A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave/Part 4

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 4

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

Chapter 9: “The Plausibility of Theft” by Richard Carrier

Carrier claims, “But there are still other accounts that remain at least as good as the supernatural alternative. So even if the empty tomb story is not a legend, it is not necessary to conclude that only a genuine resurrection would explain it” (349). “The present essay demonstrates the plausibility (but by no means the certainty) of the hypothesis that the body of Jesus was stolen. In the process, it also presents several reasons to doubt Matthew’s claim that the tomb of Jesus was guarded, including the fact that the entire episode bears apparent and deliberate parallels with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den” (349).

Carrier challenges William Craig’s arguments that there is no positive evidence for the stolen body hypothesis for several reasons.

First, he responds to Craig’s argument that we don’t know anyone who had a motive to do so. Carrier argues that necromancers did, looking for body parts for use in their ceremonies (350). The disciples did also as Trypho the Jew charged to Justin Martyr (351). An annoyed vindictive gardener could have a motive (351). At least one of Jesus’ entourage of 70 could have engaged in pious deceit (352).

Second, Craig said only a few persons knew where the grave was, but Joseph and the women knew, as did the Roman guards (and anyone who may enquire from them by bribery or otherwise) (352).

Third, contrary to Craig, there was plenty of time to pull it off. There were thirty-six hours. There were two whole nights before the guards were stationed when most people were home for the Sabbath – “there could hardly be better conditions” (352).

Fourth, the grave clothes did not preclude theft since body-snatchers want body parts not clothes and the location was known well enough (353).

Fifth, not all conspiracies come to light and not all grave robbing involves conspiracy. Many crimes go unsolved. Iran-Contra and Watergate are atypical illustrations, but in the first century they had none of the technologies that broke these scandals (353-54).

Sixth, as to Craig’s argument that the theft view does not explain the appearances, “There is simply nothing improbable in an empty tomb being the result of a theft, which then is linked with . . ., independent reports of appearances, especially appearances of a visionary kind, such as that which converted Paul. The physicality of appearances in the Gospels can be a doctrinal and legendary development . . . considering that appearances are wholly absent from the earliest Gospel . . . and nothing in the epistles entails physical appearances. . . . Indeed, mere rumor can start legends of postmortem appearances almost immediately . . .” (354).

Finally, as to Craig’s statement that at least a “rumor” of the theft theory should have remained, Carrier responds that it has (in Matt. 28:15 and three other texts) (355). As to whether Christianity could have survived if a theft had been discovered, Carrier believes it could have. He points to numerous examples where cults survived after their claims were falsified such as the so-called UFO coverup, NASA’s “face on mars,” Heaven’s Gate cult, and the Jonestown suicides. The fact that these did not explode into great world religions is explainable because “they were born in infertile soil. Christianity, by contrast, found itself in ideal social conditions for growth” (357). Why didn’t some records survive on the alleged theft coverup? Because we have no records of attacks on Christianity in the first century. “Christianity at its start was too tiny a sect to end up on anyone’s literary radar . . .” (357). “It is even possible that Jospehus did record the theft accusation, which was then erased by the Christian editor of the famous Testimonium Flavianum” (357 emphasis in original).

“The only conclusion left is that Craig is wrong: theft of the body is plausible, in both a general and a specific sense. In general, theft of a body, especially that of a crucified holy man, is the sort of thing that happened with some frequency at the time. In contrast, we cannot say the same about miraculous resurrections” (364 emphasis in original).

“Of course, we cannot know whether the body of Jesus was stolen, since all direct evidence has been erased by secrecy and time. But there is little justification for resorting to a supernatural explanation. For we know too little about what actually happened that weekend in Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago, and we have no good evidence that any form of supernaturalism is true” (364). “All the evidence we have that could be said to support resurrection over theft is scanty and not very reliable. And even that can all be explained by other natural phenomena, such as hallucination and legendary development” (364).

