Dr. Ehrman’s Improbable Objection to the Empty Tomb


I was wandering about the internet, as is my custom, when I suddenly came across an article on the Daily Beast titled “Do We Know if There Was Really An Empty Tomb?” by Bart Ehrman. The article began by listing the many objections apologists have towards the idea that there was no empty tomb. Ehrman even concedes that they are excellent objections. However, despite admitting that all of the alternative explanations for the empty tomb are improbable; he rejects the idea of the empty tomb all the same. Why? Well for one simple reason, as he explains below:

“But simply looking at the matter from a historical point of view, any of these views is more plausible than the claim that God raised Jesus physically from the dead. A resurrection would be a miracle and as such would defy all ‘probability.’ Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a miracle. To say that an event that defies probability is more probable than something that is simply improbable is to fly in the face of anything that involves probability.”

This passage contained so much objective wrongness in its argument that I was driven to internally rant about it for about an hour. And thus this post was born.
To be sure, the idea that a dead body could spontaneously resurrect itself is massively improbable. I agree wholeheartedly that almost any other explanation for a resurrection should be preferred over the idea that a body just happened to bring itself back to life. What is often forgotten is that God resurrecting the body is one of those preferable explanations.

Really there is no point in judging whether or not a miracle is probable until we have settled the question of whether or not God exists. If God does not exist then miracles are the most singularly improbable things imaginable. If God does exist then miracles are just as probable as any other action we can imagine an individual taking. There is a pen lying on the desk next to me. There would be very little point in me asking you “What is the probability that I will pick up that pen in the next five minutes?” The answer is that it depends on whether or not I decide to. If I decide to pick up the pen then it is an almost 100% probability that I will do so (“almost” because I may suffer a freak heart attack, or an earthquake might strike, or some similar improbable event will prevent me from doing so). If I decide to leave it alone then the probability is almost 0% that I’ll pick up the pen (though again, freak incidents could cause me to do so, such as a madman bursting in and forcing me to pick it up at gunpoint). Thus it is with the resurrection of Jesus: if God exists and chose to raise Jesus from the dead then the probability of that resurrection is 100%. If God does not exist, or exists but chose not to resurrect Jesus, then the probability of God raising Jesus from the dead is 0%. The question, naturally, is whether or not God exists, and whether he is the Christian God if he does.

This being the case I am greatly dismayed when I see individuals dismiss any and all historical evidence that seems to indicate that Jesus was resurrected out of hand because they believe that “Any explanation is more probable than a resurrection actually occurring.” This assumes that God does not exist: and how can we determine the probability of the existence of God? Probabilities are only useful for events that occur in patterns or with defined odds. There are no odds on whether God exists, and God is not an event that occurs in patterns. Better to be honest instead and say that “I believe that it is more probable that very improbable things (such as mass hallucinations, for instance) actually occurred then that God might exist and be active in our world.” At this point we can have a real conversation about why you believe God’s existence is so improbable, and why I believe otherwise. But no more of this nonsense of defining miracles as the most improbable thing imaginable and then crowing that you win the fight be default. I might as well define miracles as the most probable thing imaginable and leave it at that: it does as much good for the discussion.

But wait, you might say. Even Christians agree that miracles are something out of the ordinary and unusual. Surely if you asked most educated Christians about whether an event is likely to be a miracle (say, for instance, the image of Jesus appearing on some toast) they are likely to agree that a natural explanation is more likely. This is true, but it misses the point. I believe that it is extremely improbable that a piece of toast emblazoned with Jesus’s image is a miracle not because miracles are by definition improbable but because I think it’s highly improbable that God would decide to put his mark a random piece of burnt bread. Similarly, if I found a piece of toast that looked uncannily like my cousin Haley I would think it improbable that she deliberately messed with the wiring of my toaster and think it far more probable that it was a simple chance occurrence.

When an event occurs that has many possible natural explanations the probability that it was a miracle seems lower, such as my example with toast. Just the other day I was run off the road by a careless driver. I slammed on my brakes, steered out of the way as best I could, and ended by fishtailing out of control until I came to a stop. Somehow, though I had lost all control over the vehicle by the end, I had managed to weave between two signs and come to a stop inches from a steel fence pole. As I got back on the road and continued on my way (the car that caused the incident had sped away without a moment’s hesitation) I thanked God that I was unharmed. I began to wonder: could this have been a miracle? Could God’s hand or an angel’s wings have brought my car to a stop just in time? I considered the possibility. I have no doubt that God is capable of intervening in such a fashion, but I also know that good people get in bad car accidents every day, accidents that God could have prevented. I also know that it is very possible that I avoided danger by purely natural means: my own quick reflexes and pure luck. With that being the case I am very hesitant to ascribe my good fortune as a miracle. It seems possible, but not necessarily probable.

