Ariel

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I'd like to share some of my thoughts on possible naturalistic explanations for the origin of the belief in Jesus's resurrection. I'll try to make this a short post to allow for discussion. Keep in mind that I'm simply giving a possible story of how the movement started and this in no way commits me to being certain this story occurred, and several of the claims I make hereon out have no historical evidence, but I find it more plausible than the resurrection hypothesis.

The apostles may have had every interest in continuing the Jesus movement after his death due to the fact that the followers of Jesus (the non-apostolic followers) gave all of their money and possessions towards the Jesus movement, not to mention that many left their livelihood and some left their family members and homes to join the movement. The crucifixion would've marked the ultimate sign of betrayal and disappointment to these followers, especially if several of these followers were convinced by the apostles to join the movement.

To preserve the integrity of the community of the movement and to prevent any violent retaliation from within the movement, the apostles decided to pray together and ask for Jesus to appear to them. They may or may not have experienced Jesus's presence, but let's assume they didn't see or hallucinate his physical presence amongst them. In this case, they decided to tell their subordinates (the non-apostolic followers of Jesus) that he had appeared to the apostles! In claiming this, they prevented any out-lash and outrage against them or their families by the others within the movement.

After this, several things may have occurred (I'll speak of them as if they did occur). There were reports of individuals performing miracles in Jesus's name, miracles involving speaking in tongues, exorcisms, raising from the dead, and others. Other individuals reported seeing Jesus under another form (looking differently) in various areas in and surrounding Jerusalem and Galilee. There are rumors of Jesus appearing to crowds numbering over hundreds of people. We also have readers of scripture discovering passages that seem to depict the sacrificial death and subsequent vindication of Jesus (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Psalm 16, Zechariah 12, etc.).

After these occurrences became widespread, the apostles were themselves utterly convinced that Jesus rose from the dead and they became firm in their conviction of Jesus's lordship. There were additional rumors surrounding the ability of the apostles to perform healing miracles, and these did nothing but bolster the apostles' belief in their own divine commission by the risen Jesus himself. The apostles would go around and pray over individuals and they would happen to be healed weeks later, confirming in their minds that Jesus is still alive.

The apostles became so sincerely convinced that Jesus rose from the dead that they were willing to endure the Jewish persecution of the early decades of the church (some of which is accurately depicted in the book of Acts). The apostles had every reason to be committed and not recant any of their testimony. Not only did they have theological reasons not to recant, but they also had self-interested reasons. For example, their own families had been so involved in the Jesus movement and the subsequent post-Resurrection movement that if any particular apostle were to leave, that apostle would've been completely ostracized by his family (wife, children) and extended community and would have no one to go back to.


This is a story I find to be much more plausible than the resurrection hypothesis, as speculative as my story may be. My challenge to you is to find any fatal holes in this story that are contradicted by common sense, historical evidence, or even human psychology.

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Korvexius

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Re: There are good naturalistic alternatives to the resurrection of Jesus
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2018, 07:32:33 pm »
The apostles may have had every interest in continuing the Jesus movement after his death due to the fact that the followers of Jesus (the non-apostolic followers) gave all of their money and possessions towards the Jesus movement, not to mention that many left their livelihood and some left their family members and homes to join the movement. The crucifixion would've marked the ultimate sign of betrayal and disappointment to these followers, especially if several of these followers were convinced by the apostles to join the movement.

...

The apostles became so sincerely convinced that Jesus rose from the dead that they were willing to endure the Jewish persecution of the early decades of the church (some of which is accurately depicted in the book of Acts). The apostles had every reason to be committed and not recant any of their testimony. Not only did they have theological reasons not to recant, but they also had self-interested reasons. For example, their own families had been so involved in the Jesus movement and the subsequent post-Resurrection movement that if any particular apostle were to leave, that apostle would've been completely ostracized by his family (wife, children) and extended community and would have no one to go back to.

...

This is a story I find to be much more plausible than the resurrection hypothesis, as speculative as my story may be. My challenge to you is to find any fatal holes in this story that are contradicted by common sense, historical evidence, or even human psychology.

Challenge accepted. I can tell a number of serious fatal flaws throughout the story. The first point, which is not one of these numerous flaws, is indeed what is admitted frankly at the end -- the entire story is concoted speculation, concocted for the sole purpose of explaining away the resurrection facts without conceding the resurrection itself. A simple question can take down the entire story, that is, why on Earth believe such a contrived thesis? Now, let's get into the flaws.

