Monday, May 11, 2009

Cliff Notes Version of Craig v Carrier

I think if you listen to the audio of the Craig/Carrier debate you initially think Craig performed a lot better. I think his snarky tone does score points. His expression of incredulity at Carrier's views, referring to him as a crank and so forth, I think leaves a good impression on the audience, despite the fallacious nature of these things. But I took the time to try and jot down the various threads of the debate as they occurred, and as I look back on it I'm surprised at how well Carrier did. Better than I initially realized. Here are my notes, which may be imperfect. I place in bold a couple of key points that Carrier made that to my mind were substantial.


Presupposes God and certain facts about Jesus (crucifixion, teaching, etc)

4 historical facts which must be explained by any hypothesis
2-discovery of tomb
3-post mortem appearances
4-origin of disciples belief in resurrection

2-resurrection best explanation of above facts

In support of 1

Burial multiply attested in early independent sources (Mark source material, very early, probably based on eyewitness testimony) I cor 15 dated within a few years or months. Sources of Mt and Lk as well as Jn. We have at least 5 independent sources. Normally 2 is great.

As member of Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, J of A an unlikely invention. Raymond Brown says burial by Joseph is very probable, since it's almost inexplicable that Christians would invent Sanhedrist that did right.

In support of 2

Richard in minority in denying 2

Reliability of burial account supports empty tomb. This means the site of grave was known, which means a corpse in a tomb would have belied resurrection, and belief wouldn't have arisen.

Empty tomb multiply attested. Mark's passion source didn't end with burial, but with the story of empty tomb tied to burial account verbally and grammatically. M and J also are relying on indepentent sources on this point. It's mentioned in early sermons preserved in Acts. Implied in I Cor 15. Multiple early attestation. At least 4 independent sources.

Women discovered tomb. Their testimony not highly regarded. Josephus says women shouldn't be premitted to serve as witnesses in court. Later legendary account would have looked to males.

Story is simple and lacks theological development, which would be more characteristic of a Christian creation. Compare Mark to later documents.

Earliest Jewish polemic presupposes tomb. Quotes Jaochob Kramer in support of empty tomb.

Richard rejects these because Paul saw things as spiritual. But this ignores the facts confirmed independently of Paul. But in fact Paul really means transformation of earthly body, not exchange. In I Cor 15 Paul means intrinsic change, not exchange. When the meaning is "exchange" it usually takes a direct object. For instance "exchange the glory of God for images" in Romans. He doesn't do this in I Cor 15. He says "the trumpet will sound and we will be changed." Verbs of sowing and raising. "It is sown, it is raised". Richard mistranslated this section implying a different thing. "One is sown, one is raised". Phil 3:21 "He will change our lowly body to be similar to his glorious body" Romans 8:10-11, Romans 8:23.

In support of 3

Universally acknowledge by scholars and by Richard. Paul's list guarantess that the appearances occurred. "To Peter, inner circle, 500, skeptic James, then all apostles, then to Paul" Gospels have multiple independent narratives. Skeptics like Ludemann agree.

In support of 4

Jews had no idea of a messiah humiliatingly executed. Jewish beliefs preclude singular resurrection prior to general resurrection. They were so convinced they were ready to die, for this unJewish belief. LT Johnson and NT Wright in agreement.

Best explanation is resurrection. Historian CP McCullough has 6 tests, and resurrection explains all 6. Scope, power, plausible, not ad hoc, in accord with accepted beliefs (God raised Jesus from the dead doesn't conflict with the general belief that people don't rise naturally), finally this theory fits the 5 criteria better than any other hypothesis.


1-Gospels have no relevance as history
2-Epistles don't tell us much

Why stories look like myth

Barabbas narrative looks like myth. Romans have no such custom, nor would Rome have released insurrectionist, but Jews did have custom that fits the story (scapegoat).

Impluasibly convenient story structure. Jesus taught with many parables reversal of expectation (high brought low). The narrative includes similar themes. James/John ask to sit at right and left are replaced by thieves. Peter told to deny himself, pick up his cross. Instead denies cross. Replaced by a different Simon, stranger, that does pick up the Christ. Jews mock Savior while Gentile soldier recognizes him. Male disciples abandon Jesus, while women stick with him.

