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                   The Geisler-Till Debate


            * Participants and Format of the Debate
            * Geisler's First Speech
            * Till's First Speech
            * Geisler's Second Speech
            * Till's Second Speech
            * Questions and Answers
            * Till's Concluding Speech
            * Geisler's Concluding Speech



Dr.  Norman  L.  Geisler  (author,  educator,  and  Dean  of
Southern   Evangelical  Seminary,  Charlotte,  NC)  and  Mr.
Farrell Till (editor of The  Skeptical  Review  and  English
teacher  at  Spoon River College, Canton, IL) met for public
debate March 29, 1994, at the  Columbus  College  Fine  Arts
Hall  (Columbus, GA). The proposition was "Jesus of Nazareth
died and rose bodily from the grave," which Geisler affirmed
and  Till  denied.  The  format  was  two 20 minute speeches
followed by two  10  minute  rebuttals.  There  was  then  a
30-minute period of questions from the audience and finally,
the closing speeches of two minutes each.  Geisler  won  the
toss and, thus, spoke first.

NOTE:  This  transcript  is  not  the official record of the
debate although it has been reviewed and approved by Farrell
Till. While complete accuracy was attempted, errors no doubt
persist. Square brackets  ([])  were  used  for  explanatory
insertions  and  to  indicate  that  it  was  impossible  to
determine from the tape what was said. Ellipses  (...)  were
used  to  show that the speaker did not complete his thought
(they  do  not  imply  that  words  were  left  out  of  the


It  is an honor to be here. On the topic under discussion, I
affirm that Jesus of Nazareth died and rose bodily from  the
grave.  I  offer two points in support of this claim. First,
the  New  Testament  documents  are  historically   reliable
accounts.  Second,  these documents reveal that Jesus really
died on the cross and actually rose bodily from  the  grave.
The  argument  for  the  historical  reliability  of the New
Testament accounts has two parts.

First, the existing manuscripts of  the  New  Testament  are
accurate  copies of the original ones -- in particular those
relating to the death and resurrection  of  Christ.  Second,
the  writers  of  these documents (specifically the Gospels,
Acts,  and  1  Corinthians)  were  either  eyewitnesses   or
contemporaries  of  the  eyewitnesses  providing an accurate
account of the fact that Jesus died and rose again.

The documentary evidence for  the  reliability  of  the  New
Testament  is  greater than that for any other book from the
ancient world. Hence, employing the same  criteria  used  on
other  ancient  documents,  the New Testament is an accurate
representation of the first century original. Three lines of
evidence  combine to demonstrate this conclusion. First, the
New Testament has more manuscripts. It is not  uncommon  for
great  classics to survive on only a handful of manuscripts.
According to the noted Manchester scholar,  F.F.  Bruce,  we
have  about nine or ten good copies of Caesar's Gallic Wars,
twenty  copies  of  Livy's  Roman  History,  two  copies  of
Tacitus'  Annals,  eight  copies of Thucydides' History. The
most documented secular  work  from  the  ancient  world  is
Homer's  Illiad  --  surviving  on 643 manuscript copies. By
contrast, there are over 5,366 Greek manuscripts of the  New
Testament,  most  of  which  include  the  Gospels.  The New
Testament is  the  most  highly  documented  book  from  the
ancient world.

Second,  the  New  Testament has earlier manuscripts. One of
the marks of a good manuscript is its age -- generally,  the
older  the  better,  since  the  closer  to  the time of the
original composition the less likely it is that the text has
been  corrupted.  Most  books from the ancient world survive
only in a handful of manuscripts  that  were  written  about
1,000  years  after  the  end  of the first century. And one
portion of the Gospel of John survives from within  about  a
generation  of  the time it was composed. No other book from
the  ancient  world  has  as  small  a  time   gap   between
composition  and  the  earliest manuscript copies as the New
Testament has.

Third, the New Testament is more accurately copied. The  New
Testament  is  one  of  the  most  --  if  not  the  most --
accurately copied books from the ancient  world.  The  great
Greek  scholar  A.T. Robertson said that the real concern is
only with a thousandth part of the entire text.  This  would
make  the  New Testament 99.9% free of significant variants.
The noted historian Philip Schaff  calculated  that  of  the
variants   known   in   his   day,  only  50  were  of  real
significance, and not even one affected an article of  faith
or  a precept of duty. By comparison with the New Testament,
most other books from the ancient world are  not  nearly  so
well  authenticated.  Professor Bruce Metzger, of Princeton,
estimated that the Mahabharata of Hinduism  is  copied  with
only  about  90%  accuracy  and  Homer's Illiad with 95%. By
comparison, he calculated that the New  Testament  is  about
99.5%  accurate.  So even by conservative standards, the New
Testament survives in a 99+% reconstructed text with all the
essential  truths about the death and resurrection of Christ
not being affected.

In  summation,  the  evidence,  the  British   scholar   Sir
Frederick Kenyon declared, that the number of manuscripts of
the New Testament, of early translations  from  it,  and  of
quotations from it in the oldest writers of the church is so
large that it is practically certain that the  true  reading
of every doubtful passage is preserved in someone or another
of these ancient authorities. This can be said of  no  other
book  from  the  ancient  world. In addition to abundant and
accurate manuscripts, there is also  equally  good  evidence
that   what   these   texts   affirm  about  the  death  and
resurrection of Christ is historically reliable.  It  should
be noted that it is not necessary to this argument that they
are inspired or inerrant, but  only  that  like  other  good
works  of  antiquity  they are accurate. Again, the evidence
for this is greater than that of any work from that period.

First of all let me mention four crucial books, namely Luke,
John,  Acts,  and 1 Corinthians, which purport to be written
by eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries. Luke was an  educated
contemporary  of  Christ  who  said: "That just as those who
from the beginning were eyewitnesses  and  servants  of  the
word  (namely the apostles), so too it seemed fitting for me
as one having a perfect understanding of all things from the
very  first  to  write  you  an  orderly  account." John the
apostle claimed to be an  eyewitness  in  chapter  21;  Paul
affirmed  that he was a contemporary of Christ and a witness
of his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15),  noting  that  there
were  over  500 witnesses most of whom were still alive when
he wrote.

Second the claim  of  being  written  by  contemporaries  is
supported  by  the freshness, vividness, and accuracy of the
accounts (giving  specific  geographical,  topological,  and
cultural  details  that  are known to fit the time period of
which  they  speak).  Although  the  Gospel  writers   offer
different  perspectives,  they  all  present  the same basic
facts about the death and resurrection of  Christ.  Further,
all  mention of real historical places of the times (such as
Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem) all  utilize  the  names  of
actual  places  of  people  such  as  Pharisees, Sadduccees,
Herodians. In addition, names of real historical persons  of
the  period  are mentioned (like king Herod, Pontius Pilate,
and Caesar Augustus).

Third, the science of archaeology has  confirmed  the  basic
historical  accuracy  of  the Gospel record. To take but one
example, there are the writings of Sir William Ramsay, whose
conversion  from  a  skeptical view of the New Testament was
supported by a lifetime  of  research  in  the  near-eastern
world.  He  wrote,  "I  began with a mind unfavorable to it.
More recently I found myself often brought in  contact  with
the book of Acts as an authority for topography, antiquites,
and society of Asia minor. It was gradually born in upon  me
that  in  various  details  the  narrative  showed marvelous
truth." As a result,  Ramsay  discovered  that  Luke  was  a
first-rate  historian. In Luke's references to 32 countries,
to 44 cities, and 9 islands,  there  were  no  errors.  This
being the case, Luke's prior narration of Christ's death and
resurrection (which are integral parts of his Gospel) should
be  accepted as authentic as well. And since it is in accord
with that of the other Gospels on the basic facts about  the
death   and   resurrection   of   Christ  we  have  here  an
archaeological confirmation  of  the  basic  historicity  of
these documents on these essential facts.

Fourth,  the  manuscript  evidence points to a first century
date for the basic Gospel material. The John Rylands papyri,
being an early second century copy of portions of John found
in Egypt, points to a first century origin of John in  Asia.
Likewise  the  Bodmer  papyri  from  the  end  of the second
century and the Chester  Beatty  papyri  from  only  a  half
century  later form crucial links in a manuscript chain that
takes us right back to the threshold of  the  first  century
when the books were written.

