A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave/Part 3

By: Dr. Norman Geisler; ©2005
This book is widely claimed by skeptics to be the best response to the arguments for the physical resurrection of Jesus. If so, then the best they have to offer is a poor case indeed. It presents no real positive evidence that Christ did not rise from the grave bodily.

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A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave – Part 3

(Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005) ed. by Robert Price and Jeffrey Lowder

Chapter 6: “The Case Against the Empty Tomb” by Peter Kirby

Summary of the Argument:

In his own words, Kirby declares: “I will argue that the empty tomb narrative is the invention of the author Mark. This conclusion will be supported by showing that all reports of the empty tomb are dependent upon Mark, that there are signs of fictional creation in the empty tomb narrative in Mark, that the empty tomb story as told by Mark contains improbabilities, and that other traditions of the burial and appearances support a reconstruction of the events that excludes the discovery of an empty tomb” (233).

First, there are at least four other possibilities: “1. Jesus was left hanging on the cross for the birds. 2. The Romans disposed of the body, perhaps in a ‘limed pit.’ 3. The body of Jesus was buried by the Jews in some sort of criminal’s grave. 4. The body of Jesus remained buried in a tomb” (233). He adds, “On the face of it, each one of these hypotheses is plausible” (234). Kirby does not defend any one of these but is content simply to attempt to show that Mark fabricated the story.

Second, Mark’s story of the empty tomb is probably a fiction for several reasons. First of all, the other Gospels depend on Mark. “Paul nowhere mentions the empty tomb in his letters,” (234) and his account is earlier than Mark. Further, there are evidences of “redactional changes to Mark in Luke” (234).

Third, there are fictional characteristics in Mark. The existence of previous stories of the same type is a “well-known indication in favor of fiction.” Such is found in the 2 Kings 2:9-18 where Elijah is taken into heaven and his body cannot be found (237). There is also evidence that Joseph of Arimathea is “a fictional character” since the location has not been found and his name means “best disciple in town” (238). What is more, there are improbabilities in Mark that point to the fictional nature of his resurrection story like why the women went to the tomb if they knew there was a stone, there and they could not get into it (242)?

Fourth, according to Kirby, “There are traditions concerning the burial and appearances of Jesus that provide evidence against the story of the discovery of an empty tomb” (246). He cites the apocryphal Secret Book of James saying Jesus was buried in the sand as an example (246). The Gospel of Peter says Jesus’ body was taken down by his Jewish enemies (248).

Fifth, 1 Corinthians 15 “. . . is widely acknowledged to be the earliest and best evidence that is available” (248). But here Peter was the first witness, not the women (249). The story of the women “is probably not a historical tradition” (249). For it “has every sign of being redactional” (249). Neither Mark nor Luke mentions it which is strange if it is historical.

So, if there was no empty tomb, no resurrection is needed to explain it; “an alternative explanation, such as the relocation hypothesis, will serve us well. But if there were no empty tomb, then there was no bodily resurrection.” (256).

Response to the Argument:

This chapter is weak in evidence and strong in assumptions – all of which can be seriously challenged with good evidence. Let us examine the assumptions and invalid conclusions.

First of all, the empty tomb is found in the earliest Christian documents on which critics and non-critics agree. 1 Corinthians was written by A.D 55-56, and it affirms that Christ was “buried” [in a grave] and that he was “raised” from this grave. By simple logic that means the tomb was left empty. Further, critics like Kirby accept Mark as the earliest Gospel, with Matthew and Luke coming later. But there are very strong arguments for Luke writing about A.D. 60-61 (see Hemer). This would place Mark in the late 50s. Even critical scholar, Bishop Robinson dated Mark as early as A.D. 45-60. At this point Kirby’s whole hypothesis collapses since it is too early for his redaction thesis to unfold. It is during the time of multiple eyewitnesses whose memories were still fresh with these impact events. Further, all the “core” truths of the gospel, namely, Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and appearances are in these early documents. So, even if there were later literary enhancements, they would not affect the core truths of Christianity which include a bodily resurrection leaving an empty tomb behind.

