Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Empty Tomb

The Empty Tomb is a collection of essays about the resurrection of Christ written by a number of authors and edited by Robert M. Price and Jeffrey Jay Lowder. In it, you'll find a number of really fascinating chapters examining the resurrection from many different angles, in a way that the average faithful Christian would have a hard time comprehending.

Robert Greg Gavin argues that the rigors of modern historical inquiry do not allow for the acceptance of the resurrection as historically validated, and Michael Martin uses Bayes' Theorem to explain why the paucity of valid historical evidence, combined with the incredible nature of the miracle claim render the resurrection as initially improbably, and thus beyond serious consideration. Ted Drange makes an interesting point that not only was the resurrection unnecessary logically, it was also unnecessary theologically. Bob Price argues that the so-called "liturgical" recollection of Jesus' appearances recorded in 1 Corinthians 15 represented a later interpolation, not a early theological relic preserved by Paul. Richard Carrier gives an exhaustive analysis of Paul's conception of the "spiritual body" of Christ, and shows how it is inconsistent with the resurrection accounts in the Gospels. Both Jeff Lowder and Bob Price take turns refuting at length William Lane Craig's arguments in favor of a historical resurrection, particularly Price's rebuttal, which stung so badly my own ears rang. Evan Fales gives a mythological context for the resurrection accounts through an examination of the Jonah motif, and Richard Carrier takes another two fascinating looks at the plausibility of theft (very much so) as well as the equally plausible scenario that the requirements of Jewish law could have caused early Christians to mistakenly think that Jesus had risen. Duncan Derrett makes a good point that one should always follow the money trail, and that in fact the disciples would have stood to gain quite a bit financially if they could have perpetuated the story of the resurrection. Keith Parsons rebuts common criticisms of the idea that early Christians hallucinated their experiences of the risen Jesus, and shows that this is also equally plausible. Michael Martin returns to Bayes' Theorem to point out the faults of Richard Swinburne's use of it in his arguments for the historicity of the resurrection, and Evan Fales gives Alvin Plantinga grief over his epistemological foundation, and shows that Reformed epistemology with its sensus divinitatus is completely at odds with the methods of historical inquiry.

Although Bob Price's scathing indictment of Bill Craig's work is an entertaining read, I most enjoyed Richard Carrier's opus on the spiritual body of Christ, to which I am immensely anticipating further exploration from Carrier in the future. To quote from his thesis:

I believe I have more than adaquately demonstrated that Paul probably believed in a two-body doctrine of resurrection, wherein those who sleep in Christ will be given at the last trumpet entirely new bodies to live in, and not their same old bodies reconstituted...

This view agrees with all Christian literature before the Gospels and fits the sort of evidence they provide. Therefore, it was probably what the original Christians believed. After the death and burial of Jesus, his "disciples" received spiritual "revelations" which they took to be visitations of the newly embodied Christ. In these epiphanies the secret meaning of various passages in the Old Testament were "revealed" to them, which "predicted" and thus confirmed that Jesus was indeed granted the new resurrection body in advance of everyone else, and was exalted about all other beings in the universe. This revelation also told them that the promised resurrection of the righteous would only happen to those who became one with Christ in spirit, in order to share in the same resurrection bestowed upon him. It follows that there was no empty tomb, and no physical encounters with a risen body of Jesus.

If you'd like to read the arguments that he gives to arrive at this conclusion, I'd recommend that you read the book.

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