"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Incitatus, this one's for you bud

This link is to a 40 Meg, three hour presentation/discussion involving William Lane Craig, Bruce Winter and some other guy I've never heard of. The entire focus of this piece is the resurrection of Jesus.

I realize I have been reticent on this particular topic, mainly because I don't feel I have a firm enough understanding of all the factors in play. Hope you don't mind if I let some others speak who have been able to invest quite a bit more time into this topic than myself.

The points I've been picking out so far (I'm only half way through at the moment):

Modern scholarship agrees that:
  • Jesus did in-fact exist

  • Jesus was crucified

  • His tomb was indeed found empty

  • That the disciples did in-fact see something they believed to be the risen Christ

  • That they were able to convince large numbers of people that Jesus bodily rose from the dead.

P.S. If the mp3 download does not work for you they have this in several other formats here.

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Blogger Matt M said...

Hmmm, having had a look around that site earlier, I find myself less than willing to accept their word on the subject.

The only real accounts of the "resurrection" come from the Bible, which is a controversial text and far from a convincing base for historical speculation.

12:05 PM

Blogger Alex said...

You seem to be putting forth a rather ad hominem dismissal of this material. And as for the merits of the thoughts expressed?

You say: The only real accounts of the "resurrection" come from the Bible

The underlying assumption is that "The Bible" is an unreliable document. Historically speaking, is that an accurate view? You seem to be viewing this through an anacronastic lens. "The bible" that speaks of resurrection accounts is really nothing more than a collection of letters and writings from various writers in various locations. It was quite some time before they were codified into what we know as "The Bible". Using standard historical criterion how do they fare in their assessment?

12:41 PM

Blogger Matt M said...


I'd question any text which made extraordinary claims. In fact, I'd question any text making claims - period.

For example, on one of the history channels at the moment we have a Roman Season, with a number of documentaries claiming that they make use of the latest discoveries made about the period. Yet a lot of the specific claims have to be regarded as speculation, open to change in light of new evidence. And that's just for fairly mundane claims with various pieces of supporting evidence.

If we had 1000 claims that Julius Caesar was 15 foot tall and breathed fire, I wouldn't believe it, as it's just too improbable.

The same holds true for the Bible. The evidence of any resurrection is extremely thin: a number of contemporary accounts - by individuals involved in the very movement which claims its authority from it - feeding off one another and which may have been altered in the following centuries.

These are not independent accounts, nor do they provide anywhere near the level of evidence required by most people to establish that someone rose from the dead.

12:54 PM

Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Careful there.

"Modern scholarship agrees that:"

Should really read,

"Modern Christian scholarship agrees that:"

The debate still rages on many of the topics you subsequently list.

Jesus was crucified on charges of Blasphemy

Well, not technically. Caiaphas certainly put that forward as a reason Jesus was a nuisance, but I think Jesus was ultimately charged with contravening a Roman law (hence crucifixion), not a Jewish one (I think stoning being the usual punishment for that). Although judging by Philo's account, Pilate was none to bothered about getting into the specifics when it came to executing people.

"His tomb was indeed found empty"

A controversial claim to say the least. Just one rebuttal of many.

As it is, Jeff Lowder (wrote the above) also has an essay that I think is perhaps a little too "on the fence" but nevertheless a good treatment of the Resurrection debate from both sides.

4:22 PM

Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Thanks for the headsup by the way.

I still maintain that attempts to prove the historicity of the resurrection are largely futile, short of any astonishing new archaeological discoveries to settle the matter once and for all (if that's even possible).

That said, the evidence specifically testifying that Jesus didn't die and be resurrected is more scanty and equally questionable to the testimony that he did.

Therefore, we're back to the simple faith position; one believes the testimony of Mark et al or one does not. The issue for many atheists is that the strength of the testimony proclaiming the resurrection is terribly, terribly weak considering the improbability of the claim made.

But then, as it has often been argued, you can't really hold miracles up to conventional standards of plausibility when the miraculousness of such an event is proportional to its implausibility.

One things for sure, claims of the resurrection are nothing more than that; claims. The resurrection is not an established fact in the manner of Ceasar's crossing of the Rubicon. I think it does more harm than good to the legitimacy of Christian theology when people severely compromise intellectual standards simply to prove something that they want to be true. It's especially absurd when it is clear that a key element of Christianity has always been faith.

9:03 AM

Blogger Alex said...

Only have time to respond to the first comment you made. (hopefully I can come back to the second one as well.) I'm glad we are continuing this discussion as there is still so much I have yet to learn on this topic.

I certainly agree with you that presuppositions must play a major role in any talk of probability with reference to the resurrection. I can clearly see how ancient history alone is poorly equipped to provide a strong apologetic, one way or the other. At any rate...

Careful there.

"Modern scholarship agrees that:"

Should really read,

"Modern Christian scholarship agrees that:"

I'm not sure about this one. From what I've heard the bulk of Biblical scholarship (pro and con) accept the points I listed. The inferences they draw from these generally accepted facts vary widely, but the facts themselves are agreed to. I could be wrong though. I don't have a list of modern scholars handy. Heck, even Lowder seems to accept those points, though he attempts a quite different interpretation from them.

The debate still rages on many of the topics you subsequently list.

Perhaps, but where does the majority opinion come down? (not about the conclusion, but about the facts themselves.)

Well, not technically

I'll give you this one.

"His tomb was indeed found empty"

A controversial claim to say the least.

Now I may yet be missing something here, but isn't Lowder's whole point that the tomb was found empty because Jesus's corpse had been reburied? Isn't that still accepting the reality of the empty tomb, but with a alternate explanation?

12:00 PM

Blogger Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

Lowder doesn't question whether there was "an empty tomb" - although that isn't to say he agrees there was one, but simply conceding that the evidence could go either way - but he does raise the questions of whether Jesus was ever in the tomb in the first place; could have conceivably been in there alone; could possibly have been reburied thus leaving an "empty tomb" for legitimate rather than miraculous reasons.

What he does is flood Craig with countless alternative interpretations of the available evidence, thus relegating the "open tomb" issue from its place as a key part of the argument for the resurrection. I think he specifically avoided the "was there an empty tomb at all" question in order to focus the debate. That question is a separate debate in itself ("why didn't Pau mention the empty tomb?" etc).

1:47 PM


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