The resurrection is another story altogether. There are not many plausible natural explanations for a crucified man who was stabbed with a spear, proclaimed dead, embalmed, and left in a tomb for three days suddenly showing up and walking around again. If the thing happened at all then it is certainly a far more probable candidate for a miracle than my own traffic incident, and exponentially more probable than Jesus shaped toast. The question then becomes “Did this thing happen?” This is an important question to ask, and I’ll happily discuss it with anyone. Just remember not to dismiss the possibility of miraculous resurrection out of hand due to “probability.”

About Mark Hamilton

I am, in no particular order, a nerd, an aspiring writer, a Christian, an aspiring filmmaker, an avid reader, a male, a GM, and a twenty something. I like learning how things are made, finding out how to do things from scratch, and I you can find more of my writing at thepagenebula.wordpress.com

Posted on April 23, 2014, in Apologetics, Christianity, History and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I enjoyed your post. I find this topic interesting as well. I also struggled somewhat with Dr. Ehrman’s statements regarding the improbability of miracles, but I tried to look at it from a slightly different angle. You see, I am Agnostic, and I think that the way Dr. Ehrman examines the resurrection is also as an Agnostic, but I think that he explains his view of the improbability of the resurrection in a way and tone that sounds a bit like he is certain that Jesus was not resurrected by God. I don’t think he actually thinks that, but I think that he probably just gets sick of beating the same dead horse all the time, so his tone of frustration can be mistaken for certainty.
    I have tried to completely suspend the idea of a God for a moment in order to examine the gospels’ accounts of the resurrection from a purely natural perspective. And in that light, I think that almost any natural explanation, including the more far fetched explanations, such as Jesus actually didn’t die on the cross but instead went to India, would still be more probable than resurrection if we were to remove God from the equation. What else, apart from aliens or some other terribly unlikely agent, could have been responsible for resurrecting Jesus? Since no one can know if there actually is a God, I think that this is the most useful way to look at the situation and so when considering the many natural possibilities and explanations for the empty tomb, i.e. eaten by vultures, body stolen, or Jesus didn’t actually die, these are still more reasonable than the resurrection, even if one does believe in God. Why do I think this? Well without getting into to many reasons for questioning the truth of the gospels, one that comes to mind is the 40 year time gap between Jesus’ supposed resurrection and the first recorded mention of Jesus’ resurrection in Mark. This seems to be one reason to think that something just doesn’t add up and perhaps even the most speculative natural theory should be considered as at least as probable as the traditional resurrection story.
    As an Agnostic, I find it hard to look at this situation through the eyes of a Christian, but there seems to be a cyclical problem here. The belief in Christianity is hinged on acceptance of the resurrection story. If a Christian believes that Jesus was resurrected than he is a good Christian and he feels secure. However, if a Christian decides that the resurrection story is improbable, then has just created for himself a serious problem with his faith. I suspect that a man’s faith in Christianity makes it difficult for him to objectively examine something like the resurrection because of the potentially frightening subconscious thought that a cold rational examination of facts might in fact lead to a loss of faith in the event that he decides that the resurrection is improbable. I would like to know how many Christians knew before accepting Christianity that the first gospel wasn’t written for 40 years after Jesus’s death or the fact that the gospels were anonymously written. The power of the unconscious mind should not be underestimated but I think it usually is. We all seek security and answers, but commitment and investment in beliefs combined with the habits of ignoring human fallibility could possibly lead some to come to unreasonable conclusions.
    What are your thoughts on this issue?

    • Thanks for the comment! I love a good discussion. Your comment was fairly long, but here are my thoughts on a few particular parts:
      “I think that almost any natural explanation, including the more far fetched explanations, such as Jesus actually didn’t die on the cross but instead went to India, would still be more probable than resurrection if we were to remove God from the equation.”

