Last year I wrote several posts criticizing William Lane Craig’s case for the resurrection. Here are several excerpts from those posts (plus links, in case you want to read the full post from which an excerpt was taken):
Some Skeptical Thoughts on the Resurrection
1. Geisler vs. Craig
Norman Geisler makes an excellent point in his book When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (co-authored with Ron Brooks):
Before that we can show that Jesus rose from the dead, we need to show that He really did die. (WSA, p.120)
If you accept this fairly simple and obvious point by Geisler, then you can immediately toss William Craig’s case for the resurrection into the garbage. Craig never makes any attempt to prove that Jesus really did die on the cross. Craig may make some good points in support of the resurrection of Jesus, but there is a huge gaping hole in his case, that makes it a clear failure as it stands.
2. My Version of Hume’s Objection
3. We Only Know about God’s Motivation
4. Skepticism about God’s Motivations
5. Sociocentrism and Circular Reasoning
6. Jesus was a False Prophet
The Failure of William Craig’s Case for the Resurrection
One further point to mitigate the absurdity of trying to prove that Jesus actually died on the cross in a little under two pages is the fact that the book When Skeptics Ask covers a wide variety of topics in Christian apologetics: the purpose of apologetics, the existence of God, alternatives to theism, the problem of evil, miracles, Jesus, the inspiration of the Bible, science and evolution, life after death, the nature of truth, and morality. This is NOT a book devoted exclusively to the issue of the resurrection of Jesus. It is about 300 pages and covers many different topics and issues. However, as far as I am aware, the case for the death of Jesus in this book is the best and most in-depth case for this claim that Geisler has ever made.
William Craig, on the other hand, has specialized in making the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Craig has debated others on this issue on a number of occasions, and he has written books and articles specifically to present a case for the resurrection. So, if Craig understands and accepts Geisler’s common-sense point that in order to “show that Jesus rose from the dead” Christian apologists “need to show that He really did die”, then we should expect that Craig would do a much better and more thorough job of dealing with this historical question.
But Craig does NOT do better than Geisler in showing that Jesus really did die on the cross. In fact, more often than not, Craig simply ignores this issue. Therefore, I conclude that Craig does NOT understand and agree with this common-sense point made so clearly by Geisler. Craig does not understand that when he asserts that “Jesus rose from the dead”, he takes on the burden of proof to show that Jesus really did die on the cross.
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus
[Excerpt concerning the first paragraph of Craig’s case for the death of Jesus:]
Craig makes many historical claims here. How much historical evidence does Craig provide in support of the many historical claims he makes here? Does Craig provide quotations from any relevant personal documents (e.g. diaries, journals, letters)? No. Does Craig quote any public documents? (e.g. legal documents, published books, speeches, biographies, essays)? No. How about other non-document artifacts (e.g. buildings, tools, coins, machines, weapons, clothing, utensils)? Nope.
There is only one brief hint at historical evidence in this paragraph. It is given in the second-to-last sentence of the paragraph: “Judging from skeletal remains of crucifixion victims…” What skeletal remains? What bones is Craig talking about? How many skeletons of crucifixion victims is he talking about? Two skeletons? Five skeletons? Ten? Two-hundred? Where are these skeletal remains now located? Who discovered and studied the remains? Where were the bones found? How old were the bones? How were the bones dated? How well preserved were the bones?
What are the credentials of those who did the “Judging” that Craig mentions? Did Craig himself examine these bones? If so, he is not an archaeologist, and he not an expert in human physiology, so his judgment would not be of much worth on this question. Craig provides no details, and no reference to any scientific or scholarly articles on the “skeletal remains”, so there is no actual specific historical evidence put forward here, only a hint at some possible but unspecified number of skeletons, discovered at an unspecified location by some unspecified archeologist, having some unspecified date established by some unspecified method…
My youngest daughter is in the fourth grade. This year she and her classmates have had more than one assignment to write a short factual essay. The teacher taught these fourth graders that when writing factual essays, they should specify the books, articles, and web pages that they used as sources of their information. If William Craig wants to do so, I could arrange for him to visit my daughter’s classroom and he could learn the importance of citing the sources of information that one uses when writing a factual essay.
