Like I mentioned earlier, there's probably ample evidence for the events recorded in the book of Exodus. The evidence that currently supports the Exodus account is likely being misunderstood or ignored by mainstream historians and archeologists. A minority voice within the field of Egyptology, Dr. David Rohl's makes a compelling case against the traditional ancient Egyptian chronology. A majority of Egyptologists acknowledge that there are major problems with the traditional chronology but they reject Rohl's alternative chronology (which is expected when people are set in their ways). I think Rohl is on to something with his chronology.
Outside of mainstream Egyptology, David Down proposes a 500 year reduction in the chronology. The interesting thing is that with either Rohl's or Down's revised chronology there is very smooth correlation between the Biblical account and the archeological evidence. Seriously, the fit is so uncanny it is amazing that it does not at least perk the curiosity amongst the hardest skeptics. It seems like when challenged with reasonable arguments most skeptics don't even take time to weigh the arguments but just simply hide behind what they believe to be majority consensus amongst so and so experts about the subject and continue to make bold assertions that the opposing view has whatsoever no evidence supporting their arguments.
About Rohl's new chronology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Chronology_%28Rohl%29
Who is David Rohl: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Rohl
David Down's book: http://www.amazon.com/Unwrapping-Pharaohs-Egyptian-Archaeology-Confirms/dp/0890514682
As for the 10 plagues of Egypt, I think the papyrus of Ipuwer, which was found and interpreted in 1909 should not be so easily dismissed by skeptics as evidence for the 10 plagues. Please do not rehash to me the reasons it cannot be evidence because I have read and heard it all already and am not convinced by the arguments. The parallels between what is written in the papyrus and the Biblical accounts of the plague is just too clear for anyone who is familiar with the Exodus account to easily dismiss.
You can see for yourself here: http://ohr.edu/838
I think that even if skeptics are presented with evidence piled up to the moon in favor of the accounts in the Bible they will still find one way or another to dismiss it by whatever means possible because it is something they simply do not want to believe. The moral implications of the Bible being true are too great which creates a relentless motive to find ways to discredit it and convince oneself that it cannot be true no matter what...every alternative explanation that has nothing to do with the Bible suddenly becomes much more appealing no matter how outlandish.
It's their word against that of the disciples; you have no reason to believe one side or the other, side from the fact that resurrections are so improbable.
There are ways to test oral testimonies and eye witness accounts for truthfulness and our courts do it all the time. There are lots of reasons to believe the Gospel writers over the other side. The late Simon Greenleaf, a skeptic at one point and also one of the founding members of Harvard Law School, wrote an essay on why the Gospel writers should be taken as innocent of deception if given a fair trial.
Here's the essay if you wish to read it: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/jesus/greenleaf.html
Here are a few quotes from the essay:
Greenleaf, one of the principle founders of the Harvard Law School, originally set out to disprove the biblical testimony concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was certain that a careful examination of the internal witness of the Gospels would dispel all the myths at the heart of Christianity. But this legal scholar came to the conclusion that the witnesses were reliable, and that the resurrection did in fact happen.
In trials of fact, by oral testimony, the proper inquiry is not whether is it possible that the testimony may be false, but whether there is sufficient probability that it is true.
The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon, firstly, their honesty; secondly, their ability; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience; and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances.
Simon Greenleaf proceeds in the essay to expand on each one of the five tests of the Gospel testimonies. It's an interesting read.
Okay, so let's go back to another one of your statements, Randaly.
These kind of screwups happen....not all the time, but there are a fair number of recorded and verified instances. (As opposed, again, to zero recorded resurrections. 5 seconds googling found Maggie Dickson, Anne Green, Zoleykhah Kadkhoda, and William Duell as execution survivors.) Also, the Jews were not in charge at the time, the Romans were- and the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, didn't want to kill Jesus, according to all of the Gospels.
It seems that most of the examples you give are cases of execution by hanging or stoning. None of them are cases of people surviving execution by Roman crucifixion.
You also seem to speculate that maybe Pontius Pilate was somehow going soft on Jesus because he really didn't want to kill him. There's no need for me to rebuttal that, is there?
