The Resurrection Hypothesis (RH) is that “God raised Jesus from the dead.” RH is used to explain the evidence surrounding Jesus of Nazareth’s death. Some of the evidences are: the empty tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, the post-mortem sightings experienced by the disciples and others, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in the Resurrection.
RH is used as an inference to the best explanation. This means that no matter how probable or improbable it or its competing hypotheses are, RH is the most probable of them. Probability is judged on background knowledge, and specifically what the probability of the evidence being present is if a hypothesis is false. William Lane Craig wrote recently, “Rather what’s crucial is the probability that we should have the evidence we do if the extraordinary event had not occurred. This can easily offset any improbability of the event itself” (emphasis in original) Let’s call this, for this article only, the “absence test.”
Historians and skeptics alike have tried for quite some time to come up with a plausible hypothesis that accounted for all of the evidence and that would be just as probable or more so than RH. The problem is that the proffered hypotheses just did not make any sense. Virtually no one (in fact, no one I have ever heard of who lives today) advocates the Swoon theory as such an alternative, because it is medically certain that Jesus died. It holds the necessary explanatory scope (over all of the evidence), but not the same power (Jesus would have been dead, unable to escape a guarded tomb [or really any sealed tomb at all], the disciples would hardly have been roused to belief in a half-dead, but somehow Resurrected and triumphant, Messiah, etc.). So it is with varying other hypotheses.
But what if one came up with a plausible, yet naturalistic, hypothesis for each of the facts? What then? If each of the facts were to be explained, then the entirety of the evidence will have been explained without resort to God, and hence RH is not the best explanation after all.
First, it must be pointed out that simply providing a plausible explanation for each of the facts only serves as a competitor to RH, not as an overriding defeater or something. It’s not enough that it seems plausible; each hypothesis must itself be more probable than RH on its own. Next, three separate hypotheses almost assuredly will not be able to compete, probabilistically, with one unified hypothesis (such as RH). They do not have the ability to pass the absence test nearly as well as RH.
Suppose we offer the fact that the tomb was unguarded and Jesus’ disciples stole his body from the tomb. But we cannot rule out the other background knowledge we do in fact have, such as the fact that the disciples, embarrassingly, returned to fishing and did not believe in the Resurrection. What is the probability that we would have the evidence of an empty tomb and the disciples’ unbelief/abandonment of their message, even in the face of testimony of the empty tomb, if the hypothesis that “the disciples stole the body” was false? I would say that would be pretty good! Therefore, the stolen body hypothesis fails the absence test. Each individual hypothesis given to individual pieces of evidence suffers the same fate.
Moreover, because of the nature of the evidences, a unifying explanation such as RH should nearly always be preferred over any set of individual explanations. For even if the stolen body hypothesis had overcome the absence test, it still could not explain post-mortem experiences very well, and even if it did so, would not explain the disciples’ actual belief in the Resurrection (dying for a lie does not seem likely, and mass delusion fails). In short, if a single hypothesis has the appropriate explanatory power and scope, passes the absence test, and so on, it should always be preferred to individual explanations. RH is the best explanation of the evidence. Jesus is risen!
 http://www.reasonablefaith.org/stephen-law-on-the-non-existence-of-jesus-of-nazareth#ixzz1suvz88Md, accessed
April 23, 2012.
 This is because if RH is more probable than any of the proffered competitors, then RH should be preferred in the case of that piece of evidence. But if it is to be preferred in that piece of evidence, then it is to be preferred in all of them, for RH just explains all of the evidence.
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