Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Debating The Resurrection Story

The Christian belief system is based upon the idea that the bible is without error in fact or presentation.  Most Christians adopt this as the first tenet of their belief and then simply believe the bible stories as factual representations of historical events.  For no reason other than the fact that the bible stories were recited and finally written,  it is believed to be true.  In this regard, Christianity is the same as Islam wherein for no reason other than the fact that the Quran was recited and written, it is believed to be true.

Some theists understand that truth cannot be based upon a single book but a large number of theists are wedded to such a belief.  For them, the question is, if truth is to be based upon a single book and no other, how does one choose which book to believe? In his 1992 essay, Christian evangelist Josh McDowell, citing biblical and non-biblical writings, argued in support of the resurrection story. He reasoned that if the resurrection could be supported with objective non-biblical evidence, we would have reason to trust the gospel stories, and perhaps the entire bible.  This reprinting of the article in its entirety, citing fair use, provides a mechanism to respond point by point to his arguments. My responses are indented inline.

Evidence for the Resurrection
by Josh McDowell

For centuries many of the world's distinguished philosophers have assaulted Christianity as being irrational, superstitious and absurd. Many have chosen simply to ignore the central issue of the resurrection. Others have tried to explain it away through various theories. But the historical evidence just can't be discounted. A student at the University of Uruguay said to me. "Professor McDowell, why can't you refute Christianity?" "For a very simple reason," I answered. "I am not able to explain away an event in history--the resurrection of Jesus Christ." How can we explain the empty tomb? Can it possibly be accounted for by any natural cause?

Response: McDowell's first argument is the logical fallacy of non sequiter. This is a conclusion drawn from an insufficient argument.  McDowell inserts the conclusion of the argument before the argument itself in the paragraph above.  The argument is the empty tomb, the conclusion is the resurrection. 

If we opened Lincoln’s tomb today and found it empty, would we assume that Lincoln rose from the dead?  There are dozens of possible causes for an empty tomb, none of which are supernatural in nature. The very last road of inquiry we would follow is that Lincoln returned from the dead and for such a hypothesis we would look for ample supporting evidence. An empty tomb is woefully insufficient evidence for a resurrection. 

After more than 700 hours of studying this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted on the minds of human beings--or it is the most remarkable fact of history.
Response: McDowell's second argument is a false dichotomy.  This is a logical fallacy where a choice between two extremes is offered in an attempt to imply that there are no other possible explanations. However there are other possible causes for a resurrection story that are neither wicked nor viscous in nature.  Here are some examples: 
1. Mary Magdalene is described as being mentally or emotionally disturbed (possessed by demons).  She is also described as being the first to discover what appeared to her to be the empty tomb. Such a troubled soul could indeed have become confused. She would not be intentionally perpetuating a hoax if in her emotional turmoil she truly believed that Jesus was resurrected, and she would naturally embellish the facts to persuade her circle of friends. As the story spread and more people believed it would be embellished with more claims to increase the persuasive effects. This evolution of a story in this manner is predictable human behavior.   
2. Ancient bible verses can be interpreted as hints for a resurrection  Jesus is described as having hinted at his own resurrection based on scripture.  His followers were conditioned to interpret events in a manner suggesting a supernatural cause.  If Mary Magdalene claimed resurrection  they would inclined to simply believe her and carry on with the story. Indeed, so sad at the loss of their beloved and  charismatic Jesus, they would welcome any opportunity to believe he continued onward and they would do exactly what it has been said they did, they would take up his message and spread it far and wide.   
3. Paul is described as a persecutor of Christians. Murder is a sin for which it is difficult to envision a path for atonement. How does one make amends for a murder?  This mental crises results in the psychological disturbances we see in all murderers. Paul was ripe for a vision, any vision.  He heard the stories of Jesus and this brought some hope.  He synthesized the stories and created the doctrines of Christianity to assuage his conscious.  What better than to ‘discover’ a religion that provided atonement? And so, in his vision, in his mental state, he thought he saw a figure and he thought that figure was Jesus and he proclaimed this as truth.
In none of these examples has the story of a resurrection been of viscous or wicked derivation. The resurrection stories do indeed appear to be the result of good intentions.
Here are some of the facts relevant to the resurrection: Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish prophet who claimed to be the Christ prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures, was arrested, was judged a political criminal, and was crucified. Three days after His death and burial, some women who went to His tomb found the body gone. In subsequent weeks, His disciples claimed that God had raised Him from the dead and that He appeared to them various times before ascending into heaven.
Response: The only evidence we have for any of this is in stories written 100 years after the death of Jesus. For such a remarkable event, we would expect dozens of contemporaneous records. There are no contemporaneous records at all. What we do have is exactly what could be predicted. A misunderstood and/or wished-for set of events that is codified into stories and believed and enhanced as they change over time, finally set to written form after all the witnesses had died.  
Stories evolve and the principles of natural selection apply. Stories that embellished the doctrine in a manner that engendered the most psychological comfort and persuasive effect were accepted, other stories were rejected as they were recited by word of mouth. 
Mans original ideas about God were passed down in the same way, embellished over time. In his ignorance of scientific knowledge, he thought there might be agency behind the roaring thunder and strikes of lightning. He formed theories of the nature of the character behind such natural disasters and, quite logically after assuming agency, theories of angry gods were born. 
Recited from parent to child, the stories evolved in more detail.  As man disbanded into separate locales, the stories also evolved into the great diversity of theologies passed down to us today. Eventually man developed the tools required to set the stories down in writing.  New rounds of editing began. 
If we traveled to another planet, like earth, with storms and natural disasters, where life evolved like ours, we might expect that they would also have theories of angry gods and they would eventually be evolving like we are today, putting aside our irrational fears and understanding that these angry gods in the heavens, thought to have existed by our ancestors, have never existed at all.  
From that foundation, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and has continued to exert great influence down through the centuries.
Response: Ardent believers can be quite successful in spreading an ideology. Islam is another standout.  This does not lend credence to the content of the belief. We can see that a majority of people are content with a minimally sufficient education and are willing to follow religious leadership for emotional, cultural and social reasons. 
The problem arises when the leadership is psychologically unstable or indeed, of nefarious character.  Christianity has passed through phases of questionable leadership, leading to the crusades and even today, systems supporting child abuse. This is also true of Islam, where some Islamic scholars support the idea of 'marriage' for girls as young as eight years of age.  
It is truly sad that religion is used as an enabler of sexual assault on children. Believers wish to believe in a benevolent God, and if such a God exists at all, then we can see that the main activity of God is the creation of life and that further, we are entrusted with each newborn created by the very hand of God.  
There cannot be a greater sin in any theology than to take such cruel and merciless advantage of the beautiful meekness, innocence and joy of learning with which each child is created by God and entrusted to us.  If God exists, we are to educate the children with whom we are entrusted and we are to allow them to mature to the age of reason when they themselves can decide their journeys and the partners for their journeys. 
If God does not exist, we see the same world.  Life comes ultimately from the stars but we awaken every day to find ourselves entrusted with these same beautiful children. What more noble pursuit then to ensure their freedom and to grant them a full slate of human rights, educating them all, every one of them?
The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts.
Response: Those that denied the word-of-mouth stories were simply excluded from the groups, cut off from further communication. Evolution is once again at work here. A story cannot replicate through one who considers it to be not worth repeating. Only the believers were telling the stories. The game of telephone comes to mind. The stories evolved and changed over time as they separated into separate groups of believers, the stories no longer being corroborated against one another, resulting in more than a dozen gospels.
As groups separate they evolve separately. We see this in nature in ring species. Groups of salamanders move away from each other and over time evolve separately. Later, when they meet up again, they can no longer mate with each other. They have become separate species. The dozen gospels are disparate cultures of ancestral species of stories. This alone is sufficient physical evidence to know that the bible is not infallible and indeed, like the Quran, Torah and other ancient writings, is to be read, if read at all, with a great amount of circumspection.    
Stories were collected and edited into a final form and bound together into a book. Man discovered that believing that a book was infallible brought him psychological comfort against the terrors of the unknown. The comfort was physical, a release of pheromones (chemicals, hormones) in the brain. Eventually, the idea of The Infallible Book (TIB) evolved.  
"Fasten on to the book, all of the answers are there" became the general underlying creed of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.   It is not God that is at the center of these belief systems, it is a book, a collection of ancestral writings, feared now to be infallible. Such believers have become mentally afflicted.  
TIB has acquired a life of its own. It replicates in the minds of man, from parent to child, teacher to student. Eventually, ruling bodies became addicted with TIB and began to enforce TIB on the populations. This brings us to the present, where TIB addicts are roaming the countrysides of Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, forcing belief with violence, killing children who are reaching out for scientific education. We observe similar  behavior in the history of Christianity.  
TIB is defending itself with the same viscountess and fear as that of any animal. It has all of the characteristics of a jungle beast.  It is like a cuckoo egg, laid in the mind.  It hatches and kicks out logic and reason and demands sole attention, hypnotizing with mirrors of circular reasoning, lashing out with pheromones to cause fear and anguish on those who begin to see that the book is not at all infallible.  It is a battle for the mind. Reading science evicts the cuckoo, destroys the mirrors and brings back the inner joy and sense of wonder with which we were born.
The writers of the four Gospels either had themselves been witnesses or else were relating the accounts of eyewitnesses of the actual events. In advocating their case for the gospel, a word that means "good news," the apostles appealed (even when confronting their most severe opponents) to common knowledge concerning the facts of the resurrection.