More broadly, we simply don't have much solid evidence; it's a he-said she-said kind of situation- only it's also one where one side was entirely made up of fanatical cultists (or, equivalently, extremely faithful believers) who were claiming something impossible by natural means.
Yes, that's the definition of a real miracle; something that occurs but is impossible by natural means. You will have to absolutely prove that miracles never occur in order for you to be able to completely write-off the claims of the eye witnesses of the resurrection based on the argument that such claims cannot be true because resurrections are impossible due to natural law. If there is a God, it's not unreasonable to believe that He can bend or supersede His own natural laws whenever He wants to.
The claims of the Bible, upon scrutiny by unprejudiced men and women, are often found to be consistent with sound reason.
Just because you find the God of the Bible unpalatable to your personal tastes of what God should or should not be, doesn't make it any more true or false, does it?
You could look for the body- but, canonically, the body was given to one of Jesus's followers (Joseph of Arimathea; see Matthew 27:57 and John 19:38 for descriptions of him as a disciple of Jesus), so we have no idea where the body is, besides his claim to have put it in a tomb. Even if he's being honest, there are certainly other ways for the body to have vanished- for example, the Jewish Toledot Yeshu claims that a gardener named Juda stole the body.
All alternative explanations to what happened to Jesus' body really point to the fact that his enemies were unsuccessfully scattering to explain the resurrection away, since they couldn't legitimately counter the claim. Just because there are alternative explanations doesn't mean the original claim of resurrection is false. Of course there would be alternative explanations, since the Jewish leaders had to formulate some type of response. Those explanations didn't work back then and they still fall short today.
We also don't have solid evidence that he ever died- again, according to the Bible, Herod was astonished at how quickly Jesus died, and had a centurion check. That one man's check is the reason it was believed he was dead; it's certainly within the realm of possibility that he was wrong. (Or, for that matter, that the Roman officer didn't feel actually giving a proper medical check, which would involve walking up to and feeling, closely and repeatedly, Jesus's bloody, sweating, dirty body.) (And your prior should possibly favor that- after all, there have been many more verified cases of mistaken death pronouncements than there have been resurrections.
The Romans were not inexperienced executors. They had it down to a science. It would be strange that these experienced executors would suddenly not be able to tell a dead man from a living one. Maybe it was Billy's first day on the job? Also, I should think that Joseph Arimathea, who you mentioned earlier, would have noticed that Jesus was still alive before placing him into a tomb, which was guarded by 2 combat hardened soldiers may I add. The Jewish leaders were not stupid, they were quite meticulous. They knew Jesus had made claims to a resurrection and safe guarded against anything that might mislead the public into believing that he actually resurrected. One of the very things they safe guarded against was those sneaky disciples somehow stealing his body and claiming he resurrected. This explains the guarded tomb with two soldiers.
There were witnesses, of course. Almost all of them were Jesus's disciples, a small band of fanatical followers, some of whom would later demonstrate their willingness to lay down their lives for their faith. (Your claim that he was seen by 500 is flat out non-biblical.
It is not an un-biblical claim because I got it straight out of a passage in the Bible;
1 Corinthian 15:6 - After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.
Also, most gospels present the resurrection as having been seen by some Roman soldiers, who were then supposedly bribed to claim that the disciples had stolen the body. In other words, there is no reason to trust the witnesses who definitely were there, and all of the ones whose word could potentially be trusted (and who might not have been there) did testify that Jesus wasn't resurrected- because they were supposedly bribed.
Wild speculations. There is no reason to not trust the eye witness accounts of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
It's possible that someone can be convinced that what they are writing is from God (which a few people have done). The difference that I see with other religious texts and the Bible is that the Bible does not shy away from naming real people, dates, and places. If I were to fabricate a lie I will steer away from mentioning identifiable people, places, and dates in fear of emboldening my audience to call out my BS. The more specific I am the easier it becomes to discredit my claims.
Look, ancient people were just as skeptical as people are today. They also had a BS meter like we do today. The people back then would not have easily believed that God wiped out Sodom and Gomorrah or that 2 million people walked out of Egypt. They would not have easily accepted such claims if there was not truth to it, the same way people today would not easily accept a claim that Israel's modern enemies got wiped out by a miraculous fire from heaven unless there was some level of truth to it. Ancient man had the same advanced faculty to reason and question claims like we do today. To think otherwise is an act of historical chauvinism.
