In this book, well-known scholars William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann debate the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Craig argues that an actual resurrection is the best explanation of the evidence provided by the Gospels and other sources, while Ludemann proposes a version of the hallucination hypothesis, maintaining that the origin of the Christian religion was based upon the imagined experiences of its founders. Also included are commentaries provided by Stephen T. Davis, Michael Goulder, Robert H. Gundry, and Roy W. Hoover.
Craig bases his case upon “four established facts,” which include:
1. Jesus’ honorable burial in a tomb.
2. Discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb by a group of women followers.
3. Experiences of Jesus alive from the dead.
4. A sudden belief of the original disciples that Jesus was risen from the dead.
These facts, confirmed by the majority of historians, constitute a cumulative case for Christ’s resurrection, for, according to Craig, a literal resurrection is the only sensible explanation of these four simple historical facts.
Ludemann agrees with 3 and 4 (and, for the most part, 1), but claims that the experiences of the disciples were in fact hallucinatory or, as he prefers to call it, ‘conversion-visions.’ He denies fact 2, claiming that the account of the empty tomb is actually a legend.
Who wins the debate? Well, before answering this question, it is important to point out that Craig is a very experienced debater. He masterfully uses every minute he is given, and his rhetorical skills are undeniable. Thus, one would expect Craig to perform better than most opponents even if his arguments were somewhat weak. That aside, it seems clear that Craig gets the best of the original exchange. He uses every minute to expand on arguments and refute Ludemann’s objections. Ludemann, on the other hand, wastes valuable time by discussing issues not really very pertinent to the debate, such as supposed anti-Semetism in the New Testament and apparent difficulties with accepting Jesus’ ascension and His literal resurrection from a dead state.
As for the respondents, Stephen T. Davis’ essay was mostly useless from my perspective, since it dealt with Ludemann’s pointless contentions such as supposed anti-Semetism in the New Testament, although I suppose a refutation of these points was necessary for the sake of thoroughness. Michael Goulder’s essay is very useful, as it offers a more complete explanation of the hallucination hypothesis than Ludemann was ever able to give. Robert Gundry offers what is perhaps the most fair-minded essay, as he critiques both sides, although he favors Craig. Finally, Roy Hoover offers a critique of the evidence Craig provides, as well as some philosophical points about his worldview.
To end the book, Ludemann and Craig both offer concluding statements. Ludemann does not seem to offer much, but Craig really shines. In his lengthy conclusion, Craig addresses almost every significant claim offered by Ludemann and the respondents. I can’t help but conclude that the hallucination hypothesis offered by Ludemann and expanded by Goulder is thoroughly demolished through the course of this book. In sum, Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment is very highly recommended for readers interested in the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.