F. F. Bruce, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, says concerning the value of the New Testament records as primary sources: "Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.
Response: We know that the writers of the gospels were not witnesses; they were not born until decades after Jesus died. The eyewitnesses were all dead by the time the stories were written.  We observe how the stories diverged within the separating groups, and that within their diverse communities hostile witnesses were dis-included   The four gospels were gathered because together they approached a coherent  story,  The other gospels were hidden or banished.   This is simple, observable and outstanding physical evidence that the older the writing, the less it is to be trusted for fact.   
The chief values of ancient writings then are not as sources for fact but for whatever timeless philosophical truths might be contained therein   The book of Genesis is a case in point.  A reasonable reading leads one to believe that it was never intended to be believed as literal truth. 
Separating the wheat form the chaff, it can be seen to perhaps have been constructed as a philosophical treatise on  the plight of man.  Are we to be our brother's keeper? In that timeless question there is indeed some value. The talking snake and the angry god are allegorical characters, entertaining, probably added afterwards.
Because the New Testament provides the primary historical source for information on the resurrection, many critics during the 19th century attacked the reliability of these biblical documents. By the end of the 1 9th century, however, archaeological discoveries had confirmed the accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts. Discoveries of early papyri bridged the gap between the time of Christ and existing manuscripts from a later date.
Response: This is the logical fallacy of cum hoc ergo propter hoc, which mistakes correlation with causation. The Latin literally means “with this, therefore that”. For example, two simultaneous events can be suggested as one having caused the other. In this case, it is true that archaeologists often discover manuscript.  However, in no way do these discoveries confirm the accuracy of the content of the manuscripts. 
Those findings increased scholarly confidence in the reliability of the Bible. William F. Albright, who in his day was the world's foremost biblical archaeologist, said: "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today."
Response: Even if the dating argument is true, this is still four generations removed from the time of Jesus. By the time documents were created, the original witnesses were all dead and in no position to refute what were being written. This simple observable fact should raise alarms on the part of believers.
 Coinciding with the papyri discoveries, an abundance of other manuscripts came to light (over 24,000 copies of early New Testament manuscripts are known to be in existence today). The historian Luke wrote of "authentic evidence" concerning the resurrection. Sir William Ramsay, who spent 15 years attempting to undermine Luke credentials as a historian, and to refute the reliability of the New Testament, finally concluded: "Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.