There are several problems with the theory, problems too big for it to be sustained. First of all, Jesus did not lead the only messianic/apocalyptic movement in the period of Second Temple Judaism. Indeed, there were numerous others who lead such movements and ended up dead at the hands of the Romans, including Athronges, Simon bar Khokhba, Simon bar Giora, Menahem (grandson of Judas the Galilean), even John the Baptist, etc, etc. All of these guys had movements much bigger than Jesus's in their lifetimes ... and yet only the followers of Jesus came to the belief their leader was resurrected when the Romans killed him. Why? Back in the world of first century Judaism, if your Messiah was killed, you either went home or got a new messiah. There was no expectation that the Messiah was coming back to be resurrected. It seems that some special pleading must be needed to try to apply this entire scenario to the following of Jesus whereas saying it doesn't apply to other Messiah claimants/apocalypticist movements.

Secondly, the explanation goes like this. People were pretty invested into Jesus, and so they had a hard time giving it up, so they didn't give it up. Errrr ... what about Paul? You know, the guy who wrote the earliest books of the NT and where a lot of this information comes from? He never knew Jesus. At all. He had no investment in the guy. He only learned of the Jesus movement several years after Jesus had died, and then started persecuting it. Are you telling me that Paul was too into Jesus to letting the whole thing go and so got himself into an appearance of some magical sorts? Which friends and family members did he leave exactly? The explanation is utterly incompatible with the life and conversion of Paul, and so it simply doesn't work.

The third problem, of course, is the actual post-mortem accounts and martyrdoms. These aren't things that happened a sufficient amount of time after the resurrection, they erupted immediately. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early creed that dates to within a few years, if not months of the crucifixion, and already the resurrection account and experiences of everyone had occurred. We know the hallucination hypothesis is non-credible, what else can explain the fact that such diverse views came to believe it *right away*? And they certainly believed it, we have documented martyrdoms of Peter, Paul, and James in the early church. And finally, the Gospel account themselves. We're told that the disciples *didn't* believe in the resurrection at all when the women claimed to see that the tomb was empty, in fact, we're told they thought the women went crazy. In Luke 24:11, we read "But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense." These don't sound like people very eager to trot out the dead cult. It appears to me that, decisively, the crucifixion of Jesus would have crashed all hopes of the believers once it occurred, and therefore provide the final finisher to the idea we've seen above.

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Tom Paine

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The apostles may have had every interest in continuing the Jesus movement after his death due to the fact that the followers of Jesus (the non-apostolic followers) gave all of their money and possessions towards the Jesus movement, not to mention that many left their livelihood and some left their family members and homes to join the movement. The crucifixion would've marked the ultimate sign of betrayal and disappointment to these followers, especially if several of these followers were convinced by the apostles to join the movement.

...

The apostles became so sincerely convinced that Jesus rose from the dead that they were willing to endure the Jewish persecution of the early decades of the church (some of which is accurately depicted in the book of Acts). The apostles had every reason to be committed and not recant any of their testimony. Not only did they have theological reasons not to recant, but they also had self-interested reasons. For example, their own families had been so involved in the Jesus movement and the subsequent post-Resurrection movement that if any particular apostle were to leave, that apostle would've been completely ostracized by his family (wife, children) and extended community and would have no one to go back to.

...

This is a story I find to be much more plausible than the resurrection hypothesis, as speculative as my story may be. My challenge to you is to find any fatal holes in this story that are contradicted by common sense, historical evidence, or even human psychology.

Challenge accepted. I can tell a number of serious fatal flaws throughout the story. The first point, which is not one of these numerous flaws, is indeed what is admitted frankly at the end -- the entire story is concoted speculation, concocted for the sole purpose of explaining away the resurrection facts without conceding the resurrection itself. A simple question can take down the entire story, that is, why on Earth believe such a contrived thesis? Now, let's get into the flaws.

