The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as Given by the Four Evangelists, Critically Examined

Title page
First printing, 1865 (BII EVI 1865.1)

This anonymous pamphlet crystallized out of Butler’s reading and thinking during his New Zealand years. Analysing the accounts of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus given in the Gospels, Butler argues that the Resurrection was no miracle, but the result of Jesus losing and later regaining consciousness. Although this theory wasn’t new, it was uncommon in England – and especially surprising from the pen of a Canon’s son. Butler had the work printed privately, acknowledging that ‘no publisher of position will publish heresy so rank as mine’.

In the preface Butler criticizes the ‘intellectual cowardice’ of the English in refusing to discuss and challenge ‘the most important of all subjects’, asserting that ‘we shall do ourselves some permanent mischief if we continue so intolerant of the fair exercise of the reason’. In September 1865 Butler sent a copy of the pamphlet to Charles Darwin, prompting their first written exchanges. ‘We have read it with much interest’, Darwin replied. ‘I particularly agree with all you say in your preface.’

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