The Levitation that proved Zeus real
Anyone who has spent even the slightest bit of time talking with people about the alleged resurrection of Jesus knows that sooner or later there will be claims of 'over 500 eyewitnesses giving testimony' to this event. It is repeated so many times that I think it deserves a full treatment across several essays.
Consider Josh McDowell's mention:
"Let's take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony? Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you would well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history." -- http://www.leaderu.com/everystudent/easter/articles/josh2.html
The problems with this statement are legion.
Let us start with the fact that no one thinks that Paul spent the required 50 hours interviewing people before making this claim.
To drive at an even more fundamental point, however, I could assert the following:
"sometime around 2002, a man named Bob Johnson claimed to be Zeus incarnate and proved it by levitating in the air for more than half an hour in Los Angeles, California. Over 5,000 people witnessed this amazing event. Many of the 5,000 still live in LA and the surrounding area to this day.
Take these 5,000 witnesses and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of the 5,000 people were to testify for only 6 minutes, you could have an amazing 500 hours of firsthand testimony? You would well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history that would have to conclude that Bob Johnson was indeed Zeus incarnate."
Now, if you are a Christian who accepted McDowell's argument, you should believe in "The Levitation".
Or wait, do you just not care to even spend three hours carefully documenting the lack of 5,000 people in a city seeing some incarnation of a God that you don't believe in.
The ancient people around Corinth may have heard about some incarnation of some Jewish god a several week journey over in Jerusalem. You don't think that ancient people were different from you in not caring about disproving boring claims about Gods that they don't believe in, do you?
All right, let's say that maybe they would. Show me how you'd go about verifying or falsifying my assertion today. What would be step 1?
I can almost hear a potential retort from a theist: Right, right, right, very clever, Conversational Atheist. But everyone knows that you don't actually believe that this Johnson character actually levitated and proved that he was Zeus incarnate. Almost everyone (theist and atheist) knows that when Paul wrote his letter, Paul actually believed what he was writing.
1. At most, one letter claiming X number of witnesses is one witness -- this is at least part of the reason why you can discount my claim -- it's only me making it. This cuts to the quick the main point of McDowell and Strobel and all the other people who repeatedly make the ridiculous claim that such a letter is equivalent to having X number of eyewitnesses. If you think that their argument stands, then I'm looking forward to your evidence that 5,000 people did not witness the Levitation of Bob Johnson.
2. A person can write a letter about a supernatural event and be wrong about it -- even proclaiming hundreds of witnesses -- even being able to produce those witnesses. Don't believe me? Consider: The Resurrection -- of Zeus.