" I claim to be an historian. My approach to Classics is historical. And I tell you that the evidence for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ is better authenticated than most of the facts of ancient history "
. . . E. M. Blaiklock Professor of Classics Auckland University
Response: Writing that "there is authentic evidence" is not the same as producing the evidence.  None has been produced. The writers of the Book of Acts had historical knowledge, yet still they were writing many years after the death of the witnesses, both hostile and friendly. They may have been capable of being good historians, but we observe that they decided to become evangelists for an ideology instead.  A motive of persuasion enters their writings. This logically should lessen our trust for them as historians.
The New Testament witnesses were fully aware of the background against which the resurrection took place. The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. About 100 pounds of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, were applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body. After the body was placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Large stones weighing approximately two tons were normally rolled (by means of levers) against a tomb entrance. A Roman guard of strictly disciplined fighting men was stationed to guard the tomb. This guard affixed on the tomb the Roman seal, which was meant to "prevent any attempt at vandalizing the sepulcher. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb's entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.
Response: This argument is self refuting. If such seal was broken, there would be dozens of records of the wrath of the execution of the Roman law. There are no documents.  
But three days later the tomb was empty. The followers of Jesus said He had risen from the dead. They reported that He appeared to them during a period of 40 days, showing Himself to them by many "infallible proofs." Paul the apostle recounted that Jesus appeared to more than 500 of His followers at one time, the majority of whom were still alive and who could confirm what Paul wrote.  
Response: As described above, Paul was mentally disturbed by his own admitted guilt as a murderer. With good intention he embellished the story in the desire to persuade the listeners. After all, if the story is true, the embellishment cannot make a difference. This is neither the first or last religion created by men desperate for a way to assuage their guilty consciousness. Religion creates a post-justification, in the minds of the sinner, for sins committed.
So many security precautions were taken with the trial, crucifixion, burial, entombment, sealing, and guarding of Christ's tomb that it becomes very difficult for critics to defend their position that Christ did not rise from the dead. Consider these facts: 

As we have said, the first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. The FBI and CIA of the Roman Empire were called into action to find the man or men who were responsible. If they were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus' disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves. Peter, one of these disciples, went out and denied Christ three times.
Response: McDowell's argument here is the logical fallacy of ad nauseum, argument of repetition. in this case repeating the argument of the Roman guards. It is self-refuting. If this is to be believed, the fact that there are no documents of a broken seal is indicative of the fact it never occurred.  
As we have already discussed, another obvious fact after the resurrection was the empty tomb. The disciples of Christ did not go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was "too notorious to be denied." Paul Althaus states that the resurrection "could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned." Both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions admit an empty tomb. Those resources range from Josephus to a compilation of fifth-century Jewish writings called the "Toledoth Jeshu." Dr. Paul Maier calls this "positive evidence from a hostile source, which is the strongest kind of historical evidence. In essence, this means that if a source admits a fact decidedly not in its favor, then that fact is genuine."
Response: Josephus writes of Jesus in evangelical terms. This is indicative of one who was prejudiced by Christian belief, or that these passages were changed later to appear as historical writings of Josephus. There are no Josephus documents predating the 11th century. The Toledoth Jeshu documents were parodies of the Jesus stories, written 1000 years after the death of Jesus.  McDowell is grasping at straws here.
Gamaliel, who was a member of the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, put forth the suggestion that the rise of the Christian movement was God's doing; he could not have done that if the tomb were still occupied, or if the Sanhedrin knew the whereabouts of Christ's body.
Response: This argument is self refuting. In addition to his suggestion, Gamaliel would have also documented the empty tomb. He had no knowledge of an empty tomb. 
Paul Maier observes that " . . . if all the evidence is weighed carefully and fairly, it is indeed justifiable, according to the canons of historical research, to conclude that the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, in which Jesus was buried, was actually empty on the morning of the first Easter. And no shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy, or archaeology that would disprove this statement."
Response: McDowell employs the logical fallacy of Argumentum ad ignorantiam, or begging the question.  A resurrection must be proven, not disproved  A remarkable event requires remarkable evidence. Such has not been provided in any part of this article.
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it. There exists no document from the ancient world, witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies . . . Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational bias. Clark Pinnock Mcmaster University Those who observed the stone after the resurrection describe its position as having been rolled up a slope away not just from the entrance of the tomb, but from the entire massive sepulcher. It was in such a position that it looked as if it had been picked up and carried away. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus' body, how could they have done that without the guards' awareness?
Response: There is another resurrection story in the bible, where Jesus is said to have raised Lazarus from the the dead.  Upon arrival at the tomb, Jesus issued the simple command, roll away the stone.  The objection was not the arduousness of the task, but the possible condition of the corpse. Nevertheless, they rolled away the stone, and nobody marveled at the rolling away of the stone.  There was nothing miraculous about the rolling away of the stone.
The Roman guards fled. They left their place of responsibility. How can their attrition he explained, when Roman military discipline was so exceptional? Justin, in Digest #49, mentions all the offenses that required the death penalty. The fear of their superiors' wrath and the possibility of death meant that they paid close attention to the minutest details of their jobs. One way a guard was put to death was by being stripped of his clothes and then burned alive in a fire started with his garments. If it was not apparent which soldier had failed in his duty, then lots were drawn to see which one would be punished with death for the guard unit's failure. Certainly the entire unit would not have fallen asleep with that kind of threat over their heads. Dr. George Currie, a student of Roman military discipline, wrote that fear of punishment "produced flawless attention to duty, especially in the night watches." n the night watches."
Response: This again is argumentum ad nauseum, repetitive and still quite self refuting: There would be dozens of contemporaneous documents for such an event, and there are none.  
In a literal sense, against all statements to the contrary, the tomb was not totally empty--because of an amazing phenomenon. John, a disciple of Jesus, looked over to the place where the body of Jesus had lain, and there were the grave clothes, in the form of the body, slightly caved in and empty--like the empty chrysalis of a caterpillar's cocoon. That's enough to make a believer out of anybody. John never did get over it. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes--undisturbed in form and position.
Response: This is another non sequiter. If we opened  the tomb of Lincoln and discovered empty clothing, would we assume he had risen from the dead?  If we were emotionally bound up with Lincoln, if we were conditioned to expect a miracle, if we thought he might survive death, if we thought he was sent by God, we might indeed believe on nothing more than empty clothes.
Christ appeared alive on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter . When studying an event in history, it is important to know whether enough people who were participants or eyewitnesses to the event were alive when the facts about the event were published. To know this is obviously helpful in ascertaining the accuracy of the published report. If the number of eyewitnesses is substantial, the event can he regarded as fairly well established. For instance, if we all witness a murder, and a later police report turns out to he a fabrication of lies, we as eyewitnesses can refute it. eyewitnesses can refute it.

