Debate: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

I came across this debate today: Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? It's between Dr. William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, and Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished
Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina.

I find it fascinating. It's quite long (38 pages), but well worth the read if you're interested in the arguments for and against the resurrection. I don't think it does the topic justice, I'd like to see more arguments from each, with more cross-questioning, I don't think either of them answer all the questions they're posed by the other.

Personally, I find myself coming down on the side of Ehrman (surprise surprise!) ; he does make some very good points. Firstly, that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts, but records of existing oral tradition, the reliability of which is dubious. Secondly, that resurrection is a theological explanation, not a historical one. There are many possible theological explanations for the resurrection, if it occurred - one could think of any number on the spot, and Dr. Ehrman suggests one in the debate. How can we know that none of these explanations are true, but the Christian explanation is? The point is that theologians are free to debate the spiritual significance of an event, but this is not something that history can make any sort of judgement about.

Following on from that, Dr. Ehrman also asks Craig about other accounts of miracles from the time, such as Appolonius of Tyana - what historical basis is there for saying that these miracles happened? Craig as much as admits that there are none - in fact he brushes them aside as "myths and legends that have no historical value whatsoever". I'm surprised that he doesn't see that his statement can be easily turned around and applied to his own Christian miracle stories. He seems to me to have shot himself in the foot here. He, and many Christians like him, presuppose the truth of his own miracle traditions, while dismissing out of hand the miracle traditions of other religions. The resurrection of Jesus by God only becomes a valid possibility once one pressuposes God's existence (and more specifically: the existence of the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition). History has nothing to say on this topic, that's for theologians and philosophers.

Anyway, read it for yourself, see what you think.

Comments

  1. Miracles were an anathema to the Jews as was the i...

    by NAZOREAN on MONDAY, AUGUST 02, 2010 at 9:20PM
    Miracles were an anathema to the Jews as was the idea of a living physical God, either animate or inanimate. The whole idea is not Jewish. Neither was the concept of Christ Jewish, it was Hindoo. The idea was brought back to Israel c 38 CE by Apollonius of Tyana and it is he who tried to sell it to the Jews. They wouldn't buy it so he took it to the Romans.

    The Romans under the influence of the Piso family had an idea on how to subvert the religion of the Messianic Jewish Movement which was the fastest growing religion in the Empire at that time. A plot was created called the 'Pisonian Conspiracy'. The plot called for the assassination of the the Emperor Nero and the creaton of a new religion to compete with the Messianic Jewish one. It failed and 50 Romans met their maker.

    Apollonius had brought back some religious documents from India which formed the basis for the new scriptures. Quite revealing are the more secular mentions of Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth. First, we have the infamous 'Testimonium Flavianum' of Josephus made at the end of 'Jewish Antiquities,' which was not published until the middle of the 90s, then we have the quotes by St. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome also made at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century. At that time, we also have the famous apologetics quotes by Suetonius and Tacitus about Jesus and the Christiani.

    Conversely, we have the Pauline Epistles which were written and preached during the 50s making no reference to Jesus of Nazareth. The author knows about a cosmic Christ the Savior, but nothing about a real live crucified Jesus Christ. Then we have 'The Shepherd of Hermes' which most scholars have attributed to the early second century, but others believe may have been written by 'Paul.' Paul was actually Apollonius of Tyana, who was of Greek ancestry, which makes him an obvous candidate to be the author. This scripture was a part of the early Church canon and makes no mention of Jesus of Nazareth. Then we have 'The Epistle of Barnabas' believed to have been written during the 80s. This early Church scripture only mentions Jesus Christ, but knows nothing about a real live flesh and blood Jesus of Nazareth.

    The gospel accounts of the life and passion of Jesus Christ are believed to have been first written during the late 60s and early 70s. Strangely, prior to this time no one ever heard of Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth. It was only after the gospels were written that we hear quotes about Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were a real person who was crucified c 30 CE we would not need gospels to tell us that he existed and that these events actually happened.

