The Horner Till Debate Did Jesus Rise Bodily From the Dead? (1995)
Michael Horner and Farrell Till
About This Transcript
This is a transcript of the debate between Michael Horner and Farrell Till on the historicity of the Resurrection which was held May 30th, 1995, atSeattlePacificUniversity. This transcript has been published by mutual agreement of Farrell Till and Michael Horner. We express appreciation to Don Morgan for transcribing the debate from audio tapes. This transcript is not copyrighted and may be reproduced by anyone wanting to distribute it locally, provided that nothing is deleted from it and that the addresses of both disputants are published along with the text of the debate. For electronic reproduction on computer bulletin boards, an ASCII copy may be obtained by sending one FD disk to Skepticism Inc.,P.O. Box 717,Canton,IL61520.
Mr. Horner, who holds an M. A. in Philosophy from the Universityof Torontoand who is currently employed by Campus Crusade for Christ of Canada, argued for the historicity of the Resurrection. Mr. Till, an ex-missionary and ex-minister who is the editor of The Skeptical Review, argued against the historicity of the Resurrection.
Synopsis of Horner’s Position
[Taken from the program handed out at the debate]
I.) There are good reasons to affirm the Resurrection.
A.) The writings about the Resurrection are too early for legend to prevail over the truth.
B.) The tomb was empty.
C.) Jesus appeared to many witnesses.
D.) The origin of the Christian movement is inexplicable apart from a real resurrection.
II.) There are no good reasons to deny the resurrection.
A.) An a priori dismissal of miracles is illegitimate.
B.) Alleged contradictions can be harmonized and they show a lack of collusion.
C.) None of the naturalistic explanations fit the facts.
D.) The “requires extraordinary proof” charge carries a “phantom standard” that virtually nothing could meet.
E.) Pagan sources are absent and inadequate.
III.) The significance of the Resurrection.
Introductory Remarks (Jeff Lowder, Debate organizer)
Our moderator for this evening is a summa cum laude graduate of theUniversityofCaliforniaatDavis, where he double-majored in both Greek and Latin.
Although his journalism career started in broadcast news at KQED-TV in San Francisco, he quickly found his niche with newspaper journalism, and he has not returned to television since. Since 1975, he has worked for his present employer, The Seattle Times, in various capacities including: High-technology Reporter; Social Issues Reporter; High School Sports Reporter; Energy and Natural Resources Reporter; Acting Assistant City Editor for Urban Affairs; Saturday Editor; Higher Education Reporter; the Seattle Times South Bureau Editor; and his current position, the Seattle Times Religion Reporter.
He has received numerous honors throughout his prestigious career including: The Higher Education Writers Award, four C. B. Blethin awards, first place Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists Award, and even a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. A member of Plymouth Congregational Church inSeattle, I’m told our moderator is also an avid, amateur, bass trombone musician.
Will you please join me in welcoming Mr. Lee Moriwaki.
Opening remarks (Lee Moriwaki, Debate moderator)
Well, thank you very much. That was a marvelous introduction.
What Jeff probably didn’t say was that the religion beat is the most challenging assignment that I’ve had in my twenty-five year career so far, and I think maybe moderating this debate tonight will be the greatest challenge. It’s not something I’ve done in the past, so if you can bear with me while I make some introductions.
It’s a pleasure to be invited to be the moderator for this debate this evening and I’ve been looking forward to the event with a great amount of relish. I have to admit that I was intimidated when Jeff Lowder called some weeks ago and asked if I would serve as the moderator. The Resurrection is really pretty heavy stuff. At the same time I was impressed that the debate would take place at a Christian school likeSeattlePacificUniversity. I think the organizers of the event and all of you here this evening should be commended for being willing to engage in this type of dialogue.
A few years ago, actually more than forty years ago when I was still a small child, I wouldn’t have imagined that this evening would have been possible. I wouldn’t have imagined that the Resurrection was debatable. When I opened my Bible, there was Christ rising to heaven on a cloud. What more proof did I need? There it was. Then someone, one of my childhood friends, told me, well that was just a painting; it was an artist’s conception; it didn’t prove anything.
As I got older, I started reading the Bible for myself and, once again, my faith in the Resurrection was reconfirmed. There it was in black and white in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I quote from Matthew:
And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, just as he said. Come, see the place where he was lying.”
And, of course, there were Jesus’ words to doubting Thomas after he showed them the holes in his hands and in his side: “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” And, again, that was good enough for me. It wasn’t until I got into my teen years that I began to hear people saying things like: “You really can’t take everything in the Bible literally; some of it is metaphorical.”
Well, was the Resurrection literal or was it metaphorical? I began to become confused. And I have to confess, I still get confused. Just this past Easter, I did a story on the meaning of Easter. The Rev. Pete Battjes, who some of you may know as the Northwest Coordinator of the March for Jesus that took place just this past weekend, told me what I had been brought up to believe. He quoted the Apostle Paul in first Corinthians 15:14: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith. You are still in your sins.” The Rev. Steven Tsichlis who, is the pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption inSeattle, told me that the Resurrection, in his words, are the heart of the Gospels. We give a lot of hoopla and attention to Christmas, but Father Tsichlis pointed out that the story of Jesus’ birth is told in only two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, while Christ’s death and resurrection are in all four.
Then a short time later, I happened to being going through Christianity Today and came across a short article in the magazine’s news section. It was titled “Liberals Pooh-pooh Jesus’ Resurrection.” It was an article about the conclusion of the Jesus Seminar, the Sonoma, California based religious-study group, that Christ probably did not rise bodily from the dead, but that the Resurrection tradition that developed in the first century Church was an effort to promote the vitality of Jesus’ message. Christianity Today said that among the various theories advanced at the Jesus Seminar meeting, in March, were that Jesus’ followers went to the wrong tomb and mistakenly thought he had risen, that the women disciples mistook their own grief experiences for actual post-death appearances, and that people like Peter and Paul spread stories of the Resurrection to counteract their own guilt — Peter for having denied knowing Jesus, and Paul for persecuting the early Christians.
As a postscript on my note that Religious News Service, which is based in Washington, D.C., reported that the forty-five Jesus Seminar scholars actually took two votes: the first was that the Resurrection never happened in any physical sense; the second vote appeared to be a somewhat more modified position saying that, quote, “Belief in Jesus’ resurrection does not depend on what happened to his corpse,” end of quote.
The Rev. Rodney Romney, who is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Seattle, recently wrote in a church newsletter his thoughts on the Resurrection and while there I’m sure will be a disagreement here tonight about what Rod had to say, since this is a debate I thought I’d share some of his views for contemplation tonight. Reverend Romney said, quote, “In the face of what modern scholarship claims, the average Christian may feel stranded. If the Resurrection stories are myths, what does this do to our faith?” Reverend Romney said, “We must always base our faith on experience, not tradition or dogma. Who Jesus is to us personally should not depend on any particular doctrine. No idea or story about Jesus, including the Resurrection, should ever be a litmus test for faith.” He went on, “Even if the Resurrection stories prove to be legends developed by the Christian community forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus, it does not change the core of Jesus’ message of forgiveness and grace, of God’s liberating presence among all women and men.”
The title of Reverend Romney’s newsletter article was, quote, “Resurrection, Fact or Fancy?” — which would be a good subtitle for tonight’s debate, “Did Jesus of Nazareth Bodily Rise from the Dead?”
Speaking in the affirmative will be Michael Horner, a well-known lecturer and debater for Campus Crusade for Christ of Canada. Mr. Horner has addressed thousands of students and faculty on university campuses acrossCanada, theunited States, and other countries around the world. Mr. Horner graduated from theUniversityofCalgarywith a degree in Mathematics and Psychology, and received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from theUniversityofToronto. He is a member of The Society of Christian Philosophers, and author of the popular campus series, “Answers.” He lives in theVancouver,British Columbiaarea.
Speaking against the proposition will be Farrell Till, publisher of “The Skeptical Review,” a bi-monthly journal that is devoted to examining the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Mr. Till graduated fromHardingUniversity, aChurchofChristcollege inSearcy,Arkansas. He served as both a preacher and missionary for theChurchofChrist. But while a minister he began to discover both discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Bible which led him to conclude that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God. He left the ministry, founded “Skeptical Review,” and is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, among other organizations. He lives inCanton,Illinois.
The format will be, briefly, as follows. Opening arguments by Mr. Horner and Mr. Till, with cross-examination by both. First rebuttal, with cross-examination. And then a second round of rebuttal. There will be a ten-minute intermission. That will be followed by a question and answer session for you, and then closing comments by Mr. Till and Mr. Horner.
Mr. Horner’s Opening Arguments [25 min]
Thank you very much. I would like to begin by thanking the local ASSP and, in particular, Jeff Lowder, and the Seattle Bible Science Association for sponsoring the debate and inviting me to participate. I consider it a real privilege to be here atSeattlePacificUniversityand to be debating Mr. Till on such an important subject as the Resurrection.
Debating can be very hazardous to your health, though. But you should see the other guy. I don’t know if you can see, but I’ve got a mark here on my forehead here. It’s the result of a little swimming accident I had recently. It’s not the mark of the beast, so don’t worry.
Now we’re going to be discussing the historical grounds for believing in the Resurrection. Grounds that I think are quite good. In doing so, though, I would not want to imply that there are not other grounds for believing in the Resurrection, like one’s personal experience of the risen Christ. Now something happened in first centuryPalestinethat has had a remarkable impact on the world. The issue is which hypothesis, for what happened, is best supported by the evidence and best explains the data. It’s a comparison of hypotheses that we have to do tonight. I will present evidence for the hypothesis that Jesus rose from the dead. Farrell will need to present evidence for some alternative natural hypothesis. In the absence of a more plausible hypothesis, I suggest the Resurrection will be the best explanation for the data.
If it could be shown that the tomb of Jesus was found empty, that he did physically and bodily appear to many people after his death, and that the origin of the Christian faith is inexplicable apart from the Resurrection — then, if there is no plausible natural explanation the fits the data, one could rationally conclude that Jesus rose from the dead. Now in tonight’s debate, I am going to make two basic points: one, there are good reasons to affirm the Resurrection; two, there are not good reasons to deny the Resurrection.
So, first of all, there are good reasons to affirm the Resurrection. Point one under this is the writings about the Resurrection are too early for legend to prevail over the truth. See the Gospel accounts of the appearances are too early to be legendary. The legend theory rests heavily on the premise the Gospels were written after A.D. 70. But even the liberal critic, John A. T. Robinson challenges this late dating as largely the result of scholarly laziness, unexamined presuppositions, and almost willful blindness on the part of the critics.
In fact, there’s a growing number of scholars who would argue for dating Acts, Luke, Mark and Matthew before A.D. 70. One of the reasons is that Acts makes no mention of known historical events which took place between A.D. 60 and 70., such as the destruction ofJerusalem; the persecution of the Christians by Nero; the death of James, one of the leaders of the early Christian movement; and the trial, house arrest inRome, and death of Paul. Now the best explanation for these significant events going unmentioned in the book of Acts, by Luke, is that they hadn’t yet occurred when Acts was completed. Hence, Acts was written before 62, 64 A.D., and the Gospel of Luke, being part one of Luke’s writings, would have been earlier, possibly 57 to 62 A.D. And most scholars believe that Mark was one of Luke’s sources, so it’s even earlier, somewhere between 45 and 56 A.D.
This pushes the accounts of the appearances of a risen Jesus to within fifteen to thirty-two years after the events, or roughly one generation. First Corinthians, Paul’s writings about the Resurrection, is also too early to be legendary, having been written between 53 or 55 A.D., twenty to twenty-five years after the events. And the important point is that all of these accounts are based on earlier written and oral sources that are dated much closer to the events. You see these sources contain sayings, statements, hymns, that are highly Semitic, or Jewish, and they translate very nicely from Greek, in which they are written, back into Aramaic, the language that Jesus and his disciples likely spoke. That points to a very early,Jerusalemorigin to these sayings, within the first few weeks and even years after Christ’s death. There simply was not enough time for the basic set of facts to be replaced by myth or legend.
Secondly, the tomb was empty. There are at least six lines of evidence that support the tomb being empty that first Easter morning. First, we have the origin of the Christian movement inJerusalemthat would have been impossible without the empty tomb. If the tomb still contained the body no one would have believed the disciples’ story about a resurrection. But thousands did believe. So the founding of Christianity in the same city where Jesus was publicly killed and buried demands the tomb was empty.
Second, the written account describing the burial is widely recognized as being historically credible. The inclusion of Joseph of Arimathea as the one who buried Jesus in his own tomb is one of the many reasons most scholars accept the accuracy of the burial story. It’s highly unlikely, you see, that fictitious stories about a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling class, could have been pulled off. The absence of competing burial stories further enhances the credibility of the biblical account of the burial. If the Gospel tradition is just legendary, one would expect to find conflicting traditions, especially in the Jewish literature. Moreover, the burial and empty tomb story are a continuous narrative both grammatically and linguistically, and if the burial account is reliable then the empty tomb is also likely reliable. If the burial account is accurate, then the grave site (that is Joseph’s garden tomb) would have been well-known. And if the grave site was well-known, then the disciples wouldn’t have believed that Jesus had risen unless that tomb was empty. Nor would they have been able to convince so many others inJerusalemto believe. And you can be sure that if the body had still been in the tomb, the Jewish authorities would have exhumed it and exposed the whole charade. But in fact, even though they had every reason to want to refute Christianity, they never could produce the body of Jesus, inside or outside the tomb.
Third, the earliest anti-Christian propaganda confirms the tomb was empty. The Jewish religious leaders claimed the disciples stole the body. The fact that they never denied that Jesus’ tomb was empty, but only tried to explain it away, is persuasive evidence that the tomb was in fact empty. Historically this is evidence of the highest quality because it comes from the opponents of Christianity.
Fourth, the fact that Jesus’ tomb was never venerated as a shrine in the first century indicates that it was empty. The custom was to set up a shrine at the site of a holy man’s bones, and there were at least fifty such sites inPalestineat that time. The absence of such a shrine for Jesus suggests the bones weren’t there.
Fifth, the testimony of the Apostle Paul implies the tomb was empty. Writing about A.D. 55, Paul an old Christian saying that Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day. Now the idea that a person could be raised from the dead while the body remained in the grave would have been nonsense to Paul’s Jewish mind. The Jewish concept of a resurrection was extremely physical. Paul is clearly assuming an empty tomb here. As W. L. Craig points out, were this not so, then Pauline theology would have taken an entirely different route, trying to explain how resurrection could be possible though the body remained in the grave. Moreover, this saying concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus from which Paul is quoting, is too early to be legendary. Paul would have learned that in his first two years as a convert, or at least no later than A.D. 36 when he visited Peter and James inJerusalem. Thus this formula is no later than five or six years after the Resurrection. Not enough time for legend to accrue.
Sixth, the burial and empty tomb accounts in the Gospel of Mark are based on a very early source. The High Priest is mentioned in Mark without using the name of the High Priest. Now that implies that Caiaphas, who we know was High Priest at that time, was still High Priest when the story began circulating because if it had been written after Caiaphas’ term of office, his name would have had to have been used to distinguish him from the next High Priest. But since Caiaphas was High Priest from A.D. 18 to 37, this story began circulating no later than A.D. 37, within the first seven years after the events.
