Is there Good Evidence for Group Appearances of Risen Jesus? (Paulogia Opening Statement)

Written Debate between Dr. Andrew Loke and Paulogia

Previous Entries:
Dr. Andrew Loke’s Opening Statement

I. Introduction

First, allow me to apologize to everyone reading that I’m not educated enough to merely have a face-to-face conversation about this with Dr. Loke. If I had not squandered my life in decades of youth ministry and music ministry, believing in the truth of Christianity for what Dr. Loke considers to be bad reasons, but instead had the simple foresight to know that I would one day reject the claims of Christianity and subsequently act upon that provision by enrolling in a Ph D program for which I could not sign the statement of faith and then earn a doctorate… we could end this debate in a few-hour live stream. But because of my personal failures – and not because of an arbitrary, violable, personal policy – this discussion will be a multi-month, sporadic missive in a format that appeals to the narrowest possible audience. I’m sorry.

Next, a reminder that it is tradition in a formal debate for each party to present an opening statement as their personal case for or against the proposition, and subsequent rounds are used to directly address the opponent’s opening. As such, while I will reference Dr. Loke’s opening for illustrative purpose of his previously established arguments, my work in refuting it directly will begin in the next round. Nor will I be spending any time re-adjudicating prior disagreements – related or unrelated – with my debate opponent.

Instead, allow me to use this time as intended: to elucidate why there is not good evidence for group appearances of risen Jesus. (Henceforth, “group appearances”[1].)

II. Justification

At its core, this is an epistemological debate about justification.

Is there good evidence for group appearances of a resurrected Jesus?

When one asks if there is good evidence to support a claim, they are asking if the claim is well supported, well corroborated. All other hypotheses or considerations aside, with the information available is the warranted conclusion that “the claim is true” over “the claim is false” or “we don’t have sufficient information to make a determination”?

An “inference to the best explanation” may or may not be well-supported with evidence. Before the first clue about a murder is discovered, the best explanation is that it was perpetrated by someone the victim has had sex with. Would this statistical trend justify immediately charging, arresting and sentencing the husband? Obviously not. There is insufficient evidence to convict this suspect, even if he is the primary suspect. “Best idea” is not the same as “well supported”.

Justification for a claim is also separate from the truth of a claim.

I could be fully justified in believing that my car is still where I parked it, even if it has in fact been stolen without my knowledge. Someone in the 5th century would have been fully evidentially justified in thinking the sun moved while the earth stayed stationary, despite geocentricism being factually incorrect.

At the same time, I could be correct in guessing that there is an even number of jelly-beans in a jar, but my claim is not justified with evidence. Or from the example above, if the husband did actually commit the murder… that doesn’t mean the police are currently justified in pressing charges.

Intuitions aside, greater ramifications aside, alternate explanations aside… are group appearances of resurrected Jesus well-supported? Well-corroborated? Is there good evidence?

II.2 What is Good Evidence?

Evidence is one of those concepts that most presume to understand innately, but few can clearly articulate their instinctive conceptualization. Despite having built their entire disciplines upon the notion of evidence, few modern science journals, history societies or law reviews even bother to formally define the term beyond a sentence fragment in the proximity of “the concrete facts used to support a claim”[2].

The Harvard Law Review of the 19th century elucidated with greater satisfaction. “When one offers ‘evidence,’ in the sense of the word which is now under consideration, he offers to prove, otherwise than by mere reasoning from what is already known, a matter of fact to be used as a basis of inference to another matter of fact.”[3]

Fortunately, these professions have spent centuries refining the nuance of best evidential practices, and we can leverage those lifetimes of experience today.

From the legal profession, we learn that evidence must have relevance, materiality, admissibility, probative value and weight.[4]

  • Evidence is relevant if it has any tendency to make a fact more-or-less probable than it would be without the evidence.[5] If evidence is equally likely to establish two opposing inferences, it is irrelevant.[6]
  • Evidence is material if it contributes to proving a fact that is of consequence. That is, there must be a relationship between the evidence and the matter in dispute.[7]
  • Evidence is admissible when it is of such a character that the court is bound to accept it to be evaluated by the judge or jury.[8]
  • The probative value of evidence is the degree to which it proves a fact or facts.[9]
  • The weight is the extent to which evidence is credible, persuasive and significant in convincing the adjudicator(s) of a dispute to accept or reject a claim.[10]

And when dealing with evidence in the pursuit of truth, the field of law also operates with a number of best-practices that are advisable to follow in our evaluation of group appearances.

  • Hearsay testimony is when a witness testifies about something that another person told the witness.[11](In legal jargon, “any out-of-court statement offered for the truth of its contents.”[12]) Because the “other person” cannot be cross-examined, may have been misunderstood, or may have been deliberately relaying false information for a myriad of possible reasons, most modern court systems — including U.S. Federal Courts[13] — decree hearsay to be generally not admissible. It is not considered good evidence for the material claim.
  • Evidence of a person’s character or character trait (Character Evidence) is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.[14]
  • Where Collusion is suspected of similar testimony from different sources, it destroys probative value and possibly renders it entirely inadmissible at the mere “air of reality” to the accusation. It is such a serious consideration that it is up to the Plaintiff to disprove the possibility of collusion. Collusion may be deliberate or inadvertent. For example, unintentional collusion may occur through a witness viewing media reports or merely hearing other people’s stories.[15]

II.3 Historical Evidence vs Legal Evidence

Some may object to leaning so heavily on legal terminology and standards for a historical question, but the epistemological principles and best-practices for evaluation still apply.

Rather than witnesses, historians have primary sources (original documents or artifacts). When a document is interpretation of another document or tradition, historians call it a secondary source instead of hearsay. Rather than say that hearsay is inadmissible, a historian would say that a secondary source is less valuable than a primary source.

Just like legal claims, historical claims are held in degrees of confidence proportional to the evidence supporting them. That ancient claims have less available evidence simply means that we lower our confidence in them, it does not and should not mean that we lower our standards to accommodate.

III. The Exhibits – Ancient Documents

In Dr. Loke’s book, he lists the ancient Christian sources he would put forth as documentary evidence to support his claim. “Aside from Paul’s letters, other documents in the first and early second century—such as the Four Gospels, Acts, 1 Clement, Letters of Ignatius, etc.—also claimed that various people witnessed the resurrected Jesus.”[16]

As Dr. Loke spends most of his words on Paul’s letters, let’s consider the others first.

III.2 The Four Gospels and Acts

The author of Mark records no post-resurrection appearance stories at all, so it is not relevant to this discussion. By my count, the author of Matthew records two post-resurrection group appearances[17], the author of Luke-Acts records three[18], and another three recorded by the author of John[19].

A glaring problem with offering the gospels as evidence is that there is significant doubt as to who the authors are. While church tradition upholds Matthew, Luke and John as the writers, this would represent a minority view among modern New Testament scholars, with broad dissent even among resurrection-affirming evangelical Christian scholars.

For example, in a work referenced many times by Dr. Loke in his book, scholar Richard Bauckham admitted, “That the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus — runs counter to almost all recent New Testament scholarship. As we have indicated from time to time, the prevalent view is that a long period of oral transmission in the churches intervened between whatever the eyewitnesses said and the Jesus traditions as they reached the Evangelists. No doubt the eyewitnesses started the process of oral tradition, but it passed through many retellings, reformulations, and expansions before the Evangelists themselves did their own editorial work on it.”[20]

To avoid confusion and accusation, allow me to be clear that Bauckham holds firmly to traditional authorship, as does Dr. Loke. It is within the realm of the possible that they are correct, but the point here is that even this staunch defender acknowledges his minority position. Rightly or wrongly, leading scholars who have studied the issue professionally do not believe that we know the identity of the people providing this so-called testimony.

