Dear Dr. Peterson: The Resurrection is Credible. Dear MSM: Just Stop It.

Human psychology sheds light on whether Jesus literally rose from the dead.

By Jennifer Roback Morse Published on March 19, 2018

Jordan Peterson has become a hero to many because of his relentless truth-telling. Many people of faith see him as an ally. In a wide-ranging interview with Patrick Coffin, former Catholic Answers radio show host, Peterson said about the Resurrection, “I need to think about that for about three more years before I would even venture an answer.” Not a flat-out dismissal of the possibility that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead, but an open-ended desire to learn and think more deeply. This respectful position is a far cry from the annual, “Jesus was just a nice guy but the Resurrection never happened” story that someone in the secular media subjects us to, every year right around Easter.

Mass Delusion … or Mass of Witnesses?

So, let’s analyze this, for Dr. Peterson’s sake. Peterson is a psychologist. I submit that human psychology sheds light on whether Jesus literally rose from the dead. The behavior of his disciples makes zero sense unless the Resurrection took place.

If Jesus did not literally rise from the dead, what exactly did happen? Did the disciples think they saw him after his death, but they didn’t really? Were the disciples lying about seeing him after his death? Neither of these alternatives, delusion or lying, can account for the known facts.

Fact: Jesus was dead and buried.

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Jesus was executed in a very thorough and very public manner for which the Romans were noted and feared. There is no doubt at all that he was dead. He was buried. The Roman officials and the Jewish leaders insisted that the grave be guarded.

Fact: People claimed they saw him after his death.

On the third day after His death, people claimed they saw Him. Not just one guy, mind you, but lots of people. Mary Magdalene saw him. Ten disciples saw him the night of the Resurrection. So did two random guys on the road to Emmaus. The following week all eleven surviving disciples saw Him. At some point, 500 people saw him at the same time. Mass delusion on this scale seems unlikely.

Believers Paid a Steep Price

A skeptic might respond that people talk each other into delusions all the time. Look at our current “politically correct” mess. Dr. Peterson has become famous precisely for tearing the lid off the mass delusions of our time.

I reply: People get praised and supported for spouting silliness that supports the current incarnation of the mass delusion. Nobody today loses his job for going along with the fantasy ideology that Bruce Jenner is a woman. People lose their jobs for denying the delusion. Stating the obvious truth that the winner of the 1976 Olympic decathlon is now, and always has been, a man: now, that will cost you something.

Peter and Andrew were both crucified, Peter upside down, Andrew on the x-shaped “St. Andrew’s Cross.” If they were making stuff up, don’t you think they would have recanted?

By contrast, the people who claimed they saw Jesus alive after his execution paid a steep price. Matthew had a cushy job as a tax collector. Should he give that up, because Mary Magdalene metaphorically saw the Lord? Peter, Andrew, James, and John did not abandon their fishing business because they saw a Jungian archetype. Their behavior only makes sense if they really saw Jesus after his death.

Why Suffer for a Lie?

In fact, none of these witnesses could be talked out of their belief that they saw Jesus, despite some very aggressive attempts to do so. Peter and Andrew were both crucified. If they were making stuff up, don’t you think they would have recanted? The most logical conclusion is that they saw him, in the flesh, just as the Gospels report.

Tradition has it that Bartholomew was flayed alive. If he had been lying, the threat of such a painful, prolonged death would have been a good time to start telling the truth. “Put that knife down: I’ll show you where we hid the body.” But he didn’t change his story. He allowed himself to be murdered in an extraordinarily painful way.

The most psychologically compelling conclusion is that the disciples were neither lying, nor deluded. They saw Jesus.

‘Just a Nice Guy’? Give Me a Break

The Resurrection is indeed worthy of a lifetime of deep thought. I myself meditate upon it a couple of times a week and have done so since 1988. I’m still not finished with it. Dr. Peterson, take all the time you need. You can keep thinking about it, even if you do take a leap of faith.

And to the knucklehead journalist who writes this year’s version of “Jesus was just a nice guy, but it didn’t really happen,” story: just stop. As C.S. Lewis put it, Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. The “just a nice guy” story is the truly delusional belief.


Jennifer Roback Morse is Founder and President of the Ruth Institute. Their free resource, “4 Questions to Ask Before Divorce” is available here.

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  • Patmos

    Jesus said to Thomas, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

    Faith is indeed a blessing, and while it does come by hearing, it does not come automatically by hearing. Jesus also said no one can come to me unless granted by the Father.