Fifth,  the  writers  of  the  New  Testament  books  on the
resurrection like Luke, John, and  Paul  were  known  to  be
honest men. They not only expounded a high moral standard of
honesty and integrity, but they lived by it and died for it.
While  some  people  have  been  known  to die for what they
believed to be right but was wrong,  few  people  have  been
willing to die for what they know to be wrong. What is more,
the other Gospels (like Matthew and  Mark)  with  no  direct
claim  of  authorship  give  the  same  basic  message about
Christ's death and resurrection.

Sixth, the testimony of the  early  second  century  writers
directly   link   the  Gospels  with  the  eyewitnesses  and
contemporaries  of  the  events.  The  Oracles   of   Papias
(125-140) for example, make the significant affirmation that
the apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew,  that  Mark
the  associate  of  Peter  wrote  the Gospel of Mark shortly
after the middle of the first century.

Seventh, the immediate successors of the apostles  beginning
in  the late first and early second century cite Gospels and
epistles as authentic including sections on  the  death  and
resurrection of Christ. In A.D. 95 Clement of Rome cited the
Gospels. Around A.D.  110  Ignatius  quoted  Luke  24:39  (a
crucial  text  on  the  resurrection of Christ). Polycarp, a
disciple of John the apostle cites the synoptic  gospels  as
authentic.  The  Epistle  of  Barnabas (135) quotes Matthew.
Papias (125 and following) speaks of Matthew, Mark, and John
writing Gospels saying three times that Mark made no errors.

Eighth,  highly reputable contemporary scholars date the New
Testament books within  the  lifetime  of  eyewitnesses  and
contemporaries  of  the  events. Archaeologist Nelson Gleuck
wrote: "We can already say emphatically  that  there  is  no
longer  any  solid  basis  for  dating  any  book of the New
Testament after A.D. 80." The renown paleographer William F.
Albright  declared  that every book of the New Testament was
written by a baptized Jew between the 40s  and  80s  of  the
first  century  and  very  probably  between 50 and 75. More
recently, even the radical "death of God" theologian  Bishop
Robinson  of  Honest  to  God  fame  declared  that  the New
Testament was written by contemporaries beginning only seven
years or so after the events and were circulated among other
eyewitnesses and/or contemporaries of the events.

Ninth, the known time lapse between the  actual  events  and
the  time  of composition of the first document is too short
for mythological development. One  expert,  Julius  Meuller,
declared  that  it takes at least two generations for a myth
to develop. Whereas there is only 20 years or so in the case
of  the  New  Testament.  He  also  notes  that myths do not
develop when there are still contemporaries of the events to
debunk them (such as there were at the time of the basic New
Testament documents). Furthermore, the New Testament  record
shows  no  sign  of  mythological  development  (such as are
present, say in the 2nd and 3rd century apocryphal gospels).

Tenth, and last, even radical critics of the  New  Testament
acknowledge  that the apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians about
A.D. 56. But this is only 22 years after Jesus was crucified
in   A.D.   33.   and   well  within  the  lifetime  of  the
eyewitnesses. Further, Paul indicates that his  material  is
based  on  an  even  earlier  creed  which  he  received  (1
Corinthians 15:1) that comes from within a few years of  the
events  themselves.  In  this  text,  Paul affirmed that the
majority of 500 witnesses were still  alive  when  he  wrote
(implying  that  his readers could confirm for themselves if
they wished).

In brief, there is nothing like this kind  of  evidence  for
any  other  historical event from the ancient world. Now, if
the New Testament documents are reliable, it remains only to
show that they affirm that Jesus died and rose from the dead
a few days later.

A brief review of the New Testament evidence will suffice to
support these two truths.

* First of all, Jesus announced many times during His
  ministry that He was going to die. Typical is Matthew
  17 where He said the son of man is about to be betrayed
  into the hands of men and they will kill Him and the
  third day he will be raised.

* Second, the nature and extent of Jesus' injuries
  indicate that He must have died: he had no sleep the
  night before He was crucified, he was beaten several
  times and whipped, he collapsed on the way to His
  crucifixion carrying His cross. This in itself, to say
  nothing of the crucifixion to follow, was totally
  exhausting and life-draining.

* Third, the nature of the crucifixion assures death.
  Jesus was on the cross from 9 a.m. until just before
  sunset, he bled from wounded hands and feet as well as
  from thorns that pierced his head. There would be a
  tremendous loss of blood from doing this for more than
  six hours. What is more, crucifixion demands that the
  victim constantly pull himself up in order to breathe
  (thus inflicting excruciating pain from the nails).
  Doing this all day would kill anyone even if they were
  in good health.

* Fourth, the piercing of Jesus' side with a spear from
  which came blood and water is proof of His death. For
  if he had not already died, this fatal spear wound to
  the heart by trained executioners would have certainly
  finished the job.

* Fifth, Jesus affirmed the very moment of His death on
  the cross when He declared, "Father into thy hands I
  commend my spirit." And having said this He breathed
  His last (John renders this: "He gave up His spirit").
  Indeed Jesus' death cry was heard by those who stood

* Sixth, the Roman soldiers accustomed to crucifixion
  and death pronounced Jesus dead. It was a common
  practice to break the legs of victims so they could no
  longer lift themselves and breathe. But since these
  professional executioners were so convinced that Jesus
  was actually dead, they even deemed this unnecessary in
  Jesus' case.

* Seventh, Pilate double-checked to make sure Jesus was
  dead before he gave the corpse to Joseph.

* Eighth, Jesus was wrapped in 75 pounds of cloth and
  spices and placed in a sealed tomb for three days. If
  he was not dead by then (which He clearly was) He would
  have died from lack of food, water, and medical
  treatment from three days in the tomb.

* Ninth, medical authorities who have examined the
  circumstance and nature of Christ's death have
  concluded that He actually died on the cross. In an
  article in the Journal of the American Medical Society,
  March 1986 concludes: "Clearly the weight of historical
  and medical evidence indicated that Jesus was dead
  before the wound to his side was inflicted and supports
  the traditional view that the spear thrust between his
  right rib probably perforated not only the right lung
  but also his pericardium and heart and thereby insured
  his death. The interpretations based upon the
  assumptions that Jesus did not die on the cross appear
  to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.

But, not only is this an established fact that  Jesus  died,
it  is  also  a  fact  that  He rose from the dead, which he
offered as confirming of His unique claim to be the  son  of
God. Let's look briefly at the evidence.

That  Jesus  rose from the dead even leaving behind an empty
tomb and grave clothes is  verified  by  all  four  Gospels,
Acts, and 1 Corinthians.

These  historically  reliable  documents record 12 different
appearances of Christ beginning three days after  his  death
to over 500 people over a 40 day period of time during which
Jesus was seen, heard with the natural senses. His tomb  was
visited,  found  empty,  indeed  no  one ever found his dead
body. Jesus dined  with  His  disciples  four  times  eating
physical food himself. He was touched and offered Himself to
be touched four times (including His challenge to Thomas  to
put  his  finger  in  his  hand  and  to see the crucifixion
wounds). When Thomas complied, he declared, "My Lord and  my
God."  Every  earnest seeker of truth is still invited to do
the same. Many skeptics  including  Simon  Greenleaf,  Frank
Morrison, and Josh McDowell have done so and believed. After
carefully studying the evidence for almost  half  a  century
now, I would thoughtfully and earnestly invite you to do the
same and join them. Thank you. [applause]


Like Dr. Geisler, I want to express my appreciation for  the
oppurtunity  to  be here. I always consider it a privlege to
speak on subjects like the issue under  discussion  tonight,
and  I certainly want to thank those who arranged this event
for asking me to be a part of it. At the same time, I  think
that   I  must  also  take  just  a  moment  to  express  my
disappointment. I thought when I was first  contacted  about
coming here that we were going to have a debate. Dr. Geisler
insisted on the format that we are using. There will be  one
hour  of  speaking  time, and how can anyone cover a subject
like  this  in  just  one  hour's  time?  I  begged  him  in
correspondence  to reconsider to increase the speaking time;
he rejected that. I asked him to at least allow for a period
of cross-examination where I could directly question him and
he could directly question me, and he rejected that too  and
finally  he  wrote me a short note that said, "Do it the way
that I have outlined or there will be no debate." I was very
anxious  to get him here, and since I've heard his speech, I
think that I made the right decision. I was very anxious  to
get  him here before an audience, and so I finally agreed to
his conditions and so here we are tonight.

I think that if I make three counter arguments that I  could
answer  everything  that  Dr.  Geisler  said  and  answer it
satisfactorily. For a moment I was confused; I thought  that
he  was, or that the subject was supposed to be a discussion
of the accuracy of the New Testament records.  Let's  assume
that  the  New Testament was copied with one hundred percent
accuracy. That would in no way prove that anything that  was
written in it was necessarily true.

