“Almost all evangelical Christians believe that the writing of the Bible was divinely inspired and represents God’s main revelation to humanity. They also believe that the Bible contains special features which constitute evidence of its divine inspiration. This would be a use of the Bible to prove God’s existence within natural theology rather than within revealed theology, since the book’s features are supposed to be evident even to (open-minded) skeptics. Furthermore, since a divinely inspired work must be true, those features are thereby also evidence of the Bible’s truth, and thus can be used in support of Christianity as the one true religion. When expressed that way, the reasoning can be construed as an argument both for God’s existence and for the truth of the gospel message from the alleged special features of the Bible. We may refer to it as ‘the Argument from the Bible’.”
In this tightly-argued article, Price forcefully argues for the hypothesis that 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is a post-Pauline interpolation.
Responding to William Lane Craig’s critique, Price defends the hypothesis that 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is a post-Pauline interpolation.
A transcript of Dan Barker’s 1996 debate with Michael Horner on the Resurrection of Jesus.
New Testament scholar Robert M. Price exposes the various fallacies and sophistries in William Lane Craig’s apologetic for the Resurrection.
In this very brief introduction to the cognitive dissonance theory of Christian origins, Kris D. Komarnitsky evaluates several critiques of this theory by William Lane Craig and discusses the difference between terms like “possible,” “plausible,” and “most plausible” when trying to assess different explanations for an event.
Critique of some details of William Lane Craig’s reiteration of his Empty Tomb argument, and Habermas’ defense of the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus, in the book In Defense of Miracles.
Montgomery asserts that Christianity’s claims survive examination using the legal tests for evidence. He does this only by misstating and twisting the rules of evidence and the facts.
First of All, Let’s Laugh at All the Lawyers (Or, Cheap Legal Thrills at the Expense of Justice) (Off Site) by James Patrick Holding
Holding criticises Packham’s argument in the above essay.
Packham responds to Holding’s critique above
From 1998 to 2000, Michael Martin engaged Christian apologist Steven Davis in an exchange on the rationality of belief in the Resurrection in Philo. In a recent article in Philosophia Christi, Davis revisits the exchange and criticizes many of the arguments Martin raised earlier. Martin continues the exchange on the rationality of belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ for Christians in this latest installment on the Secular Web.
Dan Barker discusses a contradiction between Luke and Paul’s account of Paul’s conversion to Christianity.
Did Jesus meet the disciples in Galilee after his resurrection? Farrell Till writes that “this meeting in Galilee poses tremendous credibility problems.”
After the women supposedly saw the empty tomb, did they tell anyone what they saw or didn’t they? “That’s the problem that inerrantists must resolve.”
In this outline of what may have given rise to the beliefs and traditions in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 if Jesus did not rise from the dead, Kris D. Komarnitsky explains why using these verses to support the historical reliability of the Gospels is problematic.
William Lane Craig has argued for the historicity of Jesus’ empty tomb on the basis of ten lines of evidence. In response, Jeffery Jay Lowder argued that Craig had not yet shown that any of his ten items of evidence make the empty tomb more probable than not. Anne A. Kim has attempted to defend some of Craig’s arguments against Lowder’s objections, but as Lowder shows in this response to Kim, Kim has repeatedly misunderstood his points and attacked caricatures of his arguments rather than his actual arguments.
Several commentators have attempted to reduce Hume’s maxim about miracles to a formula in the language of probability theory. This paper examines two such attempts, one of which is based on the probability of the alleged miracle conditioned by the testimony for it, and the other on its unconditional probability. The conditional probability leads to a formula that is valid—though only when qualified—but not useful, while the unconditional probability results in an invalid formula. The utility of expressing Hume’s maxim in terms of probability theory is shown to be questionable, and an alternative approach is presented.
