I have just finished reading Doubting Jesus' Resurrection: What Happened in the Black Box? by Kris Komarnitsky.
The book may be described with one or more of the following adjectives: excellent, fantastic, superb. These adjectives apply to Kris' work in several senses: First, Kris' book is an honest, objective, and thoughtful attempt to explain the origins of Christianity. It is not angry or unduly biased by ideology. Second, the book is very concise (a mere 151 pages excluding the index, references, and bibliography) but at the same time it is packed with numerous references, extensive quotations, and overall shows that the author has examined voluminous material concerning that about which he writes. Third, I believe that the positions laid out in the book are mostly correct and represent the most probable explanations available for Christian origins. However, the views that I disagree with in the book do not affect the book's main conclusion: the rise and spread of early Christianity is completely explicable (and best explained) in non-supernatural terms.
However, I do think that the book could be improved slightly. Kris never addresses the question, "If Jesus never rose from the dead, and the disciples knew it, then why did they die for a lie?" Of course this question is completely illegitimate (as I will show) but nevertheless it is a widespread myth that Kris should have addressed (perhaps he could launch a companion site or blog to answer questions like these).
The question "Why would they die for a lie?" is not legitimate for many reasons: first, there is no solid evidence that any of the disciples were martyred for their belief in the resurrection, much less any evidence that they were given a chance to recant. As Kenneth Daniels says in his book Why I Believed:
"[T]he assertion that Jesus' disciples died for their faith has no historical foundation; it is mere hearsay, as Bart Ehrman informs us:
"'And an earlier point that Bill made was that the disciples were all willing to die for their faith. I didn't hear one piece of evidence for that. I hear that claim a lot, but having read every Christian source from the first five hundred years of Christianity, I'd like him to tell us what the piece of evidence is that the disciples died for their belief in the resurrection (Craig and Ehrman 2006, 28-29).'
"What Erhman is saying is that we have no historical grounding for the martyrdom of even one of Jesus' disciples. All details regarding their manner of dying emerge years later in accounts that are far removed from the actual events. Even if it could be proven historically that some of the earliest disciples were martyred, we would still be unable to look into their minds and know they died specifically for their belief in Jesus' Resurrection.
"Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob in 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois. Latter Day Saints believe he was martyred for his unwavering conviction that God revealed himself through golden tablets that Smith had discovered in 1830. Many non-Mormons believe he was killed because he was a criminal. If the facts are so readily disputed for a relatively recent and well-documented event like Joseph Smith's death, how can we say with any confidence how or why Jesus' disciples perished, let alone what was in their minds when they died?"
Another point that Kris does not address is the claim that the resurrection hypothesis is simpler than all secular explanations of the facts surrounding Jesus' death. This claim is commonly made by William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas, and I would imagine that they would make the same point to Kris if ever they engaged him in debate: Isn't the single hypothesis of Jesus' resurrection simpler (and therefore more likely to be true) than Kris' multi-hypothesis explanation of the origins of Christianity (Kris' hypothesis requires numerous hypotheses, such as grief hallucinations to the individual appearances of Jesus after his death, plus postulating that Paul's report of an appearance to the 500 is a fringe legend and not at all factual, and so on)?
Of course Kris could easily counter this question: Occam's razor (the principle of simplicity) states that all things being equal, the simplest explanation is most probably correct. But all things are not equal in this instance: Each of Kris' hypotheses occurs with relatively high frequency (people exaggerate, hallucinate, etc. all the time) while resurrections either never occur or occur on a mind-bogglingly low basis (so low that we know of no other cases). So even the conjunction of all of Kris' hypotheses together is a lot more likely than the resurrection. The only way that a Christian could get out of this is if he could successfully show that Kris' hypothesis was less likely than the existence of a miracle-working God of the sort who would actually want to raise Jesus from the dead. Any takers on that one?