Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 21: More Evaluation of Objection #7

Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 21: More Evaluation of Objection #7 February 2, 2020

WHERE WE ARE

In Part 20 of this series of posts I showed that Kreeft’s three sub-arguments supporting key premises (B), (C), and (D) of his core argument constituting Objection #7 (against the Swoon Theory) all FAIL, and that the failure of just one of those three sub-arguments is sufficient reason to conclude that Objection #7 against the Swoon Theory FAILS.  Thus, we have three good reasons, each sufficient by itself, to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS, just like Kreeft’s Objections #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #8 all FAILED to refute the Swoon Theory.

But there is yet another good reason to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS, namely that Kreeft’s sub-arguments for the fourth key premise of his core argument also FAIL, like nearly every argument that Kreeft has ever produced in support of Christian beliefs.

Kreeft gives three sub-arguments in support of the following key premise of his core argument:

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

But, as I shall now show, NONE of those sub-arguments are strong and solid arguments, so Kreeft also FAILS to establish the key premise (E).  Kreeft thus FAILS to establish the truth of ANY of the four key premises in the argument that constitutes Objection #7, and thus Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.

Kreeft’s arguments are almost as crappy as the arguments presented by Trump’s defense team in the Senate Impeachment trial, and I suspect that the widespread failure of Christian believers to notice just how crappy Kreeft’s arguments are is closely related to the widespread failure of Christian believers to notice just how crappy the arguments presented by Trump’s defense team are.  I don’t view these as unrelated phenomena.  I believe that the credulity of Christian believers concerning the arguments of Christian apologists is closely related to the credulity of Christian believers concerning the arguments of Trump supporters and defenders.

 

THE ROMAN-SOLDIERS-DID-NOT-FALL-ASLEEP ARGUMENT

Here is Kreeft’s first sub-argument for the key premise (E):

13. IF the Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus, THEN those Roman soldiers knew that they would be executed if they fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus and if Pilate (or one of their superior officers) found out about this.

THEREFORE:

12. IF the Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus, THEN the Roman soldiers would NOT fall asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus.

F. The Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus.

G. IF the Roman soldiers did NOT fall asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus, THEN Jesus’ disciples would NOT have been able to move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

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

Premise (13) 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 (13) is based on an assumption that is probably FALSE, premise (13) is itself probably FALSE.  That means that this argument for premise (E) FAILS, because it is based on a premise that is probably FALSE.

Furthermore, even if RG were true, it is still uncertain whether (13) would also be true.  Kreeft, as usual, has provided no historical evidence whatsoever in support of the assumption that Roman soldiers were ALWAYS EXECUTED for dereliction of guard duty.  One prominent NT scholar (who is an expert on the passion narratives) notes that this assumption is not true:

On the level of background facts, it is not clear that sleeping on duty was always punished by death.  Tacitus (Histories 5.22) tells of careless sentries whose sleeping on watch almost allowed the enemy to catch their general; but they seem to have used the general’s scandalous behavior (he was away from duty, sleeping with a woman) to shield their own fault.  In other words, bargains could be struck… 

(Raymond Brown, The Death of the Messiah, Volume 2, p.1311, emphasis added)

If Roman soldiers were sometimes NOT executed as a result of falling asleep while on guard duty, then it is doubtful that the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus “knew that they would be executed if they fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus”.  Thus, even if (RG) was true, it would still be doubtful or uncertain that (13) was true.  So, we have a second reason to doubt the truth of premise (13), in addition to the fact that (RG) is probably false.

The inference from (13) to (12) is plausible, but this inference is NOT as strong as it initially appears to be.  The assumption is that these Roman soldiers would be as fearful of being killed as you or I would be, but IF these Roman soldiers are assumed to be very tough, brave, and fearless, then the inference is NOT as strong as it initially appears to be.  IF these Roman soldiers are assumed to have been tough, brave and fearless, then they would NOT have been as cautious about putting their lives at risk as you or I might be, if we were the ones ordered to guard the tomb.  The inference from (13) to (12) is plausible, but it is somewhat uncertain, given the assumption that these Roman soldiers were tough, brave, and fearless.

Finally, premise (G) is dubious and uncertain.  We DON’T KNOW how many Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb.  There might have been only three or four soldiers guarding the tomb.  If so, then it would have been entirely possible for ten or eleven men (Jesus’ disciples and/or other followers of Jesus) to overpower those three or four soldiers, especially if the soldiers worked in shifts so that only one soldier was stationed near the entrance of the tomb, while the other two or three soldiers slept nearby. Obviously it is very unlikely that three or four disciples would be able to overpower ten or eleven Roman soldiers, but as far as we know, the numbers might well have been the reverse (i.e. three or four soldiers vs. ten or eleven disciples of Jesus).

So, premise (13) is probably false, premise (G) is dubious and uncertain, and the inference from (13) to (12) is plausible but somewhat uncertain.  Therefore, this sub-argument for (E) is clearly a WEAK argument, and it FAILS to establish the truth of premise (E).  If the other two arguments for (E) also FAIL, then Kreeft will have FAILED to show that (E) is true, and this by itself, would be sufficient reason to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS.

 

THE NOISY-BOULDER-MOVEMENT ARGUMENT 

Here is Kreeft’s second sub-argument for the key premise (E):

15. The stone blocking the door of the tomb of Jesus was an enormous boulder.

THEREFORE:

14. IF the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus and the disciples of Jesus came and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of Jesus, THEN the noise from the crowd and the effort to move the stone would have wakened the Roman soldiers.

THEREFORE:

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

There is a logical gap in Kreeft’s reasoning here in the inference from (14) to (E), but he would probably fill in this gap by claiming that if the Roman soldiers had fallen asleep and then been wakened by the noise of the disciples effort to move the stone, then the soldiers would have killed or arrested many of those disciples right then, but none of Jesus’s disciples were killed at Jesus tomb, and none were arrested for attempting to break into the tomb, so we can rule out (E) in the case where we suppose that the soldiers fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus, in the view of Kreeft.

