Customer Reviews

19 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review

127 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Empty Tomb May Be Empty, but this book is not
The Empty Tomb is a collection of 15 essays by skeptical scholars on the historicity of the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection. Some two-thirds of the essays have been published in the past several years, but there are also several new works, including Richard Carrier's brilliant 100-page essay that spans the middle of the book, and completely redeems whatever weaknesses the...
Published on June 12, 2005 by Michael Turton

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, but a great one nonetheless
What happened after the crucifixion of Jesus? Was his body placed in a tomb, only to resurrect a few days later? Yes, if you ask a faithful Christian, then that's exactly what happened. But imagine asking a group of non-theists, non-Christian academics, philosophers, historians, and atheists. Then what'll you get?

You'll get The Empty Tomb, a serious analysis...
Published on January 21, 2006 by Stefan Isaksson

‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

127 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Empty Tomb May Be Empty, but this book is not, June 12, 2005
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
The Empty Tomb is a collection of 15 essays by skeptical scholars on the historicity of the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection. Some two-thirds of the essays have been published in the past several years, but there are also several new works, including Richard Carrier's brilliant 100-page essay that spans the middle of the book, and completely redeems whatever weaknesses the volume may have.

The book is aimed squarely at the arguments of Christian apologists, a notion that sat very uncomfortably with the critic from Publisher's Weekly on, who obviously lacked both the knowledge and the patience to deal with the diversity of approaches in the book, and did not seemed to understand it at all, a fact which apparently bred resentment rather than admiration. The essays fall more or less into two groups, a set of a half dozen essays on philosophy and methodology, and another group that focuses strongly on the texts themselves, and the evidence they offer, as well as their historical and social context. The work is accessible to layman who are willing to make the effort to interact with the often complex and detailed theoretical, methodological, and evidential aspects of it.

The volume begins with three essays that explore the Resurrection from the historical and theological point of view. Robert Cavin's essay asks whether there is sufficient historical evidence to establish the resurrection of Jesus. Cavin's essay is actually an exploration of what it means to ask this question, breaking out the underlying assumptions of what "the Resurrection" means in great detail.

This is followed by Michael Martin's essay on Bayes' Theorem and the Resurrection as initially improbable. Martin explains things very clearly, and the essay is not difficult to follow. Martin makes a clever move in arguing that not only is the initial probability of the Resurrection low on the assumptions of naturalism, it is also low even if we allow supernatural events. Theodore M. Drange rounds out the opening section with a discussion of Christian theology and the Resurrection. This short essay is a response to the claims of the 19th century theologian Charles Hodge, demolishing them point by point.

The fourth article, Robert Price's article on the famous passage in 1 Cor 15 as an interpolation, begins a section that focuses on the textual evidence for the resurrection, and on early Christian history.

By far the best article in the collection is the next one, Richard Carrier's long essay on the spiritual body of Christ and the legend of the empty tomb. From the title and opening lines one might expect a dull discussion of the theology of risen bodies, but Carrier develops his theme with great fecundity, drawing evidence from ever farther afield and offering numerous insights into the gospel texts. In addition to solid methodological and textual viewpoints, Carrier's work is always full of insightful tidbits, and this one is no exception. Like me, the reader no doubt kick himself when he realizes how many times he has read Plutarch's Life of Romulus yet never spotted the parallel to the arrest scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. In addition to rapier thrusts like that into the heart of the Jesus legend, Carrier also bludgeons it with Orphic and other parallels. Unlike many who present evidence from the so-called history of religions school, Carrier is restrained in his presentation, and entirely free of the kind of triumphalism that has plagued adherents of that school of Jesus-critique. This is one essay that is destined to become a classic.

If Carrier is the brilliant Rommel, ranging across his enemy's flanks at will and unimpeded, Peter Kirby, the writer of the next piece, complements him perfectly as the competent, sturdy NCO who must direct the small-unit battles. Kirby's piece is a detailed review of the evidence from the Gospel texts, showing how it is most likely they are fictive constructions. Kirby's workmanlike piece is buttressed by copious references to a wide variety of scholarship, and should become a key source for anyone writing on this topic.