There’s a discrepancy between the Gospel of Luke on the one hand, and the Gospels of Mark and Matthew on the other, as to where Jesus’ disciples were instructed to stay after Jesus’ resurrection. Luke has the post-Resurrection Jesus instructing them to stay in Jerusalem, whereas Mark and Matthew have him telling them to stay in Galilee. In an article for Apologetics Press, Eric Lyons attempts to explain away this discrepancy by positing that Jesus’ post-Resurrection instructions to his disciples in Luke didn’t necessarily happen on Easter Sunday, but could have happened on a subsequent day. In this response to Apologetics Press, however, J. C. Jackson points out that this interpretation is flatly inconsistent with the conclusions of innumerable Christian scholars and theologians. Worse still, it’s inconsistent with the understanding of early Christians themselves, who were willing to simply remove references to an event in Luke’s Gospel altogether in order to smooth over the timeline problems that keeping them would lay bare. But most damning of all, Jackson’s direct analysis of the context clearly demonstrates that Apologetics Press’ rationalization of the discrepancy immediately falls apart.
The Geisler-Till Debate (1994)
A transcript of Farrell Till’s debate with Christian philosopher Norman Geisler on the historicity of the Resurrection.
In these slides for his opening statement in his debate with Michael Licona on July 1, 2012 at Antioch Temecula Church in Temecula, California, Robert Greg Cavin presents one of the strongest cases against the resurrection of Jesus ever presented, decisively refuting arguments for the Resurrection by prominent Christian apologists Timothy McGrew, Lydia McGrew, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, Stephen T. Davis, Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, Norman Geisler, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel. Cavin makes three main contentions: (1) the prior probability of a supernatural resurrection of Jesus by God is so astronomically low that it has virtually no plausibility; (2) theorizing such a resurrection to explain the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus is ad hoc and devoid of nearly any explanatory power and scope; and (3) a far superior alternative theory can account for the empty tomb and postmortem appearances. In defending these three contentions, Cavin refutes sixteen myths perpetuated by Christians apologists about critics’ objections to the Resurrection.
Lowder provides a point-by-point rebuttal to Craig’s case for the empty tomb. Along the way, Lowder defends a naturalistic explanation of the empty tomb. He concludes that historians should be agnostic about the empty tomb story.
Kirby argues against the historicity of the empty tomb.
The Horner-Till Debate (1995)
The transcript of the 1995 debate between Michael Horner and Farrell Till on the historicity of the Resurrection.
Till surveys the inconclusive evidence about early Christian “martyrs.”
“Although McKinsey occasionally raises some good points concerning the Resurrection and the extrabiblical references to Jesus, they are often hidden within many more objections that are either irrelevant, fallacious, or both. Moreover, there are many important issues related to the historicity of Jesus and the Resurrection, which McKinsey ignores. … Given these shortcomings in the sections on the historicity and resurrection of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder what deficiencies exist in the rest of McKinsey’s Encyclopedia. I do not recommend skeptics rely on McKinsey’s scholarship without first independently verifying his claims in a reliable source.”
The received view of Hume scholars is that Part I of David Hume’s essay “Of Miracles” proffers an argument that it is never rational to accept a miracle claim on the basis on testimonial evidence. But even among those advocating the received view, there’s debate about exactly what argument is being offered in Part I. More significantly, the received view of Part I is notoriously hard to reconcile with the four evidential arguments offered in Part II of the essay. For if no testimony would ever be sufficient to establish that a miracle has occurred under any circumstances, why bother to evaluate whether the testimony that we actually have is good enough to rationally accept that any miracles have in fact occurred? In this essay Keith Parsons reconciles Parts I and II of Hume’s long-debated “Of Miracles” by interpreting Part I to be allowing the possibility that one could rationally affirm the occurrence of a miracle on the basis of testimony in an ideal case. Part II then simply aims to show that no actual miracle claims even come close to approximating the ideal case. That is, in Part I Hume the philosopher lays out exactly how heavy a burden of proof the miracle claimant must meet when miracle claims are directed toward the well-prepared skeptic. Then in Part II Hume the historian cites the historical evidence that has been offered for miracle claims to show how unlikely it is that any actual miracle claim can meet such a burden. These two parts combine to show that, while it is in principle possible to substantiate a miracle claim with human testimony, the actual circumstances of such claims disclose a vast gap between what is verifiable in principle and what is confirmable in practice.