Now these six points are many that provide a powerful case for the tomb being empty that first Sunday morning after Jesus’ death. And the move in scholarly circles in recent years has been toward the acceptance of the empty tomb since it is very difficult to dispute on historical grounds.
The historian Michael Grant concludes that the historian cannot justifiably deny the empty tomb. If we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty.
Most people who reject the empty tomb do so because of philosophical assumptions such as miracles are impossible. But this type of assumption may simply have to be changed in light of historical fact.
Now the empty tomb by itself did not produce a belief in a resurrected Jesus. For most of the followers, it was Jesus physically appearing to them that led them to conclude “resurrection.” So that’s my third point, Jesus physically appeared to many witnesses. The evidence from five independent historical sources indicates that, on eleven separate occasions, various individuals and groups in various locations and circumstances saw Jesus alive after his death. The four Gospels tell us about the appearances to Mary Magdalene, to the women returning from the tomb, to Peter, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the disciples with Thomas absent, the disciples with Thomas present, to the seven disciples at theLakeofTiberias, to the disciples at the Ascension. Paul, besides repeating the appearances to Peter, the Twelve, and to all the Apostles, probably a larger group of followers, also mentions appearances to James, to Saul (that is, himself), and to over five hundred people at one occasion.
Now, Paul’s accounts of these appearances are likely not legendary because of his listing of this appearance to more than five hundred people. Paul is using the accepted method of his day to prove a historical event, the appeal to witnesses. He specifically states that most of these people are still alive, thereby inviting cross-examination of his witnesses. He would not have done this unless there were real people who would back up his claim.
The Gospel accounts are more likely historical than legendary. First of all, they are too early. Carrying on from what I mentioned earlier in this regard, Professor A. N. Sherwin-White, an eminent historian of Roman times, has studied the rate at which myths were formed in the ancient Near-east. He chides New Testament critics for not recognizing the quality of the New Testament documents compared to the sources that he must work with in Roman and Greek history. He says these sources usually removed from the events that they describe by generations, even centuries. Despite when they were written and the typically biased approach of the writers, he says, historians can confidently reconstruct what actually happened. In stark contrast, Professor Sherwin-White tells us that, for the Gospels to be legendary, more generations would have had to have been needed between the events and the compilation of the Gospels. He’s found that even the span of two full generations, fifty to eighty years, is not enough time for legend to wipe out the hard-core of historical fact. And even the late dating of the Gospels by the critics meets that criterion. The legends about Jesus that the critics are looking for do exist, but they rose in the second century, which is consistent with this two generation time frame discovered by Professor Sherwin-White. That is when all the eyewitnesses had died off. Thus, the trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts is highly probable because there just wasn’t enough time for mythical tendencies to creep in and prevail over the historical fact.
Secondly, the women, or the fact that women and not male disciples are listed as the first witnesses of the appearances and the empty tomb, lends powerful credibility to the incidents. Women were of such low status in first century Jewish society that their testimony in court was considered worthless. So it would have been purposeless, even counterproductive, to record the incidents in this manner if it were not the way it actually happened.
Third, the Gospels lack legendary embellishment. They were not written in a legendary style of writing. Just read them. The style of the Gospels lack the legendary embellishments of the later writings. C. S. Lewis, one of the great literary experts on ancient myths, commenting on the Gospels, writes, “I’ve been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, myths, all my life. I know not one of them [the Gospels, that is] is like this.”
Fourth, we have demonstrated reliability where there is external verification. And this supports credibility. That is, in 1961 we have the discovery of the inscription referring to Pilate inCaesareaduring the time of Tiberius. We have the discovery of an ossuary, a bone box, of a crucified man named Johanon from first centuryPalestinethat confirmed that nails were driven into ankles during crucifixion. 1992 we have the discovery of the burial grounds of Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest. We have the discoveries of the pool ofBethesda; pool of Salome; Jacob’s well; the Gabbatha, or Pavement, where Pilate pronounced judgment on Jesus, and so on. As R. T. France, the New Testament scholar says, “Again and again, where it is possible to check the accounts against hard, eternal data, they are found to ring true. Where no such external check is available, it therefore seems responsible to treat the record as factual rather than imaginary. It’s hard to deny, on historical grounds, that numerous people had experiences that they interpreted as appearances of the risen Jesus.”
Now some contend that Paul’s experience of the risen Jesus, though, was a mere vision. And since Paul adds his experience to the list of appearances in 1st Corinthians 15, then they all must have been non-physical visions. But Paul’s experience involved extra-mental phenomena; it did not all happen in the mind of Paul. This is in contrast to the vision that Stephen had in Acts, chapter seven. Stephen’s experience was purely subjective. No one else saw or heard anything. But in Paul’s experience, his companions heard sound and they saw light.
We know that some people were suspicious of Paul’s encounter with the risen Lord, so he was adding his experience to the list of other appearances in order to raise his experience up to the level of objectivity that the others were known for, not to drag them down to some non-physical, subjective level.
The Gospel appearances were physical. Every appearance of Jesus in the Gospels is physical. And since the Gospel stories are widely accepted as being independent, from each other that is, these stories about the appearances, this multiple attestation provides strong support for the historical credibility of a physical, bodily Resurrection. This could not have happened if all the appearances were only visions. And since for a Jew the term resurrection meant a physical resurrection of a dead man from a tomb, the early believers must have understood the Resurrection of Jesus as physical. The fact is, both Paul and the Gospels view the resurrection body as both physical and transformed. The resurrected Jesus ate, cooked, invited touch, but also displayed superhuman capabilities in his ability to appear and disappear at will without regard to spatial distances. It was not a body made out of spirit but a body that had been transformed from mortal to immortal.
Moreover, recognition of the risen Jesus prompted worship, Both the women and the disciples knew that this was no mere resuscitation of a corpse. After all, Lazarus’ resuscitation had not evoked worship. Thus the evidence is that Jesus made multiple and various appearances after his death.
Fourth, we have the origin of the Christian movement which is inexplicable apart from a real resurrection. Even the most skeptical of scholars admit to the existence of the belief that Jesus rose from the dead. That is, that’s what the early Christian movement believed. It began based on that belief. Something must have happened to create this belief. Where did it come from? There must be an adequate cause, an adequate explanation. Now the disciples’ Jewish background was not adequate to explain their belief in a resurrected Jesus. In Jewish thinking, the resurrection would take place at the end of the world, and would be a general resurrection of all people, or all the righteous, or allIsrael. Nowhere in Jewish thinking was there the concept of a resurrection of one individual in the middle of history.
And examples of people coming back to life in the Old Testament, and Lazarus in the New Testament, are examples of resuscitations, not resurrections. These people were revived only to die again. Jesus’ resurrection, however, was to a new, immortal, imperishable, glorious life, never to die again.
Earlier in the twentieth century, it was common for scholars to suggest that the disciples borrowed the concept of Jesus’ resurrection from Pagan sources. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that experts no longer consider this position tenable. Any similarities are far outweighed by the differences. The alleged parallels are spurious, the legends are not about historical personages, they’re just symbols for the seasons. There’s no case of a mythical deity who rose from the dead prior to the late second century.
Moreover, there is no causal link between these Pagan myths and the Jews. There was very little influence from the Pagan religions in first centuryPalestine. The historian Michael Grant summarizes the scholarly opinion; he said, “Judaism was a milieu to its doctrines of the deaths and rebirths of mythical gods seems so entirely foreign that the emergence of such a fabrication from its myths is very hard to credit.
We also have the transformation of the followers, skeptics, and enemies of Jesus that is inexplicable apart from a real resurrection. The disciples were defeated, devastated, discouraged after the Crucifixion. They thought that their glorious three years with Jesus had come to a bitter and final end. But something changed them from being frightened and discouraged to being bold, courageous, and outspoken. Peter, who denied he even knew Jesus, stood up a few weeks later in downtownJerusalemproclaiming Jesus was Lord and had risen from the grave. There must be sufficient explanation for the dramatic changes in these peoples’ lives.
And it wasn’t just followers, but skeptics and enemies were transformed. James and Jesus’ other brothers did not believe Jesus was Lord during his lifetime. They later believed, and James not only believed but he became the leader of the Jerusalem Christian movement and even died a martyr’s death in A.D. 62.
Saul of Tarsus was the chief persecutor of the early Christians. He hated the Christian “heresy” even to the point of killing in order to stop it. But something happened that changed him from Saul, the number one persecutor, to Paul, the number propagator of Christianity. He was totally transformed. He gave up the prestige and the comforts of being a respected Rabbi and took on the life of a traveling missionary who experienced incredible suffering. Something incredible must have happened to change this man. There must be sufficient cause to explain both the origin of the belief in the Resurrection and the amazing transformation of frightened followers, skeptics, and enemies.
There seems to be no plausible explanation that fits the facts apart from the explanation the earliest Christians have given. That is that Jesus physically rose from the grave and appeared to these people. These events are inexplicable apart from the Resurrection. Thus the faith of the early Christians did not manufacture facts, rather the events of Easter gave rise to the faith of the early Christians.
Fifth, the Resurrection is the best explanation of the data. The evidence shows that the tomb was indeed found empty and that Jesus physically appeared to different people on numerous occasions and in a variety of places after his death. Furthermore, the very origin of the Christian faith and the transformation of followers, skeptics, and enemies is inexplicable apart from a resurrection. There is no probably, natural explanation fro any one of these three, independently established points, let alone one that explains all three of them together.
The Resurrection hypothesis, however, explains all three without distorting the facts. Together, these three facts point powerfully to the same unavoidable conclusion that Jesus did physically and bodily rise from the dead. A rational person can hardly be blamed for believing in the Resurrection. If one denies this conclusion, he’s rationally obligated to provide a more plausible explanation that fits the facts.
So my second contention, now, is that there are no good reasons to deny the Resurrection. I’ll only be able to touch on this briefly and come back to it during the rebuttal. First of all, an a priori dismissal of miracles is illegitimate. One cannot rule out the Resurrection because of a prior assumption that miracles are impossible. When a skeptic proposes that the Resurrection counts are legendary because they describe something miraculous, the naturalistic presupposition has become part of the argumentation for the hypothesis, and the argument is just circular. As long as it’s even possible that God exists, miracles are possible. What one should do, then, is try to honestly answer the question: What does the evidence suggest is the most plausible explanation for the data?
As the philosopher W. L. Craig remarks, “That miracles are possible is neutral ground between the opposing claims that miracles are necessary and miracles are impossible.” And then he adds, “Once one gives up the prejudice against miracles, it’s hard to deny that the Resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of the facts.”
Secondly, the alleged contradictions can be harmonized and they show a lack of collusion. Many people reject the esurrection of Jesus because they think the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection are hopelessly contradictory. But a recent work by John Wenham shows them to be complimentary, not contradictory. By paying careful attention to detail and clues in the accounts, Wenham has provided an extremely reasonable, plausible harmonizing of the superficial differences. And, as many scholars have pointed out, James G. D. Dunn is one example, the confusion between the different accounts in the Gospels does not appear to have been contrived. The conflict of testimony is more a mark of the sincerity of those from whom the testimony was derived than a mark against their veracity.
I will leave the rest of my points under the second contention until the end and just summarize with this. Since we have shown that the evidence supports that the tomb was found empty, that Jesus did appear to many people after his death, and that the origin of the Christian movement cannot be adequately explained apart from a historical Resurrection, and since there is no plausible, naturalistic explanation that fits the facts, then we are amply justified in concluding that Jesus did bodily rise from the dead.
What’s the significance of this? As Wolfhart Panenburg said, “The Resurrection can only be understood as the divine vindication of the man the Jews had rejected as a blasphemer.”
Cross-examination, Farrell Till
Till: Mr. Horner, I’ve prepared some questions that I think can be answered very briefly. I’ll make you a promise: if you’ll be as brief as you can, I will be as brief as I can. First I wan to ask you, are you a Bible inerrantist? I think you know what that means, but for the benefit of those in the audience who might not know, I mean: do you believe that the Bible is totally, completely free of errors?
Horner: I believe that, but it’s important to point out that it is not a necessary assumption fro tonight’s debate or the conclusion that the Resurrection took place. I can sum it up in one sentence: I do not believe in the Resurrection because I believe in inerrancy, I believe in inerrancy because I believe in the Resurrection.
Till: O.K., I understand that. I was just trying to establish if your are an inerrantist. Do you believe that an angel delivered to Joseph Smith golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written in an ancient Egyptian script?
Horner: No, because there’s good reasons to doubt the integrity of the beginnings of the Mormon Church and Joseph Smith and the early followers, and that evidence has become more and more public in the last ten, fifteen years causing a lot of problems within the Mormon Church.
Till: O.K., I’ll have some comments to make on that later on in my speech, but I want to get in as many questions as I can to get a feeling for where you stand on certain issues. Do you believe any of the reports of those who say that they have seen Elvis Presley alive after his death as publicized?
Horner: No, and for you to bring that up I just find is a little bit ridiculous, because we all know that the whole Elvis suggestion is funny because no one really believes it. We find reports about that in the Star, the National Enquirer. Nobody takes that seriously.
Till: O.K., would you believe that Elvis Presley was alive if someone told you that he had appeared to five hundred people at one time?
Horner: If there was some reason to believe that maybe there was something to that, one would have to check out the evidence. I mean, I couldn’t answer “yes” or “no” without doing that.
Till: You are telling me that you would take the time check out the evidence if five hundred people reportedly saw Elvis Presley?
Horner: Well, if there were some suggestion that made me think that those reports could be trusted, and there were no good reasons to doubt the integrity of those reports, I would have to check it out before I could draw a final conclusion. I would be initially skeptical like everyone else, which would be reasonable, but I couldn’t draw a final conclusion unless I had an a priori dismissal of miracles, but that’s intellectually dishonest, so I couldn’t do that.
Till: O.K., in “Wars of the Jews,” the Jewish Historian, Josephus, reported that during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, that people saw chariots in the clouds and armored soldiers in the clouds surrounding the city. Do you believe that that happened?
Horner: I don’t know. I haven’t checked into that one and I don’t know.
Till: In the same chapter — by the way, if anyone wants to check this, this is in book six, chapter five, section three — in the same chapter, Josephus reported the a heifer being led to the altar in the Temple gave birth to a lamb. Do you believe that that happened?
Horner: I don’t know; I haven’t checked into it.
Till: Well, why don’t you believe these things because they’re reported in a book that was written about the time that …
Horner: I haven’t heard about them until just now.
Till: Well, will you check on it then and let me know what you believe about it if you’ve never heard that before?
Horner: I’ll check your stories …
Till: You’re serious? You’ve never heard that before?
Horner: No, I haven’t checked into it.
Till: Well, read book six, chapter five, and you’ll see that Josephus reported several miracles, astounding miracles that presumably happened.
Horner: I would require good evidence to believe it. At this point I haven’t made that investigation so I can’t draw a conclusion.
Till: O.K., the Roman historian, Suetonius, in “The Twelve Caesars,” reported that when the Roman officials were arguing over where they were going to cremate the body of Julius Caesar, that two divine forms came down with torches and set fire to the pyre, and so he was cremated there. Do you believe that that happened?
Horner: Same response, Farrell. I don’t know where this is leading.
Till: Well, I have the book over here and I can — Michael Grant, by the way, translated this version that I have and you’ve been quoting him and so I’m assuming you would say it’s an accurate translation. If you want to see it, it’s over here on my desk — and these were things that were written about that time, so I just wonder why you are questioning these …
Horner: Well, I don’t question them. I haven’t heard of them until now. And I would be willing to analyze them. It would probably be true to say that you dismiss them without even checking them. Which seems to be the more reasonable approach?
