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WLC's case for the resurrection

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WLC's case for the resurrection

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Below is a brief summary of William Lane Craig's case for the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, gleaned from his “Reasonable Faith” and “On Guard”. It is tinkered with only a bit. One example is that other areas are taken from to strengthen the point that the Apparent Death hypothesis is very much contrived, even without the conspiracy twist.

Why focus on the resurrection? The “hope that is within us” stands on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. His resurrection authenticates his claims to be the royal Messiah, Son of God in a unique sense, the Danielic Son of Man. It authenticates all of his teachings and prophesies. Without the resurrection, there is no Gospel, no good news. The traditional apologetic, used during the Deist controversy, involved showing that the Gospels are authentic (internal, external evidence), the text is pure and the Gospels are reliable (apostles neither deceivers nor deceived). Whereas the traditional apologetic dealt only with the “Lord, liar or lunatic” trilemma, the current apologetic deals with a fourth possibility: “legend”. We will formulate an argument by inference to the best explanation (a critical realist method, per Christopher Norris’ “Epistemology”).

Historical scholars insist that, like other scientists, the historian can only study events occurring in the physical universe. Step 1 directly below does not deal with the miraculous and so counters Bart Ehrman. Step 2 directly below considers the resurrection a bodily event (and so counters Dale Allison) in space and time (and so counters John Meier). [Speaking of the miraculous, the thought might occur to you, whenever it is mentioned that even critical scholars accept the historicity of crucial sayings or events, “Why then do they not believe in the resurrection?” One main answer is the “problem of miracles”. That will not be dealt with that here, as it is discussed here and elsewhere.] Dr. Craig lays out the two-step process for an historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus:

STEP ONE: “to establish the facts which will serve as historical evidence”

STEP TWO: “to argue that the hypothesis of Jesus’ resurrection is the best or most probable explanation of those facts”

“Step (1) will involve an investigation of the historicity of events such as the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb; step (2) will assess the comparative merits of rival hypotheses offered as explanations of the facts established in step (1),” (p. 350, Dr. Craig, Reasonable Faith).

CRITERIA FOR STEP ONE:

Some criteria for showing (positively) the authenticity of a particular Biblical saying or event, rather than a whole document:

(these are mentioned in different orders on pages 292, 298 and 395 of Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith)

1: Dissimilarity. Dissimilarity to antecedent Jewish or subsequent Christian thought-forms. Dissimilarity to pagan thought-forms. Also referred to as “Context and expectation” on p. 396, RF.

2: Multiple attestation. Multiple/independent attestation (especially if early).
--[ historians think they’ve hit historical pay dirt when they’ve got two independent accounts of the same event ]

3: Semitic traces. Linguistic Semitisms.

4: traces of Palestinian milieu (see 6)

5: Embarrassment. Retention of embarrassing material.

6: Historical congruence. Coherence w/ other authentic, external material. Also see 4.

7: Effect. Effect(s) which point to the saying(s)/event(s) as the cause.

8: Principles of embellishment. No (legend-making) embellishments.

9: Coherence. Coherence with other internal sayings/events (internal congruence).

Look for the titles of these criteria throughout step one and step two.

CRITERIA FOR STEP TWO:

McCullagh’s criteria (p. 371 of Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith) for justifying historical hypotheses:

1. The hypothesis, together with other true statements, must imply further statements describing present, observable data (literary evidence of NT).

2. The hypothesis must have greater explanatory ‘scope’ than rival hypotheses. It will explain more of the evidence.

3. The hypothesis must have greater explanatory ‘power’ than rival hypotheses. It will make the evidence more probable.

4. Hypothesis must be more plausible. It will fit better with true background beliefs.

5. Hypothesis must be less ad hoc or contrived (“won’t require adopting as many new beliefs that have no independent evidence” (Dr. Craig, On Guard, p. 244).

6. Hypothesis must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs. It won’t conflict with as many accepted beliefs.

7. Hypothesis must significantly exceed rivals in fulfilling 2 through 6.

First we will do Step (1) on each of three evidences (directly below), then step (2) on each of the rival hypotheses which attempt to explain those three evidences, concluding with the Bodily Resurrection hypothesis. All of this takes place (a bit differently) on pages 360-399 of Dr. Craig’s “Reasonable Faith” and pages 219-264 of his "On Guard".