      I agree completely: if God does not exist than any alternative explanation is more probable than a resurrection. That much is obvious, and I said as much in the post itself. However that is begging the question. Why should we, apart from hypotheticals, assume that God does not exist? Surely the existence of God is what is in question as far as miracle claims are concerned.
      “Since no one can know if there actually is a God, I think that this is the most useful way to look at the situation…”

      To this statement, I have three things to say. The first is that, again, dismissing the possibility of God from the outset is begging the question as far as miracle claims are concerned, so that it is certainly not a useful way to look at things in this particular case. The second is that whether anyone can know if there actually is a God depends on what your definition of “know” is. Do you mean that God cannot be proven empirically? If that’s what you mean by “know” then I agree, but would point out that by the same standard we can’t “know” that George Washington existed, or that 2+2+4, as both cannot be proven empirically. Or do you simply mean that no one can “know” that God exists because nobody can really “know” that anything exists? If so, I agree, but I would also point out that this is a meaningless statement as everything is equally unknowable by that standard.

      The final thing I have to say is that one could argue just as well that no one can know that there actually is a universe that exists apart from our own minds, yet that doesn’t mean that approaching everything as if the universe didn’t exist is the most useful way to look at any given situation.
      “Well without getting into to many reasons for questioning the truth of the gospels, one that comes to mind is the 40 year time gap between Jesus’ supposed resurrection and the first recorded mention of Jesus’ resurrection in Mark.”

      A 40 year time gap is hardly a gap at all, historically speaking. 40 years means that there are still many individuals who were alive when the events occurred, and gives us almost no time for legendary accretion. For comparison, many Roman historical accounts that are considered fairly accurate were written two generations after the events themselves (Herodotus comes to mind: his historical writings concern themselves with events up to 200 years before his birth, yet they are the primary sources for much of what we know about the wars between the Greeks and Persians). The idea that the resurrection was something that developed with time also has difficulty when the Pauline Epistles are considered: Paul refers to Jesus’s resurrection multiple times, and his Epistles predate the earliest gospels. If you want to claim that the resurrection was something that was made up later in the history of Christianity then you have a tough row to hoe.

      As far as your last paragraph goes I only have to say that your point is a double edged one. While it is true that a Christian has a vested interest in believing in the resurrection (because if the resurrection wasn’t true then Christianity would be false and he would be wrong) I can say just the same about atheists and agnostics. Atheists have a vested interest in believing that miracles cannot happen, because if miracles can occur (especially one as significant as the resurrection of Jesus) then naturalism is false and they will have to change their outlook on life. If the Christian becomes convinced that the resurrection did not occur then he is intellectually compelled to give up his Christianity: in the same way, if an atheist becomes convinced that the resurrection did occur then he is intellectually compelled to become a Christian. In this case the vested interest is arguably equal. To be sure, I want the resurrection to be true: but it is just as true that most atheists want the resurrection to be false. Does this mean that Christians and Atheists can’t examine the evidence and try to reason things through? If we dismiss any defense of the resurrection on the grounds of the defenders having a vested interest then we must similarly dismiss any attacks on the resurrection based on the same grounds. This gets us nowhere. That is why I prefer to examine arguments are presented, instead of the interests of the person advancing them.

  2. You have made some interesting points and I have a few comments about each of them, but that would then require you to make again comment upon my many comments and then I think we would both get tired of switching from subtopic to subtopic. Since it was my error for introducing so many subtopics at once in my first reply, I will focus only on what I find as the most relevant of your comments.

    In your reply, you stated:

    “Does this mean that Christians and Atheists can’t examine the evidence and try to reason things through? If we dismiss any defense of the resurrection on the grounds of the defenders having a vested interest then we must similarly dismiss any attacks on the resurrection based on the same grounds. This gets us nowhere.”

    Ok, let us get back to basics. Because I am an Agnostic, in order to believe that the resurrection happened, I need to believe that there is a god or another supernatural force that caused Jesus’ physical body to be raised into the air and then disappear into the clouds. Since I have never seen this happen or ever heard any believable story of this happening to anyone in my lifetime or in the lifetime of anyone I have ever known, I find it more likely that those who claimed to have seen the resurrection either had hallucinations or visions or perhaps the stories were originally symbolic or allegorical but then became stories that were taken literally. I don’t require empirical evidence to change my mind on this, just a reasonable explanation about why I should believe in the supernatural when there have been so many natural mysteries uncovered in the last 100 years.

    I agree that Atheists and Christians should try to reason this through. If it were possible to come to some consensus, that would be great. The problem as I see it, is that both put the burden of proof on the other. What do you think?