He concludes in the last footnote, “. . . even if resurrection were the most probable of all explanations available, it would still be more probable that something else happened. . . . As often happens when we know too little to be certain, even if we thought resurrection was the most likely explanation of the facts, we would not know enough to be sure it was the right explanation” (368, no. 38 emphasis in original).

Response to the Arguments:

First, even Carrier admits that his central thesis cannot be known to be true and that he has no “direct evidence” for it (364). He said, “Of course, we cannot know whether the body of Jesus was stolen, since all direct evidence has been erased by secrecy and time.” Further, he admits that “all the evidence we have that could be said to support resurrection over theft is scanty and not very reliable” (364). One wonders, then, how he can say that it is “plausible”? Indeed, how can he conclude that “he only conclusion left is that Craig is wrong” (364)?

Second, his anti-supernatural bias plays heavily in his decision. Following Hume, he speaks of a greater antecedent probability for natural explanations (364). But we do not determine whether events happened by antecedent probability. Otherwise, neither the Big Bang origin of the universe nor spontaneous generation of first life could be known to be true – which Carrier and other naturalists believe did occur. Nor could macro-evolution be known to have occurred which many naturalist take as a proven fact. The antecedent probability of getting a perfect bridge hand is only one in 635 billion plus. But this does not mean that there is no good evidence that one has ever been dealt. In fact, the persons who have had them (and their witnesses) have one hundred percent certainty that it did happened, despite the great odds against it.

Third, Carrier’s overall logic is strange. For he contends that “even if we thought R[resurrection] was the most likely explanation of the facts, we would not know enough to be sure it was the right explanation.” Why? Because, “is often happens when we know too little to be certain . . .” (368, no. 38). If he means absolute or mathematical certainty, then he surely is right. But if he means general certainty based on high probability, then the naturalist is clearly wrong. All naturalists (like Carrier) believe macro-evolution is so firmly established that it is virtually certain – so certain that many call it a “fact.” Yet, macro-evolution, like the historicity of Jesus, is based on fragmentary evidence from the past. For we have only a tiny fraction of all fossil evidence of all the animals from the past. Yet, naturalistic evolutionists believe they can reconstruct what actually happened with a high degree of certainty. Why, then, cannot we do the same with the main events of Jesus life such as his death and resurrection?

Fourth, all of his arguments for the theft hypothesis are based on the unproven assumption that the canonical Gospels are not reliable. But there is strong evidence to the contrary.[1] Hence, the theft theory fails in the light of the evidence.

Fifth, even granting Carriers basic premises that Paul wrote Corinthians in the mid-fifties and Mark wrote about twenty years later while many eyewitnesses were still alive, his skepticism about what Matthew, Luke, and John say is unwarranted. First of all, everything we need to know about the physical resurrection of Christ and physical appearances is known from Paul.[2] Second, usually myths about crucial events do not occur while the eyewitnesses are still alive. Carrier provides no evidence that macro-myths of this proportion (claiming that Jesus did not rise bodily) take long to gain widespread following.

Sixth, Carrier criticizes the argument from silence, yet he has to admit that his central argument rests on it. For he acknowledges that he has no direct evidence for the theft hypotheses. And blaming this on the lack of available first century records is an illicit argument from silence, he says, “Christianity at its start was too tiny a sect to end up on anyone’s literary radar . . .” (357). In response, it was big enough to generate more early books, manuscripts, and witnesses than any other event from the ancient world. And the probable – virtually certain – conclusion that Alexander the Great lived and conquered much of the world is based on only a fraction of the evidence we have for Christ’s death and resurrection.

Seventh, without objective grounds, Carrier chooses parts of the Gospels that favor his theft hypothesis and rejects others that are against it. Sometimes he does this in the same chapter and even on the same topic – the resurrection. For example, he is happy to accept Matthew 28:14-15 as an authentic report (even though Matthew says it is a lie) but rejects a few verse earlier (v. 9) when the women touch him in his resurrection body. He does the same with other texts as well.