Stories constructed from OT narrative. Ps 22. Empty tomb narrative also from OT. Deliberate parallels and inversions of other mythis. Luke talks of Cleopas going to Emmaues, and Jesus appears, explains things, then tells everyone. Cleopas means "tell all" or "proclaim". Similar to other story about Proculus (also means proclaim) journeys on road, resurrected Romulus appears and explains the secrets, and Proculus goes on to proclaim what he has learned. Other parallels.

Reification of imaginary people into real people. In John Lazarus is real, whereas in Luke he's fictional. John's story appears to build on Luke in making a new story.

Acceptance of wildly contradiction versions of the same story. John completely re-writes Mark as far as the empty tomb.

Gospels invent events that never occurred. Earthquakes, resurrected corpses, darkness. For these and above reasons they gospels just can't be trusted as reliable.

What of epistles.

Paul's gospel he got by revelation, not from people. Taught for 3 years before seeing anyone from Judea. Gospel in I Cor 15 uses terminology similar to Gal 1 describing his revelation. This is common hallucination thought. Why believe these visions and not others like what is in all other religions. He says Scripture told him this stuff. Paul expressly talks about hallucinations he experienced, and this is apparently common amongst Christians. So frequent it required rules. Sounds like a schizo personality.

There may be no body. Gospels not trustworthy and epistles don't claim a body. Craig has claimed that if evidence indicated a body he would dismiss it as a trick. Perhaps early Christians did this as well.

The book of Acts doesn't portray anyone asking questions about a body.

Most missing bodies go missing for reasons other than resurrection.

Flying and teleporting corpse could have appeared to various people such that today we'd have good evidence, but instead he appeared to a few small groups of his own fanatical followers. If Jesus really wanted to save us all he wouldn't do that. But if in fact the Jesus movement started like most religious movements, amongst illiterate, ignorant, hallucination prone people, and is in fact false, then what we see is pretty much what we would expect.

Craig admits natural explanations should be preferred.


Majority of scholars don't regard gospels as myth. R.T. France quote. Craig Keener.

Re Barabbas, acclamation of public did occur numerous times. In Egypt they released a guy that deserevd a scourging.

Historical core (4 facts) still affirmed by scholars regardless of your conclusions about their genre.

Purpose of appearances was for commissioning people for evangelism. This explains why Jesus didn't appear to everyone.

No response on burial

Re empty, Richard says it's constructed out of OT themes. Joel Green says studies of use of OT a Qumran indicates that texts were adapted to fit events more readily than events created to fit biblical text. No parallel for passion narrative, (annointing at Bethany, sword incident, tearing of veil). Passion story did not use obvious motifs of OT. Despite Ps 22 the passion story doesn't say Jesus was nailed to cross. Regardless there are multiple independent sources for empty tomb. Look to Mt. His source confirms it due to the non-Matthean vocabulary and he's responding to a pre-Matthean tradition. John indicates an independent tradition. Acts is independent. Lk and Jn have story of Peter visiting tomb, which is another tradition. Paul's tradition is non-Pauline, since I Cor 15 is pre-Pauline.

Re, reversal of expectations. Robert Gundry says things happen just as Jesus predicted. It's fulfillment of expecation, not reversal. Final words "just as he told you."

Re Jewish polemic. Richard says this is about Daniel and lions den. But this is about what motivated Mt to write this. He's responding to Jewish argument. So we have evidence of early adversaries.

I argued that Paul viewed the body as transformed, so he must have accepted empty tomb.

Hallucination/theft/apparent death/wrong tomb theories don't explain all 4 of the facts. Resurrection explains all facts. Very un-Jewish belief. So why accept these alternatives.

Can't phsychoanalyze ancient people.

Wicked witch theory is ad hoc. No evidence that people used human body parts w/necromancy in 1st century Judea.

Not improbable for God to raise Jesus from the dead if God exists.


I'm not arguing that miracles are impossible. I'm saying most bodies that go missing are not due to resurrection. Most dead people are seen through resurrection. So this must be preferred to natural explanations even if miracles are possible.

Why believe Jesus is raised? Because Daniel says "Messiah shall be executed but no judgment upon him." Hosea says similarly. Wisdom of Solomon also. Apocalypse of Gabriel says messiah resurrection on third day. When Jesus died they'd look for explanation, pour over Scriptures. Paul says that's how they found these things.

Paul calls res of Jesus firstfruits. They thought the end of the world was coming, so they see this as part of the general resurrection, which is coming shortly.

