I just thought I’d drop by to say hello again. I don’t know whether you and other readers of this thread are aware of this, but since writing my original post titled, Michael Alter’s bombshell demolishes Christian apologists’ case for the Resurrection, back in September, I’ve written two more posts: Resurrection redux I, in which I respond to some arguments put forward for and against the Resurrection of Jesus, by Bishop N. T. Wright and Professor Bart Ehrman; and Resurrection redux II, in which I summarize my responses to various objections raised on this thread, under several broad categories.
I’d like to briefly reply to some of the questions you directed at Michael Alter. You ask:
Have you had a chance yet to read NT Wright’s work on the Resurrection yet?
The bibliography of Michael Alter’s 2015 book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry, makes it abundantly clear that Alter is very familiar with Wright’s work. In fact, Wright lists four of Wright’s books in his bibliography: The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), Jesus and the Victory of God, Volume 2 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996), The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1999) and The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003).
I might add that Alter will be directly addressing N. T. Wright’s arguments in his forthcoming second volume.
Finally, as I mentioned in my article, Resurrection redux I, “The point where N. T. Wright’s argument is most vulnerable (or so it seems to me) lies in its problematic claim that the disciples’ belief in the Resurrection hinged on their discovery of the empty tomb. The problem here, as I see it, is that from a historian’s standpoint, the empty tomb is a very shaky pillar on which to base the case for the Resurrection… Unfortunately, N. T. Wright’s vigorous argument that only the Resurrection can explain the Easter apparitions founders on the difficulty of establishing, or even defending, the empty tomb (which is essential to his case) on historical grounds.”
I suggest you have a look at my evaluation of Wright’s arguments, in which I strove to be as fair as possible.
You also write:
We also are not discussing the “crimes” of Jesus, but the Resurrection. I’m still waiting for you to demonstrate a consistent and coherent historical methodology.
I think there may be something about Judaism which you’re unaware of, @swamidass, and that is that Judaism has its own distinctive epistemology. To see what I mean, you really need to read this article: Revelation and Miracles - the Kuzari Principle by Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb. See especially what the author says about Christian miracles. In order to convince future generations of the reality of a miracle at time T, the author argues that nothing short of a national revelation will do the trick.
Contrast this with what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote on the evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection. For him, the conversion of the known world was proof enough:
It is a fact that the entire world worshipped idols and that the faith of Christ was persecuted, as the histories of the pagans also testify. But now all are turned to Christ—wise men and noble and rich—converted by the words of the poor and simple preachers of Christ. Now, this fact was either miracle or it was not. If it is miraculous, you have what you asked for, a visible fact; if it is not, then there could not be a greater miracle than that the whole world should have been converted without miracles. And we need go no further.
Elsewhere, Aquinas argues that Jesus’ Resurrection “was not manifested to everyone, but to some, by whose testimony it could be brought to the knowledge of others.” No need for a national revelation here!
As I said, the epistemology of Christian apologetics is very different from that of Judaism.
The point of Michael Alter’s quotes can be summed up in a passage from my September post on his book, where I discuss the risen Jesus’ first appearance to Simon Peter, and why, taken by itself, it would have cut no ice with the Jews in Jesus’ day:
In any case, this appearance was witnessed by only a single individual, so in a Jewish court of law, it would carry no weight: the testimony of at least two individuals was required (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; 2 Corinthians 13:1).
Finally, you write:
I’m still waiting for you to demonstrate a consistent and coherent historical methodology. I know this is going to be difficult, and will take you time.
Michael Alter is not a historian, but if it’s a coherent methodology you’re looking for, why not try the first three chapters of Professor Maurice Casey’s 2010 book, Jesus of Nazareth: An independent historian’s account of his life and teaching, where he spells out his historical methodology? I mention Casey because he directly engages with many of Wright’s arguments in his work. (Needless to say, Alter cites Casey on several occasions in his 2015 book.) Casey (1942-2014) was a former Professor of New Testament Languages and Literature at the Department of Theology at the University of Nottingham. I think it’s fair to say he knew what he was talking about. What’s more, he was a remarkably fair-minded individual. I’ll just quote a passage from page 2:
The purpose of this book is to engage with the historical Jesus from the perspective of an independent historian. I do not belong to any religious or anti-religious group. I try to use evidence and argument to establish historically valid conclusions. I depend on the best work done by many other scholars, regardless of their ideological affiliation.
Casey is also a gentleman when treating of Jesus’ Resurrection. Despite being a non-believer, he can still write (on page 498):
In other words, the historical evidence is in no way inconsistent with the belief of the first disciples, and of many modern Christians, that God raised Jesus from the dead, and granted visions of the risen Jesus to the first disciples, and to St. Paul on the Damascus Road.
You might like to look at Casey’s book as a counterbalance to Wright’s. I’m not trying to get you to question the Resurrection of Jesus, which I accept as you do. My aim is rather to show that arguing for it won’t work in the 21st century. The best we can hope to show, from studying the character of Christ in the Gospels, is that Jesus was a Resurrection-worthy individual - someone whom God might well have chosen to raise from the dead, if He were of a mind to do so. But the old apologetic has to go. It’s too vulnerable to attack on many counts, in my opinion. You may well disagree, of course.