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Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?: The Resurrection Debate [Paperback]

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Pages   190
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.18" Width: 5.84" Height: 0.49"
Weight:   0.59 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2003
Publisher   Wipf & Stock Publishers
ISBN  1592444318  
EAN  9781592444311  

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Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?: The Resurrection Debate by Gary R. Habermas

Buy Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?: The Resurrection Debate by Gary R. Habermas, Antony G. N. Flew & Terry L. Miethe from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781592444311 & 1592444318

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More About Gary R. Habermas, Antony G. N. Flew & Terry L. Miethe

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Gary R. Habermas is one of the world's leading apologists for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. He is distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Habermas has written twenty-seven books. He is a popular speaker having given over 1500 lectures at over 100 universities and in dozens of churches in North America and across the world.

Gary R. Habermas currently resides in the state of Virginia.

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Flew the Skeptic Won  Dec 14, 2007
This seems to me a fairly good book. It is one of the few books on the reputed bodily resurrection of Jesus that takes the debate form, and much is gained by that format, as both sides are heard, questioning each other closely. Flew and Habermas are both diplomatic, though Habermas is more combative, while Flew is funnier. Personally, I think Flew, the skeptic, won the debate, though he was no real expert on the subject. His common sense prevailed, despite his having perhaps been "set up" by the Christian organizers of the debate, who arranged for it to take place only two brief months after first approaching him with the idea.

Early on, the two debaters discuss the theoretical possibility of miracles. They agree that miracles are not possible in a closed naturalistic world order, but that if a supernatural power exists such miracles are indeed possible. However, Flew rightly insists that the evidence for any such miracles should be very strong before we accept it, considering that religious minds are excitable and prone to fantasy. Unfortunately, neither of the two debaters mentions the fact that reported miracles have become far fewer in the centuries since modern science arose, which seems to me a very strong argument against the reality of those many miracles reported in ancient times, including a bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Habermas touts the reputed miracles of the mortal Jesus as evidence for his divinity and, by extension, his resurrection. Flew, however, notes the hard truth that the earliest documents of the New Testament (the 21 epistles or letters) never mention even a single miracle by Jesus performed during his lifetime. Read James, for example, or Hebrews, or all the letters of Paul. You'll find no mention of miracles by Jesus.

Habermas, the resurrection expert, repeatedly emphasizes the resurrection "creed" contained in Paul's I Corinthians 15:3-7 as evidence for a bodily resurrection of Jesus, insisting that, though written c. A.D. 55, it goes back to the earliest few years of Christianity, the early 30s. But Flew has good objections here, observing that we have only Paul's version, written down long after the events in question, and perhaps inexactly. Flew also notes that, although the "creed" (which is never actually called a creed by Paul) first says that a risen Jesus "appeared to Cephas" (Peter), we have absolutely no description anywhere of this "appearance," a very strange fact considering that it was the first one ever recorded. Did Peter tell no details of that appearance to anyone? Why not? Was it merely a subjective vision? It would seem so. Even the epistles I and II Peter offer no description of any resurrection appearance of Jesus. Paul's "creed" then says that a risen Jesus "appeared to the twelve," but, as Flew notes, this alleged group appearance could actually have been several separate "appearances," that is, individual visions, each entirely subjective though similar in content. I might add that maybe only a few disciples felt that they had "seen" Jesus, and the other disciples were then honorarily added to them; the gospels often represent "the twelve" as an indivisible unit, like twelve-fold Siamese twins, when in reality they must often have split up into smaller groups, especially right after the crucifixion. Then, too, mass delusions are a very well-known psychological phenomenon, especially in the history of religions. Twelve men (or was it eleven, or eight, or five?), sleepless from grief, could surely have felt that they, together, saw a risen Jesus for a few seconds, especially if Peter, the most guilt-ridden, persuaded the others so.

Paul's "creed" then mentions an appearance of Jesus to "more than five hundred followers at once," a statement that is questionable on many grounds, some of which Flew notes. Even Habermas does not put much stock in Paul's "500" claim, and only mentions it briefly.

Habermas twice cites the great historian Michael Grant as concluding, in his 1977 book "Jesus," that the earliest eyewitnesses believed they saw a risen Jesus. Flew does not counter this well, being unaware of Grant's book. But I can add that Grant makes it clear that believing does not at all imply actually seeing. Also, on that same page 176 of Grant's book that Habermas eagerly cites, Grant states that someone "had taken the body," that is, the tomb was made empty through human, not divine, intervention. Habermas omits to mention this inconvenient passage.

