Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 4

If you want something done right, then (sometimes) you have to do it yourself.

I now know what my next project will be. Since, to the best of my knowledge, no Christian philosopher or apologist has made a good case for the resurrection of Jesus, I am going to build the first good case for the resurrection.


First, I need to finish the article on Swinburne’s case for God. That article was supposed to be finished a year ago, and I still have several months more to go before it will be completed. But, when I’m done with Swinburne, I’m going to start building the best-possible case for the resurrection of Jesus.


Jeff – If I build this case, and then have a heart attack or get hit by a bus, will you dedicate some time to refuting my case? Promise? I would hate to unintentionally give a big boost to Christian belief among intellectuals.


Each of the leading defenders of the resurrection has at least one strong point and at least one serious weakness. I would take the strong points of each of them, and try to avoid their weaknesses and faults. Such a synthesis of the various cases for the resurrection by the leading defenders would, I believe, be the best possible case.


1. Richard Swinburne

Swinburne is the Aquinas of our age. Anyone who tries to build a case for the resurrection without consulting Swinburne is a fool.


His strengths are: apologetic strategy and logical apparatus. I would use Swinburne’s apologetic strategy and the logical apparatus of conditional probability statements and calculations. Swinburne is weak on two points: he fails to recognize the need and importance of proving that Jesus died on the cross, and he does not do an adequate job with historical data and arguments.


Swinburne’s apologetic strategy is NOT to prove that God exists, and then argue for the resurrection, but rather to try to prove a weaker claim, namely that there is a 50/50 chance that God exists, and then use that probability as the basis for a case for the probability of the resurrection. This is the best apologetic strategy, and has the best chance of being successful.


2. William Craig

Craig’s strength is his attempt to use criteria for the evaluation of historical hypotheses in a systematic way. I would use the criteria Craig lays out, or something similar to those criteria.

Craig, like Swinburne, fails to take seriously the burden of proof to show that Jesus really died on the cross. Craig only writes about one paragraph on this key point, and so his case for the resurrection, while intellectually sophisticated, fails completely.


3. Norman Geisler

One of Geisler’s strengths is his simple and clear logical analysis of the question at issue, breaking the historical question into two pieces: (1) Did Jesus die on the cross? (2) Was Jesus alive and walking around on Easter Sunday following the crucifixion? Another strength is that he, unlike Swinburne and Craig, recognizes the need to prove that Jesus in fact died on the cross.


Geisler’s weaknesses are that he attempts to defend the resurrection in just a few pages, which is absolutely ridiculous, and his naive uncritical use of Gospel accounts, and his apologetic strategy (deductive proof of God’s existence followed by argument for the resurrection).


I would break the historical issues into two pieces, following Geisler, but would use something like Craig’s criteria to evaluate the two historical hypotheses, and I would avoid a naive and uncritical use of Gospel accounts.


4. Gary Habermas

Habermas makes the best case for the resurrection, in my view. His strengths are that he recognizes the need to prove that Jesus died on the cross, and he also puts together a good deal of historical and medical data and arguments to support this claim. Habermas is more careful than Geisler with his use of the Gospel accounts, and Habermas recognizes that a good case for the resurrection cannot be made in just a few pages; a good-sized book is required, at a minimum.

Habermas has a weaker apologetic strategy than Swinburne, and is not as systematic in his historical analysis as Craig. So, his approach could be improved upon by importation of Swinburne’s strategy, the use of conditional probability, and by use of general criteria for the evaluation of historical hypotheses.


Take the strongest points of these four Christian philosophers, and avoid their weaknesses, and you would have the best possible case for the resurrection of Jesus.

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Swinburne is weak on two points: he fails to recognize the need and importance of proving that Jesus died on the cross, and he does not do an adequate job with historical data and arguments.

    I would be extremely surprised if Swinburne fails to at least recognize the importance of proving that Jesus died on the cross. I'd like to see evidence for this failure.

    Regarding "an adequate job with historical data and arguments," this suggests the obvious retort, "how do you define adequate"?

    Craig, like Swinburne, fails to take seriously the burden of proof to show that Jesus really died on the cross.

    This seems like much too strong a claim to me. You seem to be conflating "taking seriously" topic X with "the amount of text" an author devotes to topic X.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I forgot to comment on your request:

    Jeff – If I build this case, and then have a heart attack or get hit by a bus, will you dedicate some time to refuting my case? Promise? I would hate to unintentionally give a big boost to Christian belief among intellectuals.

