Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 10

A key claim made by Christian apologists who defend the resurrection goes like this:

(JAW) Jesus of Nazareth was alive and walking around unassisted on the first Easter Sunday.

We are considering the implications of the following supposition:

4. (JAW) is false.

On this supposition, there are three logical possibilities:

A. Jesus was not alive on the first Easter Sunday.
B. Jesus was alive on the first Easter Sunday but did not walk at all that day.
C. Jesus was alive on the first Easter Sunday but was walking only with assistance from others.


In Part 8 of this series, I argued that (C) supports a skeptical view of the resurrection. In Part 9, I argued that (B) also supports a skeptical view of the resurrection.

Now lets consider supposition (A). The most obvious way that (A) would be true, would be for Jesus to have been dead on the first Easter Sunday. Since (JAW) implies that Jesus was alive for at least a portion of the first Easter Sunday, Jesus being dead for only a portion of Sunday would not contradict (JAW). In order for Jesus being dead to contradict (JAW), he must be dead for all of Easter Sunday. This obviously seriously damages the case for the resurrection, and provides significant support for a skeptical view of the resurrection.

One could make the alternative chronological proposal that the resurrection did not take place until Monday or Tuesday following the crucifixion on Friday. That way, Jesus would be dead all day on the first Easter, but he could still rise from the dead on a later day. This would allow for (A) to be correct and for it also to be the case that Jesus rose from the dead.

But as with previously discussed chronology changes, this move would undermine the historical reliabilty of the details of the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion, burial, and initial post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus. The disciples would not make such a mistake about the day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead, so either the Gospel accounts don’t have a basis in testimony of Jesus’s disciples, or else whatever transmission processes took place between their testimony and the composition of the Gospels significantly distorted the details of their testimony.

This alternative chronolgy thus requires one to give up on the historical reliability of the details of the Gospel accounts, and that would seriously damage the case for the resurrection and would provide support for a skeptical viewpoint, making skepticism about the resurrection more reasonable and more probable than belief in the resurrection.

One could also accept supposition (A) and yet avoid the implication that Jesus was dead on the first Easter by proposing a radical alternative chronology. If Jesus was not born until sometime after the first Easter Sunday (i.e. sometime after Passover in 30 CE), then Jesus would not have been dead on the first Easter Sunday, but he also would not have been alive, because he wasn’t yet born. Jesus could then grow up, have a ministry, be crucified, and rise from the dead, sometime around 60 CE.

However, this radical alternative chronology has even greater skeptical implications than the more minor chronological changes previously considered. Changing the day of week or the particular week of the crucifixion would, as I have argued, require that one sacrifice the historical reliability of the details about those events in the Gospels. But making the radical chronological change of moving Jesus’ birth to after the first Easter Sunday (in about 30 CE), would require tossing out almost all of the historicity of the Gospel accounts. Pilate, for example, would not have been in power in Jerusalem in the year 60 CE. So, the Roman trial recorded in all four Gospels would be fundamentally a work of fiction. Such a radical alternative chronology would completely undermine the historical reliability of the Gospels, and remove all hope of constructing a good case for the resurrection of Jesus. So, this way of trying to escape the skeptical implications of (A) fails.

Thus, supposition (A) supports a skeptical view of the resurrection, and makes such a view more reasonable and more probable than the view that Jesus rose from the dead.

No matter how you slice the pie, if we suppose (4) to be true, then a skeptical view of the resurrection is more reasonable and more probable than the Christian view. But this should be no great surprise, because (JAW) is a key claim made by Christian apologists who defend the resurrection of Jesus. So, it is reasonable to expect that the supposition that this key claim is false would significantly damage the case for the resurrection and provide significant support for a skeptical view of the alleged resurrection of Jesus. I have merely shown, in some detail, that this reasonable expectation is in fact correct.

I can see the rock rolling and bouncing on its way down the hill now.


INDEX of Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus posts:

What is Faith? – Part 9
The Logic of the Resurrection - Part 6
Another Terrible Atheist Debate Performance
What is Faith? - Part 8
About Bradley Bowen

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