Torley on The Resurrection: Take Two

Hello Freakazoid:

First, thank you for joining the conversation!

Second, an important assumption is that Jesus was, in fact, buried in a tomb. And, of course, there are numerous doubters. The NT accounts raise doubts in the minds’ of some writers that, there was, in fact, an actual tomb. Why, it must be asked?

  1. The description of the tomb evolves: no description in Paul, enhancement in the Synoptcs, and John’s burial in a garden.
  2. Is it practical to assume that Joseph of Arimathea, with his rank, position, and wealth would own a personal tomb near a cemetery?
  3. Why cannot archaeologist, anthropologists, theologians, etc even agree on what type of tomb Jesus was buried in? [e.g. Raymond Brown. The Death of the Messiah. 1994, 2:2148-49]
  4. The dubious historical accuracy of the stone used to close Joseph’s tomb [Amos Kloner. “Did a Rolling Stone Close Jesus’ Tomb?” Biblical Archaeology Review. 25(5) 23-29, 76, 1999.]
  5. Similarity [Biblical parallel mania, plagiarism] to Daniel 6:17.
  6. Who buried Jesus? When was Jesus buried? The time line issue…
  7. The manner in which Jesus’s body was prepared.
  8. The presence of 100 pounds of spices - myrrh and aloes [only in John 19:39].

Collectively, these issues, and others, raise doubt that Jesus was buried in a tomb. Rather, the burial account was written change a state of humiliation into a state of honor and respect (i.e. of Jesus).

Take care


Doubt can be raised on any issue.

You are making a claim that the historical record which has multiple independent accounts according the skeptic Bart Ehrman is wrong.

This is fundamental to your thesis. Why do you think raising doubt is enough to overthrow the historical record?

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This response does not appear to hold up to scrutiny. Communion existed in the early church, without debate, before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. You are still left with a large river to cross. There fixed historical facts here, that the Resurrection would parsimoniously explain, but you have not.

Exactly, which undermines your entire argument. The fact that Jews would not normally move to symbolic blood drinking raises immense questions about why a small devote sect of them actually did.


The major question that I offer is: Is there sufficient reason to change one’s faith based on testimony [written accounts] that are not confirmed or multi attested. In addition, the narratives are confusing, contradictory, demonstrate embellishments, written for theological reasons, and… Would you willing to change your faith based on the testimony of one person? In addition, the accounts and/or witnesses are anonymous!

You ask: Why do you think raising doubt is enough to overthrow the historical record?

Response: You are assuming that historical record is FACTUAL - I and many others do not. The burden is on proponents to demonstrate that the records are, literally historical facts [TRUE] and worthy to be a reason to change one’s faith.

Thank you for writing.

Take care


As I see it, you have not presented even the beginnings of an argument that will challenge an informed Christian, or even a secular historian. We can talk about what could change my mind, but we aren’t even in the right ballpark here.

No, this is not true.

I once again ask you to try and articulate what our objections are, so that we know you are understanding them. From there you can tell us why they are wrong.

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Hi Mike,

it seems to me that either you are assuming that (1) the historical record is factual (for example, you believe Jesus actually existed) or (2) you have some consistent criteria for deciding which elements in the Gospels are historically factual and which are not, or (3) you are simply cherry-picking.

Would you agree with that? And if so, which is it?

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That is a non-argument. I don’t follow at all. Why should all authors have reason to describe the tomb?

Yes. Lots of people, both rich and poor, were buried in such places. Why wouldn’t it be “practical”? (I assume you understand what cemeteries were like in those days. For the sake of all of our readers, I will emphasize that they were not much like most modern-day cemeteries in the USA today.)

Even if one assumes that the scholarly consensus is not strong on the type of tomb, why would it possibly matter?

I’m not going to belabor the other points because they, frankly, strike me as very weak.


If that was the agenda, the authors could have done a much better job! And, for example, nobody would have followed that burial account with a resurrection pericope where women were the first witnesses to the resurrection! That’s not an ideal way to emphasize “honor and respect” and make the account sound credible.

Thanks for sharing the list, however. This is very interesting. We’re glad you joined us on Peaceful Science.


Hello Joshua:

Sorry for getting back to this question that you asked.

About a year ago, Gary Habermas and I had lunch at Liberty University. He is a super great guy, and definite Packers fan [they are having a bad season].

I did a search on the internet and came across several examples for William Lane Craig [not part of your list]. Here is one example

William Lane Craig

Dr. William Lane Craig.