Flew often emphasizes that the "appearance" of a risen Jesus to Paul was almost certainly a mere vision/hallucination (after all, it occurred some three years after the crucifixion), and that Paul does not differentiate the manner of that Jesus appearance to him from the manner of the appearances to the others. This non-differentiation indicates that the latter, too, could easily have been mere visions like Paul's blinding "light from heaven" Jesus. Habermas lamely asks Flew to "prove" that Paul meant the same thing by using that same simple word "appeared" in those cases. This seems an impossible demand by Habermas. I might add that Paul had dozens of opportunities, in I Cor. and all his other letters, to mention some details of any bodily resurrection appearances of Jesus, but he did not. All his letters (and all the other letters of the New Testament) are extremely brief and vague on the alleged resurrection. "God ... raised Jesus from the dead" is about all that Paul usually says, and he sometimes adds merely that Jesus then "sat at the right hand of God" (skipping any earthly way-station appearances). The single word "appeared" in I Cor. 15 is the closest Paul ever gets to any vivid description. If there really had been a literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus on earth, with Jesus walking, talking, eating, and showing his wounds, as alleged decades later in the gospels, Paul's information should not have been so vague. Pannenberg, in his appended Response to the Debate, rightly pans those later, detailed, gospel accounts as very largely legendary, that is, fictions. Habermas, in his final thoughts, tries but fails to make a convincing case to the contrary. And, one asks, if those longer resurrection accounts are fictions, how trustworthy can the few fragmentary earlier references be?

Flew and Habermas agree at least that the old "swoon" theory, explaining the reputed resurrection of Jesus as a mere resuscitation from a coma, is untenable. But Habermas repeatedly demands from Flew some other, single, naturalistic explanation for the resurrection accounts. Flew offers only the possibility of visions and the factor of garbled rumor. But maybe we can help him out with some others. Surely more than one naturalistic explanation is probable in this case. A combination of several such causes could easily account for the resurrection belief spreading quickly. A momentary sighting of a Jesus look-alike (objective) by one grieving follower, when emotionally recounted to other followers, could have sparked a vivid dream (subjective, normal) of Jesus by one of them, which, when likewise recounted, could then have inspired vivid hallucinations (again subjective) of Jesus by still other followers. Peer pressure and/or suggestibility would have had their known strong effects. Later followers, firmly believing that there was a solid basis of truth to the earlier resurrection claims, could then have felt free to embellish with more flowery resurrection stories. Consider the even wilder 2nd-century apocryphal ones. Or maybe the ghostly image of Jesus on the Shroud of Turin (which Habermas often marshals as evidence for a supernatural resurrection), if the shroud is authentic and the image was formed by a natural, not supernatural, process, inspired the earliest resurrection belief. By whatever variety of means, the original grain of sand gradually became a big, shiny pearl.
Good, though not as a debate.  Apr 15, 2006
True, this "debate" is not a fair fight. The book is divided into four sections: Habermas vs. Flew, Habermas and two friends vs. Flew, reflections by Pannenberg, Hartshorne, and Packer (two of whom believe in the resurrection), and final comments by Habermas. Not only are skeptics outnumbered 5 to 2, or 7 to 2, depending on how you count, Habermas knows a lot more about the subject than his opponent.

I came away admiring Flew for his pluck and good-humored way of deporting himself against the odds. He does know something about early Christianity, and makes some good points. But no doubt Habermas shows the better hand. Probably they should have roped in someone like E. P. Sanders to even things out. Crossan's debates with Craig and Wright on the same subject, to both of which Habermas added comments, would seem more even, in terms of scholarly firepower; though frankly, I respect Flew's attitude more.

I appreciated the fact that everyone spoke to the subject, here. In some of these debates (Crossan-Craig for one), the skeptic shows such scorn for the proceedings that you wonder why he came. Flew is always polite, rational, and shows his opponents the respect to really argue. Habermas knows his stuff, as do his two comrades. Having Pannenberg and Packer on board also adds to the interest of the book.

It may be that, as the critic below claims, Habermas exagerates how many scholars accept some of his points. (Though he probably knows more about the scholarly consensus on this subject than anyone.) But "scholarly" theories of the sort this critic recommends do not, I think, much recommend themselves. People usually lasted longer on the cross, so Jesus couldn't have died as soon as the Gospels all say he did? But remember what Jesus went through before crucifixion -- he was probably half dead already. His body would have been thrown into a pauper's grave? Here, too, the critic fallaciously generalizes to deny specific reports. ("Most lawyers are dishonest. Therefore Gandhi and Lincoln must have been crooks. Accounts that say otherwise must have been doctored.") In the first third of my book, Why the Jesus Seminar can't find Jesus, and Grandma Marshall Could, I show how twelve common fallacies, including this one, radically undermine the kind of radical scholarship he seems to recommend. And yet Habermas bases his arguments on conclusions that even scholarship of that sort generally admits. It is a generally impressive display.

