bookmark_borderWhy William Lane Craig Has Not Seriously Argued for Jesus’ Death

It is difficult, of course, to get into someone else’s mind and to figure out why that person thinks the way they think. But I can make some educated guesses as to why William Lane Craig rarely argues in support of the death of Jesus on the cross, and why when he does so (e.g. in The Son Rises, hereafter: TSR), he does not make a serious intellectual effort (i.e. he rattles off dozens of historical claims without providing actual historical evidence to support those claims).
I think there are at least a couple of reasons for this: (1) Craig believes that the Apparent Death Theory (hereafter ADT) was soundly refuted long ago, and (2) Craig believes that the refutation of the Apparent Death Theory is sufficient to establish the Christian view that Jesus actually died on the cross on Good Friday. However, Craig is wrong on both points.
One reason why Craig thinks that ADT was refuted long ago, is that he thinks that David Strauss refuted ADT in the 1800’s, especially in Strauss’s book The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined, which was published in the 1830s:
The full original title of this work is Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet (Tübingen: 1835-1836), and it was translated from the fourth German edition into English by George Eliot (Marian Evans) (1819–1880) and published under the title The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (3 vols., London, 1846). (“David Strauss” Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Strauss)
Here is Craig’s general view of ADT:
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).
Now Strauss may have also rejected (2) as well as (1), but if a person embraces Strauss’s skepticism about the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts, that undermines almost all of the reasons given for rejecting (2). So, Strauss in NO WAY refuted ADT, but rather showed the way to refute most of the objections that have been raised against ADT, including the objections raised against ADT by Strauss himself.
The most often quoted objection to ADT from Strauss is what I call the Sickly Jesus Objection (hereafter: SJO). If Jesus was beaten and scourged before being crucified, and then he was nailed to the cross, then even if Jesus survived crucifixion and managed to escape from the stone tomb and find his way to the disiples, he would have been weak, and bloody, and cut, and bruised, and limping, and would have looked like warmed-over death on Easter Sunday, and such an appearance could not have inspired his disciples to develop a strong faith that Jesus had risen from the dead.
But this scenario depends heavily on the assumption that the Gospels provide historically reliable accounts of the details of Jesus’ trials, crucifixion, burial, and appearances to his disciples. What if Jesus was NOT beaten up or scourged prior to being crucified? What if Jesus had been tied rather than nailed to the cross? What if the first post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus took place two or three weeks after the crucifixion, rather than 48 hours after it? The force of Strauss’s most famous objection to ADT rests on the very assumption that Strauss was challenging: the assumption that the Gospels provide us with accurate and reliable historical accounts of the life of Jesus. If your reject this assumption, then the force of Strauss’s best-known objection to ADT is seriously diminished.
Craig might also believe that refuting ADT is sufficient to show that Jesus actually died on the cross on Good Friday. But this involves a confusion about the logical relationship between ADT and the claim that “Jesus actually died on the cross on Good Friday” (hereafter: DOC). DOC and ADT are mutually exclusive ideas:
If DOC is true, then ADT is false.
If ADT is true, then DOC is false.
However, these two ideas do not jointly exhaust all of the logical possibilities:
If DOC is false, then ADT might be true or might be false.
If ADT is false, then DOC might be true or might be false.
What Craig may not fully realize is that ADT is a fairly complex idea. ADT makes more than a dozen assumptions and assertions:
1. There was an historical Jesus.
2. Jesus was crucified on Good Friday.
3. Jesus appeared to die on the cross on Good Friday, but he was actually still alive.
4. Jesus was judged on Good Friday to have died on the cross by the Roman soldiers who crucified him.
5. (4) happened because of (3).
6. Jesus was removed from the cross on Good Friday.
7. Jesus was burried in a stone tomb on Good Friday at about sunset.
8. The tomb where Jesus was burried on Good Friday was empty on Easter Sunday.
9. Jesus’ disciples experienced appearances of a living Jesus on Easter Sunday.
10. Jesus’ disciples developed a firm conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead on or shortly after Easter Sunday.
11. Jesus was alive and walking around on Easter Sunday.
12. (11) happened because of (3) and (4).
13. (8) happened because of (11).
14. (9) happened because of (11).
15. (10) happened because of (8), (9), and (11).