Imagine you are in a jury, and someone with a bag over their head takes the stand and starts telling stories. This person doesn’t give their name, never claims to be a witness to the stories, and the court officials are generally uncertain of the identity of the person. How much evidentiary weight are you going to give his tales? I would hope it would be very little. Indeed, no modern court would allow such an event to occur. These are not the markers of good evidence.

It is beyond the scope of this opening statement to demonstrate the significant weaknesses in the case for eye-witness authors. What is material here is acknowledgement of the authorship controversy. Since the identity cannot be established with any level of certainty, it is impossible to have confidence that we have direct testimony rather than inadmissible hearsay. Without such confidence, they simply cannot be put into the category of good evidence.

Of course, the problems with the group appearance reports in Matthew, Luke and John do not end with their hearsay status. A fact thus-far uncontested by Dr. Loke is that all three of these documents use the book of Mark as a primary source… to the extent where around 90% of Mark appears in Matthew and Luke almost word-for-word in the original Greek. This is evidential collusion beyond any reasonable doubt, rendering these sources useless and inadmissible as independent corroboration of each other where they overlap.

Despite this obvious general collusion, the eight group-appearance pericopes in the gospels still somehow completely fail to corroborate each other in any way. These are eight different stories each with different locations, times, characters and events. It’s almost as if the gospel writers were working with a common tradition of a general notion that Jesus appeared to people, but no common tradition about the details of these encounters to draw from.

Dr. Loke tacitly acknowledges this problem in his opening[21] when he speaks of “corroboration of the motif of ‘group appearance’” rather than actual corroboration of details.

III.3 Other Ancient Documents

Dr. Loke frequently lists 1 Clement and Letters of Ignatius among the ancient documents that he feels corroborate resurrection appearances.

Unfortunately, Dr. Loke fails to specify a reference to the passage in 1 Clement that he is thinking of. Other apologists point to 1 Clement 42:3, so perhaps this is what he means?

Having therefore received a charge, and having been fully assured through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and confirmed in the word of God with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth with the glad tidings that the kingdom of God should come.

The passage is speaking about unnamed apostles (see 1 Clement 42:2) – not the first-hand knowledge of Clement – making this hearsay, even if the passage were relevant. Which it is not. 

The passage acknowledges merely that these anonymous people were assured of something, not that they saw something. Even worse, Clement blatantly calls out the “word of God” and “assurance of the Holy Ghost” as the reasons for this assurance. An actual experience claim is nowhere to be found here.

Dr. Loke does, however, specifically reference Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrneans 3 in his book, a passage which is translated as follows…

When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.” And immediately they touched Him, and believed, being convinced both by His flesh and spirit. For this cause also they despised death, and were found its conquerors. And after his resurrection He ate and drank with them, as being possessed of flesh, although spiritually He was united to the Father.

At this point, I have no reason to doubt the scholarly consensus that this letter is among those actually written by Ignatius. Ignatius did later fall victim to the church’s propensity for writing forged (pseudepigraphical) books in dead men’s names, just like Peter, Paul, James, Jude, Judas, Pilate and so many more.

While this passage clearly references group appearances of resurrected Jesus, the trouble with treating this passage as additional corroboration for the alleged group appearances is that Ignatius is clearly quoting Luke 24:39 and referencing the events found in that chapter. Ignatius also quotes the gospel of Matthew in Smyr 6.1 and other works. (As a side note, Ignatius quotes Matthew and Luke but doesn’t mention the authors’ names… exactly as one would expect if the authors were anonymous until later tradition.)

In this context, Ignatius isn’t an external corroborative source any more than Dr. Loke’s book serves as external corroboration for the passage in Luke. Both are non-witnesses merely repeating what someone else wrote before them.

Neither Clement nor Ignatius serves as good evidence for group appearances of resurrected Jesus.

III.4 The 1 Corinthians 15 Creed

If past interactions with Dr. Loke are any indication, most of the substance of this debate will be around the veracity and circumstance of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, so it’s probably worth presenting here for the record.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

From similar usage elsewhere of the Greek phrase translated “for what I received”, New Testament scholars believe that portions of this passage (roughly, those highlighted in purple) are Paul quoting a creed – a formal statement of beliefs that would be memorized and recited repeatedly – that would have been well-known among Christians prior to Paul’s conversion. I am willing to grant this interpretation. It’s the first-century equivalent of a Facebook meme.

For reasons beyond the scope of this opening, I similarly grant that the Apostle Paul is the genuine author of 1 Corinthians. It is one of the so-called “undisputed” letters of Paul[22]. Further, I grant for sake of this discussion that Paul sincerely believed what he was writing in this letter.

It’s worth noting that Paul himself does not claim to have been part of a group appearance, so this passage is not put forward as first-hand testimony toward the debate topic at hand.

As someone who has read this far, you’ve likely already identified the primary evidential problem here… at very best, Paul is telling us what someone else told him. At very best, this is hearsay.

But this situation is so much worse than hearsay, because Dr. Loke and other apologists are advocating that Paul is passing along a recitation that was already firmly established in the greater Christian community at large. 

Christian scholars love to propose that perhaps Paul received it directly from someone mentioned in the list, but that’s based on nothing more than speculation and the affirmation it would give to their preferred conclusion. On the contrary, I find this conjecture to be highly improbable. Why would a witness to resurrected Jesus pass along a third-person memorized secondary-language creed about themselves that anyone could recite, rather than regale Paul with the detailed story in their own words?

Literally anyone in the Christian community could have taught Paul the creed. While we’re just imagining scenarios, it’s equally plausible that Paul first overheard this creed during his time hunting and persecuting the church, from some unsuspecting believer he later stoned to death.

Reciting this creed doesn’t even live up to the usual kind of hearsay that is tossed out as inadmissible. It’s not even hearsay. At face value, Paul’s quotation is no more attestation to the veracity of the information in this creed than my recitation of Humpty Dumpty is attestation of the egg-repair skills of the king’s horses.

Of course, Dr. Loke wants to plead his case beyond the face value. That the documents themselves – hearsay all – are merely the tip of the evidential iceberg.

IV. Inferences

In tacit acknowledgement that the direct documentary evidence is insufficient to justify acceptance of group appearances, Dr. Loke dedicates huge portions of his resurrection word-count to arguments from inference, a form of circumstantial evidence.

Inference is “a rule of logic applied to evidence in a trial, in which a fact is ‘proved’ by presenting other ‘facts’ which lead to only one reasonable conclusion – that if A and B are true, then C is.”[23]

For reasons known only to my interlocutor, Dr. Loke’s go-to example of sound inference[24] is as follows…

  1. All humans pee and poo.
  2. The disciples were human.
  3. Therefore, the disciples peed and pooed.

If we are flexible enough with premise one to include all possible forms of solid and liquid waste removal, then these premises are factually true and the conclusion is the one and only reasonable conclusion. The argument is both valid and sound.

If Dr. Loke’s purpose is to demonstrate that “good” inferences from fact are possible, then he is preaching to the choir with his trivial example. But not all attempts at inferring are created equal. As Loke himself acknowledges, reliability of an inference “depends on the validity and the quality of the evidence of supporting the inference”. This is certainly true, and an area where Dr. Loke’s arguments persistently fall short, as we’ll discuss. 

