In his recent critical review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, Stephen Davis includes a critique of my three chapters, "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb," "The Plausibility of Theft," and "The Burial of Jesus in the Light of Jewish Law."[1] His commentary is overly brief, and frequently inaccurate, yet superior to that of Norman Geisler and the lay efforts of online writers.[2] Most of what is found in those other critiques is not new and had already been addressed in my online Empty Tomb FAQs before some of those critiques were even written. In fact, I direct all readers to consult those FAQs in their entirety, since they shall be maintained as a comprehensive response to all criticisms of my work in Empty Tomb that merit a reply.[3]

In general, Davis concludes after reading Empty Tomb that "it is possible for intelligent people to find principled reasons for rejecting the resurrection of Jesus" and that "rational rejection of the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead is possible."[4] But his criticisms suggest he believes all the authors to be substantially ignorant and illogical, which does not mesh with those more positive remarks of his, so I am uncertain how to take them. At any rate, before addressing my chapters specifically, some remarks are warranted on other things Davis said that are relevant to my contribution to Empty Tomb.[5]

Issues of Method

Davis says I am "virtually the only contributor" who "recognizes the controlling influence that metaphysical commitment to naturalism or supernaturalism has on one's attitude toward the resurrection of Jesus."[6] Perhaps he means I am the only one who mentioned this. Otherwise, I don't know what evidence he has that anyone failed to recognize it. I appreciate Davis suggesting that even he would reject the resurrection and "would probably be justified in doing so" if he were convinced naturalism was true. But when he says "belief in the resurrection of Jesus is completely rational from a Christian supernaturalist perspective" I'm not sure what he can mean by "Christian" that doesn't circularly entail the resurrection of Jesus. And from his concluding remarks (see below), I fear he really is standing on a circular argument. But I'll try to be charitable here and assume he means only that Christians accept a generically supernaturalist worldview, for reasons other than the resurrection of Jesus, and that given such a worldview and the remaining evidence, it is rational to believe Jesus rose from the dead.

I partly disagree. I believe the evidence in the case of Jesus is insufficient to persuade even a reasonable and fully informed supernaturalist beyond agnosticism in that particular case, or would at best produce agreement with the conclusion of "Body" as a genuine fact rather than a false belief, i.e. that Jesus really did switch bodies and appeared only from heaven, leaving his corpse behind.[7] Davis obviously disagrees, but his disagreement appears to be based on a failure to understand the evidence. Regardless of how that pans out, and regarding the more general question of worldview commitments, Davis asks me to point out "what evidence, in particular, disconfirms Christian theism or even shows that it is implausible." I didn't think I needed to point anyone to the vast literature proposing to establish that point. Davis himself is surely aware of the evidence presented in that literature, so giving the impression he doesn't know of any might be a tad disingenuous. At any rate, readers who are genuinely in the dark about what I could possibly have meant may now consult my more recent work on that very issue.[8]

In his critique of other authors Davis makes statements about historical method that are also relevant to my work, especially if Davis really believes what he says. First, in his critique of Robert Greg Cavin, Davis asserts that "a historian may feel able to prove that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and also believe (maybe even equally firmly) that Caesar got his shoulders wet crossing the Rubicon, but not be able to prove this latter point."[9] I hope Davis does not really believe this. He is in effect saying that I can believe as strongly in a fact I cannot prove as in a fact I can prove. But that is not possible without a faith-based epistemology, which can have no place in objective historical reasoning. Though Davis goes on to say Christians can believe things solely on faith (a claim I find, at minimum, epistemologically contentious), he cannot mean Christians are justified in believing 'on faith' that Caesar got his shoulders wet. At any rate, if a Christian gets to assert x on faith, then I get to assert ~x on faith, and that leaves us with nothing but our groundless assumptions for company. I cannot see any way to make a useful method out of that.[10] On the other hand, if Davis means by 'faith' something that is actually based on a foundation of evidence, then he is back in Cavin's court, since a Christian would still have to present as much evidence for a faith-based claim as any other. So contrary to what Davis proposes, if my evidence for one claim ("Caesar crossed the Rubicon") is greater in quality and quantity than my evidence for another claim ("Caesar got his shoulders wet in the process"), then I cannot assert as much confidence in the latter as I do in the former.[11] Personally, I would not accept any assertion without enough evidence to warrant believing it. So either I really can provide convincing evidence Caesar got his shoulders wet, or I am not justified in asserting he did. End of story. Agnosticism would be the most I could claim in such a case--and so, too, regarding any historical propositions about the resurrection of Jesus for which I have insufficient evidence.[12] And that holds even for a committed supernaturalist.

In his concluding remarks Davis points out the obvious: the authors in Empty Tomb "regard the Bible as no different in kind from any other ancient text" but "those of us who defend the resurrection are practicing Christians who approach the Bible with...a hermeneutic of trust," whether that amounts to belief in inerrancy or not.[13] But this is circular reasoning, just as I feared. You can't assume Christianity is true and then use the Bible to prove Christianity is true. Thus, Davis is basically saying Christian belief is founded on a fallaciously circular procedure, and not on an objective treatment of the evidence. According to Davis, Christians simply 'trust' their sacred book first, and simply start out by believing Jesus was raised from the dead, and then try to find evidence for this in their book, interpreting it all on the assumption that their belief in the resurrection is true. Such an approach cannot fail to find what it wants--which is why it cannot succeed in finding what is true.

Objective historians must approach all texts equally, without presuming that Jesus was raised from the dead and without presuming God somehow endorsed or inspired the authority of the texts supporting that claim. Those texts were written by men, as fallible and sinful and ignorant and ambitious and obscure and clever and misguided as all other authors in antiquity. Hence we cannot privilege one text over another unless we can defend from objective evidence, in a non-circular way, that one text is in fact more reliable than another--and in which respects, since no ancient text is completely reliable in every respect. Even Davis concedes (eventually) that there are probably some insoluble contradictions or even errors or fantasies in the New Testament, and he is being conservative, owing to his just-declared circular presupposition that the Bible is True. Davis rightly concludes that this difference in epistemological approach--an objective methodology vs. a question-begging trust in the Bible--produces "an almost unbridgeable gulf" between us. I wouldn't say almost. That gulf is completely unbridgeable. I will never accept an unreasonable methodology like his. Not only is it diametrically opposed to my knowledge of what are reliable ways of knowing, but I believe it is wrong to knowingly treat evidence the way Davis wants.

Perhaps, again, as I suggested above, what Davis really means is that he has independent evidence that the Bible is special and more reliable than other ancient texts, evidence that does not depend on the assumption that God raised Jesus from the dead or the assumption that God in any way inspired or endorsed the contents of the Western canon. If that's what he meant, then he should have said so, and then given some idea of what that evidence is. However, I worry that what he has in that basket of evidence might be nothing any objective historian would accept, such as a personal 'feeling' that God speaks to him, assuring him of the Bible's truth, or a personal 'feeling' that Jesus now lives and therefore must have risen from the dead. If that is the only kind of evidence he has, then he is in the same state I was in when I was a convinced Taoist, when I 'felt' the Tao and 'felt' the complete truth of Taoist scriptures. I was wrong to trust such ambiguous, subjective, self-fulfilling experiences, and so is Davis.[14] Otherwise, if Davis has any other kind of evidence sufficient to make the case that the Bible is specially reliable in the way he wants it to be, then he is actually accepting our methods. All he has to do is produce that evidence and persuade us.

