The Paradox of the Resurrection
I’ve just finished reading Simon Blackburn’s ‘Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed’ (highly recommended), which at one point looks at Hume’s argument on miracles. This argument is succinctly expressed in the maxim that:
‘…no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish…'
Mulling this over in the shower earlier, I think that this claim exposes what I see as a paradox when it comes to texts such as the Gospels:
The more outlandish a claim, the more it undermines the credibility of the witness – so miraculous events can’t be established on the basis of hearsay alone.
You answer the door to find A stood there. A is someone who lives in your area, you know of him but have never really spoken before. He says: “Just thought you should know, me and my friends just saw a group of kids messing about near your car.”
Most of us, assuming we have a car, would thank A and probably go check that our car is okay. His claim is reasonable and we have no real reason to doubt him – this holds even if, when we reach the car, there’s no sign of the kids or any damage.
However, now imagine that instead he says: “Just thought you should know, me and my friends just saw a flying elephant hovering about near your car.”
I doubt that nay but the most credulous of us would react with much more than a “wuh?” if this happened.
Even if we discovered a dent near the top of our car afterwards, the concept of a flying elephant would be so outlandish as to make alternative explanations seem the more likely: We’d assume that A was either joking, lying or deluded in some way.
The same holds true for texts like the Gospels. Unless the validity of the ‘God hypothesis’ is established some other way, eyewitness testimony will never be sufficient to support miraculous claims such as the resurrection.