STEP ONE: "to establish the facts which will serve as historical evidence"

--The Empty Tomb
(Rival Hypotheses: Conspiracy, Apparent Death, Wrong Tomb, Displaced Body, Bodily Resurrection)

-- Postmortem Appearances
(Rival Hypotheses: Hallucination, Bodily Resurrection)

-- Origin of Christian Faith
(Rival Hypotheses: Antecedent Influences, Hallucination, Bodily Resurrection)

Coherence. The above three facts cohere interestingly “with eachother; for example, the coherence between Jesus’ physical resurrection appearances, Paul’s teaching on the nature of the resurrected body, and the empty tomb,” (Dr. Craig, RF, p. 396).

“Don’t be misled by unbelievers who want to quibble about inconsistencies in the circumstantial details of the gospel accounts. Our case for Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t depend on such details. All four gospels agree that: Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem by Roman authority during the Passover Feast, having been arrested and convicted on charges of blasphemy by the Jewish Sanhedrin and then slandered before the governor Pilate on charges of treason. He died within several hours and was buried Friday afternoon by Joseph of Arimethea in a tomb, which was shut with stone. Certain female followers of Jesus, including Mary Magdalene, having observed his interment, visited his tomb early on Sunday morning, only to find it empty. Thereafter, Jesus appeared alive from the dead to the disciples, including Peter, who then became proclaimers of the message of his resurrection. … Historians expect to find inconsistencies even in the most reliable sources. No historian simply throws out a source because it has inconsistencies. Otherwise we’d have to be skeptical about all secular historical narratives that also contain such inconsistencies, which is wholly unreasonable. Moreover, in this case the inconsistencies aren’t even within a single source; they’re between two independent sources. But obviously, it doesn’t follow from an inconsistency between two independent sources that both sources are wrong. At worst, one is wrong if they can’t be harmonized.” (Dr. Craig, On Guard, p. 243).

--The Empty Tomb

1. The historical reliability of the story of Jesus’ burial supports the empty tomb.

a. The burial’s historicity is important because:

i. The disciples would not have preached resurrection if the tomb was occupied

ii. The disciples’ critics would have investigated to make sure the tomb was empty
--wanted to squelch budding Christian movement: hired Saul to persecute

iii. Belief in Jesus’ resurrection flourished in the very city in which he was crucified

iv. The Jewish authorities would have exhumed the body to try to prove Jesus was dead

b. Evidence for the burial:

i. Multiple attestation. Multiply attested in extremely early, independent sources

--Mark, probably via eyewitnesses, within 7 years of resurrection (in a tomb, by Joseph of Arimathea)

--1 Cor 15:3-5, via earliest disciples, within first 5 years of resurrection (buried)

--Compare four-line formula of 1 Cor 15:3-5; Acts 13:28-31; Mark 15:37-16:7
died, buried, raised, appeared

--Jesus’ burial by Joseph also found (with non-editorial differences) in Matthew and Luke
(non-editorial thing discussed pp. 363-364)

--Jesus’ burial by Joseph also found in John and extra-biblical Gospel of Peter

--the early apostolic sermons in Acts (probably not wholly of Luke’s creation)

ii. Not likely to invent Joseph of Arimethea, a Jewish Sanhedrist (Sanhedrin voted to condemn Jesus) as the one who did right by burying Jesus in a proper tomb
--Embarrassment: criterion of embarrassment.

iii. For these reasons, most NT critics concur Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimethea in a tomb

2. The discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb is multiply attested in very early, independent sources.

a. pre-Markan source probably included and ended at the discovery of the empty tomb

i. incomplete w/o victory at the end

b. third line of four-line formula (mentioned above) is summary of empty tomb narrative

i. “he was buried” followed by “he was raised” implies empty tomb

ii. “on the third day” (since they didn’t ‘see’ the resurrection and couldn’t have known which day it occurred) is when the women found the tomb empty

c. Matthew is independent source, including the story of the guard at the tomb

d. traces of prior-tradition in non-Matthean vocabulary in his narrative

i. also, “This story has been spread among Jews till this day” (Matt. 28:15) suggests Matthew is responding to prior tradition.
--Effect. (See 6 below.)

e. Luke is independent source, including the story (not in Mark) of the two disciples’ verifying the report of the women that the tomb was vacant

f. Luke’s story (e) is independently attested in John

g. apostolic sermons in Acts (2:29-32; 13:36-7)