The  first  major flaw that I would like to point out in Dr.
Geisler's position is that the story of  Jesus  is  a  story
that was just too familiar by the time that it started being
told and applied to this man Jesus of Nazareth. Long  before
Jesus    of    Nazareth    allegedly   lived,   virgin-born,
miracle-working, crucified, resurrected, savior-gods were  a
dime a dozen. They flourished in most of the pagan religions
that were believed by people who lived centuries, centuries,
and centuries before Jesus allegedly lived. I could, if time
permitted, and I think that perhaps that's one reason why he
did  not want more speaking time; he did not want to have to
deal with issues like  these.  I  could  take  saviors  like
Krishna, saviors like Osiris, saviors like Dionysus, saviors
like Tammuz, who presumably lived  centuries  and  centuries
before Jesus of Nazareth allegedly lived, and they were born
of virgins, they worked miracles, they died,  most  of  them
through  crucifixion,  and  they  were  resurrected from the
dead, and their followers were zealous for them.

All of the things that he says about Jesus were  said  many,
many,  many years before this Jesus allegedly lived. Doesn't
that make you a bit suspicious, Dr.  Geisler?  If  I  should
write  a  book,  and after that book were published, someone
should discover the plot, the major points of the plot, were
the  same  as  a book that had been written a thousand years
ago,  what  would  you  suppose?  Would  you  suppose   that
independently  I had arrived at all of these major points of
the plot, or would you assume that I somehow had known about
that earlier work and that I had plagiarized? That's a major
problem that he's going to have to deal with.

I'm going to mention the name of a church  father.  He  made
references  to  the  early church leaders, so let me mention
just one. Justin Martyr. You may never have heard that name,
but  I  assure  you  that  Dr.  Geisler has heard it. Justin
Martyr was a second-century so- called church father, and he
wrote two apologies in which he tried to convince the pagans
of his generation that it was logical to believe that  Jesus
Christ  was the son of God, born of a virgin, and [that] all
the  things  that  were  being  preached  about   him   were
believable. In his first apology, Volume I, chapter 22, page
69, in the Reeves edition. I hope that you wrote  that  down
and if you can't find the Reeves edition, you should be able
to find another edition, and by looking at Volume I, chapter
22,  you should be able to find this. In writing directly to
the emperor of his generation, Justin Martyr said this:

  "By declaring the logos, the first begotten of God, our
  master Jesus Christ to be born of a virgin, without any
  human mixture, we (Christians) say no more in this than
  what you (pagans) say of those whom you style the sons
  of Jove."

Now do you understand what he is saying?  He  is  saying  to
them,  "Well,  why do you think that it is so fantastic that
we say that Jesus was born of a virgin when you yourself say
that  there  are  many sons of Jove?" [Jove] being a primary
god that the pagans of that generation believed in. "For you
need  not  be told what a parcel of sons the writers most in
vogue among you assigned to Jove." In other words,  I  don't
need  to tell you how many there are that your writers claim
were the actual sons of Jove.

  "As to the son of God called Jesus, should we allow him
  to be nothing more than man, yet the title of the son
  of God is very justifiable. Upon the account of his
  wisdom, considering that you (pagans) have your Mercury
  in worship under the title of the word a messenger of
  God. As to his, (that is Jesus Christ's) being born of
  a virgin, you have your Perseus to balance that."

Now it's true that  Justin  Martyr  was  talking  about  the
virgin  birth  of  Jesus,  but  he could have said this same
thing about the miracles that Jesus allegedly performed.  He
could have said the same thing about his crucifixion, and he
certainly  could  have  said  the  same  thing   about   his

People,  I  want  you to stop and think seriously for just a
moment. I know how much emotionalism is  involved  in  this,
but   please   understand   this.   Crucified,   resurrected
savior-gods, who had been born of virgins,  were  a  dime  a
dozen  at  this  time. Matthew the 14th chapter, verse 1, go
home and read it, and you'll see that when Jesus began to do
his  mighty  works, that Herod who had ordered prior to this
the execution of John the Baptist, said, "Why, this is  John
the Baptist risen from the dead." Now I'm not trying to tell
you that Herod necessarily said  that,  but  the  fact  that
whoever  wrote this in the book of Matthew would have made a
statement like that just goes to show how commonplace belief
in  the  resurrection  from  the  dead was at that time. Now
let's suppose that this year when the baseball season opens,
that  some  player goes on a tear, a rookie that we've never
heard of before, he goes on a home-run tear  and  he  starts
knocking  home runs all over the place. Who is going to say,
"Well, this is Babe Ruth risen  from  the  dead?"  Or  let's
suppose   that  a  dictator  of  a  foreign  country  starts
massacring his people. Is anyone going to say, "Well this is
Adolph  Hitler  risen from the dead?" Certainly not, because
we are more intelligent than that today.

Dr. Geisler has got to stand before this audience and he has
to forget how accurate the scribes were when they copied the
New Testament, and he has got to prove to us that  when  the
New  Testament  says  that  Jesus  was  scourged,  that that
actually happened. He's got to prove to  us  that  when  his
side  was pierced on the cross, that that actually happened.
Where is his evidence that those things  actually  happened?
Well,  it's in a book; it had 5,000 manuscripts or something
like that circulating; what does that prove?

I brought with me a book [holding it up] that maybe some  of
you  thought  was a Bible. It isn't the Bible; it's the Book
of Mormon. You may have seen it. Every  issue  that  I  have
seen,  and  I  was  trying  to make this point on the radio,
either, uh, yesterday, and I was  cut  off  before  I  could
finish  it.  If  you  look  in  the beginning of the Book of
Mormon, you will find a  copy  of  the  affidavit  that  was
signed  by Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris,
the so-called three witnesses. They testified that they  saw
the  golden  plates on which the Book of Mormon was written,
that they handled them with their hands, and that  they  saw
Joseph Smith translating. They saw this with their own eyes.
This is not hearsay evidence.

Dr. Geisler  [gesturing  towards  Geisler],  what  did  Mary
Magdalene  ever  write? Do you have it? What did Joanna, one
of the women who went with her to the tomb, ever write?  Who
was  she,  anyway? What did Salome ever write? Who are these
500 brethren that Jesus appeared to? Can you give  us  their
names?  Could  you tell us where this happened? It's hearsay
evidence. Don't you know what hearsay evidence  is?  Haven't
you   ever   heard  Judge  Wapner  saying,  "That's  hearsay
evidence, it's inadmissable"? That's such a rudimentary fact
that it's known even in the People's Court. Hearsay evidence
[clapping hands for emphasis] is not  admissible!  But  this
[slapping  Book of Mormon] isn't hearsay. This is the direct
testimony of the  three  witnesses.  Underneath  it  is  the
direct  testimony  and the affidavit of the eight witnesses,
who said that they also handled the plates. They just didn't
see the angel bring them down. Does Dr. Geisler believe that
what's written in this book [holding up the Book of  Mormon]
is  true?  No! Does he believe he direct testimony of Oliver
Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris? No! I assure  you
that  he  certainly does not believe it. But he believes the
hearsay evidence of this Mary  Magdalene.  He  believes  the
hearsay evidence of these 500 brethren. Hearsay evidence, my
friends, is simply not admissible, and that is a point  that
he  must  deal  with.  Let's not say we hope that he'll deal
with it. When he comes back before this audience and he does
not  deal  with  that,  then  we  have every right to reject
everything that he has said to us tonight.

The second flaw in Dr. Geisler's theory is  that  it  is  an
extraordinary  claim.  If  he had come to us tonight and had
said, "On the way here, I had  a  flat  tire."  I'd  believe
that,  wouldn't you? He looks like a pretty decent fellow. I
wouldn't have any, any reason at all not to believe  him  if
he  told us that he had a flat tire on his way to the debate
tonight. People have flat tires all the time. But what if he
came  to  us  and said, "Yesterday I was driving along in my
car and suddenly there was a bright light, it  just  flashed
out  of  nowhere,  and  I  felt myself being drawn out of my
automobile, and suddenly I  found  myself  aboard  a  flying
saucer,  and  little alien creatures from another planet had
me on the table, and they were examining me, and after  they
finished  their  examination, they beamed me back down in my
car, and I continued my  trip."  How  many  in  there  would
believe  this? No, you wouldn't believe it, because it is an
extraordinary   claim.    Extraordinary    claims    require
extraordinary   evidence.   If   someone  walked  into  this
auditorium and said, "I saw Elvis Presley yesterday,"  would
you  believe  it?  Someone  over  here  raised his hand. Who
knows, maybe he's seen Elvis Presley. But you know certainly
that  you  would  not  believe  this, because it would be an
extraordinary claim. What if this person said, "Five hundred
people  were  with  me, and we saw Elvis Presley." Would you
believe it? No, because it is an  extraordinary  claim,  and
extraordinary  claims  require extraordinary evidence. Now I
want to know what in the world is  extraordinary  about  the
fact  that this story was written in a book that Dr. Geisler
does not for one moment believe. Yet, you know, this book is
far more recent than the one that he puts his faith in. This
book isn't even two centuries old. That one [gesturing at  a
Bible  on his table] is over 2,000 years old, some of it. If
someone makes an extraordinary  claim  today,  he  [Geisler]
doesn't  believe  it, but if somebody makes an extraordinary
claim 2,000 years ago, he declares that he is a man  who  is
inspired by God and that his testimony is reliable.

