Bayesian evaluation for the likelihood of Christ's resurrection (Part 18)

We are interested in quantifying the Bayes' factor for the testimonies concerning Christ's resurrection. We will do so by comparing the level of evidence for Christ's resurrection against the level of evidence we find in world history through a naturalistic process and outlook. Here is how the procedure will work:

As a conservative estimate, let us say that there have been 1e9 reportable, naturalistic deaths throughout world history. Then, a Bayes' factor of 1 would correspond to finding that all 1e9 of those deaths also resulted in resurrection stories, each as well-evidenced as Christ's resurrection.

A Bayes's factor of 1e9 would mean that there is still one other naturalistic death which resulted in a story on par with Christ's resurrection.

A Bayes' factor of 1e18 would mean that in all the rest of the world, among the 1e9 reportable, naturalistic deaths, there may be some deaths which has a resurrection story - but they would only have at most about half the evidence that Christ's resurrection has. The rationale is that if achieving half-evidence has a 1e-9 chance of happening, then the chance of that happening twice for the same event would take 1e9 squared, or 1e18, number of events.

By the same reasoning, a Bayes' factor of 1e54 would imply that the closest event to Christ's resurrection would have about 1/6th the evidence that Jesus's resurrection has.

So then, what are these evidences for Christ's resurrection? And what would 1/6th of that evidence look like? For our current purposes, we're using the testimonies enumerated in 1 Corinthians 15 - that's the passage from which we calculated our value of 1e54 for the Bayes' factor. In getting that number, I specifically accounted for the earnest, insistent, sincere personal testimonies of Peter, James, and Paul, as well as the group testimonies of the other apostles and the 500 disciples.

That's five distinct sets of testimonies. Not all of them were given equal weight in my calculations - the least of these were only responsible for 1e8 out of 1e54 in terms of Bayes' factors, or about 1/7 of the total weight of evidence. So, let's be conservative here (as I've always been throughout this entire series), and say that if any other non-Christian story about a resurrection matches any one of the five sets of testimonies in Acts 15, that would count as achieving 1/6th the evidence of Christ's resurrection.

What would it take to "match" one of these sets of testimonies? Well, the idea here is that the overall quality of the evidence should be on par with the evidence we have from the testimonies mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15. So:

To match Peter, James, or Paul's testimonies, we will require an earnest, insistent, and personal testimony by a single named individual, whom we can historically locate with great precision. We will also require that a good amount of information is available about the life of the person giving the testimony.

To match the testimonies of the other apostles would require an earnest, insistent, and personal testimony by a group of people, most of whom are named and known in history, who can be located with good precision.

To match the testimonies of the group of 500 disciples would require the earnest personal testimonies from a large, specific group of people, who can be well-located in history. They don't have to be named, and they don't have to be insistent in their testimony. But they should be well-defined enough that many of them could be individually pointed out by a well-known historical personage like Paul.

That will be our methodology. Starting in the next post, we will examine the claims where someone was said to have been raised from the dead, like Jesus. We will look at these claims and assign numerical values to the amount of evidence they have, using the criteria specified above. We will then assign a Bayes' factor for the evidence for Jesus's resurrection, based on how it measures up against the evidence for these other supposed resurrections.

You may next want to read:
Sherlock Bayes, logical detective: a murder mystery game
Orthodoxy vs. living out the Gospel: which is more important?
Another post, from the table of contents

No comments :

Post a Comment