    It depends on the case; it's logically possible you could convince me! But if you don't, then, sure, I will write a rebuttal to it.

    You left off two major defenders of the resurrection: Timothy and Lydia McGrew. As I noted here, no skeptic writing on the resurrection can afford to ignore their chapter on the resurrection of Jesus in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18325950914132322478 Stig K Martinsen

    Now this is something. A "game" of devil's advocate, just what I asked for in the poll. I will follow this with great interest.

    By the way, isn't N.T. Wright also considered a very important defender of the resurrection? Does he have even greater weaknesses than Geisler?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said…

    You left off two major defenders of the resurrection: Timothy and Lydia McGrew. As I noted here, no skeptic writing on the resurrection can afford to ignore their chapter on the resurrection of Jesus in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology.
    ==========
    Response:

    Thanks for the info Jeff. I see that the hardback was originally priced at $215.00. Yikes! It can now be purchased for the low low price of $167.00. The kindle version is a bargain at just $150.00!

    I think I will wait until the paperback comes out in December, and get the book for just 40 bucks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said…

    "Craig, like Swinburne, fails to take seriously the burden of proof to show that Jesus really died on the cross."

    This seems like much too strong a claim to me. You seem to be conflating "taking seriously" topic X with "the amount of text" an author devotes to topic X.
    ==========
    Response:

    I'm not conflating, I'm inferring.

    With the exception of his popular case for the resurrection in The Son Rises, where Craig spends two or three pages discussing Jesus' death, he usually only writes about one page on this question, and he has basically three points that are stated in three sentences. So, he really only writes about one paragraph on the death of Jesus.

    That is like trying to argue that JFK was killed by multiple gunmen in just one paragraph. The very attempt to do so seems to me to be a sign of mental illness.

    But let me make a few obvious points on this matter. At the very least, one should claim that Jesus was crucified and provide some historical argument for this claim, and provide some historical background information on crucifixion.

    Presumably, the evidence for the crucifixion of Jesus will include passages from the Gospels. One cannot simply assume that whatever the Gospels state is historically true and accurate. So, any decent presentation of a case for Jesus' death will need to provide at least some sort of summary of NT scholarship concerning the origins and the historical reliability of the Gospel texts. Right?

    Paul Barnett and Mark Roberts both have short little books defending the NT and the Gospels. Roberts's book is nearly 200 pages, and Barnett's book is over 170 pages, and they really don't do justice to the subject, not just because of their bias, but because of all that needs to be discussed on that matter.

    The passion narratives are a whole topic on their own.

    So, before we get into any specific historical claims, we need (a) historical background info on crucifixion by Romans, (b) historical background info on the composition of the Gospels, (c) a case for the historical reliability of the Gospels, which will involve not only positive arguments, but replies to various objections that skeptics and scholars have raised to the reliability of the Gospels in general and to the passion narratives in particular.

    Can this introductory material be adequately covered in 30 to 40 pages? I don't see how. Could it be covered in three sentences? You could try, but if you seriously think you could do this, then it is probably time to check into the local mental institution and seek professional help.

    Furthermore, to make a strong case for the death of Jesus, one needs to establish the occurrence of multiple serious wounds. And that will require appeal to several Gospel passages, each of which will need to be interpreted and defended from skeptical objections, and the medical implications spelled out and supported with the appropriate scientific evidence…

    There is the alleged beating of Jesus, the scourging of Jesus, the crown of thorns, the use of nails in crucifixion, the medical implications of hanging on a cross, the duration of the crucifixion, and the alleged spear wound.

    Each wound requires textual, historical, and scientific discussion.

    Could someone do a reasonable job of building a case for these wounds of Jesus in 30-40 pages? I don't see how. Could someone do this in three sentences? Anyone who seriously makes an attempt to do so is bonkers, nuts, mental, or at least in need of a long relaxing vacation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18325950914132322478 Stig K Martinsen

    Lydia McGrew published the final (?) draft of their resurrection article here:
    http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12853267753412902721 Credo In Unum Deum

    I find it odd you (the author of the post) didn't mention N.T.Wright. Also, I have listened to many debates on the historicity of the resurrection with Craig and he spends much more time on the death on the cross then you give him credit for.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04031407028220844179 Jason T.