Another  problem,  and  we're  running  rapidly out of time.
Another problem with this wonderful evidence that he has  is
that  it  is  contradictory.  Have  you people ever read the
resurrection accounts in the four gospels? If you haven't, I
urge you to do so. I beg you to go home tonight and read the
28th chapter of Matthew and see what Matthew said, read  the
16th  chapter  of Mark and see what Mark said, read the 24th
chapter of Luke and  see  what  Luke  said,  read  the  20th
chapter of John and see what John said, and if you don't see
contradictions, then you're not reading it carefully enough.

Let me give you one example of a glaring contradiction. This
one is enough to completely discredit this reliable evidence
that he was telling us about. Matthew,  and  also  Mark  and
Luke,  tell us Mary Magdalene went to the tomb the first day
of the week, and while she was there she saw an  angel,  who
had  rolled  the stone away. This angel announced that Jesus
whom they were looking for was not there, that he had  risen
from  the dead. According to Luke's account, he said, "Don't
you remember that while he was with you, he told you that he
would rise from the dead?" And Luke said when the angel said
this to them, they then remembered the words of Jesus,  that
he  would rise from the dead. But what does John tell us? By
the way,  Dr.  Geisler,  you  are  not  going  to  [laughing
derisively]  try  to  tell us that was the apostle John? You
are  going  to  fly  in  the  face  of  the  best   biblical
scholarship  in  the  world... but, anyway, the book of John
tells us that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, found that it
was empty, she ran to Peter and the other disciple, and what
did she say? Did she say, "An angel has  told  me  that  the
Lord  has  risen  from  the  dead?" No, she said, "They have
stolen the Lord's body, and I do not know  where  they  have
laid  him."  And yet she had, according to Matthew, Mark and
Luke, seen an angel that had told her he has risen from  the
dead.  Luke  said  she  remembered his promise that he would
rise from the dead, but John says she ran  to  the  apostles
and  said that they have stolen the body of the Lord, and we
don't know where he is, and we're  going  to  have  to  stop
because  my  time  is  up,  and I appreciate your attention.


For the purposes of contrast and comparison, I'll  frame  my
response  to  Till over against the evidence I presented for
the resurrection. First, I argued that  the  basic  evidence
for  the  New  Testament  is  found in the fact that the New
Testament documents are reliable, having more  evidence  for
them  than  for  any other book from the ancient world. This
was supported by 13 different lines  of  evidence,  most  of
which  professor  Till  never really addressed. I hope he'll
address these 13 later on.

Second, I showed that the historical reliability of the  New
Testament documents affirm repeatedly that Jesus of Nazareth
died physically on a cross, and rose from the  dead  several
days  later.  That Jesus actually died was supported by nine
arguments,  again,  most  of  which  professor  Till   never
addressed,  we'll  wait  to  see  if he addresses these nine
arguments later.

Furthermore, Jesus' resurrection was  demonstrated  by  over
500  eyewitnesses  over  a  40  day  period  of  time, on 12
separate occasions, observed his  empty  tomb,  touched  his
reanimated  body, saw him eat physical food, and listened to
him teach nearly a month and a half.  This  is  not  hearsay
evidence.  By contrast, professor Till offered no first-hand
evidence for the only logical alternative, namely that Jesus
did  not  rise  from  the dead. Rather, he contented himself
largely with an attempt to attack  the  credibility  of  the
evidence  that I presented. But this move will not work. For
the topic, "Did Jesus Rise from the  Dead",  is  a  question
which calls for an affirmation or denial.

But it is incumbent upon anyone making a truth-claim such as
the this to offer positive evidence,  which  professor  Till
failed  to  do. At least no first-hand contemporary evidence
such as was presented for our view. Hence, the choice of  an
intelligent  listener  is  between  accepting that Jesus did
rise from  the  dead  as  supported  by  numerous  lines  of
contemporary  evidence,  such  as  I presented. Or else that
Jesus did not  die  and  rise  from  the  dead  without  any
first-hand evidence for such a claim.

This  choice  should  not  be  difficult  for  all  who  are
interested in having a  rational  basis  for  their  belief.
Rather  than offer any positive evidence contemporary of the
events that Jesus did not rise from the dead, professor Till
largely  contented  himself with an attempt to undermine the
argument that Jesus did rise from the  dead.  But  as  every
student of logic knows, giving arguments against an opposing
view is not the same as giving  arguments  for  one's  view.
It's  simply  a failure to provide any evidence for what one
claims to be true. And when one fails to give  any  rational
justification  for  his view, it is a rationally unjustified
view. But no rational  person  should  accept  as  truth,  a
rationally  unjustified belief -- certainly not one about an
important issue such as the one we're discussing tonight.

Logically, either Jesus rose from the dead or  he  did  not.
But  since Professor Till has failed to support the position
that Jesus did not rise from the dead, it  remains  only  to
examine  his  arguments  against the evidence that Jesus did
rise from the dead.

As  for  my  second  point  that  the  basic  New  Testament
documents  affirm that Jesus really died physically and rose
again  several  days  later,  professor  Till  never  really
offered  any evidence against it. Rather, what he did was to
ignore what these documents actually say and  to  offer  his
own  speculations  instead.  But  such  an argument fails to
address the real point. One that is obvious  to  anyone  who
reads  the  New Testament documents. Namely, that whether we
accept or reject the New Testament message, they  do  affirm
that Jesus died and rose from the dead.

One  of  the few points that professor Till really addressed
was whether the basic New Testament documents  are  reliable
when  they  affirm  Jesus died and rose. In response he said
first, in effect, the documents  are  not  reliable  because
they're   not   inerrant.  But  whether  or  not  there  are
inconsequential errors in the record is both irrelevant  and
misses  the  point.  First of all, it's irrelevant to what I
argued, since the argument does not depend on the claim that
the  New  Testament documents are reliable in so far as they
affirm the basic truths that Jesus died and rose again,  not
necessarily in every detail they affirm. What professor Till
would have to do, and what he clearly  did  not  do,  is  to
prove that the New Testament documents are not reliable when
they affirm that Jesus died  and  rose  again.  Whether  the
basic New Testament documents are inerrant in all things, is
another  topic  for  another  night,  one  which  apparently
professor   Till   would  rather  debate  than  the  one  we
discussing tonight.

Second, there is a related but equally  fallacious  argument
in  professor Till's presentation. Namely, that whenever one
finds discrepancies about an event, that  the  documents  or
testimony  about  that  event  cannot  be reliable. But this
clearly does not follow for several reasons. For one  thing,
it  proves  too  much.  It  proves  that most documents from
antiquity are not  reliable  since  they  too  have  similar
discrepancies.  Thus,  his argument, in effect, destroys our
knowledge  of  all  of  ancient  history.  Furthermore,   if
professor  Till  is right, that all conflicting testimony on
details in a courtroom proves that one cannot even know  the
broad  facts  of  what  happened.  To  borrow a contemporary
example, it's like arguing that  since  there  are  so  many
conflicting  stories  about  the  circumstance  of President
Kennedy's death, that there is  no  good  evidence  that  he
actually died.

Furthermore,  he  fails to realize that there were not other
people who  believe  in  death  and  resurrection.  Frazer's
Golden  Bough thesis is almost a century old and it fails to
recognize the significant difference  between  non-Christian
belief  in a spiritual afterlife and the Christian belief in
bodily resurrection. None of the pagan religions believed in
a  literal,  physical,  bodily  resurrection  like  the  New
Testament teaches. It's a false analogy. It fails to account
for the important difference between non-Christian belief in
reincarnation into another body and resurrection of the same
body leaving an empty tomb behind.

