If I’m not reading, there’s a good chance that I’m listening to, or watching, a debate or lecture.
In almost all the debates I’ve watched on the Resurrection, at some point during the debate, without fail, someone will say something to the effect of, “History cannot prove a miracle.”
As Bart Ehrman says in all of his debates, “A miracle is by definition is the least probable explanation.”
However, initially appealing as these two objections seem, and they do seem that way, I think a better understanding of history, as well as the Resurrection will reveal them to be vacuous.
The Nature of History
History doesn’t “prove” anything. History is the study of events that happened in the past.
The past cannot be observed, nor can we run experiments on the past. In fact, the past (like the future) doesn’t even exist. Not anymore, at least.
So, to say you are certain about an event that occurred 2,000 years ago is dishonest. You aren’t.
You are 2,000 years removed from a time and place that no longer exists. There is plenty of possibility for doubt.
However, none of this means the past is unknowable. We don’t need to have certainty in order to know something. If we did, we would literally know just about nothing and our species would never have developed into what we have become.
Knowledge of the past is vital. You couldn’t function properly if you didn’t have knowledge of the immediate past stored in memory.
But knowledge of the distant past is important as well. It is important that we understand what led to the atrocities of the past, lest we repeat them.
The Nature of the Resurrection
We speak of the Resurrection as one event. While this is an accurate way to speak, obviously Jesus’ coming back to life would constitute a single event, I would like to propose another way of looking at things (This doesn’t originate with me. I think William L. Craig does this too).
Think of the Resurrection as 3 Events.
Event 1: Jesus lived.
Event 2: Jesus died.
Event 3: Jesus lived again.
If history is the tool by which we study events in the past, then history is the tool for this job.
The probability of miracles doesn’t matter, as Ehrman insists, the question is simply what evidence do we have for each event?
As it is, events 1 and 2 are accepted by virtually everyone. The evidence for Jesus’ life, ironically, is the overwhelming attestation to his crucifixion.
The question then really comes down to this: What historical evidence do we have that he lived again?