Book Plunge: Leading Lawyers’ Case For The Resurrection

What do I think of Ross Clifford’s book published by 1517 Legacy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lawyers are people who specialize in evidence and making the best case they can. They’re meant to examine their side and the other side and be prepared for the best objections. They stake their reputation on presenting the best argument and being able to best their opponents with evidence and argumentation.

So what about a case like the resurrection? Could legal argumentation be used to back that case? Would any lawyer really take on the case that Jesus rose from the dead and argue in a court of law that that is what happened and expect that a rational jury would conclude that they were correct?

Apparently, Clifford has found seven who would. The eighth, Morrison, with his book Who Moved The Stone? is not a lawyer, but used many of the same techniques. He used them so well he is often thought of as being a lawyer. Clifford takes each of these lawyers on a cumulative case step by step to establish the verdict that Jesus rose from the dead.

Clifford is a lawyer as well and so he knows how to examine the case and see that there’s no funny business being pulled. He has brought together a quick resource that can be read easily and doesn’t use a lot of legal terminology that would confuse the layman. It’s also a short work. You can read it in a day or two, quite possibly a date if you really work at it.

He also has not found slouches in the field. All of the men here were recognized in their own time including if that time is our present. Clifford includes an introduction to their life and their legal practice. He then goes through each one and gives a brief summary of the case that they especially argued for.

Also useful will be the appendices in the back. One particular one involved a claim that is often heard today and that was dealing with the charge that the Gospels would be seen as hearsay evidence. Clifford shows that this is not the case and then points to a resource that can be used to show other cases that were solved on similar grounds. One difference he gives is that the cases that do not allow hearsay are more about a particular individual and not a particular truth claim. An individual would get to face his accuser in court after all.

Clifford’s book left me impressed with the legal case and thinking that legal apologetics is something I need to take a lot more seriously. If anything, I would have liked Clifford to have added in his own case. A brief chapter would be good on how Clifford would have gone forward in making a case that Jesus rose from the dead. Perhaps sometime in the future Clifford could write out a dialogue of sorts where he would describe a court case and the case for the resurrection being made to show how this would be done.

Those interested in defending the resurrection owe it to themselves to get this book. It is a good and small introduction and will point you to other leading lawyers who can make a case. The defense of Christ is helped by having the best from all fields after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Greek Resurrection Beliefs and the Success of Early Christianity

What do I think of Dag Endsjo’s book published by Palgrave Macmillan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was challenged to read this book which leads to my going to the library as soon as I can and getting a hold on such a book. The author’s name here is not entirely accurate since it has a slash through the o, but I am not sure how to do that on the computer so no disrespect is intended and keep that in mind when you do a search for it at the library or on Amazon. At any rate, what are my thoughts?

Endsjo wants to challenge the idea that the body would have been seen in a negative light by early Christians. He starts with describing the Trojan War in the works of Homer and how it was horrific to have the dead left on the battlefield. For here, Endsjo says that it is because the flesh is identical with the warriors themselves. In the same paragraph, he says the souls go off to Hades. Already, I’m puzzled. If the flesh is the warriors themselves, then what are these soul things? Also, does it really follow that the horror was because the flesh was seen as the warriors themselves? Could it not be because there was no honorable burial for them?

This is something I found confusing in the book. What is his view of how the Greeks viewed a man? It’s hard to say. Sometimes it seems like the soul is dominant. Sometimes it seems like the body is dominant.

Endsjo contends that we normally think of the flesh as something shameful to the Greeks, but he wants to say that is not the case. If the flesh is shameful to anyone, it’s Paul. He rarely has anything if ever good to say about the flesh and even in 1 Cor. 15 argues that the resurrection is spiritual. I think this is one of the great weaknesses of the book. There’s plenty of great material arguing that the body must be physical. One such piece available at the time would have been Gundry’s Soma in Biblical Greek.

We go into a large number of listings of Greek gods and heroes and how many of them were seen as living in immortal flesh. This could have been very appealing, but what is ignored is all the people who die and go to Hades and even still don’t want to return to the land of the living. What of people like Socrates who die and when they do want a sacrifice to be done to the god of healing to show their true healing in leaving the body?

I have often said before that it is easy to make a case when you have the sound of one hand clapping, and I was looking for the other case. To be fair, many on the other side have not sufficiently argued with the examples that Endsjo brings forward, but that does not mean that Endsjo should do the same. Both sides need to be looked at. I look forward to seeing someone like N. T. Wright respond in the future to the work.

I said earlier that the great weakness I think is 1 Cor. 15. Endsjo contends that Paul is speaking of a spiritual resurrection. While that is a common interpretation, that does not equal a true one nor does it equal one that should be assumed. Endsjo has a church that goes to Paul and gets a spiritual resurrection and then suddenly does a 180 and goes material. It’s understandable that some people would think this, but I don’t think Endsjo makes the case.

The stories are interesting and even still the view would be a problem for the Greeks. The Greeks apparently believed that the body of a person could not be recreated. That would have been essential for the Christians. Thus, the Christians would still have a hard case to make.

Endsjo also uses the argument that the Christians were persuading the people that they believed nothing different from the Romans in some aspects. Sure, but he misses why. That’s because Christianity was seen as shameful. The Christians were trying to point out similarities to show inconsistencies to the Romans in how they were treating the Christians. Many times people will look at the text and think that there was one-to-one parallels going on. Since the persecution didn’t stop, we can think it likely that the Romans did not see those parallels.

We can also say that the Greeks might have thought immortality to be desirable, but that in itself would not be enough since some figures got immortality as a punishment, say Prometheus who was forced to have his liver regrow every day for a wild bird to eat. Many Greeks in Paul’s audience would have thought that that was reserved for the gods and their children, but not for them. Jesus was the exception.

I think more work should be done on Endsjo’s book and I’d like to see a Wright take it on. Again, there was the sound of one hand clapping. Hopefully, we’ll have the other hand join in more and see what comes of the discussion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Proof Of Heaven

What do I think of Eben Alexander’s book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was asked to read this book by someone interested in near-death experiences. I also have an interest in them, but I do prefer the evidential ones. No doubt, many of them provide comfort and meaning to the people who have them and while that is data to be used, I want something that can show that they are really having interactions going on outside of the body. This is a big problem for a materialist worldview.

Eben Alexander’s has been a popular one for some time and was the one I was asked about. He does have the advantage that he is a neurosurgeon so there’s no doubt he knows how the brain works. I think the case does establish that he had some kind of activity likely going on after he died. I do not think he made up his experience or anything like that.

The problem is not much beyond that is evidential. There is very little that he can point to going on in the world when he was in his comatose state and had no higher brain functions. We cannot take what he says about the beyond then in an authoritative way. We have no way of verifying it.