3. Semitic traces. The phrase “the first day of the week” in Mark reflects ancient tradition.

a. speaks to the fact that the tradition is very old, predating the “on the third day” motif

4. Principles of embellishment: The Markan story is simple and lacks legendary development/embellishment.

a. “The resurrection itself is not witnessed or described, and there is no reflection on Jesus’ triumph over sin and death, no use of Christological titles, no quotation of fulfilled prophecy, no description of the Risen Lord.”

b. no reason to think the tradition ever lacked the angel.

i. If the angel was a literary figure used by Mark to explain the empty tomb, the tradition Mark takes from is even more “stark and unadorned” (cf. John 20:1-2).

c. compare to the account from the extra-biblical Gospel of Peter
“describes Jesus’ triumphant egress from the tomb as a gigantic figure whose head reaches above the clouds, supported by giant angels, followed by a talking cross, heralded by a voice from heaven, and all witnessed by a Roman guard, the Jewish leaders, and a multitude of spectators! This is how real legends look: they are colored by theological and apologetical developments,” (p. 367, Dr. Craig, Reasonable Faith).

5. Embarrassment. The tomb was probably discovered empty by women (discussed further in the book: considered unreliable in court, occupied low rung on Jewish social ladder—disciples wouldn’t have invented this).

a. “Secret Gospel of Mark” tradition was fraud by Morton Smith.

b. If you’re going to “make up” that the women witnessed it, why not make up that the men had ‘not’ fled too far away (a “fiction of the critics”) and were the first witnesses?

c. If you’re going to “make up” that the women witnessed it (and didn’t tell anybody) to explain “why the fact of Jesus’ empty tomb had remained unknown until the writing of his Gospel” why not leave out the part where Jesus commands the women to tell the disciples they will see Jesus?

i. for thirty years nobody asks the women what happened after the women left the cross (btw, this includes that the women saw where he was laid, relevant to Wrong Tomb hypothesis: Mark 15:42-47)?

ii. for thirty years, even after the resurrection appearances, the women just keep silent?

6. Effect. The earliest Jewish polemic (“disciples stole body”) presupposes the empty tomb.

a. Matthew 28:11-15. A stolen body leaves an (undenied) empty tomb.

b. Skeptics regard “the guard” as an apologetic legend.

i. fact: aimed at widespread Jewish allegation that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body

7. “According to Jacob Kremer, a New Testament critic who has specialized in the study of the resurrection: ‘By far most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.’ In fact, in a survey of over 2,200 publications on the resurrection in English, French, and German since 1975, Gary Habermas found that 75 percent of scholars accepted the historicity of the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb. The evidence is so compelling that even a number of Jewish scholars, such as Pinchas Lapida and Geza Vermes, have declared themselves convinced on the basis of the evidence that Jesus’ tomb was found empty,” (Dr. Craig, On Guard, p. 230).

(Rival Hypotheses: Conspiracy, Apparent Death, Wrong Tomb, Displaced Body, Bodily Resurrection)

--Postmortem Appearances

1. Paul’s list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances guarantees that such appearances occurred. I Cor 15:3-8. Old Jerusalem-Christian tradition quoted by Paul.

a. Appearance to Peter. I Cor 15:3-8. Old Jerusalem-Christian tradition quoted by Paul.

i. Paul (Gal 1:18) two weeks with Peter in Jerusalem three years after Paul’s conversion

ii. Multiple attestation: mentioned in another old Christian tradition found in Luke 24:34

iii. As a result, even the most skeptical NT critics agree Peter saw an appearance of Jesus alive after death.

b. Appearance to the Twelve (best attested). I Cor 15:3-8. Old Jerusalem-Christian tradition quoted by Paul.

i. Paul had contact with them (less Judas—“The Twelve” was a formal title).

ii. Multiple attestation: independent stories in Luke 24:36-42 and John 20:19-20
--Jesus shows his wounds and eats to show he was raised physically and is Jesus

c. Appearance to five hundred brethren. I Cor 15:3-8. Old Jerusalem-Christian tradition quoted by Paul.

i. Paul had personal contact with them, since he knew some of them had died.