Mr. Till’s Opening Arguments [25 min]
Time is always an enemy of the debater, so I’m going to be just as brief as I can in the preliminaries so that I can say as much as I can possibly say in the twenty-five minutes that I have. I assume everybody understands that I’m happy to be here. I always consider it a privilege to discuss issues like these, and I also want to thank those who have spent so much time organizing the debate. I know from personal contact with Jeff Lowder that he has put quite a bit of time into it, and others have also, and I want to extend my personal thanks to those who are responsible for organizing this and inviting me to be Mr. Horner’s opponent.
Also, for the benefit of those who might not know this, Mr. Horner and I talked about that this afternoon; we spent about, what, three hours together? In the pressing of points in a debate one might think, well he’s mad at him. I’ve had people say that to me after a debate was over, “Why don’t you like brother so-and-so?” And it’s not a matter that I don’t like him, but in a debate you have to press your point. And in the time that I spent with him this afternoon, not a cross word was exchanged. And I’ll say this, if I have ever met a gentleman in my life, that’s Michael Horner; he was very cordial to me. So if I press a point tonight, I don’t want you to think that I’m picking on him personally because I’m not. But in order to make my case, I am going to have to press the point as forcefully as I can.
Now, some references have been made to this as a debate. I’m going to take issue with that at the very beginning because actually it isn’t a debate. In a debate, there is a previously agreed upon proposition which one of the participants agrees to affirm while the other one denies it. Mr. Horner did not want to assume the responsibility of affirming a definitive proposition that would declare that the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is a verifiable fact so that I could disclaim that or refute that. He insisted, instead, that we share equally the burden of proof. Now, in making that demand he has thrown to the wind a widely recognized principle of logic which says: he who asserts must prove.
To show you just how widely accepted this principle is, I’m going to just use an illustration or two. Let’s suppose that I came to you tonight and said, “I know why so many children in our society are vanishing, disappearing.” I’m talking about the pictures you see on the bulletin boards in post offices across the land. And suppose I said, “They’re disappearing because they’re being abducted by alien creatures in UFOs who are taking them back to a planet in the Andromeda Galaxy.” If I should make that assertion to you, how much burden of proof do you think Mr. Horner would feel was on his shoulders to prove that that is not the case, that that is not happening? And so I look upon that much in the same way as the issue that’s before us tonight. I don’t see that it’s my responsibility to prove that the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth did not happen. In March of 1994, I debated Dr. Norman Geisler at a college in Georgia on the same issue. And he kept bringing that up, “It’s his responsibility to prove that the Resurrection did not happen.” And I denied that that is my responsibility because he who asserts must prove. However, in order to have a debate, I did agree to assume part of the burden of proof, and normally at this time in a debate, I would take his speeches, or the points he made in his speech, and take them one by one and refute them. But because I did agree to bear part of the burden of proof, I’m going to have to wait until my second speech to reply to some of the things that he said, and I’m going to present my case for why it is unreasonable for anyone to believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead as recorded in the New Testament.
There are three reasons why I am affirming to you that it is irrational for you ro anyone else to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. First of all, it is an extraordinary claim. And there is another principle of evidence that says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And that is the case in the issue before us tonight, Mr. Horner is asserting that almost two-thousand years ago, in a time where superstition was very widespread, that a man died and we was stone, cold dead in his tomb for three days — or at least for parts of three days — and then that that dead body was revivified and restored to life.
You know, an assertion like that makes the abduction of children by UFOs and being flown back to the Andromeda Galaxy seem downright believable. And so this is an extraordinary claim, [and] he has the responsibility to produce to us extraordinary evidence to support that. But I heard no extraordinary evidence, Mr. Horner, in anything that you said. As a matter of fact, I could answer his whole speech by making this one rebuttal statement: did you notice how that practically every argument that he presented is based upon the assumption that whatever the New Testament documents say is historically accurate? If the New Testament documents say X, then X has to be a historical fact.
There was an empty tomb. How does he know that? Well, the Bible tells him so. The Apostles were magnificently transformed from people who were very doubtful to people who were willing to lay down their lives and die for the belief that Jesus rose from the dead. What is his proof that this happened? Well, his proof is that it’s written in the Bible and if the Bible says this is what happened, then he has to believe that it really did happen.
Now, he said he was surprised that I would ask him if he would believe the reports that Elvis Presley was seen alive. I had a good reason for presenting that to him. We all know that these reports are being circulated in various parts of the country and we don’t even spend one minute of time considering that that’s even a possibility because the death of Elvis Presley has been so widely publicized that we’re sure that it happened. And as it would be such an extraordinary thing if he were seen alive that we reject the evidence because we recognize this principle that I’m talking about: extraordinary evidence requires extraordinary proof. And their simply is no extraordinary evidence to support his case.
All that he can tell you is the Bible says that it was true and therefore it must be true. So that is reason number one why it is illogical for you to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. The claim is simply too extraordinary.
My second argument is this, this is a story that is strikingly familiar to the pagan myths of virgin born, miracle working, crucified, resurrected, savior gods that were widely circulated and believed centuries before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived. Now in his speech, he denied that there can be any parallels found in the pagan myths. In my second speech, I’m going to show you how that that simply is not true. It may be true that the Jesus of the New Testament Gospels was not an exact parallel to the savior gods of the ancient pagan myths, but you can find a parallel for practically every New Testament event attributed to Jesus in the myths that circulated in the pagan religions. And although there are no exact parallels, there are at least two things that you find in almost all of those pagan myths; the savior god was born of a virgin, and he was resurrected from the dead. And even the New Testament, you know, testifies to the fact that belief in the resurrection from the dead was very commonplace back at that time.
Do you remember how it is recorded in the fourteenth chapter of Matthew, beginning with verse one, that when word of the many, mighty works that Jesus was performing reached the ears of Herod, he said, “Well this is John the Baptist risen from the dead.” Well, why would he believe that? Here’s an example that I like to use. Let’s suppose that this year, in the baseball season, a rookie should go on a home run hitting terror, and he should challenge the record of Babe Ruth. Would any of us try to explain that by saying, “Well this is Babe Ruth risen from the dead?” That would never even occur to us. I’m not trying to say to you that Herod actually said that, because I don’t accept something as fact simply because it happened to be written in the New Testament. But the fact that the writer of the book of Matthew would put that statement into the mouth of King Herod just tells us how widely recognized the possibility of a resurrection from the dead was in those days.
Justin Martyr was a second-century Church leader, and there is a place in his writing where he tried to prove the credibility of belief in Jesus Christ as a virgin-born son of God on the grounds that this was widely believed in the religions that were practiced by the people in theRoman empire. I’m going to read to you what he said in his first “Apology,” Vol. 1, Chap. 22, p. 69 in the Reeves edition. If you find that in another edition, then you could easily find that by looking in Vol. 1, Chap. 22, and this is what he said: “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. For you need not be told what a parcel of sons the writers most in vogue among you assign to Jove. ”
Now do you understand what he is saying here? He’s simply asking why is it so incredible to you that Jesus of Nazareth would be born of a virgin when you have so many virgin-born sons of god in your own religion? Now, it’s true that he was talking here about the virgin birth of Jesus and not the Resurrection of Jesus. But the point that I’m trying to establish is that all of the major events that you find in the life of Jesus, you are able to find them in the pagan myths that circulated in that time.
I’m going to deviate from this point for just a moment to reply to something that he said in his speech. He said that — I believe you said that it was not until the second century A.D. that in the pagan religions you found any stories about resurrected gods. Well that simply isn’t so. I’m going to give you the name of a pagan god and I hope you’ll go to the library, and if you research this you’ll find that scholars agree that what I’m telling you is true.
Osiris. Have you ever heard the name? The myth of the resurrected god can be traced back to this Egyptian god who allegedly lived three thousand years before Jesus did. He was killed by his enemy. That’s a familiar thing, isn’t it? And to keep him from being resurrected from the dead, his body was cut into fourteen different pieces and scattered throughout thelandofEgypt, so, you see, that his body could not be put together and resurrected from the dead. His consort, the goddess Isis, scoured the land of Egypt until she found all fourteen pieces… well I won’t tell you one of the pieces she didn’t find because it might not be suitable for a mixed audience like this, but, suffice it to say that she found enough of him to put his body back together. Then she hovered over him and fanned her wings and fanned into his nostrils the breath of life. Now that’s a familiar expression, isn’t it? And he was resurrected from the dead. He didn’t ascend into heaven; he went into the netherworld, the land of the dead, and there he reigned supreme.
If you’ll check those facts, I think you will see that three thousand years before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly rose from the dead, that this was believed about the god, Osiris. And there were others: Attis, Adonis, Tammuz — widely believed that these gods rose from the dead.
Now I’m simply going to say this: when an event seems to have happened everywhere, we can be reasonably sure that it happened nowhere. If there had been no stories like this widely circulated, if resurrection from the dead was not commonly believed at that time so that someone would say when Jesus started working his miracles, “Well this is John the Baptist risen from the dead,” then we might be able to say that he has a point.
Now, most of you have been taught all of your life that the Christian religion is unique, that God just suddenly revealed it from heaven, smash, just like that. And that there were no parallels to it anywhere, at any time, before that. Friends, I ask you to research that subject and you will find that it simply isn’t so.
A third reason why you should not believe in the resurrection of Jesus is that there is no trustworthy testimony to the fact that this event happened. And the testimony that we have is very, very inconsistent and contradictory. Everything with the possible exception, Mr. Horner, of the testimony of the Apostle Paul, has to be immediately dismissed as hearsay.
You know what hearsay is. Yes, I’m talking to you [speaking directly to someone in the audience shaking her head in disapproval]. You’re objecting to this, but you know what hearsay is. There is firsthand testimony when the person presumably saw this happen leaves his testimony. But what did Mary Magdalene ever write? Where is any affidavit that she ever left? Take the other women who presumably went to the tomb. Where is the firsthand testimony that they left? Now I’m seeing the reaction of you — I’m used to that — it happens all the time. But tell me where you can find firsthand testimony from any of these people who saw Jesus after his resurrection?
I started to say saw the Resurrection. And that’s another point to make. No one actually witnessed the Resurrection. Even the New Testament does not say that there were witnesses to the Resurrection. You know, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, there were witnesses there at the time who actually saw it happen, according to the story. Mr. Horner, can you tell us the name of just one person who even claimed secondhand, third hand, that this person actually saw the Resurrection? He can’t produce it. Mary Magdalene left no firsthand report. Salome left no firsthand report. Who was she anyway, Mr. Horner? I’ve been wondering about that. She presumably saw Jesus at the tomb; she was one of the women who went to the tomb. She presumably saw him after he was resurrected. Who was she? We don’t even know who she was. When did she die? And someone out here did like this [shrugging with a so-what? gesture] as if to say, “Well, what does that matter?”
You mean you don’t wonder about the testimony of people who make outrageous claims? Who they are? Where they were when they saw this thing, whatever it is? You mean that doesn’t bother you? These five hundred witnesses that Mr. Horner referred to, who saw Jesus at one time, who were they? Where did this happen? Is there anyone in this audience who can give me the name of even one of those people? Would you raise your hand if you can give me the name of even one of those five hundred that the Apostle Paul said that Jesus appeared to at one time? The name of just one of them. Can you tell me where it happened? Can anyone? Can you tell me when it happened? Anyone?
[You] know that when I was being introduced, I saw the expression on the faces of some of you, and I thought you were thinking, “Is there really a person like this? You mean there is a person who used to be a preacher and now he doesn’t, and he denies the resurrection?” I’m trying to get you to see that those marvelous five hundred witnesses are completely anonymous; we do not know they are, who they were, when this happened, where it happened — and yet that is idea of amazing testimony.
So let me summarize them, because I see that my time is rapidly coming to an end. It is irrational to believe in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth because it is an extraordinary claim and the only thing extraordinary about the evidence that he has to support this is that it is extraordinarily unextraordinary. It is a story that is very familiar for the times because virgin-born, miracle-working, resurrected savior-gods were a dime a dozen in those days. And it is a story for which for which there is not a single witness anywhere. No one saw it. We do not have the testimony, that is the firsthand testimony, of a single person who allegedly saw Jesus after his resurrection. Now how can this be considered irrefutable evidence to prove such an extraordinary thing as the claim that Jesus rose from the dead?
I had hoped that I would have time to show you the inconsistency in the testimony that is presented in the New Testament. Matthew said that it happened this way, Mark said that it happened another way, Luke said that it happened another way, but I don’t have time to develop that point. I’ll just say: read the New Testament accounts of the resurrection of Jesus and you will see that they are highly inconsistent and contradictory.
Cross-examination, Michael Horner
Horner: Farrell, can you define what you mean by “extraordinary event” and “extraordinary evidence?” How do you define “extraordinary” in those two terms.
Till: I thought my example adequately explained what I meant by that. If I said, “I saw a dog jump over a ditch,” you’d believe that. If I said, “I saw a dog jump over theMississippi River,” you wouldn’t believe that because you know that it just couldn’t happen. Things that our firsthand, everyday experience tell us happen time and time and time again those are ordinary. Those things like resurrection from the dead …
Horner: So a rare, infrequent type of event is an extraordinary event in contrast to an event that is more common, happens more often. Would that be the contrast your making?
Till: No, I wouldn’t say that just because it doesn’t happen a lot that it’s necessarily extraordinary. Someone might come in her someday and find that someone had climbed that wall and is hanging from one of those rafters up there. I’m sure that doesn’t happen very often, but no one would say that’s an extraordinary event because our common sense tells us that someone could do that. But UFO abductions, resurrection from the dead …
Horner: O.K., so, you are saying that an extraordinary event is an event that just can’t happen? That seems to be begging the question.
Till: Well, I’ll go ahead and take your bait.
Horner & Till: [both talking at once; dialogue unintelligible at this point.]
Till: … something that is completely contrary to what our observation tells us is natural law. That is an extraordinary event.
Horner: All right. So then, what’s extraordinary evidence? [An] extraordinary event is that which is contrary to natural law. Then extraordinary evidence must be that which is also contrary to natural law since evidence is made up of events.
Till: Well, you take us out to a cemetery and you call on the name of your God as, let’s say, the prophet Elijah did in the Old Testament and you bring people out of their graves and let’s see people come back to life, and I would say that that would be extraordinary evidence that would prove the possibility — or even the probability — that a resurrection like that in the past.
Horner: So, if I got you correctly, then, a miracle, an extraordinary event is that which, something which contravenes a natural law, can only be proved by another event which contravenes a natural law. But, then, that event could only be proved by another event that contravenes a natural law and you do not have a very useful criteria, here, for analyzing historical events. It leads to a useless, infinite regress.
Till: Well, if you could just give us the affidavits of one or two of these five hundred who saw him at one time, that would be a starting point.
Horner: That’s not the question. I’m trying to get you to get you to make some sense out of your statement. You say extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence. I just accused you of, accused that statement of being a nonsensical, infinite regress because it means that everything has to be proved by another miracle, or contravening of natural law. If that’s the case, you do not have a very useful principle for analyzing historical events here. Now, what would be your response to that?