Jeffery Jay Lowder then follows with a demolition of William Lane Craig's writing on the Empty Tomb. The more-style-than-substance arguments of Craig, a well-known debater and Christian apologist, are ruthlessly exposed by Lowder in this piece.

"Taming the Tehom" is Evan Fales deconstruction of the Matthean version of the Resurrection account. Fales reads Matthew in light of both the Jonah story, other Bible legends, and myths and stories from across the Ancient Near East.

A short essay by Richard Carrier then discusses the plausibility of the theft of the body. This is also a response to apologist William Craig. Carrier shows that far from being history, Matthew's story is constructed off of Daniel 6. This piece, though only a few pages, is written in Carrier's clear and insightful style and is well worth a look.

Carrier follows this with another information-packed discussion of Jesus' burial in light of Jewish law. In this essay, a version of which was posted to Internet Infidels a while back, Carrier's review not only shows how fiction is the more plausible option for the origin of the story, but also locates the 'three-day" motif within the prescriptions of Jewish law.

Duncan and Derrett propose a model for the origin of the Resurrection story in their next piece, oddly entitled "Financial Aspects of the Resurrection." They argue that the story of the Resurrection and Ascension was invented because of the benefits it brought to the disciples and the new religion.

Robert Price's piece on William Craig's apologetics follows. This piece, highly polemical, is also very enjoyable. Price's essay dissects the underlying apologetic motives that drive 'scholarship' on the empty tomb and the Resurrection, showing how apologetics continues to inform, and distort, scholarly work on the topic.

Keith Parsons closes the long section on the nuts and bolts of New Testament texts, history, and related scholarship behind with an essay that argues that hallucinations could account for the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus. Parsons shows that apologists' objections to this theory are uninformed and poorly-argued.

Michael Martin is up next with a response to Swinburne's absurd argument that it is highly probable that Jesus was God incarnate and really was Resurrected from the dead. Martin, like Swinburne a professional philosopher, shows that Swinburne's claim is incoherent on almost every level.

Evan Fales then finishes with a philosophical look at Alvin Plantinga, reformed epistemology, and Biblical scholarship. Despite its formidable title, the piece is an accessible study of how a major Christian philosopher goes about attempting to discredit modern Bible scholarship so that he can continue clinging to beliefs that have been shown to be wrong by modern scholarship. Fales steers surehandedly through a difficult thicket of philosophical and methodological troubles.

The essays in this volume are all of very high quality and there is something here for readers of every taste. Skeptics in search of ammunition will find a plentiful supply. This idea of themed essays around topics of interest to skeptics of early Christian history has great potential, and I look forward to further compilations of this nature on similar topics from Price and Lowder.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Natural Explanations for the Resurrection of Jesus, July 30, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
The Empty Tomb is an anthology of replies to Claims about the resurrection of Jesus. A great portion of it is focused on the Empty Tomb. In this volume there is a lot to be learned about these men's interpretations of the History in Palestine. Richard Carrier's treatment of Paul's view of resurrection is humble and friendly and honest. Carrier's historical fervor shines forth throughout his essay and in my opinion it makes it worth the money since he gives examples of legend making in detail.

Oddly enough the resurrection stories fall short of appearing embellished and legendary as much as would be expected if the stories were made up or invented in whole or in part. The resurrection stories are more straight forward, though Carrier argues that they still are unhistorical for the most part, with less legendary ingredients than the examples he gives such as the story of Romulus and others. Michael Martin's first essay is actually very redundant, in that miracles are initially improbable and thus the resurrection of Jesus is also improbable. Robert Price's first essay is a detailed look at the primitive creed found in I Corinthians 15:3-11 and his views on the subject as possible interpolations.

