In Ben Shapiro's recent interview with Christian apologist and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig we find him presenting 3 major objections to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this article we will be analyzing these objections in detail. For the video version of this interview clip and analysis you can simply click THIS LINK.
Objection #1: Many resurrections have happened in the Bible, why is Jesus’ resurrection unique?
The resurrection of Jesus is unique to other Biblical resurrections in a few different ways. Dr. Craig correctly pointed out that the religio-historical context of Jesus being tried and condemned as a blasphemer and then subsequently raised from the dead, sends a message that God approved of Jesus’ claims about Himself. Also, other resurrections in the Bible were performed by a human conduit, in the case of Jesus we find God Himself raising Jesus from the dead, confirming His unique status as the Son of God. Lastly, other resurrections from the dead only had a temporary effect on the recipient in that they eventually died again. In the case of Jesus the we find that He was raised from the dead into a glorified, immortal body as a demonstration of the kind of bodies that the righteous will receive at the end of the age.
Objection #2: Many scholars date the gospel accounts to somewhere around 70 a.d. How do we know that they are accurate and have not invented the resurrection story?
As Dr. Craig pointed out, despite the fact that many scholars like to point to a theory that the gospels were written some 40 years after the death of Jesus, these same scholars affirm that the women discovered the empty tomb, that a variety of people and groups witnessed appearance of Jesus post-resurrection, and that the disciples came to suddenly and sincerely believe that Jesus rose from the dead despite facing death and persecution. In addition to this, professional forensic specialists such as former cold-case detective Warner Wallace demonstrates clearly that the gospels were written early based on several factors.
A major factor is that the New Testament fails to mention one of the most monumental historical events of the first century: The Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Being that Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple it stands to reason that if the gospels or any other books of the New Testament were written after 70 AD then we should expect to find mention of the temples destruction as it would be powerful confirmation of Jesus’ prophecy. Therefore we can establish that New Testament was written before 70 AD.
Additionally according to the intro to the book of Acts we know it was written after the gospel of Luke and we can date the book of Acts to before 61-64 AD in that it does not mention the death of either Peter or Paul who were key characters in it’s narrative, and they died around this time. There is additional evidence in the letters of 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians in which Paul quotes Luke’s gospel which we can use to date Luke’s gospel to between 50-53 AD.
Knowing the early date of Luke’s gospel helps us to date Matthew and Mark to even earlier being that Luke often repeated or quoted entire passages from them totaling to 350 verses from Mark and 250 verses from Matthew that appear in Luke’s gospel. Estimates are that Mark was written around 45 AD with Matthew shortly afterward. This means that we have the first written gospel only 12 years after the event which is extraordinary in terms of historical documents. Even if one goes with a later dating of the Gospels it still stands that chief components of the resurrection narrative are considered unaltered by the vast majority of scholars in that realm.
Objection #3: Ben Shapiro points to a fringe sect of Judaism that believes their rabbi who is called the Lubavitcher Rebbe resurrected from the dead.
Contrary to the beliefs of this fringe sect the Lubavitcher Rebbe has been lying dead in his grave since June 12, 1994 in New York. Although a small number of random followers of the rebbe have claimed to see him alive, these sightings are comparable to those who have claimed to see Elvis still alive. The difference between these so-called resurrection sightings and the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead are a world apart. For starters the tomb of Jesus is empty. This would be a bare minimum for followers of the rebbe to demonstrate and it would be very simple to prove. Yet all evidence confirms that the rebbe is still in the same grave he was buried in back in 1994. Secondly, Jesus post-resurrection appearances are reported by upwards of 500 witnesses in New Testament times, many facing death.
Thirdly, the brothers of Jesus who did not believe prior to the resurrection also came to believe through eye-witness experiences. The only reasonable explanation of Jesus’ unbelieving brothers changing their mind is that they did in fact witness the resurrected Jesus. Fourthly, Paul who was a violent persecutor of Christians came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus through an eye-witness experience, as with the brothers of Jesus this would make no sense unless he truly witnessed the resurrected Jesus. And finally, there was no material benefit to becoming a Christian during the first century as you would face death, property seizure and persecution on a daily basis. Followers of the rebbe who claim he is alive have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making these assertions.
Although I respect Ben Shapiro it’s clear that his objections to the resurrection of Jesus do not stand up to the well known data surrounding the Resurrection. I believe that when the evidence for the resurrection is evaluated thoroughly we can understand it as a historical event that has validity equaling any other major event that historians accept. If we reject the historical validity of the resurrection then we must also reject almost all major histories along with it. We can apply the same standards that we use to determine the assasination of Julius Caesar to also determine that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.
Written by: Kyle Bailey, D.Min.