We now come to the second part. This is a look at the resurrection accounts in the gospels. Are they consistent? First off, let’s suppose that we weren’t arguing for inerrancy. In fact, we don’t have to in order to affirm the resurrection. We can argue for the basic historicity of the accounts. (For the record though, I am an inerrantist.)
There are some events in history that we have contradictory accounts of, but we still affirm the authenticity of the event described. Polybius and Livy both give us contradictions on Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps. However, I don’t know anyone who studies the history of that time who would deny that Hannibal crossed the Alps. (Considering historical relativists today, it’s a shame I have to qualify that statement.)
Let’s also note a point that Loftus does bring mention of. The apparent lack of unity shows that each is writing from their own perspective and thus collusion is not going on. (Remember, these are the same people who claim they borrowed from every other writer and yet on the most important aspect of the story, decided to contradict.)
Michael Martin is quoted as saying “The great differences among post-resurrection appearance stories and the difficulty of reconciling them certainly suggests that oral transmission has generated inaccuracies.” (p. 203)
Let’s note some things about this statement.
First off, to say accounts have great differences is not the same as to say they have great contradictions.
Second, difficulty in reconciling the accounts does not mean that the accounts are either inaccurate or incapable of reconciliation.
Third, because of our inability to unite them, it does not automatically follow that oral transmission has generated inaccuracies. The benefit of the doubt goes to the accounts in studying ancient history.
Finally, if the accounts can be reconciled, then there really isn’t much to Martin’s objection. It just shows that people give up too easily.
Loftus gives us many supposed discrepancies at the beginning. I’ll go on and say that I know there’s a lot residing on the tense of languages in the words and such and I’m not a Greek scholar by any means. I leave such things to those who are. He tells us that Gleason Archer tried and failed. He also says that Simon Greenleaf tried and failed.
It’d be nice to know how they did. Saying “Most scholars disagree” is not enough. As much as I value scholarly opinion, I also value knowing why a scholar believes what he believes. If you’re going to say that Archer is in error, you will have to show how you think he was. He doesn’t have to prove his case as this is history we’re dealing with. History has to piece together the facts that we do have much like evolutionists have to do with the fossil record. (Amazing how the same criticisms of the resurrection work there.)
What does Archer have to do? He has to show that given the information, this is certainly something plausible. Archer isn’t the only one who has done this. It’s been pointed out that Greenleaf did it. Geisler and Howe have made an argument. John Wenham has made an argument. Charles Ryrie has made an argument. Craig Blomberg has made an argument. There are all number of scholars out there who have given scenarios.
For the denier to make his case, he’d have to show how all of them are false and then demonstrate that the accounts hopelessly contradict. So far, I haven’t seen it done. I agree with the scholars who think the differences show their authenticity. For the reader wanting a reconciliation, they can do an internet search or even better, go to their library or Christian bookstore and read on the topic.
Tomorrow, we’ll deal with the argument of if the eyewitnesses are trustworthy.