The Geisler Till Debate Did Jesus ofNazarethBodily Rise from the Dead? (1994)
Norman L. Geisler and Farrell Till
Dr. Norman L. Geisler (author, educator, and Dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC) and Mr. Farrell Till (editor of The Skeptical Review and English teacher at Spoon River College, Canton, IL) met for public debate March 29, 1994, at the Columbus College Fine Arts Hall (Columbus, GA). The proposition was “Jesus of Nazareth died and rose bodily from the grave,” which Geisler affirmed and Till denied. The format was two 20 minute speeches followed by two 10 minute rebuttals. There was then a 30-minute period of questions from the audience and finally, the closing speeches of two minutes each. Geisler won the toss and, thus, spoke first.
NOTE: This transcript is not the official record of the debate although it has been reviewed and approved by Farrell Till. While complete accuracy was attempted, errors no doubt persist. Square brackets () were used for explanatory insertions and to indicate that it was impossible to determine from the tape what was said. Ellipses (…) were used to show that the speaker did not complete his thought (they do not imply that words were left out of the manuscript).
Dr. Norman L. Geisler’s First Speech
It is an honor to be here. On the topic under discussion, I affirm that Jesus of Nazareth died and rose bodily from the grave. I offer two points in support of this claim. First, the New Testament documents are historically reliable accounts. Second, these documents reveal that Jesus really died on the cross and actually rose bodily from the grave. The argument for the historical reliability of the New Testament accounts has two parts.
First, the existing manuscripts of the New Testament are accurate copies of the original ones — in particular those relating to the death and resurrection of Christ. Second, the writers of these documents (specifically the Gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians) were either eyewitnesses or contemporaries of the eyewitnesses providing an accurate account of the fact that Jesus died and rose again.
The documentary evidence for the reliability of the New Testament is greater than that for any other book from the ancient world. Hence, employing the same criteria used on other ancient documents, the New Testament is an accurate representation of the first century original. Three lines of evidence combine to demonstrate this conclusion. First, the New Testament has more manuscripts. It is not uncommon for great classics to survive on only a handful of manuscripts. According to the noted Manchesterscholar, F.F. Bruce, we have about nine or ten good copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, twenty copies of Livy’s Roman History, two copies of Tacitus’ Annals, eight copies of Thucydides’ History. The most documented secular work from the ancient world is Homer’s Illiad — surviving on 643 manuscript copies. By contrast, there are over 5,366 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, most of which include the Gospels. The New Testament is the most highly documented book from the ancient world.
Second, the New Testament has earlier manuscripts. One of the marks of a good manuscript is its age — generally, the older the better, since the closer to the time of the original composition the less likely it is that the text has been corrupted. Most books from the ancient world survive only in a handful of manuscripts that were written about 1,000 years after the end of the first century. And one portion of the Gospel of John survives from within about a generation of the time it was composed. No other book from the ancient world has as small a time gap between composition and the earliest manuscript copies as the New Testament has.
Third, the New Testament is more accurately copied. The New Testament is one of the most — if not the most — accurately copied books from the ancient world. The great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson said that the real concern is only with a thousandth part of the entire text. This would make the New Testament 99.9% free of significant variants. The noted historian Philip Schaff calculated that of the variants known in his day, only 50 were of real significance, and not even one affected an article of faith or a precept of duty. By comparison with the New Testament, most other books from the ancient world are not nearly so well authenticated. Professor Bruce Metzger, of Princeton, estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism is copied with only about 90% accuracy and Homer’s Illiad with 95%. By comparison, he calculated that the New Testament is about 99.5% accurate. So even by conservative standards, the New Testament survives in a 99+% reconstructed text with all the essential truths about the death and resurrection of Christ not being affected.
In summation, the evidence, the British scholar Sir Frederick Kenyon declared, that the number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers of the church is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in someone or another of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other book from the ancient world. In addition to abundant and accurate manuscripts, there is also equally good evidence that what these texts affirm about the death and resurrection of Christ is historically reliable. It should be noted that it is not necessary to this argument that they are inspired or inerrant, but only that like other good works of antiquity they are accurate. Again, the evidence for this is greater than that of any work from that period.
First of all let me mention four crucial books, namely Luke, John, Acts, and 1 Corinthians, which purport to be written by eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries. Luke was an educated contemporary of Christ who said: “That just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word (namely the apostles), so too it seemed fitting for me as one having a perfect understanding of all things from the very first to write you an orderly account.” John the apostle claimed to be an eyewitness in chapter 21; Paul affirmed that he was a contemporary of Christ and a witness of his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15), noting that there were over 500 witnesses most of whom were still alive when he wrote.
Second the claim of being written by contemporaries is supported by the freshness, vividness, and accuracy of the accounts (giving specific geographical, topological, and cultural details that are known to fit the time period of which they speak). Although the Gospel writers offer different perspectives, they all present the same basic facts about the death and resurrection of Christ. Further, all mention of real historical places of the times (such as Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem) all utilize the names of actual places of people such as Pharisees, Sadduccees, Herodians. In addition, names of real historical persons of the period are mentioned (like king Herod, Pontius Pilate, and Caesar Augustus).
Third, the science of archaeology has confirmed the basic historical accuracy of the Gospel record. To take but one example, there are the writings of Sir William Ramsay, whose conversion from a skeptical view of the New Testament was supported by a lifetime of research in the near-eastern world. He wrote, “I began with a mind unfavorable to it. More recently I found myself often brought in contact with the book of Acts as an authority for topography, antiquites, and society ofAsia minor. It was gradually born in upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.” As a result, Ramsay discovered that Luke was a first-rate historian. In Luke’s references to 32 countries, to 44 cities, and 9 islands, there were no errors. This being the case, Luke’s prior narration of Christ’s death and resurrection (which are integral parts of his Gospel) should be accepted as authentic as well. And since it is in accord with that of the other Gospels on the basic facts about the death and resurrection of Christ we have here an archaeological confirmation of the basic historicity of these documents on these essential facts.
Fourth, the manuscript evidence points to a first century date for the basic Gospel material. The John Rylands papyri, being an early second century copy of portions of John found inEgypt, points to a first century origin of John inAsia. Likewise the Bodmer papyri from the end of the second century and the Chester Beatty papyri from only a half century later form crucial links in a manuscript chain that takes us right back to the threshold of the first century when the books were written.
Fifth, the writers of the New Testament books on the resurrection like Luke, John, and Paul were known to be honest men. They not only expounded a high moral standard of honesty and integrity, but they lived by it and died for it. While some people have been known to die for what they believed to be right but was wrong, few people have been willing to die for what they know to be wrong. What is more, the other Gospels (like Matthew and Mark) with no direct claim of authorship give the same basic message about Christ’s death and resurrection.
Sixth, the testimony of the early second century writers directly link the Gospels with the eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the events. The Oracles of Papias (125-140) for example, make the significant affirmation that the apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, that Mark the associate of Peter wrote the Gospel of Mark shortly after the middle of the first century.