DOC and ADT are logically incompatible because of claim (3) above. So, one possible objection to ADT is to show that DOC is true. But there are many other claims and assumptions that are part of ADT. For example, if I challenge the assumption (1) that Jesus was an historical person, that would be a challenge to both ADT and DOC. If I challenge claim (2) that Jesus was crucified, that is a challenge to both ADT and DOC.
If I challenge claim (9) that Jesus’s disciples experienced appearances of a living Jesus on Easter Sunday, that would be a challenge to ADT. If I could prove that (9) was false, that would be showing that one of the claims of ADT was false. But showing that (9) is false would NOT prove that Jesus actually died on the cross. In fact, if (9) was proven false, that would cast significant doubt on the historical reliability of the Gospel accounts, and thus would undermine the primary evidence used to support the claim that Jesus actually died on the cross. So, objections to ADT, do not necessarily provide support for DOC, and may actually provide evidence against both ADT and DOC.
If I challenge the claim (7) that Jesus was buried in a stone tomb, that would challenge ADT but not DOC. However, if it could be proved that (7) is false, that would refute ADT, but would NOT establish that Jesus actually died on the cross. Jesus could have been crucified, and survived crucifixion, but was rescued from the cross at night by a friend or a disciple, and thus was NOT burried in a stone tomb on Good Friday. In that case both ADT and DOC would be false.
Because ADT is a complex idea, a theory, it encompasses a number of claims and assumptions, and only ONE of those assumptions is that Jesus did NOT die on the cross. So, there are lots of logical possibilities besides ADT vs. DOC. In short, refutation of ADT as a way of supporting DOC commits the fallacy of false dilemma. There are more alternatives than just these two possibilities. An objection to ADT might not provide any support for DOC, and in some cases objections to ADT also work as objections to DOC.

bookmark_borderAn Open Letter to Dr. William Lane Craig

Dear Dr. William Lane Craig,
Let me be honest: I am opposed to Christianity. I am an enemy of Christianity. My life (or at least my free time outside of work) is dedicated to attacking and destroying the Christian faith.
However, though I hate the faith, I love the believer. I don’t hate you or any other Christian apologist. In fact, I admire you and your life-long dedication to the defense of Christianity. I think you have the potential to be the best Christian apologist of the 21st century, and even of the modern era. As an undergraduate, my plan was to attend Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and do graduate study in Christian apologetics under your guidance. But I left the Christian faith about the time I graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy, so my original plan did not work out.
As an enemy of Christianity, I must admit to a certain degree of pleasure in taking apart the arguments of Christian apologists, such as your arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. But, frankly, I’m tired of knocking down the straw men that you and your fellow apologists so steadily put forward. I’m not committing the Straw-Man Fallacy when I do so; there just are no ‘real men’ out there to challenge, no real, intellectually serious cases for the resurrection of Jesus that exemplify scholarly excellence.
I don’t want to win the war against Christianity simply because you and your fellow apologists are too lazy to make a real and honest intellectually serious effort to prove that Jesus rose from the dead. I want to win only after having come face-to-face with a powerful and scholarly and well-thought-out case for the resurrection, and I think you are the one who could actually pull this off. But you have not done so yet.
David Hume was a skeptic who challenged the intellectual complacency of Immanuel Kant. As a young man, Kant thought that Christian metaphysics was in the bag, a done deal, a settled matter. Kant was wrong. It took the skeptic David Hume to wake him from his dogmatic slumber. I want to perform a similar service for you and your fellow apologists. There is no real, intellectually serious case for the resurrection of Jesus, no case that exemplifies excellent historical scholarship and careful analytic thinking. I want to wake you up from your dogmatic slumber on this issue.
Although we are on opposite sides of the fence concerning Christianity, you and I agree on some important issues. We agree that everyone, at least every American and every European (and Canadian, Mexican, Central American, and South American), ought to take a stand for or against the Christian faith. Nobody should be a Christian just because their parents were Christians, or just because their friends or neighbors were Christians. Just like nobody should be an atheist just because their parents were atheists, or just because their friends or neighbors were atheists. Each person should make up his or her own mind and take a stand on this important issue.
We also agree that, although there are many different beliefs and practices associated with Christianity, there are a few basic issues that constitute the heart-and-soul of the Christian faith: Who was Jesus? Was Jesus just a wise Jewish teacher? Or was he a true prophet, the divine Son of God, and the savior of humankind? Anyone who denies that Jesus was a true prophet, or that he was (and is) the divine Son of God, or that he was (and is) the savior of humankind, is not truly a Christian, no matter what other specific Christian beliefs or values he or she may have adopted (e.g. the Golden Rule, charity towards the poor, etc.).
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.
Here are my recommendations:
1. Confess the Truth (i.e. Geisler’s principle)
If you agree with Geisler’s principle that the historicity of Jesus’ death must be proven in order to prove the resurrection, then admit this principle. If for some reason you disagree with Geisler’s principle, then say so publically, and make your best and strongest case against Geisler’s principle in public and in writing.
2. Confess the Sin (i.e. the intellectual shortfall)
If you agree with Geisler’s principle, then take the next step and admit that your case for the resurrection (as well as the case made by each of your fellow Christian apologists) is a failure because you have not (yet) made an intellectually serious case for the historicity of the death of Jesus on the cross, a case that exemplifies excellent historical scholarship and careful analytical thinking.
As a young man, Richard Swinburne looked around and noted that one of the biggest challenges to the Christian faith was in the apparent conflicts between science and faith, particularly between science and the Christian faith. He also noted that this was the elephant in the living room, that Christian theologians and intellectuals had failed to seriously address this problem. He then dedicated his life to understanding both science and the Christian faith, and to making a serious intellectual effort to reconcile science with the Christian faith. As with alcoholism, it is essential to recognize and admit that there is a problem that needs to be addressed.
3. Repent (i.e. fill the intellectual void)
I know you are a sharp person who has knowledge and skill in N.T. scholarship, and in the history of Christian apologetics, and in philosophical analysis. I have faith in you. I believe that you have the potential to fill a huge gap in Christian apologetics and to be the only modern apologist to make an intellectually serious case for the resurrection of Jesus.
So, no more of the crappy two-page “cases” for the historicity of the death of Jesus. Just say ‘NO’ to such intellectual sloth. Take your own good advice to heart:
The only reason most people think historical apologetics to be easier [than philosophical apologetics] is because they do it superficially. But, of course, one can do philosophical apologetics superficially too! My point is that if we are to do a credible job in our apologetics, we need to do the hard thinking and the hard work required, or at least to rely on those who have.
(Reasonable Faith, p.253)