Legal inferences “may not be based only on imagination, speculation, supposition, surmise, conjecture or guesswork”[25] and “cannot flow from the nonexistence of a fact”[26].

But in addition to requiring facts, these facts must lead to only one reasonable conclusion to create an evidential inference. Unfortunately, I find many of Dr. Loke’s so-called inferences to be of this form…

  1. Many celebrities have public Twitter accounts.
  2. Jennifer Lawrence is a celebrity.
  3. Therefore, Jennifer Lawrence has a Twitter account.

As of the time of writing, despite the factual nature of the two premises, Jennifer Lawrence has no public Twitter account. In logic, any argument that can produce a false conclusion with true premises is called an invalid argument.

We will be exploring which of Dr. Loke’s so-called inferences fail to be backed with facts, fail to be valid, or fail on both accounts.

IV.2 Loke’s Inferences

Outlined in his book, his video presentations on the topic and his opening statement for this debate, Dr. Loke puts forth that these eight inferences raise the hearsay of the ancient documents to the level of “good evidence” for group appearances. They are, as follows in his own words…

  1. Many ancient people were highly skeptical of bodily resurrection in general.
  2. The resurrection of Jesus was foundational to the Christian faith.
  3. The early Christians were willing to die for it.
  4. People could check out if there were indeed ‘groups of eyewitnesses.’
  5. Paul assumed responsibility and cared about his reputation with his known audiences in Corinth, and the costs of false confirmation would have been high.
  6. The Corinthians knew at least some (if not all) of the ‘eyewitnesses’; Paul was appealing to public knowledge.
  7. Other early documents also claimed Jesus’ resurrection and group appearances, and there is independent corroboration of the motif of ‘group appearance’.
  8. “Solid” evidence involving group(s) would have been required to generate widespread belief of BODILY resurrection among Jesus’ followers in the first place.

Now, when it comes to indirect evidence (such as inference), in order to be relevant it must directly contribute to an evidential chain where the conclusion is the proposition being evaluated.

Unfortunately, Dr. Loke’s proposed inferences are not in this form, drawing direct connection from premise to conclusion. So, in this section I will do my best to steelman Dr. Loke’s points (the best that this mere non-PhD-holder can comprehend them) into the most charitable formations toward supporting the debate’s proposition.

IV.3 Corinthian Verification

As I understand it, Dr. Loke’s first four alleged inferences are to work together in concert to create a cumulative case for group appearances.

  1. Many ancient people were highly skeptical of bodily resurrection in general.
  2. The resurrection of Jesus was foundational to the Christian faith.
  3. The early Christians were willing to die for it.
  4. People could check out if there were indeed ‘groups of eyewitnesses.’
  5. Therefore, groups of people saw resurrected Jesus.

But this conclusion obviously doesn’t follow. Here is one possible formulation that creates an approximate evidence chain (not a full syllogism) from Loke’s premises to Loke’s conclusion.

  1. The members of the Corinthian church were Christians.
  2. The resurrection of Jesus was foundational to the Christian faith.
    1. To have Christian faith meant believing in the resurrection.
    2. Therefore, members of the Corinthian church believed in the resurrection.
  3. Many ancient people were highly skeptical of bodily resurrection in general.
    1. Members of the Corinthian church were ancient people.
    2. Therefore, members of the Corinthian church were skeptical of bodily resurrection in general.
  4. The early Christians were willing to die for the Christian faith.
    1. Therefore, members of the Corinthian church were willing to die for the Christian faith. (from 1 and 4)
    2. Therefore, members of the Corinthian church were willing to die for the resurrection. (from 2 and 4a)
    3. Therefore, the resurrection is a life-or-death matter to the Corinthian church.
  5. Because members of the Corinthian church were skeptical of resurrection (3b), but also believed in the resurrection (2b), they had to become convinced of the resurrection for some reason.
  6. People accept life-or-death matters only for personally-verified, actually-true good reasons.
    1. Therefore, the Corinthian church accepted resurrection only for personally verified good reasons. (6, 4c)
    2. The only good reason to accept resurrection is group appearances.
    3. Therefore, the Corinthian church accepted resurrection because of personally-verified, actually-true group appearances. (6a, 6b)
    4. Therefore, personally-verified, actually-true group appearances are a life-or-death matter. (6c, 4c)
  7. People could check out if there were indeed ‘groups of eyewitnesses.’
    1. People who can check out a life-or-death matter, do check out the matter.
    2. Therefore, the Corinthian church checked out groups of eyewitnesses. (6d)
  8. To be personally-verified, people must actually speak to eyewitnesses.
    1. The Corinthian church actually spoke to groups of eyewitnesses.
    2. Therefore, group appearances are personally-verified.
  9. To be actually-true, the eyewitness cannot be lying or mistaken.
    1. The eyewitnesses were not lying.
    2. The eyewitnesses were not mistaken.
    3. Therefore, group appearances are actually-true.
  10. Therefore, groups of people saw resurrected Jesus.

I’m sure Dr. Loke will not be shy in pointing out where this logic path fails and misrepresents his argument, but for the time being it’s the best we have. The handful of lines in grey are Dr. Loke’s premises. The purple lines are show-the-work connections. And the lines in red are problematic inferences or freshly inserted inferences that would be needed to arrive to the conclusion.

Even accepting all of Dr. Loke’s speculative inferences as valid (which I do not, a topic for future rounds), in order to elevate them to good evidence, he will need to justify, demonstrate and corroborate that…

  • general skepticism in the world somehow translates to specific skepticism of the Corinthian church
  • people are convinced of life-and-death matters exclusively and only through personally-verified, actually-true reasons (despite many examples of people accepting life-or-death matters for dubious or false reasons)
  • group appearances were the specific reason the Corinthians believed in resurrection (despite many examples of resurrection-believers for other reasons)
  • every life-or-death matter is automatically investigated to the fullest extent possible (despite many examples of uninvestigated-but-possibly-investigated life-or-death matters)
  • members of the Corinthian church found and spoke to eyewitnesses
  • it was impossible for said found eyewitnesses to be lying
  • it was impossible for said found eyewitnesses were not mistaken

Or perhaps Dr. Loke will connect the dots from premises to conclusion through some alternate route. Either way, I look forward to his response.

IV.4 The Pauline Guarantee

Dr. Loke paired his next two points (high costs of being wrong, and Corinthian familiarity) together to argue why Paul’s hearsay (which alone strikes it from good evidence admissibility) claim of group appearances somehow ascends to the level of near Cartesian certainty. Indeed, in his opening, Loke boasts, “It is implausible that Paul thought he was correct yet made a mistake on this issue.”[27]

I find it plausible that on any given matter that I could make a mistake. That you could make a mistake. That the smartest-human-on-earth could make a mistake. Or at least possess only partial information and would revise the position in light of new evidence. The brightest minds in history have had areas where they were mistaken or incomplete. But not Dr. Loke in assessing the epistemology of 1st century Paul the Apostle. For him, a mistake is “implausible”.

I will save a cataloging of Dr. Loke’s speculative interpretations, evidential flaws and overly charitable assessments for future rounds as applicable. For today, all that needs to be pointed out is that while one can reasonably assess what someone believes or values based on their actions, you cannot determine whether that belief is true based solely on their actions. The actions prompted by a belief are the same, whether the belief is true or false.