Till: Well, I think I can answer that with a question. You said you were going to investigate some of these situations that I questioned you about to determine whether you want to believe that they happened or not. Well, I think that you’re going to reject them, if you investigate them, and you’re going to reject them for the same reason that I reject the story of Jesus, that there simply is no outstanding evidence that would justify believing that these things happened.
Horner: Well, I’ll pick it up in my rebuttal to show that this is actually the crux of the debate. This statement, extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence, is nonsensical when you really unpack it, and I will explain that in a couple more minutes. I don’t know if we have time to do much more; we have about twenty seconds here. I would just say this, well no, I’m not going to make a statement. I should ask a question. So I’ll just leave it at that.
Mr. Horner’s First Rebuttal [12 min]
Okay., this concept of extraordinary proof that’s required here is critical, and so I’m going to touch on that first. This statement, “extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence,” creates a phantom standard that virtually nothing could meet. It amounts, as Dr. Till… [Turning to Till] Dr. Till, I just gave you an honorary doctorate. As Mr. Till has admitted, to the assertion that miracles are impossible, basically. So here’s what I think is the case. What is required for an event to be rationally decided, am event has taken place, is not extraordinary evidence — that concept is nonsense, as I’ve just shown — but good evidence. And, yes, we do have to have good evidence for events. The kernel of truth that Mr. Till has discovered is that sometimes we do have a difference over some type of events that we will not hold to that standard of good evidence. In a previous debate, he used an example that I think I would like to use as well. He said, “If on the way to the debate someone said they had a flat tire, we would probably believe that. But if they said that on the way to the debate they were abducted by aliens we probably wouldn’t believe that.” We would look for what he would call “extraordinary evidence.” I would say that would be true, but it’s not because the alien abduction is extraordinary, that we would look for evidence, it’s because it is an event of great import.
Here’s the issue. An event of great import we will hold to that standard of good evidence; events need good evidence. Events that do not have great import, like a flat tire, we will suspend that criteria, that standard of good evidence. But, in this example, let’s say that that flat tire somebody had ended up being an alibi that got this person out of a murder charge. All of a sudden we would hold that flat-tire event to that standard of good evidence.
Now what’s the difference? It’s still the same event. Events require good evidence no matter what kind of events they are, but if they are not, do not have great import, we willingly suspend holding them to great evidence. So, my only point here is that the Resurrection, therefore, does not have to meet some sort of phantom standard called extraordinary. As we try to unpack it, it doesn’t make any sense, and nothing can meet it. It has to meet a standard of good evidence. And I’m quite happy to argue on that basis that the Resurrection can meet that standard of good evidence.
I want to use my initial speech as a bit of an outline to discuss some of the things that Mr. Till has said. He said that the issue of the burden of proof was something we discussed prior to the debate, and he who asserts must prove. But he makes an assertion; he travels around the country and writes that the Resurrection didn’t happen and that the accounts are full of contradiction. He is asserting all the time. He must provide a case for those assertions just like I have to provide a case for the Resurrection. I’m quite willing to do that but he’s not willing to do that, and I think that that’s a serious problem.
In terms of having a debate in different format, like a proposition or a resolution, well we could have had the resolution: Jesus did not rise from the dead. Then he would have had the full burden of proof. I don’t think he would have accepted that. And so I didn’t accept the debate resolution that Jesus did rise from the dead where I had to prove everything and he didn’t have to prove anything. All I wanted was a level playing field.
The fact of the matter is, he does believe something about the Resurrection event. He believes something happened; something clearly happened there. And his alternative hypothesis he must provide a case for. And that’s what we’re doing tonight. I’m going to provide evidence for a certain hypothesis. He must provide an alternative hypothesis and evidence for it. If he does not, in the absence of such an alternative hypothesis that has evidence for it and is consistent with the data, the resurrection hypothesis wins. And so you need to be careful that you are looking to see the case he’s presenting for his alternative hypothesis.
He said earlier today on a radio show and tonight, that everything I’m saying is assuming the New Testament is historically accurate. This may be the second most critical issue tonight. I don’t think Mr. Till has understood the type of arguments I’m giving. I’m not assuming that the New Testament is accurate. I’m beginning just with ancient historical documents and then I gave arguments, I gave reasons why they are not to be considered legendary, and therefore, should be considered reliable. I didn’t assume it, I gave reasons, arguments.
Now he is assuming, however, that the New Testament is inaccurate. And he, if he is going to keep his own standards, must provide reasons why they are legendary or fabrication or whatever it is that he thinks if they’re not reliable. So I am providing evidence for my position that it’s not legendary, that it’s reliable. He must provide evidence for his position.
He says that all the witnesses are just. No, excuse me, let’s talk about Elvis for a second. The Elvis analogy is funny only if we already hold the position the Resurrection is a legend. Humor comes from comparing the Resurrection with something that is clearly legendary, not to mention laughable. But there is nothing to prove that the Resurrection accounts are significantly analogous to the Elvis account. As a matter of fact, the Elvis story proves my point. It proves the opposite. It proves that legend does not prevail over truth in a short period of time. That’s exactly the point that I’m trying to make here tonight.
Okay, in response to my claim that the writings are too early to be legendary, he said, “Well, they’re just hearsay.” Well, this idea of hearsay, he’s trying to impose a courtroom style of testimony and standard upon historical research. And that’s inappropriate because, in a court, we must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Someone is presumed innocent until we prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Historical research, there’s no guilt or innocence involved here. We don’t have to prove anybody is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. That’s not the standard for determining historical events. That’s not the standard historians use for determining historical events. We’re looking for good evidence for an hypothesis. Which hypothesis has the best evidence for it and fits the data? And, again, Mr. Till must provide evidence for his alternative hypothesis. I argued that the tomb was empty. He didn’t deal with that directly as of yet. I argued that Jesus physically appeared to many witnesses. He said, “No one witnessed the Resurrection itself.” True, the actual Jesus Christ coming out of the tomb. Right. But so what? That’s not part of the evidence that I’m giving. The evidence is that Jesus appeared to many people — different locations, times and so on — and the tomb was empty. That combination is, the implication of those two is that he did rise.
Where were the five hundred? So what? It’s not necessarily to establish where they were or what their names were; the important point is that Paul appealed to them and that he likely would not have done that if those people did not exist because people, it is too likely they would have taken him up on his challenge, said, “Now wait a minute, who are those guys? You said five hundred people exist?” I mean, if Paul knew that thing was a lie, he wouldn’t go around saying five hundred people exist.
Now as a matter of fact, two points here; one, with Mr. Till’s criteria you could not write any history. If only firsthand eyewitness accounts is all that he will allow for history, then there wouldn’t be very many history books on our shelves. There wouldn’t be very many history departments; there wouldn’t be very many history professors.Lotof people would be out of a job. They would be very angry at Mr. Till. That’s not the way history’s done. He, again he’s raising some straw men here, some standards that is just not used in history and applying them to the Resurrection that is not applied to other historical claims.
The fact is, though, that we do have good reasons to believe that we do have eyewitness evidence; there’s no dissenting traditions, whatever, in the first century of the Christian Church’s history concerning the authorship of the first three Gospels and the book of Acts and concerning the repeated claims that these books were, indeed, written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And, yes, liberal scholars don’t hold to that now, but that doesn’t mean that they have good reasons for holding to that.
Given that these two men, Mark and Luke, and, excuse me, were not Apostles, and that Matthew would have been one of the most suspect of the Apostles in light of his background as a tax collector, it seems very unlikely that early Christians would have invented these authorship claims if they were merely trying to enhance their credibility of the documents to later, they would attribute these to other more, to other writers. So Mark and Luke and Matthew never would have been invented as the writers.
John, for example, the argument by B. F. Westcott early in this century has never been refuted though it has often been ignored, that John the Apostle was very likely the writer of the Gospel of John. He shows, in his analysis, that the author of the Gospel was a Jew with detailed knowledge of Hebrew feasts, customs, and scriptures; that he was a Palestinian with an impressive grasp of local geography and topography; he was an eyewitness with repeated compelling references to details of people, time, and place; that he was an Apostle from his intimate acquaintance with the thoughts and actions of the twelve; that the Apostle John, as the beloved disciple, was probably one of the inner three.
Interestingly enough, John the Baptist in the Gospel of John is just called ‘John’ whereas in the Synoptics he is called ‘John the Baptist’ to distinguish him from John the Apostle. Only if John the Apostle wrote the fourth Gospel to the people who knew he was the author would this practice be fully understandable.
And it’s clear that these writers did investigation; it’s likely that Luke was, in his writing of the appearances of Jesus, was writing about Joanna’s experiences of the appearances and that the other writers were writing, doing investigation with other people. And scholars agree, liberals and conservatives agree, that the appearance accounts are independent testimony — five separate independent testimony [sic] about these appearances.
In terms of pagan influences, let me just touch very briefly on that; how much time do I have? O.K. The idea of Osiris having any influence in first centuryPalestineis just rejected by scholars. After 300 B.C., Osiris was replaced by another god of the same name, just took over, Serapis, and this version of the cult did not have a rising god. Attis was not a dying and rising god. Just, let me just give you a couple [turning away to pick up an overhead transparency on his desk]. The skeptical critic, Hans Grass, himself, points out that it would be completely unthinkable that the original disciples could have come to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was risen from the dead on the basis of pagan myths of dying and rising and seasonal gods. The preponderance of scholarly consensus is that that is just not possible. Thank you.
Cross-examination, Farrell Till
Till: Mr. Horner, is there any extraordinary event — let’s use the word ‘miracle’ — that you believe in that is not recorded in the Bible, from this period that we’re talking about, let’s say the first century, or even the century before that, or the century after it? Can you think of one miracle written in the literature of that time that you believe really happened, with the exception of the Bible?
Till: Then would you say that with the exception of the Bible, that you’re over here on my side of the court? That you accept the premise that Thomas Paine enunciated in The Age of Reason that we accept from history those things that are credible but if it’s incredible, we reject it?
Horner: Well, there’d be two possible reasons why I would not accept other miracle claims. One is, I may not have heard of them and haven’t done an investigation. The other is, I find that the evidence for them is not good. A miracle claim would be an event that requires good evidence. As I said, I hold to that. And I don’t find any other claims that do have good evidence. So, in contrast to you, who reject it out-of-hand without an investigation, I reject it after an investigation.
Till: Then you’re on record for saying that you can’t think of a single miracle that was recorded in all of the literature of that period that you accept, with the exception of those things that were listed in the Bible?
Horner: As far as I can think right now, yes.
Till: O.K., Jesus was dead for three days, or at least parts of three days, that’s what you believe. Did his body experience rigor mortis or decay before it was revivified?
Horner: [I] don’t know the answer to that question; there’s a Scriptural passage that implies that God was not going to allow his body to undergo decay, so if I have good reasons for accepting that passage as trustworthy or the word of God, then I could hold that. Apart from that, I have no other information that could help me answer that question.
Till: Then by that last statement that you made, and I have just about enough time for this, you’re saying, “If it’s in the Bible, by golly I believe it.”
Horner: I didn’t say that. I don’t recall saying that. I said if I had, if I had good reasons for holding to it …
Mr. Till’s First Rebuttal
This could very rapidly deteriorate [in]to a contest of his scholars and my scholars. At the end of his speech, he put a transparency on the screen where someone said something to the effect — and I won’t ask you to put it back on — but someone said something to the effect that it’s ridiculous to think that the mythology, pagan mythology, had anything to do, any kind of influence, with the story of Jesus of Nazareth. Well, I can, I can cite references all day long of people who would take the opposite point of view.
I would suggest if you’re taking notes that you write this down. Joseph McCabe, The Myth of the Resurrection. And you will find if you read that that this was a man who was born into a devout Catholic family. He was educated in the Catholic education system in the last century, and he taught at a Catholic seminary. And he got to investigating this very thing that I’m talking about, and that was the thing that caused him to reject the Catholic religion, or the Christian religion, and become one of the most prolific of skeptical writers.
Now Mr. Horner said Osiris became Serapis and Serapis became Attis, or something like that. Anyway, you said that Osiris became Sarapus. And he’s exactly right in saying that. This god was Osiris inEgypt. But he was Adonis and Attis in places that were under Grecian influence. He was Tammuz in places that were influenced by the Babylonians. And they believed that this god died, and that he was resurrected, and this happened centuries before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived. And you can take the Hindu savior, Krishna, and if you’ll study his life you’ll find some of the most striking parallels of all of the pagan, savior gods, in the life of Osiris [Krishna].
He said there was no dispute over the Resurrection in the early Church and I believe he said in the centuries, the early centuries after that. Well, Mr. Horner, have you ever heard of the Bishop of Lyon, Iranaeus? And are you aware of the fact that he claimed that Jesus was never crucified? And he made this claim because he said that he had gotten it from the Apostle John. And he contended that Jesus was not crucified, that he lived to be ninety some years old, and he died a natural death. Well that sounds to me like that there was a dispute in the early Church over the resurrection story.
He said there would be no history if we accept Till’s criteria for history. Well I don’t see how he gets that. My criteria is simply the same criteria that Thomas Paine enunciated in The Age of Reason. We accept from history those things that are credible, those things that are ordinary, and we reject those things that are extraordinary. He said, “Otherwise we would have to believe that the Emperor, Vespasian, cured the man who was blind and the man who was lame, as Tacitus said. Now Thomas Paine made a mistake when he said that Tacitus said that, because it wasn’t really Tacitus who recorded it; it was Suetonius who recorded it. You can read the history written by Suetonius, and you’ll see that’s exactly what he said. The blind man and the lame man came to the Emperor Vespasian and begged him to touch them so that they would be healed. He touched them and they were healed. That sounds very familiar to some of the things that Jesus did. Well, if he reads it in the New Testament that Jesus cured a blind man, he says, “Yes, yes, that’s true, we have to believe that.” But if Suetonius said it, “No we have to reject that.”
Well, my criteria are very simple, or rather I should say my criterion is very simple, Mr. Horner. If it’s something that someone wrote in the past that is very ordinary, we’re willing to accept that. But when we get into the realm of miracles, we’re not willing to accept that. I’m going to step over here just a minute and get my notebook because I forgot to bring it with me [walking away momentarily]… And I want to get to this matter that you need two or three generations before a legend has time to develop. We talked about history. History doesn’t agree with that, and I’m going to throw some names out to you: Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James. How many legends developed about these people in their own lifetime before they were dead? You know, Wyatt Earp died just four years before I was born. Who will ever know the truth about the shootout at the O.K. Corral, because there have been so many legends built around that?
But let’s take an example. Have you ever heard of a fellow named Sabattai Sevi? He was a seventeenth century, messianic pretender who gathered a large following in the Mediterranean area. And Sevi’s biographer, Gershom Scholem, reported that there was a sudden explosion of miracle stories that developed around this man everywhere he went.
I’m going to read a quotation from Scholem’s biography of Sabbatai Sevi, which was published by Princeton University Press: “The realm of imaginative legend soon dominated the mental climate ofPalestine. The sway of imagination was strongly in evidence in the letter sent toEgyptand elsewhere and which by autumn of 1665, the same year that he visitedPalestine, had assumed the character of regular, messianic propaganda in which fiction far outweighed the facts.”
Here are some examples of the legends that developed around this man in his lifetime. Many swore that when the prophet spoke that he was often encompassed with a fiery cloud and that the voice of angel was heard to speak from that cloud. Now keep in mind I am talking to you about legends that developed in the lifetime of this messianic pretender, well before he died.
