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Reasonable Faith 8: The Resurrection of Jesus


This is a big honkin chapter, the largest in the book, so I’ll have to do this piecemeal. In it, Craig is defending the proposition that Jesus really came back from the dead.

He starts with a traditional case for the resurrection which has three main points, and some sub points.

  1. The Gospels are authenticBecause of internal evidence, for example that Acts was written before the death of Paul and before 70 AD, that there are a lot of historical details in the Gospels, that there are unflattering images of Jesus and the apostles, and that there are discrepancies between the books all support their authenticity. There is also external evidence that there were eyewitnesses who could weed out spurious versions of stories, and outside groups tended to support the claim that the Gospels were authentic. Also, there is a line of citations of the Gospels that starts early after they were written.
  2. The text is pure (same as when written)There are many copies of the manuscripts, which increased the chance of preserving the original, and there are no times that the corruption could have occurred, given the line of citations.
  3. The Gospels are reliableIf the Gospel accounts of the resurrection and miracles are false, the apostles are either deceivers or deceived. They were not deceived because they were well qualified and were cool and balanced, even after the crucifixion. They couldn’t be hallucinations because many people saw the same thing together, and the body was not in the tomb, and the disciples could not have stolen it.

    The apostles were not deceivers because of their suffering and death. No one does that for a lie, the Gospels were written too closely to the events, enemies of Christianity acknowledged the resurrection.

Kindle Notes:

If Jesus rose from the dead, then his claims are vindicated and our Christian hope is sure; if Jesus did not rise, our faith is futile and we fall back into despair (5905).

Note: Wheres the logic?

Would men in such circumstances pretend to have seen what they never saw; assert facts which they had not knowledge of, go about lying to teach virtue; and, though not only convinced of Christ’s being an imposter, but having seen the success of his imposture in his crucifixion, yet persist in carrying on; and so persist, as to bring upon themselves, for nothing, and with full knowledge of the consequence, enmity and hatred, danger and death? (6407).

Note: Are there good historical counter examples? Does cognitive dissonance theory answer this well?

A second popular argument against the disciples’ being deceivers was that their character precludes their being liars. Humphrey Ditton observes that the apostles were simple, common men, not cunning deceivers (6050).

Note: Simple cult members could be cast in the same light.

A third argument pressed by the apologists was that the notion of a conspiracy is ridiculous (6057).

a fourth argument, urged by Less, was that the Gospels were written in such temporal and geographical proximity to the events they record that it would have been almost impossible to fabricate events (6063).

Fifth, the theft of the body from the tomb by the disciples would have been impossible (6067).

Ditton argues that the story of the guard at the tomb is plausible, since the Jews had the ability and motivation to guard the tomb (6068).

Note: Plausible but fair to assume?

Sixth, even the enemies of Christianity acknowledged Jesus’ resurrection. The Jews did not publicly deny the disciples’ charge that the authorities had bribed the guard to keep silent. Had the charge been false, they would have openly denounced it. Thus, the enemies of Christianity themselves bore witness to the resurrection (6071).

Note: Stretch?

Seventh and finally, the dramatic change in the disciples shows that they were absolutely convinced Jesus had risen from the dead (6073).

Suppose, Vernet suggests, that no resurrection or miracles occurred: how then could a dozen men, poor, coarse, and apprehensive, turn the world upside down? (6078).

(1) the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his women followers on the first day of the week following his crucifixion, (2) various individuals and groups thereafter experienced on different occasions and under varying circumstances appearances of Jesus alive, and (3) the first disciples came sincerely to believe in Jesus’ resurrection in the absence of sufficient antecedent historical influences from either Judaism or pagan religions (6453).

Here I’ll summarize briefly eight lines of evidence supporting the fact that the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his women followers on the first day of the week following his crucifixion. 1) The historical reliability of the story of Jesus’ burial supports the empty tomb (6467).

Jews had no conception of a Messiah who, instead of triumphing over Israel’s enemies, would be shamefully executed by them as a criminal. Messiah was supposed to be a triumphant figure who would command the respect of Jew and Gentile alike and who would establish the throne of David in Jerusalem (6983).

Indeed, most scholars have come to doubt whether properly speaking there really were any myths of dying and rising gods at all. In the Osiris myth, one of the best known symbolic seasonal myths, Osiris does not really come back to life at all but simply continues to exist in the nether realm of the departed (7041).

The birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church . . . remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself (7104).

Now we are ready to summarize all three of our discussions. First, we saw that numerous lines of historical evidence prove that the tomb of Jesus was found empty by a group of his women followers. Second, we saw that several lines of historical evidence established that on numerous occasions and in different places Jesus appeared physically and bodily alive from the dead to various witnesses. And finally, we saw that the very origin of the Christian faith depends on belief of the earliest disciples that God had raised Jesus of Nazareth from among the dead (7128).

here are examples of standard criteria at work in our historical argument for Jesus’ resurrection: 1) Multiple attestation. We saw that the burial and empty tomb accounts are multiply attested by a remarkable number of independent and sometimes extremely early sources. The resurrection appearances enjoy multiple attestation from Pauline and Gospel traditions, and the latter themselves multiply attest to Jesus’ appearances, in some cases the same ones. And, of course, the fact that the first disciples came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection is attested throughout the New Testament. 2) Dissimilarity. The third point in our case based on the very origin of the Christian faith is a clear example of the application of this criterion, for the argument consists in showing that the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection cannot be explained as the result of either antecedent Jewish influences, because of its dissimilarity, or as a retrojection of Christian theology. 3) Embarrassment. Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea is supported by this criterion, since burial by a Sanhedrist is awkward for the church, whose leaders deserted Jesus. The argument for the discovery of the empty tomb by women is an outstanding illustration of the application of this criterion, for their role in the story was useless, not to say counterproductive, for the early church and would have been much better served by men. 4) Context and expectation. Again, the argument concerning the origin of the Christian way appeals to the absence of any expectation in Judaism of an executed, much less rising, Messiah in order to show that the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection cannot plausibly be explained as the outgrowth of Jewish beliefs and expectations. 5) Semitic traces. Aramaisms play a part in showing that the tradition quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 stems from the early church in Jerusalem. We also saw Semitic traces in the account of the empty tomb preserved in the pre-Markan passion story. 6) Effect. According to this criterion, an adequate cause must be posited for some established effect. The conversion of James and Paul, the earliest Jewish polemic concerning the disciples’ alleged theft of the body, and the disciples’ transformation after the crucifixion all constitute effects which point to the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the disciples’ coming to believe that Jesus was risen as their sufficient causes. 7) Principles of embellishment. It was on the basis of this criterion that I argued that the Markan account of the empty tomb, in contrast to the apologetically and theologically embellished account in the Gospel of Peter, was not a late legend. 8) Coherence. The very fact that we have three great, independently established facts pointing to the resurrection of Jesus-namely, the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith-is a powerful argument from coherence for the historicity of the resurrection. Moreover, these facts cohere interestingly with each other; for example, the coherence between Jesus’ physical resurrection appearances, Paul’s teaching on the nature of the resurrection body, and the empty tomb. 9) Historical congruence. Elsewhere I have shown the historical congruence of the burial and empty tomb narratives with what we know of first-century Jewish burial practices (7134).

it is difficult to see why the Resurrection Hypothesis is extraordinarily ad hoc. It seems to require only one new supposition: that God exists.

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