Extraordinary claims require … ordinary evidence

It’s a popular atheistic mantra: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!” With that, they throw away any sort of evidence given for God, Jesus or the Bible. (Someone else can perhaps examine the implication that the Christian’s view, and not the one of the atheist, is the extraordinary one – for example, is it really more extraordinary to think the universe had a maker, than to think it did not?)

But extraordinary claims do not require extraordinary evidence. Let’s examine, for the sake of argument, two claims, one ordinary and one extraordinary.

Claim 1) I have a light brown dog with two pointy ears and two big brown eyes.

Claim 2) I have a bright green dog with six pointy ears and three big red eyes.

 What evidence would it take for you to believe the former? And the latter?

Well, the former statement you may perhaps believe without looking for any further evidence. Or, if you are of a more skeptical ilk, you may want to come to my house and confirm that I have such an animal there, or even that the dog in question is indeed mine.

For the second one, you almost certainly will want to see my dog before believing me.

If you believed me about having a brown dog, without requiring to see it, you did not believe without evidence. You have evidence- many of the canines you saw before- for the existence of light brown dogs with two ears.

If you come to my house, and see my green, six-eared terrier, it would not be “extraordinary evidence.” It will be the same kind of evidence you used to believe in the existence of brown dogs. In fact, the extraordinary claim will require less evidence than you have for the ordinary one. The brown dog story matches a lot of evidence you previously saw in dogs. The green dog story will only match one actual animal.

Why is there so little extra-biblical evidence of Jesus?

Once upon a time, about 75 years ago, an avid motor sport enthuisiast, R.A. Cing, set up a motor sport library. Over the next 30 years he collected reports of races all over Europe. Words like “Grand Prix” were found right through his library. Names like Tazio Nuvolari and Juan Manuel Fangio cropped up everywhere. He was so complete in his collection of motor racing data that the overwhelming majority of newspaper reports and other information on motor racing, had a copy of it in his library. He had some films and photo footage taken at races(there were no video cameras or DVD cameras then), that nobody else had.

Last year, some people started doubting wether these races that the library spoke of actually happened. They pointed out that:

a) Much of the library’s information do not exist anywhere else.
b) Those race programs and newspaper reports on old races that are found outside the R.A. Cing Library (RACL), mostly also has copies of them inside the library.
c) There are some contradictory reports in RACL, for example two reporters disagreeing on wether driver X or driver Y caused a certain accident.

From that, they concluded that RACL reports are faked, that most racers in the library never raced, that most of those races never happened. (Fictitious story)

And that is the main mistake in complaining that there is little extra-biblical evidence of Jesus.

Right from the beginning of Christianity, Jesus’s followers collected all the best and most reliable data about him, and made it part of what they kept. Some time later, they made an official list of all the best and most reliable material they have, the material they already valued most. That list was called the Bible.

And now people ask why there is little extra-biblical evidence of Jesus. What we actually have, that is wrongly called very little, is:

-> 27 documents collected in the New Testament, and some of those has quotes from even earlier sources
-> several 1st/2nd century Jewish references to him, including at least 3 in the Talmud and more than 1 from Josephus.
-> 10 pre-AD 50 (within 20 years of the death of Jesus) creedal confessions, and at least 7 other 1st/ 2nd century Christian writers
->at least 7 Pagan 1st/ 2nd century historians mentioning him

There is a wealth of early evidence of Jesus. Not to mention the wealth of other early evidence confirming Christianity and New Testament facts in other ways (outside the scope of this blog entry), without talking directly about Jesus.