    Father grant it to them.

  • Anne Fernandes

    “Knucklehead journalist”, I like it!

  • Another delusion is that Christian Faith is not evidence-based. If it were not evidence-based, millions of people in today’s world would not be willingly going to their deaths rather than deny what they KNOW to be FACT. Jesus raised Himself from the dead, just as He told His disciples He would do.

    • Trilemma

      I thought God raised Jesus from the dead.

      • GPS Daddy

        Is Jesus God?

        • Trilemma

          If Jesus were God, he could not have died on the cross.
          If Jesus died on the cross, he could not have been God.

          • Ken Abbott

            How much do you know of Christology, T? What of the hypostatic union?

          • Trilemma

            The term hypostatic union is something the Sun God worshiping Roman emperor Constantine came up with. That alone gives me reason to be skeptical. The trinity doctrine and the hypostatic union were concepts needed to be able to deify Jesus.

          • Ken Abbott

            Actually, that’s wrong. The concept of the hypostatic (from the Greek hypostasis, meaning nature) union comes from the ecumenical council that met at Chalcedon in 451, well over a century later than the death of Constantine. It was formulated to help people understand what Christians mean when they say that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. The hypostatic union per se does not make the church “able to deify Jesus,” as if the church had the power to do so. The deity of Jesus was established well before that, and well before the first ecumenical council that met at Nicaea in 325–it was preached by the apostles, after all, and asserted by Jesus himself.

            What are your sources for historical theology, T? They don’t seem to be very reliable.

          • Trilemma

            My comment about Constantine is clearly wrong. Not sure how I got that idea in my head. The doctrine of the hypostatic union was formalized and adopted at Chalcedon but it appears to have been discussed as eary as at Nicaea. However, I think Arius got it right.

            Exactly what died on the cross?

          • Ken Abbott

            That should be “Exactly who died on the cross?” And the answer is Jesus Christ died on the cross. The human body of the Person of Jesus was killed and because of the hypostatic union the experience of the human nature was shared by the whole Person such that the divine nature, which cannot die, tasted death.

            You’ve chosen the wrong side, T. Athanasius had far the superior argument on this score, which is why the vote at Nicaea was 316-2 against Arius. But Arianism was attractive enough to the natural man that it actually prevailed for several decades after Nicaea and spread its infection to the barbarian west (prior to, the western Roman Empire’s Christians had always affirmed the full deity of the Son) before finally being overcome by the concluding years of the fourth century. Still, like a cancer, it has proven difficult to eradicate. At present, the largest formal body of Arians is the Watchtower.

          • Trilemma

            Sounds like you’re saying it’s a what that died on the cross. You said the human body of the person of Jesus was killed on the cross. That’s a what not a who. It sounds like you’re saying that human person Jesus didn’t die because of the hypostatic union with god person Jesus.

          • Ken Abbott

            Let me try this again, and I again direct your attention to the Definition of Chalcedon typed out above–it is a very important statement of truth on this subject. Being both God and man, Jesus has two natures, a human nature and a divine nature. But he is one Person–the two natures are in complete harmonic union. The one Person experiences what is characteristic of either nature. With respect to the crucifixion, we affirm that Jesus died on the cross. Humans can die but God cannot. We cannot say plainly that God died on the cross. Even so, because of the hypostatic union the divine nature participated in the death of Jesus although incapable of dying. Remember, we are dealing with a unique circumstance. Jesus is the only Person who is fully God and fully man. So on some level the exact relationship between the two natures and their union in the one Person is a mystery.

            Christianity also affirms that human beings are created as body-soul unities–our nature as humans is to have both a physical and spiritual nature. For our bodies and our souls to be separated is unnatural to us; this is why the final redemption of all things includes a physical resurrection, and we spend all eternity as glorified body-soul unities. Christianity is not gnosticism–it affirms the goodness of the physical body. Salvation is not escape from the body but for the soul and the body to be saved. All of this is to say that we should not speak of a human body as a “what,” as an object irrelevant to the person whose body it is. Our bodies are essential parts of who we are created to be.

          • I get it!

            Just like a square-cirlce, a married bachelor, dehydrated rain and gelid stars … oh … wait …

          • Ken Abbott

            No. Clearly you do not get it. Contrary to your assertions, there is nothing self-contradictory about anything written above. From the perspective of logic, mysteries are not contradictions.

