Bayes’s Theorem Applied to the Historicity of the Resurrection

by Max Andrews

I concluded that the probability the resurrection of Jesus happened lies within a 72% likelihood that it occurred.  I thought that was a bit low myself, my biggest interfering factor was the possibility of living in an open system multiverse.  I would like to see some more evaluation on the role and probabilities when open systems are considered as an objection to the resurrection.  An abstract from my [non-exhaustive] recent paper titled “An Application of Bayes’s Theorem to the Case for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus“:

Thomas Bayes’s theorem, in probability theory, is a rule for evaluating the conditional probability of two or more mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive events.  The conditional probability of an event is the probability of that event happening given that another event has already happened.[1] The theorem may be expressed as:

What the solution [P(h|e&k)] represents is the probability of the hypothesis in question is given the evidence and the background information.  The numerator [P(e|h&k) P(h|k)]  is the probability of the product of evidence and background knowledge and the background knowledge alone. The denominator [P(e|k)] is the probability of the event with the evidence alone.  Each factor involved is assigned a probability between 0 and 1 with 0 as impossible and 1 being completely certain.[2]

When this theorem is applied to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus the hypothesis in question is that God raised Jesus from the dead.  The evidence for the resurrection will be Gary Habermas’ minimal facts approach.  The background knowledge will be commonly accepted dates, the actual existence and crucifixion Jesus, the roles other persons played in the crucifixion, and the method of inquiry.

[1] Patrick J. Hurley, Logic (Belmont, CA:  Thomson Wadsworth, 2008), 519.

[2] For an in-depth look at Bayes’ Theorem applied to arguments, particularly theistic arguments, see Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004) 66-72.

Advertisements

6 Comments to “Bayes’s Theorem Applied to the Historicity of the Resurrection”

  1. This is ridiculous. You are trying to use methodological supernaturalism .

    • Which method of assigning a probability factor do you find inappropriate? I have no record of you even downloading or viewing the document, so it seems as though you’re merely jumping to and making a hasty conclusion (I can view every click on my blog, this document hasn’t been viewed recently). I would possibly consider a charge such as this if you read the document and objected to a probability factor assigned. Unless you object to Bayes’ theorem altogether, then you’ve got a bigger problem. Until then, you comment is noted, though without substance and value.

  2. ok I CAN EXPLAIN THE AFTER LIFE BY MATTER THAT IS IN MOTION TENDS TO STAY IN MOTION SO IN ITS SIMPLEST FORM MATTER IS ENERGY. OUR LIFE FORCE HAS TO BE A STATE OF ENERGY. SAY THAT YOU ARE A SKEPTIC WHO GOES BY THE RULE OF IMPOSSIBILITY,BEIN G THAT IMPOSSIBILITY IS EXPREDSSED AS ANYTHING PAST 1 IN 67,000,000 ODDS COULDNOT GOD LIE BEYOND THE LAW OF IMPROBABILITY AS WELL AS THE RESSURECTION OF CHRIST BECAUSE THE GUIDE LINES OF IMPROBABILITY ARE PURELY THEORETICAL.I BELIEVE PERSONNALY IT DID. WHERE THERE IS SMOKE THERE IS FIRE,AND AN INTELLIGENT DESIGNER AS EINSTEIN BELIEVED IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE TO CONCEIVE OF.KEEP SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH WITH AN OPEN MIND. YOU ARE ONTO SOMETHING.EXAMINE THE BIBLE BY READING IT.LOVE YOUR PRESENTATION.

  3. P(h|k)=0.2 is absurd and ridiculous. You have provided no more reason to believe this(at the PRIOR LEVEL, that is, BEFORE looking at textual claims) than that there are pentagonal microscopic purple space pixies on the back side of Jupiter which telepathically talked to you last night. A supernatural event is extremely rare in our universe, if any of them even exist at all. I would suggest 5*10^(-19) as a reasonable value (I have a Youtube video to this effect, “multiple testing fallacy and Christian apologetics” .

  4. “it would be near impossible, a 0.1 perhaps”

    So the impossible is rather more likely than rolling two sixes on a pair of dice (p = 0.028)…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: