Torley on The Resurrection: Take Two

For the rest of this you would have to believe in Biblical inerrancy, but yes, I believe Romans would have seen him as some kind of madman with dreams of grandeur, not a political enemy.

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You need only have a proper respect for a written and widely circulated (understatement alert!) set of eyewitness documents within the historical record, not “a commitment to inerrancy.”

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Let me rephrase: you’d have to believe that the Bible is a historically accurate document.

I do, of course (to an extent) but there are those who don’t.

Perhaps you mean the four gospels? It would take quite a bit of reverse engineering to take this vector out of the whole Bible.

I believe in four gospels, of course. There is no doubt in my mind about that. I don’t struggle with that one bit.

Old Testament is a little hit and miss for me though.

First Time Post here. As someone who actually does have experience in NT studies, I agree with @swamidass and @dga471. Alter’s book is not something that would convince any fair minded historian. There are a number of glaring problems with it that should pop out to anymore informed reviewer. For instance, the use of rabbinic and other Jewish texts is outdated and uncritical. It is widely held that they don’t accurately reflect 1st century Jewish legal practice (among other things). You cannot read them at face value. Most scholars would disagree with his use of them as in the case of Jesus’s trial and evaluation of Pilate’s character. See The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus: Texts and Commentary by Chapman and Schnabel for an actual scholarly overview of the subject.

Alter also uses older sources that have been superseded by new scholarship and fringe sources that a less discerning audience might not be aware of- like when arguing against the bystanders at Jesus’ cross. Maurice Casey was a good scholar on some things, but his work on John is is close to reverse fundamentalism. Likewise, Corley is a part of the Westar Institute which is basically the Jesus Seminar redux. Nowadays people have a much more positive opinion on the historical character of John. Take his citation of Barrett’s supposed refutation. If you actually read the text from Josephus Barrett cites, it’s about getting permission to take people off crosses, not merely approaching them. His understanding of Jesus being crucified because of maxime maiestatis causa damnatorum (high treason) is unlikely- see Craig Evans, John Welch, John Granger Cook, etc. There were a variety lesser charges that fell under maiestatis like laesa maiestas or seditio. For Barret’s argument to work he needs to have Jesus charged with maxime maiestatis causa damnatorum, but Pilate explicitly finds no fault with Jesus in the gospels and doesn’t see him as a political threat. That’s why a number of scholars who favor the lesser charges like John Welch, Craig Evans, John Granger Cook, Jürgen Moltmann, etc.

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I should also add that red flags should go off for anyone who cites Ehrman as a reliable source for Jesus’ burial. His arguments against its historicity have been widely rejected. Most continue to find the burial by Joseph of Arimethea and the empty tomb plausible. But what’s really damning is the following.

  1. Ehrman’s book is aimed at the Barnes and Noble crowd. It is not academic in nature.
  2. He pretty much recycles the arguments of Crossan from the 90s… which most scholars also rejected at the time. His argument only works if you assume from the outset that there is no historical data for the crucifxion and the evangelists were making stuff up.
  3. He doesn’t interact with scholars who have written on the subject since Crossan. This is telling, since said scholars all all vastly more informed on the subject, go into much more depth, and all contradict him.
  4. He doesn’t understand the charges against Jesus have to be nuanced (no high treason).
  5. He misreads ancient sources on Jewish burial customs and why most people think the Romans made allowances for the Jews. Instead he takes what happens outside of 1st century Palestine and reads it in to what he think should have happened.
  6. He ignores the archaeological evidence. There were a variety of punishments deemed crucifixion, these wouldn’t leave traces, and the fact that we do have evidence of in favor of tomb burials for criminals but not the opposite is telling.
  7. Outside of skeptics on the internet, Ehrman’s arguments have been ignored because of 1-6. People who are familiar with scholarly discussion on the subject would know this and wouldn’t cite him if they wanted to be taken seriously.
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Crossan as in Jesus Seminar, right?

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Thanks @Freakazoid for this information. Finally we have someone who has some actual experience in NT studies joining this thread. This sort of insight is exactly what I was talking about when I asked @vjtorley earlier:

Knowing that Casey’s view on people standing near a cross is not a consensus opinion of the field completely changes the credibility of Vincent’s inclusion of that as one of his 17 claims. It is telling, though not surprising, that Vincent seems to be unaware of how other professional scholars view Casey’s work on John, or Ehrman on the empty tomb. This only illustrates the pitfalls of trying to make sweeping judgments about a field one is not an expert in.