    Bradley,
    While I admire your willingness and determination to undertake this project (and your approach is very thoughtful), I am genuinely perplexed as to why you would think that it is worthwhile.
    Maybe that's too strong. I agree that if we could prove (or make a good case that) an astounding event like this occurred, this would be really interesting and perhaps open up potential research into the possibility of similar astounding events occurring. But I would not at all help us in a religious sense.
    What I mean is that nobody should take the resurrection (even if it really did happen) as proof of God's existence or evidence for the truth of Christianity.
    There are two issues here: First, even if we could prove that Jesus was dead (according to current medical understanding) on Friday and was alive on Sunday, this would be very weak evidence for the existence of God, at best. There are more plausible explanations for the event; for example, that Jesus was brought back to life through some kind of alien technology. Yes, this is highly implausible, but not more implausible than that he was brought back to life by an all-powerful, all-knowing, creator.
    Second, the resurrection is not even evidence for the Atonement, which is a central tenet of Christianity. I don't see how the fact (if it were one) that Jesus rose from the (medically) dead proves that he was sent by God to die for the sins of humanity. It is certainly possible, and simpler, to believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and that God did not send Jesus to die for the sins of the world. Since the idea that Jesus died for the sins of everyone else is morally reprehensible, it is in fact much more likely that an omniscient being would not do such a thing.
    So my point is that while the question of the resurrection is interesting, I don't think it is all that relevant to the much more interesting questions of the existence of God and the truth of Christianity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Credo In Unum Deum said…

    I find it odd you (the author of the post) didn't mention N.T.Wright.

    Also, I have listened to many debates on the historicity of the resurrection with Craig and he spends much more time on the death on the cross then you give him credit for.
    ==================
    Response:

    I see very little merit in NT Wright's defense of the resurrection. Maybe some Christian philosopher can make use of Wright's thinking and come up with a significant argument (?).

    As for Craig on Jesus' death, do you know of anything he has written on the death of Jesus that is more significant and more in-depth than what he had to say in The Son Rises?

    Since Craig has been defending the resurrection for at least three decades, it is possible that he has beefed up his argument on this point in recent years. If you know of a recent article or book by Craig where he does a good job on the issue of the death of Jesus, I would be interested to read it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jason T. said…

    First, even if we could prove that Jesus was dead (according to current medical understanding) on Friday and was alive on Sunday, this would be very weak evidence for the existence of God, at best. There are more plausible explanations for the event;
    ============
    Response:

    I agree that trying to prove the resurrection of Jesus in order to prove the existence of God is a poor apologetic strategy.

    That is why I would, if I were a Christian apologist, go with the more plausible strategy of Richard Swinburne: argue that there is a 50/50 chance that God exists, and then use that probability as the basis for arguing that the resurrection of Jesus is probable.

    Trying to prove the resurrection without first showing that the existence of God is at least somewhat probable, makes an already difficult task into a nearly impossible one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jason T. said…

    Second, the resurrection is not even evidence for the Atonement, which is a central tenet of Christianity.
    =============
    Response:

    You may well be correct on this point. The alleged implications/significance of the resurrection is an area of Christian thought that could use some help from clear-thinking skeptics like you and me.

    However, many Christian believers view the resurrection of Jesus as a key reason supporting the Christian faith (the atonement, deity of Jesus, the inspiration of the Bible, etc). So, one way of challenging the rationality of Christian faith is by challenging the resurrection.

    Another way is to challenge the relevance/significance of the resurrection of Jesus to the Christian doctrines that it is supposed to support.

    Both challenges are legitimate. One challenges the truth of a premise, the other challenges the inference from that premise to a conclusion.

    It may well be the case that the argument from the resurrection to other Christian doctrines is a bad argument in both respects. It may be an argument with both a false premise, and with an invalid or weak inference.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17801369779625472334 Pete Hoge

    None of those people have anything until indisputable textual sources
    are found.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said…

    "Swinburne is weak on two points: he fails to recognize the need and importance of proving that Jesus died on the cross, and he does not do an adequate job with historical data and arguments."

    I would be extremely surprised if Swinburne fails to at least recognize the importance of proving that Jesus died on the cross. I'd like to see evidence for this failure.
    ================

    Response:

    Fair enough. I will argue for this point tonight.

    A serious case for the death of Jesus will provide both prognostic and diagnostic evidence of death.

    Prognostic evidence would consist largely of (a) historical claims about various wounds and injuries inflicted on Jesus just prior to and during the crucifixion, (b) historical evidence and arguments for those claims, (c) medical claims about those alleged wounds and injuries, and (d) medical evidence and arguments for the medical claims.

