Prior Probability of the Resurrection is Zero?

On that matter, they furiously fudge the facts themselves:

“The first set of facts that constitutes evidence for the resurrection is the testimony of putative eyewitnesses to the empty tomb and of these same witnesses (the women who claimed to have found the tomb empty)…”

It’s not a set of facts because we don’t have their testimony.

This is not an isolated error:
“We shall argue that the testimony of the women to the empty tomb is evidence for R, and so we are obviously taking it that their testimony is evidence that the tomb was indeed empty.”


Look, you’re going to have to decide what you are trying to argue. That God exists? That the resurrection took place? You can’t in the same argument both demonstrate the existence of God and that the resurrection took place and that God did it. Or well you can, it’s just that it’s going to become some colossal calculation and it has to start differently from indicated by Swamidass above.

If one is going to use the resurrection as evidence for God’s existence, one first needs to establish the probability that Jesus came back from the dead. That means the analysis has to start with the hypotheses:
H1: Jesus came back alive from being dead.
H2: Jesus did not come back alive from being dead.

To do that you need to start with the prior probability that someone would come back from the dead. That’s part of your background knowledge. How often do resurrections happen? The evidence for the resurrection (the purported testimonies) then feeds into that evaluation to raise the probability that the resurrection took place(presumably).
However, we also need to establish the probability that the testimony is reliable, we can’t just assume it’s genuine accounts and take them at face value. Here’s another problem: The better the evidence that Jesus died on the cross, the more unlikely it becomes that he was later seen alive. That’s how it works and will have to work, always, for anyone ever.
You disagree? Consider this analogy:
If you provide evidence that some person we know is in Australia this moment(maybe we get a broadcast from him where he’s walking around famous places in Sydney, and they show him live on Australian national television where he’s meeting the Australian prime minister), then any claim I make that he’s right next to me here in Denmark implies a conflict, because we have overwhelming evidence that people can’t be in two places at once.
Simply put, given the evidence we have that he’s in australia renders my claim instantly unbelievable, as in extremely unlikely to be true. And that is despite the fact that I am provably contemporaneous with the person, and I claim to be a direct witness delivering my own 1st-hand account. I should simply not be believed. If there were ten others like me, they should not be believed either. We would have to amass evidence other than our mere say-so.

Same way with the resurrection. Dead people stay dead(it is both the case God normally doesn’t seem to want to resurrect them, and they don’t naturally spring back alive), that’s our background knowledge. The better the evidence that Jesus died, the more unbeliavable the testimony of his postmortem appearances. As in they become less and less likely to be true. It should go without saying that unverifiable accounts(some of which are clearly copies and embellished) from millenia ago can’t overcome that, it’s absurd.

Another, further problem here is that the prior for coming back from the dead is between ≥0 and ≤1 in 100 billion. So we end up with a range for the prior, which means we will calculate a range for the posterior.

Once that has been done, the range of probability that Jesus came back from the dead, given the purported testimonial evidence (the reliability of which in turn also has to be established of course, and the better the evidence for his death, the more doubtful contradictory testimonials become, which means we would need extremely good testimonial evidence, meaning lots of verifiably independent 1st-hand accounts by people we have good reason to believe were eye-witnesses to the purported events), can then feed into another evaluation of the hypotheses:
H1A: God exists.
H2A: God does not exist.
We don’t have enough accounts, and we can’t verify their authenticity or independence.

If the probability that Jesus came back from the dead is greater than not it’s evidence for the existence of God, meaning it íncreases the posterior of God’s existence. How good that evidence is depends on how good the evidence for the resurrection is. But the evidence for the Jesus coming back alive is extremely weak, and it’s highly doubtful that it actually overcomes the evidence for Jesus being dead.


The point of the claim is that Resurrection is not possible if God does not exist. Therefore we do not expect to see Resurrections.

I’ve already explained the math error you are making. There is no way to systematically compute the prior probabilities on these two hypotheses.


Not the case. That is not how it works. The 1/100 billion number is totally made up.

I understand, it’s just that it’s wrong to say that. At best you could only say you wouldn’t know how a resurrection could happen without God. But your ignorance is not evidence for it’s impossibility. Other supernatural explanations are conceivable, so are natural explanations.

Therefore we do not expect to see Resurrections.

Even if God exists we don’t expect to see resurrections, because if God existed and wanted to resurrect people frequently, that would happen. So the fact that they don’t seem to happen is evidence that God generally doesn’t want them to happen. He might have wanted to in the case of Jesus, but that is the hypothesis we are trying to calculate the probability of, so we can’t use it as evidence for itself.

I’m sorry but I’m not making any error. If you wish to argue that God exists by appealing to the resurrection as evidence, we have to start with the prior for people coming back from the dead.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The reason the claim that a man came back from the dead is considered an extraordinary claim is because we generally don’t have experience of people doing that. The more infrequently that has happened, the more out of the ordinary is the claim that it nevertheless occurred. When we say it is extraordinary, we are saying it has an extremely low prior, that’s what an extraordinary claim is: One with an extremely low prior.

