Defending the Swoon Theory – INDEX

Defending the Swoon Theory – INDEX February 15, 2020

OVERVIEW

In Chapter 8 of his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA),  Peter Kreeft (and his co-author Ronald Tacelli), makes a case for the resurrection of Jesus.  He does so by attempting to “refute” or “disprove” four skeptical theories that are alternatives to the Christian view that God raised Jesus from the dead:

Hallucination: “the apostles were deceived by a hallucination”
Myth: “the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally”
Conspiracy: “the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history”
Swoon:  “Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected”

(from HCA, p.182)

One of the four skeptical theories is the Swoon Theory.  In Chapter 8 of HCA, Kreeft raises nine objections against the Swoon Theory.  Those objections were also published in a blog post by Peter Kreeft.

 

Recently, I completed a series of twenty-two blog posts showing various problems, errors, and weaknesses with Kreeft’s arguments against the Swoon Theory, and I concluded that each of those nine objections FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory.

 

Since Kreeft has FAILED to refute the Swoon Theory, we have sufficient reason to conclude that his case for the resurrection of Jesus is also a FAILURE.  Kreeft claimed that he would prove that Jesus rose from the dead, but that turns out to be just another bit of FALSE ADVERTISING for Christianity by a Christian apologist.  Kreeft is thus like a used car salesman, full of hype and big claims, but unwilling or unable to tell us the honest truth about the serious problems and defects in the product he wants to sell to us.

 

INTRODUCTORY POSTS FOR MY DEFENSE OF THE SWOON THEORY

In Part 1  I argue that if we accept Kreeft’s narrow conception of the Swoon Theory, then his case for the resurrection immediately FAILS, because there are clearly several alternative skeptical theories to the Swoon Theory that are similar to that theory, but that Kreeft never even attempts to refute.  So, on Kreeft’s understanding of what the Swoon Theory implies, his case for the resurrection FAILS, because he leaves several skeptical theories completely UNTOUCHED, and thus he FAILS to refute several alternative skeptical theories.

In Part 2 I continue to argue that Kreeft’s narrow conception of the Swoon Theory should be rejected in favor of a broader more general theory, that I call the Survival Theory.  I also argue that seven out of Kreeft’s nine objections against the Swoon Theory 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).

Kreeft recognizes that his use of Gospel passages as proof of his historical claims is problematic and he makes an attempt to defend his use of those Gospel passages.  Kreeft makes two points in defense of his use of Gospel passages, and I argue that the first point is IRRELEVANT, and that second point is AMBIGUOUS between a false claim and an insignificant claim.  So, right off the bat, we can see that seven out of Kreeft’s nine objections are dubious, because they are based on historical claims that are are supported by dubious Gospel passages.

 

TWO OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE SWOON THEORY THAT ARE NOT BASED ON THE GOSPELS

In Part 3  I analyze and clarify Kreeft’s Objection #1 The “Deadliness of Roman Crucifixion” Objection:

1. Roman procedures were very careful to eliminate the possibility of a person surviving crucifixion.

2. Roman law even laid the death penalty on any Roman soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way, including bungling a crucifixion.

3. No Roman soldier ever let a capital prisoner escape or ever bungled a crucifixion.

THEREFORE:

4. Jesus could not have survived Roman crucifixion.

I argue that Objection #1 FAILS, because the combination of premises (1) and (2) provide only a weak reason in support of (3) and in support of (4), and because premise (3) taken literally begs the question at issue, and because (3) when interpreted to make a non-question-begging claim is still a very strong historical claim for which Kreeft has provided ZERO historical evidence, an historical claim which is very dubious and likely to be FALSE.

In Part 4 I examine Kreeft’s Objection #8The “Where Did Jesus Go?” Objection:

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).

[Note: I jump from Objection #1 to Objection #8, because those are the only two objections that appear to NOT be based on dubious Gospel passages.]

In Part 5 I argue that the original version of this argument was UNSOUND because premise (1) was clearly and obviously FALSE.  The first premise of the revised version of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #8, namely (1a) appears to be TRUE, but the second premise of the revised argument, namely (A1), appears to be FALSE.  I argue that we have good reason to conclude that premise (A1) is FALSE, and thus that the revised argument is UNSOUND.  Whether we consider the original version or the improved revised version, Kreeft’s Objection #8 FAILS.