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I should probably give a few.examples.to back up my claim on Ehrman.

Craig Evans says that almost no one follows Ehrman and Crossan in Roman Law and the Burial of Jesus- Matthew and Mark Across Perspectives: Essays in Honour of Stephen C. Barton and William R Telford. He pretty much dismissed Ehrman in a footnote.

Another overview is John Granger Cook, ‘Crucifixion and Burial’, New Testament Studies, 57 (2011), 193–213. Ehrman should had access to this while writing his book but completely ignored it.

And I repeat, I can’t think of any actual published work that agrees with Ehrman.

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I don’t know if this matters but what made me distrust Ehrman is the time he said that earliest New Testament writings had 40.000 differences between each other.

Technically true, but what Ehrman ‘failed’ to mention is that those ‘differences’ are difference in spelling and changing certain words so it would be easier to read (since, as we know, language evolves), basically, whatever the differences, the meaning was always same.

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Hi @Freakazoid,

Thank you for your comments. I’ll respond to you first, because you are the only contributor so far who has actually addressed the arguments marshaled by Michael Alter and summarized in my September 2018 post over at The Skeptical Zone, rather than quibbling about “methodology.” I appreciate that.

Let me begin with a short prologue. Right now, there is a real battle for souls going on, online. I can sense it, because I’m at the coalface, and I spend a considerable portion of my time arguing against Internet skeptics of various stripes. I used to be an enthusiastic supporter of Resurrection apologetics, and I enjoyed watching online debates between skeptics and Christian apologists like William Craig and Mike Licona, among others.

I should add that for several years, I contributed articles supporting Intelligent Design and various aspects of Christian belief, over at Uncommon Descent. The amount of material I wrote would probably be enough to fill two or three Bibles. As a result of interacting with various skeptics, I learned a couple of things.

First, whether you like it or not, people these days assess the truth of religious claims by comparing the best arguments they can find for and against, on the Internet. Books don’t count anymore. Why not? First, they’re too darned expensive - yes, even that $10 Kindle version that you can download. For many of us, $10 is a lot of money. We have families to feed. [In any case, Kindles are unreadable for anyone who (like myself) is over the age of 50 and suffers from presbyopia.] Second, the Internet is free and immediately accessible, at the touch of a button. Third, the Internet is widely perceived as an open forum, where ideas can be tested in an online battle of wits. So if you tell me, “I could refute what skeptic X says, but you’ll have to read my book,” my reaction is likely to be: “What are you hiding? If you’ve got a good argument, why don’t you bring it out into the open? Let’s thrash it out online.” Please, don’t go and tell me to read some 1,000-page scholarly tome which costs $50 and may or may not address the arguments I want to see addressed. Not going to happen.

Second, you have to hit bad arguments on the head immediately, if you’re going to make any headway against them. Otherwise, they’ll simply proliferate online - and if you’re a committed Christian apologist, it will be your fault for not hitting them earlier. This should be obvious to any media-savvy person who’s familiar with the new cycle: any negative publicity about a public individual has to be countered within the first 24 hours, or the public will ignore it and they’ll simply believe the accusations against that person. It’s the same with Jesus: any attacks on the Christian faith have to be whacked online, pronto. Otherwise they’ll stick, in the public mind.

With these points in mind, I’d now like to address your arguments:

I should also add that red flags should go off for anyone who cites Ehrman as a reliable source for Jesus’ burial. His arguments against its historicity have been widely rejected. Most continue to find the burial by Joseph of Arimathea and the empty tomb plausible.

Widely rejected by whom? Who are these scholars who look down their noses at Ehrman? Why do none of them ever debate him, either in front of student audiences at Christian colleges or in their online blogs? I’ve looked in vain online for refutations of Ehrman’s online posts about Jesus’ burial, and haven’t found any, despite the fact that some of Ehrman’s posts go back to 2014 and can be viewed by the public. Instead, what I found was an online debate between Licona and Ehrman on the historical reliability of the Gospels, which I have to say Licona lost. The only scholar I found who was willing to engage online with Ehrman on the subject of Jesus’ burial was Craig Evans - and judging from Ehrman’s recent reply here, I’d have to conclude that he has the better of the argument with Evans. (I’ve read other online posts by Ehrman in response to Evans, as well. And of course I’ve read what Evans has to say here and here. I’ve also read Jodi Magness’s article on the subject.)

