The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as given by the Four Evangelists, Critically Examined (1865)

First edition title page (BII EVI 1865.1)

In this pamphlet, published anonymously, Butler analyses the accounts of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus given by the Gospels, arguing that the Resurrection was no miracle but rather the result of Jesus losing and later regaining consciousness. Although this theory wasn’t new, it was uncommon in England – and especially surprising coming 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 he 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’. Butler sent a copy to Charles Darwin, prompting the first written exchanges between them. In his reply, Darwin says he has read the work ‘with much interest. … I particularly agree with all you say in your preface.’

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