 

FOUR OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE SWOON THEORY THAT ARE BASED ON THE 4TH GOSPEL

In Part 6 I point out that four of Kreeft’s objections to the Swoon Theory  (Objections #2, #3, #4,and #5) are based on dubious passages from the 4th Gospel:

  • Objection #2 assumes that John 19:31-33 asserts TRUE historical claims.
  • Objection #3 assumes that John 19:34-35 asserts TRUE historical claims.
  • Objection #4 assumes that John 19:36-42 asserts TRUE historical claims.
  • Objection #5 assumes that John 20:19-29 asserts TRUE historical claims.

(The above bullet points are from Part 2)

I argue that the 4th Gospel is the least reliable of the four gospels, and that it was probably NOT written by John the disciple of Jesus.

In Part 7 I examine Kreeft’s Objection #2The “Break their Legs” Objection:

1. A Roman soldier decided to NOT break Jesus’ legs while Jesus was hanging on the cross because the soldier was firmly convinced that Jesus was already dead.

2. IF a Roman soldier decided to NOT break Jesus’ legs while Jesus was hanging on the cross because the soldier was firmly convinced that Jesus was already dead, THEN it is virtually certain that Jesus died on the cross.

THEREFORE:

3. It is virtually certain that Jesus died on the cross.

Premise (1) is probably FALSE because it rests on two questionable assumptions: (a) that the story in the 4th Gospel of the Roman soldier deciding to NOT break Jesus’ legs while Jesus was on the cross is a reliable and accurate account of historical events, and (b) that this story shows that the Roman soldier was firmly convinced that Jesus was already dead.

Premise (2) is FALSE, because Roman soldiers were NOT modern medical doctors; they did NOT have modern medical knowledge, and they did not have modern medical technology, and they did not receive modern medical training.  So, Roman soldiers were quite capable of making an incorrect diagnosis of death.

Because premise (1) is probably FALSE, and because premise (2) is clearly FALSE, Objection #2 is based on an UNSOUND argument, and thus is a complete FAILURE.

In Part 7 I point out three problems with Objection #2:

  1. Roman Soldiers were NOT Medical Doctors
  2. The Same Passage Implies the Soldiers were NOT Sure Jesus was Dead
  3. The Key Historical Claims Made by Kreeft are DUBIOUS

I explained that the key historical claims in Objection #2 are clearly NOT historical facts.  They are questionable inferences based on the unreasonable assumption that the 4th Gospel provides us with reliable historical information about the ministry and crucifixion of Jesus.  I pointed out ten good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.

In Part 6 I provide some evidence and reasoning supporting Point #1 and Point #2 of those ten good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.

In Part 8 I provide some evidence and reasoning supporting Point #3, Point #4, and Point #5 of those ten good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.

In Part 9 I provide some evidence and reasoning supporting the remaining five good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.

In Part 10 I analyze and evaluate the argument that constitutes Kreeft’s Objection #3The “Blood and Water” Objection:

4A. Liquid that looked like blood and liquid that looked like water came from the wound in Jesus’ side while Jesus was hanging on the cross.

5A. IF liquid that looked like blood and liquid that looked like water came from the wound in Jesus’ side while Jesus was hanging on the cross, THEN it is virtually certain that Jesus had already died of asphyxiation while he was hanging on the cross.

THEREFORE:

6. It is virtually certain that Jesus had already died of asphyxiation while he was hanging on the cross.

I argue that it is very likely that this argument is UNSOUND:

Premise (5A) is very dubious because it is based upon a number of questionable assumptions for which Kreeft makes NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to justify.  So, we are reasonable in rejecting this premise as a highly questionable claim, completely lacking rational justification.

The premise that appeared initially to be more plausible, namely premise (4A),  is also highly dubious, and probably FALSE, because it is based on the highly dubious assumption that a particular passage from the 4th Gospel provides an accurate and reliable account of historical events.  This is the SAME PASSAGE (John 19: 31-37) that Kreeft relied on to support his Objection #2, and, as I argued in previous posts, there are at least ten good reasons for doubting the reliability and historicity of that passage from the 4th Gospel.

Because premise (5A) is very dubious and completely lacking in rational justification, and because premise (4A) is probably FALSE because it rests on a very dubious passage from the 4th Gospel, it is very likely that the argument supporting Objection #3 is based on at least one, and possibly two, FALSE PREMISES, and thus is an UNSOUND ARGUMENT.

In Part 11 I analyze and begin to evaluate Kreeft’s Objection #4The “Winding Sheets” Objection:

1. When Jesus’ body was removed from the cross, the body was totally encased in winding sheets and placed in a stone tomb.