Eighth, Carrier says that the appearances are “wholly absent” in Mark. Habermas notes that this is misleading. For “even critical scholars realize that Mark is very much aware of Jesus’ appearances—he simply chose to reveal these in a different manner. Otherwise Mark would not have (1) predicted the appearances at least four times in Mark 8, 9, 10, and 14; (2) had the angels announce not only the resurrection itself, but also that Jesus would appear to them in Galilee; and (3) scholars note that the reference to ‘go tell the disciples and Peter’ may well have been a purposeful forecast of the appearance to Peter as noted in the early creeds in 1 Cor. 15:5 and Luke 24:34.”

Chapter 10: “The Burial of Jesus in Light of Jewish Law” by Richard Carrier

Summary of the Argument:

Carrier claims that, “the surviving evidence, legal and historical, suggests the body of Jesus was not formally buried Friday night when it was placed in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, that instead it had to have been placed Saturday night in a special public graveyard reserved for convicts. On this theory the women who visited the tomb Sunday morning mistook its vacancy. That, in conjunction with other factors (like reinterpretations of scripture and things Jesus said, the dreams and visions of leading disciples, and the desire to seize an opportunity to advance the moral cause of Jesus), led to a belief that Jesus had risen from the grave. . . . And so Christianity began” (369).

Since the evidence is scant, “it is probably impossible to determine which explanation [resurrection or relocation] is correct, since the evidence we would need to decide the matter is gone. But so long as there are plausible natural explanations available, the resurrection story cannot be used as evidence of a supernatural event. For an inference to naturalism remains reasonable . . .” (370).

Carrier believes there are three plausible natural explanations, though he favors the first: First, “. . . the story is an outright legend (though with a genuine ‘spiritual’ core); and second, that the body was stolen, giving rise to belief that Jesus rose from the grave. Here I present a third: that the body of Jesus was legally moved, leading to a mistaken belief in his resurrection” (370 emphasis in original). For this view, Carrier offers the following argument: “First, Joseph of Arimathea’s action in seeking the body of Christ Friday evening was probably a standard procedure, required by Jewish law. Second, Joseph’s use of his own or an available tomb to hold Jesus temporarily during the Sabbath was also probably provided for by the law. And third, the law probably required Joseph to bury Jesus Saturday night in a special public graveyard reserved for blasphemers and other criminals of comparable ignominy” (371). The women then went to the vacated tomb and mistakenly assumed Jesus was resurrected, and the rest is history.

Carrier’s argument involves the acceptance of several premises:

1) We know Jewish burial law from the time of Christ (371-72).

2) The Roman’s allowed the Jews to practice their own burial rights (373-74).

3) Accordingly, Jesus had to be buried by sunset (375-79).

4) Jewish law allowed for temporary storage of a criminals dead body in a cool place on the Sabbath until permanent burial could be accomplished (382-85).

5) Jewish law demanded that criminals, such as Jesus was considered to be, be buried dishonorably in special graveyards reserved for this purpose (380-81).

6) Joseph of Arimathea, being a devout Jew, would not have violated this law and, so, he moved Jesus body to this criminal graveyard on Saturday (386).

7) Thus, the women discovered an empty tomb – the wrong one (387).

8) The women mistakenly began the resurrection myth (387).

9) This myth developed into a full blown belief in the resurrection and appearances of Christ and the immediate rapid spread of Christianity, the conversion of Saul, the conversion of James, and the willingness of early Christians to die for their beliefs (387).

Carrier concludes, “We are now left with a plausible natural explanation for reports of an ‘empty tomb,’ which may have sparked the entire Christian faith” (385).

Response to the Argument:

First, we note that even Carrier admits that “it is probably impossible to determine which explanation is correct . . .” (370). So, to claim, as he does, that this is a “plausible” explanation goes beyond the evidence. At best, it is only a logically possible explanation, but in the light of the historical evidence it is highly improbable.

