Some have alleged that since Mark's Gospel is the earliest of the four, and it doesn't contain a narrative of the disciples seeing a bodily resurrected Jesus, that the later Gospels that do narrate such post-mortem appearance are later legendary developments. Apart from the fact that 1 Cor. 15:3-8 predates the pre-Markan passion source, and that when you compare this early Creed with the Sermons of the Acts of the Apostles on the one hand, and the Gospel narratives on the other, we see that the bodily appearances in the Gospel correspond like an outline with these earlier creedal formulas thereby confirming that they weren't later legendary developments not to mention several other reasons for rejecting the 'legendary' hypothesis for the physical appearances of Jesus, it simply fails to consider a better explanation for Mark's abrupt ending that has to do with the theology of Mark rather than an account that is denying physical appearances of Jesus. Indeed, the Gospel of Mark anticipates and mentions that there would be such appearances anyway! In any case, the following article does a splendid job of surveying possible theological motivations Mark probably had for ending his Gospel the way he did concluding that "The most satisfying viewpoint is that Mark concludes his Gospel by juxtaposing promise and failure. The prediction of 16:7 implies a promise that a restoration to discipleship is available in spite of failure, while the disobedience of the women in 16:8 serves as a warning that failure is possible even after the resurrection."
A person can attack the case for the Resurrection by attacking the methodology of inference to the best explanation, or claiming that their priors are really high against miracles and that Baye's theorem trumps abduction, and a few other things. This article deals with these types of objections very well.
Mike Rea from Notre Dame University has a model of the incarnation that is very innovative and unique. I asked him this question: If his model of the incarnation could be adapted to fit a physicalist understanding of human nature? and he said:
'It depends a bit on what you think physicalism comes to. If Aquinas counts as a physicalist on your view then yes, the model very easily accommodates that view. If physicalism implies (e.g.) that there are no souls and no non-physical powers (whatever those might be), then the view *might* have trouble. I'm not sure, though. I don't think that there's anything central to the model that obviously contradicts "physicalism about human nature"; but neither can I demonstrate that it doesn't.'
The importance of this for resurection has to do with the meaning of the resurrection that is often applied on the basis of Jesus' teaching and radical divine self-understanding. That meaning of course has to do with the after the fact inference that Jesus was the personal emodiment of YHWH, and the resurrection serves as the divine stamp on Jesus' radical self-concept. But, if it is impossible for Jesus to be god incarnate given one's physicalist leanings on humna nature, then we would have a real problem on our hands. Thus, I have included Mike Rea's very helpful
Didn't Jesus Predict that He would be resurrected from the dead three days after his crucifixion? If so, then it isn't true that the origin of the disciples belief in a resurrected Jesus was a radical paradigm-shift after all?
Objection: Qualm #2: You repeatedly insist in your book that Jesus' resurrection couldn't have been mere legend, because legends can't take root in a culture in a single generation, particularly when eyewitness "authorities" are available to denounce those legends. Yet I can think of many modern legends that have been concocted and have flourished in only one generation. Case in point: the popularly held conspiracy theories about the assassination of John F. Kennedy have sprung up in only one generation, despite hundreds of eyewitness to the event, an actual film of the assassination, and the existence of authorities (the Warren Commission, the news media, law enforcement) striving to preserve the official and credible account that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Other recent, outlandish, but stubbornly persistent legends include: the widespread belief in many Muslim countries that Israel was behind the 9-11 attack and that no Jews were present at the World Trade Center on the day of the attack; the belief in some quarters (most recently mentioned in the news by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of Barak Obama) that the government may have created the AIDs virus to target African Americans; widespread reports of UFO-related sightings and encounters in Roswell, New Mexico, and elsewhere; the apocryphal stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq under Saddam Hussein—a "legend" that took a war to disprove. Lastly, the supernatural beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints and other religions that quickly sprang up demonstrate that legends can prevail among large communities of believers in only a single generation.
