Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 5, Part B: Skeptics are Always Looking for A Way Out; The Disciples Wrote the Gospels in a Non-Historical Genre

I love this one!  It has all the classic conservative Christian errors in bad logic.

“There are different genres of literature…   To claim that the disciples wrote in a non-historical genre is to claim that the disciples did not literally mean that Jesus rose from the dead but rather invented a fable about his rising and assigned him divine attributes in order to honor him and communicate a message.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 86

Gary:  So what is the problem with this statement?  Answer:  the majority of experts do not believe that the disciples or any eyewitness for that matter wrote the Gospels or the Book of Acts!  To quote New Testament scholar NT Wright,

“I don’t know who the authors of the Gospels were, nor does anyone else.”

So even though most skeptics believe that the authors of the Gospels most probably did believe that Jesus had been resurrected (in some fashion) from the dead, Habermas and Licona should not make the above statement without admitting that their claim that “the disciples” wrote these works of literature is a minority view of scholarship.

“Although the nonhistorical genre theory can seem quite reasonable at first glance, it is plagued with serious problems.  First, it cannot account for the empty tomb, especially since this can be established by multiple arguments, even from texts outside the New Testament accounts.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 87

Gary:  Wow!  So Habermas and Licona want their readers to disbelieve the possibility that the Resurrection story is a genre of non-historical literature because it “cannot take into account the Empty Tomb”, an event supported by the majority of scholars according to Habermas’ infamous literature search, but in the previous sentences they just tried to convince the readers of this book that the disciples wrote the Gospels in direction contradiction to the majority opinion of scholars.  Why the inconsistency??  If you are going to appeal to “Majority Scholarly Opinion” on one issue then why not be consistent and appeal to it on all issues, gentlemen?  The fact of the matter is that conservative Christians usually denigrate majority scholarly opinion on almost all other issues related to Christianity and biblical scholarship as “biased and liberal” except when it comes to the historicity of the Empty Tomb, and then the majority opinion of scholars is placed on a pedestal, equivalent to the inerrancy of the Holy Bible itself!

Now some Christian readers will say, “But Gary, you do the same thing!”  Yes, it is true, but here is my excuse:  I accept the majority scholarly opinion on all issues except one:  the historicity of the Empty Tomb.  Why?   Because the only study we have for this claim is a literature search from evangelical scholar Gary Habermas and he won’t release his data!  I want to see what percentage of the authors who wrote articles on the topic of the Empty Tomb between the years of 1975 and 2005 were evangelical, conservative Christians.  If the overwhelming majority of the authors of these articles were evangelical, conservative Christians then the results are skewed and this study cannot be used to reflect the consensus opinion of “all critical scholars”.

Release the data, Dr. Habermas!

Now, what about H and L’s claim that “[the Empty Tomb] can be established by multiple arguments, even from texts outside the New Testament accounts”?  H and L give a footnote after this statement (the footnotes themselves are at the back of the book).  So on page 293 we read this:  “See the evidence presented for the empty tomb in chapter 4.  Note that the arguments of the Jerusalem factor and enemy attestation are practically independent of the New Testament.”

Well, we did read the “evidence” in chapter 4 and found it very weak.  The “Jerusalem factor” is based on assuming the veracity of the stories in the very books whose historical veracity is in dispute.  And the “enemy attestation” cannot be proven to be anything more than early Church Fathers putting the words of the Evangelists into the mouths of the scapegoated Jewish people.

Bottom line:  I nor most skeptics believe that the authors of the Gospels invented the concept of Jesus’ resurrection.  Most of us believe that the earliest Christians sincerely believed that Jesus had (in some fashion) risen from the dead.  The concept of Jesus’ resurrection was therefore not invented.  It was not a literary invention neither was it a lie.  However, that does not mean that every detail and pericope in the Gospels about the early Christian resurrection belief is historical fact.  That is the issue, folks.



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