My big problem is it seems to be very much more of a New Age perspective. Nothing is said about Jesus and God is referred to as Om. The message given was love, which is fine, but then a part of “Nothing you can do is wrong.” I think we could all disagree with that part. Plenty of what we do is wrong.

Alexander does talk about going to church and taking communion, but one reads his book and wonders how deep it goes. What does communion mean to him? Does he take his experience as the final authority? As a Christian, I think it is important that we use Scripture to interpret our experience instead of the other way around.

Alexander’s story is indeed a remarkable one and I do think something miraculous happened that allowed him to recover from his illness. The problem is I don’t see how this constitutes proof of heaven. Heaven isn’t even defined in his book. What is this Heaven? How does someone get there?

Alexander doesn’t really spend time answering these questions. There isn’t interacting with many of the world religions to see what is said about them. There is an interesting story about his family history and about problems in scientific circles with NDEs not being taken seriously, but those of us who are more evidential in our thinking want more. As I said, my biggest problem is that the experience is the greatest authority.

In conclusion, the story is interesting, but I cannot recommend it really. I think an experience like Alexander’s does show that there is more to a person than their physical body and it does put materialistic thinking in a problem, but not much beyond that. I would much more recommend works like Steve Miller’s or Michael Sabom’s.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?

What do I think of Dan Story’s book published by Kingdom Come Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got Dan’s book in the mail. I had requested it for a possible interview especially seeing as I am married to an animal lover. I don’t hate animals or anything, but I’m not the most crazy about them. Generally, I’ve been a cat person and when it came to choosing our first pet, as luck would have it, Allie found a cat that she just fell in love with. Our little treasure is a white Turkish Angora, possibly another breed as well, named Shiro, the Japanese word for white.

Dan’s book is about addressing the question of if animals will be found in the afterdeath. Some of you might think that there is not much that can be found on this topic. I could understand that, but Dan really brings out a lot that you wouldn’t consider. It’s not light material either. It is a serious look at science and the text.

Dan also includes many stories of animals and their interactions and the way that they think. Many of us are quite interesting to hear about. If you’re an animal lover, you will go through this section with a smile on your face. Dan has done immense research drawing stories from all over the literature.

Dan also does go into eschatology here and I was very pleasantly pleased. Dan rightly gets that Heaven is not some far off place in eternity and this world is an afterthought. No. This is the world that we are meant to live on. This is where we are to fulfill our purpose. The final reality will be the marriage of Heaven and Earth. This will be far better than Eden in the end.

Dan interacts with a number of great biblical scholars in this work. Great minds like Richard Bauckham and Anthony Hoekema show up in this work. He will also interact with many philosophers like C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft. If you know works of apologetics, you will recognize names in here.

Dan’s handling of the Biblical text is also very careful and reasoned. Some passages that you would think have nothing to do with animal resurrection are brought in, such as Jesus being with the wild beasts in Mark. I came to this one with skepticism as well, but Dan made a good argument and having it backed by Richard Bauckham gives some credibility.

There are some minor points I will disagree with Dan on still. I am not convinced about a literal millennial kingdom, but I don’t think that that is necessary for the thesis in the book. The points I saw of disagreement were over peripheral points and none of them were substantial to the main thesis of the book.

Animal resurrection is something we can hope for and it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on yet, but it’s certainly one that I think a strong case has been presented for. I think anyone who is interested in this question should look at the information presented in this book. It’s a good and short read that is readily approachable by all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary Today

What do I think of Rene Laurentin’s book published by Ignatius Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In my continued look at Marian apparitions I have moved over to Laurentin’s book. Laurentin definitely writes from a Roman Catholic perspective. While I am Protestant, I do not consider myself anti-Catholic. I have a great love for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are Catholic, but I am naturally skeptical of some of Roman Catholicism’s doctrines.

Laurentin’s book I did not find convincing unfortunately. There are some matters that are naturally worth looking into, but the problem is if Laurentin has done the looking, he rarely invites us along for the journey. Instead, it just looks like if a series of apparitions leads to renewed faith and people saying the rosary more and such, then hey, we should welcome and accept this. I do not see any real criteria he has for determining if something is valid or not.

For me as someone who is skeptical, that doesn’t exactly cut it. An anti-Catholic could say “Of course a Marian apparition would say that. That will lead people into a false religious system.” I could say as a skeptic that it will get people more dependent on the experiences that they have instead of on the Scripture that has been handed down to us.

Laurentin does go into more than just the apparitions. He gets into accounts of statues crying and other such things. Some of these accounts apparently do have miracles attached to them. I am open to investigating such things but as I’ve said, the problem with Laurentin’s work is that you just get a picture and a paragraph.

At times, there are even apparitions that get things wrong about the future and are still said to be valid. Why? Well, Paul wasn’t entirely right when he said in 1 Thess. 4 that the return of Christ would happen in his lifetime. Such an interpretation of that passage is highly debated, but I find it amazing that in a way to justify an apparition that makes a mistake, it is okay to go after Scripture.

I am not opposed to people having a renewal of their faith, but I want to know what it is based on. If people get excited about their faith and do not have a firm foundation, then they will be more prone to believing anything that comes along and if the door has already been opened for anyone who is claiming an apparition, how will that door ever be shut again? What else could be going on?

Thus, while I am certainly open to what is going on, I think Laurentin’s case is quite lacking. Looking at the fruit alone isn’t enough because most any movement at the start will have some fruit that is seen as positive. What we need to ask is do we have any reason to believe a specific claim is true beyond the effects? Without some firm criteria, we open ourselves up for any event whatsoever and we might not like what it is that we are opening the door to.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Book Plunge: We Shall All Be Changed

What do I think of Joel McDurmon’s book published by American Vision? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been an orthodox preterist for years, even before going to a Seminary that is pre-mill and dispensational. A church I attended in Charlotte was largely that way and yet they let me give a presentation on orthodox preterism. It was quite a fun time. There is one title I refuse to accept and that is a partial preterist.

Why? Because I do not consider the other side to consist of full preterists. I call them Neohymenaeans. For reasons that will come out, I consider the movement a heresy. If that is so, why would I want to be called a partial heretic? Preterism means something and I do not define it by the heresy.

In this book, Joel McDurmon takes a look at one of the most prominent figures in the Neohymenaean movement, Don Preston. McDurmon starts with a look at hermeneutics. How we read the text is important. I like that McDurmon starts off with a case that could be convincing to many for the Neohymenaean movement. We must always show that as strange as we think a belief is when we first hear it, there are reasons people hold it. (Indeed, I used to consider preterism this bizarre belief and how could people believe it? The reality was I didn’t know what preterists really believed.)

McDurmon then gives what he thinks is a proper hermeneutic, and I agree with him. One example is that all does not mean all in a literal sense. Consider how we are told all Judea and Jerusalem was baptized by John the Baptist. Really? Every single person in Judea? All those Pharisees and Sadduecees in Jerusalem were going to be baptized? No. This is hyperbole.

