Daniel Ang's Argument For The Resurrection

Since the thread devoted to this article is now closed, I thought I would start a discussion here.

One of the three points Ang makes in his argument is this:

“The second claim is Jesus’ burial and the empty tomb. Skeptical scholars such as Bart Ehrman dispute this, arguing that it is more likely that Jesus’ body was left to rot for a few days, then buried in a common pit for criminals.[2] However, Ehrman’s views do not represent a widespread consensus.”

Ang is mistaken about this consensus. Gary Habermas is a Christian apologist who is best known and widely cited for his “Minimal Facts” argument for the alleged “resurrection.” He lists a half dozen “minimal facts” that he claims are accepted by consensus of historians of Jesus’s life.

Noticeably, the story of the empty tomb is not among them. The reason is simple: There is insufficient agreement among historians and religious scholars that this was an actual event, rather than just some story made up by later believers.

I do not believe Ang’s argument is at all persuasive even as written. But with the removal of this single key part of the foundation of his argument, the entire thing collapses.


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You should read my original post more carefully. The only strong claim I’m making is that Bart Ehrman’s views are not the consensus, and this is based on the Craig Evans article and also endorsed by @Freakazoid, who is an graduate student in NT studies. I’m not claiming that there’s unanimous consensus that the tomb was empty, only that according to Habermas, 75% of scholars accept it.

Now, 75% is not 100%, and a skeptic might argue that many of those 75% are Christians so they are biased. I accept those criticisms. Still, I cite Bernier’s blog post which explains that very few positions in NT studies are unanimously accepted, so 75% agreement is still something. (Please read that footnote again, and the link to the blog post.) All of these considerations is why we don’t know for certain that the tomb was empty, only that it is highly probable that it was, based on the majority (though not unanimous) opinion of scholars.

Finally, I am not trying to make an airtight case for the resurrection. It is very hard to make an airtight case for most things in NT studies, it seems. Instead, I’m primarily trying to explain why it is very possible to make a strong, respectable case for the Resurrection based on the historical evidence.


For Jesus’ empty tomb, it’s around 75% in favor. The only reason Habermas doesn’t include this is because his argument depends on consensus. WLC’s, on the other hand, is based on majority and so he includes the empty tomb.

But regardless of numbers, these should always be assessed on their own merit, obviously. I’m sure we agree about that.


Woe. @dga471, just saw your post after mine. Haha


An important point implicit in my post (which I got into more in an earlier, longer draft) is that yes, we should try to delve directly into the arguments for and against the empty tomb as much as we can, but as laymen our ability to get into the details of the evidence and utilize a robust historical method is limited. Thus, consensus opinion should have some weight in the debate.


I agree. It’s certainly something that I was shocked to learn when I first started looking into this. I just assumed most scholars didn’t accept the evidence in favor of the resurrection (which is different from accepting the resurrection itself), but that you just had to have faith.


Citation please.

Seriously, I cited the Habermas article in my post. It’s not the one you linked in the beginning of this thread.

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Habermas has been rather evasive on where he got that 75% figure from. I really don’t think you’d find anywhere close to that number of historians who believe the empty tomb is an historical fact. Burden of proof is yours.

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Yes. It’s around. I’ll find it tomorrow if Daniel doesn’t have it. I remember Craig cited it in a podcast on his disagreement with Lydia McGrew over his presentation in favor of Jesus’ resurrection. As for an academic reference, I’m sure it’s out there. But it would take some time. Craig cited personal correspondence with Habermas.


Habermas gets the number from his survey of the literature, and he could probably list out the scholars if you asked him.


So what? That just shows how difficult it is to know how much of the NT is anything morer than pure fiction. This is not a point in your favour.

If only 75% of scientists agreed on a particular position, that position would not be considered a fact or even likely true. It would be considered controversial.

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We can’t get 75% of scientists go agree on how the details of evolution work. Does that mean we don’t have any idea how it works?


Yeah, I’m not claiming there’s scientific certainty regarding the empty tomb. (In fact, in an early draft I explicitly contrasted the virtually unanimous scientific agreement about the existence of the Higgs with the state of NT studies regarding anything.) I think assessing NT studies by the standards of science is a category error. By those standards we wouldn’t have reason to know anything about ancient history.

If you want to take the position that it is impossible to know anything about the NT, and that ancient history is a pointless field of study, you are free to do so.