On my bookcase is a two-volume set by Raymond Brown titled: The Death of the Messiah. The first volume is 877 pages. The second volume is 731 pages. Both volumes are densely-packed with intellectually serious work that exemplifies excellence in historical scholarship and careful analytical thinking. Brown is focused mainly on the meaning and significance of the Passion narratives, and pays less attention to historical issues. But there is plenty of good material there to make use of in building an intellectually serious case for the historicity of the death of Jesus.
But I’m NOT asking you to write a massive two-volume work spanning 1,600 pages in defense of the actual death of Jesus on the cross (although I wouldn’t complain if you did). What I’m asking is that you treat Question (1) with at least as much intellectual seriousness and effort and care as you have treated Question (2).
Please write a book or a long scholarly article defending the claim that “Jesus actually died on the cross.” One hundred pages would be a good start. A 200-300 page book could really do the trick.
Sincerely,
Bradley Bowen
Skeptic and Enemy of Christianity

bookmark_borderCraig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 3

As a Christian apologist who defends the claim that ‘Jesus rose from the dead’, William Craig takes upon himself a heavy burden of proof. To meet the burden of proof Craig must put forward powerful historical evidence to prove that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross’. But in most of his books, articles, and debates on the resurrection, Craig simply ignores this issue.
One exception to this pattern of neglect is found in his book The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. (hereafter: TSR). In TSR Craig devotes five paragraphs, consisting of a grand total of 35 sentences, to making his case for the historicity of the death of Jesus on the cross.
In previous posts, I have examined the first 16 sentences of Craig’s case for the death of Jesus, which constitutes about the first half of Craig’s case. The results so far: Craig has made 35 historical claims, but has provided ZERO historical evidence in support of those claims. So, at the half-way mark, Craig’s case is a complete failure.
It is time to take a look at paragraph number three in Craig’s five-paragraph case for the historicity of the death of Jesus on the cross. By my count Craig makes about 24 historical claims in this paragraph. Some of these claims (about eight), however, are repetitions of, or inferences from, other historical claims. So, paragraph three contains about 16 basic historical claims.
Let’s examine the first eight sentences of paragraph three:
Death by crucifixion is slow [1]
and gruesome. [2 – inference]
As the victim hangs on the cross, his lung cavity collapses, [3]
so that he can no longer breathe. [4]
In order to breathe, he must pull himself up [5]
on those nail pierced hands [6 – inference]
and push with his feet until he can catch a breath. [7]
But he cannot remain in this position very long. [8]
So he has to let himself drop back down. [9 – inference]
Then he cannot breathe anymore, [10]
so he must start the painful ascent all over again, in order to get air.
[11 – inference]