A. IF when Jesus’ body was removed from the cross, the body was totally encased in winding sheets and placed in a stone tomb, THEN it is virtually certain that the Survival Theory is false.

THEREFORE: 

2. It is virtually certain that The Survival Theory is false.

In Part 11 I argue that there are a number of historical and factual issues that can be raised against the first premise of Objection #4:

  • It is NOT a fact that Jesus’ body was removed from the cross. 
  • It is NOT a fact that Jesus’ body was totally encased in winding sheets. 
  • It is NOT a fact that Jesus’ body was placed in a stone tomb. 

That Jesus’ body was removed from the cross is, however, assumed by the Swoon Theory, so both the Christian theory and the Swoon Theory make that assumption.  But the Swoon Theory does NOT assume the truth of the other two historical claims.

All of these are historical hypotheses that must be evaluated in terms of historical facts and evidence.  And this is something that Peter Kreeft NEVER DOES, on almost any important historical issue related to Jesus and Christianity.  So, Kreeft’s Objection #4 is a FAILURE because he makes NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to show that any of his historical claims and assumptions supporting premise (1) are actually TRUE.

Kreeft’s Objection #4 has two basic elements:  the winding sheets and the entombment.

In Part 11  I consider three different versions of the Winding Sheets Objection, and find all three to be WEAK objections against the Swoon Theory (the third version actually supports the Swoon Theory).

In Part 12 I examine a reasonable interpretation of the second element of Objection #4 (i.e. the Entombment Objection), and show this to also be a WEAK objection against the Swoon Theory, because (a) the basic assumption that Jesus remained in the tomb for 36 hours is dubious, and (b) each of the three bullet points of the Entombment Objection has a number of other problems that further weaken that objection.

Because Kreeft makes no effort whatsoever to show that the historical assumptions upon which premise (1) of the argument rests are actually true, Objection #4 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.   Also, because Objection #4 includes two elements, the Winding Sheets Objections and the Entombment Objection, and because these are all WEAK objections, Kreeft’s Objection #4 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.

In Part 13 I analyze and evaluate Objection #5The Sickly Jesus Objection:

The post-resurrection appearances convinced the disciples, even “doubting Thomas,” that Jesus was gloriously alive (Jn 20:19-29). It is psychologically impossible for the disciples to have been so transformed and confident if Jesus had merely struggled out of a swoon, badly in need of a doctor. A half-dead, staggering sick man who has just had a narrow escape is not worshiped fearlessly as divine lord and conqueror of death.

(HCA, p. 183)

This is one of the most common objections raised against The Swoon Theory.  I call it the “Sickly Jesus Objection” or SJO.

The strength of SJO depends upon a number of ASSUMPTIONS made by Christian apologists.  One key ASSUMPTION concerns the timing of the first “appearances” of the “risen” Jesus to his disciples:

The first “appearances” of the “risen” Jesus took place less than 48 hours after Jesus was crucified. 

I argue that this key assumption is PROBABLY FALSE, and thus that SJO is a weak objection.

Other ASSUMPTIONS about Jesus’ alleged wounds are required in order for SJO to be a strong objection:

  • Jesus was severely whipped with a Roman scourge prior to being crucified
  • a harmful crown of thorns (with long sharp thorns pointing inward) was shoved forcefully onto Jesus’ scalp prior to his crucifixion
  • both of Jesus’ hands were nailed to the cross
  • both of Jesus’ feet were nailed to the cross
  • Jesus received a deep and severe spear wound to his side while he was still on the cross

Because NONE of these assumptions about the alleged wounds of Jesus is an established historical FACT, and because all of these assumptions are questionable, SJO is a weak objection.

We have multiple good reasons to conclude that SJO is a weak objection, thus it is clear that SJO FAILS to disprove or refute the Swoon Theory.

 

THREE OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE SWOON THEORY BASED ON OTHER GOSPELS

In Part 14 I analyze Objection #6 – The “Who Overpowered the Guards?” Objection, as making four main points:

P1. The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by Jesus (by himself).

P2.  The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by the disciples of Jesus. 

P3. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels.

P4. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, that implies the conspiracy theory, which Kreeft refutes.

I also point out various problems with these four main points.

NOTE:  Objection #9 is based on the idea that the Swoon Theory implies that either the Conspiracy Theory or the Hallucination theory are true.  So, my evaluation of Objection #9 also provides a response to (P3) and (P4) from Objection #6.