In Hume’s Abject Failure, philosopher John Earman argues that David Hume’s famous maxim that no testimony is sufficient to establish that a miracle has occurred unless its falsehood would be more miraculous than the miracle itself is just a trivial tautology, namely that we should not believe a miracle claim unless the evidence makes it more probable than not. But even if this interpretation is correct, contemporary Christian apologists fail to satisfy Hume’s purportedly obvious condition that it must be more probable that a miracle occurred than that it did not occur when they argue that the miraculous resurrection of Jesus probably occurred.
An interesting consideration of the central thesis of Stephen Davis’s Risen Indeed, that “both the supernaturalist’s belief and the naturalist’s doubt in the resurrection can be rational given an awareness of the best cases for both sides”. Wunder compares and contrasts Gary Habermas’s core facts in support of the Resurrection with the arguments of Wells and Martin in support of the Mythicist hypothesis.
After illustrating how people can come to different conclusions about the exact same evidence, Kris D. Komarnitsky invites readers to come to their own conclusions concerning an important piece of evidence about Christian origins related to the discovered empty tomb tradition.
Demonstrates from sources that in the time of Jesus the Jews had the full practice of their own laws, and that these laws required that Jesus be taken down Friday, that he be placed in a temporary tomb for the Sabbath, and that he be buried Saturday night in a special graveyard reserved for criminals. Therefore, Jesus could not have been in the tomb of Joseph Sunday morning. Also, a “third day” motif in Jewish law and exegesis is examined that may relate to early Christian resurrection belief.
Was the burial of Jesus a temporary one, because of time constraints? (October 3, 2002) by Glenn Miller (Off Site)
Miller rebuts the hypothesis that Jesus’ body was only temporarily stored in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. [Note: Carrier’s 2001 essay was updated in May 2002 to address Miller’s significant points.]
The Man with No Heart: Miracles and Evidence (1998) by Richard Packham
What would it really take to justify belief that a miracle has happened? This is a brief example of a resurrection miracle that would warrant belief.
In this online debate between Richard Carrier and Tom Wanchick, Carrier opens with a discussion of method followed by 5 arguments for naturalism and 2 arguments against theism, while Wanchick opens with 9 arguments for theism. In the first rebuttals, each debater criticizes the arguments offered by the other in the opening statements. In the second rebuttals, each debater defends their opening arguments against the criticisms of the other in the first rebuttals. Both closing statements focus on the purported deficiencies of the other debater’s overall case.
Osiris and Pagan Resurrection Myths: Assessing the Till-McFall Exchange (2002) (Off Site) by Richard Carrier
As a degreed expert on ancient history, Carrier assesses the ongoing debate between Mark McFall and Farrell Till regarding the influence of the pagan resurrection myths on Christianity and finds that both are right–and wrong. Carrier outlines three decisive objections to the Resurrection story: 1) the event is not proportionate to the theory, 2) the evidence casts suspicion on the event being a true Resurrection, and 3) the New Testament casts suspicion on Jesus actually appearing after his death.
Richard Carrier opens this debate by defending the proposition that the Apostle Paul, our earliest source for original Christian beliefs, believed that God supplied Jesus (as he will supply us) with a new body at his resurrection, rather than raising up the body that was buried (contrary to the evolved versions of Christianity we find today). To the contrary, Jake O’Connell argues that first-century Jewish sources always use the term “resurrection” to denote a “one-body” view of resurrection, and thus Paul is likely using it to mean the same. In the end, O’Connell concludes that there are a few instances in which Paul unambiguously affirms a one-body theory, while there are none in which he clearly affirms a two-body view. By contrast, Carrier ultimately concludes that much of scholarship, as well as Paul’s own words (explicitly and implicitly), supports the notion that Paul held a two-body view of resurrection.
The Perman-Till Debate on the Resurrection (1996-1997)
The Resurrection of Christ: Myth or Reality? (1996) by Matthew Perman
Perman’s initial statement.
Farrell Till rebuts Perman’s initial statement.
The Resurrection Stands Firm: A Response to Farrell Till (1996) by Matthew Perman
Part 1 of 3 of Till’s reply to Perman’s second attempt to defend the historicity of the Resurrection.
Part 2 of 3 of Till’s reply to Perman.
