Monday, July 25, 2016

What if the Creed in First Corinthians 15 was about the Virgin Mary, not Jesus? Would you Believe it?

Superstitious people see what they want to see.
You see the Virgin Mary.
I see a water stain.

Many Christians, of all denominations, place a great deal of importance on the Witness List in the Early Creed found in First Corinthians 15 as the best evidence for the supernatural claim of the Resurrection of Jesus. Christians proclaim: "This witness list must be treated as we would treat eyewitness testimony to a traffic accident in a court of law. If so many eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the same car accident, that is excellent proof of the validity of the claim that the accident really had occurred."

But we aren't talking about a car accident. We are talking about a supernatural event. Just because multiple persons claim to have seen alien abductions, should we believe them? Just because thousands of people claim to have seen, talked to, and touched their recently departed loved one---should we believe them?

Here is something for Protestant Christians to think about. If the Apostle Paul had included a Marian Creed in one of his epistles, would you believe the eyewitness claims in that passage? Let's look at a hypothetical example:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:

That the Holy Virgin Mother intercedes for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that she was buried in Jerusalem, but when her grave was later opened, it was empty, and only her grave clothes remained.

She then appeared to Juan Diego on a hill in Mexico.

Then to Sister Catherine Luboure in Paris, to the Jewish convert Alphonse Ratisbonne in Rome, to Melanie Calvat and Maximim Giraud in France, eighteen times to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, and to Francisco Marto, Jacinta Marto, and Lucia Dos Santos in Fatima, Portugal.

In her final apparition to the children of Fatima, she caused many tens of thousands to see the sun appear to fall and spin like a wheel of fire, several times, as proof of her presence among them. In 1942, most of these eyewitnesses were still alive, though some had died.

Then she appeared in Beuaraing, Banneux, and Syracuse to more devout Catholics.

Last of all, as to one untimely born, she appeared also to me.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Common Christian Assumptions Regarding the Evidence for the Resurrection

Christian:  "While inconsequential differences could conceivably have crept in (to the "Jesus Story"), this was at a time when people took great pains to memorize what was said and repeat it exactly."

This is one of the biggest assumptions made by many Christians.

We know from collective human history that oral stories (rumors) can change very rapidly. The idea that somehow people in the first century were different cannot be proven. While it may be true that Jewish authorities/the religious elite are considered very good at maintaining the accuracy of oral traditions, can the same be said of a group of "unlearned" first century Galilean peasants??? We have zero proof that mostly uneducated first century peasants maintained strict accuracy with their oral traditions. The idea that they did, is nothing but an assumption.

Christian"Moreover, there still were some of the original eyewitnesses around who could immediately recognize if a significant alteration crept in and would call it out."

This is another major assumption.

We have no direct evidence that even one person who witnessed the crucifixion and the alleged events immediately after Jesus' death were still alive in circa 70 AD when the first gospel was written. And how many eyewitnesses were there? Thousands? Hundreds? Twenty?

Did five hundred people at the same time and in the same place see a physical, resurrected body, talk to a physical, resurrected body, touch a physical, resurrected body or did five hundred people BELIEVE that they had seen Jesus when they saw a bright Paul did...or as tens of thousands of Roman Catholics, in one place, at one time, have claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary?

Christians assume that Jesus' crucifixion and subsequent events were national headlines, but this too may be an embellishment of the gospel writers. No contemporary of Jesus wrote about the day the sky went dark for three hours, accompanied by earthquakes, sightings of celestial beings, dead people roaming the streets, and the capital city of a rebellious Roman province, simmering with near revolt as throngs of thousands hailed the "son of David, the messiah, the King of Israel and liberator from the Romans" celebrated his triumphal entry, with palm fronds and a parade, as he entered the city.

Christian"The rapid, universal acceptance of the Synoptics reveals that this was not the case."

The majority of NT scholars believe that embellishments (fiction) do exist in the Gospels, such as Matthew's "street-roaming dead saints story". Yet...the early Church "rapidly and universally" accepted the Gospels as the Word of God.  The rapid (not until the mid-second century at the earliest, actually) and universal acceptance of the Gospels is obviously, then, NOT proof that every detail within them is historical fact.

Therefore,  it is PLAUSIBLE/CREDIBLE that the Empty Tomb story is an embellishment (fiction) that no first century Christian had ever heard of until the author of Mark invented it in circa 70 AD.   And, it is therefore plausible that the early Christian Resurrection belief was based solely on alleged appearances, of a recently departed loved one, to grieving family and friends, not on the physical evidence of an empty tomb.

Friday, July 22, 2016

When is being a Good Samaritan not a Good Idea?

Growing up, I was taught that we should help those in need, especially those in serious need.  Helping others in need is at the core of most of the great world religions including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.  But when being a Good Samaritan becomes extremely dangerous, even mortally dangerous, is there ever a time when it is morally ok to stop providing care to those in extreme need, especially when the mortal danger comes from the very people you are trying to help?

Last year when the German Chancellor opened up the borders of her country to allow in a million refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East for the very lives and for the lives of their children, I applauded her action.  "This is humanity at its best!"  I thought.

I just turned on the news to see that there has been another killing spree, this time in a mall in Munich.  The details about the shooter are not yet available.  We don't know yet if this is the act of a mentally unstable person, an act of work place violence, or an act of terror.  But, earlier this week, a young refugee in Germany used an ax and a knife to attack innocent passengers on a train.  This young man had been taken in as a refugee by the German people, had been given shelter and care for two years by a German family, and had been given "Good Samaritan" assistance by the German government.  Yet, we now know that this young refugee committed his brutal, barbaric act in the name of Islamic terrorism---attacking the "Good Samaritans" who had helped rescue him from the conflicts in his home country.

And this attack comes after the savage slaughter of whole families in Nice, France, last week.

When is being a Good Samaritan not a good idea?  I don't know.  It breaks my heart every time I see little children suffering in refugee camps in the Middle East or see the tragic results of attempts by the parents of these children trying to bring them to safety across the Mediterranean to Europe.  But it also breaks my heart to see images of refugees and immigrants slaughtering the very people who have given them refuge.

What is the answer?

I don't know.

But it is very depressing to learn that being kind and compassionate is not always smart.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Was Jesus buried in a Rock Tomb or in a Dirt Trench?

I have previously stated on this blog and on other online forums that it is possible that the Empty Tomb Story was an invention of the anonymous author of the Gospel of Mark, written in circa 70 AD. It is possible that no one on the planet had ever heard of Joseph of Arimathea or his newly hewn rock tomb until "Mark", writing in a far away land, many decades later, invented it.

"Wait a minute,"
Christians counter, "the empty tomb seems to be a cornerstone of the early Resurrection faith. The apostles seem to have believed, despite every disposition, that Jesus had truly risen bodily from the dead."

I agree that an empty grave seems to be the cornerstone of the early Resurrection belief, but what evidence is there for an early, empty rock tomb belief? There is no mention in Paul's epistles of a "rock" tomb only a presumed "grave" as one must be in a grave of some sort to be "buried" and then "raised up" .

It is therefore possible and consistent with Paul's writings and the Creed found in First Corinthians 15 that Jesus' body was "buried" in an unmarked dirt trench, along with other persons executed that week, covered over, and the location forgotten. Shortly thereafter, some of Jesus' followers had experiences which led them to believe that Jesus had appeared to them in bodily form and, therefore, that he had been bodily resurrected. They believed that the grave of Jesus was empty because they had (they believed) seen his resurrected body, not because they had been given the opportunity to inspect an actual grave for a missing corpse. One can believe that the dead Elvis has appeared to you, without traveling to Graceland to verify that his tomb is empty.

This isn't my invented theory, it is what Bart Ehrman thinks probably happened.

Even if the rest of the Crucifixion story is true, why would a Galilean peasant be buried in a rock tomb? Scholars tell us that in first century Palestine, poor people were buried in dirt trenches. Only the rich were buried in rock tombs. Even assuming that the Romans did allow the Jews to take the bodies of Jesus and the two thieves down before the Passover/Sabbath, why would the Sanhedrin bury Jesus in a rock tomb? Why not toss his body along with those of the two thieves into a dirt trench? That would not be a violation of Jewish law. How long does it take to dig a dirt trench? The Sanhedrin knew Jesus was going to die. They knew the Sabbath was approaching. So the very minute that Pilate gave the ok to crucify Jesus, the Sanhedrin could have sent out a detail of grave diggers to dig a dirt trench for Jesus and the two thieves. The idea that a member of the Sanhedrin, who just the night before had unanimously voted to execute Jesus, would now want to bury him in his expensive, rock-hewn family tomb, is just preposterous.

The empty rock tomb of Joseph of Arimathea is most probably an embellishment. The Resurrection belief was based on "sightings of a dead person" by superstitious, mostly uneducated peasants. For the first forty years of Christianity, there was no claim of physical evidence for this belief: an empty tomb. The author of Mark invented this detail for theological reasons---to counter the claim of Jews and other skeptics that the Resurrection Belief was based on nothing more than ghost sightings by a bunch of grieving, emotionally hysterical, uneducated, Galilean peasants and fishermen.

"The poorer classes of Jewish society — the majority of the population — buried their dead in simple, individual trench graves dug into the ground, similar to the way we bury our dead today. This involved digging a rectangular trench in the ground, placing the deceased (wrapped in a shroud) at the bottom, and filling the trench back in with earth. Usually a crude headstone was set up at one end of the grave. Ossuaries are associated only with rock-cut tombs, since once bodies were interred in trench graves they were not dug back up for deposition in an ossuary."

---Jodi Magness, NT scholar

Jodi Magness is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an active member of the Society of Biblical Literature.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Christian Blogger Reviews my Analysis of Rev. John Bombaro's Defense of the Resurrection.

