Silly Gary, Don’t Claim to Accept Majority Scholarly Opinion when you Reject the Historicity of the Empty Tomb

Image result for image of empty tomb

Reader email (I am not posting the name of the reader):

Do you believe then, as 75% of NT scholars do, that the tomb was empty?   Since that’s the majority?   Oh, no – you won’t:

Despite that being a survey of 1400 scholarly publications.  Guess you’re not as consistent as you would like to think Gary.  Also – having studied ancient history I’m amazed how people suddenly stop doing ancient history when they start studying Jesus as an historical figure. I have decided not to be inconsistent but to compare apples with apples and have found the New Testament is more credible than any other ancient historical document. It’s that simple, really.

The fact is, if everyone was consistent, the Resurrection would be considered an established historical fact. It’s inconsistency that even leads to blogs like your own.  Blessings! have a great 2018 – we will be in touch!

Gary:  If Gary Habermas [the evangelical Christian New Testament scholar who alleges he conducted a literature search and found that 75% of scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb] will release his research for everyone to evaluate [he has steadfastly refused to do so] and the majority of scholars agree that his research demonstrates that 75% of all NT scholars believe that there was an empty tomb, I will be happy to accept that claim as historical fact.  But since we have no clue what his research consisted of, we cannot know if it is accurate.  For instance, maybe the only scholars who write on the historicity of an empty tomb are fundamentalist/evangelical Christians!  If that is the case, then OF COURSE the overwhelming majority of articles written on this topic will favor  an empty tomb. 
So to account for your objection, let me add a caveat to my original claim that I accept all majority expert opinion:  I always accept majority scholarly opinion when the evidence demonstrates that a majority of all scholars in that field hold that position.  I refuse to accept a “majority scholarly opinion” claim from someone who refuses to release his (or her) evidence for such a claim!
 The problem for you is this:  the same majority of scholars who say that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses (the real issue that has gotten under your skin) is the same scholarly majority who state that Jesus was a real historical person.  You accept and propagate their majority opinion on the latter issue, but reject it on the former.
 You are inconsistent.  You cherry pick what to believe.   Your beliefs are based on wishful thinking (“faith”) not on evidence.
Image result for image of gary habermas
Gary Habermas

27 thoughts on “Silly Gary, Don’t Claim to Accept Majority Scholarly Opinion when you Reject the Historicity of the Empty Tomb

  1. First point is your ”reader” does not seem to be aware that Habermas’s survey was not among 1400 scholarly publications at all.
    Habermas admitted as such and Neil Godfrey over at Vridar wrote a post about it, but the gods I can’t remember when.
    And of course nobody has even seen all this data …. not even his SIL Licona.
    So we’re just gonna take Habermas’s word are we? The F%$#”/ we are!

    So whoever your reader is they are obviously an uniformed Nob.
    I can only think of Liam or …. gag … Branyan.
    So please publish the name of the reader ….
    I need a laugh this evening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Was it this article by Vridar, with the following conclusion. I very much would like to read it:


      Habermas observes that of the most influential scholars in the Third Quest for the historical Jesus not one subscribes to a naturalistic explanation as above. Of 2000 scholarly publications from about 2000 to 2005 that dealt with the resurrection Habermas estimates that less than one quarter of the scholars embraced a naturalistic explanation as an historical explanation. Almost all the others adhere to the view that Jesus was raised from the dead “in some sense”. I would have liked Habermas to have clarified exactly how he defined “scholarly publications” in this context, and to have been a little more clear as to whether he was counting publications or different authors. Even a citation measure to help readers assess the impact of each of the different views would have been more helpful.

      Thus, according to Habermas, was the scholarly climate around 2006 when Habermas’s chapter was published.