Part 3 of 3 of Till’s reply to Perman.
The Resurrection of Jesus (Off Site) by Steven Carr
How did the stories of the resurrection change over time?
In The Case Against Miracles, John Loftus continues his counterapologetic project by focusing on miracle claims. Although ostensibly a multicontributor response to Lee Strobel’s work, it passes over the point-by-point response format and instead provides a range of arguments that miracle claims should be met with incredulity. David Corner argues that apologists cannot even meet the basic criteria of showing that an alleged miracle has occurred, that it cannot be explained by natural causes, and that it is not simply a natural anomaly to established facts. Matt McCormick argues that the performance of miracles is inconsistent with God’s traditional divine attributes. John Loftus argues that alleged miracles must be demonstrably impossible on naturalistic grounds while simultaneously meeting a high bar of evidence that they actually occurred. Darren Slade notes a major shortcoming in Craig S. Keener’s overt enthusiasm for recording miracle stories without being able to verify them independently. Slade recommends that miracle investigators instead employ forensic and law enforcement methods like Criteria-Based Content Analysis and the ADVOKATE criteria for assessing eyewitness testimony. Other pieces argue that since the New Testament suggested an imminent return of Christ, the absence of Christ’s return is evidence for the prophetic failure of the text; that the Bible is not an accurate source of history; and that specific miraculous claims within the biblical text contradict scientific discoveries. Loftus’ penultimate chapter primarily serves as a response to Michael Licona’s recent apologetic monograph on the resurrection of Jesus.
Wells presents evidence that the events described in the New Testament were written over time to support the agendas of the Christian church, questioning the authorship of the Book of Acts and casting doubt on the events it and the Gospels describe. In his review Price notes that while “Wells’s usual targets are conservative apologists who are trying to twist the results of criticism in order to preserve an essentially precritical estimate of Scripture, this time he is going after liberal and radical theologians who readily admit that the damage to traditional views has been devastating.”
In this review of a debate between atheist historian Richard Carrier and fundamentalist Christian historian Michael Licona on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Tabash summarizes the arguments offered by both sides and offers a critique of their arguments. He also points out areas where Carrier could have stressed significant points more emphatically than he in fact did.
William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith is an apologetics textbook ranging over arguments for the existence of God to the alleged evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. It also includes discussions of Craig’s views on faith, the meaning of life, miracles, history, and Jesus’ view of himself, as well as an original chapter on the reliability of the New Testament by evangelical New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg. In this critique Chris Hallquist argues that at best Reasonable Faith provides thoughtful arguments for the existence of some sort of God, but not the Christian God specifically, and that Craig fails to adequately answer arguments that belief in miracles–including belief in the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection–is unwarranted. Moreover, by implication Craig wants his audience to renounce the basic moral notion that no one deserves eternal punishment for picking the wrong religion. In the end, Craig wants us to believe something that all reason is against, though paradoxically every apologetic assumes that we must take reason seriously. This is, ultimately, why Craig’s apologetic fails.
In The Resurrection of Christ liberal theologian Gerd Lüdemann tackles the biggest miracle claim of all, explaining why he no longer finds traditional Christian beliefs tenable–particularly belief in the Resurrection as described in the canonical Gospels. Moreover, he makes the case that a Christianity based on reconstructing the teachings of the historical Jesus without a miraculous underpinning is an empty creed. However, the book suffers from a number of shortcomings, from the crucial omission of any discussion of Gospel genre to the lack of informed textual criticism. Lüdemann’s book would also have been more useful had he spent more time rebutting Christian apologetic defenses of the historicity of the Resurrection. Lüdemann nevertheless offers a fresh translation and analysis of the texts he surveys, and competently takes on those who think that we can still be Christians despite the nonhistoricity of the resurrection of Christ.
In the early 20th century anthropologist James Frazer proposed a recurrent dying-and-rising-gods motif in pre-Christian Near Eastern mythology. In The Riddle of Resurrection, Tryggve Mettinger attempts to revive this notion, but only by questionably redefining resurrection to mean some sort of continued existence after death. Mettinger concludes that there is no compelling evidence for a connection between this motif and Christianity, but nevertheless that the existence of such a connection remains an open question. This is an important qualification because popular Christian authors have cited Mettinger’s work as evidence that there were no pagan influences on Christian beliefs about Jesus. In fact Mettinger denies having provided any sort of complete study which might support the uniqueness of the Christian concept of resurrection.
