Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 5

In 1976, the Christian philosopher Norman Geisler published a book titled: Christian Apologetics (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan). In Chapter 17, Geisler argues for “The deity and authority of Jesus Christ”. A portion of that chapter is devoted to Geisler’s case for the resurrection of Jesus.

In my view it is ridiculous to the point of being pathetic, that Geisler thinks he can prove the resurrection of Jesus in just 5.3 pages (p. 346 – 351). I would expect such a case for the resurrection from the brain-dead Christian propagandist Jack Chick, but not from a professional philosopher whose job it is to develop a rational case for the truth of Christianity (I wish I could get a full-time job defending atheism and naturalism!). Furthermore, Geisler wastes 1.3 pages on a discussion of the idea that the resurrection of Jesus was foretold in the Old Testament as well as by Jesus himself. So he provides only 4 pages of discussion about historical evidence for the resurrection.

As ridiculous and pathetic as Geisler’s case may be, he manages to outdo both Craig and Swinburne on two very important points. First, he correctly recognizes the burden of proof that Christian apologists bear on this issue:

Before it can be established that Jesus really rose from the grave it must be established that he actually died. (Christian Apologetics, p.347)

Second, in just one page of text, Geisler lays out nine different points in support of the claim that ‘Jesus died on the cross’ (Christian Apologetics, p.347-348), and he even points to some historical data to back up most of his points (i.e. NT references to Gospel passages).

In that one page of argumentation, Geisler does a more thourough job of supporting this essential claim than Swinburne does in his 200-page case for the resurrection (The Resurrection of God Incarnate, 2003) and than Craig does in his 400-page case for the resurrection (Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, 1989). Swinburne writes less than one page on the death of Jesus in a microscopic refutation of the Apparent Death theory (ROGI, p.174-175). Craig does not even bother to write a paragraph in support of the claim that ‘Jesus died on the cross’ in his case for the resurrection. Craig does slightly better in his popular presentation of the case for the resurrection, The Son Rises, 1981, where he devotes a whopping 3.5 pages to a ‘refutation’ of the Apparent Death theory (TSR, p.36-40). You will find those pages to be completely fact free. Craig does not even bother to provide NT references to support his historical assumptions.

Because William Craig and Richard Swinburne fail to take seriously their burden of proof to show that Jesus actually died on the cross, their cases for the resurrection fail completely. They may be brilliant and sophisticated thinkers who have made significant contributions to the discussion of this isssue, but both of their cases for the resurrection have a big gaping hole in them. A hole in the shape of a cross.

In my view, an adequate case for the death of Jesus on the cross would require carefully addressing a dozen or more historical questions, which would require use of historical data from the Gospels, and thus a lengthy discussion of the reliability of the Gospels, and of the historical reliability of the passion narratives. Also, death is a medical issue, and so there would need to be a discussion of the medical claims concerning Jesus’s wounds and injuries and how crucifixion causes death. The medical claims would need to be defended in terms of both historical claims that they are based upon, and medical facts and theories that are used in order to draw various medical conclusions. So, a thorough and careful discussion of such issues would require about 200 pages, if not more. You could hardly even touch upon all of the significant issues on the crucifixion and death of Jesus in less than 100 pages.

So, Geisler is to be commended for recognizing and accepting the burden of proof to show that Jesus actually died on the cross. But, other than Gary Habermas, no Christian apologist (that I’m aware of) has made a serious attempt to build a case for the death of Jesus.

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    I'll bet if you wrote an entire book on this, with the subtitle, 'An Atheist Defends the Resurrection of Jesus' (or somesuch), it would be published, because the fact that an atheist is defending the resurrection would be just the 'hook' publishers are looking for.

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

    Great idea Chris!

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

    A second book could be titled:
    "A Theist Refutes the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus".

    I could work from the supposition of Swinburne's claim that the probability of the existence of God is 50/50, and build a case AGAINST the resurrection from that starting point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    I think the more explicit 'A Christian Refutes the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus' would have greater shock/puzzlement value. I can imagine many people flipping through that one in the bookstore.

    They could be interesting thought experiments, which could both be equally useful to each side….

    One issue I can see is the conflict between readability for a general audience (attracted by the hook) vs. philosophical stringency and historical thoroughness/completeness. But that's probably always an issue in these endeavors.

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

    I am sorry. This is just a joke, There are virtually no NT scholars that doubt the death of Jesus on the cross. This is ridiculous. The historicity of the Gospels qua historical record is established (sans the supernatural). But that Jesus died and his followers believed him to have been resurrected is established as historical fact. You are arguing for what has been called the historical equivalent ofthe flat earth theory.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03125711244980154445 Bradley C.

    I think the above commenter is the perfect example of the typical argument for the death of Jesus. Whenever I have suggested that the case for his death isn't very well established, an argument from scholarly consensus is typically made to dismiss any actual points I may have made.

    It seems to me that many secular historians probably accept the death of Jesus on the cross because they deem the evidence for that to be better than the evidence that he was alive again, not due to some absolute datum against which we deem whether or not things are historical.