But, as I pointed out above, we DON’T KNOW how many Roman soldiers were guarding Jesus’ tomb.  If ten or eleven disciples came to get Jesus out of the tomb, and only three or four soldiers were guarding the tomb, then it is NOT clear that the disciples would be unable to overpower the soldiers, particularly if some of the soldiers were sleeping when the disciples arrived on the scene, and only one or two of the soldiers was positioned at the entrance of the tomb.  Thus, the inference from (14) to (E) is questionable and uncertain.

Premise (15) is dubious.  Kreeft, as usual, provides no historical evidence whatsoever for the historical assumption that the stone blocking the entrance of the tomb was an “enormous boulder” that required several people (“the crowd”) in order to be moved.  Furthermore, the archaeological study of tombs in Jerusalem at that period in time shows that very few tombs had large “rolling” stones blocking their entrance.

The image of the tomb of Jesus that generally leaps into people’s minds is of a rock-cut tomb closed by a large rolling stone. Yet archaeologists tell us this was probably not the case. According to Amos Kloner, who has examined more than 900 tombs in the vicinity of Jerusalem, there are only four tombs from the late Second Temple period that have rolling stones.

(“Biblical Views: A Rolling Stone That Was Hard to Roll” By Urban C. von Wahlde, Biblical Archaeology Review 41:2, March/April 2015)

 Nearly all stone tombs in that period had smaller cork-shaped blocking stones placed at the entrance of the tomb:

Since disk-shaped blocking stones were so rare and since Jesus’ tomb was built for an ordinary person—because it was actually the borrowed, but unused, tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:60)—it seems highly unlikely that it would have been outfitted with a disk-shaped blocking stone.

Archaeology therefore suggests that the tomb of Jesus would have had a cork-shaped blocking stone. 

How Was Jesus’ Tomb Sealed? By Megan Sauter, April 03, 2019, Bible History Daily)

A cork-shaped blocking stone could still be of significant size, but they were not as large as the rolling stones used on the tombs of the most famous and powerful rulers who were buried in Jerusalem.  So, it is quite likely, based on archaeological evidence, that the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb of Jesus was NOT an “enormous boulder” that required several people (a “crowd”) in order to be moved, but was a smaller sized cork-shaped blocking stone that could be moved by just two or three people.  So, premise (15) is dubious.

Premise (14) does not follow from premise (15) by itself.  Another assumption is required in order to infer (14) from (15):

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.

But, as previously noted, this historical assumption is probably false.  Therefore, premise (14) is also probably false, even if premise (15) were true.

This second sub-argument for the key premise (E) FAILS, because it is based on premise (14) which is probably false, and because the inference from (14) to (E) is questionable and uncertain.  Thus, Kreeft’s second sub-argument supporting the key premise (E) FAILS, just like his first sub-argument for (E) FAILED.

We now need to evaluate the third sub-argument to determine whether all three sub-arguments FAIL to establish the key premise (E).

 

THE CONSPIRACY-THEORY-REFUTATION ARGUMENT

Here is Kreeft’s third sub-argument for the key premise (E):

17. There are a number of decisive objections to the Conspiracy Theory which cannot be shown to be weak or flawed objections.

THEREFORE:

H. It is NOT the case that the Conspiracy Theory is true.

16. IF the disciples of Jesus came and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of Jesus, THEN the Conspiracy Theory would be true.

THEREFORE:

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

I have in a previous series of posts argued that Kreeft’s objections to the Conspiracy Theory ALL FAIL, so premise (17) is FALSE.  Because (17) is given as a reason in support of premise (H), the argument for (H) is UNSOUND, leaving (H) highly dubious.

Furthermore, premise (16) is clearly FALSE.  Jesus’ disciples could have heard from the women who observed the burial of Jesus, that there were signs of life, and that Jesus appeared to be alive.  They could have then gone to the tomb of Jesus and found Jesus alive in the tomb, and then taken Jesus to a house in Jerusalem where he could hide out from the Romans and from the Jewish authorities.  If this is what happened, then the disciples might well have assumed that Jesus had died on the cross, and that God had brought Jesus back to life when Jesus was buried (or finished bringing Jesus back to life after his body was placed in the tomb).  In that case the Conspiracy Theory would be FALSE, because Jesus’ disciples would honestly and sincerely believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, even though they had helped Jesus to get out of the stone tomb.

The antecedent of premise (16) (i.e. “the disciples of Jesus came and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of Jesus”) does NOT IMPLY the consequent of premise (16) (i.e. “the Conspiracy Theory would be true.”)  Therefore, premise (16) is clearly FALSE.

So, premise (H) is dubious, being based on a claim that is false, namely premise (17), and premise (16) is clearly FALSE.  So, Kreeft’s third sub-argument for the key premise (E) FAILS, just like his two previous sub-arguments for the key premise (E) FAIL.  Therefore, all three of his sub-arguments for (E) FAIL, so Kreeft has FAILED to establish the key premise (E), and this is, all by itself, sufficient reason to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS.

 

CONCLUSION

Kreeft provides six sub-arguments in Objection #7.  Three sub-arguments are given to support the key premises (B), (C), and (D), and those three sub-arguments FAIL to establish either (B) or (C) or (D), giving us three good and sufficient reasons to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS.

The remaining three sub-arguments are given to support the key premise (E), and all three of those arguments FAIL to establish (E), giving us another good and sufficient reason to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS.

We now have at least FOUR good and sufficient reasons to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory, so it is clear that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.  Objection #7 FAILS just like Objections #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #8.


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