    Since (b) will generally involve citing passages from the Gospels, we also need some exposition of the passages, including consideration of any relevant textual issues, translation issues, interpretation issues, and historical issues (such as: Was the author of the gospel an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry? Was the author of the gospel an eyewitness of the event in question? Is the gospel historically reliable in general? Is the gospel historically reliable in terms of the details of its passion narrative? Is the particular event and details surrounding it in that Gospel consistent with other Gospel accounts of the passion? Are there theological or ideological biases or beliefs of the author that might have led to a distortion or the imaginative construction of the event in question? Are there passages in the OT or other avaialable literary sources that may have shaped the Gospel passage in view? etc.)

    Diagnostic evidence of death would largely be concerned with observational facts that are symptoms or indications of death, such as the cessation of breathing, bodily movement, and reactions to painful stimuli (such as a spear wound, for example).

    Such evidence would also require references to Gospel passages (and all of the analysis and evaluation that the proper use of the Gospels as historical sources requires), as well as to facts and theories of modern medical science.

    I believe Swinburne only devotes a couple of pages to the swoon theory, and makes no serious attempt to prove that Jesus died on the cross.

    But I will review his book on the resurrection tonight, to see how accurate my memory is on these points.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Here is an outline of what I would expect a serious case for the death of Jesus would cover:

    I. Prognostic Evidence of Death
    1. Jesus was beaten while under arrest
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    2. A crown of thorns was put on Jesus' head
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    3. Jesus was scourged before being crucified
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    4. Nails were often used in crucifixion
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    5. How crucifixion causes death
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    6. Nails were used to secure Jesus' arms to the cross
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    7. Nails were used to secure Jesus' feet to the cross
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    8. Jesus hung from the cross for nearly 8 hours (9am to 5pm)
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    9. A spear was thrust into Jesus side
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    10. Conclusion based on prognostic evidence of death
    A. historical conclusions
    B. medical conclusion
    C. medical evidence/argument

    II. Diagnostic Evidence of Death
    1. Jesus stopped breathing.
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    2. Jesus stopped moving.
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    3. Jesus stopped responding to painful stimuli.
    A. historical claim
    B. historical evidence
    C. medical claim
    D. medical evidence
    4. Conclusion based on diagnostic evidence of death
    A. historical conclusions
    B. medical conclusion
    C. medical evidence/argument

    III. Overall conclusion based on combination of prognostic and diagnostic evidence of death.
    A. historical conclusions
    B. medical conclusion
    C. medical evidence/argument

    It would be difficult to cover all of these topics in less than 100 pages, and a thorough job would probably require about 200 pages.

    Since Swinburne's book defending the resurrection is about 200 pages, and since a good portion of it is not concerned with the death of Jesus, I can conclude without any examination of the contents that Swinburne has not made a thorough case for Jesus' death.

    I will crack the book open for a bit, though, to make a more precise evaluation on this point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    To avoid following in the footsteps of William Craig's complete failure to prove the resurrection, Swinburne would have to devote at least two or three chapters to establishing the death of Jesus.

    Swinburne, however, has not devoted even one single chapter to showing that Jesus died on the cross.

    In fact, Swinburne has followed Craig almost to the letter, and devoted less than one page to the issue of Jesus death: the bottom half of page 174 and a couple of sentences at the top of page 175 (in The Resurrection of God Incarnate).

    Swinburne's book on the resurrection of Jesus may well be the best book ever written on this subject, but his case for the resurrection, like the case by William Craig, is a complete failure, because he has not made any serious attempt to show that Jesus died on the cross.

    My memory is apparently working just fine.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    To Swinburne's credit, he does have a chapter on "Historical Sources", but this chapter is only 13 pages.

    I'm sure Swinburne packs a lot into those 13 pages, but it is absurd to think he could make a strong case for the reliability of the Gospel accounts of the trials and crucifixion and burial of Jesus in just 13 pages, especially in terms of the sorts of details required to support medical conclusions about the likelihood of Jesus dying as a result of various wounds and injuries.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Bradley — Regarding your outline, I agree that each and every point in your outline is or could be relevant to the historicity of Jesus' crucifixion. I also am unconvinced that it is necessary for a historian to consider each item in your outline.

    Allow me to explain.

    Let B be our background information; E be the evidence to be explained; and C be the crucifixion hypothesis.

