Proving the Ressurection Using the Minimal Facts Approach


Some on this forum have tried to prove the ressurection using the minimal facts approach, most notably, Randy Carson.

I will also embark on this endeavor using at least five facts.


Here is a lecture by Gary Habermas on the topic.


This is the second most common method of arguing for the resurrection that I encounter, and I’ve recently had some questions about it. Mind if I chime in from time to time?



Fact 1:

Jesus was dead
Mark 15:42-47
42 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. 45 When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. 46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

A centurion in the Roman army was in command of a century of 80 men (excluding the officers) and senior centurions commanded not only their own centuries but the 5 remaining centuries in a cohort. Centurions often supervised crucifixions and this paticular centurion certainly was no stranger to crucifixions like this one. Now some propose that Jesus may have not really died.

John 19:31-37
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”[c] 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”[d]

The centurion was also a witness to this event. From John’s gospel, it was pretty clear to the soldiers that He was dead and a soldier pierced his side as a routine action to make sure.


So any comments?


What kind of comments were you expecting?

I’m sure everybody accepts that it’s a fact that those texts exist but so what?


My only comment to what you’ve posted so far is that you aren’t using the minimal facts approach (yet). What separates the minimal facts approach from simply quoting the Bible and taking taking it for granted that if it says something happened, it happened (which, in my experience, is the most common method for arguing for the resurrection) is that the minimal facts approach appeals scholarly consensus to show that something mentioned in the Bible (the empty tomb, Paul’s conversion, etc.) probably actually happened. I believe Habermas aims for something like 90% agreement among his scholars before he labels a fact as a “minimal” one.

What this does is makes it so that skeptics like me aren’t being asked to take the Bible at face value when we already doubt the authenticity of a lot of its content. If we’re shown that the majority of relevant scholars are in agreement that a particular list of things happened, we can then be fairly sure about the accuracy of that content without having to first believe that the text is inspired or infallible or something like that. It’s a way of trying to meet us where we are, and I appreciate that. And Habermas is convinced that once enough facts are demonstrated this way, a literal resurrection becomes the most reasonable explanation of those facts.

Now, my main question about this method (for anyone reading this) is this: do you know of anyone besides Habermas (and Licona with him) who have done any real legwork in trying to establish what the scholarly consensus is about these facts? Because I hear a lot of people using this method without ever saying where they’re getting their information; they’ll just say “scholars say this” without ever saying how they figured out what the scholars think. But when they do appeal to a source, it seems that all roads lead to Habermas. And there are two problems with this. First is that they always seem to be saying things that Habermas doesn’t (they’ll almost always cite the empty tomb as a minimal fact when Habermas doesn’t count it as one; he says that the consensus isn’t strong enough to count as a “minimal” fact, so he puts it in the category of "extended’ facts). Second is that there are several methodological problems in the way that Habermas has gone about this, and I’m hoping that someone out there has done a better job.


They are coming.

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.


The fact that most scholars acknowledge that Jesus died by crucifixion is important, Kaninchen.

First, it closes off the claim that Jesus was a legendary figure and not a real person.

Second, it slams the door on claims by some (Muslims notably) that Jesus did not actually die but merely swooned and appeared dead which would account for his post-crucifixion appearances in a non-supernatural way.




The fact that most scholars acknowledge that Jesus died by crucifixion is important, Kaninchen.

First, it closes off the claim that Jesus was a legendary figure and not a real person.

Second, it slams the door on claims by some (Muslims notably) that Jesus did not actually die but merely swooned, was taken down from the cross prematurely, and later revived in the coolness of the tomb. This improbable theory would, if true, account for his post-crucifixion appearances in a non-supernatural way.


Fact 2: Testimony of Women was disregarded.

“But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment,” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.15).

The Talmud
“Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman,” (Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8).
“Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women,” (Talmud, Sotah 19a).

Luke also tells us that the apostles thought the testimony of the women “seemed like nonsense.” Now if you were going to start a religion in a patriarchal society, then why would women be your first witnesses? It is pretty clear who had a Hand in this.


I don’t think these passages really support the argument.

Josephus is saying that it is unseemly for a woman to appear in court or to give testimony herself, which was a common view at the time, but he doesn’t say that her testimony is inherently untrustworthy. In fact, Josephus himself relied on the testimony of women on some occasions. His telling of what happened at Masada is based entirely on the testimony of two women, and neither he nor anyone else seems to count that as a problem.

The passages from the Talmud are also problematic. The first one, in context, is talking about reporting the first sighting of the new moon to mark the beginning of festivals. It’s not talking about testimony given in any other circumstance.
The second passage quoted talks about the Law being delivered to women. It doesn’t say anything about testimony coming from women. And “the Law” is referring to the Torah. Really what it’s saying is that women shouldn’t be taught Torah; that’s for men only.

I have looked into this a bit, and I haven’t found anything that makes me think that the ‘fact’ that women discovered the tomb first would have been seen as an issue to anyone. Even if it was, the very next details in the story have men going and verifying what the women saw, so it doesn’t really matter (I could, but won’t, say that this actually lends some minor support to the story being made up, since the first gospel, Mark, ends with the women running away and not telling anyone and the latter gospels add the detail of men checking it out themselves, which could suggest that people did have a problem with the way Mark left things and then ‘fixed’ it in their own telling. I think that’s a stretch, though.).


From Eusebius:
Against Apion: “A woman, it says, is inferior to a man in all respects. So, let her obey, not that she may be abused, but that she may be ruled; for God has given power to the man.”[1] Regarding the issue of marriage and fidelity, Josephus stated in the text that women are to be transferred from the hands of one male authority figure to another, and that a man is to “betroth [a woman] from the man with authority to give her.


My comment is, if you are going to prove something from Scripture you assume your listener gives at least some credence to the historical reliability of Scripture.

That can be a problem to varying degrees and with all kinds of nuanced viewpoints.

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