It tells also that there was a time when Sevi commanded that a fire be built in a public place, and after the fire was built, he walked through the fire three times with no harm to his clothing or to his body. Letters are know to exist in which the claim was made that when Sevi was imprisoned his chains miraculously broke away and that he left the prison through closed doors. He once killed a group of highway, a group of bandits with just the word of his mouth; I suppose much in the same way that the Apostle Peter pronounced death upon Ananias and Sapphira in the fifth chapter of Acts. I suppose that if I asked Mr. Horner does he believe that Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead as recorded in the fifth chapter of the book of Acts, he would say, “Yes, I believe that,” but he probably wouldn’t say that he believed that this messianic pretender in the seventeenth century was able to say the word and cause people to drop dead. Some of the letters written about him by his disciples made the claim that he even raised people from the dead.
And let’s, let’s talk about Charles Manson; That’s a name that you recognize. And Charles Manson had a following, of course. If you’re familiar with the history of the atrocious crimes that he committed, you know that the man is now serving a life prison, rather a term of life imprisonment. While Edward Sanders was researching his book, The Family, he uncovered that numerous legends were circulating already about Manson’s followers. Or that is among Manson’s followers. One legend maintained that while they were on a bus trip throughDeath Valley, Manson levitated the bus over a creek where there was no bridge. I’m sure if I ask Mr., Mr…. [pausing to look at Horner] Well, I forgot your name… [Horner says, “Horner.”] Mr. Horner, that he would say no, he does not believe that.
But I’m giving you examples of legends that developed in the lifetime of people who secured a following. Now this is just an arbitrary assertion that he is making. Oh, we know that all of those stories about Jesus have to be true because the Gospels were written before legends had time to develop. And he also said that when you read these accounts in the New Testament, they just don’t sound like legends. Oh, they don’t?
Well, let’s take the book of Matthew for an example. The women were on the way to the tomb, and suddenly there was an earthquake and an angel came down and sat on the stone. Now, that doesn’t have the ring of legend to it? It sounds to me just like the many legends that you would read about in the literature that was written at that time. That was why I was pressing him to tell us can he name a single, miraculous event from that period of time, from the literature of the other nations that he would accept as historical fact. And he couldn’t think of a one. But if it’s recorded in the Bible, you see, he is automatically willing to accept that. That’s why I say that every argument that he’s making assumes that whatever the Bible says is historically true, and we can’t let him assume that.
Cross-examination, Michael Horner
Horner: Is your alternative hypothesis to the resurrection hypothesis that the Resurrection is a legend, or deliberate fabrication, or some combination, or something else?
Till: Well, you said that you had heard of Sabattai Sevi. If so, you know that he converted to Islam. And you would think that that would have killed the movement, but it didn’t …
Horner: That’s not the question I’m asking you. Farrell; the question I’m asking you is: what is your alternative hypothesis to the Resurrection?
Till: Cognitive dissonance reduction is the term that’s used to describe it. And I was using the disciples of Sevi as an example of that.
Horner: Okay, carry on.
Till: He was the Jewish Messiah that they expected. And he converted to Islam. Did that kill his movement? No. They began to tell such things as, “Well, he did this so that he could explore the depths of evil and then accomplish more good, or …”
Horner: I’m not, … I don’t think you’re answering my question.
Till: Well, I think I am. Some of them said that this isn’t really Sevi; Sevi actually died, didn’t die, but this is a pretender who looks like him, and he’s the one who actually has, has been converted to Islam, and he did that to try to destroy the movement.
Horner: So is your position that the Resurrection is a legend. Is that what you’re trying to tell us?
Till: My position is that it’s an example, could be an example of cognitive dissonance reduction, as in the case of Sevi. When something traumatic like that happens to people who put a lot of trust and confidence in an individual, instead of saying, “Well, he was a phoney; he was a fake, they try to rationalize.” Is it possible that the disciples of Jesus were so disillusioned by the fact that this man died, that they started telling stories of a resurrection?
Horner: Of course the question is not is it possible, but is it probable. Second question is: are history books made up only of firsthand, eyewitness accounts?
Till: No, certainly not. But who’s going to accept fantastic claims that are written in history books that come to us secondhandedly or thirdhandedly …?
Horner: Well you seem to assume, thought, that only eyewitnesses can write reliable history.
Till: No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that if a history book contains examples that are fantastic, and there’s no eyewitness testimony to it, well certainly you’re going to automatically reject that, you’re not going to accept secondhand and thirdhand testimony.
Mr. Horner’s Second Rebuttal
Well, this may seem to you like a long, drawn-out event, but I guarantee that to us we’re thinking more time, I need more time. I want to use my outline as my outline for what we’re going to do here.
I said I’m going to make two main points: there are good reasons to affirm the Resurrection and I said that the writings are too early to be legendary. Mr. Till has responded that we have examples, Sabbatai Sevi, for example. The problem with that example is that it took place not in the same geographical location. What Professor Sherwin-White’s study tells us is that it takes more than two generations for legend to replace historical fact in the same generation, one of the reasons being because the eyewitnesses are still around. But in the Sabbatai Sevi example we have its … the legends developed far off from where the events took place and so you don’t have the eyewitnesses around.
He says Matthew is a, the angels coming down is an example of legend. But that’s not an example necessarily of legend, that’s an example of the anti-supernatural bias that we have here tonight. Mr. Till has not provided any good reasons why one should not accept the evidence for a resurrection. He just asserts. And of course remember his dictum: he who asserts must prove. He just asserts that events that are fantastic or extraordinary just cannot be accepted, and I don’t see any reason why we should accept that assertion. Again, I tried to point out any event requires good evidence; extraordinary evidence is a nonsensical idea. And events that do not have great import, we suspend that. Events that do have great import, we do not suspend that criteria, and we look for good evidence. So he’s holding, again, the Resurrection to a higher standard.
I said that the tomb was empty, and he has not challenged that fact at all. The tomb was empty.
I said Jesus physically appeared to many witnesses. He’s basically challenging this and the empty tomb by saying that, again, I am just assuming that what the New Testament says is true. This is critical. That is not the approach I’m taking, and it is very important for Mr. Till to understand that, okay?, because the charge comes right back on him; it’s a double-edged sword. I gave reasons why these accounts are not legendary; I just didn’t begin by assuming that they were reliable, okay? I gave reasons and arguments. But he assumes that just because they contain fantastic claims about extraordinary events that, therefore, they are not reliable, and has offered no proof for we should accept that.
He hasn’t really challenged the specific evidence for the appearances, the independent verification that comes from five independent sources in the New Testament and the reasons why those should not be taken as legendary. He continues to camp on the pagan sources as being a possible source of the idea of the Resurrection. And it, in one sense it does come down to my scholars versus his scholars, but there’s a very important difference. When I quote, or when I appeal to a consensus of scholarship tonight, I am only doing so when there is a consensus of both liberal and conservative scholarship. Anyone who understands New Testament criticism these days realizes that you’ve got widely divergent camps, so it doesn’t do any good to appeal to most of the scholars when all you’re appealing to is all the liberals. And that’s, that’s what Mr. Till does.
I’m appealing to a general consensus; I’m appealing to the times when the liberals and the conservatives agree. Now when they agree, that is powerful evidence because they don’t agree very often. And when they do agree, and they do agree definitely that the idea of pagan myths influencing first centuryPalestine, something that was popular at the beginning of this century, but has just been, has been thrown out by reputable scholars since then.
Ronald Nash in his analysis of this, this issue, for example, gives seven arguments against the Christian dependence on mysteries. He says it illustrates the logical fallacy of false cause; just because whenever someone reasons that two things exist side by side that one must have caused the other, that doesn’t follow, it’s a fallacy. He also said many alleged similarities are exaggerated or fabricated because the people writing about them, the scholars, deliberately use Christian terminology like Mr. Till has, like calling them Savior-God, calling them Redeemer, and they’re imposing these Christian words back onto something that was very, very different. The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources about pagan religions were very late.
Paul would have never consciously borrowed from pagan religions; he placed very great emphasis on strict training and a strict form of Judaism. He warned the Colossians against that kind of Christian snycretism. Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith; the mystery cults were non-exclusive. This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversies.
Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history, or at least he appealed to that, that they did. But the mystery cults weren’t even appealing to things that were real, just non-historical events, and what few parallels may remain may reflect a Christian influence on the pagan systems, because these writings come from sources that are later than, than Paul. It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge; what better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? So, the general consensus of scholarship is that that point just doesn’t fly.
I said the Resurrection’s the best explanation of the data. Mr. Till has given us a possible hypothesis that he’s appealing to now, cognitive dissonance, and I look for him to give us some evidence that this hypothesis is true. The resurrection hypothesis explains all the data without distorting the facts. His position ultimately comes down to an anti-supernatural bias against miracles, and he hasn’t given us any good reasons why we should accept that.
The significance of the Resurrection is that if Jesus rose from the grave, it shows that he is Lord as he claimed to be — that Christianity is true and we are truly forgiven, and that life does not end at the grave. There is hope for eternal life. The evidence that we’ve heard tonight so far supports the resurrection hypothesis. We’ve heard pot-shots taken at it but I don’t think [they] have refuted it, and we have heard very little in the way of evidence for an alternative hypothesis.
Mr. Till’s Second Rebuttal
I brought with me a book that somebody inquired about, who came up to my desk to talk to me. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the Book of Mormon. Every version of the Book of Mormon that I have ever seen has, in the front of it, the “Testimony of the Three Witnesses.” Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris. I want to read to you what they say in this affidavit. “And we also know that they [that is, the words in the Book of Mormon], have been translated by the gift and power of God for His voice hath declared it unto us. Wherefore, we know of assurety that the Work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings [these are the Golden Plates that the Angel Moroni allegedly brought down to Joseph Smith]. They say, we saw them. “And they have been shown unto us by the power of God and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness that an angel of God came down from heaven and he brought and laid before our eyes….” And he goes on to, and they go on to say, “and we saw it.” “We touched them.” “We handled them.” “We know that it happened.” Doesn’t Mr. Horner wish that he had evidence like that from Mary Magdalene, Salome, Joanna? Boy, wouldn’t he be happy if he had evidence like that.
He does not believe that the Book of Mormon is, in any sense, inspired of God. He rejects it. But we have firsthand testimony from the three witnesses. And if you’ll get a copy of the Book of Mormon, and open it, and look at that page, you’ll see that underneath it is the testimony of the eight witnesses who swear that they didn’t see the angel bring the plates down but they handled them with their hands.
He doesn’t believe that. Why does he not believe it? Because it is such an extraordinary event that he wants far more proof than the mere word that somebody said that it happened. And so it brings us back to what I said a moment ago, I have no strange criterion for history. It simply comes down to a matter of if someone says something that our common sense tells us can happen, then we’re willing to accept it. But when people want to talk about angels coming down and delivering golden plates, or angels coming down and rolling stones away from a tomb, what, what’s really the difference in the two stories?
Well, he was educated to believe one. He was not educated to believe the other. There are probably people in this audience who are Mormons; I wouldn’t be a bit surprised, considering where we are. And they probably think that we’re absolutely crazy because we will not accept the testimony of the three witnesses and the testimony of the eight witnesses.
He said that the angel’s descent on the stone is not an example of legend. Well, let’s just talk about the Resurrection story for just a moment. And I’m going to go back to a couple of events that happened allegedly before the Resurrection.
While Jesus was on the cross, there was a period of darkness from noon until three o’clock, about a period of three hours. Now, Matthew, Mark and Luke, all three said that that darkness was over all of the land. And the word translated ‘land’ is from the same Greek word that is sometimes translated ‘earth,’ so we don’t know whether the writers actually meant that the darkness was over the whole Earth or whether they were saying that it was over the whole land. But over the whole land would at least mean to me that, that general region in which wasPalestinewas located.
Why is it that we have no corroborating evidence that anything like that ever happened? Wouldn’t[‘t you be surprised tomorrow if at noon, suddenly the light went out, overhead, the Sun? And there was no light for a period of three hours? Wouldn’t you wonder what in the world had caused that? And don’t you think that even if we lived back in the time when we didn’t have printing presses and the rapid system of communications that we have now, that someone would report that and there would be records of it? But we don’t have it.
And then when Jesus died on the cross, Matthew tells us, and only Matthew — Mark didn’t; tell it, Luke didn’t tell it — that there was an earthquake (Matthew was a big one for earthquakes, by the way), there was an earthquake and it shook open the tombs and some of the saints were resurrected and after Jesus rose from the dead, they went into they went into the city and appeared “unto many.” Yet, historians like Josephus make no reference at all to anything like that happening. And don’t you think that if “many saints” were resurrected and “appeared unto many” in the city, that someone, somewhere, besides the biased writer, Matthew, would have reported that that happened?
And then, of course, there’s the case of the angel descending and rolling away the stone, which he says doesn’t strike him as being legend. And then what happened to Jesus after he appeared on the earth for forty days after his resurrection — or, if you’re going to take Luke’s account in the Gospel, he was resurrected the same night, he ascended the same night that he was resurrected. In the book of Acts, he tells us, no, that was a mistake, it was forty days later. But anyway, Jesus ascended into heaven.
Suetonius tells us that someone standing by when the body of Augustus Caesar was being cremated, saw the spirit of Augustus Caesar ascend into heaven. Well, he doesn’t believe that that happened; he would say, “Well that’s simply a legend that developed.”
The prophet Mohammed presumable ascended into heaven on a white horse. “Legend! Legend,” he would say, “but now when we read these things in the New Testament, all of these miraculous things that happened, we can be sure that they were not legend, and Till’s only problem is that he wants to reject anything that is miraculous.” Well, my friends, it’s just that too many miraculous events are recorded in the New Testament for anyone to take it seriously.
I’d like to talk about independent verification, but I see that I have only ten seconds left and so I won’t have time to say it. By the way, I read Ronald Nash’s article too, and I didn’t think a whole lot about it.
Question and Answer Session
Questioner #1: My first question is to Mr. Horner. Mr. Till says that Christianity is so much like a lot of other, I’ll call them pagan religions, that were developing around the same time. My question to you is, why would you think that if this is so, why did Christianity flourish so much and become the huge religion that it is right now and all of these others seem to die out and go away?
Horner: I suspect that you’re trying to give me a chance to somehow argue for the superiority of Christianity. I’m not going to grab that chance because I’m not sure that’s the best explanation. Sometimes there’s all sorts of reasons why one particular world view or religion wins out over another. And just because they win doesn’t mean that it’s the truth and others aren’t. So I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t use that argument. I would, again, just come back to the fact that there just wasn’t, there’s no good evidence that there was a pagan influence in first centuryPalestine. And, in fact, there’s good evidence that, in the light of the lateness of the sources of these pagan stories, that the influence is probably the other way around, Christianity influencing them.
Till: Well, I don’t see that Christianity took the world by a storm. If you will check, you will see that the conversion of Constantine had a big influence on the spread of Christianity and that actually Christianity at that time was pretty well confined within the borders of the Roman Empire, and that says something to me that it was the fact that Constantine had been converted and that he was using his influence to spread the religion and it spread primarily within the borders of the Roman Empire. But look today at a map of the world in terms of religion, it hasn’t made much inroads in places likeIndia, orChina, orJapan. If it’s a religion for which the evidence is so overwhelming, why didn’t it take these places too?