    Some of the items in your list clearly fall into B (e.g., I.4.A – I.5.D), while others fall into E.

    My hunch is that we offer a precise definition of C, i.e., the crucifixion hypothesis, it will become clear that every item in your outline will fall into one of the following categories:

    * C entails the item in question
    * C does not entail the item in question, but C increases its probability
    * The item is irrelevant to C.

    I agree with you that it is acceptable to take any historical claim and divide it into sub-claims. Your comments, however, suggest to me that you seem to think a successful defense of C must necessarily include such a division, followed by a defense of each individual claim.

    It's not obvious why that is true. In fact, it seems to me that is clearly false. Consider any hypothesis H that can be partitioned into two or more sub-hypotheses, e.g., H1, …, Hn where n>=2. It seems to me that both proponents and critics can mount "generic" arguments for/against H and/or "specific" arguments against any of the sub-hypotheses. In other words, it seems to me there is no reason why, in principle, a proponent of H must necessarily and explicitly offer a detailed defense of each of H's sub-hypotheses.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Bradley wrote:

    Swinburne's book on the resurrection of Jesus may well be the best book ever written on this subject, but his case for the resurrection, like the case by William Craig, is a complete failure, because he has not made any serious attempt to show that Jesus died on the cross.

    I think this is a remarkable conclusion. In its logical form, we have:

    (1) Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus requires that Jesus died from the crucifixion.
    (2) Swinburne devotes less than one page to the issue of Jesus' death in _The Resurrection of God Incarnate_.
    (3) Therefore, Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus is a failure.

    This argument clearly fails as both a deductive argument and an inductive argument. It fails as a deductive argument because it's invalid. It fails as an inductive argument because its premises fail to make the conclusin probable, for the reason I outlined in my last comment. It seems to me impossible to draw any conclusions about the success of Swinburne's argument for the resurrection of Jesus based solely on the number of pages devoted explicitly and exclusively to that topic.

    What matters is not the quantity of pages but the quality of his arguments. Does he merely presuppose the historicity of the crucifixion or does he present an argument or evidence in support? If he presents an argument or evidence in support, what is your objection?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    In addition to a Bayesian argument for the historicity of Jesus' crucifixion, one can also easily formulate a different kind of inductive argument known as the statistical syllogism. Here is the general form of the statistical syllogism.

    (1) Z percent of F are G.
    (2) X is F.
    (3) Things that are F bear such-and-such relevance to property G.
    (4) Therefore, x is G.

    The statistical syllogism is invalid (i.e., it fails as a deductive argument), but is inductively correct (i.e., it succeeds as an inductive argument).

    A special version of the statistical syllogism is the appeal to reliable authority.

    (1) x is a reliability authority concerning p.
    (2) x asserts p.
    (3) Therefore, p.

    The appeal to reliability authority is inductively correct if there are no other authorities who are equally competent disagree.

    Here is a statistical syllogism for the historicity of the crucifixion of Jesus.

    (1) Tacitus is a generally reliable historian concerning the topics he wrote about.
    (2) Tacitus asserted that Jesus died by crucifixion.
    (3) Therefore, [probably] Jesus died by crucifixion.

    Note there are no equally reliable, contemporary historians who deny that Jesus died by crucifixion. Therefore, it appears the above statistical syllogism is inductively correct.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Bradley wrote:

    Swinburne's book on the resurrection of Jesus may well be the best book ever written on this subject, …

    For what it's worth, I believe that the McGrews' chapter on the resurrection of Jesus is the best defense of the resurrection of Jesus now available. It's not a book, but even so I think it is superior to Swinburne's defense of the resurrection (which I consider very sophisticated).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    NT Wright's defense of the resurrection is considered by most Christian scholars to be the best defense of the resurrection. Mike Licona's book is probably up there as well. Put them together and that's all you need to defend it, if it can be defended at all. Between them they cover all the relevant issues.

    This is an interesting exercise. I like it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    John W. Loftus said…

    NT Wright's defense of the resurrection is considered by most Christian scholars to be the best defense of the resurrection.
    =======

    Response:

    OK, but what do you think? What do you see as the merits of NT Wright's defense of the resurrection? I don't understand why anyone is impressed with his case for the resurrection. But I'm open to beign enlightened on this point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said…

    I agree with you that it is acceptable to take any historical claim and divide it into sub-claims. Your comments, however, suggest to me that you seem to think a successful defense of C must necessarily include such a division, followed by a defense of each individual claim.

