Did Jesus rise from the dead? Atheism UK debate at St. Andrews University

St. Andrews University Christian Union contacted Atheism UK to debate the truth of the Resurrection.


John Richards (Atheism UK Council Member) debates Andy Bannister at St. Andrews University: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
In October 2019 Atheism UK had a request from the President of the Christian Union at St Andrews University in Scotland to debate Dr Andy Bannister on ‘Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?’.

Andy Bannister (4:09 mins) said that the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. The Gospels accounts of the Resurrection are dated earliest at 6 months (1 Corinthians 15: 5-7) (9:30 mins) after the crucifixion or as late as 90 AD. Documents referring to the Gospels include Tacitus and Josephus. The Gospels have eye witness testimonies. Gary Habermas claims that most peer-reviewed historians agree on five facts:

  • Jesus was killed by crucifixion
  • His tomb was discovered empty
  • His followers had experiences of the risen Jesus appearing to them
  • Sceptics were converted when they saw the risen Jesus
  • The Church began as a result of the resurrection

Andy Bannisters’ slides and references are here.

John Richards responded (13:13 mins) to Andy Bannister’s opening speech by asking whether Jesus ever lived – the Jesus Mythicism argument.

Resurrection after 2 days is not the same as resuscitation (8 minutes with a defibrillator). Lots of ancient gods have risen from the dead (if you believe their scriptures) (14:40 mins) including Zoroaster, Osiris, Adonis and Attis – but these stories are not believed because of a lack of evidence.

In modern medical history, resurrections have never happened (15:13). The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is extraordinary.

The veracity of the Bible is on trial. What counts as evidence? Is the Bible a reliable source of evidence? The Bible is a man-made book which includes both facts and fiction. To tell fact from fiction we test whether the statements match observations in the natural world, or not. The telephone directory or a science textbook would pass that test (16:22). The Bible does not pass that test. Archaeology is a science which can date places, but not events.

Biblical accounts of the virgin Mary cannot meet scientific standards of evidence (18:12) since they cannot be investigated after two millennia ago, allegedly. Rising from the dead leaves nothing tangible behind.

The Gospels were written 30 years after the events they describe (19:25) and were edited and translated by Emperor Constantine 300 years later. The Bible has some ripping yarns and is a money-making entertainment book – an early form of Netflix (21:28).

The best witnesses are multiple independent contemporary sources that corroborate each other, to minimise bias. The Bible witnesses aren’t this. Tacitus and Josephus were not born when Jesus was alive, they only reported on hearsay (25 mins).

Andy Bannister responded to John (25 mins) saying that pagan parallels to the resurrection of Jesus called Jesus mythicism. The dying and rising gods fiction were in The Golden Bough by James George Frazer. Neither Osiris, Horus or Attis rose from the dead (see Tim O’Neill’s atheist blog).

Another 15 minutes of debate… plus 40 minutes of Q&A from 48:30 mins…

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