ii. He mentions most are still alive because their witness adds weight to what he is saying—they can be questioned

iii. Paul couldn’t have gotten away w/ saying these things if they weren’t true

iv. It is probably not mentioned in the Gospels because it took place in Galilee, and the Gospels focus their attention on the appearances in Jerusalem

v. Was this the appearance predicted by the angel in the pre-Markan passion story and described by Matthew (28:16-17)?

d. Appearance to James (Jesus’ younger brother). I Cor 15:3-8. Old Jerusalem-Christian tradition quoted by Paul.

i. Was a skeptic during Jesus’ lifetime (Mark 3:21, 31-35; John 7:1-10).
--Embarrassment: criterion of embarrassment

ii. After resurrection, Jesus’ brothers are among the fellowship in the upper room (Acts 1:14)

iii. In Acts 12 Peter says “Report this to James.”

iv. In Gal 1:19 James is an apostle.

v. In Gal 2:9, James is one of the three ‘pillars’ of the church.

vi. In Acts 21:18, James is the sole head of the church and council of elders.

vii. Historical congruence. Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, 20.200) says he is stoned to death illegally by the Sanhedrin after A.D. 60 for his faith

viii. His brothers, too, became believers active in the church (1 Cor 9:5)

ix. If crucified, would have confirmed Jesus’ brothers’ doubts, unless they saw the resurrected Jesus

x. Effect. NT critic Hans Grass admits conversion of James one of surest proofs of resurrection

e. Appearance to “all the apostles.” Multiple attestation. Acts 1:21-22; I Cor 15:3-8. Old Jerusalem-Christian tradition quoted by Paul.

i. Paul had personal contact with them.

f. Appearance to Saul of Tarsus. Acts 9:1-9 (later told again twice, referred to in Paul’s letters). I Cor 15:3-8. Multiple attestation.

i. Effect. “This event changed Saul’s whole life. He was a rabbi, a Pharisee, a respected Jewish leader. He hated the Christian heresy and was doing everything in his power to stamp it out. He was even responsible for the execution of Christian believers. Then suddenly he gave up everything. He left his position as a respected Jewish leader and became a Christian missionary: he entered a life of poverty, labor, and suffering. He was whipped, beaten, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked three times, in constant danger, deprivation, and anxiety. Finally, he made the ultimate sacrifice and was martyred for his faith at Rome. And it was all because on that day outside Damascus, he saw ‘Jesus our Lord’ (I Cor 9:1),” (p. 380, Dr. Craig, Reasonable Faith).

2. Multiple attestation. The Gospel accounts provide multiple, independent attestation of postmortem appearances of Jesus.

a. The appearance to Peter independently attested by Paul and Luke (1 Cor 15:5; Luke 24:34) and universally acknowledged by critics.

b. The appearance to the Twelve is independently attested by Paul, Luke and John (1 Cor 15:5; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-20) and is not in dispute (even if many critics are skeptical of the physical demonstrations that attend this appearance).

c. The appearance to the women disciples independently attested by Matthew and John (Matt 28:9-10; John 20:11-17).

i. Embarrassment: also fulfills criterion of embarrassment (see above).
--generally agreed that absence of this appearance from tradition quoted by Paul is a reflection of that embarrassment

d. appearances in Galilee independently attested by Mark, Matthew and John (Mark 16:7; Matt 28:16-17; John 21)

i. “Taken sequentially, the appearances follow the pattern of Jerusalem—Galilee—Jerusalem, matching the festival pilgrimages of the disciples as they returned to Galilee following the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread and traveled again to Jerusalem two months later for Pentecost,” (p. 381, Dr. Craig, Reasonable Faith).

e. NT critics Perrin, Ludemann (and others) do not dispute the disciples saw the risen Jesus. “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ,” (Dr. Craig quoting Ludemann, On Guard, p. 236).

3. The resurrection appearances were physical, bodily appearances.

a. Paul implies that the appearances were physical. 1 Cor 15:42-44 (‘spiritual’ is used in same sense as it is used in 1 Cor 2:14-15)

i. as opposed to Stephen’s ‘vision’ in Acts which no one else experienced in any way

b. The Gospel accounts show the appearances were physical and bodily.

i. None of them non-physical. No trace of an earlier, non-physical oral tradition, and eye-witnesses are still about.

ii. Non-physical visions do not explain the Gospel accounts of physical resurrection, since Gentiles wanted to be rid of the body and Jews could not conceive of an ‘individual’ resurrection before the end. Dissimilarity.

iii. Not from anti-Docetic motives, since they didn’t think the resurrection was a vision, more would need to be done than Jesus’ showing his wounds, and Docetism came later than the appearance traditions.

iv. Only reason for denying bodily resurrection is philosophical (“problem of miracles”), not historical.