Seventh, the immediate successors of the apostles beginning in the late first and early second century cite Gospels and epistles as authentic including sections on the death and resurrection of Christ. In A.D. 95 Clement of Rome cited the Gospels. Around A.D. 110 Ignatius quoted Luke 24:39 (a crucial text on the resurrection of Christ). Polycarp, a disciple of John the apostle cites the synoptic gospels as authentic. The Epistle of Barnabas (135) quotes Matthew. Papias (125 and following) speaks of Matthew, Mark, and John writing Gospels saying three times that Mark made no errors.
Eighth, highly reputable contemporary scholars date the New Testament books within the lifetime of eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the events. Archaeologist Nelson Gleuck wrote: “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after A.D. 80.” The renown paleographer William F. Albright declared that every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the 40s and 80s of the first century and very probably between 50 and 75. More recently, even the radical “death of God” theologian Bishop Robinson of Honest to God fame declared that the New Testament was written by contemporaries beginning only seven years or so after the events and were circulated among other eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries of the events.
Ninth, the known time lapse between the actual events and the time of composition of the first document is too short for mythological development. One expert, Julius Meuller, declared that it takes at least two generations for a myth to develop. Whereas there is only 20 years or so in the case of the New Testament. He also notes that myths do not develop when there are still contemporaries of the events to debunk them (such as there were at the time of the basic New Testament documents). Furthermore, the New Testament record shows no sign of mythological development (such as are present, say in the 2nd and 3rd century apocryphal gospels).
Tenth, and last, even radical critics of the New Testament acknowledge that the apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians about A.D. 56. But this is only 22 years after Jesus was crucified in A.D. 33. and well within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. Further, Paul indicates that his material is based on an even earlier creed which he received (1 Corinthians 15:1) that comes from within a few years of the events themselves. In this text, Paul affirmed that the majority of 500 witnesses were still alive when he wrote (implying that his readers could confirm for themselves if they wished).
In brief, there is nothing like this kind of evidence for any other historical event from the ancient world. Now, if the New Testament documents are reliable, it remains only to show that they affirm that Jesus died and rose from the dead a few days later.
A brief review of the New Testament evidence will suffice to support these two truths.
- First of all, Jesus announced many times during His ministry that He was going to die. Typical is Matthew 17 where He said the son of man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men and they will kill Him and the third day he will be raised.
- Second, the nature and extent of Jesus’ injuries indicate that He must have died: he had no sleep the night before He was crucified, he was beaten several times and whipped, he collapsed on the way to His crucifixion carrying His cross. This in itself, to say nothing of the crucifixion to follow, was totally exhausting and life-draining.
- Third, the nature of the crucifixion assures death. Jesus was on the cross from 9 a.m. until just before sunset, he bled from wounded hands and feet as well as from thorns that pierced his head. There would be a tremendous loss of blood from doing this for more than six hours. What is more, crucifixion demands that the victim constantly pull himself up in order to breathe (thus inflicting excruciating pain from the nails). Doing this all day would kill anyone even if they were in good health.
- Fourth, the piercing of Jesus’ side with a spear from which came blood and water is proof of His death. For if he had not already died, this fatal spear wound to the heart by trained executioners would have certainly finished the job.
- Fifth, Jesus affirmed the very moment of His death on the cross when He declared, “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” And having said this He breathed His last (John renders this: “He gave up His spirit”). Indeed Jesus’ death cry was heard by those who stood by.
- Sixth, the Roman soldiers accustomed to crucifixion and death pronounced Jesus dead. It was a common practice to break the legs of victims so they could no longer lift themselves and breathe. But since these professional executioners were so convinced that Jesus was actually dead, they even deemed this unnecessary in Jesus’ case.
- Seventh, Pilate double-checked to make sure Jesus was dead before he gave the corpse to Joseph.
- Eighth, Jesus was wrapped in 75 pounds of cloth and spices and placed in a sealed tomb for three days. If he was not dead by then (which He clearly was) He would have died from lack of food, water, and medical treatment from three days in the tomb.
- Ninth, medical authorities who have examined the circumstance and nature of Christ’s death have concluded that He actually died on the cross. In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Society, March 1986 concludes: “Clearly the weight of historical and medical evidence indicated that Jesus was dead before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports the traditional view that the spear thrust between his right rib probably perforated not only the right lung but also his pericardium and heart and thereby insured his death. The interpretations based upon the assumptions that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.
But, not only is this an established fact that Jesus died, it is also a fact that He rose from the dead, which he offered as confirming of His unique claim to be the son of God. Let’s look briefly at the evidence.
That Jesus rose from the dead even leaving behind an empty tomb and grave clothes is verified by all four Gospels, Acts, and 1 Corinthians.
These historically reliable documents record 12 different appearances of Christ beginning three days after his death to over 500 people over a 40 day period of time during which Jesus was seen, heard with the natural senses. His tomb was visited, found empty, indeed no one ever found his dead body. Jesus dined with His disciples four times eating physical food himself. He was touched and offered Himself to be touched four times (including His challenge to Thomas to put his finger in his hand and to see the crucifixion wounds). When Thomas complied, he declared, “My Lord and my God.” Every earnest seeker of truth is still invited to do the same. Many skeptics including Simon Greenleaf, Frank Morrison, and Josh McDowell have done so and believed. After carefully studying the evidence for almost half a century now, I would thoughtfully and earnestly invite you to do the same and join them. Thank you. [applause]
Mr. Farrell Till’s First Speech
Like Dr. Geisler, I want to express my appreciation for the opportunity to be here. I always consider it a privlege to speak on subjects like the issue under discussion tonight, and I certainly want to thank those who arranged this event for asking me to be a part of it. At the same time, I think that I must also take just a moment to express my disappointment. I thought when I was first contacted about coming here that we were going to have a debate. Dr. Geisler insisted on the format that we are using. There will be one hour of speaking time, and how can anyone cover a subject like this in just one hour’s time? I begged him in correspondence to reconsider to increase the speaking time; he rejected that. I asked him to at least allow for a period of cross-examination where I could directly question him and he could directly question me, and he rejected that too and finally he wrote me a short note that said, “Do it the way that I have outlined or there will be no debate.” I was very anxious to get him here, and since I’ve heard his speech, I think that I made the right decision. I was very anxious to get him here before an audience, and so I finally agreed to his conditions and so here we are tonight.
I think that if I make three counter arguments that I could answer everything that Dr. Geisler said and answer it satisfactorily. For a moment I was confused; I thought that he was, or that the subject was supposed to be a discussion of the accuracy of the New Testament records. Let’s assume that the New Testament was copied with one hundred percent accuracy. That would in no way prove that anything that was written in it was necessarily true.