For example, a photo of a life-valuing person stepping into the street can tell us they believed it was safe to do so. But the photo alone cannot tell us if it was actually safe. Even if the person appears to be looking one direction or the other.

I anticipate Dr. Loke will line up his special-pleading qualifiers… “Paul was evidently not an imbecile” (as if intelligence prevents wrong views), “the early Christian movement was a network of close communication” (as if close networks automatically promote accurate information), “he cared about his reputation”[28] (as if no prideful person has lied or been misled), and so on.

If he does, keep in mind that he will be attempting to use inadmissible character evidence (that a person acted in accordance with a character or trait on a particular occasion) to prop-up already-inadmissible hearsay evidence. While this isn’t a court of law, what is rejected as bad evidence in a sophisticated arena (court) doesn’t somehow become good evidence in a written debate on a blog.

IV.5 Other Documents and Motifs

I’ve already explored the lack of independent documents corroborating group appearances. In future responses I shall press upon Dr. Loke’s epistemologically-timid, desperate appeal to mere motifs… perhaps with a Star Wars-related illustration.

IV.6 “Solid Evidence” was Required

When asked about the role of apologetics (arguments and evidence) in convincing non-believers, famous Christian apologist Dr. William Lane Craig’s responds, “I think that the fundamental way in which we know that Christianity is true is through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.”[29]

Dr. Loke has yet to demonstrate how this would have been different for early Christians, but merely asserts that “some ‘solid’ evidence such as the disciples eating and drinking with Jesus together as a group would likely have been necessary to start the widespread agreement among them that a resurrected corpse was what they witnessed.”[30]

The phrases “such as” and “likely have been necessary” tacitly acknowledge that group appearances are merely one possible evidential line that could produce this belief. To be evidentially relevant, an inference must lead to a single conclusion… not merely be consistent with multiple competing conclusions. (Not to mention, not merely speculation, supposition, conjecture or guesswork.)

This debate is about whether we can be justified in accepting that group appearances happened. Maybe 1stcentury Corinthians were evidentially justified in that belief, maybe they were not. We have no insight. That they were convinced is of no evidential value.

V. Conclusion

If you will allow me to dip one last time into the pool of evidence-evaluation wisdom found in the courts of the world, the nature of this debate reminds me of the Briginshaw Standard: that “more convincing evidence is necessary to meet the standard of proof where an allegation is particularly serious, or unlikely to have occurred.”[31]

Just a few verses down from the much-discussed 1 Corinthians 15 creed, Paul writes about the importance of resurrected Jesus’…

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

As resurrection appearances are meant to support Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ resurrection is the most important linchpin for Christianity, and the truth of Christianity determines the forever fate of our eternal souls, it would seem the topic of this debate is safely in the category of “particularly serious”.

At the same time, with such a resurrection unheard of in a naturalistic worldview, and only once-in-history under a Christian worldview, it’s safe to call group appearances “unlikely to have occurred” under any belief system.

If ever there was a case that calls for the “particularly serious” and “unlikely to have occurred” Briginshaw Standard asking for “more convincing evidence”, it’s this one. 

But what kind of evidence is put forth for group appearances? 

HearsayCharacter evidenceCollusionSpeculationConjecture. Quality of evidence so poor that it isn’t even admissible in the lowest of courts in the smallest of small-claims cases.

If the eternal fate of every soul in the universe hinged on justifying group appearances, we should expect an omniscient, omnipotent benefactor to do better.


[1] I’m aware that my footnote attribution style is all over the map and that this will likely cause great consternation in my academically-minded OCD readers out there. Apologies.

[2] Oldham, Davis: “Evidence” (English 101 & 102) Shoreline Community College

[3] Thayer, James B. “Presumptions and the Law of Evidence.” Harvard Law Review (1889): 143.

[4] “The Legal Concept of Evidence” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[5] United States “Federal Rules of Evidence”, House of Representatives. 2004 Edition. p 3.

[6] Sankoff, Peter, LLM. “Probative Value”, 2020

[7] Supreme Court of Canada. R v Gill1987 CanLII 6779 (MB CA), (1987) 39 CCC (3d) 506 (MBCA) 

[8] admissible. (n.d.) West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. (2008). 

[9] Jaksa, William, “Probative vs Prejudicial”, 2021

[10] “Weight of the evidence” Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute.

[11] Bala, Nicholas and Anand, Sanjeev. Youth Criminal Justice Law, 3/e

[12] Stewart, Hamish, et al, Evidence: A Canadian Casebook, 3d ed (Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2012) p129

[13] U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence: 801-03, 901 

[14] U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence. Rule 404. Character Evidence

[15] O’Connell, Stuart. Similar Fact Evidence: Collusion. Oct 2017.

[16] Loke, Andrew. Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Routledge New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies) (p. 8). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

[17] Matthew 28:6, 28:17

[18] Luke 24:15, 24:36 and 24:50. Acts 1 repeats the Luke 24:50 story, but as this is the same author writing in a sequel work, this would not count as external corroboration.

[19] John 20:19, 20:26 and John 21

[20] Richard Bauckham. “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (2nd Edition).” Apple Books.

[21] Loke, Andrew. Dr. Andrew Loke’s Opening Statement vs. Paulogia March 2021.

[22] “Virtually all scholars agree that seven of the Pauline letters are authentic: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon.” Bart D. Ehrman. “Forged.” Apple Books. Chapter 3

[23] “Inference.” The People’s Law Dictionary. 1981-2005. Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill 23

[24] “The inference that the apostles must have peed and pooed is warranted given that it is based on elementary biological consideration.” Loke, Andrew. Dr. Andrew Loke’s Opening Statement vs. Paulogia March 2021.

[25] Cothran v. Town Council of Los Gatos (1962) 209 Cal.App.2d 647.

[26] Eramdjian v. Interstate Bakery Corp. (1957) 153 Cal.App.2d 590.

[27] Loke, Andrew. Dr. Andrew Loke’s Opening Statement vs. Paulogia March 2021.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Craig, Dr. William Lane. What Role Does the Holy Spirit Play In Apologetics?

[30] Loke, Andrew. Dr. Andrew Loke’s Opening Statement vs. Paulogia March 2021.

[31] Lacey, Andrew. “Still Unsure about Briginshaw?” November 2019.

44 thoughts on “Is there Good Evidence for Group Appearances of Risen Jesus? (Paulogia Opening Statement)

  1. Paul, I read to the very end since I found your article compelling and well argued. Dr. Loke is so entrenched in his belief system that he will bend over backward to defend it even if when it is illogical and misleading. He must save face. The biblical Christ is based on Adam & Eve, producing original sin. A fictional narrative from beginning to end..


  2. As a student of ancient religion, I take issue with Dr. Loke’s claim that “many ancient people were highly skeptical of bodily resurrection in general.”

    Many, yes, but certainly not all. Broadly speaking, ancient Egyptians believed in bodily resurrection, emphasizing the reconstitution of bodily limbs, flesh and bones, etc., in emulation of their god Osiris. They ate, drank, and even performed physical work in the afterlife. Various pyramid texts implore the deceased king to stand up, shake the earth from his flesh, and loosen his mummy bindings. Zoroastrians believed in bodily resurrection, and were perhaps influential among post-exilic Jews concerning that doctrine. Among the Greeks, in particular, Asclepius was believed to have raised several men from the dead.