I received notice today that a Christian blogger, Kevin Moore, has accepted my challenge to respond to my review (here) of my former LCMS pastor, Rev. John Bombaro's, defense of the Resurrection.  I am delighted.  I have copied and pasted it below and will intersperse my comments in red.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A Response to Gary
Gary describes himself as a former “devout orthodox (fundamentalist) Christian,” who has rejected the Christian faith and appears to be on a quest to discredit the Christian religion (only the conservative/moderate versions of it.  I have no issue with liberal, universalist, Christianity). He recently entered my tiny speck of the blogosphere, insisting ("insisting" is a little strong.  I would say, "requesting") that I read his review of his former pastor’s defense of the Lord’s resurrection. He claims that belief in the resurrection lacks any good evidence and is “based on nothing more than assumptions, second century hearsay, superstition, and giant leaps of faith.” I read his review <Link>. Here is my response.
Evaluating the Evidence
     Gary maintains that “the overwhelming majority” of skeptics accept the testimonies of early Christians as valid evidence, although the evidence must be scrutinized “with the caveat that there may well be bias present in their statements.” I agree with this approach and with Gary’s observation that “both sides have a bias, but biases do NOT necessarily invalidate the evidence.”1
     Gary then affirms that he and most other skeptics “view the Bible as a mixture of truths and fiction. The key to understanding the Bible is examining each biblical claim to determine which category it belongs to, and not assuming every claim is true or every claim is false.” The problem here is that no one approaches the biblical record with a completely blank tablet, and one’s deep-seated presuppositions inevitably affect how the scriptures are evaluated. The pendulum swings in both directions. (I agree.) If one has little or no respect for the Bible or has a predisposition against it and examines the text merely to find fault, then the final assessment will almost certainly be negative.2 (Very true.  But I believe it is an assumption to state that most skeptics look at the Bible in this manner.  Some, yes, but, "most"?  I doubt it.  Most of us are looking for the truth.  If all we wanted is to bash Christianity, we would all claim that Jesus never existed and that ALL information about Jesus contained in the Gospels is fiction.  Most of us do not hold this extreme view because we respect evidence.  I for one believe that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus existed, was an apocalyptic first century Jewish preacher, who got on the wrong side of the Jewish authorities of his day, and was then crucified at the hands of the Romans.  I also believe that very soon after this death, his followers came to believe that Jesus had been bodily resurrected and had appeared to them in some form.
Would Gary deny this about most, some, or any skeptics? (Some skeptics very definitely have a deep animosity towards Christianity and therefore want to reject any fact claims about Jesus.  These people, however, are a minority, a small minority,  among skeptics.)
     It is commendable that he argues for an unbiased, objective analysis of the biblical evidence (I concur!), yet his own approach seems very one-sided. He repeatedly makes the very broad, anecdotal appeal to “the overwhelming majority” of skeptics and biblical scholars, but the only one he actually names is agnostic professor Bart Ehrman. How many scholarly critics are there (past and present), and where does each fit on the liberal-conservative theological spectrum, and who determines the percentage of the ones espousing a particular view? While I don’t know how many of these alleged experts Gary has read or listened to (presumably not all of them), it is apparent that his primary focus is pretty much limited to those who already agree with him. A clear example of this is his contention that “the Epistle of Second Peter is a known work of fraud! No scholar that I know of believes that Peter or any other eyewitness wrote that epistle.” There are numerous scholars that Gary evidently doesn’t “know of” who would disagree (e.g. D. A. Carson, E. M. B. Green, D. Guthrie, D. J. Moo, B. Reicke, etc.). Irrespective of which position one embraces, plethoric “scholars” can be cited for support. (It is absolutely correct that there are some scholars who believe that the Apostle Peter wrote the Second Epistle of Peter.  But I would bet that you could count them on one hand.  I would also bet that this handful of scholars consists of evangelical/fundamentalist Protestant inerrantists.)
The Biblical Evidence
     The main thrust of Gary’s argument is an attempt to discredit the veracity of the biblical record in general, and eyewitness testimony in particular. But all we have,” Gary assures his readers, “are four accounts written decades later, two of which and maybe three borrow heavily (plagiarize) from the first, by anonymous persons writing in far away lands, whom most scholars do NOT believe were eyewitnesses. Yes, dear Reader, you read that correctly: the majority of New Testament scholars living today do NOT believe that eyewitnesses wrote the four Gospels and the Book of Acts.”
     First of all, the four Gospel accounts are not “all we have.” Secondly, the assertion that “maybe three” of them plagiarize from the first is an allegation that no reputable scholar, to my knowledge, has ever made. That two of the Gospels borrowed from the first is a popular theory among non-conservatives, but this is not universally conceded nor is it proven. In fact, the striking differences among the synoptic accounts argue more readily for literary independence.3 Thirdly, the charge that most scholars deny “that eyewitnesses wrote the four Gospels and the Book of Acts” is not the earthshattering revelation that Gary seems to think it is. No one who is aware of the facts, even among extreme fundamentalists, believes that Luke-Acts and the Gospel of Mark were penned by eyewitnesses. The real issue is whether these two authors were acquainted with eyewitnesses and based their respective reports on eyewitness testimony, and whether the other two Gospel writers themselves were eyewitnesses (see Authorship of the NT Gospels, and Biblical Authorship Part 1).

My reference to "all we have" is meant in this sense:  Christians do not accept the Gospel of Peter as a document written by an apostle or an associate of an apostle.  And the epistles of the Apostle Paul provide little detail about the life of the historical Jesus.  So, I think it is very fair to say that "all we have" are the four Gospels when it comes to trying to establish the historical facts related to the life, death, and alleged resurrection of Jesus.  Maybe I am guilty of over-exuberance in this statement, but for the point of my argument, I think it is still accurate.

If I write a book about a ante-bellum woman in Georgia, named Scarlett, who falls in love with a man named Ashley, but is rejected, later marrying multiple men that she doesn't love, to finally fall for a rascal named Rhett, who rescues her from a burning city of Atlanta to take her home safely to her family plantation...THAT IS PLAGIARISM!  Just because I do not copy sections of Margaret Mitchell's novel word for word does not excuse the fact that I have stolen her basic story.

The authors of Matthew and Luke blatantly plagiarized the first gospel written, which we today call "Mark", by copying, at times, word for word whole sections of "Mark's" work.  Although it is true that the author of the Gospel of John did not commit this type of blatant plagiarism, it is entirely possible that the core story about Jesus was borrowed from the Gospel of Mark.  That is still plagiarism.  I am not claiming that most scholars can prove this.  I am just claiming that it is possible, as the Gospel of Mark was written circa 70 AD and the Gospel of John was written in circa 95-100 AD.  Can anyone be certain that the author of John had never heard the stories of Jesus originally told in the Gospel of Mark and then had simply added his own details to this core Markian story to create his own "gospel??  What proof is there that the author of the Gospel of John had never heard any stories as told by "Mark", "Luke", and "Matthew"?  If he had heard these stories, and included these stories in his gospel without giving credit to these authors and without having witnessed these events himself, then THAT is plagiarism.

Of course I know that Christians claim that the Gospels of Mark and John were not written by eyewitnesses.  But they do claim that they are eyewitness accounts!  Christians allege that Peter's traveling companion, John Mark, wrote down Peter's sermons to give us the Gospel of Mark, hence an "eyewitness gospel", and Christians claim that Luke received his information directly from eyewitnesses, therefore we can trust the Gospel of Luke as an "eyewitness gospel".  But this is NOT what the author of Luke states in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.  He states that he believes that he had received eyewitness testimony, but never makes clear if this eyewitness testimony came directly from specific eyewitnesses speaking to him personally, or the  stories simply came from people who told Luke that the stories they were giving to him had originally come from eyewitnesses??

Big difference.
     Gary has boarded the trendy anti-conservative bandwagon and asserts that the Gospel of Luke “wasn’t written until the 80s at the earliest, so the Book of Acts was probably not written until the last decades of the first century, if not the early second century!” Gary is trying to argue that it’s quite possible that NO ONE was alive at the time of the writing and subsequent distribution of the Book of Acts who had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus!” However, by taking the internal textual evidence at face value rather than relying on subjective literary theory and philosophical presuppositions, Luke’s Gospel would appear to have been completed as early as 59. 

You are welcome to your personal opinion, but that it not what the majority of NT scholars believe.  If I wanted to, I could claim that the Book of Acts was not written until the second century in an effort to lend credence to my belief that none of these books contain eyewitness testimony.  But again, that is not the position of the majority of NT scholars.
Attention to the “we” sections in Acts reveals that the author arrived in Jerusalem with Paul in late spring 57 (Acts 20:6, 16; 21:17) and faded out of the picture for a couple of years until autumn 59 when he and Paul departed from Caesarea on the voyage to Rome (Acts 27:1-9). An extended period in Jerusalem would have afforded him the ideal opportunity to gather the necessary information for his “orderly account” (Luke 1:1-4). The historical record of Acts concludes at the end of Paul’s two-year Roman imprisonment, i.e., spring of 62. The most obvious explanation for the abrupt ending is that the historical account had actually reached this point.4 The textual/historical evidence does not support Gary’s unfounded assumption.

Once again, your position is held by a minority of NT scholars.  You could be right, but the majority of experts think you are wrong. 
Eyewitness Testimony
     Gary reduces the eyewitness testimony to “Paul and a few Galilean peasants,” who allegedly believed a couple of appearance stories “based solely on vivid dreams, trances, and visions.” Is this a fair representation of the facts? Gary provides NO historical evidence for his explanation. 

I said that his is a possible cause for the belief in the post-death appearances of Jesus.  I never stated that this is what happened, as a fact.

     Despite the popularity of the Markan priority theory, the Gospels of Mark and John are clearly independent of one another, while Matthew and Luke differ enough from Mark to establish them as independent sources.   Minority scholarly opinion!  Most scholars believe that Matthew and Luke relied heavily on Mark for their own gospels.

The book of Acts is replete with recorded testimonies (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:18-20; 5:30-32; 10:39-40). Luke and the Hebrews epistle explicitly claim eyewitness corroboration (Luke 1:1-4; Heb. 2:3-4), while there are first-hand statements in the writings of John (John 19:33-35; 1 John 1:1-3) and the Petrine documents (1 Pet. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:16). And then there’s Paul. 

Oh my goodness.  Don't tell me that you believe that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by an eyewitness or even Paul!  The majority of NT scholars say you are wrong.  The majority of scholars also do not believe that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel of John or the epistles of John, nor do they believe that whoever wrote these books was an eyewitness.  Again, you are appealing to minority, even fringe, fundamentalist/evangelical scholarship.   This is no different than me appealing to Richard Carrier's mythicist research. 
     In 1 Cor. 15:3-8 (an undisputed Pauline document by the way), the apostle mentions over 500 eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, most of whom were still alive at the time, (So this early Creed states, but did Paul know this as a fact?  We don't know.  Paul states that he received this information from others.   It is hearsay.  And what did these "five hundred" see?  We don't know.  Maybe all they saw was a "bright light" on a dark, desert highway, just like Paul's experience of "seeing" Jesus on the Road to Damascus. 

We would label anyone today claiming to have recently conducted a conversation with a talking bright light on a desert highway as a complete loon.  If five hundred, mostly uneducated, superstitious, peasants in Central America claim to have seen the Virgin Mary, all at once in the same place, how many Protestants will believe these claims??  Not many.  So why should we believe a second hand claim about a bunch of mostly uneducated, superstitious, first century peasants in Palestine "seeing", in some unknown form (we are given no details of this event), a resurrected dead guy??


Christians believe these ancient claims because they WANT TO, not because there is good evidence.) and no less than fourteen of the names were known (with additional names in the other accounts) and could be verified. Read the witness list in First Corinthians 15, folks, and compare it to the witness lists in the Gospels.  VERY different.  I suggest that based on the limited evidence we have, it is very possible that the early Christian Resurrection Belief was based solely on claims made by prominent MALE members of the early Church governing body, who claimed to have received, alone or in a group, a visitation from the dead Jesus.  Remember, in the Early Church, the only way one could claim to have apostolic authority was by having received an appearance from Jesus.  That is pretty strong motivation to "see" Jesus!

Why no mention in the First Corinthians Witness List of women being the first witnesses to the Resurrection?  Well, Christians have all kinds of harmonizations for why Mary Magdalene and the other women, who the Gospels claim arrived first at the Empty Tomb, are not mentioned as witnesses in the First Corinthians 15 list of eyewitnesses. But, I would humbly suggest that these excuses are nothing but spin.  It is very possible that the reason why the List of Eyewitnesses in First Corinthians 15 does not mention any women is because the story of women finding an Empty Tomb did not exist until the author of the Gospel of Mark made up this story in circa 70 AD, ...for theological purposes only, of course... 