There is not a single quotation or citation or end note for the thirty historical claims Craig makes in the first paragraph of his presentation of “historical evidence” for the claim that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross.’ But this childish and pathetic paragraph is precisely what we ought to expect from a two-page case for the death of Jesus.
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 2
[Excerpt concerning the second paragraph of Craig’s case for the death of Jesus:]
Most immediately Craig is making claims about “the man on the cloth” [in the Shroud of Turin], but clearly he believes that the violent abuse and wounds of “the man on the cloth” are very similar to the experiences and wounds of Jesus just prior to his crucifixion. So, each claim about “the man on the cloth” implies an historical claim about Jesus:
1. The front of Jesus’ body was covered with wounds from head to foot, just before he was crucified.
2. The back of Jesus’ body was covered with wounds from head to foot, just before he was crucified.
3. A flagrum is a multi-thonged Roman whip with metal or bone.
4. Some of the wounds on Jesus’ body that resulted from being whipped were deep and serious wounds (“had torn apart his flesh”).
5. The wounds on the front and back of Jesus’ body just prior to his crucifixion, were caused by being whipped with a flagrum.
On top of the 30 unsupported historical claims in paragraph one, Craig quickly adds five more unsupported historical claims. So, in the first two paragraphs, we get 35 historical claims and zero pieces of historical evidence. Not an auspicious start to a five-paragraph presentation of “historical evidence” for the death of Jesus.
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 3
Most of these historical claims have a medical aspect to them. Since Craig is not a medical doctor and he is not an expert on human physiology, he cannot assert such claims on the basis of his own authority. Medical claims concerning crucifixion require both medical evidence AND historical evidence to be properly supported.
In the first eight sentences of paragraph three, Craig makes 18 historical claims. Six of those claims are inferences from other historical claims. How much historical evidence has Craig put forward in these eight sentences? None. How much scientific medical evidence has Craig put forward in these sentences? None. Since the six claims that are inferences, are inferences from unsupported historical claims, those six claims are also not based on actual historical evidence. So, the first eight sentences of paragraph three make 18 unsupported historical claims.
We have now examined the first 24 sentences of Craig’s 35 sentence case for the historicity of the death of Jesus. That means we have examined two-thirds of his presentation of “historical evidence” for Jesus’ death on the cross. What has Craig given us so far? 30 unsupported historical claims in paragraph one, 5 unsupported historical claims in paragraph two, and 18 unsupported historical claims in the first eight sentences of paragraph three. So, in 24 sentences, Craig has asserted a total of 53 historical claims and has provided exactly ZERO pieces of historical evidence.
An Open Letter to Dr. William Lane Craig
Finally, you and I agree that a key question to consider, before taking a stand for or against Christianity, is this: Did God raise Jesus from the dead? And an essential part of what one needs to think about to answer that theological question, is to think about these historical questions:
1. Did Jesus actually die on the cross on Good Friday?
2. Was Jesus alive and walking around unassisted on Easter Sunday (after Good Friday)?
Unfortunately, you and your fellow apologists have failed to deal with Question (1) in an intellectually serious way.
Dr. Norman Geisler has clearly spelled out a fundamental principle on this matter:
Before we can show that Jesus rose from the dead, we need to show that He really did die. (When Skeptics Ask, p.120).
I believe that Geisler is correct. This seems like common-sense to me. It is not possible for a person to rise from the dead until AFTER that person has actually died. Thus, in order to prove that Jesus rose from the dead, one must first prove that Jesus died on the cross. But in most of your various books, articles, and debates, you simply ignore this issue. For that reason, I’m convinced that your case for the resurrection is a complete failure.