The first major flaw that I would like to point out in Dr. Geisler’s position is that the story of Jesus is a story that was just too familiar by the time that it started being told and applied to this man Jesus of Nazareth. Long before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, virgin-born, miracle-working, crucified, resurrected, savior-gods were a dime a dozen. They flourished in most of the pagan religions that were believed by people who lived centuries, centuries, and centuries before Jesus allegedly lived. I could, if time permitted, and I think that perhaps that’s one reason why he did not want more speaking time; he did not want to have to deal with issues like these. I could take saviors like Krishna, saviors like Osiris, saviors like Dionysus, saviors like Tammuz, who presumably lived centuries and centuries before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, and they were born of virgins, they worked miracles, they died, most of them through crucifixion, and they were resurrected from the dead, and their followers were zealous for them.
All of the things that he says about Jesus were said many, many, many years before this Jesus allegedly lived. Doesn’t that make you a bit suspicious, Dr. Geisler? If I should write a book, and after that book were published, someone should discover the plot, the major points of the plot, were the same as a book that had been written a thousand years ago, what would you suppose? Would you suppose that independently I had arrived at all of these major points of the plot, or would you assume that I somehow had known about that earlier work and that I had plagiarized? That’s a major problem that he’s going to have to deal with.
I’m going to mention the name of a church father. He made references to the early church leaders, so let me mention just one. Justin Martyr. You may never have heard that name, but I assure you that Dr. Geisler has heard it. Justin Martyr was a second-century so- called church father, and he wrote two apologies in which he tried to convince the pagans of his generation that it was logical to believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, born of a virgin, and [that] all the things that were being preached about him were believable. In his first apology, Volume I, chapter 22, page 69, in the Reeves edition. I hope that you wrote that down and if you can’t find the Reeves edition, you should be able to find another edition, and by looking at Volume I, chapter 22, you should be able to find this. In writing directly to the emperor of his generation, Justin Martyr said this:
“By declaring the logos, the first begotten of God, our master Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin, without any human mixture, we (Christians) say no more in this than what you (pagans) say of those whom you style the sons of Jove.”
Now do you understand what he is saying? He is saying to them, “Well, why do you think that it is so fantastic that we say that Jesus was born of a virgin when you yourself say that there are many sons of Jove?” [Jove] being a primary god that the pagans of that generation believed in. “For you need not be told what a parcel of sons the writers most in vogue among you assigned to Jove.” In other words, I don’t need to tell you how many there are that your writers claim were the actual sons of Jove.
“As to the son of God called Jesus, should we allow him to be nothing more than man, yet the title of the son of God is very justifiable. Upon the account of his wisdom, considering that you (pagans) have your Mercury in worship under the title of the word a messenger of God. As to his, (that is Jesus Christ’s) being born of a virgin, you have your Perseus to balance that.”
Now it’s true that Justin Martyr was talking about the virgin birth of Jesus, but he could have said this same thing about the miracles that Jesus allegedly performed. He could have said the same thing about his crucifixion, and he certainly could have said the same thing about his resurrection.
People, I want you to stop and think seriously for just a moment. I know how much emotionalism is involved in this, but please understand this. Crucified, resurrected savior-gods, who had been born of virgins, were a dime a dozen at this time. Matthew the 14th chapter, verse 1, go home and read it, and you’ll see that when Jesus began to do his mighty works, that Herod who had ordered prior to this the execution of John the Baptist, said, “Why, this is John the Baptist risen from the dead.” Now I’m not trying to tell you that Herod necessarily said that, but the fact that whoever wrote this in the book of Matthew would have made a statement like that just goes to show how commonplace belief in the resurrection from the dead was at that time. Now let’s suppose that this year when the baseball season opens, that some player goes on a tear, a rookie that we’ve never heard of before, he goes on a home-run tear and he starts knocking home runs all over the place. Who is going to say, “Well, this is Babe Ruth risen from the dead?” Or let’s suppose that a dictator of a foreign country starts massacring his people. Is anyone going to say, “Well this is Adolph Hitler risen from the dead?” Certainly not, because we are more intelligent than that today.
Dr. Geisler has got to stand before this audience and he has to forget how accurate the scribes were when they copied the New Testament, and he has got to prove to us that when the New Testament says that Jesus was scourged, that that actually happened. He’s got to prove to us that when his side was pierced on the cross, that that actually happened. Where is his evidence that those things actually happened? Well, it’s in a book; it had 5,000 manuscripts or something like that circulating; what does that prove?
I brought with me a book [holding it up] that maybe some of you thought was a Bible. It isn’t the Bible; it’s the Book of Mormon. You may have seen it. Every issue that I have seen, and I was trying to make this point on the radio, either, uh, yesterday, and I was cut off before I could finish it. If you look in the beginning of the Book of Mormon, you will find a copy of the affidavit that was signed by Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, the so-called three witnesses. They testified that they saw the golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written, that they handled them with their hands, and that they saw Joseph Smith translating. They saw this with their own eyes. This is not hearsay evidence.
Dr. Geisler [gesturing towards Geisler], what did Mary Magdalene ever write? Do you have it? What did Joanna, one of the women who went with her to the tomb, ever write? Who was she, anyway? What did Salome ever write? Who are these 500 brethren that Jesus appeared to? Can you give us their names? Could you tell us where this happened? It’s hearsay evidence. Don’t you know what hearsay evidence is? Haven’t you ever heard Judge Wapner saying, “That’s hearsay evidence, it’s inadmissable”? That’s such a rudimentary fact that it’s known even in the People’s Court. Hearsay evidence [clapping hands for emphasis] is not admissible! But this [slapping Book of Mormon] isn’t hearsay. This is the direct testimony of the three witnesses. Underneath it is the direct testimony and the affidavit of the eight witnesses, who said that they also handled the plates. They just didn’t see the angel bring them down. Does Dr. Geisler believe that what’s written in this book [holding up the Book of Mormon] is true? No! Does he believe he direct testimony of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris? No! I assure you that he certainly does not believe it. But he believes the hearsay evidence of this Mary Magdalene. He believes the hearsay evidence of these 500 brethren. Hearsay evidence, my friends, is simply not admissible, and that is a point that he must deal with. Let’s not say we hope that he’ll deal with it. When he comes back before this audience and he does not deal with that, then we have every right to reject everything that he has said to us tonight.
The second flaw in Dr. Geisler’s theory is that it is an extraordinary claim. If he had come to us tonight and had said, “On the way here, I had a flat tire.” I’d believe that, wouldn’t you? He looks like a pretty decent fellow. I wouldn’t have any, any reason at all not to believe him if he told us that he had a flat tire on his way to the debate tonight. People have flat tires all the time. But what if he came to us and said, “Yesterday I was driving along in my car and suddenly there was a bright light, it just flashed out of nowhere, and I felt myself being drawn out of my automobile, and suddenly I found myself aboard a flying saucer, and little alien creatures from another planet had me on the table, and they were examining me, and after they finished their examination, they beamed me back down in my car, and I continued my trip.” How many in there would believe this? No, you wouldn’t believe it, because it is an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If someone walked into this auditorium and said, “I saw Elvis Presley yesterday,” would you believe it? Someone over here raised his hand. Who knows, maybe he’s seen Elvis Presley. But you know certainly that you would not believe this, because it would be an extraordinary claim. What if this person said, “Five hundred people were with me, and we saw Elvis Presley.” Would you believe it? No, because it is an extraordinary claim, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Now I want to know what in the world is extraordinary about the fact that this story was written in a book that Dr. Geisler does not for one moment believe. Yet, you know, this book is far more recent than the one that he puts his faith in. This book isn’t even two centuries old. That one [gesturing at a Bible on his table] is over 2,000 years old, some of it. If someone makes an extraordinary claim today, he [Geisler] doesn’t believe it, but if somebody makes an extraordinary claim 2,000 years ago, he declares that he is a man who is inspired by God and that his testimony is reliable.
