the Secular Outpost. I would like to respond to some of his comments.This morning a philospher named Bradley Bowen took on the resurrection of Jesus at
"My position on the resurrection claim is that it should be analyzed into two main claims:
"1. Jesus died on the cross on Friday of Passover week (and remained dead for at least six hours).
"2. Jesus was alive and walking around on the Sunday following Friday of Passover week (or within a few days after that Sunday)."
The exact dates do not seem so important, but let's follow this line of thought and see where it goes.
"However, even if one grants, for the sake of argument, that (2) is true, the evidence for the resurrection still falls short of what is required, because the combination of (1) and (2) is a physical impossibility (more or less). So, in supposing (2) to be true, the requirement of evidence to establish (1) becomes rather difficult to achieve."
This looks like begging the question. Yes, it can be assumed that miracles don't happen -- if they don't. But if it is even POSSIBLE that God is real, then it is not "physically impossible" that Jesus rose from the dead. (And in fact, in his efforts to undermine the resurrection, the atheist philosopher Michael Martin points out that it may NOT be "physically impossible" -- see pages 74-75 of The Case Against Christianity. I'm always amazed at how often the possibilities in a binary field of possibilities seem, in atheist eyes, to BOTH exclude Christian truth.)
Owen appears to be assuming, before looking at the evidence, that it is impossible that God exists. That would not seem to be the correct first step in discovering whether or not He does in fact exist. Or maybe he means something else by saying the resurrection is "physically impossible?"
"Although there is obviously some evidence that Jesus died on Friday of Passover week and remained dead for at least several hours, the evidence is hardly compelling. For one thing, if Jesus was buried in a stone tomb before sunset on Friday evening, as the Gospels report, then he might well have been observed for only an hour after his alleged death. Once his body was inside the tomb, no one could observe whether or not he was breathing or had a heartbeat."
"One of the main problems with the claim that Jesus died on the cross is that we don't know the extent of Jesus' injuries prior to and during the crucifixion, and we don't know how crucifixion causes death. Another problem is that modern medical science would not make an appearance for well over a thousand years, so there was no scientific medical expert available to verify that Jesus was truly and completely dead."
Do you see the problem? Ancient Romans may have crucified thousands of people. But being unscientific, they had no way of knowing if their victims were actually dead or not, before they buried the bodies. Despite all the people they had killed, the Romans had little idea of what death looked like. So after having scourged a criminal, beaten him, made him carry a cross up a hill, crucified him and pushed swords into his side so blood and water came out, then sealing him behind a massive stone underground, after hours of torture and what looked to ignorant pre-scientific Romans like death, victims of Roman crucifiction were constantly ripping apart the mummy-like wrappings they were entombed in, tossing boulders aside like bamboo shutters, scaring off guards, and appearing in a blaze of glory to their followers as the Lord of Life, conquerer of death, the picture of a better mode of existence that promised to make all things new.
This explains all the competing claims of resurrection of historical figures in the ancient world, of which NT Wright, the Oxford and Cambridge historian, in his 816 page Resurrection of the Son of God, could find . . . Well, OK, he couldn't find any real parallels, and neither has anyone else, really. But those Romans were so incompetent when it comes to killing people, who knows how many of the people they killed may ultimately turn up, still breathing?
This is not a persuasive hypothesis.
"So, the evidence for the resurrection fails on two accounts. First, the evidence for (2) is rather weak, and second, if we suppose (2) to be true, then the evidence for (1) is too weak to be sufficient to establish a claim of a physically impossible event."
Owen hasn't actually address (2) yet; he has merely asserted its weakness.
And his claim about (1) is, likewise, merely a restatement of skeptical dogma, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the real evidence for the resurrection.
From here on, however, Owen offers a somewhat more interesting argument -- or one that, at any rate, I recognize AS an argument:
"Not only is the evidence for the resurrection insufficient, but there are good reasons for believing that it is false that God raised Jesus from the dead. Here is an argument that Jesus was not raised (JNR):
"JNR1. Jesus advocated the following religious beliefs: (a) Moses was a prophet of God, (b) the Old Testament was inspired by God, and (c) Jehovah is God.
"JNR2. If Jesus advocated any religious belief that is false, then Jesus is not God incarnate.
"JNR3. At least one of the following beliefs is false: (a) Moses was a prophet of God, (b) the Old Testament was inspired by God, or (c) Jehovah is God. Therefore:
"JNR4. Jesus is not God incarnate.
"JNR5. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then Jesus is God incarnate. Therefore:
"JNR6. It is not the case that God raised Jesus from the dead. I am confident that (JNR3) is true."
While the prior plausibility of an event can be judged on philosophical grounds, philosophy and theology is in many cases too subjective and complex to arrive at so much certainty that it allows us to dismiss or accept historical claims a priori, in opposition to the evidence. Such would appear to be the case with this line of argumentation.
All of these claims are highly disputable. Even the meaning of some is hard to pin down very exactly. What does it mean to say God "inspired" the OT? What does it mean to say Jehovah "is" God? As I argue in my dissertation, identifying two names for the supreme God in two different languages is not a simple, but it is certainly a doable, semantic action, but it is very difficult to say Jehovah "cannot be" God.
So it seems to me that Jeff's argument here cannot carry much weight. If any one pillar collapses, the whole thing falls down. And most of them look pretty wobbly, to me.
"Premise (JNR2) appears to be true to me, and it would certainly be difficult for a Christian believer to deny (JNR2), for that would undermine the authority of the teachings of Jesus. The belief that Jesus is God incarnate is a primary reason given by Christians in support of the authority of Jesus' teachings. So, if one admitted that Jesus could give false religious teachings and yet still be God incarnate, then his allegedly being God incarnate would not be a good reason for following his teachings."
Brad appears to be saying, in effect, that "God would not cause Jesus to rise from the dead, if He also allowed the gospel writers to report Jesus as saying anything that, interpretting literally, I find it hard to believe." But maybe God is more forgiving than that. Maybe even if, say, Matthew puts something in the mouth of Jesus that Brad finds unbelievable, God STILL raised Jesus from the dead. I, at any rate, see no difficulty in believing that. Anyway, it looks to me like a mainly historical problem, not one that can be solved by these sorts of arguments.
I think, in addition, that aside from the historical evidence, the prior probability for the resurrection of Jesus is very high. That is, even aside from the actual historical evidence that He did, there are many good reasons to think that God WOULD LIKELY raise Jesus from the dead. No argument for the resurrection that seems strong to me, depends on the premise, "The Bible is the infallible Word of God." It seems to me Bowen might still be stuck in that old quarrel.