To claim Jesus resurrected is a bold claim, especially since Jesus was a public figure who received a public execution within a very hostile and skeptical environment.
Let me illustrate with two scenarios. For the purposes of this example, let's say I'm from a small town and both scenarios involve me making a claim to a miraculous event.
I tell the people in my town that all of Israel's modern day enemies (Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) just miraculously got wiped out by hail stones and fire from heaven. Yes, that is a bold claim.
I tell the people in my small town that the Sheriff they all know and all recently witnessed getting gunned down in public and whose funeral they all attended and saw his dead body in the casket, is still alive because he rose from the dead with 500 town folk (who I mention by name; Jess, Billy, Tom, Sarah May) who witnessed him ascend into heaven.
Without such a thing as the internet, which one of these claims is easier for the town people to verify or discredit? Which claim is really bolder?
Now, imagine if the town people were the ones who murdered the Sheriff and are eager to tie up any loose ends.
Anyways, one thing I'm sure you haven't done is actually read the Bible without the presupposition that it's lying. Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I have yet to see any skeptic really do that.
The Roman Empire did have libraries. Thus, the New Testament doesn't claim big, showy, large-scale geopolitical miracles as the Old Testament routinely did. Instead the New Testament claims smaller miracles…
Here you are making the claim that Old Testament miracles were bolder and more daring than New Testament ones because the Old Testament writers felt they could get away with a lot more because they knew that their contemporaries lacked the means to verify or discredit their claims. You imply that if not for the fact the Romans were better record keepers, the New Testament would be filled with more outlandish passages about God obliterating whole nations (i.e, Rome) or maybe more Red Sea splitting episodes.
The assumption you are making here is that the New Testament writers were more careful to avoid making easily falsifiable claims because people during their time had the means (libraries and records) to easily discredit them. I agree that people did have the means to discredit the claims of the New Testament writers but I disagree that their claims were any smaller or showy than the claims of the Old Testament writers.
For example, when the Apostle Paul, who wrote at least 1/3 of the New Testament, was addressing King Agrippa, a Pagan King, he spoke of the verifiability of his statements in a positive light.
For the king knows about these matters, and I speak to him also with confidence, since I am persuaded that none of these things escape his notice; for this has not been done in a corner.”—Acts 26:26
One of those things that Paul was telling King Agrippa about was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is arguably the boldest and most daring claim of the entire scriptures, Old and New Testament. Think about it. It’s a claim that a public figure experienced a very public execution, rose from the dead 3 days after being confirmed dead and ascended to heaven in front of 500 eyewitnesses. Paul spoke this boldly in front of a Pagan King who was very familiar with the events he was talking about and had the resources to verify the facts. By the way, he spoke this while his life was on the line.
There were many eager and motivated enemies of Christianity who had all the means necessary to squelch the outlandish claim of resurrection. The whole Christian faith rests on this miracle of the resurrection of Christ. According to Paul’s own words, Christians are the most pitiful creatures alive if the resurrection did not truly occur (1 Cor. 15:19). Surely, the enemies of the faith wouldn’t have missed any opportunities to discredit the claim that Christ resurrected. If they could, they would have gladly produced the dead body of Christ and ended the whole Christian religion overnight. The New Testament writers also named real places and people in their accounts. Many of these people and places were still around by the time they committed the Gospel accounts to paper. Surely, unbelievers familiar with the events and people involved could have pointed out lies and deceptions before they continued to spread.
In addition, all the disciples suffered dearly, even to the point of the cruelest martyrdom, believing they will one day resurrect physically the same way they saw their Lord resurrect. It makes sense that people will die for something they think is true but have no way of verifying (suicide bombers dying for the promise of 70 virgins in paradise), but it doesn’t make sense for people to die for something they know is a lie invented by themselves (the disciples and the resurrection of their Lord). I wouldn’t put myself or my family at risk of death for the sake of something I fabricated, knowing it isn’t going to gain me guaranteed wealth, fame, or power. This absurd thing is exactly what people imply the New Testament writers were willing to do.
When assessing the eye witness accounts of the New Testament writers it would be unreasonable to not consider that they might have actually just been telling the truth. But I know….that’s just too scary of a thought.