(Rival Hypotheses: Hallucination, Bodily Resurrection)

--Origin of Christian Faith

(Skeptical NT scholars admit earliest disciples ‘believed’ in Jesus’ resurrection.)

(Without resurrection, would not have believed Jesus is Messiah, since had no conception of Messiah who is shamefully executed as criminal. Disimmilarity. Acts 2:32, 36.)

(Meier rejects there was a community of believers devoted to Q document who had no belief in resurrection, because only two Q communities we know of were Matthew and Luke’s churches, who both valued the passion tradition.)

(Discussion of Wright’s critique of Bultmann’s ‘exaltation’ hypothesis on p. 389.)

1. Dissimilarity. Not from Christian Influences.

a. There was no Christianity yet.

2. Dissimilarity. Not from Pagan Influences.

a. That Jesus’ resurrection is a copycat of other resurrection myths is itself a myth.

i. Many of the alleged parallels are actually apotheosis stories, disappearance stories, Emperor worship—none of them parallel to the Jewish idea of the resurrection of the dead.

ii. The ‘dying and rising gods’ did not ‘rise’ but lived in the netherworld, or went through cycles of dying and rising [Jews knew about (Ezek. 37:1-14) and found seasonal deities abhorrent], rather than one single resurrection (Mettinger).

iii. There is no trace of cults of dying and rising gods in first-century Palestine (Kittel).

3. Dissimilarity. Not from Jewish influences.

a. Jewish resurrection: Isaiah 26:19, Ezekiel 37, Daniel 12:2.

i. Occurs after the end of history (John 11:23-24, Mark 9:9-11)

ii. Does not happen to just one individual (I Cor 15:20)

b. no other example of any Jewish group (century before or century after) claiming their executed leader had died and been raised from the dead and really was the Messiah after all

c. If the disciples had merely had hallucinations (which would only have involved visions of Jesus, since they had no concept of individual, mid-history resurrection—Dissimilarity), they would not have concluded he had been raised bodily from the dead. At most, they would have concluded he had been translated or assumed into heaven.
(Discussion of Wright’s critique of Bultmann’s ‘exaltation’ hypothesis on p. 389.)

(Rival Hypotheses: Conspiracy, Apparent Death, Wrong Tomb, Displaced Body, Bodily Resurrection)

STEP TWO: “to argue that the hypothesis of Jesus’ resurrection is the best or most probable explanation of those facts”

Rival Hypotheses:

Conspiracy: Disciples stole Jesus’ body, lied about postmortem appearances.

Apparent Death (a.k.a. Swoon): Jesus didn’t really die but revived in the tomb.

Wrong Tomb: The women didn’t know they went to the wrong tomb.

Displaced Body: The disciples didn’t know Joseph moved Jesus to common grave.

Hallucination: The disciples hallucinated Jesus’ resurrection appearances.

Antecedent Influences: Resurrection part of early pagan, Jewish or Christian beliefs.
--won’t be countered here, because countered above

Bodily Resurrection: Jesus was resurrected physically by God from the dead.

Now to apply McCullagh’s criteria (p. 371 of Dr. Craig’s Reasonable Faith) for justifying historical hypotheses:

1. The hypothesis, together with other true statements, must imply further statements describing present, observable data (literary evidence of NT).

“Virtually any explanation offered for the resurrection will fulfill this first criterion, since such explanations are offered to account for the New Testament witness to Jesus’ resurrection and so will imply that the literary evidence contained in the New Testament will exist as a result of the events described in the proposed hypothesis,” (RF, p. 371).

Conspiracy: See above. Gospel accounts are deliberate fabrications.

Apparent Death: See above.

Wrong Tomb: See above.

Displaced Body: See above.

Hallucination: See above.

Bodily Resurrection: “Dialectical theologians like Barth often spoke of the resurrection as a supra-historical event; but even though the cause of the resurrection is beyond history, that event nonetheless has a historical margin in the empty tomb and resurrection appearances. As J.A.T. Robinson nicely put it, there was not simply nothing to show for it; rather there was ‘nothing’ to show for it (that is, an empty tomb)! Moreover, there is the Christian faith itself to show for it. The present, observable data is chiefly in the form of historical texts which form the basis of the historian’s reconstruction of the events of Easter,” (RF, p.397).