I review Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. I conclude that “Strobel did not interview any critics of Evangelical apologetics. He sometimes refutes at great length objections not made by the critics (e.g., the claim that Jesus was mentally insane); more often, he doesn’t address objections the critics do make (e.g., the unreliability of human memory, that non-Christian historians do not provide any independent confirmation for the deity of Jesus, etc.) Perhaps this will be a welcome feature to people who already believe Christianity but have no idea why they believe it. For those of us who are primarily interested in the truth, however, we want to hear both sides of the story.”
If the four gospel authors were divinely inspired, writes Till, “there would be no maze of inconsistencies in the juxtaposition of their stories.”
Was the success of Christianity too improbable for Christianity to have been false? According to James Holding’s “Impossible Faith,” no one would have accepted early Christianity if it were not true. In particular, he offers seventeen hostile conditions, plus an additional critical assumption about the role of luck, that he claims would have made it impossible for Christianity to succeed–unless it was true. In this remarkably extensive chapter-by-chapter critique, Richard Carrier evaluates Holding’s arguments in light of historical scholarship and identifies several troubling fallacies in Holding’s reasoning.
Matson addresses the claim that the Apostles would not have died for something they knew was false.
According to Till, “just about everyone who had been associated with Jesus knew that he was supposed to be resurrected except the apostles.”
In this explanation of why he is not a Christian, Keith Parsons discusses the role that Christianity has played in perpetuating suffering throughout human history, the bizarre doctrine of inflicting eternal punishment on persons for having the wrong beliefs, the composition, inconsistencies, and absurdities of the New Testament Gospels, William Lane Craig’s flawed case for the resurrection of Jesus, the role of legendary development and hallucinations in early Christianity, and C.S. Lewis’ weak justifications for the Christian prohibition on premarital sex.
There are many reasons that I am not a Christian. I am an atheist for reasons more fundamental than anything to do with particular religions, but the arguments in favor of the Christian creed as opposed to any other are ubiquitous and always center around the historical claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. As an historian with a good knowledge of Greek, I am now very qualified to make a professional judgement in the matter. This essay explains why I find the Resurrection to be an unconvincing argument for becoming Christian.
Julie’s River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection (2005) by Robert Turkel (Off Site)
Turkel discusses an analogy used by some apologists to compare the resurrection of Jesus to the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar as well as skeptical critiques of that analogy, including Carrier’s critique. Turkel contends that "the evidence for the Resurrection is as good as, or better than, that for Caesar crossing the Rubicon."
Against Carrier’s argument in the Main Argument of Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story, James Holding claims (in “Julie’s River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection“) that we have as much evidence that Jesus rose from his grave as we have that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. There are numerous errors in Holding’s argument. Carrier’s rebuttal responds briefly to the most important issues. In the end, Carrier’s claim remains unchallenged: we have more evidence that Caesar crossed the Rubicon than we have that Jesus rose from the grave. Therefore, the claim that this resurrection is “as well attested” as the Rubicon crossing is still false.
In “No Miracles Today Implies None Then,” a section of the “General Case for Insufficiency” of “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story,” Richard Carrier develops an argument against the reliability of historical account of miracles. In response, Amy Sayers argues that negative analogies from the present to the past are logically invalid. But, as Carrier shows in this rebuttal, Sayers herself commits the fallacy of false generalization in arguing against negative analogies. Moreover, she incorrectly formulates Carrier’s argument that the current absence of miracles implies none in the past–an argument which is deductively valid when formulated correctly.
This essay addresses William Lane Craig’s argument to the effect that “tests” from Herodotus demonstrate that myths or legends (such as resurrection appearances or an empty tomb) cannot grow within a single generation. By misrepresenting a single source, Craig creates an empty argument out of whole cloth. Moreover, he never addresses (or else dismisses outright) rather basic questions about treating the Gospels as history.