You do make a brief attempt in The Son Rises to make a case for the death of Jesus on the cross (p.37-39). But you make dozens of historical claims in just a few paragraphs and offer almost nothing in the way of actual historical evidence to support those claims. This “case” is crap. I know it is crap, and you know it is crap. It is a joke to even use the word “case” to describe the five paragraphs filled with unsupported historical claims. Geisler does a better job than this in his general handbook of apologetics (When Skeptics Ask, p.120-123). But, to the best of my knowledge, your pathetic “case” for the historicity of the death of Jesus simply reflects the general intellectual laziness of Christian apologists concerning Question (1). You are not alone.
Why William Lane Craig Has Not Seriously Argued for Jesus’ Death
Here is Craig’s general view of ADT [Apparent Death Theory]:
Strauss’s critique really put the nails in the coffin for the apparent death theory. Again, I want to emphasize that no contemporary scholar would support such a theory; it has been dead over a hundred years. Only in propaganda from behind the Iron Curtain or in sensationalist books in the popular press does such a theory still find expression. (TSR, p.40)
But Craig fails to fully grasp the logic of Strauss’s position on ADT. In Strauss’s day, there were two main camps on Jesus: traditionalists who believed that Jesus performed miracles as described in the Gospels, and skeptics who believed that Jesus did more-or-less what the Gospels claimed but that Jesus did NOT perform any miracles. Strauss rejected the views of both the traditionalists and of the anti-supernaturalist skeptics. He did so by rejecting an assumption that was held by both traditionalists and skeptics: the Gospels provide historically accurate and reliable reports about the life and ministry and death of Jesus.
Strauss argued that the Gospels contained a healthy dose of fiction and myth, and that we should not take them at face value as accurate and reliable historical accounts. Against the skeptics of his day, Strauss argued that IF one assumes the Gospels to provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, then one cannot reasonably deny that Jesus performed miracles. But such arguments were NOT intended to persuade the skeptics to believe that Jesus performed miracles; the arguments were intended to persuade skeptics to abandon the assumption that the Gospels provided reliable historical accounts of the life of Jesus.
In view of this background information, one can view Strauss’s criticism of ADT in a similar fashion: IF you ASSUME that the Gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the trials, crucifixion, burial of Jesus, and of the discovery of his empty tomb, and of the appearances of Jesus to his disciples on Easter Sunday, then you cannot avoid the conclusion that a miracle occurred, that Jesus rose from the dead. Specifically, IF you ASSUME that the Gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus, then you cannot reasonably accept ADT.
This seems like a reasonable position to me. But the point was NOT to disprove ADT nor to prove the resurrection, but rather to prove that it is logically inconsistent to hold BOTH of the following beliefs:
(1) The Gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the life of Jesus.
(2) ADT is true.
Strauss’s view is that belief (1) ought to be rejected. But if a skeptic agrees with Strauss, and rejects (1), then there is no longer any strong reason to reject (2), because the logical inconsistency has been resolved by rejecting (1).
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 4
Craig’s case for the death of Jesus is made in a little more than just two pages of text, in five paragraphs, consisting in a grand total of 35 sentences. I have reviewed the first 24 sentences (about two-thirds of Craig’s case) and the results are as follows: Craig has made about 53 historical claims related to the crucifixion and alleged death of Jesus, but he has provided ZERO historical evidence to support the dozens of claims he has made. So, it looks like Craig’s case for the death of Jesus is a complete failure, and thus that his case for the resurrection is a complete failure as well.
There are 11 more sentences left to consider, so perhaps Craig can pull off a miracle of his own and prove the death of Jesus in just 11 sentences (but I’m not going to hold my breath over this). In today’s post, I will only examine the last two sentences of paragraph three.
These sentences assert several historical claims, and potentially they represent a complex logical structure, and this is also the one and only place in Craig’s case for the death of Jesus where he provides an End Note, citing a passage from a document as historical evidence for an important historical claim. I have a few things to say about this End Note and the evidence to which it points.
