(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 9.)
Last week we looked at 1 Cor. 15, which Geisler and Turek hail as being a record of a very early version of the resurrection story. Unfortunately for their apologetic, the reason Paul wrote chapter 15 is because, as verse 12 tells us, he was unhappy with the number of believers who did not buy this whole resurrection business. His response was first to emphasize that the resurrection was central to the gospel, and second to argue that a spiritual resurrection was better than merely bringing back the original, perishable body. And that’s a pair of arguments that’s actually more consistent with the idea that the resurrection story was originally about a spiritual resurrection, and only later morphed into an orthodox dogma of a literal, physical resurrection.
Obviously, Geisler and Turek didn’t explore any of that, and talked about something else instead. They see the 1 Cor. 15 account has having a different significance entirely.
Why is this important? Because, as Gary Habermas points out, most scholars (even liberals) believe that this testimony was part of an early creed that dates right back to the Resurrection itself—eighteen months to eight years after, but some say even earlier. There’s no possible way that such testimony could describe a legend, because it goes right back to the time and place of the event itself. If there was ever a place that legendary resurrection could not occur it was Jerusalem, because the Jews and the Romans were all to eager to squash Christianity and could have easily done so by parading Jesus’ body around the city.
Notice that Geisler and Turek are preaching a literal resurrection, so right away they bring up the empty tomb argument that is so conspicuously absent from Paul’s early testimony about the content of the gospel. If the issue is whether or not Jesus’ physical body returned to life, the most direct and obvious place to start is with the current disposition of the corpse. And, while it’s a bogus argument—given the climate, it wouldn’t be too hard for the disciples to keep the body out of Jewish/Roman hands until it had decayed to the point of being unrecognizable—it’s still quite effective in persuading the unwary, which is why Christians keep using it.
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