Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus

The Craig’s last major argument for the existence of God is his claim that the resurrection of Jesus can be shown to have happened using standard historical methods.

Now, I’ve previously written that  the vast majority of non-Christians (as well as many liberal Christians) don’t think the gospels, the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’ life, are historically reliable. That’s because we see little reason to think their authors were in a position to know whether what they were writing about Jesus was true.

And Craig mostly doesn’t argue with that. Instead, he claims the historical reliability of the Bible isn’t important for debating Jesus’ resurrection. In fact, when historian Richard Carrier brought the issue up in their debate on the resurrection, Craig said he was “really sorry that [Carrier has] chosen to pursue that tack,” as if it were somehow inappropriate to even discuss.

What dishonest garbage. Craig’s reasoning is that the only way to establish a document’s reliability is to show it is correct about many specific events. This is false, because another way to argue for a document’s reliability is to show that the author was in a position to know what he was talking about, was likely honest, and so on. Also, if a document has been shown to contain blatant myths (like Matthew and Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ birth), that’s reason to be a little more suspicious of other things it says.

The Bible, I need to emphasize, is basically the only evidence Jesus rose from the dead (if you can even call it evidence). We don’t know who wrote the gospels. And as Carrier explains:

Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980′s? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well–no.

This is a pretty hopeless situation for Craig. The natural thing for him to do here would be to try to show the gospels are eyewitness accounts after all. Why doesn’t he do that? I think he must realize he can’t win that argument.

Instead, Craig uses lies and misdirection to make his case. I don’t use the word “lies” lightly. I think it’s clear that Craig, unlike many apologists, knows what he’s talking about. He just chooses to use that knowledge not to inform his audience, but to mislead them and run from arguments he’d lose while always giving himself away to say, “oh, what I really meant was…”

The big lie that Craig repeats constantly in his writings and debates is that the major points of the Bible story of Jesus’ resurrection are “facts.” Specifically, Craig claims:

 Fact #1: After his crucifixion Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb

Fact #2: On the Sunday after the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.

Fact #3: On different occasions and under various circumstances different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

Fact #4: The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

Normally, the word “fact” means something that can be proven. I’m confident that there’s no proof of any of Craig’s four facts. I’m also confident that in at least three out of the four cases, Craig knows this. (His only “out,” here, as far as I can see, is to claim he meant something different by “facts” than what everyone else does.)

The only evidence for the first two “facts” is the gospels. It’s one thing to argue, based on the gospels, that probably Jesus really was buried in a tomb which was later found empty (in spite of Christian claims to the contrary, it doesn’t take a miracle to get a corpse out of a cave). But, for reasons that should be clear from the quote from Richard Carrier above, the gospels aren’t proof.

As for the fourth fact, it’s one thing to say that the disciples came to believe that Jesus had risen, but there’s no way to prove that this happened “suddenly” and “despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.” Craig makes a big deal out of claiming Jesus’ followers couldn’t come up with the idea of a resurrection on their own, but that’s nonsense, because people come up with strange new ideas all the time.

Craig’s justification for claiming the facts are facts is that supposedly most Biblical scholars agree with him. I have never seen him present the slightest evidence for what the majority of scholars believe regarding Craig’s fourth claim. In the case of the first two facts, Craig does have a study by his fellow apologist Gary Habermas saying 75% of Biblical scholars accept the empty tomb. But there are a number of problems

First, Habermas didn’t poll a random sample of Biblical scholars. He did a survey of the literature, which could be skewed if, for example, believing Jesus’ tomb was found empty makes a scholar more likely to write about the issue.

Second, Biblical scholars are overwhelmingly Christians and Jews (though many are liberals who would have a great many disagreements with Craig). Habermas also found that 75% of his sample accepted a literal resurrection. This is a bit like finding out 75% of Quran scholars have views favorable to Islam.

But most importantly for Craig’s claims about “facts,” if I found out a full quarter of historians doubted something I had thought was a fact, I’d be surprised and want to know what the controversy was about. After all, 75% is only a couple points higher than the percentage of philosophers who are atheists, but it would be absurd to claim atheism as a “philosophical fact.”

Craig often avoids even acknowledging the existence of scholars who reject the empty tomb story, and has even lied about what another scholar believes to support his claims. Craig claims Bart Ehrman as an example of a skeptical scholar who accepts his “four facts,” but Craig bases this on something Ehrman said in 2003. Ehrman later changed his mind about the empty tomb, and Craig knows this because Ehrman told him so in their 2006 debate. 

