The Eye Witnesses
In a court of law, the standard of proof is establishment of evidence in order to conclude that something has occurred “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The standard does not go as far as to say “beyond any possible doubt.” I would contend that this same standard should be held when a person comes to investigate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Many atheists today are not be willing to investigate the claims of Christ, because they assume that the standard is beyond any possible doubt. Therefore since there will always be some form of possible doubt, Christianity cannot be true.
But, is this a cop-out?
I would say that the eyewitness testimonies found in the gospels are adequate evidence to conclude that Jesus was who he claimed to be. It is interesting to me to see that the method of sharing the good news of the gospel in the setting of the early church was based on the aspect of eyewitness testimony of the events that took place. They did not use a two-question test, or cajole up a confession of breaking of many of the ten commandments. Nor did they provide reasonable proofs for the existence of God. I am not saying that any of these things are necessarily wrong, they are all useful. But the gold standard (if you will) was based on the evidence of the eyewitnesses.
Eyewitness testimony requires at least two criteria to be valid. First, you must establish that the witness was actually at the physical place where the event took place. You cannot be an eyewitness if you were not there. Second, you need to establish the credibility of the person. Are they telling the truth or are the fabricating a lie? Are they delusional or are they insane? Are they lying in order to garner gain such as money, power or sex?
These questions can all be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in the context of the gospel accounts of Jesus. The texts were written early, within the lifespan of the witnesses in order to establish that they were actually present. There are multiple sightings of the resurrected Jesus that are seen by as many as 500 people, which precludes any form of being delusional. It is also apparent that the eyewitness had no financial or power to gain by their testimony, in fact the opposite occurred, as many were martyred for their belief.
I would like to highly recommend the video link listed below. J. Warner Wallace does an excellent job of explaining all of this, much more adequately than I have done. He has walked the pathway from outspoken skeptic with a background as a homicide detective, to a nationally recognized evangelist.
Link: How the Standard of Proof Helped a Skeptic Become a Christian
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