Now that I’ve escaped the drudgery of jury duty, we’ll start a series on Bad Arguments Against the Resurrection. I found these arguments on a popular Skeptical site which, according to my usual policy of not giving exposure to undeserving non-scholarship, I will not name or link to. Not that it matters: The arguments are pretty much the same ones every Skeptic has been using for years, and which we have pretty much already refuted.
Bad Argument #1: Gospel Discrepancies and Silences. Apologists have pointed out for years that the same kind of “discrepancies” are found in secular histories, and that the histories are not simply dismissed on that basis. My own project comparing Lincoln biographies (link below) – which was my second project ever to be put online – made that point as well. I have also pointed out that the argument from alleged significant silence (link below) is deeply flawed, and insensible to both the nature of historical reportage and ancient compositional procedures.
The former argument continues to appeal to banal trivialities such as “one or two angels” as though modern, Western precision standards were the gauge by which these accounts were to be judged. Of course, since not even the Lincoln biographies passed that test, the demand is especially absurd. As I noted in that comparison, in parody:
Oates: Lincoln "stood inside the doorway and shot a wild turkey as it approached."
Donald: Lincoln "spied a flock of wild turkeys outside the new log cabin. He seized a rifle and, taking advantage of one of the chinks (in the wall), 'shot through a crack, and killed one of them.' "
Was there just one turkey, as Oates says, or a whole flock, per Donald? And was it shot from the doorway, or through a crack in the wall? Donald's version at least cites a third-hand source, but this could be easily fabricated. Indeed, the fact that these two authors so directly contradict each other is clear evidence of fabrication.
This and other issues has been addressed in a reconciliation of the narratives linked below.
The rising of Matthew’s saints continues to be a prime target for the latter argument, and it hasn’t gotten any better with age. Critics continue to overplay this event as though Matthew were indicating some large number of dead arising from the graves; as though there would have been a vast publicity surrounding the event (and no danger to those concerned if there had been publicity); and as though a historian like Tacitus or Josephus would have done anything but immediately dismiss the report (even if true) without further investigation. Saying “it didn’t happen” is simply the lazy objector’s way out of dealing with the complex contexts involved.
In the end, using this sort of decontextualized, trivializing objection to regard the Gospels as unreliable, is pure laziness. But I have little doubt it will continue to be used by those who are so without vigor that they can’t even be troubled to do basic sourcework on the ancient texts.
Resurrection Narrative Harmonization