    What most in the Greco-Roman world would have objected to was eternal life in a natural, flesh-and-blood body. Among philosophers and the elite, a disembodied soul was the preferred mode of posthumous existence. But, many commoners embraced the idea of bodily immortality for their favorite gods and heroes, provided these men had been equipped with new, immortal bodies. They knew that the natural body was unfit for eternity; it grows old, weakens, perishes, and dies. But a new, divine body would not be subject to such corruption. Thus, Heracles’ mortal remains were vanquished in the flames upon his funeral pyre, but he lived on in a body with gravitas (weight) and even copulated upon Olympus. Romulus was taken up and transformed into a glorified body with shining armor. Asclepius appeared to others after his death and deification, and not as a “mere phantom,” per Celsus. As Asclepius-Imouthes, he glowed with radiance.

    A natural body was certainly anathema for Greeks and Romans. But a spiritual body, a newly divine body, was not. And that’s exactly what Paul sells the Corinthians. A spiritual body, not a carnal body of “flesh and blood” (1 Cor. 15:50). An incorruptible, eternal dwelling. The challenge, of course, was getting them to believe that such things could be made available to them, to mere mortals. But they already accepted as much about Jesus (which Paul uses as the linchpin of his argument). No surprise there, since many in that cultural milieu already embraced bodily immortalization for divine men and heroes, those of exceptional status. This is what Dr. Loke fails to mention, and it’s among the many reasons that his arguments herein lack any real cogency.


  3. Paul, I believe PhD locke has an uphill battle before him. A written debate will be easier me to chew on and digest. Thank you.


  4. “… it should be noted that Paul*ogia* was evidently not an imbecile. He was rational enough to debate, to think about evidence, to infer consequences, and to persuade others to hold to his views. In other words, he had the mental capacity to ensure that the information he passed on was correct.”

    Well, Paulogia, it looks like you were right all along. And, also, Andrew was right all along? That’s confusing. A less educated person might just suspect that not being an imbecile is not synonymous with always being correct.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well presented, Paul. And many thanks to you for doing this – I don’t imagine you are making any money for all of your time on a blog post.


  6. The footnote links (the ones where you click the little numbers) don’t work. They appear to attempt to link to what I take to be some locally hosted version of the document, rather than the document itself. This causes me much consternation in a way I imagine is similar to that described in footnote 1. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for the time you put into this. It’s unfortunate you wasted your life and didn’t get a PHD, I would’ve much preferred a face to face debate like you’ve had with others.

    It’s clear you put a lot of time and thought into your opening statement. For as long as this debate is going on I’ll be sure to watch all of the ads on your videos without skipping, I know that’s not much, but I hope it helps some.


  8. Hmmm. I smell a book coming.

    Good presentation. Good argument.

    I felt Andrews’s opening remarks was not so different from the Youtube video presentation, neither was your really, but I could follow your argument a bit easier than Andrew with a PhD.

    I will wait for the next presentation before I conclude.


  9. “To avoid confusion and accusation, allow me to be clear that Bauckham holds firmly to traditional authorship, as does Dr. Loke.”

    Pretty sure Bauckham doesn’t think Matthew wrote gMatthew or that John the son of Zebedee wrote gJohn.


  10. Throughout this exchange – spoken and written – you have displayed remarkable reason, restraint and integrity. If only any of those epithets could be applied to your opponent.


  11. Paul lays out a direct case for his contentions with Dr. Loke’s stance. The biggest problem in this written response can be found in the following statement from Paul.

    “I’m sure Dr. Loke will not be shy in pointing out where this logic path fails and misrepresents his argument”

    While Paul is using Dr. Loke’s words, I fear Dr. Loke will focus more on claiming Paul strawmanned him than giving a clear line of reasoning (Syllogism preferred) that would lead to his conclusion regarding the Corinthian verification.

    Dr. Loke – Academia is not something to be held over people’s heads. You know as well as I do that someone without degrees can publish. The worst professors I’ve met act as though they are better than those they teach. The best professors I’ve met learn from their students. While you are more educated than Paul in these subjects, there is the possibility he is right and you are wrong. We have to always keep these things in mind when giving our educated viewpoints. Also, we have to be willing to engage.

    Currently I am posting on a far from neutral platform. Will my comment be posted? Let’s find out when I submit. A platform like Modern Day Debate (Hosted by James Kunz) would be an excellent place to have this conversation. Paul has entered the Lion’s den willingly. Are you, Dr. Loke, willing to step out of your comfort zone the tiniest of bits and speak on neutral platform?

    Or… Do you refuse to speak to someone publicly who disagrees with you who doesn’t hold a PhD?


  12. Is Paulogia’s opening statement really ‘compelling and well argued’ as some people think? Dr Loke has posted this on Facebook:

    ‘Here is a good exercise in critical thinking. Paulogia has posted his opening statement in his written debate with me on the resurrection of Jesus, and I have identified more than 10 fallacies already. Can you identify them? Let me mention one example as a start:

    1.Paulogia mis-labelled 1 Cor 15:3-11 as hearsay. He claims ‘It’s worth noting that Paul himself does not claim to have been part of a group appearance, so this passage is not put forward as first-hand testimony toward the debate topic at hand… At very best, this is hearsay.’

    Now I need to remind Paulogia that the debate topic at hand is whether there is good evidence for ‘group appearances’ i.e. the claim that ‘there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus.’

    Paulogia missed the point I made in my opening statement: ‘It is important to note that this claim—taken by itself—concerns the existence of these group(s) of people, rather than Jesus’ resurrection itself.’ Thus, even though Paul was not a member of ‘group appearance’ himself, nevertheless, he was (as I have argued) a firsthand eyewitness of these groups i.e. he knew members of these groups.’ (Analogy: I saw a group of students who told me that they met with the new president of our university yesterday. Even though I wasn’t part of the group, nevertheless I can offer a firsthand testimony that there were this group of students who claimed to have seen the president).

    In other words, contrary to Paulogia, this passage IS put forward as first-hand testimony towards the claim that there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus, which IS the debate topic at hand.

    The reason why Paulogia’s arguments appear persuasive to his followers is because of the way he (falsely) label and (falsely) represent (i.e. misrepresent) ideas such that—if the fallacies are not exposed—they contribute towards a cumulative impression that his opponents have no good evidence. But once the fallacies are exposed one by one—which I will do in my rebuttal which I am currently writing—his case melts away and one realizes that (contrary to Paulogia) there IS in fact good evidence of group appearances in any worldview (naturalist or theist). Which is why almost all experts (atheists or Christians) agree, and which is why Paulogia’s opposing claim that there are only two individual appearances is—as he admits—a fringe theory held by zero scholars


    1. That is going to get ripped to shreds by many people.

      A claim that people made a claim of an event happening is a second-hand account of that event happening. It seems as if Loke is trying to change the topic from “Is there good evidence for group appearances” to “Is there good evidence that claims of group appearances were made”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, you are the one who is changing the topic. As Dr Loke pointed out in his opening statement, the main contention between him and Paulogia is over Paulogia’s fringe theory claim that ‘I posit that the entire body of historical evidence is completely explainable with as few as two people claiming to have seen risen Jesus’, or is there good evidence to show otherwise i.e. is there historical evidence not explainable by two people but by groups of people claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. In other words the main dispute between Paulogia and Loke is not over the event of resurrection itself but how many people claimed to have seen Jesus.


    2. Saying that you met people who claim to have had an experience does not translate to you having first hand experience of what they claim. It means you had first hand experience of meeting people who have made a claim.

