Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 20: Evaluation of Objection #7

Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 20: Evaluation of Objection #7 January 24, 2020

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft has raised nine objections against The Swoon Theory, as part of his case attempting to prove that Jesus rose from the dead.

In previous posts I have argued that his Objection #1Objection #2Objection #3Objection #4Objection #5, Objection #6, and Objection #8 all FAIL as objections against The Swoon Theory, and also FAIL as objections against the more general view that I call The Survival Theory.  None of those objections prove that the Swoon Theory is false, because none of those objections constitute a strong and solid argument against the Swoon Theory.

I have shown that at least seven out of Peter Kreeft’s nine objections to the Swoon Theory FAIL (at least 78% of his objections FAIL).  So, it is likely that the remaining two objections will also FAIL.

In Part 19 I clarified the premises of Kreeft’s Objection #7, and I analyzed the logical structure of that objection.  In this current post, I will show that Objection #7 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory (and the Survival Theory), just like all of the other objections that Kreeft has raised against the Swoon Theory (and the Survival Theory).

Here is the logical structure of the core argument for Objection #7 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are four main premises in the core argument of Objection #7:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

E. Jesus’ disciples did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Kreeft gives an argument for each of the first three premises, (B), (C), and (D), and he gives three arguments in support of premise (E).  So, there are a total of six sub-arguments supporting the premises in the core argument.  How many of those six sub-arguments are strong and sound arguments?  Given Kreeft’s consistency in putting forward crappy argument after crappy argument, it should come as no surprise that ZERO of these sub-arguments is strong and sound, as I will now begin to show.

 

EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (B)

Here is the argument Kreeft gives for premise (B):

3. IF Jesus was still alive when he was buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening, THEN Jesus would have been too weak to move the stone from the door of the tomb that weekend.

THEREFORE:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Premise (3) is an historical claim that Kreeft does not bother to support with historical evidence or reasoning, as is his custom.  However, it is fairly obvious that (3) rests upon a number of historical claims and assumptions:

  • Jesus was severely scourged prior to being crucified.
  • Jesus’ hands were both nailed to the cross.
  • Jesus’ feet were both nailed to the cross.
  • A crown of thorns had been pushed onto Jesus’s head, inflicting several wounds in his scalp.
  • A soldier stabbed Jesus forcefully with a spear, creating a deep wound in Jesus’ side.
  • Jesus was removed from the cross on Friday afternoon and his body was placed into a stone tomb prior to sunset that day.
  • The door of Jesus’ tomb was blocked with an enormous boulder that required several people to move into place.

None of these assumptions is an historical FACT, and each of these assumptions is subject to significant doubt.  So, it is very likely that at least some of these assumptions are FALSE, and it is possible that all of them are FALSE.  Kreeft has not bothered to support these questionable assumptions with historical evidence and reasoning.

If any of these assumptions are FALSE, then that would cast doubt on the truth of premise (3).  So, it is very clear that (3) is NOT an historical FACT, and that there is a significant chance that (3) is FALSE.  Because premise (3) is questionable, this is a WEAK argument in support of premise (B).  So, premise (B) itself remains questionable, subject to reasonable doubt.   Because premise (B) is questionable, and because (B) is a key premise in the core argument of Objection #7,  we may conclude on this basis alone that Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.

 

EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (C)

Here is Kreeft’s argument in support of premise (C):

8. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had requested of Pilate that the tomb of Jesus be sealed with a stone blocking the doorway.

THEREFORE:

6. It was in the interests of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to keep the tomb of Jesus sealed.

THEREFORE:

4. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Premise (8) makes an historical claim, and Kreeft has not bothered to provide historical evidence and reasoning in support of (8).  Furthermore, we have good reason to doubt (8), because it is based on a story that is UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew, and as I argued in Part 17, the stories that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew are historically unreliable.  Thus, there is a very good chance that  premise (8) is FALSE.

Furthermore, premise (6) does NOT FOLLOW from premise (8), because the choices people make are not always in their own self-interest.  In fact, we expect leaders to, at least sometimes, transcend their own self-interest and make decisions that are intended to be for the good of the community or people that they rule over.  We hope that leaders will, at least sometimes, be willing to sacrifice their own self-interest for the good of the community or people.  So, the fact that leaders of a community make a choice or decision to do X, does NOT imply that X is in their own self-interest.

Also, premise (4) does NOT FOLLOW from premise (6), because the choices people make are not always in their own self-interest.  So, even if we grant that keeping the tomb sealed was in the self-interest of the Jewish leaders, that does NOT rule out the possibility that the Jewish leaders moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.  People sometimes do things that are not in their own self-interest.