    Unfortunately, the evidence is spotty enough on a number accounts that we can't be very certain of any hypothesis we may deem as likely. It's hard to think that survival would be a less likely hypothesis than resurrection is, given what we know about history and medicine.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03125711244980154445 Bradley C.

    One more thing. Another typical argument I hear for the death of Jesus is that the disciples wouldn't have worshipped Jesus as the Son of God if he had been in the bad shape he supposedly would have been in after surviving a crucifixion.

    I find this unconvincing for a few reasons. The main one being that we have biblical evidence against it. In the book of John (regardless of how historic the book is) we see that it is Jesus' wounds that prove that he really was the same Jesus that was crucified to Thomas. Whoever wrote the book of John obviously didn't think that Jesus had to be completely healed in order for him to be resurrected. I see no reason the other disciples had to think differently.

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

    Chris said…

    One issue I can see is the conflict between readability for a general audience (attracted by the hook) vs. philosophical stringency and historical thoroughness/completeness. But that's probably always an issue in these endeavors.
    ==========
    Response:

    Good point. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona has a 26-page Appendix, 85 pages of notes, so I could probably do something similar and push some of the more technical stuff (like conditional probability calculations) into the back of the book.

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

    Credo In Unum Deum said…

    I am sorry. This is just a joke, There are virtually no NT scholars that doubt the death of Jesus on the cross.
    =========
    Response:

    I'm not laughing. This is not a joke. Your attitude is the same as William Craig, which is why he failed to try to prove that Jesus died on the cross. Which is why he failed to prove the resurrection.

    NT scholars are generally Christian believers, so they are not exactly the most objective group to determine this question.

    Also, the NT scholars who are not committed to the innerancy of the Gospels, and who honestly try to objectively discern between fact and fiction in the Gospels often believe that Jesus died, because they don't believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead.

    If it is false that Jesus was alive and walking around on Sunday morning, then I have no issue with the claim that he died on the cross, but if you insist that Jesus was alive and walking around on Easter Sunday (following the crucifixion) then the evidence for his death needs to be airtight, not the dubious, vague, skimpy evidence presented by the unknown authors of the Gospels.

    If careful and objective NT scholars were really convinced that Jesus was alive and walking around on Easter Sunday, then many of them, perhaps most of them, would reject the claim that Jesus died on the cross.

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

    Bradley C said…

    One more thing. Another typical argument I hear for the death of Jesus is that the disciples wouldn't have worshipped Jesus as the Son of God if he had been in the bad shape he supposedly would have been in after surviving a crucifixion.

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

    The evidence indicates that the Easter Sunday appearances are fictional.

    The first apppearances of Jesus probably took place in northern Palestine some weeks after the crucifixion. If so, then if Jesus had been crucified and survived, he would have had some time to heal up and gain some of his strength back.

    Furthermore, if they can believe that God would allow his only son (or the messiah) to be humiliated and tortured by being stripped naked and crucified, then they could certainly also swallow the idea that God would allow Jesus to suffer from a bit of weakness and pain as a result of his wounds!

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

    Actually belief in inerrancy is hard to come by even among regular believers today let alone the NT scholars. And I am using the term "scholar" strictly. I don't regard everyone that rights a book on the resurrection as a scholar. The kind of scholarship I am talking about is Liberal, Conservative, Christian, Jewish, Atheist. I am not talking about the theology faculty at Bob Jones University (hell, they can't even do theology).
    And your idea that they are weighing the likelihood that Jesus died versus being resurrected is just bad guess work. That's not what scholars do. Folks like us might… but then we're not the real intellectuals…. which is why we are here and the scholars aren't.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Bradley, I have the perfect idea for a book. Why don’t you set out to prove that Jesus didn’t die on the cross by undergoing an authentic Roman scourging, crucifixion and spear thrust to the side and then write about your experience if you survive? You could duplicate the Biblical accounts by falling on your chest with a 100 pound beam on your shoulders; wear the crown of thorns; and get mocked.

    However, you should keep in mind that you could very well die at any point of your experiment. Suetonius, Josephus and Livy all wrote that victims have died chained to the post while being scourged. Scourging was an extremely brutal and bloody process where the victim would be stretched out over a pillar and then whipped repeatedly with lashes that had pieces of bone and metal hooks which would rip and tear the victim’s flesh. Victims would often reach a state of hypovolemic shock due to loss of blood.

    Then, if you are still alive, nails can be driven into your wrists and feet, and you can test Pierre Barbet’s theory that many crucified people die of asphyxiation as their chest is hyper-expanded as you hang on the cross. Of course, Dr. C. Truman Davis believes that Jesus died of heart failure due shock and the constriction of fluid in the pericardial sac called a pericardial effusion because blood and water flowed out of Jesus’ side after he was speared. The water indicates that Jesus’ pericardial sac had burst.