I’ve saved discussion of the third “fact” for last, because there’s a little evidence for it insofar as Paul’s letters claim that after Jesus’ death, Jesus appeared to a number of people, Paul included. The problem is that, while I personally think it’s likely Paul and some of the other people were sincere but deluded, there’s no way to prove they weren’t lying.

The common Christian response here is that the fact that Jesus’ disciples were martyred proves they weren’t lying. This is a bad argument because first, the evidence for their martyrdom is even sketchier than the evidence regarding Jesus’ life, and second, liars sometimes do end up as martyrs (see Joseph Smith, for example.)

There’s much more I could say about the issue of Jesus’ resurrection, and much I’ve said elsewhere. But when it comes to Craig, I think all that really needs to be said is that fthe “evidence” for Jesus’ resurrection is not anything that would convince many Christians if it were evidence for some other religion’s miracle, and Craig’s response to that problem is based on lies and misdirection.

  • eric

    Craig’s reasoning is that the only way to establish a document’s reliability is to show it is correct about many specific events.

    That’s one of the most incredibly stupid lines of reasoning I’ve ever heard. Historical fiction authors regularly include ‘correct specific events’ to make their fiction more realitic and enjoyable. What is to stop us from thinking of the bible in this way?

    If that’s too blasphemous, compare it to something like Wikipedia – a source that tries to be reliable, accurate and nonfictional. I’m sure there are far more ‘correct facts’ in Wikipedia than in the bible, if for no other reason than its a lot bigger. Does that mean that its 100% reliable? Of course not.

    Lastly, its trivial to think of counterexamples, where one writes down a whole bunch of facts and then one untrue statement. Heck, one could do that to Craig’s bible itself! For sake of argument, let’s grant WLC’s claim and see where it leads us: if all those true facts in the KJV bible make it reliable, then the true facts in the ericbible must make it reliable too – because the ericbible is identical to the KJV bible, except for one added sentence about my ability to flap my arms and fly.

  • wholething

    @ eric #1

    …except for one added sentence about my ability to flap my arms and fly.

    As opposed to WLC who can wave his hands and lie.

    • Sili

      You mean to say the noöne has offered to eff Craig?

  • andyman409

    Another pertinent issue is what the word “appear” means in documents like 1 cor 15. While it’s true that jesus’ “appearances” were in a different category to his later visions, the new testiment authors never clearly state why they are different. Were they apeparances in space time, or were they mere visions? Even apologists like licona cannot give a definitive answer, and this lack of clarity should be all the more disturbing to an apologist trying to convinced us that jesus’ resurrection was corpreal, in space time, and therefore not a vision (hallucination)

  • http://lotsoftinyrobots.blogspot.com/ Collin

    Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980′s? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof? Well–no.

    Whenever I hear an apologist making a historical argument (and whenever I used to make one myself), they either try to vastly exaggerate the quality of evidence or usually try to lower the bar. I recently attended a conservative apologetics course on Jesus historicity, and the first two weeks were dedicated to showing how little evidence we have from that time period. Their response to Carrier’s point about a WWII soldier is actually “But evidence was worse back then for everything so that makes the evidence for Jesus stronger by comparison.”

  • JPGK

    Chris,

    Thanks so much for your continuing series on Craig and his “arguments.” I’m a member of a campus freethought group in Florida USA and we frequently have to deal with apologists either outright parroting these sad excuses for syllogisms, or hawking their own (of similar assertive quality).

    Mostly, I get a kick out of reading them (always for teh lulz, you know?) but it also makes me sad to know that the man draws a salary for churning this stuff out. Sad world, eh?

    Anyway, your argument-critique posts are by far my favorites, as they expose me to material that I don’t really come across in my own studies (biochemistry). Keep it up!

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      You’re welcome!

  • MNb0

    “Jesus’ followers couldn’t come up with the idea of a resurrection on their own.”
    They didn’t. An incomplete list of resurrections:

    Osiris
    Baäl
    Asclepius
    Achilles
    Aristeas of Proconnesus
    Unnamed guy in 2 Kings 13:21.

    The combination of crucifixion and resurrection was a new theme, not the resurrection itself.

    “there’s no way to prove they weren’t lying.”
    I think lying is inappropriate way. Back then they didn’t separate fact and fiction. That doesn’t affect your conclusion in the slightest way of course.

    “the only way to establish a document’s reliability”
    Testis unus testis nullus. Craig is unscientific here.

