe the tipping of the evidential scales as – the Probability of R> the Probability of H, or substituting P for probability, P of R > P of H. So in order to make a case against the resurrection, Bugliosi must give us reason to change this to P of R < P of H, or another hypothesis. Let’s see if he succeeds…


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