Finally, in his critique of Martin, Davis suggests that even if "the probability of the falsity of [a hypothesis] H is .6," i.e. 60%, it would still be rational to believe H if each of the only four other possibilities has a mere .15 or 15% probability of being true.[15] This is unsound reasoning. In the scenario he describes, there would be a 60% chance that some one of the other explanations is true (which he labels A, B, C and D), so it would not be rational to believe H. What would be rational is to conclude that you don't know which explanation is true. For example, if Alexander died and the only options available were all natural causes except H, which was 'murder', then there would be a 60% chance that Alexander died of natural causes, and therefore it would not be rational to believe he was murdered. Though it would make sense in a gambling scenario to bet on H, that would only be the case if you had to bet, or could afford to lose. But history is not gambling. If you get to bet your life on A, B, C, D, or H, or not bet anything at all, in Davis' scenario the rational choice would be to refrain from betting, since no matter which bet you placed, the odds would always favor your death. In such a case it would never be rational to say "I believe H will be a winning bet" even if it's the best bet on the table. Although one might introduce Pascal's Wager at this point, you would no longer be making a historical argument for belief, but a purely pragmatic one. As far as sound historical argument goes, it would never be rational to say "I believe H is true" when you know H more probably than not is false.[16]

These methodological issues are disturbing, because they suggest either that Davis is terribly unclear in explaining the methodological principles he accepts, or he embraces unsound methodological principles. If the latter, then it should be no surprise that he doesn't share the conclusion of Empty Tomb.

The Spiritual Body of Jesus

Getting to my chapters, Davis starts with "Body." He first says that even though I attack arguments from silence, yet I rely on arguments from silence too much for his liking.[17] He doesn't mention to the reader that I also defend arguments from silence in the same place I criticize their abuse, and that I describe exactly when they are valid.[18] He also gives the impression that I rely on them 'alone' when that is not the case, since I frequently combine them with positive corroborating evidence. Finally, as to whether there are 'too many', that is not a valid objection. You cannot have 'too many' valid arguments, of whatever form, and therefore unless Davis can demonstrate any of my arguments from silence invalid, his objection to my using a lot of them is groundless.

Alas, Davis doesn't invalidate a single one. Instead, he offers his own argument from silence which in fact "Body" already refutes, yet he doesn't even mention that I addressed it, much less what I had to say against it. He says "if Paul had meant what Carrier says he meant, he would not have used the word soma at all." I demonstrate exactly the contrary: Paul was specifically asked about the soma ('body') and therefore had to discuss his views regarding its fate and disposition. How can a man answering a question about the fate and disposition of the soma not use the word soma? Davis doesn't explain, yet he claims this is an argument from silence that he finds convincing.[19] Since my entire analysis specifically and repeatedly argues that Paul's answer was that we receive a new soma in the resurrection, it almost appears as if Davis didn't read the chapter he purports to be reviewing. Otherwise, I cannot understand why he would "endorse" this argument from silence as a valid objection to the thesis of my chapter.

Likewise, Davis says he doesn't think "the concept of a 'body made of spirit' makes any sense at all."[20] This is an irrelevant objection for two reasons. First, regardless of what Davis thinks, only what Paul and the early Christians thought matters. Even if we could see incoherence in what they argued, my argument would still go to show that they did not. Second, the concept of a 'body made of spirit' would only be incoherent with an anachronistic concept of 'spirit' that few embraced in antiquity, when spirit was almost always conceived as a material, as I actually demonstrate.[21] Again, Davis does not mention this fact. The same conclusion follows when Davis dismisses my chapter's thesis by declaring that he's "convinced that Paul's frequent use of the word soma, with its heavy connotations of physicality, shows that Paul was talking about bodily resurrection."[22] Since my thesis is that Paul was talking about a bodily resurrection, and in fact I argue this at length, even citing the exact same sources Davis does, how can agreeing with me be an objection? In the very introduction to "Body" I wrote "I am not saying the resurrected Christ was believed to be a 'disembodied spirit'" but that "the earliest Christians...believed Christ had really been raised, and raised bodily."[23] How confused can Davis be?

Davis then accuses me of cherry picking data, but fails to provide any real evidence I did. All he offers is the claim that I reject "the whole of the book of Acts as 'worthless as a source' except the three descriptions of Paul's conversion."[24] That is not true. In fact, I said nearly the opposite. Here is what I actually wrote, in context:

Finally, Acts also depicts Paul's experience as a vision--just a light and a voice, visionary details so unique and unusual, even for Luke, that Luke must have felt constrained by a genuine tradition about Paul's experience, which must have indeed described it as merely a light and a voice. So those two elements can probably be taken as genuine, further confirming my assessment. However, in every other respect I believe Acts is worthless as a source, because Luke presents three different accounts that all contradict each other, and all contain details that seem contrary to Paul's own story in Galatians--which does not mention attendants, denies meeting anyone, much less Ananias, and places his return to Jerusalem with Barnabas much later, and with no suggestion of danger.[25]

First, Davis tells his readers I selected those elements simply because I like them, not mentioning that I actually presented an objective and independent argument for their acceptance.[26] Second, when I said "in every other respect I believe Acts is worthless" I was not speaking of "the whole of Acts," but only about the other details of Paul's three experiences, as the immediately following argument should make clear. Davis doesn't even mention that I again presented an objective and independent argument for rejecting those other elements, instead giving the false impression that I simply cherry picked them away to suit my theory. But he gets even that wrong, claiming I accept "the three descriptions of Paul's conversion" when in actual fact this paragraph says I accept very little about them--and indeed, that's all it says with regard to what I accept or reject from Acts as a source. I otherwise frequently trust Acts as a source and, as here, give reasons when I don't.[27] Thus, the one thing this paragraph actually said, Davis got almost entirely wrong, and then misled his readers by neglecting to mention the actual arguments it did contain, implying instead that I had no argument beyond mere assertions of agreement with my theory, which in fact is the one argument that isn't found here. I find this somewhat appalling. Davis even reiterates this accusation in his conclusion, with the undefended blanket assertion that all the authors in Empty Tomb cherry picked the data to fit their theories.[28] This is a shady assertion, for (a) it isn't true (we all advanced reasons for accepting and rejecting what evidence we did), (b) it is unfounded (Davis simply asserts the accusation, or supports it with invalid evidence, as in my case), and (c) it imputes to us a scale of incompetence or insincerity that unjustly maligns either our character or our professionalism.