Several very important factors arc often overlooked when considering Christ's post-resurrection appearances to individuals. The first is the large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning. One of the earliest records of Christ's appearing after the resurrection is by Paul. The apostle appealed to his audience's knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time. Paul reminded them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned. Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi, associate professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, emphasizes: "What gives a special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, 'If you do not believe me, you can ask them.' Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago." Let's take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony? Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you would well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.
Response:  There is no documentation of the event other than from the mouth of Paul.  It is not in any of the gospels. this highly indicative of an evolving story.  Paul embellished the story because he was in the business of persuading others to believe his story. Was Paul evil? Paul was ill. He truly believed his religion that offered himself a path for atonement. If Jesus rose from the dead, as Paul believed, what difference does it make if he appeared to one, two, twenty, or five hundred? So claiming an appearance before 500 seems like a harmless embellishment if the underlying story is actually true. 
Another factor crucial to interpreting Christ's appearances is that He also appeared to those who were hostile or unconvinced. Over and over again, I have read or heard people comment that Jesus was seen alive after His death and burial only by His friends and followers. Using that argument, they attempt to water down the overwhelming impact of the multiple eyewitness accounts. But that line of reasoning is so pathetic it hardly deserves comment. No author or informed individual would regard Saul of Tarsus as being a follower of Christ. The facts show the exact opposite. Saul despised Christ and persecuted Christ's followers. It was a life-shattering experience when Christ appeared to him. Although he was at the time not a disciple, he later became the apostle Paul, one of the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection. If the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. F. F. Bruce Manchester University The argument that Christ's appearances were only to followers is an argument for the most part from silence, and arguments from silence can be dangerous. It is equally possible that all to whom Jesus appeared became followers. No one acquainted with the facts can accurately say that Jesus appeared to just "an insignificant few." Christians believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected in time and space by the supernatural power of God. The difficulties of belief may be great, but the problems inherent in unbelief present even greater difficulties. The theories advanced to explain the resurrection by "natural causes" are weak; they actually help to build confidence in the truth of the resurrection.
Response:  Paul is not known to have met Jesus. So, if he had any vision at all, he had no way to verify the identity of the speaker.  Paul was desperate, mentally unstable, quite ripe for an hallucination.  He did not  despise Christians, he spent the rest of his life in desperate atonement to the Christians, aiding and abetting their cause, the occasional embellishment thrown in where necessary.  This is how he tried to atone, like the fable of Cain, walking and wailing in the earth a marked man. We need not think he was evil.  Instead we can complete his atonement for him, we can make the world a better place, we can teach our children that the angry gods in the skies have  never existed.    
There is no favored people, we are all equal, created or evolved. We no longer have to mistrust each other due to our fear to doubt ancient books.  We can build a world of peace.
A theory propounded by Kirsopp Lake assumes that the women who reported that the body was missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. If so, then the disciples who went to check up on the women's statement must have also gone to the wrong tomb. We may be certain, however, that Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus' body from being stolen, would not have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there! If the resurrection-claim was merely because of a geographical mistake, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor resurrection.
Response:  The whole Roman Guard argument is repetitive and self refuting as detailed in other sections above. Also the emotionally wrought Mary Magdalene could well have gone to the wrong tomb.
Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. Unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations, this theory also does not coincide with the historical situation. Again, where was the actual body, and why wasn't it produced?
Response: The mentally unstable are prone to hallucination. Paul and Mary Magdalene are described as having been mentally unstable. 
