Physical Resurrection Accepted Historically
Today some scholars say it is incorrect to speak of Jesus’ resurrection as “historical.” Marxsen believed this, and “a remarkable number of subsequent scholars have followed him in this assertion.”44 Ehrman, in a debate with William L. Craig, argued that one could believe “theologically” that God raised Jesus from the dead but not historically.
But this cannot be a historical claim, and not for the reason that he [Craig] imputed to me as being an old, warmed over 18th century view that has been refuted ever since. Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past. The problem with historians is they can’t repeat an experiment. Today, if we want proof for something, it’s very simple to get proof for many things in the natural sciences; in the experimental sciences we have proof. If I wanted to prove to you that bars of ivory soap float, but bars of iron sink, all I need to do is get 50 tubs of lukewarm water and start chucking in the bars. The Ivory soap will always float, the iron will always sink, and after a while we’ll have a level of what you might call predicted probability, that if I do it again, the iron is going to sink again, and the soap is going to float again. We can repeat the experiments doing experimental science. But we can’t repeat the experiments in history because once history happens, it’s over.45
Such a view not only denies the existence of miracles, but also misunderstands how one may refer to “history” in different ways. Noting this kind of error N. T. Wright says, “This proposal appears to be cautious and scientific. It is, however, neither of these things. It involves a rash dismissal of an important question, and a misunderstanding of how science, including scientific historiography, actually works…. This is a classic case of failing to distinguish between the different senses of ‘history.’”46
Not distinguishing how one may use the word “history” in five different ways has been part of the problem plaguing the “historical Jesus” and the “resurrection of Jesus” debate.47 Wright succinctly summarizes how the fives senses of the term “history” works, which helps clear the confusion that so often comes with the arguments of those wanting to refute Jesus physical resurrection….
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