    ===========
    Response:

    Thank you for the thoughtful criticisms. I appreciate your skepticism about my skepticism.

    I don't think I'm making the general assumption that you are attributing to me.

    I think my judgement on this issue is more contextually bound. Let me try to explain, and you tell me if this affects the relevance of your objection.

    Ordinarily, if someone made a modern claim that 'X rose from the dead' (e.g. Elvis rose from the dead), we would ask for strong medical proof of that person's death. A death certificate, for example, would not be sufficient evidence of death in such a case. We would demand photographs, blood samples, EKG printouts, autopsy notes, etc.

    And we would demand first-hand, eyewitness testimony of professional EMTs and doctors about the facts that support the prognosis and diagnosis of death.

    Obviously, no such modern medical evidence is possible in the case of Jesus' alleged death.

    So, given that the sort of clear scientific medical data that we would ordinarily require to establish death (in the case of a modern resurrection claim) is unavailable in the case of Jesus, then I think Christian apologists have to pull out all the stops and use every scrap of data available to try to make a strong case for Jesus' death.

    I think the data available just won't be able to come anywhere near the strength of modern scientific medical data, and thus cannot achieve the level of strength required to establish a resurrection claim.

    In any case, if there is any chance of proving that Jesus died on the cross on Friday and was alive again on Sunday, then no skimping or shortcuts or half-measures will suffice. Every tiny morsel of fact that might provide a bit of support for the death of Jesus will need to be milked for all it is worth.

    Am I still making some general assumption about always having to sub-divide any historical hypothesis into smaller elements? Or am I making a reasonable judgement based on the particular context involved in this specific historical issue?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said..

    (1) Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus requires that Jesus died from the crucifixion.
    (2) Swinburne devotes less than one page to the issue of Jesus' death in _The Resurrection of God Incarnate_.
    (3) Therefore, Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus is a failure.

    This argument clearly fails as both a deductive argument and an inductive argument. It fails as a deductive argument because it's invalid.
    =============
    Response:

    I was not trying to carefully formulate an argument, but will gladly make the attempt now:

    1. Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus fails unless
    his case proves that Jesus died on the cross.
    2. Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus does not prove that Jesus died on the cross.
    Therefore,
    3. Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus fails.

    Here is a sub-argument for premise (2):

    4. In order to prove that Jesus died on the cross, one would need to write at least 200 pages on that issue.
    5. Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus has two orders of magnitude fewer pages than 200 (i.e. far less than 200 pages).
    Therefore:
    2. Swinburne's case for the resurrection of Jesus does not prove that Jesus died on the cross.

    If you like I would be happy to put these arguments into symbolic logic form. But they look like valid deductive arguments to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    John Loftus wrote:

    NT Wright's defense of the resurrection is considered by most Christian scholars to be the best defense of the resurrection.

    That may or may not be true. If I remember correctly, the primary accomplishment of Wright's book on the resurrection is a defense of the bodily nature of Jesus' resurrection and a refutation of rival theories of resurrection (such as so-called 'spiritual' resurrection). To be sure, Wright does address much more than this. I do not remember him saying much about the historicity of the empty tomb or the crucifixion.

    I still think the McGrews provide a much stronger defense of the crucifixion than Swinburne, Craig, Geisler, or (probably) Wright. I look forward to reading your comments about the McGrews' argument.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    I was just sharing what I perceive to be the two books that Christians refer to in defense of the resurrection. James Sennett said NT Wright demolished my arguments against the resurrection of Jesus in a review he wrote of my book WIBA, and left it at that. End of story for him because I had not dealt with Wright. In my second edition I am doing so, at least minimally, since it's such a huge book.

    I have no intention of wading through McGrews chapter. I have the ebook Bradley, if you want it, just email me for it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    John Loftus said…

    I have the ebook Bradley, if you want it, just email me for it.
    ==================
    Response:

    You have the ebook version of (?)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said…

    For what it's worth, I believe that the McGrews' chapter on the resurrection of Jesus is the best defense of the resurrection of Jesus now available.
    ==============
    Response:

    Thank you for this recommendation and the link to the article. I was unaware of that article. It looks interesting and I will study it carefully before attempting to build a 'best-possible' case for the resurrection.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    A qualification to my criticism of Craig…

    In his book Apologetics: An Introduction(Moody Press:1984), Craig does have a chapter on 'The Problem of Miracles' and a chapter on 'The Problem of Historical Knowledge' which could serve as part of the necessary background for an historical case for the death of Jesus.