Davis makes other arguments that ignore what I wrote in "Body." He refers to and builds upon Paul's seed-and-plant analogy to argue against my thesis, completely ignoring what I already say about that very analogy.[29] Davis makes the argument that "one grows, by incremental, measurable, and observable steps, into the other," yet that is not a point Paul ever draws from his analogy--instead, for him, the process of exchanging bodies takes place "in the blink of an eye" and the new spiritual body is, like the plant from a seed, grown invisibly inside us before we die (and if we carry the analogy through, at death the husk that is buried is left behind while the new plant rises to glory). In other words, Paul specifically does not say resurrection takes place "by incremental, measurable, and observable steps" but quite the opposite.[30] Again, Davis is not offering any objections to my thesis not already dispatched in my chapter, and yet he gives the impression he's coming up with something new that I didn't think of, and acting as if he doesn't need to defend his objections against what my chapter already argues. In "Body" I point out that my theory entails continuity between the dying and resurrecting body, just not the kind of continuity that Davis wants to impose on Paul. The difference is that I back my interpretation with copious and direct citations of evidence from Paul and other authors of the period, whereas Davis simply declares an unsupported opinion to the contrary. Surely that is not a reasonable way to argue.

Davis then falsely claims "one seldom noted grammatical point--which is clear both in standard English translations and the Greek--is the repetition in verses 43-44 of the pronoun 'it'" in 1 Corinthians 15.[31] This is not true. There is no pronoun of any kind in the Greek. Moreover, far from being 'seldom noted', this fact is frequently noted in commentaries, and I discuss this grammatical point myself in detail. Yet once again Davis gives his readers no idea that I discussed this fact or what I had to say. He simply ignores an entire paragraph in my chapter and declares "surely [Paul] means the person's body" by the repeated pronoun "it" that in fact Paul never repeated or even wrote once.[32] Grammatically, there is no "surely" anything here, since the grammatical ambiguity is sufficient to cover numerous possibilities. One must discern what was intended here from the context, a fact I attend to but Davis does not. Indeed, Davis commits the same mistake I identify other early Christians making, tossing out the easy sentence, "after being transformed, it is imperishable," etc., which is conspicuously the one thing Paul does not say. So easy it is to articulate what Davis wants Paul to have said, that it is inexplicable why Paul did not say it.[33] Instead, Paul explicitly says the raised body is not the body that dies, which would be undeniably clear in its meaning to anyone not burdened with dogmatic commitments to the contrary.[34]

The Legend of the Empty Tomb

That concludes all the objections Davis raised against my two-body theory, and as I've shown, not even one is relevant or correct. I can only conclude that he rejects my theory only because he failed to understand it, and he failed to understand it because he didn't do a very good job of reading my chapter, since he clearly gets much of it wrong or ignores some of its contents. This is confirmed when Davis says my theory about the Markan empty tomb narrative is implausible because "surely Mark meant his readers to believe that it is a true narrative" just like the rest of his Gospel. Davis could only issue that objection without defending it if he didn't understand my chapter, where I argue from internal evidence that Mark in fact did not mean for anyone to understand what he wrote except those secretly initiated into the mysteries of the faith, since "Mark appears to agree with the program of concealing the truth behind parables."[35] Davis neglects to tell anyone how I argue for this possibility or even that I do, and says nothing against my case for it other than expressing his undefended opinion to the contrary.

The fact is, Mark never says he is writing history or that he intends to describe events as they actually happened or even as they were reported to him. He never even claims to have sources, and certainly names none. Instead, he leaves a lot of evidence (only some of which I lay out in "Body") that he is crafting a deliberately symbolic narrative. Had there been room for further digression I could have argued from a great deal more evidence to that same conclusion. Take the obviously mythic structure of the Barabbas narrative, for example--a scapegoat named "Son of the Father" (in some manuscripts of Matthew he is also named Jesus) is released into the mob bearing the sins of Israel (murder and insurrection), while the real Son of the Father, the "Savior", is sacrificed to atone for those sins, in clear imitation of the Yom Kippur ceremony of Leviticus 16. What are the odds? No Roman magistrate, least of all the ruthless Pilate, would let a murderous rebel go free, and no such Roman ceremony is attested as ever having existed, but the ceremony obviously emulates the Jewish ritual of the scapegoat and atonement, quite conveniently in a story that is actually about atonement. Could Mark have been more obvious? Had this story appeared in any other book, Davis would readily identify it as myth, not historical fact. As fact it is hopelessly implausible. As myth it is deeply meaningful, and quite brilliant. Hence as Price explains in his introduction to Empty Tomb, readers who treat the text as Davis does here are insulting the authors by missing almost everything they really had to say.

Davis closes his critical review of "Body" by asking me a question: how do we tell the difference between a legendary accretion and the addition of information from real sources? To begin with, if you actually can't tell the difference, then you have no business asserting either. Just because, as Davis says, it is "entirely possible" that additions to Mark's story found in Luke and Matthew (as well as John) come from reliable sources, that doesn't mean we can say this is probable. "Possibly, therefore probably" is a fallacious mode of argument. That is why I argue for my interpretation with contextual and other evidence. I do not simply 'presume' that all additions are legendary accretions. But when an added detail is attributed to no identifiable source, and there is no strong reason to trust the author even had a reliable source, and what one author adds contradicts what other authors add, and the author in question has already been caught embellishing elsewhere in ways so evidently fictionalized that even Davis thinks it could have been made up--well, when we pile all those facts together, their combined force argues for legendary rather than historical accretion for every addition, unless we can build a credible case to the contrary for any particular detail.[36] One need only contrast the Gospels with real histories of the same period, to see obvious differences between historically reliable, and more likely mythical additions.[37]

But no matter what, all that matters is whether my theory of mythic development explains the evidence as well as or better than any other theory--and if as well, we can only be agnostics; and if better, then that itself is sufficient grounds to conclude the Gospels are more likely collections of myths and legends (even if surrounding the genuine teachings of a sectarian founder) than of narrative historical data. It's important to emphasize the methodological point here: if a theory can be adduced that adequately explains all the evidence and cannot be ruled out by any evidence or sound argument that renders it implausible or improbable, then we cannot be justified in asserting that theory false. At best, in the face of such a theory we can only be agnostics about what really happened. This is a point I repeatedly make in Empty Tomb, yet Davis doesn't seem to understand it.

The Plausibility of Theft

Davis then responds to "Theft" with a single argument that either concedes the conclusion of "Theft" or fallaciously dismisses it, depending on what he meant. Davis agrees (and insists other Christians should also agree) that "it is possible to imagine a scenario that is not impossible, is not disproved by the available evidence, and that covers all the admitted facts," and Davis concedes the theories I present in "Theft" qualify as such.[38] That seems to agree with the entire argument of that chapter: that several theft scenarios are plausible and William Lane Craig is wrong to say otherwise. Again, however, Davis gives the impression that this distinction between an argument for plausibility and an argument for fact (having "convincing evidence that [a given] scenario is true") is something he just thought up as a criticism of my chapter, when in fact it is a distinction I specifically make in that chapter. After all, the very title of the chapter is "The Plausibility of Theft." As a result, Davis fails to address the actual argument of that chapter, as stated in its conclusion.