Robert Cavin's essay has to do with the fact that the resurrection body that Jesus was supposed to have was not verified or strenuously tested to have the properties Christians claim such as immortal, impenetrable, indestructive and so forth. Basically, Jesus' body was not tested in a lab, thus we can't say that Jesus' body had those properties. Theodore Drange's first essay is about how Jesus' life, style of death, prolongation of death, location of that death, burial location and resurrection was not the only way or path that God could have chosen. In other words God had other options, therefore why the need resurrect Jesus. Kirby's essay is an argument against the empty tomb story as authentic. Lowdry's essay against William Lane Craig's defense on the empty tomb is actually quite complementary as opposed to a conflicting response since Lowder agrees a lot with Craig. A funny thing, though, is that Lowder responds indirectly to a few questions and objections that support Kirby's hypothesis, which is just one essay behind Lowder's. Fales' first essay is a strange one in that it tries to review Mathew from a mythological stand point as events such as the sign of Jonah and the story from Bethany to the tomb as political/social symbols to the difficulties of the times and leaves the reader hanging at the end. He leaves the project unfinished and his essay incomplete.

Carriers' second essay focuses on the plausibility of a bodily theft for the explanation of the empty tomb and goes against William Lane Craig's arguments again and there is a small thesis on Matthew's account of Jesus being similar to the book of Daniel's account of the Lion's Den. Carrier's third essay is on the Jewish Law and its affects to the death and burial of Jesus. Derret's essay is on who benefits the most, financially speaking, if Jesus is said to have been raised. Price's second essay is basically an ad hominem attack on William Lane Craig, even though he does deviate a tad bit, correctly, on Craig's arguments as opposed to Carig himself for a short moment. Parson's essay is basically on Hallucinations as plausibility for post-resurrection appearances and how Peter Kreeft should have put a reference on one of his works. Martin's second essay is a critique of Richard Swinburne's view of God and how even with Bayes' Theorem the resurrection of Jesus is not so plausible. This compliments, Martins first essay on improbability of the resurrection. And finally, Fales second essay is on Planinga's view of knowledge in a Christian and historical setting.

A few problems are the fact that William Lane Craig is mentioned too much and other Christians are ignored, such as Gary Habermas, Norman Geisler, Michael Licona, or even Bruce Metzger, in terms of needed textual criticism. There is a problem with some writers as dismissing certain texts as embellished or mythology without bringing up supporting evidence such as Carrier, Price, and Kirby or taking away potential reliability by dismissing the text as copied from an earlier source thus ignoring the potential eyewitnesses like Luke, John, and Matthew, without supporting evidence for such quick dismissal.

I really wanted them to talk in detail why they reject a few texts as inauthentic and unhistorical since they usually don't cite any archeological finds that would conflict directly with the narratives, if these empirical evidences do exist in the first place, to diminish the historicity of Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Carrier mentions the crucified man found in a Jewish tomb from around the time of Jesus named Jehohanan, but this seems to support the accounts in all the Gospels not against them. Archeological emphasis is something they desperately needed in order to establish the plausibility of their theories. Without these evidences their theories are possible but unsupported by direct needed evidence, as Robert Price admits in his first essay in his conclusion. More research needs to be done.

Much of what is said needs to be considered well and sometimes taken with a grain of salt. A good book to read before "The Empty Tomb", and any other work that tries to construct and reconstruct history, is Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought since historian's fallacies are found in "The Empty Tomb". Its good to keep historians and their beliefs in check to see if they are going beyond what can be historically concluded or assumed. For instance, since the contributors assume metaphysical naturalism in their evaluation of history, it would be wise to actually scrutinize and examine naturalism since it is an unproven presupposition that is used without evidence or proof to interpret information on history frequently here. A good book that tackles such criticisms is The Philosophy of History: Naturalism and Religion. Just to diversify research and expand ideas on biases among historians and how those impact interpretations of history.

An interesting look at plausibility, or not, of miracles in historical cases can be seen in Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (2 Volume Set). It does challenge Humean thought since it tackles miracles from historical, sociological, philosophical, anthropological, and Biblical angles. This is for perspective and contrast with other discourses on related issues.

Anyways this is a great introduction to naturalist apologetics and their theories which are intelligible, sometimes smooth, other times rough, but over all enlightening, especially Richard Carrier's essays.