    After a spear has been driven up into your side and the acting Centurion rules that you are dead you can have your body taken down from the cross and put into an authentic tomb covered by a rock which weights hundreds of pounds. If you are still alive and able to move then you can see if you can roll the rock away. Of course, it won’t be easy as you will be in horrendous shape and there are no hand holds on the stone and there is no way to push the stone from the left or right from inside the tomb.

    I’m 99.9% certain that you’ll die during your experiment, but in the 0.1% chance that I’m wrong you could show that it is possible to survive Jesus’ scourging, crucifixion and impalement! If you managed to survive and write about your tale I’m positive that your book would be number one on the NY Times Best Seller list for weeks. You could go on all the talk shows and be famous as the guy who survived crucifixion. You’re confident that you will survive to write your book right? When are you going to start this project?

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

    Keith Rozumalski said…
    Bradley, I have the perfect idea for a book. Why don’t you set out to prove that Jesus didn’t die on the cross by undergoing an authentic Roman scourging, crucifixion and spear thrust to the side and then write about your experience if you survive? You could duplicate the Biblical accounts by falling on your chest with a 100 pound beam on your shoulders; wear the crown of thorns; and get mocked.
    ============
    Response:

    Crucify yourself, buddy.

    Seriously, though, your five -paragraph comment, although having all the scholarly force of a Jack Chick track, makes a BETTER argument for the death of Jesus on the cross than the one page of text on this issue in Swinburne's 200-page case for the resurrection and a BETTER argument than the one sentence Craig writes on this issue in his book Assessing the NT Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.

    (The one page that Craig writes on this issue in his more popular book The Son Rises, however, approaches the quality of your argument above.)

    You are, of course, making a whole bunch of historical and medical assumptions that need to be argued rather than just asserted, and I am confident that if you make a serious attempt to fill out your case with real facts and data, you will discover that it ain't as easy to do as you suppose.

    But I'm willing to lend a helping hand here. Would you like to buy a book that did all the heavy lifting on this issue for you?

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

    Oops. I meant a Jack Chick tract (not "track").

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

    Credo In Unum Deum said…

    And your idea that they are weighing the likelihood that Jesus died versus being resurrected is just bad guess work. That's not what scholars do. Folks like us might… but then we're not the real intellectuals…. which is why we are here and the scholars aren't.
    ================
    Response:

    Whether or not NT scholars generally take into account the assumption that 'Jesus was alive and walking around on Easter Sunday' in making an historical judgment about the belief that 'Jesus died on the cross', it seems obvious to me that the truth of the former proposition is relevant to assessing the truth of the latter.

    Do you disagree?

    If you read a newspaper story that reported a terrible auto accident which, according to the story, resulted in the death of one of your close friends, and if you subsequently paid a visit to the home of that friend and discovered your friend to be alive and well, would you conclude that your friend had been raised from the dead, or would you conclude that the newpaper reporter had gotten the facts about the auto accident wrong?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    Christians sure love to revel in torture, don't they? Especially when they get offended. Then they rush straight into veiled threats and graphic descriptions of hellfire, etc. They love to wallow in their blood and gore.

    That reminds of a poll that showed Christians were more likely to support torture:

    http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/The-Religious-Dimensions-of-the-Torture-Debate.aspx

    Makes perfect sense, given the violence and ugliness of their mythos.

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

    Chris: ?? What is that supposed to prove? It's not an argument or even assertion, but pure ad hominem.

    Bradley: It all depends on the reliability of the eye-witnesses.

    I also don't reject a priori the possibility of miracles, though I am skeptical about all miraculous claims. One has to be open to the possibility, in principle anyway, unless one knows for certain that there is no supernatural. Now of course, it is a long way from being open to the mere possibility and being open to admitting that such and such an event might be miraculous. I am open to admitting that something might be miraculous.
    But the fact still is that believing and non-believing scholars have come to a consensus about the matter of Jesus' death… and that is worth something.

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

    Bradley: I could also ask you a similar question with reference to Plato's cave. You might not believe your friend who has actually escaped, but you would be the worse for it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03125711244980154445 Bradley C.

    Keith said "I’m 99.9% certain that you’ll die during your experiment, but in the 0.1% chance that I’m wrong you could show that it is possible to survive Jesus’ scourging, crucifixion and impalement!"

    I would have to think that if the probability was 0.1% that Jesus could have survived his crucifixion then if we had good evidence that Jesus was alive on sunday that we would be rather justified in believing he survived. Small probabilities aren't impossible. As they say, "Million to one odds happen 6 times a day in New York."

    Where do you get your probability estimate? Why do you think that particular estimate (0.1%) is less likely than a resurrection?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    Credo,

    My comment was not intended to argue for or prove anything, obviously – but it was not an ad hominem. An ad hominem is when you say, for example, 'So-and-so's defense of the Resurrection is worthless, because he is a known idiot.' So I did not commit the ad hominem fallacy – an insult is not an ad hominem.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Bradley Bowen said: Crucify yourself, buddy.

    R: Why? I’m not the one claiming that someone can survive a scourging, crucifixion and spearing and then escape out of a sealed and guarded tomb. I know that I wouldn’t survive to write about it—I know that no one could survive that. By the way, what do you think the chances are that you would survive the scourging, crucifixion and spearing and then escape the tomb?