    Dead Sea Scroll archivist Joseph Atwill in 'Caesar's Messiah' clearly shows in the empty tomb narrative, which appears in all 4 gospels, that the gospels had a common source and were not eye witness accounts of some quasi-literate Jewish Apostles. Starting with John, then Matthew, then Mark and finally Luke, what we find is that in Matthew, Mary sees the tomb scene precisely as she left it in John and so on. This shows common knowledge among the authors of all 4 gospels. To learn more about how the Romans subverted the teachings of Yeshu and the Nazoreans and proclaimed them the revelations of their godman Jesus Christ visit: http://www. nazoreans.com
  2. Miracles were an anathema to the Jews as was the i...

    by NAZOREAN on MONDAY, AUGUST 02, 2010 at 9:20PM
    Miracles were an anathema to the Jews as was the idea of a living physical God, either animate or inanimate. The whole idea is not Jewish. Neither was the concept of Christ Jewish, it was Hindoo. The idea was brought back to Israel c 38 CE by Apollonius of Tyana and it is he who tried to sell it to the Jews. They wouldn't buy it so he took it to the Romans.

    The Romans under the influence of the Piso family had an idea on how to subvert the religion of the Messianic Jewish Movement which was the fastest growing religion in the Empire at that time. A plot was created called the 'Pisonian Conspiracy'. The plot called for the assassination of the the Emperor Nero and the creaton of a new religion to compete with the Messianic Jewish one. It failed and 50 Romans met their maker.

    Apollonius had brought back some religious documents from India which formed the basis for the new scriptures. Quite revealing are the more secular mentions of Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth. First, we have the infamous 'Testimonium Flavianum' of Josephus made at the end of 'Jewish Antiquities,' which was not published until the middle of the 90s, then we have the quotes by St. Ignatius of Antioch and Clement of Rome also made at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second century. At that time, we also have the famous apologetics quotes by Suetonius and Tacitus about Jesus and the Christiani.

    Conversely, we have the Pauline Epistles which were written and preached during the 50s making no reference to Jesus of Nazareth. The author knows about a cosmic Christ the Savior, but nothing about a real live crucified Jesus Christ. Then we have 'The Shepherd of Hermes' which most scholars have attributed to the early second century, but others believe may have been written by 'Paul.' Paul was actually Apollonius of Tyana, who was of Greek ancestry, which makes him an obvous candidate to be the author. This scripture was a part of the early Church canon and makes no mention of Jesus of Nazareth. Then we have 'The Epistle of Barnabas' believed to have been written during the 80s. This early Church scripture only mentions Jesus Christ, but knows nothing about a real live flesh and blood Jesus of Nazareth.

    The gospel accounts of the life and passion of Jesus Christ are believed to have been first written during the late 60s and early 70s. Strangely, prior to this time no one ever heard of Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth. It was only after the gospels were written that we hear quotes about Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were a real person who was crucified c 30 CE we would not need gospels to tell us that he existed and that these events actually happened.

    Dead Sea Scroll archivist Joseph Atwill in 'Caesar's Messiah' clearly shows in the empty tomb narrative, which appears in all 4 gospels, that the gospels had a common source and were not eye witness accounts of some quasi-literate Jewish Apostles. Starting with John, then Matthew, then Mark and finally Luke, what we find is that in Matthew, Mary sees the tomb scene precisely as she left it in John and so on. This shows common knowledge among the authors of all 4 gospels. To learn more about how the Romans subverted the teachings of Yeshu and the Nazoreans and proclaimed them the revelations of their godman Jesus Christ visit: http://www. nazoreans.com
  3. Hey Stu,<br><br>I can understand why you might say...

    by VERITAS on THURSDAY, JULY 26, 2007 at 12:10AM
    Hey Stu,

    I can understand why you might say that resurrection is a theological explanation and not a historical one, but remember, the resurrection doctrine claims to be embedded in history and therefore if true, is in fact a historical explanation with theological implications. The question is, using the canons of historical methodology, what evidence is there to infer resurrection over any other alternative.
  4. Stu,<br><br>I read the same debate but (surprise, ...

    by NATHANIEL on WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2007 at 1:26AM
    Stu,

    I read the same debate but (surprise, surprise!) I came away with quite a different impression.

    There is a very significant literature regarding the Apollonius parallel, which goes back a very long way. Craig missed a glorious opportunity to do a slam dunk there. But that's the nature of a public debate; things get dropped.

