The next objection of Loftus is to the nature of the eyewitnesses. Are they trustworthy?
We are told we have no independent testimony. That’s not quite accurate. The critics of Jesus had much to say about him after he died and we can garner some basic facts about his life from them that do match up with the New Testament. Also, there are archaeological findings that back the New Testament. A book to really study this in is the book of Acts.
Loftus does give information from Jan Vansina on oral transmission. There is much truth to it that cannot be denied. However, let’s look at what Loftus does with this information.
There is the question of whether the accounts are believable due to some odd things happening. The first he cites is going back to the fishing trade after the appearance of Christ. Actually, this seems to increase the authenticity of it for me. If something was being made up, one would think it would be something much more glamarous.
Furthermore, does the text say they went back to the fishing trade? No. It says they went fishing. Could it simply be while waiting for instructions from their Lord that they did decide to go back to fishing? What else were they to do?
Also, the question of why the women would go to the body of Jesus. They couldn’t move the stone and the climate wasn’t good for travel and Jews didn’t anoint bodies with spices anyway. (Actually, I’m quite sure that last part is incorrect.) My only question at this would be, does his source know any women? This would be quite common for the grieving process for the fairer sex. The questions would be answered later. They just wanted to grieve.
As for the guards being an unlikely story, we shouldn’t be surprised the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus said but the Pharisees did. The Pharisees were much more astute in the Scriptures. Why would the disciples have a hard time grasping it though? Simply because for the Jews, the idea of a Messiah dying and rising again in the middle of the story did not fit.
As for the guards themselves, why would they go back and claim to see an angel? They did not see the resurrection though and we don’t know the beliefs of these soldiers if they were Romans. Would they automatically link it to YHWH? Instead, if they went and told the chief priests what happened, the chief priests would not think YHWH was involved with Christ and would explain it some other way.
As for the possibility of the tomb being robbed before the guards were there, it’s not likely considering the Roman seal would be placed on it and also that before the guards guarded the tomb, they’d certainly make sure that what they were supposed to be guarding was in there.
Why didn’t the soldiers report to Pilate? It could be that they were temple guards or mostly temple guards. In that case, they would have reported to the chief priests. Loftus points out they could have been powerful witnesses of the resurrection if they had seen it and told what happened.
Which could be another sign of the authenticity. If Matthew was making this up, he’d certainly want to have the soldiers be witnesses of the resurrection. They were the closest there. Could it be he didn’t because this is actually what happened?
As to the claim of the empty tomb being early, it certainly was. We don’t need to go to the gospels. We simply need to go to 1 Cor. 15 and read that he was buried and that he rose again. A Jew would have only understood this to mean that the body that was laid down got up and left its place. In other words, Paul is affirming the empty tomb.
As to Paul’s use of Scripture, did he use a technique that was ancient rather than modern. Of course he did!
Somehow, Paul should have interpreted Scripture like a modern person instead of in the style done by his own contemporaries….
Because after all, the modern way is always the right way….
Finally, what about the eyewitnesses dying for their beliefs and how would this correlate with Muhammad’s vision?
First off, yes. People do die for lies all the time. However, how many people die for what they know to be a lie? Would the Muslims be willing to blow themselves up if they knew that Islam was a lie?
Secondly, what happened to Paul happened in a public area with other eyewitnesses. Muhammad had his happen in a cave and we have no idea what went on in there aside from what the Qu’ran says. Also, Paul had nothing to gain for his belief in this life. Muhammad ended up gaining many wives, power, and great wealth as a result of his “conversion.”
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the question of independent testimony.