My review of books written by Christian scholars on the truth claims of Christianity, in particular, the Resurrection, continues, this time with evangelical Christian apologist William Lane Craig’s “The Son Rises”.
William Lane Craig (WLC): “The chief priests [of the Jews] bribed the guards who were at Jesus’ tomb, instructing them, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep’…And they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day” (Matthew 28:13, 15) This theory must have been fairly current among the Jews at that time, or Matthew would not have felt obligated to expose it.” p. 24
Gary: How do we know that the Jews really said this? Do we have quotes from first century Jewish sources themselves? No. All we have is “Matthew”. Centuries later, we have Justin Martyr and Tertullian asserting that the Jews said this but it is entirely possible that they were simply repeating “Matthew’s” allegation. We know that Matthew was a teller of tall tales. Most scholars do not believe his tale of dead saints being shaken alive out of their graves by an earthquake and even conservative scholar Richard Bauckham believes that the author of Matthew invented the story of the calling of Matthew the tax collector. The only Gospel author who claims that there were guards at Jesus’ tomb and that the Sanhedrin ordered the guards to spread the story that the disciples stole the body is “Matthew”. So I would take Matthew’s claim that Jews were still claiming, at the time he wrote his Gospel (which scholars say was circa 80 CE), that Jesus’ disciples had stolen Jesus’ body, with a grain of salt!
WLC: “The Gospels were written soon after the events and in the same place where the events had happened.” p. 26
Gary: Not according to the majority of scholars! Most scholars believe that the Gospels were written in far away lands, not in Palestine.
WLC: “The disciples preached the resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of their enemies only a few weeks after Jesus was crucified.” p. 27
Gary: Begging the Question! We are attempting to determine the veracity of stories in the Gospels and the Book of Acts and yet WLC is using statements in these very documents as if they are historical facts to prove the veracity of other statements in these documents! Very illogical logic, indeed!
WLC: “The disciples could not have stolen the body from the tomb, had they wanted to. The Jews had set the guard around the tomb specifically to prevent theft of the corpse.” p. 27
Gary: Come, come, Dr. Craig. You are on record admitting that practically NO ONE believes that there were guards at Jesus tomb!
“…the vast majority of New Testament scholars would regard Matthew’s guard story as unhistorical. I can hardly think of anybody who would defend the historicity of the guard at the tomb story” —William Lane Craig
WLC: “They [the disciples] had no inkling whatsoever that the Jewish Messiah (the prophesied coming King of Israel) would die and rise from the dead.” p. 27
Gary: According to the New Testament, Jesus had been preaching for three years that he would be crucified, buried, and rise again three days later, as recorded in all four Gospels…unless you believe that these passages are later insertions of the Church. Is that what Dr. Craig is insinuating by this statement but too afraid to admit to his evangelical followers?
WLC: “Were the gospels really written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? If even one gospel can be shown to be genuine , then that will be enough to ensure the truth of the story.” p. 30
Gary: Really? So if one of the gospels was written by one of the traditional authors that would guarantee that the stories within that gospel are 100% historical fact. I don’t think so. Eyewitnesses can be mistaken. Eyewitnesses can lie. Eyewitnesses can also embellish a story for literary/theological purposes, with no intent to deceive. Just because an eyewitness writes a story does NOT mean we can be 100% sure the story is true. And remember, even if the traditional authors did write the gospels, Mark and Luke never claimed to be eyewitnesses. And on top of all that, the majority of scholars do not believe that eyewitnesses nor the associates of eyewitnesses wrote the four Gospels. NT Wright said this: “I have no idea who the authors of the Gospels were, nor does anyone else.”
WLC: “Polycarp, who knew personally the disciple John and other eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry…”
“Papias, who also knew John…” p. 32
Gary: The overwhelming majority of scholars agree that we have no idea which “John” Polycarp refers to. Nor can we be certain that Papias had any contact or communication with “John”. Dr. Craig is seriously overstating the evidence for his position. He may even be breaking one of the Commandments!
WLC: “The second alternative, that the disciples were deceived, implies that the belief in the resurrection is due to religious hysteria and hallucinations. But this alternative fails on several grounds:
1.) Not just one person saw Jesus appear after his Resurrection, but many
2.) Not just lone individuals saw Him, but groups of people
3.) They did not see Him only once, but many times
4.) They did not merely see Him, but touched Him, conversed with Him, and ate with Him.
5.) Jesus body was not to be found.
Gary: So the story whose historical accuracy we are debating says!
If we look at the earliest appearance claims found in the Early Creed quoted by Paul in First Corinthians 15, we find: No descriptions of Jesus’ appearance; no mention of Jesus talking, moving, eating, touching, or being touched. We see no description of what was seen in those appearances…WHATSOEVER! Therefore, since most scholars believe that the four Gospels were written by NON-EYEWITNESSES, in far-away lands, many decades later, writing in the genre of Greco-Roman biography, it is entirely possible that the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are nothing but fictional, literary embellishments!