    Bradley Bowen said: Seriously, though, your five -paragraph comment, although having all the scholarly force of a Jack Chick track, makes a BETTER argument for the death of Jesus on the cross than the one page of text on this issue in Swinburne's 200-page case for the resurrection and a BETTER argument than the one sentence Craig writes on this issue in his book Assessing the NT Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.

    R: I think you do have a good point, in that the question of whether Jesus really died on the cross has been glossed over by apologists, particularly as of late. I think more attention could be devoted to this issue. However, as you said in the opening to this series, a lot of attention from skeptics and apologists has been paid to Jesus’ Easter Sunday appearances and questioning the validity of the witnesses testimonies. I think a lot of people have assumed that it is just obvious that Jesus couldn’t have survived his scourging, crucifixion and spearing. Also, most scholars view the swoon theory as having been refuted. Gary Habermas wrote:

    The swoon theory was perhaps the most popular naturalistic theory against the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection in the early nineteenth century. But David Strauss, himself a liberal theologian, disproved this theory to the satisfaction of his fellow scholars. . . We have noted three major problems that are sufficient to refute the swoon hypothesis. The physical condition of Jesus (as advocated by Strauss), the nature of death on the cross by asphyxiation, and the study of Jesus' chest wound combine to eliminate this theory. Additionally, we witnessed the difficulties above (with Schonfield and Joyce) in the actual implementation of this view. Neither are these the only key problems. For example, this thesis cannot account for the conversions of James, the brother of Jesus, and especially Paul from their skepticism to Christianity. Therefore, it is no surprise that this hypothesis is rejected today by critics.

    Bradley Bowen said: Would you like to buy a book that did all the heavy lifting on this issue for you?

    R: I found the little bit of research I did for my short response to you and my longer (albeit not book length) blog response interesting and I’d like to learn more, but I don’t know that I’d have the time to write a book about it. What book do you speak of? I’d likely be interested in it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Bradley C said: I would have to think that if the probability was 0.1% that Jesus could have survived his crucifixion then if we had good evidence that Jesus was alive on sunday that we would be rather justified in believing he survived. Small probabilities aren't impossible. As they say, "Million to one odds happen 6 times a day in New York."

    R: If you love those odds so much then why don’t you join Bradley Bowen in the crucifixion experiment? Two Bradley’s would raise and the odds and there is a nice ring to Baradley & Bradley. What do you think the odds are that you would survive an authentic Roman scourging, crucifixion and spearing and then escape a sealed tomb?

    The swoon theory is a product of the presuppositions of naturalism. You must believe that Jesus survived an incredible amount of trauma and then a spear to the heart which caused the pericardial fluid to escape because naturalism says that there must be a natural explanation for Jesus’ postmortem appearances. Ad hoc, implausible hypotheses such as the swoon theory, mass hallucination theory and conspiracy theories must be thought up because naturalism says that there must be natural explanations for Jesus’ post mortem appearances.

    However, if you take the Kalam cosmological argument; the Leibnizian cosmological argument; the fine tuning argument; the moral argument; and ontological arguments for God’s existence together then God’s existence becomes possible. If God’s existence is possible then it is also possible that God could and would have caused the physically impossible event which is the resurrection of Jesus. If God exists then we are left with the simple explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead.

    Bradley C said: Where do you get your probability estimate?

    R: I’m saying that it is essentially impossible to survive a Roman scourging, crucifixion and spearing because all three events, taken alone, could kill you. Suetonius, Josephus and Livy all documented cases where people died during scourging.

    It is also known that the Romans killed thousands of people via crucifixion; that is was an effective execution technique. Since the Romans practiced so many crucifixions the soldiers who were in charge of crucifixions were very experienced and proficient in their grisly art. Even though the Centurion who presided over Jesus’ crucifixion was not a modern MD I think he would have been experienced and disciplined enough to successfully execute Jesus.

    I think it is pretty obvious that having a spear thrust up into your body is very grave experience. Since blood and water flowed out of the hole in Jesus’ side, indicating that his pericardial sac had burst and the fluid escaped, we can say that if Jesus was still alive then this would have been the coup de grâce that would almost certainly kill anyone instantly.

    When you combine all three events I don’t see how anyone could survive such extreme trauma. Jesus would have lost a massive amount of blood and certainly would have been in shock early on in his punishment. The human body can only endure so much torture. When you combine all three events with the fact that Jesus would have to escape from a sealed tomb that is guarded by Roman soldiers and you are as close to impossible as you can come. Even if Jesus would have been alive (which is a huge if) then he would have been in horrendous shape and not been able to roll the stone away from the tomb. This is a feat that is nearly impossible for a strong, healthy man as there are no hand holds on the stone and there is no way to push the stone from the left or right from inside the tomb. You could say that Jesus had help, but then your explanation becomes more ad hoc and implausible.