2. The hypothesis must have greater explanatory ‘scope’ than rival hypotheses. It will explain more of the evidence.

Conspiracy: Explains empty tomb, postmortem appearances, disciples’ belief.

Apparent Death: Same as above.

Wrong Tomb: Doesn’t explain resurrection appearances.

Displaced Body: Only explains empty tomb.

Hallucination: Only explains resurrection appearances.

Bodily Resurrection: Explains empty tomb, postmortem appearances, disciples’ belief.

***Surviving hypotheses: Conspiracy, Apparent Death, Bodily Resurrection

3. The hypothesis must have greater explanatory ‘power’ than rival hypotheses. It will make the evidence more probable.

Conspiracy: Why invent the embarrassing detail that women were first witnesses to empty tomb? Principle of embellishment: Why not more theophany-type glorifying embellishments of resurrection experiences? Why isn’t Matthew’s guard there in pre-Markan tradition—and why isn’t the guard there before Saturday morning in Matthew’s story (like they are in the Gospel of Peter)? Why no appearances to Caiaphas or the Sanhedrin as Jesus predicted, branding them liars? What about the fact that the disciples’ lives were transformed and they died for their “supposed” belief? Effect.

Apparent Death: How explain empty tomb, since a man sealed inside cannot move the stone? How did a half-dead man move the stone? Why did the appearance of a half-dead man make the disciples think he had died and then conquered death by rising again? Why did they believe he rose again (contrary to Jewish thought), instead of believing he never died? Dissimilarity. Why couldn’t two women handle the stone (Mark 16), if a half-dead man could handle it?

Wrong Tomb: Has no explanatory power to explain postmortem appearances. It has no power to explain their belief, because they would have investigated the tomb (without getting lost) rather than believing the women (btw, the women saw where he was laid in Mark 15:42-47). Certainly the Jewish opponents would have pointed out Jesus’ body in the correct tomb.

Displaced Body: Has no power to explain the appearances or belief. Has same problems as “Wrong Tomb” hypothesis. Why didn’t Joseph and his servants correct the disciples’ error? Why do the Jews instead claim the disciples stole the body? Why is there no evidence of a dispute over the location/identity of Jesus’ corpse?

Hallucination: Only very weakly explains appearances. The diversity of the appearances and that they happened to groups and unbelievers and even enemies bursts the bounds of the psychological casebooks. A chain-reaction among the disciples does not account for people like James and Saul, who stood outside the chain. Non-physical hallucinations (“visions”) do not explain the Gospel accounts of physical resurrection, since Gentiles wanted to be rid of the body and Jews could not conceive of individual, mid-history resurrection. Dissimilarity. At the very least, they would have assumed the vision was of Jesus “from beyond the grave”. At most, they would have concluded he had been translated or assumed into heaven, like Elijah.

Bodily Resurrection: The Conspiracy and Apparent Death hypotheses, though having good explanatory scope with regard to the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith, have very poor explanatory power (above), whereas the Bodily Resurrection hypothesis makes it very probable that all the data is just as it is.

***Surviving hypothesis: Bodily Resurrection.

4. Hypothesis must be more plausible. It will fit better with true background beliefs.

Conspiracy: Unbelievable complexity of pulling off such a conspiracy, something about the supposed psychological state of the disciples, it wouldn’t have entered the Jewish disciples’ minds to make up (for others to believe) an individual, mid-history resurrection (Dissimilarity). The transformation of the disciples becomes very improbable. Effect.

Apparent Death: Roman executioners were very reliable (spear in the side, piercing heart). Jesus’ tortures ‘before’ that would have prevented him from surviving a crucifixion or entombment. Then Jesus went on to move the stone and appear to his disciples as the Risen Lord throughout Jerusalem and Galilee? Two women couldn’t handle the stone (Mark 16), but a half-dead man could handle it? The transformation of the disciples becomes very improbable. Effect.

Wrong Tomb: Implausible in light of evidence we do have, like that the site was known by both Jew and Christian, the empty tomb story is extremely early and shows no sign of theological development and reflection. Implausible for same reasons as Hallucination hypothesis.

