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Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection (Part 24)

Puhua (known as Fuke in Japan) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, who supposedly lived around 800AD. He, too, is said to have not really died. He may or may not have been a real individual. If real, he was a student of Linji (known as Rinzai in Japan), who was another Chinese Buddhist monk, who founded the Linji school of Chan Buddhism.

Here's the story of Puhua/Fuke's death and "resurrection" as told in the Record of Linji, quoted by Wikipedia:

"One day at the street market Fuke was begging all and sundry to give him a robe. Everybody offered him one, but he did not want any of them. The master [Linji] made the superior buy a coffin, and when Fuke returned, said to him: "There, I had this robe made for you." Fuke shouldered the coffin, and went back to the street market, calling loudly: "Rinzai had this robe made for me! I am off to the East Gate to enter transformation" (to die)." The people of the market crowded after him, eager to look. Fuke said: "No, not today. Tomorrow, I shall go to the South Gate to enter transformation." And so for three days. Nobody believed it any longer. On the fourth day, and now without any spectators, Fuke went alone outside the city walls, and laid himself into the coffin. He asked a traveler who chanced by to nail down the lid. The news spread at once, and the people of the market rushed there. On opening the coffin, they found that the body had vanished, but from high up in the sky they heard the ring of his hand bell."

As before, we want to evaluate the evidence for this story, and begin by inquiring about the source of the story.

We've said that this story comes to us through the Record of Linji - a work that was not consolidated until more than 250 years after Linji's death in 866. Puhua, if he was real, died before Linji - as the story itself makes clear. Therefore, this story about Puhua's death and "resurrection" was recorded more than 250 years after the event itself. Again, the large gap, which far exceeds a human lifetime, makes it impossible for us to find anything like the personal testimonies of historical individuals.

More damning still is the other, earlier account of Puhua's death, in the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall - the same Anthology that recorded Bodhidharma's "resurrection". This text is also known as the Zutang ji, and it contains the first mention of Linji as well as telling the following story of Puhua's death (look on p.312. "ZJ" refers to Zutang ji):

One day Puhua, carrying an armload of coffin-planks, went about town bidding farewell to the townspeople, saying, “I’m leaving this life.” People gathered in crowds and followed him out of the east gate. He then said, “No, not today!” The second day he went to the south gate and the third day to the west gate. By that time fewer people were following him, and not many believed him. On the fourth day he went out of the north gate, but no one followed him. He dug a tunnel, lined it with bricks, and died therein.

This is, of course, essentially the same story as the one found in the Record of Linji - except there is no resurrection. So, Puhua died, supposedly in 840 or 860. We then have the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall, written in 952, which mentions Puhua's death but says nothing about a vanished body or a resurrection. We then finally come to the Records of Linji, which was consolidated after 1100, where a resurrection shows up attached to the end of the same story as the one in the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall. We furthermore know that the Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall is not shy about putting in resurrection stories, since it included one for Bodhidharma. So, why does it not include Puhua's resurrection story? Because the story did not exist yet. The obvious conclusion is that Puhua's "resurrection" is a legend developed after 952.

Again, it's difficult to compare something like this to the evidence for Jesus's resurrection in the New Testament. None of the New Testament makes any sense without Jesus having risen from the dead. The whole corpus, from beginning to end, testifies to Christ's resurrection, without ever wavering from that truth. But, we're suppose to assign a comparative numerical value to the level of evidence for Puhua's resurrection - so the only thing we can do is to generously give it the "some people say" value of 1/60th of the evidence for Christ's resurrection.

The next post will begin a short intermission, where we'll discuss the series thus far.

You may next want to read:
"Proving" God's existence
Christians, read your Bibles
Another post, from the table of contents

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