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  1. Avatar
    jimmo  April 19, 2012

    William Craig is fond of spouting off the “historical method” as decribed by C. Behan McCullagh in his “Justifying Historical Descriptions”. Two of of the conditions for considering something the best explanation are:

    “The hypothesis must be more plausible than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, it must be implied to some degree by a greater variety of accepted truths than any other, and be implied more strongly than any other; and its probable negation must be implied by fewer beliefs, and implied less strongly than any other.”

    “It must be disconfirmed by fewer accepted beliefs than any other incompatible hypothesis about the same subject; that is, when conjoined with accepted truths it must imply fewer observation statements and other statements which are believed to be false”

    it seems to me that in both cases, a burial by Joseph of Arimathea is less plausible and requires accepting something contrary to commonly accepted beliefs about how Romans behaved in the first century, as well as Jewish burial practices at the time. (At least what I understand from reading Jodi Magness and her Teaching Company course “Holy Land Revealed”)

    On a related subject, I am curious if you ever read John Earman’s “Hume’s Abject Failure”. I just finished reading it and I was shocked at the audacity of Craig in his 2006 debate with you at the College of the Holy Cross. He had a slide “Ehrman’s Egregious Error”, where he mocks you saying you are confused about the Bayesian probability. Earman is quite clear that he is not arguing that we can (or should) consider miracles probable. Rather, he simply argues that Hume did not make a good case. Personally, I don’t think Hume made his case either, but that still does not imply miracles are not the less probable events. Hume does provide food for thought, but I certainly would not claim miracles are the least probable events based on most of Hume’s arguments.

    Earman also talks about the reliability of the testimony and how that affects the probability of the event being testified to. As is expected, Craig assumes the testimony in the Gospels should be considered completely reliable. However, even if you are “confused” about the difference between the a priori probability (that is, based on the background knowledge alone) and the a priori probability plus the evidence, the overall probability does not change nearly as much as Craig would hope when you consider all of the evidence indicating the Gospels are *not* completely reliable.

    At one point Craig says “In order to explain that the resurrection is improbable, he (Dr. Ehman) needs not only to tear down all the evidence for the resurrection, but he needs to erect a positive case of his own in favor of some naturalistic alternatives.” Craig seems to be ignoring the fact that tearing down “the evidence for the resurrection” from supernatural causes, *necessary* implies a “naturalistic alternative” or something else. Admittedly disproving one theory does not necessarily prove another, showing a resurrection as described in the NT is implausible, then some other explanation must necessarily be more plausible, even if not explicitely stated.

    The second problem is the claim “he needs to erect a positive case of his own in favor of some naturalistic alternatives”. My interpretation is that with “some naturalistic alternatives” Craig means “*specific naturalistic alternatives”. Tearing down “all the evidence for the resurrection” only means that we need to search for the alternative and not that we already have any alternative in mind.

    Personally, my guess is that Paul was under a lot of stress due to his perscution of the Christians. As a result, he had a vision (maybe a dream) where he met Jesus. As word of his ministry spread, people assumed that if Jesus appeared to Paul, then he *must* have also appeared to the disciples. Since he *must* have appeared, adding stories of the appearance was not really lying, so they found their way into the Gospels.

  2. Avatar
    Don M. Burrows  April 20, 2012

    As a classicist familiar with the myriad references to leaving people on the cross, I’ve had my doubts about the burial myself. But one passage of Josephus (BJ 4.317) suggests that the Jews took pains to bury those crucified before the setting of the sun (καίτοι τοσαύτην Ἰουδαίων περὶ τὰς ταφὰς πρόνοιαν ποιουμένων, ὥστε καὶ τοὺς ἐκ καταδίκης ἀνεσταυρωμένους πρὸ δύντος ἡλίου καθελεῖν τε καὶ θάπτειν). Perhaps this is thought to be an interpolation: I’ve never looked into it any further, and found nothing in a cursory Google Scholar search. And of course, this does not bar a mass burial of the sort mentioned above.

  3. Avatar
    Rice  April 21, 2012

    Interesting stuff…Only one body of a crucified person. That seems unbelievable. Are we sure crucifixions were wide spread?

    I have a question though about the empty tomb. Is there not an argument for the empty tomb on the basis of the criteria of dissimilarity? The story of the empty tomb was reported by women. The perception of women during the 1st century was not very good. They were low on the social totem pole. In a chauvinistic society their word would not be worth much. If an author were to make up the story of the empty tomb it would seem that Peter or the apostles found the tomb and reported it. I believe there is a clip of Christopher Hitchens making this argument as proof of the existence of Jesus.

    As always, thanks.