    • MNb0

      an inappropriate way to phrase.

  • jomike

    Craig often avoids even acknowledging the existence of scholars who reject the empty tomb story, and has even lied about what another scholar believes to support his claims. Craig claims Bart Ehrman as an example of a skeptical scholar who accepts his “four facts,” but Craig bases this on something Ehrman said in 2003.

    Craig also frequently misrepresents Gert Ludemann’s statement that “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” Craig makes it seem as though Ludemann believes that Jesus appeared to the disciples in the flesh, literally, when in fact Ludemann is clear that he accepts merely that Peter and the others claimed to have had experiences of such appearances.

    • andyman409

      Ludemann holds that the appearances were bereavement hallucinations, the disciples than made physical due to their jewishness. I see no reason why the disciples couldn’t have interpreted their experiences that way.

  • Abaris

    Carrier’s WWII argument is pretty unfair, and not just because evidence standards are different back then.

    Practically everyone agrees the Pauline epistles are from the 50s or so, so there seems to have been a flourishing early Church by that period.

    The Book of Acts describes events that happened during the 60s or so. There are good reasons to date it to the 60s, but even being as harsh as possible and dating it to the 90s, it would be pretty hard to falsify – not only because of its accurate descriptions of various cities as they were in the 60s, but for the same reason that I couldn’t write a completely false history of the Vietnam War today and get away with it – there are enough vets who would call me on it.

    But if Acts is true, the Church in the 50s and 60s was in close contact with the Apostles and the church in Palestine – ie exactly the sort of people who would have eyewitness testimony of Jesus.

    And even if we take as late a date for the Gospels as possible, it’s clear that their basic outline was well established by the 50s and 60s – Acts listed several of the appropriate memes floating around, and at least some of the Gospels seem based on earlier documents. Further, Christians would have noticed if you completely changed the context of their religion on them (“What? No one ever said Jesus rose from the dead *last* week!”)

    So as I see it, we’re not just dealing with four random books, we’re dealing with a large early church that had some strong beliefs about Jesus and his resurrection. Then they wrote some books, and the content of the books is interesting but really the main evidence is that *they were written at all*.

    So a better analogy is some religious tracts saying that a World War II soldier rose from the dead, and some other tracts saying his entire brigade then deserted en masse to worship him, and when you look back you find people have been saying this since ever the 1950s when the movement was generally believed to be led by his platoon mates. It’s still nothing close to “proof”, but at least it’s *surprising*.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      I take this as an indication that maybe I should have quoted Carrier’s Hero Savior of Vietnam instead, which makes the analogy more precise.

    • Paul King

      I think that your revised analogy leans too far the other way. Jesus’ association with the Disciples was already as a religious leader and his followers. He wasn’t just a buddy or a colleague in life. That’s an important difference.

      I think that all we can really say is that some of his followers found a way to keep to their belief after his death, and it involved saying that he was somehow alive. The details beyond that seem to have undergone considerable elaboration in the years between the events and the writing of the Gospels.

      In the Pauline Epistles we don’t have much description of the historical events – we are told that Jesus was killed, buried and resurrected but we don’t have Joseph of Arimathea, the Empty Tomb (or ANY mention of a tomb) or any details of the post-resurrection appearances.

      Mark has the tomb story but the only mention of the post-resurrection appearances is an implication that they happened in Galilee. Maybe there was more at one time, but if so, it has been lost. Matthew does elaborate on that – but the next Gospel, Luke, and its continuation, Acts, goes off in a quite different direction insisting that all the appearances were in and around Jerusalem.

      Luke is so different from Matthew that it isn’t possible to believe that both are reliable accounts of what happened. We know that Matthew is prone to exaggeration anyway – and the author of Luke is clearly deviating from Mark, even though we know that Mark was a major source for his writing. John has yet another different story (and seems to include both episodes in Jerusalem and Galilee contradicting both Matthew and Luke!)

      I think that we have no alternative but to say that the Gospel accounts of the post-resurrection experiences are not reliable and we have good cause to think that they have been greatly exaggerated. Which leaves us with no reason to believe that the actual events were anything beyond the mundane, given a significance that they did not merit by people eager to believe that their messiah was still alive and capable of fulfilling the prophecies in the near future.

      • Sili

        Mark has the tomb story but the only mention of the post-resurrection appearances is an implication that they happened in Galilee.

        Mark doesn’t have anything after the empty tomb.

        • Paul King

          And Mark’s version of the Emoty Tomb story includes the message that the Disciples will see Jesus in Galilee (16:7). .