In the last two sentences of paragraph three, I believe that Craig asserts about seven historical claims…
Here are the seven historical claims from the end of paragraph three, spelled out a bit more clearly:
19. Because it is difficult to determine just when the victim [of a crucifixion] dies, the Romans, if they did not simply leave the body [of a victim of crucifixion] on the cross until the flesh decayed or was eaten by birds or wild animals, would ensure death by stabbing the victim [of crucifixion] with a lance.
Claim 19 is a causal historical claim that implies or presupposes two other historical claims:
20. It is difficult to determine just when the victim [of a crucifixion] dies.
21. The Romans, if they did not simply leave the body [of a victim of crucifixion] on the cross until the flesh decayed or was eaten by birds or wild animals, would ensure death by stabbing the victim [of crucifixion] with a lance.
22.The Roman executioners were aware that death [for a victim of crucifixion] might be apparent [but not actual].
23. Death [for a victim of crucifixion] might be apparent [but not actual].
24. Because the Roman executioners were aware that death [for a victim of crucifixion] might be apparent [but not actual], the Roman executioners had a method of ensuring that the victim [of a crucifixion] was really dead.
25. The Roman executioners had a method of ensuring that the victim [of a crucifixion] was really dead.
But showing that (21) is plausible is not the same as showing that (21) is true. The truth of (21) is supported by the one-and-only end note that Craig provides for his five-paragraph “case” for the death of Jesus on the cross:
Quintillian Declamationes maiores 6. 9.
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 5
21. The Romans, if they did not simply leave the body [of a victim of crucifixion] on the cross until the flesh decayed or was eaten by birds or wild animals, would ensure death by stabbing the victim [of crucifixion] with a lance.
This historical claim is supported by the following end note:
Quintillian Declamationes maiores 6. 9.
Although Craig is to be commended for (at last) providing some actual historical evidence in support of a relevant historical claim, this end note is a nearly perfect example of how NOT to support an historical claim.
There are many questions that need to be answered before a reasonable person will accept the evidence here as a solid justification for claim (21). But Craig has merely pointed in the general direction of the historical evidence, and provided almost no information or reasoning that is needed to connect the evidence to claim (21), or to evaluate the relevance and strength of the evidence in relation to establishing this claim.
Who the hell is Quintillian?
1. When did Quintillian live?
2. Where did Quintillian live?
3. What did Quintillian do for a living?
4. What do we know about Quintillian’s culture and values?
5. What do we know about Quintillian’s education and intelligence?
6. What do we know about Quintillian’s character and integrity?
7. What do we know about Quintillian’s travels and life experiences?
8. How did Quintillian get his information about Roman crucifixion practices?
9. Was he a Roman soldier or officer who participated in crucifixions?
10. Did he personally witness any Roman crucifixions?
11. How many crucifixions did he witness?
12. Did he know any Roman soldiers or officers who participated in crucifixions?
13. Did he get his information by reading books or documents written by others?
14. Are there other claims made by Quintillian about Roman military practices which can be independently confirmed or disconfirmed?
15. What is Quintillian’s general track-record in terms of the reliability of his historical claims?
These are the sorts of questions that a reasonable person would need answers to in order to evaluate Quintillian as a source of historical information.
What the hell is Declamationes maiores?
16. Was this entire work authored by Quintillian?
17. Was this work originally written in Latin?
18. If not, then in what language was it written?
19. Is this work available in English translation?
20. What does the title mean, translated into English?
21. When was this book written?
22. Where was this book written?
23. What sort of work is this? (A play? A book of poetry? An instruction manual? A book of science or mathematics? A book of history? A book of legends?)
24. What are the specific topics and themes of this work?
25. How is the work organized?
26. For what audience was this work originally intended?
27. How good is the text of the available copies of this work?
28. Were the existing copies made soon after the original, or centuries later?
29. Do the existing copies have only a few minor differences and variations, or are there numerous significant differences and variations between existing copies?
30. Is the text complete, or are there missing words or missing pages or missing sections?
What the hell is contained in section 6.9?