      I suppose Christian believers might be heartened by such a state of the game. But surely if this really is the way it is, surely it ought to raise questions about the place of such studies in publicly funded secular institutions. I wonder what Habermas would think if he uncovered similar results among the higher educational institutions in a predominantly Muslim nation, perhaps in relation to Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. What hope is there in such a climate of applying normal secular-historical analysis to the Gospels? Is this climate reflective of the general upsurge (swansong?) of fundamentalism in America in particular at this time? What if the Gospels really are very much more like ancient Jewish novels, let’s say, than historiography or biography? What if the real question is not why the characters in a narrative believed something, but why was the narrative written at all? What was behind it? Was it really historical memory? Habermas began by noting that certain views are in effect beyond question. Maybe that’s the problem.


  2. Here is another interesting article on Habermas’ claims:

    Theologian Gary Habermas has for almost 15 years cataloged articles debating the empty tomb of Jesus and the resurrection. From the thousands he has collected in the last few decades, he concludes:

    —75% of scholars today say that resurrection or something like it occurred.—

    (He also cites the same percentage in favor of the empty tomb, but the resurrection is the more sensational claim.) It would seem that scholars are heavily in favor of the resurrection conclusion. However, a closer look (informed in large part by an excellent recent article by Richard Carrier) shows a very different conclusion.

    This is not peer-reviewed scholarship

    Habermas admitted in 2012, “Most of this material is unpublished.” With his data secret, his conclusions are uncheckable. Carrier says that Habermas has denied repeated requests to review his data. Habermas cites the ever-growing list of articles in his database (3400 at last count), but what does the 75% refer to? Is it 75% of the database articles? If so, how does he deal with multiple articles from one author? Or is it 75% of authors? If so, are professors and street preachers weighed the same? If it’s 75% of scholars, are experts in the fields of theology and philosophy given equal weight with experts in history? What journals and other sources does he search?

    Habermas assures us that he is careful to include scholars both friendly and unfriendly to the resurrection idea, but how do we know without seeing the data?

    Who’s motivated to publish?

    Suppose someone has an opinion on the resurrection and is considering writing an article, pro or con. Are those defending the resurrection more motivated to write an article than those who reject the idea? Are resurrection defenders more likely to find a publisher? Carrier gives Atlantis as a possible parallel. Even though belief in Atlantis is a fringe idea, there may be more published articles defending the idea of Atlantis simply because defenders are more motivated, and those who reject Atlantis may feel that this is uninteresting or that the few articles out there already address the issue. That Habermas’s database can’t correct for motivation and hasn’t been peer reviewed makes his conclusions useless, but there’s more.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. An important point, from article in previous comment:

      —What fraction of the pro-resurrection 75% are Christians? Not having the data, we don’t know, but I’ll guess 99%. I’ll grant that Christians are as smart as anyone else, but does their religion bias their conclusions?

      Here’s why I ask: consider polling a group of Muslim scholars. They have no bias against the supernatural, and they understand the Jesus story. But ask them about the resurrection, and they will universally reject it. The Christian might respond that Muslims are biased by their religious beliefs to dismiss the resurrection. And that’s true, but then why are Christians, who are biased to accept the resurrection, allowed to weigh in on this issue?



    2. From my own comment in the discussions section of your link:

      Since 1975, more than 1400 scholarly publications on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus have appeared. Over the last five years, I have tracked these texts, which were written in German, French, and English. Well over 100 subtopics are addressed in the literature, almost all of which I have examined in detail. Each source appeared from the last quarter of the Twentieth Century to the present, with more being written in the 1990s than in other decades.[1] This contemporary milieu exhibits a number of well-established trends, while others are just becoming recognizable. The interdisciplinary flavor is noteworthy, as well. Most of the critical scholars are theologians or New Testament scholars, while a number of philosophers and historians, among other fields, are also included.

      Resurrection Research from 1975 to the Present: What Are the Critical Scholars Saying? (published in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus (June 2005): 135-53

      If you do a search for “Habermas” on that link and you will find he includes his own publications in that body of research.