There are several problems with the theory, problems too big for it to be sustained. First of all, Jesus did not lead the only messianic/apocalyptic movement in the period of Second Temple Judaism. Indeed, there were numerous others who lead such movements and ended up dead at the hands of the Romans, including Athronges, Simon bar Khokhba, Simon bar Giora, Menahem (grandson of Judas the Galilean), even John the Baptist, etc, etc. All of these guys had movements much bigger than Jesus's in their lifetimes ... and yet only the followers of Jesus came to the belief their leader was resurrected when the Romans killed him. Why? Back in the world of first century Judaism, if your Messiah was killed, you either went home or got a new messiah. There was no expectation that the Messiah was coming back to be resurrected. It seems that some special pleading must be needed to try to apply this entire scenario to the following of Jesus whereas saying it doesn't apply to other Messiah claimants/apocalypticist movements.

Secondly, the explanation goes like this. People were pretty invested into Jesus, and so they had a hard time giving it up, so they didn't give it up. Errrr ... what about Paul? You know, the guy who wrote the earliest books of the NT and where a lot of this information comes from? He never knew Jesus. At all. He had no investment in the guy. He only learned of the Jesus movement several years after Jesus had died, and then started persecuting it. Are you telling me that Paul was too into Jesus to letting the whole thing go and so got himself into an appearance of some magical sorts? Which friends and family members did he leave exactly? The explanation is utterly incompatible with the life and conversion of Paul, and so it simply doesn't work.

The third problem, of course, is the actual post-mortem accounts and martyrdoms. These aren't things that happened a sufficient amount of time after the resurrection, they erupted immediately. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early creed that dates to within a few years, if not months of the crucifixion, and already the resurrection account and experiences of everyone had occurred. We know the hallucination hypothesis is non-credible, what else can explain the fact that such diverse views came to believe it *right away*? And they certainly believed it, we have documented martyrdoms of Peter, Paul, and James in the early church. And finally, the Gospel account themselves. We're told that the disciples *didn't* believe in the resurrection at all when the women claimed to see that the tomb was empty, in fact, we're told they thought the women went crazy. In Luke 24:11, we read "But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense." These don't sound like people very eager to trot out the dead cult. It appears to me that, decisively, the crucifixion of Jesus would have crashed all hopes of the believers once it occurred, and therefore provide the final finisher to the idea we've seen above.

The point is though that this particular proposed scenario doesn't have to be exactly right. It may not even be slightly right or even particularly plausible  in order for it to be MORE plausible than that a particular tiny subset of all the miracle tales from the ancient near east are actually true.

On another point, you mention that there were many messianic pretenders that rose up about the time of Jesus, which I think is due to the reinterpretation of the Book Of Daniel's failed prophecies regarding the ultimate success of the Maccabee uprising.  And it is true that there were many and none of them survived to create a religion around a resurrected leader. Again there are many, many more or less plausible explanations for why that is the case, and the point is that even most of the less plausible explanations are still more plausible than that an actual resurrection took place.

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Daitokai

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All of your information is very useful for us, and I've been looking for this information for a long time.

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SAHank2018

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To preserve the integrity of the community of the movement and to prevent any violent retaliation from within the movement, the apostles decided to pray together and ask for Jesus to appear to them. They may or may not have experienced Jesus's presence, but let's assume they didn't see or hallucinate his physical presence amongst them. In this case, they decided to tell their subordinates (the non-apostolic followers of Jesus) that he had appeared to the apostles! In claiming this, they prevented any out-lash and outrage against them or their families by the others within the movement.

If the disciples lie, then they are simply liars. However, Jesus despised dishonesty and corruption. Jesus overturned tables in the temple for acts that desecrated the temple. Also if God'[s teaching through Jesus is true and Jesus chose his disciples; then it follows eleven were true to his words and one was not. The disciples lie also implies that God can be truthful and a liar at the same time. The problem with the scenario is that it implies Jesus and his disciples had an ulterior motive.


The conversions of James the skeptic and Saul of Tarsus prove that Jesus' teachings and the God of the Bible were worth dying for. The disciples restored faith to preach in the face of death proves the truth of Jesus' claims. Hundreds of people do not have the same hallucination. The truth of the matter is that there are no other naturalistic explanations of the Resurrection because no one understands the events that took place.


People want to believe that ancient man was help by ERTs. Maybe ancient men and women could do things modern humans cannot. Ancient people built the pyramids, and we have not seen the likes of DaVinci since his passing. Archimedes was able to build giant lenses to use the sun as a weapon. I propose the Resurrection of Jesus still remains solid and true. Logic states we know things that are true, that are false and somethings are undeterminable because we do not have enough knowledge. The classic example is 1/0. The answer is undeterminable, unless you can provide a derivation that logically and mathematically prove otherwise.