William Lane Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus

Dr. Craig’s famous minimal facts case for the resurrection has been posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance. He presents 4 facts admitted by the majority of New Testament historians, and then he supplies multiple pieces of evidence for each fact.

Here are the four facts:

  • FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. 
  • FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
  • FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
  • FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.

Here’s the detail on fact #3, the post-mortem appearances.

FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.

This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:

1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.

2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.

3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?

Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3

Yes, Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case. Not just what your pastor will give you, but what atheists will give you. We need to learn to debate like that.

27 thoughts on “William Lane Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus”

  1. There are 60 million copies of Sir Pratchett’s Discworld novels in circulation.
    There is also a town in Southern England who street names are the same as those of Ankh Morpork, the famous town that many of his stories centre a-around.

    Ergo, Ankh Morpork is real.

    Lol…William Lane Craig is a hoot and a half.
    I just adore his use of Divine Command Theory. He must get a warm tingly feeling imagining his god, Yahweh flooding the world or getting Joshua to smite those nasty Canaanites.

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    1. It’s not possible for atheists to rationally ground moral judgments objectively. You are merely expressing your personal opinions when you say that something is right or wrong. On your atheistic view, things like rape, slavery, infanticide, genocide, etc. are all permissible if the majority of people in a particular place and time accept it. There is no objective right and wrong, and there are no objective human rights. Morality is nonsense to an atheist.

      You can check out this article which explains what atheist scholars think of morality (it’s nonsense) and why that its:
      https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/do-atheists-believe-that-slavery-is-wrong-can-atheists-condemn-slavery-as-immoral/

      When you say something is wrong, you mean that you personally don’t like it in the same way that I don’t like turnips. But then you’re not dealing in the moral realm.

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      1. It’s not possible for atheists to rationally ground moral judgments objectively.

        Isn’t this quoted from Ravi whatisface?

        Lol….You mean grounding them in a made up entity you call Yahweh is objective?

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        1. If I write a computer program, I get to decide what counts as good output and bad output. Similarly with God. He is the creator and designer of the universe, which includes creatures who can choose (although you can’t ground free will and moral choices on your view, we are talking about my view for now). Therefore he can specify what has moral value (something that moral laws apply to) and who has moral duties (us). On your view, you have none of that, which is why my post which I linked to on slavery contains quotations from famous atheists like Dawkins explaining how on atheism “there is no evil and no good”. He’s correct. Morality is nonsense on atheism, and when atheists talk about morality, they are just expressing personal preferences.

          Atheist William Provine says atheists have no free will, no moral accountability and no moral significance:

          Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.

          Source: http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm

          Atheists Michael Ruse says atheists have no objective moral standards:

          The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory.(Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

          Atheist Richard Dawkins says atheists have no objective moral standards:

          In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

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          1. Unlike you god, who thinks nothing of “wiping the slate clean” because his creation was naughty and he had a temper tantrum.

            If he didn’t want them to eat the damn apples why the hell did he plant an apple tree and introduce a talking snake who told them god was a damn liar!

            Now that is a god you really want to respect right? Oh yeah….

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          2. First, you have no standing as an atheist to press a moral argument, because you have no objective standard to judge anything as wrong. Your worldview is “stuff happens”, and so there is no way to say “that stuff shouldn’t have happened”. You have to assume theism in order to disprove it. Secondly, let’s not take about the Garden of Eden. My goal isn’t to convince you of inerrancy, it’s to argue for theism, using science, and then for mere Christianity, using the minimal facts case for the resurrection, and a bare bones case for the early belief in Jesus’ divinity among eyewitnesses. Adam and Eve is 10 light years from where I am.

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          3. Lol…I knew I would remember where I had read your unaccredited plagiarized quote.

            Ravi Zacharias ,In his book Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality:

            Busted! Naughty Wintery Knight. Checkmate, old sport.
            I love Christians.

            :)

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          4. I never cited Zacharias, I cited atheists. Specifically, I cited Dawkins, Provine and Ruse:
            https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/do-atheists-believe-that-slavery-is-wrong-can-atheists-condemn-slavery-as-immoral/

            What can people infer from you accusing me of plagiarism when I cite the most prominent atheist scholars saying morality is nonsense on atheism, and then declare “checkmate”. What will people on the fence infer from this? They will infer that I have represented atheism correctly, and that atheists like you are more interested in insulting people than presenting evidence for your view.

            I think you’ve been immature enough in your comments to warrant preventing you from commenting further, by the way. You have nothing to say, and no evidence to back it up. An insult is not an argument and mockery is not evidence. If you want to discuss things with me, do like I do and cite peer-reviewed scientific evidence. We aren’t interested in your witty put-downs. We are looking for scientific evidence here. I’ve provided a dozen arguments backed with citations of scholarly evidence, and we’ve had nothing from you but opinions phrased in an abusive, childish tone.