Second, several of his premises are questionable (e.g., 5, 6, and 7). First of all, there were possible exceptions to this law (#5). Further, once permission was granted to Joseph for burial, no law was violated (#6). Finally, once permission was granted, this was the final burial site and a later empty tomb of this guarded grave was sign of a resurrection (#7).

Third, another premise is misconstrued (#4). Just because temporary storage was possible does not mean this was a case of it. The evidence is that it was not, since Jesus was prepared for burial (John 19), and a guard was placed there (Mt. 27:65) indicating that he was to be there for at least three days – the predicted time of His resurrection.

Fourth, even if one granted the first seven premises of Carrier’s argument (which I do not), the conclusions (# 8 and 9) do not follow. For not only did the women see an empty tomb but also saw an angel confirming Christ had risen and then met and handled Jesus themselves (Mt. 28:5, 9). Nor does it account for the fact that Peter and John had the same experience of seeing the empty tomb, as well as the grave clothes and the folded head cloth – things that would not have been left behind in that condition in a transfer to another tomb.

Fifth, even if #8 followed from #1-7 (which it does not), #9 does not follow from the preceding premises since it involves greater leaps in logic to believe that over 500 people on eleven occasions in the next few weeks (who saw his scars, heard him teach, touched his body, and ate with Jesus) were all hallucinating. On top of this, they immediately began to turn the world upside down with their bold and death-defying witness that Christ had risen from the dead. It takes a greater miracle to believe this than it does to believe in the simple, straight-forward account of the resurrection.

Chapter 11: “Financial Aspects of the Resurrection” by Duncan Derrett

Summary of the Argument:

Derrett proposes that what happened to Jesus’ body can be answered by “whom did any scenario profit? With this, key problems raised by our self-contradictory New Testament story may be resolved” (394).

Derrett acknowledges that “the disciples had, on four separate grounds, a most unpromising product to sell” (394). First, “if Jesus taught that the classic fetishes of Jewry (like the Scapegoat) were nonsense . . . a host of conservative people would object, especially in Jerusalem where the cult was an excellent money spinner” (394). Further, “Jesus’ own shameful execution was a second discouragement to any potential follower” (394). “The third discouragement was the continual falling-off of sympathetic objectors, reasonable or not” (395). “The fourth discouragement was that Jesus’ message never admitted as operationally valid the common principles of profit and loss” (395). He admitted, “So the disciples’ commodity was hard to sell. This very fact can be tendered with some confidence as a genuine witness to the Resurrection, for no one would peddle Jesus’ message without the most startling impetus. And no alternative has ever been offered. What was in their favor? What could outweigh these discouragements and attract such a man as Ananias?”(396).

In response, Derrett claimed Jesus’ message appealed to the poor, but “there was also an aspect that appealed to the well-to-do. In Jesus’ ‘irrational’ economy there was a peculiar balance between input and output. As one was prepared to invest in moral self-training . . . so there arose a sense of doing for the creator what he/she could not do for him/herself: one relished becoming Yahweh’s creditor instead of being his debtor (Prov. 19:17) . . .” (397). Thus, “One who looks after the poor gains a superiority which mere financial exchange cannot supply” (397).

“Did Resurrection Help the Business” (397)? Derrett answers in the affirmative for “Jesus’ strange experience even as truth was a ready-prepared parable. It could be construed, absurd as it seems, as an earnest of the general resurrection” (397). For “whatever they denied themselves in life (as he had) would be amply compensated for hereafter (Mark 10:30)” (398). As for the two “proofs” for the resurrection, (1) “It [Jesus’ body] could have been stolen; or Jesus was simply reburied (John 20:2); or he could have revived and been rescued” (398). (2) Further, “the appearances lack one feature which an appearance from the dead calls for – none give us any information which we did not have before” (398). Further, the witnesses were not credible because “no court is compelled to accept such testimony where there is a likelihood that a witness is disqualified by relationship, by want of religious status (orthodoxy), or by his having an interest in the outcome of the enquiry” (398).