      So while Paul’s claim that 500 witnesses existed is an example of Paul’s first hand testimony that 500 people existed that made a claim, assuming he met all 500, his testimony that these 500 exist does not support their claim to having seen a resurrected jesus. THAT part IS hearsay, as Paul is reporting what another person, allegedly, reported. The very definition of hearsay.

      So even if we accept that Paul individually met 500 people…that is ALL that can be concluded…we cannot conclude that these 500 believed they saw anything and we cannot conclude that they DID see anything based on Paul’s word alone. So we cannot conclude that 500 saw a resurrected jesus…we can barely conclude that Paul met 500 people who made the claim.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You misunderstood loke’s argument. loke does not claim that Paul’s testimony that these 500 exist directly support their claim to having seen a resurrected jesus. Rather, as loke mentioned in his opening statement: ‘Concerning ‘group appearances of risen Jesus’, in my book Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Routledge, 2020; henceforth Loke 2020) I have argued that the historical evidences indicate that (1) there were groups of people in first century AD who claimed that they had seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion, (2) they truly saw something, (3) what they saw was not caused intra-mentally but extra-mentally, and (4) the extra-mental entity was not anyone else but the same Jesus who (5) died on the Cross earlier and was seen alive again later. Therefore, Jesus resurrected. Paulogia’s objections are primarily targeted against (1), and his own hypothesis that there were no groups but only two individuals concerns (1). Thus, for the purposes of this debate I shall focus on arguing for the claim that there were group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus (I shall call this ‘group appearance’ for short).’ In other words, Paul’s testimony IS relevant (and not hearsay) for establishing step (1) and for refuting paulogia’s alternative hypothesis. The other steps of loke’s arguments are argued for on the basis of other considerations, as loke already explained in his opening statement: ‘Readers who are interested in my arguments for (2), (3), (4), and (5) can check out Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of my book.’


      2. CP…. you are misunderstanding the distinction being made. All that we can, tentatively, conclude is that Paul claims to have met people. The minute we address his claim of WHAT these people claim…THAT part is where herarsay enters in. Paul is saying that THEY said they saw a resurrected jesus.

        Without even addressing the veracity of the claim of what they witnessed… simply accepting Paul’s report that THEY reported seeing something makes it hearsay because we have no access to the group members to verify that they indeed saw what Paul claims they saw.

        If in court you said “Bill told me he saw the murder occur” and we have no access to Bill to verify your statement, then your report os considered hearsay. You are reporting what Bill reported to you.

        If we cannot verify from ANY of the 500 first hand, then we have no idea what they saw, if they saw anything or even if they existed…and even if we granr that they existed we still have no way to verify what they actually claimed to have seen. There is NO historical, first hand evidence that they saw anything…there is only Paul’s report. There is only hearsay.


      3. Nah, u r the one who is misunderstanding the distinction being made. As I said earlier, loke and myself do distinguish between
        (1) there were groups of people who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus
        (2) there were groups of people who truly saw the resurrected Jesus.
        And JC already mentioned that loke is using Paul’s testimony to be arguing for (1) in opposition to paulogia’s fringe theory ‘I posit that the entire body of historical evidence is completely explainable with as few as two people claiming to have seen risen Jesus’!

        But u & Paulogia are strawmanning loke by claiming that loke is using Paul’s testimony to be arguing for ‘they indeed saw what Paul claims they say’ i.e (2). This is a misrepresentation, and on the basis on that misrepresentation u & paulogia falsely labelled it as hearsay!

        Ur statement about the court and Bill is also a false analogy becos it ignores what loke said in his opening statement, namely that the Corinthians knew peter and other apostles (see 1 Cor 1 and 1 Cor 9) and could verify whether they had preached that they had seen the risen Jesus. And u r the one who is failing to see loke’s distinction between (1), (2), (3), (4), and (5), and u ignored my point that the other steps of Loke’s arguments are argued for on the basis of OTHER considerations, as Loke mentions: Readers who are interested in my arguments for (2), (3), (4), and (5) can check out Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of my book. Rather u are confounding 2), (3), (4), and (5), and on the basis of your confounding you falsely assume that loke is arguing that Paul’s testimony alone is supposed to do the job of proving (2) , (3), (4) and (5)! Which is a misunderstanding!


      4. Again, you are assuming that the veracity if the claim is even at issue. It isn’t because the idea that the claim was made cannot be verified first hand…Paul reports that other people reported something. It doesn’t even matter what they claim to have seen because we cannot verify that they saw ANYTHING becaise all we have is Paul’s claim that these people reported seeing something.

        And with Corinthians…Paul SAID that the people knew Peter and the apostles…PAUL said that they knew that Peter claimed to have seen the risen jesus. Paul SAID, is all there is and if Paul is reporting what ither people are reporting it is, by definition, hearsay.

        Do we have direct reports from the people at Corinth to verify what Paul claims they know? No. This is the ENTIRE point… We have Paul reporting that claims were made. And beyond that we only have TWO direct accounts from people who claimed to have seen the risen jesus…the rest are second and third hand accounts.

        Again, If we cannot investigate what Bill said, then any reports of what Bill said are hearsay…if we have reports that a group of people claim to have heard wht Bill said but we have no access to Bill…then it is hearsay.


      5. Do u understand that we are talking about the debate between loke and Paulogia in this post? The veracity of the claim that there were groups of people who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus is precisely THE issue for loke’s refutation of paulogia’s claim that there were only two people who claimed to have seen risen Jesus! This is basic logic (law of non-contradiction)! Which you don’t seem to understand. And the rest of your comment about verifiability shows that you don’t understand the historical context of Paul’s interaction with the Corinthians, which all historians accept and which loke has already defended in his opening statement (where he also defended the point about verifiability). Please go and study laws of logic and history of early Christianity first, as your comments have repeatedly shown that u don’t know wat u are talking about & i dun have time to repeatedly correct your fallacious reasoning. Bye Bye.


      6. Paulogia ‘s assertion is not that we only have two who claimed to have seen the risen jesus, it is that we only have 2 that meet a mininum standard of evidence to make that claim.

        And this is exactly what I have been arguing this whole time, that any of the reports of group sightings are ONLY that, reports… hearsay reports from Paul.

        The law of non-contradiction is exaxtly what this hinges on… there is either good evidence to support group sightings or there is not good evidence. (A is not B- Non-contradiction) and as mentioned repeatedly, we CANNOT VERIFY what these people believed. We cannot establish if they are A or B based on the evidence presented and as such, if we cannot even apply the Law of Identity, we cannot extend a logical certainty to claims about them as evidence towards the proposition.

        In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says that he is reporting something that was reported to him…so Paul recieved hearsay and was passing it on. Textually, “received”, in this instance could even be used the way Paul ised it in Galatians 1:12 where he used the same wording to mean received “direct revelation” from jesus…which makes his claim even LESS reliable as evidence than him simply repeating hearsay via a creed.

        I do find your tactic of dismissal laughably disingenuous as you have no clue as to my academic standing in relation to this topic.