    • MNb0

      “But if Acts is true”
      If.
      Testis unus, testis nullus.
      Assuming that “Acts is true” is unscientific without independent confirmation.

    • CJO

      Practically everyone agrees the Pauline epistles are from the 50s or so, so there seems to have been a flourishing early Church by that period.

      Fine, to the extent that a few communities of mystic visionaries in the upheaval of diaspora Jewish communities adapting to the reality of Roman Imperial rule can be characterized as “flourishing”. But the very question is what were the nature of their beliefs? They certainly have little to say about a figure recognizable as the Jesus of the gospels. Their savior had revealed himself primarily in scripture.

      The Book of Acts describes events that happened during the 60s or so. There are good reasons to date it to the 60s,

      Are there? I don’t know of any. It’s a sequel to the gospel of Luke, for one, which must have postdated Mark, which was probably written in the 70s.

      but even being as harsh as possible and dating it to the 90s,

      I don’t see anything “harsh” about a late date; do these texts have feelings that are hurt if we place them at a remove from the events they narrate? The 90s is more like the absolute earliest we can date Luke-Acts if, as it appears, the author made use of Josephus’s Antiquities, which was not in circulation until the mid-90s. Acts is likely a text of the second century.

      it would be pretty hard to falsify – not only because of its accurate descriptions of various cities as they were in the 60s,

      What details of these cities are given that could not also apply to 30 or 50 years later? What prevents an author from writing accurately about matters in the recent past in a work that is nevertheless fiction? Acts in general is actually quite vague on geography, and relates its characters’ travels in a way that is very reminiscent of the Greek Romances of the era. That is, it reads like contemporary fiction.

      but for the same reason that I couldn’t write a completely false history of the Vietnam War today and get away with it – there are enough vets who would call me on it.

      Just like there’s no possible way a propaganda outfit could get away with telling lies about the Vietnam-era service record of a national figure running for election?

      But if Acts is true, the Church in the 50s and 60s was in close contact with the Apostles and the church in Palestine – ie exactly the sort of people who would have eyewitness testimony of Jesus.

      Acts has all the hallmarks of fiction based on legends with little connection to actual events. But we have letters of Paul which also are witness to that contact. The problem is that apparently none of these apostles were in the least interested in the teacher figure or itinerant exorcist or whoever it was that they had been followers of, so worked up were they about Paul’s cosmic savior.

      And even if we take as late a date for the Gospels as possible, it’s clear that their basic outline was well established by the 50s and 60s

      Actually there is no evidence that the basic outline existed at all until Mark, upon which all the rest of the gospels depend.

      – Acts listed several of the appropriate memes floating around,

      I have no idea what this means, but it’s irrelevant in that Acts was probably the last narrative text in the NT to be written.

      and at least some of the Gospels seem based on earlier documents.

      Psalm 22 being the main one, along with some bits from Daniel, Isaiah and Zechariah.

      Or maybe you mean Q? A collection of sayings that may or may not have existed, with no traces of any narrative of the Passion or Resurrection, which is what we’re talking about.

      Further, Christians would have noticed if you completely changed the context of their religion on them (“What? No one ever said Jesus rose from the dead *last* week!”)

      For the first two-plus centuries of the common era, “Christianity” was a riotous profusion of all manner of theological innovation and eschatological ferment. There was no unitary category “Christians” and no arbiter of orthodoxy. Whatever you may imagine, in the early days “the context” likely changed quite a bit from city to city and year to year, and we need only to look at the different approach Paul takes in the letters to various communities to see that it was so.

      • Abaris

        > Are there? I don’t know of any. It’s a sequel to the gospel of Luke, for one, which must have postdated Mark, which was probably written in the 70s.

        Well, the author claims to have been a traveling companion of Paul’s (probably; there are some other theories about different reasons to use the first person) and the narrative just stops in the mid-60s without giving any resolution to the various plot threads (like the trial of Paul, which is one of the main subjects of Acts and is just about to go into the final phase when the book ends – imagine a history of the OJ Simpson trial that ends just before the verdict!). Given that the obvious end to the story of Paul, Peter & Co would have been their glorious martyrdoms, and that information about these would have been well-known after they happened, the most plausible reason to stop in the mid-60s without discussing these is that the book was written in the mid-60s and they hadn’t happened.