But how could any event (but a resurrection) overcome the doubt and discouragement of his disciples at the execution of their leader as an impostor? But how were they to present their message of death and resurrection? “This is where entrepreneurial skill comes in.” To deny this “is to undervalue Jewish traditional gifts. For many centuries they supplied international traders, financiers. . . . They were active where large profits were to be made” (399).

“On the reappearance of Jesus after his burial the obvious question would arise: ‘What profit is there in this for us?’” The answer is “it enhanced the individual” and “the hostility of a section of the Jewish aristocracy seemed . . . to guarantee this” (400). Their motives were enhanced by the “divine recompense of the just, especially the righteous sufferer” (399). The ascension belief was based on that of Elijah (400-01). For “Throughout Jewish history, there have been people so holy that they were ‘taken up’; they entered heaven alive” [Enoch, Elijah, and Ezra are given as examples] (402). “When we come to the Appearances, the position is just as favorable. Pagan gods appeared when they chose. Disappearance leads naturally to expectation of reappearance without warning.” (404).

“Here was the scenario: here the origin of the fanciful theologizing which has served the Christian faith until unsympathetic skeptics tried to demolish what remains of useful legend. What was real about Jesus remains in his teaching, but it must be accepted that it required authoritative supplementation” (404).

Response to the Argument:

One can divine Derrett’s his central thesis from the word “financial” in the title and his introduction which raises the question of “profit.” The basic argument seems to be: (1) No one acts without a profit motive; (2) The disciples of Jesus had ample profit motive to construct the legend of Jesus’ death, resurrection, appearances, and second coming. (3) Hence, the New Testament is such a legend. In response, both premises can be challenged.

First, even the author admits there was no earthly, material profit motive for the self-denial and self-sacrifice of the disciples. To overcome this formidable difficulty Derrett constructs what even he calls a concocted and contrived “irrational” economy with a “peculiar balance between input and output” in which the disciples trade self-denial in order to relish “becoming Yahweh’s creditor instead of being his debtor . . .” (397). On the material face of it even Derrett has to admit that “the disciples had, on four separate grounds, a most unpromising product to sell” (394). Indeed, they did. In fact, Derrett never makes a convincing case that these real obstacles were ever overcome by his imaginary “scenario.” He never even overcomes the problem in his own statement of the problem: “So the disciples’ commodity was hard to sell. This very fact can be tendered with some confidence as a genuine witness to the resurrection, for no one would peddle Jesus’ message without the most startling impetus. And no alternative has ever been offered. What was in their favor?” (396).

Second, he never succeeds in demonstrating that the disciples of Jesus constructed this “irrational” economy. Further, he has to deny the well-established historicity of the core New Testament events in order to construct his air-castle of legend (see Hemer and Blomberg). Here again, Derrett never satisfies his own question: “Did the Resurrection Help the Business?” (397). He even admitted his answer was “strange” and could be construed “absurd” (397). Indeed, it is. For how can a profit motive be construed from the denial of all earthly visible profit in this life for an invisible, intangible one in the next life? And what besides a resurrection could convince Jesus’ Jewish disciples to do this?

Third, crucial premises of Derrett’s fairy tale are notably implausible. For example, that the early spread of what the disciples knew to be false in the face of death was accomplished by their Jewish “entrepreneurial skill”! Equally implausible is a concocted “irrational” economy with a “peculiar” twist to overcome the obvious anti-profit making motives of early Christian martyrs.