The far more damaging part here is the practical outworkings of Neohymenaeanism. If you truly believe this, then you need to do things that are supposed to stop when the fullness of Christ comes in the resurrection and the new age. That includes things like the Lord’s Supper, marriage, and teaching. In other words, if you’re a Neohymenaean, don’t teach it to anyone, don’t have Communion, and don’t marry.

McDurmon also makes an argument for the bodily resurrection. I’m not going to give his key passage here. I think you need to get the book to see that for yourself. He does interact with the problematic reading of passages that attempt to turn the body referred to in passages like 1 Cor. 15 to just that of the body of Christ.

If there was something I would have liked emphasized more, it would be my biggest problem overall with the Neohymenaean movement. That is that if we are to be raised as Christ was raised, and we are instead resurrected spiritually and not physically, then that would mean that Christ was also resurrected spiritually and not physically. We can be told Christ is the exception, but then that leads to a contradiction and is begging the question. That’s why I say the movement is ultimately a Christological heresy. In fact, it’s quite similar to Gnosticism in that the material world doesn’t really matter and it doesn’t deal with the problem of evil ultimately. Evil still gains a victory that claims the material world.

Orthodox preterists out there need to know about the Neohymenaean movement and how to argue against it. Futurists need to realize that orthodox preterists are not neohymenaeans and we stand against this movement just as you do. While Neohymenaeans often try to paint preterists as futurists and dispensationalists, it’s important that on the other end Christians who are futurists don’t paint preterists as Neohymenaeans. Yes. We can have our discussions and disagreements in good Christian fellowship, but let us be clear that we who are orthodox Preterists do indeed hold to an orthodox position.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

God As An Afterthought

Does God really play any role in our Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was thinking just now on what to blog on today when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw someone post something about how there is only one way to get to Heaven. I’m not about to deny that Jesus is the only way. I just want to ask, what is Jesus the only way to? Some of you are thinking the obvious answer is Heaven, but is that what Jesus Himself said?

If we go back to John 14:6, Jesus says “No man comes to the Father, but through me.” Jesus didn’t describe Himself as the way to Heaven, but as the way to the Father. You will find very little in the Bible about “Going to Heaven.” You will instead find plenty about resurrection and the Kingdom of God. Oddly enough, much of the focus in eschatology in the Bible is not on Heaven, but is on Earth.

The meek will inherit the Earth, until God just decides He wants to do away with the Earth. Let your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, until once again, the Earth is done away with. It will be even harder to come up with something for Revelation 21 where the city of Jerusalem comes down from Heaven to Earth. We have things exactly reversed! We think we go up from Earth to Heaven.

I cannot say for sure when this happened in church history. Perhaps someone who has studied all of church history better could give an answer to that. At this point, we can hear many an altar call where someone gives their lives to Jesus. Why? Because they want to go to Heaven someday. In this case, God is an afterthought. You believe in God not because He’s there and you trust Him not because of Jesus per se, but because you just want to go to Heaven when you die. God becomes many times a means to get to Heaven.

Think of how you would hear Heaven being described anyway. How often does it really include something about God? It could include something about Jesus, and don’t think I’m denying the Trinity or full deity of Christ or anything like that, but there is nothing really said about the Father. Jesus emphasized the way to the Father. We don’t do that.

Heaven is often just one example. God is often an afterthought in anything that we do. God is there to fill in the gaps when we have a need. There is a real problem with the God-of-the-Gaps argumentation. The problem is when you put God in a gap, what happens when that gap starts getting filled by something else?

What about suffering? In the past, the things that we consider hard suffering could often be commonplace to people. Diseases that are far and away from us were everyday realities to them. We cry when a small child dies, which we should, but for them, that was a real risk taken every time you had a child as the chances of a child dying were far greater.

It’s fascinating that the problem of evil is much more often a problem to people who are in well-off societies instead of people who actually have suffering around them all their lives. Many of these people are far more grateful and appreciative for what they have. We today have a lot in the West and we don’t really appreciate it. Many of them in these societies have very little and appreciate everything that they have.

Why is evil such a problem to us? Because we think if God was there, He wouldn’t allow XYZ to happen to us. Everyone seems to think that they’re special. (Isn’t it fascinating that the self-esteem movement produced a generation that has immense ideas of entitlement and yet low self-esteem?) When suffering comes in our lives, we don’t have a way to explain it because reality isn’t supposed to be like this. God isn’t doing His job, because, you know, His job is obviously to make sure life is good for us.

We talk very little about what we are supposed to do for God. That’s one reason we’ve probably lost so much the idea of the Kingdom of God. We don’t talk about the resurrection save as a means of showing that Christianity is true. What difference does it make? That’s a deeper question and one that the surface is hardly scratched on. (It’s also like how we stand up for the Trinity, but normally as a tool to answer Jehovah’s Witnesses on a point we don’t really understand the point of.)

Ultimately, this all leads into our once again “me-centered” Christianity. You should become a Christian not because it’s true that Jesus rose from the dead, but because you want to go to Heaven and/or you want God to do something special in your life. You can hear an altar call after a sermon where the resurrection of Jesus isn’t even mentioned. Sadly, many of these people who come forward will never be discipled. They will never be taught about the basics even of Christianity and what a shock when they apostasize and become angry atheists because Christianity failed them, a Christianity that they hardly understood to begin with. (Some of the most uninformed people you can meet on Christianity are apostates.)

What’s it going to take? Let’s start with the pastors. Give your congregation something more. If you think some people will walk away because they don’t like firm teaching, oh well. Better to have a few extremely dedicated than to have a multitude that is wishy-washy. Let your church know about the resurrection. Let them know the Christian life is a sacrifice. It’s not sunshine and rainbows. Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow Him. We are promised in fact suffering and trials and tribulations. Of course, give them the good news that God is with them in everything, but let it be known that not everything that happens is something that they will like.

To the layman, if your pastor won’t educate you, one thing you might want to consider is finding a new church. If you can’t find one in your area, then educate yourself. You’re not dependent on your pastor. Read blogs like this one and read good books and listen to good podcasts. (I do recommend mine, but I could be biased.) Study to show yourself approved. If you think Christianity is the most important thing in your life, live like it is. We often say Christianity is the most important reality in our lives, and then spend more time studying our favorite sports team than learning about Christianity.

To those of us out here in the field, we need to find a way to engage others around us. We need to engage unbelievers and give them a real challenge. Don’t give them the light Christianity, but give them the hard evidential Christianity and let them try to tell you why it’s not true. For our fellow believers, equip them. Train them. Teach them about the cross and the resurrection. Show them that they are supposed to be all about God and not the other way around.