Perhaps Davis intended his earlier remarks about worldview assumptions to fill in here, in that (I suppose) he agrees with my argument in "Theft" that if we think naturalism is more probable than supernaturalism, then the evidence and arguments in "Theft" provide sufficient reason to reject supernatural explanations of the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. But I believe the argument of "Theft" goes farther than that, since it applies even if we believe supernaturalism is more probable. For even on supernaturalism, miracles are less common (or not known to be more common) than stolen bodies and other natural phenomena, even in conjunction. Therefore, it is not possible to rule out theft to any sufficient degree, and therefore it is not possible to assert a miracle occurred, since doing so requires having sufficient evidence to rule out alternatives, and such evidence is not available in this case. Therefore, even a supernaturalist must be agnostic about the resurrection. Davis gives no hint what he thinks about that, whether he agrees, or what valid reason he has to disagree.

As I say in my conclusion to "Theft," obviously "we cannot know whether the body of Jesus was stolen, since all direct evidence has been erased by secrecy and time," but its plausibility is still good enough that "there is little justification for resorting to a supernatural explanation." For when we combine the fact that "theft of a body, especially that of a crucified holy man, is the sort of thing that happened with some frequency at the time" whereas "we cannot say the same about miraculous resurrections," and the fact that there is "no good evidence against" theft and "plenty of means, motive, and opportunity for it," it follows that theft is more antecedently probable as an explanation of an empty tomb than a miraculous resurrection.[39] By analogy, if someone claims their cancer was miraculously cured by a magic crystal, and I have no access to medical reports before or after the event, I cannot rule out natural explanations for what was thought or said to have happened, and therefore I cannot be justified in agreeing a miracle occurred, even if one did. So, too, for the resurrection. For in that case the state of the evidence I have access to is comparably poor.

However, though that is the argument of "Theft," and Davis says nothing against it, I cannot agree with Davis that "there is no evidence whatsoever for" the theft of the body of Jesus.[40] Not only would an empty tomb be evidence for a theft just a surely as for a walking corpse, but we actually have a report that the body was stolen.[41] So if you believe the evidence establishes the existence of an empty tomb, that goes in the evidence column for theft, just as it would go in the evidence column for resurrection, and so does the existence of a report of theft, just as surely as a report of resurrection. That's not "no evidence whatsoever," especially when we add, as I do, circumstantial evidence supporting means, motive, and opportunity.

In contrast, Davis proposes his own example of what he thinks is a plausible but unproven explanation, only to fabricate a false analogy that makes a straw man of the actual evidence and argument presented in "Theft." His rhetorically contrived scenario is, with my own emphasis on its absurdly specific details:

On the day after the crucifixion, three Roman soldiers secretly disposed of Jesus's body by placing it in a hidden cave located ten kilometers from Jerusalem near the road to Jericho, where the body was never discovered; and, on their return to Jerusalem, they were immediately transferred back to Rome, where they eventually died, without telling anyone what they had done.[42]

Now, unlike the theories I present, Davis offers no evidence establishing motive for his scenario, his scenario is unnecessarily elaborate, and he presents no reason why the truth would be concealed in the case he describes (e.g. why the soldiers would be so suddenly transferred and never tell anyone about their bizarre behavior). Thus, his scenario is far less plausible than the scenarios I describe, which makes his analogy a straw man. Moreover, unlike Davis, I never claim, nor does my argument require, such specific details as exactly when the theft occurred or where the body ended up or how many were involved. Obviously we would need evidence to assert such hyper-specific claims, but we do not need anywhere near as much evidence to assert that some person or persons stole the body at some time in the available window and disposed of it somewhere. The prior probability of some theft scenario equals the sum of the prior probabilities of all possible theft scenarios, and therefore the probability of theft in general is far greater than the probability of any hyper-specific scenario like Davis describes. His theory is therefore not pertinent to addressing the argument of "Theft."

To understand what I mean, imagine the magic crystal claimant I mentioned earlier objecting to my agnosticism by arguing, like Davis, that "I can come up with all kinds of possible scenarios," like "President Bush signed an executive order to secretly dispatch the Secret Service to alter records, x-rays and lab reports tricking me and my doctor into thinking I had cancer" but since "there is no evidence whatsoever that such a thing happened" your agnosticism is unfounded. If Davis cannot see why the crystal advocate's argument is neither pertinent nor effective, and can have no bearing on whether my agnosticism is warranted, then I can understand why he would make the same irrelevant argument against "Theft." Otherwise I have no idea what Davis thought he was proving. His use of a contrived and implausible scenario is as bad an argument as this crystal advocate's Secret Service theory. Just because we can come up with implausible scenarios doesn't discredit the fact that there are so many plausible scenarios as to sum to a very good probability that one of them is true, and therefore we cannot assert the crystal cured cancer any more than we can assert God raised Jesus from the dead, even if we are committed supernaturalists--unless we had a lot more evidence than we do. But we don't.

The Burial of Jesus

Davis has "no major problems" with my "quite learned exposition of all the relevant" texts in "Burial." He adds only that the laws attested in the texts "might not have reflected actual practice," even though this is an objection I specifically address in "Burial," again giving the impression that Davis just thought of something I didn't account for.[43] Davis also disagrees with my claim that making Joseph a 'secret disciple' was "obviously a legendary embellishment of the plain story in Mark," by insisting this isn't obvious to him. I don't know how one can reasonably maintain this is not an embellishment, given the complete absence of Joseph from the history of the early Church in Acts (even though he would have been its wealthiest and most influential adherent), the complete ignorance of Luke that he ever was a disciple (despite Luke being the only author who specifically says he is writing history and aims to leave nothing out), and the fact that the earliest account (of Mark) omits such a prima facie fantastic assertion.[44] From all that it seems fairly obvious to me what has happened to the story. Davis can deny this, but it doesn't affect the argument of "Burial" anyway, since I give valid reasons for maintaining its conclusion even if we imagine Joseph was a "secret" disciple just to give him a motive to break the law.[45]

Davis concludes his critique of "Burial" by asserting a "suspicion" that my "actual" criterion for what details I accept from the Gospels in "Burial" is "what agrees with my theory" rather than, as I actually say, "what is common to the majority," but this is a rather vacuous objection. As long as I stuck to the actual criterion I said I was using (and I did), what relevance is any ulterior motive I may have had? My motives have nothing to do with the merits of my argument. Davis could not find any case where I violated my stated objective criterion in order to follow the "covert" criterion he imputes to me, so instead of actually making an argument, he simply implies I used an invalid criterion that in fact I did not. If the objective criterion happens to match exactly what agrees with my theory, that's exactly how one discerns a good theory. Davis thus turns a strength of the chapter into a bogus criticism. I can't call that fair play. Ironically, by stating the criterion I did, I believe I was being unfairly generous, since I do not believe meeting that criterion is sufficient for any detail to be granted as reliably reported (which is why I state in "Burial" that it is not what I think actually happened). Nevertheless, in "Burial" I embraced what I believe to be an excessively credulous criterion, and still the conclusion follows, as an argument a fortiori. The alternative would entail rejecting most of the details reported in the Gospels regarding the burial of Jesus, and I devote an entire paragraph to the important consequences of this very fact.[46]