Here are the Essays and the authors found in this anthology (in order):

Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence To Establish the Resurrection of Jesus?
Robert Cavin

The Resurrection as Initially Improbable
Michael Martin

Why Resurrect Jesus?
Theodore Drange

Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 as a Post-Pauline Interpolation
Robert Price

The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb
Richard Carrier

The Case Against the Empty Tomb
Peter Kirby

Historical Evidence and the Empty Tomb Story: A Reply to William Lane Craig
Jeffrey Lowder

Taming the Tehom: The Sign of Jonah In Matthew
Evan Fales

The Plausibility of Theft
Richard Carrier

The Burial of Jesus in Light of Jewish Law
Richard Carrier

Financial Aspects of the Resurrection
J. Derrett

By This Time He Stinketh: The Attempts of William Lane Craig to Exhume Jesus
Robert 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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read, but a great one nonetheless, January 21, 2006
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
What happened after the crucifixion of Jesus? Was his body placed in a tomb, only to resurrect a few days later? Yes, if you ask a faithful Christian, then that's exactly what happened. But imagine asking a group of non-theists, non-Christian academics, philosophers, historians, and atheists. Then what'll you get?

You'll get The Empty Tomb, a serious analysis of many of the arguments that Christian apologetics (defenders of the Christian faith) put forwards at the end of the 20th century. Initially, the story about the resurrection might not be so very complicated, however, look closer and you'll find a whole lot of questions and inconsistencies; all of them discussed in The Empty Tomb. What if Jesus body was simply stolen? What did the authors of the New Testament really mean when they said Jesus had returned from the dead? Did the resurrected Jesus actually meet his followers? If there indeed was a God, why sacrifice your only son only to have him brought back to life right after? Is the notion of a resurrection a Christian invention, or did the Bible authors use earlier sources for their faith?

This questions, and many more, are dealt with mercilessly. The discussions are VERY academic, and many of the contributions throughout the book more or less requires a very deep knowledge of Bible issues, its authors, history, and content. I'm willing to admit that I don't know as much about that particular book as I'd want to, and it happened on several occasions that I had to, unwillingly, admit that I couldn't quite understand what was being said. No wonder, perhaps, because Bible quotes I've never even heard of are used constantly, and sometimes several pages are devoted to discussing how old Greek words should really be translated and interpreted.

But not all contributions are equally difficult to understand, and some of them are truly entertaining and educational. The ones that stood out most were "Swinburne on the Resurrection" by Michael Martin (a devastating blow against Christianity), "By This Time He Stinketh" by Robert M. Price (a wonderful critique against one of the most famous apologetics and his defence of the Resurrection), and "Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli on the Hallucination Theory" by Keith Parsons (who, among other things, discusses the similarities between ancient Christianity and contemporary ideas about alien abductions and close encounters with extraterrestrials; a fascinating idea that deserves to be discussed more closely).

In order to fully appreciate The Empty Tomb you better be VERY well-read in Bible research, apologetics, and Christian history. True, some of the contributions are easily understood by the common man, but the question is whether these contributions make it worthwhile to buy the book. Personally I think yes, most definitely, but I can absolutely understand if people choose to spend their money on a book that's easier to understand.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Availability of Natural Explanations for Resurrection Belief Renders the Supernatural Ones Implausible, June 24, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
This is powerful stuff, and long overdue. While this book does not attempt to "disprove" the resurrection, (nobody can or ever will), in providing plausible "naturalistic" explanations for resurrection belief it renders belief in the supernatural account implausible. For if the "resurrection" can be explained in non-miraculous ways, (and this books shows that it clearly can), a difficult burden lies on those positing the miraculous as the preferred explanation.

Though not always easy reading, it is well worth the effort to plow carefully through the entire book. Its multi-disciplinary approach presents the reader with anthropological, psychological, philosophical and legal reasons why bodily resurrection is not the only explanation for the Easter faith.