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

    Keith Rozumalski said…

    I think you do have a good point, in that the question of whether Jesus really died on the cross has been glossed over by apologists, particularly as of late. I think more attention could be devoted to this issue. However, as you said in the opening to this series, a lot of attention from skeptics and apologists has been paid to Jesus’ Easter Sunday appearances and questioning the validity of the witnesses testimonies. I think a lot of people have assumed that it is just obvious that Jesus couldn’t have survived his scourging, crucifixion and spearing. Also, most scholars view the swoon theory as having been refuted.

    ============

    Response:

    Many people have "assumed that is it just obvious that Jesus couldn't have survived his scourging, crucifixion, and spearing." But, of course, such an assumption is not generally based on careful examination of the relevant historical and medical data.

    People make this assumption on the basis of social conditioning and cultural imagery, such as paintings of the crucifixion of Jesus, and movies of the crucifixion, and such a Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ. But social conditioning and cultural imagery are highly unreliable sources of ancient history, not to mention of medical facts.

    Here are some historical and medical questions that need to be carefully and objectively investigated: Was Jesus scourged prior to being crucified? If so, what sort of implement was used? How many times was he struck? What sort of wounds or injuries resulted from this? Were nails used to fasten Jesus' arms to the cross? Were nails used to fasten his feet to the cross? How long did Jesus hang from the cross? How long did crucified people usually take to die? How does crucifixion cause death? Was Jesus injured with a spear or sword while on the cross? What was the specific weapon used? Was the intention to poke Jesus to see if he would react to painful stimuli or was the intent to inflict a fatal wound on Jesus? Where on Jesus' body was the wound inflicted? How deep was the wound? Was Jesus stabbed in the heart? How did the Roman soldiers determine that Jesus was dead?

    NT scholars do generally view the Swoon Theory as having been refuted, but (a) NT scholars are generally Christian believers, so they are not the most objective group on this issue, (b) NT scholars are not all historians (some focus on theology, some focus on ancient Greek, some focus on textual criticism, some focus on epistles rather than the Gospels), (c) very few NT scholars are medical doctors, so NT scholars as a group are not any more qualified to make medical judgments than you or I are.

    The supposed 'refutation' of the Swoon Theory was primarily the work of David Friedrich Strauss (in The Life of Jesus For the People).

    I'm familiar with Strauss' critique of the Swoon Theory, and I know that both he and Gary Habermas make serveral historical assumptions that are open to reasonable doubt.

    Strauss was not really trying to refute the Swoon Theory, but to show that it, like other naturalistic explanations of his day, does NOT fit with all of the details in the Gospels and Acts. His point was that IF one accepts the Gospels as historically reliable accounts, THEN the Swoon Theory must be rejected.

    But many NT and Jesus scholars no longer view the Gospels as historically reliable accounts, so the 'refutation' of the Swoon Theory by Strauss, no longer works, or it is at least open to serious and reasonable doubt.

    In fact, Strauss was arguing that the Gospels were NOT historically realiable accounts, so he himself would have many of the same doubts that I have about the details of the crucifixion of Jesus.

    Most people, including most NT scholars, just don't look into this issue carefully and objectively.

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

    Keith Rozumalski said…

    I think a lot of people have assumed that it is just obvious that Jesus couldn’t have survived his scourging, crucifixion and spearing.
    =====

    Keith – Have you read Raymond Brown's discussion of the cause of Jesus' death in Volume 2 of The Death of the Messiah? I recommend that you study p.1088-1092.

    Here are a couple of quotes from that section:

    "Often the medical writers [who analyze the crucifixion and death of Jesus] have expressed their conclusions without recognizing that any or all of these features [details of the Passion narratives] might embody theological symbolism rather than historical description." (p.1089)

    "In my judgment the major defect of most of the studies I have reported on thus far[on the medical cause of Jesus' death] is that they were written by doctors who did not stick to their trade and let a literalist understanding of the Gospel accounts influence their judgments on the physical cause of the death of Jesus. There is no evidence that the evangelists personally knew anything about the matter, and discusssion of it could better be carried on simply by employing the best of medical knowledge to determine how any crucified person is likely to have died (and not citing biblical detail in confirmation)."

    In other words, this leading NT scholar who wrote the most thorough and in-depth modern commentary on the Passion narratives, advises us to view the details of the crucifixion of Jesus with skepticsm, and not base medical conclusions about the death of Jesus on those details.

    If one accepts Brown's advice, then the alleged 'refutation' of the Swoon Theory by Strauss and by Habermas, goes out the window.

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

    Keith Rozumalski said…

    The swoon theory is a product of the presuppositions of naturalism. You must believe that Jesus survived an incredible amount of trauma and then a spear to the heart which caused the pericardial fluid to escape because naturalism says that there must be a natural explanation for Jesus’ postmortem appearances.
    ==============

    Response:

    You have the burden of proof to show that Jesus died on the cross, in order to show that Jesus rose from the dead.

    Part of your case is an historical claim:

    (1)Jesus was stabbed with a spear that pierced his heart.