Parading Corpses

Perhaps related to my argument in "Burial" (and "Theft") are some arguments Davis advances in his critique of Jeff Lowder's chapter. Davis objects to Lowder's evidence that a body would not be recognizable after three days, by claiming "an eminent pathologist" (whom he doesn't name) told him "a corpse can be readily identified for much longer than" even seven weeks, much less three days, which I find extremely implausible. If that ever happens, it happens extraordinarily rarely, and not in the conditions of ancient Palestine--otherwise Jewish law would not have so inflexibly held that identification of bodies after a mere three days was illegal and never admissible in court, specifically due to expected decay. If it were at all common for bodies to remain identifiable for even four days, much less an astonishing seven weeks, Jewish law and expectation would not have been so adamant and exceptionless.[47] We have to conclude that such a remarkable preservation is highly improbable.

At any rate, dragging a body out of its grave for such a purpose would not only be a death penalty offense against both Roman and Jewish law, but would so outrage the religious scruples of the public as to defeat any purpose that producing the body would have served. Hence I don't believe it was an option for the authorities, even had the body been available. Likewise, Davis's claim that "any body that was found in Jesus's tomb and put on display, even an unrecognizable one, would have spelled disaster for the Christian movement" is simply not at all true, nor even plausible.[48] Tombs routinely had slabs, arcosolia, or loculi for multiple burials.[49] Moreover, anyone could claim the Pharisees simply snuck a body in for that very purpose, if there wasn't one (or even several) there already.[50] And if my argument in "Body" is persuasive that Jesus would have been buried by Sunday in the Graveyard of the Condemned, the presence of multiple bodies in his actual location would be all but assured.

Suspicious Sources

Davis then objects to Lowder's argument that reporting conversations and information no Christian source would reasonably have had access to is a hallmark of fictionalization. Since I make the same argument in "Theft," Davis's objection would presumably also apply to me.[51] Davis says "there are several ways in which Christians could have discovered what had been said" in those cases, which is literally true, but none of those "several ways" are actually plausible, so the objection doesn't carry much weight.[52] Again, "possibly, therefore probably" is not a sound argument. Moreover, none of those hypothetical routes are ever cited or even implied by any authors as being their actual means of knowing what they report, thus such suspicious knowledge still counts as evidence in the fiction column, regardless of what may have actually happened. In other words, while such 'suspicious knowledge' could, as Davis alleges, be evidence of unexpected and unreported sources, it is still also evidence of fabrication or embellishment, and the latter is prima facie more likely an explanation of the evidence, especially with no contrary evidence at all supporting the existence of real sources for such remarkable information.

Plausibility of Hallucination

I will let Keith Parsons respond to Davis's objections to his own treatment of the plausibility of hallucination. But I must add some discussion as it relates to what I myself argue on this score, which Davis essentially ignores, even though it significantly reinforces and supplements Parsons.[53] First, Davis continues to ignore the massive and fundamentally significant differences between modern and ancient cultures with regard to the conditions and acceptance of hallucination and hallucinators. He even confuses hallucination with perceptual illusion--though he claims to be aware of the difference, I can't see the point of his footnote on this if he really understood that difference.[54] He claims having experienced a perceptual illusion gives him "a tiny bit of authority" on the question of hallucination, but I don't see how. By contrast, in "Body" I discuss actual hallucinations that I have had, including a fully realistic battle with a demon. Combine these two points and it becomes clear how off the track Davis is. His mistaking someone for someone else is wholly irrelevant. But hallucinating a combat with a demon, had it occurred in an ancient cultural context (and had I been a religiously devout Jew), would surely have convinced me that I had in fact fought an actual demon. Davis can hardly disagree. So why his pointless digression about casual mistakes of perception? No idea.

Next, Davis raises a litany of objections at the end of his critique of Parsons, each of which was specifically addressed in my own discussions of hallucination in Empty Tomb.[55] Again, Davis's readers are not told this, nor what I said, nor what Davis would offer in response. I won't repeat in full detail what I argue in the book, but it amounts to the following (with more evidence and argument than this, both in Empty Tomb and in my associated FAQs):

  1. "Jesus's followers were not expecting a resurrection." To the contrary, we have evidence they were. Not only is there evidence they were repeatedly told this (after all, is Davis now conceding, e.g., that Matthew 27:62-63 is legendary?), but there is evidence they found this expectation laid out secretly in scriptures that they consulted for guidance (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:4).

  2. "Many people saw the risen Jesus." But what exactly did they see? We don't have any accounts from the actual witnesses, nor can we link any of the accounts we do have with any one of them by name, except Paul, who clearly did not see anything like what the Gospels report, nor does he seem aware that anyone saw anything different than he did.

  3. "The encounters were located in various places and times." Why would that rule out hallucination? All ancient religious epiphanies were located in various places and times, and such experiences were more common then than now.

  4. "Some doubted it was Jesus, and others only recognized him with difficulty." How is that an argument against hallucination? If we are to trust these details, they actually argue against a risen corpse of Jesus, and in favor of a far more questionable kind of 'appearance'. In fact, 'hallucination' better explains why so few, and almost solely believers, ever saw Jesus, and why only one actual enemy (Paul) out of the hundreds pursuing them, and no person of any prominent status nor anyone not already subject to prior influence by Christian reports and convictions, ever saw Jesus, and why some even of those who saw Jesus weren't entirely sure they were seeing Jesus. A walking god-corpse would not be a very good explanation of all this. But hallucination would.

  5. "There were no drugs, high fever, or lack of food or water mentioned." Is this a valid argument from silence? Can Davis claim to know that none of the disciples fasted to secretly mourn the death of Jesus, or that Paul was not fasting out of a common religious observance or to atone for his sins, or neglectfully under-hydrating, on his journey to Damascus? After all, Pharisees, like the zealous Paul, fasted often, and Jesus is alleged to have said his disciples would fast when he was dead.[56] Nor is Davis's list exhaustive of all available causes of hallucination. In Empty Tomb, besides mentioning the documented occurrence of bereavement hallucination, I add lack of sleep, sleep transition (a hypnagogic or hypnopompic state), and schizotypal personality, as three other likely causes of hallucination. Davis cannot rule out any of these--least of all because troubled sleep would have been likely under the circumstances and we are not told how well anyone slept (or ate or drank) before their visions; the appearances are frequently reported to have occurred at dawn, a common time for hypnopompic hallucination; and there is abundant evidence, as I explain in "Burial," that the disciples were regular hallucinators, and I give other reasons to expect them to have been schizotypal and thus naturally prone to hallucination. Through the psychological phenomena of suggestion, anchoring, and memory contamination, any one of these conditions in one person could have precipitated experiences under the same or other conditions in anyone else similarly predisposed.