So when you claim that most scholars today thumb their noses at Ehrman, on the subject of Jesus’ burial, I’d like some names and references, please.

He pretty much recycles the arguments of Crossan from the 90s… which most scholars also rejected at the time.

In this 2012 post, Ehrman explains that when he first heard about Crossan’s views on Jesus’ burial, he thought them “pretty outrageous,” and held that “Jesus was almost certainly buried by Joseph of Arimathea immediately upon his death.” As late as 2012, he contented himself with claiming that “it is not a certain “fact” that Jesus was given a decent burial and that the tomb must have been empty (as Christian apologists love to claim).” It is only in recent years that Ehrman’s views have crystallized, as it were.

This is important, because if scholars have long debunked Crossan’s arguments (as you contend), then why isn’t Ehrman aware of their debunkings? Are you seriously claiming that he’s not au fait with the current literature on the subject? That makes it all the more puzzling as to why no New Testament scholar has taken him on in public debate and trounced him.

He doesn’t interact with scholars who have written on the subject since Crossan. This is telling, since said scholars all all vastly more informed on the subject, go into much more depth, and all contradict him.

Again: could I have some names and references, please?

There were a variety of punishments deemed crucifixion, these wouldn’t leave traces, and the fact that we do have evidence of in favor of tomb burials for criminals but not the opposite is telling.

I don’t know what you mean by “traces,” but Ehrman’s core argument is a very simple one:

  1. Jesus was executed as a political criminal.

  2. There are no known instances in history of the Roman authorities ever allowing a political criminal to have a decent burial.

With regard to premise 1, Ehrman writes:

Jesus was not executed as a member of the riff-raff, as a slave who committed a crime against his owner, as a lowly criminal from the lower classes. He was executed for calling himself King of the Jews. Craig Evans agrees with that. Virtually everyone agrees with that. Jesus was killed on a political charge.

Now, you contend that Jesus was put to death on some lesser charge than high treason. Fine. But even if you’re right, it was still a political charge: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” That’s political. Can’t get round that. So my question to you is: do you know of a single case where Romans allowed someone who was executed on a lesser political charge to have a decent burial?

He misreads ancient sources on Jewish burial customs and why most people think the Romans made allowances for the Jews.

Ehrman explicitly deals with Jewish burial customs in several of his online blog articles, including this one. As far as I can tell, he seems to be one step ahead of his critics.

But you know what? I’m actually inclined to agree with you that Jesus probably did get a burial of some sort. My point, however, is that even if he did, that won’t help the case for the empty tomb. Here’s why. As I wrote above, there are five possibilities that we have to consider:

  1. Jesus didn’t get a proper burial at all. Pilate never handed over the body; it was just dumped in a pit, along with those of other crucified criminals. (This is Professor Bart Ehrman’s thesis, and he backs it up by arguing that we have no historical record of a person executed as a political criminal [as Jesus was] being disposed of in any other way.)
  2. Jesus’ body was handed over to the Jewish chief priests and leaders (including Joseph of Arimathea), who gave him a dishonorable burial in a dirt grave. No family members were present, and there were no mourners.
  3. Jesus’ body was handed over to the Jewish chief priests and leaders (including Joseph of Arimathea), who wanted to give him a dishonorable burial in a dirt grave, but ran out of time before the Jewish Sabbath, so they placed his body in someone’s family tomb, as a temporary measure, planning to bury it later on. Once again, no family members were present, and there were no mourners.
  4. Pilate handed Jesus’ body over to a private individual, Joseph of Arimathea, who, in opposition to the wishes of the Sanhedrin, buried Jesus in his own rock tomb. Because it was a family tomb, there would have been other bodies inside the tomb as well.
  5. Pilate handed Jesus’ body over to a private individual, Joseph of Arimathea, who, in opposition to the wishes of the Sanhedrin, buried Jesus in his own rock tomb. Because it was a new tomb, there were no other bodies inside the tomb as well.

As I understand it, Jodi Magness argues for position 3. Matthew Ferguson, over at his Celsus blog, argues for position 2. Personally, I’m inclined to think position 3 is most likely: it accounts for the Gospel traditions, and it is not too far-fetched, in the light of what we know about Roman crucifixion practices. But here’s the thing: in order to establish the historicity of the empty tomb, you need to argue for position 5. And that’s the least likely position of all, from an independent historian’s standpoint. It goes against all historical precedent.