And so it goes, hour after hour, [12]
until the victim is too weak to pull himself up, [13]
and so literally chokes to death. [14 – inference]
Sometimes the Romans sped up the process by breaking the legs of the victim with a mallet [15]
(called in Latin crurifragum), [16]
so that he could no longer push himself up to breathe, [17]
and the victim, dangling helplessly by his arms, died of asphyxiation.
[18 – inference]

(TSR, p.38)
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.
At two-thirds of the way through Craig’s presentation of “historical evidence” for the death of Jesus on the cross, we plainly see his case is a complete failure, because he has presented us with no historical evidence for any of his dozens of historical claims.
This is the sort of childish and pathetic “argument” that we should expect from any attempt to prove that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross’ in just two pages.

bookmark_borderCraig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus – Part 2

Although Christian apologists bear the burden of proof to show that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross’, William Craig usually ignores this issue in his books, articles, and debates defending the resurrection of Jesus. In my previous post, I pointed out that there is at least one book in which Craig does make a case for the claim that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross.’ Craig makes a very brief attempt at this in The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (hereafter: TSR).
His case is made in just five paragraphs, in a little more than two pages of text. The first paragraph is the longest. We saw previously that Craig makes about 30 different historical claims in the first paragraph, but provides zero historical evidence in support of those claims.
The second paragraph is much shorter than the first, just two sentences:
The Shroud of Turin, whether it is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus or not, illustrates graphically the extent of Jesus’ physical suffering. The image of the man on the cloth is covered front and back with wounds from head to foot, where the flagrum, a multi-thonged Roman whip with metal or bone, had torn apart his flesh, furnishing us a grisly picture of what Jesus must have looked like when He was laid on the cross. (TSR, p.37-38)
Craig knows better than to put the Shroud of Turin forward as historical evidence for the death of Jesus, so he does not do so. Instead, he states that it “illustrates graphically” the wounds that Jesus had “when He was laid on the cross.” So, once again, Craig puts forward some historical claims, with no historical evidence to support those claims. By my count he makes five historical claims (about Jesus) in this paragraph:
The Shroud of Turin, whether it is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus or not, illustrates graphically the extent of Jesus’ physical suffering. The image of the man on the cloth is covered front[1]
and back with wounds from head to foot[2],
where the flagrum, a multi-thonged Roman whip with metal or bone[3], had torn apart his flesh [4],
furnishing us a grisly picture of what Jesus must have looked like when He was laid on the cross.[5] (TSR, p.37-38)

Most immediately Craig is making claims about “the man on the cloth”, 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.