All in all, while not ideal as a debate, the Flew-Habermas contest is I think a fairly good introduction to the subject; a genial and thoughtful discussion of probably the most important (and controversial) turning point in human history.
Mediocre at best  Mar 7, 2006
The idea for this book is an excellent one, but the results are very disappointing. Each participant makes such a weak case for their respective positions that the debate itself becomes superfluous. It's like watching the 3rd card in a boxing match. Who cares? For example, Gary Habermas tries to make the affirmative case by citing what he calls 12 "known historical facts" that are indisputable. Here are some of his known facts along with the disputations he apparently was unaware of...

p. 19 "Jesus died due to the rigors of crucifixion" - Very many scholars doubt that the 3 to 6 hours that Jesus was on the cross were sufficient to be a cause of death. Many people lasted for 3 or 4 days. Even Pilot himself was surprised to learn that Jesus died so quickly. Indeed, there are many scholars who believe that the resurrection was actually a "resusitation". This may or may not be true, but it is NOT true that Jesus' death by crucifixion is an uncontested historical fact.

p. 19 "...was buried." The question as to whether or not Jesus was placed in a tomb or simply thrown into a ditch and later buried in a pauper's grave is a debated topic. See, for example, Martin Hengel's informative book Crucifixion in the Ancient World and Haim Cohn's excellent book The Trial and Death of Jesus. Regardless of your belief, it is incorrect to claim Jesus' placement in the tomb as uncontested historical fact. It is not fact at all. Finding Jesus' body in the tomb would establish the fact that he had been placed there. Reading about the placement in the Gospels does not make it fact!

p. 20. "James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he also believed he saw the resurrected Jesus." - Nonsense. There is nothing in the New Testament about James' conversion. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that the Gospels were edited to remove evidence of the positive involvement of Jesus' family (see Butz' excellent book - The Brother of Jesus - for details). In any event, most scholars believe that John 7:5 was a later insertion, and it is John 7:5 which is the basis for Habermas's bold and encompassing assertion. James skepticism and conversion are not uncontested facts.

I could go on, but you get the point. If the debater's case is weak, the debate is weak.

The need for an informed debate on the resurrection is still there. This promising book does not meet that need.
The Old Five-Against-One  Feb 7, 2005
In this book a gang of conservative Bible scholars debate Antony Flew; an English atheist philosopher with strong logical positivist leanings. The debate was about the historical reality of the ressurection of Jesus of Nazareth (in the sense that if you had been there with a camera you could have taken Jesus' picture coming out of the tomb.)

The organizers of the debate felt that a careful treatment of this topic meant ensuring that no door to philosophical discourse be left open. Flew was not, therefore, permitted to indulge in the topic for which he is trained, well-known and respected. His presence is a device for selling books by having his name, but not his expertise, represented in its pages.

Flew, the last great 20th c. English atheist Gentleman in a recent line directly descended from Russell through Ayer, tried to get the Bible scholars to talk a little about the difference between offering a theory that fails to fit the facts and saying that there aren't enough facts to offer a theory. But the discussion was consistently steered to documents, historians, translations of scripture etc. Flew displayed a remarkable cross-disciplinary knowledge of Biblical matters but ultimately found himself as lost on the Bible scholars' turf as they would have been debating on Flew's philosophical turf.

As of the writing of this essay Antony Flew, age 81, has "converted" to a belief in God, or in his words:

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose." ((ABC News: One of World's Leading Atheists Now Believes in God, More or Less, Based on Scientific Evidence - The Associated Press NEW YORK Dec 9, 2004))

Who knows how well this conversion will hold up with time. If I were an atheist I would probably already be busy debunking it. Philosophically, atheists typically aren't interested in anything but attacks on atheism.

Brilliant!  Dec 10, 2002
This book is one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking I've ever read! It is the published form of a 1985 debate between Christian evidentialist apologist Gary Habermas and atheistic philosopher Antony G.N. Flew concerning the question, "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" The question was limited to historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ - other topics, such as the existence of God and the verifiability of miracles, were off limits. After each debater gave an opening statement, a rebuttal, and the two went "head-to-head", the judges voted 7-2 (one draw) in favor of Habermas as winner of the debate.

This book is incredibly interesting. Part One is the formal debate, as described above. Part Two is a transcript of the discussion between Flew, Habermas, Terry L. Miethe, and W. David Beck that took place the night after the debate. Part Three consists of responses to the debate by Wolfhart Pannenberg, Charles Hartshorne, and J.I. Packer. Part Four is a final response by Habermas to the issue of the resurrection.

No matter what your religious or philosophical background, if you are interested at all in whether or not it is reasonable to believe in the miraculous, particularly in the Christian claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, this book will fascinate you. Enjoy!


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