31. What sort of writing is contained in 6.9? (a poem? a play? a biographical sketch? a personal anecdote? a personal account of a crucifixion?)
32. Are there any doubts about whether Quintillian is the author of this passage?
33. Are there any significant textual issues with this passage?
34. Are there any significant translation issues with this passage?
35. Are there any significant issues concerning the interpretation of this passage?
36. Does the passage clearly and explicitly assert that “The Romans, if they did not simply leave the body of a victim of crucifixion on the cross until the flesh decayed or was eaten by birds or wild animals, would ensure death by stabbing the victim of crucifixion with a lance.”, or does it say something very similar to this, but in slightly different words, or does it say something very different, but from which Craig believes we can legitimately infer claim (21)?
37. What, precisely, does that passage say (translated into English)?
These are all fairly basic and common sorts of questions to ask when a reasonable person is trying to evaluate the relevance and significance of a bit of historical evidence from an ancient historical document. But Craig does not answer a single one of the above questions. So, a reasonable person has no way to determine whether this bit of historical evidence is in fact relevant to claim (21) or whether it provides any significant support for claim (21).
I hope that this helps to show why it is absurd to try to prove the historical claim that “Jesus actually died on the cross on Good Friday” in just two or three pages. Craig has made dozens of historical claims in the first three paragraphs of his “case”, but failed to provide historical evidence to support any of those claims, other than claim (21) of paragraph three, and although he does point us to a passage in an actual historical document, he fails to provide any information or reasoning to show how that this passage is relevant to claim (21) or that it provides strong evidence in support of claim (21). He leaves dozens of basic questions unanswered concerning the value of this bit of historical evidence.
In order to answer most of the above basic questions about the one piece of historical evidence to which Craig points as support for just one historical claim, one would need to write at least three or four pages, which would be, by itself, longer than Craig’s entire case for the claim that “Jesus actually died on the cross”.
But Craig has made dozens of historical claims, and needs to provide one or more pieces of historical evidence in support of each of those claims. Even if some bits of evidence can support more than one claim, there will still need to be many different pieces of evidence provided. Each piece of historical evidence will require some information and reasoning to show that the evidence is relevant and provides significant support for the historical claim made. Such information and reasoning can easily require a number of pages of text for each piece of evidence. So, assuming that Craig does need to make dozens of historical claims, he will also need to provide many different pieces of historical evidence and each piece of evidence will need to be described, clarified, explained, and shown to be both relevant and significant in relation to the historical claim being supported.
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 6
Who the hell is Quintilian?
(Note: I’m shifting to what appears to be the more common spelling of this name).
Looking at the end note, one might guess that Quintilian was a Roman historian who wrote about the activities and practices of Roman soldiers or the Roman military. Perhaps Quintilian even had some personal experience as a Roman soldier or an officer in the Roman military that would give him first-hand knowledge of how crucifixions were carried out. But these guesses about Quintilian don’t match up to reality.
Quintilian was born in Spain around 40 C.E., shortly after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, so he lived in the first century, which is the best century for a source of information relevant to the crucifixion of Jesus. So far, so good.
But Quintilian was not a Roman soldier, nor an officer in the Roman military, nor was Quintilian an historian. Quintilian was a famous and highly regarded teacher of rhetoric and orator; in addition to teaching rhetoric, he would take on clients to argue for their position in a legal dispute. This is a RED FLAG. Quintilian was neither a Roman soldier nor an officer in the Roman military nor an historian of the Roman military. So, it is not clear why he should be considered a reliable source of information about the practices of Roman soldiers in carrying out executions by crucifixion.
What the hell is Declamationes maiores?
Since Quintilian was an expert in rhetoric and was not an historian, his writings might not include historical writings but rather consist of persuasive speeches and instruction concerning the creation and delivery of persuasive speeches.
As it turns out, the title of the book that Craig has cited is Major Declamations, which means, roughly: long speeches, and the content is basically fictitious courtroom speeches. The creation, perfection, and delivery of such speeches was a basic exercise of rhetoric in the days of the Roman Empire.