      7. I wanted to say bye bye already but I can’t help LOL at ur misrepresentation of Paulogia in order to save ur face. Check out Paulogia’s video ‘5 Scholars Attempt my Resurrection “What If” Challenge’: right at the beginning, in response to Dr Craig’s statement ‘nobody thinks that there were only two resurrection appearances, one to peter one to paul’, Paulogia replied ‘I do’. By saying I do, Paulogia is clearly asserting that there were only two who claimed to have seen the risen jesus, contrary to wat u stated. And dr loke is debating with Paulogia on THIS topic. Concerning the 1 Corinthians 15 Creed, Paulogia objects by claiming that ‘It’s worth noting that Paul himself does not claim to have been part of a group appearance, so this passage is not put forward as first-hand testimony toward the debate topic at hand.’ Dr loke’s point is that paulogia’s inference ‘because Paul himself does not claim to have been part of a group appearance, therefore Paul was not firsthand eyewitness to a group of people claiming to have seen risen Jesus (the debate topic)’ is false. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise, because even though paul was not part of the group, this does not imply that he didn’t see firsthand this group of people claiming to have seen Jesus.

        Ur objection ‘we cannot verify what these people believed is IRRELEVANT. i.e. it is irrelvant to object to ‘q doesnt follow from p’ by claiming ‘but we have no evidence for not-q’. in other words, Even if (as you claim) ‘we CANNOT VERIFY what these people believed’, nevertheless it is still true that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise! Now I’ve already mentioned that dr loke has argued in his opening statement that we can show wat these people believed based on OTHER CONSIDERATIONs which u have not considered (which revealed ur non-academic standing); but tat is another topic for another day. The point here is simply that paulogia’s inference is false! Get it now? bye bye.


    3. Group “appearances” aren’t really evidence of seeing an actual person though. Paul uses the same exact verb for his appearance, which was a vision, as he does for the group appearances in the list. If Paul can claim to mystically experience Jesus from heaven then there is no reason why a large group of people can’t claim the same thing. In fact, we see this type of phenomenon in churches every Sunday when congregations claim to “experience the presence” of Jesus. This type of experience doesn’t necessarily rely on Jesus literally being physically present.

      So to sum up, the word for “appeared” doesn’t necessarily indicate a literal appearance based on empirical sensory perception or ocular sitting. It can just mean a spiritual revelation and so “group experiences” even if they did happen is not evidence that anyone really saw a physically resurrected figure.


    4. If your definition of “group appearance” is that several people saw the same thing at the same time, then good evidence so such an event would be, at minimum, two first-person accounts from people who were in the crowd on that day, whose accounts are very similar. For example, if you claim that 500 people attended a Yoko Ono concert in 1992, and you found two different people who each said they attended the concert, agreed about what day it happened, gave similar descriptions of the crowd size and what music was played, then yes that would be good evidence that the concert actually happened. But if all you have is one source who says, “Somebody told me there was a Yoko Ono concert, with 500 people in the audience. I wasn’t there, and I’m not even sure if the person I talked to was actually there, and I can’t remember his name,” that isn’t good evidence. It would be especially bad evidence if neither the source nor the witness give their names.

      First hand account: “My name is xxxx, I was there. I saw it myself.”
      Second hand account: “My name is yyyy. I wasn’t there, but I talked to xxxx, who told me he was there.”
      Third hand account: “My name is zzzz. I wasn’t there, but I talked to yyyy, who told be that xxxx claimed to have been there.”

      The evidence for a resurrected Jesus being seen by 500 people simultaneously isn’t even as good as that. It boils down to, “My name is zzzz. I wasn’t there, but I talked to somebody (whose name I’m not going to tell you), who told me that there was of a crowd of 500 people (whose names we don’t know) who saw a resurrected Jesus, and maybe the person who told me the story also claimed to have been one of those 500 people, or maybe not.

      Paulogia was correct to label that as hearsay.

      On the other hand, if your definition of “group appearance” is that somebody somewhere was going around telling stories about several people seeing the same thing at the same time, then good evidence would be two first-person accounts from people who heard the story (not from each other), whose recollections of the story are very similar. For example, if you claim that there is a guy who says he was at a Yoko Ono concert in 1992, and you found two different people who each said they talked to that guy, agreed about what the guy looked like, and gave similar accounts of what the guy said, that would be good evidence that the guy told the story. But, if all you have is one person who says they heard the story (and they don’t say who they heard it from), that wouldn’t be good evidence.

      The only way you can make this work is if your definition of “group appearance” is that the story existed. For that, all you need is one person to say, “somebody told me the story.” Yes, we certainly do have that. We have Saul of Tarsus (a.k.a. the Apostle Paul) saying, “somebody told me the story.” This clearly establishes the existence of the story. But it doesn’t establish that the story was consistently told the same way (as opposed to different people telling different versions of the story), and it doesn’t establish that anybody knew where the story came from. By this standard, we have good evidence for the story that Elvis is still alive. We can find at least one person who says they heard the story that Elvis is alive. Therefore, the story exists. Who told the story? We don’t know; it doesn’t matter. Are there multiple conflicting versions of the story? We don’t know; it doesn’t matter. Is the story actually true? We don’t know; it doesn’t matter.

      This is what we have for the story of 500 people seeing a resurrected Jesus. We have one person (the Apostle Paul) who says he heard one version of the story, therefore the story existed. That’s all we have.

      I call that a rumor.


    1. None of the discussion has anything to do with mythologies regarding an afterlife and as such none of the discussion could even put such claims at risk.

      The discussion is whether there is historical evidence supporting the number of people claimed to have seen a resurrected Jesus. This does not speak to the veracity of their claim nor any theological significance, if any, of those claims.

      And even if one was to extend the argument to theological significance this STILL doesn’t speak to the veracity of the mythology.

      There is no point in trying to add irrelevant confounds to the discussion.


      1. Your claim that it is a mythology is based on your misunderstanding of loke’s resurrection argument, see my reply to u under JC above. Jesus’ resurrection has theological significance which loke already explained in chapters 8 and 9 of his book. Don’t be cheated of your eternal life by your own misunderstandings.


  13. CP There is nothing to be cheated from. There is no verification that a soul exists. No verification that a god exists. There are theological arguments about it, there are things people acxept as evidence towards the propositions bit there has been no verification that the proposition is a verified fact.

    Even if we allow that jesus existed…and we allow that he was resurrected…neither of these verify how or why. They could be accepted as speaking towards the proposition of a god, but they do not verify the claim as FACT. There is NO objective verification of the claim…NONE.

    But as I said, this is not even significant to the discussion at hand so it is a useless addition to the discussion.


    1. U r simply asserting that ‘there is no…no..’ without even checking out and responding to the philosophical, scientific and historical arguments loke mentioned in chapters 8 and 9 of his book. I guess there is no point continuing a conversation with someone who is closed-minded and refuses to look at the arguments but would rather be cheated of eternal life. Bye Bye.


      1. As i said…philosophical arguments are not object facts…they are claims toward a proposition but not verification OF the proposition.

        Not accepting bad arguments does not make one close-minded…religious beliefs are a by-product of useful evolutionary adaptations and nothing more.


  14. You are adding something to Paulogia’s claim and mine by extending the thought that we only think there were only 2 verifiable (weakly) claimed appearances to assert this means we think that there are only 2 CLAIMS of appearances. THIS is the misrepresentation…. the 500 were reported as having made the claim of seeing a risen jesus..but we only have first hand claims from TWO.

    Adding a fanfic that Paul might have been one of those 500 or knew them directly is just wishful thinking, because we have no verifiable evidence that he was one, or actually knew any of them. By his OWN words, he received the information, this is a very strange way to say “I was one” or “I have spoken with them directly”…perhaps he did but it is less of an inference to make that assumption and FAR more of a LEAP….a fanfic.

