As a contributor to The Resurrection of Jesus William Lane Craig attempts to tidy up some looseness in the arguments for the resurrection of Jesus made by N. T. Wright in his voluminous opus, The Resurrection of the Son of God.
I quote here Craig’s recasting of Wright’s argument in a “more perspicuous” structure. He precedes his recasting with this:
[A]ttempts to explain the empty tomb and postmortem appearances apart from the resurrection of Jesus are hopeless. That is precisely why skeptics like Crossan have to row against the current of scholarship in denying facts like the burial and empty tomb. Once these are admitted, no plausible naturalistic explanation of the facts can be given.
He then presents the freshly polished argument:
1. Early Christians believed in Jesus’ (physical, bodily) resurrection.
2. The best explanation for that belief is the hypothesis of the disciple’s discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb and their experience of postmortem appearances of Jesus.
2.1 The hypothesis of the disciples’ discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb and their experience of postmortem appearances of Jesus has the explanatory power to account for that belief.
2.2 Rival hypotheses lack the explanatory power to account for that belief.
2.21 Hypothesis of spontaneous generation within a Jewish context
2.22 Hypothesis of dreams about Jesus
2.23 Hypothesis of cognitive dissonance following Jesus’ death
2.24 Hypothesis of a fresh experience of grace following Jesus’ death
2.25 And so forth
3. The best explanation for the facts of Jesus’ empty tomb and postmortem appearances is the hypothesis that Jesus rose from the dead.
3.1 The resurrection hypothesis has the explanatory power to account for the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus.
3.2 Rival hypotheses lack the explanatory power to account for the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus.
3.21 Conspiracy hypothesis
3.22 Apparent death hypothesis
3.23 Hallucination hypothesis
3.24 And so forth
In short, I think that Wright’s book is best seen as the most extensively developed version of the argument for the resurrection of Jesus from the fact of the origin of the disciple’s belief in Jesus’ resurrection, an argument that may be supplemented by comparatively strong, or even stronger, independent arguments of Jesus and, then, for his resurrection. Wright’s book is an invaluable reference work and a benchmark of resurrection scholarship. (pp. 147-8)
Resurrection scholarship? In my day job I am busily involved with the coordination of research data in medical scholarship, environmental and life sciences scholarship, indigenous cultures scholarship and much more. I am also involved in making this data and research publications from a wider range of scholarship areas safely preserved and openly accessible to the world. Maybe it’s my secular and naturalistic bias, or is it my bias for scholarship grounded in rigorous methodologies that genuinely produce new knowledge or ways of understanding and using current knowledge, but I find the idea of including in my areas of responsibility something called “resurrection scholarship” quite bizarre.
Reading William Lane Craig’s “strengthened” cast of Wright’s argument is like reading a classics professor arguing that the only sensible accounting for Plato’s and others’ beliefs in Atlantis is that they heard utterly credible and reliable reports about it from sources who ultimately knew about the ruins of a great civilization submerged beneath the sea; and the only sensible way to account for these utterly credible and reliable reports is that Atlantis must have been a great and proud civilization ruling a vast empire before its ruin and loss to the waters. Any other explanation is hopeless. That is why sceptics have to row against the current of scholarship and deny facts like the now lost ruins of Atlantis beneath the Atlantic Ocean.
Related post: Atlantis, another 21st century myth
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