Christ died so we may
write articles about

Icon christianity.svg\ 100x100
A multi-chef broth

v - t - e

“”The way in which I know Christianity is true is first and foremost on the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. And this gives me a self-authenticating means of knowing Christianity is true wholly apart from the evidence. And therefore, even if in some historically contingent circumstances the evidence that I have available to me should turn against Christianity, I do not think that this controverts the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Additional examples can be explored by typing into a search engine: “William Lane Craig lies”

In reference to Sean McDowell, he too, seems like a really nice guy. With have communicated…He invited me (and I agreed) to Skype with his class! He was extremely courteous! The skying was fun. Anyhow, yes, I do believe (although I could be wrong) that he is biased. Please examine his thesis or book The Fate of the Apostles" … His book is extensively interacted with in my future Volume 2. My problem is the rating that he assigns to each Apostle - they were way to high. And, he distorts the data by omitting Judas. I am sure he believes that his evaluation is fair, but, respectfully, I believe that it is strongly “biased” or skewed. Of course, to repeat, this is just my opinion.

Take care


Hello Bill:

Sorry for the late reply.

You wrote: Multiple sources validated that Jesus was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.
Response: Not definitely.

  1. Paul makes no reference in the early creed he quotes [1 Cor 15]

  2. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:4 fails to clearly delineate between burial and burial in a tomb. [e.g. Barclay, Bode, Borchert, Conzelman, Moiser, Zodhiates and many more [discussed in my Volume 2).

  3. The statement “according to the Scriptures” is unsubstantiated in the Hebrew Bible [Please, a clear and concise unambiguous citation would be appreciated.]

  4. Mark writes approximately 40 years later. His entry could have been written to change a humiliation into an honorable burial. Furthermore, some writers point out that he possibly based part of his chapter 16 on Daniel 6. And, it is also possible that the burial scene could have been his literary invention [Discussed in the literature and my Volume 2). Christian apologist must refute this assertion.
    5.Scholars refute the apologetic that the burial story is part of a pre-Markan passion narrative. . Marion L. Soards (in Brown 1994a, 2:1492–524) catalogued thirty-four reconstructions of a pre-Markan passion narrative.
    6.Theissen and Merz (1998, 500) challenge Craig’s argument that there is a lack of other burial traditions.

  5. Perhaps, Jesus’s body was buried in a cemetery or even perhaps in a tomb for criminals. Discussed by Brown, Cook, Crossan, Goulder, Hengel, Myllykoski and many others).

  6. To the best of my knowledge, no tomb is mentioned in Hebrews, Colossians, 1 John, James, Ephesians, 2 Thess, 1 Peter, 1 Clement, Revelation, The Diaache, Jude, Barnabas, G Thomas, Papias, G. of Peter etc. Please let me know if I am in error - thank you.

  7. No independent attestation exists IF Matthew copied Mark. About 80% of Mark is in Matthew.

  8. Barclay (2008, 2) wrote:

Mark has 661 verses; Matthew has 1,068 verses; Luke has 1,149 verses. Matthew reproduces no fewer than 606 of Mark’s verses, and Luke reproduces 320. Of the 55 verses of Mark which Matthew does not reproduce, Luke reproduces 31; so there are only 24 verses in the whole of Mark which are not reproduced somewhere in Matthew or Luke.


  1. So too, see Stein (1987, 52) or search on the Internet. [Discussed in my Volume 2]
  2. How can it be claimed that Matthew and Luke are independent if they copy from Mark? How can it be asserted that Luke is independent if he copies from Matthew? These authors are writing decades apart and in different locales. Please do not claim that they all heard the same report/oral tradition word for word…The burden is on you to prove that they were INDEPENDENT. And, where they differ, that difference could be due to their theological agenda or the people (audience) that they were writing for / to.
  3. John is totally different, writing circa the year 90 and high Christology.
  4. Joseph of Arimathea is “probably” a literary invention. This topic is discussed in the literature and my Volume 2.

Take care


Hi Mike,

I don’t know of any New Testament scholar, or “resurrection apologist,” who claims they are independent. Do you know of any?

You think that some of these authors borrowed from another of these authors. Others think they borrowed from an earlier source (named Q).


Hi Mike
Thanks for you’re reply. First I am very new at discussing any of this. At this point I am only a few books into the subject but I have found a problem with your argument which you have attempted to defend here with some interesting points.

One problem I see for you here is that Bart Ehrman not only argues against the divinity of Jesus but argues for his historic validity. If you go up the thread you will see this argument. He makes a very strong case for the independence for the Gospel’s in his argument for the historical Jesus.

The bottom line is the strongest advocate (I know of) against Jesus divinity is contradicting his own argument and also yours. As the independence of the Gospels strongly supports the empty tomb claim.

The gospels in general have detail differences that some scholars argue as evidence of independent accounts. The Joseph of Arimathea description in the 4 gospels is not subtle.

If Jesus is really the son of God anything you see that is not normal practice during his lifetime should not be surprising. Your whole argument starts from the assumption he is not. If God is real then why would you start from this assumption?

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Hello Freakazoid:

Thank you for your input.

You penned: 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."

