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Reasonable Faith 8: The Resurrection of Jesus 3

02/17/2011

Finally, Craig gets to the main part. Inference to the best explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead. His evidence is that the tomb of Jesus was found empty, different groups saw Jesus after the empty tomb, the first disciples sincerely believed Jesus’ resurrection.

The Empty Tomb: 6 lines of evidence

  1. Historical reliabilityof burial story- multiply attested by early sources
  2. Discovery of empty tomb is historically reliable- also multiply attested by early sources
  3. The phrase in Mark “the first day of the week” was probably in Aramaic, thus probably early
  4. Markan acccount is simple, lacking legendary developments
  5. Women discovered the tomb- this would be embarrassing, and so is likely true
  6. Jewish critiques assumed an empty tomb

Possible alternative explanations include Conspiracy Hypothesis: Craig argues that a conspiracy was unlikely due to lower explanatory power. This hypothesis fails to explain lack of embellishments that could have occurred, and especially the origin of beliefs in the disciples. He also says that this explanation is very ad hoc, coming up with many extra nuances to explain the objections.

Apparent Death Hypothesis:Craig’s response is that this explanation is very unlikely. The odds are very low that Jesus would be tortured and harmed as direly as he was a still survive. Jesus surviving would also have conspiratorial implications, lowering the likelihood further, and making need of more ad hoc explanations.

Wrong Tomb: The idea is that the women went to the wrong tomb, were told that Jesus is not there, and then hallucinated the rest. This fails to account for a large amount of other experiences, and doesn’t take into account other testimony that Jesus “is risen” for example.

Displaced Body: The idea is that Joseph of Arimithea put Jesus in a different tomb, only later to transport it to its rightful place. The women went to the tomb before Jesus was there.

Craig claims that there is no naturalistic explanation that is accepted. Is this an argument from ignorance, or is it a fair assumption to say that the supernatural explanation must be true? There may have been multiple different factors leading to the observed facts. Why demand a single explanation?

As for explanatory scope, does an explanation of the empty tomb need to explain the sightings of Jesus later? Can’t we use background knowledge, for example, of mass hysteria, shared beliefs in sightings, the malleability of memory that are established facts in psychology to explain these other events, without having to go to supernatural explanations? If there is a natural explanation that accounts for the facts and is not vanishingly unlikely, I think it would take precedence over the supernatural explanations.

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