The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds. ISBN 1-59102-286-X. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005.
The book’s contents are:
Introduction: The Second Life of Jesus – Robert M. Price
- Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence to Establish the Resurrection of Jesus? – Robert Greg Cavin
- The Resurrection as Initially Improbable – Michael Martin
- Why Resurrect Jesus? – Theodore M. Drange
- Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as a Post-Pauline Interpolation – Robert M. Price
- The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb – Richard C. Carrier
- The Case Against the Empty Tomb – Peter Kirby
- Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig – Jeffery Jay Lowder
- Taming the Tehom: The Sign of Jonah in Matthew – Evan Fales
- The Plausibility of Theft – Richard C. Carrier
- The Burial of Jesus in Light of Jewish Law – Richard C. Carrier
- Financial Aspects of the Resurrection – J. Duncan M. Derrett
- By This Time He Stinketh: The Attempts of William Lane Craig to Exhume Jesus – Robert M. Price
- Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli on the Hallucination Theory – Keith Parsons
- Swinburne on the Resurrection – Michael Martin
- Reformed Epistemology and Biblical Hermeneutics – Evan Fales
Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Modern Authors
Index of Selected Topics
This collection of essays, many previously published elsewhere, endeavors to help people dissect the Christian argument regarding the empty tomb. The Christian argument leads inexorably (in Christian minds at least) to the “reality” of the resurrection. The book and its essays might also be seen as responses to the seeming plethora of books by more conservative/orthodox, Christian writers attesting to the historicity and reality of the resurrection (e.g., Craig, Habermas, Wright, even Strobel).
As might be expected, the essays vary in quality and argumentative strength, as well as cogency and relevance. I found the best essays to be by Price (one of the two editors) and Richard Carrier (author of three essays included). Among the dogs are essays about the financial aspects of the empty tomb/resurrection and the argument against Reformed epistemology.
As to the latter, my complaint is that because I am not of philosophical bent, so much that Evan Fales writes goes well over my head. I have an additional complaint about purely philosophical arguments about Christianity, whether the resurrection as discussed here or the “truth” of Christianity. When one argues against Christianity from a philosophical point of view, the Christian will say something along the lines of ‘you might not understand or agree with the arguments surrounding Christianity but its historical basis is true, and that cannot be denied.’ Philosophical arguments ignore the historical and, as Christianity describes itself as a religion set in history, those historical arguments seem stronger to my mind.
Regarding Derrett’s financial essay, it’s an important idea that is poorly executed. He uses broad, sweeping generalizations as well as cliches and stereotypes about groups (Jews as rich financiers of, well, almost everything). Further, that essay also is more than a little sarcastic in tone which detracts overmuch from some important ideas that could have been pursued better and more deeply than they were if not for the snarkiness in the essay.
Those are not the only problematic essays, but samples of issues I had with them. The rest of the book does what it sets out to do: force people to reassess the empty tomb myth and, thereby, the resurrection tale that results.
The main issue I have with the book, the complaints about specific essays aside, is that I suspect that few will be convinced by what they read. Those who need to read the books, Christians, either won’t read it or will dismiss the arguments in the book. In fact, the publisher, Prometheus Books, is noted for publishing works by atheists and non-Christians, so it’s entirely possible that Christians will dismiss, ignore, or otherwise reject the book out of hand solely because of the publisher (as atheists and non-Christians may likewise do with Eerdmans and Baker Books, among others). Those who do read the book likely already are convinced of the falsity of the Christian arguments and positions so will only have their preconceived notions reaffirmed.
Little new will be found for the reader, unfortunately. On balance, this is a decent book and cautiously recommended for those who need counterarguments against Christian apologists or missionary types or for people who want their own beliefs confirmed.