This is another RED FLAG. The work that Craig has cited is not only NOT a work of history, but is a work involving fictional characters and fictional stories, which were created NOT to present factual historical data, but as academic exercises used to develop and show off one’s rhetorical skills.
Worse yet, a common criticism of declamations as an educational exercise is the tendency of such exercises to stray from reality:
A common criticism leveled at declamation by contemporary and later observers concerned the subject matter of declamation and its separation from reality. Surprisingly, some of the sharpest censure is expressed by declaimers and rhetoricians themselves. The most famous is Quintilian…(The Major Declamations Ascribed to Quintilian: A Translation, by Lewis Sussman, p.v)
Furthermore, the actual content that we find in the Major Declamations provides a good deal of support for this criticism:
Indeed, in the Major Declamations we do find a sorcerer, an astrologer, a few wicked stepmothers, a tyrant, and the like. We could easily concoct the basis of a classic mystery thriller from MD 2, about a blind son apparently framed by his stepmother for murdering his father. A rather lurid set of circumstances occurs in MD 12, where the population of a city is reduced to cannibalism and its grain procurement agent is charged subsequently with dallying during his mission to secure provisions. One wonders how MD 18 and 19 could find room in a school curriculum: these paired controversiae deal with a handsome son suspected of committing incest with his mother. One finds further room for such speculation about MD 3 where a soldier in Marius’ army is on trial for the murder of a superior officer who tried to rape him. We even have a ghost story: in MD 10 a woman sues her husband for maltreatment because he hired a sorcerer to prevent his son’s spirit from visiting her. The common criticism therefore is that cases such as these are unnatural and far removed from the world of reality. (Major Declamations, p. v)
Another important fact that Craig neglected to mention is that Quintilian was probably NOT the author of the passage to which Craig points, and may not be the author of ANY of the courtroom speeches found in Major Declamations:
The most widely held view now is that, indeed, Quintilian is not the author of the Major Declamations. (Major Declamations, (p.viii)
Sussman gives his own view on the authorship of this work:
Perhaps the key to the authorship question may be that someone at some time, perhaps in late antiquity, compiled a collection of notable declamations, among which were, in the larger collection at least, one by Quintilian (or perhaps someone bearing the same name). The power of Quintilian’s name was such that it eclipsed the lesser known rhetoricians represented and soon extended over the entire collection.
(Major Declamations, p.ix)
This is a RED FLAG. We don’t know who wrote the fictitious courtroom speech to which Craig points as historical evidence. So, we don’t know, for example, that this speech was composed in the first century (during the lifetime of Quintilian). It may have been composed in the second or third century, and thus could be from two hundred years after Jesus’ was crucified.
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 7
The very first claim Craig makes in paragraph four is FALSE. Furthermore, it is clearly false to anyone who is familiar with the Passion narratives in the gospels. The Fourth gospel (attributed to John) is the ONLY gospel of the four canonical gospels that reports the story about the breaking of the legs of the two criminals. So, it is simply FALSE to say that “The gospels report that although the Roman guards broke the legs of the two men…”. This does not inspire confidence in Craig as a careful historical scholar.
The claims about the stabbing of Jesus with a spear, are also found ONLY in the Fourth gospel, and the flow of blood and water from Jesus’ side is also found ONLY in the Fourth gospel. The claim about the use of seventy-five pounds of aromatic spices is also found ONLY in the Fourth gospel. So, Craig is relying heavily on the Fourth gospel for information about the death and burial of Jesus. Claims (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (8), (9), and (11) all rest on the Fourth gospel alone, as do claims (19) and (20). Claims (12) and (13) are proposed explanations for the “fact” asserted by claim (11), so claims (12) and (13) are relevant only if claim (11) is true.
Also, claims (12) and (13) are medical claims, but Craig is not a medical doctor, nor is he an expert in human physiology. So, he has no relevant expertise, and thus no authority upon which to simply assert such medical claims. Since there is no end note or reference to someone who does have relevant medical expertise, we can set those two claims aside as having no basis.