Suppose Matthew added to Mark's crucifixion narrative the unhistorical story of the resurrection of Old Testament saints. How does that do anything to show Mark's account to be unreliable, not to speak of Luke or John's? It would at most call into question Matthew's credibility. Or would it? Suppose Matthew didn't mean for this to be taken literally? Suppose it's just part of the apocalyptic imagery typical of Jewish apocalyptic writings, a way of portraying how age-shifting Jesus' death was? Then our problem is that we're taking literary imagery in an inappropriate, literalistic way, and the problem is not with Matthew but with us.
Doesn't that conclusion call into question the rest of Matthew's resurrection account? Not at all! For Matthew attaches this story, not to the account of Jesus' resurrection, but of his crucifixion, which is one of the firmest anchor points of the historical Jesus.
But suppose Matthew did mean for this incident to be taken literally. How do we know it didn't happen? How do we know that certain people in Jerusalem hadn't claimed to have seen appearances of Old Testament saints around the time of Jesus' death? You say, it would have "unquestionably been documented by numerous sources." Really? What sources? Apart from Josephus, what records do we have from that time? And why think that Josephus would bother to mention it? He doesn't even mention Jesus' resurrection appearances, which, we know with certainty, people in Jerusalem had claimed to have experienced. We know from the Gospels themselves how selective they are in what stories they choose to narrate. So any such argument from silence is very tenuous.
Isn't It UnChristian to Defend the Resurrection Using Historical 'Proofs' Since Jesus Upbraids Doubting Thomas For Seeking 'Proof?'
WLC: I think that the reason Jesus upbraids Thomas in that story is taht Thomas falied to believe on the basis of the apostolic testimony that Jesus was risen. Jesus is not saying, 'Thomas, it's bleesed to make irrational leaps of faith.' he's saying, 'You should have beleived on the basis of the credible testimony of the other apostles, the eyewitnesses, that I was risen.' Similarly, John's readers, though geographically or chronologically removed from the events of the empty tomb and the resurrection appearances, ought to believe on the basis of the apostolic testimony recorded in John's Gospel that Jesus is risen fromt he dead. Thus, it is John's point of view that we have adequate apostolic testimony to the resurrection of Jesus; and we can confidently believe on that basis, even though we ourselves haven't seen an appearance of Jesus or discovered an empty tomb. It's in the conclusion in that John says that these signs are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and have life through his name (John 20:30-31). That comes on the heels of the Thomas story, and it in effect says that what Thomas failed to do was to believe what the other disciples had told him. Thus, it is perfectly in line with Jesus' upbraiding Thomas that he should have believed on the basis of the 'secondhand' apostolic testimony for Christians today to construct a historical case on the basis of that same testimony.
Doesn't the Experience on The Road to Emmaus Provide Evidence that the Appearances of Jesus were visions, and not physical appearances?
WLC: This non-recognition motif is only found in three of the Gospel appearance stories. He appears to Mary Magdalene in John’s Gospel. It’s in the story of the appearance by the Sea of Galilee in John 21. Then you have it in Luke’s account on the road to Emmaus where the disciples are walking to the village of Emmaus. But in the other stories there’s no problem in recognizing Jesus: the appearance in the upper room, the appearance to the women and so forth. So we have to ask ourselves, what is this about, this fact that they didn’t recognize Him at first? What Luke says in the Emmaus road appearance, not that His appearance had changed in any way, but he says, “Their eyes were held from recognizing Him.” He thinks of this as a supernaturally-imposed inhibition. Then in the moment where Jesus sits and breaks bread with them, then their eyes are opened, and they recognize Him. It wasn’t really anything in His appearance that was different. It was an inhibition that was supernaturally imposed upon them, and in the moment of disclosure their eyes were opened and they could recognize Him. What are the Gospel writers trying to tell us by this non-recognition motif? What is the point of this? I think that perhaps the point is this: what Jesus is trying to communicate to the disciples is that they would no longer relate to Him in the same way that they did when He once walked among them and they enjoyed His earthly presence with them. Now Jesus is going away, and He no longer will be in a recognizable physical way with them. Therefore, they need to accustom themselves to this new mode of relating to Him in the post-resurrection period. That’s my best guess to what the theological point is in the non-recognition and moment of disclosure motif.