Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Objections to Knowing the History behind the Resurrection

Occasionally, I will hear some pretty weak a priori objections to Jesus’ Resurrection. Unless these objections are particularly good or appropriate, I call these “lazy man objections.” The reason is that it allows the objector to disbelieve the Resurrection without examining any evidence whatsoever. What is this particular objection?

Well, it is this: World War II historical documents vary, have personal biases, and overall skew the data. This event was only 70 years ago, and look how corrupted reports can be. Just imagine how much worse it must be for stories that have been repeated for the past 2,000 years!

This is a very weak objection, and there are a variety of reasons why. First, it’s a puzzling example. So what are we supposed to conclude from this? That World War II didn’t happen? That biases of historians make what really happened in World War II unknowable? Surely no one questions whether or not World War II, or the major events surrounding them, happened.[1] Perhaps it’s supposed to mean that particular events are questionable, and may even be influenced by biases or fabricated as a method of propaganda. No doubt this is true; however, what should we conclude from that? That historical data cannot tell us what really happened?

I think what this objection is happens to be more or less a dressed-up version of the Telephone Game objection. This objection states that when something is repeated long enough, under whispered conditions (I suppose the “bias”), then ultimately the message will be too mangled to know. This leads to our next objection.

If this were true, then no conclusions should be made on any historical event that has had both time and persons involved in its reporting. But why should we think we have no way of saying whether or not Caesar crossed the Rubicon, or Alexander the Great lived, etc.? It won’t do merely to bite the bullet on the issue and say that we cannot have historical knowledge after all. They must also give good reasons why the evidence given in those cases is not sufficient to establish a historical claim. In fact, they must do this for every case.

Next, it’s just not true that we do not know what the main sources said about Jesus of Nazareth. Most NT scholars, believers and unbelievers, are quite happy to grant that a majority of the New Testament text, as we have it across all manuscripts, is what was originally written. Even Bart Ehrman grants this. Basically, only seven passages are really in dispute, none of them affecting doctrine or the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So it’s just not true that the historical data cannot indicate what the earliest sources actually said about Jesus Christ. That is, this a priori claim flies in the face of the evidence, and that’s why it’s a lazy-man objection.

So what will you do with Jesus? The evidence suggests he was raised from the dead, by God, and if that is so, it most plausibly was a vindication of his message—that he was God! John 14:6 says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes unto the Father but by him.

[1] Well, virtually no one. There are a handful who deny the Holocaust, but these scholars have poor arguments, more akin to conspiracy theories than actual scholarly work.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please remember to see the comment guidelines if you are unfamiliar with them. God bless and thanks for dropping by!