The first question to ask is “Do we have eyewitness accounts?” (I notice in the section no reference to Bauckham’s work on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me. Well, let’s look at what Loftus offers and see how good it is.
Now we have to agree, no one was there to see the resurrection. They were there though to see the empty tomb and to see the resurrection appearances and to see the fulfillment of prophecy. Hallucination theories don’t really explain what is going on. However, if Loftus really considers this a problem, I wonder again if he treats the issue the same way with naturalistic evolution.
Now the writings are dated from A.D. 50 to 100. However, in circles of ancient history, this is a blip and it gets even tighter when we get to 1 Cor. 15. Check your liberal scholars even. That account including eyewitness appearances can be dated to within one year of the resurrection event. This is held even by scholars who deny the resurrection.
Loftus asks how much trust we can put in the gospels. He gives 9 reasons.
First off, they’re anonymous.
And I suppose if the name “Matthew” was on the first gospel, that would settle everything….
We have the testimony of the early church fathers on who wrote what. Now if Loftus has some reason to say that they made up the idea of who wrote what, let him argue his case. I don’t see it here though.
Second, they’re composed 40 or more years after the events.
Actually, they’re dated earlier. The later date arises mainly to avoid the accuracy of the Olivet Discourse. However, even at just 40 years, this is still a blip in ancient history.
Third, they’re based on oral tradition.
And Loftus has given us a reason to question oral tradition in what way? These people did not live in an era of post-it notes and cell phones with memories and computers with databases. They learned how to memorize information well and considering someone who reads philosophy, you’d think he’d know this shows up in Plato several times.
Fourth, they contain undeniably fictional elements.
Problem. I deny they’re fictional. It’s only if you come with an a priori assumption against miracles. Loftus should have learned what Chesterton said in his biography on Aquinas. Argue from your opponents presuppositions. Not yours. It does no good to attack miracles for people who do believe in miracles.
Fifth, each with a clear theological bias and apologetic agenda.
Now the first one amazes me. Look at the resurrection accounts. How much theology do you see? There’s hardly any. They don’t tell you about the doctrine of the atonement. That’s in the epistles. They simply state just the facts.
Do they have an agenda? Yes. Every writer writes with an agenda. I might as well discount Loftus’s work since he has one. An agenda can work both ways though. It can make you twist facts or stick closer to them. The best museums on the holocaust are done by Jews. Anyone think they have an agenda? You bet. They want to make sure they get the facts right so it won’t happen again. If one cares about their subject, their agenda can make them be sure to get the facts right. We have to look at the accounts to tell.
Sixth, they contradict many known facts.
This is just like #4 though.
Seventh, They’re inconsistent with each other.
This is the second argument overall in the chapter so it will be dealt with tomorrow night.
Eighth, they have very little corroboration from non-Christian sources.
I wish this had been documented. I don’t expect a non-Christian to say the resurrection happened. They wouldn’t be a non-Christian then. However, the basic facts can be found in writings of non-Christians.
Ninth, Testifying to occurrences which, in any other context, would be regarded as unlikely in the extreme.
In any other context, sure. What about this context though? What about a time prophesied long ago and with a man who just happened to claim deity and just happened to come at that time?
The next point is Mark’s gospel. Why doesn’t it contain resurrection appearances?
Let’s see. Mark is usually an abrupt writer who leaves one in wonder about what will happen next. That’s how he wanted his book to end. The tomb was empty and so Jesus had risen. What happened next? How do we know Mark knew about the resurrection? Passages within the book like Mark 9:9 tell us he did.
Loftus thinks he’s given us reason to doubt whether Jesus is God incarnate and so on that basis, we can disregard John’s account of the appearance to Thomas as most likely never happening. Why think that though? Why have an embarrassing detail about one of the twelve in the account? The way he appeared to Loftus is a vision since the doors were locked.
Or could it rather be the doors were said to be locked to show this was a miracle? How can Jesus be a flesh and blood person and do this?
Geez. The God who created the laws of nature really will have a problem getting through a door like that….
Did Jesus lose all his blood through the wounds? Did he still breathe? It’s these kinds of questions that just really make me wonder. The writers knew what bleeding was. They knew how blood left a person. These are the kinds of arguments that just stretch at incredulity. I’ll repeat the old claim I’ve made several times before. The reason for atheism is not rational. It is emotional.
Tomorrow, we shall deal with the second question as to if the accounts are inconsistent or not.