          • Except that “God is not a God of confusion”. (1 Corinthians 14:33 (RSV) This is crucial since the Great Teacher commanded, “You must love Jehovah your God [] with your whole mind.’” (Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27) (Bracket mine.)

            Indeed, “not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28) Think back, if you will, to the kinds of men Jesus chose to be his apostles? Were they the Intelligentsia of their day? Absolutely not! These were typical men. (Acts 4:13)

            Hence, the need for, not mysteries and pompous gobbledygook, but logic and reasonableness. In fact, all 1st century Christians were admonished to understand, to “thoroughly grasp mentally what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know that they may be filled with all the fullness that God gives.” (Ephesians 3:18,19) (Brackets mine.)

            The people of the ancient city of Beroea, by way of example, were lauded and set as a model for each one of us for the simple reason that, when Paul and Silas visited them to instruct them on truth, these ‘carefully examined the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.’ (Acts 17:11)

            Did Paul condemn them because they made an effort to reason things out? Did he inform them that their inquiries were pointless since absolute truth was simply unobtainable until they got to heaven? Far from it! In reality, he encouraged these to make sense of the details. He certainly wasn’t fearful of their examination of everything he was educating them on. Why was this the case? Simply because “God is not a God of confusion” and they were required to ‘love Jehovah with their whole mind’. (1 Corinthians 14:33; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)

            Truth be told, with soooo many of you fanatics running around spreading their biased ideologies on what Biblical truth is, now more than ever, it is vital that we “not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

          • Ken Abbott

            And yet this selfsame Apostle Paul taught the full deity and full humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, God is not a God of disorder but of peace. But you are here, Max, stirring up the brethren and making false and slanderous accusations.

            Now that I am confident you are indeed Watchtower, Max, this conversation is at an end, other than to warn onlookers that you cannot be trusted in these matters.

          • You’re being mendacious .. again. Paul did no such thing.

            Try again.

          • Hildabeast

            You sound like a man with an agenda. Perhaps you should come out of hiding and debate publicly. You might have something there. We’d all like to hear it. Maybe debate Bill Craig, or Mike Brown, or Frank Turek? Clearly if you’re so convinced of your own interpretation, perhaps you could sway people to your interpretation. Maybe you are prophetic. You need a larger platform than a Disqus thread.

          • What makes you say that?

          • 1. Modalism

            2. Latin Trinitarianism
            2.1 Divine Life Stream Theories
            2.2 Relative Identity Theories

            3. Social Trinitarianism
            3.1 Functional Monotheist Social Trinitarianism
            3.2 Trinity Monotheist Social Trinitarianism
            3.3 Perichoretic Monotheist Social Trinitarianism
            3.4 Group Mind Monotheist Social Trinitarianism

            4. Mysterianism
            4.1 Negative Mysterianism
            4.2 Positive Mysterianism

            So, of all these, which particular styling of the Athanasian Creed’s Trinitarian doctrine do you subscribe to and why?

          • Anne Fernandes

            Many scriptures reflect the triune Godhead: the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Here’s one verse. Colossians 2:9 New International Version 9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”.

          • Trilemma

            I don’t see the trinity in this verse. I think it’s saying that deity lived in Jesus and not that Jesus was actually deity. Doesn’t every Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit have deity living in them?

          • Ken Abbott

            The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), one of the six ecumenical councils accepted by all the major branches of Christianity, states “Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men
            to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once
            complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man,
            consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the
            Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance
            with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin;
            as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet
            as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of
            Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord,
            Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without
            change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures
            being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics
            of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person
            and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one
            and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even
            as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus
            Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down
            to us.”

          • dancingcrane

            Short answer (but read Ken Abbott!):

            Jesus is fully God and fully man, the only One existing of two natures. As man, He descended into death, like us in all things but sin. As God, He rose, death unable to contain the Source of life.

            Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ (John 8:56–59). The violent response of the Jews to Jesus’ “I AM” statement indicates they clearly understood what He was declaring—that He was the eternal God incarnate. Jesus was equating Himself with the “I AM” title God gave Himself in Exodus 3:14.

            He was either a vile blasphemer, or a madman. Or as He declared Himself, God. But mere nice guy, no.

          • Trilemma

            In Exodus 3:14, “I am” is translated from the Hebrew word “’eh·yeh” The Hebrew word “’eh·yeh” is also translated “become” and is not equivalent to the Greek phrase “egō eimi” which is also translated “It is I.” What Jesus said was, “I am before Abraham was born.” Jesus was making himself greater than Abraham which is why the Jews became violent.