  6. "Longstanding convictions and permanent lifestyle changes were produced." Why wouldn't hallucinations have that effect? If the percipients believed these were real experiences (and they almost always would have), then hallucinations would be exactly as effective as real appearances in producing changes of conviction and lifestyle.

Davis also says it is necessary for scholars who advocate hallucination to accept that "the disciples made up out of whole cloth" the "resurrection appearance stories" in the Gospels, but this imputes to those scholars the unreasonable belief that the disciples wrote those stories--which is demonstrably untrue in the case of Luke and John (who claim only anonymous sources, hence confirming that they themselves did not witness what they are reporting), and impossible to reliably establish in the case of Mark and Matthew (neither of whom ever claim to have been disciples).[57] We actually know nothing with any certainty about the sources or even identity of the authors of the Gospels, and yet we know of many other Gospels and Acts that Davis would surely reject as complete fabrications, despite being written with just as much evident sincerity.[58]

Conclusion

Davis frequently appears not to have read my chapters carefully, and advances no correct or relevant arguments against the thesis of any of them. More troubling still, he repeatedly gives the impression that he is advancing objections to my arguments not already addressed or refuted in my chapters, without informing his readers that I did address them, much less what I said against them. Davis is kind enough to say that I argue "in great detail and with broad knowledge of ancient texts," but he then proceeds to make it appear as if my argumentation was shallow or even ignorant of obvious facts. The most telling example (and yet not the only one) is his citation of Gundry 'against' me (on p. 57 of "Counterattack") as if I never mentioned Gundry and as if what Gundry argued actually undermined my case. Neither is true. And yet readers are left completely unaware of the fact that I wrote the very words "hence I agree with Robert Gundry" (in note 211 on page 215), citing the exact same book, in support of my extensive argument (in "Body" on pp. 142-47 and before), where I emphatically agree with exactly what Davis is citing Gundry for. So I cannot fathom what Davis was thinking.

In general, however, Davis is alarmed by the fact that all the authors didn't agree on everything, which I found to be a strange objection.[59] Christians don't agree among themselves either, so I'm not sure what Davis thinks the existence of disagreement can prove here. Indeed, in Empty Tomb I don't even agree with myself. Each chapter of mine offers a different theory. However, I explain what I actually believe and how these different possibilities factor into a scale of probabilities, and the same reasoning applies to disagreements among the remaining authors. Many of them granted various conclusions only for the sake of argument, and Davis makes no allowance for that. But even apart from this, though we may differ on which particular conclusion is most probable for any given question, we all still accept that if we turn out to be wrong about that, then one of our colleague's conclusions might then become the most probable. Thus, even where we disagree, Davis is unlikely to see us "duke it out" to his satisfaction. Any such debate would likely just end up creating more agreement among us, and not with Davis.

More importantly, these debates do not affect the central conclusion that it's unlikely Jesus was raised supernaturally from the dead. Whether the body was stolen or not even thought to be gone, whether there is any history in the Gospels or none, whether the disciples were entirely sincere or pious liars, whether Joseph of Arimathea or even Jesus existed or not, the conclusion is still the same. That's what the various and diverse chapters of Empty Tomb specifically aim to show. There are just too many alternative possibilities that we can't rule out for us to leap to the unwarranted conclusion that 'God did it'. The evidence isn't good enough to go that far. It is too scanty, too shadowy, too indirect, too rife with unanswered questions. I dare say we might have better evidence that a UFO crashed at Roswell in 1947, but none of us believe that happened either.[60]

Yet Davis persists with this argument, only to deliver a fantastic fallacy when he lists some 'radical' positions defended in the book, and though he admits we don't all embrace them, he still concludes "if these are the lengths to which you have to go in order to deny the resurrection, maybe it is better to affirm it" and he further concludes that, as a result, all the authors in Empty Tomb "shot themselves in the foot."[61] This is so irrational an argument I am amazed to hear it from someone as distinguished as Stephen Davis. How can he conclude we have to go to these lengths, when he just admitted we didn't all go to these lengths? How can he say we all shot ourselves in the foot when he just admitted we didn't all make these supposedly foot-shooting arguments? So how can he conclude "it is better to affirm" the resurrection because of such a fallacious argument as this?

It's even worse, since most of the 'radical' positions Davis claims we made, in defense of this bizarre argument of his, are either bogus or irrelevant. Not a single author in the book employed the argument that "Jesus never existed" as a reason to reject the resurrection. Read Empty Tomb all through. You won't find a chapter on that. No one ever argued that "the whole Bible is myth in the service of politics." Not even Evan Fales made so sweeping a claim, and he is the only one who made so specific a claim, and only for the Gospels (and he only attempted to prove it for elements of one of them). No one ever made the argument that "the very concept of God is incoherent" and 'therefore' Jesus was not raised from the dead. Though the possibility that God is an incoherent concept was mentioned by one or another author, no author treated it as an established premise in any argument against the resurrection--even Michael Martin didn't use it in his argument against belief in the resurrection in the one chapter where he mentioned incoherence as an objection.[62] Likewise, only one author speculated that "Jesus did not really die on the cross," and that was postulated to specifically assess the likelihood of the existing evidence on that assumption, but no other author in Empty Tomb relied on any such premise.[63] Likewise, while one author discussed the reasons why it can be reasonable to suspect "1 Corinthians 15:3-11 was not written by Paul," no other author relied on that premise, and in fact I doubt the one author who made that argument (Bob Price) actually requires it to justify his own rejection of the resurrection.

Davis thus ends his critical review with a multiply fallacious argument that almost defies belief, after raising no relevant or correct objection to anything I argued. Are these the lengths to which one must go to believe in the resurrection?

 


 

[1] Stephen T. Davis, "The Counterattack of the Resurrection Skeptics: A Review Article," Philosophia Christi 8.1 (2006): pp. 39-63. Hereafter I shall refer to my chapters in Empty Tomb as "Body," "Theft," and "Burial," respectively, and to the Davis review as "Counterattack."

[2] Normal Geisler, "A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus beyond the Grave," Christian Apologetics Journal 5.1 (Spring 2006): pp. 45-106. Geisler's critique reads more like a disjointed collection of contentious and often poorly sourced notes.
       Most of the online critiques I am aware of are catalogued at "The Empty Few: Atheists Beyond the Pale" (Tektonics Apologetics Ministries), mostly written by layman James Patrick Holding, whose real name is Robert Turkel, and whose reliability and sincerity has been amply questioned (see "Tektonics Exposed" and the Turkel section of the Secular Web Library on Christian Apologetics and Apologists). If anyone is aware of other critiques not listed by Holding (or by Christian CADRE), please let me know (see links in following note for contact information). But so far the bulk of these critiques do not say anything relevant to what I actually argue, and insofar as they say anything relevant, they say nothing new, and thus have already been addressed by my FAQs (see below). If anyone finds specific, relevant claims or arguments in these other critiques not already addressed in my FAQs, they should frame the unaddressed problem as a question and send that question to me for inclusion in my FAQs.