Evangelical Christians reading this book (and I fear that very few will) are sure to find their core beliefs deeply challenged. They will find themselves in a position similar to those tribal natives who argue that the volcano erupted because the gods were angry, while ample geological evidence suggests a simpler, non-supernatural, explanation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Fascinating Arguments, February 10, 2006
Jay Raskin "PhilosopherJay" (Orlando, Fl United States) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
It is perhaps a mark of how deep the field of serious, non-apologetical, New Testament studies is getting that so much material is devoted to a single topic. Previously writers, like Price, have devoted books to questioning the historical accuracy of the entire New Testament. Here only one question is analyzed, albeit the possibly important one of the resurrection of Christ. A panoply of writers demonstrate that arguments supporting the opinion that there is good historical evidence for the resurrection are quite questionable.

Most of the book is fairly easy to read and requires no specialized knowledge to understand the arguments. Only the last three articles (50 pages) are a bit abstract and really aimed at a purely academic audience. The other twelve articles (435 pages) are clear, sharp and a lot of fun to read. I laughed all the way through J. Duncan M. Derett's "Financial Aspects of the Resurrection." and Robert Price's "By This Time He Stinketh."

Most of the articles felt it was necessary to offer alternatives to the resurrection hypothesis: that the disciples might have reburied the body, or Jesus' postmortem appearances may have been the results of hallucinations. I felt this methodology was appropriate for handling the issue, given the hisotrical grounds that the evangelicals claim to stand upon, but I am not sure that this way of debating, which involves figuring the historical probablility of specific events in the narrative, does not fall into an intended trap of having the sceptic admit the historical possibility of the narrative. I mean let us say that a cult of Ozists develops in the next century and they deem the land of Oz to be real. They claim that Dorothy hitting her head during a hurricane is a detail that must have happened, because non-beleavers in Oz could have used it to dismiss the reality of Oz. Now, there is a possibility that a girl from Kansas can hit her head during a hurricane, but showing that other things could have happened during the hurricane may not be the best way of showing the fictional nature of Oz.

In any case this is a book that anybody seriously studying the early history of Christianity should read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A faith-promoting atheist?, March 3, 2012
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
"The Empty Tomb" is a collection of articles discussing the resurrection of Jesus. Some of the contributors are associated with the Jesus Seminar, often regarded as an ultra-liberal Christian group. Others are independent. I don't think it would be unfair to call this volume atheist, rather than simply agnostic. The authors believe that the historical character Jesus of Nazareth (if he even existed) never rose from the dead. The editorial claim that the book isn't anti-Biblical therefore feels somewhat disingenuous. Of course it's anti-Biblical.

The stellar contribution is Richard Carrier's article "The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb". While Carrier is a materialist and atheist, I admit I was deeply intrigued by both his book "Not the impossible faith" and the article in this volume. He somehow seems to understand the Christian and spiritual worldviews. I wasn't surprised to learn that Carrier is a former liberal Christian and ex-Taoist. That would explain a lot of things. In fact, Carrier's historical-critical attack on the physical resurrection of Jesus is perfectly compatible with liberal or Gnosticizing strands of Christian theology. I presume it's also compatible with Taoism, Advaita Vedanta or the New Age. His article sounds like a carefully crafted Biblical exegesis, something surely unheard of in the history of atheist polemics. Naturally, I was hooked!

According to Carrier, Paul and the earliest Christians did believe that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. They also looked forward to a general resurrection of the dead. In that sense, they were different from Gnostics or Platonists, who held that only the soul or spirit survives, while the body decomposes. However, Paul didn't believe that the body of Jesus was "physical" in the sense of being composed of earthly matter. Rather, it was a supernatural body, a heavenly or spiritual body. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God". So far, Carrier hasn't said anything out of the ordinary - after all, it would seem that the resurrected body of Jesus was different from the resuscitated body of Lazarus. The former was heavenly and "spiritual", the latter earthly and "material". Jesus could change appearance, move through walls, etc. Lazarus could not. Presumably, the earthly body of Lazarus was still mortal.