It’s as though he’s challenging his readers to check him out (cf. Acts 26:26). Remember that the New Testament is not merely a single record; it is the compilation of twenty-seven separate documents spanning multiple geographical locations and time periods, representing numerous independent sources that remarkably harmonize.  (And what does this prove?  It does NOT prove that the original story of Jesus had not been "fattened up" by the time the author of Mark got around to writing his gospel.)
     While an individual might have “vivid dreams, trances, and visions,” we’re talking about hundreds of people on dozens of occasions over an extended period of time! (Then using the same logic, all Protestants should accept as fact the claims by tens of thousands of Roman Catholics who have claimed to have seen the dead mother of Jesus appear to them over the last 2,000 years!)  Jesus was not only seen alive after his crucifixion, he was also communicated with and touched. (So the anonymously-written stories say.  And notice this, readers.  The first Gospel, Mark, in its original form, had ZERO resurrection appearances.  But as each gospel was written, more and more physical details were added to this story until we have disciples sticking their fingers in Jesus' wounds, watching Jesus wolf-down a broiled fish lunch, and finally, hanging out on the Sea of Tiberius for several days while the resurrected Jesus cooks them a fried fish breakfast!  These are sure signs of legendary development, folks!  Christians don't see the obvious because THEY DON'T WANT TO!) And then there’s the empty tomb. If the ardent claims of these professed eyewitnesses are false, why didn’t the Roman or Jewish authorities produce the corpse to dispel the crazy rumors and stop the Christian movement in its tracks?  Possibly because no one in early Christianity claimed that Jesus had been buried in Joseph of Arimathea's rock tomb until circa 70 AD...and who was left in Jerusalem in 70 AD to discredit this claim?
     Gary asks, “Did Paul claim that there was an Empty Tomb?” and concludes that the empty tomb is “a fact NEVER mentioned in any of the writings of Paul! …. Paul never mentions this detail ONCE!” Gary is right if we’re limiting our discussion to these specific words. However, the apostle makes numerous implicit references to the empty tomb with his repeated and adamant allusions to the resurrected Lord (Rom. 1:4; 4:24-25; 6:4-9; 7:4; 8:11, 34; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:1-8, 12-21; 2 Cor. 4:14; 5:15; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Phil. 3:10; Col. 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Tim. 2:8; cf. Acts 13:30, 33, 34, 37; 17:3, 18, 31, 32; 24:21; 25:19).  Wrong.  There is a big distinction between a hand-hewn rock tomb and a hole in the ground.  Jesus, or what was left of him, was most likely buried, but in an unmarked, common grave with other criminals executed that week, as was the Roman custom.  I agree that Paul believed that Jesus had been "buried", but one can be buried in the ground.  Jewish NT scholar Jill Levine states that in the first century, poor people would have been buried in dirt trenches, not in rock tombs.
How Much Evidence is Needed?
     Gary says that “if scholars could point to the confirmed testimony of even ONE of the original eleven disciples, most skeptics would consider this fantastic, very relevant evidence. But unfortunately we do not have such evidence.” He also cynically requests: “Please provide ONE verified statement by just ONE eyewitness who claims to have seen and touched the walking/talking dead body of Jesus.” 
     The problem with these demands is that no amount of evidence, especially from the Bible, is going to satisfy those who are predisposed to dismissing biblical (supernatural) claims. Assumption.  I have proven that I respect evidence.  You don't have the evidence I am requesting so you concoct the unproven allegation that no matter what evidence you provide, I will not accept it.  False.If secular authors were held to the same critical scrutiny as biblical authors, no one could be certain that anyone in particular wrote or said anything. False.  This is another baseless Christian assumption.  If the historical evidence for Christ’s resurrection, including abundant eyewitness corroboration, is not enough to convince someone, how can he/she be sure about any historical event?  But the entire point of the discussion, my Christian friend, is that I do not believe that you have even ONE eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus.  Provide the eyewitness evidence, friend, and let's evaluate it.
     The bottom line is this: what is one’s standard of proof, and what presuppositions influence the evaluative process? If a person is limited to a strictly naturalistic worldview, then the possibility of God and supernatural occurrences is automatically ruled out from the start. But what if the evidence points beyond the natural world?  Absolutely true.  But I have never said that anyone should a priori rule out the existence of the supernatural.  I have simply said that we should IGNORE supernatural claims until better evidence is provided.  I don't believe in Big Foot, fairies, and goblins, not because I know as a fact that they do not exist, but because there is no good evidence to suggest that these very extra-ordinary claims are true.  In western culture, the burden of proof is on the person making the extra-ordinary claim, NOT on those who doubt or question the extra-ordinary claim.  The onus is on YOU, my Christian friend, to provide eyewitness testimony of this alleged event, not on me to disprove it.
Here are the indisputable facts:
o   Jesus of Nazareth was a real person in history.  Very probably true.
o   He died in 1st-century Palestine by crucifixion.  Very probably true.
o   Numerous individuals and groups adamantly believed that he appeared to them alive.  Probably true.
o   The tomb was empty.  Unproven.  But for the sake of the argument, I will allow it.  However, empty Tombs are not proof of resurrected dead people only of empty tombs.  There are many naturalistic explanations for an empty tomb in first century Palestine.  I would encourage everyone to read Jewish NT scholar and archeologist Dr. Jill Levine on this topic.
o   The movement quickly spread, and thousands of these early Christians suffered brutal persecution, even tortuous deaths, for their testimony and unrelenting faith.  Tens of thousands of persons belonging to new, minority religious sects have willingly endured torture and death over the many millennia of human existence.  Intense, devout belief is not evidence that the belief is true.
o   Paul of Tarsus, a violent persecutor of the Jesus followers, became a steadfast believer and proclaimer of the resurrected Jesus.  There is a man living in Israel today who at one time was a Zionist Jewish settler and orthodox Jewish rabbinic student.  He is now radical, fundamentalist Muslim cleric.  Strange conversions happen.  Strange conversions are not proof of the veracity of the new religion, only proof that human beings frequently make very dramatic, life-altering life choices.
     The Bible consistently makes historical claims about real people and events in actual places and times, presenting its case for either confirmation or falsification. If Jesus didn’t walk out of the tomb, the biblical record is a lie and “we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:19). If, however, he did conquer death, it is the most significant event in all of human history and it would be foolish to ignore it. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has radically shaped the course of history and countless lives and is as certain as any fact of history can be.  Hundreds of millions of people over the last two millennia have accepted as fact the teachings of one man named Mohammad.  The world has been dramatically changed by this one man too.  However, I highly doubt that Christians would claim that this massive movement which has now reached practically every continent on the planet is proof of the validity of the supernatural claims of Islam.
--Kevin L. Moore

     2 See The Bible in Perspective.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Why New Testament Scholarship should be Viewed with Skepticism

Imagine waking up and reading the following headline in tomorrow's newspaper:

"Public university biology professor fired for publishing research that contradicts his university's Faith Statement"

---Professor John Doe was relieved of his position as chairman of the Biology Dept. of his public university yesterday for violating his signed agreement not to publish research which contradicts or calls into question the beliefs of his university---

Now, imagine that a significant percentage of the world's biologists work for universities which have similar policies.  Just how reliable and accurate could we assume biological research to be?

Thank goodness that is not how biological research works.  Researchers working for public universities are allowed to publish research based on what they discover, not based on "faith statements".

So just how accurate is New Testament scholarship and claims of "New Testament scholarly consensus" or even "majority opinion" when a significant number of New Testament scholars work for institutions which require them to sign Faith Statements; Faith Statements which forbid them from publishing or teaching positions on the New Testament which contradict the beliefs of the institution and the Christian denomination that owns the institution?  How trustworthy is research conducted under the threat of loss of employment/destruction of one's career for publishing "heretical" findings?

Should we trust consensus positions by a group of experts when a significant percentage of them conduct their research and scholarly studies "with their hands tied"??

Evangelical Christian New Testament scholar, Mike Licona
As reported by Christianity Today (see here), New Testament scholar Michael Licona has apparently lost both his job as research professor of New Testament at Southern Evangelical Seminary and been ousted as apologetics coordinator for the North America Mission Board (NAMB).

Why? In his 700-page book defending the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, Licona proposed that the story of the resurrection of the saints described in Matthew 27 might be metaphorical rather than literal history. Why is this a problem? As a result of Licona’s questioning of Matthew 27, apparently some evangelical scholars, most notably Norman Geisler, accused Licona of denying the full inerrancy of the Bible.

Source:  here

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Why we can Reject the Christian Claims of a Resurrection without Reading even One Christian Scholar's Book

Conservative Christian blogger:

Your long reply here basically boils down to:

1) If you are going to believe some supernatural claims, why not believe all of them?

2) You can deny supernatural claims out of hand because burden of proof something something.

The first point was actually addressed in my previous post. One thing I pointed out was how you can judge the credibility of the originator of that claim. For instance, does that person have manifestly obvious ulterior motives?

As for the second thing, you are correct. Supernatural claims do require evidence. That's why the first post was called, "Does the Bible count as evidence?" And the conclusion was that the testimony of honest men is a valid form of evidence. 


Your comment insinuates that you believe that if a teller of a supernatural tale has a reputation for being honest and sincere, then we should take their claim seriously.  This is poor logic.  Very honest and sincere people can be very sincerely wrong.  And more to the point, even if an alleged eyewitness or group of eyewitnesses has a stellar reputation for honesty and integrity, the more extra-ordinary their claim, the less we should trust their testimony without additional corroborating evidence.  In addition, if their alleged testimony is so wildly extra-ordinary that it defies multiple laws of nature, we can safely reject their testimony out of hand without listening to their convoluted claims of supporting evidence (or reading even one book by their "scholars").

Let me give you an example:

Twelve of the most upstanding, honest, highly-respected members of your community claim to have seen a red car speeding down main street yesterday. I will bet that you would accept this testimony as fact without asking for any additional evidence.

However, this same group of highly respected citizens also claims that last night at midnight, a large Martian mothership appeared over your town; beamed them all up individually from their beds into the spaceship; and then, hurtled through space to the planet Mars, where they underwent mind probing and other experiments for three hours, including walking around on the planet for 30 minutes without any oxygen; and then they were all returned safely to their beds on earth before sunrise.

Our twelve highly respected, honest citizens are so certain that this Martian space excursion happened last night that they are all willing to take lie detector tests, which they all pass, and, swear under oath that their statements are nothing but the truth.  Based on the unquestioned character of the eyewitnesses, should we accept that this event occurred?

Answer:  Absolutely not.

Why?  Here are just a couple of reasons:

1.  It defies current space travel abilities to travel to Mars and back in the matter of six hours (midnight to sunrise).

2.  It is impossible for humans to live in an environment which lacks oxygen, even for a few minutes, let alone 30 minutes.

3.  There is no current ability to levitate persons out of the inside of their homes into a space craft.

And the same can be said of the Resurrection claim:

1.  It is medically impossible for a three-day-dead corpse to come back to life.  It defies the laws of nature.

2.  There was no means in the first century, mechanical or otherwise, for humans beings to "ascend" into the clouds.

3.  There is no known mechanism even today for a human being to teleport between cities, such as from Emmaus to Jerusalem.

Therefore, even if the witnesses to the Resurrection were the most upstanding, honest, reliable, trustworthy persons on the planet, there is absolutely no reason we should believe this multiple-laws-of-nature-defying supernatural tale.  The laws of nature are never violated.  You don't need to read even one of their scholar's books to be sure of that.

Friday, July 8, 2016

You do not need to be a Scholar to Disbelieve the Resurrection

Joseph Smith, Moroni, and the Golden Plates
Two thousand years ago, hundreds of millions of people on earth believed in a god named Zeus who lived on top of Mount Olympus in Greece who performed many fantastical supernatural deeds.  The existence of Zeus and the historicity of his alleged deeds have never been disproven.

Approximately 1300 years ago, a man named Mohammad claimed to have received a visit from a supernatural being who gave him the true word of the creator of the universe and who enabled him to fly on a winged horse into the heavens.  Hundreds of millions of people today believe in the historicity of these claims.  These claims have never been disproven.

Approximately 200 years ago, a man named Joseph Smith claimed to have received golden plates from a supernatural being containing the true, updated, word of the creator of the universe.  Millions of people today believe that this claim is historical fact.  This claim has never been disproven.

Since these claims have never been disproven, should we believe them?  Should we believe these fantastical, extra-ordinary claims that defy the established laws of nature?  The proponents of the above claims would say that the possible/probable existence of a Creator greatly increases the probability of these claims being true.  But is that really correct?  Doesn't the evidence seem to suggest that if a Creator exists, he/she/they/it have chosen to operate, at least within our universe, within the natural laws? How often have experts confirmed that established natural laws have been violated?

I would therefore suggest that the possible existence of a Creator can in no way be assumed to increase the probability of un-natural events occurring within our universe.  We have no confirmed evidence to suggest that a Creator routinely or even sporadically violates the laws of nature.  We have no evidence to believe that gods live on Greek mountains; that celestial beings enable humans to ride on winged horses; or that persons in upstate New York receive plates of gold from angels.

So when another large group of people living today tells you their fantastical, extra-ordinary claim that two thousand years ago a three-day-dead corpse was suddenly reanimated back to life by an ancient middle-eastern deity, broke out of his sealed tomb, ate a fish lunch with his former fishing buddies, and then levitated into the clouds, I suggest that we consider this claim to be just as probable as the three claims above.

And unlike what you have been told, dear friend, you do NOT need to be a scholar to disbelieve all four of these supernatural claims.  Why?  Answer:  Because the onus of proof is NOT on you, the skeptic.  In western, educated society the onus is always on the person making the fantastical, extra-ordinary claim, not on those who doubt it.