Second, Kirby assumes that Mark wrote first, but this can be seriously challenged on several grounds. The earliest historical testimony (of Papias) affirmed that Matthew wrote first. Further, almost all the early Fathers of the Church agreed. Indeed, even some contemporary liberal scholars (like Farmer) and many conservative scholars (like Harold Hoehner) agree that Matthew wrote first. What is more, all the literary data can be explained equally well with Mark following Matthew. At any rate, the issue of whether Matthew or Mark writes first does not affect the strong evidence that both Matthew and Mark write before Luke, probably in the late 50s.

Third, putting Mark first fits Kirby’s unproven evolutionary redaction assumption because Mark is shorter and the others can be made to look like a longer development of Mark. This is akin to Bruno Bauer putting John in the second century as a result of assuming an unfounded Hegelian dialectic that demanded this because John was allegedly a later synthesis of the earlier thesis of Peter and antithesis of Paul. However, the early dating of John within the first century due to the discovery of the John Ryland Fragment was dated just after the end of the first century in a little town in Egypt. This along with the evidence from Qumran let the Dean of Archaeology of the twentieth century, Professor William F. Albright, to date the entire New Testament by A.D. 75 and John even earlier.[1] So, the factual evidence flies in the face of the a priori evolutionary and developmental hypotheses.

Fourth, even granting (against the evidence) a late date for Mark, Kirby’s redactional assumptions are improbable. Even he seems to admit that they are for he uses tentative terms like “possibilities” (233), “I have a vague sense of implausibility” (254) “a weak indication” (249), “vestiges” of a tradition (248), “suggests”(250), “suggestive possibility” (251), “likely” (248), “does give the impression of” (251). To conclude that all this leads to a conclusion that is a “convincing case” and “extremely likely” (256) is a non sequitur which way oversteps the premises.

Fifth, like other skeptics, Kirby denies the use of a strong argument from silence to conservative scholars and uses the weak and obviously invalid argument from silence for himself. In fact, his central thesis (that Mark fabricated the empty tomb story) is an argument from silence. For he does not have a shred of historical evidence to support it. In fact, he admitted the same when he said he has no direct positive evidence for his view.

Sixth, his hypothesis is totally opposed to the New Testament repeated claim of eyewitness basis for their reports. John says, “The man who saw it [the crucifixion] has given testimony, and his testimony is true” (John 19:35). Again, “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true (John 21:24 cf. 1 John 1:1). The Book of Acts records that “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32). Peter and John declared, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Again, “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen” (Acts 10:39-40). Paul affirms that “. . . He [Jesus] was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:3-8). Even critics admit this was written A.D. 55-56 only twenty or so years after the resurrection when numerous eyewitnesses were still alive, including most of the apostles. Luke asserts: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:1-2). And as Habermas adds, if critics object to the use of these straightforward New Testament attestations, it is odd how often they use other New Testament texts when they think they fit their needs.

Seventh, Kirby’s hypothesis does not account for the fact that the New Testament writers carefully distinguish their words from those of Jesus (cf. Jn. 2:20-22; Acts 20:35). In fact, any intelligent youth could make a red letter edition of the Gospels with little trouble whatsoever. The apostle Paul did the same (1 Cor. 7:10-12; 11:24-25). Thus, protests of innocent redactions to the contrary, his view makes liars out of multiple eyewitnesses who testified to the resurrection. And he has nothing to account for the fact that honest eyewitnesses and martyrs deliberately fabricated stories about Christ’s resurrection and appearances.

Eighth, in spite of the difficulties in reconciling the eyewitness and contemporary accounts, they are all explainable (see Geisler and Howe, When Critics Ask). Further, the problems we have in the New Testament pale in comparison with the implausibility of his redactional hypotheses of the events. A good example is that of making the story of Elijah’s disappearance the basis for the empty tomb story (237). Besides being a post hoc fallacy (after this, therefore, because of this), it is not a parallel case since Elijah did not die and rise again. In short, Kirby’s redactional explanation is more difficult to believe than Mark’s account of the empty tomb.

Ninth, many of the links in Kirby’s chain of argument are weak. For example, the argument that Joseph of Arimathea is “a fictional character” since the location has not been found and his name means “best disciple town” (238). The first is the weak argument from silence, and the second is senseless. I knew an actual man who was the road commissioner in our county near Dallas whose name was Dusty Rhoads. It is unlikely and humorous but not fictional!

