Green Room

Video: The historical case for the Resurrection

posted at 5:47 pm on April 2, 2013 by

It’s about a year and a half old and it’s also over 90 minutes, so you’d better prepare yourself for a very long scholarly presentation on why the historical record lends itself to conclude that Jesus returned from the dead as Christianity attests. It’s timely not only because of Easter, but tangentially because of the New York Times’ ignorance of it. Dr. William Lane Craig offered this presentation alone to a British audience during a sponsored tour.  Craig teaches at Talbot School of Theology in my birthplace, La Mirada, California, and has written a number of books on the topic.  He has also held a series of debates with a number of theologians and atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, but Richard Dawkins refused an invitation, accusing Craig of “self-promotion” … which for Dawkins is quite an accusation.

Hat tip to my friend Ted Balaker:

If you don’t want to go through a long presentation and a Q&A session, you can jump right into one of those debates, this one with Dr. James Crossley, over the historical record. It’s longer than the first video. Fortunately, this has a comprehensive summary of both arguments and all the rebuttals in outline form, written and published by Wintery Knight on Sunday:

Briefly, Craig’s argument is structured thus:

Contention 1 of 2:

Fact 1: The burial

  • The burial is multiply attested
    • The burial is based on the early source material that Mark used for his gospel
    • Scholars date this Markan source to within 10 years of the crucifixion
    • The burial is also in the early passage in 1 Cor 15:3-8
    • So you have 5 sources, some of which are very early
  • The burial is credited to a member of the Sanhedrin
    • the burial is probable because shows an enemy of the church doing right
    • this makes it unlikely to to be an invention

Fact 2: The empty tomb

  • The burial story supports the empty tomb
    • the site of Jesus’ grave was known
    • the disciples could not proclaim a resurrection if the body were still in it
    • the antagonists to the early Christians could have produced the body
  • The empty tomb is multiple attested
    • it’s mentioned explicitly in Mark
    • it’s in the separate sources used by Matthew and John
    • it’s in the early sermons documented in Acts
    • it’s implied by 1 Cor 15:3-8, because resurrection requires that the body is missing
  • The empty tomb was discovered by women
    • the testimony of women of women was not normally allowed in courts of law
    • if this story was being made up, they would have chosen male disciples
  • The empty tomb discover lacks legendary embellishment
    • there is no theological or apologetical reflection on the meaning of the tomb
  • The early Jewish response implies that the tomb was empty
    • the response was that the disciples stole the body
    • that requires that the tomb was found empty

Fact 3: The appearances to individuals and groups, some of the them hostile

  • The list of appearances is in 1 Cor 15:3-8
    • this material is extremely early, withing 1-3 years after the cross
    • James, the brother of Jesus, was not a believer when he got his appearance
    • Paul was hostile to the early church when he got his appearance
  • Specific appearances are multiply attested
    • Peter: attested by Luke and Paul
    • The twelve: attested by Luke, John and Paul
    • The women: attested by Matthew and John

Fact 4: The early belief in the resurrection emerged in a hostile environment

  • There was no background belief in a dying Messiah
  • There was no background belief in a single person resurrecting before the general resurrection of all of the righteous at the end of the age
  • The disciples were willing to die for their belief in the resurrection of Jesus
  • The resurrection is the best explanation for the transformation of the disciples from frightened to reckless of death

Contention 2 of 2:

  • The resurrection is the best explanation because it passes C.B. McCullough’s six tests for historical explanations
  • None of the naturalistic explanations accounts for the minimal facts as well as the resurrection

Be sure to read it all, even if you don’t want to watch it all.

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