Therefore, the onus is on the proponents of these four supernatural tales to prove their veracity, and so far, the evidence presented by these groups of believers is dismal to pathetic.  That is why no public university history textbook in the western world lists any of these four claims as even "probable" historical events.

You don't need to be a scholar to disbelieve supernatural religious tales of gods living on mountains, prophets flying in the air on winged horses, upstate New Yorkers receiving heavenly messages in cow pastures, or reanimated dead guys flying off into outer space. Don't let the proponents of these tall tales convince you otherwise.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Did the Author of the Gospel of Mark make up the Empty Tomb Story?

the Rhinoceros Hornbill
Christian blogger

Gary, apparently I wasn't sufficiently clear in my last comment. When I said, "anything's possible regardless of how remote," I meant that it is possible that a new species of web-footed, pigeon-toed, feathered rhinoceros will spontaneously generate in my kitchen sink at 3:26 pm this afternoon. Yes, it's possible, but it isn't the least bit likely. So, when you now ask, "But would you agree that it is also possible that Paul had never heard of such a claim (the Empty Tomb Story)?" my response is that it is about as likely as having that new species of web-footed, pigeon-toed, feathered rhinoceros spontaneously generating in my kitchen sink at 3:26 pm this afternoon.

When you say that Paul mentions the resurrection quite a bit and in great detail, you seem to assume that in speaking about the resurrection he would necessarily be required to talk about the empty tomb. I don't see that as necessary at all. The empty tomb was described by the authors of the Gospels because they were giving a narrative of what they observed (or what the people who they learned the account from observed). Paul isn't giving a narrative. As you acknowledge, Paul knows Jesus resurrected from the dead, and he is not trying to detail the reasons to believe that Jesus resurrected. And if he is preaching Christ resurrected, isn't it obvious that he also believes that Jesus died? Does he need to give the details? I don't think so.

Moreover, you seem to believe that because he didn't talk about the empty tomb that he somehow didn't know about it. I may be mistaken, but I believe I have written well over 200 posts on this blog. In all of that time, I have never mentioned the evidence that Amenhotep II is identified by some as the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Does that mean that I don't know it? I mean, I have reason to raise it because this is an apologetics blog that defends the truth of the whole Bible (Old and New Testament). I would argue that I have more reason to raise it than Paul had to speak about the empty tomb given the direction of his ministry. So, I don't believe that you are even remotely correct in your belief that Paul's decision to focus on the resurrection and not the tomb somehow means he didn't know about the tomb.

I could respond to several of the other comments you have made that appear to be directed at Joe, but I don't think there is much point to it. This is a small blog and few people read the comments anyway. If you want to have a conversation (as you suggest at the end of your final post), I am willing to talk about one or two things at a time. I don't have the time or the desire to spend hours responding to 50 questions.


Instead of looking at the evidence and letting the "chips fall where they may", you are hunting for evidence from fringe sources to support your world view.

Bottom line: It is possible that Mark invented the Empty Tomb Story and it is possible that he did not.

We will never know for sure. But based on cumulative human history, the chances that a three-day-brain-dead first century corpse came back to life, exited his sealed rock tomb, hung out with his former fishing buddies for forty days, and then flew off into outer space where he sits today on a golden throne at the edge of the universe, ruling as King of the Cosmos, is just as likely to be true as that a web-footed, pigeon-toed, feathered rhinoceros will spontaneous generate in your kitchen sink at 3:26 PM this afternoon.

Friday, July 1, 2016

A Review of Gary Habermas' Claim that 75% of Scholars believe in the Historicity of the Empty Tomb

Ask any Christian apologist about the Resurrection of Jesus and one of the first pieces of evidence they will present for this supernatural claim is that there was an Empty Tomb.  And to support this claim, they will usually then refer to research conducted by evangelical Christian New Testament scholar, Gary Habermas, in which he claims that 75% of scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus.
Let's take a look at Mr. Habermas' research below.  I will intersperse my comments in red.

(Article copied from:  here)


Resurrection Research from 1975 to the Present:

              What are Critical Scholars Saying?

by Gary R. Habermas
An edited version of this article was published in the
Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus, 3.2 (2005), pp. 135-153


During the last thirty years, perhaps the most captivating theological topic, at least in North America, is the historical Jesus. Dozens of publications by major scholars have appeared since the mid-1970s, bringing Jesus and his culture to the forefront of contemporary discussions. The apostle Paul has been the subject of numerous additional studies. Almost unavoidably, these two areas make it inevitable that the subject of Jesus’ resurrection will be discussed. To the careful observer, these studies are exhibiting some intriguing tendencies.  The mid-70's?  That was 40 years ago.  If we wanted to discuss the latest research on any other subject would we go back to the 1970's?  I doubt it.  But, let's look at Mr. Habermas' study, anyway.

 Since 1975, more than 1400 scholarly publications on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus have appeared. Over the last five years, I have tracked these texts, which were written in German, French, and English. Well over 100 subtopics are addressed in the literature, almost all of which I have examined in detail. Each source appeared from the last quarter of the Twentieth Century to the present, with more being written in the 1990s than in other decades.[1] This contemporary milieu exhibits a number of well-established trends, while others are just becoming recognizable. The interdisciplinary flavor is noteworthy, as well. Most of the critical scholars are theologians or New Testament scholars, while a number of philosophers and historians, among other fields, are also included.  Interesting.  If we were examining the  expert consensus on the historicity of any other historical claim, would we include theologians in our survey?  I doubt it.  But even if we did, shouldn't we at least insure that the majority of experts in our sample be primarily professional historians?  And why include philosophers?  Do we consult philosophers when we investigate the historicity of other alleged events in Antiquity?  Do we need a philosopher's opinion on whether or not Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon or whether or not Alexander the Great invaded India?  It seems to me that Habermas has pre-selected a biased sample.  Whether or not the Bible's claim of an actual empty tomb is true is not a question of theology or philosophy.  It is a question of history.  So let's poll the professional historians on this issue!  It would be very easy.  Print out on a piece of paper a one sentence question:  "Do you believe that the Empty Tomb of Jesus is an historical fact?", mail it to every professional historian on the planet, tally the results.  Done!

This essay is chiefly concerned with commenting on a few of these most recent scholarly trends regarding the resurrection of Jesus. I will attempt to do four things here, moving from the general to the specific. This will involve 1) beginning with some tendencies of a very broad nature, 2) delineating several key research trends, 3) providing a sample interpretation of these research trends from the works of two representative scholars, and 4) concluding with some comments on what I take to be the single most crucial development in recent thought. Regarding my own critics over the years, one of my interests is to ascertain if we can detect some widespread directions in the contemporary discussions—where are most recent scholars heading on these issues? Of course, the best way to do this is to comb through the literature and attempt to provide an accurate assessment.

 Some General Tendencies

After a survey of contemporary scholarly opinions regarding the more general issue of Jesus’ christology, Raymond Brown argues that the most popular view is that of moderate conservatism.[2] It might be said, with qualification, that similar trends are exhibited in an analysis of the more specific area of recent scholarly positions on Jesus’ resurrection. When viewed as a whole, the general consensus is to recognize perhaps a surprising amount of historical data as reported in the New Testament accounts. In particular, Paul’s epistles, especially 1 Corinthians 15:1-20, along with other early creedal traditions, are frequently taken almost at face value. For the purposes of this essay, I will define moderate conservative approaches to the resurrection as those holding that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in some manner, either bodily (and thus extended in space and time), or as some sort of spiritual body (though often undefined). In other words, if what occurred can be described as having happened to Jesus rather than only to his followers, this range of views will be juxtaposed with those more skeptical positions that nothing actually happened to Jesus and can only be described as a personal experience of the disciples.  This is a theological issue.  Professional historians aren't going to touch this issue with a ten foot pole. 

And here is something for Christians to consider:  Just because the majority of (Christian) theologians (one of the main subgroups in Habermas' study sample) believe there was some type of a Resurrection (bodily or spiritual) doesn't carry much weight as to whether or not this event was an historical reality.  Ask Muslim scholars, who readily believe in the supernatural, if they believe that Jesus was resurrected and the overwhelming majority will say, no.  "But Muslim scholars are biased," Christians will complain.  Yea, but so are Christian scholars, my Christian friends!  So you see, the fact that most Christian theologians believe in the Resurrection is no different than the fact that most Muslim theologians believe that Mohammad truly did ride on a winged horse to heaven.

So what!

Of course, major differences can be noted within and between these views. One way to group these general tendencies is by geography and language. For example, on the European Continent, recent German studies on the subject of the death and resurrection of Jesus are far more numerous, generally more theological in scope, and more diverse, than French treatments. This German diversity still includes many moderate and conservative stances. French studies, on the other hand, appear less numerous, more textually-oriented, and tend to reach more conservative conclusions. For example, German works of approximately the last 30 years include the more critical stances of Hans Conzelmann,[3] Willi Marxsen,[4] Gerd Lüdemann,[5] Ingo Broer,[6] and the early Rudolf Pesch.[7] But they also encompass more numerous works by Wolfhart Pannenberg,[8] Jürgen Moltmann,[9] Martin Hengel,[10] Jacob Kremer,[11] Walter Künneth,[12] and Ulrich Wilckens.[13] Examples of the French writings would be the works of Francis Durrwell,[14] Xavier Leon-Dufour,[15] and Jean-Marie Guillaume.[16] Guillaume is typical of some of the more exegetical French studies, concluding that there are primitive, pre-synoptic traditions behind Gospel accounts such as the women discovering the empty tomb, Peter and John checking their claim, the proclamation in Lk. 24:34 that Jesus appeared to Peter, as well as Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the initial Easter Sunday.[17]

 As has been the case for decades, British publications on the subject often reach rather independent conclusions from Continental thinkers. There are also a wide range of positions represented here, some of which differ from mainline conclusions, such as the works of Michael Goulder,[18] G.A. Wells,[19] and Duncan Derrett.[20] Still, the majority of British writings support what we have called the moderate conservative position. Examples are the publications of Thomas Torrance,[21] James D.G. Dunn,[22] Richard Swinburne,[23] and Oliver O’Donavan.[24] Most recently, the writings of N.T. Wright[25] have contributed heavily to this outlook.

North American contributions include both the largest number and perhaps the widest range of views on Jesus’ resurrection. These extend from the more skeptical ideas of John Dominic Crossan[26] and Marcus Borg,[27] to the more moderate studies by Reginald Fuller,[28] Pheme Perkins,[29] and Raymond Brown, [30] to the more conservative voices of William Lane Craig[31] and Stephen Davis.[32] My publications would fit the latter category.[33] A rough estimate of the publications in my study of Jesus’ resurrection among British, French, and German authors (as well as a number of authors from several other countries[34]), published during the last 25 or so years, indicates that there is approximately a 3:1 ratio of works that fall into the category that we have dubbed the moderate conservative position, as compared to more skeptical treatments. Of course, this proves nothing concerning whether or not the resurrection actually occurred. But it does provide perhaps a hint--a barometer, albeit quite an unofficial one, on where many of these publications stand. By far, the majority of publications on the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection have been written by North American authors. Interestingly, my study of these works also indicates an approximate ratio of 3:1 of moderate conservative to skeptical publications, as with the European publications. Here again, this signals the direction of current research.[35]

When Mr. Habermas states that his research of the literature regarding the Resurrection of Jesus published since the mid-1970's arrived at an approximate 3:1 ratio of moderate conservative publications to skeptical publications is he counting multiple articles by the same author individually in his statistics or is he just giving each author one vote regardless of the number of articles the scholar has written?  If he used the former method, wouldn't this skew his numbers in favor of the conservative position?  Persons holding the most extreme of views on this issue, very conservative (Christian fundamentalists/evangelicals) or very liberal (mythicists), as in other areas of life, are more likely to speak out more frequently on the topic, publishing more article on the topic, than say a moderate who doesn't have the same intense feelings about the outcome of the debate.  And since we know that there are many more fundamentalist/evangelical scholars than there are mythicist scholars, the results will be heavily skewed to favor the fundamentalist/evangelical Christian perspective.