          • GPS Daddy

            I see your having problems with logic.

  • lighthouseseeker

    Dear Trilemma, God is Triune, meaning God is Tri, or three. Jesus is the Son of God, God is Father, and God is Spirit, Three in One. This is not unknown in creation, for instance the sun around which the earth orbits is three parts, heat, gas and light, water is vapor, liquid and ice, etc. I do not attempt to explain to any depth the nature of the Triune God, but by faith in God, believing in the Word of God in written form, the Bible, I will KNOW God when I move from life on earth, passing through physical death, to becoming physically and spiritually alive in fellowship with God eternally in Heaven. The message which is given throughout His letter to us is Jesus Son of God, perfect man, perfect God, gave His life for our sin, sin interrupts our relationship with God ever since Satan deceived Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, and God cannot look on our sin. Sin brings death, unless we acknowledge what Jesus’ death and resurrection did for us. His death paid for our sin, His resurrection brings us up out of death into New Life by the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

    • Gail Purcell

      Dorothy Sayers has a wonderful analogy of the Trinity in her book Mind of the Maker. We can believe God is Triune because we experience it when we create something. She uses writing a book or play as an analogy: The Idea (God the Father), the book written (God the Son) and the book read (God the Holy Spirit).

  • I’ve been reading and writing my way through the Bible the last several years, and recently started Matthew. One of the things that continually stands out to me after very careful attention to the text of the first 11 chapters, is that Matthew leaves absolutely no doubt in the words of Jesus that Jesus is either an absolutely blatant blasphemer, or God! No good person or prophet says anything like what he actually says. But it was so radical that he says in v. 16 of chapt. 11 that “this generation” is just not going to get it, and this applied to both his enemies and his followers. No first century Jew could have made up the Messiah who actually came, which is why in Herod’s prison (told in this 11) John is doubting that Jesus is the one. The only people who say Jesus thought himself anything other than Yahweh is either completely ignorant of the text, or blind.

  • Stephen D

    Perhaps what Dr. Peterson lacks is faith. To correctly evaluate historical evidence as presented in ancient documents like those that comprise the New Testament requires a level of expertise many believers do not possess. Yet many have faith and believe what they read. Again, historical evidence is of its nature always open to doubt. Yet many have faith and do not doubt what the Bible teaches. For many who have faith, Jesus is a very real presence, perhaps so real that he has appeared to them in visions, as with the apostle Paul. I personally date my coming to faith from of a series of experiences of the spiritual presence of Jesus that were so real that I could not doubt that he was alive. To me it is impossible to doubt the resurrection, not so much because of the historical evidence, as because of the evidence of my own and others’ personal experience.

  • The name easter needs to be changed to Resurrection Day.

  • littleeif

    Regarding our current affair with Dr. Peterson, we like him theologically beyond agreement with him on some social issues because he is not hostile in the way a Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins is hostile. Seeing him objectively, however, we could experience irony or even pathos. It would be fair to ask him God’s question: If you have so far advanced in your knowledge of the world, why have you not sooner found it’s Creator?

    The danger in doing the right thing for the wrong reason is that it divorces belief and act making truth seem irrelevant. Dr. Peterson clearly sees evil as corrosive and sacrifice as a societal good, both in relation to individual success and societal flourishing. Missing is the link to the metaphysical, and the understanding that good is to be done for its own sake regardless the outcome.

    I don’t wish to be too hard on Dr. Peterson, but the proliferation of words lacking the one crucial insight becomes crazy-making. He needs one word: love. God is love, and that changes everything including rationality. .

  • Samuel Watkinson

    I’ve always appreciated Peterson’s transparency and openness to evidence. On the other hand, I don’t appreciate the citation of apostle martyrdom in apologetic arguments for the resurrection because further research reveals their historical reliability to be tenuous. Even the supposedly stronger ones of the references of the deaths of James in Acts and John in the gospel purported to be written by him are ambiguous, the former only saying he was executed for breaking the law while the latter is part of the appendix that is probably the latest level of redaction by anonymous authors (plural shown in John 21:24), and it is easy to see how the Acts of Peter has capitalized on this already questionable addition in its highly imaginative and fanciful account

    • Hildabeast

      You’re struggling with the fact that Jesus conquered death. Why?

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