John 1: Extraordinary Claims
There are many people who will argue that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This was brought out mainly by Carl Sagan, and the main point is that for something extraordinary like a miracle for example, the evidence needs to be substantial.
John 1 brings us to the reaction of Nathanael.
Joh 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
Joh 1:48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
Joh 1:49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
Joh 1:50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
Nathanael had been skeptical at first. He did not believe anything good could come out of Nazareth, but Philip invited him to come and meet Jesus for himself. The claim was pretty extraordinary. We have found the Messiah that has been prophesied for many years.
Nathanael did not specify that he wanted an overwhelming amount of evidence, but he did not believe immediately. He wanted to experience Jesus himself, and all it took was a very simple miracle. Even Jesus points out that there were a lot greater things coming down the road, but this was apparently enough for Nathanael to believe.
I think about this then in the context of extraordinary evidence. For Nathanael, Jesus knew something that He had no place in knowing. He was too far away to have seen the conversation under the fig tree. How could He do that? There was no real reason for it. However, it happened, so there needed to be some type of explanation.
I often times think about this in the context of extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Extraordinary claims still need explanations. Nathanael ran into that. He could have said that maybe there was a network of people watching Philip speak to him under the tree, and they relayed the message back to Jesus very quickly so that He could give the appearance of divine power. He could have thought that the entire thing was a lucky guess. After all, fig trees were rather common.
However, apparently those thoughts did not enter Nathanael’s mind. The evidence made sense one way, so even though it seemed rather extraordinary, of the possible explanations, there was only one that made sense.
People who demand extraordinary evidence often times do not need anything extraordinary. They simply need something that makes an explanation more possible than any other explanation. It is a question of more evidence rather than particularly extraordinary evidence. Eventually, the cumulative case becomes so heavy that the balance needs to turn.