Chapter 7: “Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story” by Jeffery Lowder

Summary of the Argument:

Lowder responds to William Craig’s ten arguments for the empty tomb view (which is a key point in his evangelical apologetic), saying, “I shall argue that Craig has not shown that the resurrection is the best explanation for that emptiness.” He adds, “Though I shall not argue the story is false, I shall argue that even if the story is historical, its historicity is not established on the basis of any of Craig’s arguments as they stand” (261).

The overall logic of the argument is summarized well by Lowder: “The relocation hypothesis is clearly superior to the resurrection hypothesis according to the other criteria. . . . However, the relocation hypothesis does not so far exceed its rivals that there is little chance of a rival hypothesis exceeding it in meeting these conditions. It would not take much specific counter evidence – such as a first-century Jewish text specifying that a criminal like Jesus did not have to be buried in the criminals’ graveyard, combined with an account by Joseph of Arimathea himself stating he was a sympathizer of Jesus – to make the honorable burial hypothesis more acceptable than the relocation hypothesis. Nevertheless, such evidence does not exist. On the other hand, we lack direct evidence for the relocation hypothesis. According to McCullagh’s methodology, then, we should suspend judgment on it” (297 emphasis in original). So, “in the absence of inductively correct arguments for or against the historicity of the empty tomb story, I suggest that the historian qua historian should be agnostic about the matter” (298).

Response to the Argument:

First, Lowder’s argument is based on a priori probability, not a posteriori fact. He admits he has no “direct” evidence for his view (297). He also speaks repeatedly about advance probability in terms like “initial probability” (265), “prior probability” (264), “prior to considering the unique circumstances” (264), and “intrinsic improbability” (265). But all one needs is an actual fact, or even probable evidence for an event, in order to overcome whatever advanced improbability it may have had. For example, all naturalists (anti-supernaturalists) hold to spontaneous generation of first life in the cosmos, but the advanced probability is exceedingly low. In fact, it is so low, for since Redi and Pastuer no biology teacher would allow it for an explanation of how life can allegedly appear in a properly sterilized and capped beaker in a science lab.

Second, Lowder admits that the resurrection story may be true, saying, “I shall not argue that the story is false” (261). But this admits that it might be true. Why then should one reject it on a priori grounds. It should be sufficient that our earliest documents affirm it (both 1 Cor. 15 and Mark 16).

Third, he admits that his thesis is weakened further if Joseph was a disciple or if Jesus need not have been buried in a criminal’s grave. But the first century eyewitness account of John (cf. Jn. 21:24 cf. 1 Jn. 1:1-2) affirms clearly that Joseph was “a disciple of Jesus” (Jn. 19:38). Further, there were exceptions to the common practice of burying criminals in a common grave. And the text says explicitly that “Pilate gave him permission” to bury Jesus (Jn. 19:38). This being the case, by his own confession, Kirby’s argument collapses.

Fourth, his basic argument is an invalid argument from silence. The repeated use of “for all we know” (277, 284, 288, 291) is ample evidence for this conclusion. This euphemism is just another way of saying “I have no actual evidence for my position.” This is in fact an admission that he has no real basis for his speculation.

Fifth, there are factually unsubstantiated premises in Lowder’s argument. For example, it is crucial to his view that Jesus as a criminal was not given an honorable burial in a tomb. But even if this was a common practice, it does not follow that it was likely that Jesus actually was given this kind of burial. Indeed, the facts are to the contrary. The early documents only speak of his being buried in Joseph’s tomb in a honorable way. There is no evidence to the contrary.

Sixth, his hypothesis that Joseph moved Jesus’ body on Saturday is without any actual evidence and is contrary to the evidence we do have. First, he admits Joseph was a pious Jew and we know pious Jews did not work on the Sabbath (271). But moving the body would have been a violation of the Sabbath. Second, his view does not explain how Joseph got past the guards who protected the tomb and who were not disciplined for negligence of duty.

Seventh, Lowder’s conclusion is defended by another unsupported contention that “there is no evidence that the Jewish authorities . . . even cared to refute Christian claims” (273). This is contrary to fact for several reasons. 1) The Jewish authorities opposed Christianity as a sect and had every reason to want to squelch it. 2) They also opposed the early Christian claims that Jesus rose from the dead (cf. Acts 4-9).