Another problem, and we’re running rapidly out of time. Another problem with this wonderful evidence that he has is that it is contradictory. Have you people ever read the resurrection accounts in the four gospels? If you haven’t, I urge you to do so. I beg you to go home tonight and read the 28th chapter of Matthew and see what Matthew said, read the 16th chapter of Mark and see what Mark said, read the 24th chapter of Luke and see what Luke said, read the 20th chapter of John and see what John said, and if you don’t see contradictions, then you’re not reading it carefully enough.
Let me give you one example of a glaring contradiction. This one is enough to completely discredit this reliable evidence that he was telling us about. Matthew, and also Mark and Luke, tell us Mary Magdalene went to the tomb the first day of the week, and while she was there she saw an angel, who had rolled the stone away. This angel announced that Jesus whom they were looking for was not there, that he had risen from the dead. According to Luke’s account, he said, “Don’t you remember that while he was with you, he told you that he would rise from the dead?” And Luke said when the angel said this to them, they then remembered the words of Jesus, that he would rise from the dead. But what does John tell us? By the way, Dr. Geisler, you are not going to [laughing derisively] try to tell us that was the apostle John? You are going to fly in the face of the best biblical scholarship in the world… but, anyway, the book of John tells us that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, found that it was empty, she ran to Peter and the other disciple, and what did she say? Did she say, “An angel has told me that the Lord has risen from the dead?” No, she said, “They have stolen the Lord’s body, and I do not know where they have laid him.” And yet she had, according to Matthew, Mark and Luke, seen an angel that had told her he has risen from the dead. Luke said she remembered his promise that he would rise from the dead, but John says she ran to the apostles and said that they have stolen the body of the Lord, and we don’t know where he is, and we’re going to have to stop because my time is up, and I appreciate your attention. [applause]
Dr. Norman L. Geisler’s Second Speech
For the purposes of contrast and comparison, I’ll frame my response to Till over against the evidence I presented for the resurrection. First, I argued that the basic evidence for the New Testament is found in the fact that the New Testament documents are reliable, having more evidence for them than for any other book from the ancient world. This was supported by 13 different lines of evidence, most of which professor Till never really addressed. I hope he’ll address these 13 later on.
Second, I showed that the historical reliability of the New Testament documents affirm repeatedly that Jesus of Nazareth died physically on a cross, and rose from the dead several days later. That Jesus actually died was supported by nine arguments, again, most of which professor Till never addressed, we’ll wait to see if he addresses these nine arguments later.
Furthermore, Jesus’ resurrection was demonstrated by over 500 eyewitnesses over a 40 day period of time, on 12 separate occasions, observed his empty tomb, touched his reanimated body, saw him eat physical food, and listened to him teach nearly a month and a half. This is not hearsay evidence. By contrast, professor Till offered no first-hand evidence for the only logical alternative, namely that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Rather, he contented himself largely with an attempt to attack the credibility of the evidence that I presented. But this move will not work. For the topic, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead”, is a question which calls for an affirmation or denial.
But it is incumbent upon anyone making a truth-claim such as the this to offer positive evidence, which professor Till failed to do. At least no first-hand contemporary evidence such as was presented for our view. Hence, the choice of an intelligent listener is between accepting that Jesus did rise from the dead as supported by numerous lines of contemporary evidence, such as I presented. Or else that Jesus did not die and rise from the dead without any first-hand evidence for such a claim.
This choice should not be difficult for all who are interested in having a rational basis for their belief. Rather than offer any positive evidence contemporary of the events that Jesus did not rise from the dead, professor Till largely contented himself with an attempt to undermine the argument that Jesus did rise from the dead. But as every student of logic knows, giving arguments against an opposing view is not the same as giving arguments for one’s view. It’s simply a failure to provide any evidence for what one claims to be true. And when one fails to give any rational justification for his view, it is a rationally unjustified view. But no rational person should accept as truth, a rationally unjustified belief — certainly not one about an important issue such as the one we’re discussing tonight.
Logically, either Jesus rose from the dead or he did not. But since Professor Till has failed to support the position that Jesus did not rise from the dead, it remains only to examine his arguments against the evidence that Jesus did rise from the dead.
As for my second point that the basic New Testament documents affirm that Jesus really died physically and rose again several days later, professor Till never really offered any evidence against it. Rather, what he did was to ignore what these documents actually say and to offer his own speculations instead. But such an argument fails to address the real point. One that is obvious to anyone who reads the New Testament documents. Namely, that whether we accept or reject the New Testament message, they do affirm that Jesus died and rose from the dead.
One of the few points that professor Till really addressed was whether the basic New Testament documents are reliable when they affirm Jesus died and rose. In response he said first, in effect, the documents are not reliable because they’re not inerrant. But whether or not there are inconsequential errors in the record is both irrelevant and misses the point. First of all, it’s irrelevant to what I argued, since the argument does not depend on the claim that the New Testament documents are reliable in so far as they affirm the basic truths that Jesus died and rose again, not necessarily in every detail they affirm. What professor Till would have to do, and what he clearly did not do, is to prove that the New Testament documents are not reliable when they affirm that Jesus died and rose again. Whether the basic New Testament documents are inerrant in all things, is another topic for another night, one which apparently professor Till would rather debate than the one we discussing tonight.
Second, there is a related but equally fallacious argument in professor Till’s presentation. Namely, that whenever one finds discrepancies about an event, that the documents or testimony about that event cannot be reliable. But this clearly does not follow for several reasons. For one thing, it proves too much. It proves that most documents from antiquity are not reliable since they too have similar discrepancies. Thus, his argument, in effect, destroys our knowledge of all of ancient history. Furthermore, if professor Till is right, that all conflicting testimony on details in a courtroom proves that one cannot even know the broad facts of what happened. To borrow a contemporary example, it’s like arguing that since there are so many conflicting stories about the circumstance of President Kennedy’s death, that there is no good evidence that he actually died.
Furthermore, he fails to realize that there were not other people who believe in death and resurrection. Frazer’s Golden Bough thesis is almost a century old and it fails to recognize the significant difference between non-Christian belief in a spiritual afterlife and the Christian belief in bodily resurrection. None of the pagan religions believed in a literal, physical, bodily resurrection like the New Testament teaches. It’s a false analogy. It fails to account for the important difference between non-Christian belief in reincarnation into another body and resurrection of the same body leaving an empty tomb behind.
