Challenging Eyewitnesses of the Resurrection

by Luke Nix

Earlier this year I wrote a post regarding the irony of rejecting the eyewitness accounts to Jesus’ resurrection. I received the following challenge that attempts to undermine the reliability of eyewitnesses and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since the Christian faith is grounded on this unique event in history (1 Corinthians 15), the challenge must be addressed. Here it is:

“Regarding eyewitness being good evidence. True, the further we go back in history, the more we have to rely on eyewitness testimony. However, the likelihood of an event occurring significantly affects the credibility of the eyewitness. If there was an eyewitness to a car crash, the car crash event itself does not diminish credibility, because those happen all the time. But if there was an eyewitness to extraterrestrials, or ghosts, or godzilla, or someone rising from the dead, it significantly diminishes the credibility of the eyewitness testimony because the possibility that the eyewitness was mistaken or lying increases. Do you see the difference?”

My goal with this post is to present four responses to this challenge, that combined will render it untenable to maintain.

Improbable Events
The first part of the challenge I wish to address regards improbable events. The challenger seems to believe that the probability of a particular event taking place has baring on the reliability of any alleged eyewitnesses. He states that someone who claimed to witness a car crash can be trusted because those are quite common and contrasts it to the unique event of the resurrection.

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The challenge makes a very important mistake in his reasoning here. He claims that car crashes are common and implies that eyewitness to those are reliable. However, he fails to recognize that the inclusion of details of the event (a car crash) makes the event less probable. Let us say that a person claimed to witnessed a car crash between a red 1994 Ford F-150 and a silver 2009 Nissan Altima. The inclusion of the details makes the event quite rare, not common. Once the person includes the location, date and time (never mind the drivers, passengers, weather conditions, or any other details), the event becomes as improbable as any other unique event, including the resurrection.

If a person wishes to tie the reliability of an eyewitness of an event to the probability of that event taking place, then the reliability of an eyewitness of any event is eroded completely. Not only has the person eliminated the reliability of the New Testament eyewitnesses, but he has eliminated the reliability of eyewitnesses of crimes, eyewitnesses of non-criminal events, and eyewitnesses of events in his own life- himself included.
If the probability of an event determines the reliability of an eyewitness, then no person can trust even their own experiences- we cannot trust what our sense organs and brains are telling us is happening in our world. If we cannot trust our senses, then anything we believe that relies upon information obtained via our sense organs cannot be trusted…

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