  4. Avatar
    zlemm  April 24, 2012

    Interesting read……

    Why are scholars almost sure that Jesus was crucified? One argument is that this event is corroborated by all new testament writers. I don’t think this argument is consistent, since many other events are seen as implausible even though they have multiple corroborations.

    There are many inconsistencies in the crucifixion narrative which suggests that we can’t really be sure this is a historical “fact”. For instance the whole process leading up to his conviction is very dubious. Moreover, we have the narration that he died only after a few hours after being crucified which doesn’t agree with historical facts of how long it normally took for people to die.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  April 25, 2012

      The details are at odds — you’re absolutely right about that. But there’s overwhelming evidence that Jesus was actually crucified. I give some of it in the book.

      • Avatar
        DMiller5842  May 27, 2012

        Just bought the book. Eager to see what the historical proof is when you and others including Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson have done a very thorough job of pinpointing the dung in the Bible. Jefferson copied and pasted to make the Jefferson Bible which he regarded as separating the diamonds from the dung. What I would like to know is how you believe anything that is left after seeing all the dung?
        How do you use the Bible as a historical source when it is so obviously corrupt?
        In 1795 Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason, ” It has often been said that anything may be proved from the Bible, but before anything can be admitted as proved by the Bible, the Bible itself must be proved to be true; for if the Bible be not true, or the truth of it be doubtful, it ceases to have authority, and cannot be admitted as proof of anything.”

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2012

          Great quotation. You may be interested, as well, in my book Jesus Interrupted, on just this point.

    • Avatar
      DMiller5842  May 27, 2012

      I agree with you – the new testament writers contradict each other. This casts doubt on if the event ever really took place and even if it did…. what can we know of what really happened?

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2012

        Ah! See my book Jesus Interrupted — or even better, where I lay it all out in detail, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium.

  5. Avatar
    Adam  April 26, 2012

    I agree that we don’t know where Jesus’ body ended up and he probably didn’t come back to life. I’m curious to know peoples thoughts on how to explain how and why the resurrection story arose if it is not a historical event. I presume it is rooted in the belief or tradition that the disciples “saw” Jesus after his death. Some call it theological narrative, metaphorical narrative, or parable. Others say it should rather be seen as outright deception. I would love to hear Dr. Ehrmans thoughts but I know he is quite busy.

  6. Avatar
    DMiller5842  May 27, 2012

    Here is what I think:
    According to the Oxford History of the Biblical World, “…the idea of resurrection was current in Judea and Galilee…”
    The idea of a “son of god” being resurrected was not an anomaly in that time.
    The idea of a person being a “son of god or god” was not an anomaly either. Again according to the Oxford History of the Biblical World , Julius Ceasar was posthumously proclaimed to be a god by the senate. Augustus used the title “son of god” on coins and inscriptions as did his successors.
    On page 525 of the Oxford History of the Biblical World, it states: ” Many of those who referred to Jesus as “son of god” knew perfectly well that a Latin form of the phrase was among the most frequent designations for Augustus and his successors.” The Roman Senate also recognized that he had become a god after he died.

    And this is in addition to the myths of resurrections of demi-gods that pre-existed the Christian story of the resurrection of Jesus.

    Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason has this to say on the topic too:
    “the evidence given in those books (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) destroys each other.” He is firmly in the camp of believing that it is outright deception.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 27, 2012

      Thanks for the commenets. If you’re really interested in this, and don’t mind reading a book of serious scholarship by someone who really knows what he’s talking about (it was his PhD dissertation at Yale a couple of years ago), see Michael Peppard, The Son of God in the Roman World.

      • Avatar
        Cephas_Phileleutherus  November 13, 2012

        THAT’S why I subscribed to your blog!

        I’ve learned enough reading Bart’s books to realise that I want/need to read these peer-reviewed technical articles, so I can understand the context of the apologists’ defences.

        I kinda got into a discussion with an apologist on Amazon defending my review of one of Bart’s books (can’t remember which one, I think it was Jesus Interrupted). At least, it *was* a discussion until the guy freaked out when I compared Jesus to Appolonius of Tyana.

        Boy did he get a bee in his bonnet about that – I had to give up, eventually, because he couldn’t see he was using my arguments against Jesus’ resurrection as his arguments against Appolonius’ resurrection. It’s just _so_ frustrating to continue the debate when “they” start ‘dissonating’ like that. And if you try to point that out to them, well, it’s a lot like teaching a pig to whistle. (It wastes your time and just annoys the pig)

  7. Avatar
    Kevin@CoJCoLDS  May 14, 2019

    Is there any evidence that the Roman centurions or leaders were open to being paid off or bribery? Is it plausible that someone could have paid someone off for the body?

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