  Some Specific Research Trends

I will note six particular areas of research that demarcate some of the most important trends in resurrection research today. In particular, I will feature areas that include some fairly surprising developments. First, after a hiatus since their heyday in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, recent trends indicate a limited surge of naturalistic explanations to the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Almost a dozen different alternative theses have emerged, either argued or suggested by more than forty different scholars, with some critics endorsing more than one theory. In place of the resurrection, both internal states of mind (such as subjective visions or hallucinations[36]) as well as objective phenomena (like illusions[37]) have been proposed.[38] The vast majority of scholars, however, still reject such proposals.  Once again, if you are taking a biased sample from a group of experts who are primarily Christian theologians and NT scholars, and counting multiple articles from the same author, it is not surprising that you would find this result.

A second research area concerns those scholars who address the subject of the empty tomb. It has been said that the majority of contemporary researchers accepts the historicity of this event.[39] 

Go ahead, Reader.  Look at footnote [39] below.  How many scholars  does Habermas quote to make this sweeping claim?  Answer:  two.  And guess who he lists first of these two scholars:  WILLIAM LANE CRAIG; a scholar from the extreme far right of conservative Christian scholarship (Craig has an informal "alter call" at every debate he engages in)!

But is there any way to be more specific? From the study mentioned above, I have compiled 23 arguments for the empty tomb and 14 considerations against it, as cited by recent critical scholars. Generally, the listings are what might be expected, dividing along theological “party lines.” To be sure, such a large number of arguments, both pro and con, includes very specific differentiation, including some overlap. Of these scholars, approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb, while approximately 25% think that one or more arguments oppose it. Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority.  

But as you state above in your opening remarks, Mr. Habermas, the majority of the experts you have selected to answer this historical question are theologians and NT scholars; hardly an unbiased group.  Why not limit the study to professional historians, such as experts in the Roman Empire and the ancient Near East? If you had a question involving geology, would you ask a theologian or philosopher?  Ask the professional historians, Mr. Habermas!  ...or are you afraid of the results!

By far the most popular argument favoring the Gospel testimony on this subject is that, in all four texts, women are listed as the initial witnesses. Contrary to often repeated statements,[40] First Century Jewish women were able to testify in some legal matters. But given the general reluctance in the Mediterranean world at that time to accept female testimony in crucial matters, most of those scholars who comment on the subject hold that the Gospels probably would not have dubbed them as the chief witnesses unless they actually did attest to this event.[41]

Maybe the original "sightings" of the dead-but-alive-again Jesus did involve women.  Maybe a few days after Jesus' crucifixion, a group of women saw a man in the distance whom they believed to be Jesus, but before they could reach him he had "disappeared".  Maybe it was women who had the first visions/vivid dreams of a resurrected Jesus.  But just because a story developed of women being the first witnesses to a "resurrected" Jesus doesn't mean that all the other details in the story are true.

And here is another point, why aren't women mentioned in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15?  Isn't it possible that the early Resurrection belief was due only to visions and dreams (not empty tomb claims) involving the prominent male members of the Early Church?  We hear nothing about women finding an empty tomb until "Mark's" gospel  appears in circa 70 AD.  Maybe the educated, Gentile, Mark, living in Rome or Antioch, felt it was important for Christians to have more evidence for the Resurrection claim other than dreams and visions of a few uneducated Galilean peasants.  Maybe he believed that a physical, empty tomb owned by a rich member of the Jewish ruling classes would give this supernatural Christian claim more validity; but how could he have the male disciples coming to this tomb on Sunday morning when he had already said that they were in hiding? 

So...he invented the women.

Third, without question, the most critically-respected witness for Jesus’ resurrection is the apostle Paul. As Norman Perrin states, “Paul is the one witness we have whom we can interrogate.”[42] And 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is taken to be the strongest evidence for the historicity of this event. Howard Clark Kee boldly asserts that Paul’s testimony here “can be critically examined . . . just as one would evaluate evidence in a modern court or academic setting.”[43] For several strong reasons,[44] most scholars who address the issue think that this testimony predates any New Testament book. Murphy-O’Connor reports that a literary analysis has produced “complete agreement” among critical scholars that “Paul introduces a quotation in v. 3b. . . .”[45] Paul probably received this report from Peter and James while visiting Jerusalem within a few years of his conversion.[46] The vast majority of critical scholars who answer the question place Paul’s reception of this material in the mid-30s A.D.[47] Even more skeptical scholars generally agree.[48] German theologian Walter Kasper even asserts that, “We have here therefore an ancient text, perhaps in use by the end of 30 AD . . . .” [49] Ulrich Wilckens declares that the material “indubitably goes back to the oldest phase of all in the history of primitive Christianity.”[50]

Paul was a witness to the Resurrection?  Really? 

In his own epistles, Paul claims only to "have seen the Christ".  That's it.  He gives no other details of when, how, and where this "seeing" occurred.   The anonymous author of Acts, a book which most authors believe was written in the late first century, claims to quote Paul in chapter 26 in which Paul claims to have seen...a talking, bright light on the Damascus Road a couple of years after Jesus' crucifixion.  If you met a man today who told you that he conversed with a talking, bright light on a dark, desert highway, would you believe that he had just seen God or that he was certifiably nuts??

I would hardly call this evidence that Paul was "a witness to the Resurrection".

Fourth, while this pre-Pauline creed provides crucial material, it is not the only instance. For example, many scholars think that the Book of Acts contains many early confessions, embedded in the sermons.[51] These creeds are indicated by brief, theologically unadorned wording that differs from the author’s normal language. Although this is more difficult to determine, it appears that most critical scholars think that at least some reflection of the earliest Christian preaching is encased in this material. This can be determined not only by the many authors who affirm it,[52] but also because it is difficult to find many who clearly reject any such early reports among the Acts sermons. The death and resurrection appearances of Jesus are always found at the center of these traditions. Gerald O’Collins holds that this sermon content “incorporates resurrection formulae which stem from the thirties.”[53] John Drane adds: “The earliest evidence we have for the resurrection almost certainly goes back to the time immediately after the resurrection event is alleged to have taken place. This is the evidence contained in the early sermons in the Acts of the Apostles.”[54]

So what?  So the early Christians believed that Jesus had been resurrected.  Most skeptics do not deny this.  The real question is:  Why is there no mention of an empty tomb until the first Gospel appears in circa 70 AD?

Some contemporary critical scholars continue to underplay and even disparage the notion that Jesus was raised bodily. But a fifth, seemingly little recognized and even surprising factor in the recent research, is that many recent scholars have been balancing the two aspects of Paul’s phrase “spiritual body,” with perhaps even a majority favoring the position that, according to the New Testament writers, Jesus appeared in a transformed body. Lüdemann even proclaims: “I do not question the physical nature of Jesus’ appearance from heaven. . . . Paul . . . asserts that Christians will receive a transformed physical body like the one that the heavenly man Christ has (cf. 1 Cor 15:35-49).”[55] Wright agrees: “there can be no question: Paul is a firm believer in bodily resurrection. He stands with his fellow Jews against the massed ranks of pagans; with his fellow Pharisees against other Jews.”[56] Many other scholars have spoken in support of a bodily notion of Jesus’ resurrection.[57] Sixth, the vast majority of contemporary theologians argue in some sense that Jesus’ resurrection variously evidences, leads to, or otherwise indicates the truth of Christian theology. Some prefer a non-evidential connection between this event and doctrinal truths, while others favor some level of entailment between them. Even skeptical scholars frequently manifest this connection. Willi Marxsen is an example of the tendency to find significance in Jesus’ resurrection. Though he rejects the historicity of this event, he thinks that, “The answer may be that in raising Jesus God acknowledged the one who was crucified; or that God endorsed Jesus in spite of his apparent failure; or something similar.” Immediately after this, Marxsen rather amazingly adds: “What happened . . . was that God endorsed Jesus as the person that he was: during his earthly lifetime Jesus pronounced the forgiveness of sins to men in the name of God. He demanded that they commit their lives entirely to God. . . . I could easily add a whole catalog of other statements.”[58] Though this is from a much older text, Marxsen closes his later volume on the resurrection on a related point, with “Jesus’ invitation to faith” declaring that, in some sense, it might be said that Jesus is still present and active in faith, encouraging us to bring reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace to others.[59] Also more recently, Marcus Borg delineates five areas of New Testament meaning that follow from Jesus’ death and resurrection. For instance, what “may well be the earliest interpretation” is that the rejection caused by Jesus’ execution gave way to “God’s vindication of Jesus” as provided by the resurrection. Another area is Jesus’ sacrifice for sin, the literal truth of which Borg rejects, while holding that this picture is still a powerful metaphor of God’s grace.[60]

So the overwhelming majority of "experts", primarily consisting of Christian theologians and NT scholars, believe in the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.  So what!!  No one should be surprised.

So a number of contemporary scholars realize that multiple truths follow from the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is difficult to avoid a correlation here. When Jesus' actual resurrection is accepted in some sense, related theological doctrines are often accepted more-or-less directly. Conversely, when the historicity of Jesus' resurrection is rejected, the corresponding theological doctrines are often held in less than literal terms. So where the event of Jesus’ resurrection is rejected, one might also expect to discover the rejection of certain theological concepts, too. For instance, one might reject claims regarding Jesus' self-consciousness, or the exclusivity his teachings, if the historical resurrection has also been discarded. On the other hand, if the resurrection actually occurred, and doctrine follows from the event, this would seem to place Jesus' theology on firmer grounds, as well. In keeping with Borg's remark above, perhaps the earliest New Testament witness is that the doctrine relies on the event. The doctrine appears to have relied on the early belief that a dead corpse was resurrected and seen by some of his grieving family and friends shortly after his death, NOT on an empty rock-hewn tomb.  These six developments indicate some of the most recent trends in resurrection research. We will return below to an additional area that is drawn from several of these trends.

 A Comparison of Scholars

As an example of these recent trends, I will compare briefly the ideas of two seemingly different scholars, John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright. We will contrast some of their views on Jesus’ resurrection, following the specific list of topics that we just provided. This will indicate some of their major differences, but perhaps some unexpected similarities, as well. Such will serve as a sample demarcation from the recent theological scene, as well.

Neither Crossan nor Wright espouse naturalistic theories specifically regarding the resurrection appearances.[61] Wright is much more outspoken in his opposition to these alternatives hypotheses, referring to them as “false trails.”[62] Crossan has also recently agreed that the disciples, in some sense, experienced the risen Jesus and that natural substitutes are unconvincing.[63] Here we have an indication of the comment above that postulating natural alternatives is a minority option among recent scholars.  Does Crossan state that he believes that Jesus appeared to his disciples in some supernatural manifestation and not in a natural manifestation, such as a vivid dream, trance, vision, or hallucination?  Let's look at footnote 63 below:

[63] In a recent dialogue, Crossan indicated that he does not think that alternative responses are good explanations for the appearances to the disciples. (See Robert Stewart, ed., The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue.) Still, it could be pointed out that Crossan’s comparison of the resurrection appearances to dreams or visions of a departed loved, however normal, still involves the reliance on a natural scenario instead of the New Testament explanation. (John Dominic Crossan, “The Resurrection of Jesus in its Jewish Context,” Neotestamentica, 37
[2003], 46-47.)

Huh???  So Crossan compares the resurrection appearances to dreams and visions of a departed loved one.  Those sound pretty natural to me!  Sounds as if Habermas has misconstrued Crossan's position in the body of his article but covers his scholarly derriere in the small footnotes at the bottom of the page, which most of his lay Christian readers will most likely not bother to read!
Regarding the empty tomb, there is definitely a contrast between these two scholars. Crossan thinks that the empty tomb narrative in Mark’s Gospel was created by the author,[64] although he concedes that Paul may have implied this event.[65] On the other hand, Wright thinks not only that the empty tomb is historical, but that it provides one of the two major pillars for the historical resurrection appearances.[66]

Both Crossan and Wright agree without reservation that Paul is the best early witness to the resurrection appearances. They both hold that Paul was an eyewitness to what he believed was a resurrection appearance of Jesus. Further, they share the view that Paul recorded an account in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 that he had received decades before writing the letter in which it appears, and that the apostle probably learned it during his early visit to Jerusalem, just a short time after Jesus’ death.[67]

Both scholars include comparatively little discussion regarding the other early creedal passages in the New Testament that confirm the pre-Pauline report of the death and resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15, but they do at least acknowledge a few texts. Wright has slightly more to say here, but Crossan does not dispute this data.[68] Perhaps most surprisingly, both Wright and Crossan embrace the claim that the earliest Christian teachings taught that Jesus appeared in a bodily manner. This is the case for several reasons, such as this being the predominant Jewish view at the time. Most of all, this was the clear meaning of the terms. Wright has argued passionately for over five hundred pages that, for pagans, Jews, and Christians in the ancient Mediterranean world up until the second century AD, the terms anastasiV (anastasis) and egeirw (egeiro) and cognates like exanastasiV (exanastasis), almost without exception, indicate a resurrection of the body. 