Fourth, his responses to the two kingpin “proofs” for the resurrection are evidentially deprived. (1) As for the empty tomb, he leaves the reader with mere possibilities and no real historical evidence. “It could have been stolen; or Jesus was simply reburied (John 20:2); or he could have revived and been rescued” (398 emphasis added). (2) As for his response to the twelve appearances to over 500 people over a forty day period of time (with varied physical evidence and contacts), Derrett’s response is like letting air out of a balloon. It rests on an a priori assumption and it provided no a posteriori evidence (398).

All in all, this is one of the weakest chapters in the book and which, thereby, will be as counter productive as any. Indeed, it will probably encourage most neutral readers toward belief in basic historicity of the resurrection narratives.

Chapter 12: “By this time He Stinketh: The Attempts of William Lane Craig to Exhume Jesus” by Robert Price

Summary of the Argument:

Price charges that like scientific creationism, Craig’s view of the resurrection “denote[s] a major step backward in terms of scientific method” (411). He insists that the fact New Testament scholarship is more conservative than it once was and has more “to do with which denominations can afford to train the most students, hire more faculty, and send more members to SBL.” Further, “most biblical scholars are and always have been believing Christians, even if not fundamentalists” (412).

Craig defends his appeal to authority by noting that it is not always bad, particularly when the authority is honest and reliable (e.g., DNA experts). Price calls this a “false analogy” since in those cases it is a life-threatening matter unlike the intellectual considerations of the New Testament (413).

He charges Craig with a “double truth” view based on his “distinction between knowing Christianity is true and showing it is true” (415). He then scolds Craig for his assertion that “I know Christianity is true because God’s Spirit lives in me and assures me that it is true. . . . If you are sincerely seeking God, then God will give you assurance that the gospel is true. Now to try to show you it is true, I’ll share with you some arguments and evidence that I really find convincing. But should my arguments seem weak and unconvincing to you, that’s my fault, not God’s” (415). Price castigates this view, claiming Craig is admitting that “his conviction arises from purely subjective factors, in no whit different from the teenage Mormon door knocker who tells you he knows the Book of Mormon . . . [is true because] he gets a warm, swelling feeling in his stomach when he asks God if it’s true” (416). Price sees Craig’s whole argument as “completely circular” and “he holds his faith on purely subjective grounds” (416). Thus, he sees Craig’s apologetic approach as a kind of “double truth” approach.

Price also thinks Craig “would retreat to the old red herring of ‘naturalistic presuppositions’ as a way of doing an end run around the most fundamental postulate of critical historiography” (417). He claims that “this is the most blatant kind of scurrilous mudslinging, no different from Creationist stump debater Duane Gish charging that ‘God-denying’ evolutionists must want society to become a den of murderers and pornographers” (417-18).

Since the New Testament asserts that Jesus was buried by the same people who crucified him (Acts 13:28-29), “in a case like this, one can easily imagine Jesus’ disciples knowing (or surmising) that he had been buried, but not knowing where, or knowing it to be a common grave, e.g., the Valley of Hinnom . . .” (422). Further, the New Testament hints and Tertullian states that some believed Jesus was only buried temporarily in Joseph’s tomb (423). What is more, the disciples did not start preaching until fifty days later when “it would have been moot to produce the remains of Jesus” (423). “In fact, one might even take the seven-week gap to denote that the disciples were shrewd enough to wait till such disconfirmation had become impossible” (423).

Price concludes that Craig is not a poor workman with bad tools. The tools are good, but “the job, in fact, cannot be done” (430). He cannot “know” Christianity is true without being able to “show” it is true. For to know subjectively what one cannot show objectively is to posit, in effect, a double view of truth.

Response to the Arguments:

First, it is obvious that, not just Price’s language but also his conclusions are excessive. Indeed, Price admits he has just “vented” and a brief reminder of his terms supports this. Consider words used of Craig’s arguments like “exegetical alchemy,” “tortuous attempts” that “smack of priestcraft and subterfuge” (426) and “the most blatant kind of scurrilous mudslinging,” etc. Me thinks thou doth protest too strongly.

