Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Response to Bradley Bowen’s Skeptical View of Jesus’ Resurrection

I have continued to be in dialogue with Bradley Bowen on The Secular Outpost throughout his Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus series. He wrote in part 10 of the series:
A key claim made by Christian apologists who defend the resurrection goes like this:
(JAW) Jesus of Nazareth was alive and walking around unassisted on the first Easter Sunday.
We are considering the implications of the following supposition:
4. (JAW) is false.
On this supposition, there are three logical possibilities:
A. Jesus was not alive on the first Easter Sunday.B. Jesus was alive on the first Easter Sunday but did not walk at all that day.C. Jesus was alive on the first Easter Sunday but was walking only with assistance from others.

Here is my response:
If A is true then the Apparent Death Theory (ADT) is not true. Since the Gospel accounts and historical records agree that Jesus was crucified we know that Jesus was subjected to a life threatening situation. This means that Jesus would have to survive scourging, crucifixion and very likely a spear thrust to the side that pierced his heart. We know that Suetonius, Josephus, Cicero and Livy all documented cases where people died during or shortly after scourging, and that scourging of non-Roman citizens was common before crucifixions. We also know that the Romans executed thousands of people via crucifixion, and so were very good at it. This means that Jesus would have to survive two life threatening events.

Jesus also very likely received a spear thrust to the side. John 19:32-34 says, “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” This accords with what the South African Medical Journal wrote in "The history and pathology of crucifixion."  They wrote, "The attending Roman guards could only leave the site after the victim had died, and were known to precipitate death by means of deliberate fracturing of the tibia and/or fibula, spear stab wounds into the heart, sharp blows to the front of the chest, or a smoking fire built at the foot of the cross to asphyxiate the victim."  So, it seems likely that Jesus would have to survive a spear thrust to the side as well.

Even if Jesus was somehow alive after sustaining a massive amount of trauma, he would have to survive three days in critical or serious condition in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb without the medical care he would desperately needed. Even if someone made it past the Roman guards and rescued Jesus he would have to go sometime without medical care and the care who would have eventually received would be very primitive by today’s standards.

Most NT scholars agree that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Even the agnostic scholar Bart Ehrman said, “The earliest accounts we have are unanimous in saying that Jesus was in fact buried by his fellow, Joseph of Arimathea, and so it’s relatively reliable that’s what happened.” This means that since the highly experienced and disciplined soldiers that crucified really believed that he was dead. 1 Peter 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and the Gospel accounts all indicate that Jesus followers also believed that Jesus died on the cross. So, everyone around Jesus believed that he really died on the cross. It also means that if Jesus’ body never made it out of the tomb then it would be obvious to everyone involved that Jesus was dead and not resurrected.

Roman historians also validate the Biblical accounts. Tacitus wrote:
Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.  
Tacitus confirms that Jesus was executed by Pontius Pilate.

The Gospel accounts also accord with what Josephus’ history He wrote, “At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die.” Again, it is confirmed that Jesus was crucified by Pilate.

So, taken all together there is a lot of evidence that suggests that Jesus died after being scourged, crucified and speared. This is why physician C. Truman Davis writes, “Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, ‘And immediately there came out blood and water.’ Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.”

This is why I think that the ADT is probably not true. Jesus would have to have to survive an extraordinary amount of trauma and three events that could likely kill him. However, Jesus’ empty tomb and post mortem appearances greatly lower the chances that A is true. All four Gospel accounts, Acts 1, Acts 13:28-32, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and 1 Peter 1:3-4 all claim that Jesus rose from the dead.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Negating the Negations: My Objections to Bradley Bowen’s Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus

Bradley Bowen over at The Secular Outpost wrote an interesting article that questions whether Jesus really died on the cross. Although this approach is more novel then the usual skeptical claims against the resurrection of Jesus I think that when you analyze the amount of trauma the human body would have to endure from a Roman scourging and crucifixion I don’t see how Jesus could have survived. I will also question Bowen’s argument that Jesus wan not raised from the dead.

The brutality of scourging
The Gospels (Matt. 27:25; Mark 15: 15; John 19:1) state that the Jesus was scoured or flogged before being crucified. This was a common Roman practice that was only inflicted on non-citizens. Scourging was an extremely brutal and bloody process where the victim would be stretched out over a pillar and then whipped repeatedly with lashes that had pieces of bone and metal which would rip and tear the victim’s flesh. They would often reach a state of hypovolemic shock due to loss of blood.[1] Roman historians such as Josephus and Livy write that victims of scourging have died while still tied to the post. Jesus’ back would have been torn to shreds and he would have lost a massive amount of blood even before being nailed to the cross.

The horrors of crucifixion
The Gospels say that on the way to Golgotha Jesus was forced to carry the cross beam that he was going to be crucified on (a common crucifixion practice), and that he stumbled and collapsed under the weight of the beam. If Jesus fell chest first with the beam, which weighed about 100 pounds, on top of him then this could generate enough force to bruise his heart as some people in the medical community have hypothesized from observing car crash trauma.

Then once Jesus got to Golgotha nails were driven into his wrists and feet adding a considerable amount of pain and a significant amount of blood loss. A common way that crucified people die is by asphyxiation as they have difficulty breathing as the muscles of chest are hyper-expanded. However, Dr. C. Truman Davis believes that Jesus died of heart failure due shock and the constriction of fluid in the pericardial sac called a pericardial effusion.[2] This makes sense because John 19:34 states that the Roman legionnaire who presided over the crucifixion drove his spear up into the side of Jesus causing blood and water to come out of his side. This indicates that the pericardial sac had burst and the fluid inside leaked out of Jesus’ side. This is a coup de grâce that would almost certainly kill anyone.

The Romans were masters of crucifixion
Crucifixions were performed by experienced teams of Roman soldiers who specialized in execution. The Romans performed thousands of them as the ultimate show of force. Even though the centurion who lead the crucifixion of Jesus wasn’t a medical professional he would have been a master executioner and could be counted on to get his grisly job done. The penalties for incompetence in the Roman army were severe and could include execution so the centurion would have ample reason to not be lackadaisical about Jesus’ execution.