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    2. Your comments are probably going to be deleted if you continue like this, because you are dragging down the discussion because of your ignorance. Either say something valuable and link to peer-reviewed evidence or stop commenting. I am approving these so that people can see what atheists are really like, but we don’t need so many of them, and they seem to be getting more and more immature. I like the contrast between my citations of peer-reviewed science and your insulting mockery, but we don’t need so many comments to make the contrast.

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      1. Peer reviewed ”evidence” for what?
        Please cite.

        So, are you going to cite the quote or must I haul off and find who said it?

        Just asking…

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        1. Here’s what you need to do to participate in an argument about God’s existence or non-existence. You need to craft an argument with premises that is logically valid, and then you need to supply evidence that makes the premises more probable than not. Evidence that I will accept is a citation from experimental peer-reviewed literature in journals or books from academic presses.

          So an asssertion with a citation from a Monty Python comedy movie doesn’t work for me.

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          1. So that is a ”No” then, is it regarding citing the quote you appear to have ripped off?

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    3. Ark said:

      “There are 60 million copies of Sir Pratchett’s Discworld novels in circulation.
      There is also a town in Southern England who street names are the same as those of Ankh Morpork, the famous town that many of his stories centre a-around.

      Ergo, Ankh Morpork is real.”

      If Christians claimed the truth of their documents simply based on the number of copies available then you’d have a good point.

      However, we don’t.

      Christians cite the number and age of biblical manuscripts to show that there has been no development or change in the content over time A commonly held idea by skeptics (you can find it virtually everywhere on the internet where people can state anything they want with no need to back it up with evidence) is that over a long period of decades or centuries, Christians embellished the simple story of a philosopher sage from the middle east into the story of a God come to earth to die and rise again for the forgiveness of sin. The large mass of manuscripts, dating across a very large swath of time from very early to very late in the history of Christianity itself, serve to more than adequately lay this idea to rest for any willing to honestly deal with the evidence.

      What you have done is to misconstrue that response as instead a Christian claim for the TRUTH of our manuscripts based on the sheer number of them that are existent. It most certainly is no such thing.

      I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and simply call it a gross faux pas on your part. It amounts to little more than your jousting with a windmill of your own making.

      If such thinking were representative of the “depth” of skeptical reasoning, the debate would be over quite quickly.

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      1. Ah, yes this is like claiming the Resurrection is the most plausible argument based on the biblical text.

        Or , the four autographed gospels, two of which were likely embellishments of the first, Mark, which Christians saw fit to ”add on” a few extra verses.
        And John is an exercise in theology and may have had more than one author.

        Ah, yes, we can trust the gospels, boys and girls.

        As you don’t have a single original document how on earth do you arrive at the concussion you can base anything on ‘truth’, as if an overwhelming number of NT documents weer indicative of anything other than “Ooh, look, we have a LOT of NT documents and not a single original.”

        Sorry, I’m rambling. I got distracted…you were saying something about Truth, was it?

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        1. So I guess the problem here is that I’ve made a minimal facts case and cited historians across the ideological spectrum for the four facts – including people like Gerd Ludemann and Bart Ehrman! You’ve responded with your opinion, and cited no scholars to either refute the four facts, or to propose an alternative naturalistic explanation to the subset of minimal facts.

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        2. Ark,

          You’re the one making speculative claims now. You seem to be one of those people I mentioned who like to comfort themselves with those phantom embellishments with zero proof of any.

          Your one lame attempt is to point to the last verses of Mark which almost all Biblle annotate as not belonging to the original. And how do YOU know they were added later? Precisely because we have the number and age range of manuscripts that we have. Now you obviously have read enough Bart Ehrman to know that the account of the woman taken in adultery and the “Johanine comma” are not in the original texts either. Bully for you! What you unwittingly don’t realize is that by pointing to only these items you underline the fact that the rest of the New Testatment record shows zero sign of change or embellishment, and that part includes the resurrection narratives.

          Even Mark which you hold is the earliest of the gospels includes in the undisputed portion this:

          [Mar 16:6 NASB] 6 And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

          Besides, not of the 3 instances that you can cite (last verses of Mark, woman in adultery, “Johanine comma”) add any new doctrine that is not already strongly attested in the undisputed text.

          Further, Paul’s resurrection summary in I Corinthians 15 predates the writing of Mark, so Mark is not the earliest written record. Additionally, Paul in the same Corinthian passage indicates that the summary he presents was passed to him by others, so the summary further even predates the writing of I Corinthians.

          BTW thanks for admitting your flawed reasoning concerning the number of biblical manuscripts and their relevance to Christian claims. That was big of you. If your reasoning was correct defend it. If it was flawed (and it was seriously so) have the decency to admit it.

          Rather you took the typical burnt-finger approach by dropping that hot potato, looking for another one that might work. Try again.

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  2. “…we’ve had nothing from you but opinions phrased in an abusive, childish tone.”

    Apparently WK, that’s the best they can do, and they are quite satisfied with it. Sad but true.