[3] As of 2006 my Empty Tomb FAQs are located at www.richardcarrier.info/faqs.html.

[4] "Counterattack," pp. 62-63.

[5] Though this only warrants a note, Davis suggests we chose a title to trick believers into buying the book ("Counterattack," p. 39, n. 1). I doubt that was the reason, but all I can say for certain is that I signed on to the project when the title was Jesus Is Dead, which remains the title I wanted this book to have. I firmly protested when it was changed, but I wasn't even informed of the change until it was already going to press. I said then and will say again that in my opinion the title (which I believe the publisher chose) fails on all three measures of sound marketing: it doesn't tell anyone what the book is about, it doesn't draw anyone's attention to it, and it's not even distinctive (I found no fewer than six other books entitled The Empty Tomb). Davis adds that it is misleading as well, which, even if not intentional, is yet another reason I think the title sucks.

[6] "Counterattack," p. 40 (w. n. 4 and 5). Davis defines naturalism, in part, as the view that "the physical universe exhausts reality," which is accurate only on a very broad definition of 'physical', as I've explained elsewhere, most extensively in my book Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism (AuthorHouse 2006) but in more relevant detail in Richard Carrier, "Defending Naturalism as a Worldview: A Rebuttal to Michael Rea's World Without Design" (Secular Web 2003) and in "What We Are Debating," which was an initial joint statement for "Naturalism vs. Theism: The Carrier-Wanchick Debate" (Secular Web 2006).

[7] See "Body," p. 197.

[8] Richard Carrier, "Why I Am Not a Christian" (Secular Web 2006) and "Naturalism vs. Theism: The Carrier-Wanchick Debate" (Secular Web 2006). For those who need even more examples and discussion should consult my book Sense and Goodness without God, esp. pp. 71-88 and 253-90.

[9] "Counterattack," p. 41.

[10] See Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 60-61 (with 43-47, 202-08, 217-18).

[11] And the evidence for the former is quite good: see Richard Carrier, "The Rubicon Analogy" (Secular Web 2006), which expands on Richard Carrier, "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story: Main Argument," 6th ed. (Secular Web 2006).

[12] As it happens, I can actually prove it is very improbable Caesar got his shoulders wet by crossing the Rubicon (as opposed to not getting them wet or getting them wet in some other way, e.g. by marching in the rain), simply by demonstrating from abundant evidence that paved Roman roads that crossed rivers had bridges on them (precisely so as not to get one's shoulders wet crossing them), that a paved Roman road crossed the Rubicon precisely where Caesar says he crossed (see my article The Rubicon Analogy), and historical accounts confirm the inference by reporting that he crossed on a bridge (e.g. Suetonius, Julius Caesar 31.2). But even if we were to dismiss all of that (though why would we?), I can still demonstrate from abundant evidence that Roman generals, Caesar included, routinely traveled on horseback. One might similarly argue from evidence that the Rubicon at the time was of insufficient depth to reach the shoulders of a man. Either way, since we have no evidence even implying that Caesar tripped or fell off his horse, or that he bewilderingly chose not to use the bridge that was built there for the purpose, it would be irrational to assert that Caesar got his shoulders wet crossing the Rubicon. Although I think this objection distracts from the point Davis wanted to make, it is almost exactly the point Cavin wanted to make, reapplied to the question of what the evidence makes probable for the properties of bodies and materials.

[13] "Counterattack," p. 62.

[14] See Richard Carrier, "From Taoist to Infidel" (Secular Web 2001), which I expanded with more context in Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 9-19. Also relevant to this point is Richard Carrier, "Do Religious Life and Critical Thought Need Each Other?" (Secular Web 1996), which again I expanded into a broader argument in Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 202-08. All of which should be understood in the context provided by the material cited in Note 10 above.

[15] "Counterattack," p. 42.

[16] Hence see "Theft," p. 368, n. 38 (w. p. 364). I should note that I believe both Martin and Davis have erred considerably in their understanding and application of Bayes Theorem, but I must leave that between them. Let me just say that the scenario Davis imagines is so divorced from reality as to be entirely unhelpful. There are rarely only five possible explanations that are logically exhaustive for any set of evidence, and it is even rarer that a proper Bayesian analysis would produce a final epistemic probability distribution among them all that never exceeds .5 for any.

[17] "Counterattack," p. 56.

[18] "Body," pp. 177-82.

[19] "Counterattack," p. 56, n. 35.

[20] "Counterattack," p. 56, n. 34.

[21] See, e.g. "Body," pp. 137-38, with 212, n. 169.

[22] "Counterattack," p. 57.

[23] "Body," p. 106.

[24] "Counterattack," p. 56-57.

[25] "Body," p. 154.

[26] In addition to the fact that it coheres with other evidence, both general and particular, e.g. "Body," pp. 151-54, with 182-88.

[27] For example, "Burial," p. 392 n. 53; "Body," pp. 192-93; 198 n. 12; 199 nn. 15, 16; 200 n. 19; 204 nn. 63, 64; 220 n. 277; 226 n. 323; 228 n. 347; 231 n. 379. Though I don't always say why I do trust a source when I do, this is not because I have no objective and independent reason to, but simply to save space (e.g. if I think a critic won't reject the source on that point, then I don't believe I need to persuade them to trust it on that point, since they've already persuaded themselves).

[28] "Counterattack," p. 62.

[29] "Body," pp. 122-23, 127-28, 138, 144, and especially 146-47, 148 (and accompanying notes). See also the relevant Q&A in my online FAQ for this chapter ("When Paul compares our present bodies with a seed that is planted").

[30] "Body," pp. 135-36, with 129-31, 137-41, 150 (see also p. 207, n. 118 and p. 231, n. 378).

[31] "Counterattack," p. 57.

[32] "Body," p. 127. See also the relevant Q&A in my online FAQ for this chapter ("Many translators render 1 Corinthians 15:42-44").

[33] See my extensive discussion with context and contrasting examples in "Body," pp. 123-27 (with pp. 119, 135-36, 140). See also the relevant Q&A in my online FAQ for this chapter ("A lot of what you argue would apply equally well to transformation" and "Doesn't Philippians 3:21 clearly state that the body will be transformed?"), although "Body" already addresses those issues, even if Davis gives the impression that I overlooked them.

[34] 1 Corinthians 15:36-38. See "Body," pp. 122-26.

[35] "Body," pp. 156, 158-65. On Paul himself having secret doctrines, which he concealed even from fellow Christians of insufficient rank, see the relevant Q&A in my online FAQ for this chapter ("You argue that Origen believed in your two-body resurrection theory").

