Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ’s resurrection

The NaClhv blog has a long but interesting series entitled “Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ’s resurrection”.

  • Part 1: Gauging personal credulity regarding personal testimony.
  • Part 2: Starting with a low prior probability for Christ’s resurrection of 1e-22. See Scientific Notation – E Notation: 6.022e23 is equivalent to 6.022×10^23 so 1e-22 is equivalent to 1×10^-22.
  • Part 3: Given his answers from part 1 the author calculates his Bayes’s factor of personal testimony to be 1e8.
  • Part 4: If we consider only the testimony of Peter, James, and Paul and use the numbers from above we get a posterior probability of Christ’s resurrection of 1e2, or 100 to 1 for the resurrection. The testimony of other witnesses only increases the posterior probability of the resurrection to 1e32.
  • Part 5: Answering objections to the prior probability.
  • Part 6: Answering an objection about the reliability of eyewitness testimony.
  • Part 7: Answering an objection about deception.
  • Part 8: Answering an objection about the witnesses being crazy.
  • Part 9: A combination of objections does not mean the resurrection is improbable.
  • Part 10: The above continued.
  • Part 11: The author is not omitting testimony against the resurrection because all the testimony we have supports the resurrection. One may quibble that the report in Matthew of Jews saying Jesus’s disciples stole the body shows that not all the testimony we have supports the resurrection. I don’t think this would change the numbers much.
  • Part 12: The author stresses that his numbers are from empirical observation and thought experiments on less controversial matters.
  • Part 13: Further examples of the Bayes’ factor of personal testimony.
  • Part 14: The above continued.
  • Part 15: The above continued.
  • Part 16: The above continued.
  • Part 17: The author challenges skeptics who think that the testimony for the resurrection could occur even if the resurrection did not happen to provide examples where someone allegedly came back from the dead that produced a similar level of testimonial evidence. The weaker testimonial evidence is the more examples the skeptic should be able to provide.
  • Part 18: The method of investigating other accounts is given.
  • Part 19: Apollonius of Tyana
  • Part 20: Zalmoxis and Aristeas
  • Part 21: Mithra, Horus, Osiris, and Dionysus
  • Part 22: Krishna
  • Part 23: Bodhidharma
  • Part 24: Puhua

Aron Wall provides some criticism here. He does not believe personal testimony is as strong as NaClhv does. He does thinks the dependence of the witnesses on each other needs to be handled differently. Still, he thinks we can be “highly confident” that Jesus rose from the dead.


2 thoughts on “Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ’s resurrection

  1. Thanks for the article!

    Just a thought…it took me a while to realize that there were links in your post. I was about to ask if you had a link when I thought to double-check. If you’d like to make them stand out a bit better, I can help you with that. I’m pretty good with WordPress. Have a great day!

  2. When a Christian starts using complex mathematical formulas and philosophical theories to defend his belief in first century corpse reanimation-transformation (aka:
    resurrections)…I yawn.
    I yawn because it is soooo silly.
    I know for a fact that if a Muslim attempted to use these same ploys to defend the veracity of Islam’s claim that Mohammad flew to heaven on a winged horse, the very same Christians would snicker and hand-wave away these arguments without giving them a second thought, believing that these tactics are nothing more than an obvious, desperate attempt to dress up a superstition as believable reality.

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