In Part 15 I interpret the first two points, (P1) and (P2), as being combined to form a key premise in an argument against the Swoon Theory, namely premise (1):

1. It is NOT the case that either (a) Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself or (b) the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb were overpowered by the disciples of Jesus.

A. IF the Swoon Theory is true, THEN either (a) Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself or (b) the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb were overpowered by the disciples of Jesus.

THEREFORE:

2. It is NOT the case that the Swoon Theory is true.

In order to construct a logically valid argument for the conclusion (2), we must add the unstated assumption (A) to premise (1).

I show that this argument FAILS to make a solid objection against the Swoon Theory, because premise (A) constitutes a FALSE DILEMMA.  There are many different ways that Jesus could have left the tomb (or been taken from the tomb) without being detained or killed by the Roman guards, not just the two particular possibilities that Kreeft focuses upon (Jesus overpowered ALL the guards by himself OR some of the Twelve disciples overpowered ALL the guards), so premise (A) is FALSE, making this argument against the Swoon Theory an UNSOUND argument.  Thus, Kreeft’s Objection #6 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory.

In Part 16 I point out that in Objection #6  Kreeft assumes the following historical claim, without making any effort to provide historical evidence to prove this key claim:

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.

In Part 16 and in Part 17 I argue that it is probable that (RG) is FALSE, and thus that we have a second good reason to conclude that premise (A) is FALSE (in addition to the fact that this premise asserts a FALSE DILEMMA ), and that the above argument by Kreeft against the Swoon Theory  is UNSOUND.  Therefore, it is clear that Kreeft’s Objection #6 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.

In Part 18 I argue that although premise (1) of the argument constituting Objection #6 is probably true, it is NOT true for the reason that Kreeft believes it to be true.  Rather (1) is probably true, because there probably were no Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus.

In Part 19 I analyze the logical structure of the core argument in Kreeft’s Objection # 7The “Who Moved the Stone?” Objection:

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

THEREFORE: 

1. There is no plausible natural explanation for how the stone moved from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

A. The Swoon Theory is FALSE.

I also analyze the sub-arguments that Kreeft provides in support of the basic premises of the core argument: (B), (C), (D), and (E).

In Part 20 I evaluate the sub-arguments supporting premises (B), (C), and (D).  I show 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, I conclude that Kreeft’s Objection #7 FAILS, and that it is clear and certain that this objection FAILS.

In Part 21 I evaluate the three sub-arguments that Kreeft gives 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.  Because there are at least FOUR good and sufficient reasons to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory, it is clear that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.

In Part 22 I point out two more good and sufficient reasons why Objection #7 FAILS.  First, the inference from the four key premises to the sub-conclusion (1) is a HASTY CONCLUSION, and thus a dubious inference.  Second, the inference from the sub-conclusion (1) to the ultimate conclusion (A) is INVALID, so there can be no doubt that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.

In Part 22 I also analyze and evaluate Objection #9The “Swoon Theory implies False Theories” Objection:

1. Jesus’ disciples testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.

THEREFORE:

2. If the Swoon Theory is true, then either the Conspiracy Theory or the Hallucination Theory is also true.

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

4.It is NOT the case that the Hallucination Theory is true.

THEREFORE:

5. It is NOT the case that the Swoon Theory is true.

I argue that premise (1) cannot be supported by the available historical evidence, and is thus dubious, and I argue that (2) does NOT follow from (1), and I point to a whole series of posts about Kreeft’s attempts to disprove the Conspiracy Theory, where I showed that each of his objections against that skeptical theory are miserable FAILURES.  So, there is no good reason to believe premise (3), so that premise is dubious.  I conclude that Objection #9 is a miserable FAILURE; it does not disprove the Swoon Theory.

 

CONCLUSION ABOUT KREEFT’S ATTEMPT TO DISPROVE THE SWOON THEORY

Every single one of Kreeft’s nine objections against the Swoon Theory FAIL.  None of those objections refute or disprove the Swoon Theory.  Kreeft appears to be incapable of producing a single strong and solid argument against the Swoon Theory.  His arguments are all WEAK or UNSOUND.  He has put forward so many crappy arguments, that I suspect he is incapable of telling the difference between a STRONG argument and a WEAK one, between a SOUND argument and an UNSOUND one.  His attempt to refute the Swoon Theory is an unmitigated, pathetic, miserable FAILURE.

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