[36] "Counterattack," p. 58, where Davis admits some things in the Gospels are "extremely hard, maybe impossible" to harmonize, and some he has "never known what to do with." I should add that Davis's question suggests I said nothing in "Body" as to when or why certain additions should be accounted legendary, even though I did: e.g. pp. 165-70, 188-97 (and also my analysis of Matthew's empty tomb narrative in "Theft," pp. 360-64).

[37] For an example of such a comparison see Richard Carrier, "Was Christianity Highly Vulnerable to Inspection and Disproof?," Chapter 7 of my online book Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? (Secular Web 2006).

[38] "Counterattack," p. 58.

[39] "Theft," p. 364.

[40] "Counterattack," p. 59.

[41] "Theft," p. 355-57.

[42] "Counterattack," p. 58.

[43] See "Burial," esp. pp. 371-73 and 385-88, though I repeatedly address the issue in between.

[44] Luke 1:1-3. It is not entirely convincing to suppose Luke knew nothing about Joseph because his membership in the church was a secret, while at the same time accepting that this secret was known to both Matthew and John. Moreover, the whole idea of a "secret" disciple is problematic, given the commandment by Jesus himself, to all disciples, to preach the word after his resurrection. And was Joseph so dishonest as not to announce what he really believed, and so cowardly as not to stand up with his fellow Christians when they faced persecution? This would make him more contemptible than Peter, who (we're told) did exactly that, yet at least he redeemed himself later. For more on the plausibility of Joseph as a believer see Note 25 in Richard Carrier, "Was Christianity Highly Vulnerable to Inspection and Disproof?," Chapter 7 of my online book Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? (Secular Web 2006).

[45] "Burial," p. 385.

[46] "Burial," pp. 385-86.

[47] See "Body," pp. 158-59, with p. 220, n. 271-273 (expanding on the last section of Richard Carrier, "Jewish Law, the Burial of Jesus, and the Third Day," Secular Web: 2002). Only in the 2nd century, after the destruction of the temple and scattering of Jewish communities and authorities, did Judah ben Baba add a line to the Mishnah law, "Neither all men, nor all places, nor all seasons, are alike" (Mishnah, Yebamot 16:3F; cf. b.Talmud, Yevamoth 120a-b), thus this one allowance for exceptions did not exist in the time of Jesus. Moreover, this allowance is too inspecific to be stretched out to an astonishing seven weeks, especially since any stretching at all would have been based on exceptional circumstances not present in the case of Jesus, who was bruised about the face, and not buried in winter, nor at high elevation, nor in a cold country, but in central Palestine in the Spring, the most typical circumstances for burial. Hence the pre-Judah law certainly reflected expectations for the time and place Jesus was buried, ruling out any of the exceptional circumstances Judah ben Baba might later have had in mind.

[48] "Counterattack," p. 56.

[49] All the Gospels except the first (Mark) state or imply the original tomb began empty (and Mark does not deny it), so whether one credits that detail depends on the historical reliability one assigns to the Gospels, and to this report specifically. I would grant it for the argument in "Burial" (though not otherwise), and only for the tomb Joseph first used to store the body, not where the body would have ended up by Sunday morning.

[50] See my discussion of the overall problem in "Theft," p. 355-57.

[51] "Theft," p. 359.

[52] See the relevant Q&A in my online FAQ for this chapter ("In response to the proposal that the guards left before the women arrived").

[53] See "Body," pp. 182-97 and "Burial," pp. 387-88.

[54] "Counterattack," p. 60, w. n. 38. Contrast my own experiences, related briefly in "Body," p. 185.

[55] "Counterattack," p. 61. I treat the matter in "Body," pp. 182-97 and "Burial," pp. 387-88.

[56] See Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:18-20, Luke 5:33-35 (also, e.g., Luke 2:37, 18:12; Acts 13:2-3, 14:23, 27:21-23; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 6:5, 11:27). The Bible and the Talmud frequently refer to such practices among observant Jews.

[57] "Counterattack," p. 60.

[58] Even the unreliable evidence we have regarding the identity of Mark and Matthew (such as from the anonymous Muratorian fragment and the third-hand reporting of Papias and the later unsourced claims of Origen) establishes that Mark was not a disciple, while leaving substantial doubt whether the "disciple" Matthew, who allegedly wrote some kind of gospel in Hebrew, is also the author of the Greek hagiography currently in the New Testament.
       As for Luke, these same materials also claim Luke was not a witness, and Luke's own preface confirms this. See discussion in Richard Carrier, The Problem of Luke's Methods as a Historian, which is Section 3 of Chapter 7 ("Was Christianity Highly Vulnerable to Inspection and Disproof?") of my online book Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? (Secular Web 2006).
       Finally, despite later claims, John 21:24 (echoing 20:35) identifies as its source only an unnamed disciple, and only in the third person, by another unnamed author (who asserts of his alleged source that "we know his testimony is true" without explaining how "they" know this). A stronger case can be made that this unnamed source was not John, but Lazarus (John 11:1-5, 11:36, 12:1-11, 13:23, 19:26-27, 20:2-10, 21:20-24), and there is reason to believe Lazarus is a fictional character, and therefore a fabricated source, per my brief discussion of Lazarus in the latter half of Richard Carrier, "Would the Facts Be Checked?," Chapter 13 of my online book Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? (Secular Web 2006). Fabricating sources was increasingly in vogue at the time: Alan Cameron, Greek Mythography in the Roman World (2004), pp. 89-163.

[59] "Counterattack," p. 61.

[60] See, e.g., "Body," pp. 174-76.

[61] "Counterattack," p. 62.

[62] Martin mentions it on p. 456 of Empty Tomb as a possible objection, but when it came time to adopt premises in his formal argument, Martin stuck with Swinburne's estimates for the possibility of God's existence, effectively ignoring the possibility of God's incoherence.

[63] In agreement with my earlier methodological point, I too have considered the possibility of survival, and though I concluded it had a probability of less than one tenth of one percent (see Richard Carrier, "Probability of Survival vs. Miracle: Assessing the Odds," 6th ed., Secular Web 2006), I nevertheless argued that the probability of a miracle was even less. Hence it is not necessary to believe Jesus survived the cross in order to present its mere possibility as a defeater for belief in supernatural explanations. For if it is true that miracles are less probable, then no matter how improbable survival may be, miracle cannot be maintained as the most likely explanation. This would produce an a fortiori argument: if survival is unbelievable, and if miracle is less probable, then miracle is even more unbelievable. Of course one can attack the second premise of this argument, but my point is that the argument is deductively valid, regardless of whether we believe Jesus survived the cross. Formally:

p1: Survival is epistemically improbable.
p2: What is epistemically improbable is unbelievable.
c1: Survival is unbelievable.

p3: Miracle is epistemically less probable than survival.
p4: What is epistemically less probable than p is less believable than p.
c2: Miracle is less believable than survival.

Only p3 is open to challenge. I am certain Davis would agree that all the other premises here are true (on at least some definition of the key terms used). Hence this argument is deductively valid (and also sound, if p3 is true), even if we don't believe Jesus survived (since none of the premises above assert that he did).