I look forward to a day when I scroll my Facebook page and I find more about the resurrection and the Kingdom of God than I do about going to Heaven. It might be a long time coming, but it will be worth it. Are you and I going to do anything to change that?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

The Case For Christ Movie

What did I think of the film? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last night, Allie and I finally got around to seeing The Case For Christ. We had heard nothing but good things about it. In the past, I have been used to seeing Christian films that are cheesy and think that they have to shove the Gospel down your throat at one point in a super obvious way because, hey, otherwise you will miss it. Not so with this one.

I also know a number of the people involved in the story so that gave it an extra sense of joy. The story is indeed a fairly accurate one, though also at times I think holding back. Lee Strobel is a successful writer for a newspaper and he and his wife and daughter are enjoying their lives when through a series of events, his wife Leslie actually becomes a Christian. Lee, an atheist, finds his world torn apart.

One of the first thoughts he has, and this is extremely accurate for men, is that Leslie has gone and cheated on him with another man and that man is Jesus. He immediately thinks that somehow he was not good enough for her. Everything becomes a comparison between him and Jesus. Their marriage becomes all about the argument and gets darker and darker, though I do not think the movie could show the full level of darkness that was reached.

Meanwhile, Lee is also investigating a story about a cop that was shot. Alongside this one, the religious editor when hearing Lee complain about his wife says that if he wants to tackle Christianity and disprove it, the place to go is the resurrection. Might I say that it is wonderful hearing something like this? So many Christian movies hardly ever seem to make any significance of the resurrection. Many churches don’t in fact. Christianity is all about living a good life and the resurrection seems to be a nice add-on.

Lee asks him who the main expert to go to on the resurrection is and gets told to talk to Gary Habermas, which he does. At one point, there is some anachronism here. Habermas talks about his wife Debbie and how he wants to see her again, but that death took place much later than when the movie starts unless there was a lot of time skipped that I don’t know about which I doubt since it also has Lee’s son being born around this time.

It’s also excellent that many audiences are being introduced to this material for the first time. I find it fascinating that a movie can be made like this with a lot of scholarly input and actual information and yet still gripping. The story of Lee’s marriage, the investigation into the cop shooting, and the investigation of Christianity all started weaving together incredibly well.

I often thought the few other people in the theater could have thought that Allie and I were being rude. At some points, there was some mild laughter from me, but that was because I knew the answer that was coming and seeing Lee get caught flatfooted was a funny moment. I wonder what people might be thinking who were being introduced for this material for the first time.

What this shows us also is you can do apologetics and it can be accurate and it can be something enjoyable for the audience. You don’t have to shove it down their throats and it can be an enjoyable story. There’s also the real fact that just because Leslie accepted Jesus, it doesn’t mean her life is sunshine and rainbows then. It was a nightmare with she and Lee bickering back and forth. Our idea today is that Christianity will make your life better. It might do that, but sometimes, it can make it harder. You will have a much harder time in Iran if you become a Christian than if you do in the South in America. The question to ask about Christianity is not will it make your life better, but is it true?

If you want to know about the acting and such, I can’t really comment on that. It’s not the kind of thing I notice in a film or TV show. I’m sort of blind to that. I just look and ask if I enjoyed the film and what I thought about the content. In this case, this is a movie I am going to be wanting to get on DVD when it comes out. It’s a great one to watch and I hope more come out like it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Bahnsen Burner on 1 Cor. 15

Is the 1 Cor. 15 creed a good defense of the resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was asked by a reader of the blog to give my thoughts on a website called Bahnsen Burner, which normally deals with presuppositional apologetics and how in this case they’ve decided to respond to Geisler and Turek on 1 Cor. 15. Looking over the case, I’m really just seeing more of the same. At any rate, let’s go through it.

Bahnsen Burner (BB henceforth) starts off quoting Geisler and Turek.

But the most significant aspect of this letter is that it contains the earliest and most authenticated testimony of the Resurrection itself. In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes down the testimony he received from others and the testimony that was authenticated when Christ appeared to
him:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also (1 Cor. 15:3-8, NASB).

Where did Paul get what he “received”? He probably received it from Peter and James when he visited them in Jerusalem three years after his conversion (Gal. 1:18). Why is this important? Because, as Gary Habermas points out, most scholars (even liberals) believe that this testimony was part of an early creed that dates right back to the Resurrection itself – eighteen months to eight years after, but some say even earlier. There’s no possible way that such testimony could describe a legend, because it goes right back to the time and place of the event itself. If there was ever a place that a legendary resurrection could not occur it was Jerusalem, because the Jews and the Romans were all too eager to squash Christianity and could have easily done so by parading Jesus’ body around the city.

Moreover, notice that Paul cites fourteen eyewitnesses whose names are known: the twelve apostles, James, and Paul [sic] himself (“Cephas” is the Aramaic for Peter), and then references an appearance to more than 500 others at one time. Included in those groups was one skeptic, James, and one outright enemy, Paul himself. By naming so many people who could verify what Paul was saying, Paul was, in effect, challenging his Corinthian readers to check him out. (pp. 242-243)

To this, BB says:

The statements made here are so misleading that it’s amazing that any publishing house would have accepted this book’s manuscript. But lies do sell in this day and age, just as they did 2,000 years ago and before.

Let’s consider some of the statements made here in regard to this highly contested passage.

The authors tell us that the First Epistle to the Corinthian church “contains the earliest and most authenticated testimony of the Resurrection itself.” I’m not so concerned about the “earliest” part here, since it is ultimately irrelevant; even a legend has to have its inception sometime. Rather, it’s this claim, presumably regarding the specific passage cited (I Cor. 15:3-8), that it “contains the… most authenticated testimony of the Resurrection itself.” I can only ask at this point, “authenticated” by what? And what specifically do the authors think is “authenticated” in this passage? The phrase “testimony of the Resurrection itself” seems to be used quite loosely here, for even the gospel depictions of Jesus’ passion put no witnesses with Jesus when and where he was supposed to be resurrected – that is, in his very tomb!

In this, we have the common scenario of asking a question and not really bothering to look for the answer. If I was to say what I think that Geisler and Turek are saying, it’s that the passage is accepted by the vast majority of scholars on the historical Jesus as containing early material accepted across the board. That doesn’t mean they believe in the resurrection, but they do believe that appearances took place.

As for seeing the actual resurrection, that was not the claim. The claim was that He appeared to many. Let me put it easily enough for BB. Jesus was dead. There is not a debate about that. Jesus was crucified. Jesus was dead. I would normally think that would not need any scholarly backing, but in our day and age with people thinking mythicism is all the rage among scholars (It’s not. It’s no more the rage than anti-vaccination thinking is the rage among doctors) I will post some and these are all from scholars that would not hold to orthodox Christianity at all.

