Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Robert M. Price versus William Lane Craig on the Resurrection of Jesus, Part 1

A great debate here, in which Robert M. Price, who is a brilliant speaker and debater, debunks the Christian apologist William Lane Craig on the resurrection of Jesus.

In the first two videos, Craig gives his main arguments. But from the beginning Craig arguments are flawed, as follows:
(1) he states he will treat the New Testament (NT) as “a collection of ordinary Greek documents.” But they are not ordinary documents: they are the writings of religious fanatics and refer to supernatural events. Therefore the NT writings are on a par with the other religious writings of second temple Judaism and Graeco-Roman civilization, not ordinary Greek documents.

(2) Nor does appealing to the consensus of New Testament scholars prove anything, for they are mostly Christians and hardly disinterested.

(3) Craig’s first “fact” is that Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus in a tomb. This is not a “fact” at all: it is merely assertion in the gospel of Mark, and there is no necessary reason why it must be true. The Christians might have invented this to give Jesus an “honourable,” rather than a shameful, burial. Furthermore, Craig commits a gross non sequitur: even if it were true that Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus in a tomb, it simply does not follow that the location of the tomb was known by his disciples. There is good reason to think that the gospel of Mark (the earliest gospel) is already filled with legends and fictions, and that the empty tomb story is one fiction of Mark (Collins 1989; Collins 1993; Lüdemann 1994). One astonishing datum is that there was no known veneration of Jesus’s tomb in early Christianity: it is most probable that they had no idea where he was buried.

(4) Despite Craig, 1 Corinthians 15:3–6 does not in any way require an empty tomb story. All that it asserts is that Jesus was buried, and nothing about where and how. Even Jesus’s alleged rising on the third day is said to be in accordance with the scriptures, not with any eyewitness accounts, which suggests that the belief that Jesus rose on the third day could have come from nothing more than exegesis of an Old Testament passage in Hosea 6.2 (as Gerd Lüdemann 1994: 47 argues).

(5) It is utterly laughable how Craig asserts that Mark’s story of the empty tomb contains no signs of “legendary embellishment”: for there is a young man present who is no doubt meant to be understood as an angel! Both Mark and Matthew require that the resurrection “appearances” to the disciples happened in Galilee (which blatantly contradicts John and Luke), and in Mark the women tell no one of their discovery of the empty tomb: precisely what one would expect if the author of this gospel invented the tale, and required an explanation of why no one had heard this story before. Women are made to be eyewitnesses because the earliest tradition appears to have been that the disciples fled back to Galilee after Jesus’s death, and the author of the gospel of Mark felt bound to respect that tradition.

(6) 1 Corinthians 15:3–8 provides a list of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus. The earliest tradition in both Mark and Matthew suggest that they happened in Galilee, not Jerusalem. But even here the text has problems:
some suspect that verse 6 is nothing but an interpolation.
Another view is that it refers to nothing but the mass ecstatic Pentecost experience in Acts 2.

And throughout the passage Paul uses the Greek verb ophthe in the passive voice with the dative for the recipient of the appearance. This Greek verb and idiom is regularly used of visions in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and since Paul puts his own “appearance” in the same terms as the others, what we have here are most probably nothing more than visionary experiences: possibly no more than dreams and oral and visual hallucinations. There is not one shred of direct evidence in 1 Corinthians 15:3–6 for the view that the disciples saw a walking, talking corpse: rather, their “appearances” appear to be in the same category as Paul’s: delusions, dreams, and hallucinations of their dead leader. And note how Paul says nothing about any women seeing Jesus.

The gospels do not provide multiple, independent evidence of the appearances at all, for they are literary documents dependent on one another and distorted by redaction, polemical and theological changes, and fictional elements.


Collins, Adela Yarbro. 1989. The Beginning of the Gospel: Probings of Mark in Context, Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

Collins, Adela. 1993. “The Empty Tomb in the Gospel According to Mark,” in Eleonore Stump and Thomas P. Flint (eds.), Hermes and Athena: Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Theology, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, In. 107–140.

Collins, Adela Yarbro. 1997. “Apotheosis and Resurrection,” in Borgen, P., Giversen, S. (eds), The New Testament and Hellenistic Judaism, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts. 88–100.

Collins, Adela Yarbro. 2009. “Ancient Notions of Transferal and Apotheosis in Relation to the Empty Tomb Story in Mark,” in T. K. Seim and J. Okland (eds.), Metamorphoses. Resurrection, Body and Transformative Practices in Early Christianity, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York. 41–58.

Lüdemann, G. 1994. The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (trans. John Bowden), SCM Press, London.

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