These are questions Richard Carrier asked on his Blog. I was wondering if the people at Triablogue could answer them, especially the first one. And if you have answered these questions already, or very similar ones already, could you provide the link to those posts?
Jason has already responded in the combox:
I’ll add my own two cents to the kitty:
1."Why was the death of Jesus so public, but his resurrection so private?"
i) Why should we accept the assumption that his resurrection was a private affair?
Carrier is apparently assuming, without benefit of argument, that the only witnesses are named witnesses.
But as Richard Bauckham argues in his new book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans 2006), the named witnesses are named, not because they are the only witnesses, but because they would be the witnesses known to the reader.
ii) For a man like Carrier, the number of witnesses is irrelevant to the credibility of the report.
If the Resurrection were reported by Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Pliny, the Talmud, &c., he would treat this as evidence, not that the Resurrection ever occurred, but as further evidence of how hopelessly superstitious ancient writers were.
For a man like Carrier, the more testimony you have to the supernatural, the more that testifies to the credulity of the witnesses. For him, sheer quantity is an argument, not for veracity, but gullibility.
2.You seem to trust what the Gospels say is what actually happened. I want to understand why. I have an analogy that I think might help. Suppose I hauled you into court on a murder charge, and the only evidence I had against you was a bunch of letters that described you murdering the victim in vivid detail. Of course you would ask who wrote those letters. I answer, "Joe, Mike, Bob, and Dan." You then ask, "Who are they?" And I answer, "I don't know for sure." That's a dead end, so you would ask, "How do they know any of the things they claim in those letters?" And I answer, "I don't know. They never say exactly where they are getting any of their information." Okay. Imagine that happened to you. Would you conclude that I had a convincing case against you? Do you believe the jury should conclude that you committed the murder those letters describe you committing?"
This is an argument from analogy minus the argument. It is predicated on unspoken and unsupported assumptions regarding the anonymity and late dating of the Gospels.
Not only does he offer no supporting argument for his assumptions, but, by the same token, he ignores the counterarguments as well.
3."In the Book of Acts the Apostles are having vivid and powerful visions and dream communications from God all the time. We hear of similar experiences reported in that era from Jews and pagans, who were also having vivid and powerful visions and dream communications from a variety of gods and angels. Why isn't this happening now? And why was that happening back then, even to pagans and Jews, who weren't seeing or hearing what the Christians were seeing and hearing?"
i) Actually, contemporary reports of analogous phenomena are commonplace. There’s a vast parapsychological literature on this subject, some of which is quite scholarly. For example:
R.W.K. Paterson, Philosophy and the Belief in a Life After Death (New York: Saint Martin’s Press, 1995.
Michael Stoeber and Hugo Meynell, Eds., Critical Reflections on the Paranormal (New York: State University of New York Press, 1996).
James Houran and Rense Lange, Eds., Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (McFarland and Company, Inc., 2001).
David Lester, Is there Life After Death? (McFarland and Company, Inc., 2005).
David Fontana, Is There An Afterlife: A Comprehensive Overview of the Evidence (O Books, 2005).
Lance Storm and Michael A. Thalbourne, eds., The Survival of Human Consciousness: Essays on the Possibilities of Life After Death, ed (McFarland and Company, Inc., 2006).
ii) However, that widely-attested phenomenon doesn’t lead survivors to exhume the graves of the deceased to see if they’re empty or not. And that phenomenon is not an argument for mass hallucinations.
iii) The Book of Acts and Gospel of Luke share a common author. In the Gospel, Luke goes out of his way to distinguish the Risen Christ from a ghost.
The Lucan corpus distinguishes a resurrection from a vision. Carrier should either treat the Lucan corpus as reliable on both counts or unreliable on both counts. Otherwise, his selective appeal to the Lucan corpus is arbitrary.
iv) Both Luke and John attribute physical and tangible properties to the Risen Christ.
v) Gary Habermas, for one, as dealt with this line of objection:
4."The Gospel according to Matthew says (27:52-54) 'the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints who slept rose up and came out of their graves after His resurrection, and went into the Holy City and appeared to many'. Do you believe this happened?
Yes, it actually happened.
If Yes: How could this amazing event have escaped everyone else's notice, even the other evangelists? If No: How could the author of Matthew get away with such a lie?"
i) Obviously it didn’t escape “everyone’s” notice, otherwise we wouldn’t have a report of this very event in Matthew.
ii) Every gospel has something you don’t find in the others. That’s’ why we have four gospels. There’s be little point in writing four identical gospels.
iii) Carrier seems to envision a Night of the Living Dead scenario, in which rotting zombies terrorize downtown Jerusalem. He’s been watching too many B-movies.
Assuming that the resurrection of these OT saints is analogous to the Resurrection of Christ, they would easily blend in with the general population. For they would look like ordinary mortals who had never died.
They would only be recognizable to surviving friends, neighbors, and family members.
iv) And even if you knew this person, you wouldn’t assume, just by catching a glimpse of a familiar face in a crowd, that the look-alike was, indeed, your dead friend or acquaintance.
To the contrary, you’d assume that it couldn’t be your dead friend or acquaintance. Just an eerie coincidence.
v) Remember, too, that glorification doesn’t restore the decedent to however he looked at the time of death. If he died as a 90-year-old, he wouldn’t come back as a 90-year-old. Rather, glorification would restore him (or her) to a youthful, ageless appearance.
vi) So the resurrected saints would not be instantly recognizable. They would have to seek out survivors, where there were any (depending on how long they’d been dead), identify themselves, and explain what happened.
Imagine the shock and initial disbelief if your mother, who died 20 years ago, suddenly turned up on your doorstep!
vi) Carrier is also assuming that every survivor who had such an encounter wrote it down in a diary.
vii) He is further assuming that every private record, or any private record, would survive the ravages of time. But our written records, even by famous writers of the day, are exceptionally sparse.