Three of the claims in paragraph four concern the contents of various gospels. The remaining 22 claims are concerned with the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Of the 22 substantial historical claims, about half are based ONLY on the Fourth gospel.
Anyone who is aware of the views of mainstream biblical scholars and Jesus scholars will know that such historians and scholars generally view the “reports” of the gospels with a good deal of skepticism and doubt. This general skepticism and doubt about the gospel accounts is even stronger when it comes to “reports” of events and details that are found exclusively in the Fourth gospel.
Many leading Jesus scholars of the 20th and 21st Centuries have rejected the view that the Fourth gospel is a reliable historical source of information about Jesus:
• Gunther Bornkamm
• Joachim Jeremias
• James Robinson
• Norman Perrin
• E.P. Sanders
• Geza Vermes
• Ben Meyer
• Marcus Borg
• John Meier
• Gerd Theissen
• James Dunn
William Craig is well aware of the fact that mainstream N.T. and Jesus scholars have rejected the view that the Fourth gospel is a reliable source of information about Jesus. Craig is perfectly within his rights to disagree with mainstream N.T. and Jesus scholars on this question, but he has no right to simply ASSUME that the Fourth gospel is a historically reliable source. This is a view that most N.T. and Jesus scholars have rejected, so Craig ought to caution his readers on this point and provide some significant evidence and argumentation in defense of the highly controversial view that the Fourth gospel is a reliable source of information about Jesus. It is childish and pathetic to simply point to the Fourth gospel as “historical evidence” for claims about Jesus, especially for claims that are supported ONLY in the Fourth gospel and nowhere else.
Craig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 8
Claim (25) is supported only by the gospel of Matthew:
a guard was set around the tomb. [claim 25]
But, as Craig is well aware, the story in Matthew about guards watching the tomb of Jesus is doubted by many N.T. scholars, so simply pointing to the gospel of Matthew is not sufficient, not to mention that there are dozens of critical background questions about the gospel of Matthew that Craig has not even attempted to answer.
Craig has published an entire article defending the historicity of this one story found only in Matthew: “The Guard at the Tomb.” New Testament Studies 30 (1984): 273-81. You can read the article for yourself on Craig’s website: The Guard at the Tomb
If simply citing the passage from Matthew was sufficient, then there would be no need for such an article. But, as the first sentence of the article states:
Matthew’s story of the guard at the tomb of Jesus is widely regarded as an apologetic legend.
Since many N.T. scholars doubt or reject the historicity of this story in Matthew, it is intellectually dishonest for Craig to assert this event as an historical fact and to simply point to the gospel of Matthew as his evidence.
No historical evidence was provided for 69 out of the 81 historical claims. For ten claims Craig points to (or could point to) passages in the Fourth gospel that describe events or details found ONLY in that gospel, a gospel considered to be historically unreliable by most of the leading Jesus scholars of the 20th and 21st centuries. For one claim Craig points to a story found only in the gospel of Matthew, a story that many leading N.T. scholars doubt or reject as being unhistorical. For one claim Craig provided the very poor historical evidence of the passage from Major Declamations (which he did not even bother to quote).
Thus, of the 81 historical claims that Craig makes in his “case” for the death of Jesus:
85% are simply asserted to be true with NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE being provided.
14% of those claims are supported by pointing to historically dubious passages about events or details that are found in ONLY ONE of the four gospels, mostly the historically unreliable Fourth gospel.
And one remaining claim is based on the weak and pathetic evidence of a passage from a book of fictitious courtroom speeches written by one or more unknown authors as an exercise to entertain others and to show off their fancy speech-making skills.
The fifth and final paragraph of Craig’s case merely repeats and summarizes previous claims, and provides no additional historical evidence in support of any of the many claims he has made. So, it should come as no surprise that Craig has not persuaded me that Jesus actually died on the cross on Good Friday.
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