Finally,  following  David  Hume, professor Till argued that
regardless  of  whatever  evidence  there  may  be  for  the
reliability  of the New Testament documents, they should not
be believed since they contain  miracle  stories.  But  this
argument  either  begs  the question, or else it's false. It
begs the question if one  assumes  that  miracles  like  the
resurrection did not happen, because miracles cannot happen.
And if it admits that miracles can happen,  then  its  wrong
since  the  New  Testament  documents  are  reliable, that a
resurrection did happen, which even David Hume admits, would
be a miracle if it happened.

In  short, the skeptic's dilemma is that either miracles are
assumed to be impossible before even looking at the evidence
which  begs  the question, or else miracles are possible and
we must look at historical evidence to see if indeed one has
actually  occurred.  But  as  we've  seen,  there  is strong
evidence  that  the  basic  New  Testament   documents   are
historically  reliable. And these documents demonstrate that
Jesus died and rose from the dead.

In short, I have given strong contemporary evidence for  the
view  that  Jesus rose from the dead, and professor Till has
offered only the improbability  of  miracles  as  a  counter
argument.  But  as  we  all  know, the improbability against
winning the lottery should in no way hinder anyone believing
it  has  happened. Indeed, ruling out the credibility of the
New Testament documents  because  central  events  have  not
occurred, is like refusing to believe that a hole-in-one has
occurred since the odds are so improbable for one  repeating
it several times.

What  is  more, even if the event has never occurred before,
this is not an invalid argument against it happening once. I
don't  know  of  a  single  naturalistic  scientist who will
refused to believe in the spontaneous  generation  of  first
life even though they have never seen it happen, nor know it
to  have  happened  repeatedly  since  it  first   allegedly
occurred  in  the  primal  pond -- or wherever. Likewise, no
intelligent person should reject the resurrection of Christ,
nor  the  reliability  of the New Testament that relates it,
simply because no one alive has witnessed such event.

The rational personal doesn't make up his mind in advance of
an  event  as  to whether it can or cannot happen. Rather he
opens his mind to the evidence of what actually did  happen,
and  as  we  have  seen, the evidence is overwhelming to the
fact that Jesus did die and rise from the dead. And since no
real  evidence  has  been  presented  for a contrary view, a
rational person ought to believe it has happened. Thank you.
[loud applause]


This is my ninth debate. No, this is my tenth debate. And  I
have  seen  a  first. Did you notice that Dr. Geisler read a
manuscript for his first speech? That's okay, because he won
a toss and he was the first speaker. So if we wanted to read
a manuscript that he had written, that's okay, but I made  a
rebuttal  speech,  and  I didn't follow a manuscript. How in
the world did could he write a speech  to  rebut  my  speech
before  he  even  knew  what  I  was  going to say? [Geisler
remarked, "I read your books."] He ignored the major  points
that  I  made.  [pausing] I'd like to know what the book is,
since I've not written a book on the resurrection.

Anyway, let me try to reply to the points that he made.  The
New  Testament  documents  are  reliable,  he told us again.
Well, I don't know exactly what he means by reliable. If  he
means  that they were copied in a reliable way, that is open
for debate. I have a reference Bible on my  desk;  I'd  like
for  you  to  come  up  and  look  at it and notice how many
footnotes there are in it that tell us that some authorities
say  this,  some  ancient  manuscripts  say this, others say
this. The thing is riddled with footnotes. Does he call that
accuracy?  But  let's just assume that the book is a hundred
percent accurate. As I said, that would prove only that is a
hundred  percent  accurate in what it says, but it would not
prove that what it says, but it would not prove that what it
says  necessarily happened. And that's the problem that he's
going to have to confront, and he didn't confront it.

If we were  just  going  to  argue  about  whether  the  New
Testament  said  that  Jesus  was crucified, whether the New
Testament said that certain women went to the tomb and found
it  empty, whether the Apostle Paul said that Jesus appeared
to 500 brethren at one time, whether the New Testament  said
that Thomas said that unless he saw him and touched the body
and examined the wounds, that  he  would  not  believe  that
Jesus  had  risen from the dead, then there would be no need
for us to come  here  and  have  the  debate,  because,  Dr.
Geisler,  I readily admit that the New Testament says all of
those things, but this book [tossing the Book of Mormon onto
Geisler's  table]  also  says a lot of things, and you don't
believe it, and you know that you don't believe it, and  yet
the evidence for that is closer to us, and it would be a lot
easier for you to examine the integrity of the witnesses for
that  book than it would be for you to examine the integrity
of the witnesses for that book [gesturing at a Bible on  his
table].  Now  that's  something that you have got to contend
with. You've got to give us a reasonable answer to  such  as
that, and you cannot do it.

He said that he gave nine arguments to support the fact that
Jesus really did die and rise from the  dead,  and  he  said
that  I  didn't  say anything about that. I made three major
counter  arguments  that  I  believe  effectively   answered
everything  that he said. But did you notice that one of his
arguments for the fact that Jesus had really died  was  this
article  that  was  published  a  few  years ago by supposed
medical authorities who said that they had  determined  from
the  New  Testament  accounts  that Jesus really did die and
that the manner of death had happened in a certain way.  Dr.
Geisler,  how  can anyone determine the cause of death 2,000
years after somebody died without having the body to examine
through  autopsy?  That's  the  type of evidence that you're
going to give us?

And did you hear him say I presented no evidence that  Jesus
did  not rise from the dead. He who asserts must prove. That
is an axiom of logic that surely you recognize.  If  I  were
the  one  who had come here tonight and... or, I'll apply my
example to me... If I should  have  come  here  tonight  and
claimed  that  I  was  abducted aboard a flying saucer a few
days ago... Dr. Geisler, let me see you prove that that  did
not  happen.  You  wouldn't  bother  to  do it. You wouldn't
bother for one moment to do it. You'd say, "Till, you're the
one  who  said  that  it  happened. The burden of proving it
rests on you." Now this man says that a man by the  name  of
Jesus  of  Nazareth was stone-cold dead in his grave for one
entire day and parts of two other days and that his body was
revivified  and  literally  restored  to  life.  That  is an
extraordinary claim and it requires extraordinary  evidence.
He  not  only  does not have extraordinary evidence, but the
evidence that he  has  is  extraordinarily  unextraordinary!
Because  it's  nothing  but hearsay, and he knows it. And he
would be laughed out of court if he would try to go  into  a
courtroom  and  say,  "Well,  someone said that someone said
that they saw this man rise from the  dead."  That  type  of
evidence  simply  is not admissible. If I say that I believe
in elves, it's my duty, it's my responsibility to prove that
elves exist. He does not prove that the elves do not exist.

He  said  that  the New Testament does affirm that Jesus did
rise from the dead. Yes, yes, yes. Do you want me  to  write
it in boxcar letters on the side of this auditorium. I'll do
that if they won't  get  me  for  vandalism.  Yes,  the  New
Testament  does affirm that Jesus rose from the dead. That's
not the issue. The issue is, is this true simply  because  a
book that was written 2,000 years ago says that it happened.
All right, how likely is it that this happened?

Let's take his apostle Thomas as an example. He referred  to
him;  he  would  be a good one to use as an example. You are
familiar with the story. Jesus appeared to the  apostles  on
the  night of his resurrection according to the 20th chapter
of John. Thomas wasn't there, although [turning to  look  at
Geisler]  in  Luke's  account  of  that  same appearance Dr.
Geisler, he said, Luke  said  that  Jesus  appeared  to  the
eleven.  So  I  think  you have a little contradiction here.
But, anyway, according to John,  Thomas  wasn't  there,  and
Thomas  said,  "Unless  I  can  see him myself, unless I can
touch the wounds with my own hands, I will not believe." Now
I  want  you  to  think about that very seriously for just a
moment.  Please  try  to  remember  this.  Thomas  knew  the
apostles  personally,  and  yet  he  would  not believe this
extraordinary claim that they were making -- that  this  man
who had died had literally risen from the dead. Thomas said,
"I'm not going  to  believe  it  until  I  can  examine  the
evidence  with  my  own  hands,"  and  he  knew the apostles
personally. Yet Dr. Geisler expects us to believe  the  word
of  those  same apostles, which we have only through hearsay
testimony, by  the  way,  even  though  we  don't  know  the
apostles personally, and I submit to you that if Thomas knew
them personally  and  did  not  consider  that  satisfactory
evidence  (their  mere  words  satisfactory  evidence)  even
though he did know them,  that  we're  justified  to  reject
their  evidence  because we don't even know the character of
the people  who  made  this  claim.  You  talked  about  the
improbability of winning the lottery. That doesn't mean that
people don't win the lottery simply because it's impossible.
Yes,  Dr. Geisler, I live in a state that has a lottery, and
nearly every week someone wins two or three or five  or  ten
million. It happens all the time. Show me people rising from
the dead all of the time, and  I'll  say  that  you  have  a
point. [applause]


[After the  second  round  of  speeches,  Geisler  and  Till
answered  questions  from  the  audience. All questions were
submitted on cards and specifically addressed to one of  the
speakers.  The  speaker to whom a question was addressed had
two minutes to answer the question; his opponent then gave a
one-minute response.]

