It seems that some skeptics who complain about the lack of independent attestation for the resurrection have set up the rules this way. (I originally wrote this as a comment and have promoted it now to a blog post for wider discussion.)
These seem to be the criteria:
- The source must be an early document, contemporary with the alleged events, from someone who had reason to know whether the alleged events actually happened.
- It must affirm that the alleged events really happened, for otherwise it would not be attestation.
- It must be written by someone who is known not to be a believer, for otherwise it wouldn’t be independent; obviously Christians had an axe to grind, and their witness is tainted by their motivations.
- Therefore (from 2 and 3) it must be a document that says the events happened, written by someone who says the events did not happen.
Further, and in contrast, let us take the case of a document that affirms the events happened, written by someone who actually agrees with what he wrote in that document. From 3, we conclude that this testimony is tainted and cannot be trusted. Therefore regardless of the quality, date, authorship, or even the actual truth value of that document, it is inadmissible. No document that affirms that Jesus rose from the dead can be admitted into the discussion, because the one who wrote it obviously believes it happened. To rely on early believers’ testimony regarding the resurrection is circular reasoning, because, after all, they were believers!
Thus only the only acceptable testimony affirming the resurrection is that which comes from someone who denies the resurrection.
Are these the rules under which we are supposed to operate ?