    And, as with anything, what the group is reported as having believed does not have any bearing on whether it was true…IF the 500 existed at all. We have NO records beyond a guy saying that someone told him about them…and the EVIDENCE is what is at question. And the only evidence of the 500 is hearsay.

    So maybe they existed, maybe they they did not. IF they existed we only have claims regarding their beliefs NOT evidence that they had the reported experience. So again, maybe they existed, maybe they made the claim, but maybe they did not. Really what we have is Paul’s claim that the group claimed…heresay.

    So we only have two FIRST HAND claims…the others are second or third hand.

    You and Loke just seem to be conveniently inserting fanfic assumptions to attampt to add weight to your claim, but it simply does not float.


  15. There’s a point which I think could have been made regarding standards of evidence for legal vs historical inquiry.

    In the legal context, you have plaintiff and a defendant. The plaintiff wants to argue that the defendant has commited a crime and should be punished appropriately (fines/imprisonment/death). Because the courts are not infalliable, if the court rules in favor of the defendant, there’s a risk you’re letting the guilty party go free. If the court rules in favour of the plaintiff, there’s a risk that you’re punishing an innocent person.

    In this context, it’s conventionally decided that it’s better to let the guilty escape justice than send an innocent person to prison or death. So the convention is that the defendant is “innocent until proven guility”, and the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. Also the “standards of evidence” the court will accept are high because we want to avoid the possibility of punishing the innocent, at all costs. So there are many scenarios when you know that the defendant is guilty but you still have to let him walk free because you don’t have the evidence to secure a conviction.

    But in the context of pure academic debate, all we care about is the pursuit of truth. An error is an error, whether it’s type I error (affirming something as true when it’s actually false, or false positive) or type II error (affirming something as false when it’s actually true, or false negative). In this context, to use “legal standards” is absurd. It would weigh the deck in favour of false negatives, over false positives. Rather you should start from a position of pure neutrality and let the evidence tip you in the right direction. The way this is actually practiced in each academic field will differ, depending on the ground realities specific to that field.

    So Paulogia’s insistence on “legal standards” is completely misguided. That’s just not the way historians, scientists or philosophers work, for good reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are probably right that Paulogia could have leaned a little less on the legal analogy as this is not the established standard in this discourse. However, I think there are a couple of points in defense of this move even given this point.

      First, it is the case that if this conversation is to go anywhere it is going to require that some kind of standard exists. I do hope that Loke takes this point seriously by either adopting (for the sake of argument) a general standard like Paulogia is proposing or proposes his own. The legal standard, in my opinion, is a decent starting point. Most people are at least somewhat familiar with legal terminologies and I think the process of comparing two accounts of facts and weighing them against each other to come to a conclusion is intuitive and somewhat representative of many peoples’ thought processes much of the time. Furthermore, legal standards do lend themselves pretty well to debate-like interactions. It seems clear to me that employing a scientific standard would be far more impractical, not intuitive, and (I think we should all agree) stack the deck even further against Loke. Historical standards could be used here, and I imagine that they will be at some point. In my (granted, non-academic) experience, these kinds of standards employed for religious justification result in having to admit whole classes of religious claims that don’t get us any closer to a specific answer or they simply chase special pleading until the two parties get tired.

      Second point in defense of the legal standard presented, Paulogia is not necessarily highlighting a specific legal standard for delivering a verdict. You have defaulted to the standard of “beyond reasonable doubt” in a criminal context which is not what Paulogia was arguing for and isn’t the only legal standard. Paulogia is arguing for the standards of strong/acceptable/admissible evidence. This is an important distinction because what makes good evidence is more fundamental than the threshold we place on the verdict given the evidence. You do seem to acknowledge this distinction between the standards of evidence and the evidential threshold to deliver a verdict, but your justification is to point out the consequences of misjudging a criminal case. As far as I know, the general standards of good evidence apply more broadly, that is, to cases with much lower stakes and with different thresholds than “beyond a reasonable doubt”.


      1. OK, I get that we need to distinguish between the the quality of evidence needed to attain a verdict vs. what can pass as evidence in the legal context.

        Still, it seems the entire legal system is designed around the fundamental “presemption of innocence”, and that necessarily must influence what the law thinks about “what counts as evidence”. Just to take an example: most of us believe that Epstein didn’t kill himself. I think that’s a reasonable conclusion to come to, given the data we have from newspapers and social media. Yet can you use this data by strict legal standards? No. It’s all hearsay. We make important decisions, and live our lives on the basis of “hearsay”.

        All science textbooks come under the category of “hearsay” because they summarize the primary literature, sometimes even without citations. It doesn’t mean that they are useless, or that high school students are irrational to believe them. Everything written by journalists is “hearsay” – it doesn’t mean we are irrational to believe news stories.

        Of course if somebody challenges the reliability of a science textbook or a news article, than one can go back to the primary sources, or even repeat the experiments. But in ancient history, you don’t have that luxury. History is not repeatable, and most of our primary sources are lost.

        But you can argue for the reliability of your source by some other means, like considering the motives of the author to lie, their closeness to the witnesses, cross checking with other sources etc. That’s the approach taken by Dr. Loke. But strictly speaking, this is hearsay and wouldn’t pass as evidence in a law court.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am glad that you agree that the standards of evidence are different than the standards of delivering a verdict based on the evidence. But, I think you are still misrepresenting “the/a legal standard” with “criminal standard.” In civil courts there is no presumption of guilt or innocence. My contention is that what makes good evidence is fundamentally the same in civil and criminal courts which makes your premise that these standards of evidence stack the deck against Loke a priori at least questionable.

        I honestly don’t have much to say about your Epstein analogy except that the true analogy of the Epstein suicide in relation to the group appearances is if someone 2000 years from now tried to argue that Epstein was, in fact, murdered by aliens from planet Clinton and, as evidence, produced your anonymous post on this blog.

        You are not strictly correct about the analogy to science here either. The more proper analogy to a science textbook to the legal system would be the case of an expert witness, I think. You do not (should not) accept what you read in science textbooks because it is simply conveyed to you. You accept what is in a science textbook rather than, say, a flat earther’s youtube channel because you recognize that one is an expert in the field and, furthermore, one can appeal to the weight of consensus of experts in the field. This is the same reason the Dr. Loke likes to mention his PhD so often and call Paulogia’s own position “fringe”. As you say, making decisions based on information given to us by an expert and with the weight of expert consensus is a reasonable way to operate in our daily lives. This has nothing to do with hearsay.

        This brings me to your last point which can broadly be stated as “requiring good evidence is all well and good, but we simply are limited to lesser evidences in the case of ancient history.” To this I say, “I agree!” I agree that we have some evidence for group appearances and I agree that perhaps we couldn’t expect anything better than this given the historical nature of the problem (although, as Paul points out, even simply having the testimony of a single first-hand witness of a group appearance, i.e. one in the group appeared to, would be much stronger than what we currently have). I am certain that all these arguments about cross checking with sources, establishing the unlikelihood of lies, etc. will be discussed by Loke and Paulogia so I will just wait on that to play out. But all of that is sort of irrelevant if we already agree that none of these ever rise to the level of “good evidence” according to a reasonable standard. All we both have to agree on is the fundamental idea that it is unreasonable to believe some proposition until there is good evidence for that proposition. Or, phrased alternatively (I think better), the degree of confidence we place on the truth of a proposition should be apportioned to the evidence for that proposition. At the risk of speaking for Paulogia, I think this is a fair reflection of his own position and I am interested to hear justification for any position other than this.


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