Eighth, he ignores the overwhelming evidence for the historicity of the book of Acts (see Hemer) which refutes Lowder’s thesis by recording that Jesus did rise from the dead as indicated by many “indisputable proofs” (Acts 1:2) by which God has “given assurance of this to all by raising Him [Christ] from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Indeed, the physical appearances of Christ are verified in Acts by Jesus “being seen by them during forty days” (Acts 1:3) and even “eating with them” (Acts 1:4–NIV). Even Peter, who is accepted by Carrier as the first witness, recorded Jesus eating after the resurrection in Acts 10:41 in his kerygma sermon as affirming that “God raised [Jesus] up on the third day, and showed him openly . . . to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after he arose from the dead” (Acts 10:40-41). Indeed, earlier Peter spoke of the empty tomb and the resurrection of Christ in the “flesh” (sarx) (Acts 2:31).

Ninth, Lowder’s thesis is based on unacceptably late dates for the Gospels of A.D. 70 and beyond. Both the Dean of twentieth century archaeology, William F. Albright,[2] and the radical New Testament critic, Bishop John Robinson,[3] posited earlier dates during which most of the apostles and eyewitness were still living. Their presence leaves no room for Lowder’s relocation thesis or for any view short of a physical resurrection of Christ.

Further, he totally ignores the evidence that Luke wrote his Gospel by about A.D. 60 (see Hemer and Luke 1:1 cf. Acts 1:1). But Luke speaks not only of the empty tomb but physical appearances of Christ with tangible evidence of scars and the ability to eat food. This totally defeats Lowder’s hypothesis.

Chapter 8: “Taming the Tehom: the Sign of Jonah in Matthew” by Evan Fales

Summary of the Arguments:

Fales claims that “it is a familiar feature of the Gospel passion narrative that virtually every major element of the story, in each of its differing versions, is anticipated in the Hebrew Bible” (307). He notes his dependence on “Durkeim and Levi-Strauss which I draw heavily upon” (309) “with some significant divergences” (317). “Levi-Strauss, influenced by Hegelian dialectic, by the structural semantics of Ferdinand de Saussure, and by information-processing theory, analyzes myths as being comprised of layers of ‘contradicting’ or contrasting themes, each layer somehow resolving itself in or reducing to the next . . . thereby defusing the dissonance caused by the original difficulty” (317). He asserts that “Matthew’s passion narrative offers, as we shall see, some sterling examples for structural analysis . . .” (319). “I presuppose two hypotheses that are clearly controversial – that Matthew is myth, and that myths are (primarily) engaged in the business of social/political theorizing (and not speculations about ‘spooky stuff’)” (320).

As for miracles, he adds, “I think Hume was correct in arguing that no sensible person will accept a miracle report as veridical, except possibly on the basis of massive verifiable independent testimony from verifiably competent witnesses” (311). The basic steps of his reasoning are as follows: First, Jesus was not in the grave 72 hours as “three days and three nights imply.” Second, Fales finds the explanation in Hebrew mythology about Jonah (322) and Greek myths (323) which depicts Israel’s deliverance from Assyria and Jesus’ resurrection the Israel’s deliverance from the powers that be (325).

Fales admits that “there is no logical incompatibility between accepting my analysis of Matthew’s chronology, and a literalist conception of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Most readers will, of course, recognize the profound distance between the interpretive methodology I have employed and that favored by fundamentalists” (331). He argues that “the hypothesis that Matthew’s project is to propose a serious political program allows the approach taken here to escape other stock objections regularly raised against ‘liberal’ and skeptical interpretations of the Gospels” (332). For example, the resurrection was not necessary to the survival of Christianity and the courage of early Christians. Rather, it survived because “it was able to formulate a political theory, strategy, and program that spoke powerfully to the condition of many people, rich and poor, Jewish and Gentile, in Judea and across the Roman Empire” (333). “There is, therefore, no reason to assume (though also no particular reason to deny) that Peter, Paul, or any other Christian leader may have had some subjective religious experience, whether involving an apparition of Jesus or some more inwardly directed ecstatic state” (333).