    You cannot simply assume this historical claim to be true; you must show it to be true. What is your historical evidence for (1)?

    a. How do you know that Jesus was stabbed at all while on the cross?

    b. How do you know that he was stabbed with a spear?

    c. Do you know what sort of spear was used? what kind of tip it had?

    d. How do you know that the spear was shoved deeply into Jesus side as opposed to being a poke to see if he would react to painful stimuli?

    e. How do you know that the spear pierced Jesus' heart?

    Finally(this should be an easy question to answer)…

    f. How do you know that piercing Jesus' heart would ensure his death?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Bradley Bowen said: Here are some historical and medical questions that need to be carefully and objectively investigated: Was Jesus scourged prior to being crucified? If so, what sort of implement was used? How many times was he struck? What sort of wounds or injuries resulted from this? Were nails used to fasten Jesus' arms to the cross? Were nails used to fasten his feet to the cross? How long did Jesus hang from the cross? How long did crucified people usually take to die? How does crucifixion cause death? Was Jesus injured with a spear or sword while on the cross? What was the specific weapon used? Was the intention to poke Jesus to see if he would react to painful stimuli or was the intent to inflict a fatal wound on Jesus? Where on Jesus' body was the wound inflicted? How deep was the wound? Was Jesus stabbed in the heart? How did the Roman soldiers determine that Jesus was dead?

    R: Matt. 27:25, Mark 15: 15 and John 19:1 state that the Jesus was scoured or flogged before being crucified. These verses accord with historical records. In Antiquities Josephus wrote, “According to Roman custom, the penalty of crucifixion was always preceded by scourging; after this preliminary punishment, the condemned person had to carry the cross, or at least the transverse beam of it, to the place of execution, exposed to the taunts and insults of the people.” Wikipedia says, “In the Roman Empire, flagellation was often used as a prelude to crucifixion, and in this context is sometimes referred to as scourging. Whips with small pieces of metal or bone at the tips were commonly used. Such a device could easily cause disfigurement and serious trauma, such as ripping pieces of flesh from the body or loss of an eye. In addition to causing severe pain, the victim would approach a state of hypovolemic shock due to loss of blood.” We also know that Suetonius, Josephus, Cicero and Livy all documented cases where people died during or shortly after scourging.

    As to the nails, In Antiquities Josephus wrote, “On arrival at the place of execution the criminal on his cross was lifted up. Soon the sufferer, entirely naked, was bound to it with cords. He was then fastened with nails to the wood of the cross.”

    As to how crucifixion caused death, physician Dr. C. Truman Davis wrote, “The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.” Wikipedia says, “The length of time required to reach death could range from hours to days depending on method, the victim's health, and the environment. Death could result from any combination of causes, including blood loss resulting in hypovolemic shock, sepsis following infection due to the wounds caused by the nails or by the scourging that sometimes preceded the crucifixion, or eventual dehydration.

    A theory attributed to Pierre Barbet holds that, when the whole body weight was supported by the stretched arms, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation. He conjectured that the condemned would have severe difficulty inhaling, due to hyper-expansion of the chest muscles and lungs. The condemned would therefore have to draw himself up by his arms, leading to exhaustion, or have his feet supported by tying or by a wood block. When no longer able to lift himself, the condemned would die within a few minutes.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    As to the spearing, John 19:31-35 says, “Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” This accords with what the South African Medical Journal wrote in "The history and pathology of crucifixion." They wrote, "The attending Roman guards could only leave the site after the victim had died, and were known to precipitate death by means of deliberate fracturing of the tibia and/or fibula, spear stab wounds into the heart, sharp blows to the front of the chest, or a smoking fire built at the foot of the cross to asphyxiate the victim."

    Since John 19:34 says that a spear was used we can infer that the Roman hasta (or spear) was used. Wikipedia says, “Hastae were carried by early Roman Legionaries, in particular they were carried by and gave their name to those Roman soldiers known as Hastati… As opposed to the pilum, verutum or lancea, the hasta was not thrown but used for thrusting… A hasta was about six and one-half feet (2 m) in length with a shaft generally made from ash, while the head was of iron.”

    Since John 19:34 says that Jesus’ side was pierced and that blood and water flowed out of the wound we know that the wound was more that the guard stabbed him and didn’t just poke him. Since blood and water flowed out this would indicate that the pericardial sac had bust and the fluid flowed out of Jesus’ wound. Dr. C. Truman Davis writes, “Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, ‘And immediately there came out blood and water.’ Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.” The fact that John, almost certainly, didn’t have advanced knowledge of anatomy and physiology means that wouldn’t have known the significance of the water flowing out of Jesus side and so wouldn’t have reason to fabricate this claim to convince readers that Jesus’ heart was pierced.

    I’m not sure how the guards determined death. We do know that the Romans crucified thousands of people and the guards would have been very experienced and disciplined. They could be counted on to get the job done.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Bradley Bowen said: NT scholars do generally view the Swoon Theory as having been refuted, but (a) NT scholars are generally Christian believers, so they are not the most objective group on this issue, (b) NT scholars are not all historians (some focus on theology, some focus on ancient Greek, some focus on textual criticism, some focus on epistles rather than the Gospels), (c) very few NT scholars are medical doctors, so NT scholars as a group are not any more qualified to make medical judgments than you or I are.