This is plausible, but we don't have enough evidence to confirm or deny any of this.

Majority of scholars do not accept empty tomb. Habermas 75% figure comes from those publishing on the topic of empty tomb. 37 authors total, which is a small sample size. Excluded agnostics. Really there is no consensus.

Says I'm seeing things. I think this would be a remarkable coincidence with all they symbolism. Barabbas is an odd name, but even if not, for him to take that place where the meaning of the name perfectly fits the story, is just to be plainly myth. I listed scholars that agree with me though he says they don't.

Cites speeches in Acts, but there is a tradition in ancient history of making this kind of thing up.

Says I Cor 15 implies empty tomb, but it doesn't.

Said women can't serve as witnesses in court, but this is false. Regardless they are not there to provide reliable history, but they serve a function in the fictional tale. They are there for symbolism (least first, Mark using phrases from Jacob's well narrative in Genesis (who will move the stone), irony of the beginning of gospel (women silent at end, proclomation at beginning of gospel))

He says uncolored by theological motifs. Irrelevant. He doesn't need to put any particular motif except what he wants.

Jewish sources don't provide any Jewish polemic. Acts doesn't show this being there, and we would expect to see trials and accusations presented in Acts. Matthew is trying to emulate Daniel and the lion's den.

See Empty Tomb on switched bodies, but today I'm just saying we don't have reliable info either way.

I gave many examples of reversal of expectation, he says it's not persausive. Judge for yourself.

He says there was a transformative experience. I'm saying the hallucinations do that, just like they do in so many other religions. Not that we can know.

He says no natural theory can explain the facts. But it's not necessary to assume one cause. Multiple causes can explain things.

He says we can't do phsycho analysis. I'm not. I'm simply talking about cognitive science. We know these features are common and typical. I'm saying go with the common and typical unless we have contrary evidence, which we don't have.


4 facts

Burial in tomb not disputed by Richard.

Empty tomb. Richard says Acts makes up speeches. But Acts contains non-Lukan semitisms, which indicates independent traditions.

Mishnah, 200 years after events, says women could serve but it was only 2 things. Their virginity and that her husband is dead. That's all they can do. This shows that their testimony not on par with men. Josephus says women are light headed and brash. This reflects the mindset. Richard says Josephus relied on women, but in that case he's talking about women who were the only survivors of a slaughter.

I said accounts are simple. He points to coincidences in names. These speculations are off the rails. He says 2 Mary's are symbols. But everyone is named Mary. (Refers to Richard's claims regarding the meaning of Mary as well as Magdalene).

He says reversal of expectation, but I say it's fulfillment of expectations. James/John becomes two theives? I see nothing there. Robert Gundry says there is nothing complex and ironic going on here.

What about his claim that it's contstructed from Ps 24. This is a liturgy about king's entry. Nothing to do with tombs. Nothing in Mark about Jesus being a king. Only similarity is phrase "first day of the week". This is just fanciful.

Jewish polemic Richard says is only in Mt. But you wouln't refute the rumor unless it was going around.

Not quoting Habermas, but Jaochob Cramer who said by far most exegetes support empty tomb.

Three absurd thesis from Richard. 1-Corinthian error is that because Christ is a spiritual man he can rise from the dead leaving his earthly body in the grave, but we cannot. Nobody believes this. 2-Resurrection body is identical to what Paul calls "inner man" growing inside us and will come out at resurrection like Casper the ghost. This absurd thesis sounds more like "Alien". Paul never identifies resurrected body with inner man. 3-Spiritual resurrection body we have is really part of Christs resurrected body and therefore God himself. Now turning Paul into a Buddhist who thinks we return like a drop to the ocean, denying personal immortality in contradiction to Paul.

"Hopeless exegete, crank exegesis."


Epistles don't mention missing body or tell us what Christians even thought about the body. Regular hallucinations reported. What are the odds of coincidences in gospels. Attacks my theory of women at the tomb, but argument more complex than that. It's cumulative related to the # of coincidences that occur. He points to one feature to make it sound absurd (Mary). Mary Magdalene, Magdalene means Migdol, which is the place where the parallel is drawn from. There is no stretching to get to this point. Also Salome is a female name of Solomon, another Mary mother of Jacob (meaning Mary mother of Israel) you can judge for yourself if this is reasonable, but this is not the convincing part. Cleopos narrative, Barrabas narrative, these make great sense as deliberate fiction. Afterwards a person might speculate about others they see (such as the Mary thing) but the convincing ones are the basis for the conclusion.