“The fact of the death of Jesus as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable, despite hypotheses of a pseudo-death or a deception which are sometimes put forward. It need not be discussed further here.” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” Page 17.)

Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened. (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

Jesus was executed by crucifixion, which was a common method of torture and execution used by the Romans. (Dale Martin, New Testament History and Literature. Page 181)

That Jesus was executed because he or someone else was claiming that he was the king of the Jews seems to be historically accurate. (ibid. 186)

Jesus’ execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story? (John Dominic Crossan http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-d…_b_847504.html)

Now here’s the deal. Jesus is dead. Jesus is then seen again by people and these people are convinced He is alive. That means that in their mind, He somehow passed from death to life. That is what constitutes a resurrection appearance. They are convinced that a man they knew to be dead earlier is seen alive and well later.

BB goes on to quote Geisler and Turek.

The authors ask:

Where did Paul get what he “received”?

In answer to this, they say that Paul “probably received it from Peter and James when he visited them in Jerusalem three years after his conversion (Gal. 1:18).”
And in saying this, they are well in agreement with the majority of scholars of the historical Jesus. Of course, this is scholarly work we’re talking about. On the internet, you’ll find something different where skeptics will believe any conspiracy theory no matter how rejected by scholarship just because, hey, it argues against Christianity!
But Paul himself does not tell us this. For Jesus’ death itself, Paul appeals to “the Scriptures.” Throughout his several letters, Paul relies heavily on Old Testament citations to buttress his points. Also, I find it puzzling that Geisler and Turek would reference the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians and not notice what he says just a few verses prior to the one they do cite. Paul makes it explicitly clear that the answer which our authors give us is not the right answer to the question the pose. Observe:

Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ. (Gal. 1:11-12)

Nor should we expect Paul to tell us. In a day and age where writing was timely and expensive with only so much room to write, Paul would say what was most essential first. There’s no need to tell the Corinthians information that is already known such as where the creed is from. Why does he repeat the creed then? Because Paul is forming an argument and he’s reminding them of the claims that they all already agreed to.

“Wait! These people are saying there is no resurrection! Why would they agree that Jesus was raised?”

Those are good questions. The answer is that the debate is not about the resurrection of Jesus but the resurrection of believers. Corinthians could easily say there was no general resurrection of the dead but Jesus, Jesus is the exception. He’s the man of special honor and favor. He will be raised, but not us. Paul then starts his argument saying “Jesus is raised. We know that. Here’s how we know it.”

Galatians 1:11-12 is a favorite to go to, but the problem is an equivocation on received and on Gospel. The four Gospels we have now were not necessarily called Gospels back then. Paul does say he received something by revelation, but is it the Gospel formally? One can imagine a conversation going on with pre-conversion Saul and the soldiers with him.

Soldier: Hey, Saul. These Christians we are persecuting. Who are they? What do they believe? How do we identify them?
Saul: Beats me. You think I actually know what they’re teaching?

Paul would have already known the content of the Gospel. What was not known is the truth of the Gospel. Paul is saying that when it comes to the truth, he wasn’t just one following the apostles. He himself was an apostle. In fact, the language in Galatians 1 is highly pointing back to Jeremiah and his call to preach to the nations.

Paul is saying that the message he received was that Jesus was indeed the resurrected Messiah. He didn’t get that by hearing what the apostles said so that the Galatians could just go over his head and back to someone else. He received that message by a direct appearance of the risen Jesus to him.

As for according to the Scriptures, what is meant is not a chapter and a verse, but that this is a fulfillment of the Scriptures. This is the story of God all alone. It wasn’t an accident. God meant this from the beginning.

BB goes on.

So according to what Paul tells us, he “received” the gospel that he preaches to everyone else directly from Jesus as a revelation. (One wonders why that same Jesus doesn’t reveal himself directly to everyone else as well rather than revealing himself to one person who then goes around telling everyone he meets about it.) Paul himself is telling us that what Geilser and Turek propose is precisely what did not take place.

The difference is 1 Cor. 15 has passed on and received. Received alone is one thing. The two together indicate an oral tradition. Paul would have been given this tradition as well as what was a simple and easily memorable way of saying what the early church believed. We can ask why Jesus doesn’t appear to everyone, but that is for another post and won’t affect the data itself.

Here an objection comes. Yeah? Well Paul uses that same language in 1 Cor. 11:23. “What I received from the Lord, I passed on to you!” Paul gets everything by personal revelation.

It’s an interesting comeback, but flawed. In his book on the historical Jesus, Craig Keener points out that rabbis of the time claimed to have teaching from Sinai. They did not mean personal revelation, but that which went back to the source. In this case, the teaching goes directly back to Jesus who said the words at the Last Supper. That’s not the case in 1 Cor. 15 because Jesus never gave a list of the resurrection appearances. Paul’s language is quite concise.

BB continues

Apparently having failed to understood this portion of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, or at any rate to factor into their thinking about the question they pose before themselves in regard to I Cor. 15:3-8, our authors find their proposal that Paul “received” what he states in that passage important because they want to see it as “part of an early creed that dates right back to the Resurrection itself – eighteen months to eight years after, but some say even earlier.”

What I find curious at this point is how oblivious the authors seem to be of the quagmire they’ve gotten themselves into at this point. For one, they are clearly relying on the content of later writings – the gospels – to supply them with the dating they assume for the events that Paul mentions in this passage. Nothing in the letter itself suggests that the resurrection that Paul speaks of happened any time recently (for all that Paul gives us, his Jesus could have been crucified a century or more earlier, and not necessarily in Palestine for that matter), and only by interpreting Paul’s account by reading elements from the gospel stories into it can it be made into a reference to a recent event. The erroneous nature of this assumption and its significance to my broader point will be brought out more clearly below. For the present, I’d like to focus on another problem that Geisler and Turek bring upon themselves. For if I Cor. 15:3-8 is part of an early creed which Paul has simply imported and woven into his letter, then obviously he is not recounting firsthand knowledge. In fact, if the gist of I Cor. 15:3-8 is a creedal formula passed down to him from other believers, it is at best hearsay that he inserts into his letter.

Apparently, there’s an unwritten rule out there that you cannot use later sources to amplify your understanding of earlier ones. For instance, we have a reference to the destruction of Pompeii in 79 A.D. by the eruption of Vesuvius in an off-the-cuff remark between Pliny the Younger and Tacitus. It’s only later on that we learn historically of Herculaneum, which would actually be the more important town. No doubt, the people of the time already knew this information, but we ourselves would not.

Now if BB wants to suggest another time and place where all of this happened, he’s more than welcome to. For historical Jesus scholars, it’s quite established about the time of when Jesus died. You will have a date between 29-33 A.D. and even then that does not affect the creed at all. All will agree about it’s the time from death to the creating of the creed.