Carrier's next move is the controversial part. He claims that Paul didn't see any continuity between the earthly body and the heavenly body. The Gospel stories imply that the physical body of Jesus was transformed into a heavenly body. Thus, the tomb was empty. Paul, according to Carrier, had a different conception: the heavenly body is an entirely new creation. When Jesus acquired a spiritual body, he simultaneously left the physical body behind. If so, the tomb of Jesus *wasn't* empty - the decomposing remains of the physical body were still there. However, this wasn't a problem for Paul, who believed that the soul of Jesus had entered the newly created heavenly body and hence had been "resurrected" anyway. It was this heavenly body which showed itself to Paul at the Damascus road. Carrier believes that the other sightings of the resurrected Jesus were of a similar character, i.e. a kind of visionary experiences. Since Carrier is an atheist, he believes that these visions were really a kind of hallucinations. Here, religious believers who like the idea of a spiritual resurrection will part with the author, but his arguments up to this point are interesting and quite convincing.

Carrier points out that Paul's idea of resurrection had other original traits as well, such as the idea that Jesus was somehow collectively "resurrected" into his Church. I think the author suspects that Paul had a pantheistic tendency. However, he doesn't develop this interesting theme further. Thus, he says nothing about Paul's statements about God being "all in all" at the final consummation, etc.

Carrier seems to regard the original story of the empty tomb as a symbolic or dramatic device, which was interpreted literally by a growing body of believers who considered the idea of a physical resurrection more appealing than Paul's more spiritual vision. Eventually, a tradition developed emphasizing the physical aspects of the resurrection: Jesus eating fish to prove that he isn't a ghost, Thomas touching the wounds of Jesus, etc. (Note, however, that the Jesus of the Gospels also have certain "ghostly" traits.) To some extent, this tradition was a polemic against incipient Gnosticism (which seems to have distorted Paul's position in the other direction).

On some points, Carrier parts with modern Biblical scholarship. For instance, he seems to regard all epistles attributed to Paul in Protestant and Catholic Bibles as genuinely Pauline. I believe most theologians outside evangelicalism consider the Pastorals and (sometimes) the Deutero-Pauline epistles to be non-Pauline. I'm not sure why Carrier sounds like a conservative evangelical on this point!

"The Spiritual Body of Christ and the Legend of the Empty Tomb" is a tour de force of major proportions. Everyone should read it, come to terms with it or...well, respond to it.

Unfortunately, the rest of "The Empty Tomb" comes close to being landfill material. Carrier's article on Jewish burial practices makes interesting points, while his piece on the plausibility of theft is mostly a thought-experiment. The other contributors to this volume are much weaker. Robert Price comes across as somebody with a lot of personal grudges, especially against William Lane Craig. To some extent, he does make up for this in the article on post-Pauline interpolations. Other writers sound like "village atheists" or smart alecs. Michael Martin has discovered a mathematical formula according to which the resurrection is only 32% certain. Therefore, belief in it is irrational. Come again?

Despite this, I think "The Empty Tomb" is worth procuring for Carrier's article on the spiritual body, which is also the longest in the entire volume.

Had I been a Christian, I would almost be tempted to quip: "Carrier, you saved my faith". ;-)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High-level, lacks cohesion, January 12, 2006
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
Have you read a fair amount about Biblical scholarship and or the resurrection? Want to read some essays that look at the minute details of the event? Get this book.

Have a friend who's badgering you with arguments from Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ and you want to hear the other side? This isn't so good.

As someone who falls into the former category, I found this book fascinating, but it is nothing like a cohesive effort to rebut apologetic arguments. Claims for eyewitness authorship of the Gospels are ignored, a reasonable thing to do in a scholarly work as they've been thoroughly discredited, but such claims still float around the world of Christian apologetics, and a full response would adress them at least briefly.

The number of essays on different subjects seems all out of propotion to what a rebuttal work would have had. We have three essays that in some way deal with the probability of the resurrection, five on the empty tomb, and one dealing with the possibility of hallucinations. A direct response could have done with one article on probability (or none, the evidence isn't that strong) and probably should have dedicated roughly equal amounts of space to the empty tomb and appearances.