As to whether Matthew has a “historical core,” Fales says “it does not matter very much to the project I have undertaken here” (334 emphasis in original). For “once one adopts the theoretical framework proposed here, one can proceed without knowing how to answer these particular historical questions, interesting as they might be in their own right” (334). “There is nothing in my reading of Matthew’s Gospel that excludes the possibility of a historical founder of Christianity who taught in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and courted execution at the hands of the authorities” (334). “On the other hand, we can see clearly from the theoretical perspective I am recommending how artificial is the project of trying to separate history from legend, by ‘peeling away’ putatively apocryphal accretions to an unvarnished historical memory so as to reveal a mundane core upon which to confer the mantle of truth. For the ‘realistic’ elements of the plot are just as integral to the message of the narrative as are the fantastical ones. If some of them are historical, that is a lucky accident; if it had served Matthew’s purpose to make up realistic episodes, he would not have hesitated to do so” (334). “Was Jesus bodily raised from the tomb after a day and two nights? Anyone who accepts the interpretation offered here will recognize this question is profoundly misguided, but not because the answer must surely be no” (334). Why? “. . . because to entertain it is to reveal a complete incomprehension of Matthew’s purpose, a misunderstanding so fundamental as virtually to preclude recognition of the truths Matthew means to convey” (334).

Response to the Argument:

First of all, Fales admitted that “there is nothing in my reading of Matthew’s Gospel that excludes the possibility of a historical founder of Christianity who taught in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and courted execution at the hands of the authorities” (334). Further, he does not rule out the possibility of a literal resurrection of Christ. Indeed, he admits that “there is no logical incompatibility between accepting my analysis of Matthew’s chronology, and a literalist conception of Jesus’ death and resurrection” (331).

Second, his rejection of miracles in based on Hume’s faulty argument (see Geisler, Miracles and the Modern Mind) against them (311) and does not allow for the resurrection to be a historical event (334). But if God exists, miracles are possible. And if the evidence shows one has occurred – as the evidence for the resurrection does – then no prior probability against them can counter the fact that one has occurred. Further, extraordinary events do not need extraordinary evidence (unless one is biased against miracles); they just need good evidence. There is no extraordinary evidence for the “Big Bang” origin of the universe; there is just such good evidence that even some agnostics accept that the universe had a beginning (and thus by logical implication, must have had a Beginner).[4] (see Jastrow).

Third, all five reasons he gives for rejecting a literal view of the resurrection (see 332) can be seriously challenged. Contrary to his contention, (1) The appeal to a divine Cause does have explanatory value and still grips hearts. (2) There is evidence not otherwise explainable that favors the bodily resurrection, namely, all the evidence for the historicity of the New Testament. (3) The alleged historical implausibility is an unjustified historical uniformitarianism that begs the question. (4) We cannot set the question of miracles aside because if God exists, miracles are possible. And if the New Testament documents are historical, then miracles are actual. (5) Uniform experience of the past cannot be used against miracles (singularities); otherwise naturalists could not believe in the Big Bang or the spontaneous generation of first life, as they do.

Fourth, all the philosophical presuppositions used by Fales have been challenged, even by others who do not believe in the miracle of the resurrection. Hegelianism has been shown not to fit the facts of history. Structuralism’s bracketing the question of existence is self-defeating and begs the question. Mythologism is contrary to the biblical text and is self-defeating since it assumes we know the literal truth about the past so that we can call a text myth. Saussure’s conventionalism (relativism) view of meaning is self-defeating since it assumes the meaning of the conventionalist’s claim is objective. And the basic foundational laws of thought are not culturally relative. That is, we cannot deny the laws of logic without using them in the very denial.

Fifth, Fales claims that “it is a familiar feature of the Gospel passion narrative that virtually every major element of the story, in each of its differing versions, is anticipated in the Hebrew Bible” (307). If this is so, then, first of all, what need is there to find Old Testament origins in Greek myth which he and other critical scholars use? Further, since the Old Testament foreshadowed the bodily resurrection of Christ (Psalm 2, 16) and of believers (Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2), then why deny a bodily resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, even New Testament personages believed in a physical resurrection such as the Pharisees (Acts 23:8), Jesus’ Jewish audience (Matt. 22:23-30), his friend Martha (John 11:23-24), his disciple Matthew (27:52-53), and John the apostle (John 5:28-29).

