Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lowder's response to Craig on the Empty Tomb

A redated post.


Jason said...

While I recognize the use of overview broadbase accounts (pro or con) of explanations for the belief (and belief-content) of the Resurrection--I'm more of a straightline argument guy myself. {g} I prefer to find something solid on which all parties everywhere may agree, and then work carefully from there to determine what may be inferred with reliability as conclusions from the implications.

For such an agreed-upon beginning point, may I suggest this?

Sometime between 30 CE and 150 CE (at the extreme outside edges), the document known as "kata Maththaion" was written; in which the final author/redactor/editor/whomever penned the following phrases:

"Some of the guard-detail [from the watch on the body of Jesus of Nazareth], having gone into the city, reported to the chief priests all things that occurred. And the elders, having assembled and discussed, took silver and gave enough to the soldiers, and told them: "You are to say, 'His disciples, coming by night, stole him as we rested.' And if the governor hears of this, we will persuade him and free you from worry." And taking the money, they did as they were told. And this saying has been spread by Jews until today." [Note: Matthew 28:11b-15; my composited reproduction/translation]

We may _all_ agree that this was written, yes? If so, we may begin to consider implications and test hypotheses about it.

For the most basic set of hypotheses, may I go on to suggest a dichotomy?

1.) The verses have absolutely _no_ relation _whatsoever_ to _anything_ historical (beyond the ironclad fact of history that someone in history did write them, of course), their material having been totally invented by the writer;

2.) The verses have _at least some_ relation to actual history (beyond the historical fact that someone did write them, of course.)

I suggest these for preliminary discussion of implications (with a caution on all sides not to jump ahead. Test small advances of footing in various directions, first.)


Mike D said...

I am surprized that Lowder concludes that the probablility of Jesus being buried is low. Most of the details in the gospels provide evidence against this conclusion. Perhaps the one fact that is clearest by the accounts is the improbability of Jesus' body being either abandoned on the cross or dumped into a common grave. The accounts agree that a few loyal familiy and friends witnessed what he said, how he died, and gained permission to care for him after death. All the details argue against what Lowder assumes.

The account in Matthew that Jason sites is only relevant when doubters contemporary with the distribution of Matthew concede that Jesus was laid in the tomb and found missing. You only need a lie to cover up a missing corpse when you agree that the corpse was once present in the tomb.

Jason said...

Well, I wouldn't _start_ by saying the Sanhedrin was definitely lying about what happened. That's jumping ahead too fast. It pays to analyze the passage progressively from grounds accessible to anyone, including sceptics. Quite a lot can be concluded historically thereby. (Fwiw, I wouldn't say a solid conclusion of a tomb can be concluded thereby; though the implications progressively point in that direction rather than anywhere else, including with a tenuous fingerprint of some characteristics of the person providing the tomb.)


Anonymous said...


I am "surprized" (sic) also, since that is not what I wrote in my essay. I stated that the burial hypothesis has a low prior probability ("the prior probability that Jesus was given a burial of any sort is low" -- see p. 255), but a high final probability ("the specific evidence in Mark for Jesus' burial in a tomb is sufficient to overcome the intrinsic improbability of a crucifixion victim being buried" and "the same historical precedent that disconfirms the nonburial hypothesis also confirms the reburial hypothesis as the best historical explanation"-- p. 258). Note: the "final probability" of a hypothesis is the probability of the hypothesis, relative to background information *and* the specific evidence relevant to the hypothesis at hand. So when I state that "the specific evidence in Mark for Jesus' burial in a tomb is sufficient overcome" its intrinsic probability, that means I think Jesus was buried in a tomb!

Jeffery Jay Lowder

Wagner said...

Here is the response from Glenn Miller:

Was the burial of Jesus a temporary one, because of time constraints?

Edward T. Babinski said...

If Jesus wanted people to know he had risen from the dead, why come back to convince one doubting Thomas but not also come back for EVERY DOUBTING THOMAS?

If Jesus wanted people to know he had risen from the dead then why appear to the apostles then walk out of Jerusalem with fish in your belly, out as far as Bethany ("he led them") and rise into the air there, BUT not even attract a crowd shouting Hosannas, or everybody in the city looking up and shouting, "Holy Sh*t"?
(See Luke-Acts)

Same goes for the story found only in Matthew of the "raising of the many saints who entered the holy city and appeared to many." Sheesh, no stories left behind of that anywhere in the New Testament except for two short verses. All the rest of the N.T. writers either forgot about it, or left it out. Left it OUT?!

And sheesh, we possess THREE endings for the earliest Gospel, THREE. Scholars agree none of those endings is the original one, which was either lost or never existed in the first place. Nice job inspiring the earliest Gospel, God! And nice job Christians for filling in the resurrection scenes at the end of Mark.

a helmet said...

Edward T. Bambinski,

how do you explain the early christian belief in Jesus' resurrection, that caused previously disappointed disciples to turn into bold proclaimers of his resurrection? How do you explain the origin of this faith? B. Ehrman, in the tradition of R. Bultmann suggests the disciples turned to the scriptures after Jesus' dishonorable death in order to try to make sense of it. Thereby they found scriptures referring to the Messiah and concluded that Jesus must have been the prophesied Messiah, even despite the seemingly blatant evidences from reality against that ("Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree"). So according to Bart Ehrman, the disciples concluded simply from the OT that Jesus must have been the Messiah and became so convinced of this belief that they even risked their lives, gave up many comfortable things to embrace this new faith.

I find this explanation very implausible. The Old Testament passages referring to the Messiah are very obscure in themselves and it is very unlikely that these would in themselves have been so convincing to Jesus' disciples. Craig is right to point this out in the debate with Ehrman. And whence the appearances? How do you account for the hostile Saul's conversion, who had no predisposition to the belief in Jesus' resurrection whatsoever?

So I'm really interested how you would explain the origin of christianity and the belief in Jesus' resurrection!

-a helmet