Another theory, popularized by Venturini several centuries ago, is often quoted today. This is the swoon theory, which says that Jesus didn't die; he merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought Him dead, but later He resuscitated and the disciples thought it to be a resurrection. Skeptic David Friedrich Strauss--certainly no believer in the resurrection--gave the deathblow to any thought that Jesus revived from a swoon: "It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to His sufferings, could have given to the disciples the impression that He was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, For the New Testament of Acts, the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity, even in matters of detail, must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted. A. N. Sherwin-White Classical Roman Historian an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which He had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship." ated their reverence into worship."
Response:  If your friend rises from the dead are you less impressed if he is not feeling very well? Now, imagine Jesus being buried thirty days in the bare earth then digging his way out. That would be a resurrection, quite impressive, without regard to his physical state. So, if one believes ones friend has been resurrected, his physical state hardly matters Indeed then, Jesus could have swooned, rejoined with some followers before he passed away for good, and they, in their ignorance and emotional state could well have assumed a resurrection.
Then consider the theory that the body was stolen by the disciples while the guards slept. The depression and cowardice of the disciples provide a hard-hitting argument against their suddenly becoming so brave and daring as to face a detachment of soldiers at the tomb and steal the body. They were in no mood to attempt anything like that.
Response:  If they believed that Jesus might rise from the dead, their mood would have been remarkably different than that suggested.  A few men were more than enough to move a stone. If we are to believe the roman guards fled, then there was nothing to stop his followers from carrying away the body, still perhaps hoping Jesus would come back to life.  
If you truly believed this about your friend, you might do the same yourself to avoid him becoming trapped in burial.   He did say he would raise from the dead after all, and you believed him, so, you kind of have to get him out of the tomb sooner or later. So of course they moved the stone, discovering if he was dead or swooned or indeed, never placed there at all. We know the story of the roman guard is false, added later as an embellishment,  because there would have been heavy documentation of such an event. 
The theory that the Jewish or Roman authorities moved Christ's body is no more reasonable an explanation for the empty tomb than theft by the disciples. If the authorities had the body in their possession or knew where it was, why, when the disciples were preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem, didn't they explain: "Wait! We moved the body, see, He didn't rise from the grave"? And if such a rebuttal failed, why didn't they explain exactly where Jesus' body lay? If this failed, why didn't they recover the corpse, put it on a cart, and wheel it through the center of Jerusalem? Such an action would have destroyed Christianity--not in the cradle, but in the womb!
Response:  In Pilates time, zealots raised clamors for all kinds of supposed supernatural events.  A resurrection story would be just another one of them. Josephus writes of Pilate’s vexation with the Jews and their system of blind belief in their god and scripture.  If such a story would annoy them he would not be one to discredit it.    
One can imagine Pilate gazing over the tumult, amused at the vexation of the Jews by a gang of what he would have to describe as fools, believers in the resurrection of the body of Jesus, the location of which was quite well known to Pilate if he had ordered the removal of the body. Pilate would consider that the fools would calm down eventually. It would not be the last time somebody underestimated the height of zealotry to which blind belief can ascend. 
The more one studies the character of Pilate, if we are to trust Josephus at all, the more one considers that he was motivated towards the “heartless joke” explanation for an empty tomb. Pilate told his soldiers: “Make it look like he was resurrected…” His motivation was to vex the Jews. He had no idea as to the ultimate fate of Christianity, and no motive to suppress it.
Professor Thomas Arnold, for 14 years a headmaster of Rugby, author of the famous, History of Rome, and appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford, was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. This great scholar said: "I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." Brooke Foss Westcott, an English scholar, said: "taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it."
Response:  This is the logical fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam, or appeal to authority. The opinion of authority is insufficient absent the physical evidence to which authority is attesting. There is no physical evidence. So, the fact that an authority on “modern history” believed the Jesus stories adds nothing to the proof for the events in the stories.  
But the most telling testimony of all must be the lives of those early Christians. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ? Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts--prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits--we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this "risen Christ ." As a reward for their efforts, however, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking. The same is true for ardent followers of many of the world religions. The ascendancy of idiocy to zealotry is quick and deadly. Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.