Finally, following David Hume, professor Till argued that regardless of whatever evidence there may be for the reliability of the New Testament documents, they should not be believed since they contain miracle stories. But this argument either begs the question, or else it’s false. It begs the question if one assumes that miracles like the resurrection did not happen, because miracles cannot happen. And if it admits that miracles can happen, then its wrong since the New Testament documents are reliable, that a resurrection did happen, which even David Hume admits, would be a miracle if it happened.
In short, the skeptic’s dilemma is that either miracles are assumed to be impossible before even looking at the evidence which begs the question, or else miracles are possible and we must look at historical evidence to see if indeed one has actually occurred. But as we’ve seen, there is strong evidence that the basic New Testament documents are historically reliable. And these documents demonstrate that Jesus died and rose from the dead.
In short, I have given strong contemporary evidence for the view that Jesus rose from the dead, and professor Till has offered only the improbability of miracles as a counter argument. But as we all know, the improbability against winning the lottery should in no way hinder anyone believing it has happened. Indeed, ruling out the credibility of the New Testament documents because central events have not occurred, is like refusing to believe that a hole-in-one has occurred since the odds are so improbable for one repeating it several times.
What is more, even if the event has never occurred before, this is not an invalid argument against it happening once. I don’t know of a single naturalistic scientist who will refused to believe in the spontaneous generation of first life even though they have never seen it happen, nor know it to have happened repeatedly since it first allegedly occurred in the primal pond — or wherever. Likewise, no intelligent person should reject the resurrection of Christ, nor the reliability of the New Testament that relates it, simply because no one alive has witnessed such event.
The rational personal doesn’t make up his mind in advance of an event as to whether it can or cannot happen. Rather he opens his mind to the evidence of what actually did happen, and as we have seen, the evidence is overwhelming to the fact that Jesus did die and rise from the dead. And since no real evidence has been presented for a contrary view, a rational person ought to believe it has happened. Thank you. [loud applause]
Mr. Farrell Till’s Second Speech
This is my ninth debate. No, this is my tenth debate. And I have seen a first. Did you notice that Dr. Geisler read a manuscript for his first speech? That’s okay, because he won a toss and he was the first speaker. So if we wanted to read a manuscript that he had written, that’s okay, but I made a rebuttal speech, and I didn’t follow a manuscript. How in the world did could he write a speech to rebut my speech before he even knew what I was going to say? [Geisler remarked, “I read your books.”] He ignored the major points that I made. [pausing] I’d like to know what the book is, since I’ve not written a book on the resurrection.
Anyway, let me try to reply to the points that he made. The New Testament documents are reliable, he told us again. Well, I don’t know exactly what he means by reliable. If he means that they were copied in a reliable way, that is open for debate. I have a reference Bible on my desk; I’d like for you to come up and look at it and notice how many footnotes there are in it that tell us that some authorities say this, some ancient manuscripts say this, others say this. The thing is riddled with footnotes. Does he call that accuracy? But let’s just assume that the book is a hundred percent accurate. As I said, that would prove only that is a hundred percent accurate in what it says, but it would not prove that what it says, but it would not prove that what it says necessarily happened. And that’s the problem that he’s going to have to confront, and he didn’t confront it.
If we were just going to argue about whether the New Testament said that Jesus was crucified, whether the New Testament said that certain women went to the tomb and found it empty, whether the Apostle Paul said that Jesus appeared to 500 brethren at one time, whether the New Testament said that Thomas said that unless he saw him and touched the body and examined the wounds, that he would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, then there would be no need for us to come here and have the debate, because, Dr. Geisler, I readily admit that the New Testament says all of those things, but this book [tossing the Book of Mormon onto Geisler’s table] also says a lot of things, and you don’t believe it, and you know that you don’t believe it, and yet the evidence for that is closer to us, and it would be a lot easier for you to examine the integrity of the witnesses for that book than it would be for you to examine the integrity of the witnesses for that book [gesturing at a Bible on his table]. Now that’s something that you have got to contend with. You’ve got to give us a reasonable answer to such as that, and you cannot do it.
He said that he gave nine arguments to support the fact that Jesus really did die and rise from the dead, and he said that I didn’t say anything about that. I made three major counter arguments that I believe effectively answered everything that he said. But did you notice that one of his arguments for the fact that Jesus had really died was this article that was published a few years ago by supposed medical authorities who said that they had determined from the New Testament accounts that Jesus really did die and that the manner of death had happened in a certain way. Dr. Geisler, how can anyone determine the cause of death 2,000 years after somebody died without having the body to examine through autopsy? That’s the type of evidence that you’re going to give us?
And did you hear him say I presented no evidence that Jesus did not rise from the dead. He who asserts must prove. That is an axiom of logic that surely you recognize. If I were the one who had come here tonight and… or, I’ll apply my example to me… If I should have come here tonight and claimed that I was abducted aboard a flying saucer a few days ago… Dr. Geisler, let me see you prove that that did not happen. You wouldn’t bother to do it. You wouldn’t bother for one moment to do it. You’d say, “Till, you’re the one who said that it happened. The burden of proving it rests on you.” Now this man says that a man by the name of Jesus of Nazareth was stone-cold dead in his grave for one entire day and parts of two other days and that his body was revivified and literally restored to life. That is an extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary evidence. He not only does not have extraordinary evidence, but the evidence that he has is extraordinarily unextraordinary! Because it’s nothing but hearsay, and he knows it. And he would be laughed out of court if he would try to go into a courtroom and say, “Well, someone said that someone said that they saw this man rise from the dead.” That type of evidence simply is not admissible. If I say that I believe in elves, it’s my duty, it’s my responsibility to prove that elves exist. He does not prove that the elves do not exist.
He said that the New Testament does affirm that Jesus did rise from the dead. Yes, yes, yes. Do you want me to write it in boxcar letters on the side of this auditorium. I’ll do that if they won’t get me for vandalism. Yes, the New Testament does affirm that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s not the issue. The issue is, is this true simply because a book that was written 2,000 years ago says that it happened. All right, how likely is it that this happened?
Let’s take his apostle Thomas as an example. He referred to him; he would be a good one to use as an example. You are familiar with the story. Jesus appeared to the apostles on the night of his resurrection according to the 20th chapter of John. Thomas wasn’t there, although [turning to look at Geisler] in Luke’s account of that same appearance Dr. Geisler, he said, Luke said that Jesus appeared to the eleven. So I think you have a little contradiction here. But, anyway, according to John, Thomas wasn’t there, and Thomas said, “Unless I can see him myself, unless I can touch the wounds with my own hands, I will not believe.” Now I want you to think about that very seriously for just a moment. Please try to remember this. Thomas knew the apostles personally, and yet he would not believe this extraordinary claim that they were making — that this man who had died had literally risen from the dead. Thomas said, “I’m not going to believe it until I can examine the evidence with my own hands,” and he knew the apostles personally. Yet Dr. Geisler expects us to believe the word of those same apostles, which we have only through hearsay testimony, by the way, even though we don’t know the apostles personally, and I submit to you that if Thomas knew them personally and did not consider that satisfactory evidence (their mere words satisfactory evidence) even though he did know them, that we’re justified to reject their evidence because we don’t even know the character of the people who made this claim. You talked about the improbability of winning the lottery. That doesn’t mean that people don’t win the lottery simply because it’s impossible. Yes, Dr. Geisler, I live in a state that has a lottery, and nearly every week someone wins two or three or five or ten million. It happens all the time. Show me people rising from the dead all of the time, and I’ll say that you have a point. [applause]
Questions and Answers
[After the second round of speeches, Geisler and Till answered questions from the audience. All questions were submitted on cards and specifically addressed to one of the speakers. The speaker to whom a question was addressed had two minutes to answer the question; his opponent then gave a one-minute response.]