Also, Paul is not inserting firsthand knowledge into the letter. Yes. So what? If all we went by were firsthand knowledge in ancient history, we would have very little. Most accounts were written by historians who would show up later on the scene and collect the details.

“Yeah! But hearsay isn’t allowed in a court of law! It’s unreliable!”

No. It’s not allowed in a court of law generally because you’re allowed to question your accusers. That can’t be done with hearsay. We have to ask how much of ancient history BB is willing to discount because of the rule of it not being firsthand. He would have to throw out Hannibal, Queen Boudica, and Arminius

BB continues:

As if that weren’t bad enough, notice the overtly question-begging nature of the following statement:

There’s no possible way that such testimony could describe a legend, because it goes right back to the time and place of the event itself.

It always strikes me as rather perverse when apologists tell us that it’s impossible for a story to have legendary content while expecting us to believe in supernatural beings, resurrection of the dead, miracles, etc. But here Geisler and Turek insist that the testimony we find in I Cor. 15 could not contain any legend. To make this kind of claim, the authors must assume the historicity of the gospel accounts of Jesus, which are the only documents in the New Testament which place Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in a historical context. The authors are, in effect, using later documents to inform and corroborate earlier documents. Nothing in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, let alone the passage in question, place Jesus’ death and resurrection in any historical setting or even remotely suggest a date to the event in question. So given what Paul states in I Cor. 15:3-8, there’s nothing there which tells us that his account of the resurrection is “early” or that “it goes right back to the time and place of the event itself.” If the aim is to validate the resurrection story of the New Testament as authentically historical, Geisler and Turek simply beg the question by claiming that Paul’s own statements about it could not contain elements of legend because it is too close in time to the event in question. If the event in question is in fact legendary, and Paul’s own account of that event provide no indication of time or place or setting, then the accounts we find in the gospels, the earliest of which being written a decade or more after Paul’s letter campaign, would simply be embellishments of the legend itself. If Paul were passing on a legend that he had learned (and maybe even helped embellish himself), what would keep later writers from adding to and elaborating that legend? And if the later writings – namely the gospels – are themselves legends, then using them to date an event which is itself legendary, simply immerses apologists deeper and deeper into the fake environment of their imagination. Having to rely on one legendary work to validate another legendary work can only mean that the alleged historicity of Christ will evaporate under examination.

Note BB that there are many skeptical scholars of the NT who do not think the Gospels are accurate entirely, but they do think there is much we can learn about the historical Jesus from them. Many skeptics have an all-or-nothing thinking. Either the Gospels are entirely inerrant according to our idea of what it would mean to be inerrant, or they’re all fake.

Again, if BB wants to make that case, he’s free to try to make it. It will be a long uphill battle. The only ones who argue for completely legendary would be mythicists themselves. When we look at the historical Jesus, we take all the data we have which includes the Gospels and the Pauline epistles.

If historians want to know what Jesus said and did they are more or less constrained to use the New Testament Gospels as their principal sources. Let me emphasize that this is not for religious or theological reasons–for instance, that these and these alone can be trusted. It is for historical reasons pure and simple. (Ehrman, The New Testament, page 215)

One would also think that if the legend was being embellished, the Gospels would have more appearances in them and appearances to huger multitudes than 500. They don’t. The Gospels overall are quite constrained in this.

But the question-begging doesn’t stop there. Geisler and Turek continue:

If there was ever a place that a legendary resurrection could not occur it was Jerusalem, because the Jews and the Romans were all too eager to squash Christianity and could have easily done so by parading Jesus’ body around the city.

But if the Jesus story were a legend in the first place – the very premise which our authors are trying to defeat, then appealing to what might have happened or could have happened to Jesus’ body simply begs the question, for it assumes precisely what they are called to prove: namely that the story we have of Jesus in the New Testament is not legend. If the story about Jesus is merely a legend, then there was no body to crucify and seal in a tomb or parade through the streets of Jerusalem.

Again, if BB wants to try to find another locale for all of this, he’s welcome to it. Such hyper-skepticism is why the internet is not taken seriously by scholars today. Picture that crazy uncle at that family reunion you go to who holds all these strange ideas. The internet is where all these crazy uncles get together and discuss those ideas.

As if this could be helpful to us today, Geisler and Turek fall back on the typical defense that anyone questioning Paul could have followed up on the claims he makes in I Cor. 15:3-8:

Moreover, notice that Paul cites fourteen eyewitnesses whose names are known: the twelve apostles, James, and Paul [sic] himself (“Cephas” is the Aramaic for Peter), and then references an appearance to more than 500 others at one time. Included in those groups was one skeptic, James, and one outright enemy, Paul himself. By naming so many people who could verify what Paul was saying, Paul was, in effect, challenging his Corinthian readers to check him out.

First of all, Paul does not name fourteen eyewitnesses. In fact, the details he provides are far less substantial. In I Cor. 15:3-8, Paul only names two other people: Cephas and James. He refers to “the twelve,” which is nowhere explained in any of Paul’s letters, and to “all the apostles.” It is not even clear from what Paul gives us here that either Cephas or James were members of either group. Christians typically suppose that the Cephas Paul mentions in this passage corresponds to the Peter of the gospels (perhaps we’re expected to accept that only one person in the entire first century bore the name Cephas). Of course, I would suspect that at least some of Paul’s readers would have wondered whom he meant by “the twelve” and who were “the apostles” he mentions. Apologists typically respond to these kinds of questions by alleging that Paul’s audiences would have known whom he had in mind with such expressions, because this would have been included in his on-site missionary work when he visited the churches he later addressed in letters. There’s a persistent and annoying perhapsical nature to all this, and puts a great burden on the memories of those whom Paul personally missionized, persons who may or may not have been the recipients of Paul’s letters, which – like I Corinthians – was addressed to the church as a whole, not to a specific individual. The question naturally arises: what exactly did Paul teach the congregations he visited on his missionizing journeys, and how can we know what he taught? If his letters are an indication of what he taught, what do they tell us about “the twelve” and “the apostles”? I Cor. 15:3-8 is the only passage in all of Paul’s letters where he makes reference to this mysterious “twelve,” and even here it is not even clear that “the twelve” and “the apostles” he references in the same passage are the same group. He certainly does not name them in his letter, and one can only speculate that he named them when he visited the church addressed by the letter. Moreover, if Paul is just repeating a creed here, as Geisler and Turek seem to think, then it’s quite possible that even Paul himself did not know the names of those who constituted “the twelve.”

Even when I was a believer, Paul’s reference to “the twelve” here bothered me. Doherty sums up the problem succinctly when he writes:

One could ask why Paul does not use the term “the Twelve” anywhere else in his letters, despite often talking about the Jerusalem apostles. In fact, one would be hard pressed to understand what it refers to simply by this sole reference in I Corinthians 15:5. One might also be forgiven for thinking that, as Paul expresses it, “the Twelve” doesn’t even include Peter. And more than one commentator has fussed over the fact that this really ought to be an appearance to “the Eleven,” since the gap left by Judas’ departure had not yet been filled, according to Acts. (Challenging the Verdict: A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ”, p. 193.)