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You also criticize Michael Alter’s arguments in his book, where he attempts to discredit John’s account of Mary and the Beloved Disciple standing at the foot of the Cross:

Alter also uses older sources that have been superseded by new scholarship and fringe sources that a less discerning audience might not be aware of - like when arguing against the bystanders at Jesus’ cross. Maurice Casey was a good scholar on some things, but his work on John is is close to reverse fundamentalism. Likewise, Corley is a part of the Westar Institute which is basically the Jesus Seminar redux… If you actually read the text from Josephus Barrett cites, it’s about getting permission to take people off crosses, not merely approaching them. His understanding of Jesus being crucified because of maxime maiestatis causa damnatorum (high treason) is unlikely - see Craig Evans, John Welch, John Granger Cook, etc. There were a variety lesser charges that fell under maiestatis like laesa maiestas or seditio. For Barrett’s argument to work he needs to have Jesus charged with maxime maiestatis causa damnatorum, but Pilate explicitly finds no fault with Jesus in the gospels and doesn’t see him as a political threat. That’s why a number of scholars who favor the lesser charges like John Welch, Craig Evans, John Granger Cook, Jürgen Moltmann, etc.

Well, at least you appear to have gone out and bought a copy of Alter’s book (am I right)? It’s a pity that Joshua still can’t bring himself to do so. Actually, Alter cites several scholars on the subject:
“Tinsley (1965, 204; cf. Casey 1996, 188; Corley 2004, 81; 1998, 196n117; Thompson 1995, 61) argues that “The Romans did not permit bystanders at the actual place of execution.” Alter then refutes alleged exceptions by citing the work of Corley. Dismissing her as a Jesus Seminar crank (as you do) is an ad hominem argument. Dismissing Maurice Casey as a reverse fundamentalist is equally ad hominem. Casey was a highly respected Biblical scholar, and this is what he wrote about Mary and the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the Cross:

The fourth Gospel’s group of people beside the Cross includes Jesus’ mother and the beloved disciple. It is most likely that these people would have been allowed this close to a Roman crucifixion. If they had been, and they included people central to Jesus’ life and ministry, it is most unlikely that Mark would merely have women watching from a distance. If a major male disciple had approached this close, it is likely that he would have been arrested. (Is John’s Gospel True?, 1996, London: Routledge, p. 188.)

The central question is simply this: is Casey factually correct or not? If you think he’s wrong, please say why.

I’ll leave it there for now. Please remember: I am a Christian, like you. The difference between us is that after a decade of engaging in online apologetics, I’ve soured on many of the arguments I’ve found, and I now think it’s a waste of time arguing for the Resurrection. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it; it simply means that I believe for personal reasons of my own, which I find myself unable to articulate to other people. Everyone has to hear the still, small voice of God in their own time. And now, over to you.

Really @vjtorley? Are you really going to force us to quote the many many places we addressed specific arguments? Are you really going to say that questions about methodology are merely quibbles?

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Jesus as documented in the 4 gospels. :wink:

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Uh, yes I can. They were mocking what they considered to be crazy ravings of a madman.

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OK, that might have been redundant.

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Thank you for taking time to respond to my earlier post. Your comment is definitely appreciated and respected. There are several problems that potentially confronting “outsiders” (such as myself) attempting to objectively evaluate the topic of Jesus’s Resurrection. If possible, please read my guest blog

“Follow the Money”: Guest Blog by Michael Alter on Faith-Based Education and Publishing

An obvious obstacle is that most of the published texts about Jesus’s resurrection are/were written by believers. In effect, the literature is stacked…Historically, and currently, believers have the upper hand, although conditions are improving. A significant number of writers have degrees from Christian seminaries or private Christian colleges. Of course, some detractors might question the value of a M.A. of PhD from some of these institutions. In contrast, relatively few detractors or skeptics have the luxury of earning a degree after their name to lend credence to their publishing “authority.” For example, I wrote:

“Cutting to the “money trail,” how many detractors would be willing to devote one year of their life and spend $95 to $500 per credit hour for a 36-credit hour MA in a counter-apologetics degree program (even if it existed)? And, remember, we are not even talking about a multi-year PhD program. On the other hand, financial aid (scholarships, loans, underwriting by local churches, etc.) are often available to seminary students…”

I could say more, but your time is respected.