    • I appreciate you deciding to focus on one topic at a time: I’ve had so many comment threads go wildly off topic over the years because people couldn’t focus!

      I agree that as an agnostic who has seen little to no evidence of supernatural phenomenon it would take a high level of evidence for you to come to the conclusion that the resurrection occurred. Naturally, as a theist who does believe in the supernatural the amount of evidence necessary to believe in the resurrection is much lower. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, as it’s only natural. However this is not the argument that Dr. Ehrman makes in the referenced article. Dr. Ehrman argues that there are compelling arguments that the resurrection occurred but that no matter how much evidence is brought forward the possibility of resurrection is ruled out by necessity. In other words he is saying that no amount of evidence, no matter how compelling, should convince us that the resurrection occurred. What reason does he give? Only that miracles are the most improbable thing imaginable and thus no matter how convincing the evidence might be we must always choose an alternative explanation, even if that explanation is extremely improbable. This, for the reasons I outlined in the post, is pure nonsense. Claiming that miracles are the most improbable things imaginable is begging the question.

      Thus I want to make it clear that I have no problem with someone saying that the evidence for the resurrection is not convincing to them. That’s fine: what is convincing for one is insufficient for another, and we can have a good discussion about why the evidence is or is not convincing. But saying that no the evidence should be dismissed out of hand, no matter how convincing it may be, is pure poppycock. It is akin to a fundamentalist saying that no amount of evidence that the resurrection did not occur should convince us that it didn’t because “The resurrection, being the most important moment of history and the centerpiece of God’s plan for this earth, is the most probable even that could ever occur.” These kinds of statements do not hold up when logic is applied to them, and stifle real conversation and attempts to understand the arguments for and against the resurrection.

  3. From how I understand it, Dr. Ehrman claims that the miracles are the most improbable things imaginable when viewing events from a purely historical perspective. I think that he sees a difference between assessing the probability of the resurrection on historical grounds and assessing the probability of the resurrection on theological grounds. Dr. Ehrman seems to believe that historians cannot assess the probability of events based on what god might have or might not have done because historians have no access to god nor can they come to conclusions based on what other people have said are acts of god because it requires the historian to have a belief in god as well. In other words a historians would need to assume that there is a god that intervened. Dr. Ehrman states that only Theologians can claim to have access to god so the only way to assess the probability of the resurrection with the inclusion of god’s participation is to assess it from a theological perspective, not from a historical perspective. I think that his main point is that we can’t say that the resurrection is “historically” probable because we can’t confirm or disconfirm god’s participation. History books don’t claim that god ever did anything. Those types of statements and claims are left for Theology.

    • I would disagree. Whether miracles are possible or not is not a historical question: it’s a metaphysical question. I would agree that whether God exists is not the purview of history: the purview of history is to try and discover “what happened.” With that in mind we can’t go around making metaphysical statements such as “miracles are the most improbable thing possible, and thus could never have occurred.” Imagine if we ruled out other historical events based of our metaphysics: what if someone said that the 4th crusade, with its slaughter and sack of the Christian city of Byzantium, could not have occurred because “The Pope is infallible, and thus it is impossible that he could have ordered a crusade that would have killed so many innocent Christians. Because of this, no matter how strong the evidence is that the 4th crusade occurred, we must conclude that it did not.” You would rightly call foul if someone made such an argument: you might say “We must follow the evidence where it leads us and sort out the metaphysics afterwards.” In the same way it is ridiculous for Ehrman to dismiss any and all evidence for miracle claims, no matter how compelling, because his metaphysics tell him that miracles are the most improbable things imaginable.

      As far as trying to divide the realms of “history” and “theology” I think you make a weak case. To be sure if a historian concluded that the resurrection probably occurred it would have significant theological ramifications: but so what? Many historical theories and arguments have impacts on other areas of study. We don’t say things like “We cannot say whether the castle walls fell down in the battle because that would assume that the law of gravity has remained constant over time and that is a matter for Physics and not History.” We do not ask that historians refrain from speculating on the cause of the black plague because “History cannot claim that bacteria ever did anything; those types of statements are best left for Biology.” One might as well say that one can’t claim that the resurrection didn’t happen because that would indicate that the Christian God does not exist and that is a question for Theology. Let’s just approach history as it is: an attempt to discover what happened in the past. If someone investigates the resurrection and decides to dismiss all evidence because he believes that miracles are impossible, well, alright then. That’s his business. But he shouldn’t go around claiming that such an approach is the proper way for everyone to look at history, which seems to be what Dr. Ehrman is doing in this article. Why should his metaphysical beliefs about miracles trump all others?

