William Lane Craig on whether there were guards at the tomb of Jesus

I was sort of playing around in the John Ankerberg channel on YouTube looking at all the stuff they’ve posting and I found some Bill Craig videos. And suddenly I found a video that I thought was worth posting. The question from John Ankerberg was on whether there were guards at the tomb described in Matthew.

Now, everybody who has seen a Bill Craig debate knows that he uses 4 minimal facts in order to infer that the resurrection happened. He chooses these facts because they pass certain historical criteria. For example, he can only uses a fact that is present in early sources, and in multiple sources. It also helps if the reported fact is embarrassing to the early church or the message they were trying to get accepted by other people. Anything reported by an enemy is more likely to be historical. And a fact is less historical if it was used by the early church as an apologetic to defend against opposition from some group. And so on.

So, I thought it would be fun for you to see that there are some facts that you SHOULD NOT USE in your minimal set.

Here’s one that you should not use – the guard at the tomb:

Notice how forthright and honest Craig is? The guard at the tomb is probably toughest thing to defend in the whole New Testament. Why? Because it’s late – Matthew is later than Mark! Because it’s only in one source – Matthew! And because it seems to be an apologetic against the idea that the disciples stole the body – which means most people will say it was invented for that purpose.

So, what do we learn? It means that when you watch all those Craig debates, you have to keep in mind that he isn’t just a pastor sort of using the text like a pastor would. He had to do a PhD to find out which verses are more and less strongly historical based on the normal criteria that historians use on historical biographies. No one is treating the New Testament any differently than any other book when you argue in a debate. He only uses the parts that are the strongest, and that’s why he’s always winning these debates. If he had to defend the guard at the tomb, he’d have a much tougher job! Whereas something like the crucifixion is admitted by every single scholar across the board, even the atheists.

Sometimes, it’s fun to explain to non-Christians how you argue for the resurrection by contrasting a solid fact, like the appearances, which are in 1 Cor 15:3-7, and the guard at the tomb, which is only in Matthew. I think they think that we are doing faith, when we are really doing history, then trusting in what the historical investigation reveals.

8 thoughts on “William Lane Craig on whether there were guards at the tomb of Jesus”

  1. Uncomfortable? I wouldn’t say that. Forthright and honest? Definitely. I really have a hard time with atheists who think Bill Craig is a liar. Mistaken? Perhaps. Deluded? Possibly. But a liar for Jesus? Never.


    1. I’ll fix it.

      I’m so glad when I put up an apologetics post – those are the hardest to write. I know you and others come by looking for apologetics and instead I give courting advice and bash Obama. I try to have more apologetics, but it’s hard. Since I started blogging, I feel less pressure to pester my non-Christian co-workers. I even turned one down for lunch today! I’m a JERK.


  2. Hmmm? No, I like all the other stuff as well. That just caught my attention for whatever reason. Diversity of content is good! Need to do more of that myself.

    I’m off to the Conference tomorrow. Looking forward to telling my story to an audience. I wonder if it will be recorded…


  3. Very cool post! :)

    BTW, I really like these short ones… With little kids in the house I rarely have time to watch the 1- or 2-hour debates (so I rarely comment on those), but I can watch something that takes just a few minutes. Thanks!


  4. I have a quick question, you said that if something was used by the early church as an apologetic is less historical….how so? just curious, because if it were a fact then….would it not be a fact currently?


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