Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 4: The ‘Where Did Jesus Go?’ Objection

Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 4: The ‘Where Did Jesus Go?’ Objection July 1, 2019

WHERE WE ARE AT

In this series of posts I will defend the Survival Theory (TST) against the nine objections that Peter Kreeft puts forward in Chapter 8 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).   Kreeft’s nine objections to TST can also be found in an online article at the Strange Notions website.

Kreeft mistakenly takes aim at the Swoon Theory, but in Part 1 of this series, I argue that he must take on the more general skeptical theory that Jesus SURVIVED crucifixion, what I call the Survival Theory or TST.

In Part 2 of this series, I argued that seven out of Kreeft’s nine objections against TST are problematic because they are based on the questionable assumption that the Gospels are historically reliable (or that various passages in the Gospels are historically reliable).

Two of Kreeft’s objections, however, are NOT based on dubious Gospel passages: Objection #1 and Objection #8. In Part 3 of this series, I argued that Objection #1 (about the deadliness of Roman crucifixion) FAILS, because one of the reasons given by Kreeft for this objection provides only weak support for his conclusion, so that there is still a good chance his conclusion is FALSE, even if we assume his premises to be true, and because he fails to provide ANY historical evidence to support the historical claims that this reason is based upon.  The second reason Kreeft gives for this objection either begs the question at issue, or it is a very strong historical generalization for which he provides ZERO historical evidence, an historical claim that seems likely to be FALSE.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OBJECTION #8: THE WHERE DID JESUS GO? OBJECTION

Before I get into a closer examination of the seven objections that are based on dubious Gospel passages, I will analyze and evaluate the one remaining objection that is NOT based on a dubious Gospel passage, namely  Objection #8:

If Jesus awoke from a swoon, where did he go? Think this through: you have a living body to deal with now, not a dead one. Why did it disappear? There is absolutely no data, not even any false, fantastic, imagined data, about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion, in any sources, friend or foe, at any time, early or late. A man like that, with a past like that, would have left traces.  (HCA, p. 184)

There is one key premise in that paragraph:

There is absolutely no data, not even any false, fantastic, imagined data, about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion, in any sources, friend or foe, at any time, early or late.

That premise is logically connected with an unstated conditional claim that is also a key premise:

IF Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross), THEN there would be some historical data about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion.

We can reword the key premise explicitly stated by Kreeft, to simplify it and to make it logically connect with the above conditional claim, and thus formulate an argument with a standard deductive form (i.e. denying the consequent or modus tollens):

1. It is NOT the case that there is some historical data about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion.

A. IF Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross), THEN there would be some historical data about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion.

THEREFORE:

B. It is NOT the case that Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. it is NOT the case that Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross).

Kreeft’s assertion that Jesus would have left traces, is a reason given in support of premise (A):

2. A man like that, with a past like that, would have left traces.

THEREFORE:

A. IF Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross), THEN there would be some historical data about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion.

Here is the logical structure of Kreeft’s argument for Objection #8:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1)

Is the following key premise of Kreeft’s Objection #8 true?

1. It is NOT the case that there is some historical data about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion.

It should be noted that the phrase “historical data” here does NOT mean “historical facts”, nor does it mean “solid and reliable historical information”.  Kreeft is ruling out the existence of ANY sort of historical data, even dubious and unreliable historical data:

There is absolutely no data, not even any false, fantastic, imagined data, about Jesus’ life after his crucifixion, in any sources, friend or foe, at any time, early or late.  (HCA, p.184, emphasis added)

Such a broad claim is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Three of the Gospels (Matthew, Luke, and John) include stories about Jesus appearing to some of his disciples and speaking to them after his crucifixion.  The very first chapter of the book of Acts claims that Jesus was seen by various disciples over a number of weeks following the crucifixion:

  1. In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 
  2. until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 
  3.  After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 
  4. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 
  5. for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
  6. So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 
  7. He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 
  8. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 
  9.  When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

(Acts 1:1-9, New Revised Standard Version)

As a skeptic, I have very serious doubts about the truth and historical reliability and accuracy of this passage from Acts, but there is no denying that this is “historical data” in the loose sense in which Kreeft is talking about in the key premise of his argument for Objection #8.  So, the first chapter of Acts is a CLEAR COUNTEREXAMPLE to premise (1), showing that premise to be FALSE.

Furthermore, if Kreeft is to have any hope of “proving” that God raised Jesus from the dead, then passages like the above one from Acts are absolutely crucial to his case.  Without such passages from Acts and from the Gospels, there would be NO HOPE of ever showing that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened.  So, it appears that in premise (1) Kreeft has cut off his own nose to spite his face.  He is denying the existence of historical data that is absolutely crucial for his own case for the resurrection of Jesus.  This is absurd!

This is so ridiculous, in fact, that we need to consider whether there is some other interpretation of the key premise that would not be so obviously FALSE.  To avoid being guilty of the STRAW MAN fallacy, we need to at least try to come up with another interpretation of (1) that is not obviously false.

Here is how I suspect that Kreeft would respond to my criticism of premise (1):

If Jesus had survived the crucifixion, then there was no resurrection miracle by God to confirm that Jesus was a true prophet, the savior of humankind, and the divine Son of God.  In that case, the alleged miracle of Jesus ascending into the sky forty days after the crucifixion must also be doubted and rejected.  That means that Jesus would have continued to live his life here on Earth, as an ordinary human with an ordinary physical body.  But if Jesus continued to live his life as an ordinary human beyond the initial forty days mentioned in Acts, then he would have left some historical traces of that continued life.  A man like that, with a past like that, would have left traces.

If I am right that this is how Kreeft would respond to my criticism of premise (1), then we can modify premise (1) to fit with the above imagined line of reasoning:

1a. It is NOT the case that there is some historical data about Jesus’ life on Earth after the alleged forty days of his post-crucifixion appearances to his apostles.

If we revise premise (1) that way, then we also need to make a similar change to premise (A), so that the argument will remain logically valid:

A1. IF Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross), THEN there would be some historical data about Jesus’ life on Earth after the alleged forty days of his post-crucifixion appearances to his apostles.

The conclusion remains unchanged.  Here is the revised version of Kreeft’s argument for Objection #8:

1a. It is NOT the case that there is some historical data about Jesus’ life on Earth after the alleged forty days of his post-crucifixion appearances to his apostles.

A1. IF Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross), THEN there would be some historical data about Jesus’ life on Earth after the alleged forty days of his post-crucifixion appearances to his apostles.

THEREFORE:

B. It is NOT the case that Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. it is NOT the case that Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross).

In the next post I will evaluate this revised version of Kreeft’s argument for Objection #8.

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