Nevertheless, there's some excellent material in here, especially Richard Carrier's three essays, which look at the empty tomb in the context of things like Jewish law, beliefs, as well as the interest necromancers might have in Jesus' body. Good reading, all of it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Content mostly superb; Kindle edition not so much, June 19, 2011
Jim Davis (St. Charles, MO USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a collection of 15 essays united by the common theme of the empty tomb as related in the gospels. There is a certain amount of wiggle room; some deal more with the resurrection, some more with the concept of atonement. Some of the essays defend mundane theories that would explain the empty tomb (theft, reburial) accepting the gospel (and epistles) as more or less reliable, while some interpret it as allegorical.

The essays are of fairly high standard throughout. Some, responding to various apologists, take a combative tone. My favorites were the three by Richard Carrier. I did not care so much for the one by J. Duncan M. Derrett.

The main point to emphasize is that the authors approach the story from a wide range of perspectives. The essays are quite accessible to the lay reader but that reader should have some experience with modern biblical scholarship. Church bible study classes will not be sufficient.

The Kindle edition, while perfectly readable, is alas, flawed. The footnotes of which there are hundreds (380 for one of Carrier's essays alone) are *not* linked. This makes following up on the notes very laborious and impractical. The index is slightly more useful. The page numbers given can be used since the Kindle edition is partitioned by pages and location, although the references are off by a few pages. These flaws severely limit the value of the Kindle edition as a reference. On the plus side this is the first Kindle edition I've come across that does block quoting correctly.

Highly recommended for the content but go with a print edition if you can't live with the flaws of the Kindle edition.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

37 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gonna Roll Away The Stones And Win Father A New Pair Of Jews, July 1, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave (Hardcover)
The Empty Tomb is the first serious Skeptical challenge to an important Assertion of Christianity, there was an Empty Tomb, in about 1,500 years. It is Hoped by Skeptics that unlike its predecessors, this one will survive to maturity. To give the Reader some idea of the current Environment this book was written in, the original title was "Jesus Is Dead, He's Dead James". Prometheus Books, one of the most Skeptic sympathetic Publishers, decided this Title was too much, hence, "The Empty Tomb". So it's probably going to be some time yet before all Bibles in hotel rooms are replaced by Humes' "Treatise On Human Understanding." The book consists of a number of short articles by various Skeptics. By being only a "contributing author" as opposed to "The Author of" these Skeptics feel it more likely that they won't have (the) holy spirit kicked out of them and we therefore won't be seeing them anytime soon on the really big and important News shows like Late Night With David Letterman or The Daily Show. This Review consists souly of the contribution by the rising young Skeptical Star, ironically named Peter (Kirby), The Case Against The Empty Tomb. Peter does have the huge advantage compared to most Biblical Scholars that he is still in College. He is thus underly influenced by Practical pressures of the Real World and overly influenced by cranky old professors who take off points for any deviation from every jot and tittle of The Grammatical Law. Peter thereby writes the most logical and organized article of The Wild Bunch, the one that most directly and organizationally takes on the Specifics of the Christian argument For The Empty Tomb.

After reading Peter's Report I have Good News and Bad News for Christianity. First, the Bad News - There is no "Good News". Now, the Good News - I won't tell you the Bad News. Peter makes a Positive argument for his Position:

"The Empty Tomb" is likely a fictional creation by the Anonymous author of "Mark".

Arguments are best won by stating a Positive Proposition and then supplying sufficient evidence to support your conclusion. This is Peter's strategy. Too often people try to prove their conclusion by primarily criticizing the other sides' conclusion.

Peter's main points supporting his conclusion are as follows:

1)Dependence On "Mark"

There is no awareness of an Empty Tomb tradition in Christian literature before "Mark". The time gap between the supposed event and the first claim of an empty tomb suggests that the empty tomb story was not based on a historical event. Later Christian claims of an empty tomb are all dependent on "Mark" again indicating that there was no historical witness available for subsequent authors.

The potential weakness of the above is that it can be argued that "John" (which Peter adresses briefly) and non-Canonical Gospels are not based on "Mark".