Questioner #1: For Mr. Till, I just wanted to see if I could get you to comment briefly on, you mentioned the three witnesses from the first part of the Book of Mormon, could you comment on whether or not this is true or not, two out of the three witnesses denied what they said and said to a news reporter that what they said in the Book of Mormon, their testimony, was in fact false. They said this about fifteen, I believe it was twelve to fifteen years after the Book of Mormon was first published. I was wondering if I could get some comments on that?
Till: Yes, I’m aware that that happened. But you’re aware also that a controversy developed in the, in the Mormon Church, and that had a big influence on why they did that. How do we know that they were lying the first time and telling the truth the second time? Or whether it was just the other way around, and because of the controversy that developed in the Mormon Church, that it was sour grapes on their part and they just decided well we’re going to get you, “ha, ha, ha,” we’re going to deny that what we affirmed in that affidavit is true?
Horner: That’s a logical possibility; we would have to have some evidence to support that explanation. But again the point that I was trying to say that I reject the Mormon claims because there are good reasons, like what was mentioned, to doubt the trustworthiness, the integrity of the witnesses. I accept New Testament claims because I don’t think there are good reasons to doubt their integrity; there are good reasons to accept their integrity and trustworthiness.
Questioner #2: This is for Mr. Till. I’d really love to take time and ask you specific questions about specific things you brought up, but I’d like to take the skeptic issue as a whole, present two premises, and then ask you a personal question.
First of all, would you not agree that, philosophically, there are very few things that we can prove? Descartes came up with the assumption that we can only prove two things: one, I exist, and two, God exists. Premise two; would you not agree that there are certain historical events that are easier to prove than others, and even more so, the historicity of those events are easier to prove than others? For example, if I were to tell you that, if you were to get in a car accident and have complete amnesia, and I were to make four statements to you: one, Ronald Reagan is President; two, Santa Claus exists; three, a man landed on the moon; and four, Lee Harvey Oswald killed John F. Kennedy. Well, the first one you could take and say, “Well, of course not; look at the evening news, look at the newspaper; Bill Clinton is President; this gentleman’s information is inaccurate.” Two, Santa Claus, you see pictures of Santa Claus, he must exist; well, you do your research, what have you, you realize Santa Claus doesn’t exist; you come to the third statement [and] you think, “Well, maybe this young man has a point that he said the other two things happened, maybe his third point isn’t true.” You look up in the encyclopedia, you look at the NASA what-have-you and you say, “Well, a man did, in fact, land on the moon,” but did he? Was that George Lucas’ first film project?.”
Were these astronauts paid off by theU.S.government to demoralize theSoviet Unionin the space race? I mean, I don’t believe that; I believe the man landed on the moon, but my point is this: that historical events and [the] historicity of those events are hard to prove. If we were standing inMadridin 1400 and I tried to prove to you in intellect that the Earth is spherical, you’d probably think I was an idiot. But we know who had the last laugh on that point. Third point, my question to you: you at one time believed what this gentleman over here believed; you had the faith at one time, saying, “I believe what he believes and what I believe, that the Lord has risen from the dead.” You put your faith in that belief, that fact. What would make, there’s, there’s substantial evidence, you know, that Christ existed and rose from the dead; if there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be such a large population of Christians and obviously there’s, you can prove that he didn’t resurrect, otherwise there wouldn’t be… My question is, I’m sorry, what did you, what did you gain personally, what are you gaining personally from saying, “what I believed before is false, I was an idiot to believe it,” giving up your, your faith, your belief that you’re going to heaven? What did you gain personally in not believing this and putting your career into proving it wrong?
Till: Well, before I start my time I’m going to, going to make a statement. I don’t see how in the world anyone could expect me to respond to all of that in three minutes, which is all the time that I have, but I’ll try to say as much as I can. During the car ride to the radio station today, and Mr. Horner may remember this, we actually talked about how it’s almost impossible to really know anything. And do I know that Abraham Lincoln existed? No, I don’t actually know it, however there’s historical evidence that would make me look pretty stupid if I didn’t believe it, but I cannot say I actually know it. Do I know that a man landed on the moon? Well, I remember, I believe it was in 1968 or 69, we watched it on television. But like you say, it’s possible that that was faked, and there was actually a movie that was made once on that premise. I can’t really say I flat out absolutely know that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and that it’s absolutely impossible that he didn’t land on the moon, because there’s always the remote possibility that he didn’t. On the matter of Lee Harvey Oswald shooting John F. Kennedy, we don’t actually know whether he did that or not because, unfortunately, he was assassinated before we had the opportunity to hear the evidence; the evidence seems pretty conclusive, but I can’t actually say that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy. You see, we’re getting back to what I’ve been trying to argue all night long; when history records common, ordinary events that we just know from our personal experiences could happen, then we’re willing to accept those. But when you get into the fantastic, the extraordinary, we’re very reluctant to accept that just on the testimony of someone who lived a thousand years ago or two thousand years ago that it really did happen. To me there’s nothing extraordinary about landing on the moon; they went up in a rocket, and natural law can explain that. I’ll talk to you privately about what I think I’ve gained; I’m sorry I didn’t have time to get to it, but you gave me too much.
Horner: Well, it still seems to me that Mr. Till’s essential argument tonight is circular. We asked the question: did the Resurrection happen? Well no, the Resurrection’s a miracle and miracles are impossible. He’s, he’s built in to the conclusion that he wants to draw which is: a miracle doesn’t happen. That’s the conclusion he wants to draw, the miracle doesn’t happen, that miracles don’t happen. Well, that’s not an argument; that’s a circular, that’s a circular argument, and it really doesn’t prove anything. So I’m, I’m disappointed that that’s ultimately all we’ve got [as an] argument from Mr. Till tonight. I thought we would have more. Now, he presented some challenges to my position, and that was good and I wish I had more time to respond to those, but in terms of his case for his position, it’s just a circular argument.
Questioner #3: Mr. Horner, you quoted Michael Grant, the historian, and used him as evidence that historians in general accept the empty tomb as being historical, however, are you aware that Michael Grant went on to say that the Resurrection did not happen, that the disciples were mistaken? And if so, why did you not mention that?
Horner: I, I quoted Michael Grant as someone who is not necessarily a conservative, Christian scholar on, on one point. Yeah. And that’s, that’s legitimate. What he believes on other things, for whatever reasons, would be worthy of discussion, but on that point that I was trying to make, that the tomb was empty, I was trying to show that there is widespread agreement even from people like Michael Grant, and the fact that he disagrees on other points would further strengthen the point that he agrees on the point of the empty tomb.
Till: [Getting up and going to the overhead projector] I’m going to use the overhead projector to respond to that because it so happens that I have that quotation. [Additional comments about overhead projector deleted.] Here is where he said, “Their testimonies cannot prove them to have been right in supposing that Jesus had risen from the dead.” He [Horner] quoted to you what he said earlier in that paragraph, but it went on to say, as the questioner said, that it doesn’t prove that he actually did rise from the dead. That’s the type of sleight of hand that you get from the fundamentalists, friends. [Groans and gasps of disapproval from the audience. Someone said, “Oh Lordy!”]
Questioner #4: For Mr. Till. Getting back to the Book of Mormon and witnesses to each book of the Bible, or of the Book of Mormon, you failed to mention that Joseph Smith himself — you’re probably aware of this — you’re probably aware also [that] he heaped very vicious accusations against these same three witnesses, which the Book of Mormon doesn’t record. In fact only one of them, Cowdery, ever even returned to the, supposedly returned to the faith later on. The question is: if people like that can leave their testimony on just simply uncomfortableness, how do you account for the fact that among the Christian viewpoint of Resurrection, and the people willing to die and be tortured for their faith and still willing to testify that Jesus rose from the dead, and not only them, but people that they taught, like Bishop Papias, who was willing to be tortured rather than recant that he knew Jesus as his Savior, it was a life-transforming experience, and willing enough that to die, universally? And any conspiracy, like the Watergate conspiracy, comes unraveled very quickly. Or if it was hallucinations, the same way. Or if it’s myth, those things get unraveled very quickly. But even in, early in the second century and late first century, there’s positive evidences from Nero torturing Christians from secular history for people willing to die, an almost universal example of people not recanting on that situation. Would you like to respond to that?
Till: Okay, we talked about that this afternoon in the car ride, among the many other things, and I told them that I live about thirty-five or forty miles from Carthage, Illinois. Do you people know the significance of Carthage, Illinois? That was where the mob took Joseph Smith by force and lynched him. Now, we might ask the question, “Why didn’t Joseph Smith say, ‘hey, I take it back’?” It didn’t happen. Why was he willing to die at the hands of the lynch mob for this thing that he said had happened? The Mormons were persecuted at Nauvoo, which was not far from Carthage, and they had to pull up stakes and go farther west. They settled at Independence, Missouri, and then they went on, finally, to Utah. Why were they suffering these persecutions for things that they knew did not happen? Now, you know I get this question quite often, and I simply say this: Christianity does not have a monopoly on martyrdom. And surely people in the audience know that when you think about all of the news stories that you hear about Islamic radicals that are willing to blow themselves to pieces for something that they believe in because they believe that they will go to paradise, how can we explain the thinking of someone whose mindset is on some religious belief that he has. Now, as far as this actually happening, you know you’re looking back two thousand years and how much was the history of that time edited? Joseph McCabe , the man who wrote The Myth of the Resurrection, if you’ll believe that, he’ll show you how that the Church saw that a brand of history that they wanted was what was transmitted to us. The persecutions didn’t happen nearly as much as Christians today believe.
Horner: I think this is very confused here. The point the Christians bring up when they say that the disciples were willing to die is brought up as evidence against the conspiracy theory. That’s the reason it’s brought up. To people who claim that there was some sort of deliberate conspiracy by the disciples, we say that their willingness to die is evidence that it’s not a conspiracy theory. People don’t die for a lie when they know it’s a lie. People die for lies all the time, but not when they know that it’s a lie. So, [now] how does this apply to the Joseph Smith situation? Well, [it] seems to [leave] about two options: one, either, you know, he is a liar, or he was a liar, and he just didn’t have the chance (in terms of this mob coming to get him) to recant; it was just too late, he had let it go too long, and that’s one possible explanation; or, he wasn’t a liar and he was possibly deceived. But neither one of those undermine the Christian claims in any way at all.
Questioner #4: Just one last point: if Joseph Smith died with a pistol in his hand, in a shoot-out…
Till: Well, that’s beside the point.
Questioner #4: Yeah, that’s usually not considered a martyr.
Till: Why wouldn’t it be martyrdom?
Questioner #4: Well, I don’t, I’m not here to make a statement.
Till: If the mob had not come for him at the jail, then he wouldn’t have been lynched.
Questioner #5: Mr. Horner, I wanted to inquire about the last point that you made in your first speech, the bit about the implications of Jesus’ resurrection, the significance, because I didn’t see very much talk on that. I’m wondering how you go, I mean let’s just say for the sake of argument, not only was there a person named Jesus Christ because that is not obvious either, there’s contention over that, I myself still think the preponderance of historical evidence indicates there was no Jesus Christ and you can’t very well have a resurrection unless there was …
Horner: There’s no good evidence for that. There’s …
Questioner #5: At the very least it’s, there’s controversy. But …
Horner: Not much.
Questioner #5: Oh, actually on the e-mail groups that I talk on there’s a great deal, but I don’t care, I don’t need that.
Horner: Believe me, that doesn’t prove anything.
Questioner #5: No, no, it doesn’t. I would never say that it does. So let’s say that he was real. Let’s further say that he was, indeed, resurrected. I’m wondering how in the world you go from that to saying … I forget your exact wording, but basically that Christianity is correct. And then, Mr. Till, I’d really love to hear how you would respond to his process of that because, and I’ll explain why I asked that because I understand this is a very odd question to be asked [if we mean] if Jesus was resurrected you’d think that Christianity [just follows anyway]?
Horner: Yes, that’s right.
Questioner #5: Not too long ago, there was a debate at my school, theUniversity ofWashington, between my metaphysics teacher, Corey Washington, and Dr. Craig, one of your favorite references to be dropped tonight, although I’m not sure why …
Horner: Because he’s a very good scholar, that’s why.
Questioner #5: Well, yes, but he doesn’t even have a degree in philosophy. His degrees, I believe, were all in …
Horner: No, he has a Ph.D. in philosophy, under John Hick atBirmingham, and a Ph.D. in theology under Wolfhart Panenburg inGermany.
Questioner #5: Right. I was aware of his theology degree. I wasn’t aware of the philosophy degree. Thanks.
Horner: okay He’s probably more of a philosopher than he is a theologian, less works than philosophy.
Questioner #5: I asked Corey, “Why in the world isn’t it enough just to say that its [all talk],” and he said, “Well, I go to church.” And I can’t help but wonder why because there are less remarkable explanations.
Horner: Okay, let me respond. Your question is: what are the implications of the Resurrection and how we’d argue that? Given the context of the Resurrection, that it happened within the context of Jesus’ life, which I believe clearly showed a self-understanding that he was more than just a man, his self-understanding that he spoke with divine authority through his behavior and his claims, that he saw himself as divine, and his predictions that he would rise from the grave, the Resurrection vindicates Jesus’ claim to be the Old Testament Yahweh, to be the Old Testament God. And therefore, it’s proof of the deity of Jesus Christ. And therefore, what Jesus Christ said is true. And then you begin looking through the Gospels, what did he say, and those are the other implications that I mentioned: Christianity is true, we are truly forgiven, we can be truly forgiven for our sins, there is eternal life, and so on.
Questioner #5: I guess that was, I’m not quite seeing how you go from one to the other. There are other explanations for why he might have risen from the dead, for example, I don’t know, maybe he wasn’t really dead. One suggested that. Another, this is going to be really far out, …
Horner: That’s not a resurrection then.
Questioner #5: No, it isn’t, but …
Horner: You said the hypothesis is that he rose from the dead.
Questioner #5: Sure. This would be. Let’s say, and this is going to be really far out, that he was an alien, who … [unintelligible] … regenerate himself or something like that, if anybody watches Dr. … [unintelligible]…
Horner: I’m glad you asked that. Can I respond?
Questioner #5: And this is, I have no evidence for this, but I don’t need it. It’s logically possible, and the thing is, the only, you seem to be implying that the only possible explanation is that he was the Son of God and that would imply that there is a god. The only way you can do that is if God is the only possible explanation for something. Given …
Horner: Let me respond, okay? You’ve given me enough to go on. Let me respond. I’m not suggesting it’s the only possible explanation; this is a very critical point. I’m talking the areas of probabilities. See, skeptics come up with all sorts of possibilities. Could have been an alien. Yeah, it’s a logical possibilities, possibility. Possibilities come cheap. The issue is: what is the probability of that hypothesis; is there any evidence to support it? How does it compare to the other hypothesis, the resurrection hypothesis? The resurrection hypothesis explains all the data; it’s consistent with the data. The alien hypothesis doesn’t fit the data.
Questioner #5: What data, exactly?
Debate moderator: Okay, I’m going to have to just ask if we can move on to rebuttal. There’ll be time afterwards ….
Till: Gee, this is one of those situations again where I, I hardly know what to say. I’ll just say this: you touched on something that’s very interesting. There is no evidence outside of the New Testament, or some apocryphal books which even the Church rejects because they’re so ridiculous, there is no testimony of any kind coming from that period to corroborate anything about the life of Jesus. I mean the life of Jesus. Understand I’m not saying he didn’t exist, I’m just saying there is no evidence to corroborate the story of his life and certainly nothing to corroborate the Resurrection.