2 Chron 16 Mark links Jesus with King Asa. Various features. "Who will roll away stone" just like Genesis narrative regarding Jacob. Ps 24 "On the first from the Sabbaths" is a strange phrase not heard many times. It's the only occurrence in the Septuagant. Mk uses the same phrase Mark is pointing to Ps 24 where righteious man receives XXX from the Lord. Quotes exact phrase from Ps 22 for cry on cross. Ecclesiastes 4 more parallels, similar concepts and wording of women finding tomb finding man, failing to rejoice.

Naked boy in Mark. At Jesus breast, then runs away naked. Later he's wearing linen white garment. Looks symbolic of dying, losing body, becoming naked, donning new superior body at resurrection. Other features that suggest this is symbolic creation.

Regarding appearing to all, not enough to offer reasons why he didn't appear to everyone. The point is appearing to few committed followers is what would be expected if it were false, just as it occurs with other faiths, and unexpected if we think God is interested in seeing everyone saved.

His claim about Egyptian released is not a parallel. It's not a traitor, not a murderer, much less there is no evidence this is a custom on Jewish holiday.


Would Jesus appear to all is a philosophical argument, not historical, so out of place here. Universalism, inclusivism, etc not relevant to the historical facts.

Burial account not questioned by Richard tonight.

Ps 22 says "pierced hands a feat" yet gospels don't say Jesus was nailed (at least Mark's pre-Markan passion narrative). Ps 23 is not about dying, but being delivered from death. Ps 24 says nothing about tombs, Mark says nothing about a King. "The First of the Week" phrase is different in Mark contrary to what Richard says. Orphic mystery religions Richard brought up in his last speech(1:26:30-talking about sitting at right side). Quotes Richard and criticizes his view taking similarities he likes and rejecting those he doesn't. Repeats Jewish polemic claim.

Richard points to Daniel to show the messianic expectation. But Daniel was not understood as Messianic at this time. Jews understood prince to be Antiochus Epiphenes, and annointed one was Onias III, the high priest. Expecation was a warrior king, yet Christians came to believe the otherwise despite their expectations.

Richard says most missing bodies go missing for natural reasons. This conclusion is only relative to our background knowledge, not relative to other facts which can overturn this conclusion.


What's more improbable? The amazing coincidences I pointed out just happened to be there and fit the facts or that they were made up vs probability of a miracle. Christians prone to hallucinating as I've shown.

Even if miracles occur they are still unusual. So Craig's evidence needs to be exceptional. He has epistles and gospels. Epistles say they get info by vision, gospels look like symbolic mythology, not historical data. If the body went missing it probably went missing as most bodies do, but the epistles don't even say a body went missing and the gospels are not trustworthy, so we don't even know there is a missing body.

He points to multiple sources, but what this really means is multiple versions of the same story. There are multiple versions of Hercules myth, but this doesn't make the claims reliable. Different authors re-wrote stories to suit their own agenda. So the fact that their are different versions is not reason to think that their are good historical sources behind them.

His claim about women only testifying to two things is completely false.

He says Daniel isn't about Messiah. I agree. Daniel is in fact a re-interpretation of a failed prophecy from Jeremiah. What I'm proposing is that some people likewise re-interpret Daniel to be about Jesus (my comment-as Christians do today).

Says the fact that Mark didn't mention piercing. Not relevant. Mark quotes Ps 23 verbatum. He doesn't have to quote the entire thing. We can see his source from the verbatum quotes. Also it's clear in Mark that Jesus is the King. He's called King by Romans. Mark doesn't need to repeat this for us to know it.

He says the phrase "First of the Sabbath's" is different. It's not different in a relevant way. It's different in a minor way (grammatical case). It's borrowed and adapted to Mark's grammatical structure.

If gospels are unreliable, epistles have people hallucinating, that's our evidence, that's just not enough to show Jesus is risen from the dead.


jason said...

Carrier was interviewed recently (as in: within the last few weeks) on the Infidel Guy podcast and he gave his own assessment of his debate performance.
He ultimately concluded that his tactics were off the mark because he failed to reign himself in and NOT try to reply to everything Craig brought up. He realized that this was Craig's strategy and he admitted that Craig was a good debater (he's been doing it forever). But he allowed himself to get sucked into the trap of not wanting assertions to go unchecked and thereby couldn't answer/counter much of what Craig threw out there.
He feels that Craig doesn't care about getting information or facts out into the general public discussion so much as he just wants to win.
He said that in the end he doesn't really think this debate will prove useful to very many people.