    Point (a) is a circumstantial ad hominem fallacy—the beliefs of NT scholars do not necessarily mean that aren’t capable of studying the crucifixion text. Couldn’t I just as fallaciously say that since you are an atheist/naturalist you are biased against the Bible and therefore your arguments should be discredited?

    Secondly, medical doctors such as Dr. C. Truman Davis have evaluated the accounts of the scourging, crucifixion and spearing of Jesus and concluded that he died on the cross.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Bradley Bowen said: In other words, this leading NT scholar who wrote the most thorough and in-depth modern commentary on the Passion narratives, advises us to view the details of the crucifixion of Jesus with skepticsm, and not base medical conclusions about the death of Jesus on those details.

    R: Why should we view the passion accounts as theological symbolism rather than historical description? The passion accounts accord with historical data. We know that crucifixions were common in Roman territory. We also know that “the half death” know as scourging was common before the crucifixion of non-Roman citizens. We also know that it wasn’t uncommon for the Roman guards to hurry the deaths of people by braking legs and stabbing. There is nothing unusual in the Gospel passion accounts of scourging, crucifixion and spearing.

    In fact the accounts accord with what Tacitus writes in his history. He wrote:

    Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

    Tacitus’ mentions Tiberius and Pontius Pilatus who were both mentioned as having a role in the Gospel passion accounts. The extreme penalty is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. Tacitus also mentions that being nailed to the cross was one of the punishments for Christians at that time.

    The Gospel accounts also accord with what Josephus’ history. He wrote, “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.” Josephus’ account validates the Gospel accounts that say that Jesus was crucified by Pilate.
    Since the Gospel passion accounts accord with historical data I think that we can take them as literal. I don’t see any reason why we have to view the scourging, crucifixion and spearing as non-literal events. Since the Gospel passion accounts can be taken literally the medical analyses that say that Jesus died on the cross after sustaining a massive amount of trauma can stand.
    Even if Jesus could survive his ordeal how could he escape a sealed and guarded tomb while he was in horrendous condition? Supposing that Jesus somehow survived the scourging, crucifixion and spearing and was in serious or critical condition, how could he survive three days without medical care?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Bradley Bowen said: Part of your case is an historical claim:

    (1)Jesus was stabbed with a spear that pierced his heart.

    You cannot simply assume this historical claim to be true; you must show it to be true. What is your historical evidence for (1)?

    a. How do you know that Jesus was stabbed at all while on the cross?

    b. How do you know that he was stabbed with a spear?

    c. Do you know what sort of spear was used? what kind of tip it had?

    d. How do you know that the spear was shoved deeply into Jesus side as opposed to being a poke to see if he would react to painful stimuli?

    e. How do you know that the spear pierced Jesus' heart?

    Finally(this should be an easy question to answer)…

    f. How do you know that piercing Jesus' heart would ensure his death?

    R: a. John 19:31-34 says, “Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” The text says the soldiers were to break Jesus legs so he could be taken down, but it was determined that he was already dead so they stabbed him in the side with a spear.

    This accords with what the South African Medical Journal wrote in "The history and pathology of crucifixion." They wrote, "The attending Roman guards could only leave the site after the victim had died, and were known to precipitate death by means of deliberate fracturing of the tibia and/or fibula, spear stab wounds into the heart, sharp blows to the front of the chest, or a smoking fire built at the foot of the cross to asphyxiate the victim."

    b. John 19:34 says that Jesus was stabbed with a spear. This accords with "The history and pathology of crucifixion" claim that Roman soldiers sometimes stabbed crucifixion victims in the heart.

    c. We can infer that the Roman hasta (or spear) was used. Wikipedia says, “Hastae were carried by early Roman Legionaries, in particular they were carried by and gave their name to those Roman soldiers known as Hastati… As opposed to the pilum, verutum or lancea, the hasta was not thrown but used for thrusting… A hasta was about six and one-half feet (2 m) in length with a shaft generally made from ash, while the head was of iron.”

    d. Since John 19:34 says that Jesus’ side was pierced and that blood and water flowed out of the wound we know that the wound was more that the guard stabbed him and didn’t just poke him. Since blood and water flowed out this would indicate that the pericardial sac had bust and the fluid flowed out of Jesus’ wound. Dr. C. Truman Davis writes, “Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, ‘And immediately there came out blood and water.’ Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.”

    e. See b. and d. I would add that the heart would be an obvious target for the Roman soldier. They would want to ensure the coup de grâce so that they wouldn’t be punished for failing to execute their prisoner.

    f. Yes, I think it’s pretty obvious that a pieced heart would be quite fatal.

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

    Hey Bradley,

    You may have spoke more pointedly towards this question elsewhere, but I would be curious to hear your answer to this question. Personally, how convinced are you that Jesus actually died on the cross? If you had to give a percentage, what would it be? 70%? 35%? I was just trying to see how skeptical you were on this issue.