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Really. And, sorry, how many of the (I suspect) large majority of historians who think the whole resurrection is just a load of hokum have gone to the trouble of publishing their opinion in a journal? Why would they? You don’t think there is more than a bit of selection bias in those who do publish their opinion?

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Out of curiosity here, I came away from the previous discussion with an impression about what is seen as the primary merits of the resurrection case and I’d just like clarification on whether I got it right.

Am I correct in my impression that one of, if not the chief arguments for the reliability of the gospels concerning the resurrection, is that they simultaneously agree on what Christians see as the “key” issues, such as Jesus’ death and crucifixion, the empty tomb, and his later appearances to his followers, combined with the unreliability of the “less” relevant things like who was present, at what time of day some events took place, and stuff like that? The idea here being that the accounts agree on the “important” points, yet disagree on minor points and these minor disagreements is actually to be expected from “independent” eyewitnesses?

We’re talking about the empty tomb, not the resurrection. I’m not an expert on NT studies, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of scholars, liberal or conservative, do a lot of research on the historicity of various events in the gospels, including the empty tomb, which is quite an important feature of the Gospel narrative. So I would expect most scholars to have an opinion about it, and that is what Habermas is surveying.

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By the way @Faizal_Ali, if we want to continue this discussion in good faith, you have to express your responses more charitably and respectfully, even if you sharply disagree with me. I’m trying to respond to your arguments thoughtfully, and I’d appreciate if you would do the same. That’s an important feature of this forum, Peaceful Science. We are trying to seek greater understanding of each other, not just trying to win points against each other.


I’m going to do you a favor and actually repost the link from Habermas that I already cited in the post:


In this article, Habermas surveys a range of arguments about the empty tomb (including going to some specifics). He also says the following:

A second research area concerns those scholars who address the subject of the empty tomb. It has been said that the majority of contemporary researchers accepts the historicity of this event.[39] But is there any way to be more specific? From the study mentioned above, I have compiled 23 arguments for the empty tomb and 14 considerations against it, as cited by recent critical scholars. Generally, the listings are what might be expected, dividing along theological “party lines.” To be sure, such a large number of arguments, both pro and con, includes very specific differentiation, including some overlap.

Of these scholars, approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb, while approximately 25% think that one or more arguments oppose it. Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority.

Now see footnote 39, where Habermas cites Craig’s Assessing the New Testament: Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (1989), page 373-374. Both Craig and Habermas also cite an older 1981 work by Jacob Kremer (Die Osterevangelien–Geschichten um Geschichte), which is apparently where most of this trend of surveying scholars regarding the empty tomb begins. Craig reports that according to Kremer, there are 28 scholars supporting listing scholars who support the historicity of the empty tomb: Blank, Blinzler, Bode, von Campenhausen, Delorme, Dhanis, Grundmann, Hengel, Lehman, Leon-Dufour, Lichtenstein, Manek, Martini, Mussner, Nauck, Rengstorff, Ruckstuhl, Schenke, Schmitt, K. Schubert, Schwank, Schweizer, Seidensticker, Strobel, Stuhlmacher, Trilling, Vogtle, Wilckens. Craig then adds more names: Benoit, Brown, Clark, Dunn, Ellis, Gundry, Hooke, Jeremias, Klappert, Ladd, Lane, Marshall, Moule, Perry, J. A. T. Robinson, Schnakenburg, and Vermes. This is a total of 45 scholars in 1989. Doesn’t directly prove the 75% claim, but it’s a pretty long list to me as a mildly interested layman.

I’m also pretty sure reading that Habermas did not merely copy Craig in his 75% figure. He does say that he has performed a more systematic survey of the literature, and I have also heard Habermas sending the complete list to people who ask him for it.

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Good question, but again applied to a scientific field, those that are publishing tend to be the most qualified to speak on a particular speciality. How do we separate this from selection bias?

I don’t know the answer and haven’t thought it through. Enjoyed the discussion and funny enough I had watched this YouTuber make a video criticizing WLC’s position on the empty tomb in particular. For reference the video is here: https://youtu.be/S5pOSO9yino

Some similarity to various thoughts here of which questions like this can be tough to sort through. It’s challenging on either side sometimes to not have a bias in evaluating these types of claims. A nice example of anti-Christian/Jesus/bible bias that exists in the atheist community thankfully has some voices like this one speaking out against it: https://historyforatheists.com/the-great-myths/