Second, when Price gets down to the point, he misses it. He recognizes but denies the charge that critics of the resurrection have an antisupernatural bias, only to unconsciously admit it by adopting Bradley’s antisupernatural presupposition of critical history. He confuses uniformity (analogies from the present to study the past) which is a good principle with uniformitarianism (all events, present, and past will be assumed to have natural causes). His repeated reference to creation science makes the point. Analogies in the present, which are based on repeated observations (which is a proper basis for studying the past), are to show that not all events in the present (and past) are the result of natural causes. The sciences of archaeology and cryptology are cases in point. Namely, specified complexity, irreducible complexity, and anticipatory design all point to an intelligent cause in the present. We observe this repeatedly. Hence, when we have evidence that like events occurred in the past (like the specified complexity in DNA the first one celled organism [which is equal to a thousand volumes of an encyclopedia]), then we have good reason to posit a non-natural intelligent cause for them too. By this same forensic logic, we have no reason to deny that a resurrection of the body of Jesus of Nazareth could have (in a theistic world) a divine cause. Price fails to see that his uniformitarian view of so-called “critical history” is really a form of methodological naturalism which eliminates miracles a priori. Thus, he has not evaded the charge Craig leveled that antisupernaturalism is at the base of the denial of the historicity of the gospel accounts of the resurrection. This is true both logically and historically.

Third, Price argues that Craig should have seen that Paul modeled his view after the “Mystery Religion” groups that took “body” as an inner “spiritual body” which begins at baptismal regeneration (428). Apparently Price does not recognize this is itself a post hoc fallacy, lacking positive identification of the two which he does not provide.

Fourth, Price engages in a “Straw Man” argument,” claiming Craig is like “Duane Gish charging that ‘God-denying’ evolutionists must want society to become a den of murderers and pornographers” (418). Neither Craig’s nor Gish’s arguments depend on such a connection. Neither “want” society to become this. However, both would argue that denying a divine basis for morality will have, given time, a significant consequence of moral actions. Neither “want” the evil that results from denying a solid basis for ethics to occur. But experience tells us that it will.

Fifth, Price criticizes Craig for appeal to a majority of scholars in support (412), yet he does the same when he says “most New Testament scholars” believe (422) and “many New Testament scholars observe . . .” (426). Craig is correct in affirming that reliable experts (like DNA experts) are valuable in discovering truth, and Price is wrong in thinking the New Testament issues are not life and death issues. In fact, if the words of Jesus are correct, they are eternal life and eternal death issues!

Sixth, Price is mistaken in assuming that there are more conservatives now simply because there is more denominational money for them. He forgets that it just may be that there is more money from conservative churches because they actually believe the truth that transforms, namely, that Jesus conquered death! Further, to claim that “most biblical scholars are and always have been believing Christians” makes them biased, is like saying that no survivor of the holocaust is a reliable witness because he is biased against it. On the face of it, who is more likely to be biased against the miracle-ridden New Testament documents: atheistic antisupernaturalists or those that believe miracles are possible?

Seventh, while it does not affect the overall argument for the resurrection itself, Price has made an important point in criticizing Craig’s subjectivistic and seemingly dualistic approach to the verification of truth. It seems to me that Craig’s strategy, while conceived with good intent, not only can but has backfired. In fact, when I first heard about it some time ago, I feared this consequence. While evangelicals believe in the essential role of the Holy Spirit in confirming and convincing persons of the truth of Scripture, it is unwise and unbiblical to make the subjective and objective two separate sources of confirmation. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit, who through the objective truth, subjectively confirms it to the hearts of those who are willing to receive it. R. C. Sproul captured this important point in his article on the topic (see below). See also our article on “The Holy Spirit, Role in Apologetics” in Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.


  1. See Hemer Acts of the Apostles, [Colin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990).] and also Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove: IL: InterVarsity, 2001).
  2. See Norman Geisler and Wayne House, The Battle for God: Responding to the Challenge of Neotheism (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001).

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