      1. I will take a look at your link.

        Tell me, though, does he list the names of each author of the articles or does he simply list the total number of scholars, theologians, philosophers, or other categories of persons who have expressed an opinion on the historicity of the Empty Tomb? Does he break the scholars and theologians into categories of Christian/non-Christian? Liberal Christian/evangelical?


        1. The endnotes contain a list of the authors he consulted. Many are repeats. Several include his own writings. I have not read their works, per se.


          1. Below is the information we need to have an accurate assessment of his claim that “75% of scholars believe in the historicity of the empty tomb”.

            1. How does he define “scholar”?

            Does Habermas only include persons in this category who have a PhD in New Testament Studies from an accredited institution or does he include anyone who calls him or herself a “scholar”, a theologian, a pastor, or an apologist—essentially, anyone who wrote an article on this topic during the proscribed time period?

            2. Is his “75%” figure based on the number of SCHOLARS who have stated their belief in the historicity of the Empty Tomb or is this figure based on the percentage of the total number of ARTICLES in which the author stated this position?

            (In the case of the latter scenario, a single author who wrote twenty articles on this topic would be counted 20 times, while the author who wrote only one article during this time period would only be counted once.)

            3. Do Habermas’ statistics take into account scholars who have never written an article on the Empty Tomb?

            (Example: If there are 1,000 total scholars, but only 200 (75% of which are evangelical Christians) have written articles on the Empty Tomb, then the 800 scholars who never wrote an article on this topic are not being included in the statistical analysis.

            Are these issues addressed in the article you linked?


            1. No. By his own admission, “most of the critical scholars are theologians.”

              He also writes:

              “the majority of publications on the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection have been written by North American authors. Interestingly, my study of these works also indicates an approximate ratio of 3:1 of moderate conservative to skeptical publications, as with the European publications. Here again, this signals the direction of current research.”

              The 75% is basically a theological circle jerk.


              1. Well said.

                Conservative Christians, however, use this questionable study as their “trump card” when asked for evidence for their supernatural resurrection claim. In reality, however, an empty tomb does not a resurrection prove!

                Liked by 1 person

  3. Gary, you have brought up so many good questions — questions that would have to be answered in order to even begin to evaluate the survey for oneself. Though I have not read the survey in question, I can nevertheless see your questions as very much needed as it would be for any survey of this type. You mention variables that reason would tell us affect the outcome. In light of so many variables, how much can we glean from the survey? After all the dust settles (from all the problems caused by trying to evaluate the validity of such a survey, some of which you pointed out), what does it really tell us anyway? Only the ‘opinions’ of others. Certainly, they are “scholars” but after all their studying, they still had to make a decision, each based upon their own reasoning which is, in the final analysis, an ‘opinion’, no mattered how learned. This creates the difficulty for the reader in having to decide whether or not such opinions have any truly convincing qualities (unless one is convinced merely because a person is identified as a “scholar”). For example, one would have to know the criteria used by each person (whose opinion is being counted) in formulating their opinion. Under the circumstances, I doubt that this would be possible. Therefore, questions such as you posed are more than reasonable. At the end of the day, I see no other sensible thing to do but to take take such a survey with a grain of salt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, said, Gloria.

      However, I personally trust majority expert opinion in all matters. But that needs a qualification: Whom do I consider an expert?

      I consider an expert to be a member in good standing of an established, nationally or universally recognized, professional society or trade guild. So let me give you some examples:

      -if a majority of members of the largest plumbers association/union in the United States states that a certain type of plumbing is best for my region of the country, I am going to accept that majority expert opinion without investigating the qualifications, biases, and opinions of each individual in that professional association.

      -if the majority of members of the largest society of heart surgeons in the United States advises one particular type of surgery for a particular heart valve disorder, I am going to trust the majority opinion without investigating the qualifications, biases, and opinions of each individual in that professional society.

      -if the majority of members of the largest arborist (tree specialists) organization in the U.S. states that planting a certain tree near my house is likely to cause foundation problems, I am going to trust the majority opinion of that organization without investigating the qualifications, biases, and opinions of each individual in that professional association.

