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. Lot of 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 century Palestine is 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.
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 …