Perhaps more uplifting, your profile states that: " I am also an enthusiastic composer and cellist!" If possible, try to listen to the ending of Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante, Opus 125. It is really great. I assume that you are familiar with the Saint Saens and Dvorak’s cello concertos and Bach cello suites… Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme is also pretty assume. Enjoy!

Take care

Mike

Hi @Freakazoid,

Looks like we’ve cross-posted one another. I see that you’ve been kind enough to post the following, in response to my request for names and sources:

I should probably give a few.examples.to back up my claim on Ehrman.

Craig Evans says that almost no one follows Ehrman and Crossan in Roman Law and the Burial of Jesus- Matthew and Mark Across Perspectives: Essays in Honour of Stephen C. Barton and William R Telford. He pretty much dismissed Ehrman in a footnote.

I take it you’re referring to this 2016 article by Dr. Craig Evans, which is available online. However, the blog articles I cited above from Ehrman’s blog, in response to Evans, date from as recently as 2018, and specifically address the strongest points in Evans’ arguments, so as far as I’m concerned, they supersede what was written in 2016.

Another overview is John Granger Cook, ‘Crucifixion and Burial’, New Testament Studies, 57 (2011), 193–213. Ehrman should had access to this while writing his book but completely ignored it.

Thank you for the reference. I tried to read it online, but since I’m not attached to an academic institution, I couldn’t get access. However, being a person who doesn’t give up easily, I hunted around, and eventually tracked down what I take to be Cook’s strongest argument, on this thread:

John Granger Cook has written a comprehensive book Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World (2014)

On page 186, he points out Philo of Alexandria’s account of Flaccus and the crucifixion of Jews in Alexandria in 38 CE that there was an earlier custom of allowing burial rites to the crucified but Flaccus did not follow this custom.

https://books.google.com/books?id=CLOyBHy9Ip8C

There are accounts of thieves being denied burial as a spectacle to dissuade other thieves.

However, Ehrman addressed this point in a blog article here. I’ll quote the relevant passage:

Philo is NOT stating a universal exception to the rule. He is saying that in Alexandria, where he lives, he has known some “cases” where crucified people have been allowed burial. These are a few cases, not the “practice” (as Craig would have it). These exceptions have been made for one reason and one reason only: to honor “the birthday of the emperor.’ The reason that Philo points this out is because in fact it is a surprising act of clemency, precisely because it was NOT the Roman practice ever to do such a thing. The bodies in these cases are not given to friends or anyone who asks for them, but only to relatives. And most important of all is this: Philo objects to Flaccus for actually crucifying people on the emperor’s holiday, when his predecessors removed crucified bodies ahead of time on that day. But that means that the predecessors had NOT crucified people on that day – because Philo is objecting to Flaccus since, unlike them, he has not only not shown clemency but HAS crucified people on that day. That clearly means that the people whose bodies were removed on this holiday had been crucified previously (otherwise Philo would not have said, to paraphrase: you not only have not done what a few others have done and allowed a decent burial for those crucified – you’ve actually performed the crucifixion itself on that day). I’m having trouble explaining this as clearly as I like. But the point is this: the bodies that were given decent burials on these rare occasions were bodies that had been hanging on their crosses after they had died. In other words, EVEN THIS EXCEPTION does not involve an instance in which someone was given a burial on the day that they were executed (which is what Craig argues happened in the case of Jesus).

Dr. Craig Evans also cites the discovery of hundreds of hundreds of crucifixion nails as evidence that crucifixion victims were given decent burials in Roman-governed Judea. Ehrman apparently disagrees with this interpretation. He writes of the nails: “Some of them with calcium on them (according to Zias, the expert) were not crucifixion nails, but over the years absorbed some of the calcium from the ossuary skeletons. Others (possibly not always connected with tombs) survive because they had been used as talismans.”

Another argument made by Evans is that Roman justice "not only allowed for the executed to be buried, but it even encouraged it in some instances.” On this point, Craig cites the Roman Digesta. However, Ehrman replies that this would not have applied to Jesus, since he was convicted as a political criminal: “King of the Jews.” He asks: “Do we have any evidence that Roman authorities allowed someone like Jesus, who was crucified – and especially one crucified as an enemy of the state, guilty of high treason — to be given a decent burial on the day of his execution, as opposed to the general practice of leaving the bodies on the crosses to be subject to the ravages of time and scavenging animals?”