      -and so too with NT scholars. I will accept the majority opinion of persons recognized by their peers as a “New Testament scholar, specifically, someone with a PhD in New Testament studies, regarding all issues related to New Testament scholarship without verifying the qualifications, biases, and opinions of each individual.


      1. However … NT scholarship is unique. Personally I would be dubious about any NT scholar who was a Christian.
        Not necessarily dismiss their view out of hand but bear in mind that, ultimately, they have to believe in the resurrection to qualify as a a member of the Christian Club.
        Also, it is worth noting that the point has been raised (somewhere) that denial of the existence of Jesus the Nazareth is practically the same as Employment Suicide if you want to teach in the field. In fact , teaching in a field is probably the only position one is likely to obtain and pupils confined to cows and sheep.
        I don’t know how true this this ( not the cows and sheep part).

        Furthermore, there are several Christians I have engaged who have told me their faith is not contingent on the veracity of the Old Testament or the contradictions in the NT.
        Belief(faith) in the resurrection is all that matters. Unklee for one.

        This leaves people such as you and I in somewhat of a quandary, as we can demonstrate unequivocally that the entire OT and NT is simply a crock and the Christian will retort that ”God(sic) works in mysterious ways” or some similar drivel.
        It is a close to outright lying as one is likely to get.


      2. I thnk the important distinction is that the expert opinons of most other professions can (eventually) be evaluated by independent third parties via the scientific method. Religious ‘research’ grants no such opportunity there can be no empirical test for a supernatural event.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I disagree. I have found that most New Testament scholars do not make professional judgments on supernatural claims. I believe that their personal religious beliefs can bias their professional work, and that is something that does not occur in most other professional fields, but most scholars stay away from making pronouncements of the existence of historical evidence for the virgin birth, for instance. Their focus is on what the people at that time believed about the Virgin Birth Story and how this story may have developed, but they do not pontificate on alleged evidence that this supernatural event actually occurred. That is outside the scope of their expertise.

          I personally recognize a potential for bias among New Testament scholars, but I still do trust majority expert opinion from this group of professionals.


  4. I will add this. As you and I know, the consensus is that the Pentateuch is simply geopolitical fiction.
    This consensus covers all relevant fields.
    The impact this has on the Gospels and the character Jesus the Nazarene cannot be overstated. Yet, an amateur apologist such as Unklee has openly admitted he cares little for the evidence in this regard, as he believes it does not affect his faith. I am sure his view is shared by every devout believer.

    This is the high degree of lack of intellectual integrity and outright dishonesty we are continually having to deal with and it is why someone such as unklee and Liam and their ilk will either deny the consensus with regard Old Testament scholarship or refuse point blank to deal honestly with the ramifications for the character Jesus the Nazarene, Christianity in general and their faith.


    1. I am hoping that Unkle E (Eric) will return and address the assumptions and errors in his summary on the early “Jesus Story” that I have pointed out above.


  5. Gary, thanks for your response. It does help me understand your thinking and needless to say, understanding one another is so important to the sharing of ideas. Hearing ideas makes the brain go to work and I love that kind of work! So, to get back to the issue of majority expert opinions — I have found it to be extremely helpful and certainly makes me think when I read them. But, I have come across such opinions from time to time when I believe “experts” may not be completely right. I’ll give a personal example: twelve years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association’s experts, I was to take medication and eat their recommended diet. Not only that, they believed diabetes to be a “progressive” disease and therefore, increasing medication over the years is standard acceptable and even expected treatment. Being the skeptic I am when it comes to taking advice, I had to question this opinion. I began researching relentlessly and found their opinions did not take into consideration diabetics who were controlling (halting the “progression” of their diabetes) through a low-carb diet. But, this goes directly against their taboo against eating “too much” fat. I did even research to find the flaws in their expert opinion and I am still med free (and my diabetes was NOT due to obesity, lack of exercise, etc.) I realize I can’t say their advice is wrong for everyone, but it was certainly wrong for me and many others. The interesting thing is that these experts’ response to the big question as to whether or not their opinion is really correct after information has been shown to them that contradicts their cherished beliefs parallels many religious believers’ response when in the same circumstance. The only real difference is the terminology used: the former say the contradiction is an “anomaly” and the later (the religious) say it is a “mystery” (that we are not ‘supposed’ to understand). It seems to me that in both cases, the motivation may be the same: an unwillingness to challenge deeply held beliefs.

