Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Refutations of the Resurrection Argument: A Bibliography

So far as I know, Michael Goulder was the first modern writer to offer a refutation of the "five facts" case for the resurrection of Jesus, summed up in his essay "The Baseless Fabric of a Vision" (published in the volume Resurrection Reconsidered) which brought up guilt and grief hallucinations, and compared group sightings of the risen Jesus to sightings of Big Foot.

Two years later, Richard Carrier wrote a long online article called "Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story" making a basic (and at times strained) case against the resurrection, and he subsequently expanded and strengthened his case in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave and in a chapter of The Christian Delusion.

Several years later, Gerd Ludemann authored a book called The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry, making similar comparisons and dismissing the empty tomb as a legend. The works of Goulder and Ludemann are pioneer works and are praiseworthy for that reason alone, but I never felt that they were overly convincing or that they had marshalled a mountain of supporting evidence for their case.

In 2005, The groundbreaking book The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, became available, and while some of the material is redundant and a little bit of it seems worth skipping, overall it was a very good volume because it was a strongly argued (if mostly defensive) case against the resurrection of Jesus.

Most recently, Chris Hallquist's UFOs, Ghosts and a Rising God and Kris Komarnitsky's Doubting Jesus' Resurrection came out. Though the former is by far more fun and interesting (being written in a conversational tone with a ton of fun facts about paranormal and alien debunking) the latter, in my judgement, was the one and only book you'd ever really need to hear the skeptic's point of view about resurrection arguments. It was concise, well-researched, and firmly made the point that the origin of Christianity could plausibly be explained in natural terms (my only gripe against this is that I wish Komarnitsky would have gone further and said that its origin was more plausibly explained by natural means than supernatural ones).

Last but not least, there are two chapters in The End of Christianity which make a case against the resurrection. In chapter 9, Robert M. Price does the job of explaining how the claim of Jesus being raised from the dead could have plausibly come about without a genuine resurrection. In chapter 8, Matt McCormick lays out a nutshell version of his forthcoming work Atheism and the Case Against Christ in which he argues that the amount of evidence we have for the resurrection is not nearly the amount we should have in order to believe it, and argues that we have better evidence, in both quantity and quality, for actual witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts than we do for the resurrection of Jesus.

I have now added yet another volume to the list. Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus by Nicholas Covington is now available. I've collected not only the responses to the positive arguments for the resurrection, but I have also created some arguments against the resurrection, some of which, as far as I know, have never been pointed out by anyone else. The book is intended to be a strong, robust, unique take on the whole issue. The opening chapter also makes the case that miracle claims must meet a high burden of proof (extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence) and shreds the standard objections to it.

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