Q & A with Dr. Craig: Would Finding Jesus’ Corpse Falsify Christianity?
Q: Dr. Craig, my question has two parts.
First, would agree that if the body of Christ were to be found that this would give good reason to think Christianity is false? Assuming of course that we could know that the body was in fact Christ’s body. This seems to be a reasonable proposition in my view.
Now, the question I’m wrestling with is this: you examine and refute a number of natural explanations for resurrection of Christ and the facts surrounding this event. However, if it should so happen that archaeologists find Christ’s body tomorrow morning, then one of those natural explanations for the resurrection of Christ would have to be true! Yet you have ardently maintained that they could not possibly be true. Is this at all problematic philosophically?
Thanks for your time.
A: In answer to your first question, Tom, the discovery of Jesus’ remains would, of course, give good reason to think Christianity to be false. Paul told the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (I Corinthians 15.14). Jesus’ resurrection is essential to Christianity.
Moreover, I have argued at length that the resurrection of Jesus entails the raising of Jesus’ body that was crucified and laid in the tomb. The word “resurrection” meant the raising up of the dead body. The prominent New Testament scholar Dale C. Allison, Jr., is emphatic:
nowhere in the Bible or in old Jewish or Christian literature does the language of resurrection refer to a materially new body, physically unconnected to the old. A resurrected body is always the old body or a piece of it come back to life and/or transformed. . . . Resurrection meant bodies in the ground coming back to life. To rise from the dead was to rise from one’s tomb.
Paul’s understanding of the resurrection is that it involves a transformation of the earthly, mortal body into a supernatural body, not an exchange of the mortal body for another body. Let me mention four reasons to think that Paul believed in a transformation of the earthly body to the resurrection body…
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