Interestingly, when the ancient writers who rejected (and even despised) this doctrine utilized these same terms, they spoke only of a bodily afterlife. When writing about the soul or spirit living after death, pagan authors used different words.[69] Even Paul clearly held that Jesus’ body was raised,[70] agreeing with the other New Testament authors.[71] On all three occasions when Wright and Crossan have dialogued concerning the resurrection, Crossan has noted his essential agreement with Wright’s major thesis regarding the meaning of bodily resurrection.[72] In fact, Crossan notes that he “was already thinking along these same lines.”[73] Crossan even agrees with Wright that Paul thought that Jesus’ appearance to him was also bodily in nature. Crossan and Reed explain that, “To take seriously Paul’s claim to have seen the risen Jesus, we suggest that his inaugural vision was of Jesus’ body simultaneously wounded and glorified.” Although the Acts accounts claim that Paul saw a luminous vision, Crossan and Reed decided to “bracket that blinded-by-light sequence and imagine instead a vision in which Paul both sees and hears Jesus as the resurrected Christ, the risen Lord.”[74] As a result, to take seriously the earliest Christian teachings would, at the very least, address the bodily nature of their claims. Lastly, both Crossan and Wright readily agree that the resurrection of Jesus in some sense indicates that the truth of Christian belief ought to lead to its theological outworkings, including the radical practice of ethics. As Crossan states, “Tom and I agree on one absolutely vital implication of resurrection faith . . . that God’s transfiguration of this world here below has already started . . .” To be sure, Crossan’s chief emphasis is to proceed to the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection in the world today, contending that we must live out the literal implications of this belief in “peace through justice.” Just as Jesus’ appearances inspired the disciples’ proclamation of God’s victory over sin and the powers of Caesar’s empire, we must “promote God’s Great Clean-Up of the earth” and “take back God’s world from the thugs.”[75]

Just curious, but why did Habermas choose to contrast the position of two Christian scholars, albeit one conservative and one liberal Christian scholar.  Why not contrast the positions of a Christian NT scholar and a non-Christian NT scholar?  Both Crossan and Wright seem to believe in a Resurrection, although Crossan probably believes that it was a spiritual event and not physical event.  Oh well.

Wright argues that, for both the New Testament authors like Paul and John, as well as for us today, the facticity of Jesus’ resurrection indicates that Christian theology is true, including doctrines such as the sonship of Jesus and his path of eternal life to those who respond to his message.[76] The resurrection also requires a radical call to discipleship in a torn world, including responses to the political tyranny of both conservatives as well as liberals, addressing violence, hunger, and even death. As Wright says, “Easter is the beginning of God’s new world. . . . But Easter is the time for revolution. . . .”[77] So there is at least general agreement between Crossan and Wright regarding most of the individual topics which we have explored above. There is at least some important overlap in each of the six categories, except for the historicity of the empty tomb. The amount of agreement on some of the issues, like the value of Paul’s eyewitness testimony to a resurrection appearance, his report of an early creed that predates him by a couple of decades, as well as his knowledge of the message taught by the Jerusalem apostles, is rather incredible, especially given the different theological stances of these two scholars. The emerging agreement concerning the essential nature of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, especially for Paul and the New Testament authors, is a recent twist that would have been rather difficult to predict just a few years ago. And both scholars argue for the believer’s literal presence in righting the world’s wrongs, because of Jesus’ resurrection. Still, we must not be so caught up in the areas of agreement that we gloss over the very crucial differences. We have noted the disagreements concerning the empty tomb, along with my suggestion that Crossan essentially holds a natural alternative to the resurrection.  So why did you infer earlier that Crossan believed that the post-death appearances were not of a natural nature if Crossan believes that the resurrection belief itself was based on something natural??  So, the most glaring difference concerns whether or not Jesus was actually raised from the dead. While Wright clearly holds that this is an historical event of the past, Crossan’s position is much more difficult to decipher.  In my experience, the position of liberals and moderates, for instance those of my former LCMS pastor, are always much more complicated that that of conservatives.  I attribute this to the intense desire of liberal and moderate Christians to appear reasonable, rational, and aligned with modern science in the eyes of the educated, secular world, but still hold onto the basic tenets of the supernatural based Christian belief system.  In order to do this, they often contort themselves into "pretzels".  For instance, my former LCMS pastor believes in Darwin's origin of species.  He believes that all animals today are the end product of millions of years of evolutionary natural selection.  However, ask him if man is evolved from lower life forms, and he will say, no.  Man was made in the image of God out of the dust of the earth.  So why do humans have DNA similarities to the great apes?  Answer:  Maybe God created man out of some dirt that had gorilla dung (therefore, gorilla DNA) in it!  And such is the twisted logic of the Christian liberal, and even worse, the Christian moderate.  They are forced to make up the most incredible stories to maintain the core Christian teaching that man was made in God's image (Christian teaching), while asserting that the rest of nature evolved from lower life forms (Darwin's theory of Natural Selection).  Still, in spite of the wide agreement even in some very crucial areas, Crossan has clearly said that he does not think that the resurrection is an historical event.[78] For Crossan, at a very early date, the resurrection appearances were held by Paul and the disciples to be actual, bodily events. Though he personally rejects that view, Crossan accepts Jesus’ resurrection as a metaphor. Perhaps shedding some further light on his position, Crossan has affirmed what appears to be a crucial distinction. He rejects the literal resurrection of Jesus at least partially because he does not believe in an afterlife, so he has no literal category into which the resurrection may be placed.[79]  Or perhaps he finds no good evidence to believe that such an extraordinary event actually occurred.

The Disciples' Belief that they had Seen the Risen Jesus

From considerations such as the research areas above, perhaps the single most crucial development in recent thought has emerged. With few exceptions, the fact that after Jesus’ death his followers had experiences that they thought were appearances of the risen Jesus is arguably one of the two or three most recognized events from the four Gospels, along with Jesus’ central proclamation of the Kingdom of God and his death by crucifixion. Few critical scholars reject the notion that, after Jesus’ death, the early Christians had real experiences of some sort. Reginald Fuller asserts that, “Even the most skeptical historian has to postulate an `x’” in order to account for the New Testament data—namely, the empty tomb, Jesus’ appearances, and the transformation of Jesus’ disciples.[80] Fuller concludes by pointing out that this kerygma “requires that the historian postulate some other event” that is not the rise of the disciples’ faith, but “the cause of the Easter faith.” What are the candidates for such a historical explanation? The “irreducible historical minimum behind the Easter narratives” is “a well-based claim of certain disciples to have had visions of Jesus after his death as raised from the dead . . . .” However it is explained, this stands behind the disciples’ faith and is required in order to explain what happened to them.[81] Fuller elsewhere refers to the disciples’ belief in the resurrection as “one of the indisputable facts of history.” What caused this belief? That the disciples’ had actual experiences, characterized as appearances or visions of the risen Jesus, no matter how they are explained, is “a fact upon which both believer and unbeliever may agree.”[82]

Yes, most skeptics agree that , very early after Jesus' death, the disciples had some form of experiences which caused them to believe that the dead Jesus had appeared to them.  However, skeptics point out the fact that over the course of human existence, tens of thousands of grieving friends and family of the recently departed have "seen" their loved one appear to them, talk to them, and even touch them. 

Most educated people living in the western world today do NOT believe that these appearances are real, physical appearances, but rather vivid dreams, visions, or hallucinations.  So why should we believe similar claims from a small group of mostly uneducated, very superstitious, Galilean peasants living two thousand years ago?

An overview of contemporary scholarship indicates that Fuller’s conclusions are well-supported. E.P. Sanders initiates his discussion in The Historical Figure of Jesus by outlining the broad parameters of recent research. Beginning with a list of the historical data that critics know, he includes a number of “equally secure facts” that “are almost beyond dispute.” One of these is that, after Jesus’ death, “his disciples . . . saw him.”[83] In an epilogue, Sanders reaffirms, “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.”[84] After beginning with a list of “a few assorted facts to which most critical scholars subscribe,” Robert Funk mentions that, “The conviction that Jesus was no longer dead but was risen began as a series of visions . . . .”[85] Later, after listing and arranging all of the resurrection appearances, Funk states that they cannot be harmonized.[86] But he takes more seriously the early, pre-Pauline confessions like 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.[87] John Meier lists “the claim by some of his disciples that he had risen from the dead and appeared to them” as one of the “empirically verifiable historical claims.” Paul, in particular, was an eyewitness to such an appearance, and James, the brother of Jesus, appears in the pre-Pauline list of appearances.[88] James D.G. Dunn asserts: “It is almost impossible to dispute that at the historical roots of Christianity lie some visionary experiences of the first Christians, who understood them as appearances of Jesus, raised by God from the dead.” Then Dunn qualifies the situation: “By `resurrection’ they clearly meant that something had happened to Jesus himself. God had raised him, not merely reassured them. He was alive again. . . .”[89]

Wright asks how the disciples could have recovered from the shattering experience of Jesus’ death and regrouped afterwards, testifying that they had seen the risen Jesus, while being quite willing to face persecution because of this belief. What was the nature of the experience that dictated these developments? [90] Bart Ehrman explains that, “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.” This early belief in the resurrection is the historical origination of Christianity.[91] As we have mentioned throughout, there are certainly disagreements about the nature of the experiences. 

 But it is still crucial that the nearly unanimous consent[92] of critical scholars is that, in some sense, the early followers of Jesus thought that they had seen the risen Jesus. This conclusion does not rest on the critical consensus itself, but on the reasons for the consensus, such as those pointed out above. A variety of paths converge here, including Paul's eyewitness comments regarding his own experience (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8), the pre-Pauline appearance report in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, probably dating from the 30s, Paul's second Jerusalem meeting with the major apostles to ascertain the nature of the Gospel (Gal. 2:1-10), and Paul's knowledge of the other apostles' teachings about Jesus' appearances (1 Cor. 15:9-15, especially 15:11).

 Further, the early Acts confessions, the conversion of James, the brother of Jesus, the transformed lives that centered on the resurrection, the later Gospel accounts, and, most scholars would agree, the empty tomb. (most scholars from a biased sample.)  This case is built entirely on critically-ascertained texts, and confirmed by many critical principles such as eyewitness testimony (which alleged eyewitness accounts?  The Gospels?  Nope.  The majority of scholars do not believe that eyewitness or the associates of eyewitnesses wrote these books.  Paul?  Paul himself never tells us what exactly he saw.  Maybe he "saw" Jesus on his intergalactic space voyage to the "third heaven"?  I personally think that Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was mental illness with episodes of psychosis and delusions of grandeur...but that is just my humble opinion...), early reports, multiple attestation (at least two, and maybe three of the Gospels borrow heavily from the first gospel written, Mark.  That is hardly a case of multiple attestation), discontinuity, embarrassment, enemy declarations (which contemporary "enemy" of Jesus mentions the empty tomb or the resurrection?), and coherence.[93]

These same data indicate that Jesus’ followers reported visual experiences, witnessed by both individuals and groups. It is hardly disputed that this is at least the New Testament claim. The vast majority of scholars agree that these persons certainly thought that they had visual experiences of the risen Jesus. As Helmut Koester maintains, "We are on much firmer ground with respect to the appearances of the risen Jesus and their effect." In addition to Paul, "that Jesus appeared to others (Peter, Mary Magdalene, James) cannot very well be questioned."[94] What??  We have suddenly gone from the majority of scholars believing that "the disciples had experiences in which they BELEIVED that Jesus had appeared to them, to "Jesus DID appear to them" and this "cannot be very well questioned".  Wow.