Jon said...

I should listen to that show, but I think if he had not gone after a couple of the rabbit trails as he did he'd have sort of lost more "points" and he would have to rate his performance as even worse.

I guess the question is, what is your goal? Are you trying to teach people or are you trying to win? Sounds like he's saying he'd sooner lose and cover issues in a manner that is less superficial. I guess I can't fault him if that's what he wants to focus on, but honestly I don't think I'd do it that way.

One guy that really attempted to mimic Craig's style with the shotgun approach was a guy named Curley from the University of Michigan. I think he did pretty well. I was impressed with Craig's ability to come back on all the points, at least in a brief way. I should read that one over again. I read it when I was a Christian.

Steven Carr said...

I love Craig's parallelomania giving an Egyptian released as a parallel to the 'Son-of-the-Father' being released while the real 'Son of the Father' is about to be killed.

In other words, Craig has not one shred of evidence for this alleged custom of releasing a person at Passover, and tries to come up with anything which has anything in common with somebody being released as a parallel case.

And then Craig calls it crank exegesis when Carrier points out the word for word copying from Psalm 24....

It is Craig who suffers from parallelomania...

Steven Carr said...

As for Craig's citing of 'We will be changed', and Phil 3:21....

Whatever the semantic meaning of 'alasso' which can mean 'exchanged' as well as 'change', Paul goes out of his way to discount any process of transformation, as even people like NT Wright implicitly admit.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.

In my resurrection debate with Canon Michael Cole , I argued that Paul did not believe corpses were resurrected, so did not believe the corpse of Jesus rose from the grave.

Instead, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5 that the earthly body is destroyed, and that we get a heavenly body.

But what did Paul believe would happen to Christians of his time? He told them that they would not all die, so how could they get a heavenly body if death did not destroy their earthly body?

Paul answers that question in 1 Corinthians 15:52-52 where he says 'we' (NB not our bodies) will be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.

Why does Paul insist this happens 'in a flash'?

It must be to emphasises the discontinuity of the old and new body. Why else emphasise the lightning speed of the change?

There is not to be one nano-second of overlap, where the old body is in a process of transformation to the new body.

Contrast that with Ezekiel 37 where clearly a transformation does not take place 'in a flash'.

In Paul's view ,we make a quantum jump from the old body to the new body, which means there is no intermediate state. One instant we are in the old body. The next instant we are in the new body.

A transformation that takes place in a flash is not a transformation at all. It is a replacement. A transformation is a process, and a process takes a finite time.

But why would Paul emphasise the speed at all if not to impress on the Corinthians the replacement of one body by another, rather than its transformation? There can be no other reason to stress the speed, other than to rub the 'foolish' Corinthians nose in the fact that there is no time for one body to turn into another.

Paul is emphasising the discontinuity between the earthly body and the heavenly body.

This ties in with the fact that he had no stories of corpses leaving tombs. He taught that we left our earthly bodies behind to be destroyed and moved into heavenly bodies.

Which contradicts Gospel stories of a body going into a tomb and a body leaving the tomb.

In 'The Resurrection of the Son of God', NT Wright has a footnote on page 359 on this very verse, where he admits the discontinuous nature of the bodies.

Wright writes 'We may note at this point that those who will be 'changed', here and in Phil. 3:21 will thus , it seems, pass directly from the present bodily life to the future bodily life without any intermediate state.'

This is the very definition of 'discontinuous'. Two states are continuous only if an intermediate state could be found between them.

But instant jumps from one state to another are the definition of 'discontinuity'

So even Wright cannot spin away Paul's words entirely to make Paul say that the earthly body turns into the heavenly body, which is what is needed if Paul is not to contradict the Gospels.

Steven Carr said...

Jews had no idea of a messiah humiliatingly executed. Jewish beliefs preclude singular resurrection prior to general resurrection.

Carrier says reversal of expectation, but I say it's fulfillment of expectations.

Guess what? No Jews expected what happened, which Craig says was a fulfillment of expectations.

They were so convinced they were ready to die, for this unJewish belief.

Can't psychoanalyze ancient people.

Craig loves contradicting himself, doesn't he?

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