Early, independent sources for the empty tomb

Bill Craig’s “Question of the Week” feature at Reasonable Faith recently addressed the problem of the number and dating of the earliest independent sources for the burial and empty tomb stories. I found that my own views were somewhat mistaken, so I thought we would all benefit from a closer look.

Let’s take a look at the independent sources for the empty tomb story.

1) The portion of Mark that recounts the burial is an early source

Mark is the earliest gospel, but even he relies on an earlier source for a portion of his gospel.

The burial account is part of Mark’s source material for the story of Jesus’ Passion. This is a very early source which is probably based on eyewitness testimony and dates to within several years of Jesus’ crucifixion.

…The empty tomb story is syntactically tied to the burial story; indeed, they are just one story. 

Bill talks about the dating and significance of this early source:

…Whereas most of Mark’s Gospel consists of short anecdotal stories strung like pearls on a string, when we get to the final week of Jesus’ life we encounter a continuous narrative of events from the Jewish plot during the Feast of Unleavened Bread through Jesus’ burial and empty tomb.

…According to James D. G. Dunn, “The most obvious explanation of this feature is that the framework was early on fixed within the tradition process and remained so throughout the transition to written Gospels. This suggests in turn a tradition rooted in the memory of the participants and put into that framework by them” (J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 2003, pp. 765-6.)

The dominant view among NT scholars is therefore that the Passion narratives are early and based on eyewitness testimony (Mark Allen Powell, JAAR 68 [2000]: 171). Indeed, according to Richard Bauckham, many scholars date Mark’s Passion narrative no later than the 40s (recall that Jesus died in A.D. 30) (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 2006, p. 243)….

Wow, this independent source is almost as good as 1 Corinthians 15:3-7! What else is a good source?

2) Matthew has an independent source for the empty tomb story

Craig writes:

As for the other Gospels, that Matthew has an independent tradition of the empty tomb is evident not only from the non-Matthean vocabulary (e.g., the words translated “on the next day,” “the preparation day,” “deceiver,” “guard [of soldiers],” “to make secure,” “to seal”; the expression “on the third day” is also non-Matthean, for he everywhere else uses “after three days;” the expression “chief priests and Pharisees” never appears in Mark or Luke and is also unusual for Matthew), but also from Matt. 28.15: “this story has been spread among Jews till this day,” indicative of a tradition history of disputes with Jewish non-Christians.

This one was new to me.

3) A source used by Luke and John for the empty tomb story

The inspection of the empty tomb by Peter implies the empty tomb. Craig writes:

Luke and John have the non-Markan story of Peter and another disciple inspecting the tomb, which, given John’s independence of Luke, indicates a separate tradition behind the story. Moreover, we have already seen that John’s independence of Mark shows that he has a separate source for the empty tomb.

This one was also new to me.

4) The early sermons in Acts support the empty tomb

Acts was written by Luke. Craig writes:

The early sermons in Acts are likely not created by Luke out of whole cloth but represent early apostolic preaching. We find the empty tomb implied in the contrast between David’s tomb and Jesus’: “David died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day.” But “this Jesus God has raised up” (2:29-32; cf. 13.36-7).

This one I had heard about before, from Gary Habermas.

5) The creed recited by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is an early source

This passage does not explicitly mention the empty tomb, but it does imply the empty tomb. We moderns are not free to re-invent the meaning of the word resurrection. Ancient Jewish theologians who believed in the resurrection had a definite definition of the word: the word means that the body is gone from the tomb.

Craig writes:

…the old tradition handed on by Paul to the Corinthian church, which is among the earliest traditions identifiable in the NT, refers to Jesus’ burial in the second line of the tradition. That this is the same event as the burial described in the Gospels becomes evident by comparing Paul’s tradition with the Passion narratives on the one hand and the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles on the other. The four-line tradition handed on by Paul is a summary of the central events of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, and his appearances to the disciples.

This creed has been dated to within 5 years of the crucifixion, as I mentioned before.

Further study

A scholarly-level article where Craig makes the case for the empty tomb is found here. Atheist commenters: be sure and read this article before commenting.

I’ll be posting a follow-up later this week on the empty tomb, but I wanted to write about the sources separately.

Licona vs Ehrman debate DVD is now available to order!

From the Apologetics Book Store web site.  (H/T Mike Licona)

Details:

UPDATED: APRIL 11, 2009

DVDs of my recent debate with Bart Ehrman are now available for purchase for $10 at http://theapologeticsbookstore.com/licona-ehrman-debate.aspx.

A review of the debate is linked here.

I like these two new guys, Mike Licona and Tony Costa, a lot. I think we are in good shape on the resurrection debate front, going forward. If we could only find a few good philosophical debaters. Anyone know of any?

At last some honesty on global warming alarmism

You may have read something about the NYT article a while back that discussed the brilliant scientist Freeman Dyson and his opposition to global warming.

Excerpt from the NYT article:

Dyson may be an Obama-loving, Bush-loathing liberal who has spent his life opposing American wars and fighting for the protection of natural resources, but he brooks no ideology and has a withering aversion to scientific consensus.

…IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson began publicly stating his doubts about climate change. Speaking at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, Dyson announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with Salon.com that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books, the left-leaning publication that is to gravitas what the Beagle was to Darwin, that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism.

Among those he considers true believers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”

Well, the NYT got a fascinating letter to the editor in response to their profile of Dyson. The letter came from a graduate student at Harvard named Monika Kopacz.

The letter is excerpted in First Things (H/T The Weekly Standard):

It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.

Remember, in 1975, the leftist magazine Newsweek propped up the global cooling as the crisis-du-jour.

Excerpt from an article from the Business and Media Institute:

It took 31 years, but Newsweek magazine admitted it was incorrect about climate change. In a nearly 1,000-word correction, Senior Editor Jerry Adler finally agreed that a 1975 piece on global cooling “was so spectacularly wrong about the near-term future.”

Even then, Adler wasn’t quite willing to blame Newsweek for the incredible failure. “In fact, the story wasn’t ‘wrong’ in the journalistic sense of ‘inaccurate,’” he claimed. “Some scientists indeed thought the Earth might be cooling in the 1970s, and some laymen – even one as sophisticated and well-educated as Isaac Asimov – saw potentially dire implications for climate and food production,” Adler added.

Journalists, lacking marketable skills, support socialism. They believe that their word-smithing skills are more worthy than the practical skills of engineers and entrepreneurs. Socialism is their way of regaining the accolades they lost once they left the safe confines of the public school classroom.

Any myth that will allow the government to seize control of the free-market must be supported, regardless of the evidence. And the same thing applies to Darwinism. Only in this case, the target is not the free market, but the church. And the goal is not redistribution of wealth, but autonomy from moral judgments and moral constraints.

For more on scientific opposition politics masquerading as science, see here.

Scoop! Craig/Hitchens debate DVD will be produced by Illustra Media

Again, my Wintery powers have enabled me to discover a story hidden from the eyes of mortal men. Behold! The DVD of the recent debate between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens will be produced by Illustra Media.

Illustra Media is the same company that produced professional DVDs, such as “Unlocking the Mystery of Life”, “The Privileged Planet” and the “The Case for a Creator”. All of these DVDs are available from Amazon.com!

My secret source informs me that Illustra has film from the press conference, the pre and post debate interviews, as well as the whole debate itself! They are going to turn the event into a professionally-made film that will be widely disseminated!

You can pre-order the Biola University version of the DVD here!

The llustra Media version will take months to create, because of all the extensive editing and production that will be involved in making it.

Female legislator killed in Afghanistan, pro-jihad woman kidnapped in Pakistan

These two stories create an interesting contrast to say the least. First of all, a female legislator is killed by terrorists in Afghanistan.

Excerpt:

A female provincial government official in Afghanistan who worked hard for women’s rights was gunned down on Sunday during a weekend of violence that has rocked the south of the country.

Sitara Achakzai died when gunmen ambushed her outside her home in Kandahar city before driving away, according to Matiullah Khan Qateh, Kandahar province’s chief of police.

Four men on motorcycles drove up to the house and shot Achakzai as she exited her car, Qateh said.

Qari Yousef Ahmedi, a Taliban spokesperson, claimed responsibility for the killing.

Achakzai spent the years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan living outside the country. She lived in Germany for at least 20 years and was a dual Afghan-German citizen.

She returned to Afghanistan to work for women’s rights, according to Shahida Bibi of the Kandahar Women’s Association.

Achakzai was a member of Kandahar’s provincial council and was a vocal proponent of women working outside the home, Bibi said.

And here is an interesting contrast. According to this Fox News article (H/T Small Dead Animals), a Canadian female journalist who advocated in favor of terrorism has now been kidnapped and is being held for ransom by the terrorists that she’d been supporting.

Excerpt:

Soon after Al Qaeda terrorists killed 3,000 people in the U.S., Giesebrecht converted to Islam, adopted a new name — Khadija Abdul Qahaar — and spent the next two years studying the Koran in Egypt.

She created a pro-Jihadi Web site, Jihad Unspun, and she developed a network of contacts, contributors and translators, some of whom introduced her to the Taliban in Pakistan.

But then her new allies turned on her:

And then last November, the Taliban, the group she had befriended, kidnapped her while she was chasing a story in the Bannu region of northern Pakistan. In a video released after her capture, Qahaar says she’s being held by the Taliban…

In the most recent video, released to the Miranshah Press Club on March 18, Qahaar says her captors demand ransom payment of 2 million Rupees — about $25,000 — by the end of March. On earlier tapes, she said her captors were demanding $375,000.

“I’m pleading with you, save my life. Spare me,” she says. “We have a very short time now, I’ll probably be beheaded.”

The article concludes with this:

“I need somebody to help me,” Qaahar pleaded on the most recent video. “My government — the Canadian government, the Pakistan government — I want to go home.”

It’s certainly ironic.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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