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  3. I am inclined to think that fanatical atheists, even those with mind-bogglingly brilliant scientific backgrounds, are afflicted with tunnel-vision.
    Nevertheless,, on the subject of Jesus and facts, it remains that nothing can be accepted as such unless original records can be traced back to the actual period which prove he existed at all. Unless they are, it remains an open question.
    As far as I am aware, all the sources which SHOULD have such records, don’t. Some key points in the testaments are, in fact, in conflict with documented history of the time – the census and Nazareth, for example. New Testament historians rely on the evidence of documents which were produced long afterwards. These corroborate myths and legends, but not facts.
    I shall be delighted if anyone can prove me wrong on these points.

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    1. OK. The issue is the resurrection of Jesus. We have presented 4 facts that are accepted by most scholars, for the reasons stated, with sources that go back to within 5 years of the events (1 Cor 15:3-7). The facts are accepted by atheist scholars, as noted in the article.

      Can you give reasons and cite scholars to deny any of the four facts, and then present an explanation for the ones you don’t deny? If not, then the argument stands. You didn’t cite any scholars, just gave your opinion. We are citing scholars, and pointing out specific early evidence that scholars accept. Not Christian scholars, but atheist scholars like Gerd Ludemann.

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    2. Colonialist said:

      ” on the subject of Jesus and facts, it remains that nothing can be accepted as such unless original records can be traced back to the actual period which prove he existed at all.

      As far as I am aware, all the sources which SHOULD have such records, don’t.”

      For instance, Roman historian and statesman,Tacitus:

      ” But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”

      http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/annals.html

      This credible, non-biblical source more than verifies the existence of Jesus (as well as the crucifixion) of Jesus as described in the gospel texts.

      Even noted atheist historians have washed their hands of the “Christ myth” idea that Jesus never existed. One of them, Michael Grant, pulled no punches when he said:

      “This sceptical way of thinking reached its culmination in the argument that Jesus as a human being never existed at all and is a myth…. But above all, if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned. Certainly, there are all those discrepancies between one Gospel and another. But we do not deny that an event ever took place just because some pagan historians such as, for example, Livy and Polybius, happen to have described it in differing terms…. To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ myth theory. It has ‘again and again been answered and annihilated by first rank scholars.’ In recent years, ‘no serous scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.”

      Jesus is a real historical figure, make no mistake about it.

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  4. I would like to refer to the comments about Geza Vermes found on wikipedia and then a description of his book The Resurrection..

    He was one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research,[1] and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time

    Vermes states in his own book about the resurrection the following. 1) Vermes’ denial of the historicity of Jesus’ predictions of vindication and 2) his dismissal of the essential historicity of the resurrection based on the discrepancies within the Gospel post-resurrection accounts.

    1.) Vermes finds the disciples’ persistent lack of understanding of Jesus’ “clear predictions” of vindication, their abandonment of Jesus at the time of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, and their skepticism of the women’s report of the empty tomb to be inconceivable if Jesus truly did make such predictions. Because of the unlikelihood that the disciples’ behavior (at the time of the crucifixion and beyond til Easter Sunday) as described in the Gospels is ahistorical given the potential embarrassment it could have caused the early Christian community, he concludes that the predictions are not historical. In the same vein, he also asks why Peter (in Mark 8:32) would have rebuked Jesus for a prediction that included the latter’s vindication.

    2.) Vermes believes that not even the most credulous of non-believers are likely to be persuaded by the Gospel post-resurrection accounts given that the accounts could not withstand “legal or scientific inquiry” (p. 141). Once again, this is seemingly due to the numerous, well-known discrepancies among the various accounts.

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    1. Well, this post is about four minimal facts, and we gave reasons for each of those facts. What I got out of your comment is that Geza Vermes, a Jewish NT historian who I do think is a respected scholar, doubts the appearances. So you haven’t denied the burial, the empty tomb, or the early belief of the first Christians in the idea that resurrection happened. (The predictions are not one of the minimal facts)

      Now the article has a number of arguments for the appearances, and I am curious to know how you would refute the appearances, especially since an atheist like Gerd Ludemann accepts them.

      Also, what is your naturalistic hypothesis concerning the remaining three facts?

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    2. In response to Vermes and all those who use what are referred to as “discrepancies” in the various gospel resurrection accounts, I would suggest John Wehham’s book The Easter Enigma as a plausible reconciliation of the accounts. In short, Wenham posits that each gospel relays the events from the standpoint of its author or the direct eyewitness who were available to the author, and that there were several comings and goings to and from the tomb and toward Bethany that are all mistakenly lumped together by skeptics as accounts of the same thing when in actuality they are not.

      http://www.amazon.com/Easter-Enigma-Resurrection-Accounts-Conflict/dp/1597521663/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390855093&sr=8-1&keywords=the+easter+enigma

      Also, not to ignore Colonialist’s pointing to the census, here is a link to a 43 page work that makes an excellent case that there were in fact multiple census’ during multiple periods when Quirinius occupied political office in Syria.

      http://www.chronosynchro.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Dating-the-census-of-Quirinius.pdf

      The essay is extensive, thorough, logical, and very plausible.

      Like

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