Question for Till: What does eternal life portend for you?


What does eternal life portend for me?  Well,  according  to
the Bible, I'm going to straight to hell, and I'll fry there
for eternity. [applause and  laughter]  How's  that  for  an
answer?  [spoken above a continuation of scattered applause]
But, to come back to a point that I've tried to make,  which
those  of you that are obviously not in my corner can't seem
to grasp, the mere fact that the New Testament teaches  that
doesn't  mean  a  thing,  doesn't mean that it's so. I don't
know if you people will begin to comprehend how seriously  I
have  studied  the  Bible.  I  put twelve years into being a
minister and a missionary, and I was  sincere,  whether  you
believe  it  or  not.  I  just  could  no  longer believe it
anymore. Now, if God wants to send me to hell for that, that
would   be   just   like   him,  wouldn't  it?  [murmurs  of
disapproval] Because this is the God in the  Old  Testament,
First  Samuel  the  15th chapter [raising voice over murmurs
from the audience], that ordered the killing of babies,  and
he  did it in Numbers the 31st chapter, and read the book of
Joshua, and you'll see that he did it there. Is that the God
you  want  me  to  believe  in?  You  people  can  have him!

Geisler's Response:

Since I've given arguments, in fact ten arguments, that  the
New  Testament  documents  are  true,  not  just  accurately
copied, which professor Till never answered any of the  ten,
I believe that when New Testament documents say that this is
eternal life that you may know him, Jesus Christ, I  believe
eternal  life  is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,
the eternal one ["Amen!" from the  audience],  and  I  don't
believe  that God wants to send anyone to hell and certainly
not  professor  Till.  Jesus  said,  "Oh,   Jerusalem,   oh,
Jerusalem,  how  oft I would have gathered you together as a
mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would  not."  And  if
professor  Till  goes  to hell, it's because he doesn't want
eternal life [loud applause and  shouts  of  approval],  not
because God doesn't love him [louder applause].

Question  for  Geisler: What is the medical evidence that it
is possible for one to be dead  three  days  and  then  live


You  may  recall  that  we  argued  that  the  New Testament
documents are historically  reliable.  When  you're  talking
about  evidence  for  an ancient event, you're talking about
evidence based on documents and based on early documents and
based  on contemporaries and eyewitnesses. The New Testament
has over five hundred eyewitnesses,  contemporaries  of  the
event,  documents  that  go  right back to the beginning. To
deny the credibility of those documents  and  the  testimony
that  Jesus  died and rose from the dead is to undermine the
credibility of all ancient documents, because  the  evidence
for the Bible is much greater than that for other documents.
I have not seen professor Till or anyone else  here  tonight
in  the  questions  or comments provide anything to disprove
that evidence. If the documents are reliable,  if  they  are
true  and  they  present  that  Jesus died and rose from the
dead, that's the best kind of  evidence  you  can  have  for
ancient  events.  If you won't accept that evidence, that is
kind of like the famous philosopher Nietzsche, the  one  who
said,  "God  is  dead,"  signed  Nietzsche, under which some
Christian wrote, "Nietzsche is dead," signed God. [laughter]
Nietzsche  said  this:  "If  you  can  prove this God of the
Christians to be, I would  believe  him  all  the  less."  I
commend   to  you  that  disbelief  is  not  rational;  it's
volitional. Disbelief is not because of  people  don't  have
enough  brain  power;  it's because they don't have the will
power. The evidence is there. It's valid,  it's  historical,
and  it's ample. If someone rejects it, the consequences are
theirs. It's not because of lack of evidence;  it's  because
of  their  choice  to disbelieve the evidence that is there.

Till's Response:

Well, pardon me, but  I  thought  the  question  was,  "What
medical  evidence is there [loud applause] to prove [pausing
as applause continues] that someone  could  return  to  life
after dying?" And he talks about how I don't answer this and
I don't answer that.  I  heard  absolutely  nothing  in  his
answer  to  indicate  that  he knows of any medical evidence
that can be given to support the premise  that  someone  can
rise from the dead. He got off again on the, uh, on the fact
that we have five, uh, over five hundred reliable witnesses.
Who  were  these  five  hundred?  I challenge him to tell us
before he leaves tonight who these five  hundred  were  that
the   Apostle   Paul  mentioned  in  First  Corinthians  the
fifteenth chapter, that Jesus allegedly lived, uh,  appeared
to  after  he  had  died. Where did they live? When did this
happen?  How  can  we  know  that  this  happened?  The  New
Testament is reliable? Yes, but does that mean that whatever
it says is true? [applause]

QUESTION FOR TILL: There have  been  many  hearsay  accounts
that Elvis lives. Do you have any firsthand evidence that he
doesn't? [Laughter,  continuing  while  Till  walks  to  the


And  that's  funny?  Well, let's go, let's go back to what I
said a moment ago. He who makes an outrageous, extraordinary
claim,  he is the one who is obligated to prove it. If there
is anyone in this audience tonight who believes that  Elvis,
Elvis  Presley  is  alive, that is your responsibility, your
obligation to prove.  I  Don't  have  to  prove  that  Elvis
Presley  did  not rise from the dead. I do not have to prove
that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead.  I'm  not  the
one  who  is  making  this  outrageous claim. Dr. Geisler is
claiming that this man who was stone-clod dead in his  grave
came  back  to  life.  That  is  an  extraordinary claim; it
requires extraordinary evidence, and I  certainly  have  not
seen  anything  that even comes close to being extraordinary
evidence to support that. We've heard a lot  of  talk  about
how  reliable  the  documents  are.  Well,  the  book that I
pitched on his desk and then retrieved, because I  certainly
want it [laughter] in my library, is over on my desk now. Do
you know that that book says that Jesus Christ  appeared  in
the Americas and that he preached to the Native Americans? I
doubt seriously if Dr. Geisler believes that  that  actually
happened.  Yet  if  there  are any Mormons in the crowd, I'm
sure they would say, "How in the world  could  you  possibly
believe  that  this  did not happen?" What's the difference?
They were conditioned  to  believe  it;  we  have  not  been
conditioned.  That's why those of you who applaud everything
that he says, even though it offers no evidence, do what you
do.   See,   you  have  been  conditioned  to  believe  this

Geisler's Response:

Even in a courtroom, as it was in biblical times,  from  the
mouth  of  two  or  three  witnesses  every  word  shall  be
established. I can name a lot of people  who  saw  Jesus  --
Matthew,  Mark,  Luke, John, James, Judas, the Apostle Paul.
You only need two or three; you don't need five  hundred  to
establish  there  were  eyewitnesses.  Secondly,  historical
evidence is what you have  for  historical  events.  Medical
evidence  is  what  you  have for medical events. I gave the
medical evidence that Jesus died, and I gave the  historical
evidence  that  Jesus  arose  --  firsthand,  first-century,
eyewitness evidence. Professor Till hopes to escape the  net
tonight by saying two contradictory things. On the one hand,
it's pretty obvious to all of us  that  he  doesn't  believe
Jesus  rose from the dead. Either Jesus did or he didn't. He
says I have to present evidence for my view, but he  doesn't
have  to present evidence for his view. Everyone who makes a
truth claim has  to  present  evidence  for  their  view.  I
presented  evidence  that  Jesus  did. Where is his evidence
that Jesus didn't? [applause and "Amen!"]

QUESTION FOR GEISLER: Given that you believe that  the  Holy
Spirit  is  the true author of the Bible, how does it add to
the credibility of your position  to  say  that  the  gospel
accounts were written by human witnesses?