2) Fictional Characteristics Of "Mark"

The Empty Tomb narrative in "Mark" contains likely fictional characteristics such as Joseph of Arimathea. No one knows where "Arimathea" was. Literally the word means "best disciple town". The stone is implied to be round, which was generally true at the time "Mark" was written, but generally not true for the time period supposedly described. Why would women bring spices to anoint for a body that had already been prepared for burial and buried?

3) Burial Traditions

There are Christian traditions that suggest Jesus' burial was handled by his enemies, "The Jews". The Jews would not have wanted a potential site for a shrine such as a tomb.

What Peter misses here is that it's even more likely that the Romans, who had the final authority, would not have allowed/permitted any Type of honorable burial as preventing this was one of the primary points of crucifixion.

4) Appearance Traditions

There is disagreement in Christian literature about whether the resurrected Jesus appeared to women. "Mark" and "Luke" make no such claim. Also, if a historical Empty Tomb in Jerusalem was really discovered while the disciples were still in Jerusalem, why does Christianity generally put the first post resurrection sightings in Galilee? Wouldn't the disciples be motivated to investigate (in Jerusalem)?

There is a defense here that no matter what the diciples thought the significance of the empty tomb was they would have returned home for practical reasons.

5) Lack Of Known Location

Early Christianity had no idea where Jesus' tomb was. Human nature would be to venerate it as a shrine. Lack of knowledge of a location that Christianity would be very interested in suggests that there was no such location.

This then, is the Bad News for Christianity based on Peter's witness. You can accept all kinds of General Christian assumptions as a background for discussion of historicity of The Empty Tomb and still making a convincing argument based on Specifics that The Empty Tomb was Likely not historical.

The Good News for Christianity here is that Peter makes no attempt to discuss the GENERAL reasons to doubt the historicity of the supposed Empty Tomb and the Christian argument for The Empty Tomb is primarily based on the General argument of credible contemporary witness reasonably preserved by a large institution and the lack of comparable contemporary dispute. In order to take away the Crown of The HeavenWait Champion of this world, scoring a decision is not enough. One has to win in this situation by Knockout. In order to knockout the Christian assertion it's not enough just to present a better argument, one also has to discredit the other argument.

General reasons do take longer to develop and are more easily criticized so Peter may have been limited in the size of his argument by the Highest Authority (the Editor) as well as implicitly leaving them to the other authors. In my opinion though the general reasons make an even better argument in doubting the historicity of The Empty Tomb:

1) The Gospels are primarily reports of the Impossible so any Possible claim has substantially more doubt than if it was presented without accompanying Impossible claims.

2) We know very little about the author of "Mark". For all we know she didn't intend for The Empty Tomb to be taken as history.

3) The Church Tradition that selected "Mark" as Canon was biased. The motivation may have been primarily what the Churh wanted to believe as opposed to what was historical.

4) We have no good evidence as to what Standards the Church used to determine what would be Canon.

5) We have good evidence that the Church suppressed relatively early non-Christian testimony disputing Christian assertions.

6) It's Likely that the current "Mark" post-resurrection sightings are not original. Peter identifies this but doesn't discuss what it Means in General. What it means is that Christianity forged potentially its best evidence for the resurrection to the ending of the original Gospel. Perhaps more important is the attitude of some of the best early Church scholars such as Eusebius and Jerome to this knowledge. What was most important to them is that the Gospels of their time be harmonized as opposed to scientific determination of what was likely original. What does this say about Credibility to a general argument based on supposed Credibility?

I have Faith that the Words of II Peter will rock the Believing world.

Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and challenging collection of essays., June 6, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Many great questions raised and many plausible and probable hypotheses elucidated. This is a work worth purchasing for anyone looking to discover what particularly skeptical scholars think about this ever relevant topic. It is a nice companion to the more conservative works of some apologists such as Craig et al. This collection has helped me to see how the arguments of certain Empty Tomb apologists fail to account for the complexity of the cultural and literary milieu, and how a little more knowledge of this context can change probabilities when weighing hypotheses.

Highly recommended, if not for the content (which I do find superb) at least for the wonderful bibliographies contained within.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First


The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave
The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave by Robert M. Price (Hardcover - April 5, 2005)
$32.99 $23.70
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.