Now you have said Jesus may not have been guilty of high treason, but we can rephrase Ehrman’s question: is there any evidence of lesser political criminals being given a decent burial on the day of their execution?

Up until this point, I have defended Ehrman, but now I’m going to do a back-flip and give a plug to his academic adversary, Dr Craig Evans. I have just been watching a one-hour video, by Dr. Craig Evans, dated 30 March 2018, and titled: “Was the Body of Jesus Placed in a Known Tomb?” I would strongly urge all readers to watch this video: it’s very good.

After listening to Dr. Evans’ side of the story, I think it’s fair to say that a strong case can be made that Pilate would have allowed the Jewish authorities to take Jesus’ body down from the Cross and bury it on the same day. I won’t say it’s highly probable that Pilate would have done that: I really don’t know. But it’s certainly highly plausible.

However, as I argued above, that still leaves scenarios 2 (dishonorable burial by the Jewish authorities in a dirt grave), 3 (dishonorable burial by the Jewish authorities in Joseph of Arimathea’s family tomb, as an interim measure), 4 (burial by Joseph, against the wishes of the Sanhedrin, in his family tomb) and 5 (burial by Joseph, against the wishes of the Sanhedrin, in a new tomb) as possibilities. Dr. Evans seems to opt for a version of scenario 5: Pilate gave the body to Joseph of Arimathea, who allowed Jesus to be buried in his own new tomb. As I pointed out in my original post on Michael Alter’s book, the story of Jesus being buried in a new tomb was deliberately written for apologetic purposes , in the opinion of the late Catholic Biblical scholar and priest, Fr. Raymond Brown (The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John (xviii-xxi), 1970, Garden City: Doubleday, p. 959). Brown was no radical. I also mentioned that Dr. Jodi Magness thinks that Jesus’ body was laid in a new burial niche in the wall (or loculus ) inside Joseph of Arimathea’s family rock tomb - which, if true, would undercut the apologetic claim that Jesus’ tomb was found empty on Easter Sunday morning.

So my biggest criticism of Dr. Evans’ presentation is that he fails to explain why he believes Joseph of Arimathea was permitted to place Jesus’ body in his own tomb, let alone a new one, and that he fails to discredit scenarios 2, 3 and 4, which would undercut any empty tomb apologetic. Evans also fails to explain where and how the women would have managed to purchase the spices Mark says they bought on Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn (Mark 16:1).

As I stated above, I think it’s quite possible that Pilate made an exception and allowed the Jewish leaders to give Jesus a dishonorable burial, as it was the eve of the Passover. My own view is that Byron McCane in his article, “‘Where No One Had Yet Been Laid’: The Shame of Jesus’ Burial” (in B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) comes closest to describing what actually happened.

The upshot of all this is that it’s very uncertain what actually happened to Jesus’ body. Since we need to establish what happened in order to show that he was resurrected, it follows that in the 21st century, we are no longer in a position to show that. That’s all I wanted to say.

Hi @Djordje,

Uh, yes I can. They were mocking what they considered to be crazy ravings of a madman.

Except that Jesus never called himself “King of the Jews.”

Hi @swamidass,

Really @vjtorley? Are you really going to force us to quote the many many places we addressed specific arguments? Are you really going to say that questions about methodology are merely quibbles?

I’d like to apologize. My words were too harsh and sweeping: there were some comments where you attempted to address my arguments, even if the majority of them related to methodology and Michael Alter’s credibility.

Look, I’m a meat-and-potatoes man: I focus on the nitty-gritty stuff. When I see a book attacking the Resurrection, the question I ask myself is not, “Who is this guy?” or “What’s his approach to sorting out historical claims?” but rather, “Has he read the literature, and are his arguments any good?” My overall impression from reading Michael Alter’s book was that he scored a number of big hits. Also, he knew a lot of stuff about Jewish practices that I’d never heard Christian apologists address before, and he was meticulous about citing his sources. So I was very impressed.

At the end of the day, the biggest question you need to address is this: can the empty tomb be historically demonstrated, with a high degree of probability? After reading Alter’s book and the online debates on the subject, I don’t think it can be. There are too many alternative possibilities, and I don’t see how they can be ruled out. Perhaps you feel differently, but I can only call it the way I see it.

Anyway, I shall bow out here. I don’t want to say anything more, as I don’t wish to sound uncharitable. This is your blog, and I’d like to think you for allowing me to comment on it, Joshua. Peace.

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