Horner: I disagree that there is absolutely no corroboration. But the important point is there’s also no corroboration for [an] alternative hypothesis. So the argument cuts both ways.
Questioner #6: [For Mr. Till] You mentioned the three or four persons with that affidavit in the beginning of the Book of Mormon referring to the gold tablets, and I was wondering if you considered those, I guess, viable resources to base, I guess, credible witnesses, I guess.
Till: No. Certainly not, and I’ll tell you why. They were biased. If you look at the names of those witnesses, and then look at the names of the eight witnesses, you’ll see some family names are the same. They were obviously followers of Joseph Smith and so that alone is sufficient to question their objectivity. And that’s exactly the point that I’ve been trying to make; whoever wrote the book of Matthew, and it certainly wasn’t the Apostle Matthew, and whoever wrote the Gospel of John, whoever wrote Mark, whoever wrote Luke, they obviously were trying to propagate the premise that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. And even John said, be, uh, that Jesus did many other things that are not written in this book but these are written so that you might believe that he was the Son of God. That’s a rough paraphrase. Well, that’s an admission that they were simply writing something that they thought would sell the idea that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. And since they were biased, we have to take with a big grain of salt the things that they said , especially when we read that here was a man that was born of a virgin, here was a man that went around healing the blind, and curing the lame, and raising people from the dead, and then he himself was resurrected from the dead. Those things are simply so fantastic that we want more evidence than the fact that someone who were fanatical followers of Jesus made the claim that these things happened. Where is the corroborating evidence from those who were not disciples of Jesus? It seems to me that there would have been some testimony to at least the three hours of darkness and the resurrection of the saints who appeared unto many.
Horner: Just because they had theological motives for writing the Gospels does not mean that they are biased. I mean, all historians have motives for writing their history because they think it’s important. They’re trying to persuade people that certain things happened; that doesn’t mean they should not be believed as reliable history. It wasn’t just the followers of Jesus; we have James, a skeptic, and Paul, an enemy. Furthermore, there was corroborating evidence of some of the broad strokes of Jesus’ life. And lastly, again, even if there’s no corroborating evidence for the resurrection hypothesis, there’s no corroborating evidence for the alternative hypothesis. And I repeat, we are comparing hypotheses here tonight. And so, if that argument counts against me, it counts against you as well.
Questioner #7: [For Mr. Horner] What were the initial, what was the initial reason that you believed in the Resurrection? Was it because of a personal experience you had, or because of an intellectual investigation, and what, today, would be your best reason for still believing that the Resurrection actually did happen?
Horner: Yeah, thanks for that question. That’s a good question. Different people, I think, it can happen in different orders. For me, I had the personal experience first with the risen Christ that changed my life. That was a self-authenticating experience. As I began to realize that there were maybe other possible explanations and, you know, had some doubts, and looked at the evidence, then I began to see that the evidence was actually very good on an objective level. I’m always willing to lay out all of my beliefs on the table and let them be attacked and challenged, and I want them to be able to be supported both objectively, but I also have that subjective experience that corroborates it. So which is the most important one right now? It’s a combination, sort of a symbiotic relationship, I guess.
Till: Well, people like Mr. Horner always say, “I’m a Christian because I’ve examined the evidence, and the evidence is just so overwhelming in favor of this that that’s why I am a Christian, not a Hindu, or a Zoroastrian,” and all you gotta do is look at a map of the world and you can see that that obviously is not so. If everyone made a decision about their religion on the basis of laying out the evidence and looking at it and deciding accordingly, then you would expect for the religions of the world to be evenly distributed all over the world. But it isn’t that way; here’s a section of the world where Buddhism is the dominant religion, here is one where Hinduism is the dominant religion, here’s a part of the world where Christianity is the dominant religion. It’s all a matter of birth and the influences that one has in his childhood.
Horner: I think it’s clear that all of us go through a stage where we tend to rebel against what we’ve been brought up with, and people do change their positions. You changed your position. That seems to undermine your argument right there. Everyone does not develop their position on the basis of analysis of the evidence. That doesn’t mean that people cannot develop their position on the basis of an analysis of the evidence.
Till: Well now do I get to rebut that? You spoke for two minutes, and then I got a one minute rebuttal, and now you’re wanting a rebuttal. There were many speeches that he made, I mean many things that he said in answering the questions, that I would like to have referred to when he was the last speaker. Let’s go by the rules.
Horner: I’m not sure what you’re talking about.
Till: Well, the question was asked of you and you spent two minutes answering it and I responded to it and you said can I respond to that.
Horner: No, no I didn’t ask. The moderator asked me to respond. I’d forgotten who was asked the question. So I agree with you.
Questioner #8: This is a question for Mr. Till. We all, I think most of us agree tonight that the resurrection of Christ, whether it’s true or not, is a very significant question, or obviously we wouldn’t be here, having to do with how it impacts the lives of people; how they respond to that question influences a lot of things in their values and lifestyle. And for you, sir, after you have rejected historical Christianity in your own life after your investigation, I wanted to ask, at this point in your life do you have hope? And, if so, would you be willing to explain what that hope is to the rest of us?
Till: Well, of course you’re wanting to know do I have hope of living on in another life, and the answer to that is “no” because I do not believe that there is an afterlife. Now, you want to say, “Well, you’re without hope.” Well, how am I without hope? You know, before I was born on April the 26th, 1933… Well I’d better back up, I did exist in my mother’s womb, but the point is, before I was born I didn’t exist. I wasn’t unhappy, I wasn’t suffering in any way, I just didn’t exist. And when I die, I’m going to return to what I was before. And I think the American poet, Philip Freneau, provided just about as excellent a comment to what you’re digging for here as I could, as I could possibly make. In his poem, “To the Honeysuckle.” he said, “If nothing once, you nothing lose, for when you die, you are the same. The space between is but an hour, the frail duration of a flower.” Before I was born I was nothing; when I die I will be nothing. That’s my personal belief, but I can’t say that I lost everything. I at least had the time in between.
Horner: I do believe that the issue of truth, here, is the most important one tonight, which view is true. But, apart from the issue of truth, it’s clear which view does provide hope. Jesus said that I am the Resurrection, the life, he who believes in me live even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Till: And now since he was given a moment awhile ago, could I get mine now? Mr. Horner, all of the wishing and hoping in the world will not make anything true that isn’t true. If there is a life after death, that is a fact. If there is no life after death, that’s a fact also. And you can hope and wish and dream and pray all that you want to, and that will not change reality.
Horner: And hoping and believing that God isn’t there won’t change the fact that he is either.
Questioner #9: Mr. Horner, in your talk you gave evidence for an early dating of the Gospels in order to support your idea that legend would not have had time to develop. Can you tell us when the Gospels were first referred to by, for example, a Church Father? When something was quoted from a Gospel, for example, or when they were used in an argument against heretics?
Horner: In the early second century.
Questioner #9: In the early second century. How early?
Horner: I’m not sure exactly.
Questioner #9: And who would those people be?
Horner: I’m not sure exactly.
Questioner #9: Okay, from what I’ve read, myself, this occurred, actually, late in the second century and when those two people, Papias and Iranaeus, became aware of the Gospels, they thought the story ridiculous.
Horner: Well, you’d have to give me specific documentation. >From what I gather reading, I don’t what you said is, it is correct, but we’d have to get into specifics to really get down to it.
Till: Well, a good point has been made here, and it’s really tragic that people don’t know more about the history of their religion than they do. But what the question said here is true, the Gospels were not quoted until the second century, that is they weren’t quoted by the Church Fathers until well into the second century. And if they existed as early as you say they were and if they were the inspired Word of God, it’s strange to me that they weren’t quoted earlier than that.
Questioner #10: [For Mr. Till] You repeatedly said that you believed that Mr. Horner’s arguments were based on the fact that he assumed the New Testament to be historically accurate. Can you present any historical or archaeological evidence to say that it’s not?
Till: Well, I’ll say again all of his arguments were based on the assumption that if the New Testament says X — and let X be anything whatever you want to — then he’s assuming that that’s historically accurate. Now, in saying “Do I have any proof that it did not happen,” no, I don’t have any proof that Mohammed did not ascend to heaven on a white horse. I don’t have any evidence thatKrishna, the Hindu Savior, was not born of a virgin. I do not have any proof that King Kasna considered the birth of Krishna to be a threat to him and so he ordered all of the male children in that region to be executed. I don’t have any evidence that that did not happen. But it’s very familiar, by the way, to the story of how that Herod ordered the execution of the male children in and around the region ofBethlehem. When you ask somebody to prove that something did not happen, how are you going to go about doing that? If I said I flew to the moon last week, how would you prove that that did not happen? And would you even feel any need to prove that it did not happen? You would see that it’s so extraordinary that it would be up to me to prove that I did fly to the moon last week.
Horner: I don’t think so. The claim that Mr. Till is making is that the New Testament writings are legendary. He says, “He who asserts must prove.” So he’s got to, he’s got to prove that. The reason that we reject events about the life ofKrishna, and so on, as being reliable rather than legendary, that there’s reasons to reject it, and one, it’s at least theoretically possible to compile reasons. He’s suggesting that you can’t even do it, it’s an impossible task. As a matter of fact, he does do it. He tries to point out that the accounts are contradictory and therefore should not be considered reliable. So he is doing the very thing he says can’t be done. So I just don’t know, to me it just seems like a way to get out of having to present a case, and I find it very frustrating in debating atheists and skeptics that they tend to do this time and time again, put all the burden of proof on the other side and don’t accept any onus for their case at all.
Questioner #10: What I”m trying to ask is: the preponderance of historical evidence and archaeological evidence has supported the claims of the Bible thus far, as far as we’ve discovered, and textual criticism of the New Testament has proved the number of manuscripts, the early date of those manuscripts, and their reliability. Why, then, are you comparing a document with this kind of historical, physical manuscript evidence to documents that don’t have equal evidence?
Till: Well, I’m going to ask you a question and I”m going to give you some of my time to answer that question. Are you saying that there is a correlation or connection between the number of copies of an ancient document that are still in existence, or whether that document is true or not is dependent on the number of manuscripts available? Is that what you’re saying?
Questioner #10: No, what I’m saying is that the number of manuscripts available relates to, first of all it’s importance in its day when it was originally written, it relates, the dating of the manuscripts relates to their reliability through the original autograph and to the original text and therefore we have more, the documents or the manuscripts that we have are from different branches of New Testament criticism and we feel that by looking at and comparing the manuscripts that we can get a closer look at what was originally written and also that the number of manuscripts confirms the importance of the document.
Till: Well, you’ve been reading in F. F. Bruce and Norman Geisler I see. I debated Norman Geisler inGeorgia in 1994, and he used that same argument, and I asked him to show the correlation between the number of documents that were in existence of the New Testament manuscripts and the accuracy, historical accuracy, of what they reported. I have a document here that has 1600 copies made of it, and everyone of them is exactly alike. If, if two thousand years from now those 1600 copies should be discovered would that be any proof at all that what is said in here is true? What’s the correlation between the number of the documents and what the documents say, and truth?
Horner: Farrell and I agree on this point. It’s a good point that we have large numbers of manuscripts and a short time gap that allows us to determine that the text we have for the Scripture right now is very, very close to the original, and that’s a good conclusion. But it doesn’t follow from that that the text is reliable, that is correct. You have to marshal a different arguments for that conclusion.
Questioner #11: [For Mr. Horner] Do you believe that miracles are possible?
Horner: Yes, because as long as it’s even possible that God exists, miracles are possible and I have not seen a good argument that God does not exist. So that would be a very rational conclusion. Whether they happen or not, you have to investigate. But at least I’m an open agnostic when I approach an issue like that. Rather than someone who dismisses them, they can’t happen, or someone who says no, they’re happening all the time, here’s one here, here’s one there. It’s possible, let’s check it out.
Till: Well, I’ll just say I think I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of the existence of God and I even had one debate on the subject, and I haven’t heard a good argument, a convincing argument, for the existence of God at all; they have all been responded to. And on the subject of miracles, does he believe in miracles? Yes, he believes in miracles if their written in this book [holding up a Bible], but he doesn’t believe in miracles if they’re written in this book [picking up the Book of Mormon]. He doesn’t believe in miracles if they’re written in this book [picking up another book] which is The History of the Twelve Caesars, by Suetonius, and he recorded a lot of miracles in this. But he doesn’t believe in them. He believes in the miracles that are in the Bible. And he says he’s not biased.
Questioner #12: [For Mr. Till] What is your definition of objectivity? What is your definition of being biased? And how are we to maintain objectivity today?
Till: First of all, I really doubt if it’s possible for any person to be totally objective. I’m sure, in talking to Mr. Horner, that he would agree with me on that. Total objectivity would be where a person would write an account of something and would keep, keep his personal ideas and opinions totally and completely out of it. Would that be possible? I don’t think that it would be. But certainly if you’re going to accept tradition and the idea that the book of Matthew was written by the Apostle Matthew, who was an avowed disciple of Jesus, then you couldn’t very well accept the premise that he was objective in what he was reporting. And when we read the things that he reported that have no corroboration whatsoever, like the Slaughter of the Innocents that Herod ordered in the region of Bethlehem, Mark didn’t mention that, Luke didn’t mention it, Josephus wrote a pretty detailed history of Herod — and he didn’t treat him kindly at all — but he made no reference at all to that event. Yet if you study Hindu literature, you find that allegedly the same type of thing happened whenKrishna was born. And when we know things like that, we have good reason to doubt whether Matthew, for example, was being objective when he said that that happened. My definition of bias, and I’m going to have to be very brief here. Well, if it’s someone who is prejudiced, he is against something or someone; if he is biased he is in favor. That’s the technical definition and the difference between the two. John said, “I’m writing this so that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” That expresses a bias to me.
Horner: The word bias is a psychologically charged word, you know, and to say that just because their a follower of Jesus that therefore they’re biased is implying therefore, you know, they’re lying or their fudging, and that just doesn’t follow. I mean, you’ve got to throw out so much of history if you’re going to carry that principle across, across the board. With regard to the Murder of the Innocents, it’s quite possible that just a very small number were, were killed. The fact that there’s no corroborating evidence for that is not a reason, strong reason to, to doubt its happening.
Questioner #13: Mr. Horner, you gave several supporting factors in making a cumulative case for the empty tomb, and I wanted to ask you a two-part question about the empty tomb. First, philosophically speaking, wouldn’t you agree that the background probability of the empty tomb story being true for an atheist is very low? That is to say that if I don’t believe in God, it’s just really bizarre and highly unlikely for me to, for that to be true? And then secondly, historically speaking, doesn’t it strike you as strange the Apostle Paul, in 1st Corinthians 15, when he’s trying to convince the people of Corinth that there was a resurrection of the dead, that he doesn’t mention the empty tomb, and to anticipate possible answers to that, that the phrase “he was buried” does not imply the empty tomb, because there’s no evidence that Paul believed in the burial reported in the Gospels, and also that the phrase “on the third day” is tied to the phrase “he was raised” and not “he was buried.”
Horner: For an atheist, the background probability of any hypothesis that suggests a miracle would be low, but I don’t think that’s the unbiased way to approach the analysis. That’s why I say I think you don’t approach the analysis, you lay aside your presupposition that miracles are impossible, that I’m an atheist, you know, before you approach this, because if you don’t, I think you’re just arguing in a circle.
