The explanation that covers all the facts: A miracle occurred
Taken together, the appearances, the low estimation of women, the immediate proclamation, the disciples' voluntary sufferings, and the empty tomb provide overwhelming proof that Jesus rose from the dead. The disciples were not deceivers, nor were they deceived. But there's no question that this conclusion is based on an initial limitation.
Aside from the claims of miracles, the argument here assumes that the gospels and Acts are historically reliable and are rooted in eyewitness testimony. In other words, we'd trust them as much as any ordinary document of secular history. And where the documents do recall miracles, like Jesus' resurrection appearances, I assume that they are authentic -- meaning they describe what the disciples testified to have witnessed. If this assumption is false, then the evidence for the resurrection here is severely limited. I’m upfront about that. Having said that, I’m not begging any questions here. The blog portion of this site is primarily dedicated to defending that the gospels and Acts are trustworthy accounts. You can also check out my YouTube channel Testify for more content defending the historical reliability of the documents.
Regarding miracles, I know they sound strange to our modern ears. Many people believe miracles can't happen or at least never rationally believed. But belief in miracles isn't all that of an antiquated idea. 80% of Americans according to some polls believe in miracles. 62% of American Pentecostal Christians say they have witnessed or personally experienced divine healing, according to the Pew Forum.
Dr. Craig Keener of Asbury Seminary did an exhaustive study on the subject in his book 'Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts‘. Here are just a few medically documented testimonies that he uncovered:
These miracles indicate that Jesus is still doing the same things the Gospels claim that He was doing 2,000 years ago. From the very outset of the church, miracles were things that these eyewitnesses believed were possible through faith in Jesus.
But what if I've never seen a miracle?
We ought to measure the testimony of the individuals who claim to have encountered a miracle and not dismiss it because we weren't personally there. It would be unwise for a Nigerian person to deny that snow existed in light of the fact that he had never observed it in his city.
We spend much of our lives accepting the testimony of other individuals about events or facts that we can't personally check. If a particular claim appears to be unusual or extraordinary, that ought to obviously make us wary before accepting it, yet in the event that the evidence is solid, then we are obliged to take it seriously.
Check your bias
"Any initial prejudice against miracles—any ground for assignment of a low initial probability to the claim that a miracle has occurred—can not be any greater than the rational prejudice (great or small) against the conjunction of two claims: that there is a God who has destined his human creations for a future state of existence, and that he wants to tell them about it in such a way that they can know the message comes from him. If there is a God who wants to make such a revelation, and he wants to make it in such a way that we cannot mistake it for the mere word of man, then there is really no other way to seal it than by a miracle. A miracle would be the guarantee to us that this is a genuine word from God and not just someone’s fine-sounding philosophy or a well-crafted tale. And the conjunction of those two claims should, I think, not seem to any well-informed person to be so absurdly low as to lie beyond the reach of evidence."
- Dr. Tim McGrew, Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy. Dr. McGrew is a Professor of Philosophy and former Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Western Michigan University. His research interests include Epistemology, the History and Philosophy of Science, and Philosophy of Religion. He is a specialist in the philosophical applications of probability theory.