  4. What about Sathya sai baba? Are his supposed miracles more or less probable that Jesus’ miracles? I believe that you were asked this question before … but declined to answer. Why is that I wonder?

    • If you can point out where I was asked this question before, then feel free to do so and I’ll do my best to answer it.

      However as my post clearly lays out there is no way to tell how probable a miracle is. Either miracles are possible, in which case they involve the action of supernatural beings whose behavior we are unable to predict (making it impossible to put a probability on the likelihood of them occurring), or else miracles are impossible in which case the likelihood of a miracle occurring is zero. As we have no way of knowing whether miracles are possible or not, there is no way for us to assign them a probability. With this in mind we have to take miracle claims as they are and try to assess how likely an alternate explanation for the miracle is given the circumstances.

  5. It appears that my earlier question was removed or not permitted, perhaps because of a link I provided. Anyhow, the question regarding the probability of a certain miracle, in this case Jesus’ resurrection, relates to its probability in relation to other explanations and other miracle claims.

    I am glad that we agree that we cannot say that the resurrection is a historical event. I think that it is a good thing that our public high school history texts don’t mention god’s supposed miracles. In order to discuss what god did, when he did it, why he did it, and how he did it, historians first need to agree that god exists. Historians could not possibly agree among themselves on this point even if they tried nor would any serious historian waste their time trying to confirm or disconfirm the existence of god because history is the study of past events related to the affairs of humans, not mythological beings, which reminds me of this wonderful quote:

    “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”
    – David Hume

    In reply to an earlier comment you made, I don’t think we should compare the inclusion of supposed supernatural events in the historical record with the inclusion of natural events proven possible by science. The law of gravity and bacteria’s role in recycling nutrients have been proven through the scientific method, which we learn about in science class in high school, whereas the only evidence supporting a supernatural resurrection of Jesus is a few anonymous written texts, which is why the story of Jesus’ resurrection belongs in the category of myth alongside the resurrection stories found in the myths of Dionysus, Persephone, Osiris, Odin, Lemminkainen, Tammuz, and Attis.

    There is a long list of supposed miracles described in the myths surrounding the aforementioned characters and there are also many miracles supposedly performed by contemporary god-men, such as Sathya Sai Baba. Followers of Sathya Sai Baba have recorded their accounts of Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles as recent as 2010. You can read through his Facebook page and see how many people he helped and continues to help from beyond the grave. He has helped people get new jobs and recover from terminal illnesses, and he has even raised the dead. Yes, he has raised the dead. There are many accounts and the names of the witnesses are even provided.

    There are 2 websites I would recommend if you need to confirm these claims. The first is Sathya Sai Baba’s Facebook page with miracle attestations from named witnesses and the second is a webpage specifically dedicated to the many recorded eyewitness accounts of the two occasions when Sathya Sai Baba brought the dead back to life. Also, names are provided. Yes, they were followers, and not disinterested party’s, but in my opinion that doesn’t make them less credible than Jesus’s followers. If you Google “Sathya Sai Baba” with “resurrection”, you’ll find it. I didn’t want to include the link, because that was possibly the problem with my last post.


    1- Do you believe that the supposed miracles of Sathya Sai Baba are more, equally, or less probable than the supposed resurrection of Jesus? Please explain and if you can, please take into account the following facts in your answer:

    – There are far more witnesses to all of Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles than to the resurrection of Jesus.
    – The witness’ accounts of Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles are not anonymously written, unlike the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.
    – And finally, unlike the case of Jesus’s resurrection, it did not take 40 years after Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles for people to record their accounts.

    2 – Do you believe that Sathya Sai Baba raised the dead, as stated by his followers, and do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, as stated by his followers? (please explain your reason)

    • I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to address your comment. As you can probably tell from my lack of new posts, I’ve been unable to really sit down and write for over a month now, due to some changes in my work and personal life.

      Before I answer your questions, I just want to make one thing clear: I find the statement “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle” to have about the same credence in terms of what is or isn’t history as the statement “No testimony is sufficient to establish that Jesus did not rise from the grave.” Both are statements based in metaphysical beliefs that history as a subject does not concern itself with. Historians should note that there was a figure named Jesus, and that his followers claim that he performed miracles and rose from the dead: historians should not say definitively whether those claims were true or false, as history does not concern itself with whether miracles are metaphysically possible or theologically likely in any particular case.

