Theology, philosophy, math, science, and random other things

Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection (Part 40)

In the previous post, we demonstrated that the likelihood for Christ's resurrection came down to the number of "outliers" we can find in world history - where "outliers" are the other, non-Christian "resurrection" reports with at least a "some people say..." level of evidence behind them. The more such low-evidence cases we find, the more firmly it establishes that low level as the likely maximum for a naturalistically generated resurrection report. The high level of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ then become correspondingly less explicable by naturalistic means, so the resurrection itself becomes more likely.

So, how many such "outliers" can we find? Here is a partial list, including the ones we have already covered:

Aristeas (ancient Greek Poet)
Apollonius of Tyana (Greek philosopher)
Krishna (Hindu god)
Zalmoxis (ancient Greek god)
Osiris (ancient Egyptian god)
Dionysus (ancient Greek god)
Bodhidharma (Buddhist monk)
Puhua (Buddhist monk)
Horus (ancient Egyptian god)
Ba'al (Canaanite god)
Melqart (Phoenician god)
Adonis (ancient Greek god)
Eshmun (Phoenician god)
Tammuz (Sumerian god)
Attis (Phrygian god)
Baldr (Norse god)
Quetzalcoatl (Aztec god)
Izanami-no-Mikoto (goddess in Japanese mythology)
Ishtar (Mesopotamian goddess)
Eurydice (nymph in Greek mythology)
Persephone (ancient Greek goddess)
Asclepius (ancient Greek god/healer)
Hippolytus, son of Theseus (character in Greek mythology)
Cyclopes (character in Greek mythology)
Achilles (ancient Greek hero)
Memnon (ancient Greek hero)
Castor (character in Roman mythology)
Alcmene (character in Greek mythology)
Heracles (ancient Greek hero)
Melicertes (character in Greek mythology)
Romulus (mythic founder of Rome)
Cleitus (character in Greek mythology)
Cycnus, son of Ares (character in Greek mythology)
Cycnus, king of Kolonai (character in Greek mythology)
Cycnus, friend of Phaethon (character in Greek mythology)
Cycnus, son of Apollo (character in Greek mythology)
Odin (Norse god)
Augustus (Roman emperor)
Peregrinus Proteus (Greek philosopher)
Rabbit Boy (character in native American mythology)
Arrow Boy (character in native American mythology)
Man-eagle (character in native American mythology)
Judah the Prince (Jewish rabbi)
Kabir (Indian mystic poet)
He Xiangu (Chinese immortal)
Li Tieguai (Chinese immortal)
Zhang Guolao (Chinese immortal)
People resurrected by Zhongli Quan (associates of a Chinese immortal)
Ye Fashan (Chinese immortal)
Sabbatai Zevi (Jewish rabbi, messiah claimant)

I'm going to stop here - not because I've exhausted such "outliers", but because this is quite enough. The above list contains 50 people who are claimed to have been "resurrected" in some form, with about a "some people say..." level of evidence behind them. And as we saw previously, 50 outliers is enough to reduce the probability for a naturalistic explanation to around 4e-12.

Now, recall that the Christian explanation for the level of evidence for Christ's resurrection is of order unity. Recall also that the prior against the resurrection was set at 1e-11. Combining all this gives a Bayes' factor of greater than 1e11 against a prior of 1e-11 - that is, Jesus's resurrection has better than even odds of having occurred.

Notice that the procedure that got us here outlines the worst case scenario for the resurrection. For example, I stopped the above list of "outliers" 50 only because it was getting tedious to write more. The above list was obtained with just a little bit of Googling, mostly from stories that are readily available online, accessible to a culturally western, English-speaking audience. How many such "outliers" are there in total, throughout all of world history? I would easily imagine it to be in the hundreds, if not thousands.

So, "better than even odds" is the absolute least that can be said for Christ's resurrection. The next post will go back over the procedure that got us to this point - and demonstrate that, in fact, the worst case scenario for the resurrection had been assumed at every point.

You may next want to read:
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Can God make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?
Another post, from the table of contents

Show/hide comments(No Comments)

Leave a Reply