How do you evaluate this overwhelming historical evidence? What is your decision about the fact of Christ's empty tomb? What do you think of Christ? When I was confronted with the overwhelming evidence for Christ's resurrection, I had to ask the logical question: "What difference does all this evidence make to me? What difference does it make whether or not I believe Christ rose again and died on the cross for my sins!' The answer is put best by something Jesus said to a man who doubted--Thomas. Jesus told him: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). On the basis of all the evidence for Christ's resurrection, and considering the fact that Jesus offers forgiveness of sin and an eternal relationship with God, who would be so foolhardy as to reject Him? Christ is alive! He is living today. You can trust God right now by faith through prayer. Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. If you have never trusted Christ, you can do so right now. The prayer I prayed is: "Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and trust You as my Savior. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Thank You that I can trust You."

Josh McDowell, according to a recent survey, is one of the most popular speakers among university students today. He has spoken on more than 650 university and college campuses to more than seven million people in 74 countries during the last 21 years.

©1992 Josh McDowell Ministry
Response: Josh McDowell started out with his psychological comfort of the bible, and 700 hours later, ended up with the same psychological comforts. The reasoning is mostly arguments of fallacy. There is no substantive evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. There never has been. 
Are you sad to read this? Do you love Jesus and find it so hard to let it all go? Think of this then: You are his follower and in that regard, you can imagine yourself living at the time he did, one of his followers, perhaps his very close friend. And you watched your beloved friend come to his sad death on a cross. You were the one to carry him down off the cross, to clean and anoint his body with spices and dress it for burial. You still believe in his message, “Do unto others…” and how he tried to help the most downtrodden of your society and so of course you love the man, who would not love such a man? Why not claim he was resurrected, adding force to his words? Why not continue to honor your friend by carrying on his ministry, armed with a spectacular story?
Bury now Jesus, your beloved friend, to rest in peace, roll back the stone. Turn around and see the children of man, lost in the mistrust of the separate religions. You have a world to fix and a day to start. If you are looking to atone, this is the path, fix the world. Prepare the way for the children of man. Was Jesus not as one of them? 
Perhaps he will live again, not resurrected, but reborn as we all are born, as a newborn child, with clean memory and a life of discovery ahead of us. What kind of a world will he face? Will he be subjected to TIB addicts forcing the ideas of fear based gods, ruining his culture, condemning women to lifetimes of tears, denying them education and freedom? Or will we have healed ourselves from this great millennium-spanning sadness? We have a lot of work to do.
Let us stop forcing our children into the circular reasoning of belief that a book is infallible. Let us educate them and when they have arrived at the age of reason, they will assess the books and decide their fallibility.