Question for Till: What does eternal life portend for you?
What does eternal life portend for me? Well, according to the Bible, I’m going to straight to hell, and I’ll fry there for eternity. [applause and laughter] How’s that for an answer? [spoken above a continuation of scattered applause] But, to come back to a point that I’ve tried to make, which those of you that are obviously not in my corner can’t seem to grasp, the mere fact that the New Testament teaches that doesn’t mean a thing, doesn’t mean that it’s so. I don’t know if you people will begin to comprehend how seriously I have studied the Bible. I put twelve years into being a minister and a missionary, and I was sincere, whether you believe it or not. I just could no longer believe it anymore. Now, if God wants to send me to hell for that, that would be just like him, wouldn’t it? [murmurs of disapproval] Because this is the God in the Old Testament, First Samuel the 15th chapter [raising voice over murmurs from the audience], that ordered the killing of babies, and he did it in Numbers the 31st chapter, and read the book of Joshua, and you’ll see that he did it there. Is that the God you want me to believe in? You people can have him! [applause]
Since I’ve given arguments, in fact ten arguments, that the New Testament documents are true, not just accurately copied, which professor Till never answered any of the ten, I believe that when New Testament documents say that this is eternal life that you may know him, Jesus Christ, I believe eternal life is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the eternal one [“Amen!” from the audience], and I don’t believe that God wants to send anyone to hell and certainly not professor Till. Jesus said, “Oh, Jerusalem, oh, Jerusalem, how oft I would have gathered you together as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not.” And if professor Till goes to hell, it’s because he doesn’t want eternal life [loud applause and shouts of approval], not because God doesn’t love him [louder applause].
Question for Geisler: What is the medical evidence that it is possible for one to be dead three days and then live again?
You may recall that we argued that the New Testament documents are historically reliable. When you’re talking about evidence for an ancient event, you’re talking about evidence based on documents and based on early documents and based on contemporaries and eyewitnesses. The New Testament has over five hundred eyewitnesses, contemporaries of the event, documents that go right back to the beginning. To deny the credibility of those documents and the testimony that Jesus died and rose from the dead is to undermine the credibility of all ancient documents, because the evidence for the Bible is much greater than that for other documents. I have not seen professor Till or anyone else here tonight in the questions or comments provide anything to disprove that evidence. If the documents are reliable, if they are true and they present that Jesus died and rose from the dead, that’s the best kind of evidence you can have for ancient events. If you won’t accept that evidence, that is kind of like the famous philosopher Nietzsche, the one who said, “God is dead,” signed Nietzsche, under which some Christian wrote, “Nietzsche is dead,” signed God. [laughter] Nietzsche said this: “If you can prove this God of the Christians to be, I would believe him all the less.” I commend to you that disbelief is not rational; it’s volitional. Disbelief is not because of people don’t have enough brain power; it’s because they don’t have the will power. The evidence is there. It’s valid, it’s historical, and it’s ample. If someone rejects it, the consequences are theirs. It’s not because of lack of evidence; it’s because of their choice to disbelieve the evidence that is there. [applause]
Well, pardon me, but I thought the question was, “What medical evidence is there [loud applause] to prove [pausing as applause continues] that someone could return to life after dying?” And he talks about how I don’t answer this and I don’t answer that. I heard absolutely nothing in his answer to indicate that he knows of any medical evidence that can be given to support the premise that someone can rise from the dead. He got off again on the, uh, on the fact that we have five, uh, over five hundred reliable witnesses. Who were these five hundred? I challenge him to tell us before he leaves tonight who these five hundred were that the Apostle Paul mentioned in First Corinthians the fifteenth chapter, that Jesus allegedly lived, uh, appeared to after he had died. Where did they live? When did this happen? How can we know that this happened? The New Testament is reliable? Yes, but does that mean that whatever it says is true? [applause]
QUESTION FOR TILL: There have been many hearsay accounts that Elvis lives. Do you have any firsthand evidence that he doesn’t? [Laughter, continuing while Till walks to the lectern]
And that’s funny? Well, let’s go, let’s go back to what I said a moment ago. He who makes an outrageous, extraordinary claim, he is the one who is obligated to prove it. If there is anyone in this audience tonight who believes that Elvis, Elvis Presley is alive, that is your responsibility, your obligation to prove. I Don’t have to prove that Elvis Presley did not rise from the dead. I do not have to prove that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead. I’m not the one who is making this outrageous claim. Dr. Geisler is claiming that this man who was stone-clod dead in his grave came back to life. That is an extraordinary claim; it requires extraordinary evidence, and I certainly have not seen anything that even comes close to being extraordinary evidence to support that. We’ve heard a lot of talk about how reliable the documents are. Well, the book that I pitched on his desk and then retrieved, because I certainly want it [laughter] in my library, is over on my desk now. Do you know that that book says that Jesus Christ appeared in theAmericas and that he preached to the Native Americans? I doubt seriously if Dr. Geisler believes that that actually happened. Yet if there are any Mormons in the crowd, I’m sure they would say, “How in the world could you possibly believe that this did not happen?” What’s the difference? They were conditioned to believe it; we have not been conditioned. That’s why those of you who applaud everything that he says, even though it offers no evidence, do what you do. See, you have been conditioned to believe this [applause].
Even in a courtroom, as it was in biblical times, from the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. I can name a lot of people who saw Jesus — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Judas, the Apostle Paul. You only need two or three; you don’t need five hundred to establish there were eyewitnesses. Secondly, historical evidence is what you have for historical events. Medical evidence is what you have for medical events. I gave the medical evidence that Jesus died, and I gave the historical evidence that Jesus arose — firsthand, first-century, eyewitness evidence. Professor Till hopes to escape the net tonight by saying two contradictory things. On the one hand, it’s pretty obvious to all of us that he doesn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. Either Jesus did or he didn’t. He says I have to present evidence for my view, but he doesn’t have to present evidence for his view. Everyone who makes a truth claim has to present evidence for their view. I presented evidence that Jesus did. Where is his evidence that Jesus didn’t? [applause and “Amen!”]
QUESTION FOR GEISLER: Given that you believe that the Holy Spirit is the true author of the Bible, how does it add to the credibility of your position to say that the gospel accounts were written by human witnesses?