bookmark_borderCraig’s “Historical Evidence” for the Death of Jesus

Anyone who asserts that ‘Jesus rose from the dead’ takes on a burden of proof, and because this is an extraordinary claim, the proof required is extraordinary proof. Make a miracle claim and you take on a heavy burden of proof. So, when William Craig asserts that ‘Jesus rose from the dead’, he takes upon himself a heavy burden of proof, and part of that burden of proof is to provide powerful historical evidence for the claim that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross.’
It should go without saying that Jesus could NOT have risen from the dead until AFTER he had in fact died. So, proving the death of Jesus is essential to proving the resurrection of Jesus. But, as I pointed out in a recent post, in most of his books, articles, and debates on this subject, Craig simply ignores this question, and thus it appears that his case for the resurrection of Jesus is a complete failure. However, there is one book in which Craig devotes slightly more than two pages to defending the claim that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross.’ So, before I can show that Craig’s case is in fact a complete failure, I need to consider his two-page case for this historical claim.
It is obvious to me that it is absurd to try to argue for this historical claim in just two pages, but apparently this point is not obvious to everyone (e.g. Craig doesn’t get this), so I will walk through Craig’s attempt at defending the claim that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross.’ Hopefully, this will help others to see the absurdity of attempting to make a two-page case for this historical claim.
The book where Craig makes this case is The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. (hereafter: TSR). Based on the title, one would reasonably expect that a significant portion of TSR would involve Craig presenting historical evidence in support of the claim that ‘Jesus actually died on the cross.’ But what we actually find is that out of about 150 pages, only two pages are devoted to making a case for this key claim (about 1.5% of the book is devoted to this issue).
Furthermore, as we shall soon see, there is a glaring absence of historical evidence presented by Craig on this key question, which is no surprise given that he tries to build his case in just two scrawny pages. Craig’s case starts near the top of page 37 and concludes about 1/3 of the way down from the top of page 39. There is a little more than two pages of text in his case, which is organized into five paragraphs, containing a grand total of 35 sentences.
What is “historical evidence”? We usually think of historical evidence as being documents. There are personal documents, such as diaries, journals, and personal letters. There are also public documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, published speeches, books, articles, essays, poetry, biographies, plays, newspapers, novels, magazines, etc.
But other artifacts besides documents may also constitute historical evidence. For example: houses, buildings, furniture, carpets, tapestries, clothing, pots, dishes, cups, bowls, tools, machines, weapons, armor, boats, paintings, drawings, sculpture, mosaics, etc. Some of the best historical evidence we have is from photographs, sound recordings, and movies. (Obviously, there are no photographs, sound recordings, or movies of the actual crucifixion or burial of Jesus).
Finally, non-artifacts may also constitute historical evidence. For example: human skulls, skeletons, human hair, and even human skin (when a body is well preserved). Crimes are often solved by use of such historical evidence: footprints, fingerprints, hairs, blood, saliva, semen, and urine.
The first paragraph in Craig’s case is the longest; it contains 14 sentences, and it asserts many historical claims:
1. The theory [the Apparent Death Theory] failed to take seriously the extent of Jesus’ physical injury. In order to demonstrate this, let us review the events leading up to Jesus’ death and burial. Jesus was arrested on Thursday night and tried illegally by a night session of the Jewish court. During the trial, they spit on Him; they blindfolded Him and hit Him in the face with their fists. They turned Him over to the guards, who beat Him further. Up all night without sleep, Jesus was taken Friday morning to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, who in turn sent Him off to the Jewish king, Herod, who after interrogation sent Him back to Pilate. Condemned before a crowd screaming for His blood, Jesus was given to the Roman guards, who whipped Him. They made a crown of thorns and shoved it down onto His head and beat Him with a stick. Jesus was then compelled to carry the heavy cross, on which he was to be crucified, through the streets of the city to the place of crucifixion. Unable to bear the load, He collapsed from exhaustion. Another man was forced to carry the cross the remainder of the way. Jesus was then laid on the cross, and nails were driven through his wrists and a spike through his feet. Judging from skeletal remains of crucifixion victims, this could have been done by first nailing the wrists of the victim to the cross, then twisting the body sideways and driving the spike through both ankles. In this contorted position, the victim was then raised up on the cross, and the cross was dropped into a hole in the ground. (TSR, p.37)
Many of these sentences make more than just one historical claim, so there are more historical claims than sentences. By my count, Craig makes about 30 historical claims in this opening paragraph:
1. The theory [the Apparent Death Theory] failed to take seriously the extent of Jesus’ physical injury. In order to demonstrate this, let us review the events leading up to Jesus’ death and burial. [claim 1]
Jesus was arrested on Thursday night [claim 2]
and tried illegally [claim 3]
by a night session of the Jewish court. [claim 4]
During the trial, they spit on Him; [claim 5]
they blindfolded Him [claim 6]
and hit Him in the face with their fists. [claim 7]
They turned Him over to the guards, [claim 8]
who beat Him further. [claim 9]
Up all night without sleep, [claim 10]
Jesus was taken Friday morning to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, [claim 11]
who in turn sent Him off to the Jewish king, Herod, [claim 12]
who after interrogation [claim 13]
sent Him back to Pilate. [claim 14]
Condemned before a crowd screaming for His blood, [claim 15]
Jesus was given to the Roman guards, [claim 16]
who whipped Him. [claim 17]
They made a crown of thorns [claim 18]
and shoved it down onto His head [claim 19]
and beat Him with a stick. [claim 20]
Jesus was then compelled to carry the heavy cross, on which he was to be crucified, through the streets of the city to the place of crucifixion. [claim 21]
Unable to bear the load, He collapsed from exhaustion. [claim 22]
Another man was forced to carry the cross the remainder of the way. [claim 23]
Jesus was then laid on the cross, [claim 24]
and nails were driven through his wrists [claim 25]
and a spike through his feet. [claim 26]
Judging from skeletal remains of crucifixion victims, this could have been done by first nailing the wrists of the victim to the cross,[claim 27]
then twisting the body sideways and driving the spike through both ankles.[claim 28]
In this contorted position, the victim was then raised up on the cross, [claim 29]
and the cross was dropped into a hole in the ground. [claim 30]
(TSR, p.37)

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.
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Craig, William. The Son Rises: The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Chicago: Moody Press, 1981. Print.