As  I  indicated,  the topic for discussion tonight is, "Did
Jesus rise from the dead?" Secondly, I answered that not  by
claiming  the  Bible's  inspired.  In fact, if you check the
tape, you'll see that I disclaimed that that  was  necessary
for   argument.   I   simply   argued  that  the  Bible  was
historically reliable. You don't have to accept the Bible as
inspired  to  know  that  Jesus rose from the dead. You just
have to give evidence that it's  [a]  historically  reliable
document  in  its central truth. You don't have to prove the
Bible was inerrant. There are answers for all  of  Professor
Till's  little  questions about this or that. The women, for
example, at the tomb simply said they remembered, didn't say
they  believed, which is an easy answer to his question, but
that is not necessary to prove that an ancient  document  is
reliable; otherwise, all the documents from ancient history,
which by admission of the people who accept them have  minor
errors  in,  would have to be discredited. If we had to have
inerrancy  before  we  had  reliability,  we  wouldn't  have
knowledge  of  the  past  at all. All the arguments claim is
that  the  documents  are  reliable.  I  offered  dozens  of
arguments  combined that they are, that the earliest desk on
the other side -- eyewitnesses, first-century,  contemporary
accounts, or even close to it -- that Jesus didn't rise from
the dead. Any intelligent person who wants to make a  choice
built on the evidence has to choose that Jesus did rise from
the dead. If one chooses to [dis]believe  in  spite  of  the
evidence,  then  all  we  can say is you can lead a horse to
water, but you can't make him drink. That's exactly what the
problem  is  tonight. Looking at the evidence, it favors the
fact  that  Jesus   rose.   Giving   theories,   hypotheses,
suggestions  about the Book of Mormon [time clock beeps], or
some other book, which the eyewitnesses said that  they  saw
[time  clock  continues  to  beep],  what  does  that prove?
[beeping continues] They weren't  seeing  anybody  who  rose
from   the   dead  [beeping  continues];  they  were  seeing
supposedly tablets of which some of them later denied  their
testimony.  Show me an apostle who later denied his ["Time!"
shouted from the audience] testimony. They all died for what
they believed. [Applause as Geisler finally walks away]

Till's response:

Well,  of  course,  the  gospel accounts were not written by
eyewitnesses. Bible scholars know that, and Dr. Geisler  has
to  be  familiar  with the evidence that indicates that they
didn't. If you think  that  Matthew,  the  apostle  Matthew,
wrote  the  book  of  Matthew, if you think that the apostle
John wrote the Gospel of John, you  have  to  be  living  on
another  planet  or else you are not paying attention to the
evidence. Uh, there is nothing to indicate  that  they  were
eyewitnesses.  Luke even in the beginning of his gospel said
that he was not an eyewitness to these things  but  that  he
had  researched  the  subject. And, uh, to get to this thing
that he keeps harping on,  I'm  going  to  announce  to  him
something that he doesn't know. I'm not really Farrell Till,
Dr. Geisler. I'm Napolean Bonaparte reincarnated, and I want
to  see  you  stand  here and prove that I'm not. [laughter,
then scattered applause as Till walks away]

QUESTION FOR TILL: John and Paul both saw  Jesus  after  the
resurrection  and  wrote  about  it in the New Testament. Is
that also hearsay?


Well, uh, I just got through saying that John did not  write
the  gospel  that bears that name. Bible scholars know that.
I'll quote a Unitarian minister whom I once heard  say  that
there are Bible scholars and there are fundamentalists. And,
of course, there are fundamentalists who  certainly  believe
that  Mark wrote Mark, that Matthew wrote Matthew, that John
wrote John, but the evidence against this is overwhelming. I
just  urge  you  to go to your library, get the information,
and study it for yourself, and you'll see  that  "John"  who
wrote  the  book  of John was certainly not an eyewitness to
the resurrection. As for the Apostle Paul, he had a  vision,
and   visions   don't  count.  It's  that  simple.  If  this
hypothetical person that we've  been  talking  about  walked
into  the auditorium tonight and said that he had seen Elvis
Presley and that he had seen him in a vision, why, we'd rush
him  off  to some psychiatric ward and get attention for the
poor fellow, because we would know that he needed  it.  But,
of  course,  the Apostle Paul said almost two thousand years
ago that he saw Jesus in a vision, and  Dr.  Geisler  swoons
over  that,  as  if  that  is some great proof. When we have
dreams, we know that there's really nothing to it, and  when
we hear people say that they have visions, we know that this
is very, very unreliable evidence. So he's basing much,  uh,
much  of  what believes on [time clock beeps] a man who said
that he had a vision. That's unreliable. [applause]

Geisler's Response:

First of all, I  didn't  claim  only  eyewitnesses.  I  said
eyewitnesses   or  contemporaries  of  events.  Luke  was  a
contemporary, and  he  said  very  clearly  that  he  was  a
contemporary  of  eyewitnesses.  In chapter one, he said, "I
have put down what, things most  surely  believed,  just  as
those  who from the beginning were eyewitnesses." He was [a]
contemporary of eyewitnesses; he  interviewed  eyewitnesses.
Secondly,  John  clearly was an eyewitness. He said so right
in John chapter 21, verse 22 and  following,  and  he  says,
"This  thing  then  went  out  among  the brethren that this
disciple, John, would not die, yet Jesus did not say to  him
that  he would not die but if I will that you remain until I
come." This disciple, John, in  context,  who  testifies  of
these  things  and  wrote these things, and we know that his
testimony is true, and there  are  also  many  other  things
which Jesus did which are not written in this book, uh, that
I suppose if I would number them the whole world [time clock
beeps]  could  not  contain  the books." [beeping continues]
Jesus, uh, John did claim to be an  eyewitness  [time  clock
beeping  continues], and in First John one, he said, "I saw,
I heard, I handled I touched them"  [beeping  continues].  I
would say that's a good eyewitness. [applause]

QUESTION   FOR  GEISLER:  Can  you  cite  any  corroborative
evidence outside of the New Testament that Jesus  rose  from
the dead?


Actually  that  question  is kind of like saying, "Now apart
from your eyewitnesses, you don't have a  very  good  case."
That's  like four eyewitnesses in court who saw an accident,
and then one person came right after the accident,  and  the
defense   attorney   said,   "Now   apart  from  those  four
eyewitnesses  you  just  gave,  you  know  you   have   only
circumstantial  evidence."  So  it's begging the question to
say apart from the New Testament, and I  gave  the  argument
that  the  New  Testament  was  historically reliable. Those
arguments haven't even been addressed,  let  alone  refuted.
But  in  addition to that, there are whole books, as several
on the table, on this single topic, one by Dr. Habermas, one
by the Manchester scholar F.F. Bruce. I'll cite just some of
this evidence that Jesus lived in the first  century,  died,
and  it  was believed by his disciples that he rose from the
dead. Josephus, Antiquities 29, [sic] Cornelius Tacitus, uh,
the  Greek satirist Lucian, Roman historian Suetonius, Pliny
the  Younger,  Samaritan  born  Thallus,  letter   of   Mara
Bar-Serapion,  the  Jewish  Talmud,  Phlegon,  who  spoke of
Christ's death and resurrection in  his  chronicles,  saying
this: "Jesus while alive was of no assistance to himself but
that he arose after his death and exhibited the marks of his
punishment  and  showed  how  his  hands had been pierced by
nails." This is in his chronicles, cited by Origen. Here  is
an  early  Roman,  as  well  as Josephus, reporting that the
disciples did, that they  were  convinced,  that  they  were
converted,  that  they  believed  that he was God, that they
worshipped him. All of this  is  reported  by  contemporary,
early  first-century historians in support of precisely what
the New testament says. [applause]

Till's Response:

I really have to wonder about your honesty, Dr. Geisler. You
have  to know, or else you've been living on another planet,
that many of those writers that you've refer  to  have  been
discredited  by  scholars,  especially  that  quotation  you
referred to from Josephus. It is recognized by all reputable
scholars  of  Josephus  as  a forgery. I see someone shaking
your head. Come and see me after this is over,  and  I  will
present  you  with  testimony from very reliable theologians
who just admit, "It's a  forgery!  Josephus  did  not  write
that."  As  for as some of the other things, other so-called
historians that he referred to, in many of those  references
that he has in mind, all that they were doing was recounting
what Christians believed. Christianity was a  fact  by  that
time,  and I can take you to encyclopedias now, and I can, I
can show you where encyclopedias say [time clock beeps] that
Mormons  believes  this  and  Mormons  believe that [beeping
continues], or this happened in Mormonism...  [Gesturing  at
time keeper] He went over a few times; I can too. [scattered
laughs as beeping continues]. And all that they're doing  is
recounting the claims of Mormonism. [applause]

Question  for  Till: You said that Dr. Geisler must prove to
us that Jesus rose from the dead. How do you define proof?


