Two Questions on the Origin of the Disciples’ Belief in Jesus’ Resurrection
Q: Dr. Craig, thank you for your work concerning the resurrection of Christ.
When I first encountered the evidence for it from you and other Christian apologists, I thought that it was irrefutable and definitive. However, after thinking about it for a while, I realized that there are two possible objections that one could make concerning the origin of the belief from the disciples. Christ predicted His resurrection many times in His life, as in Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:9, and Mark 8:31. These predictions, coupled with the miracles that Christ performed, could have caused the disciples to expect Him to rise, after doubting initially.
Moreover, you often say that the Jews believed that there would be one resurrection at the end of time, and that they did not believe in isolated resurrections. However, we find in 2 Kings 13:21 that a man rose from the dead when he was thrown onto the bones of Elisha, and, in 1 Kings 17, God rose a child from the dead at the supplication of Elijah. Although the Jews may not have believed in isolated resurrections in general, there were still accounts of them in their Scriptures. How can these two objections be answered, and it be shown that they would not have caused the disciples to expect a resurrection (thus making hallucinations possible, though not considering the plausibility of the appearances of Christ being hallucinations)?
DR. CRAIG’S RESPONSE
A: I always get very uncomfortable when I hear people describing some apologetic argument with words like “irrefutable and definitive.” Such people are just setting themselves up for a fall. That’s not the nature of apologetic arguments, especially arguments of historical apologetics, which will inherently share the uncertainties of the study of history itself. Rather we are in this case concerned to weigh competing historical hypotheses with the aim of finding the best explanation of the evidence when assessed by criteria like explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, etc. The claim is that on balance the hypothesis “God raised Jesus from the dead” is a better explanation than all of its competitors.
Now one of the facts that any historical hypothesis about the fate of Jesus of Nazareth must account for is the origin of Christianity itself and, in particular…
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