“Few [historians] doubt [Jesus] was buried and that the tomb was empty three days later.” p. 44
If we accept the accuracy of Gary Habermas’ literature search, ONE QUARTER of all critical scholars doubt the historicity of the Empty Tomb. That is not “a few”, Dr. Francisco. If one quarter of all historians doubted that Julius Caesar was assassinated on the ides of March of 44 BCE, how definitive of an “historical fact” would this event be considered? I doubt it would be considered a “fact”. It would most likely be considered a “disputed event”. That is the current status of the Empty Tomb—a disputed event. And the status of the historicity of the bodily resurrection of the dead corpse of Jesus of Nazareth fares much worse.
Dr. Francisco then proceeds to attack philosopher David Hume and his claim that miracles are highly improbable, so improbable, that it is much more probable that the “eyewitnesses” of the alleged miracle are either lying or mistaken than that an event which defies the laws of nature has occurred. Francisco then attacks NT scholar and skeptic Bart Ehrman who holds a similar but nuanced version of Hume’s views.
I’m not going to try to disprove the reality of miracles here. I am only going to point out this fact: Tell a Christian that last night you were beamed aboard a Martian spaceship, flown to Mars at a speed faster than the speed of light, where you were given a walking tour of the Red planet for three hours, and then flown back to your home safe and sound. I promise you that your Christian friend will doubt your “miraculous” Martian space voyage with the same incredulity that you doubt his reanimated-first-century-dead-corpse miracle story. You see, his miracle story is true, because his holy book says so. Your miracle story is false, because it is silly, ridiculous, and it defies the laws of nature. Yet your Christian friend is aghast that you would be so narrow-minded as to not accept his miracle claims. He wants you to accept all his complicated philosophical theories for why there could be an alternate universe of gods, demons, devils, and resurrected corpses but refuses to accept that you toured Mars last night without an oxygen tank.
“But wait a minute!” Christians will protest. “Our holy books says there were multiple eyewitnesses for our miracle claim, you only have one alleged eyewitness for your silly Martian miracle.”
Nope, not true. The majority of experts do not believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses nor the associates of eyewitnesses and the Early Creed does not specify in what form Jesus “appeared” to the people on that alleged eyewitness list. For all we know, he “appeared” in the same form in which he appeared to Paul as described in Acts chapter 26: as a bright light.
So the only eyewitness testimony Christians have is Paul’s testimony. So it is one man’s crazy sounding reanimated dead corpse story against one man’s crazy sounding Mars trip story.
Why should anyone believe either story? Human beings, even very intelligent, educated human beings, come up with crazy ideas all the time! Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence for most educated people to believe them. That is just the way it is, Christians, like it or not. If your reanimated dead corpse story was not part of your religion, you would not believe it either.
“What then, can the historian say concerning the end of Jesus’ life? That he died by crucifixion is almost universally acknowledged. With the exception of what amount to conspiracy theories, so too is his burial in a tomb that was discovered empty three days later.” p.52
This is just ridiculous. This is analogous to this claim: “We have all heard the story that George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree. When asked if he had chopped down the cherry tree, George replied, ‘Yes, I did. I cannot tell a lie.’ This is an historical fact. Anyone who suggests otherwise is concocting conspiracy theories.”
No. The story of the cherry tree is a fictional story! It never happened. It is a legend. And the 25% of scholars who do not believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb suggest the same is true with the story of the Empty Tomb: it is a literary invention. It is not historical. It didn’t happen. It is unlikely to have happened for many reasons. Just because no alternative stories exist does not mean that the Empty Tomb story is true!
“All four Gospels describe women as the first to visit the empty tomb.” p. 53
So what! They are not four independent sources. We know as a fact that Matthew and Luke borrowed heavily from the first Gospel, Mark. We also know that Mark had been in circulation for many decades prior to the writing of the Gospel of John, therefore it is very probable that the author of John was familiar with the basic Empty Tomb pericope found in Mark and the other two Synoptic Gospels.
Dr. Bombaro and Mr. Pierson have stated that these four books are Greco-Roman biographies, whose authors would feel free to “ad lib” some extra, non-essential details to the story. Adding women finding the empty tomb is a “non-essential” detail as the testimony of women as eyewitnesses would not be considered valuable in a court of law in first century Palestine. But it is very dramatic as a literary device, isn’t it? The men have fled and are in hiding. But the women have courage; they remain faithful to Jesus. I think it deserves a Pulitzer!
“It is extraordinary that the numerous enemies of Christianity did not simply produce the body of Jesus to shut it [Christianity] down.” p. 55
If everyone living in the vicinity of Jerusalem in circa 33 CE knew that what was left of Jesus’ body had been tossed into a common grave with the remains of other executed criminals or, the remains had been left on the cross to be devoured by scavengers, what “body” would there be to produce? And here is another possibility: Maybe Jesus wasn’t the big deal the Gospels make him out to be. After all, Josephus says hardly anything about Jesus and Philo says zip about him! So maybe for the first few decades after his death, nobody cared about the Christians and their weird resurrection belief.
“The evidence from history is quite clear about certain facts pertaining to Jesus. He was crucified and died on a Roman cross. He did not swoon. The guarded tomb in which he was placed was empty three days later.” pp. 56-57
Gary: The “guarded” tomb?? This is an historical “fact”? Even many NT scholars doubt “Matthew’s” story of the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb. The author of Matthew is the only Gospel author who tells this story. Many scholars consider this story to be yet another example of literary fiction. Why would Dr. Francisco not mention this?
“All but one ( John) of the twelve apostles (including Paul but precluding Judas) and eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus (e.g., Matthias and Mark), according to historical tradition sources and tradition, went to their death standing firm on the claim that what they bore witness to was factual. Had they invented the story, one of them would have caved during their various trials and subsequent executions.” p. 57
Gary: Who said anything about the disciples inventing stories? Luedemann didn’t. Ehrman didn’t. I don’t think that even Crossan has made such a claim. The overwhelming majority of skeptics, including myself, believe that the earliest Christians sincerely believed that Jesus had been resurrected. They were not making anything up. They were not lying. They were simply mistaken! One or some of the them believed, for some reason, that Jesus had, in some manner, appeared to them, and voila!, the Resurrection Belief was born.
“We are left with no other explanation other than the fact that he rose from the dead. Alternative explanations are certainly possible, but if they are historical, they have to correspond to the evidence. The problem with the alternative explanations is that they are not drawn from and do not fit all of the evidence.” p. 57
The only facts that everyone (except mythicists) agree upon are the following:
–Jesus was crucified.
–Jesus died on the cross (no swoon).
–shortly after his death some of his followers came to believe that he had appeared to them, in some fashion.
–a few years later, Paul of Tarsus had an experience in which he believed that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.
–Christianity grew and spread throughout the known world in the subsequent centuries, even under persecution.
–Many Christians were willing to die for their beliefs.
What “fact” have I left out? The empty tomb? No, this claim is disputed so it cannot be included as a “fact”. The detailed appearance stories in the Gospels? No, these stories are disputed so they cannot be included. Therefore, based on the above agreed upon facts, there are many, many natural explanations which can explain all the above facts that are much more probable than a never heard of before or since resurrection of a dead corpse.