    If I am recalling correctly, Lee Strobel spent a considerable space in his book, The Case for Christ, to address the death of Christ from a medical perspective. I wish I could recall who he interviewed, but I remember that it was a doctor who was specialized in the area of this topic. You may have read the book and know what I am talking about.

    Maybe you have listed this elsewhere, but what would be the top three bits of evidence that would convince you that Jesus actually was not killed?

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

    Keith – Thank you for your detailed points about the crucifixion of Jesus.

    I will not address your points right now, but they will soon become more pressing, as I continue to develop my skeptical argument against the resurrection (esp. in Parts 11-and on, where I will make the supposition that Jesus was alive and walking around unassistend on the first Easter Sunday).

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

    Luke Talley said…
    Hey Bradley,

    You may have spoke more pointedly towards this question elsewhere, but I would be curious to hear your answer to this question. Personally, how convinced are you that Jesus actually died on the cross? If you had to give a percentage, what would it be? 70%? 35%? I was just trying to see how skeptical you were on this issue.

    =========
    Response:

    A good question. It depends on what one thinks about the claim that Jesus was alive and walking around unassisted on the first Easter Sunday. Since I'm inclined to reject the Easter Sunday appearance stories as being fictional, I am inclinded to believe that Jesus died on the cross.

    So, assuming that I'm correct that the Easter Sunday appearance stories are fictional, I would put the probability of Jesus' death on the cross around .8 or .9. Given the fact that a number of his disiciples had a firm conviction that Jesus had been alive and walking and talking at some point after the crucifixion, I would leave open some chance that the Apparent Death Theory was correct (probability of .1 or .2).

    However, if I am incorrect in my beliefs about Easter Sunday, if I suppose that Jesus was in fact alive and walking around unassisted on the first Easter, then the probability that Jesus died on the cross drops way down.

    At most I suppose there might be a probability of .01 that Jesus died on the cross, and then came back to life shorlty after being removed from the cross, by purely natural means.

    Whatever the specific probability numbers may be, my main point is that Jesus being alive and walking around without assistance on the first Easter Sunday would be powerful evidence against the widely believed claim that Jesus died on the cross, and would dramatically reduce the probability of that claim.

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

    Luke Talley said…

    Maybe you have listed this elsewhere, but what would be the top three bits of evidence that would convince you that Jesus actually was not killed?
    ===============
    Response:

    1. If it could be proven that Jesus was alive and walking around unassisted on the first Easter Sunday.
    2. If it could be shown that the details of the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of John were historically unreliable (Only John mentions the spear wound, and only John mentions nails).
    3. If it could be shown that it was unlikely that Jesus received a severe scourging prior to being crucified.
    4. If it could be shown that the details in the Gospels concerning the trials, crucifixion, burial, and post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus were historically unreliable.

    I will start developing these sorts of points in Part 11 and beyond.

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

    Keith said…

    f. Yes, I think it’s pretty obvious that a pieced heart would be quite fatal.
    ============
    Response:

    Is it obvious because you believe that the human heart functions as a pump to circulate blood throughout the human body, and because you believe that blood carries oxygen from the lungs to cells throughout the body, including to brain cells, and that cells require oxygen in order to stay alive, and that a human being cannot stay alive if most of the cells in his/her brain die as a result of oxygen deprivation?

    Have I captured your thinking correctly on this?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Yes, the heart is vital for survival. If the heart is severely damaged then death will follow shortly. I thought it would be interesting to include some information from heartlungdoc.com about modern traumatic heart injury. This quote deals with blunt trauma, but I think works for stabbing trauma as well—interestingly enough, some people argue that Jesus received blunt force trauma to his heart when he fell with the 100 pound cross beam on top of him. Dr. Raymond L. Singer, MD, MMM, CPE, FACS says:

    One of the most serious injuries that we see to the cardiovascular system is a blunt injury to the aorta, causing it to literally tear in half. Typically the tear is located in the descending aorta, just distal to the take off of the left subclavian artery that goes to the left arm… The most common cause of this injury is from a person who is an unrestrained driver or passenger in a car, meaning that they were not wearing their seatbelt. It turns out that there is a ligament that attaches to the aorta just at the level of the left subclavian artery, thus fixing the artery at this point. In a care accident, or any deceleration injury, the part of the aorta attached to the ligament stays still while the more distal aorta continues to move thus causing tremendous stress on the artery and tearing it at this location. The mortality rate from this injury is very high. Unfortunately, most patients with this injury die at the scene of the accident. However, if the bleeding is contained, and if the patient can be rapidly transferred to a Level I Trauma Center such as Lehigh Valley Hospital, then the patient may have a chance to survive.

    Obviously traumatic heart is incredibly serious. He says that most patients die on the scene. Only patients that are rapidly transported to a modern Level 1 Trauma Center MAY survive. This certainly wasn’t the case for Jesus. Not only weren’t there modern trauma centers at that time, but Jesus wouldn’t even have had the relatively primitive medical of his day for several hours at best and days at the worst.


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