    You write:

    the gospels are not eyewitness accounts, but records of existing oral tradition, the reliability of which is dubious.

    I'd be interested to know what you think of Richard Bauckham's new book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Bauckham makes a serious case that the authors of the gospels were either eyewitnesses or else had direct access to eyewitnesses (e.g. Luke to the 70 and some of the women).

    Again, you write:

    Secondly, that resurrection is a theological explanation, not a historical one. . . . this is not something that history can make any sort of judgement about.

    Why not?
  5. If you read 1 Corinthians 15, Luke had a lot of pe...

    by TIM on WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2007 at 2:02PM
    If you read 1 Corinthians 15, Luke had a lot of people to ask - the greater part of 500 eye witnesses to the fact that the Lord had risen bodily.
    With regard to John, you only have to read the gospel carefully to see that he writes as a frontline witness. cf. 1 v 14 - we beheld His glory. This is first hand.
    Incidently, how can I be sure that there are not two Stuart Sherwins in Coventry and that I am corresponding with the right one?
  6. Whether or not someone is a 'reputable historian' ...

    by STU SHERWIN on TUESDAY, MAY 15, 2007 at 11:15PM
    Whether or not someone is a 'reputable historian' does not eliminate them from any bias. Nor does it guarantee skepticism with regard to testimonies. As you say, Luke did not himself see the empty tomb or the risen Jesus. He had to rely on others who claimed to have seen such things. Now if you were Luke, and people claimed that Jesus had risen from the dead, would you disbelieve them? Would you ask them to show you the tomb? Would you try to find the guards who had seen the event and persuade them to tell their story? Or would you just write it down as fact? After all, the purpose of writing your gospel is so that people might believe.

    Mark is understood to have got his information from Peter. Understood by whom? Where does Mark say "I got this from Peter"? Is it not merely an oral tradition that this is the case?

    Also whether the writers of Matthew or John were actually Matthew and John is very much in doubt by Biblical scholars.
  7. The historical evidence for the resurrection of th...

    by TIM on WEDNESDAY, MAY 09, 2007 at 1:30PM
    The historical evidence for the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the empty tomb with the obviously empty grave clothes.

    It appears from Matthew 27 v 63 that the chief priests had listened to the words of the Lord and remembered His prediction that He would rise again. As a result, they did all that they could to make the tomb safe. However they understood only too well the significance of the report given by the guards in Matthew 28 v 11 and fabricated the explanation that His disciples had stolen the body. Incidentally, although they put around this story, at no point did they confront the disciples with this allegation!

    The Lord appeared only to His followers after His resurrection and the list of witnesses is recorded in 1 Corinthians 15. The last view that this unbelieving world had of Jesus was hanging in shame on the cross. The next time He is seen, it will be when He comes in power and glory.

    The New Testament attests the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus as a matter of fact and not as an argument or theological explanation. Granted, there are many issues that arise from this fact of resurrection which are dealt with in the epistles. Furthermore, believers expect His literal return to the air to catch them away. For Him to return from heaven logically presupposes that He is already in heaven.

    The stark evidence is similar to that presented when Peter was released from prison as recorded in Acts 12. The prison was found empty with guards still in place who were subsequently executed for their incompetence. Peter appears to his acquaintances only, who have difficulty believing that he was free, and was not seen again until much later.

    Just because the Lord was not seen by the unbelieving masses, that is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the Biblical record of the resurrection. Matthew was a disciple so was John. John entered the empty tomb and later saw his risen Lord. Luke was a reputable historian of the time who, while not being a disciple, had access to those who had witnessed first hand. Mark is understood to have got his information from Peter who was a disciple at the tomb. I should be very careful therefore regarding your assertions of mere oral tradition and not eyewitness accounts as they are patently not true!
  8. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be w...

    by STU SHERWIN on MONDAY, MAY 07, 2007 at 5:06PM
    Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

    Prov 26:5
  9. ?

    by STU SHERWIN on WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2007 at 2:14AM
    ?
  10. Answer a fool according to his folly and you becom...

    by ANONYMOUS on SUNDAY, APRIL 08, 2007 at 2:04PM
    Answer a fool according to his folly and you become twice the fool.

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