Displaced Body: Criminal’s graveyard not far off, had adequate time for a simple burial, so Joseph would have put it there in the first place (rather than moving it later). Also, Jewish law did not permit moving the body later, except to the family tomb. Historical congruence.

Hallucination: First, Ludemann’s psychoanalysis (Peter and Paul’s guilt) implausible because based on highly disputed theories, insufficient data, evidence that Paul did not struggle from guilt complex [Romans 7 is not to be interpreted in terms of Paul’s pre-Christian experience, and Paul said “As to righteousness under the Law (I was) blameless,” (Phil 3:6)]. Second, in 1 Cor 15 Paul is saying his experience of Jesus was just as objective and real as the other apostles—he was not diluting theirs to a mere vision. Non-physical hallucinations (“visions”) do not explain the Gospel accounts of physical resurrection, since Gentiles wanted to be rid of the body and Jews could not conceive of individual, mid-history resurrection. Dissimilarity. At the very least, they would have assumed the vision was of Jesus “from beyond the grave”. At most, they would have concluded he had been translated or assumed into heaven, like Elijah.

Bodily Resurrection: “plausibility…grows exponentially as we consider it in its religio-historical context of Jesus’ unparalleled life and radical personal claims and in its philosophical context of the arguments of natural theology. Once one abandons the philosophical prejudice against the miraculous, the hypothesis that God should raise Jesus from the dead is no more implausible than its rivals, nor are they more plausible than the resurrection,” (RF, p. 397).

***Still surviving hypothesis: Bodily Resurrection.

5. Hypothesis must be less ad hoc or contrived (“won’t require adopting as many new beliefs that have no independent evidence” (Dr. Craig, On Guard, p. 244).

Conspiracy: What all the evidence points to is mere appearance. The disciples’ conspiratorial motives, ideas, and actions for which there is no shred of evidence. The moral character of the disciples was defective (not implied by already existing knowledge). Can become even more ad hoc when having to answer objections to the hypothesis (like the appearance to the 500 brethren, the women’s role in the empty tomb and appearance stories). The disciples’ lives were transformed because of and they died for their “feigned” belief. Effect.

Apparent Death: The centurion’s lance thrust into Jesus’ side was just a superficial poke or is unhistorical detail (goes beyond existing knowledge). A half-dead man went on to single-handedly move the stone, get past the guard and appear to his disciples as the Risen Lord throughout Jerusalem and Galilee. Rather than making the disciples believe he had ‘not’ died, the appearance of a half-dead man made the disciples think he had died and then conquered death by rising again (contrary to Jewish thought). Gets even more ad hoc in its conspiratorial forms. Secret societies, secret potions, secret alliances between disciples and Sanhedrin, et cetera. It requires a biological miracle (of the gaps), that Jesus survived his tortures, crucifixion and entombment.

Wrong Tomb: Accepts some evidence (the women’s visit to the tomb, most of the angel’s words, that there ‘is’ some person saying those words, that the women react with fear and astonishment) while disregarding other equally-authentic evidence (the women noting where the body was laid, the words “He is risen!”, the person saying those words is an angel, that the women’s reaction is to the angelic confrontation).

Displaced Body: Ascribes motives and actions to Joseph for which there is no evidence. “Becomes even more contrived if we have to start inventing things like Joseph’s sudden death in order to save the hypothesis,” (Dr. Craig, On Guard, p. 254).

Hallucination: “It assumes that the disciples fled back to Galilee after Jesus’ arrest, that Peter was so obsessed with guilt that he projected a hallucination of Jesus, that the other disciples were prone to hallucinations, and that Paul had a struggle with the Jewish law and a secret attraction to Christianity,” (RF, p. 387). It requires a psychological miracle (of the gaps) in the case of the appearances to more than one person at a time, as people do not share hallucinations. It assumes that a physical resurrection was desirable to the Gentile imagination (it was not) and available to the Jewish imagination (it was not). Dissimilarity. At the very least, they would have assumed the vision was of Jesus “from beyond the grave”. At most, they would have concluded he had been translated or assumed into heaven, like Elijah.