Well, uh, I would just ask you to apply  to  that  the  same
standard  that you would apply to our hypothetical gentleman
who walks in and tells us that he  has  seen  Elvis  Presley
[comment  from  back of audience provokes scattered audience
laughs and murmurs] or someone else has risen from the dead.
Are  you  going  to  accept his mere word? You will at least
have the person himself saying that he saw him.  In  all  of
these  wonderful  witnesses  that  he's citing [gesturing at
Geisler], with the exception of the Apostle Paul, all he  is
hearsay. What did Mary Magdalene ever write? Do you have it,
Dr. Geisler? What did Salome  write?  [turning  to  Geisler]
Would  you  even  tell us who this Salome was? Where did she
live? When did she die? Would you tell us  who  this  Joanna
was  who  went  to the tomb? You don't even know who she is,
but you seem to think that she is a  credible  witness,  and
you  don't  even  know  whether  she really said [time clock
beeps] that she saw the  resurrection  or  whether...  [Till
turns to time keeper] Don't I have two minutes? [Time keeper
apologizes] Uh, you don't even  know  whether  she  actually
said  that  she  saw  the  empty tomb and that she saw Jesus
after he was resurrected. You have the word of  someone  who
wrote  a gospel account who said that she said. You have the
account of the Apostle Paul, a man  saw  visions,  who  said
that  Jesus appeared to five hundred witnesses. Trot out one
of those five hundred witnesses or give  us  something  that
they wrote, that we can be sure that they wrote, and we will
accept that as reliable proof or  evidence.  Until  then,  I
have  to  keep  hammering home the point: he has nothing but
hearsay evidence. And go ahead and  shake  your  heads,  but
that's  the truth. That is the truth, my friends, and if you
had not been raised and conditioned  to  believe  this,  you
wouldn't believe that Jesus rose from the dead any more than
you would believe that Krishna [gesturing emphatically] rose
from the dead or that Osiris did. [light applause]

Geisler's Response:

Let  me  remind  you  again of the eyewitnesses. Paul was an
eyewitness and was not a vision. I challenge professor  Till
to  find  one  passage in [the] New Testament [that] clearly
and unequivocally says that it was a vision. I can show  you
many  passages  where  says  he  saw,  just  like  the other
apostles,  appeared  to  him.  First  Corinthians  15:3  and
following  and  1  Corinthians  9:1,  he lists himself right
along with the  others.  He  saw,  John  saw,  I've  already
mentioned,  James  saw  -- that was Jesus' half-brother, who
was an unbeliever before the resurrection. He was  converted
as a result of the resurrection. Notice professor Till never
really defined proof. The reason for that is, had he defined
it,  we  had  already  given  it,  so  it's better not [loud
applause] to give a definition than to face the consequences
[applause continues].

Question  for Geisler: Dr. Geisler, address the other claims
of being the Christ. Were they  reliable  accounts?  Was  it
[sic] historically accurate?


Well,  of  course,  that's  been  shown.  The  New Testament
documents, the gospels, Acts, and First  Corinthians,  which
are  the  crucial  ones,  in  talking  about  the  death and
resurrection, they're reliable, and  once  you  accept  that
they're  reliable,  then, of course, you accept the fact, as
indeed professor Till did. With regard to did Jesus die,  he
said there's no question that the New Testament says that he
rose from the dead. The question is simply, "Is it true?" We
gave  ten arguments that it's true; he didn't respond to any
of them. I'm still waiting for the response, and in addition
to that, if that's true, then, of course, Jesus' claim to be
the Messiah is true. He said, "I who speak to you am he," to
the  woman  at  at  Samaria;  he  said to Caiaphas, the high
priest, "I am the Christ." Jesus claimed to be  the  Christ,
the Messiah, the Son of God, and he offered the resurrection
as a proof of that claim. That's why  we  celebrate  Easter,
because who's buried in Grant's tomb? Grant! Who's buried in
Washington's tomb? Washington! Who's buried in Jesus'  tomb?
Nobody!   He   rose  [applause]  from  the  dead!  [applause

Till's Response:

No, Dr. Geisler, you're wrong.  We  don't  celebrate  Easter
because  it  was  the time that Jesus rose from the dead. We
celebrate Easter because it is a  carryover  from  paganism.
[weak  laughter]  Read  Ezekiel  the  [loud laughter] eighth
chapter, verse fourteen -- my friends  who  are  back  there
laughing,  I'm  quoting  your Bible to you. Read Ezekiel the
eighth chapter, verse fourteen, and you'll see that  Ezekiel
referred  to  the women who were standing before the gate of
the house of Jehovah, weeping  over  Tammuz.  Tammuz  was  a
virgin-born,  Sumerian-Babylonian,  uh, savior-god, who died
and was resurrected, and each spring, in this ceremony,  the
women weeped [sic] and wailed over his death, and then a few
days later, they celebrated his resurrection. It's  a  pagan
custom,  Dr.  Geisler.  You  know that, and you talk about I
don't deal with arguments. [Time clock beeps] I  wish  you'd
deal with this one. [applause]


I'll use this time to refer to some  things  that  I  didn't
have   the  oppurtunity  to  refer  to  during  the  regular
speeches. Dr. Geisler made the  statement  that  the  pagans
saviors  were not like Jesus because they did not experience
bodily resurrection. But I want to assure you,  my  friends,
that   that   is   not   so.  O-s-i-r-i-s,  write  it  down,
O-s-i-r-i-s,  he  was  an  ancient  Egyptian,   virgin-born,
savior-god  who  died,  and he was resurrected. You research
and you'll find that his mother [sic] searched for his  body
that  had been torn to pieces, put it back together, sort of
like in Frankenstein manner, and he was  resurrected  bodily
back to life. That's just one example that I could give you.

He  is  depending  upon  your ignorance, people. And I'm not
trying to be insulting to you. Your preachers do it all  the
time.  You get the wool pulled over your eyes, and it's your
own fault, because you don't know the Bible, first  of  all,
and  you  certainly  know  very  little about the history of
religion. If you would go examine the  evidence,  you  would
see  that  many of the things that he is telling you have no
basis in fact.

He says that Jesus had appeared to James,  the  half-brother
of  Jesus.  I'd  like  to  know  how that he knows that. The
apostle Paul said that Jesus appeared unto James. How do you
know  that was the half-brother of Jesus? It could have been
the apostle James, couldn't it? I wish I  could  say  a  lot
more,  but  you  know  two  minutes  goes  by  very quickly.


I have presented strong evidence and  contemporary  evidence
that Jesus died and rose from the dead. No such evidence for
the contrary view  has  been  presented.  This  evidence  is
sufficient for anyone who wants to believe.

But what about those who choose not to believe? They are, of
course, free to do so. But they should remember two  things.
First,  not  to  believe  is  a  choice,  but not a rational
obligation. Second, the choice  not  to  believe  has  great
existential import for one's personal life. For if Jesus did
rise from the dead as the New Testament says  he  did,  then
this  tends to verify his claim to be the son of God. And if
Jesus is the son of God, then there are great  benefits  for
you personally?

For  one,  it  means  that  there is hope for you beyond the
grave. Since Jesus has reversed death and therefore has  the
right  to  claim  "I  am  the  resurrection  and  the  life,
whosoever liveth and  believeth  in  me  shall  never  die."
Further,  if  Jesus  rose  form  the dead, it offers hope to
overcome another great problem that psychologists tell us is
inflicting  humankind  -- the problem of guilt. For the same
New Testament documents that say Jesus rose  from  the  dead
tell  us  that  He died for our sins. And since it's obvious
from both experience and Scripture that all have sinned, the
resurrection  of  Christ  offers a permanent solution to the
problem plaguing mankind, namely, guilt.

The question then is this: since the evidence shows that  it
is plausible to say nothing [?] but probably that Jesus rose
from the dead, and since this can be the basis for the  hope
of  eternal  life  and  forgiveness  of  sins  then  why not
believe? You have nothing to lose but your  fear  and  guilt
and  everything  to  gain  including forgiveness and eternal
life. Don't allow the skeptic who is skeptical of everything
but  his  own  skepticism  to rob you of these all-important
benefits. Believe and be saved.

1994 Used by Permission of
Dr. Norman L. Geisler
Southern Evangelical Seminary
5801 Pineville-Matthews Road
Charlotte, NC 28226-3447
(704) 543-9475


Farrell Till, Editor The Skeptical Review
P.O. Box 717
Canton, IL 61520-0717
(309) 647-4764
Prepared by Apologetics Press
(230 Landmark Drive, Montgomery, AL 36117)
in cooperation with Farrell Till.

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