        Yes, it can’t be true that Mark predates Luke-Acts AND Mark was written post-70 AND Luke-Acts was written pre-70, but I think the evidence for a pre-70 Luke-Acts is on at least as good grounds as the other two statements. The only reason to date Mark post-70 is some vague apocalyptic prophecies that sound like maybe references to the rebellion, but given that Jesus was a vague apocalyptic prophet, maybe making vague apocalyptic prophecies was just what he did.

        > The 90s is more like the absolute earliest we can date Luke-Acts if, as it appears, the author made use of Josephus’s Antiquities, which was not in circulation until the mid-90s. Acts is likely a text of the second century.

        According to Wikipedia, “The majority of scholars reject both [the claim that Acts borrowed from Josephus] and the claim that Josephus borrowed from Acts”. Most of the attempts to draw parallels are of the same level as noting that two histories of the Civil War Era both mention Abraham Lincoln, or that both describe the Civil War as “bloody”. I find tektonics’ response on this point (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/lukeandjoe.html) pretty convincing.

        > What details of these cities are given that could not also apply to 30 or 50 years later? What prevents an author from writing accurately about matters in the recent past in a work that is nevertheless fiction?

        Details that would be hard to get decades later include names of officials and details of pre-rebellion Palestine. In a world without Internet, travel guides, or more books than you can write by hand and keep in a private collection, just knowing the details of a dozen cities scattered about the Mediterranean requires either that you’ve been there or that you have access to people who have and are very good at interviewing them. The number of Christians who had travelled around half the Mediterranean were probably pretty small.

        Besides, just look at how much stuff the Gospels get wrong and how they make Jesus take geographically ridiculous paths from one Judaean city to another. Writing convincingly about stuff that happened in Palestine when you’re in Rome wasn’t easy.

        > Actually there is no evidence that the basic outline existed at all until Mark, upon which all the rest of the gospels depend. Or maybe you mean Q? A collection of sayings that may or may not have existed, with no traces of any narrative of the Passion or Resurrection, which is what we’re talking about.

        Several early sources discuss “Matthew’s Gospel To The Hebrews” as probably the earliest Gospel (and probably the one Matthew actually wrote, as opposed to New Testament Matthew). More importantly, consider the introduction to the Gospel of Luke:

        “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

        Even if we doubt everything else Luke says, here he’s clearly talking about his own time to other people in his own time, and he says that there are a bunch of other accounts floating around and all he’s trying to do is write something more authoritative. And although it’s completely speculative, it doesn’t sound like he’s just talking about Mark, since Mark is just as orderly and authoritative as he is and pretty much the source of most of what he says.

        > For the first two-plus centuries of the common era, “Christianity” was a riotous profusion of all manner of theological innovation and eschatological ferment. There was no unitary category “Christians” and no arbiter of orthodoxy. Whatever you may imagine, in the early days “the context” likely changed quite a bit from city to city and year to year, and we need only to look at the different approach Paul takes in the letters to various communities to see that it was so.

        Agreed, but it seems like most of those early groups accepted Luke both as authoritative and as not opposed to whatever they believed already. Imagine the difficulty trying to get today’s Christians – Catholics, Protestants, also a bunch of dissimilar sects – to believe that Jesus lived in Greece rather than Palestine. Luke might not have had *that* hard a time introducing any ideas contradictory to dogma, but it wouldn’t have been easy either.

        • Paul King

          I don’t find the absence of any reference to the outcome of the trial a strong piece of evidence. If it had been that important to the author he could have waited until the trial was over or issued an addendum after the fact. Likewise the historical accuracy is not strong evidence either. The case for the Gospel of Luke post-dating 70AD is rather stronger. Even if we do not consider the Olivet Discourse a good reason for dating Mark after 70AD it still seems that Mark was likely written after Peter’s death. And the differences in Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse seem to me to strongly suggest a rewrite to better fit te events..

          I also hope that you have researched the actual evidence used to infer dependence on Josephus. Turkel is notorious for not providing links to the arguments he is attacking and the evidence may well be stronger than he wishes his readers to know.

          Finally, it seems to me quite clear that by the time that Luke and Matthew were written correction by eyewitnesses was not a problem. Either Luke or Matthew must be badly wrong about the post-resurrection appearances – and neither was corrected. And if their views did not clash with established beliefs then either we have two quite different traditions in the communities that they wrote for, or no established account to rival either. Both options support the idea that the original story had far less to it, and that what we see is elaboration, created long after the fact.

        • wholething

          I find tektonics’ response on this point (http://www.tektonics.org/lp/lukeandjoe.html) pretty convincing.