    More importantly, in his book Reasonable Faith(revised ed., Crossway Books:1994), he has a chapter (written by Craig Blomberg) on 'The Historical Reliability of the New Testament', which would serve as an introductory part of an historical case for the death of Jesus on the cross. (Reasonable Faith is an update of the book Apologetics).

    Nevertheless, the specific discussion of the death of Jesus in these two books consists of less than one page of text which raises three objections to the Apparent Death theory (as opposed to making a positive case for Jesus' death) on p.192 of Apologetics and p.279 of Reasonable Faith.

    Those very brief passages are completely fact free. There is no historical evidence or medical evidence provided, not even in a footnote. We just get completely unsupported assertions; Craig does not even provide a single chapter and verse reference to a Gospel passage.

    Thus Craig's argument for Jesus' death falls below the very low standards set by Jack Chick Gospel tracts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13565890121197051580 John W. Loftus

    The Blackwell Companion

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    John -
    Thanks for the offer. I can manage the 40 bucks for the paperback version, and Jeff gave a link to the resurrection article, so I'm good.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04357647201205151852 Thomas

    Bradley writes about Swinburne that he uses the existence of God to "use that probability as the basis for a case for the probability of the resurrection."

    In other words, if God exists, He would have interest, so to speak, in providing a miracle, taking on flesh to connect to humanity, and for atonement, etc.

    I can see how this argument is so persuasive, but I don’t understand why skeptics don’t attack it from one of its major weaknesses: namely, its paucity of biblical support.

    In other words, Christians do not believe in the resurrection as an event detached from Jesus’ claims, or from the existence of YHWH, or the entire Hebrew Bible (the NT, of course, was not written at the time).

    In essence, Christians do not believe that, prior to Jesus, philosophy was the means to identify God's will (ie. would god do this, or would god do that). Rather, God's will could be found only in the Hebrew Bible.

    So while, from a perspective of abstract theology or philosophy, the concept of God needing to become flesh in order to identify with humanity, and to achieve atonement, is persuasive, it misses the point that the Hebrew Bible – which the New Testament quotes extensively from, which Jesus uses to support his messianic claims, and which Christians believe describes spiritual reality, precludes these beliefs.

    In other words, Christianity does not rely on abstract theology or philosophy to support its contention that God needed to make himself human in order to provide atonement, it relies on the Hebrew Bible. That is where original sin, the identity and role of the messiah, and the nature of God, is described (in the mind of Christians, at least).

    So the point is that- it is less relevant what philosophical reasons or rationales God may have for wanting to become human in order to atone, the question is: does the bible itself (ie. The Old Testament) teach it? After all, Christians believe that before Jesus walked the earth, God had vested His Truth in the Hebrew Bible.

    So if in these pages of scripture, God’s central theological teachings oppose Christian theology, that would effectively preclude the theological claims of Christianity.

    In other words, if God in the Hebrew bible already taught a full theological groundwork that excluded the claims of Christianity, Christians would have to recognize that whatever support their arguments may have in philosophy, if God himself said precisely the opposite in the Hebrew Scriptures, then they have a serious problem.

    As an example- Jesus’ resurrection alone cannot validate any of his theological claims for the simple reason that Christians themselves would recognize the ‘Word of God’ in Deut 13 explains that false prophets who lead the people to false gods can indeed be vested with the ability to perform miracles to test the people. Now, if Jesus was leading the people to himself as god, and that does classify as a ‘foreign god’ to Israel, that would certainly deem irrelevant his resurrection. Christians, of course, do not believe Jesus was a ‘foreign’ god, but the point remains: the miracle by itself does not, and cannot, validate the message. It can only be validated if it is consistent with the existing ‘revelation’ from God in the Hebrew Scriptures, which Christians believe encapsulated the entirety of divine teaching prior to Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13609656346736636990 Luke Talley

    I believe some others have already stated this, but I do not see how you can afford to leave N.T. Wright's publications on the Resurrection out of your consideration. Indeed, many Christian scholars would point a skeptic who was interested in studying about the Resurrection towards N.T. Wright's stuff. He would probably deserve a one or two spot on your consideration.

    Also, regarding Craig, why do you think Craig does not devote much time to the actual death of Christ? Might it be because he holds it as an assumption like many others do? Is your question really one that has already been dealt with?


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