    Arkenaten, you make a very good point: “However … NT scholarship is unique. Personally I would be dubious about any NT scholar who was a Christian.” Especially when it comes to faith, I think it would be almost impossible to keep oneself from evaluating things with at least a bit of a bias and we really wouldn’t know how far the bias will take the NT scholar in formulating his opinion. After all, faith itself is dependent on believing things that cannot be (or need not be) proven. I’m not saying this is good or bad, it’s just one of the qualities of faith.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As I primary care physician, I have seen numerous patients consult “Dr. Google” and decide that doctors do not know what they are talking about and then choose to follow the latest fad. Five years or so later, I see these patients again after they have been hospitalized for a heart attack or stroke.

      Medical consensus is based on MASSIVE quantities of research. It is evidence based. Doctors don’t just dream up treatment plans out of thin air or by personal preference.

      If your current hemoglobin A1C is within normal limits, your eye exam shows no diabetic retinopathy, and your kidney function is normal, then you must be doing something right, but I would be very careful about just writing your doctor’s advice off as “biased”. You may be putting your life at risk.


      1. Thank you, Gary. Yes, everything is within normal limits. I am well into my senior years now though and at age 66 (67 in July), I of course am aging. But, other than that, I am in good health which generally surprises anyone who examines me considering my health history. I have to clarify that I have not ignored my doctor though I haven’t always agreed with him. In fact, he was very much in favor of my low-carb diet all those years ago. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. I was actually addressing the ADA as being so opposed to diabetics (at least they were when I started) doing a low-carb diet because it meant too much (in their opinion) fat would be eaten. Anyway, my diet is working, I am healthy, and for my age, I feel pretty good. Thank you for your concern. I appreciate it,

        Liked by 1 person

        1. @Gary.
          It is a running joke in our house when anyone feels some sort of ache or pain and then announces at the dinner table that: ”I went online and (fill in ailment of your choice)

          To which someone will say …
          ”And you discovered you were dead by page three, right?”

          Liked by 1 person

    2. @Gloria.

      The retorts I almost always run up against when raising the issue of bias toward Christian scholars is usually a whiplash response about atheist bias, the naturalists’ worldview, and a refusal to consider anything supernatural.
      Of course, when one asks for a verifiable example of a supernatural event one is inevitably told there is no way to test for such a thing, and thus we are back to square one.

      Yet when the veracity of the Resurrection is questioned the retort is usually along the lines of; if we are not going to trust the ”experts” on this then we might as well chuck out all of history.

      What quickly becomes apparent in dialogue with the apologist/religious believers is they are attempting to assume the same level of intellectual and scholarly credibility as one might assign to a top level historian.

      However, the Historical Method when applied to something like the Bible and especially when Christians apply it to the Gospels takes on a whole new meaning and becomes like the next door neighbour’s rather obnoxious child we are obliged to put up with at a gathering when in truth it deserves to be removed from company until it can conduct itself accordingly. Failing that, given a swift ding around the bloody ear and told to shut up and behave itself.
      Or at the very least, tell its guardians in no uncertain terms to bugger off and take the little shit with them!


  6. How can anyone accept the writings of a supposed Christian that constantly refers to “Easter “ as reference to the resurrection of Christ????

    Maybe he needs to research how and why the present observation of Easter came into being. Or perhaps he believes Constantine 1 and the Roman Church were correct in their decision to abolish the Sabbath too.

    How can any Christian question a physical resurrection and still call themselves a true believing Christian?

    Liked by 1 person

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