Bodily Resurrection: Though McCullagh thought that the Resurrection hypothesis was ad hoc, it seems only to require one new supposition, unless one is already a theist with a background knowledge of the arguments of natural theology: that God exists. “Scientific hypotheses regularly include the supposition of the existence of new entities, such as quarks, strings, gravitons, black holes, and the like, without those theories being characterized as ad hoc,” (RF, p. 398). The biological miracle of Apparent Death, and the psychological miracle of Hallucination, strike one as artificial and contrived (“of the gaps”) compared to Resurrection, within the context of Jesus’ ministry and personal claims.

***Still surviving hypothesis: Bodily Resurrection.

6. Hypothesis must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs. It won’t conflict with as many accepted beliefs.

Conspiracy: Disconfirmed by knowledge that conspiracies tend to unravel, the disciples’ sincerity (died for faith), the unavailability of individual, mid-history resurrection to the Jewish imagination, et cetera. Dissimilarity.

Apparent Death: Massively disconfirmed by medical facts about the effects of scourging and crucifixion, and unanimous evidence that Jesus did not continue among his disciples after his death.

Wrong Tomb: Disconfirmed by generally accepted beliefs that Joseph buried Jesus and so could point to burial location and empty tomb tradition is very early.

Displaced Body: Disconfirmed by what we know of Jewish burial procedures for criminals. Historical congruence.

Hallucination: Disconfirmed by “the belief that Jesus received an honorable burial by Joseph of Arimethea, that Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by women, that psychoanalysis of historical figures is not feasible, that Paul was basically content with his life under the Jewish law, and that the New Testament makes a distinction between a vision and a resurrection appearance,” (RF, p. 387). (Joseph and the women add some ‘disconfirming’ embarrassment.) Disconfirmed by the fact that individual, mid-history resurrection was inconceivable to the Jewish imagination, and undesirable to the Gentile imagination. Disconfirmation by dissimilarity.

Bodily Resurrection: “Dead men do not rise” (addressed by addressing “problem of miracles”).

***Still surviving hypothesis: Bodily Resurrection.

7. Hypothesis must significantly exceed rivals in fulfilling 2 through 6.

Conspiracy: Although it has good explanatory scope, “there are better hypotheses, such as the Hallucination Hypothesis, which do not dismiss the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection as fraudulent,” (RF, p. 373). Poor explanatory power.

Apparent Death: Although it has good explanatory scope, it is hardly a standout. Poor explanatory power.

Wrong Tomb: Nope.

Displaced Body: Nope. If the resurrection is denied, historians are left w/o explanation of the empty tomb, as scarcely any modern historian or biblical critic would hold to these hypotheses.

Hallucination: Although it has very poor explanatory scope (for starters), this is the only hypothesis entertained by skeptical scholars and so exceeds its naturalistic rivals, but not the Resurrection. “Different individuals and groups saw Jesus physically and bodily alive from the dead. Furthermore, there is no good way to explain this away psychologically,” (RF, p. 387) and individual, mid-history resurrection was not available to the Jewish imagination. Dissimilarity

Bodily Resurrection: Given the religio-historical context and vindicating Jesus’ radical personal claims, Jesus’ resurrection explains well the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith. It has “greater explanatory scope than some rival explanations like the hallucination hypothesis or the displaced body hypothesis by explaining all three of the main facts at issue, whereas these rival hypotheses explain only one,” (Dr. Craig, On Guard, p. 259). Its explanatory power is its greatest strength. “The conspiracy hypothesis and the apparent death hypothesis, just do not convincingly account for the empty tomb, resurrection appearances, and origin of the Christian faith; on these theories the evidence (for example, the transformation of the disciples) becomes very improbable. Effect. By contrast, on the hypothesis of Jesus’ resurrection it seems extremely probable that the tomb should be empty, that the disciples should see appearances of Jesus alive, and that they should come to believe in His resurrection,” (ibid). It has been shown that the resurrection hypothesis requires only one new supposition (if one is not already a theist), whereas rival theories require many. It has been shown that the resurrection hypothesis is only disconfirmed if the problem of miracles is a real one (but this is addressed elsewhere), whereas rival theories are disconfirmed by many accepted beliefs. Once one gives up the prejudice against miracles, there is no better rival.

***Sole surviving hypothesis: Bodily Resurrection.

Remember, following where the evidence leads is not the same as trusting the person it leads to. A 'reasonable' faith is not mere intellectual assent, but includes a relationship with the God who died to show us that he loves us no matter what.

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