I ran into a string of posts on some discussion section where somebody was arguing with others about 2000 witnesses to the resurrection being proof of its reality. While its not a particularly moving piece of evidence to me, I would like to see an analysis/critique of this claim. I'm having trouble finding a breakdown of it (looking on sites such as rejectionofpascalswager.net) and was wondering if anybody here had pertinent information or could direct me to a source that does.
Below are some of the claimant's words:
... Christianity is based on the 2,000 eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after the Romans
executed Him, otherwise there would be no Christianity.
The first persecution of the Jesus sect took place not one year after Jesus left Earth, Saint
Stephen, whom Saint Paul, a Pharisee, was present. In this early period, some 2,000 pre-Christians were murdered by the Jewish Elders (many of those 2,000 being original eyewitnesses to Jesus after the crucifixion). Rather than recant their eyewitness testimony that Jesus was indeed resurrected and therefore the Messiah, not ONE recanted.
The 2,000 witnesses to Jesus comes from 1 Corinthians 15:6, "Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep." In Jewish culture at the time, only adult men were counted, so the number does not include women and children.
The first persecution of pre-Christians took place under the Jewish authorities in Judea. "The early persecution by the Jews is estimated to have a death toll of about 2,000." This 2,000 killed number is not the same as the 2,000 witnesses number I use above, however there is a great deal of overlap between the two figures.
In the same way, if the 2,000 witnesses story were a fabrication of Paul's fertile imagination,
there would have been correspondence between the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem and those Jewish communities abroad affirming this. The Jewish communities abroad would have requested clarification from Jerusalem on Paul's troubling assertions, because if Paul was correct that would mean Jesus was the Messiah. So you can imagine the intense urgency clarification on this point would have held for Jewish communities outside of Judea. The fact that no such correspondence contradicting Paul exists, and there would be IF Paul were lying, is the proof that Paul was not lying.
The absence of documents, where many should exist on such a critical matter for pious Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire, is proof that there was no fault in Paul's account. The question of whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, you can bet your life that the Jewish Communities outside of Jerusalem requested clarification of Paul's accounts.
...the absence of what should be present is also evidence!
No it would not be called delusional, it would be called mass hallucination where 2,000 persons all SAW the exact same thing over a period of 40 days. Since the Laws of probability say that couldn't happen by chance, as usual it is Atheists like you who lack Scientific Reason. Why would that be?
This is common apologetics nonsense. Classic J.P. Holding schlock. Richard Carrier absolutely obliterates it and similar assertions in his book Not The Impossible Faith.
1) The only sources we have for such a thing having happened is the Bible. But the nature of the the Bible alone makes us suspect such a claim.
2) People of the time weren't critical thinkers only given to accept something as true if they had verified it. They believed all manner of things we routinely recognize as batshit crazy. Hence, that they believed something about Jesus's resurrection doesn't mean they believed it because they had witnessed it or verified with people who had.
3) The resurrection, if it occurred at all, is placed around 30-33 CE. But the earliest accounts we have of such a story aren't until many years later. Paul's first letter was written about 50 CE (but it's 1 Corinthians that's usually cited when talking about witnesses to the resurrection; that letter wasn't written until about 55 CE), Mark about 65-70, Matt and Luke around 85, and John somewhere between 90 and 140 CE. Even right now today as I type this it would be quite a task for police to track down a witness to an event that occurred 20 years ago. How much luck would they have if that event was 50, 75, or even 100 years later? How much luck would a person have if we transported the hypothetical back into the first decades of the Common Era? I mean, your average person didn't live for much more than 40 years. As Carrier notes, the Jewish historian Josephus notes that 20 years was usually sufficient for there to be no one around to attest to a story (or debunk it).
So, in short, when someone cites these 2,000 witnesses they're citing from questionable source material to justify an historical description they're claiming credulous uncritical people accepting of almost anything as long as it was an interesting story told charismatically would have traveled to (over land of course, often by foot), and have been able to verify with, supposed eyewitnesses many decades after the purported event is supposed to have occurred.
Sure. Seems legit...
Ahh, that's definitely the next book on my buy list. Thanks!
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My thought is, What? 2,000 people saw the resurrected Jesus and NOT ONE OF THEM WROTE ANYTHING DOWN? No extra-biblical legends? No family stories such as, "Well, I wasn't there, but your uncle Joshua was and he said..."? Nothing? Just the 4 gospels and the book of acts? Hmmm.
I think if 2,000 people witness something, we would have more evidence that the bible and 2 suspect Josephus references. It just doesn't add up to me.