The point here is that any plausible explanations must account for the disciples’ claims, due to the wide variety of factors that argue convincingly for visual experiences. This is also recognized by critical scholars across a wide theological spectrum. As such, both natural and supernatural explanations for these occurrences must be entertained. Most studies on the resurrection concentrate on cognate issues, often obstructing a path to this matter. What really happened? I certainly cannot argue the options here, but at least the possibilities have been considerably narrowed.  Sure.  Allow for a supernatural explanation, but why not consider at least as equally possible, much more frequently observed explanations such as grieving friends and family "seeing" their dead loved one in vivid dreams?


 This study attempts to map out some of the theological landscape in recent and current resurrection studies. Several interesting trends have been noted, taken from these contemporary studies. Most crucially, current scholarship generally recognizes that Jesus’ early followers claimed to have had visual experiences that they at least thought were appearances of their risen Master. Fuller’s comment may be recalled that, as “one of the indisputable facts of history,” both believers as well as unbelievers can accept “[t]hat these experiences did occur.”[95] Continuing, Wright asks: “How, as historians, are we to describe this event . . . History therefore spotlights the question: what happened?”[96] We cannot entertain the potential options here regarding what really happened, although we have narrowed the field. But due to the strong support from a variety of factors, these early Christian experiences need to be explained viably. I contend that this is the single most crucial development in recent resurrection studies.  

Gary R. Habermas is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University. He has authored several books related to this articles' topic including The Historical Jesus and Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate (with Antony Flew).

Dear Reader.  Let me summarize my critique of Gary Habermas' above research regarding the position of scholars on the historicity of the Empty Tomb:

1.  This is not a peer-reviewed article.  That is a BIG problem.  Unless Habermas opens up his records; shares his data with other scholars; and allows other scholars to critique his data and methodology, all we have in this article is one man's hearsay. 

2.  Habermas did NOT take a survey of scholars to arrive at his claim that "75% of scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb.  This could have very easily been done.  Why didn't Habermas do this and why has he still not done this?  No, instead of surveying scholars on this question, Habermas reviewed all articles on the subject of the Empty Tomb and recorded how many articles supported the historicity of this claim and how many did not support the historicity of this claim.  There are several problems with this methodology.  First, it only includes scholars who have written published articles on the Empty Tomb.  What percentage of NT scholars have done so?  He doesn't tell us.  However, it is safe to say that fundamentalist and evangelical NT scholars, whose faith and world view depend on the existence of an empty tomb, will have written many more articles on this subject than NT scholars for whom an empty tomb is unimportant (say, a Jewish scholar or a liberal Christian scholar).

Secondly, Habermas does not tell us whether or not he counted only authors of Empty Tomb articles or the total number of Empty Tomb articles.  The problem here is that if he is basing his percentage on articles, not on scholars, his number will be biased towards the fundamentalist/evangelical position of an empty tomb and a bodily resurrection, as these scholars are much more motivated to write on this subject.  For instance, if Mike Licona has written ten articles on the Empty Tomb, and someone like Levine has never or rarely ever written on this subject, Habermas' statistics will be biased towards the conservative Christian position.  We need to know this information before asserting just how accurate Habermas' study really is.

3.  Habermas states that the participants in his survey are primarily (Christian) theologians and NT scholars, with a smaller group of historians and philosophers.  Why?  This is an historical question, not a theological question.  We are not asking scholars to tell us the meaning of Jesus' death, for instance.  That is a theological question.  Why not ask the experts in the relative field:  HISTORIANS!  But I doubt that Habermas will ever want to do this because he knows that the results of this survey would most likely be very different from the results of his survey of mostly theologians and NT scholars.