To sum up, this argument for the key premise (C) is WEAK because there is a good chance that the basic premise (8) is FALSE, and the inference from (8) to (6) is INVALID, and the inference from (6) to (4) is INVALID also.  Both of these inferences are INVALID because they ignore the fact that people sometimes make choices that are contrary to their own self-interest.  Kreeft’s argument for the key premise (C) thus FAILS.  Because premise (C) is a key premise of the core argument for Objection #7, that means that for this reason alone, Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.

 

EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (D)

Here is Kreeft’s argument for the key premise (D):

9.  The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would have been executed if they let the body of Jesus leave the tomb or be removed from the tomb, and the Roman soldiers knew this.

THEREFORE:

7A. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus knew that it would have been strongly against their self-interest to move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb (or to allow anyone else to move the stone).

THEREFORE:

5. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Premise (9) is based on an historical assumption:

RG: Roman guards were posted outside of the tomb of Jesus to prevent the tomb from being opened and to prevent Jesus’ body from leaving the tomb or from being removed from the tomb.  

As I previously argued in Part 16 and Part 17  this assumption is probably FALSE.  Because (9) is based on an assumption that is probably FALSE, premise (9) is itself probably FALSE.  That means that this argument for premise (D) FAILS, because it is based on a premise that is probably FALSE.  Because premise (D) is a key premise in the core argument for Objection #7, we may conclude on this basis alone that Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.

Furthermore, the inference from (9) to (7A) is INVALID, because premise (9) is concerned with allowing Jesus’ body to leave the tomb, meaning that Jesus either escaped from the tomb or that someone (other than the guards) removed his body from the tomb and took it to some other location.  But premise (7A) is only concerned with moving the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.  While it is true that moving the stone from the door of the tomb would provide an opportunity for Jesus to escape or for someone to take Jesus’ body from the tomb, neither of those opportunities would automatically or necessarily be realized simply by moving the stone from the door of the tomb.

Suppose Jesus was still alive when he was placed in the tomb.  Suppose that Jesus came back to consciousness late on Saturday night and began screaming for help from inside the tomb.  The Roman soldiers might move the stone in that case, in order to investigate who was inside the tomb screaming for help, or if they believed that the screaming came from Jesus, they might move the stone to kill Jesus off, or to take the living Jesus back to Pilate or to their superior officer for further direction as to what to do with Jesus.  If this was the intention of the Roman soldiers in that circumstance, they would reasonably infer that moving the stone would NOT constitute a dereliction of their duty to guard the tomb, and thus moving the stone would NOT be grounds for their execution.  So, even if (9) were true, it does NOT FOLLOW that (7A) must also be true.

The inference from (7A) to (5) is stronger and more plausible than the analogous inference from (6) to (4) in Kreeft’s argument for premise (C).  This inference is stronger and more plausible because we are now talking not just about self-interest, but about a choice that is “strongly against the self-interest” of the soldiers, namely choosing an action that puts their lives into serious risk.  Although people often act against their own self-interest, they rarely knowingly choose to put their lives into serious risk.

However, people do on rare occasions make choices and actions where they knowingly put their lives into serious risk.  Furthermore, we are talking about Roman soldiers here.  Kreeft probably has in mind that these are strong, tough, and brave soldiers who were guarding the tomb, thus making it difficult for Jesus’s disciples to steal the body from the tomb.  But if these soldiers were strong, tough, and brave, then they might not fear death to the same degree that you or I would fear death.  The tougher and braver the soldiers were, the less they would be fearful of the threat of death, and the more likely they would be to take risks with their own lives.  So, although the inference from (7A) to (5) is plausible, it is not as strong as one might initially think.  If the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb were tough and brave, then the inference from (7A) to (5) becomes a bit uncertain.

Premise (9) is probably false, and the inference from (9) to (7A) is INVALID.  The inference from (7A) to (5) is plausible, but not as strong as it initially appears to be.  Clearly, Kreeft’s argument for premise (D) FAILS.  Because premise (D) is a key premise in the core argument for Objection #7, we may conclude on this basis alone that Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.

 

CONCLUSION ABOUT THE FIRST THREE SUB-ARGUMENTS

We have now seen that the three sub-arguments supporting key premises (B), (C), and (D) are all FAILURES.  If just one of these sub-arguments FAILS, then Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.  Thus, we can already see that Kreeft’s Objection #7 FAILS, and that it is clear and certain that this objection FAILS.

However, because every one of the six sub-arguments put forward by Kreeft in his Objection #7 FAILS, I will continue to criticize this argument further, to show that there can be no doubt that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE from start to finish.

We now know that at least eight out of Kreeft’s nine objections against the Swoon Theory FAIL (at least 89% of his objections against the Swoon Theory FAIL), so it is quite likely that the one remaining objection, Objection #9, will also FAIL.

To Be Continued…


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