Resurrection: Critical Scholars & Peter

by  at Thomistic Bent blog

Luke, in his account of the resurrection of Jesus, says the following:

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.  And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”  And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. (Luke 23:55-24:12, ESV)

From this, we can draw a couple of conclusions. We can note that the passage does not make the male disciples look very good. Earlier the account, the men run away in fear, hiding from the Jewish leaders and the guards. Peter is even made to look a cowardly fool, afraid of a young servant girl. Here, Peter is not even the one who finds the empty tomb first. Instead, Peter is home, while the women go to the tomb.

If the story of the resurrection is a fabrication from start to finish, created by the early church leaders to wield power over the masses, then we do not have a very good start. Peter runs from a servant girl, then at the point of the most important part of the story, he is found at home, missing the whole thing. If I were writing something to make myself look good, I would be the hero who is at the center of the story. I would not create a story finding myself sleeping late, then going away unsure of what exactly has happened.

Next, we find the first reaction of the men being that they thought the story was an “idle tale.” So their first reaction was that of disbelief. Given that the previous 23 chapters of the story had Jesus telling them several times what would happen, it would seem that a story that was entirely invented to make Peter look good would not have the hero get the information from the women and then doubt it. The idea of Luke being religious propaganda is soundly contradicted, for it does not increase faith to have the hero doubt the main point of the story.

In summary, we have an account that gives the first reports to women, whom many men considered weak, then has the male leaders hiding and disbelieving the story. No religious propaganda would be written like this.

Instead, the account reads just like a true historical account of what actually happened. It reports what happened, warts and all. We therefore have more indications that the gospels are accurate historical accounts that report what the eyewitnesses actually experienced.

For a related set of historical indications, see the following video from Gary Habermas, who explores the critical scholarship that relates to the gospel accounts of the resurrection. (note what he says at the beginning, that he is reporting on the views by trained scholars, not untrained writers. He names a few skeptical scholars at various points, and uses their views throughout this account).


To hear a strong lecture o the resurrection Listen to Gary Habermas speak (56 minutes)

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