Questioner #13: What I’m getting at, though, is wouldn’t you agree that it doesn’t make sense to talk about something like the Resurrection in a vacuum, because it sort of begs the prior question of the existence of God in general.
Horner: No, I don’t think so. I think you can discuss whether there’s historical evidence that a Resurrection took place, or that the tomb was empty, that the appearances happened, that these transformation took place, and then you look, you know, for what’s the best explanation for that. You know, there’s one given in the text that it’s a Resurrection. What’s the probability of that, those witnesses being correct? What other hypotheses are there with the probability of those things being correct? But I think to just say that there’s a, the background probability of anything miraculous happening just kind of settles the issue because, you know, I’m an atheist is not an unbiased way to approach the investigation. Second question?
Questioner #13: The second question was regarding the silence of the Apostle Paul on the empty tomb in 1st Corinthians 15.
Horner: Yeah, I mean he, he quotes the old Christian saying that Christ died, he was buried and he rose, and I mean that just implies that the tomb was empty; there’s no need to mention the two words ’empty tomb’ there. It just seems to me to be clear that to Paul, who had a Jewish mind, that if a guy was buried and he rose, that the tomb’s now empty. The idea of a resurrection or somebody rising, the body still being in the tomb, would be like a square circle to the Jewish mind. And it doesn’t make any sense to us either; it’s just some liberal critics who seem to think it makes some sense. So?
Till: Oh my, how do I rebut that in one minute? I’ll just confine my remarks to the Apostle Paul and what he said. The fact that he said that Jesus died, and was buried, and rose, doesn’t necessarily imply an empty tomb especially when you go on and read his argument where he used the analogy of a, of a seed being planted: unless the seed dies, you know, it won’t grow. Well, I’m enough of a farmer to know that if you bury a seed, and then when the plant grows if you dig down and look under the plant, you’re not going to find an empty hole in the ground, but the seed is still there nurturing the plant. Paul believed that a spiritual body rose from the dead as opposed to a physical body rising, and so that doesn’t necessarily imply an empty tomb.
Questioner #14: Mr. Till, I have to share something that I thought was kind of funny when I was listening to you use the Book of Mormon. There’s a substantial body of evidence that the manuscript that actually became the Book of Mormon was taken from a print shop by a guy named Sidney Rigdon who was an ex-Church of Christ Pastor, so you have a bed-fellow there.
Till: I’m familiar with that.
Questioner #14: okay My question is: wouldn’t you agree that if there were a carnal evil entity bent on deceiving mankind, that it would be very easy for that entity to propagate resurrection myths, myths about children being born of a virgin, based on prophetic passages from the Old Testament before the actual advent of Christ? A simple “yes” would do.
Till: Let me comment about Sidney Rigdon. Do you know that the Mormons teach the same plan of salvation that the Church of Christ teaches and that was because Sidney Rigdon was a member of the Church of Christ and he became acquainted with Joseph Smith and evidently had enough influence on him to get in the five-point plan of salvation that the Church of Christ had been teaching? I don’t know if many of you knew that. Manuscript Lost was also the name of that work that Rigdon supposedly stole and then Joseph Smith used it as the basis for the Book of Mormon. Let everyone understand in here, I’m not saying that this book is inspired; I’m just trying to make some analogies. And, oh yes, the second thing, do you know that there was a Church Father, and I can’t think of his name right now, who actually proposed that thing that you’re saying here. And I’m engaged in a correspondence with a person who is saying that same thing, that the Devil made the legends about Krishna arise and about Tammuz and about Osiris because he was going to try to thwart the plan of God so that when the true Messiah actually came that people would not believe in it because they had heard it all before. Well, actually if the Devil did that he was pretty stupid because, as I said, Christianity conquered that part of the world where those mystery religions were believed in and many scholars think that the attitude that the people had was, “Well why not believe in this Jesus, he’s just another resurrected savior?”
Horner: Every time you add a little information about what you believe about the Book of Mormon, you’re confirming the point that I’m making, Farrell, that is that it’s rational to reject Mormonism because there are arguments against its veracity, not just because the claims are extraordinary.
Questioner #15: [For Mr. Till] Yes. What was your initial reason for denying the Resurrection when you were rethinking that process, and was it an intellectual decision, an intellectual investigation, or was it some personal experience that happened to you? And now, what is the base reason for why you deny the Resurrection?
Till: Okay, I grew up in theChurch ofChrist. TheChurch ofChrist believes very solidly in the inerrancy of the Bible. I was exposed to smorgasbord Bible study at Church and at the Bible colleges that I attended, and after I was away from there, and did some pretty serious studying of the Bible, if I may say so, I began to see, well, what this says here doesn’t agree with what’s said over here. And when I saw that time and time and time and time again, I got to the point to where I could no longer believe in biblical inerrancy. and that was a big blow to me. After that I began to see, “Well, this God, Yahweh, in the Old Testament, he wasn’t a very admirable character; do I want to worship a God like that? The Resurrection came later. Are you getting my point? I didn’t wake up one morning and say, well I’ve been preaching now for twelve years, heck I think I’ll go to the Bible and see if I can find some reason to reject it. It was a gradual thing that happened. All of this accumulated, and eventually I got to the point to where I couldn’t believe any of it, and so I couldn’t believe in the Resurrection since it’s a fantastic claim.
Horner: I was expecting Farrell to spend a lot of time tonight on the alleged contradictions and discrepancies in the Resurrection account. I thought that was one of the main reasons why he had, you know, made the move from Christianity to his position now. I wish we had because he really didn’t bring it up until his final speech and I didn’t have a chance to respond to it at that point. Because I analyzed everything that he’s written that I could find on those contradictions, I think there are very good answers to every alleged contradiction, alleged discrepancy in the Resurrection accounts, mainly found in the writings of John Wenham, The Easter Enigma, which is a very, very good book, and harmonization done by Murray Harris as well.
Questioner #16 [For Mr. Till] Yes. Presuming an extraordinary event did happen in the distant past, something fantastic, something that defies natural law, a miracle, if you will, what requirements must be satisfied before you will believe it? And please be specific.
Till: Let me say first, I’ve read The Easter Enigma too; I have that book, and, of course, I have a different opinion of it. I can’t think of a single so-called miracle that happened in the distant past that I’m willing to believe did happen, because it … you see, you just can’t go back to that time and authenticate it. I’ll just talk about Occam’s razor. I haven’t mentioned it tonight, but I’m a firm believer in Occam’s razor. Occam simply said that when there are more than one, there’s more than one explanation for a phenomenon that is unusual, the most likely or probable explanation is the simplest one. Men can lie; we know that to be true. Men can be deceived; we know that to be true. Men can be misled; men can, uh, can have illusions about things happening that really didn’t happen, we know that to be true; we have all had personal experiences with this. We do not know that anyone has ever risen from the dead because we have not been able to test that, we’ve not experienced it. So why wouldn’t a sensible person reject the idea that that happened or anything that’s contrary to natural laws?
Questioner #16: So you couldn’t be convinced no matter what. In other words, there’s no way to convince you.
Till: Well, I suppose if God would come down here right in front of us and give an unequivocal demonstration that he was God, and then tell me that Moses parted theRed Sea, I suppose I would accept that. By the way, why doesn’t He do that?
Questioner #16: Would you accept it anyway?
Till: If He gave an unequivocal demonstration, yes, I would accept it.
Questioner #16: Well, what I’m saying is …
Till: ‘Unequivocal’ means it cannot be disputed.
Questioner #16: Right, what requirements for … [interrupted by member of audience shouting suggested questions for questioner to ask Till]
Till: Okay, if God would appear here, tonight, and take us outside to an empty lot and say, “I am going to make a fifty-story skyscraper suddenly appear here,” and that fifty-story skyscraper came into existence, and I went over and I touched it and felt it and saw that it was real, and got in the elevator and rode up (and some people here know I wouldn’t go up very many floors) but anyway, if I had tangible proof like that that He was God, and then he said to me, “By the way, I had Moses part the Red Sea, and Jesus Christ was my Son and he rose from the dead” — after an unequivocal demonstration like that I would be very willing to consider that it all did happen.
Horner: I don’t think you can say a priori that it’s always more likely that witnesses are lying rather than that a miracle has taken place. I mean it could be the case that the testimony and evidence for a miracle is stronger than the possibility of lies or mistaken. And if you’re saying that the probability of a miracle is always less than the probability of it being a natural event that only shows that what took place, if the evidence is good, is a physically impossible event, or a nomologically impossible event. We agree on that; that’s why we call it a miracle. But it doesn’t show that the event didn’t happen. It’s comparing apples and oranges. And, so, you have to prove that in this case it’s more probable that the witnesses are lying or some other explanation rather than a, say a resurrection or a miracle explanation.
Mr. Till’s Closing Comments
Five minutes isn’t very long, and certainly that’s not long enough for me to make much of an argument, but I’m going to try to.
I had a reason for asking Mr. Horner if the body of Jesus had experienced rigor mortis, or if it experienced decay. Remember when Jesus was at the tomb of Lazarus, and Martha realized that he was going to raise him from the dead, as he was… well, I think it was before he gave the command to roll away the stone, according to the New Testament story Martha said, “He’s been dead four days; he stinks.” And she was saying something there that we all realize: that if a body is dead for that period of time, then it’s going to experience decay. And so I’m trying to find out from him [Horner] what, what kind of death was this that the man Jesus allegedly experienced.
Well, he couldn’t have experienced corruption or else the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter lied in the sermons that the writer, Luke, attributed to them in the book of Acts, because they said in quoting from Psalm 16 that he had seen no corruption. So, if there was no corruption seen, and Jesus really did die and he was buried in the tomb, and then he came out again on the third day, how could we really be sure that he was resurrected, I mean that he was dead in the first place?
And let’s take an appearance that Jesus made to his disciples on the night of the Resurrection according to Luke’s twenty-fourth chapter and also [John], the twentieth chapter: Jesus appeared to his disciples, and Thomas wasn’t there according to the version that’s recorded in the twentieth chapter of John, and eight days later Jesus appeared to the disciples again and Thomas was there. If you’ll read that story, it will say that Jesus challenged Thomas to put his hand into his side and see if it, if it wasn’t really the Jesus that had died on the cross and whose side had been pierced by the Roman soldier.
Well, I had an operation just eleven days ago; I had abdominal surgery. And on Friday, I went to the surgeon to have the surgical staples removed. And I asked him, “What would have happened if you’d just dismissed me without putting those staples in?” He looked at me kind of funny and said, “Well we’d never do that.” And I said, “Well, if you had, what would’ve happened?” He said, “We wouldn’t do it.” But if you had… I then told him what I was digging for, and he, by the way, was a Hindu surgeon and he said he didn’t know very much about the story of the Resurrection but he thinks that he had vaguely heard that [stpry]. And so he told me, “I will tell you this. If his side was pierced, then he had to go around like that [Till clasped his side with both hands], holding his side to keep the internal organs from gushing out, because when a wound like that is opened into the cavity, then there’s pressure from inside to push the organs out.”
As I was studying for the debate, I read that story again in the book of John and I thought, well what kind of death was this? The man still had his side open enough, eight days after his resurrection, to invite Thomas to put his side, his hand into his side. He could pass through doors, because the doors were closed when he made that first appearance on the night of his resurrection. And the Apostle Paul said, and I’d be interested in hearing your rebuttal here, Mr. Horner, I say that Paul was insisting that this was a spiritual resurrection. Later on, though, it became a literal, physical resurrection.
Mr. Horner’s Closing Comments
Well, tonight I made two main claims. One, there are good reasons to affirm the resurrection, and two, there are no good reasons to deny the Resurrection. I argued that the tomb was empty, Jesus physically appeared to many witnesses, and that the origin of the Christian religion is inexplicable apart from a real resurrection. Mr. Till’s response was, he did not deal very directly with the specific evidence that I brought up. He just had the overall comment that they’re biased, they’re biased because they’re followers. But you have to unpack that statement. He’s saying they’re biased because they’re followers, and that means that either the accounts are deliberate fabrications or they’re legends. And you have to supply evidence to support those hypotheses, and we didn’t see much evidence to support those hypotheses.
Regarding the spiritual body, when Paul refers to the resurrection body as a spiritual body, he cannot be meaning a body made out of spirit; that’s a contradiction in terms. A spirit is precisely the absence of a body. And the idea of seeing a non-physical body is incoherent because sight apprehends its objects by means of light waves reflected from it and a non-physical body can’t reflect light waves. So Paul’s not talking about the substance the body’s made of, he’s talking about its orientation. When we say, “The Bible’s a spiritual book,” or “Betty’s a spiritual person,” we’re not talking or implying that they’re made out of spirit, but that they are oriented toward the spiritual. Paul’s argument in 1st Corinthians 15 is that this body was a transformed, changed body that needed to be made imperishable, no longer perishable. And that’s the answer to your comments about the wound. This, the biblical accounts are that this was a transformed body; it was physical, it was continuous with the previous physical body but it was changed and transformed, and it was now a supernatural body and so it’s not going to have the same sort of problems that a regular body would have.
I also argued that there were no good reasons to deny the resurrection, and Mr. Till really has not given us a case, tonight. He’s just argued in a circle; miracles are impossible, therefore the resurrection didn’t happen. And I think I’ve shown that his concept of extraordinary evidence is nonsense. We need good evidence for events of great import. The Resurrection is an event of great import and we need good evidence, and we do have good evidence — not some sort of phantom standard of extraordinary evidence. He’s implied that there’s no corroborating evidence that the darkness happened for the three hours period. Well, there’s no reason that there would have to be other records; I mean, there’s very few records that come from that time period anyway. To imply that it’s necessary there be other records in order to believe this just isn’t rational, it’s an argument from silence which is, of course, very weak. And, in fact, we do have some corroboration of that. Julius Africans, a third century Christian writer, refers to Thallus, who wrote around 52 A.D., as explaining this darkness at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion by an eclipse of the sun. And so it was apparently something that Thallus, in the middle of the first century, knew about.
The resurrection of the saints out of the tomb, it’s, again, you wouldn’t have to expect other corroborating accounts of that. They likely would have appeared only for a short time, and as soon as they also had transformed resurrection bodies like Jesus, which I think would be consistent with the, with the biblical accounts, they probably just appeared to a few people for a short time, and there’s no reason why we should expect corroborating accounts there.
So basically what I think has happened here is I’ve presented a hypothesis and given support to it; Mr. Till has kind of danced around presenting an alternative hypothesis. He’s taken shots at my hypothesis and that’s legitimate, but he needs to provide an alternative hypothesis and evidence for it. And I think he’s failed to do that this evening. And so in the absence of a more plausible, naturalistic explanation that fits the facts, and this cognitive dissonance does not explain the empty tomb, can’t explain bodily appearances of Jesus Christ — in the absence of a hypothesis that can explain that and fits the facts, the Resurrection hypothesis, I think, is the superior hypothesis.
Readers wanting additional information on the resurrection controversy or other biblical issues may contact the participants in this debate at the following addresses:
|Michael Horner||Farrell Till|
|Campus Crusade for Christ ofCanada||Skepticism, Inc.|
|P.O. Box 529||P.O. Box 717|
|Suma, WA 98295-0529||Canton, IL 61520-0717|
|Email: firstname.lastname@example.org||Email: email@example.com|
|Phone: (604) 582-3100||Phone: (309) 647-4764|
|Fax: (309) 649-8015|