Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 2

Although Christian apologists bear the burden of proof to show that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross’, William Craig usually ignores this issue in his books, articles, and debates defending the resurrection of Jesus. In my previous post, I pointed out that there is at least one book in which Craig does make a case for the claim that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross.’ Craig makes a very brief attempt at this in The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (hereafter: TSR).

His case is made in just five paragraphs, in a little more than two pages of text. The first paragraph is the longest. We saw previously that Craig makes about 30 different historical claims in the first paragraph, but provides zero historical evidence in support of those claims.

The second paragraph is much shorter than the first, just two sentences:

The Shroud of Turin, whether it is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus or not, illustrates graphically the extent of Jesus’ physical suffering. The image of the man on the cloth is covered front and back with wounds from head to foot, where the flagrum, a multi-thonged Roman whip with metal or bone, had torn apart his flesh, furnishing us a grisly picture of what Jesus must have looked like when He was laid on the cross. (TSR, p.37-38)

Craig knows better than to put the Shroud of Turin forward as historical evidence for the death of Jesus, so he does not do so. Instead, he states that it “illustrates graphically” the wounds that Jesus had “when He was laid on the cross.” So, once again, Craig puts forward some historical claims, with no historical evidence to support those claims. By my count he makes five historical claims (about Jesus) in this paragraph:

The Shroud of Turin, whether it is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus or not, illustrates graphically the extent of Jesus’ physical suffering. The image of the man on the cloth is covered front[1]
and back with wounds from head to foot[2],
where the flagrum, a multi-thonged Roman whip with metal or bone[3], had torn apart his flesh [4],
furnishing us a grisly picture of what Jesus must have looked like when He was laid on the cross.[5] (TSR, p.37-38)

Most immediately Craig is making claims about “the man on the cloth”, but clearly he believes that the violent abuse and wounds of “the man on the cloth” are very similar to the experiences and wounds of Jesus just prior to his crucifixion. So, each claim about “the man on the cloth” implies an historical claim about Jesus:

1. The front of Jesus’ body was covered with wounds from head to foot, just before he was crucified.
2. The back of Jesus’ body was covered with wounds from head to foot, just before he was crucified.
3. A flagrum is a multi-thonged Roman whip with metal or bone.
4. Some of the wounds on Jesus’ body that resulted from being whipped were deep and serious wounds (“had torn apart his flesh”).
5. The wounds on the front and back of Jesus’ body just prior to his crucifixion, were caused by being whipped with a flagrum.

On top of the 30 unsupported historical claims in paragraph one, Craig quickly adds five more unsupported historical claims. So, in the first two paragraphs, we get 35 historical claims and zero pieces of historical evidence. Not an auspicious start to a five-paragraph presentation of “historical evidence” for the death of Jesus.


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