So indeed a list of the names who made up the membership of “the twelve” would be quite informative here, but Paul does not provide this. Simply assuming that his 1st century readers would have known what Paul meant strikes me as hasty, and even if it is not unjustifiable, it is certainly of no help to us today, and only raises further questions about what Paul might have taught on his missionary journeys. For instance, did Paul teach that Jesus was born of a virgin? His letters nowhere make reference to this feature which is not introduced until we get to the gospels of Matthew and Luke, which are the only two New Testament documents which mention it. Did Paul teach that Jesus assembled the disciples, or “apostles” which he mentions in I Cor. 15, during missionary work of his own? Paul’s letters nowhere indicate this. Did Paul teach his congregations that Jesus performed miracles during an incarnate visit to earth? Nowhere do any of Paul’s letters suggest this. Did Paul teach that Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot? Again, one would never learn about this gospel feature from anything Paul wrote.

Yes. No one would learn this from what Paul wrote. BB can call it hasty, but it’s simply the facts of a high-context society. If you read the Federalist Papers for instance, the writers will refer to many events in Greek and Roman history. There is no explanation of the stories. They’re off-the-cuff remarks that assume the reader knows what is being talked about.

As for if Judas Iscariot is among the twelve, let’s ask a quick question. Football fans. How many teams are in the Big Ten? Yeah. My family and friends who are football fans tell me that there is a different number now than ten. What is going on with the term “The twelve?” It became a catch-phrase used to describe the original apostles that were called.

It is indeed true that Paul does not use the term anywhere else in his letters. That’s the point. The creed is full of non-Pauline language which further shows that this is not something original to Paul. Even a personal revelation Paul could have put in his own language.

As for why not name names, it’s because the creed is short and to be something easily memorized. Ancients had better memories, but that does not mean many would memorize a list of 500 names. Instead, investigators would be sent to the Jerusalem area and investigate. They would ask around to see if any of these 500 were known in the area and available for questioning.

Regardless, how would any of Paul’s readers be able to investigate any of the things he mentions in I Cor. 15:3-8? He does not identify a place, so any reader would not be able to gather from what Paul writes in his letter where he should begin such an investigation. Where would a Corinthian go to seek confirmation on Paul’s claims with “the twelve”? And would he be encouraged to do so? And what of the anonymous 500 brethren? We’re not given one name here, let alone a time, place or setting. So the defense that Paul’s congregants could have at any time gone out and checked out his claims is dubious. And our authors’ suggestion that “Paul was, in effect, challenging his Corinthian readers to check him out,” borderlines the ludicrous. If Paul really wanted his readers to check up on his claims, he should have done much more than make the passing references that he gives us in I Cor. 15:3-8.

At the very time, Paul was getting a delegation from Corinth to join him on a trip to Jerusalem. Skeptics could send investigators along in such a group. Travel was not unheard of and the Roman roadway system made it much easier. Would they be encouraged? Since Christianity was a shameful belief and many people would be high honor and not want to lose that easily. Larry Hurtado demonstrates the shame and ostracism facing Christians in his book Destroyer of the Gods.

To make matters even more problematic, Paul gives no details on what any of the people he mentions may have actually seen or witnessed. Did they see a resurrected man? How would they know that the man they saw was once dead? Did they have a waking fantasy, as believers today have when they’re in worship? Believers today often refer to themselves as “witnesses” of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, and yet they can do this even though they weren’t even alive back in the 1st century. If the word “witness” enjoys a very loose meaning for many of today’s Christians (and it very often does), why suppose it didn’t enjoy similar flexibility among the early Christians? Christians today are constantly exclaiming how Jesus is present with them, standing right beside them and encouraging them, giving them “strength” so that they can overcome the adversity of hardship, trials and tribulations, afflictions and persecutions. They obviously do not have a physical person in mind when they make these kinds of declarations, so why suppose the early Christians were speaking about a physical Jesus when they claimed to have “witnessed” him?

Because what believers say today is entirely corresponding to what they said back then. Never mind that someone complaining about question-begging has just done a huge amount of it about the culture. It’s interesting to hear him say “Witness means many things today, so why not suppose it meant the same back then.” But to suppose that the events Paul writes about were the same as the Gospels, well that’s too much.

What did they see? They saw Jesus. We have all we need. Death, burial, resurrection appearances. I would also argue that the language of 1 Cor. 15 refers to a physical body. That again is for another post.

If 500 or so believers saw Jesus in the flesh (an interpretation which Paul’s words do not require), who were they, and where is their testimony? It seems that, if so many people had more than merely a subjective experience of an imaginary Jesus – as today’s believers frequently have in the ecstasy of church worship, we’d have more contributors to the documentary evidence than what we find in the New Testament. If I had seen a man who was actually resurrected from the grave, whom I thought was “the Son of God,” I would waste no time in writing down exactly what I had seen, where I had seen it and when I had seen it. If I knew of others who had the same experience, I would not hesitate to get their testimony down in writing, or at least to have them endorse such statements of witness. But that’s me.

BB again assumes his own culture in here with “I would waste no time writing it down!” Well, as Richards, Capes, and Reeves say in Rediscovering Paul.

The cost of writing and rewriting was not free. A secretary charged by the line. Like anyone whose living depended on billing customers, the secretary kept up with how many lines he wrote each time. Although we do not know the exact charges for making drafts and producing a letter, we can make some educated guesses. A rough, and very conservative, estimate of what it would cost in today’s dollars to prepare a letter like 1 Corinthians would be $2100, $700 for Galatians, and $500 for 1 Thessalonians.” Richards, Capes, and Reeves, Rediscovering Paul p. 78

So here’s the deal. You can use a method that is free, quick, easily accessible, and reaches more people, such as oral communication, or you can use a method that is costly, timely, can only be accessed by those who can read, and even then the rest have to hear it orally. Decisions, decisions. Which one will you choose?

In fact, there are many great events that weren’t written down about at the time. Hardly anyone wrote about the destruction of Vesuvius that destroyed two cities at the time. We have no contemporary writing about Hannibal in the Punic Wars. Now it’s possible that some things were written and simply lost, but we cannot appeal to lost documents.