      In regards to your specific questions here are my replies:

      1- Do you believe that the supposed miracles of Sathya Sai Baba are more, equally, or less probable than the supposed resurrection of Jesus?
      No. As a Christian I do not believe that it is likely that Sathya Sai Baba actually performed miracles, because I believe that only God can cause a miracle and I have reasons to doubt that God would have intervened through Sathy Sai Baba in the cases of the particular miracle claims. As such I believe it is more likely that his miracles actually have naturalistic explanations.
      Please explain and if you can, please take into account the following facts in your answer:
      – There are far more witnesses to all of Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles than to the resurrection of Jesus.
      There is no way for us to know how many individuals witnessed the resurrection of Jesus: the writings of Paul claim that Jesus appeared, post resurrection, to many individuals and that on one occasion he appeared to over 500 people at one time. Is Paul a definitive source? Not really, of course, but the fact remains that we have no hard data on how many or how few people witnessed a post resurrection Jesus. As such the point is moot.
      – The witness’ accounts of Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles are not anonymously written, unlike the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.
      Whether the Gospels are anonymous or not is a matter of some debate: the authorship of the book of Luke seems fairly secure, and the book of John explicitly claims to have been written by one of Jesus’s disciples. Certainly the authors were not anonymous at the time the gospels were written, and had enough credence to be accepted as the definitive accounts of Jesus’s life.
      – And finally, unlike the case of Jesus’s resurrection, it did not take 40 years after Sathya Sai Baba’s miracles for people to record their accounts.
      We do not know if accounts were written earlier: certainly any earlier accounts that were recorded have been lost to time, but we know for fairly certain that at least one written account (Q) predates the earliest gospels. In 2000 years I’m sure that the vast majority of all recent accounts of Sai Baba’s miracles will have been lost to time as well, with the definitive account (if any remain) having been written some time later. As it stands, 40 years is remarkably short time in terms of other documents we have dating from that period, and is well within the time period where accounts are still likely to be accurate: after all, if a biography of Martin Luther King Jr came out this year we would not scoff at its probable accuracy, as many are still alive who new MLK and short term records remain in abundance for the biography to draw from, records that will likely be lost as time goes on.

      2 – Do you believe that Sathya Sai Baba raised the dead, as stated by his followers, and do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, as stated by his followers? (please explain your reason)
      As previously stated I do not believe Sathya Sai Baba performed actual miracles, so I do not believe he raised the dead. I do believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. I believe that Jesus is far more likely to have been raised for the dead for a multitude of reasons: for one, I have independent logical reasons for believing in the existence of God and believing that Christianity is the religion most likely to be correct. Many miracle workers have come and gone, but Jesus’s following continued after his death and has lasted 2000 years, spreading to become the largest religion on the planet. I doubt that Sai Baba will be much remembered even 200 years from now, and I imagine that he will no longer have followers even 100 years from now. If I’m wrong (though of course I’ll never see it) and Sai Baba’s teachings and followers continue, grow, and thrive over millennia then I’ll consider it far more likely that Sai Baba was the genuine article and really did have a connection to God. Jesus has already passed the test of time: if he was the son of God we would indeed expect his legacy to continue indefinitely, and the fact that it has gives more support to his claim of divinity.

  6. I think you are missing Ehrman’s real point. History by it’s very nature is an imprecise science, based on probabilities. Miracles by definition are extraordinary events and to be confident that the event in fact occured would require a level of evidence that is simply unavailable by historical methods. Historical documents from all nations, periods, and religions are rife with reports of miracles, some better attested than the Resurrection. But historians set all of these aside, because they simply can’t validate them with the tools at their disposal.

    Despite claims to the contrary, there is no credible evidence that miracles occur today, even when sophistocated technology and qualified investigators are readily available. So why should we accept reports of miracles from an unscientific culture 2,000 ago?

    As far as the existence of God goes, I don’t find that idea probable at all (if by “God” you mean an invisible being who is loving, omnipotent, and omniscient). How likely is it, really, that God’s supreme communication to humankind depends on fallible historical records from 2,000 years ago? In fact, why should there be any ambiguity or uncertainty whatsoever? Humans could simple be born with undeniable, inherent knowledge of the truth, or God could continually intervene supernaturally in the world, communicating his message.
    God yesterday or today? Not likely.

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