[1] There are no “bookend” dates that necessarily favor this specific demarcation of time. But as I began gathering these sources years ago, the last quarter of the Twentieth Century to the present seemed to be as good a barometer as any for deciphering recent research trends.
[2]. Raymond Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology (New York: Paulist, 1994), 4-15, 102.
[3] Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, trans. James W. Leitch (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975).
[4] Willi Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, trans. Margaret Kohl (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970); Jesus and Easter: Did God Raise the Historical Jesus from the Dead? trans. Victor Paul Furnish (Nashville: Abingdon, 1990).
[5] Gerd Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology trans. John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994); Lüdemann with Alf Özen, What Really Happened to Jesus, trans. John Bowden (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995); The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2004). See also Hansjürgen Verweyen, editor, Osterglaube ohne Auferstehung? Diskussion mit Gerd Lüdemann (Freiburg: Herder, 1995) and the lengthy book review by Andreas Lindemann in Wege zum Menschen, 46 (November-December 1994), 503-513.
[6] Ingo Broer, et. al. Auferstehung Jesu--Auferstehung der Christen: Deutungen des Osterglaubens (Freiburg: Herder, 1986); Broer and Jürgen Werbick, “Der Herr ist wahrhaft auferstanden” (Lk 24,34): Biblische und systematische Beiträge zur Entstehung des Osterglaubens, Stuttgarter Bibel-Studien 134 (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwork, 1988).
[7] Rudolf Pesch, “Zur Entstehung des Glaubens an die Auferstehung Jesu,” Theologische Quartalschrift, 153 (1973), 219-226; “Materialien und Bemerkungen zu Entstehung und Sinn des Osterglaubens,” in Anton Vögtle and Pesch, Wie kam es zum Osterglauben? (Düsseldorf: Patmos-Verlag, 1975).
[8] Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Die Auferstehung Jesu: Historie und Theologie,” Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, 91 (1994), 318-328; Die Auferstehung Jesu und die Zukunft des Menschen (Munchen: Minerva-Publikation, 1978); Jesus--God and Man, second ed., trans. Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane A. Priebe (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977).
[9] Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993).
[10] Martin Hengel, “Ist der Osterglaube noch zu retten?” Theologische Quartalschrift, 153 (1973), 252-269; The Atonement, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981); "Das Begräbnis Jesu bei Paulus und die leibliche Auferstehung aus dem Grabe" Auferstehung-Resurrection, ed. Friedrich Avemarie and Hermann Lichtenberger (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2001).
[11] Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte, second ed. (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1981); "Zur Diskussion über `das leere Grab,' " Resurrexit: Actes du Symposium International sur la Résurrection de Jésus, ed. E. Dhanis (Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1974), 137-159.
[12] Walter Künneth, Theologie der Auferstehung, sixth ed. (Giessen: Brunnen, 1982).
[13] Ulrich Wilckens, Resurrection: Biblical Testimony to the Resurrection: An Historical Examination and Explanation, trans. A.M. Stewart (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1977).
[14] Francis X. Durrwell, La Résurrection de Jésus: Mystère de Salut (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1976).
[15] Xavier Léon-Dufour, Résurrection de Jésus et Message Pascal (Paris: Seuil, 1971).
[16] Jean-Marie Guillaume, Luc Interprète des Anciennes Traditions sur la Résurrection de Jésus, Études Bibliques (Paris: J. Gabalda et Cie, 1979).
[17] Guillaume, Luc Interprète des Anciennes Traditions sur la Résurrection de Jésus, esp. 50-52, 65, 201, 265-274.
[18] Michael Goulder, "Did Jesus of Nazareth Rise from the Dead?" in Stephen Barton and Graham Stanton, eds, Resurrection: Essays in Honour of Leslie Houlden (London: SPCK, 1994); "The Baseless Fabric of a Vision," in D'Costa, ed., Resurrection Reconsidered (Oxford: Oneworld, 1996), 48-61; "The Empty Tomb," Theology, vol. 79 (1976), 206-214.
[19] G.A. Wells, A Resurrection Debate (London: Rationalist Press, 1988); The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1988); Did Jesus Exist? (London: Pemberton, 1986).
[20] Duncan M. Derrett, The Anastasis: The Resurrection of Jesus as an Historical Event (Shipston-on-Stour, England: P. Drinkwater, 1982).
[21] Thomas Torrance, Space, Time and Resurrection (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976).
[22] James D.G. Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus (Louisville: Westminster, 1985); Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).
[23] Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford: Oxford University, 2003); "Evidence for the Resurrection," in Davis, Kendall, and O'Collins, eds., Resurrection, 191-212; editor, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1989).
[24] Oliver O'Donavan, Resurrection and Moral Order (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986).
[25] This includes Wright’s series, Christian Origins and the Question of God, published in the U.S. by Fortress Press. See especially his third volume, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).
[26] John Dominic Crossan, “Empty Tomb and Absent Lord (Mark 16:1-8)," in Kelber, ed., The Passion in Mark: Studies in Mark 14-16 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 135-152; Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994); The Historical Jesus (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1991); The Birth of Christianity: Discovering what Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998).
[27] Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1999), Parts 3-4; “Thinking about Easter, Bible Review, X:2 (April, 1994), 15, 49.
[28] Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, Revised Ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress, Press, 1980); Fuller, Reginald H., Eugene LaVerdiere, John C. Lodge, and Donald Senior, The Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord: A Commentary on the Four Gospels (Mundelein, Ill.: Chicago Studies, 1985); “John 20:19-23,” Interpretation, 32 (1978), 180-184.
[29] Pheme Perkins, Resurrection: New Testament Witness and Contemporary Reflection (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1984); “I have Seen the Lord (John 20:18): Women Witnesses to the Resurrection,” Interpretation, 46 (1992), 31-41; “Reconciling the Resurrection,” Commonweal, (April 5, 1985), 202-205.
[30] Raymond E. Brown, The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus (N.Y.: Paulist, 1973); A Risen Christ in Eastertime: Essays on the Gospel Narratives of the Resurrection (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1991); The Death of the Messiah, two vols, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1994).
[31] William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (Lewiston, N.Y. Mellen, 1989); The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus During the Deist Controversy (Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1985).
[32] Stephen T. Davis, Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993); Davis, Daniel Kendall, and Gerald O'Collins, eds., The Resurrection (Oxford: Oxford, 1997), 191-212; editor, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1989).
[33] Some examples include Gary R. Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003); Habermas and Antony G.N. Flew, Resurrected? An Atheist and Theist Dialogue (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005); “Resurrection Claims in Non-Christian Religions,” Religious Studies 25 (1989), 167-177; “The Late Twentieth-Century Resurgence of Naturalistic Responses to Jesus’ Resurrection,” Trinity Journal, new series, 22 (2001), 179-196.
[34] Gerald O’Collins might be mentioned here: What Are They Saying About the Resurrection? (New York: Paulist, 1978); Interpreting the Resurrection (Mahweh, N.J.: Paulist, 1988); Jesus Risen: The Resurrection—What Actually Happened and What Does it Mean? (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1988); Easter Faith (N.Y.: Paulist, 2003).
[35] These percentages reflect only those publications that answer this specific question, where I have conducted a detailed investigation.
[36] Such as the hypotheses of Lüdemann or Goulder above.
[37] Goulder also raises this question.
[38] I have categorized these natural hypotheses, naming two alternative proposals (the illumination and illusion options) that have so far eluded any recognized designations. For details see Habermas, “The Late Twentieth-Century Resurgence of Naturalistic Responses to Jesus’ Resurrection,” 179-196.
[39] For example, Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence , 373-374; cf. Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte, 49-50.
[40] Michael Goulder avers: "Only male witnesses are valid in Jewish jurisprudence" ("The Empty Tomb," Theology, 79
[1976], 211).
[41] For the circumstances under which Jewish women could testify, including the conclusion that this Gospel report nonetheless provides evidence for the empty tomb, especially Carolyn Osiek, “The Women at the Tomb: What are they Doing There?” Ex Auditu, 9 (1993), 97-107.
[42] Norman Perrin, The Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 83.
[43] Howard Clark Kee, What can We Know about Jesus? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 1-2.
[44] For example, Paul precedes the text by using the equivalent Greek for the technical rabbinic terms “delivered” and “received,” which traditionally were the way that oral tradition was passed along (see also 1 Corinthians 11:23). Further, the report appears in a stylized, parallel form. The presence of several non-Pauline terms, sentence structure, and diction all additionally point to a source prior to Paul. Also noted are the proper names of Cephas and James (including the Aramaic name Cephas
[cf. Luke 24:34]), the possibility of an Aramaic original, other Semitisms like the threefold “kai oti” (like Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew narration), and the two references to the Scriptures being fulfilled. See Pinchas Lapide, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, from the German, no translator provided (Minneapolis: Augsberg, 1983), 97-99; John Kloppenborg, “An Analysis of the Pre-Pauline Formula in 1 Cor 15:3b-5 in Light of Some Recent Literature,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 40 (1978), 351, 360; Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, “Tradition and Redaction in 1 Cor 15:3-7,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 43 (1981), 582.
[45] Murphy-O’Connor, “Tradition and Redaction in 1 Cor 15:3-7,” 582. Fuller agrees: “It is almost universally agreed today that Paul is here citing tradition.” (The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, 10)
[46] I have outlined the case elsewhere, for instance, in Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, chap. 1; "The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus" in In Defense of Miracles, R. Douglas Geivett and Gary R. Habermas, eds. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 262-275.
[47] For just a few of these scholars, see Hans Grass, Ostergeschen und Osterberichte, second ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Rupert, 1962), 96; Francis X. Durrwell, La Résurrection de Jésus: Mystère de Salut, 22; Reginald Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology (New York: Scribner’s, 1965), 142, 161; C.H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprint, 1980), 16; Oscar Cullmann, The Early Church: Studies in Early Christian History and Theology, ed. A.J.B. Higgins (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1966), 65-66; Pannenberg, Jesus: God and Man, 90; Raymond Brown, Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection, 81, 92; Peter Stuhlmacher, Jesus of Nazareth--Christ of Faith, trans. Siegfried S. Shatzmann (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, 1993), 8; Helmut Merklein, “Die Auferweckung Jesu und die Anfange der Christologie (Messias bzw. Sohn Gottes und Menschensohn),” Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Alteren Kirche, 72 (1981), 2; John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, vol. 3: Companions and Competitors (New York: Doubleday, 2001),139; Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus, 70; Leander E. Keck, Who is Jesus? History in Perfect Tense (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina, 2000), 139; C.E.B. Cranfield, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Expository Times, 101 (1990), 169. O’Collins thinks that no scholars date Paul’s reception of this creed later than the 40s A.D., which still would leave intact the major conclusions here (O’Collins, What Are They Saying? 112).
[48] Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 254; Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus, 38; Robert Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels (New York: Macmillan, 1993), cf. 18, 24; Michael Goulder, “The Baseless Fabric of a Vision,” in D’Costa, Resurrection Reconsidered, 48; Jack Kent, The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth (London: Open Gate, 1999), 16-17; A.J.M. Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999),111, 274, note 265; Thomas Sheehan, The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God became Christianity (New York: Random House, 1986), 118; cf. 110-112, 135; Michael Grant, Saint Paul (Glasgow: William Collins, 1976), 104; G.A. Wells, Did Jesus Exist?, 30.
[49] Walter Kaspar, Jesus the Christ, new ed., trans. V. Green (Mahweh, N.J.: Paulist, 1976), 125.
[50]. Wilckens, Resurrection, p. 2.
[51] For the sermon segments that may contain this traditional material, see Acts 1:21-22; 2:22-36; 3:13-16; 4:8-10; 5:29-32; 10:39-43; 13:28-31; 17:1-3; 17:30-31.
[52] For just some of the critical scholars who find early traditional material in Acts, see Max Wilcox, The Semitisms of Acts (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965), esp. 79-80, 164-165; Gerd Lüdemann, Early Christianity According to the Traditions in Acts: A Commentary, trans. John Bowden (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 47-49, 112-115; Merklein, “Die Auferweckung Jesu und die Anfänge der Christologie (Messias bzw. Sohn Gottes und Menschensohn),” 2; O’Collins, Interpreting the Resurrection, 48-52; John E. Alsup, The Post-Resurrection Appearance Stories of the Gospel Tradition: A History-of-Tradition Analysis with Text-Synopsis, Calwer Theologische Monographien 5 (Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag, 1975), 64-65, 81-85; Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments, 17-31; Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology, 112-113, 164; Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, 44-45; Perkins, Resurrection, 90, 228-231; Durrwell, La Résurrection de Jésus: Mystère de Salut, 22; M. Gourges, À La Droite de Dieu: Résurrection de Jésus et Actualisation du Psaume 110:1 dans in Noveau Testament (Paris: J. Gabalda et Cie Editeurs, 1978), especially 169-178.
[53] Gerald O’Collins, Interpreting Jesus (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1983), 109-110.
[54] John Drane, Introducing the New Testament (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986), 99.
[55] Gerd Lüdemann, “Closing Response,” in Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment? Paul Copan and Ronald Tacelli, eds. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 151.
[56] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 272; cf. 321. In this volume, perhaps Wright's major emphasis is the bodily nature of resurrection in general, and Jesus' resurrection, in particular (see next note). See also N.T. Wright, “Early Traditions and the Origin of Christianity,” Sewanee Theological Review, 41 (1998), 130-135.
[57] The best current treatment is Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 32-398. Also exceptional is Robert H. Gundry, Soma in Biblical Theology: With Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1976), esp. chap. 13. Compare Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 (New York: Columbia University, 1995); Stephen Davis (126-147) and William Alston (148-183), both in Davis, Kendall, and O’Collins, eds., Resurrection; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ According to the New Testament,” The Month, second new series, 20 (1987), 408-409; Cranfield, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” 170; Norman Kretzmann, “Resurrection Resurrected,” in Eleanore Stump and Thomas Flint, eds., Hermes and Athens (Notre Dame: Notre Dame, 1993), 149. For a detailed treatment of this point, see Gary R. Habermas, “Mapping the Recent Trend toward the Bodily Resurrection Appearances of Jesus in Light of Other Prominent Critical Positions,” in Robert Stewart, editor, The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue (Minneapolis: Fortress, forthcoming, 2006).
[58] Marxsen, The Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, 125 (Marxsen’s emphasis); cf. 169.
[59] Marxsen, Jesus and Easter, 92.
[60] Borg in Borg and Wright, The Meaning of Jesus, 137-142.
[61] While Crossan is well known for his view that Jesus’ dead body was probably buried in a common grave (Jesus, 152-158), this is actually an alternative burial account. It does not even address the resurrection appearances, since, conceivably, Jesus could have been buried other than in a traditional tomb and still have been raised from the dead.
[62] N.T. Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem,” Sewanee Theological Review, 41 (1998), 119.
[63] In a recent dialogue, Crossan indicated that he does not think that alternative responses are good explanations for the appearances to the disciples. (See Robert Stewart, ed., The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue.) Still, it could be pointed out that Crossan’s comparison of the resurrection appearances to dreams or visions of a departed loved, however normal, still involves the reliance on a natural scenario instead of the New Testament explanation. (John Dominic Crossan, “The Resurrection of Jesus in its Jewish Context,” Neotestamentica, 37
[2003], 46-47.)
[64] John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1995), 185, 209.
[65] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 550.
[66] See Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, especially 321, 686-696, 709-710.
[67] For these points, see John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, In Search of Paul (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2004), 6-8, 341; Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 318-319; 378-384.
[68] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 453-456; Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 364, cf. 293-294; Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, 341.
[69] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, xvii-xix, 31, 71, 82-83, 200-206.
[70] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Chapters 5-8, especially 273, 314, 350-374.
[71] Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Chapters 9-10, especially 424, 476-479.
[72] Crossan, “Mode and Meaning in Bodily Resurrection Faith,” in The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue, especially endnote 4.
[73] Crossan, “Mode and Meaning in Bodily Resurrection Faith,” endnote 3. Compare Crossan, “The Resurrection of Jesus in its Jewish Context,” especially 37-40, 46-49, 55.
[74] Crossan and Reed, In Search of Paul, 6-10 (their emphasis). We have already seen above that Lüdemann also holds a similar position to that of Wright, Crossan, and Reed.
[75] Crossan, “Mode and Meaning in Bodily Resurrection Faith,” see especially the Conclusion and the preceding section, “Caesar or Christ?”
[76] For examples, see Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, 244-245, 355-361, 426, 441-444, 450, 578-583.
[77] N.T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), Chapter 6. The quotes are from 54-55.
[78] Crossan, “Mode and Meaning,” Part I; “Resurrection of Jesus in its Jewish Context,” 46-47.
[79] Personal discussion with Dom Crossan, March 11, 2006, before the dialogue in which we both participated (The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue, Fortress). Still, any misconception here remains my mistake.
[80] Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, 2.
[81] Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, 169, 181-182.
[82] Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology, 142.
[83] E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin, 1993), 11; cf. 10-13.
[84] Sanders, Historical Figure of Jesus, 280.
[85] Funk, Honest to Jesus (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1996), 32, 40, as well as the entire context here.
[86] Funk, Honest to Jesus, 266-267.
[87] Funk, Honest to Jesus, 35-39.
[88] John Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. 3, 252; cf. 70, 139, 235, 243, 252.
[89] Dunn, The Evidence for Jesus, 75 (Dunn’s emphasis).
[90] N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 109-111.
[91] Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 231.
[92] In the study referred to above, virtually every critical scholar recognizes this fact, or something very similar. It is very difficult to find denials of it. This is evident even if we listed just some of the more skeptical researchers who hold this, such as Lüdemann, The Resurrection of Jesus, 37, 50, 66; Borg, “Thinking about Easter,” 15; Crossan, “The Resurrection of Jesus in its Jewish Context,” 46-47; Funk, Honest to Jesus, 40, 270-271; Michael Goulder, “The Baseless Fabric of a Vision,” in D’Costa, Resurrection Reconsidered, 48; Rudolf Pesch, “Zur Entstehung des Glaubens an die Auferstehung Jesu: Ein neuer Versach,” Freiburger Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Theologie, 30 (1983), 87; Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament, vol. 2: History and Literature of Early Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), 84; Anton Vögtle in Vögtle and Pesch, Wie kam es zum Osterglauben? (Düsseldorf: Patmos-Verlag, 1975), 85-98; James M. Robinson, “Jesus from Easter to Valentinus (or to the Apostles’ Creed),” Journal of Biblical Literature, 101 (1982), 8, 20; Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), pp. 3–12; Wedderburn, Beyond Resurrection, 47, 188; Ehrman, Jesus, 227-231; Kent, The Psychological Origins of the Resurrection Myth, 16-17; John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), pp. 171–177; Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, 258-266; Thomas Sheehan, The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God became Christianity, 1986), 91; Hans Werner Bartsch, “Inhalt und Funktion des Urchristlichen Osterglaubens,” New Testament Studies, 26 (1980), 180, 190-194; Norman Perrin, The Resurrection according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 80-83; J.K. Elliott, “The First Easter,” History Today, 29 (1979), 209-220; Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (N.Y.: Scribner, 1977), 176; Hansjürgen Verweyen, “Die Ostererscheinungen in fundamentaltheologischer Sicht,” Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie, 103 (1981), 429; Alsup, The Post-Resurrection Appearance Stories of the Gospel Tradition, 274; John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1994), 51-53, 173; Michael Martin, The Case against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), 83, 90; G.A. Wells, Did Jesus Exist?, 32, 207; James Keller, “Response to Davis,” Faith and Philosophy, 7 (1990), 7; Traugott Holtz, “Kenntnis von Jesus und Kenntnis Jesu: Eine Skizze zum Verhältnis zwischen historisch-philologischer Erkenntnis und historisch-theologischem Verständnis,” Theologische Literaturzeitung,104 (1979), especially 10; Merklein, “Die Auferweckung Jesu und die Anfänge der Christologie (Messias bzw. Sohn Gottes und Menschensohn),” 2. For a list of more than fifty recent critical scholars who affirm these experiences as historical events, see Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, 50-51, endnote 165.
[93] For details on this consensus, see Habermas, The Risen Jesus and Future Hope, chap. 1.
[94] Koester, History and Literature of Early Christianity, 84.
[95] Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology, 142.
[96] Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 110.