As I indicated, the topic for discussion tonight is, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” Secondly, I answered that not by claiming the Bible’s inspired. In fact, if you check the tape, you’ll see that I disclaimed that that was necessary for argument. I simply argued that the Bible was historically reliable. You don’t have to accept the Bible as inspired to know that Jesus rose from the dead. You just have to give evidence that it’s [a] historically reliable document in its central truth. You don’t have to prove the Bible was inerrant. There are answers for all of Professor Till’s little questions about this or that. The women, for example, at the tomb simply said they remembered, didn’t say they believed, which is an easy answer to his question, but that is not necessary to prove that an ancient document is reliable; otherwise, all the documents from ancient history, which by admission of the people who accept them have minor errors in, would have to be discredited. If we had to have inerrancy before we had reliability, we wouldn’t have knowledge of the past at all. All the arguments claim is that the documents are reliable. I offered dozens of arguments combined that they are, that the earliest desk on the other side — eyewitnesses, first-century, contemporary accounts, or even close to it — that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Any intelligent person who wants to make a choice built on the evidence has to choose that Jesus did rise from the dead. If one chooses to [dis]believe in spite of the evidence, then all we can say is you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. That’s exactly what the problem is tonight. Looking at the evidence, it favors the fact that Jesus rose. Giving theories, hypotheses, suggestions about the Book of Mormon [time clock beeps], or some other book, which the eyewitnesses said that they saw [time clock continues to beep], what does that prove? [beeping continues] They weren’t seeing anybody who rose from the dead [beeping continues]; they were seeing supposedly tablets of which some of them later denied their testimony. Show me an apostle who later denied his [“Time!” shouted from the audience] testimony. They all died for what they believed. [Applause as Geisler finally walks away]
Well, of course, the gospel accounts were not written by eyewitnesses. Bible scholars know that, and Dr. Geisler has to be familiar with the evidence that indicates that they didn’t. If you think that Matthew, the apostle Matthew, wrote the book of Matthew, if you think that the apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, you have to be living on another planet or else you are not paying attention to the evidence. Uh, there is nothing to indicate that they were eyewitnesses. Luke even in the beginning of his gospel said that he was not an eyewitness to these things but that he had researched the subject. And, uh, to get to this thing that he keeps harping on, I’m going to announce to him something that he doesn’t know. I’m not really Farrell Till, Dr. Geisler. I’m Napolean Bonaparte reincarnated, and I want to see you stand here and prove that I’m not. [laughter, then scattered applause as Till walks away]
QUESTION FOR TILL: John and Paul both saw Jesus after the resurrection and wrote about it in the New Testament. Is that also hearsay?
Well, uh, I just got through saying that John did not write the gospel that bears that name. Bible scholars know that. I’ll quote a Unitarian minister whom I once heard say that there are Bible scholars and there are fundamentalists. And, of course, there are fundamentalists who certainly believe that Mark wrote Mark, that Matthew wrote Matthew, that John wrote John, but the evidence against this is overwhelming. I just urge you to go to your library, get the information, and study it for yourself, and you’ll see that “John” who wrote the book of John was certainly not an eyewitness to the resurrection. As for the Apostle Paul, he had a vision, and visions don’t count. It’s that simple. If this hypothetical person that we’ve been talking about walked into the auditorium tonight and said that he had seen Elvis Presley and that he had seen him in a vision, why, we’d rush him off to some psychiatric ward and get attention for the poor fellow, because we would know that he needed it. But, of course, the Apostle Paul said almost two thousand years ago that he saw Jesus in a vision, and Dr. Geisler swoons over that, as if that is some great proof. When we have dreams, we know that there’s really nothing to it, and when we hear people say that they have visions, we know that this is very, very unreliable evidence. So he’s basing much, uh, much of what believes on [time clock beeps] a man who said that he had a vision. That’s unreliable. [applause]
First of all, I didn’t claim only eyewitnesses. I said eyewitnesses or contemporaries of events. Luke was a contemporary, and he said very clearly that he was a contemporary of eyewitnesses. In chapter one, he said, “I have put down what, things most surely believed, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses.” He was [a] contemporary of eyewitnesses; he interviewed eyewitnesses. Secondly, John clearly was an eyewitness. He said so right in John chapter 21, verse 22 and following, and he says, “This thing then went out among the brethren that this disciple, John, would not die, yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die but if I will that you remain until I come.” This disciple, John, in context, who testifies of these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true, and there are also many other things which Jesus did which are not written in this book, uh, that I suppose if I would number them the whole world [time clock beeps] could not contain the books.” [beeping continues] Jesus, uh, John did claim to be an eyewitness [time clock beeping continues], and in First John one, he said, “I saw, I heard, I handled I touched them” [beeping continues]. I would say that’s a good eyewitness. [applause]
QUESTION FOR GEISLER: Can you cite any corroborative evidence outside of the New Testament that Jesus rose from the dead?
Actually that question is kind of like saying, “Now apart from your eyewitnesses, you don’t have a very good case.” That’s like four eyewitnesses in court who saw an accident, and then one person came right after the accident, and the defense attorney said, “Now apart from those four eyewitnesses you just gave, you know you have only circumstantial evidence.” So it’s begging the question to say apart from the New Testament, and I gave the argument that the New Testament was historically reliable. Those arguments haven’t even been addressed, let alone refuted. But in addition to that, there are whole books, as several on the table, on this single topic, one by Dr. Habermas, one by the Manchesterscholar F.F. Bruce. I’ll cite just some of this evidence that Jesus lived in the first century, died, and it was believed by his disciples that he rose from the dead. Josephus, Antiquities 29, [sic] Cornelius Tacitus, uh, the Greek satirist Lucian, Roman historian Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Samaritan born Thallus, letter of Mara Bar-Serapion, the Jewish Talmud, Phlegon, who spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection in his chronicles, saying this: “Jesus while alive was of no assistance to himself but that he arose after his death and exhibited the marks of his punishment and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails.” This is in his chronicles, cited by Origen. Here is an early Roman, as well as Josephus, reporting that the disciples did, that they were convinced, that they were converted, that they believed that he was God, that they worshipped him. All of this is reported by contemporary, early first-century historians in support of precisely what the New testament says. [applause]
I really have to wonder about your honesty, Dr. Geisler. You have to know, or else you’ve been living on another planet, that many of those writers that you’ve refer to have been discredited by scholars, especially that quotation you referred to from Josephus. It is recognized by all reputable scholars of Josephus as a forgery. I see someone shaking your head. Come and see me after this is over, and I will present you with testimony from very reliable theologians who just admit, “It’s a forgery! Josephus did not write that.” As for as some of the other things, other so-called historians that he referred to, in many of those references that he has in mind, all that they were doing was recounting what Christians believed. Christianity was a fact by that time, and I can take you to encyclopedias now, and I can, I can show you where encyclopedias say [time clock beeps] that Mormons believes this and Mormons believe that [beeping continues], or this happened in Mormonism… [Gesturing at time keeper] He went over a few times; I can too. [scattered laughs as beeping continues]. And all that they’re doing is recounting the claims of Mormonism. [applause]
Question for Till: You said that Dr. Geisler must prove to us that Jesus rose from the dead. How do you define proof?