Apologists can be expected to make the most of Paul’s mention that most of the 500 brethren who saw something are still alive. But it is important not to read more into Paul’s words than what they actually say. Apologists typically assume that Paul’s words confirm that Jesus’ death and resurrection were recent. Instead, however, Paul’s own treatment here has the effect of “stamping [Jesus’] appearances as recent, but not the death, burial, and prompt resurrection…, which he merely says occurred ‘in accordance with the scriptures’.” (Wells, Can We Trust the New Testament? Thoughts on the Reliability of Early Christian Testimony, p. 7, emphasis added.) As I pointed out above, there is nothing in Paul’s letter which lends itself to dating Jesus’ death and resurrection in the recent past. Consequently, to claim that I Cor. 15:3-8 is “too early” to be legend, requires one to assume the truth of the basic portrait of Jesus found in the gospels, which simply begs the question at issue.

Again, if BB wants to go this route, he’s welcome to it. Just don’t be expected to be taken seriously in the scholarly world. It’s noteworthy that so much of what he cites comes from mythicists. That tells us about all that we need to know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

A Response to Brent Landau

Is there a good case for the resurrection? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Brent Landau has written a response to the movie, The Case For Christ. Landau is at least someone with credentials so we’re not talking about your run of the mill person who has a web site. Still, his case against the resurrection is very much lacking.

For instance, Strobel makes much of the fact that there are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in existence, far more than any other ancient writings. He does this in order to argue that we can be quite sure that the original forms of the New Testament writings have been transmitted accurately. While this number of manuscripts sounds very impressive, most of these are relatively late, in many cases from the 10th century or later.Fewer than 10 papyrus manuscripts from the second century exist, and many of these are very fragmentary.

I would certainly agree that these early manuscripts provide us with a fairly good idea of what the original form of the New Testament writings might have looked like. Yet even if these second-century copies are accurate, all we then have are first-century writings that claim Jesus was raised from the dead. That in no way proves the historicity of the resurrection.

The problem for this part is that if you want to dispute the authenticity of the NT text, and note I don’t mean the truthfulness of it yet but that it has been handed down accurately, then you have no reason to trust any other ancient text. There is nothing that comes remotely close to the New Testament. If we look at age, number of manuscripts, number of languages, time between original writing, and earliest manuscript we have, nothing comes close.

As one scholar of textual criticism has said

If the primary purpose of this discipline is to get back to the original text, we may as well admit either defeat or victory, depending on how one chooses to look at it, because we’re not going to get much closer to the original text than we already are.… At this stage, our work on the original amounts to little more than tinkering. There’s something about historical scholarship that refuses to concede that a major task has been accomplished, but there it is.

Elsewhere, this same scholar also said

In spite of these remarkable [textual] differences, scholars are convinced that we can reconstruct the original words of the New Testament with reasonable (although probably not 100 percent) accuracy.

Who is this scholar?

The first instance is here. The second is from the third edition of his book on the New Testament and is found on page 481. That scholar is Bart Ehrman.

We go on from there to talk about the 1 Corinthians 15 creed. Unfortunately, Landau has a bad habit of just pointing to a book and not giving any page references or anything. I have no problem with pointing to books, but I’d like to know where I’m supposed to look in these books. Still, he is right about the creed being early. As a selection of non-Christian scholars shows:

Michael Goulder (Atheist NT Prof. at Birmingham) “…it goes back at least to what Paul was taught when he was converted, a couple of years after the crucifixion.” [“The Baseless Fabric of a Vision,” in Gavin D’Costa, editor, Resurrection Reconsidered (Oxford, 1996), 48.]

Gerd Lüdemann (Atheist Prof of NT at Göttingen): “…the elements in the tradition are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus…not later than three years… the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in I Cor.15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE.” [The Resurrection of Jesus, trans. by Bowden (Fortress, 1994), 171-72.]

Robert Funk (Non-Christian scholar, founder of the Jesus Seminar): “…The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” [Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Acts of Jesus, 466.]

Landau is certainly right that the disciples were sure they had seen the risen Christ, but his explanations are lacking. Grief hallucinations are certainly real, but those would lead them to conclude that Jesus was dead, not that He was alive. Grief would not explain Paul or James. We don’t even know the disciples were grieving. Maybe they were angry instead. After all, no Messiah would be crucified, so maybe they thought they’d given all those years to a huckster.

What about group appearances? Landau is quick to compare them to Marian apparitions and UFO sightings. The problem with both is first off, it’s assumed that nothing is happening. Am I open to some Marian appearances being something appearing? Sure. If the skeptic wants to say it was nothing, he does bear that burden to show why.

Still, at many of these sightings, many people walk away not seeing anything. It can often be a few people, normally children, seeing Mary and then sharing what they have seen. As for UFOs, what I did was to talk to someone in the area who understands UFOs and that was Ken Samples of Reasons To Believe.

What about the empty tomb? Landau is open to the idea that Jesus wasn’t buried, to which he points to Crossan. Of course, you won’t see any interaction with Craig Evans or Greg Monette. The burial of Jesus also was a shameful burial and one that would not be made up. The latest holder of the non-burial view is Bart Ehrman and yet he doesn’t even bother to mention Jodi Magness, a Jewish NT scholar who specializes in Jewish burial practices of the time and studies at the very university Ehrman teaches at and was hired by him. Why is that?

Landau says that even if we granted the empty tomb and appearances, there are many more other probable explanations. We are eager to hear them if he wants to give them. He does say a miracle is the least probable explanation by definition, but whose definition of miracle? Are we to say that you can look at the evidence and it can never make a miracle more likely? If so, then one is not operating a fair look but out of bias.

It’s amusing to hear Landau talk about not bringing in a diversity of scholarly views in the movie when in his very article, he does just that. He points out that Craig and Habermas teach at universities that hold to inerrancies and have a Statement of Faith. What of it? Does that change the data somehow? Does he think someone like Habermas or Craig signs up to teach at a university without knowing what they believe? Some people want to go to a Seminary in line with their tradition so they look for that. The data is still what matters.

It’s interesting that he talks about Strobel’s email where Strobel points to the minimal facts data and says that many scholars have an anti-supernaturalistic bias. Keep in mind, those are Strobel’s words. I say nothing about an anti-supernaturalistic bias since I don’t buy into the natural/supernatural dichotomy. I do believe in a bias against miracles, but how does Landau answer this claim?

He doesn’t deny it. Instead, he deflects. He says “Well Craig and Habermas are anti-supernaturalistic against miracles outside of Christianity.” Not at all. The evidence for Habermas is a look at how Jesus isn’t a copy of pagan religions. Landau managed to email Strobel. Why not email Habermas himself? That’s what I did since he’s a friend of mine and I thought he’d be amused. Habermas has told me even would predict other miracles outside of Christianity. I have no problem with them either. If you can show me a miracle that is well-evidenced, I am to believe it.

Also, Landau says nothing about Christianity being a shameful belief and surviving up to the time of Constantine. It’s all a one-sided approach. Landau gives a lot of maybes and possibilities, but no counter-explanation of any real substance. We welcome him trying, but we don’t expect much.

In Christ,
Nick Peters