Sixth, the Bible condemns the use of myth every time the word is used. Indeed, Peter said “We did not follow cunningly devised fables (Gk. muthois) . . ., but were eyewitness of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Paul exhorted not to “give heed to fables” (1 Tim. 1:4; cf. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14).

Seventh, Fales states but dismisses without argument the view that “the genre of the Gospels is that of biography, on the strength of arguments that Acts is ‘clearly’ a historical work, that Luke, continuous with Acts and declared by Luke 1:1-4 to be ‘historical,’ is therefore so as well, and that the other Gospels share the same genre as Luke” (309). But given the decisive work of Colin Hemer,[5] whatever the genre, Luke is clearly claiming his account is historically accurate. Further, the alleged Hellenistic mythical ‘parallels’ to Gospel stories are not really parallels at all. The figure and ideology of Jesus are thoroughly rooted in messianic orthodox Judaism, which rejected Hellenistic religious ideas; hence neither Jesus nor his biographers would even have borrowed Hellenistic themes which were polytheistic, not monotheistic (309-310).

Eighth, Fales criticizes conservatives for neglecting the “enormous Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature regarding death and resurrection (both Jewish and pagan)” (322) found in Frazer’s Golden Bough.[6] First of all, evangelicals have not ignored it. Professors Ronald Nash[7] and Edwin Yamauchi[8] have addressed it. And the truth is that these are largely cases of reincarnation into another body, not resurrection of the same body to immortality by polytheistic gods, not by a theistic God. These are crucial differences that invalidate the Greek myths as a source of biblical truth. There are three isolated quotes on in the New Testament, but none is on the resurrection (Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12). There are absolutely no references to pagan sources for the resurrection. Rather, the Old Testament is quoted and alluded to hundreds of times as the source of New Testament truth, including the physical resurrection (cf. Acts 2:25-32; Acts 13:33-37 cf. Acts 17:2-3).

Ninth, while Fales promotes a symbolical mythological interpretation of the New Testament, he fails to realize this cannot be done without a literal understanding of the text. For one cannot know what is not literal (e.g., symbolic), unless he knows what is literal. Indeed, Fales illustrates this point in his approach to the Jonah text by Matthew. For he reasons that “three days and nights cannot be understood literally, since Jesus was only in the grave for a day and a half. Hence, it must be taken symbolically.”

Tenth, as Fales admits, his theses are controversial. Indeed, his central thesis is farfetched and is rejected by the vast majority of New Testament scholars. How he can take the intention of the biblical author as the source of meaning and claim the resurrection was the political triumph of Christianity over the political powers that wished to dominate it is beyond imagination! It is pure and unmitigated eisegesis of the text!

Eleventh, ironically, his whole symbolic structuralism castle in the sky is based on the failure to see the phrase “three days and three nights” as a figure of speech which conservative scholars acknowledge. Also, had he only taken his own affirmation seriously that the roots of the New Testament, especially Matthew, are in the Old Testament, he would have known that this phrase is a Hebraism meaning any part of a “day/night” unit. For the Psalmist said the righteous person was to meditate on God’s law “day and night.” Certainly he did not mean for 24 hours but daily. Second, the book of Esther shows that three days and three nights can mean less than that. For she appeared “on the third day” before the king (which would be Sunday, if it was then Friday) and yet they were not to drink or eat for “three days, night or day” (4:16) in the interim. The literal method of interpretation always leaves room for figures of speech within the overall literal meaning.[9]


  1. See William F. Albright, “William Albright: Toward a More Conservative View,” Christianity Today, 18 January 1963.
  2. Ibid.
  3. See John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976)
  4. See Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W. W. Norton, 1978).
  5. See Colin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990).
  6. James G. Frazer, Golden Bough (Lindon: Macmillan, 1890; reprint New York: Crown, 1981), 342, n. 38.
  7. Ronald Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks (Dallas: Probe, 1992).
  8. Edwin Yamauchi, “Easter-Myth, Hallucination, or History?” Christianity Today (29 March 1974 and 15 April 1974).
  9. See Gary Habermas’ detailed response to Fales in Philosophia Christi, volume 3 (2001), 76-87.

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