          One can only argue “coincidence” so many times before a pattern emerges. Holden’s short list has already crossed that line. I once happened to read about Paul’s shipwreck in Acts and Josephus’ shipwreck in his writings within a short time period and began to think they may have been on the same ship. Having all the coincidences between Luke and Josephus pointed out bars the notion that they are mere coincidences.

          The coincidences between Luke and Josephus are only found in the parts of Luke that do not coincide with Mark and Q. In Josephus’ autobiography which is estimated to have been released around the year 97, he tells about discussing the law with scholars at age 14. Luke changes it to age 12 and for 3 days, to foreshadow Christian myths, but that pushes Luke to the very end of the first century at the earliest.

  • Steve R

    Is there any historical evidence, outside the Holy Babble, that Jesus of Nazareth really existed?

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Precious little. Josephus is usually cited as the #1 extra-Biblical source for Jesus, but even he wrote more than half a century after Jesus would have lived, and his text appears to have been tampered with.

      • MNb0

        May I remind you that the first written source on Alexander the Great is written a couple of centuries after his death? It’s a bad, pseudoscientific ad hoc argument. When studying History of Antiquity you have to rely on indirect sources or you’ll come to naught.

        • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

          Except our best sources for Alexander explain what (now lost) sources they were working with, and their historical methodology. And it’s not like any historian anywhere believes any of the miracle claims that have been made involving Alexander.

          • andyman409

            Impact is a big definer for historicity. Even if we lack biographies written during the life of alexander the great (and such things did apparantly exist, even though they are all lost), at least we can infer his existence thru the impact of his conquests. Jesus, on the other hand, left no impact at all during his life. This is not to say he didn’t exist (I personally think he did). Just that the arguments in favor of jesus’ existence are often exagerrated.

        • josh

          We also have contemporaneous inscriptions in Alexander’s name. And that whole military empire thing that continued to shape European-Middle Eastern geopolitics for centuries.

          If a skeptical evaluation of your evidence means it comes to naught, then you have to accept that. Or rather, you have to go with the most probable reconstruction you can make while acknowledging just how likely it is that some other case is true. In the case of Jesus there is precious little evidence that he even existed, although most historians feel there is enough to accept that some central figure really did inspire the early church. The details of his life, however, are almost entirely debatable and the chance that he was physically resurrected is essentially zero.

    • MNb0

      There is an independent, but indirect testimony by Polycarpus, Bishop of Smyrna, pupil of apostle John.
      Moreover there is the Principle of Embarrassment. See Matth 27:45. It’s embarrassing for the “Jesus was divine” statement to put such words in his mouth, which indicates that Jesus indeed exclaimed something like that while suffering.
      Compare

      http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodotus/hist01.htm

      “Sailing on their westerly course, they must have observed that they had the sun on their right. (Something that Herodotus, who was unaware of the earth’s spherical shape, was unable to believe.)”
      Exactly because Herodotus (he was a Flat Earther) didn’t believe it we know the account is true – or he wouldn’t have mentioned it.
      Same for Matth 27:45.
      It’s not conclusive – but hey, since when is science? – but all in all it’s far more likely that Jesus was historical than not. Remember: mythologists have to prove three sources to be wrong – they never give conclusive evidence either. It’s remarkable how much they have “learned” from creationists.

      • josh

        Matthew 27:45 says darkness fell over the whole land from noon to 3 o’clock. Seems like the sort of thing a contemporaneous source might have mentioned. Matthew 27:46, “…why hast thou forsaken me!” is a quote from Psalm 22. The Principle of Embarrassment, at least as applied to apologetics, is an embarrassment to skeptical thinking.

  • Jon Hanson

    A great short summary once again. I know you’re getting tired of Craig, but it really is amazing how he’s set the standard for the God debate. Even Muslims have picked up some of his arguments from what I’ve seen, though not this one.

    Anyways, if any of you like this article you should definitely pick up Chris’s first book if you can find it, it’s some of the best writing on the topic of the resurrection I’ve found in terms of balancing accessibility and strong philosophical argumentation.

    • MNb0

      “the standard for the God debate”
      Only in the States. The vast majority of European christians see him as the nut he is.

  • http://twitter.com/blamer @blamer

    >>I couldn’t write a completely false history of the Vietnam War today and get away with it – there are enough vets who would call me on it.

    …and if you described even a SINGLE event as a divine miracle then we’d have no reason to read your fiction as if it was a credible historical fact.

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