I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. George Eldon Ladd. ISBN 978-0802816115 and 0802816118. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987. Also available in hardback, ISBN 978-0340184769 and 0340184760.
This book came recommended by Robert M. Price. I should not have wasted my time with Ladd’s work, despite Price’s commendation (he compared this book favorably over N. T. Wright’s massive tome on the resurrection, but had issues with both works). Ladd makes a number of specious arguments regarding Jesus’ resurrection in this execrable book. In the end, those arguments spell the death-knell for both his explanation and the worthiness of the book.
Ladd’s thesis is that the resurrection occurred and was an historical event that can only be understood through the lens of faith. In other words, it is only if you already believe in both God and Jesus that you can believe or comprehend the idea of the resurrection. That idea is simply untenable.
If something is historical fact, then that fact can be accepted without favoring or having sympathy for the people in the event, etc. One can accept that the genocide of Armenians by the Turks in 1915 and the German annihilation of Jews in World War II happened; that does not mean that all people who believe those events happened have a great deal of sympathy for either the Armenian or Jewish people. It’s just that they acknowledge historical reality.
So if the resurrection event happened in history, then with some proof of that event, people will believe in the resurrection. That is so without necessarily accepting Jesus’ divinity and/or without being a Christian. In point of fact, one Jewish writer and rabbi, Pinchas Lapide, does accept Jesus’ resurrection and does not accept any of the other tenets of Christian faith (see Lapide’s Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective).
One of the many other problems is that Ladd accepts without question the historical events as related in the Christian Scripture, aka the New Testament. What becomes historical fact for Ladd are the very things he seeks to prove. Ladd accepts the Gospel stories of Jesus’ resurrection as historical proof of that resurrection. He cites back to the very things he seeks to demonstrate as proof. It’s a circular argument at best: Matthew/Luke/John say Jesus died and was resurrected. Therefore, the resurrection happened. How do we know? Because Matthew/Luke/John say Jesus died and was resurrected. You simply cannot cite to the very item which you seek to prove as proof of the item in question. That makes your argument specious. Flawed. Without merit.
Ladd tries to explain how we can trust the historicity of the Bible, and concedes some ‘troublesome’ (my term) passages, but goes no further. Some ‘troublesome passage’ examples include the earthquake that happened when Jesus was executed; Herod’s slaughter of children; the census as proposed by Luke; the eclipse that occurred when Jesus was executed; many others can be shown as well. His theory is that because some other events in the Bible have been shown to be true, we can know that at some point those ‘troublesome’ passages will likewise be proven true. Until then, accept everything in the Bible as complete, unfettered truth.
The numerous historical difficulties in the Christian Scripture are why we cannot accept the “truth” of the resurrection. No matter how hard Ladd tries to convince us of the veracity of the Christian Scripture, we have too many other areas that raise doubts. Copious doubts in other areas lead to reasonable doubt as to the veracity of the event in question, namely the resurrection.
If the claims of other supernatural events cannot be found in historical records anywhere, and they are not, then the primary supernatural event reported, the resurrection, is of dubious value too. Again, Ladd offers no supporting evidence outside the New Testament for his thesis.
Ladd nowhere demonstrates the very premise that he presupposes, that the historical events presented in the Gospel record actually happened. Some points he brought out are addressed by others far superior to me intellectually, viz, that the religion spread rapidly based on the alleged resurrection.
Another such idea is that people don’t die for a lie. That is itself given the lie. It happens all the time, and happened in history, with other religions. I humbly suggest Islam and Shinto (imperial worship). People die in the name of Allah all the time, and people died for their “god,” the emperor of Japan. What’s truth to one group is false to another. People die for lies all the time; it’s all a matter of perspective.
Ladd’s work totally, completely, underwhelmingly presents of the case for the resurrection. It cannot be recommended because it is deeply, hopelessly flawed.