We have no experience of people ever coming back from being fully dead for several days. So for Jesus coming back from the dead, it has to have a prior below one in all the people who ever lived and didn’t come back from the dead, which is pretty much everyone who ever lived. So the prior must be less than 1 in 100 billion(again, the estimate for everyone who ever lived), and might be zero.

This is where evidence for the resurrection becomes important. If the evidence is good enough, it can overcome an extremely low (though non-zero) prior. That’s why I’m being generous in setting a prior to 1 in everyone who ever lived.


I’ve given an alternate strategy that avoids this problem and also agreed that this is not definitive. There is no systematic way of setting this prior.

I’ve made my point. You disagree. I accept this. Please refrain from circular arguing on this point going forward.

Yet there were at least 3 documented during Jesus ministry.

We have no way of determining the effect of God’s existence on the odds of resurrections occurring.

Your position is better stated: “If God exists, and the existence of this God makes resurrections possible, then resurrections are possible.”

You have not shown that the italicized part is true.

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Each of which would have to be assessed independently. They can’t be taken at face value as evidence for people coming back alive. They might have even weaker support than the resurrection itself.

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It supports Joshes argument that God is the instrument of resurrections. Three were documented during his time on earth in human form.

No, it doesn’t do that until we have established that:

  1. They are more likely to have occurred than not.
  2. They are more likely to have occurred if God exists, than if God does not exist.

Three were documented during his time on earth in human form.

Yeah those claims are there, and they have to be assessed on their own merits. What is the evidence that those resurrections occurred? Someone says so?


The support is in the credibility of the document that reveals these events.

What credibility is that? Me correctly naming a city that exists(like, New York City) is not support that I am being credible when I claim I can fly.


7 posts were split to a new topic: The Authorship of the Gospels

There’s nothing circular about Rumraket pointing out that your argument is circular.

You can’t support your argument. Why not be graceful about it?

Up above, you wrote:
“For this reason, there will not be restrictions against posting heterodox ideas on this forum, even if they are strongly disputed and disagreed with by the host.”

So why are you asking Rumraket to refrain?


Excuse me. I have.

I am not arguing that P(R | E) > P(~R | E). That computation requires computation of a prior that is not well defined for a whole host of reasons.

Instead, I’ve stated that the only argument to be made is about the relative values of P(E | R) versus P(E | ~R). Without a prior, of course, we can’t convert this to P(R | E) .

As for the reasons why @Rumraket is mistaken…he is computing a number, but not the right number.

To make this more clear.

Assuming that there are 100B people and one of them rose from the dead. @Rumraket has computed the probability that, before looking at any evidence, a random person chosen from that 100B is the one who rose from the dead. This is not a sensible model from which to compute a prior on the Resurrection.

I am referring to your circular argument at the top:

That’s completely circular.

You haven’t explained why you are behaving in contradiction to your grand essay at the top of every page.

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That is a separate question than the one at hand: how to compute the prior.

I do not understand the justification for considering The Resurrection apart from the existence of God.

The operational definition of The Resurrection assumes God and so the two are inextricably linked, are they not?


Because even if Jesus came back alive from being dead, we can’t automatically assume that God did it. Other explanations are conceivable(resurrected by a demon, a sorcerer, by space alien technology, by random fluke of nature, etc. etc.).
God may be one of the best explanations for the resurrection having occurred, in which case the resurrection having occurred is evidence for God’s existence(that would have to be argued of course). But there’s a difference between knowing that an event occurred, and knowing what caused it. Before we can assess what caused it, we need to first establish whether it even occurred. Once we’ve done that, we can try to assess what caused it.

You have to decide what you’re trying to argue. That God exists? That the resurrection occurred? That Christianity is true?

If the evidence for the resurrection having occurred is very good, the resurrection in turn can serve as evidence that God exists. The resurrection, if it occurred, being a key feature of Christian theology in turn makes it more likely that God is the Christian one.

An alternative approach is to try to establish that God exists through different evidence, before assessing the case for the resurrection. Traditionally theists here will use things like design arguments, or first-cause, or fine-tuning, or moral arguments of various kinds(insert other kinds of favored evidence). Once the existence of God has (presumably) been shown to be very likely with these arguments, God’s existence can in turn serve as relevant evidence for establishing that the resurrection occurred. The chain of reasoning here is supposed to show first that a God exists, and then that it is the Christian God.

Decide which route to take:
Show God exists -> Use that to show the resurrection occurred -> Use that to show Christianity is true.
Show the resurrection occurred -> Use that to show God exists -> Use that to show Christianity is true.

But you can’t have it both ways, either you start with the resurrection and use it as evidence for God, or you start with some other evidence (fine-tuning, first cause, morals sense etc.) as evidence for God. And once God’s existence has been shown to be very likely through other arguments, you can use it in assessing the case for the resurrection. It is possible there is an entirely different approach, through another line of evidence independent of the resurrection that show that Christianity is true, in which case it also shows that God exists of course.