Dan Barker – Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?

Dan Barker gave a presentation questioning the resurrection of Jesus:

Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?

In the presentation, Barker gave several reasons against Jesus rising from the dead.

His first argument is history assumes naturalism and so history cannot investigate miraculous claims. I don’t disagree too much with him here. Just like science cannot propose supernatural causation, historians cannot as well.

Number one is the historical objection. The resurrection of Jesus might have happened. A miracle in
the past might have happened. We can’t rule it out right. Maybe the laws of nature were different back then.In order for history to work it has to make some assumptions. One of the biggest assumptions that history has to make is that the laws of nature are constant throughout time. They might not be the laws of nature might not be causal but history has to assume that. They are otherwise you can’t do history.

I’m not ruling out miracles with this argument just saying if they happen history is the wrong tool for it.

The second argument is there could be a naturalistic explanation. Yes, there could be, but it would need to have more explanatory power than a supernaturalistic explanation.

The second line of criticism that people often offer and the stories that the New
Testament can have other explanations than a miracle. It might have seemed like
a miracles with them at the time but it was actually something else that happened.
Like he actually didn’t die on the cross. He just passed out and he thought it was dead.
That’s called the swoon theory.Another theory is that everybody was hallucinating.

Another possible natural theory is that they moved the body he was really buried there but they
moved it somewhere else.

He doesn’t even offer any justification for these naturalistic explanations. Plus, with the evidence of the TS, it rules out all these scenarios. Jesus was dead as evidenced by the rigor mortis. They were not hallucinating, unless we are all also hallucinating about the shroud. It could not have been moved since the blood stains are intact and undisturbed.

His third argument is the contradictions in the gospel accounts. I grant him this as well. Since inerrancy is not on the table, it is not a relevant argument.

Number three is the fact that the documents themselves disagree with each other so
radically that we really don’t even know what happened.26:51
Jesus and I turn to him is the worst example anyone could ever possibly offer
for the reliability of the Bible. And I’m not exaggerating because unlike most
stories that you find in the Bible which are given me once or maybe twice the
resurrection story is given five times.

And rather than being a poor example of reliability, it is a good example since the resurrection is attested to multiple times in the Bible.

Barker admits these first three arguments do not disprove the resurrection.

The first three points throw considerable doubt on the story
but they don’t disprove it. It could have happened in spite of the problem of history.
It could have happened in spite of our understanding of natural events.
It could have happened even though they were contradictory. Maybe one of them got
it right so it could have happened. Maybe one of them was telling the truth.

He says his fourth argument is the strongest.

I’ll get to the fourth point which I think is the strongest.

He argues the resurrection account is a legend.

But many critics and many scholars are convinced that the resurrection story is a legend.
Some are convinced that it’s a myth that have never even happened.Something might have happened. Who knows what. A story started or
something and from that point the legend can grow. And the story itself contains
within it the footprints of the legend and here’s how we know that if you take all the accounts that we have of the
resurrection of Jesus and put them in order in which they were written you start first of all with Paul. Paul and first Corinthians 15 wrote this thing that he said was handed to him from someone else.

Paul wrote his epistles sometime in the year 52-55. First Corinthians
would have been around the year 55 or so which is what depending
up when these events supposedly happened in the year 28 to 33 or something.
It would have been about 25 years after the events.

Could there be legendary parts to the resurrection account? There could be. But it doesn’t mean the entire account is fictional and that the fundamental message (crucifixion, death, and resurrection) is legendary. In order to claim the fundamental message is false, one has to know which parts are truthful and which parts are fictional and which parts are related to the fundamental message. Only then it can be determined the fundamental message is fictional. Baker does not do this.

There are some scholars who think the dates that I just gave should be pushed
earlier. Those are conservative scholars that think the date should be pushed a lot closer.
There are other scholars who think the date should be pushed later because we can’t be totally sure about the exact dates of them.

Richard Carrier, who is probably one of the most skeptical scholars, accepts the 1 Cor 15 creed to be very early.

So the Corinthian Creed, at least verses 3-5, definitely existed and was the central “gospel” Christians were preaching in the early 30s A.D. That’s definitely no later than a few years after the purported death of Jesus. And since the sect’s formation only makes sense in light of this being its seminal and distinguishing message, it must have been formulated in the very first weeks of the movement. We can’t be certain how soon that actually was after the death of Jesus (though the creed says Jesus was raised on the third day, it conspicuously does not say how much later it was when he appeared). But it can’t have been more than a few years, and could well have been mere months (though one can’t then assert that it was mere months; that would be another possibiliter fallacy).

So, yes, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 is almost certainly a pre-Pauline text composed within a few years of when Jesus was believed to have died.


Though it is possible for legendary elements to develop over a few years, it’s highly doubtful it could’ve drastically evolved in such a short time. Perhaps it could’ve evolved from 50 people seeing Jesus to 500. But it could not have evolved from a mass hallucination to Jesus bodily resurrecting.

So, his argument of the accounts being legendary to dispute the resurrection of Jesus is not as strong as he claims.

His last argument is Jesus was raised spiritually, not bodily.

The early followers of Jesus after he was crucified believed that Jesus was
raised spiritually, not bodily.

There are several scriptural arguments against this. The gospels spend considerable time mentioning the disciples could touch him and he could eat. But he then dismisses these as legendary.

And with the Shroud of Turin, we have empirical evidence Jesus did not just raise spiritually, but bodily.

Interestingly, an audience member did mention about the Shroud of Turin at 14:57, but doesn’t sound like Barker either heard him or knows anything about it.