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June 30, 2021

Added The Failure of Mathematical Formulations of Hume’s Maxim (2021) by Stephen Nygaard to the Argument from Miracles and Resurrection pages in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

Several commentators have attempted to reduce Hume’s maxim about miracles to a formula in the language of probability theory. This paper examines two such attempts, one of which is based on the probability of the alleged miracle conditioned by the testimony for it, and the other on its unconditional probability. The conditional probability leads to a formula that is valid—though only when qualified—but not useful, while the unconditional probability results in an invalid formula. The utility of expressing Hume’s maxim in terms of probability theory is shown to be questionable, and an alternative approach is presented.

Recommended reading: The Non-Canonical Gospels (2009) by Paul Foster

Biblical scholar Paul Foster’s edited volume The Non-Canonical Gospels brings together a collection of chapters written by leading experts in the field on the most significant of the noncanonical Gospels, focusing on the most hotly contested issues surrounding each text. An accessible introduction also underscores the significance of the noncanonical texts both for the original readers and for contemporary audiences. The Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the Gospel of Mary are treated first due to their impact on historical Jesus research. The resulting discussions by scholars holding an eclectic range of views should clarify a number of popular misconceptions and allow for a more informed and stimulating debate.

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