Well, uh, I would just ask you to apply to that the same standard that you would apply to our hypothetical gentleman who walks in and tells us that he has seen Elvis Presley [comment from back of audience provokes scattered audience laughs and murmurs] or someone else has risen from the dead. Are you going to accept his mere word? You will at least have the person himself saying that he saw him. In all of these wonderful witnesses that he’s citing [gesturing at Geisler], with the exception of the Apostle Paul, all he is hearsay. What did Mary Magdalene ever write? Do you have it, Dr. Geisler? What did Salome write? [turning to Geisler] Would you even tell us who this Salome was? Where did she live? When did she die? Would you tell us who this Joanna was who went to the tomb? You don’t even know who she is, but you seem to think that she is a credible witness, and you don’t even know whether she really said [time clock beeps] that she saw the resurrection or whether… [Till turns to time keeper] Don’t I have two minutes? [Time keeper apologizes] Uh, you don’t even know whether she actually said that she saw the empty tomb and that she saw Jesus after he was resurrected. You have the word of someone who wrote a gospel account who said that she said. You have the account of the Apostle Paul, a man saw visions, who said that Jesus appeared to five hundred witnesses. Trot out one of those five hundred witnesses or give us something that they wrote, that we can be sure that they wrote, and we will accept that as reliable proof or evidence. Until then, I have to keep hammering home the point: he has nothing but hearsay evidence. And go ahead and shake your heads, but that’s the truth. That is the truth, my friends, and if you had not been raised and conditioned to believe this, you wouldn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead any more than you would believe thatKrishna [gesturing emphatically] rose from the dead or that Osiris did. [light applause]
Let me remind you again of the eyewitnesses. Paul was an eyewitness and was not a vision. I challenge professor Till to find one passage in [the] New Testament [that] clearly and unequivocally says that it was a vision. I can show you many passages where says he saw, just like the other apostles, appeared to him. First Corinthians 15:3 and following and 1 Corinthians 9:1, he lists himself right along with the others. He saw, John saw, I’ve already mentioned, James saw — that was Jesus’ half-brother, who was an unbeliever before the resurrection. He was converted as a result of the resurrection. Notice professor Till never really defined proof. The reason for that is, had he defined it, we had already given it, so it’s better not [loud applause] to give a definition than to face the consequences [applause continues].
Question for Geisler: Dr. Geisler, address the other claims of being the Christ. Were they reliable accounts? Was it [sic] historically accurate?
Well, of course, that’s been shown. The New Testament documents, the gospels, Acts, and First Corinthians, which are the crucial ones, in talking about the death and resurrection, they’re reliable, and once you accept that they’re reliable, then, of course, you accept the fact, as indeed professor Till did. With regard to did Jesus die, he said there’s no question that the New Testament says that he rose from the dead. The question is simply, “Is it true?” We gave ten arguments that it’s true; he didn’t respond to any of them. I’m still waiting for the response, and in addition to that, if that’s true, then, of course, Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah is true. He said, “I who speak to you am he,” to the woman at atSamaria; he said to Caiaphas, the high priest, “I am the Christ.” Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and he offered the resurrection as a proof of that claim. That’s why we celebrate Easter, because who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? Grant! Who’s buried inWashington’s tomb?Washington! Who’s buried in Jesus’ tomb? Nobody! He rose [applause] from the dead! [applause intensifies]
No, Dr. Geisler, you’re wrong. We don’t celebrate Easter because it was the time that Jesus rose from the dead. We celebrate Easter because it is a carryover from paganism. [weak laughter] Read Ezekiel the [loud laughter] eighth chapter, verse fourteen — my friends who are back there laughing, I’m quoting your Bible to you. Read Ezekiel the eighth chapter, verse fourteen, and you’ll see that Ezekiel referred to the women who were standing before the gate of the house of Jehovah, weeping over Tammuz. Tammuz was a virgin-born, Sumerian-Babylonian, uh, savior-god, who died and was resurrected, and each spring, in this ceremony, the women weeped [sic] and wailed over his death, and then a few days later, they celebrated his resurrection. It’s a pagan custom, Dr. Geisler. You know that, and you talk about I don’t deal with arguments. [Time clock beeps] I wish you’d deal with this one. [applause]
Mr. Farrell Till’s Concluding Speech
I’ll use this time to refer to some things that I didn’t have the oppurtunity to refer to during the regular speeches. Dr. Geisler made the statement that the pagans saviors were not like Jesus because they did not experience bodily resurrection. But I want to assure you, my friends, that that is not so. O-s-i-r-i-s, write it down, O-s-i-r-i-s, he was an ancient Egyptian, virgin-born, savior-god who died, and he was resurrected. You research and you’ll find that his mother [sic] searched for his body that had been torn to pieces, put it back together, sort of like in Frankenstein manner, and he was resurrected bodily back to life. That’s just one example that I could give you.
He is depending upon your ignorance, people. And I’m not trying to be insulting to you. Your preachers do it all the time. You get the wool pulled over your eyes, and it’s your own fault, because you don’t know the Bible, first of all, and you certainly know very little about the history of religion. If you would go examine the evidence, you would see that many of the things that he is telling you have no basis in fact.
He says that Jesus had appeared to James, the half-brother of Jesus. I’d like to know how that he knows that. The apostle Paul said that Jesus appeared unto James. How do you know that was the half-brother of Jesus? It could have been the apostle James, couldn’t it? I wish I could say a lot more, but you know two minutes goes by very quickly. [applause]
Dr. Norman L. Geisler’s Concluding Speech
I have presented strong evidence and contemporary evidence that Jesus died and rose from the dead. No such evidence for the contrary view has been presented. This evidence is sufficient for anyone who wants to believe.
But what about those who choose not to believe? They are, of course, free to do so. But they should remember two things. First, not to believe is a choice, but not a rational obligation. Second, the choice not to believe has great existential import for one’s personal life. For if Jesus did rise from the dead as the New Testament says he did, then this tends to verify his claim to be the son of God. And if Jesus is the son of God, then there are great benefits for you personally?
For one, it means that there is hope for you beyond the grave. Since Jesus has reversed death and therefore has the right to claim “I am the resurrection and the life, whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Further, if Jesus rose form the dead, it offers hope to overcome another great problem that psychologists tell us is inflicting humankind — the problem of guilt. For the same New Testament documents that say Jesus rose from the dead tell us that He died for our sins. And since it’s obvious from both experience and Scripture that all have sinned, the resurrection of Christ offers a permanent solution to the problem plaguing mankind, namely, guilt.
The question then is this: since the evidence shows that it is plausible to say nothing [?] but probably that Jesus rose from the dead, and since this can be the basis for the hope of eternal life and forgiveness of sins then why not believe? You have nothing to lose but your fear and guilt and everything to gain including forgiveness and eternal life. Don’t allow the skeptic who is skeptical of everything but his own skepticism to rob you of these all-important benefits. Believe and be saved.