You call it speculation for Fred to say that Jesus did not come back from the dead. To some degree this is true, but it is also speculation to say that Jesus did come back from the dead. After all, you did not see him. I did not see him. Fred did not see him. Apologists will say that the tomb is empty, but of course that does not imply a resurrection. For that you would need a living body. They want us to speculate; only they want us to speculate that Jesus came back from the dead. But this is not a reasonable conclusion.
I would like to conduct a thought experiment with you, if you are willing. It is one I have asked others to consider when they have insisted that we accept the resurrection. I would like you to take yourself back in time mentally. I would like you to put your self in the shoes of someone living during the time of Jesus. And I would like you to consider how the story of the resurrection would unfold to you if you were not a disciple of Jesus but merely an interested party.
Let us say that you have heard that Jesus claimed he was going to come back from the dead. Also, you have heard of his miracles. Perhaps you have even seen some. There is controversy surrounding Jesus, and perhaps you wonder if he might be the Messiah. Perhaps you are even hopeful that he might be the Messiah.
When he is put to death, at first you may be disappointed. Certainly you are saddened. But you remember his prediction. You do not rule him out of contention as Messiah, because he has three days in which to prove himself. Depending on how hopeful you are, you anticipate the third day with either curiosity or excitement.
Now, remember that you are not a disciple. So, when the third day comes around, you do not see him. You do not even hear of his resurrection, because it is not publicized. For you, the third day comes and goes with no fanfare. If you were anticipating his return you are disappointed.
After a week, he is still not back. He does not come back at three weeks. For you, life is returning to normal. You still must await the Messiah, just as you did before. It has been a month since Jesus died before you know it. Shavuot is fast approaching.
And that is when the announcement is made. Jesus disciples show up 50 days after his death, saying that he came back from the dead. By this you are surprised. It is long after the time we was supposed to come back. You may be interested, even excited. Perhaps you go to one of the disciples and say, “Take me to Jesus.” Or you want to, but then Peter tells everyone that Jesus did come back from the dead, but ten days ago, he rose into the heavens. He is not here now. But he was. Really. You just missed him.
I would like to take this opportunity to point out that this is the story of the gospels and the Book of Acts. I have only retold the story from a different perspective. According to the NT, Jesus did not appear to his critics. He did not appear publicly. He came to a few, here and there, in secret. Granted the NT contradicts itself on his appearances, but I am willing to put that aside for the moment. I only want to ask if it is a credible story.
Jesus did not come back on day three as promised, not so most people could know anyway. His supposed resurrection was not announced until day fifty. At that time, he is nowhere to be found. People say he came back, but they have no proof to offer. This story is not credible.
So, when you tell Fred that it is speculation that Jesus did not return from the grave, you should know, that you are only speculating that he did. The question is whether or not it is reasonable to believe that he did come back from the dead (and if so what that means.) And in fact, as this thought experiment shows, it is not reasonable to believe in the resurrection. It is an unsupported claim. At the time when Jesus’ resurrection was announced, the disciples produced no Jesus. They had to tell people instead that Jesus rose into the sky. The story is not compelling. Fred’s conclusion is not mere speculation but reasonable. Perhaps it is time to reconsider your own speculations.