Respectfully, I am some what confused. On page 126 I wrote; “In addition, several writers (Casey 1996, 188; Thompson 1995, 61; Tinsley 1965, 204) argue that the Romans did not permit bystanders at the actual place of execution.” Then, I offered a caveat, that you failed to point out. I wrote: "If this argument is valid, then logically nobody would have been able to hear Jesus’s last words. The key word was “IF”…

Later, on page 170, in Speculation 31 “Improbability of the Presence under the Cross” I once again wrote: "Tinsley (1965, 204; cf. Casey 1996, 188…). But why did you fail to mention the crucial following paragraph, just four lines below? Do you actually have my book? I wrote:

In contrast, several writers (Keener 2003, 1141; 1993, 313; Kostenberger 2004a, 547, Stauffer 1960, 179n1) contend that it was not unlikely that women had restricted access to victims on a cross. They argue:…" And, then, in bullets, I present five of their arguments that refuted the speculation of "Improbability of the Presence under the Cross. So, in my opinion (although I could be wrong), I was intellectually honest and presented several argument against the speculation under discussion.

Furthermore, please note that my book totals 912 pages. Entire books and journal articles can be written on just single topics that it discusses. So, it is impossible to discuss every topic to the ultimate degree wished, nor cite every potential reference [N.B. The bibliography was approximately 80 pages, and that was after deletions to reduce the length of the text.] I am pleased that you identified some sources not in my text. Now, readers can look them up and explore what they have to say.

Finally, in the Preface (xlvi) I wrote a caveat that perhaps slipped your attention: “Furthermore, readers are reminded that the speculations presented in this text are nothing more than speculation.” So what is their purpose? To make people think, ask questions, and continue the conversation on an important topic.



PS What graduate school are you attending?

Hi Mike
You also need to include John in your argument.

JOHN 19:38 38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.

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Came across this recent book that may be of interest given that it covers the last days of Jesus.

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What theological agenda would cause any of them to mention different of numbers of women discovering the empty tomb?

Hello Joshua:

Thanks for your comment.

Response: I am not trying to challenge (or change) a Christian. I am trying to present a rationale why a Jewish person, being evangelized or witnessed should not accept the resurrection accounts (and the narratives before it) as good reason to convert. The texts are confusing, contradictory, cannot be harmonized [many, many Christian scholars and theologians openly admit this point], demonstrate embellishments, were written for theological reasons, often lack multi attestation, etc. You have not responded to my question: "The major question that I offer is: Is there sufficient reason [for a person of the Jewish faith] to change one’s faith based on testimony [written accounts] that are…

Second, Joshua, you have not demonstrated that the historical record is factual. In my book, many examples are discussed. Obviously, one can accept the information in the Christian Bible based on faith. But, so too, do others accept their holy works based on faith. The burden is on you to prove that the historical record is factual:

The simultaneous the cutting off of the ear & healing during the arrest of Jesus, two trials on the night of the Passover (?), the earthquake, the darkening of the entire (?) world, the tearing of the Temple’s veil, the resurrection of the saints, the dream of Pilates’ wife, the people saying to curse their own children, the Jewish leadership visiting Pilate, the guard at the tomb, the bribing episode, MM speaking to Jesus and the request (?) not to be touched, the Doubting Thomas episode, the Emmaus episode, the demise of Judas, the exact 153 fish caught at the Sea with the seven disciples, the Ascension episode, etc.


Side issue, but relevant. Have you actually read my text? If not, [in my opinion] I and you are both at a disadvantage.

Take care


Hi Mike,

You accept that the gospels are not entirely devoid of historical fact. Is that correct?

Assuming that is correct, why should you not have the responsibility of stating which elements from the gospels are historically factual, which are not, and how you tell the difference?


Hello Bill:

Good question: “What theological agenda would cause any of them to mention different of numbers of women discovering the empty tomb?”

Response: I never said or implied (at least I hope not) that EVERY detail in the Christian Bible had a theological agenda. Not every detail in the resurrection narratives needs to be theological. However, it is sustainable that many [NOT ALL] aspects of the narratives have, in fact, a theological agenda or rationale. Obvious examples include:

John 19:24, 19:28, 19:36, 19:37

Regarding the number of women, one can speculate that at least two were present because that number is the minimum number of witnesses required to… This is just a speculation. Of course, biblical commentators discuss why they believe some women were present in one gospel account, and not another. And, there is substantial discussion why Paul omits the presence of women in his writings…

Other “possible” examples are discussed in my text.

Take care


Hi Mike
A burden shift is a logical fallacy. You are making the claim (through your book) that the new testate is not historically reliable.

When you do this it shows weakness in your argument.

A fallacy is when someone makes an argument based on unsound reasoning. Burden of proof is one type of fallacy in which someone makes a claim, but puts the burden of proof onto the other side. … In a logical argument, if someone states a claim, it is up to that person to prove the truth of his or her claim.

Hello Bill:

You are partially correct. However, numerous times, I present a case to support that assertion. In addition, I must add that numerous times I present discussion from BOTH sides of the aisle.

Take care